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This was my submission to Apex Books' "Election Horror" contest, judged by the august [livejournal.com profile] jaylake. It wasn't victorious, so you poor suckers get the freebie release.

The Bold and the Dead )
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Some peculiar conflation of influences last night... catching part of what I can only assume to be the cinematic mistake that was "Deja Vu" on my flight back from PHX and seeing the trailer for "Next" ...

The protagonist sees how people used to be, and his compatriots are Lemmy from Motorhead and the guy who played Sabretooth (both of them relatively caveman-looking motherfuckers, to save on SFX makeup, I suppose). No idea what the plot tension was supposed to come from, but the leading man had to escape from some person(s) who wanted to prescribe & dispense Lead HV... with a cameo by the FBI agent from "Once Upon a Time in Mexico."

An exciting suburban-and-swamp chase later, and it was revealed that the entire time, seeing people as primitive was just the one guy's POV, he was incapable of seeing the shiny, clean-cut reality of the near future around him.

No fricking idea, but it was a very interesting and entertaining dream, in that Philip K. Dick kind of way.
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... like getting to use the phrase radioactive velvet Elvises.
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... then it's a fun game of "Find the Eye" with shitty depth perception.

I'm blaming [livejournal.com profile] matociquala for having the same dream -twice- last night, where my left cornea was scratched (apparently, I was Daniel Paille of the Buffalo Sabres, and caught a teammate's stick under the visor while clearing a rebound in front of our net), and both were then replaced with glass... which I had to put in -by hand- in front of people, while having a conversation in an opulent hotel lobby.

Let me just say, for the sake of you who don't do this often - putting a hunk of glass into one's naked, raw, empty eye sockets sucks more than a little.

But at least I wasn't getting fucked up the ass while abstaining from sex with Jenna Jameson again. That was Sunday night's "entertainment."

I'm going to need to have a word with the asshole in charge of the in-flight movies.
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Visions of a 28% O2 atmosphere to offset 1.15G's on a planet being surveyed and a hyperbaric coma chamber for cleansing fasts have again repopulated my mind.

OUT, OUT, DAMNED LIFETIME NETWORK!
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So, my winning streak was ended at one; I got the polite rejection (with critical feedback) for one of my stories overnight. I'll say this - by working in the online flash fiction market, you don't languish in some slushpile for months at a time. :-)

In arguably more-and-less-real news than the fate of some stylish lies, a bunch of us finally got together and kicked some virtual butt for a couple hours last night.

Off to the massage therapist for me this afternoon; hopefully, that will put paid to a lot of the knots essentially holding my skeleton together, and help stave off the sinus infection that felled K earlier this week.

Long weekend will be spent doing very little. I hope.
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"Joe, there's something I need to tell you."

"What is it, woman? I'm trying to paint goats here!"

"Ummm... the baby ... It isn't yours."

Joseph pauses, turns, and strokes his beard thoughtfully, dripping paint on the manger and one of his sandals. "Has the pre-nup been invented yet?"


[later, on Springer]


Jeremy bar Jeremiah Springer: "On today's show, we have a very special case. This woman [camera zooms in on Mary] says that her husband [camera cuts to Joe in the green room] is not the father of her firstborn child [still photo of Jeshua bar Joseph, perhaps from a kindergarten group shot], but she was married as a virgin [audience "oooohs"] and has been faithful as his wife [scattered catcalls]. Mary, could you explain what in the name of Moses is going on here?"

If you haven't read Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal [Christopher Moore], do so. I can't recommend it enough (though I might try to do so more if I could get kickbacks; I've sold at least a dozen copies because of my inability to shut up about it).

[this can arguably be blamed on [livejournal.com profile] gooddamon dreaming that his wife, [livejournal.com profile] floatingtide was giving birth to the Baby Jesus as part of an amateur Nativity production by a community theater group ... or something like that.]
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Mine is online at http://www.flashquake.org/.

Finished [livejournal.com profile] jaylake's novel, Trial of Flowers, during the weekend's travels [to be detailed and bitched about later]. It falls rather outside my usual area of reading material, so bear in mind that the only things remotely like ToF that have been on my bookshelves are Chia Mieville's Perdido Street Station (this is a common comparison, from seeing previous reviews), and some of Neil Gaiman's work, Neverwhere in particular. Some reviewers say that it imparts a scale of history that is seldom achieved by similar works; I can't say I agree with that assessment overmuch (or maybe my "historical scale" detector is poorly calibrated).

I wander in from a Sci-Fi environment, so it's not second nature to accept magic out of hand; some of it is carried off with a deft touch and is very natural; some less so. The characters themselves are all immediately and vibrantly identifiable and distinct, few falling prey to established tropes or archeypes in any genre. For my money, they're the best facet of an interesting universe hewn from irregular stone.

If you're a fan of weird and twisted things happening to not altogether blameless characters, I can endorse ToF without reservation. I found some aspects of the story maddeningly believable (petty politics in the face of grave threats, and self-centered motivations throughout (which is a pleasant change from characters who always take the long view and work for the good of the many unreservedly), but this was offset by a vaguely gratuitous application of perversion that didn't seem to serve much purpose, or was insufficiently explored to pertain to the story in a complete manner.


I may not be able to say precisely what "the new weird" is as a literary genre, but I know it when I see it. Trial of Flowers is.
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Ladies and germs, I just became a paid and published author.

One of my bits of flash fiction (originally appearing in [livejournal.com profile] shortshort), has been picked up by Flashquake, and will appear in their winter edition, published on December 1st.

*twitch, twitch*
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"I can't believe you did that. We're gonna get kicked."
"You can't k-line someone here. Relax."
"That was still shitty. And it wasn't even something we wanted!"
"So what? That bitch was pretty funny, going off about how it was for her boyfriend."
"If it was even a girl."
"Exactly. Everyone lies here. I just lied about loot."
"Still..."
"Would you stop being such a wuss? It's not like you don't spend the money we get anyways."
"I guess. Too bad you can't hawk it to other players. They'd probably pay better."
"Yeah, but this way, it's not like their friends can find us hawking."
"There is that, but it's going to be hard to group to get the stuff we need if you keep pissing everybody off."
"Oh, shit."
"What?"
"Alt-hunt."
"Already?"
"I'm getting... crap, dead."
"You going to pay the angel to res you?"
"A couple of 'em are staying by the body, so I guess I'll take the hit."
"I'll start looking for a new group."
"Fuckers!"
"What happened?"
"They camped the angel."
"Dude, that's not cool."
"No shit."
"What are you gonna do?"
"Quit, I guess. Wait, they're leaving; some other players are after them."
"Cool."
"I'm back up, on my - FUCK!"
"What happened?"
"They whacked me again! Everyone's just standing around."
"The guard channel just lit up - telling people not to attack them. You're fucked, dude."
"I can't believe they're letting them camp the angel just to kill me."
"Well, you were being an asshole with their loot."
"You know what? Fuck you, too."



Kids, friends don't let friends ninja loot.
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"I need some water," Marquis shouted to Danae. Extricating herself from the bouncing, gyrating, seething animal that the dance floor became late in the evening, she made her way along the garishly-lit wall towards the third-floor lounge. The air was thick with several kinds of smoke, and the lights played frenetically against the haze, obscuring the darker corners, save for suggestive outlines and the occasional glint of jewelry or eyes.

Finally reaching the bar, drink in hand, Marquis turned to watch her girlfriend's movements. Far from oblivious to the effect of her appearance, Danae seemed to relish coyly rebuffing the advances of would-be partners. Their steady, prowling, slow-orbit approach through the other patrons put them solidly into the gravity well of her beauty before she would lean close, point to Marquis, and then laugh to herself as they were hurled into a new trajectory from their perigee, boosted by their confused frustration, a perpetual-motion response that they had come to call Negative Lesbian Gravity.

Of course, there were always a hanful, too drunk or cock-sure to obey the established physics.

=============

Next word, folks?
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You hear a lot of younger mercenaries talk about their weapons, often giving them names intended to instill fear in their adversaries.  Deathbringer, Hellspike, The Scourge of Winder, that sort of thing.

Frankly, in the time it takes most of them to say something pompous and self-aggrandizing, I can usually cut off at least one of their hands, so for all I know, there are actually a lot of swords called Blackouch and Grimargh out there.  Most of them don't sell very well when I take them back to my weapon dealer.  Maybe there's something to the theory that they pick up the psychic vibrations or spiritual essence or some other pseudo-mystical thing from their wielder and victims, and it sours the steel.  Or maybe they're just not very good weapons to begin with.

Wart calls her blade "Sharp," which, in addition to being literally true, has the benefit of being nice and short, and therefore less prone to letting you get dismembered while saying.  Of course, she's also really good with it, which goes a long way.

Me?  I usually just use the most recently misbegotten Grimargh or Blackouch.  If you use something that nobody would want to steal, you can worry about other things, like how last night's raiding party found us, and where we were going to get rid of the bodies.  They got Baab, though.  The bad ankle gave out on him partway through, and he went down.

I don't like losing members of the team.  He hadn't been with us too long; only since we'd left the Northern Lakes a few months before, but he was quiet and competent, and had a good nose for local herbs.  When you can go weeks between professionally-cooked meals, something that spices up the local game is a welcome find.

We planted sage and mint around his cairn, and moved on, wary for the next Sentinel ambush.
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"'Suddenly, I heard a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.' You heard me rapping, right?"

I turned away from the beating that followed, wondering when cynicism had corroded even the honest, if desperate, pleasures of the previous decade. There was nothing outre` in the latest office, and even the de rigeur Happy Couple portrait was from a family holiday and not some clubwear soiree. Not yet a Company Man, but inching that way as inexorably as a glacier, and preparing to calve.

Things in my own past seemed hazy and midly surreal; like a movie seen at three in the morning after driving nineteen hours. Hodgepodge of the mundane and the exceptional, all muddled and blurred like old chutney in a forgotten pantry.

By the time "Interstate Love Song" signalled another bad guy's demise, the movie was all but forgotten as background noise as he pored over tomorrow's projects.

"There ain't no coming back. There ain't no coming back."


----------------

Next word, folks?


[incidentally, running five miles in full Crow regalia, including leather jacket, and singing that song the whole way is really fucking hard.]
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Dominque and I had enjoyed rather too much of the exquisit apertif offering, both because the sommelier was making eyes at her, and to rid ourselves of the memory and taste of Paolo's latest extemporaneous culinary endeavor - something involving smelt roe, asparagus swords (which he swore vigorously were distinct from asparagus spears), and parsnip wedges garnished with endive.  It was nearly enough to make me wish Justine  were still in the kitchen at Le Bon Mot, but when rehab calls, there's not much one can do and remain clear of Page Six.

We settled further into the Giorgio loveseat to take in a bit of pomo farce, something called "The Organ-Grinder's (My) Bitch," which Ramon and Lucille had both raved about over curried yams the previous Tuesday.  I anticipated a lot of subtly broad stereotypes about Depression-era Brooklyn, and I suspect Dominique was hoping for something a bit more risque.  We'd made the customary wager on things, of course.

She won, in spades.  An unrelenting pastiche of homoeroricism, set to a vintage music box, entirely bereft of dialogue.  It was carried off well, of course, but I was troubled by the zeal with which Dominque hummed the signature melody as we rode in the back of the Lincoln, and the way she kept looking at me, as if she were envisioning me wearing the prehensile tail.
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We'd spent several more unpleasant than usual days slogging through territory that couldn't make up its mind if it was going to sink into the ocean, choke everything with greenery, or just try and kill us with moist heat, and ended up doing all three.  On the bright side, we weren't harried by Sentinels, or whatever the local constabulary was called, probably because nobody was foolish enough to try and live there.  We'd spent a vigorous afternoon debating if it was merely an oppressive marsh, an authentic swamp, or a full-fledged quagmire, and decided it was definitively swamplike with marshy tendencies, and had quagmire potential after a hard rain and the introduction of some motivated and hostile locals.

By the second day, everyone had mud in their boots, and the steady trudging squelch of our progress wasn't fit to inspire terror in a basket of rabbits.  Which, conveniently enough, made them easy to catch, skin and eat.  If you liked mud-flavored rabbit, it was heavenly.

I think Sven liked mud-flavored rabbit, and was only complaining to throw off suspicion.  Fucking ninjas

* * * * * * * * * *

Okay, who wants to suggest the next word?  First suggestion today gets written tomorrow.
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I think Mommy and Daddy like it when it rains hard. They always go
outside and hold hands. Sometimes Mommy does something else with her
hands while Daddy stands off to one side, like he does when she makes
dinner.

They come back in afterwards all wet. Usually, they're happy and
smiling and give me a big wet hug. I have my own towel so I can dry
off - it has fish on it and says FLORIDA AQUARIUM. Sometimes Mommy
looks tired, and Daddy makes her tea and shows her pictures they keep
in a big book they made called a SCRAPBOOK even though it doesn't have
any scraps in it - just pictures and things out of the newspaper.

Mommy showed it to me once, but I was little and couldn't read, and
just saw a lot of pictures of clouds and houses and big waves. One
picture was really neat - it was a tree with a board right through the
middle of it; there was another one of a boat sitting in the middle of
the street that made me feel funny.

Daddy tells Mommy to remember people's names a lot, I think. I've
never met the people Mommy and Daddy talk about when it rains. Some
of them sound like old friends, or maybe people they worked with a
long time ago and didn't get along with, because then Daddy sounds
tired, too.

I know a lot of those names because they tell me about them when I
ask. Daddy says that they're not people like us, or my teachers, or
my friends, or Mr. Peter the Mailman. So of course I had to ask who
they were like, and she said, "Each other," which isn't really an
answer, but it was time for me to go to bed.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"I tell you the truth now, so you can lie to me later."

* * * * * * * * * * * *
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"Kayla, what do you know about the storm with two eyes?"
"Tornadoes are often reported on the fringes of hurricanes, and on rare occasions, one forms in or near the eyewall, and might exist within the eye."
"No, not those."  Rick pulled out a a copy of an old painting, resembling a stylized yin-yang, and handed it to her.  "This."
"I didn't think anyone had ever seen one of these."  Her voice was soft; words for a confessional, or a lover.
"I guess they have.  What I'm wondering is, can we make one?"
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New Orleans is the Big Easy because she has to be.  She's tired.  She's down at the heels.  She forgets to bathe.  But she gets liquored up and puts out, and isn't afraid to dress and act like a tart (or, dare I say it, a cheap whore) to get that love and attention she craves.  She's got a reputation, Nola does.  Bonhomie with a risque flair; but do be polite and not ask what's beyond the receiving room, please.

Don't get me wrong - she knows how to party (or at least used to), and the old girl knows more ways to feed you well than just about anyone else.  There's the warm, cloying caress of the thick air (she's good for the skin, but it's a little sweaty, her embrace) and the long, warm, quiet walks where she can show off a little of her old-world voluptuousness; the kind that make the youths with their Victorian pretentions swoon, and the lifers glow subtly with something like pride.

But underneath her flowered and jeweled mask, Nola's not feeling so well.  She doesn't eat right, and all that partying wears on a body.  It weakens the defenses against parasites and calcium loss.  She doesn't sleep well, or enough, and it shows in the lines around her eyes and the way her back stoops (despite the gaudy corset).  She doesn't look ravaged, but she's more than a little care-worn.

Her eyes have a tendency to dart suspiciously, looking for her next score, the next excuse to get dolled up. But she's in no hurry; nobody there is so gauche as to rush anything.  She knows that her next companion will come calling, and soon, because they know her number, and what she'll do for their ducats and attentions.

A gentleman will buy the lady a drink, you see, but there are obligations.  They both know.  It's polite of him not to ask, and proper of her not to seem bored with the whole affair.  The pleasure is real, to be certain, but thin after so many times, like a favorite camisole that the thrill has worn off of but remains comfortable, retaining the barest ghost of happier, more novel times.

It's almost all paste and costume jewelery.  Nola scrapes to get by, and that gratuity the gentleman leaves is barely enough to keep her going.

=====================

Seattle seems stark and prudish by comparison; people buttoned up and buttoned down, everyone in a hurry to Be Somewhere.  The crisp grey air doesn't catch the light and glow romantically like it does in the deep south (Spanish Moss, nature's gothic eyeliner); instead, it fills in the shadows with an austerity that denies public secrets. 

She's got money, in the same way the young executive in the BMW that's stuck in traffic does; a useful abstraction that provides a measure of comfort, but which might not be appreciated because it seems like it's always been there.  Socializing by the numbers is the order of the day, if you overlook the places around the next corner where there are people going about things the old-fashioned, organic way (but maybe feeling a little furtive about it).

=====================

S-K: Speaking as a former resident, New Orleans is the epitome of the "Great place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there" city.  The mellow, ornate glow of decadence is a patina over a poor, corrupt, and struggling city, and unless you can find work to finance a visitor's lifestyle, it's little different from anywhere else.
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[incomplete, two or three scenes pending, from a dream last night]

Read more... )

[aside to RA: nothing to do with DF, that's something else altogether]
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[originally penned some time ago, still incomplete, as something [livejournal.com profile] anditron and I mused about on the subject of population control, IIRC, and inspired by [livejournal.com profile] critus' recent bits of fiction]

Clark )
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