Deconstructing “A Day Ruined”

February 9, 2017

“A Day Ruined” is a new, very short story posted at the end of 2016, inspired by a recent, dispiriting set of stamps from the Postal Service that sends the wrong message about pets and exotics.

Pet Stamps - Side 1 of USPS stamps Side 2 of USPS Stamps

Once you get beyond the dogs and cats/puppies and kittens, the pictured animals are less and less appropriate as companions. Many are routinely removed from their native habitats and shipped in poor conditions, only to be abandoned by irresponsible owners.

In any event, many people are concerned about issues of animal suffering, and the day-to-day life of people who care about such things, or who care about anything, is getting difficult in today’s America, where the loudest voices dominate current political discussions by venting their inner asshole. And all this noise covers up actions like the USDA’s, which recently pulled public information about animal abuse from its site.

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Something New

March 10, 2016

The short story “The Crook of a Tree” is new to this site, although this piece was done a few years back and first  made “publicly available” as part of the compilation “Stories from Austin: A Collection of Short Stories from the Austin Creative Fiction Writers Group.”

The site has also gone under a modest makeover, mainly to eliminate Flash in the interior page navigation.

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January 2, 2016

I re-edited and posted the very short short story “Toy Lists” to start the new year. You might be asking, Why keep this story alive? Because it uses the word “frowsy.” That is simply a great word. It is the type of word you dream about.

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Welcome to the New Apocalypse – Same as the Old Apocalypse

November 13, 2010

Would anyone be surprised to wake up in the midst of a zombie apocalypse? Or are our minds conditioned to expect any deep sleep, any extended hospital stay, carries at least a 50/50 chance that the undead will be walking before your discharge? It struck me, when watching The Walking Dead, how no one asked how or why the Earth became overrun with zombies. There would have been more exposition if a tsunami or an earthquake or global warming had destroyed the world.

Of course that’s a recognition of today’s audience – we no longer need an explanation for zombies – but have we reached the point where we don’t expect our characters to question the existence of the walking dead either? If so, then the creator of Zombie Nice spent way too much time searching for the right cause for zombification…

Zombies – What Is Hip?

August 7, 2010

I have loaded up the new story “Dreams of Zombies,” which is about the desperate chase for the next big idea. The narrator is this poor schmo who somehow thinks he can make a living writing. Laughable, I know. You can imagine him writing teen vampire stories – but at least here he is trying to get ahead of the next trend with a story about zombies, which in itself might not be a bad story. Entertaining but disposable – so there’s no reason to think it couldn’t sell a million copies or turn into a multimillion-dollar film. Heck, people seem to like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I couldn’t get past the dull prose and endless exposition. I’ll settle for the movie.

The main character equates good ideas to winning the lottery, and the desperation in his life leads to changing plans and shifting loyalties, with an old writers’ workshop I attended over 10 years ago used as inspiration.

Expanding “Toy Lists”

May 31, 2010

The short story “Toy Lists” is a little longer now and a little more involved. I admit, it is a goofy story. The first part, the conversation about work versus personal emails, was fun to write, and I hope it supports the main theme of the story, which is our need to make connections with others, and the extent we go to make those connections, especially in “unnatural settings” (meaning, an office).

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Tweaking “Little Things”

April 29, 2010

I made a few small modifications to “Little Things” last week, nothing that affects the plot of the story but more in the way of attempts to refine and improve the language of the piece. I’d like to say I am done with that story, that it is frozen forever now as it will always be, but as everyone should know by now, revision is a never-ending process. And having the story online gives it a sense of elasticity that it would not possess in print.

That’s probably why online publishing is having a hard time shaking the stigma of lesser quality. No matter how many tweets the Library of Congress preserves, online content still carries that sense of impermanence.

It would be difficult to go back to the “old ways” though. I do miss the sound and sensation of the typewriter, but I don’t know if I could still use that tool, what with all the deleting and copying and cutting and pasting I do on the computer just to put one story together. This new technology has altered whatever modicum of skills I have as a writer, just as the printing press ruined our memories. It used to be within the realm of human ability to memorize and recite The Iliad or Beowulf. Now it seems we barely have the capacity to remember what we read ten minutes ago, much less the complete text of an epic poem exploring our place in the universe.

Speaking Chinese

April 17, 2010

The recent tragedy in West Virginia has thrust Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, into the spotlight, which knocked loose a memory of his interview on Marketplace, broadcast on October 29, 2009. His broad declaration, “There is no global warming,” did not stick with me, not as much as what he said next, when asked what would happen if we start to tax coal emissions:

“Teach your children to speak Chinese, because if we’re going to play around with windmills and solar panels, we’ll fall behind.”

That’s some good fear-mongering. Seriously, he could be an adviser on the remake of Red Dawn. He debunks science with a linguistics argument, which is really a subtle reference to a popular global-warming conspiracy that falls under the rubric of larger “one-world government” fears. Because the claimed environmental damages from Blankenship’s industry are so “greatly exaggerated,” there’s no need to make actual arguments against them, right? Unless of course one’s opponents are arguing in Chinese.

I used his dribble as inspiration for the actions of Ardo Reslo in “Year of the Turtle” – and I had intended to mention that interview when I first added the story (since I am all about idea genealogy). But I forgot to write that blog, probably because I didn’t really picture Blankenship as Ardo Reslo, who seems to be smarter than his prototype, more of a Bond-type villain such as Dr. No at the head of another conspiracy theory, this one of the Dr. Strangelove variety.

And for those of you keeping count, that’s my second reference, however indirect, to Terry Southern.

Teach your children to speak Chinese, because if we’re going to play around with windmills and solar panels, we’ll fall behind.

The Ring

December 6, 2009

I have posted the story “The Ring,” which is actually an old story from many years back, conceived in the nineties and picked at like a corpse that refuses to decompose. Not completely, anyway.

The ending has a sort of Magic Christian flavor, meant to comment on the limits of human tolerance for their own waste when balanced against their greed or self-indulgence, although I would say that Artie, the main character in “The Ring,” definitely underestimates human willingness to endure their own filth, whereas Guy Grand knows that everyone has their price.

Updates to Songs Like Rusty Cage

September 18, 2009

I made a few edits and changes to Songs Like Rusty Cage and the first Highway Virus story. For the latter, the beginning is a little different, shorter mostly. For Songs, I changed some of the language when the narrator talks about the Superman movie and the light in the kitchen. And I deleted a paragraph about vampires, which was never in the online version anyway, because it really did not fit with the story, despite the fact that I really liked it. Well, sometimes you have to kill your kids.

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