Harlan Ellison, 1934-2018

Harlan Ellison, Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer, Dead at 84 – Link leads to NPR obituary.

Harlan Ellison was one of the first writers I read nearly as much of his work as I could get my hands on. His short story/novella “A Boy and His Dog” was partly responsible for my lifelong interest in post-apocalyptic fiction and the movie that was made is more than partly responsible for 13 year old me pestering my mom about getting a VCR.

Ellison wrote a lot of interesting and edgy stories. He also is one of the first authors whose non-fiction writing drew my interest. I remember telling my mom about an essay Ellison wrote about a civil rights march and how the National Guard had their guns pointed at the marchers, not at the people threatening them and how outraged I was by that.

A description of an episode of the Outer Limits that he wrote, called “Soldier” had a lifelong impact on me as a writer, mainly in the shape of my enjoyment of creating certain types of characters.

His “A to Z in the Chocolate Alphabet” is still one of my favorite fantasy stories – for all that it’s really just a collection of snippets each themed around a letter of the alphabet. I have a comic book adaptation of it and it is a prized possession.

As I grew older, reading some of Ellison’s writings, especially about his problems with the TV industry, led to me becoming less than gruntled with him. On the one hand, by that point I was old enough to understand that yeah, the TV industry was producing a lot of crap but on the other hand, for all the righteous criticism he gave, Ellison didn’t seem to have a problem with taking their money. Also, he seemed more than ready to throw fans of his TV work under the bus.

Some of the stories I’ve heard about Harlan Ellison tie into the idea that he was “America’s weird uncle,” the guy who would say anything, no matter how outrageous and charm you with the story afterwards — especially if he can control the entire narrative.  Things like him sending 213 bricks, postage due, to an editor who refused to pay him.  Others, like his groping of Connie Willis at the 2006 Hugo Awards, serve as a reminder that weird uncles can and often are, assholes who can talk a good game.

I haven’t read much of Ellison’s work in the last twenty or so years except rereading “A Boy and His Dog” a while back. I’m sad that he’s gone, but mainly in the sense that this serves as a reminder that bits and pieces of my childhood are slowly vanishing from the world. And considering how problematic some of the bits and pieces of my childhood were/are, that’s not necessarily a bad thing but, as problematic as he is/was/will continue to be, Harlan Ellison had a fairly big influence on me as a reader, a writer and a person. My condolences to those who will be most affected by his passing.

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Because today’s Election Day here in the U.S., have a snippet!

When I first started plotting Omegas: Cake Walk, I settled on April 2007 for reasons that escape me now (honestly, while there is a specific reason for 2007, the reason for April is more “Ehh, this’ll do” than anything else). Specifically, I set the story during the week of April 23-30, 2007 (again, for no better reason than “The events in the story take place over a week, this is a week that’s as good as any other week in which to set my tale”).

Come to find out, once I committed to the time frame, the Democratic Presidential debates occurred during this time frame. While Omegas: Cake Walk doesn’t take place in our reality, it takes place in one that’s similar so I decided to run with the idea. Which led to this exchange about voting and how living in a comic book universe could screw things up:

“I’m just saying: voting’s a waste of time,” Frankie said as he plucked half a dozen oversized strawberries from the tray and stacked them onto a paper plate. “Whoever wins, somebody’s just gonna go back in time and step on the wrong bug and screw everything up. It’s inevitable.”

“That only happened once, back in ’52,” Laney said, smacking the table and causing a small avalanche of plump, green grapes to cascade down from the tray. Frankie scooped them up as well, as she continued. “And once the Sequential Safeguards were able to straighten things out and push through the Eckels-Simpson Act to outlaw political tampering with the time stream.”

Note: Yeah, this a multiple-part reference to “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury, in which a character, essentially, steps on the wrong bug and screws everything up. The story was published in 1952 and the character who screws things up is named Eckles.

The law also references the Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror V” — specifically the short “Time and Punishment” in which Homer tries to fix his toaster and ends up destroying multiple timelines.  “Stupid bug, you go squish now!”

Note the second: I agree with Laney, voting isn’t a waste of time. In fact, voting today took a lot less time than I was afraid it would and I was able to get in and out of my polling place in less than fifteen minutes (wasting time between 5 am and 6:30 am on the other hand….that took some doing).

Note the third:  Currently, the plan is for the next Omegas story, Omegas: Long Shot, to involve time travel, Pleistocene Era America, and cheesy syndicated TV shows.

 

 

Omegas: Cake Walk in one sentence

My attempt at a one sentence description of Omegas: Cake Walk —

When a desperate phone call from a top scientist’s estranged daughter threatens to derail the highest-level superscience conference, the call goes out to the one team that can rescue the girl and keep her safe from the clutches of the cult she’s trying to flee — after all, when the job’s a cake walk, who can handle it better than the Omegas?

 

AROW80 Check-In for 4/29/2018

From this week’s AROW80 Check-In Reminder by Shan Jeniah Burton:

How much does where you are affect your writing where you get down to practicing your craft?  Are you able to channel your characters in any setting or are you like Alice Walker who once was quoted to attributing her move from New York City to California as necessary because Celie, Shug and other characters in The Color Purple didn’t feel comfortable enough to settle down and talk to her?

I’m pretty lucky in that I can write just about anywhere. Currently, I’m working at the computers in the children’s section of one of my local libraries. Sometimes the area can be a bit noisy (because, duh, kids) but the space feels more open than the computers in the adult section. Also, sometimes I get to see/overhear cute things. Like, right now a mom is reading to her kid (what caught my attention was the fact the book is apparently about the Transformers. I heard “Autobots” and my fan-ears perked up). It’s very sweet.

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In other news, my shoulder is better. Oddly enough, sleeping on a different pillow — the Amy and I found a memory foam pillow at Bed, Bath and Beyond on deep discount — made the pain go away almost entirely. I’m still a little bit stiff and sore, but it’s not the constant ache that it was so, color me happy!

Been watching Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD on Netflix (because I have completely caught up on the CW DC shows on Netflix) and I’m liking it. Though, it is a very Joss Whedon show (Skye = Buffy + River; Fitz-Simmons = Willow minus magic).  I have a soft spot for Phil Coulson. I like the fact that he’s a dorky guy who can kick ass. Agent May is also a favorite. I like how they blend in bits of the MCU to the series.

Work on Chapter Nineteen continues apace. Not a fast pace, but it’s continuing so that’s being counted as a win.  Still trying to work on fitting writing into my new daily routine. I’m considering doing a bit of writing after I get off work in the mornings — though I’m not sure if I want to stay up later or not. (I work overnights, so I’m usually off about 5 am local time; a half hour or hour of writing would be something I could probably manage without seriously screwing up my sleep schedule any more than I have by staying up playing Best Fiends Forever).  I just need to find a place that’s comfortable enough for me to want to write there but not too comfortable so that I stay up later than I should because Sleep is a Thing I Need.

Ok, so, that’s it for today. See you tomorrow with the WIPpet Snippet! I leave you with some fascinating True Facts about the Frog Fish (and floaty-floaty seaweed!) Language is slightly NSFW/NC-17:

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*Insert Cheesy ‘It’s Been A Long Time’ Joke here*

But, WOW has it ever been a long time since I posted here. A lot has changed since I last posted but a lot really hasn’t. Still working at the same job, still living in the same apartment, still with the same incredibly awesome girlfriend, still in Ohio and still writing.

What’s really new? I finished a complete first draft of a novel set in the U-46534 universe and am on my way toward finishing the second draft of that novel. Pretty well chuffed about that.

Other new things: started watching the CW’s Arrowverse shows after getting hooked on Legends of Tomorrow (pretty much entirely because Captain Cold and Heat Wave were on the show and Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell are amazing together and also very easy on the eyes. *swoon*). This led to me watching the Flash, which led to Supergirl and Arrow and now Black Lightning (which isn’t set in the Arrowverse but which is an incredibly good show, especially if you like superheroes in the real world).

Saw Black Panther — loved it.

Tried Bolivian food — loved it.

Went to Ohio’s Amish Country — loved it. Want to go back. The pies…oh god, the pies…

I’m going to try getting back into blogging because I miss having a place where I can blather on about stuff. So, *fingers crossed*.

 

Achievement Unlocked: 100,000 words!

With the secondary achievement of ‘tired and sore arms’ also reached!

Goal Achieved: 100,000 words typed as of 10/01/2014 on Defcon: Fade Out manuscript

Typing Goal of 100,000 words for Defcon: Fade Out achieved!

Seriously, I managed to make it to 100,000 words today but it was a bit of a slog. My hands were/are like, “Aren’t we there *yet*”

I’ve still got about 25-30,000 words left to type up, plus some untold number left to write to fill in the gaps but for now, I have hit a goal and I am happy!

So, about the typing…

Today was my day off and I had to get up early to get some stuff done (early for me being around 930 in the morning) and ended up staying up and figuring “Hey, why not get an early start on the typing?” So, I did just that.

I started off at 88,228 words and I have ended the day at 96,667 words for a grand total of 8,439 words typed over the course of the day.

Suffice to say, I’m in a good position to get everything typed up by the end of October. So, YAY!

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (or, GOAL ACHIEVED!)

Short, spoiler free review of Dawn of The Planet of the Apes:  OH MY GOD THIS MOVIE WAS SO AWESOME! GO SEE IT! GO SEE IT! GO SEE IT!

Longer, spoiler free review of Dawn of The Planet of the Apes: The girlfriend and I planned to go see Dawn pretty much once the trailers first started showing up.  We were planning on going to an 11:30 pm show, but when I was looking to see if there was another movie we could fit in to kill time before that showing, we found out there was a double-feature of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn.  So, y’know, we jumped on that!  Especially since it’d been a while since either of us had seen the first movie.

We made a date night of it, going out to dinner (we considered getting Caesar salads but went with stir-fry instead) and then heading over to the theater to loaf around a bit waiting for the movies to start.

I’m glad we did the double feature, since seeing the first movie again helped refresh my memory of what happened and helped me to get some of the references in the second.

The second movie was soooo good! Excellent storytelling, Hit a lot of the beats you expect in a post-apocalyptic/conflict between cultures kind of story but hit them well and without a note out of tune. The ape effects are superb; Andy Serkis is an amazing actor, particularly considering that he does most of his acting in a motion capture suit.

There’s going to be a third movie coming out in 2016 (according to the guy in front of us) and I cannot wait!

Reblogging: Confirmation bias, epic fantasy, and you by N.K. Jemisin

Confirmation bias, epic fantasy, and you.  by N.K. Jemisin.

Confirmation bias doesn’t cause the phenomenon of Mysteriously Whitewashed Medieval Europe. (Or Peculiarly Denuded of Women Europe, or Puzzlingly Focused On The Nobility Europe, or any of the other bizarre things we tend to see in medieval Europe-flavored fantasy.) Confirmation bias causes the freakouts that occur whenever somebody points out these phenomena, and names them as inaccuracies.

 

For a variety of reasons, this is relevant to my interests since post-apocalyptic stories in general and the post-apocalyptic men’s adventures I’m trying to riff on with Defcon are loaded with their own confirmation biases that I want to poke many, many holes in.

 

Spaaaace!

I’m watching the original Cosmos with the girlfriend and WOW did this series hold up well! The effects — so far — don’t have much of a dated feel to them and it’s just awesome getting to listen to Carl Sagan talk about space and science.

I’ve got the new Cosmos taped and will hopefully be watching it while I’m off work this week.  I’m expecting my reaction will be similar to this little lady’s:

Source: SHUT DOWN EVERYTHING: SOMEBODY FILMED THEIR DAUGHTER REACTING TO COSMOS @ the Mary Sue. 

 

Weird dream….

I had a very weird dream last night — as you do — where many weird things happened but in which the weirdest thing was that I was explaining the historical backdrop for Defcon: Fade Out to a group of people at a bar and Casper Weinberger  — sort of/not really — was among them, nodding approval as I got my facts straight about the state of US vs. Soviet relations circa the early 1980s.

This is either a sign I’m on the right track or a sign I’ve got one wacky subconscious. Either way, it’s all good!

Also, Chapter Fifteen is done!

The Liebster Award

 

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Tonette dela Luna was kind enough to give me a Liebster Award for my “sheer magnitude of awesymmetry” and I am now getting around to posting about this award with all do apologies to her for taking this long to get around to doing so. I do appreciate it

The rules for the award — or at least this iteration of it — are thus:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you. — so, thank you to Tonette dela Luna
  2.  Answer the ten questions asked by aforementioned lovely person. — See below!
  3.  Nominate ten other awesome and lovely people. — Not done yet, but will get on it as soon as I finish #4
  4.  Send off ten questions you’d like them to ask you. — need to come up with some questions
  5. Let the nominees know how awesome they are by popping by their blog to inform them of their greatness. — To be completed!

TEN QUESTIONS BY ME (well, by Tonette dela Luna):

1) You. Dinner. Plus five guests. Alive or dead, real or fictional. Name them. Oh, and as a bonus, what’s on the menu?

The dinner would be at the Olives restaurant at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I’ve actually eaten there once and it was the most amazing experience ever and if I’m going to have a once in a lifetime meal, I’m having it there! Not sure what anyone else would be having, but I’ll be having a steak and their tempura green beans.

As for the guests, hooo…ok, my girlfriend is a given so I’m coming up with five other people in addition to her: Stanislav Petrov – because the guy saved the world and the least I can do is buy him a great dinner; Harriet Tubman – because she has been a hero of mine since I was a child; Bill Mauldin – because his Willie and Joe cartoons helped to teach me about the realities of war; Carol Burnett — because her variety show taught me so much about humor  and, to be utterly, utterly sappy, my dad who died when I was five and who I never got the chance to know.

2) You just won $1,000,000.00, tax free. First off, congrats. Question: what plans do you have for the money?

First and foremost, I’d pay off my debts which luckily would still leave a nice chunk of change left over, so I’d set up some savings for me and the girlfriend. Sadly, I don’t think a million would be enough for me to quit working but it might be enough for me to cut back some of my hours and would definitely be enough to build a cushion for the two of us.

I’d help out some friends of mine and set up a fund for my younger relatives (the ones who are basically under 21) to help them with their future plans – college, trade schools, etc.

Then, once that’s squared away, I’d make some donations to charities – Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, some local homeless shelters and to my hometown school district among others. Most likely in that case, I’d call up the school librarians and ask about their wishlists. And I’d likely make a nice dent in my wishlists as well.

3) Ever feel you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time? Pick any point in history you feel you’d most likely fit in the best.

Oddly enough, not really? I like this time about the best – okay, so I don’t really have much in the way of experience with other times – but if I could go back to any one point in time, it’d probably be back to the Early Cambrian period to see trilobites.  Or go back to the Library of Alexandria with a wand scanner.

Oooh! Or, there was apparently this one battle during the Crusades where the European knights were mounted on stallions and the Arab/Muslim knights were mounted on mares and I once heard someone speculate that at least some of those mares were probably in heat and I think that would be a thing to see.

Ok, last choice: the day the Berlin Wall came down. I’d love to be in Berlin for that.

4) Do you believe in the paranormal? Care to share any inexplicable stories with the rest of us?

I’m a skeptic, so I think that what we call paranormal experiences can often be rationally explained…but I am also more than mildly superstitious about things.  For example, I knock on wood a lot – and I’ve even justified knocking on plastic because the oil that’s used to make plastic used to be trees and therefore is a kind of wood.

Though when I was in elementary school, my aunt and I did once see a UFO – as an adult, I think what we saw was a collection of several swarms of bees or other insects, which, while it isn’t aliens from outer space, is still pretty freaking awesome if you think about it.

5) Do you believe in fate, love at first sight, or coincidences? If yes, why? If no, why not?

Not sure about fate or love at first sight – I think they can happen but it’s probably pretty rare – but coincidences? Oh yeah, those happen all the time. They’re part of the weirdness that is our universe.

6) Do you believe we’re alone (or not alone) in the universe?

It depends – do I think that there is life in some form somewhere else out there in the infinite vastness that is the universe, then yes. There are too many planets out there that are similar enough to Earth — not to mention, the discovery of extremophiles here on Earth tells us that Jurassic Park did get one thing right — Life Will Find A Way.

Now, do I think that they are buzzing our planet and that they made a secret deal with Eisenhower back in the 1950s or that we have their technology hidden away in Area 51, no. Mainly because I don’t think that the US government could keep something that huge a secret.

7) If you were offered a seat on one of the first spacecraft excursions they’ve got planned, would you go? Why or why not?

Ooooh…I don’t know. I’d want to go, god knows I’d want to go. I mean, it’s space! Bit I have a bad feeling that I wouldn’t do so well in space.

8) Have you ever done or said something you regret, only to take it back and make things worse? (Uh, no. I’m not asking leading questions that might potentially albeit anonymously find their way into one of my books because, really, that would be wrong, but seriously, inquiring minds want to know, right?)

Oh yes, yes I have.  And that’s all I’ll say on the subject, oh questing author!

9) What is one thing you regret NOT doing or saying, and to whom?

I regret not calling my maternal grandmother more before she passed away.

10) What did you have for breakfast this morning (or the morning you read this question)?

Chinese food! Egg drop soup, General Tso’s chicken, sesame balls and crab Rangoon (I work late 2nd/early 3rd shift, so I’m usually waking up around 3 in the afternoon and therefore breakfast is often made up of lunch foods).

 

Relogging: The cost of reading every book: We know their names

The cost of reading every book: We know their names.  — this article by slacktivist is about the founding of the Library of Congress and the origins of the books that helped begin that library and the all too real cost in human lives paid for those books.

From the article itself:

Elsewhere, I’ve seen it said that the last people who might have read everything were probably Thomas Jefferson (d. 1826) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (d. 1832). Whether that’s true of either I don’t know, but Jefferson certainly tried. Jefferson’s problem was that Virginia did not have a library that held every English book, so to read them all, he had to buy them all. That was expensive. It took more money than Jefferson had, so the acquisition of his vast personal library put him deep into debt.

That debt was part of the reason, or the excuse, Jefferson gave for never being able to afford the emancipation of his slaves — something he always said he wanted to do, yet somehow never quite got around to doing.

About That Coke Ad

Whatever

Dear every conservative getting his underwear in a twist about that Coca Cola Super Bowl commerical in which not only was the “deeply Christian patriotic anthem” sung in something other than the English that Jesus spoke, but also featured a gay couple being happy with their kid:

Dudes, you’re aware that Katharine Lee Bates, the writer of the song, was almost certainly a lesbian, right? And while undoubtedly Christian, Bates used her faith as a foundation for progressive social activism that would have given the conservatives of her time, and possibly some conservatives now, the shudders and shakes (she also nearly resigned her professorship at Wellesley when the school thought to force its faculty to profess their fealty to the Christian faith).

Bates was a pacifist with the dream of uniting people “from the Pacific to the Atlantic, around the other way… and that will include all the…

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