Monthly Archives: March 2007

The Reformed Citizen Companion

It’s a little early, but The Reformed Citizen is now available for consumption through my Lulu.com storefront, and will be showing up on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, etc. in April.

Intentionally, subliminally, or otherwise, this collection contains quite a contrasting selection of stories, novelettes, and novellas, some of them old, some new, and a few that are new to you. Across the board, though, there is a common theme, a common feel, as my post-Midnight Recollections short-form work has taken on a more serious tone. Much of it is socio-political in nature—not necessarily because I’m keen as to what society and politics is all about, but because it’s all too convenient to use my fiction as a springboard for whatever soapbox epiphany I happen to be having at the moment.

“Distributed Logic” proved to be my most popular story in 2005. I wrote it in a brief amount of time; it was one of about six stories I’d put together early in the year with the intention of knocking the socks of various editors’ feet. 2005 was to be the year my name appeared in the pages of Asimov’s, Analog, Fantasy & Science Fiction, yes, sir—

—it never happened. Each story was rejected by about a dozen magazines apiece. I finally decided that before the year was over and out, I wanted someone to publish my stuff (particularly “Distributed Logic”), and so started submitting to the online ‘zines. Aphelion and Anotherealm were the only two outfits interested. I salute them. The former got “Distributed Logic,” and the latter “Line 43,” and while virtual reality / cyberpunk is hardly as fresh and shiny-new as it used to be, there it was: two stories I wanted to tell that actually got told.

“Line 43” was the piece everyone hated. At the time, I’d just started reading Bradbury; this was my own take on Ray’s style, though many considered it merely an outlet for its author’s latent conspiracy theory views. It may not be the most original or well-written piece, but it did what I wanted it to do. Somehow, I feel the reviewers forgot the basic rule, that an author’s characters should be so passionate as to make the reader believe the author shares the same views—without the author actually doing so. But that’s just me.

“The Ninth Life of Vincent Nguyen” had an interesting journey before ending up in The Reformed Citizen. Three editors, one for a traditional print magazine, corresponded with me in great detail, saying they liked the story, but wanted it to make a blatant social statement one way or the other. Was it an erotic piece? Then add more sex. Was it a speculative piece? Then get rid of the sex. There was the man-on-man thing too: I’d toyed with having Jonah and Frank as lovers in an early version of “Color Conformity,” but removed the homosexual element at the suggestion of the editor. Six years later, I found myself in a similar situation with “The Ninth Life of Vincent Nguyen.” No one wanted it because it was either too sexual—or not sexual enough. Too gay or too straight. Contemporary fantasy or gay erotica with not enough penis-play. The vastly different opinions lavished upon me by various editors led me to the steadfast decision to keep the story the way I liked it, to neither tailor it for the sci-fi mags nor the erotica rags.

In “A Whisper from the Mirror,” I toyed with the idea of an actor losing control of his character. I’ve always had this notion of actors “becoming” their characters whenever performing, but what if said characters were summoned for each performance? What if they were plucked from some inner region of the psyche, allowed to dance and sing and play a while on the stage before being returned to their place of eternal slumber? This was an orphaned piece that really had nowhere else to go. I believed in it, however, and so here it is.

Time Chaser has had so many offshoots, it’s a wonder the novel ever got finished. “Fogy” was an outtake; Demis was supposed to be an over-the-hill news reporter who interviewed Storm / Chronos, the legendary time chaser. In tightening things up, I decided to remove Demis’ story completely—but, then, I had this personal vignette that I still liked very much. So, I grafted several ideas together with the Time Chaser leftovers, and “Fogy” was born.

“The Path Between” and “Arrival” are the two rarities that close out the anthology. Let’s start with the former story:

A lot of my material comes from dreams, which is not as elegant as one might think, considering how utterly abstract one’s thought can become during sleep. “The Path Between” was one of those occasions on which I dreamt a single scene that was so potent I just had to figure out a way to build a complete story around it. And that’s how it worked. From my dream came a scene, and from that scene came a story.

The ShadowKeep Shared-Universe Project

The ShadowKeep Shared-Universe Project

“Arrival” was written in 2000, during my time at ShadowKeep. I had the brilliantly naive idea of creating a shared-universe project based on a throwaway story I’d written using one of the first online office suites. I didn’t care much about Matthew, Darius, or Arrow, and neither did anyone else; the project never got off the ground, and I never made an effort to complete the story until late 2006, when a bout with the flu gave me some free time to re-read some of my old notebooks whilst floating in a feverish delirium. By the time I was well again, I’d worked out the whole thing in my head, banished all the old dead-ends to their shadowy niches—I was absolutely in love with the elves’ predicament. (And no, “Arkensaw” isn’t a misspelling, it’s Arkansas as it was when the elves lived there.)

Castle Greensbough is actually a more Gothic take on Cambria's own Hearst Castle

Castle Greensbough is actually a more Gothic take on Cambria's own Hearst Castle

This is where naked elves took their naked baths

This is where naked elves took their naked baths

There you have it: the method behind the madness, an updated catalog of brain farts and funny-sounding ideas. Here’s hoping The Reformed Citizen leaves a dent.

Genesis in 2007: VIP Only

STOP! Please have your credit card ready - the Invisible Touch hand has new meaning

STOP! Please have your credit card ready - the Invisible Touch hand has new meaning

We’ve all heard the news by now: Legendary progressive rock band Genesis has reformed for a tour (or, as Phil Collins adamantly insists, “a selection of shows”)—and without singer Peter Gabriel or guitarist Steve Hackett. Which isn’t surprising, considering the band’s 25-year-long denial of their progressive / art rock roots. Chart-friendly Genesis is pop-ish Genesis, and pop-ish Genesis is Genesis without Peter Gabriel or Steve Hackett.

Artistically, the now-revived Banks / Collins / Rutherford trio are quite proficient at performing their distinctive brand of adult contemporary rock live. The ticket prices, which will no doubt be outrageous, are worth it, if you’re a fan. But after ~32 years without Gabriel, and nearly as long without Hackett, it would have been nice to stage a proper Dark Ages of Rock revival. No need for the guys to wrangle themselves into a confined space for a new studio album—just a slightly more elaborate live show, complete songs from the olden days, something…different.

Ah, but I suspect this latest reunion has more to do with the PR slant than it does the band’s actual desire to return to the fold as a functional creative ensemble. Of course, they’ve earned the right to rest on their respective laurels, but as lucrative as a reunion is from a ticket sales standpoint, I can’t help but feel it’s going to be more of the same. A freshening of the back catalog. That much is obvious from the fact that the official Genesis web site has drastically scaled itself back, only offering meaningful content to “premium” members—folks who pay a fee for such commodities as biographical information, press releases, multimedia clips, and so forth. I find this sort of approach counterproductive, especially for an act as venerable as Genesis. Heck, during a recent interview, the guys themselves admitted that they’re loaded, so it’s not as if they need to make ends meet by charging access fees. And even if they did need the money, or if they were an up-and-coming band looking for some cash-flow—what fan, potential or established, enjoys going to a site that charges premium fees? (You know the Web’s Golden Rule: Unless it’s porno, people don’t expect to pay for it.)

Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe it’s the fact that Genesis is such a popular act that has them needing to maintain a super-expensive, nuclear-powered server to handle the inundation of fans wanting to download video clips from their site. Let’s say Genesis can’t afford a streaming server; couldn’t they have their videos hosted on YouTube, put something legit up there for a change? Meh. I don’t know. When bands do this sort of thing, it tends to alienate all but the most die-hard fans. But, then, this is Genesis we’re talking about, and it has been 15 years since the last tour. Fans will probably pay anything for the novelty, and I’ll probably be right there alongside them.

The Moody Blues’ management had something of a merchandising orgasm in 1999, when Strange Times, their first new studio album in eight years, was released—to the point of inserting advertising into the jewel case itself. Any value the album might have had as a collector’s item went right out the window (though musically, Strange Times was a solid effort).

My opinion on the whole Web-merchandising thing: Use your Web site to give out free shiat, like multimedia clips, photos, press material, ticket information, discographies—save the “pay me or get lost” attitude for the actual albums, boxed sets, T-shirts, autographed towels, toenail clippings, etc. And whatever you do, don’t put out an album in an empty jewel case with the words “Steal This Album!” printed on the front. (*cough* System of a Down *cough*)

Awaiting Citizenship

The Reformed Citizen - Cover Design

The Reformed Citizen - Cover Design

The new anthology should be out next month. Everything is pretty much finalized; I just need to go through some last minute paperwork. Isn’t the fractal cover art bitchin’? (You can thank Kevin Liangcy for that.) If you’re a reader, reviewer, or plain ol’ well-wisher, send me an e-mail; I’m giving away free copies of The Reformed Citizen to people willing to post their reviews on the book’s Amazon.com page (when it becomes available).

With that project nicely sliced off, I now have some time to work on my next novel project—though I’ll probably just end up sitting around in my underwear and reading naughty comics while scarfing down Cheetos.

LoveSnot © El Cid

LoveSnot © El Cid

Cheeto

Well, I did do a short story called “Bradbury’s Ghost” for the Outre Dark horror digest, which is due out in July.

My Linux adventures have plateaued in 2007, as I’m still using PCLinuxOS (which I installed back in January). The particular version of KDE that ships with PCLinuxOS Test Release 2 is quite stable—more so than some of the “final” Fedora and Ubuntu releases! I’m guessing this is because KDE is the default desktop. Usually everyone flocks to GNOME as if it’s the best thing since sliced bread; it’s refreshing to see usability favored over anal, don’t-eat-with-your-mouth-open simplicity (see the checklist at the bottom of this article and tell me GNOME’s not ridiculous).

I stole this from someone’s MySpace:

Scandalvania - Just before Simon's Quest went horribly, horribly wrong...

Scandalvania - Just before Simon's Quest went horribly, horribly wrong...

Last weekend, I picked up a copy of Brian Keene’s new novel, Ghoul. I also snagged Accidents Waiting to Happen, Simon Wood’s mass-market debut—which is really cool, because I used to deal with Simon back in the ShadowKeep days, back when he was just starting out. Now his books are appearing on store shelves! And as for Brian, Ghoul is wicked fun, sort of a darker Stand By Me for the 21st century. My only complaint is that Doug gets fucked up. I mean, he really gets the shit end of the stick in this book (as do several other characters). If anyone deserves a chance at making it through to the end unscathed, it’s Doug—but that’s not how things pan out. However, Brian is wise enough not to have turned things into a “guess which character survives” slash-fest. Not completely. At any rate, Ghoul was my introduction to Keene’s novel work, and I’m pleased with it…I just won’t go near any cemeteries for a while.

Before you click out, check out the Freebies page for the latest chapter from The Knack, as well as an Easter egg story from the erotic Time Chaser project.