Jul 27, 2014

Sunday Art Flood: Creatures, Robots and Spaceships

Why do people enjoy stories?

I can't give you a comprehensive answer, but there must be an evolutionary advantage to it. We don't know whether the Neanderthal told each other stories; they're not around anymore. Homo Sapiens, a story-loving creature, has supplanted or absorbed all other human species on Earth.

It seems to me that human language organizes itself around some form of storytelling and so, given the need to make sense of the world and fill the gaps of knowledge, people began to shape their intuitions into vague but poetic explanations of the world. Explanations that featured characters from a world before time, like the raven who created the first people, or the tree of knowledge with a dragon coiled around its roots. Metaphor came into being before it even had a name.

Our ancestors lived in a world rife with magic and danger. It was an enchanted world, one in which invisible forces could be petitioned -- and even threatened! -- to guarantee a good hunt or a bountiful harvest.

We no longer rely on gods or demons or numinous spirits to get us what we want, but the need for enchantment and wonder remains, and this is where art comes in.

My Life I Like
by Lockheed jun mao
Are you ready for a journey into the past that never was, and the eons that may come?

Jul 23, 2014

25 Folk Sayings by the People Who Live Under My Bed

by Drawnbridge O’Fallingsworth II, ESQ., BSC, Treasurer of the East Bleakdale Theoretical Cave-Divers Club, Est. 1899


A few months ago I was summoned to the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs — along with 34 other citizens of Bleakdale & Slough* — to take part in a charitable housing project whereby we, the 34 citizens of Bleakdale & Slough, were to charitably welcome into our homes a few hundred refugees from an armed conflict on the Continent.

My humane disposition, and the tantalizing promise of a day off from Traffic Police Appreciation Training (they sit you in front of a TV six hours a day and show you nicely-produced videos of the police citing and/or detaining people for various traffic violations), compelled me to accept a family of seven as pets and/or charges. Space was an issue at first, as the house I live in only offers a manageable area for exactly .07 human beings. My refugees have lived under my bed for the past two months; and not a single complaint from them. A hardy people, those Romulvanians.

So as you may imagine we’ve grown close. They behaved timidly at first, not even daring to say goodnight for fear I would kick them out, but by and by, patience and the milk of human kindness have conquered. The youngest daughter, who has a little English, now liaises between me and the rest of the brood. She has also undertaken to teach me some of their language. I was a fast study, much to her surprise — but then, she’d never had the opportunity to engage with a superior, civilized intellect.

I’ve been able to learn much about their colorful folk sayings as I heard them fighting over moldy peanuts or the bread crumbs I let fall on the carpet as I lay and eat in bed, reading the latest novel by Minim Gorky. (My literary tastes are refined in the extreme.)

And it is in the spirit of sharing and bridge-building that I now present to the East Bleakdale Theoretical Cave-Divers Club a list, by no means exhaustive, of the heartwarming, profound, and often confounding, folk sayings of Romulvania, translated by yours truly with a little help from Bogdana, the daughter I mentioned earlier, who would sometimes use the family periscope (which I gifted to them) to peer up at me and ask for permission to crawl out from under the bed and maybe see the rest of the house, to which my invariable response was, “Now, now, you know there’s no room to move. Be a wise girl and stay under the bed, or else the Ministry will prosecute me for not providing you and your family with adequate living quarters. That space under the bed is the absolute best — why, if I could, I would live under the bed myself.”

“Then why don’t you?” She would ask, the impertinent girl. “Because you and your family already live there, thanks to me,” I would reply. Children, eh? [NOTE TO SELF: Remember to chuckle at this point. Those cack-headed fartbags had better laugh, or else.]

 But, excuse my little digression. Here come the sayings:

Jul 19, 2014

Song of the Red Marmoset

The four children woke up at the same time knowing that the meaning of life was secreted somewhere else on the planet.

In dreams the same voice had whispered to them, “Steal your parents’ mining gear and go find the book.”

None of them quite understood, but they went anyway.

Lisa Adams, Side-saddle (2004)

Just for fun, let's name the four children after Irish saints: Abigail, Fursey, Gibrian, and Ita. Gosh, those names sound nice together.

Abigail was a 6th-century abbess. One of her legends describes how she sent a swarm of bees after a cattle thief so that he would return the animals he'd stolen.

Fursey achieved fame thanks to his ecstatic trances, during which he heard angels singing and witnessed the battle for his soul.

Gibrian inspired all of his brothers and sisters to become hermits. All nine of them. No small feat.

Ita founded a religious community for women and reportedly brought a man back to life by reuniting his head with his body.

They'd make a hell of a superhero team. Let me get back to you when I think up a suitable antagonist.

Jul 18, 2014

66 Writing Prompts a Day Keep the Doctor Away

What’s the least you can expect of a writing prompt? That it will fire your imagination. That it will stretch your mind somehow — a writing prompt should get your gears turning, your pistons firing… It should be at least as inspirational as the smell of that cherry pie that you just took out of the oven.

Pie explodes when hit by a marble traveling at high speed.
Photo by Alan Sailer.

So when I see people offering writing prompts that clearly took them zero effort, I lean back in my chair and ask myself, am I working too hard? and the answer is, Yes, I am.

And you know what, it doesn’t matter. Dedication is key. Coming up with story prompts deserves no less effort than baking cornbread or mixing a vodka martini, yet I see people slapping a caption on a picture, adding a couple of Twitter hashtags, like #creativity (barf), and calling it a day.

Am I angry? Am I pissed off? Hell yeah, I’m angry and pissed off. Others may rant about the new Fantastic Four movie ruining their childhood because they decided to cast an African-American as Johnny Storm, or because the new Thor is a woman while the old Thor gets to wield a hammer called “Iron Bear.” (Yeah, that’s what järnbjörn means.) I have other concerns. To those people I say, your childhood gets ruined way too easily and frequently.

Iron Bear, eh.

But the best way to get my point across w/r/t the lousy, ineffectual word salads that pass for writing prompts on the Internet and presumably elsewhere, is to fight fire with fire. Therefore, let me show you how you can just pump out any number of story prompts when you don’t give two shits about making them good. Are you ready?

Jul 12, 2014

A Prayer to the Coastal Winds

In his blue business suit and silk tie thrashing like a trapped worm, he squatted by the basalt rocks, charred fragments of an alien world, and began to dig.

Maybe she will forgive me if I find a shell, a special one, he thought. I’ll call her in the morning.

Photo by John Magnet Bell

Wiktionary informs me that the verb "to estrange" comes from Old French estranger, "to treat as a stranger"; Dictionary.reference.com contributes "to turn away in feeling or affection; make unfriendly or hostile; alienate [someone's affections.]"

The opposite of estrangement, I guess, is finding yourself through somebody else -- finding a person who resonates with you. Resonance also comes from Old French by way of the Latin word for "echo" -- resonantia.

We spend our lives looking for echoes. This is Nature at work. If birds call to each other, if trees communicate, if every living thing on this planet builds some kind of community based on familiar sights, sounds, tastes and ideas, why should we be any different?

Go out today and be the soothing, familiar voice that somebody needs. Be the echo gifted with consciousness.

Jul 9, 2014

Mail Order Apocalypse

She had a face like an angel and legs like an ostrich. Her name was Ekaterina, she could stomp the soul out of you, and she knew what she wanted.

He had a face like an ostrich and the ethics of an evolved pop tart, which isn't saying much. Pettifer also knew what he wanted. Some of it involved identity theft, embezzlement and starting his own cult.

Together, they would commit several unorthodox crimes, and become every cop's, every lawyer's, and every lawmaker's favorite criminal couple.

My Dog Loves Gin
by Farnell

You know, I could launch into a diatribe regarding the sheer badness of ordering people off mail catalogs, but then my mind keeps straying to the subject of one-eyed pugs sitting on skateboards drinking gin through a straw, and that makes it difficult to focus on serious subjects. So have some more art instead, which I have gleaned from this abundant orchard we like to call "the Internet."

Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Miles to Go

by Amee Cherie Piek

I'm No Pig without a Wig
by Oliver Lake

Jul 3, 2014

Stop Sending Glue, We Don't Need Any More Damn Glue

It was the year of rocks cracking in the heat, the year like a famished Monday when Daltrey spent most nights awake in hunger and most days dreaming of tuna substitute.

He changed genders to female (class 35, non-fertile) and set out into the desert of Chios to maybe find a patch of juicy stank-a-bobs and live off the land by herself.

Art by Raymond Lemstra

Jul 1, 2014

The True Form of the World is Lumpy

Brett had dreamed of going to Iceland all his life, but he wasn't prepared for the shock that awaited him there.

He fancied himself a man of reserve and cautious judgment until he emerged from the underwater shuttle and saw her. Her. A figureless shape, second to none. To none!

Says the original poster:

"I saw this thing in Iceland and was told that it was a ‘sexy thing’ by people carrying it around taking pictures. It is a gigantic blob in a bikini. At least it’s a thing. Tourists were having their pictures taken with it."