Some Facts

On my birthday, Aug 9th, a young man named Michael Brown assaulted a convenience store clerk and stole a box of cigars.  This incident was caught on the store’s video camera.

Following the robbery, he and some other young men (the number is unclear) were walking down the middle of the street when police officer Darren Wilson told them to clear the road and walk down the sidewalk. Michael Brown attacked the officer, breaking bones in the officer’s skull and attempting to take control of the officer’s weapon.

Brown then fled on foot.  When the officer told Brown to stop, Brown charged the officer and the officer shot and killed him in what seems to be a clear act of self defense. Immediately following the shooting the local police department ordered a full investigation of the incident, turning the case over the the County police rather than handling it themselves.  The results of this investigation are still pending.  The County has asked for the assistance of the FBI.

The young men with Brown claimed that Brown was shot in the back and that he was holding his hands up in surrender.  This claim was contradicted by both other eyewitnesses and the physical evidence at the scene.

Following this incident there have been riots, looting, arson, and acts of vandalism in the area, largely committed by mobs from outside of the jurisdiction where the shooting took place.

I ordinarily don’t comment on news stories, but this is taking place in my home town, within a fifteen minute drive of my house and even closer to where my roommate works.  Watching the national media coverage of these events consistently misrepresent the facts of the case has prompted me to set the record straight.

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Recently I wrote a piece of flash fiction for a specialized anthology.  The theme was “Clowns” and I decided to try something different.  I rewrote a poem as prose and added in a clown–sort of.  I misread the instructions and did not have the clown physically present during the story, and so it doesn’t qualify for inclusion in the anthology.  I have decided to post it here.

The original poem that I adapted is here.



He was wrong and I was right.

That doesn’t make me feel any better about myself, but it is a fact, something to keep in mind.

The car was a Chrysler LeBaron, 2 door coupe, red in color. Five year loan, signed seventeen months ago. Delinquent on payments, three months, sent to legal, judge signed the writ of replevin, and the file came to me.

I worked for American Auto Recovery, which was owned by Bluebird Finance, which also owned a half dozen used car lots that changed names so often that the salesmen got paid with counter checks, to save on printing costs.

Welcome to the looking glass world of used car sales.

It was five in the morning and the sun was painting the sky over the desert in the colors of an infected wound.

I’d looked through the file in the cab. The debtor had been working in the warehouse of department store when he signed the loan. He’d quit that job, which was when he stopped making payments. He’d also changed his phone number, and the registered letters we’d sent hadn’t been signed for.

It’s funny, but most people on the run don’t run far. I’d located the car within a few miles of his last address.

The cab took me past the apartment building lot and I saw the flash of red in the early morning light. It was still there, so I paid the cab and got out.

The key codes were in the file, of course, that’s standing operating procedure when you advertise that you’ll finance anybody.

So I had the keys in my hand, walking slowly up to the car, not running, no sneaking around, just walking normally like I had every right to be there.

Took a good look at the back seat as I walked up. Full of junk, brightly colored clothes strewn around, a couple of suitcases, some toys, balls and costume hats, like some ogre ate a circus and puked it up into the car’s back seat. No human sized lumps, though, not quite enough junk that a person could be under all that crap. I made sure of that as I ambled up.

Then I was at the door and, yes, the key worked the door, and I slid inside and the key worked the ignition, too. Pulled out of the space, looking in all directions at once, but nobody else was anywhere around. Still asleep. Probably nobody saw me pull out of the lot.

Even though it had become a job and just as boring and routine as any other way of paying the bills, I always had one moment of adrenaline. From unlocking the car door to getting out of view of the pick up site—maybe two minutes of cold sweat, every time.

Then I was on the main drag and past the fear window, figuring my route back to the yard.

Being in a stranger’s car is a curious feeling. In some ways it’s more intimate than being in a stranger’s home. Homes are deliberate places.

Cars, though, they hold the traces of the things you do while you’re driving, which are almost always things that you don’t really think about. Being in a stranger’s car can feel like climbing in through a stranger’s bedroom window.

There were business cards scattered across the passenger seat. At a stop light I picked one up and looked at it.

ALEX THE HAPPY CLOWN, it said. Parties, Fundraisers, Company Picnics, Family Reunions. With a phone number and some clip art of a bunch of balloons.

A couple of weeks ago I had taken my daughter to a church carnival. Not my church, I didn’t have a church. But one of the other little girls in the neighborhood had invited my daughter, so I took her. A few dollars donation and a fun afternoon, the usual attractions. A few rides, anemic enough to amuse fourth graders without terrifying their parents, a pen full of goats wide-eyed in fearless wonder at being fed by giggling children, some ponies.


My daughter sat perfectly still to have a butterfly painted on her cheek and didn’t wash her face for a week, until the paint had flaked off to the point where you couldn’t tell what the design was supposed to be. She took home a balloon dinosaur and insisted on taking it to bed with her. I knew it wouldn’t last the night and it didn’t and when she saw it in rags in the morning she cried.

Alex the Happy Clown would get his stuff back, the crazy colored clothes and the suitcase of magic tricks. So long as he could find someone to give him a ride to the office and had some ID he could pick up any personal items left in the car.

They probably wouldn’t do him a lot of good without a car, though. Without a car he’d probably have to go back to working in a warehouse.

I parked the Chrysler in the lot behind the chain link and razor wire and went to the office. I handed over the file and the keys to the car, and then I handed over the rest of my keys. I didn’t think about it, I didn’t know I was going to do it until I saw my ring on his desk.

“I can’t do this any more,” I said.

My boss didn’t argue with me, didn’t try to keep me on. He just took the keys and told me to let the secretary at the finance company know I was quitting. He didn’t ask me why.

I had to wonder if he figured it out when he saw the last car I’d brought in.

I went back home to my daughter. I got another job right away, working at a convenience store on the graveyard shift. A man who wants to work can always find a job doing something.

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Alien Sex II: The World, The Flesh, and The Devil

This is a followup post to Alien Sex!  I don’t like saying that something is done wrong without offering some examples of how I think it can be done right.  So I am going to talk about the sex lives of some of the quasihuman types in The Book Of Lost Doors cosmology.

I try to fill in as many details regarding the characters that I invent as possible, which often involves knowing things about my characters that never actually get used in the story.  (Suzi Lightning, for example, grew up in Memphis, TN, her father was a studio sound engineer, and she had an older brother who killed himself when she was 16.  None of this, so far, has had any relevance to James & Catskinner’s story, but that’s the kind of detail that I tend to invent about even minor characters.)

So it would follow that when I create an quasihuman species I spend a lot of time working out every single detail of their daily lives.  Blue Metal Boys, for example, have very solidly designed toilets and a heavily shielded septic system, since their waste products are actually mildly radioactive. Cue Pete Townsend’s “I Eat Heavy Metal”.

Some of what I am going to discuss has come to light in Catskinner’s Book or Cannibal Hearts and some of it has come up in The Worms Of Heaven, and some of it hasn’t proved relevant to the story so far.  None of it, however, should involve spoilers.

Ambimorphs: These are actually my favorite type of creature that I have made.  To review, ambimorphs are human/plant hybrids.  They are made by introducing an alien symbiotic plant into a human woman. (The plant won’t live in a male host, for reasons that aren’t really germane to this discussion.) The symbiote will then cocoon the host for metamorphosis.

While the plant grows tendrils throughout the host’s nervous system it reshapes the host’s body to conform, with some specific exceptions, to the host’s own ideal phenotype.  Ambimorphs have the body that the original host wished that she’d had. They also have non-human characteristics–the lack of teeth and manipulative tendrils in the mouth, the solid green on green eyes (those eyes see far into the ultraviolet–something else that hasn’t come up in any of the books) and the presence of fully functional male and female genitalia. (The male genitalia also conform to the host’s ideal, by the way.)

Inside the host’s brain, the symbiote rewires the synapses so that all sensory data stimulates the pleasure centers.  To an ambimorph nothing is ever ugly or unpleasant, everything in the perceptual universe feels good.  Everything is erotic to ambimorphs, consequently nothing is specifically more erotic than anything else. They are intelligent enough to realize that overt sexual acts are best kept discrete, but the distinction is an artificial one to them.  Everything they do is making love. The concept that there is a category of lovers that is separate from the general populace doesn’t apply to them–monogamy is entirely alien to how they experience interactions with others.

Blue Metal Boys: I have a blue metal boy (she’s a woman, but both male and females are called “boys”) supporting character in The Worms Of Heaven, and so I talk about what they are in a little more detail.  They are human beings who have had the minerals in their body replaced with heavy elements.  They are far denser than humans, terribly heavy and incredibly strong.  Their hormonal responses change somewhat as well–their emotional reactions are slower than humans.  They feel things just as acutely, but their emotions never overwhelm them–they stay calm and rational even while experiencing strong passions.

Their relationships are just as deep and strong, but less obviously expressive.  Their sexuality is less active than humans (given that a pair of them weighs about the same as a Abrams tank, this is a good thing) but no less intense. Obviously they can only date within their own kind.

They also tend to be very clannish in their friendships in general because of the great disparity in physical capabilities–it’s hard to relax around someone that you could crush with an unthinking gesture.   There is also their specialized diet, which is poisonous to anyone who has not been through the gradual process of exposure to it, so it is difficult to eat with others.  Nor can they ride in most vehicles, or enter some structures without risk of damaging them.

Given all this, I find myself writing them much like a very conservative religious group like the Amish or Hasidim, and that includes their sexual morality.

Hives: A hive–although I don’t really explain this in detail–is essentially a lower and less efficient order of orthovore than Catskinner or Agony.  Because they exist at a lower level of complexity, the orthovore mind can’t fit within a single human brain. (Consider the room that would be required to build a computer in 1970 that could run the programs that most of us now have on our phones.)

Hives are also less integrated with their human hosts–they overwrite the higher cognitive functions, but the autonomous nervous systems of their individual hosts are essentially human.  Being good parasites, the hives realize that exercising the sexuality of the bodies is an important preventative maintenance measure.

In Worms Of Heaven I imply a romantic relationship between a hive and a human being.  For the hive, bodies are interchangeable, which means that the human has the advantage of being able to sleep with multiple physical partners while having an emotional relationship with only one person.   For the hive the physical relationship is secondary to the intellectual stimulation of intimacy with someone who has not been subsumed into its consciousness.  (More on orthovore sexuality below.)

Necroidim: The basic idea for the necroidim came from binge watching a dozen or so Hellraiser movies and realizing that cenobites were essentially leather boys taken to the logical extreme.  I drew upon my own experience in the BDSM community to write the characters and to build their culture.

To create a necroid you take a human being and torture him to death–very carefully.  The trick is to avoid letting him ever lose consciousness.  You have to induce an altered mental state in which he is so focused on the sensation that isn’t aware of his body’s death.  This requires that the subject learn extreme levels of concentration, a kind of a masochistic yoga.

It is very important for the process that every step be based on informed consent.  This is not something that can be done to someone against their will–the active participation of the subject is mandatory or you just end up with a mutilated corpse.  The doctine of consensuality is more than simply a lifestyle for the necroidim, it is more like a religion.

The initial hook for the subject is sexual, but the levels of physical sensation that the necroid is subjected to in this process are so extreme that sex itself quickly becomes too mild a feeling to even register. Torture replaces sex as a mechanism for expressing affection.  The necroid social unit is similar to a BDSM leather family, with a strict hierarchy of authority and complex relationships between the members–with the attendant petty jealousies and politics.

The particular necroid family in my novels–called The Path Of Thorns–is entirely male, but that is due to the preferences of the current patriarch who has to approve all potential members.  There is no theoretical reason that the process could not be applied to women as well.

Orthovores: Orthovores are creatures of information, with no physical form.   In order to interact with the physical world, however, they have to be bound to some form of physical body.  While they are aware of the body’s condition and are able to make it do things, they don’t feel anything physical at all.  Consequently, they don’t have sex (or gender, either, but for the sake of convenience I refer to Catskinner as he and Agony as she.)

For Catskinner, the whole idea of sex is confusing.  He knows that James does things with some people that cause the body to react in ways that look a lot like pain, and that James will get really upset if Catskinner kills those people, but has given up trying to figure out why.

Agony understands that humans like sex and that much of the time humans will like her more if she acts like she is willing to have sex with them, but the ethics of when and how and with whom humans do it is fairly opaque to her.  As a result she tends to be inappropriately flirtatious with everyone.   Most people just learn to ignore it.

Pale Surgeons: To answer a question that Michele Proulx asked a long time ago, pale surgeons do not operate on themselves.  They do however operate on each other as part of their training.   This training takes a long time and by the end of it they aren’t very human anymore on the inside.  Much of their endocrine system is removed, replace, or modified to the point that they are no longer capable of sexual feelings.  (Their gross anatomy–and I do mean gross anatomy–is also extensively altered.)

The only emotional bond that pale surgeons can form is that between themselves and their patients.  This is not a warm, nurturing bond, however, since they see their patients as raw material for their artwork. They don’t relate to other people as people, but as works of art, either in potentiality or actuality.  The closest that they can come to affection is an admiration for another surgeon’s skills.  They tend to be amoral mercenaries, working for whomever will give them opportunities to practice their art.

Okay, that went longer than I was expecting.  But it was fun to write and if you’ve gotten this far I hope it was fun to read.

Posted in Artists That I Admire, Cannibal Hearts, On Writing, Worms Of Heaven | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Worms Of Heaven does not end with chapter fifteen!

If you have a pre-release copy of The Worms Of Heaven and it just stops at the end of chapter fifteen, contact me and I’ll send you the full version. Evidently I sent out the partial copies that I was proofing rather than the full text.

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Alien Sex!

Recently I ran across a post from Star Trek novel author David Mack in which he publicly responds to a letter from a fan who complained about a lesbian relationship between a Vulcan and a Kilingon.

Now, I’ll admit that my understanding of the Star Trek canon begins and ends with the original series that was aired when I was a child.  I never watched any of the subsequent series (I tried The Next Generation, but there were no characters that I liked and several that I actively loathed.) I will stay in the same room with most of the movies if someone I know is watching them, and I actually liked the J J Abrams reboots. I have only read one of the novels that I recall, a rather humorous one called How Much For Just The Planet. 

Consequently, I am no authority on what Vulcans may be today.  I know that shared universes, in particular, experience some drift from a creator’s original concept.  My understanding of Vulcan sexuality is based on the original series episode “Amok Time“, written by the incomparable Theodore Sturgeon.

In that episode it is revealed that Vulcans have a seven year mating cycle.  During the majority of this time they are essentially asexual.  When they go into the fertile section of their cycle they become overwhelmed by hormones and grow aggressive and irrational. Because of the Vulcan culture’s strong reverence for reason above emotion the Vulcans see this bowing to biological necessity as shameful.

Now that is alien. That is entirely different way of processing the physiological imperative to propagate the species.  Sexuality is ontologically irrational, so the Vulcan species has learned to quarantine it,  to provide a time and place for pure irrationality to run (as it were) amok, without influencing the majority of their lives.

It explains, for example, the awkward relationship between Nurse Chapel and Mr. Spock–he knows that she has some sort of physical feelings for him, but is unable to acknowledge them even to the extent of repulsing them.

As I say, this concept of Vulcans may have changed.  There have been dozens of movies, probably hundreds of books, several TV shows set in the Star Trek universe and I am ignorant of the overwhelming majority of them.

If they have, though, the Star Trek universe has contracted, not expanded. I haven’t read the novel in question (nor am I likely to). David Mack seems to have missed the entire point of the fan’s objection, and uses the letter to launch into a rant about people who object to homosexuality.  That’s not my objection to the concept, and I don’t think it was the objection of the fan who wrote that letter.  If David Mack wants to write about human women having an affair in the Star Trek universe I don’t see any problem.

What I have a problem with is taking a character type that was originally written to have a truly inhuman mental outlook and writing her as if she is just another human being.  If you’re going to do that, why bother making the character inhuman at all?

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Pre-Release Copies Of “The Worms Of Heaven” Now Available

I am offering for a limited time only to send out pre-release copies of The Worms Of Heaven, the latest Book Of Lost Doors novel featuring James & Catskinner.

This version has not been fully proofed and does contain errors.  Also I have not inserted the Table Of Contents or front matter.

However, if you want one, send me an e-mail via my “Reach Out And Touch Me” page. I will be sending out copies in .mobi (for Kindle) format only.

What do you have to do for me in return? Nothing, actually.  I would appreciate any feedback that you want to give me, and I would love for you to let me know about any typos that you find, but you’re under no obligation–you don’t even have to read it if you don’t feel like it.

People who do give me feedback will get mentioned on the acknowledgments page (yeah, I didn’t do that with my first two, but all the cool kids are doing it, so I figure I’ll write one.)

So.  There it is.  If you want to see what I’ve been doing for the past year, drop me a line.  I don’t know how many I’ll send out, but I’m only going to be offering this for a couple of days.  I’ll post when the offer ends–probably this weekend.

Posted in On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing, Who I am, Worms Of Heaven | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

And Now A Word From Our Sponser

Okay, so I do have one little point to add regarding the Infamous Amazon E-Mail.

It includes a call to action–a request for readers of the letter to contact the CEO of Hatchette. That more than anything else is what is causing the buzz about the letter.

People are asking, “Why do they expect me to contact Hatchette?” And posting links to letter, just like I did.  Then more people are reading the letter and posting the same thing, including a link to the letter.

That’s why. Jeff Bezos, first and foremost, is a salesman.  He is the salesman, someone who has elevated the profession into an art.  Everything that he has done to build Amazon from a garage shop to a multi-national conglomerate has been based on being the best salesman on the planet.

Does he expect that this e-mail will get people to write to Hatchette?  Maybe some will. Does he expect that a deluge of e-mails from indie authors like me will break Hatchette’s hard heart and make the negotiations go smoothly?

Let’s not be silly.

This e-mail is an end run around the stranglehold that publishing conglomerates have on the media business.  Pretty much every news outlet has some ties to a major publisher of some kind or another.  Consequently the coverage of the Amazon-Hatchette dispute have been almost universally slanted against Amazon.

Amazon’s side of the story is written about by indie authors in their blogs.  Not a huge platform when compared with network news and national papers.

The content of the e-mail is pretty straightforward.  It makes the same comparisons between e-books and paperback books that I have been making for years.  It points out that there is no practical reason that an e-book should list at the same price as a hardcover book. It lays out an argument that I think is clear and well-reasoned.  You may not agree with it, but it makes its points clearly and concisely.

In short, it’s pretty dull.

The call to action, the request that the readers send an e-mail to Hatchette, is the hook.  It’s there to get people talking about the letter and reposting it and getting people to read it. 

That’s pretty clever.  It’s kind of like all those gimmicks like “Fright Insurance” and “No One Will Admitted During The Last Ten Minutes” that William Castle did to promote his films.  If you give people something to argue about then they will do your promotion for you.

Posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments