Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I am not an addict. No I am not.

So, there's this game. It's called World of Warcraft.

(Yes, let's do all roll our eyes, shall we? "Oh, that, way to sell out, man!" you say. Shaddup.)

World of Warcraft has been in existance for quite a lot of years now, and I have too. We have co-existed peacefully, as it were, with me thinking that WoW was a fairly silly thing mostly filled with angst-ridden teenagers. Mostly, I did my thing (writing) and it did its thing (I did not know what this thing was.)

A couple of days ago, I was offered the free Ten Day Trial of the full game. "Ah! Finally! Some perks to being a writer!" I thought, but that was silly, because it turns out anyone can do it.

Tempted by nothing very much, I did it. I downloaded the game...

....and lost two days to it. Devoured. The game ate my life, and to prevent me from feeling guilty, it also gobbled up my wife in all the bits of time when I was not actively playing.

This is not a review of the game, though. This is a bit of musing.

One of the things that put me off to the game were a number of local kids I know in various ways. Many of them are your typical creepy gamer kids. They are thin, pale, and awkward. I feel cool and sauve when I am around them, merely by being married, speaking with women, and using complete sentences that do not include the word "Uh..." or "Like." in it.

A number of these kids play WoW, and with disasterous results. Two of them have failed college semesters miserably and been kicked out of school, one of them has been told to move out of his parents basement (snickersnort) and another one is barely keeping a job at a grocery store...and even then, only to pay his WoW subscription.

("Hah!" Pete rants, "Were that the only bill I had was a goram game subscription...!")

So when I began playing WoW, I specifically had in mind the kids this game had swallowed, because it fascinated me. I play all sorts of games and enjoy them very much, but then...I turn off the game and I get back to my life, my job, my writing, all that. It puzzled and fascinated me that these people simply couldn't do that.

The thing about the game which captivates is that it's fairly unrestrictive and unjudgmental. You can be anyone you want. An Elf, a Dwarf, a Carrion eater (Er....) a Minotaur. It's fascinating and fun, and the game has entire cultures built around these species. You can do any sort of job, from mining to skinning, to hunting, to fighting, to blacksmithing...

...And here in the real world, you can work a job, to pay your bills, and grow slowly older as the days tick by and quite a lot of people out there haven't the faintest idea you're alive.

This doesn't just apply to geeks and scared, pale kids. It applies to anyone. Hell, it applies to me. I enjoyed my couple of days in the game (days! Agh!) because I had things to do, places to explore, entire worlds out there full of generally nice and helpful people and things to do.

I was fascinated and captivated because in the real world, I have a short story or two to send out for publication, I have a lot of writing to do, and I have all sorts of other things with the word "DEADLINE" sitting next to them.

And yet, in the game, I had just one more Trogg to kill before I levelled up. I had just one more pelt to gather for a level. I had just one more, just one more, just one more....

I'm not passing any judgments on the game, which is delightful, or on the nerdy kids, who are in their quiet and hesitant way, very wonderful. I'm just noticing that the game takes away all the boring parts of life, gives you interesting bits and you'd resist it as a time-sink, except you never think "God, there goes two hours of my day," and instead think, "Just one more, just one more, just one more..."


This would have been an interesting article on writing things, except that I tend to write those when I'm irked at some Very Silly Person who's just talked about writing in a very stupid manner. Maybe next time 'round, someone will irk me into that. I should have just about resurfaced from World of Warcraft by then.

Happy New Year, folks.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas, 2017, by G. Adams

You come home from work to find the storm door propped open with packages from They are all addressed to you, but you have no memory of ordering anything from Amazon. You bring the many boxes inside, take off your jacket and go to the fridge to get a glass of water. While the glass if filling, you tell the fridge to search your email for any record of an order. The monitor set into the fridge shows that no orders have been made. You ask the fridge to call Amazon customer service and slip your phone over your ear.

“thank you for calling Amazon, this is Carla. What can I do for you today?”

“Hello, Carla. I received several packages I hadn’t ordered.”

“I guess you haven’t done your Holiday shopping yet?” Carla aks politely.

“No, I was getting to it tonight.”

“That explains it. Those are the items you’re going to be ordering tonight. I can put a list on the television if you like.”

“Excuse me? Things I will order?”

Carla brings up a copy of the invoice on the fridge. “That’s right, these are all items you’ll place orders for tonight. This is part of our new Anticiship© service. Using Cramer’s findings on the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen photon-paradox, we are now able to receive your order before you place it with us, saving both time and money.”

“Wait, so you know what I’m going to order before I order it?”

Carla’s reply is a crisp “Hm-mm.”

You scan the invoice. “But who is this stuff for? I mean, this ‘School House Rock 50th anniversary memory stick,’ who’s that a gift for?”

“I’m not sure, I don’t know all your friends and family,” Carla replies.

“And these gift cards… who did I buy gift cards for?”

“I really don’t know…” Carla replies, managing to sound perfectly agreeable and perfectly frustrated all at the same time.

You think about it for a moment. “So I need to go through the shopping process just the same – make a list and browse online and see what suggest itself for the people on my list.”

“Some people choose to do that, yes.” Carla replies.

“How does this save me time?” you ask. “Will that be all?” Carla asks. When you don’t reply, she chips “Happy Holidays!” and disconnects.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Thoughts on Lovecraft

I'm writing a novel.

Actually, I'm researching a novel I'm thinking of writing. While I write it.

Yeah, I know. It's crazy, right?

I know the odds of it being published--and then making any money--are slim to none. I'm not one of those Writer's Digest subscribers who drool over the articles entitled "You Too Can Make a Fortune Writing Simple Greeting Cards" and rail against the cabal of editors who obviously are working together to make sure my golden prose never sees print. I'm not one of those lazy buffoons who sees writing as some great and glorious get rich quick scheme that will keep me from performing manual labor once my first short story is published.

I make money from my writing, just not a lot of it, and certainly not from fiction. And especially not from science fiction.

I'm writing the novel just to see if I can do it. No pressure. If it's publishable, that's great. If it's not, I'll work on it until it is. Then we'll see. But I'm not relying on it (the whole 'no pressure' thing again. It's very liberating). No expensive workshops, no NaNoWriMo, just me and the prose. And a lot of research. And H.P. Lovecraft.

I'm writing a novel in which H.P. Lovecraft is a character. It's important that I get him right, and I'm still not sure if I will be able to pull it off.

Stories in which Lovecraft's creations continue to menace humanity are very popular, and are part of a rich literary tradition. Just in the last few years we've had a very auspicous effort in Nick Namatas' debut novel Move Under Ground, which pits Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy against the Great Old Ones. We've got Charles Stross writing the Lovecraftian mysteries The Atrocity Archive and his latest The Jennifer Morgue. But these works operate under the popular (and sometimes, I think, hopeful) premise that H.P. Lovecraft's Great Old Ones, Elder Things and shoggoths are real, that good old Howie was actually in tune with something From Beyond, that some eldritch horrors from beyond the stars would return to menace us with their very alienness and freak us out with their non-Euclidean geometry.

But it's more than just Lovecraft that I'm interested in. I'm also intrigued by the Singularity, and people making themselves more than people. For the first time in history, we will be able to make ourselves into gods--another theme in SF that goes all the way back to Roger Zelazny's wonderful Lord of Light, and continues recently through Dan Simmons' amazing Illium and Olympos. What if, instead of post humans turning themselves into the gods of the Hindu or Greek pantheons, they remade themselves into the Great Old Ones? Or what if aliens posing as the Great Old Ones passed themselves off as Lovecraft's horrible, extraterrestrial "dieties"? Who better to fight them off than their creator?

I've run into some problems, such as how to take someone from before the computer age and surround him with such technology. How can I make him grow and change, and challenge as well as champion some of the things he believed? How will he deal with his overwhelming popularity--a guy who never saw a collection of his work published in his lifetime? A man who wrote, in an autobiographical essay entitled "Some Notes on a Nonentity", "I have no illusions concerning the precarious status of my tales, and do not expect to become a serious competitor of my favorite weird authors." Will he be chagrined? Elated? Confused?

I am all of these things, and more. For the challenges are what keep me going. I may not get where I want to go, but where ever I end up, I won't be the same. That's just what literature, even the bad, self-written kind, does for us. And we learn that it isn't the destination that matters, but the journey.

Or I'll give it all up in a week and write some more paying articles. Who knows?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Some very important changes by Lucien Spelman

I suppose the most important thing to talk about this time around, are the changes taking place here at BBT.

The most significant change is a very personal one on my part, and one that I would like to share with our readers. I have never been comfortable in my body, and have never been comfortable living life as a man. I have been wearing my wife’s underwear for years, and even sometimes her makeup. I have decided to take the plunge, and go to Mexico for the full gender modification surgery.

This may come as a surprise to many of my friends and several of the writers and editors here at BBT, and –

Nah, I’m just messin’ with you…

We are going to go from being a quarterly magazine to being published twice a year, though. And we are changing to a newer (and nicer) format.

After #2 which is coming out in Jan, we will begin having a winter issue and a summer issue each year. We are now going to be “perfect bound” (think graphic novels), and over 100 pages per issue. This means that the content we provide per year will actually be going up, it just won’t be spread throughout the year. Hopefully, in addition to being a better physical format, this change will allow us to focus on a few of our other endeavors like comic books, rpgs, our t-shirt line, and a few other things we have in the works.

To those of you that are subscribers, you will receive the same amount of issues at the same price, you’re just going to get more bang for your buck. For those of you that are not subscribers. What’s the matter with you? What’re you luddites? Click on this link and get a great deal before we come to our senses and realize that we are going to have to raise our cover price to pull this off. You’ll still get four issues, and a one year sub is now a two year sub…

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover of our newest issue:

Keep your eye peeled at our site for availability. This is gonna be a great issue!

I better go now. My wife’s coming home and I have to get this make-up off.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

thoughts of a deranged ex-comic collector

I was in my basement the other day and tripped over my old comic collection. I got to thinking about it and thought I'd vent a little, so bear with me... Am I the only one who threw in the towel and stopped buying comic books in the past decade? Well, somehow I doubt it. I finally got fed up with weak story lines, muddled arbitrary crossovers, variant covers (yes, I bought a few), and overall increase of cover prices and gave it up like coffee and cigarettes sometime in 2000. Mind you, I was probably spending $120 a month at my comic dealer on 23rd street and 5th avenue, so it was a hard habit to kick. Every wednesday like clockwork I'd jump on the uptown F train, like I had good sense.

There are plenty of reasons for the demise of the comic industry. Many are detailed in Scott McCloud’s books or on fan sites ( There are many ideas, as well, to shock back to life this abused industry. Apparently, the powers that be at the top of all the parent companies that own all of the comic companies still are just content with putting out crappy movies (X-men and Spider-man excluded) every so often.( Is it just me or do the previews of Ghost Rider give you a feeling of impending doom ,too.) I still can hardly say 'Daredevil' without shivering. Maybe it’s just like everything else that becomes corrupted. ( I think that corrupted is the right word - corrupted-adj.-adulterated or debased by change from an original or correct condition: impairment of integrity - yes, I think that works.) For example, I also used to collect baseball cards as a kid. Have you seen how much those have changed. If you’re lucky enough, there are some cards new out of the pack that are worth more than my car! I realize I’m grumbling like some puckered senior citizen, but I’ve become comfortable with my reasons and right to do so (hey, get your lips off that, you damn CEO’s).

I’ve been out of the comic loop for a while and I realize there are probably some great new stories and art out there that are passing me by (are we over the variant cover thing yet?), but the few comics I've picked up at the news stands and proptly replaced were full of insipid, condescending dialogue followed by a baffling story line that was part of a bigger convoluted plot that probably started in a crossover somewhere in an alternate universe, DUUUDE. It’s just that I was hoping that my kid would get into them and enjoy them as I did growing up. But I can pretty much guarantee that he won’t if they’re $3-5 a pop and pandering . Well, if he doesn’t, I guess he’ll just be stuck with his inheritance of 2500 'old school' comics.

'nuff said - Kennedy Smith

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Native’s Guide to Boston, Part 3: Harvard School of Public Health, by G. Adams

I'm writing this covertly on a computer in the professor's lounge, high up on the top floors of the Harvard School of Public Health on Huntington Ave. I bluffed my way in past security, grabbed a lab cot off of the back of a chair in the commissary and have been wandering loose ever since.

Now I'm in the place where it happens, where the doctors and professors and best Harvard has to offer let it all hang loose, sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes with men and women whose intellect, whose sheer genius, I cannot comprehend.

I'm learning their names. The one wheeling the elaborate sensor apparatus across the lounge carpet, stethoscope gently thumping against the hand-tailored silk shirt he wears beneath his white canvas lab coat is Dr. Barnacle, famous for his work at the Intergovernmental Health Policy Project at George Washington University.

Barnacle orders a pair of the shaved-headed, programmable chimps to open one of the windows that looks out over Huntington Avenue, then shoves the antenna arm of his massive wheeled machine out through the gap, like an enormous thermometer being slid into the ass of the city. He throws the switch, and his large, wheeled instrument becomes a thing of lights and dials, of whistles and bells.

"How is the public health today?" one of the other doctors asks, looking up from his game of Rummy. This is Doctor Puff, and he has been playing a strong game. His winnings-- a pile of glass vials containing embryos, viruses, animal sweats and designer narcotics-- are stacked up on a small table next to his chair. Another monkey with dark glasses and a scimitar stands guard over his winnings.

I've been watching the monkey, and he pulls hits off of Dr. Puff's cigar, when the good doctor isn't looking.

"The public health is excellent, Dr. Puff." Dr. Barnacle replies. His watery eyes flash over the long ticker tape of data that is streaming out from the rump of his machine. "Excellent. Come have a look for yourself, if you like."

Several of them do, but Doctor Puff remains at his game. His opponent, a massive computer mainframe (think 'Deep Blue'), sends a surge of inspiration out through the pigtail wires that are hard-patched into the brain of its avatar chimp. The monkey rubs a long simian finger beneath its pouting lip, before tossing several cards onto the table. Dr. Puff stares at his own hand, as if he could change the suits by pure will. I watch the chimp grin, which means that the mainframe is pleased.The doctors over by the machine all stare out the window, looking down at the street. They murmur and hum in the way of educated men, with the occasional clear remark, such as "That one, there. He looks exceptionally healthy."

None of them pays any mind whatsoever to the data that continues to pour out of Barnacle’s contraption like puss from a cyst.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

More Superhero/Dance films = More Profits by Earl B Morris

I was sitting with my great aunt watching Supergirl for perhaps the 50th time, and thinking to myself, ‘What would make this movie even better? I mean it’s got it all – the ever lovely Helen Slater in her first starring role, the awe-inspiring Faye Dunaway and macho man Peter O’ Toole riffing off one another like jazz thespians, incredible costume design and special effects, a theme-song by Jerry Goldsmith so enchanting that if I had a car I would play it on the hi-fi and simply drive in circles in the Buy-Rite parking lot, and the subtly delicate motivations and characterizations that only a master screenwriter can pull off. What could make it better?’

And then in a flash, it came to me – Bob Fosse, that’s what.

Imagine if we took something as drab and predictable as the average superhero type movie (Supergirl excepted), and we gave it a shot of life Fosse style - or even Jerome Robbins for those that are supposed to limit their intake of pizzazz for medical reasons…

Spiderman has just had a date with Mary Louise Parker, they are in the rain and it’s raining out, he is hanging upside down from something we can’t see, she goes to lift his mask up so she can kiss him and WHAM!

Song erupts!

He climbs right up the side of the building and begins to spin, losing himself in the song, first slowly then a little faster, and then before you know it he’s in a full-blown Pirouette, then freeze…

Then ball-change, catwalk, fan-kick, twist – hands!

Hands, hands, hands!

Knee turn.

Then here comes Mary Louise Parker, looking like a young Syd Charisse, all legs…

Ball-change, step. Step,step,step.

Pas de Bourrée.

Pas de Chat

Fan kick!

Then Spidey spins a web from his little tush, and lands gracefully at her feet.

They kiss, and dance off the screen together, and that’s the first five minutes…

If you are moved by this idea as I am, please write to the studios and let them know you mean business.

More Superhero/Dance films = More profits

And remember –

"I am Kara of ARGO city, daughter of Alura and Zor-El, and I don't scare easily."

Earl B Morris

Friday, December 01, 2006

Verbosity Ensues, by Pete Tzinski

Hello. I'm Pete Tzinski. I'm a writer.
I'm other things too (slushpile reader, husband, occasional Jambalaya maker, expectant father) but mostly, they're all just things which come out of being a writer. They are either interests which occur to me while writing and become full hobbies themselves, or things which I wind up doing because of being a writer.
(The bit about being an expectant father has nothing to do with being a writer, though. But let's move on.)
As I've been reading this 'yere BBT blog over the past few weeks, I've been reading posts about Boston, and about interesting haunted islands, and I've been thinking, what have I to contribute to the discussion of cool locations?
At the moment, none. I've lived in my fair share of very interesting places (we could do Virgin Island stories, for example) but right now, I am in Minnesota, where the most interesting thing that has happened today is that the temperature has just gone from single digit, to double digit. It's twelve degrees here. I can practically put on shorts.
So instead, I'll talk about writing. It's what I've got.


Out there, in this big wide world of ours, there is a lot of writing advice which is available to beginning authors. There are books, veritable tomes, full of ideas and tips and suggestions, there are magazines which can tell you the Top 10 Best Places To Write A Novel Now! and there are writers who are willing to give advice. All of this blends together into a sort of stew and all of it is good advice, sometimes, for some writers. Some of it can destroy careers.
Mostly, what you need are two quotes from two men, both brilliant writers and opinion-havers.
Harlen Ellison tells us "Don't write crap." (Actually, he tells Joe Straczysnki that, but he was speaking to the Joe Straczynski in all of us.)
Mark Twain tells us, "Eschew Surplusage."
That's all you need, honestly. That's my Five Words To Make You a Better Writer Now!
The Mark Twain quote is the one which I particularly wanted to talk about, in that I feel it's most important and most difficult. More difficult, perhaps, than Ellison's quote. There is no end of very creative and intelligent writers out there and many of them come up with wonderful ideas and great stories (and then, some of them don't. See the above bit where I read a slushpile.)
Many times, the learning process of being a writer is not the having of ideas, because everyone has ideas, but is the clearly communicating the ideas to the rest of the human race. The problem for writers is that the world around them is not built or geared toward writers. It's an uphill battle of sorts, or at the very least, it's going against the grain.
In school, they warn you from basic composition classes onward that you should never repeat words, that you should vary your word usage and come up with interesting and creative words to make your work really shine. But as a writer, how do you justify this with using "said?" Well, either you let adverbs into your life (and like Stephen King, I think this is a bad idea) or you go against what your teachers told you, what everyone else tells you, based on something that seems like a good idea in your head.
So much of learning to write is, as Mark Twain said, about learning to write simply. It's about learning to get into the boxing ring and pull your punches, not to gymnastics in an effort to intimidate your opponent, if you see what I mean.


As a closing comment (because you and I both have writing we should be doing, don't we? We cannot sit here all day.) I want to offer you this solution to help your writing along.
Pick out a short story that you've already written. Barring that, pick out a solid idea that you have in your head for a story you'd like to write. Or a piece of a story. Or a scene. It doesn't matter. If it's not written yet, write it.
Now, take what you've written and go stand in the middle of your living room. You can do this when you're home alone, or when your family is around.
Read it out loud. Read it as if you're standing on a stage in a darkened auditorium, with a hot light shining down on you and a sea of motionless faces in front of you. Read like you're trying to entertain this crowd.
How does your story read? If any parts embarrass you to read out loud, then I think you need to re-work them. I won't try to convince you that reading your stories out loud is going to solve every problem in writing, but I happen to think it will make it harder to write truly bad prose. Certainly, it makes it much harder to write atrocious dialogue. If, when reading out loud, your dialogue sounds like kids dramatically telling bad stories around a campfire (really, if any of your prose sounds like this) then it needs to die. It needs to be re-written.
For inspiration in all of this, look to British authors. For whatever reason, British authors write material which lends itself wonderfully to being read out loud, whether you have a wonderful British accent or an American one. There are American writers too, though, that you can look at. John Steinback, for example. These are authors whose works read well out loud, whose works become even more interesting when you buy a well-read audio book version of the stories.
Listen, pay attention, and then try it out for yourself. I think you'll find that if you have trouble with boring bits or bad dialogue, it will help to minimize it, or get rid of it.
In turn, by following Mark Twain's adage, I think you'll find yourself slowly coming 'round to Harlan Ellison's saying, because you'll find it harder and harder to write crap.
Let me know how it turns out, perhaps, in the comments of this post. Unless it turns out badly, and then we would like you to lie about it.
(Of course I'm kidding.)