Hilltown

Apr. 29th, 2012 02:58 pm
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Melange Books has issued Hilltown as an e-book, with print books available. Here's the site: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/billrogers/hilltown.html

http://www.furaffinity.net/user/fishyboner/ Fishyboner did the cover for it, which is just wonderful. I've told her, and I'm sure she knows it is meant as the highest praise, that the cover she created is nothing I would have ever suggested to her. It's far better than that. Take a look for yourself: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/7879084/

Many of my stories involve furry characters. Hilltown doesn't meet the usual definition of furry, although there are some nonhuman bit players. All the main characters appear to be human.

However, what has always interested me about furry characters is how their minds work. Sure, ears and a fluffy tail are lovely and all of that, but in my opinion the important thing should be how being other than human changes how the characters experience the world and, above all, how it changes how they think. If a written character is just a human in fox ears, and being a fox has no consequences to the story, I feel you should just write them as a human and be done with it. (I don't feel this way about comics, though. In a comic, even if a fox behaves exactly as a human, showing them as a fox gives you a shorthand as to their character- and besides, it's a visual art, so just looking cool counts for a lot. So a furry character who only appears furry without acting furry is acceptable. Not the best, but acceptable.)

In Hilltown, some of the characters appear to be human, but don't have a human perspective. That might make them interesting to furry fans in spite of their bland appearance. Anyway, Maggie Blood is a badass, and if you don't buy the book she appears in it might Annoy her. We wouldn't want that, would we?
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The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams
Short Version

(Scene One: Laboratory)

Powell: Dr. Boycott, why are you drowning that dog?

Boycott: Why do you think? I'm a guy who does animal testing in a lab! I do it for the same reason ANY such researcher would: because I'm EEEEEVIL! Everybody knows there's no reason to test anything on animals in labs except because you're EEEEEEVIL.

Powell: OK, that explains everything.

Boycott: Also, since I do animal research, I'm stupid. That's why I named the laboratory ARSE and remained completely oblivious to the idea that this combination of letters might have negative connotations.

Powell: That's pretty subtle. Do you think the readers are smart enough to catch it?

Boycott: Probably not, but it's OK. We'll emphasize the point some more later. Now, are there more dogs for me to drown?

Powell: Right here-- hey, where did they go?

(Scene Two: The Wilderness)

Rowf: Boy, we're lucky to get out of there. But I'm hungry. Here's a car with a bag of potato chips inside! (jumps in and grabs the chips)

Snitter: The driver's coming back. Run! (They run)

Wescott: Those mutts stole my potato chips! I'm going to dedicate the rest of my life to hunting them down and killing them, because I'm EEEEVIL! Let's see. Here's my gun- see, I own a gun, so I'm EEEEVIL. I think I'll climb up to the crumbling unstable edge of this cliff so I can get a good shot. (Slips) AEEEE! That was predictable. That ground looks hard. (SPLAT!)

Rowf and Snitter: Oooh, that sounded like a bag of meat hitting the rocks! DINNER!

Driver: Hmm, what innocent creatures can I victimize by writing them up in a sensational story in my newspaper, because I am EEEEVIL? Oh, look, man-eating dogs! I'll say they killed Wescott before eating him. Call out the army! (scribbles madly in his notebook)

Rowf: By the way, I'm Rowf, and I hate all humans because they are EEEEVIL.

Snitter: I'm Snitter, and I knew a human who wasn't evil. He saved me from getting hit by a truck!

Rowf: That's cool.

Snitter: But he got hit by the truck himself.

Rowf: Bummer.

Snitter: Yeah. His EEEEVIL sister, Annie Mosity--

Rowf: As in "animosity?" That's pretty subtle. You think the readers are smart enough to catch it?

Snitter: Probably not, but that's OK. We'll emphasize the point some more later. Anyway, she was really EEEEVIL. She always hated me!

Rowf: Well, I can see that. You are kind of annoying.

Snitter: And she sold me to the animal experiment lab for a lot of money!

Rowf: Wait.. that doesn't make sense. They could have gotten any number of shelter dogs for free. And anyway, I'm not sure that proves she is EEEEEVIL.

Snitter: But she did it to get money for a FUR COAT!

Rowf: GASP! EEEEVIL!

The Todd: Hi, I'm a fox who is here to show you how to hunt. Go grab those sheep and rip their throats out.

Rowf: Like that?

The Todd: Yeah.

Driver: Ooooh! (Scribbles madly in his notebook)

The Todd: Good, and now we should-- oh, sorry, there are some humans coming, and they're EEEEVIL. Fox hunters, you know. They're going to have their dogs rip me to pieces to show how EEEEVIL they are.

Snitter: That's pretty subtle. You think the readers are smart enough to catch it?

The Todd: Probably not, but it's OK. We can.. IEEEEEEEEE! (dies)

Snitter: Well, that sucks. Let's swim out to sea and drown.

Rowf: No way. I'm scared of water.

Snitter: But I have brain damage that lets me see an island that isn't there!

Rowf: Good enough. Let's go.

(The End of the original version)

Epilogue:

Santa Claus: Hi, I'm here to rescue you. The EEEEVIL reporter had a change of heart and brought Snitter's master back from the dead, and they're waiting on shore for me to bring you to him.

Rowf: Aren't you mythological?

Santa Claus: Sure. But the readers wouldn't let you drown pointlessly at sea, so the author grudgingly arranged your rescue in an epilogue. He was mad that they made him do it and upset that they couldn't appreciate the hard-edged realism of the rest of this story, so he had a mythological being rescue you as a way of insulting them.

Snitter: That's kind of subtle. Do you think the readers are smart enough to catch it?

Santa Claus: Probably not, but that's OK. We can emphasize the point more later in the story.

Snitter: No, you can't. This is the end of the book.

Santa Claus: Crap.

(The End. For real this time.)
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Since Hilltown is coming out from Melange Books fairly soon, I have to do this whole Social Media thing. It's in the rulebook somewhere.

This I know from nothing. I suppose I must have a Facebook page, and Twitter. I have been avoiding both as I don't think I, at least, can come up with anything intelligent to say on them, but it has to be done, right? I just don't know how. I'm too antisocial for social media, perhaps.

Also there's the matter of review sites for SF and fantasy books. I don't know that many of them.

If anybody out there in the World of E has suggestions, I'd appreciate them.
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An old story of mine. It seems appropriate to the season.

Second Story Man

Sunset comes and I awaken in the telephone exchange which was. This is where I spend most of my time now, in the second story of a storefront in the middle of downtown.

So why is he there? )
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I was visiting my mother and, out of fairness, decided to go visit my father too. They've been separated for years. (It was nothing personal, only death.)

The journey was as long as you'd expect, walking alone down empty country roads. The trees scattered along the roadside showed black, naked branches against the cold gray October sky.

I found him living in a small, plain house with a roommate he didn't take the trouble to introduce. Such a plain home didn't seem to trouble him as much as it would have once. He was sitting at the desk he'd built himself (I have it in my room) and working on his biography, which was half done.

He said "Every man is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody."

"Mom told me you'd said that, and I was surprised you had. It's Mark Twain."

"I never said it was original."

"I never said you said it was original. What surprised me was that you'd say it about yourself. And that you liked Mark Twain."

"Oh."

"But I wanted to tell you I understand what you meant. I understand you did your best."

"Good. Thank you." And he returned to his work, leaving me to return to my own.

Noon

Sep. 19th, 2011 05:55 pm
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In Grandfather's town you carried
a spark of time on your wrist
through a wilderness of trackless hours.

Lit from the kitchen clock
in the predawn darkness,
before work,

Setting hands, twisting the knob,
to wind the dime-store watch,
Finger and thumb with special ridges
Of callus, from decades against sharp edges
and the resistance of springs.

At noon each day the tornado siren wailed
And 532 sets of fingers
moved to reset 532 drifting watches
To realign another day
With eternity.

Woot?

Aug. 28th, 2011 02:25 pm
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Melange Books, a small press, has offered me a contract to publish Hilltown. It will come out as an ebook and, possibly, hardcopy in April of next year.

I thought about it, read the contract, carefully considered, and..

Oh hell, I agreed with a quickness that Einstein might have said was impossible. Although yes, I did read through the contract- and since I have only an e-draft of the contract I haven't signed it yet.

And I feel oddly deflated. After about 15 years of trying to get books published, after being ignored except for scam artists who were interested but only if I paid them $5000 to doctor the book before accepting it, I'm wondering what the scam is this time.

But woot?

Also Anthro, at www.anthrozine.com, says it's coming back from the dead. I got a note from the editor that _Hoarfrost and the Night_ would be good for his Back From the Dead issue.

He says he has had personal problems which kept him from continuing with the magazine. I am glad he's bringing it back because it is where I had my greatest success in getting stuff out there for people to read. But that is far, far less important to me than the fact that the editor, Mr. Long, is still alive and presumably more or less OK. A publishing venue is only a website, but Mr. Long is-- would it be presumptuous to call him a friend? And he'd dropped off the face of the Earth, and now he's back. You have to love that.

Wild World

Aug. 20th, 2011 10:48 am
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Very roughly paraphrased, a blog I read said "This song sucks. He's claiming to be a wise old man, but he was a 23 year old kid whose supermodel lover was leaving him- why she ever took up with an ugly geek like that I don't know- and she was his own age. What an arrogant, manipulative liar he was."

No, it didn't suck. It was a good song, or at least it wasn't bad for the reasons given.

Maybe he thought he was so mature and understanding, but he was an idiot. Maybe he was losing his lover and thought "How would I react to this if I really was as grown-up as I wish I were?" and wrote from there. Maybe the song was a cynical attempt to manipulate her. Maybe the song was flat-out fiction, with nothing to do with his real life at all.

We don't know, and it doesn't matter. He told a good story. When it comes to art, that's all that matters.

It irks me when people say that because an artist, scientist, author, or athlete isn't a plaster saint, their work can't be any good. Or conversely, because their work is good, they must be a plaster saint. It doesn't work that way. A person's accomplishments are sometimes because of what they are inside, but also sometimes in spite of what they are inside. They are what they are, and once they're created, what the creator does in their time off can't change that, one way or the other.

I hope nobody's going to say that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories suck because he was just a middling medical doctor, who never committed a murder, stole a jewel, or hunted down anyone who did. I hope nobody's going to say my stories suck because I never piloted a starship. They are what they are, folks.
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Published in the Anthrocon 2011 convention book.

Samel Church stood in the doorway looking miserable, and well he might. My Procurator, Dimitri Silverblaze, loomed behind him.

Dimitri isn't huge, but the mouse Samel barely came up above his knees. The little fellow just had to feel threatened. Besides, Dimitri is a Dark Unicorn, and we all know why the Mad Czar had his necromancers create them.

I tried to blink myself awake in spite of the bright sunlight streaming into my office. "What did Samel do this time?"

"He fell off the north wall, trying to climb out."

I rubbed my bleary eyes with my left wing. "Samel, is this true?"

He hung his head lower. "I'm sorry I tried to escape."

"Oh, Samel. Don't be sorry about that. I'm upset because you could have been killed! If the time comes, you may leave openly. But if you do, walk out the front gate. Never try to go over the walls."

"If I could leave, why did Procurator Silverblaze bring me back? I can't use magic, I can't, I can't! I've tried so hard, but I don't belong here. He should have just let me go." The little fellow's eyes brimmed with tears. My heart ached for him.

"I had to help you. You broke your arm when you fell," Dimitri said. His voice was gentleness itself.

I reached for Samel's arm. "Let me see that." He held it out for me, full of trust.

I started chanting a healing spell. I could sense a minor fracture, but it was hard to focus power on it. Well, like all bats, I'm not at my best in daylight.

"I feel your power," Samel said. "If I can feel it, like a wizard does, why can't I use it?"

"We don't know. We'll find the answer, though. Don't lose faith. Stay with us."

He lowered his eyes. "I will since you ask it, Princeps."

The magic curled around the bones of his arm, flickered, and slipped away. I sighed. "I can't hold this. You'd better go see Brother Timothy. He'll splint your arm."

"Once again magic fails me."

"My spell would only have held the bone in place anyway. Some things work just as well without magic. Go see Medicus Timothy, and try not to lose hope."

"As you wish, Princeps. I've given you nothing but trouble. I'm sorry to disturb you, especially now that the Greenleaf Brethren have-- you know--"

"They can threaten, but actually collecting my head is something else. And any Prospective is worth my trouble, Samel. The Institute exists for the Prospectives, after all. If the Brethren make us forget that, they've already won."

He bowed and left, holding his arm.

"I thought you reinforced the wards on the walls," I said, when the mouse was out of earshot. "I thought I told you the Council authorized lethal magic."

"I did, and the wards are lethal, or should be," Dimitri said. His eyes, black in black, were unreadable as always, but I felt his certainty. "I'm good at lethal, too. He's lucky to be alive. It's most curious."

"Check the wards again. I hate to take this personally, but I'm told that when a necromancer cuts off your head he keeps you conscious until they rip the knowledge-- um. It is, they say, most unpleasant. You're sure that your spell will destroy my head if--"

"You'll explode like balefire. But they won't get either of us." There was a hell-glow deep in those all-black eyes. He looked like he meant it. That glow made even me shiver.

"Why do the Greenleafers hate us so much, Dimitri? Even my herbivore friends don't understand it. Killing in the name of radical vegetarianism! It's ludicrous!"

"I asked about that, in a meeting of the Vegan Party in town. They didn't seem to have an answer, even among themselves. They just spouted slogans at me."

I blinked. "They let you into a meeting?"

"Why not? I have flat teeth, don't I?"

"If they knew what dark unicorns eat, they wouldn't worry about Brother Timothy's pot roast."

"I think they would. Like many fanatics, they are more concerned with symbols and theories than facts."

"They choose to make themselves ignorant."

"Yes, but encouraging fear and ignorance has always been the swiftest route to power. The Mad Czar knew that. He lost the World War in the end, but that doesn't stop others from following his example. We learn nothing from history."

"I'd like to think we learned something, at least. And I think the Greenleaf threat will pass, as others have."

"I hope you're right."

"Do you think we might flow-scan poor Samel again? Tonight is the dark of the moon. At midnight, our abilities should be greatest. It might work this time."

"I begin to think he's right when he says he has no magical talent."

"Nonsense. Everyone has some magical talent."

"Newton proposed that with her Laws of Magical Interaction, but it's never been proven."

"But Samel feels magic so strongly! Besides, he wants it so much."

Dimitri considered this for a moment. "Given that kindness changed even my own people, I know it's never wasted on anybody. Let alone on a gentle, sincere fellow like Samel. All right, let us try one more time.

"But there's something strange about him. I suggest you consider the curious effect of your healing spell."

"The spell had no effect."

"That's what was curious."

"You're too deep for me."

He smiled, showing a perfect set of black teeth. "Of course I am. I'll bring Samel back here toward midnight. In the meantime I'll check the wards on the walls. You get your sleep, old friend."

"I will. Thank you, Procurator."

#

Dimitri brought Samel to my office an hour before midnight.

"Welcome. Come in and be seated. All right, Samel, I-- wait. Who's there?"

The door to my chambers opened again. I saw nobody, but I felt the air move.

Dimitri sensed the threat first. He gestured and started a warding spell, but it was too late. A net of orange fire wrapped him and threw him to the floor. I tried to reach for power, but barely spoke a word before the spell hit me too. It slammed me to the wall. I felt bones break.

The air shimmered. The shimmer became a red deer unwrapping a green cloak from around his body. He was dressed as a Necromancer, Gray Level; bracers, breastplate, skull helmet, and nothing else. Like all Necromancers he used a wand made of bone, supposedly the thighbone of someone he'd strangled. Two minotaurs appeared with him. They carried axes.

"I'll hold them. Get their heads." He pushed past Samel.

Samel stepped back. But then he squeaked a war cry and charged.

His cry was a squeal of rage that would have been at the edge of anyone's hearing except mine. Teeth bared, eyes bulging, he hurled himself at the deer who towered over him.

The necromancer flicked his wand and the world exploded in the purple glare of balefire. I wept in rage against a fanatic who would vaporize a young student when a simple slap, or a basic stun or hold spell, would have stopped--

--but Samel was still there, untouched in the midst of the glare. He hurled himself at his enemy. His toeclaws bit into the deer's ankle, he dug his finger claws into the thigh, and he lunged upward and bit with those razor-sharp incisors. He bit the deer real high?

Even wrapped in magic as I was, I cringed. No matter how skilled a mage you are, some things just have to break your concentration. This was definitely one of them.

The red deer squealed even higher than Samel had, if that was possible. He leaped, reached down, desperately tried to swat Samel away. His wand went flying. The spells that hold Dimitri and myself shattered.

Dimitri spoke a Word of that great power his people carry. Just the feel of his power half stunned me. His magic was enough to hold our enemies, I was sure, but I threw in everything I had too, just to be safe. Then I thought it might be a good idea to crumple down onto the floor and sleep for a while.

#

"Princeps?"

"Samel. Dimitri. Thank you both for coming."

"How could I not?" the mouse said. "Are you sure you're well enough to speak to me?

"My ribs are healing. How is your arm?"

He held it up and flexed his wrist, wiggled his fingers. "It seems fine."

"He's healed, Princeps," Dimitri said. "Brother Timothy can't find a trace of a break. In fact, our young Master Samel seems to have gained some muscle bulk out of this incident. It's only logical, after all. Remember the Law of Conservation of Magic. All the energy he absorbed had to go somewhere."

"I don't understand," Samel said.

"I'm only beginning to understand myself," I said. "There shouldn't have been anything of you left."

"There was so much light around me, and it felt cold, yet the cold felt so far away somehow. What happened to the necromancer and his axemen?"

"I took care of them," Dimitri said.

Samel looked up at the Dark Unicorn, swallowed, and nodded. Obviously, he had decided not to ask questions. Wise lad.

I said "I think we discovered your special talent, Samel. No matter how powerful, magic has no effect on you. Your body just absorbs it."

His eyes went wide and filled with tears. "Then truly, I have no place here."

"On the contrary. Your best place is here."

"How can that be?"

"You've already shown how. In a world run by magic, a warrior-- and don't scoff, you have a warrior's heart-- who is immune to magical weapons may be the ultimate weapon himself."

"So you want me as a guard, to patrol the walls."

"I would like you to have combat training and help protect us, yes. But your talent has other uses. In particular, I'd like to start training you to be our potions master. I have the apprenticeship contract right here. All you need to do is sign."

"What good is a potions master who can't use magic?"

"You'd be surprised. Our most useful medical potions use no magic; that's one thing that helps make them so useful. As for the rest, you could learn the incantations but prompt someone else to chant them for you."

"I'd still be a poor master, if I can't--"

"Ask him what happened to the last potions master," Dimitri said. Blue sparks danced among his teeth when he grinned. It was disturbing.

"What happened?"

"We don't really know. We presume the laboratory accident had something to do with her disappearance, but.."

"And the one before that?" Dimitri prompted.

"He got turned into a newt," I said. "A red chenille one, to be precise." I nodded toward my corner bookshelf with the stuffed animal on top of it.

Samel looked at the plush toy animal and blinked. "Is he still alive?"

"We don't know. I talk to him anyway, just in case. But I think my point is made. The laboratory is a dangerous place, with untrained students just learning their first potions. I think you can see how someone immune to magic would be invaluable there."

"So it's not just because I tried to save you?"

"I'd never entrust our prospectives to your training just because I'm grateful to you! Nobody I've ever met is as qualified for this as you."

He smiled. I think it was the first time I'd ever seen a smile on his face, but thankfully, it was far from the last.

"You may have a point," he said, and reached for the quill.


The End
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I have changed the title of this journal to A Commonplace Life. No, I don't intend that title to belittle myself.

I'm calling my journal by that name because during the past couple of weeks I ran across the idea of the Commonplace Book. I'd heard of it, of course. I had the idea that it was a sort of Early Victorian diary or notebook.

This is vaguely true, but only vaguely. A Commonplace Book was where you copied excerpts from books you'd read, especially ones you'd borrowed. You would comment on the meaning of those excerpts, whether you agreed with them, and why or why not. You might include your own observations, recipes, gardening tips, or anything else that was important to you. And, most importantly, you would index the lot of it so you could find what you wanted later.

It was a powerful tool for learning, literacy, and research during the centuries when books were rare, and a book you borrowed and read today might not come within your sight again for the rest of your life. You made a point of copying out any passages you thought you might need later, because if you did need them, your handwritten copy might be the only resource you had.

It occurred to me that's what my journal would be, if I did it properly. Not so much recording and commenting on written material. It's too easy to buy your own copy or find quotes in a web search for me to spend great amounts of time writing down passages from The Flashman Papers, or whatever else I might be reading at the moment. But I do like to write down the stories I've overheard others speak, and comment on some of the little events I run across.

And so, A Commonplace Life. It's a pun, It would be, coming from me.
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1.

I've passed this way a hundred times
I've seen these trees a hundred times
But not all.
So for those of you today
Just raising your first shoots to the sun,
Welcome.

2.
Two blue butterflies
Feasting on a dried dog turd:
Life's what you make it
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(On May 18, 2011, Fresh Air with Terry Gross interviewed journalist Annie Jacobsen. Ms. Jacobsen wrote a book on Area 51 claiming that the Roswell flying saucer crash was actually carried out by the Soviet Union, under Joseph Stalin, with the help of certain Germans, to fool the Americans into thinking they were facing threat of an Invasion from Outer Space.

We set our scene in Joseph Stalin's secret Mad Scientist Lair, later used by producer Cubby Broccoli in the James Bond movie Thunderball. The various personnel required to carry out this operation are assembled, and the plot is set in motion.)

"I suppose you are wondering why I called you here today."

"The thought had crossed my mind," the handsome 18-year-old American said. The three young Germans nodded agreement.

"Patience, my friends. All will be revealed. Joseph, do your studies go well?"

Joseph Mengele smiled. Even at 21 years old, there was something horrible in the face of the future mass-murderer. "Indeed, Comrade Stalin. I expect to have my doctorate in about three years."

"That is commendably quick. Not quick enough, however. I wish we could wait until you had completed your degree; it would be much more impressive to have a true Mad Doctor doing our biological work for us instead of a mere Mad Scientist. But time is too short to allow it, and sacrifices must be made. I need you to produce something miraculous by 1934, only two years from now."

"And what does Comrade Stalin require of me?"

"I need you to genetically engineer some little gray aliens from outer space."

"Without the Nazi extermination camps, where I will do my best work, having even been planned yet? Tricky."

"I'll make it easier for you. The aliens must be small, but rather than engineer them to a smaller size, we will make use of them while they are still children, oh, thirteen years old or so. That should simplify the engineering. It will also cut our lead time to only 13 years. Still, if we want our counterfeit aliens to be thirteen years old by my target date of 1947, we need to have them born in 1934. That gives you two years to create your mutated alien-looking children and have them born. Can you do it?"

"Pish. Child's play. If that hack Frankenstein can stitch Boris Karloff together in the first ten minutes of the film, creating a race of aliens in two years is simplicity itself. Your lack of faith in the abilities I will develop during my studies insults me."

"Don't be that way, Joseph, I knew you could do it. Now, as for you, Walter and Reimar--"

"Yes, Comrade Stalin?" the teenaged Horten Brothers said as one.

"I need you to build me a flying saucer using Secret Nazi Aeronautical Science. Oh, first you must get an education, I suppose-- that upstart Hitler is going to establish glider clubs, you might start there. Be sure not to have a formal education, though. I need you to invent the most amazing aircraft in history, but have no official credentials, so that your jet fighter can't be used against me in the coming war."

The German lads blinked. "War, Comrade Stalin?"

"Yes, there's a little conflict coming, but don't worry about it. I need you to develop the technology for a hypersonic disc-shaped aircraft with intercontinental range and silent, vertical take off and landing capability. Price is no object as we will only build one. Granted, introducing such technology into our fighters, bombers, and transport aircraft would ensure we ruled the world within weeks, but the mission I have in mind is far more important. We will use your magnificent technology only once, and never let it appear in any of our other aircraft, ever again."

"And what is the mission of this flying saucer?"

"To make the Americans afraid of little gray men from Mars!"

The listeners' eyes widened. "Genius!" somebody breathed.

"I thought you'd be impressed. One more thing, Walter and Reimar. After your flying saucer crashes--"

Walter bristled. "If we design it, it shall not crash!"

"Oh, but it must. The bodies of the "aliens" Joseph is creating must be found in the wreckage. If we didn't intend the saucer to crash, there would be no need for the aliens, and if we didn't need the lead time to create the aliens I could at least let you all grow old enough to shave before bringing you into this plan. But I plan ahead, far far ahead."

"Then, reluctantly, I grant our beautiful flying saucer will crash. But won't the Americans capture our marvelous technology when they find the wreckage?"

"Exactly. You must not only develop this miraculous technology, you must make it so advanced, in 1947, that the Americans can't reverse engineer it and use it in any of their aircraft for, oh, fifty, sixty years or so at least. Not even if they have captured all the parts. Can you do it?"

"Tricky, but for Comrade Stalin, anything. In 1947 you will have your flying saucer!"

"Excellent."

"But where do I fit in?" the American asked. "I'm not a mad doctor. I'm not a self-taught aeronautical genius. I'm just a theater major!"

"Ah, Orson, your role in this drama-- pun intended-- is the deepest and most subtle part of my plan. I will need to convince the Supreme Soviet that it is possible to make the Americans fear something as silly as an invasion from Mars. Also, I will need to prime a bad case of flying saucer hysteria in America itself. Can you think of any way to do this?"

"Well, now that you mention it, if I create a radio broadcast of _War of the Worlds,_ it might do the trick."

"Excellent! And now, like all Evil Overlords, I will start a monologue so you can appreciate the fiendish ingenuity of my plan.

"In 1933, Mengle will impregnate women with mutated human children so the fake aliens can be born in 1934. We will immediately start training and conditioning them in some facility so secret that nobody will ever find it.

"In 1938, Orson will run the War of the Worlds broadcast, and America will begin to panic about invasions from Mars. Later, some journalist will claim that Orson was not part of the conspiracy, but rather that he inspired it. But since the alien children must already have been born many years before, we see that Orson too must be part of the brilliant conspiracy.

"The Hortens will build jet aircraft and study to design the flying saucer. In 1947 they will build it.

"When the day comes, we will put Mengele's aliens aboard the Hortens' flying saucer and send it to America. They will panic. They will write an entire TV show called The X Files about it. It will be way cool!

"But here is the last touch of my genius. You would think we would cause the greatest panic by having our flying saucer crash in New York, Washington, San Francisco-- well, any large city, where thousands or millions of people could see it. But my genius tells me it would be FAR more effective to have it crash in the desert outside some remote little town nobody has yet heard of, in some place so remote and isolated that there will be no evidence of the crash, nobody will see it, and the United States Government will easily be able to claim that it never even happened. I was thinking maybe Roswell, New Mexico."

Orson gasped in astonished admiration. "Such breathtaking foresight! In the history of the world there has never been a plotter such as you!"

Stalin smiled. "I know," he said, modestly.
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1.

Neighbor said "I wish you'd do this more often."
I said "I only do it for you and the other neighbors.
If it was up to me I'd let the woods grow wild
Right up to my walls.
Besides, I'm working under
a terrible handicap here."

She looked puzzled, so I explained,
"I'm sure I could do a much better job
If only I gave a damn."
She laughed and said
"You may have a point."

2.

TV guy said
The grass really is greener
On the other side of the fence.
It's a matter of viewing angle;
You can see down between the blades of grass
To the muck, filth, and trash
Below your own feet,
But you can't see that on your neighbor's side.
I don't think he was trying to be metaphorical.

3.

Round and round and round and round
Making no progress at all
and then you're
suddenly
done

Dawn

May. 27th, 2011 09:03 pm
hafoc: (Default)
Let's write the first sunbeams touching you
as a lover would, as I would
(although there's nobody here)

And the first drowsy music of the birds
awakening beneath my window
in the rose light of dawn
(although it's well past dawn
and I couldn't hear them anyway
with the clock radio
blaring Fox Propaganda Channel)

It's properly poetic
And will impress people far more
than what I'm really thinking
as I reach for snooze, which is
Smokey Links are tasty
But I'm out, So I can't have any
with my breakfast egg.
Bummer.
hafoc: (Default)
Looking out the window
Green pines, blue sky
Radio tower red and white

Radio tower red and white
Beacon lights fade in and out
Sister said that meant
The music was flowing forth
This road leads on to all roads
Gray sky in the rain

Gray sky in the rain
Gray house falling down, people gone
Where were they, and when?
Apple blossoms drift down
Pink petal-snow on tall grass
Crackling radio, college football
Far far away

Far far away
The road swept gentle curves
Beneath tremendous pines
The man in gray said
Nothing you learn is ever wasted
As he pumped our gas and
The sun came out

The sun came out
Gilding the mountains we'd left
Where the roads met on the plain
A few houses, a few trees
A root beer stand somewhere near
I can't remember seeing
I can't remember stopping
The clouds go pink in the sunset

The clouds go pink in the sunset
This road leads on to all roads
Nothing you learn is ever wasted
Where were they, and when?
Looking out the window
hafoc: (Default)
I just sent Volume 1 of Flanker to FurPlanet. I also gave them a link to some of my other stories. Wish me luck!

Flanker is my great love and my white elephant, a wonderful five volume set of novels that I can't seem to do anything with. That's the one I care about. But I think an anthology of short stories might be more workable. Especially if you're talking about Derrick Clydesbank, ol' Creepyhorse.

I kind of like him, dangerous as he may be. I have no idea how he'd react if he knew that. Knowing him, I might not even know he HAD reacted... things would just happen.

By the way, I did write another Derrick and submitted him to the online magazine where I've been sending his stories. Haven't heard back from them yet about it. I'm also writing yet another unseen Derrick story. Plus I have an idea for a decent story- a step above the conbook farce level, maybe two or three steps above that-- for the AC con book.

I don't know if they'll use it, of course. But at this point I don't much care. It will be a fairly good story. If they don't use it it will be because it didn't fit their theme, or because they got better stories from other writers; not because my story will be actually BAD.

I had another story I submitted to AC that they didn't use. That one's online somewhere as The Destroyer. The con's theme that year was about seeing the future, and a story about prophecy in an ancient barbarian culture is not QUITE what they were looking for, even though it was technically seeing the future, y'unnerstan? So I wasn't upset when they didn't take it. It's a good story, though, and I'm happy with it. What I have in mind for AC this year might be another of those.

Stand By

Oct. 24th, 2010 11:23 am
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I never got along with ham radio operators.

Since I was a teenager I've listened to shortwave radio broadcasts-- also far-away AM radio broadcasts at night, what [personal profile] tephra or [livejournal.com profile] tephralynn calls "Listening to Static." There's no real reason to do it any more; you can get all the foreign information you want, direct from foreign sources, over the Internet. (Until the Tea Party brings the McCarthy Era back and starts protecting you from truths they want to pretend don't exist.) Back then, though, if you wanted the foreign perspective on the news, uncensored, you got a shortwave receiver.

Story! )
hafoc: (Default)
MacArthur Park Rock
It's only a stupid cake
Just shut the hell up!

Twain

Aug. 1st, 2010 08:37 am
hafoc: (Default)
Twain looks out the window at the scenery going by.
"Living in the future must be fascinating," he says.
"Not really," I say.
"Life is always the preoccupied stranger,
Working silently and moving on before you notice."
He taps ashes from his cigar, but they're ethereal as he is
And don't harm the carpet. "That's not half bad," he says,
"May I use it?"
I steer a bit to the left to avoid a small pothole.
"No."

Twain often rides the dark hours with me
When I'm alone on the road at midnight.
Perhaps we get on well because our personalities match
In unfortunate ways; a tendency toward darkest melancholy
And a cynicism about people redeemed only because
It applies to ourselves too.
In any case, he's far better company than Napoleon
(Arrogant ass, genius at killing,
Dunce at everything else) or, Heaven save me,
Ghengis Khan, who wondered why the meat at McDonalds
Wasn't served raw, pointed out
How easy it would be to jump the counter,
Slit everyone's throats and raid the till,
And looked upon me with cold disdain
When I objected to this well-considered plan.

Twain pretends not to recognize the sounds from the radio as music.
He can't quite fathom how computers let us make recordings
Of instruments that don't even exist,
But he understands the basics of the rest of it.
I hold up my cell phone to explain the purpose
Of the wire towers with their blinking lights.

"I love communications technology," he says.
"I was on the leading edge of that, back in my day.
I invested in this typesetting machine.
It had a keyboard like a typewriter--
I used a typewriter too, by the way, I was one of the first,
Since I couldn't hold a pen any more
The way my fingers ached after holding one all those years--
Anyway, a typesetting machine
Where you'd key in the text you wanted,
And the machine would pick the leaden type out of its forms
And set it in the frame for you, ready to print.
Damned unreliable contraption ended up losing all my money
But My God, it was beautiful."

Metapoem

Jul. 23rd, 2010 05:38 pm
hafoc: (Default)
I poured out my heart
In a poem for you.
I worked on it for hours.

It was dreadful,
Plumbing depths of suck
Hitherto unimagined.

But if I said the taste
of Diet Doctor Pepper
Made me weep for you,
I had my reasons.
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