Illustration Friday: Future This is my first attempt at an abstract, I'd love to hear people's interpretations. It's kind of like a Rorschach test. May our futures all be filled with our friends, happiness, and joy. And, if you're so inclined, Chinese food. TTFN -Tony
I'm honored to announce that False Idols and Other Short Stories is the winner of the April cover award at ebookindie.com. I have to admit I was surprised, because all of the covers look so professionally made. The judge was Scarlett Rugers ofScarlett Rugers Design, who kindly said: "When I first saw this cover I thought 'EPIC'. My expectations are immediately transformed when I see a space man facing off an unknown, and I must know more. The faded hieroglyphic background doesn’t detract from the image, and the title and name is clear. Fantastic cover. The concept supports the title by giving the reader a jar in what a ‘false idol’ means. We initially believe a God of Earth but are soon set straight when we realize we’re not even on Earth."
Dear facebook - This blog is NOT "unsafe." And thank you for providing a button, and asking people to PLEASE MARK IT AS SPAM if they don't recognize it. You do realize that's a textbook example of the loaded question fallacy, right? Like going up to someone and asking "Have you stopped beating your wife?" The android app won't even complete the link, even if the user approves it. Go fornicate yourself with a rusty cactus, Zuckerberg, you slimy piece of malodorous refuse. Sigh. On the lighter side, I had a bizarre dream last night: I drove down the street where I grew up, but it became more and more narrow and twisted. It lead to a house. There was a huge line waiting to enter what looked like bathroom stalls in the yard, but there were blood and body parts everywhere. Sounds of chainsaws and screaming came from inside. I kicked one of the stall doors in. A "victim" stood in the back, screaming, while a "maniac" carved a dummy up with a chain saw and sprayed corn syrup everywhere. I asked what the hell was going on. They explained that they had to fake the massacre because of the bad economy. I asked just how this was supposed to help, but before I could get an answer, I woke up. Feel free to analyze. TTFN -Tony
Addendum: About ten hours later, and facebook seems to have stopped calling me bad names. Do you think I hurt their feelings?
It's Wednesday. There's no way to make that sound exciting, like when announcers for Monster Trucks used to proclaim "THIS SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY AT THE MEADOWLANDS ARENA... SEEEEEE BIGFOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!"
So now I have to keep myself entertained while I'm unemployed. I have a 400+ page novel to polish, I want to publish a graphic novel online with one page a week, my friend Marc of baze and his silly friends have kindly asked me to animate one of their songs for a video, and I have work to do around the apartment. Also, in addition to walking, I want to get a few hours of stationary-cycling time in. My plan to ride every time I use the X-box is working well, except while my legs are not tired, it's a pain in my tuchus. Literally. I hope it gets better, but you'd think that my cheeks had enough padding that I wouldn't notice.
Time for lunch - in the words of Donny Osmond, you can tune a piano, but you can't tune a fish!
For passing my A-test and publishing my short story collection on Amazon, I gave myself the gift of Bioshock Infinite. My rule is, however, that I am only allowed to play it while I ride on my exercise bike. Here's hoping it's as addictive as everyone says! TTFN -Tony
Shattered Possibilities The late great Peter Bergman of the Firesign Theater said that when they wrote their first album, Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him, they decided to make the jokes as subtle as possible and layer their meanings. That way, people would listen to the album over and over, trying to figure it out. I wrote this story with that plan in mind, but I think I chickened out and added a little too much explanation.
This story does have a hidden inspiration, however.I'll tell you what: Whoever figures it out first, if you're ever in NYC (while I still live here,) I'll take you out for a sandwich at Katz Deli. Your mouth will love you for the rest of your life.
Soul Mates I've always wrestled with my weight. Some years I win, some years I lose. It depends if Pluto is in line with Venus, and how good the local Chinese takeout is.
The thing I absolutely love about this story is how vile every character is. Don't get me wrong, there are good and bad people in Suburbia, just like everywhere else. But it's always a great setting for black comedy, and sometimes my sense of humor gets a little dark...
The Autumn People This is my favorite short story that I've written. I read an essay by sci-fi giant Harlan Ellison, in which he said that writing subtext into fiction was essential. I started by writing the first sentence, about the bar table being worm-eaten. The story unfolded from that point.
9-11 has been a taboo subject for fiction for many years, but it's impossible not to write about something so prevalent. And if you live in a NYC apartment, it's impossible not to come across an insect or twenty over the years. Mix all that up with the sludge at the bottom of my brain, and this isthe result.
Continuing from yesterday, here are the story notes from False Idols. Enjoy!
All Part of Being a Dragon
This was the last story in the collection to be written. It went through a few different forms. Originally, I wrote a very different story, with Azrael and Theresa as the main characters. He was an android priest, in a post-apocalyptic future where locusts ruled the planet and humanity was enslaved. I may still write that one, but the characters were wrong for the story, and it didn't go anywhere.
I recently re-read Philip K. Dick's classic novel Ubik. One of his prevailing themes is "What is reality?". I started a novel years ago about "angels" whose job it was to keep the "Tapestry" of the universe together, but other projects got in the way, and I never finished it.
If you're a fan of this blog, then you've read my many rants about the NYC MTA over the years. When my original story didn't work, I tried putting Azrael and Theresa on the E train I was stuck on. Azrael became a cyborg, and immediately started complaining about the quality of the subway system. Echoes of my unfinished novel came forth, and he became an angel in service of the Tapestry. Of course, an angel needs a devil to fight, but nothing is ever that simple - especially if you're up against an army of demonic chickens.
One of my closest friends pointed out that my stories had no heroines, so I decided to write one full of them. I had just spent the weekend visiting friends of mine, and one of their daughters owns an albino boxer. I wondered where the ancient feud of dogs vs. cats came from. I searched online for legends about dogs, and found some fascinating ones. The same goes for cats.
A bunch of other ideas went into the writing of this. The economy is still reeling from the sub-prime-loan fiasco, and I thought about how banks promise you the moon, but then eviscerate you with the fine print. I installed a new program, and pondered over the fact that no one really reads the convoluted legalese of software user agreements.
That, and I had just bought a Jimmy Durante album for my father.
So I combined all of these things into a story. Yes, it's an age-old Pact With the Devil tale, but with a fresh twist. And VGA graphics.
I wrote this story a few years ago, but as a piece of literary fiction for a class at UMUC. The main character was a man whose wife had committed suicide, and whose violent tendencies had caused him to lose custody of his daughter. Then I read an article about how in a few years, they will be able to clone sperm from female DNA, making us Y-chromosome carrying bastards redundant. I imagined that this bit of genetic engineering would create certain "perfect brands" of women that were bred for certain jobs. But life is life, and we didn't get this far without mutations of the genes. No matter what science comes up with, nature always finds a way of forcing its original blueprints.
Stay tuned tomorrow for part three. Until then, have a great weekend.
I’m going to add a Story Notes section for False Idols to my website, but I thought it would be fun to add them here first: Ad Aware Health Care is a hot topic right now, with many Americans clamoring for universal coverage - but in the end, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Meanwhile, advertising is now omnipresent in our daily lives. You can’t go to the movies without having product placement rammed down your throat. Television channels display ads on the bottom of the screen during shows, even on channels I’ve paid for. Video games costing $60 a pop have ads integrated into the gameplay. (And who am I kidding, what is this post except an ad in disguise?) Combining the two issues was the next logical step. False Idols This story has a long history. There is an excellent site called Illustration Friday. They put up a new topic every week, you illustrate it, post it on your website or blog, and link the result. In addition, it has a very supportive community. So a few years back, they had two words – Ancient:
Both pictures had a classic science-fiction feel to them. I devised a rudimentary storyline about a rocket captain (inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Captain Wilder and David Ossman’s Firesign Theatre character Mark Time,) who crashes onto an an alien planet, which is inhabited by Bug Eyed Monsters and the idols they worship. Over the span of a year, I animated about 90% of it:
You have to love loop soundtracks. Then, as always, real life got in the way: There was work, two kids, and I began to focus more on writing than animating. I came back to the animation a few times with the intent of finishing it, but I realized contemporary standards had passed me by. Some shots look beautiful, others look very dated. I would have to re-model and reanimate most of it. So it sat on the shelf, or rather, in the hard drive. I decided a few years ago to put the short stories I had written over the years together and sell them on Amazon. I figured that nine was a good number. I had five written, I needed four more. So, on my Andriod, I fleshed out the story during my subway commute. While the animation started out as an homage to classic sci-fi, I realized there was no logical way to make a rocket landing work. So the unnamed captain became Travis, whose escape pod crashed. He was a criminal... no... a good man who broke the law to do what he had to do because... And viola, a story was born. The story has two main themes. One of them is obviously genetically modified crops. “Intelligrain” is a blatant play on Monsanto’s SmartStax brand of genetically modified seeds. Now GMCs in and of themselves might not necessarily be bad things, and do have potential benefits. However, when they cause diseases and overwhelm other crops, and when the corporations that make them are deeply entrenched in our government (e.g., The Farmer Assurance Provision, aka the Monsanto Protection Act, coupled with the fact that a former Monsanto vice president and lobbyist was appointed to the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Foods for a start) then something has gone very wrong. The other theme is religion vs. science. I consider myself agnostic, by which I mean I really have no idea if there is a higher power or not. While I don’t subscribe to religion (though I was raised Catholic) I am happy that so many of my friends take comfort in their faith. I have no issue with nativity scenes at town halls, prayers at graduation ceremonies and football games, or what have you. What I DO take umbrage over is when fundamentalists pass laws that make teachers include creationism in a science class. You can read my rant about it in depth here, but it shocks me that we’re in the 21st century and this is even up for debate. If you want to do god’s work, then learn how his creation really works so you can do so. Here endeth the rant. The Arena This story is actually twenty-three years old. When I was a junior in high school, my creative writing teacher gave us a picture to write about. It was a blurry black-and-white photocopy of a bullfighter. He was standing against a wall, but the way I held the paper, I thought he was lying on the ground. I wrote a short story called "Toro". It had pretty much the same plot, except it took place in Spain in the 1940s. It was easy to adapt into science fiction - and as such, is possibly more believable. Spain became Ganymede, and the bull became the Flopper. I suppose its clockwork mechanics are another throwback to Bradbury, although the Steampunk subgenre is gaining in popularity. That’s enough for now. Stay tuned, I’ll cover the next three stories tomorrow. TTFN -Tony
Dad: "We love your book son, but there must be a paragraph missing." Me: "Uh oh, where?" Mom: "You had a word we didn't understand, and then you're suddenly talking about a round cross or something" Me: "...Was the word 'Ankh'?" Dad: "That's it!"
So here we are again: another act of violence, which falls under the blanket name TERROR. That word has become so omnipresent in the last twelve years. Now, we have suspicious packages lurking behind every corner... smoking cigarettes, wearing baggy pants, not having a facebook account... TERROR. It's such a dominant word that the word "suffering" is lost in its shadow. Suffering is twisted into fear mongering and pitchfork raising for the sake of news headlines. The problem is, no one has stepped forward and taken credit for this yet. Gone are the days when Osama bin Laden or Cobra Commander would appear on television and announce that there are bombs buried everywhere throughout the United States, and they will be detonated unless we deliver the head of Justin Bieber on a silver platter. Now we all just have to wonder. While I'm sure it will make my grandfather roll over in his grave (he hated Mister Rogers) I have to admit that Reverend Fred summed it up best: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Or in the words of Bill and Ted, "Be excellent to each other." TTFN -Tony
When I was young, I would check classic science fiction short story collections out of the library, and stay up all night reading them under the covers with a flashlight. Here is a collection of nine short stories of contemporary science fiction. Some are humorous, some are dramatic, all are filled with imagination. I can't pretend to be up there with the classic giants, but I'd like to hope someone will stay up all night reading these.
I'm sorry I haven't been here in a while. Life has been hectic with work, and all my free time has been spent editing my ebook. Every time I think it's perfect, I go over it just one more time, and catch some stupid mistake: Hyphenating the same phrase sometimes, but not others, putting an apostrophe after an initial to make it plural, sometimes calling a character Elisabeth and other times Elizabeth... I'm being as anal as I can, but it takes a while.
I got laid off last Friday, but I worked the past couple of days at the Javits center, breaking down the car show. I shouldn't be out very long before the union sends me out again, but it will give me time to do all the things I need to catch up on.
Here's hoping everyone has a fantabulous day - I know I will!
I was so annoyed to be woken by the alarm clock this morning. I was having an awesome dream about flying an X-wing. I passed the Enterprise D, and we both gave each other a laser cannon / phaser salute. I could hear their bridge chatter on my radio. Picard was saying "Oh do grow a beard, Mister Worf, it would look oh so manly!"
Good morning my friends. I know I haven't posted in a while, but the truth is, I lead a very boring life. As Rowlf the Dog said in The Muppet Movie, "I finish work, I go home, read a book, drink a couple of beers, take myself for a walk, and go to bed."
I'm praying for copious amounts of rain today to wash the snow away. I've been working on my collection cover. I still have no idea what to call it. The problem is that the cover has to look good in an thumbnail, so I have to go less for "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and more with "Dark Side of the Moon" (And yes, I know I'm using album art to explain book covers, but you get what I mean.)
I'm headed out with some friends to The Waystation in Brooklyn tonight, looking forward to some geeky fun. Everyone have a good day and stay safe.
Good morning. I'm here on the bus to the subway, my daily routine hath begun. Another day in the freezing cold. It's beginning to wear down on my sunny demeanor. The thing is, the contractor I work for has jobs with even worse conditions right on the horizon. Just remember that: The other electricians grass is possibly browner and covered with doggie presents.
I can't wait to get off the subway and sip from the chalice of the good lord Java. Maybe it's lady Java, the "a" sound usually being a feminine ending.
I had a dream last night, and the only thing I remember is having an argument with someone that my phone's screen was made out of lollypop. She then proceeded to break it in half and eat it. I'm open to interpretations.
I had a fun superbowl party with the kids last night. We ordered out, ate some snacks, and watched until the blackout. Then we watched Bob's Burgers and I caught the rest of the game while polishing my short story collection.
My life is so goddamn exhausting lately. The past few days have been cold but bearable. The temperature has descended back to bitter. I wonder exactly who it's bitter at?
There's not much exciting going on. I'm twenty feet up on a scissor lift all day. When I lay down at night it still feels like the world is gently swaying from side to side, like after spending the day on a ship.
I don't know why he's in the headlines, but is it possible to hear Dan Marino's name without thinking some little old lady wants him to die of gonorrhoea and rot in hell?
I watched some Venture Bros. on free demand last night. When are they going to make a fifth season?
Can you plan a city's traffic flow by using ohms law, assigning vehicles as current, speed as voltage, and traffic lights as resistance?
Everyone have a wonderful weekend. Wishing you happiness.
It's a foggy morning. If I try really hard, I can pretend I'm in England.
I put all my short stories together in a pdf file for a few friends to review. It's like putting together a mix tape. I wrote these stories over the last twenty years. When I read them together, I feel excited, but realize I have some work to do. For example, I use a few similes too often, and perhaps characters' nationalities don't have to be mentioned unless they're necessary to the story. They need some polish but on the whole, I'm proud of my work.
When I was a kid I would take classic science fiction short story collections out of the Bernards Township library (Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Alfred Bester, and Harlan Ellison for starters.) I would stay up all night with a flashlight under the blankets reading them. This may explain why my eyesight is so bad. I don't claim to be up there with the greats, but I would like to hope for someone to stay up all night under the covers reading them.
There is also some naughtiness in there too. I might have to edit a PG-13 version just for my mother.
Have a fantabulous day my friends. Wishing you happiness always.
Good morning universe. As if that means anything to the universe. Good morning world... USA... how about eastern standard time? Good morning, people in eastern standard time - assuming it's still morning when you're reading this - and a happy whatever to everyone else. That should about cover it.
I've finally finished my short story collection! I have a few friends who've offered to give them a once-over for me. The next step is to make some groovy cover art, and make myself a website. Then... onward to Kindle et al. I'm feeling a bit... giddy! That's the word!
It's going to be in the thirties today... specifically somewhere between 31 and 33. After last week, it feels like the tropics. The next couple of days are going to be in the fifties - I think I'll come to work naked and get a tan.
Apart from writing while on my bike-desk, I had a wonderfully lazy weekend. Now I have my coffee plus espresso in hand, skimming the headlines... What the fuck? Some asshole anointed the bathrooms in the Freedom Tower with racist graffiti. Seriously? What is wrong with people? Do they have nothing better to do with their lives?
Good morning. I'm on the M train. I have to get a haircut today, although my extreme hat hair (between my wool cap, hood, and hard hat) is starting to look pretty hysterical. My hands are horribly chapped, my fingertips are starting to spilt. I think I would make an awesome "before" hand model.
So today, I'm wearing two layers of long underwear, a sweatshirt, a sweat jacket, and a lined coat. Oh yeah, and pants. I'm really getting sick of working in the cold. It wouldn't be so bad but my hood-mask-thingie that covers my mouth and nose steams up my glasses. Time to get Lasik, or maybe under-the-iris contacts. I think they're more expensive, but at least if something goes wrong, they're not permanent. Research must be done.
More wrestling with giant copper wires and transformers today. I'm starting to work out again, but I have to admit I'm feeling a little inferior to some of the Schwarzeneggerian guys I work with. That's OK, it's always good to have people to look up to in your life.
I'm taking the Zen approach to my life today. I am part of a perfect universe, therefore I am perfect just as I am. And so are you. The world is a better place because we're in it. We matter.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was such a horrible event, I haven't had any idea how to approach it. So in respect for those whose lives were destroyed, I've refrained from commenting on it directly. However, an indirect result has caught my eye.
The problem is that many people feel angry most of the time, either at themselves or others. Internalized anger feeds upon itself and eats away at the soul from the inside. If I was in therapy, I would sure as hell be afraid to admit any "naughty" thoughts to a mental-health professional if they were required to put me on a danger list. What the hell is a "violent tendency" anyway? Is it blowing away mutant zombie bastards on my Xbox? Is it writing stories where bad things happen to good people? Beating up a punching bag in the gym? Wishing a pox upon both the MTA's houses? Hmmm... germ warfare... The point is that the new law doesn't leave any leeway for common sense. A therapist who is under threat of legal action may very well choose caution over common sense. So now, some people are going to avoid getting the mentalhealth care they need. I know everyone is afraid, but reactionism isn't the best answer.
In other news, I've finally finished the first draft of short story number nine. I had intended for it to be funny, but it wound up being dark with a side order of Twilight Zone-ish horror. I have to decide whether I want to keep it that way, or if I'm just being lazy and I should make the ending one more giant hurdle for my trusty protagonist to overcome. Thoughts?
Good morning. Nothing exciting happening. I got up, made a peanut/almond butter shake, worked out while watching The Boondocks ("You just mad 'cause your ass is old...") Going to take a shower before heading over to my parents. Pinochle shall be played!
So I got an abscessed wisdom tooth extracted yesterday, and by extracted, I mean the dentist twisting and yanking with pliers while I hear scraping and cracking for about ten minutes until this giant futhermucking thing came out of my jaw. At least I was Novocained up first... that's another thing I love, when they jam that needle deep into your cheek and press that plunger and you feel half of your face going numb. Mandy is quite upset that I won't be able to make fart noises for a few days. Well, not with my mouth anyway.
So now I'm making myself shakes. Peanut-butter shake this morning, avocado shake this afternoon... I'm thinking of making my own sort of cream of chicken soup shake, using protein powder, almond milk, and chicken bouillon. No?
On the bright side, today was my last day of physical therapy for my knee. The therapist said she was disappointed she wasn't able to hurt me anymore. I told her a guy with pliers outdid her. Everyone needs a hobby. TTFN -Tony
It's sleeting right now which isn't bad, better than snow, just bounces off of my coat, rain would soaked in. Teeny-tiny hail, maybe? Wasn't there an episode of Little House on the Prarie where some woman gets knocked out by hail?
Did a bit of writing on the bus and subway, so I'm feeling productive. It's a shame I have to waste it on work. Playing with some tricky pipe bends, nothing too glamorous. I have to bring my own glamour, as always. Cradle of Filth is wonderful to listen to while I write, kind of an anti Gregorian chant. I keep thinking of Richmond from The I.T. Crowd. "It's called Coffin Fodder. It's quite beautiful, actually."
Good morning, here I am on the bus again. There's an ocean-spray rain in the air. My face is still a little swollen, it seems the antibiotics are slowly bringing the abscess down.
Ooh, a woman just got on wearing a Fiona the Human hat!
I had a bizarre dream last night: Musket-ball earrings were all the rage, and my cute-little-sainted-Sicilian mother asked for a pair for Christmas. So we all chipped in to buy her a monogrammed pair, made from 100% genuine iron, and they managed to stretch her earlobes out like silly-putty. Dad and I rushed her to the emergency room, where all the doctors and nurses were twisting to the late, great Frank Zappa's "Motherly Love."
It's one of those mornings where I woke up once or twice during the night and felt wide awake, but when my phone alarm went off at 4:30 ("It's a Gas!") it took every microwatt of willpower not to hit "snooze" and sink back into a coma.
Thirteen gb of diverse mp3s make interesting results when my phone is on shuffle. The last three songs were "For the Love of Ivy," "Hatredcopter," and "Mister Frump in the Iron Lung."
The first draft of my elusive story number nine is almost done. I need to chew the ear of one of my subway-working friends - I've never had the pleasure. A lot of it takes place in a tunnel, and I like to be as accurate as possible. I may have to take poetic license here and there.
I went to the dentist today - I have a lovely abscess swelling up the side of my jaw. I was hoping he would drain it so I could go to my friend's party tonight, but nooo... I have to take antibiotics for a few days first so I don't get some sort of blood infection. Wuss.
I made myself an interesting concoction for lunch - it's sort of a homemade hamburger helper, with turkey burger, corned beef hash, almond milk, paprika, garlic powder, oregano, chicken bouillon, olive oil, and grated Parmesan cheese.
Joe and I tried to watch A Sound of Thunder last night, a film VERY loosely based on the classic Ray Bradbury short story. The consensus seems to be 1.5 stars. It would be great as an MST3K episode. Ben Kingsley is made up with a huge white wig to look like Bob Barker. The actors are badly blue/green screened in front of CGI that looks like it came from an X-Box game. The exposition dialogue is horrible "Me, I'm ahard businessman who only cares about money. You, you're a brilliant scientist with a conscience. But you need my money to make your dreams come true, so you'll follow orders and like it!" (No, this is not verbatim, but it's damned close.) But worst of all is the fact that the titular "sound of thunder" doesn't even come into the story at all. The Simpsons"Treehouse of Horror V: Time and Punishment" segment is a much better adaptation.
Well, that's all that's exciting for today. Me and my face are taking it easy tonight. Take care of yourselves.