rules are for the birds

there were angels dining at the Ritz

Hospital cafeteria again. 167 words in about half an hour. Better tomorrow.

I'm beginning to think more highly of JIm Macdonald's "Key Lime Pie" theory of short stories, for some stories more than others. I expect to end up with several complete rewrites (no sentences carried over from the previous versions) of the current WIP, a horror short-short for a Pseudopod contest. Luckily there is a 500-word limit.


A few thoughts from me about Iron Man 2 and coming attractions, since krylyr asked.

A few thoughts from me about noir to see and read, since ellen_fremedon asked. voidmonster and I were talking the other day about a general definition of noir, or at least the ethical universe noir exists in, and I think I may have worded it better in that conversation than at EF's journal. Still a work in progress, I suppose.
  • Current Music
    Marian McPartland, "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square"
stone avocado

living is easy with eyes closed

Hospital cafeteria. Aargh. Let us not speak of it.


I'm very tired of seeing Blanche Lincoln and Bill Halter fighting dirty for the privilege of getting beaten by John Boozman. I haven't decided which primary (D or R) to vote in this year, because I'm not sure which of the races are likely to really matter. (In Arkansas, party registration doesn't determine which ballot you get during a primary. You just walk up and tell the poll workers which ballot you want.) I suspect there will be a lot of nose-holding for those voting in that race, except for those who have decided to vote against any incumbent, anywhere, no matter how loathsome the alternative. I'm surprised no one has registered the ballot name "Non-incumbent Smith" or somesuch.

Check out a brief history of the deadArkansas' senatorial delegation, such as it has been. It's not unheard of to have a Republican Senator from Arkansas (Tim Hutchinson was one as recently as 2003), but it's obviously the exception, not the rule. However, if Boozman gets elected (as looks likely) and wins re-election in 6 years, he would be the first Republican Senator to do so in Arkansas' 170+ year history. I suspect that will be a more interesting race than this one.


papersky on exposition: "The story should never stop to do it, except on those rare occasions where you're Neal Stephenson."
stone avocado

yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon

Where am I, and why are all these cattle eating jimsonweed? Don't they know it's a hallucinogen?

Got in a few minutes of writing at (wait for it) the hospital cafeteria! Rewriting a story for the next flash fiction contest at the Escape Artists forum, this time for Pseudopod. I wrote the story (<500 words) last week and am thoroughly dissatisfied with it.

"Next flash fiction contest"? Yes, I wrote two flash fiction pieces last month and submitted them to last month's flash fiction contest at the forum, that time for Podcastle. I'll provide links to the forum when I'm less pressed for time.

We will see if I can come up with two workable ideas, much less two workable short-short stories, for Pseudopod this month and for Escape Pod this month. Am I alone in thinking that, of SF/F/Horror, science fiction is the hardest to do at the <500-word length?


Songs that I needed to hear during my commute this morning: Aretha Franklin's "Today I Love Everybody," Ben Folds Five's "Army."

Back in the office after being out for training the last few days. Now I know a tiny bit more than I did before about incinerators, gas control at landfills, and stationary reciprocating engines. Yay.

Movies seen in the last few days: Iron Man 2 and Mother (or Madeo, in the original Korean). One is a pretty competent superhero blockbuster, with too few scenes with Downey and Paltrow or Downey and Mickey Rourke. (It's also no Dark Knight, so abandon that hope before you step over the popcorn crumbs on the way in." The other one is... well, it's a mystery with some suspense, a surprisingly seamless blend of a character-driven and plot-driven movie. Noir fans, see the second.

To whom it may concern

Any greeting involving a chest bump is unnecessary, if

1) you're in a hotel lobby,
2) you saw the person recently (e.g., last night),
3) you're over 40 -- no, make that over 25,
4) you're wearing a CEO shirt (men's dress shirt in a color other than white, usually French blue, with contrasting white collar and cuffs), or

In this case, it was some sort of hand jive + over-the-table slow-motion chest bump.


Step 1: Take a restaurant identified by the possessive form of a first name (i.e., Bob's, Loretta's).

Step: 2: Add Uncle or Aunt to the front of the name, whichever seems better.

Didn't it just get better? I wouldn't have thought twice about eating at a place called Julio's, but somehow calling it Uncle Julio's makes it worthwhile.
stone avocado

To whom it may concern

If I order a chicken fried steak and gravy, and you (being a restaurant) offer me two sides and Texas Toast, my guess is that your chicken fried steak is not doing its job.

Added after the plate arrived: And I'm correct. (Yes, that's a double order of fries, but I don't expect to finish them or order dessert. This does not change my opinion about the steak, though.)

stone avocado

Book club: The Apocalypse Door, by James D. Macdonald

Sorry to have fallen off the face of the earth for a while. Will try to respond to e-mails and comments this week.


Let me start the book club discussion by quoting Jim Macdonald himself. Ecce homo:

The readers expect to be surprised by the inevitable. This sounds like a tall order. It is. Ther<>e are a couple of cheap tricks I can teach you, but try for the real thing.

(Cheap trick number one: Start a story arc. Before it reaches its climax, start a second story arc. When that second story arc reaches its climax, substitute the climax for the first story arc. This sounds silly, but it really works. For an example, see Chaucer's The Miller's Tale.)

Uncle Jim wrote this in November 2003; TAD came out in hardcover in 2002.

You don't have to think that the plot structure of TAD is a cheap trick (I don't) to see some similarities between Jim's comment and TAD. Did the plot structure work for you? It did for me, until about two thirds of the way through the book, when I noticed something in the In-Country sections that made me read ahead in them, to see if my guess was right. (See Ellen Fremedon's comments about Brust's plot structure in Dzur making her eager to skip some sections in favor of others.)

I believe that I've asked Jim Macdonald about how this book was written, whether he considers it a book that only he wrote (per the name on the front cover) or a book that he and Debra Doyle (his co-writer and wife) wrote, and he said that it was the latter. (Chalk the author credit up to the quirks of publishing; ask him about it at a Readercon or Boskone kaffeeklatsch.) But this book feels more like Jim than anything else I've read of his. He once made the comment that everything he's written has been crypto-Catholic, except for TAD. Maybe that's why it feels that way, or maybe it's the noir style and some of the subject matter (intelligence work).

(That's not to say there weren't a few sentences that felt like Doyle had gone at them with her plane and sandpaper, in a good way.)

ETA: I stand corrected. Jim wrote, “It was written without Dr. Doyle’s assistance.”

The thing that I enjoyed the most about this book: the feeling that the author had fully committed to the quirks of his universe. It was the confession in chapter two that convinced me that because Crossman and the author took things seriously within the confines of the book, it was safe for me to do so too.

What did you think? Spoilers in comments, of course -- in particular, the part of the liturgy that the In-Country sections correspond to, as best as I can figure.