Spawn of Mars
Don't worry. If you like your religion, you can keep your religion.
Mermaids & Termites
As of May
Friday, May 13, 2022 12:41 am
So Stupefying Stories was going to shut down after issue #25. As of this past March, two of my stories had been held by them, in limbo, for over two years. There was, let us say, some breakdown in their process. Given the magazine's imminent demise and my disinclination to be caught up in another pointless contract with them, I moved on. 

And so, of course, Stupefying has resurrected itself and has plans to continue indefinitely. They got their act together. Ostensibly. But here I am, out.

Very rude of them.

Just as well, I guess. I understand the root cause of their troubles, but I doubt their time of caprice is over.

Much as I would have liked my two stories to have been published, there's a benefit to their being unaccepted again. I am unlikely to sell them elsewhere but I kind of don't care. I've been putting together volumes of my collected SF stories (for sale) and of course they can't be published using stories that are caught up in exclusivity clauses. Had Stupefying not gone off the rails, both my stories would already be out of exclusivity and available for publication by me. If Stupefying still had them, it might be another year or more before they showed up in the magazine (if at all), and my volumes would be delayed — and I want them all to come out by the end of 2023.

In some ways I've lost interest in getting published at all. I still want to be in Cirsova and StoryHack, but otherwise... eh. I know I won't sell any copies of my books, but I want to try, and I don't want to put them off, and I want the two stories to be included (because they're good).

So Wayward Scarecrow and Banana Man will be "previously unpublished" additions to their respective volumes, and that might even be a bit nifty.

Normally I wouldn't write an SF retelling of a fairy tale, but Shoreline of Infinity put out a call for such stories and, hey, why not? I picked a Grimm staple that was neither obvious nor obscure and sent it along. I titled my tale An Escalation of Wishes but frankly I prefer my second choice of title, Fishes and Wishes. It might get accepted.

If it is, it will come out in their special September issue. In August The Impossible Footprint will be published by Cirsova. So autumn is when I'd like to announce my SF volumes, which will be released on some regular basis over the subsequent year. Strike when the iron is hot! Even if Shoreline rejects me, that Cirsova publication will be significant, since I will be the cover story!

As reported in my previous post, way back in January, I finished the fifth Hamlin Becker story A Devil's Intuition. I'm planning a sixth. The fourth, His Own Ends, has been in the can for a long time, now. I wish StoryHack was active. I'm presuming that these stories will get accepted by StoryHack, which, I admit, is presumptuous; but StoryHack published the first three, so, hope? But the longer StoryHack is inactive, the more it messes with the timing of my volumes, which must include the Becker stuff.

Please, StoryHack... Arise!

I had intended to finish the second Hak Iri story Motive of Man, and indeed started work on it earlier this year. But in general, apart from the silly energy I spent on Wishes, I haven't been too enthusiastic about writing. Or anything.

Anyhow, part of my impetus was to have Motive ready for Cirsova's annual call for submissions at the end of the summer, but I've decided that The Unshrouded Stars would be a better submission. I wrote that for Cirsova in the first place and, fortuitously, Cirsova has a hankering for horror these days. So — perfect!

This relieves the pressure to complete Motive — which, again, was not ripping along — and also frees me up to resume the Becker stuff, which I really want to resolve before I get hit by a truck.

So that's my plan for the summer: (1) Finish Becker #6 and (2) Get ready to launch my SF volumes... which, by the way, are to be called Stellar Stories.

Oh. Some big news I almost forgot. I have fully regained my rights to the three books that Simon & Schuster published in the '90s. Not sure what I'm going to do with that, but it's nice that they're all mine again.

Mermaids & Termites
As of January
Saturday, January 22, 2022 1:41 pm
What a gloomy day. Ate something that has disagreed with me. Not motivated to write fiction. So let's finally update the blog that no one reads.

I have not, after all, resumed work on my unfinished novel The Remnant. My personal priorities have changed and thus, yet again, my writing priorities have changed. We'll see how long this plan holds up. 

Anyhow, I am resolved to finish the two final Hamlin Becker stories and two Hak Iri stories. It is possible that amidst those efforts I will also finish Sympathy of Clocks and The Baron of Nevada and His Branded Broads, but those works are low priority.

I've delayed my collaboration with Misha Burnett. Each time I check in with him he is prompted to pick it up again and add a couple of thousand words. I feel bad about falling behind, but the collaboration is very much a side project for us both. I need to finish other things first.

So why are these two Becker tales "final"? Because I pretty much know how I want the main mysteries to resolve. Strictly speaking, if I live long enough I might write more Becker stuff; but I won't have to.

I've finished the first of the two. It's called A Devil's Intuition. I wrote it with StoryHack in mind, of course, but I wonder if that mag is dead. Bryce the editor has been working on other projects and there have been no mag announcements.

I've already got an earlier Becker story in my hopper: His Own Ends, also intended for StoryHack. I need Bryce to start taking these off my hands, haha!

A Devil's Intuition is really good. It contains my first proper femme fatale. It's not terribly science-fictional, despite the Martians. Definitely a "Chandler in Space." The next (and last?) Becker story, which I haven't started, is going to be the most science-fictional. Still with lots of Chandler, though.

While I step back from Becker to allow his last story to ferment in my mind, I'm working on a Hak Iri story, Motive of Man. "Hak Iri, his friends, and his Love-Girl Esa Nal are drafted by an Aethir Pirate to fight ghosts in the environs of chaotic Ooranos!" Hopefully Cirsova will accept it for the 2023 season. (It's a follow-up, though not a sequel, to The Impossible Footprint, which will be in the Fall 2022 issue of Cirsova.)

I am counting the two Hak Iri stories in my "critical things to write" because I have some cool ideas for that world and I really want them storified. Again, if I live long enough, I'm sure there will be more Hak Iri...

Stupefying Stories is officially dead. There will be two more issues and that's it. My two accepted but unpublished stories (in their hands since 2019) are unlikely to make the cut for the grand finale. At least my stories will be released from their limbo.

It is a very sad thing, I'd say. Semi-pro short-story mags are precious. And this mag accepted two of my works.

Say a prayer for the editor & publisher Bruce Bethke, his future endeavors, and most especially his sickly wife.

I know. Mortality fogs this post. I said it was a gloomy day. And often I'm a gloomy guy. But my necessary fiction is proceeding... slowly.

Tapping those seconds, tapping those keys.

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...

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