Monthly Archive: March 2011

I Take the Haircuts I’m Given

From The Inner Swine Volume 13, Issue 2, June 2007

I knew a kid in high school who had as a personal philosophy of life something he called MEMO: Minimum Effort, Maximum Output. I doubt this was original to him; few kids in Jesuit schools have original ideas. Originality is beaten out of us like sin. What this philosophy boils down to is to put the least amount of work into anything while simultaneously exploiting the situation to its fullest. I don’t know what that kid’s up to these days—probably dead, like just about everyone else I went to school with, most of whom perished in hellish flames while demons cavorted around them, just as the priests predicted they would.

Me, my time is coming. And I have absolutely no doubt that no matter how long it takes for said time to come, when it does there will be several priests from my school days present, no matter how many decades they themselves may be dead by then. As a matter of fact, I may spend the rest of my life trying desperately to adopt enough orphans and endow enough schools for the blind to avoid eternal damnation, just so I won’t have to hear Father Browning tell me that I was evil, and that was why he had to fail me in Religion class back in 1987. And then he’d tear off my pants with some sort of trick magician’s move and paddle my ass for the lord.

Not that anything like that happened in my Jesuit high school. Mostly, there was emotional abuse. And some light attempted cult brainwashing.

Anyway, over the years I’ve adopted MEMO and adjusted it for my own personality, mainly by lopping off the last two letters, leaving me with a simple guide for the rest of my life: Minimum effort. It’s short and easy to remember, and it really is the easiest way to the simple life, because it immediately lops off entire categories of action and effort. If you’re seeking a simple and uncomplicated existence, after all, you can’t necessarily put much effort into things, because effort spawns complexity—you have to seek out resources, marshal those resources, organize things, and then put the work in—any one of those stages can produce unwanted complexity in your life. The devil, after all, is in the details.

As an example, let us examine the disastrous nature of my haircuts.


Eight Albums for Just a Penny

This is an essay from the Winter 2010 Issue of my zine, The Inner Swine, for no particular reason.

From the Columbia Record & Tape Club to Amazon MP3s: My Musical Consumption History

PIGS, my first brush with what I’ll term Pop Music Snobbery Humiliation came in grade school. I was never a particularly hip cat, peeps; when I was very young I was wiry and quick and dreamed of athletic prowess, but something went wrong with me genetically as I got older and by the time I was ten or eleven years old or so I was a pudgy glasses-wearing nerd, and I drifted myopically through my days without too many worries. Generally, I was a happy kid living in my own little world. I had a few friends and I did well in school, and had few complaints.

There were, of course, a few bullies. There always are. I didn’t have a terrible time of it, but there were a few incidents. I don’t lay awake at night tortured by my experiences or anything, but there was one kid who was in my grade who occasionally liked to torment me, but usually there were juicier targets for him and I sort of coasted by in the usually rhythms of being almost-cool to being almost-outcast depending on the prevailing winds of grammar school. By the time I graduated to High School I was almost nostalgic for my grammar school, so obviously I didn’t have a Carrie-esque experience, but that one kid still irritates me in my memories to this day. It’s not like he beat me up or ever did anything particularly terrible, it was just that he sensed I was kind of not paying attention to the things that made you cool and liked to knock me around with my own lameness once in a while.

One of these moments was when everyone was suddenly discovering pop music and choosing their sides; I can remember one girl had a birthday party in class (we used to do that—every kid got a birthday in class; after three o’clock or something we’d move the desks out of the way, they’d bring in cake and soda, and we’d spend the last hour or two of the day having fun) and brought in some records to play. I’d never heard any of it, obscure things like “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John or “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats—you know, minor hits I couldn’t be expected to be familiar with.

The kid who picked on me sometimes positioned himself as a heavy metal guy, naturally, and declared that Van Halen and Led Zeppelin were the greatest bands in the universe. I’d never heard of either. How is this possible in the early 1980s? You have to have a powerfully foggy brain, like mine. You have no idea how easily I can ignore things. No idea. Anyway, one day he demanded to know what my favorite band was. It was one of those grammar-school moments when you sensed that history had paused to make note of your response, and it would follow you—probably on your permanent record—forever. I didn’t actually have a favorite band, and I didn’t own any albums of my own (my parents had few rock and roll records aside from The Beatles, who I loved, but even I knew better than to name a band that had broken up 15 years prior), so I simply picked a band from the air and said Led Zeppelin, hoping this was sufficiently cool. My nemesis, no fool, demanded to know what my favorite album by Zeppelin was, and I couldn’t answer, and my humiliation was complete.

I vowed to never be so uncool again.


Honorable Mention, “Best Horror of the Year V. 3”

Crimes by Moonlight, edited by Charlaine HarrisEdited by Ellen DatlowThe legendary Ellen Datlow released her list of Honorable Mentions for the third volume in her “Best Horror of the Year Volume 3” antho today, and golly, my story from Crimes by Moonlight is on it. I’ve had two other stories picked as HMs by Ellen in the past (The Defragmentation of Thomas Crane in “The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror 18th Edition”, and The Script in “The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror 19th Edition”) so apparently I am in some sort of a an Honorable Mention groove. There are worse places to be.

This is great news, of course. I’ve made it one of those personal writing goals to get Ellen Datlow to either choose one of my stories for inclusion in one of her Best Of anthos, or to buy a story of mine. I have a lot of these little mini goals. I’ll either get them all or die trying. Probably literally, as I get all boozy and senile in my old age.

The Inner Swine on Kindle

The Inner Swine Volume 16, Winter 2010I’ve been putting out my zine The Inner Swine for 15-17 years, depending on whether you count its inception from the date my original collaborators and I got together to discuss putting out a magazine or the actual release of issue one, by which time I’d taken over the magazine all by myself. I’m closing in on issue 60.

Over the years I’ve released plenty of Inner Swine material electronically, mostly for free. PDFs of just about every issue are up on the zine’s web site for free download, and plain-text files of some issues are also there. I still do a print run of each issue for a mailing list of subscribers and traders. Recently, however, I’ve been thinking that a formal digital edition of the zine might be a good idea. So I finally sobered up for a day and created a Kindle Edition of the latest issue (Volume 16, Issue 3/4, Winter 2010) and put it up for sale on Amazon for $0.99. NINETY-NINE CENTS! Yowza.

The Kindle edition doesn’t have any images in it, because a) images on the Kindle are a pain in the ass and b) some of the images that make it into the zine are not, shall we say, vetted by my copyright lawyers. It’s a zine, after all. The copyright lawyers for my zine are a tiny leprechaun who sits on my shoulder and sings sea shanties into my ear all day and my cat Spartacus, who uses a thick book of copyright law as a scratching post. The Kindle Edition also has no advertisements in it. It’s just the text, baby. Other than that, it’s exactly the same: Every word that’s in the print edition is in the Kindle edition. It’s ~45,000 words, which is novella-sized.

Right now it’s set up as a standalone publication, not a series or periodical. There’s no DRM and it’s set to allow lending. I’m learning this as I go, so if you do grab a copy, all feedback is gratefully accepted. Let me know if I can improve the formatting or do anything else to make it a better product.

Thanks! Remember, I’ll make $0.35 cents on every issue. THIRTY-FIVE CENTS! Every five issues sold buys me a bottle of Thunderbird with change back!

The Whirligig 3-9

The Whirligig!As y’all know, I’ve put out a gruesome, home-brewed perzine called The Inner Swine lo these many years. Why? No one knows, actually, but I continue to do so. Back in The Day, putting out a zine was a Thing People Did, believe it or not. There were many of us across the globe. Another zine was called The Whirligig, which was more of a literary zine instead of a zine where I just wrote about whatever was annoying me that day and called it art.

The Whirligig had some sass and published a couple of my stories. Then the original editor, Frank Marcopolos, sold the zine to another editor, who so far has put out one issue (and also published one of my stories!). Frank recently collected issues 3-9 of his old zine into an eBook and offered it up for sale:

If you’re looking for some seriously good fiction, including stories by Your Humble Author as well as Nick Mamatas, Khaled Hosseini, and many others, this is your ticket. Why not? Do it. Zuul commands it.

Endstation Chaos!

FUN WITH TRANSLATIONS: So, last year Avery Cates #4 came out, The Terminal State, which, frankly, is my favorite title of the series. Aside from the stream of physics-related pages I get in my Google Alerts emails, I just like the title.

The series is translated into German. I’ve had some email exchanges with the German translator and its been fun. I like their covers, too. Here’s the cover for the German version of The Terminal State:

Endstation CHAOS!

POW! Endstation Chaos, indeed! That’s bananas. I can’t decide which title is better. Although I wonder why they suddenly went with English on this one; the previous 3 all had German titles. Although we have to consider the possibility that “Endstation Chaos” is just so cool a title, it had to be.