Spawn of Mars
Men will never be free until the last communist is strangled with the entrails of the last journalist.
Cirsova Fall 2021 Is Out
Read My Story In It!
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 12:26 pm
The latest issue of Cirsova Magazine is here! And it contains a short work by me!

Buy it on Amazon (to give the publisher money). Review it on Amazon (to increase its rank). Read my story Dead Neighbor and be amazed by my cleversomeliness. Go, now!
Mermaids & Termites
As of September
Friday, September 3, 2021 7:08 pm
Great day! I sold The Impossible Footprint to Cirsova. Every sale I have made in the past few years has been gratifying, but this one is acutely so. I really like this story and I really wanted it to appear in Cirsova. And as you know, I was worried that its length might be disqualifying. So I am also acutely relieved!

And by the way, my short Dead Neighbor is coming out in Cirsova's Fall 2021 issue in a couple of weeks. 

As I mentioned earlier, I recently diverted a couple of days to writing a Pugnacious Footefake story. My main project, however, has been the resumption of my novel The Remnant.

I started The Remnant sometime in late 2015. Within a year I had made some meaty progresss, mostly because (and I'm not kidding) my real job had degenerated so much, leaving me with so little to do, that I could spend hours at work writing a book. When I retired from being a wage slave in late 2016, The Remnant had reached ~29K words. But I had already stalled in the writing.

In early 2017 I inserted a chapter. Then I pivoted to joining the Pulp Revolution and getting myself published. Since then I have been writing stories for StoryHack and Cirsova.

After finishing The Unshrouded Stars I floundered, starting this, resuming that, uncertain about my next immediate goal. And then, perhaps due to my uncertainty about short fiction, I was inspired to pick up The Remnant again. Before Pugnacious diverted me, I inserted an important scene in chapter 2. I was then going to pick up where I had left off and start in on chapter 10.

But now I notice it's September — early autumn! — and I had planned to resume my collaborative work with Misha Burnett. Hmm. Well... It's still mostly summer, really. And he's otherwise occupied himself. I can still give a couple of weeks to The Remnant.

Don't want to waste the semi-momentum!

There's a couple of walnut trees around my house. I think they're walnut. I'm not a pomologist. Anyhow, every third year or so they produce a ridiculous number of walnuts. I had a feeling that this year would be bad.

Sure enough, so far this summer I have had five branches snap and fall from the trees, after especially gusty rainstorms. I'm assuming that the nuts were weighing things down. Tons of nuts fell, too. It's possible the trees are sick, but they are separated and the branches seemed healthy inside. But what do I know?

Anyway, here's one of the branches. This one bounced off my roof. You can see walnuts scattered on the patio.

I've been fortunate in that there's been no damage to anything but the trees. One very large branch, maybe 12 feet long, landed right across my little yard, just missing the house. I had to take a saw to that one to remove it.

For decades I've been sad that I don't like to read much anymore. Which is an odd thing for an author to admit. Sure, I erratically read my fiction mags, but I can't seem to get involved with a book or a writer. Every book peters out.

Then something — likely a blog post from somewhere — reminded me of Jack Schaefer, the man who wrote Shane. I read Shane aeons ago and liked it, but I never pursued Schaefer. Now I reckoned I could try some of his short stories.

So I picked up The Kean Land — and I really enjoyed it. Then I picked up The Big Range, another collection — and I really enjoyed it. I was getting involved! Now I've started The Pioneers. If things hold up, I may try the novels such as Monte Walsh, which was apparently Schaefer's personal favorite.

I was never a bibliophile or voracious. Not really. I was a bit uptight about my library and likely read more than the average Joe. Still, my rolling indifference to reading has seemed a degradation of my life.

I've supposed, time and again, that I've just become fussier. That's probably the truth. It just takes more time now to find something that doesn't bore me.

Schaefer should keep me happy for a while at least.

I've been back on Twitter for four days and already I've naughtily made tweets that have nothing to do with writing or art. At least they also had nothing to do with politics as such! Sheesh...

Monday, August 30, 2021 2:20 am
Yeah. I'm back on Twitter under Spawn of Mars. Purely to support my home magazines and to signal-boost other authors and to promote my own work and to link to this blog and to speak pithily about art and maybe faith. God help me if I do anything beyond that.
Pugnacious Footefake Salvage, Inc.
A Reclamation of My Forays Into Maryoku Yummy
Sunday, August 29, 2021 7:36 pm
During the first half of 2001, I worked on developing Maryoku Yummy for American Greetings. It was work-for-hire. AG had already established the fundamentals — cute little characters with a Japanese patina — and I was tasked with contributing to a potential Bible for the Maryokuverse.

Basically AG had the character designs and their names and their basic dispositions. I did not conceive Maryoku Yummy. But, I did a fair amount of enrichment and development. That is, I proposed a fair amount. In the end, they accepted my content, paid me, and... that was that. Maryoku Yummy, while not shelved exactly, was somewhat de-emphasized. 

It wasn't until recently that I learned there had been a Maryoku Yummy cartoon in 2010. I presume that there had been some greeting-card miscellany as well in the preceding years (and perhaps since). I've watched a couple of the episodes. I've seen nothing of my ideas, but even if I did, it wouldn't matter to my career. It was work-for-hire. AG owns what I gave them.

One thing I did notice is that the cartoon seems to revolve around a magical world of wishes. The original conception — again, not mine, but embraced by me — was that Maryoku Yummy would revolve around a magical world of friendship. That was more affecting and fun. "Wishes" seems almost... I don't know, narcissistic and greedy.

In any event.

Part of my work was to write several stories demonstrating my ideas. The hope and expectation, frankly, was that those stories would be in actual Maryoku Yummy books.

I'm pleased with everything I wrote. I treated the stories seriously. They were in my voice with my plots and core ideas. It was exciting work. It seemed a shame to me that it all vanished into the great File Folder of Never Mind.

Two of the stories were sufficiently strong to be recast and exist independently of Maryoku Yummy. But, despite my off-and-on ruminations about doing so, I didn't salvage one until 2017. And then, this week, I salvaged the other.

I've spoken before about my character Pugnacious Footefake, the only survivor of a children's novel that crashed. Over the past three and a half decades I have used Pugnacious to reclaim ill-fated stories that deserved reclamation. I've certainly written original Pugnacious stories, but it's amusing how many are salvage jobs.

For some reason I have been unable to write more than a few stories about Pugnacious. He is a perfect vehicle for silly fantasies and magical ideas. Yet... I have given him only eight misadventures. I think, in some ways, he's just too much from my authorial past.

Anyhow, I finally took him out for another spin in 2017. I reclaimed my Maryoku story "Number Crunching" as the Pugnacious story "Neighborhood Commerce."

Then, two days ago I woke up at four in the morning, feeling rather sick. As I could not get back to sleep, my mind fell to the usual patterns of despair and again I lamented Pugnacious's under-use. Earlier this year I had briefly attempted to give him the life of my Maryoku story "The Friendly Package." Now I resolved to finish the attempt. Even though I'm in the middle of another project, I spent the last two days finishing my Pugnacious story "The Capricious Package."

You can tell by the titles how Maryoku and Pugnacious bear rather different tones! But in the end I have salvaged a really cute story and done a good thing for poor Pugnacious.

If AG has used my two stories, somehow and somewhere, I suppose I am in some sort of legal breach by re-writing them. But hey, they're my stories. I invented what I re-used. There's nothing Maryoku about "Neighborhood Commerce" or "The Capricious Package." They're all Pugnacious now.

P.S. All of my Pugnacious stories, including "The Capricious Package," are available in Sideways of the Earth.

Submission Guidelines Are a Bother
Writing Something Good Is Never Enough
Saturday, July 31, 2021 1:21 pm
So I heard that Pulp Modern was taking submissions tomorrow, for one day only, as they do twice a year. I've never submitted to them but, heck, why not? I even had something that might do, a pulpish bit of urban fantasy.

Then I check the submission guidelines. 

First, Pulp Modern wants stories between 3,500 and 5,000 words. My candidate is 2,900 words. This happens to me all the damn time. I cannot seem to write for this middling length that so many magazines want. My stories are either under 3K or well over 5K. It's weird. Seriously! Of all my works written over the past forty years, only three are between 3,500 and 5,000 words.

Second, for this go around, Pulp Modern wants stories set in 1981. Huh. 1981? Well, that's weird and arbitrary. I feel compelled here to deploy some WTF emoji.

Okay. But perhaps a challenge was manifesting. Sure, why not? Add 600 words to my story to get it to 3,500, and use those 600 words to recast the tale for 1981.

Now, I didn't want to do the lame thing and pepper my tale with references to time-specific consumer products or trends. Nor did I want merely to mention events of 1981. Rather, I wanted to ask: What was it about 1981 that would feed into the tale as it is? What from 1981 would be relevant?

The original story is fairly timeless. It just has phones, hired guns, and criminal mobs. Being explicit and placing it in 1981 is possible. And as I did a little historical research into mob stuff from ca. 1980, I discovered an absolutely relevant theme of everything falling apart.

Here's a passage I drafted.

He used to be an assassin. An instrument of the Families. A shadow in a realm of shadows. He had killed whom they wanted killed and with impunity, as the State, when not corrupted or cowed, could never pierce the omertà. Naively, perhaps, he hadn’t been concerned when that Kefauver mischief lit the scene, with Senators opining on sinister criminal organizations; but later, in ’63, that rat Valachi finally gave the Feds his precious testimony, and now, not twenty years later, the shadows were gone and RICO was picking away at it all.

Gideon had been freelancing in Vegas when sinister capital organizations – with the collaboration of the State of Nevada – had begun legitimizing the casinos, using lawful money to push out the thugs. He had retreated to New York and, for a time, joined the war in Hell’s Kitchen, eliminating the Irish for the Italians. Something had soured, however. For all their bluster the Families seemed in their dotage. The Feds were getting too good at snaring and turning bosses. And Gideon was worn out.

My idea was that, in this milieu, Gideon has been reduced to what, in the story, he is: a babysitter to a demon that has usurped his role as assassin. The old shadows of omertà have been replaced by those of Hell.

And so on.

But in the end it felt like what it was: contrived padding. The story I had written was complete and whole. It didn't need 1981. It didn't need another 600 words. Since I couldn't see stretching the Kefauverish stuff to 600 words (that chunk above is only 176), I soon found myself re-implanting phrases and descriptions I had once deemed superfluous. I was ruining the story.

So I stopped.

Maybe if I had more than two days — I only learned of this opportunity on Thursday — I could properly twist things to meet Pulp Modern's guidelines without breaking my tale. But I doubt it.

Back to other things...

How to Tell If Your Story Is Woke
Try This One Simple Test!
Thursday, July 22, 2021 10:46 pm
Beware! Colossal spoilers for "Black Sails."

Among the many irritating traits of the SJW is obtuseness. She really doesn't understand your objections to her antics. She believes that all she is doing is providing representation to the Blessed Marginalized. Her face shrunken in petulance, she shrieks: "I'm just putting a gay man in this TV show! What do you have against gays, you hateful homophobe?" 

Well, against their behavior, my dear, a few things; but that is not the issue.

I have no objection to the fictional depiction of a man who is attracted to men. I have no objection even to the sympathetic depiction of such a man. Such men exist, such men are human, such men are fodder for literature.

What I object to is your haranguing me on their behalf. What I object to is your sour attempt to disseminate the moralistic shibboleths of your ilk.

Consider the TV show Black Sails.

I love this show. Yeah, whatever, I have my complaints about it; but not one of my complaints is that the central motive of the central character is his love for another man. Indeed, I would argue that Black Sails is so well written, so humanly written, that I would not even want the writers to have done otherwise.

I wish, however, that they hadn't been woke.

Note I am about to make a distinction between telling a tale about a homosexual and being woke. This is what the SJW cannot fathom: That there is a distinction.

There is a book that was given by Thomas Hamilton to Captain Flint. Hamilton and Flint were lovers. Flint's piratical rage was born from the fatal mistreatment of Hamilton. The book is an important prop in the narrative.

There is an inscription in the book. Here it is.

The name of him to whom this love is directed is, as you can see, obscured; earlier, the viewer supposes it says "Miranda," the name of Hamilton's (public) wife, but in fact it says "James," Flint's true first name.

This inscription is a great example of intrusive wokeness.

If it had said only, "James, My truest love, T.H.", it would have been powerful. With that line, "Know no shame," it becomes propaganda. We hear in it all the bleating about pride and escaping closets; we see the fingers wagging at us — we who might shame the homosexual — telling us to eat our unbigoted spinach.

This is not the only woke moment in the show. The "shame" motif comes up several times. But this example is so stark and compact! One little line. Keep it, and the moment is woke. Remove it, and the moment is human.

Which do you prefer?

P.S. Yes, the very fact that they made Flint a homosexual at all is rather typical of woke approaches to fiction. It's the usual erasure of the hetero. I think we can be confident that Robert Louis Stevenson did not imagine Flint that way. Still, it's a fair change, considering Black Sails only toys with Treasure Island. And it is merited by the good narrative use made of it.

P.P.S. Huh. With that attitude, I should probably return my membership card for the He-Man Poofter-Haters Club.

Mermaids & Termites
As of July
Monday, July 19, 2021 11:26 pm
A reviewer of An Uncommon Day at the Lake thought I was making a pun on "day" because the women in the story — Lovely and Happy — have the surname "Day." I was not. It was absolutely reasonable of him to think so; but until he pointed it out, I didn't even realize there could be a pun. 

Likewise, if I died tomorrow and someone checked all the presets on the radio in my car, he would think I had a secret fondness for Beyoncé or some other tripe. But I do not. The presets were there when I acquired the car. They spew at me when I swap out CDs. I have never changed them, because I don't use the radio.

How many assertions are made about authors based on "evidence" that is wholly without relevance or meaning? Many, I am sure.

I finished my story for Cirsova. It is called The Unshrouded Stars. If Alex the editor refuses The Impossible Footprint, I'll still have a backup submission for 2022.

In the draft of my cover letter I mention this backup. Originally I described it as "weird-horror SF." I called it SF because it is set on the International Space Station (even though, in my usual fashion, I am a little unspecific, calling it just "the Station," trying to imply a world just a little to the left of ours).

Thing is, though, there is nothing science fictional in the story. It's not even near-future. It is set on the ISS, which is real. Being in space is very relevant to the story but the setting is no more fanciful than a train or a castle. This story set on a space station contains no science fiction!

That's remarkable to me.

Anyhow, I revised the description to "weird-horror."

Every so often I submit The Giant's Walk to a publisher. Self-publishing has proven pointless. Today I received the most recent rejection. I never really expect acceptance. I know the book is eccentric. Rejection still disappoints me.

The Baron of Nevada and His Branded Broads

Come on. That is a fantastic title. It comes from the cover of a men's magazine from 1962. Now, I suppose that the author was not unaware of the title's absurdity; yet I believe that he was earnest, as well. We have lost something if our only response to such a title is ironic snickering.

I think an excellent project would be to take such titles and write one's own appropriate tales — not in mockery, but seriously. To be sure, most such stories were soft-core pr0n, and that I would not do. But sexy and adventurous... Mmm!

I changed the title of this monthly miscellany to Mermaids & Termites because I like the sound of that and it nicely suggests the miscellaneous mode.

I also re-coded the blog page to present random quotes at the top, instead of solely the heretofore static "If you like your religion..." quote.

Every time I go back into the blog code these days, it is a strange and melancholic task. I once coded for a living. I am able to change things now not because I really remember how, but because I can decipher other code and mimic it as needed. God help me if I ever have to recreate this website. Backups notwithstanding.

I usually turn on subtitles with British TV shows because, let's be frank, they barely speak English in the UK; and I've often wondered if the subtitles provided by Amazon Prime are made by humans. Recently a character said that someone had been doing something "since the ball wall." Eh? It took my brain a moment to ignore the subtitle, review the audio I had just heard, and realize that the character had said "since the Boer War." Though a human might have heard "ball wall," I can't imagine he would have been so utterly smooth-brained to record it that way. Amazon Prime either uses some sort of inadequate AI or has farmed out their subtitling to morons who couldn't care less.

I am unlikely, in the short term, to take up the tale of the branded broads, but having finished The Unshrouded Stars I do need something to work on. Misha Burnett has himself temporarily set aside And Who Shall I Say Is Calling? (our collaboration). I could pick up the baton. I will immediately, if he resumes his interest. In the meantime, though, I think I will start the fifth Hamlin Becker tale. I do have another short in progress — weird-horror again, called Sympathy of Clocks — but that might be better left as a post-Becker activity.

Becker and the sisters Day need another adventure, I think.

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