Friday, April 25, 2014

What Victims Watch - #fridayflash

Every week, everyone who’s ever died in a Horror movie gathers at The Killer’s house. The Killer is never home, though they do often see his shadow in the hall by the bathroom, or his silhouette against the refrigerator, and if any of them take a shower, they’ll feel his presence on the other side of the curtain. Everyone who’s ever died in a Horror movie has grown used to this. Nowadays, they giggle at it.

They come for the relief from their work weeks. Drunken jocks sit in open windows, for all the sofas are piled with nubile teen girls who are showing neck wounds and too much cleavage. Nerds pass bongs and bags of Fritos, though they try to keep the coughing and crinkling down so everyone can hear the show.

They watch you pre-ordering a television instead of buying health insurance. They watch couples spend everything on houses in flood zones they haven’t researched enough to know even get rain. They watch countries vote on politicians who support women’s rights and healthcare, and ignore those same politicians will eradicate forests and drone-bomb foreign innocents.

They watch you forget to thank your mother for that trivial thing she did, that thing you’ll always remember after her car accident tomorrow. They watch, and they laugh their heads off. Even the characters who didn’t die from decapitation laugh their heads off at you.

The show is so funny that everyone who’s ever died in a Horror movie always packs the house. They don’t care that they don’t get cell service, and no one tells their parents where they’re going for the weekend. They come with little gas, in used clunkers that rattle and practically fall apart before they groan into their parking places. If their clunkers are overheating, the victims prop open the hoods while joking about how stupid real people are to spend so much time arguing on the internet.

They need the release. They work hard, they play hard, and they die unfairly; you’d need ridiculous context to avoid how most of them were hacked to oblivion. Much more context, they figure, than all the real people they watch getting hooked on drugs or forgetting to pay the rent.

Everyone who’s ever died in a Horror movie needs the real world to take their minds off of fiction.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bathroom Monologue: Twenty-One Fantasy Countries Made From Scratch

Randall Nichols is a dear friend of mine who's wrapping up work on a card game. He asked me to check the twenty-one one-sentence pitches for Fantasy nations he had to invent – a pretty mean feat for anyone on a deadline. I was happy to help, but because my imagination was obnoxious, I couldn't stop myself from generating my own countries, based on ridiculous Fantasies he couldn't possibly use. Blame it on Calvino and sugar.

I wound up running until I had my own deck of twenty-one uncomfortable neighboring cultures. Like Randall's, mine get one sentence a-piece to sum them up. It is the most fun I've had in a while, writing or otherwise, some pure play that I have to recommend trying at home. Maybe you already do.

If you don't, I figured I'd share my twenty-one Fantasies here.

1 The most technologically advanced culture is dominated by sentient robots that are mostly threatened by advanced models time-traveling from the future to supplant them with infinite hindsight.

2 The country of eight-armed people with no legs, who are renowned for their litigation, and arguments that take days as lawyers constantly argue, "And on the other hand…"

3 The nation where everyone believes their shadows are their true forms, and their bodies of meat are but biologically afterthoughts.

4 A bog in which every human civilization has sunk and failed, but the bacteria is quite evolved and has a bustling culture.

5 A strict theocracy worshiping the gargantuan on whose back they all live, harvesting giant lice for food.

6 A loosely collectivist culture with no central government, and yet everyone is obsessed with constantly building great labyrinthine walls, such that invading armies starve before hitting any homes.

7. A culture like any other, except it lives upside down, gravity reversed, and so mostly excavates tunnels or conquers the undersides of floating slabs of rock.

8. Capitalists who live on the top sides of most floating islands and slabs of rock, whom sell anti-gravity powder and whatever else gets stuck in the treads of their shoes.

9. This culture is unknowable.

10. A democracy where everyone ages backwards, only the middle-aged may vote, and newborn ancients are protected by world-weary infants.

11. A nomadic tribe of beings with no immune systems, but who are carried in individual wads of slime that are toxic to everything they touch.

12. A storied monarchy of underwater creatures, claiming their territories include all the world's seas, and who raise giant squid to defend their borders against sea trade.

13. The only country to ever forge a peace treaty with 12, this is a sentient gestalt reef of coral bordering several countries.

14. Barbarian horde living with domesticated dinosaurs, living the dream of every good Metal album cover.

15. A religious conclave of worm- and human- symbiosis dedicated to finding and digging to the center of the planet.

16. A nation of religious crusader pacifists who have rationalized their dogma such that they only invade the opposite end of their own kingdom, switching sides every year, crusading safely without bloodshed for a record 150 years come this Fall.

17. A nation of werehumans who are quite content for most of the month, until the full moon, when their curse fills them with existential dread and body issues.

18. A vine-covered nation of sages so trapped in nostalgia that they are trying to reverse time and return to the glory days.

19. A culture of mountain-dwelling misotheists who view the lands and seas as the gods' creation and seek to build something better on scaffolds between the peaks of the world.

20. When they say they're a nation of sunlight, they mean that all time stops for anyone and anything in their vicinity if shade or night passes overhead.

21. A nation where every third person takes turns not existing for a year so that everyone can reminisce about how wonderful he/she was, their annual return providing a constant stream of reality checks and disappointment that keep the culture grounded.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Everyone's Angry About the Hugos

John Scalzi has argued that the Hugo nominations shouldn't be announced so close to Easter since too many people are busy to get caught up in them. Cleverly, the voters circumvented that this year by nominating people that would piss everyone off.

The most outrage is about Vox Day's novelette, Opera Vita Aeterna, published in The Last Witchking. Everyone was furious without having read the story. Why? Because Vox Day is also a cartoonishly bigoted blogger, most famous for writing unforgivable things about N.K. Jemisin. Here his fiction has been nominated, not the person, but liberal voters have a difficult time extricating the two, or even seeing why they should bother. It's the most brazen example yet of Hugo voters copping to the awards not being exclusively about the works nominated.

The nomination presents a fascinating problem for WorldCon. We knew about 10% of SFWA members voted for him to be their president before he was kicked out of the group. Now we know enough WorldCon members are willing to vote in his work, and it feels like there's a reactionary element here, hoisting him up in retribution for his booting.

But what do we do about this? Kick out anyone who votes for him? Go make a new club that doesn't let "the wrong kind" of people in? For all the negativity flowing right now, I don't see any reasonable solutions proposed.
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