Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Still In Love With Every Word

"Outside, the sun arises from its cradle in the tree-tops of the forest. Shadows of pines are dreams the sun shakes from its eyes. The sun arises. Gold-glowing child, it steps into the sky and sends a birth-song slanting down gray dust streets and sleepy windows of the southern town." - Jean Toomer, Cane

Sunday, June 11, 2017

On Language Pollution


While out and about I spotted a bumper sticker for "Ruination CrossFit" and it took me back to my recent rant about a certain portmanteau. The bumper sticker reminded me that it's not just horrid new words generated that is a problem, but the appropriation of existing words for branding and marketing purposes as well.

Even in our brave new world where tweets are creating new words and new uses for existing words, like tweet, there is still a limited pool of words relative to the number of businesses clawing for the shores of recognition. While I'm not sure what we all did before "hangry" and "manspread",  there's only so much "Microsoft" and "Verizon" to go around. Couldn't we all do without the mouthful that is "Travelocity"? Do we need  "blogebrity" and "thighvertising"? In the struggle to be "more unique" (I've heard it) than the competition, atrocities are committed against language.

Ghastly portmanteaus aside, capitalism and branding pollute (not to be confused with "brand pollution," an oft-misused advertising buzzword which is also part of the problem) by appropriation as well, and are the ruination of lovely words like ruination.

What's the solution to the pollution? Find the higher ground before we all drown? Maybe I'll just take up CrossFit.

Ciao for now,

June Gloom

We're well into June Gloom here in Southern California. You'd think I'd be spending the overcast parts of my free time writing. You would be mistaken. I went camping at the beach instead. I wasn't the only one. The campground was packed. I guess I'm not alone in thinking that you don't need clear skies to explore tide pools with someone you love.

Besides, my tan is doing just fine, thanks.

That's not to say that the ideas ever stop coming. I have the notes to prove it. There came ideas for existing projects and new projects too. In my head I came up with a different approach for a novel I'd laid down a while back to move on with other things.

I've had a bout of life before and after the trip, which has slowed my progress, but I'm happy with everything that I'd managed to get out and everything that's come to me since my break at the beach. I should have some more stories for Team Beta to read soon. A couple of the first batch are nearly ready for the proofing stage. As always, I appreciate the great feedback.

Well, I promised weekly updates here and I'm delivering. I do have something to rant about but decided to give it its own post.

Ciao for now,

Monday, June 5, 2017

Audio Days: My Favorite Podcasts

Recently on that other blog of mine, I wrote a bit about dishwashers and why they're for suckers. There I mentioned that I listen to podcasts and audio books while washing the dishes. They're also great for any other activity around the house that doesn't necessitate attention to detail (cooking) or safety protocols (use of power tools), hammock livin' and walks, (when nature is drowned by the less pleasant works of humans). It's a new golden age of audio out there, people. Feed your mind.

While visual media has it's appeal, it's had to share me with audio over the years. Even when I'm not driving, I've decided at times to listen to baseball on the radio rather than watch it on television. There's something more intimate about leaving the images to my mind.

There was also exposure to new music and ideas growing up in the CLE market with such great college radio stations like WRUW and fun shows by Steve Wainstead on WCSB. In those days I would run into the odd radio drama and also came to find and love the wonders of NPR.

I was fortunate to have had a seventh-grade science teacher who would play reel-to-reel recordings of classic radio shows like X Minus One and Orson Welles' War of the Worlds during study periods. I'd read about those shows at that age, but that was my first real (to reel) exposure, and it lead me to my first Philip K. Dick novel and then to his entire catalog.

My taste in comedy was all on vinyl in those days, and I would spend hours listening to records by Richard Prior, George Carlin, Cheech and Chong and The Firesign Theatre.

Internet technologies, as we know, have opened up all things past, present, and yet-to-come to our ears. It's an exciting time.

Here are a few of my favorite things:


Reading, Short and Deep

Jesse Willis and company put together my two favorite podcasts. The SFFaudio podcasts are either audiobooks of public domain works with lively and intelligent readalong discussions or readalong discussions of books not in the public domain. Jesse Willis is the anchor, but his cast of readers is always changing, which keeps things from getting stale. Their discussions of the works of Philip K. Dick are fun, thoughtful, and have sent my brain spinning off into works of my own. They have a lot of fun with H.P. Lovecraft as well.

Reading, Short and Deep is Jesse Willis and Eric Rabkin discussing works you've either known or may never have known without this podcast. The title tells you everything else you need to know.


What can I say about Mr. Jim Moon? I can say plenty, but all I'm going to say is if you like weird fiction or weird anything give his podcasts a listen. I just listened to a series he did about a severed hand (no spoilers here) that was brimming with well researched and well presented weird fun and filled my head with ideas for my own weird works. How did I discover this weird corner of the podcastsphere (say THAT five times fast, and you'll summon something weird)? Mr. Jim Moon is a frequent visitor to SFFaudio, of course.

The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast (SFBRP) was my introduction to podcasts and is still a favorite. Luke Burrage (frequently joined by Juliane Kunzendorf) "reads a science fiction novel and reviews it when he's done." Fantasy books get in there as well. SFBRP is also how I discovered SFFaudio, which lead to Reading, Short and Deep and Hypnogoria. SFBRP is also how I discovered:

Reading Envy, where Jenny Colvin and her guests discuss books they've read, the way they read them, and other topics that revolve around, you guessed it, reading.

decipherSciFi is unrelated to the podcasts above but is still a bit of smart fun. Each podcast breaks down a science fiction film and discusses the parts and their implications.

In addition to these fine podcasts, I also listen to audiobooks and lectures from the series The Great Courses available on Audible as well as free public domain works from Librivox. There is a wealth of brain food out there, and you should be taking advantage of it.

"But," you may be asking at this point, "what about the laughs?" Well, there are plenty of laughs to be had with the podcasters above, but if you want pure fun, here you go:

The Incomparable Network of podcasts

Under the benevolent-ish umbrella of Jason Snell exists The Incomparable and its many wonders. My favorite Incomparable podcasts are really fun. Their TeeVee subpodcast brings me three funny guys cracking themselves up over the week's episode of Arrow. Really. It's great. Also, it's funnier than a thousand supercuts of "Are you okay?". That said: Yo, Internet, where's my supercut of "Can we have the room?" Seriously, these guys have brought the lolz and even some tears of joy. BiffArmy4Lyfe!

Rocket Surgery is another favorite. Do you miss sitting around with your friends bashing on crappy movies? Rocket Surgery is your friend. "Frankenstein Island"! "Johnny Mneumonic"! "Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster"! "Cool Cat Saves The Kids"! I'm still waiting for them to tear into my favorite crappy movie of all time, but I'm never going to tell them what it is. Mwuhahahaha! *cough* Ahem. Put on your mascot hands, straddle your cyborg dolphin and tap into THE POWER! THE POWER! THE POWER! of Rocket Surgery.

Total Party Kill harkens back to a simpler time when all we had to fear was getting lost in the sewers while LARPing. It's a cast of funny folks playing Dungeons and Dragons on the Internet and having a ball with it. Unless you've cast a protection spell against fun go listen to this one right now.

The Incomparable offers something for every nerd. Check it out. Oh, you like Star Trek? Try Scott McNulty's Random Trek. You don't hate Neelix like Scott McNulty hates Neelix. Stupid Fruit Stripe Zebra. Grrr.

Outside of The Incomparable, I also have a lot of fun with:

Podcast of Two Worlds

My, how CW's The Flash has fallen since the amazing first season. Don't get me wrong, there have certainly been some bright spots, but overall seasons two and three have been as disappointing as finding out that all Zoom really wanted was a race. Really? Sheesh.

The true bright spot for me, however, was listening to Trevor Reese and Chris Fimbres having fun talking about the week's episode and somehow keeping their enthusiasm high throughout. The discussions can be a bit, let's call it bawdy, but they are always entertaining. They even have episodes about The Flash in the comics, including Geoff Johns' excellent takes on Barry Allen and Wally West.

Lastly, in my "guys bashing on things" department is The Philip K. Dick Philosophical Podcast. Each episode finds Adam Hulbert and Phil Young taking a PKD short story and, with some readalong bits, trying to sort out what the hell Phil Dick is going on about. Hilarity ensues.

I'm with Jesse Willis on this one. It's fun, but if the hosts did a little more research, this podcast could easily move from my "fun" selections to the "brainy" side. Then again, would it lose some of the fun? That's one to ponder.

Until next weekend, go listen to a podcast already.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

All The News That's Fit To Link

H/t to Jesse at

I just saw the news that Anne R. Dick has passed away. I've meant to read her book to get her side of their crazy marriage.

Also, just saw that the 2017 Nebula Award winners were announced. While I haven't read a single book on the list, I did just hear the Science Fiction Book Review Podcast's review of Yoon Ha Lee's  Ninefox Gambit and am considering adding it to the list of books that I wish I had time to read.

Arrival clearly deserved to take the award for Dramatic Presentation. I'm not sure how Doctor Strange (a.k.a. Tony Stark in a silly cape), was nominated yet The Expanse didn't make the cut.

Among other things I'm a bit behind because I've been working on putting my nearly completed science fiction novel, a nearly completed sequel to The Comeback, and collection of science fiction short stories together. Thank you and much praise to my crack team of Beta Readers for their feedback. Your efforts are most appreciated.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

On the Contempt of a Small Man for Great Art

Recently, an old annoyance came back to visit in the form of yet another clickbait-y whine in a publication that specializes in clickbait-y whining. The whine: "I don't like (X) work of canonical art because it is canon and accepted and I'm a hurt little hipster doggy."

Yes, every so often someone is out of ideas and decides to dump on a classic. I've seen this approach applied to Citizen Kane, the works of Mozart, modern art, and, well, anything that paints a big enough target for some ball-fisted crybaby to crap on. This is how "writers" make a name today, by calling great art "trash."

I'm not going to grant clicks to the whiner or his publisher by adding a link, but the article more or less amounts to a one-star review of The Great Gatsby. If you really want to read his contrarian rant, get thee to Google.

What really got me, however, was that his reason for trashing Gatsby was that there are no likable characters in the book. That he misses the point is to be expected, but what is this whole thing with people demanding that characters be likable? I have seen writing advice from authors, publishers, and pundits suggesting that books have likable characters for some time now and it's a troubling trend pushing cookie-cutter books.

Yes, if you're trying to write a successful escapist series book just like every other successful escapist series book you should have likable characters. I agree. No argument. Publishers love those cash cows.

However, escapist series books are not the only books to be written or the only stories to be told. What, for example, would Breaking Bad, one of the most praised and successful television series of all time, have been if it had been filled with likable characters? Did we still root for those contemptible criminally-flawed jerks Walter White and Jesse Pinkman? Of course. Philip K. Dick spent a career writing about unlikable characters.

The Great Gatsby may not be a likable story, but it is a human story. It's a story that was worth telling and telling well.

Beyond the desire to homogenize fiction, there's a bigger problem with this writing seminar school of thought: It plays to the "us vs. them" divide so dangerously pervasive in our world right now. If we can't find the humanity in Fitzgerald's racist Egg-ers, how will we see the humanity in our flawed fellows? How will we push past the denial that keeps some of "us" believing that they are superior to "them?"

Daisy's crowd and Gatsby's are unlikable, it is true, just as some of us are unlikable. We are a mixed bag, we humans, but the answer is not knee-jerk nationalism or a childish desire for "sameness." It is understanding,  compassion, and acceptance. This is a lesson of great art.

"Great art is the contempt of a great man for small art." - F. Scott Fitzgerald