Astro-Zombies

I gotta post something to bump my last post, since it has a song in my head that I’d rather not be experiencing right now.  Different people have different “palate cleansing” songs.  My bf’s mom uses Ode to Joy.  I’ve found Astro-Zombies by The Misfits is pretty good for me, but not 100% effective.  I think the more familiar I am with the earworm du jour, the easier it is to come right back.  This most recent one I haven’t heard in literal decades, but back when it was new?  Probably listened to it dozens of times.

What do you use to help dislodge and unwelcome song from your brainpiece?

GodDAMMIT Dreampost

Content Warnings:  Suicide, Vomit, Drowning, Trump

 

Picture this.  It’s a medium overcast day on a shore somewhere in New Jersey or New York, with a view of the city skyline in the background.  Maybe it’s a slightly woolly golf course or a nature reserve of some kind but it looks like The Mere of Dead Men from Lord of the Rings.

Trump has called a strange press conference with few people present, and it is being filmed from a high angle – a helicopter perhaps.  But something is wrong.

The people above the water are frantic, trying to help or trying to flee.  Below the water’s surface, a few senatorial looking men in suits are clearly already dead.  Trump himself is eight feet deep, chugging from a whiskey bottle.  He lets it go and a cloud of yellow vomit puffs out of his mouth before he stops moving.

Having been filmed live, even if news channels have hesitation to show the footage, Trump’s moment has close-cropped animated gifs popping up all over the internet.  People are bewildered but kind of euphoric, some are celebrating.  Hey, I don’t live in Kansas.

I can’t believe it, though I want to.  I run here and there, test the boundaries of reality, slap my face, ask everyone I see, look at every TV or computer screen.  Everything is telling me it’s real.

Before I fell asleep last night I started coughing, so I put in a cough drop.  I had woken up briefly some time before dawn and not knowing what to do with the dregs of the drop in my mouth, I pressed it between my right ring finger and pinky.  The flesh was sticky there, which I noted and also conspired to make me believe I was awake, that it was real.

When I finally did wake up, well, you know what world you live in.  My fingers were sticky from the cough drop.  That piece of shit-ler is still alive somewhere.

But man, for one shining, drawn-out moment in my heart…

 

 

Stand Out as a Writer

The last few years I’ve been exposed to a lot more amateur writing than I have since college (over fifteen years ago).  I’m seeing common mistakes, and if the larger pool of amateurs age 20-40 are anything like these kids, might be that a huge amount of your competition for getting published is likewise disadvantaged.  What are they doing wrong?  They avoid writing the highest moments of tension and conflict.

Their plots might have a central conflict, sometimes a person may confront somebody else, a person may take some sort of action, but anything that would make a scene genuinely tense or the outcome of a conflict at all uncertain?  They’re afraid to write it.  They write circles around it but never show it.  I imagine it’s because those moments are emotionally uncomfortable and they’re too timid to face those emotions.

An example:  A story is present tense and begins with a person riding a bus to see her ailing mother.  She sees a lake and remembers her childhood there.  The story cuts to her at a rest stop recovering from barfing.  Why did she barf?  Now the present tense story has her remembering that – on this very bus ride – she got a call that her mother died.  Not only did the author avoid writing an emotionally intense moment, they had to do a time skip in a present tense story.  It felt very weird.  They didn’t even write about the moment of barfing, like that would have been too much.  We start a bus ride, reminisce, then cut back to the present and have skipped the only emotionally significant event in the story and its fallout.

Another example:  A story begins with the hero tending bar.  Some guys come in, connected with her shady past, and start bullying her.  Will she slip up and reveal who she is, starting a gun fight?  No, her boss makes an excuse for her and she bails.  Now as she leaves, she’s remembering a time in her shady past when collateral damage from a shootout led to her arguing with her squad and going solo.  Cool, but what’s more tense?  Bawling out your boss for bad tactics, or the shootout itself, where innocent bystanders died at the barrel of your own gun?

OK, but there’s two moments of tension in example two – the bullying and the boss-bawling, right?  No.  Both conflicts were fully one-sided.  There was never a question she’d submit to the bullying.  It was her plan from the first minute – didn’t want to reveal herself.  And when she’s yelling at her boss, self-righteously barking and waving a gun in his face?  He’s just solemnly kneeling there, saying “I know, I suck.”  If there’s an argument, if there’s a fight, if there’s any moment that would be made more exciting by uncertainty, it’s avoided.

And of course the most exciting event mentioned in the story went wholly undescribed – the shootout that precipitated her rebellion and desertion.  If you’re thinking back to a traumatic event in your life like a car crash or fight, do you remember the traumatic moment, or what the paramedics said afterward?  Scratch that – you might remember the paramedics more strongly.  But what would make for a more exciting story?  Would Return of the Jedi be better if they skipped Vader dying and Luke just said it happened after the fact, at the ewok party?

Part of this is a lack of confidence as an author, one can surmise, but another part might come from the conventions of fanfic.  If somebody wants to write around the canon, they aren’t making the key events themselves happen.  They only write interstitial moments.  Between this scene and that from an episode of Muscular Monster Hunting Bros, these guys totally held hands.  That’s what they’re writing.

It sometimes feels like hand-holding would be more emotionally heavy duty than these kids can handle.  So if you want to stand out from maybe half the young writers out there?  Simply make things happen in your story and actually describe them happening.  You just might clear the slush pile from a reader’s sense of relief at witnessing that lost bit of courage from days of yore.

Dreampost – Way of the Samurai

Random stuff from my dreams this morning.  My artist friends had been complaining about this supervillain guy stealing their stuff and corrupting their files.  I think he was called The Spoiler or The Leech (yes I know there are comic book characters with those names) and he was a fit but smallish guy in a yellow outfit.  I had an art job to do for my brother and his wife who had a Japanese / Polynesian -themed  webcomic (not real).  The Spoiler messed up my files and we got in a fight.

He was very wimpy.  I beat him extremely badly.  In my mind I was trying to teach him a lesson with pain, not necessarily cripple him for life.  I left him on the landing of stairs outside my apartment.  Later I overheard some neighbor ladies talking shit about him and one randomly mentioned he’s only eight years old.  Yes, he has the body of an adult, but is actually a child.  I’m like WTF I wouldn’t have done that if I’d known.

I go to check on him.  Somebody had dragged him down the stairs and left him by the bushes like garbage they wanted out of their way but wasn’t their responsibility.  He was paralyzed in a position like imitating a dead cockroach, green foam around his mouth, but his eyes worked and he looked at me as I approached.  I said I’d go call an ambulance.

Back in my apartment the dream suddenly became hyper-detailed and realistic as if I was awake.  Two young ladies (blonde, one with short hair, not too glamorous) were there talking about their D&D game and how they were waiting for the DM to get back.  I was like, BS, this is a dream, I’m not your Dungeon Master.  There were cupcakes on the table and I tried one, to test the dream.  Tasted a bit bland but like a fairly convincing coffee buttercream.

I had to go back outside and there was a handsome nine foot tall black guy with a twelve foot long samurai sword.  He was unnaturally tall but realistically proportioned, wrapped up in voluminous blue robes like Marvel’s “Cloak” or a mysterious Mœbius comic character.  I knew he was there to chop off my head.

He went to do it but I interrupted him like, no man, don’t.  This is a dream and I know that, but it’s all realistic and I don’t want to experience what it’s like to be decapitated.  He was disappointed and tried to convince me to accept my fate.  I ran up onto the apartment stairwell.  He was like, “Where are you going?,” and I was like, “In here were you can’t swing that big sword.”

To prove a point he went past me into the stairwell (I backed down into the parking lot) and started rushing up and down the stairs unnaturally fast, waving the sword.  The stairwell began to slide endlessly down in place, an infinite supply of stairwell replacing it so he never ran out of stairs to use for his display.  I took the opportunity to force myself to wake up.  Wasn’t very easy, wasn’t terribly hard.

Sometimes when I first wake up I feel so comfortable and free from pain that it’s tempting to lay in bed forever.  This was one of those mornings, which makes me wonder if that painlessness is tied to some specific stage of sleep being interrupted.  Also at some point in the dream DL Hughley was being very upset that these guys filming a college commercial thought he should go back to school to learn how to polish his podcast.

No Win

Content Warning: Despairing Rhetoric re: Politics, COVID, Environmentalism.

Fighting antivax beliefs, and indeed reactionary thought as a whole, feels like dealing with an insurgency.  There is just no good solution at this point.  (Government crackdown on facebook’s fascist bullshit algorithms in 2015 might have helped, but there’s no political will to make that happen even now.)  You’ll never win the hearts and minds of people deluded into feeling like brave defenders of an invaded homeland, any effort to force compliance will just lead to more terrorist reprisal.  We’ve already had a taste of that, in destruction of medicine, in obstruction of vax sites, and in many cases of physical assault all across the country.

Given all that, how does one adjust to this new world of biological gods and ideological monsters?  Knowing what endemic COVID looks like will be a good start for that discussion.  Funny to think if I live to my seventies or nineties I could be killed slowly and painfully, asphyxiated and brain damaged by a disease that could have been strangled in its infancy two years ago.  By funny, I mean all rethuglican fucks please eat shit and die ASAP, it’s the least you can do for us.

No, no, Satan.  Calm down.  These are human beings, this is humanity.  The same humanity that supports Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin and Jair Bolsonaro, that has LGBT Jamaicans assaulted every day, living in vacant lots and scrounging garbage to eat, that packs megachurch pews to fund murderous hate around the globe, that scapegoats anybody and everybody to pursue short-term political and financial gain while ensuring the extinction of your species.  You have no choice but to live with these people, or to die.  They are here to stay, for as long as humanity continues to exist.

I don’t know.  We can just keep having these conversations, every day until we die.  Very tiring.