Jarvis Cocker versus Tex Avery over the underage corpse of Owl Jolson:
This is what you get because I’m writing literature, motherfuckers, and that’s tougher than writing SF/zombie pulp and ten times scarier. It’s (in the future-tense) a couple hundred thousand words of epic poetry disguised as prose because even Snorri “Snorey” Sturluson figured out no one wanted to read really really long works of poetry back in the early thirteenth century, and prose is tough to write when you’re thinking poetry. It’s also scary because there’s nothing scarier than the inside of the head of a perfectly sane person who thinks nothing at all like how you think. Times ten. Or however many characters you think is a good number to have in a decent story, whether its prose or poetry.
And yeah, this’ll sell about as well as Lee Press-On® Merkins in Tokyo’s Red Light District. And that’s your fault.
Also, here’s a monkey hugging a pigeon:
And don’t forget your anti-zombie gear and training for this lovely real-life Night of the Comet scenario.
The Locnar has landed.
Additionally: “Where the hell is my flying car?” … in turn-of-the-[20th-]century French postcards.
More gems where this came from.
First things first. There has never been a ‘war hero’. There have been heroes who have been sent to war and have shown themselves to be heroes there. These people would have been heroes as fire fighters or police or bus drivers or teachers or insurance salesmen or accountants. Heroism is wasted if the only place you ever see it is in war. The first people who will ever tell you that are soldiers.
Whether Petraeus is any kind of hero is a different argument. Heroes will risk their own wellbeing to save others. He’s certainly risking his career and credibility to save Bush’s occupation plan, so I’m sure Bush considers him a hero. Having more US soldiers in Iraq shooting at other people who are carrying guns, I admit the possibility, may make it more likely that soldiers already stationed there are at less risk, if only by increasing the number in the herd and averaging the risk among them. Removing all of the soldiers, however will reduce the risk to all of them. So I doubt the majority of the soldiers think of him as a hero—unless Petraeus has ever shown up on the battlefield personally, guns blazing, rescuing the wounded like a motherfucker. There are possibly ten or fifteen remaining Iraqis who seriously do not want the US soldiers to depart because they would likely die, so I suspect Petraeus is a hero to them.
Then there’s the blatherer’s main argument. He believes a news outlet’s first obligation is to making a profit for their investors by selling ad space profitably, not by giving deep discounts to a “deep pocketed liberal advocacy group”.
This is me, responding to the blatherer’s main argument:
One: He makes no measure of the depth of MoveOn.org’s pockets. Pocket depth is a very relative measure. I am a lobbyist. My pockets are microns deep at best. George Soros has pretty deep pockets indeed. How deep do pockets need to be before $100,000 isn’t a serious purse-lightening?
Two: There is no consideration of whether someone else’s pockets were involved. Did someone Soros-like cover the short $100,000?
Three: Executives in charge of selling ad space agreed so much with the ad that they decided to write off $100,000 in income? This appears to be the blatherer’s combination assumption and conclusion: that, potentially, the New York Times offers discounts to political advocacy organizations that are aligned with the suspected liberal bias written into the corporation’s by-laws. And that’s bad for business? Oh, come on.
Not that anti-war statements are any longer necessarily strictly liberal. Current pro-war Republicans in office have dropped to somewhat less than fifty percent.
Dear blatherer, according to your arguments, the best business a news outlet can be in is the one in which it sells every square inch of space to the highest bidder. However, many feel that news outlets have different duties that, if they were not fulfilled, would make the newspaper worthless to potential viewers of that sold space, and that would likely kill profits by dropping circulation and ad rates. Besides, if you know that the presence of that controversial ad alone will generate more than 50,000 extra sales at $2.00 apiece and get extra load/views of your online advertising, then you know you’re making the discount back AND ALSO boosting your circulation numbers—which means you can hike your ad rates. And someone paid them to run it.
In fact, I am thinking of offering to the New York Times a full-page-sized color Xerox copy of my naked pink ass (with a magic marker version of Spider Jerusalem’s “Kiss Here” tattoo applied) and a dollar to pay for the space, since I know the outrage-spurred increase in sales and circulation would more than cover the $167,156 shortfall in their standard political advocacy page-rate.
NPR (for example) exists so that we may be guaranteed of at least one news outlet that doesn’t have to be tempted to modify the content in order to satisfy pressure from investors. While they do get pressure from time to time to prove that they actually have an audience and that public funds aren’t just being converted into photons being beamed into space, they would not likely be tempted to (if it were somehow possible) air a xeroxed copy of my naked ass. Unless they could also justify that it was news: Amateur Opinion Journalist Willing To Show Naked Ass To Demonstrate Irreverence And Make A Point, Film At Eleven
In fact, Robert Reich, during an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, had some interesting things to say about how people like the blatherer come to exist—people who whine about how corporations show a lack of civic duty to (for instance) produce unbiased news and simultaneously whine about how dividends are down because those corporations aren’t screwing everyone they can for a buck. These are people who vote for minimum wage increases while simultaneously rewarding the fuck out of CEOs who cut the bottom line by firing increasingly expensive hourly workers in the US in favor of cheap overseas manufacturers. Heart in the right place, maybe, but dollars definitely in the wrong place.
I just wasn’t prepared to meet someone schizophrenic enough to try to put both whines in the same sentence.
- What Do They Want, part 2 (in the doomed-to-repeat-it category)
- When Swedish Beavers Attack The Paris Review
- Everything is okay — In the long term. On the whole. On average.
- First Letter from Heck now available
- Happy Loyalty Day. Here’s my goddamn flag.
- To think I was actually alive in 1970.
- Good news — if we can make it stick.
- MORE THAN THE ENTIRE GDP OF THE USA WAS GIVEN AWAY, LITERALLY, IN SECRET
Do you create a box and stuff into it all the knowledge and ability to think that you can put your hands on? Please note. This can take a while. Consider the fact that you’re the smartest thing you know how to make3 and making more of you won’t particularly do the trick.4
As nanotech and computing improve the brain-in-a-box approach gets more feasible, but it’s still a ways off. Maybe later.
Or there’s the way that single-celled creatures do it. Consider: a single neuron is pretty fuckin’ clever, taking messages and passing them along, opening new lines of communication, letting disused ones die off, and, at least early enough on in the life-cycle, knowing how to make more neurons from scratch. Hell, we know how to do all of that. Even those of us kicking about at room-temperature, IQ-wise.
But how would a neuron go about building a honkin’ hyuuge brain? Would it really make a new neuron and put all the DNA of every known neuron that has ever existed in it? Would it build a sack with really really tiny neurons in it, all working in concert, faster than his own chemistry allows himself to work, so that it’ll be really fast and really clever about how to pass along excitatory and inhibitory messages and maybe predict the need for growing and dropping dendrites?
We already have a superbrain.5 Each individual element is largely self-maintaining. They can reach inside each other’s heads, so to speak, and twiddle the knobs to excite or inhibit action, just like neurons, and then they pass the messages along. In case you missed it, those elements are us.
If you think of all the information in the world as chains of molecules and proteins and such, each of us is a cell with little snippets of the Big Picture floating around, just like our cells have snippets of DNA/RNA floating around, along with messages from one another. Some of those snippets are more useful and more accurate than others, but the Big Brain can’t tell which is better except by letting us act on what we know and seeing if we survive or not.
Stuff that works gets more copies made and passed around. Stuff that doesn’t work is eventually discarded—sometimes along with the carriers.
We sort through what we’ve collected and test bits of knowledge against other bits of knowledge and throw away the crap. People with bigger and more accurate sets of knowledge are more successful6 and out-compete the rest. The winners have at their disposal the best (functionally, anyway) picture of the Universe and how it works, either individually or collectively.
The losers have death, poverty, pestilence, war, and Reality Television.
Think you’re not part of it? By existing, you are. You breathe in and out, idle until it’s time to do something. You store replica copies of all of the basics, plus some extraneous crap that maybe you’ll never need, but if anyone ever asks you for it, you have it ready. You pass along stuff that people ask about, you pick up more stuff that fits nicely with the bits you already have, and a few of you make more of you to fill up with all this stuff so you don’t have to feel guilty when you die. In the meanwhile, you masturbate with music and sports and movies and books and booze and drugs and7 with each other.
And that’s good. Go Team You. Don’t die. You’re a repository for the backups for when the more adventurous explorers get killed testing what they know. Stay fat and happy and lazy, because that puts you as far away from death as possible. Backups should stay secure. But beware of boredom, because that makes you adventurous. Blessed are the motherfuckin’ meek.
The brain could probably get by on fewer of us, but redundancy is good for survival. The more the merrier. Seriously. Eventually we’ll have enough resources for more than one superbrain, and then we’ll split/bud/throw out runners/etc. Until then, we’re all we have.
1 Benefit of the doubt. I have my opinions, but I don’t have a vote on the review board.
2 No accounting for tastes. I prefer my intended slaves to be less intelligent than I am, for instance.
3 Or so you assume, since odds are you’re too dim to comprehend any superintelligence that may have been trying to converse with you up to now.
4 Because you know for damn sure you wouldn’t do anything you say without asking stupid questions and putting in your two cents every damn minute.
5 In terms of capacity, if not exactly capability. It could be faster and more intelligent, but I’m sure it will learn.
6 In terms of survival—the only true measure of lasting success.
7 Stretching the definition of masturbate a bit, but only a bit.
Last night when I staggered home from work (around nine-ish) I retrieved from my beleaguered mailbox a contributor’s copy of The Dead Walk Again!, and, may I say, it had–has–a pretty spiffy heft in my hand.
Regardless of reeling under one of the worst migraines I’ve had since my legendary days working at Coca-Cola’s legendary world headquarters (with the legendary migraines I had therein) across the street from my alma mater, The North Avenue Trade School, after spending a happy half-hour gnawing through the sealed and nearly indestructible plastic padded packaging I flipped immediately to the longer of my two stories in the anthology and, as soon as my widdle eyes could focus in concert on pages in the same spatio-temporal dimensions, I set about to reading. Because, you know, I forgot how it ended. It’s true.
There were a couple of hinky sentences I wish I hadn’t perpetrated, but other than that, I realized, I had written a damned fine story. Or maybe it was just the drugs. I’ll read it again and if it turns out that it was the drugs, I’ll let you know what I was on so you can enjoy a damned fine story. The other one wasn’t bad either. And now I get a chance to see the rest of the stories that are keeping it company between the covers. And, once you buy it, so do you.
The other book I’m reading now claims to be the slipstream anthology, Feeling Very Strange. It’s been out for a while. A year, maybe? The stories in it, except for one, have been out for longer, as it is mostly reprints. The book enters the genre fray as something that compiles a set of stories that would not ordinarily occur together in a genre anthology and attempts to reclassify them into their own category, which is labeled with that “slipstream” word above.
It seems Bruce Sterling started a lot of arguments by coining the word and applying the definition that he did. I dunno. While I can see the applicability of the word as he defines it, I don’t see that it helps much except in creating Amazon recommendation lists. Which are fine things, don’t get me wrong. In fact, they’re often much better than genre classifications.
And that’s part of the problem. Genre classifications were made by marketers and publishers, not by writers or readers. Once you’re known for writing in a particular genre, you have a tough time of it writing in any other. And that’s very sad. Reveiwers are reduced to using words like “breakout”, which pretty much sums things up. When I sit down to write (unless it’s a commissioned piece) I have very little idea what genre it will eventually be classified as. And I don’t particularly care. Except I would like my potential readers to be able to find it.
To paraphrase Sterling’s definition, slipstream stories are the ones that reside somewhere off the beaten “mainstream” track, potentially in the direction of magical realism or science fiction or horror or fantasy or some such but it doesn’t really matter too much whether or which, which leave one with a particular phrase in mind when one finishes reading, which is: “Well. That was fucked up.”
To my mind that’s a classification system more frequently associated with music. What mood does this inspire? How does this leave you feeling? The answers unify musical genres, not books. Books are grouped by subject matter as if they were all nonfiction. How else would you ever have Azimov and Zelazny on the same (admittedly necessarily long) shelf? These books all have space stuff in them. Some people like space stuff, right? Let’s put them next to each other. Not so helpful to anyone but a librarian–or someone who can think like a librarian in a pinch. You know. Literate people.
But here’s the kicker. Where did I find this slipstream anthology? At a Borders. In the anthology section at the tail end of the Science Fiction/Fantasy ghetto. And there’s where this discussion will always end–as long as books are classified by publishers instead of readers.
See, I write fucked up shit. Sometimes that’s even nonfiction, not just genre pulp and/or fictional works of valid literary merit. You will never find a “fucked up shit” section in your local Borders or Barnes & Noble. Not until the browsing displays are all virtual and the shelves rearrange themselves according to the fMRI scan of the prospective customer. Not until “fucked up shit” is a Library of Congress Subject Heading. Which certainly ought to be the case. Maybe when I’m President.
Anyway, now it’s audience participation time. None of that stupid poll crap. You’re going to have to click the “leave a comment” link and leave a comment. What’s the most “well–that was fucked up” story you’ve ever read? Any work, even TV, movie, radio, music lyrics, qualifies. Out with it. Consider it a recommendation.
- Zombiesque: 5-out-of-5 at Daemon’s Books!
- Fish Drink Like Us is available for order…
- DAW’s Zombiesque anthology, featuring “The Confession”, available today!
- Again and again and again. It’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
- The Dead Walk Again! is now available for order!
- Friend and colleague Adam P. Knave launches another one…
- Finch, by Jeff VanderMeer
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This One Time, 120
This one time it was raining down fire and brimstone from the sky and ash plumes ascended to the heavens like the pointless prayers of the damned — but that’s nothing new. This place we call home has a double-armload of erupting volcanoes on any given day. If that’s all it takes for us to […]
- This One Time, 120
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