Archive for July, 2012
I’ve already blogged about how my story “Akropolis” will be appearing in The Book of Cthulhu II—a collection of the best Lovecraftian fiction not written by H.P. Lovecraft in the English-speaking world—available in stores October 2nd. I’ve already written about how honored and excited I am to be sharing a Table of Contents with writers like Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, and Michael Chabon, whom I’ve respected and admired and thoroughly enjoyed for years. I’ve already made it clear I feel most fiction anthologies, particularly themed anthologies, lick the taint of a diarrheic llama and this one is a rare exception.
All of this is true.
But since the anthology is now available for pre-order I wanted to put the word out there one more time. I also didn’t want to be repetitive and just re-blog the same pitchman horseshit combined with genuine but obvious sentimentality.
In that spirit I present to you the Top 10 Reasons to Pre-Order The Book of Cthulhu II (in no particular order)…
1. I’m in it, and if you’re here then that apparently has currency with you (even if it’s a Romanian fifty).
2. You remember “Cthulhu” from that one South Park that time and damn that shit was crazy funny oh that Cartman.
3. Everybody loves Neil Gaiman.
4. Half of those people actually love Neil Gaiman’s stories, too.
5. Half of those people know enough about the internet to pretend they love Neil Gaiman and his stories.
6. Everybody who doesn’t love Neil Gaiman or know enough to pretend they love Neil Gaiman and his stories loves Michael Chabon.
7. The late, great Fritz Leiber is not the Tupac of imaginative fiction (that’s Asimov), but he is the Biggie Smalls.
8. Elizabeth Bear, who co-authors a contribution to the antho, recently brought me to the verge of weeping. Openly.
9. You may not be ready to commit to Hentai porn, but you’ve accepted the fact you’re tentacle-curious.
10. I get a percentage.
Today is my birthday. I am thirty years old. A couple of nights ago my friend and compatriot Earl Newton asked me if I was going to write a blog post about it. I said no. Pressed, I told him I had nothing meaningful to say on the subject. I’m more or less content with who I am, where I am, and how old I am. Today is just one more arbitrary measurement of time.
So he suggested writing a letter to myself from myself. When I looked at him like he’d just used my favorite tomahawk to scrape gum off his shoe, he explained the idea was to write a letter from the guy turning thirty I would’ve become if I’d made different choices in my life. That sounded a lot less like a bullshit masturbatory self-help exercise to me.
Also, considering the insane fucking Möbius strip my life has ridden for the last fifteen years and what a constant departure it has been and continues to be from most people’s experience, the idea seemed more valid.
There are several key decision points in life I can recall that led me to where I am now, but the first was certainly the most important. I quit school at age fifteen and became a professional wrestler. Ten years and an alternating adventure/horror show of varied experiences all over the Western hemisphere later I retired from the business and decided I was going to turn my lifelong storytelling impulses into my career. One thing wouldn’t have happened without the other. I certainly wouldn’t be living in Los Angeles now having that career, tenuous as it may be.
That brings us to me at thirty. But if you believe in string theory there is also a responsible, soft spoken, thoroughly middle-class version of me somewhere out there who stayed in school and probably never left Southern California for more than a vacation.
He writes a little, too.
You’re not spending this birthday in Palm Desert with your wife and kid and only mildly annoying in-laws after a long day at the office. You’re probably happy about that. You’re probably fucking elated about that, as a matter of fact. Me, I’m not sure I’d know how to do it any other way at this point.
I know why you left. I get it. You were scared of everything, connected to nothing and no one. You were never going to learn to be a man that way, certainly not the man you wanted so desperately to become. Asking a fifteen-year-old to act like a responsible adult is as unrealistic as asking that responsible adult to empathize with such irresponsible teenage decisions.
I stayed. I stuck with it, slogged through it. I did what you would probably call the “normal life thing.” I graduated. Barely. I attended senior prom with that girl we liked who did indeed turn out to be a lesbian (albeit a damn fine soldier). I suffered through two years at COD before transferring to Cal State San Bernardino and majoring in journalism. All those weekends you spent in the layout department of the Desert Sun editing the Creative Arts section of the high school paper and pestering their staff would’ve paid off. I started as an intern at the Desert Sun right out of college. I’ve been writing features for the last four years.
Somewhere in there I met a girl. We got engaged. We got married. We got pregnant. I love her, and most days I even like her. I’ve even sold a few short stories. One day I’ll finish that novel.
I wish I had more time to write. I wish I’d studied martial arts. I wish I’d learned to play guitar. I wish I’d traveled more. I wish I’d experienced more. But most days I don’t think about any of that. Most days I do the job, I enjoy most of it, I go home, and there are a lot of smiles and laughing and hassles and occasional yelling. Most days it’s just fine. Some days it’s even pretty fucking great.
Other days? Well…
I don’t know how you do it, man. No steady paycheck. No insurance. No promise of longevity or a bigger canvas on which to practice our craft. I don’t know how you live with a lot of the things you’ve seen, let alone the things you’ve done. I don’t know how you made it through all of those years on the road. I couldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t have wanted to, either.
But I suppose you’re also not slogging through the tail end of obsolescence in an industry that can’t adapt to change for shit. You’re not staring at the writing on the wall, and watching everyone else look at it like that shit is written in Greek or something. You don’t question most of the choices you’ve made. You don’t swallow every slight and insult and affront and live in perpetual fear of confrontation and finding out how tough you’re not. You don’t let everyone order you around. That must be cool.
I’m glad your life is finally coming into focus. It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? It’s one of the things that made sticking it out through those bad early years worth it for me.
In the end I guess I have to admit there’s only one major difference between us: what’s possible. I know pretty much exactly where my life is headed from here on out, and any major change will most likely be an unfortunate occurrence (unless I win the fucking lottery). Your life, however, could go anywhere from here.
I don’t wish that on you. Not at all. But I’m not the kind of man who could carry the weight of those two possible outcomes. That’s just not who I am.
It’s not who I became.
I’ll see you on the other side of forty, brother. I hope you have some stories to tell.
Matthew L. Wallace
My new digital story THE SHOTOKAN MASTERS is now available for $0.99 in the Amazon Kindle Store.
This is very different from the ebooks I’ve released in past weeks. It’s a purely contemporary story, and the sci-fi elements present in it are kept in a very real-world context. The narrative alternates between traditional prose and excerpts from screenplays. Screenwriting is how I make my living during off-seasons from knife fighting for profit in Honduras’ Central District, and it was a lot of fun to combine my two favorite mediums in one piece.
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
THE SHOTOKAN MASTERS deals at great length with Human loss. Of course, loss isn’t a new theme, and better writers than me have explored it in grander detail. That fact doesn’t make it any less personal or any less important in this case, but I was more interested in how writers, and people who create things in general, use their work to memorialize loss. Also how we attempt to immortalize the people and things that we’ve lost (I think you have be one of those people to understand, really understand, the difference between the two concepts).
The Question (there should always be a question) is how far will we take that? How far can we take that?
The story is also, in part, about a live-action Saturday morning martial arts show for children. I have a long history with and great love for such shows. As a kid I loved The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers just like a million other lemminglings (like Judd Nelson in the 80’s before him, the Green Ranger was fucking harsh and the bad boy we all wanted to be and/or do). My favorite, however, was WMAC Masters. Some of the best stuntmen and stuntwomen in film, television, and video games played the world’s greatest martial artists vying for the ultimate prize in a weekly fighting tournament (each round of which took place on sets at Universal Studios). All of the Masters lived by the fictional code of the Dragon Star, which had eight points that each represented a different everday moral or virtue.
In addition to great fight scenes, they were simple narratives that used great action and made-up moral codes to explore some surprisingly broad themes. That influenced this story a lot.
I also had a lot of fun writing snippets from the fake show’s scripts. I have, of course, plotted entire season arcs and invented the complete back story of each character and the mythology of the whole universe in my head. None of it will ever see words on the page, but if you write at all you probably understand how these things grow on their own in your head.
THE SHOTOKAN MASTERS is the first of three stories I’ve written featuring the character Sal Taylor. Sal’s a blue-collar guy with a gift for language that views writing for a living as a job like any other. That perception frees him from (most) of the woe-is-me-and-my-craft bullshit all “authors” are constantly whining about. Sal’s a guy driven to write who doesn’t want to be the prototypical angst-y, ultimately self-loathing writer. He doesn’t wait for editors or producers or managers or agents to tell him what to do. He knows you don’t have to take every note those people give you. He’s never accepted the myth that the writer is a second-class citizen in the creative process.
Basically he’s the kind of writer I try to be.
I named Sal after Timothy Baker’s former bouncer turned Shotokan karate champion character in the immortal classic Bloodfist II (starring Don “The Dragon” Wilson). You might remember Mr. Baker as the dad in No Retreat, No Surrender (a.k.a. Karate Tiger. No, seriously). It was like The Karate Kid with way better fight scenes and infinitely worse everything else. Timothy Baker was one of my favorite “underneath” guys of all those wonderfully terrible 80’s to mid-90’s karate flicks. He was never the star, but he was a talented martial artist and a horrible actor. I chose to honor him thusly.
The cover for THE SHOTOKAN MASTERS was designed by Earl Newton, who also designed the cover for SUNDAE. Earl is a talented graphic artist when he isn’t creating award-winning television shows, and his covers rank among my favorites of any artwork associated with my stuff.
Next week I’ll be releasing the second Sal Taylor story, “Master of Swords”. In the meantime, get to know Sal and take a short trip through some things we all feel in our lives even if we very rarely express them.
And finally, if you enjoy THE SHOTOKAN MASTERS (or if you hate it), please take the time to rate and review it on Amazon. Your opinions make a difference.
When you search for God you sacrifice the body of a story for the sake of its beginning and its end. Some high-toned Italian motherfucker roundabout the 17th century said that. Or I made it up. I’ve been hit in the back of the head a lot in my life and I forget.
Either way, it’s appropriate right now.
My new digital short KNOWING is now available for purchase in the Amazon Kindle Store. Five thousand masterly crafted words forming page upon page of mind-bending-and-expanding entertainment for less than a buck. I don’t see how you can resist.
WARNING: This week’s story contains a large amount of literate and arcane foul language, decidedly non-vanilla fetishism, metaphysics, drug use, and blasphemous content.
I originally wrote the story in 2009 for a proposed PS Publishing anthology of fiction based on Nick Cave songs called Up Jumped the Devil. For reasons that were never fully explained to me that anthology didn’t happen (or maybe it just hasn’t happened yet. Life is too short and the publishing industry moves at a dead man’s pace). I chose to base my story on the song “Time Jesum Transeuntum Et Non Rivertentum” (or, “Dread the Passage of Jesus, for He Will Not Return”), an achingly beautiful piece of music by Nick Cave and the Dirty Three, the heart and soul of which is Warren Ellis’ exquisitely tortured violin (not this asshole, but the Australian virtuoso).
A while later author James Melzer asked me for a short story for an anthology he planned to give away for free to promote the release of one of his novels. I figured I owed him a little something for once throwing a knife at an effigy of his face in one of my web vlogs (there were four other authors on the target in question and I wasn’t really aiming), so I agreed. Also, he paid me. I rewrote KNOWING to be more ambiguous and to excise anything that might be, you know, copyrighted. That’s the version you’ll read now. At least, I think it is.
I like the story. I like the aesthetic of the world and the visuals (age-worn vintage cars, flocks of demons and attack helicopters fleeing the tops of ancient and colossal sequoias, Earth coming unglued like a melting oil canvas, etc.). I like the bizarre mix of science fiction characters and twisted Ennis-esque religious figures. I’ve always been more into metaphysics than hard science (it requires less research). I don’t find one more or less intriguing than the other, I just don’t write the latter well. This is the kind of metaphysical fiction I enjoy.
One final note on the story. I named the drug-addicted priest character Father Kilbride after a very affable Irish gentleman named Stephen Kilbride. He once interviewed me for a podcast called, I believe, Tea and Chat. I don’t usually name characters after real people, but I liked his name so much I vowed I would use it one day. And so I did.
I also mention it because it’s so absurdly awesome I was once featured on a show called Tea and Chat.
The cover for KNOWING was designed and created by Terry Martin, my old boss from back when I was a fiction editor. He’s also the founder and publishing editor of The House of Murky Depths. They’re one of the highest quality indie publishers out there, I assure you. I highly recommend their comic book series DEAD GIRLS by cyberpunk master Richard Calder and artist Leonardo M. Giron.
Finally, and I can never stress this enough, please remember to rate and review the story after reading. Whether you love it or you hate it, creating opinion and discussion about this kind of work is a key element in its success. It is very important, and I deeply appreciate when you take the time to do it.