Honeymooning!

Elijah McClain was a young black man, kind of skinny, glasses. He lived in the suburb or Aurora, in the city of Denver. He had no criminal record, had never been in trouble, he didn’t do drugs, there were none found in his system. He was a massage therapist, he volunteered at the SPCA, and he played the violin for lonely animals. He was just a sweet kid who never did anything to anyone. On August 24, 2019, he bought Ice tea at the corner store for his brother and began to walk home. Then police killed him.

The story goes was that it was a warm night, and he was wearing a ski mask. He did this because he had anaemia his face was cold, apparently there might be some mild autism, or some issue with thermo-regulation. I know people who are cold in warm weather. It happens.

Someone called 911 on him. The report was that he was acting “sketchy,” according to an audio recording of the 911 call released by the Aurora Police Department. The caller told a 911 that the person “has a mask on” and “he might be a good person or a bad person.” The caller went on to say no weapons were involved and when asked if he or anyone else was in danger, the caller said “No.” We don’t know what ‘sketchy’ means, and neither did the police. But what’s clear from the call is: No danger, no weapon.

Nevertheless, three police officer converged on Elijah McClain as he was walking home with his iced tea. He was indeed wearing a ski mask. There were no weapons or burglary tools visible. There was, apart from the ski mask, nothing unusual about his behaviour. He wasn’t furtive, looking into windows, checking car doors. He wasn’t running. He wasn’t acting bizarrely.

So basically, the police should have noted ‘unarmed man wearing ski mask, carrying iced tea, walking at a normal pace.’ No sign of weapons, no sign of danger, no sign of a crime. No unusual behaviour. And that was it, they should have pissed off somewhere else.

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The Agent’s Merry Go Round – Part One

So….  here I am looking for an Agent again. I’ve got Princess of Asylum.  Bloodsucker has been submitted to a Tor Imprint. The Mermaid’s Tale’s rights have reverted back to me, and The Luck was contracted but never published. That’s four novels in play.

Might as well bite the bullet. What am I going to do? Write another novel? I’m actually working on two right now. Release another ebook? Four or five are done and in the pipeline. Seriously, time to suck it up, and go for it.

So…. Agents?

It was, and still is, a catch 22. To get an Agent you needed a book deal with a publisher. To get a book deal you needed an Agent. Round and round we go on the merry go round, no way on.

How do you find one? Well, back in the day, when I was first trying to break through, there were publications. SF Chronicle and Locus for the speculative fiction genre, there was Writers Digest Magazine, there was an Annual Directory of Publishers and Agents. I had subscriptions, I bought the Directories. It was all like reading tea leaves, it was all inscrutable and frustrating. Names of Agents who had sold novels to publishers, but they were names in a vacuum, phrases connecting here to there in emptiness.  Even the Directories were frustrating, the Agents write ups, or interviews in magazines being maddeningly frustrating.

Back then, when research involved buying directories, combing through trade publications, searching for interviews and references, it was maddeningly vague.

You know what some writers did?  They’d go through books checking the dedications and the acknowledgements, hoping to find the name of the writer’s agent.

“Special thanks to my Agent, Anonymous Blandy, without whose help this novel would never have seen publication.”

The theory being that if these were books that you really liked, which were written similarly to yours, then you could guess this agent might like your stuff.  But what were you going to do, irritate the staff at Bookstores as you worked your way with pen and notepad through the Sci Fi section. Grab your own table at the library and stack em up? Or just go through your personal library? How many books did you read in a year? Twenty? Fifty?  Or search through review for books you thought might be enough like your style and subject matter, then search out the books themselves, check if they’re complementary, then search out the author, and hopefully, get a lead on the author’s agent.  Sometimes, the search for an Agent was this Rube Goldberg Odyssey.

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The Politics of Rage

I want to talk about the politics of rage.

Let me start with an Interesting factoid – they’ve done catscans of the brain in various states. To see what happens when people think, what parts of the brain light up. And what the sequence of the brains activities are in things like happiness, arousal, anger, sadness, etc.

Want to know something they found? The parts of the brain that light up for anger, are exactly the same ones as for happiness.

Anger is basically happiness-lite. It’s substitute happiness.

Anger is Faux-Happiness.

It’s the same kind of neurological high, except that it’s much easier to trigger, and less lasting.

It’s what they call a response rather than a state.

That explains why some people are so angry all the time, so easily angered. Because neurologically, their anger is fake happiness. They’re addicted.

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Bloodsucker – A Sneak Peek

“Melissa is a street kid who believes she’s a vampire.  As she cruises and feeds among the low lifes of a decaying city, she encounters hookers, drug dealers, homeless people, perverts, predators, musicians, artists and social workers, all of them just trying to get by.  Meanwhile, trio of young serial killers are cruising for fun. And elsewhere, a black lab has been exposed and secret investigators are on the trail.  Melissa tries to cope with her new nature by setting limits and moral standards, but as she progresses, she crosses line after line.  Eventually, her journey leads her back to the secret laboratory, and the revelation that she’s not a vampire, but something worse….”

BACKGROUND

Bloodsucker is my first novel, way way back.  Not much to say… I’d been writing short stories for years.  I had dozens of stories. The market for short stories was  crap, and I figured that I’d developed enough as a writer to try something more ambitious.  Simple as that.

Actually, there is more.  When I moved out to Winnipeg to go to law school, it was my first time in an even semi-large city. I was far from home, and on a very limited income, I didn’t know anyone out here. Eventually, I ended up living downtown in the Exchange district in the middle of what turned out to be the red light district, in an old low end building, owned by a divorced entrepreneur and his sons.

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Rethinking It: The Space Force Misfire

So, I just suffered through the Netflix series, Space Force. It’s an extremely awkward non-comedy starring Steve Carrell and John Malkovitch. John Malkovitch plays himself, in the role of a civilian scientist named Mallory. His job is to be really smart, principled and slightly sarcastic. Steve Carrell plays a socially awkward, repressed guy in over his head… basically, it’s every other role he’s ever played, this one is called General Naird (Nerd! Get it! Ha ha).

General Naird (Nerd! Get it! Ha Ha) is in charge of getting the President’s ‘Space Force’ up and running as a sixth branch of the US Armed forces. As General Naird (Nerd! Get it! Ha Ha), fifty years America went to the moon for human progress, now they want to go back to ‘put boots on the moon.’

If that doesn’t creep you the hell out, I don’t know what will. But yes, the notion that America has a manifest destiny to militarise a lifeless, airless rock far out in space and be ready to fight a war is presented with utter lack of affect or irony. I suspect that maybe there was some intent at irony, but they didn’t want to offend the ‘America F*** yeah!’ and ‘Hey, youse guys hate America!’ crowd, so they just leached all the subversiveness out and played it straight.

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The Fall of Atlantis and Other Stories

That’s obviously not Atlantis on the book cover.  If anything that’s Anti-Atlantis, with it’s central sea in there, surrounded by land and ringed by mountains.  That’s an almost complete inversion of Plato’s idea of an Island nation out in the Atlantic.

The picture is Greenland of course.  But not the Greenland we know, it’s Greenland without the ice.  This is a topographic radar map of Greenland’s elevations. It plays a little trick on us – blue is the colour designated for sea level elevation, so everything on the radar map that’s coloured in blue is at sea level elevation or lower.  The green parts are just above sea level.  The reddish brown represents mountain country.

It actually gives you a decent idea of what Greenland was like, or would have been like without all that ice.  Not a perfect idea, there’s a thing called ‘Isostatic Rebound.’ Basically, most of Greenland is under two miles of ice.  That two miles of ice is compressing the bedrock. Take it away, and Greenland will probably lift.  But I suspect that mostly, that lift won’t dramatically change what we see  I think it’s a fascinating map. It’s filled with possibility, potential. It’s so much better than most homegrown fantasy maps.

That’s the explanation for the Map that isn’t Atlantis, on a book titled Fall of Atlantis.

In a sense, like The Dawn of Cthulhu, this is a book about world building.  It’s speculative fiction of the plainest, barest kind, taking ideas like ‘What would Greenland be like without the Ice?’   Or ‘What’s a plausible pathway for the Romans to get to the New World?‘  And  just spinning them out and extrapolating.  No plot, no characters, but fiction all the same.

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Those Other Lives That Matter…

Some people get very tired of Black Lives Matter. Well, okay. For those folks: Here’s some white people who got murdered by the police.

Tony Timpa, schizophrenic, depressed, in August, 2016, called 911 for assistance, police arrived, begged for his life thirty times. Officers handcuffed him behind his back, tied his ankles, laid him face down, sat on him, died of asphyxiation, Officers then laughed and made jokes as he died. No officers charged. Police department fought like a tiger for three years to keep the body-cam record from becoming public.

Magdied Sanchez, deaf, developmentally disabled man, in September, 2017, in Oklahoma. Shot by police officers because he wouldn’t comply with demands… being deaf and all. Onlookers shouted out that he was deaf and couldn’t understand. Shot to death anyway. D.A. cleared the officers, saying that deafness was irrelevant. “You don’t need to hear to understand what these officers are saying to you.” Apparently, because deaf disabled people are psychic or something.

Earlier in Oklahoma, unarmed suicidal man shot to death by police. Charges were laid on that one.

David Shaver, murdered in a hotel hallway in Mesa, Arizona, while on vacation. There’s Youtube footage of his murder. Look it up. It’s skin crawling sadism. The guy is crying and begging for his life. The officer walked, left the force, got a nice big settlement, claimed PTSD and got disability. The killing was captured on camera, but as with other cases, the police fought like tigers to keep that footage from going public. In fact, and this is horrific, the police exacted a promise from Shaver’s wife that she would not speak publicly about what she witnessed on the footage… And then they played his sadistic murder for her. Really, look it up on Youtube if you dare. Watch it, and then think about the living hell they put Shaver’s wife through.

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Chapbook Odyssey

Anybody remember chapbooks? Also known as chapter books, or chapel books?

Well, before self publishing was a big thing, they were a thing. And therein lies a tale. One that, I’m sad to say, makes me feel a little old. But here goes.

Chapbooks were basically a collection regular eight and a half paper sheets, folded in the middle, with a cardstock cover, and stapled in the middle (saddle stapled). This resulted in a 5×8 publication, which was digest sized. Small press and zine publishers used the format, and before the advent of eBooks, computers, modern printers and POD, it was the route to self publishing. Some of them were quite nice with glossy covers and high end art. Some of them were works of art by themselves with handmaid paper, and hand sewn fabric stitching.

I first came across chapbooks at a local bookstore, McNally Robinson. Three collections of sci fi poetry and short stories by a local film maker, Perry Stratychuk. Back then I was doing a fanzine for a local sci fi club, and I was intrigued enough to interview him. He was a nice guy, he worked for the National Film Board, and he’d written, produced and directed a ‘no budget’ post apocalyptic sci fi epic called ‘Roc Saga.’

That was my introduction. Something off the beaten path, something cool. But not something I was interested in following. At that time I was writing short stories, lots of them, and sending them out steadily. Self publishing seemed like a dead end – I’d get a few copies in bookstores and…. so what?

Then shortly after, in September, 1994, the World Science Fiction Convention came to Winnipeg.

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Godzilla Battle Royale!

Ever hear of Jeff LeRoy? He’s one of my favourite film makers – auteur of Rat Scratch Fever, Werewolf in a Women’s Prison, Dracula in a Woman’s Prison, Creepies, Predator World and many more. And he’s actually a nice guy.

I first came across LeRoy when I was watching Creepies. It’s a sub-B movie about a giant spider. I say sub-B, it was obviously shot on a nothing budget, amateur actors, amateur effects, but for all the sub par trashiness, it was fun.

There’s a scene where the giant spider is tumbling down the Hollywood Hills past the sign. And I had this strange moment of dissonance. The spider was pretty tosh, pretty much a stuffed doll. The scale model of the Hollywood Hills was really good, realistic enough that it sold me, and for a second, I had the weird impression that someone was throwing a two hundred foot stuffed doll down the real Hollywood Hills for the shot. It was just a second’s flash. I’m not foolish.

But it brought home to me just how complicated movies are, how absolutely many moving parts there are to it, there are literally thousands of components, and you have to get every single one right. There’s so much to do, and it’s the stuff you miss out on that calls attention to itself. The audience can be very unforgiving.

But I was impressed by this one thing. The movie clearly wasn’t expensive, but it managed to do some things cleverly. So I found Jeff on Youtube, complimented him, and he sent me another couple of his films – including Werewolf in a Woman’s Prison, filled with gore, nudity, a near ludicrous plot, and an over the top sense of fun.

I loved it. And of course, in a movie filled with gratuitious gore and nudity, I listened to the Directors commentary, because that’s the kind of nerd I am. He said something that really hit me.

He said that what’s important about a film, whether it’s made for Five Thousand, or Five Hundred Million, is that it needs to make you want to keep watching every moment, it has to be interesting, it has to be entertaining.

If you’re looking at your watch, checking your texts, or just reciting the dialogue before the actor says it… it’s not a good film, even if it cost a billion dollars.

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Murder in Minneapolis

As a rule, I try not to get too political on this blog. I like to talk about writing and life. Politics is messy and bitter.

Having said that, I just can’t look away from the Minneapolis fiasco, and as a basic human being I can’t help but be outraged.

I know this post may be read long after, so let me start with a recap.

On Monday, May 25, 2020, Memorial day in the United States, a deli in the Powderhorn district of Minneapolis, reported to police that a middle aged black man was attempting to pay with a forged twenty dollar bill. Four police officers converged on the scene and apprehended a man, Floyd George, who was in his car who apparently fit the description. There were two other persons in the car. It is not clear whether George was the actual person or simply fit the description. I assume that will be clarified at some point.

George was ordered out of the car, and apparently reluctant to do so. However, he exited or was removed from the vehicle and handcuffed with his hands behind his back. At some point, he fell down. From this point on, he was laying down, on his stomach, hands cuffed behind his back, with three officers on him. One officer was on his legs, another on his back, and the third, Officer Derek Chauvin, knelt with his knee on George’s neck, for roughly seven to ten minutes. The fourth officer maintained control of the scene, keeping bystanders away.

On several occasions, George complained that he couldn’t breath, claimed discomfort, and asked for help. He begged not to be killed and cried out for his mother. There was a strange conversation, where one of the officers who was physically holding George in place kept instructing him to ‘get in the car’ despite the fact that George was physically immobilized by three officers, including the one kneeling on his neck.

After begging for his life and calling for his mother he fell silent. A number of bystanders complained that the officers were killing George, there were demands or requests to check his pulse. An ambulance was called, by the time it arrived he was dead. The body was moved onto an ambulance gurney and carried away, with no apparent resuscitation efforts made on site at any point by either the officers or ambulance attendants. The officers then departed the scene in their respective patrol cars.

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