Monday, June 24, 2013

Nonexistent Soundtracks

So this weekend I was editing Donovan Schist and listening to Fiona Apple on I-Tunes. I summed it up later to my friends like this: that computer was so noir I needed a flashlight to type with.

A lot of authors talk about what they listen to while they write. I'm an eclectic listener, so that's hard to nail down, but generally when I visit the Magnocracy, I listen to dark stuff. Tool, Evanescence, Chris Cornell, even John Coltrane (especially Coltrane) have all played midwife to my Steampunk. It's kind of surprising then that I hadn't thought to use Fiona Apple before. I keep trying to come up with a "That chick is so noir..." but don't have a good ending for it. Just watch the music video for "Paper Bag" and you'll know what I mean.

Of all the genres out there, noir in particular has a strong association with music: sleazy saxophones and slow-fingered pianos...beautiful women with husky voices and low-cut dresses. Rock Star Games knew it when they made LA Noir. I enjoyed the game's plot and all but honestly, my favorite part was driving through around listening to the murmur of a deeply depressed trumpet.

One of the huge drawbacks to writing Steampunk noir as opposed to the other kind is that I can't bring jazz in. I suppose I could--it's my world right?--but somehow it just doesn't fit for me. Schist's alternate timeline, like our own 19th century, just isn't ready for jazz yet.

If the Magnocracy stories were a movie, though, I'd have to use something, right? So if you're curious, I've always thought "Pegasus" would be a great theme for Donovan. It's underutilized, it's mellow and it's just plain awesome (I'm kinda surprised it isn't covered more often. Here's a link to a high school band giving it a go if you're curious).

Monday, June 17, 2013

Would truly accurate cosplay include the scent?

I've been rereading Dune. I do that every few years, usually when I feel like there's something about Dune I might have forgotten. I realize there are people out there who haven't memorized Frank Herbert's masterpiece, including some who haven't even read it.

All I can say is: I don't understand those people. Like, at all.

The last time I read it a couple years back, it was just after hearing that Star Wars was a rip off of Dune. At first, I kind of agreed with that statement, but after exhaustive conversation with various Star Wars fanatics, I moderated my opinion and decided that Dune was just very influential.

This led to an interesting exchange while I was arguing with one of my brothers (a favorite pastime, if frequency were any indicator).

"How come nobody ever dresses up like Dune characters at conventions?" I asked. "I always see Jedi and Halo characters, even the most obscure anime, but never Mentats or Fremen."

As always, my brother had the answer: "Yeah, I can see it now: 'That lightsaber is nothing, man. Check this out: I can drink recycled pee.' "*

*As always, a simple Google search turned up websites discussing the precise scenario I was talking about.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Another Trip to the Metaphysical Zoo (Mature Version)

So I get up this morning, go onto the internet and brace myself for the usual flood of partisan vitriol and sniping. Imagine my surprise when I find the discussion topic of the day (at least for some people) is whether or not a prisoner in California should be allowed to read werewolf porn.

The article--and people I know--express surprise that some folks are interested in werewolf porn. Um, I mean erotica. Werewolf erotica.

What's interesting to me is that people seemed surprised by the book itself, not the actual legal controversy.

To put it simply: Human beings are strange. We're also creative. And we bore easily. Those three things make for a beautiful, confusing, and at times terrible, world.

Fantasizing (especially sexual fantasizing) is largely about visiting places you won't go in real life. This isn't new this decade; it isn't even new this century. Most anime fans love to giggle about tentacle porn (really--it's a thing). Well I've got news: it's been around a lot longer than La Blue Girl, my friends. Don't believe me? Check out this article on Wikipedia (be warned: it may be 19th century art but it's also pretty graphic).

The whole werewolf-on-human action discussed in the California case is just a modern permutation of a very old fantasy. In Brazil, they have long told stories of weredolphins that come ashore to crash human parties and get laid.

Brazil isn't alone in the horny-aquatic-mammal genre, either. Ever heard of a Selkie? They're seals in Scottish folklore that take off their skins to resemble humans so they can have babies with us. Tragically, the stories all seem to end with the Selkie getting blasted by hunters (making me wonder if the myth represents some kind of cultural guilt over killing such an adorable animal).

No foray into weird supernatural sex would be complete without mentioning Greek mythology because, as Freud noticed, those guys had a story for every kink imaginable. Did you know where the minotaur came from? And then there's the original power-goes-bad CEO himself, Zeus. In an era before Rohypnol, shapeshifting was the next best thing. Just off the top of my head, I can remember Zeus becoming a bull, a swan, even a ray of sunshine. It's almost as if half the Greek myths were actually written by a sleazy private detective hired by Hera as he gathered dirt on the celestial rapist for a pending divorce case.

I think I just got a book idea...

*And somehow I didn't get to Furries, which I know isn't necessarily a sexual thing but always seems to come up in these conversations anyway.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Misty Marsh Hop

So we were lost. Not the scared-out-of-your-mind, panicky lost but that kind of lost you get when you veer off the path in a familiar area.

My buddy Angel* and I had decided one afternoon to drive into Seminole County and kick around near Geneva. For those that don't know, Geneva is a wooded area broken only by horse ranch and pastureland, where the Econlackhatchee snakes drunkenly through thick palmettos and brooding cypress. When the rains come it can be hopelessly mired and flooded. When the sky's been clear for a while, though, it makes for nice hiking.

The trail we used didn't have a lot of amenities. You might say it had none, unless you count a parking lot as an amenity. Anyway, it wasn't long before we were thirsty. As was often the case, we didn't plan very well. Neither of us had brought water.

We trudged through the scrublands, encountering filmy pools and sluggish tributaries of the Econ. We were so thirsty that even that water started to look good, which, if you've ever seen the Econ, will tell you how incredibly thirsty we were.

The Econlockhatchee River isn't spring fed. It is a river of runoff, a stretch of water so steeped in cypress knees and pine needles that it has turned a black or brown color, almost like tea. And I won't mention the things I've seen floating down it, in case you've eaten recently.

So we were semi-lost and very thirsty, off the trail and beginning to feel that our afternoon was a waste. We trudged in the general direction of the car and wished it were over.

Then something happened. We broke out of the woodlands and crossed a pasture. As we paused to rip the stickers from our socks, a dog came bounding out of the grass. It was a pitbull mix, a friendly guy with a short white-brown coat and a perpetual smile.

Angel liked dogs but wasn't very confident around them. I was used to large dogs but had that uneasiness around pitbulls that many people have. This dog, however, was quite friendly and within minutes we realized he wasn't a threat.

Shortly after we met the dog, two people emerged from the treeline. The dog ran to them happily and then back to us. The pair followed their dog over and fell into step beside us.

"Hi," they said. "Do want some oranges?"

It was a guy and a girl about our age (early college). The guy had his shirt slung over his shoulder, displaying a lank, pale torso. He had wild black hair and a scraggly beard. The girl, meanwhile, was an attractive brunette wearing a long, beautiful skirt that she bunched apron-like before her to carry the citrus.

"Absolutely!" we said, taking the fruit.

Without any introduction or explanation, they told us about their walk, how they found this dog wandering around and an abandoned grove where the fruit was just falling off the trees uneaten. So the girl filled her skirt with citrus and they ambled along, glad to find someone to share it with.

As it happened, the pair normally came to this area for the drum circle. It was early for a circle, though, so they'd decided to wander a bit. Angel and I were familiar with the drum circle--a couple of our friends were into that stuff--so we chatted with them about music and how great the park was. They talked a lot about the "energy" of the drum circle, of the naked power that comes from beating dry animal skins beneath a full moon.

More than a decade later, I stand in my kitchen and I bite into a California orange and I'm sad because Florida citrus is vanishing fast. A California orange is good. And it's clean: you can eat it with your fingers and hardly get a drop on you.

But the Florida orange is a glorious mess, a fragrant water balloon which explodes when you open it. That decade ago in Geneva, I was covered in juice. My fingers were sticky, my chin glistened with it. But I wasn't uncomfortable, in part because I was so damn thirsty. But also because it was hard to be self-conscious with these amiable strangers, with this smiling shirtless guy and this absolutely beautiful girl in a long skirt. They didn't care how we looked, all that mattered was that they got to share the fruit they found.

It was without a doubt the best orange I have ever eaten.

*A pseudonym. As you will one day see, not all of my "Angel" stories will be flattering.