Spawn of Mars
Men did not love Rome because she was great. Rome was great because men loved her.
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!
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...

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.

StoryHack #7 Is Out
Read My Story in It!
Friday, May 14, 2021 1:45 am
The latest issue of StoryHack is here! And it contains the third Hamlin Becker tale!

Buy it on Amazon (to give the publisher money). Review it on Amazon (to increase its rank). Read my story An Uncommon Day at the Lake and be amazed by my stupendifulacrity. Go, now!
This I Didn't Expect
A Story Is Reprieved
Sunday, December 20, 2020 2:31 pm
My works that I think are worth preserving have been identified and preserved in one book or another. The other works are on the scrap heap. My judgments of worth were made over the past decade or so, and I had thought the judgments were done.

Weirdly, though, yesterday I was reminded of a story that I scrapped long ago. I can't quite reconstruct my judgment against it. It was, of course, repeatedly rejected, but that isn't determinative. It may have gotten swept away by my general disillusionment with juvenile fiction. I think I was annoyed by its "dark turn." I just couldn't write anything without a splash of grim, even a children's storybook.

Anyhow, yesterday I re-read it and — heck, it's pretty good. Good enough to work up into a Kindle freebie. So, for a little while (December 22nd through 26th), you can get The Santa Mantle for free at Amazon.

By the way, that is not the original title. The original title was very lame. I came up with "Santa Mantle" yesterday. Pure inspiration.

P.S. Does this mean my scrap heap hides other unjustly discarded works? Not likely. Although, in this listless and boring period of pandemic and political collapse, maybe I'll take some time to double-check...
Sundry & Motley
As of November & the Collapse of the Republic
Friday, November 6, 2020 12:37 am
Looks like I missed October's update. Sorry. I know no one reads this blog anyhow. If you do, I apologize for doubting your existence.

I sold another story, this one to Cirsova. Not The Impossible Footprint, which, as you may recall, was pre-emptively rejected because of its length. Instead, having decided not to give up on contributing to Cirsova for 2021, I whipped up a 1,200-word short called Dead Neighbor, which Alex the editor bought. So that's nice! 

Still waiting on word from StoryHack about An Uncommon Day at the Lake. Bryce the editor had some 50 submissions, so I won't be impatient. I know I'll hear about it soon enough. Boy, I hope he accepts it. A rejection would pretty much terminate my StoryHack career. Hamlin Becker is my Action-Adventure mode, and his tales are a continuing series.

Meanwhile, Stupefying Stories is resurfacing. I saw an interview with Bruce the editor, and their blog is active again. I know Bruce has had a difficult year, not least personally, but he seems back on track. My two stories Banana Man and Wayward Scarecrow might get published after all. I haven't heard anything yet, however.

Back when music was released on LPs, often an artist would blend one song into the next, creating continuous music through the briefly widened needle-path between tracks. When CDs of such old LPs came out, I was repeatedly disappointed by the harsh discontinuity between tracks, a moment of blank sound where no blankness used to be. I never understood such sloppiness in the CD transfers.

Recently, for some reason, I was motivated to buy Animals by Pink Floyd, which I never got on CD and haven't heard in decades. Much to my surprise, there are no discontinuities. Nor on Wish You Were Here, which I also just re-acquired. It's a beautiful thing. Did they finally figure out how to digitally execute the artist's original blending? Or did they just stop being sloppy?

By the way, Animals is really, really good. I'm not a huge prog-rock fan, but I like this album even more than I once did. Definitely Pink Floyd's best.

In my continuing struggle with Twitter, I have resolved to disengage. From Twitter, YouTube, and all blogs. The proximate cause is the election. I don't care what happens anymore. I don't want to know. This Republic is truly done. Life is too short to care. I'll leave it to others.

Obviously I have not left the internet; but my own blogging is a solipsistic affair. And while I will keep my Twitter account open as a sort of RSS feed for this blog, as well as to signal-boost publishing announcements from myself, Cirsova, StoryHack, and Stupefying Stories, I will do so delicately, with blinders on. With luck I'll never learn who the President is. Ha.

Speaking of Twitter, here's a couple of tweets of mine that I thought were worth rescuing.

  • "Convergent" evolution: The admission that evolution relies not on random mutation but on a set of paradigmatic responses to potential turns of events. The mutations are, as it were, built in.

  • What prevents the Woke from writing good entertainment is that good entertainment accords with the natural order. We are entertained when we sense right and wrong, male and female, God and joy. Those are things the Woke hate. Thus, the Woke cannot entertain us.

    One of the best days of the year is when, in October, I go to the apple orchard with my brother's family, to gather apples and to overload on donuts and cider. In recent years I have later made an apple pie for myself. I'm not much of a cook, but I am a decent baker. Here's a couple of pictures of my Dutch Apple Pie for 2020.

    It was quite delicious!
  • Cirsova Summer Special 2020 Is Out!
    Read My Story in It!
    Thursday, May 14, 2020 3:53 pm
    The annual Summer Special of Cirsova Magazine is here!

    Buy it on Amazon (to give the publisher money). Review it on Amazon (to increase its rank). Read my story The Fourth Gift and be amazed by my wonderfullestness. Go, now!

    P.S. From Twitter, here's a gratifying review of my story.
    Rarely does one come across a story both intellectually brilliant and artistically beautiful. The Fourth Gift by DAVID SKINNER is absolutely one of that. A meditation on immortality, humanity, science, and struggle, it’s both a dense read and one utterly worthwhile.
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