Monthly Archive: November 2008

Alaska: Land of Bearded Mean and Country Music

Jeff & The Duchess’ Eating Tour of Alaska

by Jeff Somers

ONCE again I looked around groggily and found myself on an airplane, packed into a tiny little seat, sweating and needing to urinate desperately. I turned my head and sure enough, there was my wife, The Duchess, reading a tabloid magazine. She glanced up and smiled at me.

“Only eight hours to go!”

I stared in horror at her. “You drugged me again!”

She shrugged, looking back down at her magazine. “It’s the only way to get you on the plane. Otherwise you cause such a scene, what with the crying and the begging and the sudden, mysterious loss of your pants.”

She sighed. “And you just missed the beverage cart.”

It had all started months before, when The Duchess had reminded me that her birthday was coming up. This is always dangerous territory, because a certain amount of pomp is required for The Duchess’ birthdays, and any perceived lack of pomp or enthusiasm for pomp is punished, immediately and severely. Generally speaking, The Duchess likes to celebrate each birthday in a different exotic locale, the farther away the better. Now, since I rank traveling to exotic locales on the same level as having oral surgery, I’m always falling short on the enthusiasm part. This is dangerous, because The Duchess has a keen eye for lack of enthusiasm. Under her steely gaze I often get nervous and made terrible, terrible mistakes. Like suggesting that we travel to Alaska to celebrate her birthday because I’m too stupid to realize that Alaska is further away from New York than just about everywhere else in the universe.


Milled, Swilled

Stepped out with The Duchess to the SFWA Reception (the Mill & Swill, as I hear it’s known) in Manhattan last night. Joined there by the UberAgent, who introduced me around to some folks. I always feel so awkward at these things – it’s like when you’re introduced as a writer, folks want you to be witty and entertaining and possibly pants-wetting drunk. Or at least that’s what I always suspect. A lot of that may be my own issues, I’ll grant you, but I still feel like this happens over and over again:

UberAgent: This is Jeff Somers, author of The Electric Church.

Folks: Ooh, nice to meet you.

Me: Uh. . .yes. . .hi. . .Electric. . .Something. <Jeff’s pants fall down with a comical wilting sound>

Again, maybe my own issues here.

Also met some of my Corporate Masters. As Corporate Masters go, the folks at Orbit are Good People, which, translated, means they like an open bar as much as I do.

We didn’t stay too long, though; aside from my belief that a little Jeff in Public goes a long way, we were also exhausted from a weekend trip. The Mill & Swill is always fun, though, and I think we’ll make an effort to show up every year, if only so I can force the UberAgent to buy me an $11 Glenlivet.

Blog Love Omega Glee

Old zine pal Wred Fright is serializing his latest novel, Blog Love Omega Glee, on his blog (naturally enough – when discussing the book to any degree you tend to use the word ‘blog’ so much it becomes one of those times when the word stops meaning anything to your ears as you repeat it endlessly.

Wred describes it thus: “Two bloggers fall in love while the world falls apart in Blog Love Omega Glee, a comedic novel set in 2012, with each chapter taking place on a different day counting down to the end of the Mayan calendar on 21 December 2012, when the world either ends or continues on much the same as before.”

I read Wred’s Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus when it came out a few years ago and enjoyed it. So I’m gonna tackle his new one (though it will take time as I’m reading about 600 things right now, not to mention writing a zine, several columns, and various other things) and you should too. Heck, it’s free!


What Kind of Writer Are You, Anyway?
by Jeff Somers

Lord knows my public persona is a carefully constructed straw man made of assumptions, half-truths, ominously oblique remarks, and lurid facial expressions, which is to say there ain’t much meat to it. When confronted, in public, with a careful questioner who begins tugging gently at the loose threads that sprout from my opinions, declarations, and explanations, I can only run in fear and cower behind alcohol, meaning I pretend to pass out and refuse to be brought back to consciousness until the offending person is gone. It doesn’t help, certainly, that I am fact-challenged in most of my positions. I prefer to answer probing questions with brisk falsehoods, and hit the ground running hoping that no one bothers to follow up and discover how much bullshit is inside this wicker man.

This really only becomes a problem when I meet new people who previously have known me only through this zine. My established friends are used to my bullshit, and don’t even bother asking me questions any more – the common sense ones (“Would you like another beer?”) have obvious answers (“Yes, and be quick about it, damn your eyes!”) and the ridiculous ones never occur to them. One of the ridiculous questions which always occurs to strangers, however, is “How do you write?” or one of its tributary questions, like “How do you decide what to write about?” or “How much of your real life is in your writing?”

These questions are ridiculous because, to be honest, I can’t imagine their value to another human being. Write your way, baby, and don’t worry about mine.



Well, no one asked for this, but lord knows I have never let that stop me: I am posting here 3 MP3s of me playin’ guitar. They’re more or less songs, I guess, written by me. In the sense that they are not, as far as I know, songs you would recognize as anyone else’s, though I am sure I have stolen all the riffs and arrangements from someone else without realizing it. Please do not identify where I stole everything from, damn you.




Anyway, here’s how I made these snogs, in case you’re interested:

  1. An Ibanez ArtCore AF75 hollow-body electric guitar, plugged into
  2. A Fender Frontman Reverb Amp, used as a pre-amp, plugged into
  3. A Kubuntu PC.
  4. Using Hammerhead Rhythm Station (run via Wine) for drums
  5. Recorded and mixed using Audacity.

DISCLAIMER: Babe, I know these aren’t great music. I know the mixing is terrible and there’s distortion. I know I hit some sour notes and my grasp of Key is, um, fragile. These are posted for fun, and because I’ve been taking guitar lessons for a while now and I like to make things.

That said, these are Copyright (C) 2008, me, bubba. Steal them and I will ineffectually insult you over the Internets.

Brutarian #52 Will Eat Your Brain

Brutarian #52

Brutarian #52

Well, I just got my copy of Brutarian #52, which, as usual, contains my column called “The Inner Swine Guide to Ignorance” and is a must-read for hipsters and cynics everywhere. I’m quite popular, you know. It isn’t obvious, but I am. You should send Dom Salemi some cash and get a subscription:

$3.95/issue, Dom Salemi, 9405 Ulysses Court, Burke, VA 22015.


How Many “Simpsons” References Can I String Together in One Essay, Anyway?

Pop Culture in Fiction
by Jeff Somers

FANS, I don’t claim to know much of anything at all. I know a few things: I know that Warren Spahn is the winningnest lefthanded pitcher in Major League Baseball history. I know that Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that one cannot simultaneously know both the position and the momentum of a given object to arbitrary precision. I know that irony is a form of speech in which the real meaning is concealed or contradicted by the words used. I know how to tie a Square Knot. I can write a Hello World program in BASIC. I know what a Fnord is. See, I know a few things, but nothing, really, of any importance, and nothing, really, that would convince you that I am qualified in any way to write intelligently about Serious Writing Topics. The fact that I’ve published a few literary gems doesn’t mean much, if you consider some of the crap that gets published these days-not just published, but the crap that wins awards. I don’t have any advanced degrees and I’ve rarely won an argument, usually descending to physical threats after about five minutes of stuttering impotence; I haven’t published any scholarly papers on the subject of writing and I’m not making millions through my art. So, there’s really no reason to pay any attention to me, is there? On this subject, I mean. If you need an essay on why a six-pack is good breakfast fare, I’m your man.

Of course, you’ve already acquired this zine. That doesn’t say much for your intellectual abilities, bubba. So I can assume you’re not too picky about what you read, and plunge straight ahead into the subject at hand, which, in case the introductory paragraph wasn’t very clear on the matter, is the usage of Pop Culture references in fiction, and why I think they’re bad, and avoid them.


Inner Swine Redux


As some of you are aware, I publish a little zine called The Inner Swine. Have published it, in fact, since 1995, just about 50 issues worth. I write about just about everything in that zine, and mail it out to the world four times a year. Hell, some misguided folks actually pay me for a subscription! I know – crazy.

Anyway, all of the past issues of the zine are on the web site, but I’m going to start re-posting old essays from it here on a regular basis. They’ll be more or less randomly selected, with a concentration on writing and publishing-oriented ponderings. I’d be very interested to know what y’all think about them.


Creating, Managing, and Getting Lost in My Own Damn ARG

LIKE MOST authors, I endured years and years of people giving me The Look—you know, that mixture of pity and amusement that looks like constipation—whenever I mentioned being a writer. The Look, loosely translated, means gosh, is that why you look so malnourished and scurvyish, because of the poverty and the alcoholism? and wasn’t ever really all that far from the truth, at least up until 1997, when I finally discovered that whiskey does not, in fact, contain vitamins.

So, when I sold my second novel, The Electric Church, I had a rush of enthusiasm which inspired me to take a shower, cut my long, tangled hair, and wear pants for the first time in years. I also started creating a web site long before the book had even been copy-edited. I had the idea to create a ‘real’ web site for the eponymous church, and embedded some simple codes and puzzles into the pages using every old-fashioned HTML and javascript trick I could think of. When my publisher saw the final result, they decided it beat trying to come up with a web site themselves and hired a professional designer to create a nifty, candy-colored Flash site for it. They also suggested we take the puzzles to the next level and create a modest Alternate Reality Game (ARG) to make the site fun and promote the book.