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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Another day, another query

 

Waiting for me in this morning’s inbox…

Oh, never mind the details of it, it’s always roughly the same. Increasingly, my reply is becoming rote and reflexive as well.

“Dear [name redacted],

“Thank you for your kind words recognizing my contribution to popular culture and asking me to contribute [something that will take me some significant amount of time to do] to [your thing]. I appreciate your generous offer to reward me for my contribution to [your thing] with further recognition of my contribution to popular culture.

“Unfortunately, given that Chase Mortgage does not accept ‘recognition’ but instead insists that I make my house payments using ‘money,’ I’m afraid I must decline your offer.

“Sincerely,
Bruce Bethke”

_______________



Monday, August 30, 2021

Talking Shop: Eric's Writing Challenge Update 10

Okay, I think it's been about a week since the last update.

Let's get right into it with the writing challenge. To date, I've written approximately 52,400 words toward the writing challenge end goal of 87,500 words. That puts me right around the 60% mark and well ahead of schedule. I wrote about 5000 words this last week, which works out to about 714 words per day. 

On to Rinn's Run.

Total words completed: approximately 60,750

Total Chapters completed: 31

Percentage complete (theoretical): Around 61%

This last week went a lot smoother than the three weeks before that. I did have one day that I was distracted and didn't really write (which makes my actual word count closer to 830 words per day across six days). I was reviewing the files for an audiobook version of one of my novels. Let me tell you, if you've never had the chance to hear one of your books as an audiobook, it's totally worth the cost. At least, that's how I've found it. 

For anyone who is curious, I found the narrator through the ACX program that Audible runs. It's designed to connect authors with narrators/producers. 

In terms of the actual writing, I'm just sticking with the program and aiming to beat the 500 words per day. Some days I just squeak over the 500 words mark, and some days it's much better. All in all, though, it's working. I'm pretty sure I'm passed the midpoint in Rinn's Run, which is a stumbling block for a lot of writers. So, I'm taking my wins where I find them. 

 _______________________________________________

Eric Dontigney is the author of the highly regarded novel, THE MIDNIGHT GROUND, as well as the Samuel Branch urban fantasy series and the short story collection, Contingency Jones: The Complete Season One. Raised in Western New York, he currently resides near Dayton, OH. You can find him haunting obscure sections of libraries, in Chinese restaurants or occasionally online at ericdontigney.com.

Status Update • 30 August 2021

 

It’s now been a month since my wife was released from the hospital, and time remains in very short supply.  The three-times-daily infusions appear to be working, although not as well as her doctors had hoped, so they’ve extended the treatment schedule through September. We continue to see or be seen by a long parade of specialists, therapists, and various other kinds of -ists—there is even such a thing as a “hospitalist;” I didn’t know that—and to spend a lot of time either traveling to or from or sitting in waiting rooms, as she has one outpatient procedure after another. My planner is already booked up solid through the third week of September.

More than any other kind of time, sleep time remains in extremely short supply. I think there may have been a night sometime in the past month when I actually slept for more than two contiguous hours at a stretch and for more than six hours total, but I’m too tired to remember when. 

Obviously, this is having profound impact on Stupefying Stories. In the time I have available for thinking about anything other than immediate medical necessities I’m trying to figure out what we can do, realistically, in what’s left of this year.

That “realistically” requirement is proving to be a real drag.

One thing is for certain. I had been telling people privately, and may even have posted it online somewhere, that we were looking at reopening to submissions after Labor Day. That is now absolutely out of the question. There is no way in Hell or on Earth that we will have time the time to consider any new unsolicited submissions in the foreseeable future. 

Got that? Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, we will NOT be reopening to new unsolicited submissions this fall. 

There will likely be more changes, but getting this message out will do for now. 

—Bruce Bethke


Sunday, August 29, 2021

Today's Free Story Idea: a entirely new dystopian scenario


Today’s Free Story Idea is, as they say, ripped from the headlines. The original article by Andreas Kluth appeared in Bloomberg Opinion a few days ago, but since then it’s been infiltrating out via syndication to all the other newspapers too cheap or lazy to hire their own staff and write their own content. I saw it in this morning’s St. Paul Pioneer Press, but since both of these sites are behind paywalls, if the above links don’t work for you, this search query should turn up a site where you can read it for free.

The thrust of it is in the headline: “We need cap-and-trade for individuals as well as companies.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

For the Greater Good and to save Mother Earth, our betters are proposing a global, individual, carbon tax and credit system. But not that overtly, of course.

Some selected highlights:

“In systems for individuals, by contrast, hassle is a deal breaker. Around 2008, the U.K. looked into person carbon allowances. [...] But the details would still have been fiddly, requiring new types of carbon “accounts” with plastic cards and such. People wouldn’t have accepted the system. The idea was discreetly dropped. [...]”

But not forgotten...

“For another thing, the pandemic and other trends have changed our relationship to technology. We’ve grown accustomed to using our smartphones as one tool to fight the virus, as ever more people in ever more places use apps to trace contacts or prove vaccinations. They’re also tracking their health, nutrition and exercise, shopping and ordering food, transacting and trading. Carbon allowances would be just one more app.

“If designed well, an individualized system could therefore reach consumers in a way that’s not only simple but even fun. [...] Managing our carbon budgets [...] would become socially cool.

[...]

“The bigger challenge will be social and political. In principle, personal allowances should help reduce inequality because poor people tend to emit less than the rich, so that folks with lower incomes can make money out of the jet set, in effect taxing the fat cats. Still, people in rural areas, who drive more, might need extra permits to keep the peace.

“Even then, not every country will be culturally ready. [...]”


Oh really, ya think?

Never mind that any such system would be run with the same corruption-free integrity and efficiency we’ve come to expect from any large governmental or international program. Let that last paragraph I quoted percolate in your writer’s brain for a minute. Then imagine a world…

• where some people exist solely to be “harvested” for their carbon tax credits

• where signing over your carbon tax credits is a condition of employment

• where extra carbon credits are an important executive perk

• where signing over your carbon tax credits is a prerequisite for getting public housing (and where all housing is de facto public housing; that’s about ten years out, but a topic for another column) 

• where even the choices you make when you buy food at the grocery store count against your carbon budget

In other words, imagine a world of utter, absolute, and remorselessly enforced serfdom, where most people are dependent on the corporate/government structure for the fundamental necessities of life—food, water, shelter, and warmth—but they embrace that serfdom, because they’re being constantly reminded that it’s for the Greater Good! And besides, it’s fun!

Now as a fiction writer, here’s your challenge: either defend that system, or find a way to throw some sand and junk in the gears.

__________


I’m filing this one under “Books I’ll Never Finish” because in a way, it is. Back in the 1990s I began researching and writing what was to be my big, serious, non-fiction futurism thesis. I called the project TechnoFeudalism, because that was the gist of it: that this coming wave of awesome computing power and communication technology was only briefly going to appear to be liberating. In the long run the resulting social changes would lead to an effectively feudal society, run by oligarchs for the benefit of oligarchs, who felt even less sense of obligation to or responsibility for their serfs than the average Medieval lord felt to his.

I’ll never finish this book now for one very simple reason. It ain’t futurism anymore. 

—Bruce Bethke

Saturday, August 28, 2021

SHOWCASE: “Doctor to the Undead” • by Guy Stewart

 


The micro-miniskirt, while the height of current fashion, felt both ridiculous and degrading. I pursed my lips—I’m sure it would have been cute if I could have seen my reflection in the restroom mirror—and sighed. Turning, I went back out into the hospital.

No, not exactly a hospital. The University of Minnesota’s PEDIATRIC BLOOD AND MARROW TRANSPLANT & CELLULAR THERAPY PROGRAM was my current assignment.

My Fitbit twittered. Another sigh. But the payoff was close at hand, so I once again tugged the hem of the skirt down and hurried. The badge bouncing on my modest chest—I’d always abhorred massive mammaries—noted that I was S. Zalissia, MD. Unlike some of my ancestors, my degree was real. In fact, my great uncle had paid for my education at the eighth best global university in Molecular Biology and Genetics. I went there mostly because it was cloudy sixty percent of the time. Me and the sun are not good friends.

I stepped into the lab a few moments later. Dr. Bertrand Seward looked up, grinning. “Sori!”

I hated the diminutive. I put up with it because he was the best blood geneticist in the world. We’d had him thoroughly vetted, and I’d made a study of his career, habits, likes, and dislikes. But he’d designed what my people have wanted for centuries: a reliable, clean, and non-violent Human blood supply. “Dr. Seward,” I said, nodding as coolly as I could. There was no denying that he was attractive, for a Human. His long neck was topped by a boyish face and an unruly mop of dark hair. He was an ardent biker and had competed at the University of Minnesota, so he was lean and hard. Rather like me, in fact. If our latest collaboration panned out…

He interrupted my thought by saying, “I think this is it!”

I stepped up to the suspension tank and leaned forward. In the center, a muscle-wrapped sack floated in amniotic fluid. A glance at the monitor told me it was an AB negative Blood Transfer Module. I was hungry and hadn’t eaten for two days. If I’d had a stomach, it would have growled. “It’s beautiful,” I breathed, unaware I’d said anything.

Bernard was looking at me, worried. He said, “You okay, Sori? You look hungry.”

Without looking at him, I licked my lips, willing my fangs to retract. When I straightened up, I smiled. “I haven’t been eating much for the past few weeks. I’ve been too excited.”

He snorted, nodding. “I completely understand! Hey, if this batch checks out, how about dinner tonight? My treat?”

I’d known this was coming. He was sweet, absolutely good-looking, and it had been some time since I… Ahem. I headed off that line of thought and said, “Possibly. Let’s see how this checks out.”

He looked wildly hopeful and I almost closed my eyes and shook my head. On the other hand, it was the most encouragement I’d given him since we’d started working together. As lead researchers, we’d co-author a paper that might put us up for a Nobel Prize. The last time someone in our field had gotten one was over a hundred years ago. Landsteiner’s work on identifying the blood groups had been confirmation of what my great-great-great grandfather Vlad had known all along: Human blood was both different from animal blood; and came in flavors…also known as groups. Dr. Seward said, “Then let’s get to work!”

We first reduced fluid flow to the BTM, then added a constricting enzyme that caused the vessels to close off, sealing the final product—AB negative blood—in a transfusion bag-sized module with a thick, protective skin. We drained the tank, then stared at the BTM sitting in its cradle. Dr. Seward and I had designed the nanomachines that built the blood from the same components a Human body used to manufacture blood. He looked at me and said, “Do you want to do the honors?”

I couldn’t help smiling, “Together, maybe?”

He popped one seal, I did the other, then we each reached in to pick up the warm, slightly slippery BTM, lifting it gently and setting it on the examination table. We stared at it for several moments, then looked at each other. I found I was holding my breath. When he puffed out, I did the same. We laughed.

I said, “And now, to work.” He nodded and we began an exhaustive array of tests designed to see if the BTM contained real Human blood that could eventually replace the dwindling number of blood donors worldwide.

¤

Hours later, we sat back, both exhausted and elated. I said, “Now we pass it on to our colleagues. They’ll try to find something we missed; something that’s wrong.” I paused.

He grinned tiredly and said, “But they won’t.” We sat in silence. Most of the associate staff and grad students had gone home to await our announcement. He leaned into my shoulder. “So, how about that celebratory dinner?”

I almost refused, but if I’d had a stomach, it would have given a mighty rumble. I said, “I’d love to have dinner with you. How about tomorrow night?”

His face fell, then he took out his cellphone and snorted. “I don’t suppose there are any first class restaurants open at 3:38 in the morning.” He paused, “How about seven tomorrow evening, at Manny’s Steakhouse?”

I laughed, “How could you possibly get a reservation there that soon?”

He shrugged, “I have a connection.”

“Let me guess,” I said, “You worked your way through med-school as a waiter there?”

His smile was enigmatic as he said, “Something like that. How about we meet there?” I couldn’t conceal a bit of unease. He read my concern and held up both hands, “Nothing but a meal to celebrate. No strings attached.”

I nodded. “Wonderful. I don’t need strings right now. We’ve only just begun.”

He lifted an eyebrow, “Carpenters, released August 21, 1970.”

“A golden oldie.”

He stood and bowed, “See you there tomorrow night.”

“At seven,” I stood and bowed back.

¤

I took the day off—first time in years—to get ready. If I’d had a stomach, it might have been cramping by now. As it was, I was probably unusually pale. My people had long ago figured out how to get by with alternative blood supplies—blood banks, primate breeding centers, even outright ‘artificial blood’ in emergencies. But this? This was going to change everything.

Who knows, we might even be able to finally integrate into the core of Human society. One of us might even run for the job of president, premier, king, or whatever! The possibilities were endless, if BTM technology proved completely viable.

I was at Manny’s shortly before seven. My pulse pounded in my ears, a sign that alternatives weren’t going to be able to stave off the suspension coma I’d slip into if I didn’t eat soon. We’d evolved it to survive lean times and persecutions, but we’d never been able to be entirely free of that curse. It had also left us vulnerable in ancient times to mass murderers.

“Sori!” I turned to face him, smiling.

“Bert,” I said, nodding.

A look of delight lit his handsome face. “You called me Bert!”

He’d invited me to do so, so many times it was a joke now. I asked, innocently, “What? I was supposed to call you Ernie?”

He laughed, offered me his arm, and said, “Shall we?”

¤

The meal was superior in every way, and a truly magnificent bottle of cabernet sauvignon did wonders to loosen him up. After the talk petered out, I said, “I need to get going.”

He lifted his chin then nodded, “Thank you for going out with me. It was a wonderful night.”

I stood.

He stood and said, “I’ll walk you to your car.”

“I just live down the street.”

He looked vaguely disappointed. “You been here before?”

“Don’t worry. People are always surprised when I tell them that I’ve never been here.”

He smiled. “Then may I walk you home?”

I considered, not letting my emotions float across my face. I waited several beats, then said, “I’d like that.”

He nodded and offered me his arm. I took it, and we left the restaurant. We stayed away from the ‘main drag’ of Marquette. I lived in Bolero Flats, so we walked down South Ninth, turned onto Second Avenue South, then turned onto South Twelfth Street. We stopped at the tennis court. I said, “I cut across here.”

“Sorta dark,” he said.

I shrugged. “No one’s ever bothered me.”

He nodded, sighed, and when he leaned in for a kiss, I was pretty sure he believed he had what he wanted.

I was pretty certain I had what I wanted. I hadn’t told him that I’d done an extensive Internet search on him a long time ago and had set up a program to keep me updated on his movements, involvement, and anything else he did on the internet. Our people also had plenty of agents on the ground. I knew exactly what he wanted. My acting skills would be proven effective or ineffective in moments.

His suddenly twisted to prevent me from biting, but I was ready and I’d seen a quivering shadow near the towel house on the court. I could handle myself and didn’t need reinforcements. I clamped his arm behind him, twisting hard and driving him onto the court. “Thanks for the help. I love you, Doctor Seward, but Van Helsing isn’t going to save you this time,” I whispered into his ear then bit down, a moment later drawing up the last blood I’d ever have to curse a Human for.



 

Guy Stewart is a husband supporting his wife who is a multi-year breast cancer survivor; a father, father-in-law, grandfather, foster father, friend, writer, and recently retired teacher and school counselor who maintains a writing blog by the name of POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS (https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/) where he showcases his opinion and offers his writing up for comment. He has 72 stories, articles, reviews, and one musical script to his credit, and the list still includes one book! He also maintains GUY'S GOTTA TALK ABOUT BREAST CANCER & ALZHEIMER'S, where he shares his thoughts and translates research papers into everyday language. In his spare time, he herds cats and a rescued dog, helps keep a house, and loves to bike, walk, and camp.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Another Day, Another Hospital

 

Another day, another hospital, another outpatient procedure that’s expected to take most of the day. Comms will be spotty today as this hospital seems to be in some kind of coverage black hole. My phone works there—barely—but my wifi hotspot does not. I’d better bring along a book to read.

In the meantime, I’ve grown tired of cat pics, so here’s a cute Halloween illo that I picked up with no clear idea of how I would use it. Maybe it will inspire you. Does someone feel like writing a story to match this art? 

—Bruce Bethke   

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Talking Shop: Eric's Writing Update 9

Okay, so this week's update is happening more or less on time. 

Let's start out with the writing challenge. To date, I've churned out approximately 47,400 words toward the writing challenge goal of 87,500. That puts me around 54% of the way toward the goal line. I wrote around 5100 words last week. For the math types, that an average of a little over 728 word per day.

On to Rinn's Run.

Total words completed: approximately 55,750.

Chapters Completed: 28 (almost 29)

Percentage complete (theoretical): 56%

This last week was kinder to me physically than the two before that. You can likely see the evidence of that in the nearly doubled word count for the week. One of the upsides of committing to a daily or close to daily writing schedule with even a minimum word count like 500 words is that it makes it much, much easier to get to back into the swing of things when life eases up on you.

 _______________________________________________

Eric Dontigney is the author of the highly regarded novel, THE MIDNIGHT GROUND, as well as the Samuel Branch urban fantasy series and the short story collection, Contingency Jones: The Complete Season One. Raised in Western New York, he currently resides near Dayton, OH. You can find him haunting obscure sections of libraries, in Chinese restaurants or occasionally online at ericdontigney.com.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Status Update • 19 August 2021

 

Three weeks now since my wife was discharged from the hospital. Since then we’ve had an almost-constant stream of doctor’s appointments, follow-ups, hospital out-patient procedures, and various nurses and therapists parading in and out of the house, all while sticking to her every-eight-hours infusion regimen. I’ve gotten pretty good at handling the equipment and performing the procedure and can now do it without waking her. Still, it takes roughly an hour to prep, do the infusion, and clean up afterward, so there go three hours out of every day. 

I remain amazed by the sheer volume of plastic waste modern medicine produces. That’s something to factor into your next post-Apocalyptic novel. There will be a lot of people checking out in the first days after The End of the World As We Know It, as they won’t be able to get their perishable medications and disposable medical supplies. On top of everything else, because her meds must be kept in a carefully temperature-controlled state, each week we get a new one-cubic-foot Styrofoam cooler packed with the coming week’s supplies. I’m hanging on to all of the coolers, as in a few more weeks I figure I’ll have enough to pass on to the grandkids, and then they can play Minecraft in real life.

In the meantime, everything else here at Stupefying Stories and Rampant Loon Press is taking a back seat to the medical situation and I’m running on about 4~5 hours of sleep daily, so here’s a picture of a cat.

—Bruce Bethke

Monday, August 16, 2021

Talking Shop: Eric's Writing Challenge Updates 7 and 8

Okay, so I missed last's week writing challenge update. I meant to do it. Planned to do it, but things just got away from me. 

So let's start with the writing challenge. To date, I've written approximately 42,300 words toward the writing challenge. That puts me around 48% of the way toward the 87500 goal. I wrote approximately 2700 words last week and around the same the week before. I basically hit the bare minimum goal of 500 words around 5 days each week. 

On to Rinn's Run:

Total Words: 50,600 

Chapters Completed: 27

Percentage Complete (theoretical): Approximately 51%

The last two weeks were challenging for me. Two weeks ago, I was getting battered by daily migraines. I have no idea why. I have a hypothesis that maybe I have an undiagnosed allergy to something that came into season around then, but it's entirely speculative and wholly unsupported. Yes, there are prescription medications for migraines. Yes, I have a prescription. Fun fact, you're not supposed to take it more than a certain number of times in any given week. By day three, you've generally hit that limit. There are reasons for that that I won't bore you with. More fun facts, looking a computer screen while having a migraine feels a lot like what I imagine shoving a hot needle into your eye feels like. Needless to say, it was not a productive week for me on any front. Hitting that baseline of 500 words on five days was nothing short of miraculous.

This last week was challenging because I had to try to make up for all that paying work I didn't get done the week before. Plus, I lost around two days in the middle of the week from vaccination fallout. I don't regret the vaccination, but I loathe that lost time. Hitting that baseline of 500 words five out of seven days was simply the best I could manage. 

Despite the low word count, I don't see this as a failure. Despite all those migraines, days lost to feeling crappy post-vaccination, needing to make up paying work, I'm still 5400 words closer to a finished novel. I'm still 5400 words closer to the writing challenge goal. It's not the level of progress I wanted or aspired to, but it's progress nonetheless. That is the real point of the writing challenge. It's not to smash word count goals every single week, but to make incremental progress no matter what. So, I'm taking my 5400 words and being happy about them.

 _______________________________________________

Eric Dontigney is the author of the highly regarded novel, THE MIDNIGHT GROUND, as well as the Samuel Branch urban fantasy series and the short story collection, Contingency Jones: The Complete Season One. Raised in Western New York, he currently resides near Dayton, OH. You can find him haunting obscure sections of libraries, in Chinese restaurants or occasionally online at ericdontigney.com.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Status Update - 8/11/21

 


Another day, another hospital, another outpatient procedure that's going to take all day; another eight hours of hurry up and wait. Accordingly, comms will be spotty today. Picking the pic of the P.O.'d cat in the pink bunny suit because I need an illo, so why not this one? 

-brb

Friday, August 6, 2021

A View from the Geek: Masters of the Universe: Revelation - Swing and a Miss • By Eric Dontigney

So, let’s talk about that Masters of the Universe: Revelation. I’ve steered clear of it so far because there has been what is becoming standard issue polarization around the subject. On one side are hard-core purists who hate it. On the other side are people who adore it. Unfortunately, those battle lines also seem to “shockingly” correspond with two all-too-familiar demographics of the speculative fiction community. The hard-core haters either are or are being painted as the same misogynistic d-bags who drove the Gamergate controversy. The adoring fans are or are being painted as the progressive wing of the community.

There is an element of truth to those characterizations. It is, however, a pretty incomplete picture of the reactions to Masters of the Universe. If you consider the basic distribution on a bell curve, those two camps make up the most vocal 5% of the community. Everyone else is somewhere inside that middle 95%. So, yes, it’s possible to dislike Masters of the Universe and not be a misogynistic, repressive douche who thinks that anything with a female lead is crap. I know, because I’m one of them. I intensely disliked Masters of the Universe and it had nothing to do with He-Man not being in the lead for most of the first five episodes. It had a lot to do with the stupidity of how they wrote Teela in the first episode.

One of the major plot points of the first episodes is Teela’s promotion to Man-at-Arms. In the context of the He-Man universe, she’s being promoted into an officer’s rank in their standing army. Her father gives this little monologue about how proud he is of her and how she’s become this master strategist and warrior. All of that implies that before that promotion, Teela was essentially a foot soldier. Maybe she was some kind of non-commissioned officer like a sergeant, but a foot soldier, nonetheless.

Then, there is Prince Adam, the sometimes hero known as He-Man. You could argue that He-Man’s actual identity is probably the single greatest military and national secret in all of the lands. There are also very good reasons to keep that secret as tightly held as possible. While He-Man might prove all but unassailable, Prince Adam is far more vulnerable. Just as importantly, he likely spends far more time as the vulnerable Prince Adam while he eats, sleeps, attends state functions, and interacts with citizens. Adam’s safety is precarious at the best of times.  

By keeping the circle of people in the know very small, Adam has deployed a basic operational security measure called compartmentalization. That information was kept to the people who, in the INFOSEC parlance, had a “need to know.” If there’s anything that soldiers understand, it’s that not all information is available to all parties. They’re trained on information security. They get the importance of “need to know.” You can’t disclose to the enemy -- a terrifying, skull-headed death mage, in this case -- what you don’t know.

That brings us back to Teela, the professional soldier, the supposed master strategist. What happens when she finds out that Adam is also He-Man? She loses her shit because the people around her were “lying.” Despite the fact that she’d been a foot soldier up until literally that day, she apparently believed that she had a right to the biggest military secret in the land. A piece of information so personally dangerous to Adam that he’d issued royal commands that the information not be revealed. Information that was so dangerous that Adam kept it from his own father, someone who arguably did have both the right and need to know. Then, she rage-quits from the army.

A real master strategist and professional soldier would have grasped how desperately vulnerable Prince Adam was whenever he was out of his He-Man persona. They would have grasped why that information was held back from a foot soldier. They would have understood the absolutely critical need for compartmentalization and information security around this topic. They wouldn’t have to necessarily like it, but they would get it. This wasn’t some secret that Adam was keeping about a crush or a surprise party. This was information that could easily cost him his life. Plain and simple, Teela didn’t need to know. If she was half as competent as her father thought she was, she would have accepted it.

Instead, she whined and quit her job. It made her look entitled, petulant, and stupid. To put it in context, it’d be like a corporal screaming at a general for not sharing details about a classified mission that launched from the base the corporal happened to be stationed at. After seeing that, I didn’t really care what Teela did next. Why? The odds were good that if they wrote her that way in the first episode, we could expect more of the same in the episodes that followed. Big shocker, that’s exactly what we got. That certainly isn’t the only problem with the episodes to date, but it is an example of the kind of terrible writing that marked the show.

 _______________________________________________

Eric Dontigney is the author of the highly regarded novel, THE MIDNIGHT GROUND, as well as the Samuel Branch urban fantasy series and the short story collection, Contingency Jones: The Complete Season One. Raised in Western New York, he currently resides near Dayton, OH. You can find him haunting obscure sections of libraries, in Chinese restaurants or occasionally online at ericdontigney.com.

 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

“Loki, Sipping Mai Tais on Daytona Beach” • by Duke Kimball

 

The God of Thunder picks a wedgie. Loki grins. “I think you look quite fetching in Bermuda shorts.”

“It’s too hot.” Thor wipes his sunburned brow and continues sweeping the metal detector. “Why you’d bury Mjölnir in this cursed land…” Another beep. Another bottlecap. Another curse.

“It’s called Florida.” Loki takes a sip. “A joke. We needed a break from the snow.”

“I like snow.” Thor picks another wedgie.

“It could be worse.” Loki motions to Odin’s hairy belly, flopped over his Speedo.

One-Eye waves, then turns away, revealing the Allfather’s thong.

Thor winces. “Cursed land.”

And the trickster laughs.

¤     ¤     ¤

 


Duke Kimball
is a literary boat captain who doesn’t currently own a boat. His work has appeared in places like Mysterion, Star*Line, and Strange Horizons. He lives in Lansing, Michigan, with his wife Michelle and a dog named after a cheese factory.

_____________________________

 


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Of Karen and Cancer: An Update

 

…and there went July. In hindsight, it’s clear now that Karen was a lot sicker than we thought for a lot longer than we thought. Not to bury the lede, she’s home from the hospital now and resting comfortably, but it was a much closer call than we realized. It seems now that she began to get sick sometime in the first week of July, and by the evening of July 15 she was really out of it. Not only was she in general seeing things that weren’t there and speaking to people who were invisible to the rest of us, but specifically, she was seeing Baron Samedi following her around everywhere she went. 

Thankfully, though, she was not seeing the “real” Baron Samedi, the authentically terrifying Haitian voodoo loa of the dead, but even more specifically she was seeing Baron Samedi as played by Geoffrey Holder in the Roger Moore James Bond film, Live and Let Die. So apparently the Baron was quite upset with her, because while he was trying to frighten her, she wanted to talk about his stage and film career. Did you know that Geoffrey Holder was a principal dancer for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and won two Tony Awards for his work on the original stage version of The Wiz? Neither did I.

It must be frustrating to be a loa these days. 

Anyway, it took her a week in the hospital just for the doctors to figure out what was happening to her, and then another week for them to figure out how to treat it. Apparently the infectious disease specialists were quite excited. It’d been a while since they’d had a good mysterious infection and the chance to play House. Or perhaps Chicago Med.

Then, once they had a treatment that was confirmed to be working, they gave me a crash course in how to prepare and deliver IV antibiotic infusions and sent her home. She was discharged exactly a week ago. Since then…

Honestly, it’s been like bringing home a newborn. I monitor; I medicate; every eight hours I prepare and deliver another infusion. She’s going to be on that regimen for another three weeks. Fortunately she has a chemotherapy port, so basically it’s a matter of cleaning and connecting the plumbing and then pumping in the next round of drugs. 

Last night I got nearly six hours of contiguous sleep. It’s the most I’ve had in a week.

The good news is, we now know what the problem is and have a treatment plan that seems to be working. The bad news is… What the heck was I doing before this whole thing started? Oh yeah, publishing stories. I really need to get back to doing that. 

Starting tomorrow.

See you then,
~brb

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Talking Shop: Eric's Writing Challenge Update 6

I had a migraine for most of yesterday, so the always highly-anticipated update on my writing challenge comes a day late this week. 

First up, the writing challenge. Thus far, I've written approximately 36,900 words for the writing challenge. That puts me approximately 42% of the way toward the 87,500 word goal for the rest of the year. I wrote approximately 9000 words last week. Broken down across 7 days, that works out to just shy of 1300 words per day. 

On to Rinn's Run: 

Total words: 45,200

Chapters completed: 25

Percentage complete (theoretical): 45%

What can I say? Consistency pays off. There is also an element of discipline involved. There were a few days when it was late and working on the novel felt like a chore. I did it anyway. On one of those days, I think I only wrote about 700 words. The other days, I obviously wrote more. 

I generally find that just making myself start when I'm tired or irritable is the biggest challenge. Those are the moments when you have to dig deep, as the fitness people like to say. You decide that getting the words on the page matters, put yourself in front of the computer, and write. Pro tip: the same principles apply to getting exercise. I've also found that, once I start, it's usually not too bad unless I'm utterly exhausted (see above: 700 words). 

Therein lies the benefit of having an easily achievable minimum number of words. Knowing I'm only on the hook for writing 500 words makes it an easier sell. It's low-hanging fruit, so to speak. For me, that often means just getting through one scene. Being able to say things like that to yourself helps break down that resistance you likely feel toward doing anything when you're tired or out of sorts. So, I say unto thee, oh writers of the world, go forth and write the words!

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Eric Dontigney is the author of the highly regarded novel, THE MIDNIGHT GROUND, as well as the Samuel Branch urban fantasy series and the short story collection, Contingency Jones: The Complete Season One. Raised in Western New York, he currently resides near Dayton, OH. You can find him haunting obscure sections of libraries, in Chinese restaurants or occasionally online at ericdontigney.com.