Quitter’s Inc.

Only two posts this month? Let me explain.

I smoked my last cigarette almost ten days ago. Supposedly, I’ve regained the sense of smell I would have had if I never started smoking. I believe it. Being able to smell like a normal person is already terrible.

I keep catching whiffs of things I wouldn’t have noticed before I quit. Napoleon (the dog) suddenly smells like old sweat and dirt. I can sporadically detect the scent of beer even though I haven’t had any drinks in the house in almost two weeks. Suddenly I hate the smell of laundry detergent, so much so I’m having trouble sleeping on pillows which are now obnoxiously fragrant.

Last time I tried quitting I couldn’t focus on anything. This time, my symptoms of withdrawal aren’t bad enough to distract me from my writing (yet). Still, I don’t feel like updating this blog right now (I’d rather punch it right in its goddamned face to be perfectly honest), but I assure you I’m still doing 31 Days of Gore, an October-long film marathon in which I review 31 horror movies in a row.

That’s another reason September was such a slow month: October will be the biggest month for this blog ever.

everything is as irritating as fingernails on a chalkboard lately

I’m worried my blog posts might seem a bit more angry in the near future, and if that’s the case, just remember that’s probably the nicotine junkie talking, not me.


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I have yet to see this or any other trailer for fear of spoilers

In other news, I was browsing OOP (eBay lingo for “out-of-print”) movies the other day and stumbled upon a VHS copy of Sonny Boy, an early 90s exploitation film which features David Carradine playing a transvestite. I remembered reading about it in a Fangoria about a million years ago and was tickled to death to rediscover it. I’ve always wanted to see it (at least during the period of time in which I remembered it) and, thankfully, I won the auction for a little bit less than I was willing to pay.

$8 to see a lost masterpiece like this? Fuck yeah.

10/3/2016 Update:

Sonny Boy is now available on Blu-Ray from Shout Factory.

After a year, the weirdest thing about being a non-smoker is my food cravings. I haven’t gained any weight (that I’ve noticed), but I crave spicy food more than ever now. You’d think I wouldn’t be able to handle it as well now that I’m no longer deadening my tongue with smoke, but my tolerance for heat has steadily gone up.

Strange days

I have a pretty consistent writing habit. A bad day for me is any day which produces fewer than five pages. Lately I shoot for something like twenty and usually average about eight to ten (we’re talking double-spaced, by the way). Every other week or so I have what can only be described as “a really good day.” It’s less about page count and more about my level of satisfaction with the content itself. The kind of satisfaction I’m talking about here typically leads to a higher page count anyway.

random movie trailer courtesy of Youtube… you’re welcome

I’ve just had three really good days in a row. Three good days in which every direction seemed like the right one, three days in which every word I chose didn’t require second guessing. My “this just doesn’t feel like a novel” worries are quickly dissipating. I can’t remember the last time I had three good days in a row. If I had to guess, I’d say never.

Strange days, indeed. (Look, I just need an excuse for posting the Strange Days trailer.)

There have been problems with my novel. I tend to prioritize the big ones: this chapter is too boring; that chapter is too long; if I cut half of this chapter and half of that one and combine the two together it all has a smoother flow, but what the hell do I do with the chapter that was in between? In solving the bigger problems, I inevitably create a mess of smaller ones. That’s the bad news. The good news is I only have small problems left.

Other than video games, this blog is the first thing I ignore when I’m deep in my work. And right now I’m pretty damn deep into it. I’m not superstitious so I don’t mind jinxing myself: I’m pretty sure I’m about to have a fourth good day.

Jurassic World still looks like shit.

2001 Ray Bradbury video is full of writerly advice

This speech is full of good stuff. Right off the bat Bradbury suggests something I wish I would have known when I started writing fiction in my teens: don’t write long in the beginning, but write a ton of short stories. Preferably one per week. At the end of the year, at least one of those stories should be good. “I defy you to write fifty-two bad ones,” he says.
He then goes on to suggest reading a lot of Roald Dahl, Guy de Maupassant, John Cheever, Richard Matheson, Nigel Kneale, Edith Wharton, Katherine Ann Porter, Eudora Welty, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. He calls John Collier “one of the greatest short story writers of this century and you’ve never even heard his name.”

Kilgore Trout is better than Kurt Vonnegut

Some say you can only write a character as smart as yourself, but that’s not true. Meet Webster: he’s a forty-nine year old furniture builder who stuns his small, mountain community when he completes a sixty-three day winning streak on Jeopardy. See? I just made that character and I’m certainly not smart enough to be on Jeopardy. Yet there’s Webster and, as far as I’m concerned, he exists now. So don’t tell me a fictional writer can’t be better at something than his creator.

In my last post I unwittingly referenced Vonnegut. When I realized this it got me thinking about him, even though I haven’t done much of that in nearly a decade. I will concede that I’m a fan of Vonnegut’s short fiction. The Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions deserve their praise for the most part. I loved Timequake, the novel that even his biggest fans tend to dislike. Maybe it’s because the concept scared the shit out of me. Maybe it’s because it’s pure science fiction.

Science fiction writers tend to be bitter about Vonnegut. The guy wrote the stuff, denied what it was, and lived like Tom Wolfe and Gore Vidal. In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Inferno, the main character wanders the circles of hell when he happens upon Vonnegut’s final resting place, which is a tomb with a big neon sign that reads, “SO IT GOES.” As if the writers’ contention wasn’t clear enough, they have their hero say, “I was writing better than he ever did before I left high school!”

And Vonnegut’s most famous creation (other than himself) is Kilgore Trout, the failed science fiction writer who crafts weirder stuff than Vonnegut does. I have a fondness for Trout that goes deeper than most characters, especially characters who write. He writes a special breed of science fiction with no regard to how inaccessible it is for normal people. On the other hand there are consequences to writing that way. We sense Trout would be a happier person if he wrote mainstream stuff… or if he denied that it was science fiction and managed to gain entry into mainstream literature circles.

I know what you’re thinking now. How could I compare Vonnegut’s writing, which is in every library in the country, to the writing of Kilgore Trout which is more or less ethereal? But Trout’s writing does exist. Let me explain.

While I’m hesitant to say I’m a fan of Vonnegut (although ten years ago I would have had no reservations) I revel in my fanaticism for Philip Jose Farmer. I’m pretty sure a girl broke up with me once because I told her about the plot of Riders of the Purple Sage Wage, which contains incest and pedophilia and about a million other taboos. I love the look of shock on “normal” people’s faces when I tell them about Flesh, in which the main character grows horns and beds literally hundreds of strange women, or when I begin to describe To Your Scattered Bodies Go, which involves every human being who ever lived waking up on Riverworld, a kind of science fictional afterlife which trumps the aforementioned Inferno in every conceivable way.

PJF wrote the kind of fucked-up shit Trout wrote with no regard to how inaccessible it is to people who own SUVs, manicured lawns, and 401ks. Predictably, he was met with relatively little fanfare amongst the general public, although many writers in the genre thought he was brilliant including Harlan Ellison. Apparently Farmer felt a kinship with Vonnegut’s fictional character. It isn’t hard to see why.

Indeed, the story goes that Farmer called Vonnegut and professed his love for Trout. The lesser-known writer begged Trout’s creator to let him write as Kilgore Trout. Vonnegut reluctantly agreed after initially refusing Farmer. The result was Venus on the Half-Shell, which reads a little bit like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but it’s far more insane.

the original books make no references to Farmer or Vonnegut
What happened? Farmer himself reports that Vonnegut got sick of the letters that poured in saying it was the worst thing he had ever written since many people assumed it was actually written by Vonnegut. Perhaps a bigger factor: Vonnegut was pissed off by the amount of people who wrote in saying it was the best thing he had ever written.
I suppose I’m in the camp of people who think it’s better than Vonnegut’s fiction, but I must warn you I love weird SF from that time period. Farmer planned on writing additional novels as Trout, but Vonnegut wouldn’t let it happen. For now, this is it, the only Kilgore Trout book we’re ever going to get. So it goes.

I’m revising my science fiction novel

Revising sucks. Yet that’s what I’m doing for the foreseeable future. That’s why there (probably) won’t be as many updates this week or next.

So there it is, the first draft of Sling (working title), which I wrote between November of 2012 and April of this year. This is uncharacteristic for me to say: I’m proud of this one.

In a nutshell Sling is one of those “galactic empire” war novels. I’m going to call it hard science fiction; although there is FTL travel it’s too complicated and impractical for most people in my story universe to ever take advantage of it. So let’s just say it’s about as hard as Hyperion or Pandora’s Star, just not as long as the latter.