Saturday, November 15, 2008

Further Upward Steps

There comes a certain point in one's life when one begins to wonder if Lovecraft's fiction isn't really all about a fear of genitals. At this point one can flee the field or one can confront The Great Old Ones face-to-face, as it were.

In addition to Lovecraft this was influenced by Escher and the unspeakable six-ought Rapidograph point. The original was about twenty inches across as I recall.

Care for another cigar, Dr. Freud?

This is a Cthonian, out of Brian Lumley's Cement Surroundings and The Burrowers Beneath. Honestly, I should be ashamed of myself.

Well, there have been a couple of notable events in the last couple of days. I'm gonna be in my first gallery show! It's going to be at the Gualala Arts Center from March 14 to April 6. It's a group show of large prints coming out of Berkeley Community College. If you're a constant reader you may recognize the image they chose -- here it is. Gonna drop a fortune and print it up at three by four feet on canvas. It's interesting -- a lot of the participants in the show are instructors here at school.

Man, Gualala. They got rich folks there. I hear you can get superpowers if enough rich folks see your art. I'm trying to figure out how to make my work appealing to rich folks and I'm currently torn between pheromones from apes in oestrus and some of the musk from behind Alan Greenspan's ears. Decisions, decisions.

And I am now convinced that I'm gonna be in a book. Here's the home page. And here's the author page. Look at that! My name on the same page as Joe R. Lansdale's. Dang. And the title has been changed to Ligature Marks, which I think is a real improvement. Now I need to put a link to my blog from my original site.

This all seems so weird. After being a self-identified loser for my whole damned life all of a sudden things like this are happening. It makes me nervous -- but I think I can live with a little nervousness.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Science and Science Fiction

One of the very first images I processed on a computer -- I don't have any of the color prints I did back then and was very surprised to turn this up. Maybe I should give it a lick of color, just for shits and giggles. I blame this one on Stephan Tall's Mushroom Planet.

Over at Biology In Science Fiction there's been an interesting post made. Peggy and her associate Stephanie Zvan are interested in the relationship between science and science fiction and have posted a number of questions they'd like to ask both science bloggers and science fiction writers.

Here are my answers to the questions directed at SF writers.

Why are you writing science fiction in particular? What does the science add?

I write and I have a strong interest in the sciences and I've read science fiction all my life. Given this, what else can you expect from me? That ain't all to it, though. Science fiction allows us to bring the weight of real knowledge to bear on the human condition. Took me a good twenty minutes to get around to admitting that... Sounds pretentious as hell, doesn't it? But it's true. Most fiction springs from situations that are entirely human -- SF is a wonderful way to deal with the fact that humans are a singular phenomenon in a much wider universe. And the more science we've got, the more it affects the human condition.

And at the end of the day there are some speculative questions that are just plain interesting -- my most recent SF piece deals with the idea that humans aren't made for rational thought -- and that if given access to hardcore rationality they might not reach the decisions that are healthiest. That kind of "Huh, what if?" thought process is really important to me.

Most of what I write is surreal/horror/fantasy stuff -- but scientific thought informs that as well. In the fantasy novel that I'm currently working on, everything from alternative evolution to the idea of limited resources has influenced what I've written.

Science can add a lot to a lot of different kinds of fiction, not just SF. Look at Robertson Davies's portrait of a scientist studying stool samples in The Rebel Angels for a real eye-opener. Rationality itself is a drastically underutilized subject for fiction.

What is your relationship to science? Have you studied or worked in it, or do you just find it cool? Do you have a favorite field?

You're just trying to hurt my feelings with this one, aren't you?

Okay, until I was in my twenties my family assumed I'd be going into the sciences. I had a subscription to Scientific American all through elementary school. (Which was ridiculous because back then Scientific American was some kind of ritualized jargon-based pissing contest... but I did get the Dinosaur Renaissance issue when I was in the fourth grade.) I received a Bank of America scholarship for the laboratory sciences when I left high school. I entered college as a double major in Earth Sciences and Biology with an intention of doing paleontology as a grad student. Unfortunately, crazy intervened and left me to spend my early twenties as a saucer-haunted janitor.

I know enough to be able to get myself into trouble. I come off as knowing more than I actually do. I can talk to scientists -- and I can get way, way over my head. (As an aside, I thought creative writing and art classes were stocked with weirdos until I took some science classes intended for non-science students...)

While I try and keep an eye on things in general, I do have a strong bias for paleontology and evolutionary science. And if I am fortunate enough to be able to make a living with my writing and art, I'd like to stay in school and give the sciences another serious shot. I may never do real research but I do want to be able to write popular science works at some point in my life -- we need to improve the level of scientific knowledge in the general population and this is the only way I can contribute to that.

How important is it to you that the science be right? What kind of resources do you use for accuracy?

This is a question that I'd answer very differently on a case-by-case basis. In the end I owe my loyalty to the story -- but I've got a whole mess of scrapped fiction where an inability to make the science work with the fiction led me to abandon a piece.

Most science fiction is, from my limited and biased perspective, fantasy with chrome. Then comes a particular type of speculation that uses logic problems as a basis for fiction -- I, Robot, anyone? There is the use of scientific jargon as word jazz -- and this at its finest requires scientific knowledge to execute and appreciate. Think Charlie Stross or Bruce Sterling. Then there are those rare jewels, really scientific pieces of fiction. All of these require different degrees of accuracy to work as fiction.

But in the end, my feeling is the more accurate the better. Given two stories of comparable literary value I will strongly prefer one over the other if it has accurate scientific content.

I use a wide variety of resources ranging from a personal library to the internet -- and no matter what I do I'll always feel guilty for not having done more research. What's really thrilling is that scientists are frequently very generous with their time and advice -- and you can track them down on the internet. When I was working on a film script set in the Jurassic I received a great deal of advice from working paleontologists -- and it was great to see them argue with one another over such issues as whether cabeza de sauropod was a good taco filling.

Are there any specific science or science fiction blogs you would recommend to interested readers or writers?

I'd suggest looking around for blogs inside your field of interest. And if you go to my profile you'll find a bunch of the sites that I frequent. But right off the top of my head, Tetrapod Zoology is a favorite -- give me the monsters! And if you dig a good smackdown, Pharyngula smites the non-heathen hip and thigh. I don't know -- there are tons of them and more coming every day and I've had to stop looking at a bunch of sites I really approve of. So if you want my opinion, the sites I've got listed on my profile are my daily staples -- and I'm scared of getting any more.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

From The Valley Of Lost Projects: Cyberskunk!

So I was attending Laney college in the mid/late eighties when I ran across a fellow named Angel who wanted to do a comic book. He'd gotten a lot further down this road than I had, to the point of having been to conventions and so on, and he had an idea. A funny animal cyberpunk comic called Cyberskunk. (His name's Cyril -- get it?) It's important to remember that at this time there was no internet and funny animals had not yet been smeared with semen. Angel had the basic ideas, I came in and did some designs and made some writing suggestions...

This is all that remains. A bunch of designs were done, some layouts, some scripting -- we had no idea how to approach a large creative project and this was one that was eventually going to need some kind of financing to get off the ground.

I really want to do comics and it seems as if the better I am at writing and drawing the further away I get from cartooning. This is as close as I've come... I want to address this situation over the summer.

There were a lot more hippy designs than this. 's funny -- the big conflict was greasers vs. hippies and not a punk in sight.

I think I like this guy's boots more than anything else in the whole shebang.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Here's something I was doing ten years ago...

So I've been paddling in the slough of despond for a few days now -- a week, actually, now that I think about it. Thankfully not the "I've got to tear a hole in my skin so I can crawl out of it" kind of depression but the more sedate and genteel "I've been walking between the TV and the fridge for more than an hour; I seem unlikely to make any decisions in the near future" kind.

No writing or drawing or school or basically anything worthwhile has been done in a week; enough of this nonsense. Glendon Mellow has hit me with my first meme. (A troll, a meme -- internet, I have arrived!) Now I have no idea what this crazy gadget is supposed to do -- I suppose the only thing is work my way through it one step at a time.

It's called the Five Things meme.

Five Things I was doing Ten Years Ago

1) I was working in a book warehouse as a box lugger. The hardest part of the job was staying away from the vast areas where poorly-selling titles were shelved -- that's where the art books were and after I found stuff like Thirty-Six Ghosts and One Hundred Views of the Moon, both by Yoshitoshi and both in the hundred dollar range I realized I lacked both the sense and will necessary to resist such temptations.

2) I was playing a lot of music, bass and vocals and songwriting and even accordion, once. Band practice four days a week, including two full days. We were in the process of recording the tragically-prophetic album They Used To Be Really Cool.

3) I was getting wasted. Really wasted. A lot. See the above.

4) I was with the woman I'm with today -- and I had been for about ten years. At that point we'd made the transition from "What the hell am I doing here" to "Seems to be working well -- good thing we stuck with it."

5) I was just starting to draw dinosaurs and had no ideas of putting them in front of the public.

Five Things on my To-Do List Today (This is not the day I want to answer that question -- I am dealing with extraordinarily low levels of ambition at this point.)

1) Take a hike and have lunch with my dad. Done -- we went to Sunol, then Mr. T's burgers in Martinez. Poor ol' Dad is looking for a good chili dog platter and is having no luck...

2) Get caught up on my internets, including posting and emails.

3) Stay awake until bedtime and then go to sleep. More challenging than it sounds.

4) Work on the climactic fight scene for the novel. This is one of the reasons I stepped on my dick; my climax didn't work. It made sense, it brought many of the themes of the work to a climax, it was soft and dull and I failed to bring the thunder. Now I gotta find me some thunder. Then I gotta bring it.

5) Eat some fruit. Like I said, it's a low-ambition day so it's a good thing those tangerines are seedless.

Five Snacks I Love (This is just crazy. I'm all about meals -- I know nothing of these things you call snacks. That said...)

1) Booze.

2) Congealed animal fat stripped off the carcass in the fridge, dipped in the jellied juices at the bottom of the pan, possibly sprinkled with salt.

3) A spoonful of the missus's dried coconut milk eaten straight from the container.

4) Pretentious flavored chips -- the cheesier, the better. Bonus points for scary tropical roots that are toxic in their natural state.

5) Toast. Buttered toast, nut-brown.

Five Things I would do if I were a Millionaire. (I believe the term 'millionaire' to be antiquated. It summons up an image of unimaginable wealth and luxury -- while the possession of a million dollars will get you a nice double-wide these days.)

1) Periodically have my hair cut by a pleasant female person rather than doing it myself with the dog buzzers. I like a little grooming every so often.

2) Let's get to some charity stuff here -- Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, CBLDF, etc. All the usual suspects for a lazy leftie such as myself.

3) Health Insurance. I've got a lump in my neck the size of a hockey puck and the last time I poked it, it bit me. Definately health insurance.

4) Have the stairs to my studio moved outside. That would give me a big chunk of floor space but most importantly it would let me come and go without worrying about the missus's students and clients. I'd get in hours more worktime every week. As it is, her workspace is downstairs from my workspace so my access is hampered.

5) Start a more serious exercise program, preferably one involving some kind of martial arts. A vigorous shellacking would do me a world of good.

Five Places I've Lived. (Hmmm. I don't even know if I've got that many.)

1) Richmond, California. Some towns you move away from -- this one you escape.

2) Santa Cruz, California. No doubt it is a lovely place to be a member of the privileged classes. I was a janitor.

3) Sonoma, California. I miss the downtown -- the sausage shop, the cheese factory, the French bakery...

4) Oakland, California. We were the classic bad neighbors, Jesus we were awful. Agent Orange and Flipper at top volume to start off a Sunday morning cleanup? Drunken brawling at all hours? The Wall of Kids? Bad booze is bad news, my friends, and these were the days of St. Ides and Olde English.

5) Berkeley, California, where I've been residing for nearly twenty years. (Whew! Just made it!)

Five Jobs I've Had

1) Day-care center worker and janitor.

2) Janitor at a fashion department store.

3) Under-the-counter laborer for a landscape architecture project.

4) Office worker for Holden-Day, the first company to publish Carl Sagan. Man, that's a story -- only office job in the world where you had to worry about getting chickenshit in the files. Since I was the only one in the office who didn't have a thick accent I was put on the phones when our entire accounts receivable was handed over to a collection agency...

5) Script writer for Mondo Media. Best job ever, aside from the sick guilt and karma and the grodious corporate hack thing. On one hand I was paid fifty dollars an hour to fail to laugh at comedians, on the other hand I was hired for one show only to find months later that the previous staff had been fired after they'd won an award and the boss got scared that they might ask for raises -- so in the interests of damage control he let them go before they found out about the award. Not to mention the whole "reviewing movies before they've been made" thing -- which, honestly, worked fine. The reviews were every bit as accurate as those made by people claiming to have seen the films in question. (Which is as good a way of summing up the state of the art in cinema as I know.) Before that job I was a guy who looked like a writer; after that job I was a guy who could claim to be a writer. I got, by my pathetic standards, good money to train on the job. I need more work like this.

Five People I'll Tag -- no way. I don't know anything about how this stuff works. I've seen enough movies to know that tagging people can lead to plot development and I want no part of it. First I tag someone, next thing you know it's all microchips and bikinis and Yakuza and car chases and I don't even drive.
No thank you.