Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Trick

I'd been ready for it for a while. The last few reports I'd read about Harlan had said that his health was poor. I suppose that you can only be Harlan for so long before your body craps out on you. Maybe I knew that the long silence around Harlan meant the end was coming soon. I'd carried the sorrow around like a tumor for some time. Perhaps that's why I'd started playing the game version of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream again. Even as the voice of the monstrous AM it's still a connection to the man, I suppose. I'm currently stuck in a blimp wondering if I'm supposed to kill my character to get out of the level. Harlan might find that amusing.

Anyway, I got the news today. I'm down another hero.

It's not a word I throw around. Maybe Harlan would have liked the idea. Possibly not. Still, I can count my heroes on a single hand and have fingers left over (Hint: One's in the middle). When I use the word, I mean it, and I mean it deeply.

It all started with something I'd read about him in, I believe, F&SF. That lead to my purchase of these two books from The Science Fiction Book Club. Then I found out he'd written (in a way) the best episode of Star Trek, and A Boy and His Dog, a favorite SF film I'd seen at the local drive-in. The next thing I know, I'm tasked with writing an essay for my (fourth? fifth? sixth? grade) class on my hero. I chose Harlan, of course.

I chose Harlan because he fought for what he felt was right, even when no one else agreed. I chose Harlan because although he may have been afraid, he was fearless. I chose Harlan because he was unique and reveled in that uniqueness. I chose Harlan for the beauty and horror and depth and humanity of his writing. There is a virulent clichè in SF reporting/reviewing that goes like this: "it's a story about what it means to be human." It's lazy writing, every bit as lazy as "SF writers try to predict the future" and just as nonsensical. It's a fallback phrase that people just nod at and move on. Harlan likely hated it, though his work came closer than anyone's to fitting the description.

The Executioner of Malformed Children from the collection Shatterday
I'd played with being a writer from a young age. The words that Harlan put upon pages shored up that play into a conviction. Harlan has been on my shoulder through everything I've ever written. Make that both shoulders.

Excerpt from the short story Shatterday
“The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer.” 
― Harlan EllisonStrange Wine

Harlan inspired me to fight for what is good and true and right. Harlan inspired me to fight for what is mine. Harlan inspired me to write and to write well. For better or for worse, Harlan's words had made me a writer. The trick, as he'd said, was that it was up to me to stay a writer.

Now he's gone. Like Anthony Bourdain, a great and powerful voice has left a void in a world more in need of them than ever. I'm down two heroes. At least I have their words to keep me warm in these chilling times.

Sunday, December 24, 2017


My heart's still beating. I won't go into what I've been up to as anyone reading this already knows, can guess or, hell, just ask.

If you've already bought my book, many thanks. If you haven't, now's your chance. If you're wondering what to give me, a review on Amazon or Goodreads is most welcome.

I hope you're all having a great Holiday Season. I am. Cheers.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

No Spoilers: "The Omega Men: The End Is Here"

After a month of reading a chapter or two as I had time, I finished the trade paperback of the much-lauded Tom King run of "The Omega Men." While my final opinion falls more into the "like" category than the "love," I admire its depth and ambition and found that it was worth the time I could invest in the story. If the book's sales were as high as its praise, I 'm certain that one of my biggest issues with the book (that it felt rushed) would have not been. Still, rushed or not,  I'm glad that DC saw fit to allow King's tale to play out to its conclusion if not its entirety.

Other issues, however, were baked in from the start. I found the central MacGuffin difficult to swallow, even in a tale as fantastic as this, and, while we're at it, the balance of reality-based themes and fantastic elements wasn't always so balanced. That, and a tendency to fall back on cringe-worthy tropes detracted from what was otherwise a page-turner.

Barnaby Bagenda's art, while wow-worthy at times, might have better served a different story. I found it too cool at emotional and dramatic peaks, and at times it muddied the story. I frequently found myself breaking from the narrative to decipher a panel. This, however, may also have been corrected had the story been allowed to play out longer.

All of that said, it was nice to engage with a thoughtful and timely space-spanning tale that wasn't A) a blockbuster cross-over event or B) a space-spanning tale designed to sell toys/is a glamorization of  Nazis (*cough*).

Is "The End Is Here" the best graphic story ever told? No, but it's close and well worth your time and attention for its successes.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Coffee Powers ACTIVATE!

Things I need to get done are piling up as quickly as I check others off of the list. All the while, the clattering of keys. The deadline for The Comeback novel looms as I have increasingly less time to work on it.

That said, here's a preview of The Comeback (draft):

The shredded remains of the airbag stuffed under the passenger seat and Shakey tucked back into my brain somewhere, I drove as calmly as I could toward The Silver Slipper. Part of the plastic skirt under my dented front bumper rubbed against the right tire as I rounded curves in the highway. Cops who weren’t there kept appearing in my peripherals. I was a sweating mess. The air conditioner had made a grinding sound when I’d tried to use it, so I drove with the windows down in the punishing Nevada heat. My phone started blooping at me.

It was Hannah. She wanted to FaceChat. Fuck. If I didn’t do it now, she might try back when Shakey’s around. I had to pick up. I pulled down the visor and checked myself in the vanity mirror. I looked like I’d been on a weeklong bender. Fuck.

Hannah: Are u able to FaceChat?

Hannah: I think we should get together next week for coffee to discuss whatever’s next.

Fuck. The sprain in my ring finger ached, probably from the death-grip I’d held on the steering wheel. Likely just a coincidence, right? Fuck.

I pulled off of the road, hoping that our conversation would be quick. I texted Hannah that I’d call her in a minute and ran my fingers through a sweaty wilderness of hair, deciding that a comb-through would make me look as if I’d been up to something. After managing to mash down a particularly unruly cow lick, I picked up the phone and called her through the app.

“Hi,” we said simultaneously. Nobody laughed.

“God, Doug,” she said. “You look like shit. What have you been doing? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I said as if she wouldn’t know that I was lying. “I’m fine” was the first sign that I was lying, always. I started again.

“I’m lying. I’m horrible. The nightmare stuff. The stuff I couldn’t talk to you about. The therapy stuff. It’s all back. It’s worse this time. I’m dealing with it. I have a plan, sort of. I still can’t …”

“Doug, call the police or I will. Don’t do whatever you’re doing alone.”

“The police will make it worse. Trust me. This is too bad. It’s fucking horrible. I just need some time. I need you to let me have the time I need to end this shit forever. Please, sweetheart. Please.”

"At least call your therapist."

"Him? This is beyond him. It's beyond the cops. This is nightmare stuff. Horror stuff. I can't sleep until it's over. It's more awful than I could ever describe. Please. Please."

There was a pause between us as she tried to look into my eyes through the screen of her phone. I realized that I'd been unconsciously using my free hand to hold the wrist of the hand the phone was in to steady it. I realized how insane I must have sounded just then. Hannah's brow wrinkled as she stared into the camera.



“Why are you smiling?”

My heart jumped. I placed the phone face-down on my thigh and reached for the visor. There, in the vanity mirror was my face. I was wearing Shakey’s smug grin.

Excerpt from the upcoming novel The Comeback. Copyright 2015-2017 by Larry McCarley. Pre-order capability coming soon. Follow The Comeback on Inkshares!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

"Sometimes We Need to Go Back to Move Forward."

If you know, you know.

The quote in the title is mine. As I said in an earlier post, I'd been abandoned by my oldest and closest friend, writing. It's sucked. I haven't felt whole in weeks. I'd tried reading a bunch, but it wasn't making things click again for me. I entered my novella in a contest hoping the deadline to turn it into a novel would push-start my engine. Nothing came.

This morning I heeded my own words and dug out an unpublished novel, a play and a series of poems. 

"Now, this guy could write."

Victory. I've been firing away at the novella-to-novel conversion and cleaning up a short story for hours now.

I'm back.

To celebrate here's a nice bit of writing I read recently:

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"The Comeback" is Coming Back as a Novel

I've entered The Comeback into a contest over at Inkshares for horror fiction and have been working on a longer and more complex version of The Comeback. Watch this space or any of the rest of my vast social media empire for updates and pre-order info. The contest ends October 31st, (natch), so I'd best get back to writing.

If you'd like to follow the progress of the novel, described best as "Stephen King's Desperation" meets "Seinfeld" in a David Lynch road movie, click here and click "follow." If you haven't read the upcoming novel in its concentrated novella form, click through below.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Pickle Riiiiick!

What? It's a screencap. Go buy a T-Shirt!

Morty: "I'm just trying to figure out why you would do this ... why anyone would do this?"

Pickle Rick: "The reason anyone would do this ...  if they could, which they can't, would be because they could, which they can't."

If S:3 E:3 works, it's because it couldn't, but it did because it could which it did. It's darker than a sewer and deeper than a mountain of rat entrails.

I once read a piece accusing Apocalypse Now of "having it both ways." The writer finger-wagged at Coppola for making an anti-war film that glorified war. While I suppose it's possible, (with nothing coming to mind at the moment) to make a war film with no war in it, or with no admirable moments of war, I was reminded of another favorite of mine, a film which tackled both the madness of war and the madness of tackling war in cinema: Richard Rush's The Stunt Man.

Eli Cross: We’re shaking a finger at them, Sam, and we shouldn’t. If we’ve anything to say it’s best to slip it in while they’re all laughing and crying and jerking off at all the sex and violence. We should do something outrageous.
Sam: Like what?
Eli Cross: Like catching an authentic stench of madness behind all that good clean fun.

That's what great popular art does. It slips it in. It has to have it both ways. That's how it works. That way those who would get it still get it, those who might not have gotten it might still get it, and those who will never get it still buy tickets and unwittingly support the message.

Anything else would be "preachy."

I don't know what film that critic was watching, but the idea of surfing while munitions were detonating all around didn't send me off to a recruiting office.

No, this isn't the only way. Yes, there can still be pure art, but the art that most people will see costs a bank load and if it's going to have an ROI and thrive then it needs the sex and violence as much as the message. It needs a mountain of rat entrails carved out by a pickle to display a twisted and hurtful family dynamic.

Pickle Rick, indeed.

Season 3, bro.

Bravo, Rick and Morty.

Oh yeah, and have you seen The Conversation?