Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category


Happiness, Recalled

November 23, 2015

Ray BradburyIt occurred today that an associate recalled a particular thought experiment, which in turn sent me searching for a Ray Bradbury story. The Saturday Evening Post has been so kind as to offer an electronic copy of their 1957 presentation of the maestro’s story, “The Happiness Machine”, from Dandelion Wine.

Read. Enjoy. Be well.



The Shadow Over Lovecraft

November 23, 2015

It is true I hold a soft spot for H. P. Lovecraft; his stories are among those that made me want to write. It is an unfortunate history, then, fraught with caveats; this is the problem:

First, Lovecraft―who wrote “The Call of Cthulhu,” “The Colour Out of Space” and other influential tales of madness and “sentient blob[s] of self-shaping gelatinous flesh”―is one of weird fiction’s most celebrated authors. He is enshrined in the Library of America.H. P. Lovecraft Stephen King calls him “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” The author of the novel “Psycho,” Robert Bloch, once wrote, “Poe and Lovecraft are our two American geniuses of fantasy, comparable each to the other, but incomparably superior to all the rest who follow.”

Second, as Lovecraft’s letters―and, to a lesser extent, his stories―reveal, the guy harbored a fierce loathing for almost all non-WASPs. Blacks were “greasy chimpanzees,” in Lovecraft’s words. French-Canadians were a “clamorous plague.” New York’s Chinatown was “a bastard mess of stewing mongrel flesh.” And so on.

Phillip Eil’s explanation, for Salon, of the final distribution of Howards for the World Fantasy Award does, indeed, follow the gravity of the tale. It only goes downhill from there.

We can try making what excuses we want; he was a misanthrope, he was crazy, he was an extreme product of something whatnot whonow … er … right. It’s possible to do the five stages; I recommend skipping tracks to acceptance. Then again, neither do I know how many of the generation that comes after me even bothered with Lovecraft, so maybe my own years of reflecting on the question really are as useless as they have always felt.

Still, though. Sigh.

No, no, I’m not fretting for the trophies. It’s just, you know, it’s just one of those, This is why we can’t have nice things! feeling. Lovecraft, Koestler, Cosby. Sometimes it just hurts to face up to what all goes into the art we love, y’know?

But it’s true, he was a miserable, sickly, repulsive sort of genius.



Image note: H. P. Lovecraft in undated photo via Wikimedia.

Eil, Phillip. “The ghost that haunts American literature: The genius & the repugnance of H.P. Lovecraft”. Salon. 21 November 2015.


Familiar Desolation

July 23, 2015

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 22 July 2015.Ever have one of those days?

Okay, here’s another one. Ever have that urge to do the old Bugs Bunny bit with Yosemite Sam, the one about okay I’ll shut up because I’m not the type of guy who keeps on blabbing after someone tells me to shut up … Shut up shuttin’ up!

It was that or the bit about doing the Whatchamacallit advert, and you do the “What’s right?” part, except do it in Scooby Doo’s voice. You know, one of those random things that comes up during the set break at a Phish show. Never mind.

Sometimes writer’s block is best. Just ask Adam.



Huber, Adam. “Writer’s Blockhead”. Bug Martini. 22 July 2015.


The Story, and the Stories Behind the Story

May 8, 2015

Alright, easy enough. In no particular order, except, well, it seems a reasonable enough order:

'My Life Is a Joke', by Sheila Heti (Illustration by Mark Smith for The New Yorker)“My Life Is a Joke”, a short story by Sheila Heti, published in The New Yorker, 11 May 2015.

“Sheila Heti’s Short Story in the New Yorker This Week Only Exists Because of Hugo House”, by Christopher Frizzelle of The Stranger, 6 May 2015.

“Good Writing Matters: A Conversation With Tree Swenson, the Director of Seattle’s Hugo House”, by Russell C. Smith and Michael Foster for Huffington Post, 9 December 2014.

“Seattle Dispatch: The Richard Hugo House”, by Ming Holden for Huffington Post, 9 July 2010

• And after all that I would be remiss if I didn’t point to Hugo House itself.

True, this one’s up in my corner of the world, but remember that good writing is everywhere, and always waiting. And something goes here about a village, or how it could be you, or … or … er … right. Anyway, have fun.



But How Could I Not Mention It?

April 29, 2015

Raymond Carver

So here’s a question: Do I promote a contest with an entry fee?

Or perhaps the entry fee ($15-17) isn’t so substantial for the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest via Carve magazine.

Six-thousand words, maximum, with prizes ranging from $125 to $1,000. Deadline is 15 May.

Right. Have at it. I have no affiliation with this magazine or contest, but won’t mention this sort of thing again if people object. Meanwhile, it’s Raymond Carver. It’s short stories. It’s a contest. It’s a chance.

Go. Do. Write.



Stick Figures and Stories

April 23, 2015

Randall Munroe.  "PermaCal".  xkcd #1514.  19 April 2015.It is not unheard of to sit motionless in a moment of private dazzle over the most ridiculous of details, thinking, somebody had to draw that! And, yes, it is true that better writers can give animators a reason to draw pretty much anything. Never mind.

Meanwhile, when one’s business is drawing stillframes of stick figures, it almost makes sense that somebody took the time to draw it. To wit, a metajoke from Randall Munroe:

The flood of PermaCalNTP leap-second notifications was bad enough, but when people started asking for millisecond resolution, the resulting DDOS brought down the internet.

So, yeah. The cartoon itself is obviously one of those ideas that strikes a writer, and if his medium happens to be stick-figure cartoons—one-panel wonders welcome!―the only remaining question is why would he not do the bit.

Yet, this is also one of those occasions when it seems like the whole point is the metajoke. As in, you know, that whole cartoon exists so he can deliver the DDOS joke.

Maybe. It’s as good a speculation as any other. But consider the stories we tell.

No, really. Consider the world that goes into that joke. Consider the users―the consumers, the people―who could make that happen. And, well, what is up with their stories? What does life look like in that condition?

Really, even the metajoke was inevitable, one way or another. The rest is just luck of the draw. Somebody thought of it, and somebody had to draw it. Even stick figures tell stories. Pretty cool, eh?



Munroe, Randall. “PermaCal”. xkcd #1514. 19 April 2015.


Don’t Ask Me to Explain This

April 23, 2015

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 22 April 2015.Here is a writer’s conundrum: Can you overdo the setup?

The answer, of course, is nearly always a resounding yes, but still, what if it’s not a magical alternate universe, but instead merely a joke? Is it sort of a quasi-neo-post-postpomo-inverse-mod irony by which one buries the punch line as a mere accessory, an asterisk, because the setup is the joke?

I only ask because, well, if the setup is, “I mean, if you karate chop a baby”, where do you go from there?

But I digress.

Well, sort of.

Not really.

Okay, how about this?

Here’s a writer’s conundrum … oh, wait. At any rate, it can’t hurt to check in with David Biespiel sometime that isn’t ten days too late for a bad joke, but that’s just me, and, well, my judgment is such that would bring you the bad joke ten days late. Never mind.

The following essays were delivered on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at the AWP conference in Minneapolis by David Biespiel, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Lia Purpura, and Wendy Willis. The panelists sought to answer the question about the complementary and competing pressures on writers who struggle to maintain fealty to both individual sensibilities and the demands of global citizenship.

And while Biespiel sets the tone with thoughts of a stroke, Icelandic phrases, and life as a dream before crashing in with a reflection on That Terrible Day in 2001, well, it isn’t all terrorism and the security state. Queerness, metacommentary, and ubiquity all make appearances, as does Wendy Willis’ consideration of eating fewer Pringles as a demonstration unto the greater good.

No, really, with a slate like that, how can you go wrong?

Oh, right, and one other thing. I don’t want to hear a word about the missing apostrophe in Huber’s title. Open your minds, people, and imagine a world in which that string of words makes sense without the apostrophe.




Huber, Adam. “Thems Frighten Words”. Bug Martini. 22 April 2015.

Biespiel, David, et al. “Fate of the Writer: Shuttling Between Solitude and Engagement.” The Rumpus. 21 April 2015.


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