The Compleat Werewolf

The Compleat Werewolf

The Compleat Werewolf

There are too many werewolf stories around these days. And way too many vampire stories. I have not read any of the Twilight series, so I will not denigrate it, I will simply say it doesn’t interest me enough to waste my precious reading time. And I will not even look at a vampire story now – it has been so overdone.

We were talking about this the other evening in our writing group, and my whining brought back to my head a sudden memory of a long time ago. I remembered reading a short story called “The Compleat Werewolf” by Anthony Boucher, a giant in the world of early Science Fiction and mystery type stuff (he was a Science Fiction editor and a Mystery writer). Clearing the cobwebs and thinking hard, I remember I read it as part of a collection – probably around 1970 or so. I remembered bits of the plot: a professor changing from a wolf to a man in front of his class, forgetting he was naked, a bullet splashing off of a wall and the horror of the werewolf when he realized the near miss was silver, and a portly magician demonstrating the Indian rope trip to tragic ends.

Well, a quick Internet search and some library wrangling and I had in my hot little hands a copy of The Compleat Werewolf. I was surprised to find it was written in 1942 – the tale was older than I thought (there is a reference to the forty-eight states in the story). It held up well, though.

The whole basis of the tale is that a werewolf isn’t inevitably evil (though most are) and that, when used with discretion and intelligence, a power like that can be darn useful.

I enjoyed reading the thing. It is more a detective story than anything, though the whole mystery is pretty simple and unravels without much tugging of the sweater string. It is sparsely written and hardboiled enough to go down easy and quickly, but still has a few literary flourishes thrown in. I have to love any tale that includes the phrase, “this fantastic farrago of questions.”

To sum up, The Compleat Werewolf is a yarn. Not entirely serious, not without a wink or two, but a complete story, where a bad guy shoots himself, the hero (wolf) gets the girl (not as he had hoped… but better), and there are practical considerations in spite of supernatural occurrences.

So don’t be afraid to mosey down to your local biblioteca and check out this or some other collection of classic story telling. You might learn a thing or two and have a good time in the meantime.

Make it or Break it



What you got back home, little sister, to play your fuzzy warbles on? I bet you got little save pitiful, portable picnic players. Come with uncle and hear all proper! Hear angel trumpets and devil trombones. You are invited.

—– A Clockwork Orange

When I first started to listen to music, a 45 RPM record cost ninety-eight cents. I had a dollar a week coming in and would eagerly await a trip to the record store to buy my music single. They had little booths that would let you listen to your prospective purchase, but I never would. I had been listening to the top-40 all week and would already have my mind made up. . Actually, the new national top-40 came out on Friday. Every night would be a local top-ten. I was fascinated by how much more volatile and responsive the nightly list would be – dominated by call-ins. That nightly snip would whet my appetite for the Friday countdown. Friday night, I’d think about it and make my choice.

On Saturday I would march right up to the big display – four columns horizontal, ten rows vertical, forty numbered slots – and snatch out my selection – march right to the counter and pay.

These were the days of battery-powered record players. The days of taping pennies to the tone arm to keep a scratched, overplayed, worn-out, favorite record from skipping.

Somehow, from somewhere, maybe a garage sale, we bought for a couple of dollars a huge stack of used, abandoned forty-fives – old stuff, no sleeves, just a stack-o-wax. We spent a day down in an unfinished basement with those platters and a pitiful, portable picnic player. One by one, we would cue up a record and within a few seconds after the tinny music began to eke out of the cheap speakers we would shout, “Make it or Break it?!” Inevitably, the choice would be “Break it!” and we would sling the sub-par disk against the concrete wall, shattering it into sharp shards of useless grooved vinyl. By the end of the day we had an impressive pile of ex-music.

The only platter that survived was 96 Tears, by ? and the Mysterians. It was addicting right from the start, so it survived. That heroin Farfisa organ.

Over time, later,  I played the hell out of that record.

I would see that band live decades later (1984) in a reunion double-bill concert with Joe King Carrasco at the Arcadia in Dallas. It was an evening of absolute off-the-hook greatness. I think that may have been the high-water mark of Western Civilization.

I feel guilt, to this day, over our lunatic day of Make it or Break it. I took so much from the single survivor. Looking back, I wonder what wonders were in those records we smashed. How much early rock or rockabilly or other classic stuff. Oh well, easy come, easy go.

Lana Del Rey

I have a new favorite song, Video Games by Lana Del Rey.

Good Stuff. Really good stuff. The song has a lilting laconic hook to it which, coupled with the heartfelt, provocative lyrics make it irresistable. The lush orchestral arrangement adds a bit of nostalgic contrast that is very welcome.

Love the video too. I wonder what game the exploding Eiffel Tower at the begining is from?

Another one of her songs, Kinda Outta Luck, is different, more of a pop gangster bit of fluff with fun edgy lyrics – Is it wrong wrong that I think it’s kinda fun when I hit you in the back of the head with a gun?

Love the Film Noir stuff in the video.

The only problem is I can’t figure out how to buy any of her music (either under Lana Del Rey or Lizzy Grant). She had an album out at one time, but I can’t find it. All I have so far are the youtube videos.

For now, that’ll do. I’ve been working on a time management thing called the Pomodoro Technique. I’ll write more about it some time later, but the basic premise is you use a kitchen timer to work for twenty five minutes, then take a five minute break. I keep a list of favorite youtube music videos to watch in my little mini breaks – and Video Games has moved to the top of the list.

That’s a nice break offsite when I’m writing (that’s where the Pomodoro thing is working best for me) but it doesn’t cut it at work work. The whole break thing is not something that’s easy to pull off. There’s an old Dilbert Cartoon where he is told, “Job satisfaction is the same as stealing time from the company.” You have to at least appear to be slaving away at all times or else you are not earning your wage, and in this best of all possible worlds, that is not acceptable. There are starving kids in Africa that would love to have your job.

In one of her interviews, Lizzy Grant refers to herself as a “Gangster Nancy Sinatra.” In honor of that, here’s a real Nancy Sinatra video – another one I watch sometimes during my Pomodoro breaks.

This is her first television appearance, on Jools Holland.

And another new version of Video Games

From the same venue, Blue Jeans


Why I Love to Slaughter my Characters

Man is born crying. When he cries enough, he dies.

As I’ve said before, I can outline too many of my short stories with three cards-

1. Introduce Compelling Character – interesting and fully rounded human that, despite some quirky faults and failings, the reader likes and can identify with.

2. Something bad happens – the protagonist is presented with something that does not go as planned and puts them in some distress – a problem to solve.

3. Protagonist dies. Nothing works, doom descends and the main character dies an ignominious, painful death.

They aren’t all like this, but this is what I like to shoot for. It’s just that sometimes my characters refuse to do what I tell them to and, despite my best efforts, they get lucky, scrape by with the skin of their teeth, and survive.

Everyone tells me I’m a terrible person because I take so much joy in butchering my heroes and heroines, especially since they are sometimes such nice people. Some ask me why I do that. I do it because I like it. I do it because I can. I do it because it doesn’t hurt anybody.

These are fictional characters. They are not real. Everything is a lie. Writing this stuff is a lot of hard work, time that I should be spending in useful money-making activities – so I want a payoff. Since I can do anything, doesn’t it make sense to do what I can’t ever do in real life? Death! Off with their heads!

The idea is to kick it up a notch, isn’t it? What possible reason is there not to kick it up as far as it will go. Turn those amplifier knobs to eleven.



It’s the same thing if you are reading. It takes time to turn those pages; time you should be using to interact with real human beings. So if you are choosing to hang out with an imaginary shade instead of a flesh-and-blood person you are going to want to make the best of the situation. So what is the one advantage of befriending fiction, a pack of ghostly lies, over some warm living example of God’s creatures?

You can kill them and nobody gives a shit. Plenty more where they came from. Close those book covers or shut off that e-reader and the pain and mourning is all gone. You can wipe a tear and go make a sandwich-nobody knows any better.

So let’s raise a glass to fictional death. Give a big hearty laugh at the disaster yarn. Let the blood spill and the darkness descend, as long as it is behind the protective screen of those twenty-six letters with the added armor of a few punctuation marks.

There’s too much out here, so lets keep it in there. As much as we can.

Snippet Sunday – Rufus Amalgam Loved his Bluetooth, Part 3

First, If you haven’t already

Part One, Read it here

Part Two, Read it here

Snippet Sunday – Rufus Amalgam Loved his Bluetooth, Part 3

The mud down by the creek was so thick and sticky that Rufus lost his shoes within seconds and his feet were getting cut up by hidden roots and buried thorny vines as he thrashed around in the thick underbrush that covered the shallow water.

“He’s not here, I swear to God!” he yelled up at Sandy.

The sun was rising now so at least he could see what he was doing, but Rufus hadn’t slept in over a day now and his head was swimming with effort and lack of sleep. He looked up the bank at Sandy but all he could see was a blanket standing up with two hands holding the top corners. She was using the blanket as a shield so she didn’t have to see what was going on down in the creek. She didn’t want to actually have to look at a filthy naked Sylvester if Rufus pulled him out of the weeds, dead or alive.

“Keep looking!” Sandy yelled back. “He’s got to be down there somewhere.”

“I think maybe he woke up. He must have walked away.”

“Do you see any footprints?”

“We’ve been stomping all over here all night, how can I see any that are his?”

“Shit, Shit, Shit, what do we do now?”

“Hey you were the one with the dead guy… the comatose guy in her apartment, you figure it out.”

“Don’t start in with me, you sent him to see me in the first place. You’re in this as much as I am. You’re in as deep.”

“Well, he’s not here, help me up, I can’t get out of this muck.”

Sandy flipped a corner of the blanket down to Rufus who grabbed it. She backed away, pulling him up out of the creek bed.

“Jeez, look at you,” Sandy said, “You are covered with mud… it smells like hell. I don’t want you in my car like that.”

“Give me a break, what are you going to do? Leave me here? Put the blanket down on the passenger’s side, I’ll sit on it.”

“That’s my favorite blanket, no way.”

“Favorite? You’ve already used it to haul a dead guy.”

“He wasn’t dead, only comatose.”

“We didn’t know that at the time, did we?“ Rufus snarled as he haphazardly spread the blanket out and plopped down. “Start ‘er up and let’s get the hell out of here.”

As they were driving, Sandy turned up the radio to drown out Rufus’ constant complaining with some Country Music. At the twenty minute break there was a morning traffic report.

“And the East-South Carribelo Expressway is stopped,” the voice said. “Police report a naked man running across all six lanes of traffic. We have not had confirmation.”

“The Carribello? That’s right near your place isn’t it.”

“Yes it is, dammit. You don’t think that he’s…”

“Of course he is. Where else is he gonna go. I don’t think we should go to your condo… lets head to my place and wait it out.”

“No way. I am not going to that hellhole of yours. And I want some help, some reinforcements if he shows. I’m not gonna let that loser run me out of my condominium.”

It didn’t take long. They parked and as they were rushing to the apartment the thick bushes along the front walk began to rustle and the naked Sylvester popped out to block their path. Sandy and Rufus jumped back, but really didn’t have much choice but to throw the blanket back over Sylvester and rush him up the stairs and inside as quick as possible.

They hustled Sylvester into the shower. While he was getting cleaned off, Sandy dug around trying to find something for him to wear. They had already thrown his clothes away on the way to dispose of the body. She found a green pair of sweats and a T-Shirt – that would have to do.

She threw the clothes into the steamy bathroom and he emerged looking like a lime popsicle.

“I am so glad to see you, “ he said to Sandy, “I have no idea what happened to me.”

“Now that you’re out, I need one too,” Rufus pushed by into the bathroom, hoping there would be some hot water left.

“Hey, why is he so muddy? He smells like the place that I woke …”

“Umm, I have your wallet,” Sandy changed the subject, “and your keys.”

“How did you get those?”

“Ummm. Well… you see….” Sandy couldn’t think of a thing she could say.


We drove to Fort Worth to see Chris Isaak this evening at Billy Bob’s Texas. We went early so we could walk around and get something to eat. I have forgotten how much fun the Fort Worth Stockyards are – not to mention the world’s biggest honkey tonk.

Near the end of Chris Isaak’s set I saw something I had never seen before. Back in the day, we all used to hold up lighters at the end of a show – there would be this sea of flame spread out across the concert hall to signify our desire to see and hear a few more songs. At a particularly gnarly show folks would gather trash from the floor of the venue, light it, and hold it aloft – I guess to sort of kick things up a notch.

Nowadays this has morphed into everyone holding up the illuminated screen of their phones – a sea of iPhones glowing in the darkness. I’m afraid I’ve always thought this was pretty lame.

Tonight I some something new. Somebody was holding up a tablet – I don’t think it was an iPad – it looked a little smaller – maybe an Android tablet of some kind. At any rate they held it high, waiting for the encore.

And on the screen was an app that displayed a flickering flame.

Pollo Regio

Lee had friends over last night, so I didn’t get any sleep. The house today looks like a bomb went off and I couldn’t take it so I had to get out of the house as soon as I woke up.

Like an alcoholic that shouldn’t drink alone, I shouldn’t eat out by myself. A waste of money, for one thing – I’ll eat too much, for another. I would have been happy to make up a nice, healthy breakfast if our kitchen hadn’t been so depressing – so I climbed in my car and went out in search of something to eat (Candy is volunteering at an animal shelter – we are driving to Fort Worth later in the day).

My part of the city is nothing if not diverse. I did not want to go to some traditional American fast-food place, or even a traditional American slow-food place. I wanted to get some work done at White Rock Coffee. I’m working on a short story based around technology that enables text to be encoded on strings of viral DNA and books that are then spread (read) via infection. Again, my home is too depressing right now to hang around and write in.

I headed down Plano road looking for sustanance. Vietnamese, Chinese, Ethiopian, Korean, Brasilian, Salvadoran, Soul Food, MiddleEastern, Cajun, Thai, and every other part of the world presented themselves within a few blocks of my route.

Rice and Tacos

Rice and Tacos

I saw a neon sign that said – Rice and Tacos  – Mexican and Chinese food, and made a quick left – that looked like an attractive combination. It turned out to be a convenience store with a food counter and I’ll probably try that sometime soon, but I wanted to sit down in peace today. Diagonally across the intersection I spotted a relatively new restaurant that I have been watching get remodelled – El Pollo Regio.

There was a privately owned pollo asado place there before (before that, it was a Taco Bell) that was really good. Candy and I ate met there for lunch and the only complaint I had is that they served roasted Jalepeno peppers with their lunch specials and they varied in capsaicin content a little too much for comfort. I ate mine with no problems and Candy gave me hers – so I gobbled it down without the usual precautions (held lightly between two fingers, lips held back and way from the flesh of the pepper, a test nibble). It was so hot that I could barely see the rest of the day.

Not too long later the place closed down. We were disappointed at first, but then saw it was being converted into a Pollo Regio – which isn’t really any different than what it was before.

Pollo Regio

Pollo Regio

The Pollo Regio at Plano Road and Forest in Garland. The large rectangular structure on the roof to the right of the sign is the elaborate exhaust mechanism necessary for the giant chicken roaster inside to meet modern environmental regulations. Shame. There is nothing cooler on a hot night than seeing the rotating spits of a traditional pollo asado full of whole chickens moving around and dripping fat in front of an open fire. It would belch a wonderful fragrant smoke full of chicken and wood that would fill the neighborhood and attract hungry customers like flies. I love and miss that.

Now, when I’m out looking for something to eat I try really hard to stay away from chains. I would much rather support indivduals than sub-divisions of a megasized corporation – plus the food is going to be better when it is based on an old family recipe. Pollo Regio is technically a chain, but a small one. They started out a few years ago as a food truck in Austin (the source of a lot of culinary innovation) and spread to a chain of franchised chicken spots – especially penetrating the Dallas Fort-Worth Market.

I can live with that.

The food was good, The chicken (served wrapped in butcher paper along with a whole roasted onion) properly spicy and smoky, the sides (rice and charro beans) excellent, the selection of salsas (the most important aspect of a pollo asado meal) wide, spicy, and fresh. Nobody spoke english, which is another nice touch.

Why pay for a vacation flight to the tropics when you can enjoy brutal heat, suffocating humidity, spicy food, mysterious sauces, and difficult communications only a few blocks down Plano Road?

Roku and roll

Rabbit Ears

Rabbit Ears

 I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.

—Roy Batty, Blade Runner

My father’s day present arrived in a little box yesterday – Candy bought me a Roku box.

I remember when I was a kid, people had only one television. Now, our house, a family of two when the kids are in school, has five televisions set up, plus any number of laptops (I usually watch entertainment on my laptop). Once, I told my kids we didn’t have VCRs when I was a kid (this was when we were all still watching VHS tapes – which already seems a long time ago) and they said they couldn’t imagine how anyone could get through the day. I tried to tell them that when I was a small child we didn’t even have color TV and they only looked confused, with their eyes scrunched up.

In many ways, I miss the one TV days. There were only three channels so everyone watched television together and they watched the same thing. I had a friend with a large family and I used to like to go to his house where the living room would fill up with family, friends, and hangers-on. My favorite was Saturday Night at the Movies, where second-run films would be edited, chopped up and interspersed with commercials, then sent out over the ether in glorious blurry black-and-white.

In the middle of the extravaganza would always be a Coca-Cola commercial. My friends’ mother would immediately haul herself up from the couch and stride to the kitchen for a cold bottle of Coke – The Real Thang. It was like clockwork. We would laugh but she never figured out what we were laughing about. She never knew that the commercial was sending her out for a cold, sweating bottle, either. She actually thought she was thirsty.


Since everybody across the land watched the same thing every evening there was always a discussion of the evening’s entertainment around the water coolers the next day.

In 1964, I remember when the Beatles went back across the pond. That seemed to be a big deal back then, like it actually mattered where a rock band was physically located. It felt like we would never see or hear from the adorable mop-tops again. Though I was only seven years old, I was saddened by this – it felt like an era was passing.

It seemed like only a few days later (the exact chronology is very fuzzy – I was only seven years old) another British band appeared on Ed Sullivan. There was some buzz among the adults in the room that these kids would now replace the Beatles, so I watched and paid attention. This was almost fifty years ago, but I still remember I had a glass of milk in my hand when they came on.

Right away, I was mesmerized. They didn’t have the energy of the Beatles, but there was something…, something I couldn’t figure out, something that I knew a seven year old kid wasn’t privy to, but something, something special, something somehow unsavory yet seductive about these guys, especially the lead singer.

It was, of course, the Rolling Stones, and I was right – nothing would be the same again.

You can Watch it Here. You can’t imagine the effect this had on a seven year old kid in 1964.

So now, a half century later, in this best of all possible worlds, I spent a few seconds hooking up the Roku (they aren’t lying when they say that hooking it up is simple) and the rest of the evening running back and forth from the TV to my laptop in another room carrying a series of slips of paper with passwords and setup codes until I could get the channels working (they don’t tell you about this part).

So now, we can sit down with a small pile of remote controls in the darkened corner of a back bedroom (we’ll move it to Lee’s massive TV when he goes back to school) and stream the whole world into that little box.

It’s really cool, it really is, but it doesn’t have the effect of a blurry static-besmirched Mick Jagger wriggling beneath a pair of aluminum-draped rabbit ears. It’s not the television’s fault – it’s not the technology – it’s my eyes. They aren’t seven any more. They are worn out now. They have seen too much.



Blast From the Past

Now I’ve updated this blog every day for the last month. It feels odd to be in that quotidian writing mode again. I’ve done it before. A long time ago.

I used to have a blog before there were blogs. We called them “Online Journals.” Mine was called “The Daily Epiphany” and I uploaded it every day, every day with only a few missed hunks here and there during periods of turmoil or extreme ennui, for somewhere around ten years.

The first entry went up on… let me check the backup copy on the portable hard drive… July 25, 1996. It was not very well written. Let’s see.
(I used to start every entry out with a quote)


I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter

and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.


Thou art a villain.


You are–a senator.

-From Othello, by William Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 1

 Yesterday, I took Nick and Lee down to play baseball after I picked them up. I couldn’t find Nick’s glove so we played with tennis balls, took turns batting. They had a real blast, I’ll try to do this more often. They wanted to bring the tee next time, they are still a little too small to hit pitched balls on a regular basis. Lee was a little overheated and tired, he almost fell asleep when we got home, Candy thought he might be sick, but be was only worn out.

 Then I went to see Othello at Shakespeare in the Park. I really liked it, even though I’d forgotten how depressing this play was. They are alternating Othello with Midsummer’s Nights Dream, which I saw before vacation. The same set and many of the same actors are used in both productions, it is interesting to see the same elements present in two stories of such differing tone and outcome.

 By the way, the phrase “making the beast with two backs” is really from Othello. I always thought it was only some nasty bit someone made up.

 It amazes me that so many people don’t like Shakespeare. I think it is a carryover from school when we all remember the dreary days sitting in class, reading Julius Caesar. These are PLAYS for godssake, they aren’t meant to be read out of a book. I think that all school children should see a Shakespeare play first, or a least rent the movie, and only then read selected parts of the play for further study. Othello, of course, is a very turbulent story of evil, and jealousy. With it’s racial overtones, it is an amazingly contemporary story, Spike Lee could have written a it as a screenplay. Sitting there watching it, I could not believe that it was written over 500 years ago.

 All in all a very entertaining night.

 Many people are surprised that I go to plays, movies and things like that by myself. I don’t understand why more people don’t.

 First of all, it is the only way we can get out without a sitter, which costs a ton of money.

 Actually I did take Nick to see King Lear, two years ago, when he was 3 or 4. He liked it more than I thought he would. Of course, he didn’t have a clue about the plot, but he liked the swordfighting and the storm. Then he fell asleep. I could never take Lee though, he simply can’t sit still. I am looking forward to a couple years from now when we can do more as a family. Right now, Lee is so active, there are few places (DZ, Chucky Cheese, outdoors) where we can take him without driving ourselves and everybody else crazy.

 Also, I’ve always enjoyed movies and some plays by myself. Of course, you miss out on the companionship, but if it is a movie you really want to see, you don’t notice anyone (or anything) else while the movie is on anyway. It’s OK to read a book, watch TV, rent a movie by yourself, why isn’t it considered all right (in many circles at least) to go out in public by yourself. I like to see what I want to see and not have to worry about my companions and whether they like what I like (or am offended by what I like).

 It is a big change from my younger years. The big worry then was being alone and not having anyone around to do stuff with. Now I really cherish any time I have by myself, any privacy I’m able to scare up, any moments that no one is making demands on me.

 After work, I’m planning on riding my mountain bike for a little while, but I have to be home at 6:50 PM, Candy is going out for dinner with the other preschool PTA moms. So I’ll get in a couple quick laps at the Rowlett Creek single track and then get home. When it cools off a little

 I’ll take the kids back down to the school and we’ll play some baseball, if they still want to do that (which they will).

 I’m looking forward to riding today, I rode this weekend and am doing a lot better on the mountain bike, since the trip to New Mexico.

 Years ago I was a serious bike rider. It was a good time in my life, I was healthy, in shape, and really enjoying the challenge of improving my abilities on my road bike. I was considering some amateur racing. It took up a horrendous amount of time, however.

 When my kids were born, I stopped riding for about five years, I really missed riding, but I had literally no spare time. Now that my kids are a little older, I’m starting in again, totally out of shape, about 30 pounds heavier than I was when I last rode. I bought a mountain bike, and am in the long process of learning the sport, and getting my body into shape. I have the goal of being a pretty good rider one year from now, when we will return to New Mexico for my family reunion. The mountains and desert out there will be a great test for me (they sure ate my lunch this year).

Not too much has changed in the last fifteen years. Nick and Lee were, let me think, six and five. Now they are a junior and a sophomore in college and we still don’t feel comfortable leaving them at home without supervision.

Writing something on the web has really changed in that short time, though. Back then, there was no high-speed Internet. To surf the web, you had to have a free phone line and connect with a dial-up modem. I do miss that series of sounds: the dial tone, the number being called, the hiss and tone of the modem speed negotiation.

There was, of course, no blogging software. Everything was written off-line and then uploaded. I think there were a few primitive HTML editors, but most people wrote with notepad, putting in formatting codes by hand.

I still prefer to write off-line – either from OpenOffice or my Alphasmart – and then paste into the blogging software. It gives me one more layer of thought before the words escape. First drafts aren’t writing, they are typing – editing is writing. At first, my only access to web space was the five megabytes that AOL gave you with your membership. It’s surprising what you can do with five megabytes if you work hard and use mostly text.

There were very few people doing this. I was somewhere around the thirteenth person. It was considered very strange and somewhat insane to be putting your private life out there. There was no Facebook or any social media of any kind and privacy had a completely different meaning – that the rapidly evolving technology was threatening in a big way. I was interviewed for a number of articles, Wall Street Journal, New York Times… I’ll try to find copies of those, it would be interesting to look back.

Lee and I

The New York Times used this picture of Lee and I for their article.

There were these things called Webrings… The one for Online Journals was called Open Pages. There are still a few backup copies of Open Pages around, this one from 1998 had 326 listed (see, there I am, number 13), a year later it had more than doubled. I don’t think anyone would have thought that there would be tens of millions of the things being written a short ten years later.

I have a rough backup of my old entries. I’m in pretty good shape from 1996 to 2005, which is pretty damn amazing when I think of the series of computer crashes, online service provider bankruptcies, and lightning strikes my data has endured over the years. Remember, most of that time my work was backed up onto floppy disks. After that it gets pretty spotty as I tried to enter the modern world with a database-based system. It’s surprisingly easy to maintain a backup of a long list of text files in directories, not so easy with a remote database (when your service provider decides to take a powder).

Lee on the monkey bars.

I had to stop around 2006 – my kids were in high school and everybody was now online and it was getting too difficult to manage an online presence that was so public. Now of course, the kids are mostly gone, I’m an old fart, and I don’t give a crap anymore, so I can put it all up.

Several time I’ve tried to make a count of how many actual entries I still have (a few months here and there have gone wonky) – several thousand, at any rate. I am working on finishing my “new” Linux server and when it’s done I will use it as a file, music, and web server and I should be able to get all these old entries up. It will be ugly, the links won’t work anymore, and I’ve lost a lot of the images, but it will be a record of a time gone by.

Nick on his skateboard.

Nick reading Harry Potter.

Nick reading Harry Potter. Is this the first one?

In the meantime I’ll try to keep on writing every day. There are a few hints and tricks I’ve learned that are necessary to keep a string like that going (the most important trick is to give yourself permission to publish crappy entries) – and one is to have a backup plan… a way to pull an entry out of your ass when the idea creek has gone bone dry. One way is to have some photographs stuck away you can stick up… and now I have a few thousand entries I can pull out as say, “Hey look how much I used to suck!” and maybe nobody will notice that I still suck just as much.

Nick and Candy now, in Durham

Nick and Candy now, in Durham

Lee now, in New Orleans

Lee now, a Tulane student in New Orleans - Mardi Gras, Krewe of Zulu parade.

Vermilion Sands

Vermilion Sands, by J. G. Ballard

Vermilion Sands, by J. G. Ballard

The tree gliders, brilliant painted toys, revolved like lazing birds above Coral D, waiting for the first clouds to pass overhead. Van Eyck moved away to take a cloud. He sailed around its white pillow, spraying the sides with iodide crystals and cutting away the flock-like tissue. The streaming shards fell toward us like crumbling ice-drifts. As the drops of condensing spray fell on my face I could see Van Eyck shaping an immense horse’s head. He sailed up and down the long forehead and chiseled out the eyes and ears.

– J.G. Ballard, The “The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D”

The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D, By J. G. Ballard

The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D, By J. G. Ballard

When I’m writing I have to be very careful about what I read. Too much aesthetic sensibility, too much style, too many splintering ideas come in through my eyes and fall out of my fingertips. I have to read something that is related/similar/compatible with what I want to do, or it all goes to crap.

Well, it seems to all go to crap anyway, but….

I’m rereading some classic J.G. Ballard short stories right now. I forget sometimes how much I love his stuff. I first encountered J. G. Ballard in the early seventies, in the form of a moldering handful of cheap pulp paperback short story collections borrowed from an informal lending library in Managua. I was devouring this stuff back then, reading almost a book a day and very little of it remains in the cobwebby recesses of my failing brain – but one thing that did stick is Ballard.

I remember “The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D” in particular – actually I remember the whole world of “Vermilion Sands.”

Vermilion Sands

Vermilion Sands

(somebody else likes it too)

I remember being caught off-guard by the bizarre dystopian decadence of the fading fantastic vacation resort. It was a door into a frightening yet seductive world tilted away from our own at an oblique angle. The human heart has been twisted – but not so much that it isn’t recognizable. It wasn’t until decades later and I read “Empire of the Sun” that I began to understand the source of Ballard’s vision.

Last night in bed, while I was fighting to stay awake, I reread “Prima Belladonna” – a story about a mutant beauty with golden skin and insect-legged eyelashes and a man that sells plants that sing. It turns out that it was his first sold story. I love the idea that he bought a pram with the proceeds.

One of the stories in the collection, “Prima Belladonna”, was the first piece of fiction that l ever published, and I can still remember the thrill of receiving the cheque for £8. At last I was a professional writer, and my wife and I celebrated by using the money to buy our baby son a new pram. Pushing it past the department stores in Chiswick High Street, a hundred ideas in my head, I felt that I had found the philosopher’s stone.

J.G. Ballard, from The Independent, October 24, 1992

I’m in the final stretch of editing my collection of stories – and I am glad that Ballard shares my love of the form.

THE SHORT STORIES that make up this collection were written between 1956 and 1970, and once they were published in a single volume I never returned, regrettably, to this genial playground. By sealing one’s imagination between hard covers one can close the door forever on a still vivid private world. I’m glad that I began my career by writing short stories, when I was free to chase any passing hare in a way that is no longer possible, and without over-committing myself to a single idea. Fiction today is dominated by career novelists locked into their publishers’ contracts like the prematurely middle-aged encumbered by mortgages and pension plans. Irresponsibility, especially the agreeable variety displayed in Vermilion Sands, has a great many neglected virtues.

J.G. Ballard, from The Independent, October 24, 1992

(Emphasis mine)

Vermilion Sands

Vermilion Sands

I don’t know if it was the odd fiction or the electrical fields from the constant lightning booming down from the Texas summer middle-of-the-night thunderstorms outside my window… or nothing at all – that caused a very odd, intense, and complete dream.

I dreamt that I had gone back to college and was moving back into Ellsworth Hall in Lawrence for a year. Everything had changed so much – the front desk gave me a key that was a little sculptural fob shaped like a tiny Picachu. The dorm was surrounded by a maze-like complex of restaurants and entertainment – it was a frustrating navigational feat to simply find the elevators – my room was 1127. I remember that the residence hall had only ten floors.

I felt so old, so out-of-place – like Rip Van Winkle.

Vermilion Sands

Vermilion Sands