Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 7: J. Herman Banning, The Day I Sprouted Wings (#95)

J. Herman Banning, "The Day I Sprouted Wings" (1932) in Into the Blue:
This piece was originally published in the Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American newspaper that I have looked through a bunch in my time (George Schuyler, woo!). The headnote for this piece gives a lot of helpful info for James Herman Banning, not the most well-known name in aviation history. The story is very historically interesting: first licensed black male pilot; transcontinental flight that took three weeks since they had to raise funds for fuel at every stop; died in 1933 when he couldn't get a plane in an airshow because he was black and had to go up with a less experienced white pilot.

As Bisgood's piece gave us a historical view of commercial flying (and for a woman!), Banning's piece gives us a historical view of a wannabe pilot (and a black man). The story is as interesting as his biography, with his torturous training involving a near brush with death--
This particular day the pilot complimented me on my progress up to that date, and five minutes later he took a new student up in the same ship and was killed in a crash.
--; the difficulty of getting an experienced pilot to fly the plane he built himself after salvaging the engine of the plane his instructor died in; and his eventual accidental first solo flight in the plane before anyone else tested it.

The story takes a little while to get going--or at least it feels that way since he starts with that old cliche, "It has often been said truth is stranger than fiction." But once he gets into it, it's a short little anecdote that goes along pleasantly, especially since Banning is always willing to deflate his own legend. My favorite section of this short piece does just that, describing at length how great he feels to be flying before reminding himself that he might just die:
I immediately became self-reliant. I felt as only one who flies can feel—that here, at last, I have conquered a new world, have moved into a new sphere. I had sprouted wings, a rhapsody in air, but the stark realization came to me that I had yet a landing to make!
His undercutting deflations often take place in the same sentence as the inflation, which helps to give this a breathless forward momentum without letting us build a legend out of this epic and totally accidental moment.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 6: Randolph Bourne, Mon Amie (#59)

Randolph Bourne, "Mon Amie" (1915) from Americans in Paris:
Randolph Bourne sounds like a character out of a Robert Chambers story, like "The Yellow Sign": disfigured in face (thanks to doctor's forceps during birth) and hunchback (thanks to youthful spinal tuberculosis), large hands that could play piano, a genius, a cape-wearer. The headnotes to this piece note that his relationship with "mon amie" (my friend) sounds intellectual rather than romantic perhaps because of his handicaps.

Though it doesn't sound exactly chaste when he notes that her mind "became the field where I explored at will"; or that what he had with her was either a flirtation or an "intellectual orgy." For all this piece is supposed to be a paean to his female friend--a 19-year old who responded to his note at the Sorbonne--what comes out of this is a pretty flat and objectified view: woman as symbol of France.

No surprise that this was printed for an American audience in the Atlantic, with its ooh la laing over French life: oh, this woman is all of France; and like all of France she is modern and a feminist, wanting to live her life (vivre sa vie) and permitting herself all sorts of luxuries, including refusing to marry and wanting a free life. By contrast, Bourne says, American girls are "so pedantic and priggish." Honestly, this seems like the 1910s, middlebrow version of sex tourism, as Bourne describes the young woman's modern views on love.

But for all my distaste at the subject and subtext, Bourne does a good job of dealing with French language, translating or contextualizing--and not overusing any French to emphasize foreignness.

Some thoughts on Wreck-it Ralph

I really enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph and wanted to make a few notes on it.

One: it welcomes video-game illiterates since many of the video game references are made up--the game Fix-It Felix, Jr. resembles in some ways King Kong, the first Mario (Jumpman) game, but is totally it's own thing. (Also Rampage, but no one remembers that.)

Two: but if you do know video games, there's a few little jokes in it, as with the jerky animation style of the Fix-It Felix, Jr. characters.

Three: Ralph's backstory is insanely interesting--but not really examined. He's been thrown out of his rightful home so that some people could build a condo on it. The song over the end credits makes reference to how Ralph was tossed out for eminent domain reasons. So it sounds like he's got a pretty legit reason to be angry. (NB. See note at end.)

Four: the movie has some philosophical incoherences; for instance, Vanellope at the end declares that her real self is the hoodie-wearing rebel, even though the code says that she's a princess (a standard "the system doesn't define me" move)--but elsewhere she talks about how she's really a racer "in her code." This may be less a movie inconsistency than a linguistic/character inconsistency. But this sort of problem seems to bedevil lots of literature; cf. Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, where Hank goes on and on about how the system is what defines people--and then every once in a while notes that the system can't really keep a good guy down.

Five: one of my favorite things about the film is how it gives the four main characters some sort of arc / flaw. First up is Ralph, the displaced angry guy who comes to re-engage with his power to wreck things by using it in different ways. (Although, his sacrificial moment at the end is very reminiscent of The Iron Giant.) Next, and parallel, is Vanellope: displaced like Ralph, outcast like Ralph, has to learn to use her debility (her glitch) as a power like Ralph. Fix-It Felix, Jr., learns there's more to life than just fixing (though this is underdeveloped) and Sergeant Calhoun has to learn there's more to life than just fighting (though this is ditto). Hmm, actually the more I think about this, the more I think they could've added to those two secondary characters, who nicely mirror each other as Ralph and Vanellope do.

Six: a villain is revealed in the last half of the movie, which is fine, but which could have been made to fit more tightly with the main story. After all, Ralph and Vanellope both want to fit in more with their video game or at least be appreciated. And the villain's desire is to be appreciated and to blend in a video game where he doesn't belong. The connections could be clearer.

Final thought: Is Wreck-It Ralph ultimately an anti-protest movie? Look at it this way: Ralph has been moved off his pleasant forest and put in a dump made up of the cast-offs from the rich Nicelanders. So whether you want to put that in First World-Third World or One Percent-99 Percent terms, his desire is pretty recognizable: he wants a slice of the pie (literally in the movie).

Now, when Ralph absents himself from the economy of the game, it breaks down--the same way our economy would break down if, say, certain agricultural states tried to enforce laws against the illegal migrant workers that helped pick their crops. So at the end, the Nicelanders realize Ralph's value and, after throwing him off the roof, give him his own pie--separate but equal, with a nice message and a representation of Frank on top of the building with the Nicelanders.

So, materially, nothing has really changed in Ralph's world: he still gets thrown off the building, still (probably) lives in the dump, still has never been properly compensated for that first removal from his land. Instead, he becomes satisfied in his position because of the symbolic differences: the cake, him on top of it.

Some spoilers here: We could also say that his story of displacement (he lived somewhere till he was kicked off that land) gets displaced onto Vanellope's story: like Ralph, she was displaced from her position, only her displacement is recognized as wrong by everyone and is substantially corrected by the end. She was kicked off the throne by Turbo and she gets it back by the end. All of her "I won't be a princess, I'll be a president" is a sharp joke in this direction since no one actually voted for her. It's still an inherited position (like Felix with his magic hammer from his dad*). So Ralph was on that land first, but that position (inherited, gained, whatever) is forgotten; while Vanellope gains her position back. So why can't Ralph?

*Ever note that Felix's favorite way to refer to Ralph is "brother"? That might just be friendliness (though he doesn't call anyone else brother, iirc), but even so it metaphorically sets up an Esau-Jacob sort of relationship, with the wild brother and the favored brother. No wonder Ralph is so angry to be displaced from his land--and from his family.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 5: Elizabeth M. Bisgood, Twelve Strangers in the Night (#83)

If yesterday's entry "how do black people talk?" didn't interest you, maybe you'll be more interested in today's "how did our great-grandparents fly?"

Elizabeth M. Bisgood, "Twelve Strangers in the Night" (1933) from Into the Blue:
Over at the Library of America Story of the Week page, each piece includes a header that introduces the author, some context, and some analysis when the piece is famous enough to need less author/context info.

So, who is Elizabeth Bisgood? Apparently she went to Smith College with the future Anne Morrow Lindbergh and the header for this piece has two paragraphs about the Lindberghs and one on Bisgood. So I still don't really know anything about Bisgood, other than that she wrote this article about what it was like to take a commercial flight in 1933.

For sure, that topic has great historical value and is an interesting counterweight to the old "air travel used to be glamorous" meme (as found in this excellent Cat and Girl comic). Bisgood notes that the plane is too loud to talk; there are only 12 seats (all the other passengers are men); the plane makes several stops to refuel and gets grounded by a storm (so the airline gets them train tickets to another city where they can get the next plane); and many other changes, including that ever-green marker of historical difference: people used to smoke on planes. There's also a big theme running through of how the shared danger unifies all the passengers--"We are one unit. The breath of one is the breath of all.
Our hearts pound at a single, heavy pace." But at the same point, Bisgood is clear to mark out the distinctions that exist outside of that momentary unity: she knows no one's name, the other passengers probably look at her and just see a woman who needs to powder her nose, the man next to her is going to be sick so she looks away, etc.

As a literary piece, Bisgood does some interesting things. For one thing, the whole piece is addressed to an absent "you" who is Bisgood's husband (or something), which makes the reading of this piece a little bit like looking at someone's private correspondence. Also, Bisgood occasionally slips in a bit of fantasia, as when she describes the plane flying through the clouds as a toy plane wrapped in cotton. Do these flights of fancy (oh, ouch) help make the strange scenario more understandable for readers who have never flown themselves? Is this an example of metaphorical language being used when literal description fails?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 4: Zora Neale Hurston, Story in Harlem Slang (#118)

Zora Neale Hurston, "Story in Harlem Slang" (1942) from Zora Neale Hurston:
"Story in Harlem Slang" is more slang than story; and if you wanted to make an argument about how Zora Neale Hurston sold blackness to mainstream white audiences, you could put this story up front. The story involves one gigolo nicknamed Jelly--because he gives the sweetness to women--who meets another named Sweet Back, and they engage in a little semi-serious insult war; until they each try to pick up a woman so that she can buy the lucky guy a meal and/or some reefer.

In the grand tradition of "hey, what are those people over there doing?" reportage, Hurston provides an extensive glossary for the story--three pages of closely packed early jive, some of which is still in use today (only more widespread, of course). I could imagine black Americans of the 40s reading this and not being thrilled with Hurston's subject matter, but the story really seems like an excuse for the glossary. In fact, the story isn't enough of an excuse, since the glossary includes several terms/ideas not present int he story. Reading this story today, I'm less bothered by the depiction of black men as shiftless (still with us) than I am by the pervasive hierarchy of color, the distinction between good and bad hair, etc. (also, still with us), which is very much on display in the story and the glossary.

There's also a Hurston quick shift at the end: from the omniscient/80s stand-up routine ("this is how black guy's talk"), Hurston's final line is a melancholy remembrance by one of those gigolos of how good he had it back down South.

Curiously, while the characters' speech patterns are very distinct from the presumed audience of the American Mercury (white people who want to thrill at Mencken's insouciance), they are all very similar to each other. Just one more piece of evidence that the main thrust of this piece is as a linguistic exploration of Harlem slang--in case you didn't get that from the title. I almost wish this sort of sketch was still in fashion.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 3: Theodore Dreiser, A Certain Oil Refinery (#28)

Next up, our first non-fiction piece, a setting description by Theodore Dreiser, ex-"amateur laborer" for the New York Central Railroad from June 5, 1903-December 24, 1903.

Theodore Dreiser, "A Certain Oil Refinery" (1919) from American Earth:
Dreiser was a journalist, so it's not crazy to find a piece of his in the Library of America anthology of ecological and environmental writing. It doesn't become crazy until you read it.

You'll find out very little hard information in this sketch, just that Standard Oil has a refinery in Bayonne, NJ; and that the entire area around the refinery is polluted but picturesque--including the people. As he notes at the end, he's not really writing about the ethics of employment, just the aesthetics: "only the picture which this industry presents."

And he's not totally lying when he says that. Sure, he does stick in some judgments or hand-wringing about how these workers are so low because of their exploited position... and also maybe because of their lack of intelligence; and he does contrast the greed of the top with the poverty (and ignorance) of the bottom. But most of the manifest content here is just about the aesthetics of exploitation and pollution; look at these people, he says:

They look so grim, so bare, so hopeless. Artists ought to make pictures of them. Writers ought to write of them. Musicians should get their inspiration for what is antiphonal and contra-puntal from such things. 

Honestly, those lines are so effusive (and repetitive) that I think they might tip into irony--but I can't really tell. Similarly, as soon as he gets done describing the terrible conditions of the men, he'll add the 1910s equivalent of "what are you going to do?" That he's more interested in the aesthetics might even be behind the title that this piece was collected in, "The Color of a Great City."

I'll also note that those lines quoted above are very unlike much of Dreiser's writing style, where long sentences go on; and where he'll never give an image once if he can instead give it twice. I'll give him this, though: his writing is so varied and strange that I'm sure I can find the exact opposite (long, short, straightforward, ironic/understated, etc.) in this very piece.

Addendum: For all his overt interest in aesthetics, this piece gains a certain moral power when read soon after the West, TX fertilizer plant explosion and the collapse of a Bangladeshi factory.

Short story read aloud, week 7

Escape Artists (Escape PodPodcastlePseudopod

Amanda M. Olson, "Virtue's Ghosts": A sort of Victorian-ish setting where people at puberty get magical gems that enforce some virtue on them. The narrator is a child whose older aunt has this scary "silence" virtue that ruins her life, but then they meet a man who has escaped his charm (by not going through the process at all). A very interesting setting with a very fair ending, mixed of happy and sad.

Matt Wallace, "Sundae": A magical teddy bear fights children's imaginary monsters, but can't do so forever. Rather than focus on one relationship, the story hops around in Sundae's life, which gives an expansive view of his activity, but doesn't entirely allow readers to empathize with the characters.

Christine Brooke-Rose, "Red Rubber Gloves": An older story, very much like Alain Robbe-Grillet, where a voyeur looks over at a house where something might or might not be happening, largely told through changes in the house and a careful description of the architecture. Very Nouveau, which makes me wonder how much that weirdness can be combined with fantastic fiction.

"Flash on the Borderlands XV: At Your Service": A collection of three flash stories around the idea of service. The first is a riddle story where an electric chair talks about courting a man; the second is about a hotel where unfortunate things happen and need to be cleaned up; the third is about a malfunctioning robot that is obsessed with meat.

Pamela Rentz, "The Medicine Woman of Talking Rock": A very funny story about a Native American medicine woman who has to face the changing but pleasant world: her ceremonial cedar canoe has been lost and her connection to the spiritual world has become a little bit more like an HMO, but there are ways to live with these changes. Very pleasant.

Dirk Flinthart (are you serious about that name?), "The Red Priest's Vigil": An inquisitor tries to trap a martial artist/heretic who comes to visit his dying friend; the vigil in question is to keep his friend's soul from the devil. And something about the heretic's loyalty and bravery convinces the narrator/inquisitor that he shouldn't be doing what he's doing. The story is told as a single letter from the inquisitor to his boss, and while I wasn't sure why that structure was chosen, the end--the inquisitor reveals his lack of allegiance and quits--nicely answers that.

Richard Bowes, "The Queen and the Cambion": Queen Victoria calls on Merlin several times during her life. A perfectly pleasant and melancholy-tinged story, though a little episodic: Merlin saves Victoria from her scheming mom; help her chose a husband; comes to do x, y, and z for her. The historical aspect is nicely handled, with a gentle hand that gently fits in the fantasy. But while the ultimate end should be melancholy--queen dying, Merlin trapped--it never really moved me emotionally.

Lois McMaster Bujold, "Aftermaths": I've never read Bujold before, so I have no idea about the background of this military space opera; but the story doesn't require a lot of background, especially since it falls into that classic formula of "callow young soldier learns through exposure to older expert." Only here, the setting is after the war, not during; and the older expert isn't an older soldier, but a medic who takes care with all of her recovered bodies, both from her side and from the enemy side. That very slight change is enough to keep the formula interesting; and the story's humanity (towards us and them) is touching.

Cast of Wonders (Protecting Project PulpTales to TerrifyStarship Sofa)

John Everson, "Green Apples": A witch/ghost slowly reveals to the protagonist that he's a murderer of women. Although we get limited 3rd through the protagonist, it's interesting how we're kept out from that main fact about him, that he's a serial killer. I'm not entirely sure the writer plays fair with us with this absence of info (and the murder scenarios seems odd, with the guy killing women on Halloween when he finds them trick-or-treating alone (?) and then burying the bodies in an abandoned house); but I like the idea of guilt being slowly brought out.

Pat Murphy, "Going Through the Changes": An unhappy woman experiences the enjungling of the world after she visits a doctor who promises a mind vacation. Nicely balances between the menace of something new coming and the hope that something new will come.

Harry Harrison, "By the Falls": A journalist comes to a lighthouse keeper (of a sort) who lives by some falls where strange things live above and sometimes fall. I think the implication is that those things above are us, which makes this a fairly standard switch-reveal story, like in The Twilight Zone.

Michael Moorcock, "Through the Shaving Mirror": A comedic take on the club story chatting of a bunch of oddballs, including a metaphysicist dwarf who boxes against clocks. Funny and weird--and short, which is nice since there's not much here to identify with or attach to.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 2: Raymond Carver, Kindling (#37)

Who knows if this will last, but right now I'm thinking I'll read and comment on a story a day. After all, there's 172 stories--someone's got to read them. I should also explain that the "(#XX)" in the title refers to the week this was sent out (which you can check out here); and I should also explain that I am ordering these stories randomly using this number generator.

Today's story:

Raymond Carver, "Kindling" (1999) from Raymond Carver:
I've never been a huge fan of Carver, and this story shoulders the double-burden of being a story discovered and published posthumously. Whenever I hear of posthumous stories I always wonder whether this was something the author wanted buried with him. But judging from the story, my necro-telepathy says that Carver would be fine with "Kindling" being published.

"Kindling" reminds me a lot of other Carver stories: if he wanted to, he could've had a nice sideline in Chandler-esque crime. There's that same Chandler terseness to the sentences (okay, that's only about half of Chandler's stuff) and the same Chandler attention to externalities. Did I say Chandler? I should've said Defoe. As Virginia Woolf pointed out, when a Defoe character is agitated, he more often clenches his hands than discusses how he's feeling. Carver's characters exist on the same level of externality: we see them talk, write, walk--sometimes step-by-step--but we don't get directly told how they feel.

Which is funny considering the story here is plot-light and feeling heavy. Myers has just gotten out of rehab, his wife has left him, and he doesn't know what to do with his life. (How is this not a serious Will Ferrell movie yet?) He moves to a different town, starts boarding with two of Carver's American grotesques (withered arm man, fat woman), and eventually gets out of his funk by cutting up a load of firewood and watching a river rush down. What healed him? Is he really better? What's up next for Sol and his wife Bonnie? As usual, Carver gives no answers.

But strangely, even with the easy to parody Carver style of describing people moving step-by-step, I found "Kindling" to be haunting because of some of the openness to it. For instance, check out this first line:
It was the middle of August and Myers was between lives.
If that doesn't make you want to dive in to the certainty of time (middle of August) and the vagueness of human life (between lives), then I don't know what will.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 1: Sherwood Anderson, The Egg (#158)

For a long time I've been subscribed to the Library of America's "Story of the Week" email list; but I have not always been good about reading those stories. Until now. (I hope.) There are 172 entries at the moment, though this number includes non-fiction/memoir and poetry, which I may or may not include in this read-through.

I'm not sure how many I will read a week or how much I will analyze or complain about them; but until Goodreads has a short story section, I need to record this somewhere (to ensure I don't accidentally read the same story twice).

First up:

Sherwood Anderson, "The Egg" (1920) from Sherwood Anderson
Available many places online (such as here), this is a plot-light and character-heavy story that is dark and sad and very funny. The story is told from the POV of an older man remembering and philosophizing about his childhood; and it boils down to "my dad was never successful at raising chickens or running a restaurant that was supposed to be a hub of good cheer" with a sub-theme, I would say, of the disappointments of ambition. But you don't come to this story for the plot, but for the hilariously dark comedy:
In later life I have seen how a literature has been built up on the subject of fortunes to be made out of the raising of chickens. It is intended to be read by the gods who have just eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is a hopeful literature and declares that much may be done by simple ambitious people who own a few hens. Do not be led astray by it. It was not written for you. Go hunt for gold on the frozen hills of Alaska, put your faith in the honesty of a politician, believe if you will that the world is daily growing better and that good will triumph over evil, but do not read and believe the literature that is written concerning the hen. It was not written for you. 
Much of the dark comedy of this piece comes from the mix of no-nonsense prose with these insights into the nature of things. Or rather, into the nature of people with their wants and inexplicable growths. Let's be clear: the child is the POV because the story is about how things grow and fail to grow, how certain things spring from other things, like eggs coming from chickens--or is it the other way around.

For instance, check out the narrator's description of his mother: "She was a tall silent woman with a long nose and troubled gray eyes.  For herself she wanted nothing.  For father and myself she was incurably ambitious." What is the nature of that ambition? The story hints that it comes from reading books about the world, but why isn't mom ambitious for herself?

For 11 pages, this story read remarkably fast, possibly because the prose is so straight-forward and the action so clear; though considering the bulk of the plot--dad's failure to impress a young gentleman--takes up only the last four pages or so, I wonder if a modern publisher would take it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Some thoughts on story openings

Inspired by a discussion over at Marie Brennan’s Livejournal (and the fact that I’m trying to get better at writing short stories), I thought it would be interesting to look at the openings to several of my favorite short stories. Now, if you came up to me on the street and asked me “what are you favorite short stories?” I’d gibber and drool and basically pull one of those Lovecraftian atavistic transformations.

But since I’m here at home, I can limit myself in a couple of ways to make this decision easy: only stories from the 1950s (so no Lovecraft); only science fiction/fantasy stories (so no Flannery O’Connor); only from books within easy reach (so no Le Guin); only stories that I could reliably tell you the plots of without rereading; and only one per author.

So first, I’d like to pour out some wine for the stories that didn’t make the cut, mostly because I don’t have a copy within easy reach. Which brings me to my next question: Where the hell are my Ursula K. Le Guin short stories? Did I not bring them to Texas? Are they buried in my various anthologies?

I'll confess, the 1950s criterion is pretty limiting and was largely chosen because I have several "best sf" books within reach that really focus on the 1950s. This is largely an artifact of the publishing industry and editorship of these books; and also a leftover from that chapter I was going to write for my dissertation about the mass/crowd in the 1950s, focusing on Theodore Sturgeon and Alfred Bester. But that way lies madness, so let's look at the stories.

1. Cordwainer Smith, “Scanners Live in Vain” (1950):
Martel was angry. He did not even adjust his blood away from anger. He stamped across the room by judgment, not by sight. When he saw the table hit the floor, and could tell by the expression on Luci’s face that the table must have made a loud crash, he looked down to see if his leg were broken. It was not. Scanner to the core, he had to scan himself. The action was reflex and automatic. The inventory included his leg, abdomen, Chestbox of instruments, hands, arms, face and back with the Mirror. Only then did Martel go back to being angry. He talked with his voice, even though he knew that his wife hated its blare and preferred to have him write.
“I tell you, I must cranch. I have to cranch. It’s my worry, isn’t it?” 
Analysis: I love the balance of norm and abnorm here: dude is having argument with his wife, but he’s not just any dude, he’s a scanner. (Like “type-writer,” scanner is ambiguous--is it a thing or a person operating the thing?)

I’ve used this opening before in class, so I can go pretty deep here (reflex AND automatic?); but for a first-time reader, this opening sets up questions about what this guy is and why he must cranch (themes of technology and identity), while embedding that weirdness in a marital dispute to give the reader some sense of continuity.

The limited 3rd of the POV allows us an external view of Martel, while also giving some of his internals. Which is a nice way of signposting: we're going to deal with people's feelings here, but you're going to get objective evidence of those feelings.

2. Fritz Leiber, “Coming Attraction” (1950):
The coupe with the fishhooks welded to the fender shouldered up over the curb like the nose of a nightmare. The girl in its path stood frozen, her face probably stiff with fright under her mask. For once my reflexes weren’t shy. I took a fast step toward her, grabbed her elbow, yanked her back. Her black skirt swirled out.
The big coupe shot by, its turbine humming. I glimpsed three faces. Something ripped. I felt the hot exhaust on my ankles as the big coupe swerved back into the street. A thick cloud like a black flower blossomed from its jouncing rear end, while from the fishhooks flew a black shimmering rag.
"Did they get you?" I asked the girl. 
Analysis: Menace. Menace menace menace. There are certainly future/social questions raised by this opening: why is she wearing a mask, how bad have things gotten that people are joyriding with fishhooks welded to their hotrods? (That note is totally 1950s panic over juvenile delinquency. That's my nutshell of the 1950s: the bomb and teenagers, run!)

But this opening spends so little time on the coupe, which is just a collection of fragments for the narrator: humming turbine, three faces, hot exhaust, a black cloud (the first color description attached to the car, as it leaves). Notice also the rhythm of the sentences, balanced between long, multi-clausal and short: "I took a fast step toward her, grabbed her elbow, yanked her back. Her black skirt swirled out."

This is flowers of evil, season in hell stuff right here: poetic atmosphere setting. This guy isn't much of an action hero, but is more a flaneur. I'd bet a coupe with fishhooks that this story doesn't end happily, but that we're going to get a tour through this menacing new society.

3. Alfred Bester, “Fondly Fahrenheit” (1954): 
He doesn’t know which of us we are these days, but they know one truth. You must own nothing but yourself. You must make your own life, live your own life and die your own death... or else you will die another’s.
The rice fields on Paragon III stretch for hundreds of miles like checkerboard tundras, a blue and brown mosaic under a burning sky of orange. In the evening, clouds whip like smoke, and the paddies rustle and murmur.
A long line of men marched across the paddies the evening we escaped from Paragon III. They were silent, armed, intent; a long rank of silhouetted statues looming against the smoking sky. Each man carried a gun. Each man wore a walkie-talkie belt pack, the speaker button in his ear, the microphone bug clipped to his throat, the glowing view-screen strapped to his wrist like a green-eyed watch. The multitude of screens showed nothing but a multitude of individual paths through the paddies. The annunciators made no sound but the rustle and splash of steps. The men spoke infrequently, in heavy grunts, all speaking to all.
Analysis: "He doesn't know which of us we are these days" is something that Barth or Barthelme could have written, perfectly nonsensical in its pronouns. Like the Leiber, Bester avoids names here; but whereas in Leiber that played to the randomness of street life, here it plays to a serious confusion: "He" who? "We" who? "Which of us" what?

That first sentence is pretty essential in setting up the theme of identity/confusion, but let's take it out for a moment. (That closely mimics my experience of reading this: that first sentence is so weird that I just store it away for later, with a big question mark--what sort of story would create sense out of that sentence?) Without the first line, that first paragraph becomes a general comment about a life philosophy, not totally unlike Poe's usual openings.

Then the second paragraph zooms in from philosophy to landscape/aerial photography on an alien world; the third paragraph zooms in even closer, and except for that "we escaped," focuses purely on human landscape--the people out searching for something. So just on that level, this opening draws the reader in literally: here's a big philosophical truth that applies even to you, and here's a planet, and here's an exciting manhunt.

So this opening sinks three hooks into you: one is that cuh-razy first sentence (a semiotic hook--the search for meaning); another for the themes of identity (which seem to be interpersonal, as in that opening line and in the closing line with that mass of hunting men working together inarticulately); and a third for the plot--the manhunt. However, it's worth noting how this story foregrounds meaning and theme as opposed to plot. It's very easy to imagine a modern (and beginning) author starting with the man crashing through the wilds, trying to escape.

4. Philip K. Dick, “The Father-Thing” (1954): 
“Dinner’s ready,” commanded Mrs. Walton. “Go get your father and tell him towash his hands. The same applies to you, young man.” She carried a steaming casserole to the neatly set table. “You’ll find him out in the garage.”
Charles hesitated. He was only eight years old, and the problem bothering him would have confounded Hillel. “I —”he began uncertainly.
Analysis: From an objective standpoint, I don't think we can claim that "The Father-Thing" is Dick's greatest short stories. (Or, frankly, that his stories are his greatest work--go to his novels for that.) Really, "The Father-Thing" is only here because (a) I was very interested in the impostor theme in 1950s sf; and (b) I love the liberal dream presented in the story, that a bunch of kids--white, black, Italian (I think)--could join together to fight off an alien. It's the bright side to McCarthyism: anyone can fight the alien menace.

But as an opening, Dick sets up a totally normal situation, which he will then complicate: it's dinner at the Walton house but Charles is bothered by... something. It's curious to me how much Dick cares about the normalcy, giving the whole first paragraph to it. Yes, the story is called "The Father-Thing" and it was published in the Magazine of F and SF (ed. Boucher), so no one reading this is under the delusion that it might be mainstream fiction. Maybe that's something Dick exploits: presenting a very normal situation when his readers are expecting some sf scenario and so may keep reading to find out what that scenario is.

And Dick keeps us in anticipation for a while  with Charles: his hesitation, the long middle sentence about his situation in the vaguest terms (eight years old, Hillel), his uncertain and incomplete dialogue. Anticipation may keep us going. There's a useful lesson here for some writers (i.e., me) who like to always start off with some High Concept.

5. Avram Davidson, “The Golem” (1955):
The grey-faced person came along the street where old Mr. and Mrs. Gumbeiner lived. It was afternoon, it was autumn, the sun was warm and soothing to their ancient bones. Anyone who attended the movies in the twenties or the early thirties has seen that street a thousand times. Past these bungalows with their half-double roofs Edmund Lowe walked arm-in-arm with Leatrice Joy and Harold Lloyd was chased by Chinamen waving hatchets. Under these squamous palm trees Laurel kicked Hardy and Woolsey beat Wheeler upon the head with a codfish. Across these pocket-handkerchief-sized lawns the juveniles of the Our Gang comedies pursued one another and were pursued by angry fat men in golf knickers. On this same street—or perhaps on some other one of five hundred streets exactly like it.
Mrs. Gumbeiner indicated the grey-faced person to her husband. “You think maybe he’s got something the matter?” she asked. “He walks kind of funny, to me.” 
Analysis: Whimsy. Whimsy whimsy whimsy. Well, maybe not quite that much whimsy: there's also some farce and nostalgia in here in that long recollection of the various comedy (and romance) films that could have been filmed on this street. (If you want more sense of nostalgia and age, note the first description of the Gumbeiners involves their "ancient bones.")

Davidson telegraphs (how retro) that this is a story that won't end on a massive downer. I also think he points out that this story is one in a long line of golem/created stories by pointing to the movies made on streets just like this. (The streets themselves seem as repeatable as the film formulas, but that's enough of that.)

So how does Davidson hook the reader with this opening? Like Dick, Davidson has a title that indicates the weirdness to come; but unlike Dick, Davidson starts with the weirdness of the grey-faced person. That whole section on the street/the films tells us that nothing bad will happen here, but it's bookended by the weirdness of "the grey-faced person." Gotta love that repetition, so we know what to look at, where the action is going to come from in this piece.

6. Theodore Sturgeon, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959):
Say you're a kid, and one dark night you're running along the cold sand with this helicopter in your hand, saying very fast witchy-witchy-witchy. You pass the sick man and he wants you to shove off with that thing. Maybe he thinks you're too old to play with toys. So you squat next to him in the sand and tell him it isn't a toy, it's a model. You tell him look here, here's something most people don't know about helicopters. You take a blade of the rotor in your fingers and show him how it can move in the hub, up and down a little, back and forth a little, and twist a little, to change pitch. You start to tell him how this flexibility does away with the gyroscopic effect, but he won't listen. He doesn't want to think about flying, about helicopters, or about you, and he most especially does not want explanations about anything by anybody. Not now. Now, he wants to think about the sea. So you go away.
The sick man is buried in the cold sand with only his head and his left arm showing. He is dressed in a pressure suit and looks like a man from Mars. Built into his left sleeve is a combination time-piece and pressure gauge, the gauge with a luminous blue indicator which makes no sense, the clock hands luminous red. He can hear the pounding of surf and the soft swift pulse of his pumps. One time long ago when he was swimming he went too deep and stayed down too long and came up too fast, and when he came to it was like this: they said, "Don't move, boy. You've got the bends. Don't even try to move." He had tried anyway. It hurt. So now, this time, he lies in the sand without moving, without trying.
Analysis: "The Man Who Lost the Sea" is a slow build of feeling and meaning as the story parcels out doses of information and ignorance. For instance, if you just read this first paragraph, what would you imagine? I see a sick man on a chaise longue on the beach, attached to a sanatorium or taking a rest cure. I see a kid with a new toy and I can imagine a story where the sour old man is reconciled to the young kid, blah blah blah.

But then that second paragraph gives you a perfectly weighted left hook in that first line and follows it up in very line after: the man is buried in sand, the man is in a pressure suit, he can't even read his gauges. So in that movement from first to second paragraph, the story gives us some info, allows us to make of that what we will, and then steps in with some more info. Reading this story is a constant exercise of drawing and re-drawing mental pictures. Put another way: reading this story is like being involved in the scientific method.

I also want to give a shout out to that "Say you're a kid," which highlights the work of imagination tha this story will demand of its readers and the theme of uncertainty that goes hand-in-hand. I like "Say you're a kid" better than "Call me Ishmael," but you can see how they both orbit around the same ideas.

Looking at Sturgeon in this way, it's clear why I've always put him with Bester and not with, say, Heinlein or Asimov. All of these authors have stories where they start with problems, but Bester and Sturgeon often involve problems of meaning, whereas Heinlein and Asimov stories often involve problems of plot. (Is that fair? Do I have to go reread some Heinlein and Asimov now?)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Short Story Read Aloud, Week 6

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Marissa Lingen, "Armistice Day": A race of monsters get called up by human magicians to fight a war, stick around after the war is over and take menial jobs. Only some of the humans want them gone and the monsters have started normal lives. An interesting way to show a contemporary ethical dilemma through fantasy tropes. The characters are a mite thin, but the story still works by presenting that ethical dilemma and the lengths people will go to to do the right thing.


Tobias S. Buckell, "Placa del Fuego": A pickpocket on a strange island (electronic dampener and wormholes in the sea nearby, so its both backwards and a hub of travel) gets involved with an interstellar cyborg hero and the thief capo who runs the island under-city due to her alien biological enhancements. A little hard to get into--I started listening to it many times--and the story is ultimately not all that interesting to me--when the pickpocket admits he was trying to target the cyborg in the first place, all I could do was shrug since it wasn't a very emotional betrayal. But the baroque world-building was very engaging and wide-thinking. Don't be afraid to be weird in your speculation, seems to be the lesson.

Escape Artists (Escape PodPodcastlePseudopod)

Vylar Kaftan, "The Suicide Witch": In Japan, a female slave's job is to prepare dead bodies for funerals, particularly (or maybe only) suicide's bodies. Her master's cruel son comes to bully her into helping him steal his father's intended bride by faking a death, but the suicide witch uses this opportunity to escape. Since EA has three podcasts, there's often some discussion about where some story belongs--is this horror enough, is the science here really magic, is there any magic at all, etc. "The Suicide Witch" presents a very clear problem for the protagonist--how to escape her bondage without sinking into beggary and prostitution--but it's such a mini-heist story that I don't see much horror in it. What other genres can the heist formula be applied to / sized for?

Ken Scholes, "Making My Entrance with my Usual Flair": An out-of-work clown gets a job transporting an alien, but decides to double-cross his employer and free the alien--who just wants to run away to the circus. An amusing, light story, with an oversized narrator, whose personality is nicely captured in the story.

Lightspeed and Nightmare 

Katherine Ann Goonan, "A Love Supreme": an agoraphohic nanotech doctor gives herself an experimental dose in order to go check on her dying father, a man who wasn't there for her growing up after her mother died. The POV of this story edges towards detachment, though maybe that's an effect of talking about people who don't communicate about their feelings all that well. There's also a strong undercurrent of haves vs. have-nots, which makes this story feel oddly double-headed: both a social story and a personal story. Maybe it's that detachment from the person that allows Goonan to have it both ways?

Tobias S. Buckell, "A Game of Rats and Dragon": In a near future of ubiquitous augmented reality games, a guy and his AI companion dragon have the job of rooting out rogue AI game elements--what we might call bugs but they call rats. A perfectly pleasant story that is clearly in discussion with Cordwainer Smith's "The Game of Rat and Dragon," about how humans and cats team up to destroy interstellar monsters and allow space travel. The image of near-future AR gaming is done well, including the necessity for low-paid people to act as NPCs.

Cast of Wonders (Protecting Project PulpTales to TerrifyStarship Sofa)

Jack London, "Love of Life": A man wanders in the wilderness, slowly starving. There's no great emotional hurdles here or character growth: when the man lets go of the gold he was carrying, it's not a big moment, just a practical concern. There's a certain dispassionate detachment to the POV, but the physical descriptions are so rich that it really makes you feel awful for this guy's situation. Like when he stumbles into a bird's nest and eats the just-born chicks, it's awful but you kind of nod along. As Stephen King and others have noted, when you're describing physical hardship, just describe it simply, with no need for metaphors or other figurative language.

Bruce Sterling, "We See Things Differently": In some alternate history where the US is sliding towards 3rd world status and an United Caliphate holds power, a fake reporter goes to kill an American rockstar/ex-academic. The POV from the worldly but outsider Arab secret agent/journalist is a very smart choice, but the heart of this story really seems to be that sense of difference, both between cultures and between our history and that history. In other words, it's a very talky story where the setting is more important.

Robert E. Howard, "Gods of the North": Conan fights some barbarians, sees an evil goddess and chases her, until her father knocks him down. It's funny how straight-ahead and low-stakes this story is: Conan kills a guy, chases a girl, kills more guys, catches the girl, gets knocked unconscious by a god. It's less a story than a chase; and less a chase than a showcase for how ridiculously great Conan is at everything. Still, when Howard describes Conan clenching his teeth so hard that blood starts from his gums, that certainly shows that things ain't so easy for our Cimmerian.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Small worlds

Ever notice how a lot of guest stars on one sitcom show up on another show? Hey, that Rob Huebel guy shows up a lot--30 Rock, Modern Family, Happy Endings. And hey, Seth Morris, from Go On, has a recurring role on Happy Endings and pops up in Childrens Hospital--with Rob Huebel. And they both show up on the improv podcast Improv4Humans.

If you start paying attention to these faces and also constantly watch TV with your iPad on IMDB, you'll notice all these connections, many of which go back to where these guys trained (UCB, iO, Second City, the Groundlings) and what comedy groups they were in before.

It's a small world in comedy.

It's also a small world in science fiction and fantasy.

I don't just mean in the sense that Joe Hill and John Scalzi seem to be friends. Or that John Scalzi is friends with Mary Robinette Kowal. Or that M. R. Kowal is involved in a podcast with Brandon Sanderson. Or that Brandon Sanderson has been published in anthologies by John Joseph Adams. Or that etc., etc. In other words, it sure does seem like everyone knows everyone; and that, by and large, they all get along on some level.

(Maybe not on every level: I'm fairly sure that Larry Correia, who is pretty conservative, has different politics than many of the writers he is friends with and vice versa. This is a GOOD THING--not our differences, which are real, but our similarities, which are also real.)

Now, there is a very real danger in small-worldism, which is that people are "nicer" than they should be. That is, it's possible that people pull their critical punches, that they are more positive out-loud than they feel in-quiet.

The joke here is, of course, Zizek's: if a friend asks you what you thought of their academic presentation, you say "interesting"--that's the response that shows the proper first-blush non-committal performance of a relationship. It's the equivalent of asking someone how they're doing: it's not a serious question, but it is a serious way of showing some basic human connection. If you automatically jump into a critique, it won't feel like a conversation about the issue, but an attack on the person.

So I put this out as a question: is there a serious danger of small-wordism and nicey-niceness in the sff community? Or is there a level of community that allows personal friendship and professional critique?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Short Story Read Aloud, Week 5

I've decided to try to be more positively critical in these brief notes; the point is to recapture something of my college class with Richard Ford, a writing class I took my senior year. While I was drowning in my senior project and unable to read any other work fairly, in that class, Ford melted each story down to find one nugget of good technique in each. So, let's do that.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

"System, Magic, Spirit," T. D. Edge: A cynical wizard finds hope in a love-struck prince who isn't as foppish as he plays in public. The story ultimately doesn't work for me--at the end, the prince's rival turns out to be a good guy, despite using evil magic in his fight with the prince?--and the language is often ridiculously out of place for this sort of setting. But... try, try to be positive... it's interesting how the story make a narrative issue (character's growth and change) into a speculative element: the cynical wizard absorbs a bunch of other wizards' energy and then he becomes hopeful.

"Haxan," Kenneth Mark Hoover: A weird western with a supernatural US Marshal comes to the town of Haxan and solves a murder mystery. Honestly, a few days out from the story, I can't remember the plot, but I enjoyed the writing and some ways that Hoover is working through western issues. But here's the lesson I'm taking from Hoover's website, which includes a very nice and simple compilation for this setting: short bios of main/recurring characters, notes on historical objects, links to where these stories can be found.


"Spar," Kij Johnson and "Spar (The Bacon Remix)": "Spar" is a story about a woman who gets on board an alien lifeboat after a spaceship crash and her and the alien spend the rest of the time having sex. It's very adult in content, but I think the theme is all about the difficulty of communication and the problems of grief/trauma. It's excellent and short, my two favorite things. It's especially interesting to me since I wrote a very different version of the "isolated astronaut" story and Kij Johnson's version is much better: she writes with a certain distance, but a very visceral feeling, even when discussing long sections of time. "The Bacon Remix" is a more safe-for-work version KJ did for a charity anthology with the theme of bacon. It's very funny to read in contrast, since, the whole story is them eating bacon rather than having sex. But that change also makes it a little upsetting if you contrast it: what a way to reduce the human to the raw meat equivalent.

Escape Artists (Escape PodPodcastlePseudopod

"Cerbo un Vitra ujo," Mary Robinette Kowal: Girlfriend tracks down boyfriend, who has been sold for parts in future space stations. Involves quite a bit of sexual violence. This story has inspired an interesting discussion over at the EA forums; and while I agree with many critiques that this story doesn't make sense as science fiction, I think it's an interesting example of recasting a story (Hans Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen").

"The Colors of the World," Paul Willems: A story for Belgian author and fantasist about a fisherman's widow whose child is stolen by mermaids and how she gets her daughter back. Fairy-tale-like, which keeps the feeling light even when the issues are life and death.

Lightspeed and Nightmare 

"The Suicide's Guide to the Absinthe of Perdition," Megan Arkenberg: An afterlife fantasy where a guy who has "let" a friend commit suicide has to come to terms with that, with the repetition of fallen angels--whom mortals can't help--and different recipes for drinking absinthe. An interesting use of the interstitial fragment (recipes for absinthe) and fragment (different moments of this guy's life).

Cast of Wonders (Protecting Project PulpTales to TerrifyStarship Sofa)

"Sown from Salt," Gemma Files: A weird western where an unkillable stranger comes to town, turns out to be a harbinger of local judgment. Even if the melancholy end feels odd, some of the writing here is beautiful, cf. "song of the flies."

Monday, April 8, 2013

What I've been working on...

Honestly, this post is more for me than for you, a way for me to sketch out some of what I've been working on; what I need to rework; and what I need to start with.

I will say this, though: for the past few weeks I've been following something called the Magic Spreadsheet, which is an attempt to gamify writing. ("Gamify"=use the points and reward system of games in a traditionally non-game setting.)

With the Magic Spreadsheet, the idea is that, if you write every day, it will become a habit. Instead of setting some huge goal at the end of the month (like NaNoWriMo's goal of 50k words), this game sets a very small goal every day: 250 words. And you get a point each day you write 250 words. Easy so far, right?

Now here's the habit-forming method of the Magic Spreadsheet: you get a point for each day you write and a point for each previous day you wrote in your chain. So if you write one day, you get two points--one for that day and one for your chain of, ahem, one day; if you write two days, you get three points--one for the writing, two for the two days in the chain; etc. Consequently, if you write every day, it's just raining points.

It's also helpful that this spreadsheet is all online for anyone to see. Which means you have social pressure as well as game pressure. Yay. All this pressure, there's got to be some diamonds around, right?


  1. The Wolves of Mars, TX (2nd draft: 5,889 words) (largely revised from 5,191 words)
  2. Mister Bear's Riddle Song (1st draft: 15,564 words)
  3. untitled early morning horror story (1st draft: 3,108 words)
To write:
  1. A co-written screenplay comedy-thriller about what a terrible idea it would've been for me to be hired as the CSI photographer of a small town in Texas (based on real life events that didn't happen)
  2. Users: an sf version of Gatsby, sort of
  3. Harold and the Scorpion People: a paranormal academic, rich-twit comedy
  4. We Hunt Monsters: a weird western with anti-heroes, like Blood Meridian plus Beowulf
And I cut out about seven more--I don't want to overwhelm you/me. In the past I would make a joke about how, instead of writing those stories, I could just photoshop a photo of my dog with a beret. But now I see what I've written and how much more I have to write, and I have to say, I can both write those stories and photoshop my dog.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Short Story Read Aloud Week 4


"From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7," Nnedi Okorafor: In a weird post-industrial world, a married couple wanders through a forest looking to catalog all the interesting species--and especially looking for a mature CPU tree. The relationship between husband and wife was very crisp, but at the end, I'm afraid the story takes a strange tonal and plot shift. I'm still not sure why TreeFrog7 has to disappear.

"Walking with a Ghost," Nick Mamatas: Two computer scientists work on creating a Lovecraft AI, who then goes walkabout; the woman computer scientist quits academia, but then decides to go find the AI, who she rescues from a Lovecraft fan group. Instead, they go enjoy the city. Intriguing and well-written, with some suggestive richness.

Escape Artists (Escape Pod, Podcastle, Pseudopod)

"Entrance and Exit" and "The Terror of the Twins," Algernon Blackwood: In the first story, there's a space in the woods where people can disappear and enter another plane of existence; in the second, twins are born to a man who wants a single heir and tells them there will be only one to inherit--and when they turn 21, one of them dies. These are very sketchy stories with some interesting idea at the heart of each, but not a lot going on otherwise. Interesting for their historical position.

"Bad Company," Walter De La Mare: Another older piece, where a man sees a guy on the train with a ridiculously evil face and decides to follow him home. There, he discovers that the guy is dead and has been for some time and has left a letter detailing his crimes and a will detailing how he'll cheat his family out of inheriting his money, which the narrator promptly burns. An interesting little ghost story, a sort of follower to Poe's "Man of the Crowd," where a face seems to tell a story. Only here, De La Mare decides to give us the rest of the story. Interestingly ambiguous: this man was pure evil, so then was it his ghost who led the narrator here to fix things?

"Bunraku," David X. Wiggin: In medieval (you know what I mean--around the Shogunate, I think) Japan, a man falls in love with a puppet and the puppeteer agrees to marry--but only if he can also get a new apprentice. But the husband and the apprentice don't get along and fight over the wife/puppet. The literal reduction of the woman here to a puppet almost makes this camp--if you picture them in bed, it's two guys with a piece of wood in between. But despite the (I think) unintentional comedy, there's not a lot here to grab on to. The prose is purposefully stilted, as if in translation, but it doesn't really work for me. 

"What It's Come To," Wolf Hartman: On the outskirts of town, some people deal (poorly) with the coming apocalypse. More a snapshot than a full story, without much of an arc, and with some extreme scenes that seem like attempts to shock the reader (a prostitute losing a miscarriage in a toilet bowl); but even so, there's some effective mood setting in a world ending.

"Trixie and the Pandas of Dread," Eugie Foster: on Escape Pod (science fiction), this story follows a god of vengeance who has lost her interest and then regains it by smiting a bunch of racists. This story seems to have ignited a lot of comments over at the forum--is murder worse than racism? is this story pro-vengeance? is this story even science fiction? It seems to be a romp, but the morals here are both too simple (the racists are hugely racist) and too silly to really engage.

"Keeping Tabs," Kenneth Schneyer: An abused woman with a bad life saves up money to get some sensorium-connecting technology with a star, but, surprise, that star's life isn't to hot. A depressing but interesting read, with lots of little details on how life goes for those who aren't stars in the future.

"Throwing Stones," Mishell Baker: A guy dresses as a woman because of anti-male sexism, especially in the seer- and prophet-community. He hooks up with a goblin (who are here very elf-like: fae and sexual and magical, but also shapechangers and not really human at all) who supports him because goblins love to mess with the status quo. Perhaps my favorite story this week: even without a big climactic finish, the world has its own charms and the experiments in a different status quo are worthwhile.

Lightspeed and Nightmare

"No Breather in the World But Thee," Jeff VanderMeer: An odd collection of sentences that all have a Gorey-ish mood. Something terrible is going on, but I'm not sure what that is.

Monday, April 1, 2013

March Blogging Breakdown / April Blogging Planning

Once I added "blogging" to my calendar (and synced my calendar across my devices), it wasn't hard to keep up a schedule for March of Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday (at Voyager Comics Online), and Friday. And yet, since this is Monday, you can see that April's schedule is going to change again. Why? Partly because I've got a lot of other stuff I need to do and partly because some of March's posts were not as focused as I would have liked them to be.

So now:
Monday: Miscellaneous
Wednesday: at Voyager Comics Online
Friday: Audio fiction summary