When I was a kid, my first real interest in stories was horror, specifically Fortean horror, which (apart from a devotion to the lightweight TV form – represented by the prototypical Chris Carter’s X-Files inspiration “Kolchak, the Night Stalker” (1974-75), I pursued in the main through comic books. I favored the denser, more prose-laden double length “digest” comics – about the size of a Reader’s digest (roughly 8″ tall and 5″ wide) but thicker. They were my favorites, because there was more text and there were more stories, so they lasted longer than the standard variety. which felt more like brochures. DC & Marvel weren’t my thing. I read a lot of Golden Key comics which, like the 1950s era comics put out by EC (Entertainment Comics), had rejected the Comic Code Authority “seal” of content safety for children, without which most retailers wouldn’t stock them. No “decency” for me – I wanted it raw and uncensored. [Read more…] about Horror Was My Childhood Doorway to Conscience, Art, and Wonder
I don’t really care for severed heads and people terrified out of their wits or writhing in agony. I don’t cheer or laugh when chainsaws come out like adolescent boys might whoop and shout at explosions in an action film. I don’t particularly enjoy being scared – quite the opposite. And just like it’s a bogus myth a lot of non-literary people have that storytellers who write fantasy have psychedelic minds or are “weird”, it’s not true that people who tell horror stories secretly have actual heads in their freezers and ‘sick’ minds (we’ll address whether the horrible is always attributable to illness another time). But I have to deliberately ponder the question – actually I have to write it – to get at exactly the reasons horror, as a genre, appeals to me. So here goes: [Read more…] about Why Severed Heads Actually Matter
Occasionally I revisit the reasons why I chose New York City as my next home. I had narrowed it down to cities with relatively solid mass transit: NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia, Washington (DC), and Boston. I had considered Los Angeles, but don’t want to spend 900 hours annually in a car while breathing the fumes you can see rolling across the highway. I considered San Francisco – great food, but the hills make walking a chore, there’s the addict culture, small size, and the lack of subways ruled it out. My criteria also included arts, street culture (including street food), and a cutting edge attitude in at least one category of business or art. I dropped Seattle, because of the hills again, and the fact of the electric buses being stuck in traffic twice a day. I love Portland, but it’s got 11% unemployment – a depressed economy. Along with Chicago and Boston, it inhabits my fall back plans. DC and Philly mass transit are “depends on where you want to go”, and the quantity of stuff I like would just be too small a footprint for me. That leaves NYC, Chicago, and Boston. Boston is way up there on my radar, and I might still do that at some point. But there is no rent savings at all, so for now it’s NYC and Chicago, which come down to rent, amenities, and culture, and that’s what I based my decision on. I feel no loyalist impulse toward boosterism, so this is simply a life optimization choice for me, and a personal one. [Read more…] about Why I Chose New York City
When I used to ask the question of writers’ groups why it was that most of the writers expressed, in one form or another, doing just about everything but writing, I was generally greeted with indignation and outrage. The other night, my friend Chuckles and I were discussing how video games do not prepare you to be a Navy Seal, wield a battle axe, or ride horses into battle. In fact, if you’re still playing them several hours a day by the time you hit adolescence, the likelihood of you putting in the concentrated, long-term hard work that one of those disciplines requires starts to plummet. If you’re still doing it at 25, you’re probably an expert at delivering pizza – which is fine – I’ve done six dozen jobs at least, including that, and I’m not knocking it. But you can deliver pizza when you’re 40, which is one reason some of those guys do – you can’t start at 40 and become a ballerina or a concert pianist or fly an F15. You’ve heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule from Outliers – that’s 10,000 hours of actually doing something, not talking about it. Maybe Sun Tzu would say 9,000 hours of planning and only 1,000 hours of war, but he was already a general. [Read more…] about 12 Reasons I am Not a Writer
When I was a boy, I played using the imagination as my primary raw material. I had books, toys, and other things, but the imagination was my Greyhound ticket to the road to anywhere. It got me, like The Saint, out of locked rooms, like Jane Austen out of occupied rooms, and like a cat burglar *into* all kinds of forbidden places. [Read more…] about Journeys in Alternate Reality
When I was a kid, my parents considered me to be useless. I had it drilled into me that I was the guy that, if any ordinary person could tie his shoes or make his way in the world, would still fail. Defining myself as a man required not only a break with the family, but recognizing and overcoming (at quite some cost, and with significant pain) the similar voices that are ready to join the chorus in the world. I always looked at the world in unusual ways, and was never cut out for academia, corporate life, standard religion, etc. I specialized in doing things that were adventurous to try to change my life and the bigger they got, the more helpful or disastrous they were. But sometimes they helped a lot. I had to define who I was, determine what the world was, alter the conception of my relation to the world, and ultimately decide what to do then. [Read more…] about Beyond Being a Real Boy
The Orson Example: I think most people who have read a lot of Orson Scott Card’s work and have also spent time in social media are aware that there are years’ long campaigns going on to punish Card for his opposition to gay marriage (which is forbidden in his religion), comments he’s made in opposition to homosexuality (which is forbidden in his religion), and his participation in conservative organizations (which most prominent people in his religion do). It’s nothing that’s not common among Mormons in general, evangelical Christians, conservatives, and indeed half of the United States – but what really pisses people off is that his books are so good, too. In fact, if he wrote lousy books or was less popular, there wouldn’t be an issue. That’s how common his views are and how good his books are – the backlash underscores both. Let’s be honest about that. [Read more…] about Rescuing Art from Ideology
I have a rather unusual personality – so I am told, continually. A close colleague of mine says it’s all about context. Drop me into most standardized social settings and I stand out quite a bit or quietly observe from a dark corner. Standard social situations do not readily accommodate intense personalities. Put me in a restrictive one, like a corporate office, and I’m really out of place – I’m not a team player, by any stretch. Unleash me in an open, continually out-of-the-box environment with piles of legos and unrestricted freedom to go all Montessori on my surroundings (think TED rather than Walmart), and I tend to thrive and deliver keen insights and a lot of value. This is why I’m a decent entrepreneur and suck at being a cubicle jockey. [Read more…] about The Bizarre Life of Fiction
“The quality of mercy is not strained.” Another story teller said that. I have to decide whether to show mercy on an enemy. A post about ethics? Stock in trade, my friend. What do you think we story tellers do? We aren’t talking about bean dip and Budweiser, even if we are. We tell lots of lies, but some things aren’t. And the transcendent things – that’s our bread and butter. The bread and the butter, the bean dip and the Bud – those are just useful metaphors for what the story teller says is really real about life – meaning. [Read more…] about Mercy and Marigolds
Exactly 30 days ago, I began work on a series of writing goals: [Read more…] about 3 Rabbits from My Hat – Writing Feats
I came across a blog post critiquing the common phrase “I’m spiritual not religious” which is indeed an annoying comment. I usually want to respond “that’s cute” but I don’t have time for the drama it would bring to my table. Even just refusing someone’s “spiritual” advances creates shock and disgust. Recently I declined to bring my baby boy, my dog, to be “blessed” by the local church of the coffee shop on animal day. “No thanks. I already have a religious tradition.” Jeez, you’d think I spit in their hymnals or ripped off their yarmalkas. [Read more…] about Religion, Love, Death, and Other Topics
You know, I’m torn between the perception of fear in psychological terms as damaging and harmful, in Darwinian terms as healthful and helpful – indeed essential for our survival, and in religious terms as a ‘passion’ – a function of Death at work in us (which a Darwinist must deny). I am fascinated by all of these conceptions. And more. I find I must think of fear not merely in terms of what it does to us or where it comes from, but as an adventurous realm in which to travel, a place to let my storytelling mind lie down and rest. On any given night, I am journeying through fear and discovering it as a world, and telling a bit of it.
“A major milepost has been passed when you mature enough to acknowledge what drives you, and you take the wheel and steer it.” – Andrew Stanton: The Clues to a Great Story [Read more…] about Reading Fears: Story & Entrepreneurship
On the leavetaking of Holy Nativity and Eve of Holy Theophany, these Nativity hymns.
Apparently I am not the only one who experiences his eyes and hair changing colour with mood. For me, the overall mood that drives colour change lasts a long time, but the eyes can change on a momentary basis, too, right in front of someone. The changes are generally subtle (in hair: dark brown to black, or simply the grey disappearing to black and then back again, and then gone again; in eyes: from brown to hazel to silver-green). They are, however, sometimes pronounced enough that some people ask if I’ve dyed my hair, or think that I’m wearing coloured contact lenses. I don’t put chemicals in my hair, and I only wear glasses and only for reading. [Read more…] about Mood Ring or Kaleidoscope Eyes & Hair
You know, I’m just really, really tired of anything that smacks of what most people take for fantasy and horror. The gothic horror romance makes a lot of us want to weep. The elf and a wizard meet up at a nearby town and plan to enter a dungeon thing has become a joke. I used to get submissions sometimes to MYTHOLOG that contained not-so-subtle character lines like “Hi, I’m a phouka,” or “Actually, I’m a wizard,” or “Yes, I’m a fairy” (which at least was culturally ambiguous enough to smirk at). Most of the stuff being put out at an amateur level (nothing wrong with being an amateur) is so much drek, even if it has a glossy cover or is for sale on amazon. Most of this stuff is to the original stuff by Edisson (The Worm Ourobouros) or Fritz Leiber what top-40 country is to folk music. It’s not drawing, except in the most superficial of ways, on any real mythic tradition. And forgive me, but Harry Potter, the holy grail of book sales, isn’t helping. [Read more…] about Heresy Against Fantasy Lit
I woke up the first time today at 6am (b/c of loud neighbors) to what clearly was pattern matching. There was a massive matrix or array of images, like a giant table grid, countless squares of image/patterns and they were being rapidly swapped out, and compared/tested against each other, a lot like code breaking or facial pattern recognition searches. I didn’t wake right away even w. the noise, and the size of the array kept getting smaller as I rose up through the depths of sleep, until there were just two images being compared. I noticed music was accompanying the operation, and it got louder as I neared the surface – suggesting the operation had been deep and was becoming less effective in the forward part of the mind. And then I was awake. I had programmed a part of my mind before sleep to work on a series of problems, most important of which was to find something and bring it to consciousness. It got interrupted, it seems, but now I know how it was going about its work. Oddly, I must have had a sense of what was going to happen, though I wasn’t consciously aware of it. Just before bed I wrote this (thinking about something else entirely). It’s something I’ve said for many years: Asher’s 188th Maxim: It takes at least three of a set to make a pattern. Two of something is only guessing.
Despite the noise, I went back to sleep and woke with a different dream.