I actually caught Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children a little while ago when Clau and I got the library movie dongle a few weeks back, but seeing as how the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was sitting in my TBR pile just waiting to be read, I thought I would save it for when I finished the book. It’s almost as if my past self and my now self were collaborating to truly mindfucl my was-then-but-not-quite now self who was reading the damn thing. Wait, what?
Continuing with our library hauls, I’m reviewing Six Gun Tarot this week, our first introduction to R.S. Belcher’s fusion of steampunk, weird western, and Lovecraftian horror. This novel follows the denizens of a town on the edge of the 40-mile desert where the promise of a new life sits shoulder to shoulder with the risk of a cruel and unnatural death. Golgotha is filled with Mormons, Chinese, outlaws, ninja women, and creeping terrors at every turn. It’s fun, that’s for sure, and well written, but despite glowing admiration by the likes of geek royalty Felicia Day, I have a few problems with it I need to unearth. It’s dangerous to go alone, so here’s a revolver filled with silver bullets. Let’s take a long ride into the abyss, partner. Continue reading “Six Gun Tarot: A Review”
So this month a lot has been happening, but unlike other bouts of what Hemmingway calls the “death loneliness that comes at the end of every wasted day of your life,” my inspiration has only been growing and fueling my writing, not sapping it. What’s that? You’ve seen bugger-all that’s new? Sorry. I swear its coming.
The happiest thing that happened and the first priority in my life is that my wife is feeling better than she has for a long time. We hit on a good vitamin and electrolyte regimen, and her nerves seem to be healing well. I am pretty sure it is not wishful thinking, since she is slowly picking up remote work and recovering a lot of stamina. There are still bad days. There are days I burn completely being on call, and worrying about my wife’s spasms when I should be writing. But more often than not she’s feeling strong enough to argue with me, which is a dubious pleasure but one that fills me with a deep gladness that I think only truly happily married men experience. Despite everything, she’s still the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
An update on motorcycle maintenance. Because of the very cold weather, I haven’t gotten the gumption to work on my Ducati Monster. My fingers freeze in my drafty rented garage, but i managed to prop her up, clean her chain, and prepare other things for the big strip-down. Legitimately, with work and domestics and writing and caregiving, I can’t give the bike the attention it needs. But I think mostly it’s that I’m procrastinating.
I think that’s because the Monster is something where success is completely dependent on me actually doing it, and not like all the other things that involve other people. So long as I don’t buckle down and fix the Monster, its still completely mine. But the instant she hits the asphalt roaring, that opens the door to people judging her. What I settled on because of budget, the quality of the rebuild, her relative age, everything that I felt was me suddenly being out there for people to tear apart. Maybe literally, if they don’t check their blind spot.
And I’m deeply afraid of that right now. There’s just so much judgment in my life. My family judging my marriage, my work judging my writing when I’m judging myself for prostituting it to make a living. So much isn’t mine to control that half the time I want to burn it all down. The other half wants to cower in a blanket fort. For an introvert to constantly feel this way is kind of a Jungian hell: the featureless room is just always with me. A constant social pressure that I always have to go back to, because if I don’t I won’t be able to preserve the things I care about, like my wife.
Which brings me to my writing, a source of great therapy and great disappointment both. My wife says my output is slightly behind Stephen King’s, even though the published portion is small, and that at my age he was in the same place. My editor humored my sudden burst of insecurity with some incredibly kind words. But at the end of the day my writing doesn’t put food on the table, and barring an incredible stroke of luck, won’t do so for a long time. Authors take a huge plunge when they choose to support their craft full-time. But it’s not just my life I’m gambling, so I can’t do that.
So every weekend I open my garage door. I find some small thing to do to the Monster. Then I go back inside and I work on my own writing as much as I can. Inevitably I’ll have to return to my other duties, but for a couple hours I can feel like my life is my own again, even if it doesn’t have any physical return. It’s got meaning, which is as sustaining as food. I sit at my laptop (new chromebook now, so I can do more on the train) and I crank out new stuff. Short stories, new novels. Ideas that may never see the light of day, but its material I feel compelled to make. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find meaning in it too.
You are walking down the street and have a sudden asthma attack. You’d never had one before, but the strain to catch every breath is like the icy grip of death. You know this can kill people if untreated, so you walk into a nearby pharmacy. Every step to reach the counter is torture, and every gasp feels like your last. It is difficult, even, to tell the clerk what you need.
“Sir,” you manage as best as you are able, “I appear to be suffering from acute asthmatic symptoms stemming, I believe, from the fracking operation and copious coal mining just outside this fine establishment. I require an emergency albuterol inhaler or some other type of bronchodilator, stat. Also I am a doctor of pulmonology and this is all rather ironic, don’t you think?”
This is all you manage to get out before your breath escapes you.
“All right. I just have to call a doctor to diagnose your symptoms.”
“Sir, I am myself a pulmonologist. There is also a pulmonology colleague I see at the next counter–”
“My doctor recommends you get a second opinion from a specialist,” the clerk cuts you off.
“All right,” you say with increasing difficulty. You turn to your colleague, who is already writing you a prescription for the medication. You respectfully hand it to the clerk, who pushes it back at you. Your colleague, realizing her error, takes out her smartphone and calls in the script digitally. The clerk looks at the two of you blankly until his monitor beeps. Several people are lining up behind you.
“That appears to be in order,” says the clerk. “I just have to see your insurance.”
“Here it is,” you say. You wait an agonizing twenty minutes while the clerk runs the documentation. The line accrues like the inevitable crud that builds up on the insides of toilets.
“Ah,” says the clerk finally. “There is a problem. The medication is not covered by your insurance.”
“What? Why?” asks your colleague, flummoxed. Meanwhile, you are doing your best impression of a fish out of water.
“The insurance’s specialists have decided you do not need this medication. Instead, they have prescribed you an alternative,” says the clerk. He places a folded paper bag on the counter and waits expectantly.
“That is not an acceptable form of treatment,” says your colleague, livid.
“The insurance company says it is,” says the clerk blankly. He does not comprehend why a common vessel made of flattened dead tress is not equivalent to life-saving medication in a quick-delivery aerosol.
“Who at the insurance company?” your colleague demands.
“Um,” the clerk hems and haws. “The… ahh… accountant. Apparently they are not covering pre-existing conditions.”
“I literally just got this outside.”
You seize the paper bag anyway, and desperately breathe into it. Or, you try, but the bag is shoddily made and doesn’t hold air. With your dying breath, you say:
“I am very angry with you, but as you are a gormless minimum wage worker who nevertheless cannot contradict company line for fear of economic reprisal, yet are empowered to arbitrate for a faceless soulless profit machine, I can do nothing.” You die.
Later, your colleague also dies, but from an antibiotic resistant strain of zombie virus. She contracted it from a brunch shrimp sammie that was made by a low-wage worker who could not afford to see a doctor. Zombies slowly take over the world, starting with everybody on the pharmacy line. Also, the clerk dies trying to drive on a road built by a libertarian. It’s paved with uninformed claims written on cheap paper stolen from Ayn Rand’s desk.
You hear a lot about writers who put their dreams to paper. For some, it defines the job. For me… I have no idea what dreams mean. This story sort of helped me think about it, I think. What do you think? Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas #8: The Drop”
I wrote this story for an anthology submission about Dystopia/Utopia. But since I was living in the USA during the election cycle of 2016, it was hard to write about a dystopia without realizing dystopian writers warned us about some of the things happening this year.
There is one half of the country who thinks this was a good year. Are they right? Is this just a matter of perspective? What makes a country oppressive? What is the difference when two groups can live in two different countries that occupy the same slot on a map? Can two men live the same life and come out of it very differently?
Rousseau said it best: “Men are born free, yet everywhere in chains.”
But Goethe pulls no punches: “The best slave is one who thinks he is free.”
This is a silly story about a silly bet. Even if you don’t like politics, this story marks the first time I used the name “Wilberforce” in a piece of writing. And it is a hum-dinger of a name. Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas #7: Four-Stroke Utopia”
So a couple days of trigger warning stuff later, something completely different: Continue reading “12 Days of Christmas #6: The Maiden Voyage”