Zombiesque: front coverMy creepiest story yet, “The Confession”, is headed your way!

This story hasn’t seen the light of day yet — and, depending on your collective reading habits, may never, technically — but for this one I recommend daylight reading, especially for those of you who haven’t built up too much of a tolerance. And you should realize this is me saying this.

“The Confession” is a piece I wrote specifically for the DAW anthology Zombiesque, which showcases sixteen different takes on what daily lif– er, existence is like for this particular taxonomic branch of undead post-biology, all from the point of view of the “differently alive”. Zombiesque is edited by Stephen L. Antczak, James C. Bassett, and Martin H. Greenberg, and features stories from Nancy A. Collins, Charles Pinion, Tim Waggoner, Richard Lee Byers, Robert Sommers, Seanan McGuire, G. K. Hayes, Jim C. Hines, Sean Taylor, Jean Rabe, Gregry Nicoll, Del Stone, Jr., S. Boyd Taylor, Laszlo Xalieri (hey, that’s me!), Nancy Holder, and Wendy Webb.

Zombiesque isn’t on the shelves yet but is available for preorders from Amazon. The release date is three months away. It’s a shame it’s not out for Halloween, but at least it should be there by the time some other critter onslaught pokes their collective heads up out of their holes in the ground — making Zombiesque the best Groundhog Day present ever! Unless it gets pushed back to Easter, which should also work, thematically….

Here’s a look at the back cover blurb in case that helps tip the balance:

Zombiesque: back cover

Also note it’s legit enough to have an ISBN number and everything. And I have to say $8 is not bad at all these days for 320 pages of completely ownable and transferrable DRM-free literary goodness. That’s $.50 a story, which is totally non-sucky.

Pass the word!


October 31, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

Let’s try this on for size:

The devil’s pitchfork is not the affectation of a dandy; the devil is a working gentleman with the background of a farmer.

Poetically true. Logically nonsense. But how does it sit in your head? Does it latch into place by its little hooks and become part of your cranial canon or does it bounce around and slide off into the junkpile?

Here’s the analysis:

The devil’s pitchfork is not the affectation of a dandy. Probably we can take that as a given. We’ve often seen imagery of a hypothetical devil with a pitchfork and pitchforks of any kind would be a bit silly as a salon accessory. I wouldn’t rule it out completely because it’s certain that someone would try it, but we can assume a certain likelihood of failure to pull it off and subsequent ridicule. Or maybe that’s just my personal sensibilities talking. These things are so subjective.

Here’s that second overpacked clause unrolled into individual assertions:

The devil has a farming background. I’m not sure this point has ever been made historically. The pitchfork may have been added on a whim to historical imagery as a convenient toasting fork for, well, toasting, but I’ve never seen a picture of the devil milking a cow or guiding a plow. For instance.

The devil is a gentleman. Arguments could be made that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so … maybe?

The devil is a working gentleman. Hardly ever an attribute ascribed to Satan, but one could assume that he understand the battle for souls is not something you can sleepwalk through. Again, maybe? It remains hard to picture a blue-collar devil.

The devil is. The toughest one yet. There are so many unobservable, unprovable things you have to swallow before this one is at all appealing to believe. And yet.

And yet.

If you believe in the devil, or at least believe that the concept of the devil is a useful metaphor for the aggregate of all evil that brews in the hearts of all people — a contagious and malignant (in the sense of cancerous, even) aggregate that sometimes seems like it has its own will and agenda — then it’s easy to expand that concept to include that of a devil farmer who knows that a good crop requires plowing and fertilizing and hard work at both ends of the season to ensure a good harvest.

Perhaps the failure is in the English language for having only one word for both kinds of truth.


October 20, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

If there was ever any soul on earth who understood what it meant to live on the edge, it was Benoit Mandelbrot.

The man’s name is synonymous with fractals, which are, for those in the know, the class of mathematical entities in which any portion of the set is substantially similar to the set as a whole. For everyone else, grab a leaf and look at it closely. Note how the angles between the veins and the proportional distances between branchings of those veins is quite similar to how the leaves are distributed on the twigs of the tree it came from, and how those twigs are arranged on the branches, and the branches on the trunk.

Fractals form at the interfaces between domains. In the case of trees, the interface is the very concrete interface between domain of tree and the domains of air and soil. Between any domains, no matter how concrete or abstract those domains, there is a fractal surface. And the math that governs the topology of that boundary is ridiculously simple — no matter how ridiculously complicated it looks.

It’s because of what I learned from Mandelbrot and his intellectual kin that I learned to watch the interfaces between things — between substances, between individuals, between groups of people, between states of being, between abstract categories — to look for that telltale stutter, the flickers, the swirling interlocking textures, the alien landscape that‘s what you get when you put any “gray area” between black and white absolutes under a microscope.

You can see it yourself when you look at the interfaces between, say, legal and illegal, between your money and the government’s money. The more complicated the rules are, the more you know someone has taken the wrong approach to describing the interface, because the math itself is simple, simple, simple. Measuring the coastline of an island, the boundary between earth and sea, by picking up and laying down a one-millimeter ruler again and again wherever the last wave ended is an exercise in gritty, freezing, salty, damp frustration. And, when you add all those millimeters up, you will get a coastline longer than the circumference of the earth. I’m not kidding about that.

When Mandelbrot made his journey from living to dead, I wonder if he remembered to eschew the millimeter-long ruler in favor of enjoying the intricate interlocking textures he discovered that certainly must describe the boundary between here and the hereafter.


October 16, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  
Today, on National Coming Out Day, I thank all my lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, intersex, and asexual friends for being vocal and inspiring. For those of use who are close to centerline heteronormatively speaking, yet are sick to the teeth of being expected to (and universally dumped on for failing to) “be the man” or “act like a lady”, you have paved the way.

I will never be tall, or athletic, or physically aggressive, or enthusiastic about sports, or dominating in my business or personal relationships, or competitive beyond the minimum requirements to elbow out for myself some breathing space and minimal survival requirements. I will never act like some testosterone-drenched, sex-crazed goon — not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I will say that if you wait around expecting me to “be the man”, to be the “screw the other guy” businessthug, the breadwinner extraordinaire, the knight in shining armor, the sweep-you-off-your-feet-and-treat-you-like-a-lady romantic … be prepared to wait forever. You will be disappointed. And I will resent you for acting disappointed with me after I’ve given you everything I can that wasn’t good enough and for not being able to puzzle out who I really am.

The only success I have ever had has been by playing to my strengths — I do not make a secret of what those are — and by sharing those strengths as generously as possible with my friends and family and business partners/coworkers in hope (but not in requirement) of similar generosity.

Without a number of the various tolerance and civil rights movements, I would be allowed no self-esteem at all, living in strife with the socially elevated adherents to the accepted standards of “manliness” and forever forced to keep fresh on strategies to avoid getting beaten up for my lunch money. There’s still a bit of that and it sucks and I hate that sometimes I feel forced to cross personal ethical lines to defend what’s mine, but I appreciate what progress there is and give credit to those who have literally given their lives to make things easier for everyone.

Thanks to you all.


October 11, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

Over the course of the last five hundred years or so an individual’s risk of death by murder — that’s all intentional untimely demises, amateur or professional, privatized or state-sponsored, individual or wholesale — has actually gone down. This is only true as an average, seeing as there are some locations (physical and/or in Hilbert space) that are much riskier than others, but it’s true nonetheless. So that’s good news.

Risk of death by negligence and neglect — this would be unintentional yet preventable untimely demises like those caused by curable diseases, starvation, exposure, unsafe housing, poisoned water/air/food supplies, etc. — also seems to be on the decline. On the whole. Averaged worldwide.

There are localized hot spots. In places where government is too weak to defend non-wealthy people from unprincipled wealthy people and/or where there is a dearth of compassionate wealthy people. But things are still better. In the long term. On the whole. On average.

So that’s good.


Look around you. You can tell there’s something a little kinky with this assessment. In the long term. On the whole. On average.

The problem is basically how averages work. In a situation like this, “average” is how you mathematically sweep the horror under the carpet of the doing-okay.

Say you have twenty people in a room, and all twenty of them together earn a million dollars per year. That’s $50,000 per head, so you might be inclined to think that everyone is basically okay. That will get you by if you budget, if you live in a reasonable neighborhood, if you don’t go nuts. Everything’s fine.

But consider. Maybe one of those people earns $600,000 all on his own. And another one earns $100k. That leaves $300k to be split among the remaining eighteen people, and by now maybe you’re suspecting that it possibly won’t be split into an even, meager $11,000 apiece.

That’s the root of the problem. It’s made quite a bit worse because we’ve created enormous machines out of paper that we’ve mistaken for people — machines that tie up an enormous proportion of resources because, for some reason, we allow them to own assets and money and real estate and, effectively, judges and councilmen and senators. Except we don’t count them as people when we do our math to calculate our precious averages. And we certainly don’t count them as people when it’s time to punish someone for the crimes of theft and bribery and murder. Somehow they simply turn invisible.

But you know, in the long term, on the whole, on average, everything is okay.


October 3, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

I’m back at work after taking September off to mostly fail to sort through some personal business and to mostly move out of my house in Atlanta. Any projects I had going before this contract thing started in late May (with included interruptions) seems so long ago that I’ve lost all momentum and motivation. In fact, motivation for anything is at an all-time low.

Which, I guess, is understandable.

I need to get back into a daily writing routine, if that’s at all possible, and maybe put together some smaller projects first so I can get my endurance back up for something larger/longer. I don’t have a plan yet, but I’ll keep working at it.

If you’ve been waiting for something worthwhile to come out of the machine here, I ask for your patience. It might be a while longer.


October 1, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else