Sep 29, 2013

A Sunday Roundup: Mecha-Romance and Mantids and Disco

What's the best thing you never did on a Sunday? For me, the answer is simple -- make sweet love to the USS Enterprise! But her exhausts are too big and I'm only like 3 feet tall or something. Ours shall ever be a platonic relationship. I pine, I faint, I die.

So this Sunday I bring you visual and storytelling inspiration from the four corners of the Internet.

I've been out taking pictures.

From The Savvy Intern, 12 absurd Kanye West quotes you can apply to your career. I had no idea Picasso was a... never mind.

From BLDGBLOGice that burns, ice that sinks instead of floating, ice literally out of this world.

Joshua White continues his
Photographic Survey of the American Yard

On reader feedback and patience: Juliette Wade of TalkToYoUniverse warns you not to squander your readers. 

More than a year ago, Nick Mamatas wrote "Let's put an end to geek pride." Worth revisiting because, well, the navel-gazing and misguided exceptionalism that Nick rails against has not gone away. His book, Starve Better, was the second ebook I ever acquired.

And on that note, dear reader, I bid you adieu and ttyl. Enjoy my hand-picked selection of Italo Disco tracks.

Sep 27, 2013

Dispatch on the Phantom Regiment, 1901

To Lord Aisling STOP Initial reports true STOP Van Vuuren assembled squad of self-decapitating soldiers STOP Impervious to gunfire STOP Rush into battlefield unarmed STOP



Corporal Bridges wanted to feel his way in the dark, but the bounds of his confinement receded; through an oval of light the battlefield shone and men screamed and fell but Bridges heard nothing. The corporal waded against the odorless molasses of a fetid murk without stars. Where was he?

NOTES

Between 1899 and 1902, the British Empire and the independent Boer republics of Transvaal and Orange Free State fought the Second Boer War in South Africa. After a hundred years of mutual hostility, war broke out over control of the Witwatersrand gold mines – not discounting other causes, obviously.

The British won, and annexed both Boer republics. The Boers had been badly outnumbered from the start (88,000 troops to the Brits’ 450,000). In an alternate universe, who knows, they might have used magic to tip the scales in their favor.

Boer means farmer in Dutch and Afrikaans.

The Witwatersrand basin is roughly contemporary with the Vredefort crater, the largest impact crater on Earth, formed about 2.023 billion years ago.


Aerial view of the Vredefort dome in South Africa




Sep 26, 2013

Four Imaginary Drinks for Super-Villains

Villains are people too, you know? They eat, drink, defecate, just like you and me. A good villain (and by that I mean competent and fully realized, not kind-hearted) has depth – has wants – likes and dislikes – in short, it helps to know as much as you can about the villain in your story.

For example, does he like to scratch his ass in public? Does she tie up her victims and read excerpts of 50 Shades to them? Does he collect spittoons?

Illustration by Ashton Dame

Point is, we all have quirks. And villains being people, they will have quirks of their own. While quirks do not make the man or the woman, you can sure use them to flesh out a character. So, for your benefit and reading pleasure, I give you four definitely quirky drinks you can use in your fanciful fiction.

Backbone Latte

Sweet cream, cerebrospinal fluid and ground-up vertebrae. Enjoyed by Gurgledozer, who likes to kick back with a glass of it after a busy, busy day gurgling concrete and steel. It does wonders for his sore throat.

Cannibal Frappé

Cherry tomatoes, gooseberry juice, whipped cream and liquefied hearts. Preferably human hearts. Enjoyed by Draculina, lovechild of Count Dracula and a RealDoll. Draculina’s superpowers include telepathy, levitation, and a strange form of clairvoyance: she always knows who’s going to win the lottery in parallel universes. As she cannot travel between universes, it is a useless superpower. Not to mention a little frustrating.

Blaze of Glory

Iodine, moonshine and a touch of lighter fluid. Set alight. Enjoyed by Cody Wilkins, professional arsonist and hobbyist pyromaniac. (He does what he loves, loves what he does.) Originally a rocket scientist (janitor at NASA), the seriously unappreciated Cody came up with the fiery cocktail as a life termination aid, but instead of killing him, the Blaze of Glory gave him superpowers. Wilkins can now set fire to stuff with his mind as long as he drinks one Blaze a day. Serving the Colombian Happiness Industry as combustion expert (firebug), Cody finds his skills in high demand. All because he tried to kill himself one day, but the gods of destiny intervened. Go figure.

Audionauts helmet design by Mike Kim
via

Pig Newton

Swine tears, gravity, and triple-distilled essence of classical mechanics. Enjoyed by Qandalzuuatr, mass-murdering dodecapus CFO of Drexel & Drexel Creative Killing Solutions Inc. PLC LTD MLTDmnsl GmBH AUGH CCcP.
Qandalzuuatr, who is also part fungus, and therefore gifted with eighteen separate genders, has a pig newton for breakfast every day. Sometimes he time travels ten minutes back in time so he can join himself for breakfast and have two pig newtons. How extravagant.
Q’s crimes include eating the souls of all human beings living beyond the Kuiper belt; shitting them out as twinkies; and turning all the cats on Earth into a single, giant cat.

Sep 25, 2013

I Would Kiss You, But I Cannot Find Your Lips

Your name is Atrocious the Elder. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and your girlfriend wants a bouquet of jeweled human skulls. But humans have been extinct for three hundred years!

So you cast your mind into the Fourth Void, where your friend Clonemaster conducts his illegal experiments.

Fleetingness
by Antonio Polo

Imagine cloning two dozen people just so you could harvest their skulls. Would an advanced non-human species do that to us – breed people and use them as we’ve done to dogs? And what’s the human equivalent of a Chihuahua or a Pekingese?

Anyway. Some people believe the human race is not long for this world. Mayhap squid will replace us in the distant future. Or alien robots. Who knows.

While we’re still around, we enjoy the privilege of imagining a post-human future. Strap yourself in and let Mammoth Grinder take you there.

Sep 20, 2013

Nice Day to Walk Your Camel


Dale Carnegie, no relation to the other Dale Carnegie, met Dale Carnegie – no relation, either – on a Target parking lot. Both of them walked similar-sized camels.
The two Dales stood and examined each other, gapemouthing silence.
The slight physical differences between them gave rise to intense, embarrassing love and hatred.

Partial dematerialization of Marguerite Beuttinger.
An early example of trick photography.

Strange things happen at Target parking lots. The other day in Ventura county, they arrested a man for punching cars and trying to stab another man with a screwdriver. The stabbing part I almost kind of get, but punching cars... Were the cars taunting him or something? Belittling his manhood?


Sep 18, 2013

Flying Sharks in Disguise

She floated on blades of steel, cutting eights on the ice and, when she twirled like a self-directed baton and flowed back to a swift getaway, the crowd cheered and The Prior watched.

“You sure gave me an accomplished daughter, Melinda,” he said into the recorder. “I’ll enjoy dismantling her life.”

Sharks
by SAFELY ENDANGERED

Further reading on impossible sharks: The physics behind a giant shark that destroys airplanes.

And, uh, I think sharks may have a land-walking research program. Be afraid.

Or dance. Dancing works too.

Dance like your hair is on fire but you're at the North Pole so there's plenty of ice and snow to stick your head into and put out the flames on your hair. So you can do with flaming hair for a while. Dance, you.

Sep 13, 2013

The Bleeding Edge of the Rainbow

A surrealist steampunk romance with a dash of erotoelectronica and occult tech:

Azalea fell in love with Castor for the third and last time. She built for him a 3-eyed photon clarinet that would summon ghosts out of the light-sphere, and these ghosts would beg him to stop obsessing about his mudras and pay attention to Azalea before she imploded.

Azalea would sometimes put on her anti-love mask, but she couldn't
get Castor out of her system.


This prompt was directly inspired by three distinct finds on this wondrous Internet of ours. The first being a conceptual portrait by Hector de Gregorio:

click to enlarge

The second, a photo of the 3-Eyed Photon Clarinet built by Reed Ghazala, photographer, inventor and "father of circuit bending":

hellooooo

And the third, a riveting illustration by the talented Laurie Lipton, visionary artist, maker of worlds:


Vice video: Reed Ghazala, Father of Circuit Bending

Sep 11, 2013

Technophobes of the Year 9000

Morgana crawled into the parental bed, wedged herself between her mom and dads, and the first question tumbled out of her mouth.

"Daddies," she asked, "what is a barbarian?"
"Someone who doesn't get enough sleep," said one.
"Eats little children," said dad number three.
"Then I am one," said Morgana.

Barbarian
by Diego Hernandez

I wanted to write a prompt about slugs today, but that didn't pan out.

During mating season, slugs produce several "love darts," i.e., chitinous, stabby penises. Darts are fired as a contact shot when two slugs maintain sexual congress.* As no specialized organ exists to receive the darts, intercourse is violent and painful.**

Anyway. Humans have always engaged in behaviors that now seem unorthodox, some still do — take group marriage, for instance — and things that we find perfectly normal nowadays could be frowned upon in the future. Values evolve. "[A new study] suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years." (Phys.org, February 24, 2010; retrieved Sep. 11, 2013.)

Can you guess what this is?
via Wikipedia

Little Morgana is the first child in a group marriage off in some distant planet, living in a walled city ruled by oligarchs, of whom the Archmaster Brain, a centuries-old cyborg, is the wisest, most capable, far-seeing and benevolent.. The city is a prodigy of embedded technologies: the walls can dispense food, the beds fold into nano-sized spaces during the day, that sort of thing.

The downside is, nobody's free. The walls literally have ears; so does anything you touch. Outside the walls, Barbarian Luddites hold rallies and shout at the humanoid sentries, hoping that nasty words will wash away the extreme convenience of technology. Those are the "barbarians" that "eat little children."

City 1
by Di_Man

If you want to add a twist to that story, imagine that the Luddites have been programmed by the city's Archmaster Brain to reject — at least on a surface level — the blandishments of technology, and that the comparative discomfort they live in serves as an efficient trope & smoke screen for the Archmaster's propaganda.

A song for Luddites and Rivetheads


*I've always wanted to employ the phrase "sexual congress." Achievement unlocked!
** May I suggest that you also read about apophallation? Preferably before dinner. 

Sep 6, 2013

Embiggen Your Vocabulary with Six Foreign Insults

Could you live without insults? Could you go an entire month without swearing at your computer screen? I could not. Swear words, palabrotas, svordom, blótsyrði, they taste good.

I love insults; find them most illuminating. They hold a mirror up to the system of values that drives a man, a woman, a people, a nation. They incorporate the physical and social environment where they appear.

Swear words & insults, as a valuable part of slang, keep languages alive. Join me as I explore six delightful examples.
gif by Bill Domonkos

Imbecilóide (Portuguese)

Imbecile plus mongoloid: a mega-cretin. Whereas most people have a brain between their ears, the imbecilóide probably has lard. You wouldn't hire this person to clean bathroom stalls.

Gilipollas (Spanish) 

Silly dick. Comparatively harmless buffoon. You wouldn't let a gilipollas borrow your car.

Vache Espagnole (French)

Spanish cow. As in, "You speak French like a Spanish cow." The French despise the Spanish, whose cows display remarkable linguistic skills.

Ditt jävla ålarens (Swedish)

You damn eel entrails. An insult from Skåne (that would be Scania to you), where people have a thing about eels. Sweden is your go-to country for strange insults; consider skitstövel (shitboot), jubelidiot (jubilating idiot) or sladdertacka (gossip sheep).

And what do you know, that sheep has her own blog, Gossip Sheep's Book Corner.

Kolmannen asteen turbomuna (Finnish)

Turbodick of the third degree. Honestly, that sounds awesome, but I'm guessing the Finnish do not like turbodicks. They also take a dim view of people who copulate with reindeer. Hey, it's a cold, dark, snowy country. Cut them some slack.

Runknisse (Norwegian)

Masturbating gnome. In medieval Norway, the male-to-female birth ratio of the local gnome population suffered a great upset — and gnomes suddenly found themselves in a dire predicament — only one lady gnome per 8.1 men. Why, it was almost like China.

Gnome society did not condone polyandry. Sexually frustrated gnomes stopped hiding from human eyes; they could no longer spare the energy to work concealment magic. In desperation, they would try to make it with house cats, discarded clogs, loaves of bread, unwary sheep (who then gave birth to gossip sheep) — yet the gnomes could not find enough places to stick their dicks into, because there were way too many boy gnomes and too few amenable holes.

After a couple of boisterous months and a few hundred coupling experiments, all failed, they simply milled around churches and street corners, masturbating and crying. Not a happy sight. When Dagny, a blacksmith, found a gnome wailing and jerking off behind his anvil, Dagny grabbed the gnome by the nostrils and applied his blacksmith foot to the gnome's buttocks with such force that the gnome exploded, taking out Dagny, Dagny's workshop and the two adjacent houses.

Gnomes were explosive.

People learned to leave them alone. Alas, the number of masturbating gnomes grew and grew. Whenever they took a break from all the rosypalming, they invaded homes and ate all the food. When the food was gone, they ate leather belts, shoes and caps. When those were gone, they ate the furniture.

The chief and elders convened a town meeting.
"They have no women," said Gudbrand, the priest. "Spilling their seed on the ground, they will soon die out," he added.
"But, Gudbrand," said Ivar, a hunter, "gnomes can live for hundreds of years."
"Let us pretend we do not see them," said Gudbrand. "They shall begin to doubt their own existence, and through doubt, cease to exist. Problem solved."

And that, my friends, was the birth of political realism.

Sep 4, 2013

What's Red and Smells Like Blue? How Do I Get Out of this Chicken Suit?

Outside Paris, 1963

When I get back to my regular shape, heads will roll. How am I supposed to assassinate the German chancellor with this body? Cluck, cluck. Useless. No night vision. No opposable thumbs.

Ah, here comes the biped with its food container. Good. I'm hungry.

Shut up! Focus on the mission!

Chicken
by Vaughn Shim

France and Germany signed the Élysée Treaty in 1963, putting an end to one of the longest rivalries in European history. Our protagonist would have been sent by a meta-temporal destabilization agency (MTDA) to assassinate Konrad Adenauer for shits and giggles because, if you exist outside the flow of time and you sell your services to any alien with deep enough pockets, that's the kind of thing you do.

With multiple universes at your disposal, the fate of a tiny planet in a suburban universe doesn't matter all that much. Does it?

One slight inconvenience to MTDA agents: only information can travel between universes, and calibrating embodiment is more of an art than a science. You might find yourself incarnated as a rock or a tree. As kelp. As a mote in the wind. Hazardous sort of job, isn't it? You'd think the pay and benefits are awesome. Well, no, not really.   

Imagine how this stern-faced man would react to a chicken holding a gun.

Photo by Katherine Young, original held at the Bundesarchiv.

Adenauer served as mayor of Cologne when the Nazis came to power in 1933. National Socialists ousted him and froze his bank accounts. He was forced to seek refuge in a Benedictine monastery for a whole year.

After WWII, he founded the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), of which Angela Merkel is the current leader and Chancellor of Germany. A Catholic himself, Adenauer had envisioned a party that would unite Catholics and Protestants alike.

Side note: I swear I did not get any inspiration from Poultrygeist, a film I have yet to see.