They’ll Always Be an England 0.3

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Chance sat at the bar, squeezing down mouthfuls of Usher’s Best Bitter, looking out at his underground Eden. He sucked down the last sip, which was mostly malt-tinted spit. His stubbled cheeks wrinkled like prunes. He sat the molasses-colored can to the bar, a little bored. He placed a smoldering cigarette between his teeth from a ceramic ashtray and clamped down. The watch on his wrist read 19:45. He had time for another beer. He anxiously puffed smoke-filled air through his teeth and flagged down the barman.

“Another Usher’s?”

Chance grunted, his eyes still diverted from the bar. At the far wall were crude wooden stands waiting to be filled. They were made of roughly sanded, pimpled particle board and spray-painted white in sharp contrast to the black rolled cement walls. They looked like basement stairs disappearing into the far away dark. In no more than ten minutes bodies would begin to descend, and take their seats.

Their arrival would do little to excite Chance. A bunch of snappy beatniks, piss-drunk and hoping that with enough drugs and violence they could wake the next morning to a former glory. A bunch of sentimental twats. They’d bang on about Marx’s bullshit maxims, the Roman coliseum, Tennyson, wanking Samantha Fox’s tits and legalizing cocaine for profit as an industry of the Queen. A bunch of Bertie big bollocks.

Chance drank his beer and let it roll slowly across his tongue. It fizzled and stung like licorice saltwater; coated his throat like motor oil. England was fucking dead. Almost a century of perspective told him so. Empires rise and and empires fall. Shed a tear but move bloody well on. C’est la vie. He set the half-full beer down, disgusted. Even the beer tasted like shit anymore.

continue…

Evening Tea Society: A Caucus of Martyrs 0.1

THE EVENING TEA SOCIETY
“A Caucus of Martyrs”
by H.H. NEVILLE

The Year 19xx,

Heavy clouds stagnated like swamp water across the sky; a scummy grey skin settling over the surface.  The traveler had watched the skies curiously since he exited the steam engine. Secretly he plotted for rain. Were he much for the folly of his religious youth, he might pray to god. Instead, he left it the hands of science – meteorology to be precise – and diagnosed the symptoms; surely it would rain. When he was proven correct and gaps were punctured through the thin jelly overcast, spilling a gentle tide of dihydrogen monoxide, he craned his neck upward; his lips splitting, satisfied.

The air in his lab was always a suffocating blanket of thick, stifling steam and swarthy, metallic blow off from the messy graveyard of machinery he was known to birth and then frankenstein later; left operating in some crippled existence. It stunk of fried metal and boiled electrical components, no doubt cooked too long.

The world after a virginal rain was a most sweet perfume, something he cherished more than the fragrance of any flower. To say rain had a unique smell all it’s own wouldn’t be true. Instead, it smelled as if all everything had been soaked in a soapy bath with a concentrated extract of Mother Nature; everything fresh, more pure.

He had never been this far north nor this far west, but it reminded him of his compound in Colorado. How he wished to lament his grandiose notions, his damnable tower, which invariably forced him to scuttle the compound and sent him back to New York, for good. Nevertheless, the city and society, sadly, had its conveniences for a man like him. Irregardless, he was determined to  enjoy his sojourn completely and spare any moment he might to just take a deep breath.

continue…

MUGSHOTS: Nurse Rhea Rhyme

Nurse Rhea Rhyme is an alien from outer space. She belongs to a corps of super-sexy humanitarian nurses dispatched to places of great catastrophe in order to help put the pieces back together and begin the healing.

CUNT (Concupiscent Unit of Nurse-Transients) – of which, Rhyme is a low-level officer – is a multi-planet ruling body and corresponding militia that assist the various member planets in times of great catastrophe. On Earth, CUNT have lent nurses during Alexander the Great’s conquests, and during the World Wars. Analogous to the Green Lantern Corp, instead of ringbearers, CUNT employs sexy females (Rhyme is a fallen-from-grace former lingerie model on her homeworld) from the member planets. The Corpswoman’s science/pseudo-magick ability to heal is tied to the sexy-armor they are given, but can only be activated by girls who are really freakin’ hot. The uglier the alien gets, the weaker her ability.

Chauvinistic? Yep. Sexist? Of course. Demeaning? You bet. Them’s the brakes, take it up with the creators of the armor.

Needless to say, Rhyme is smoking, making her one of the most impressive CUNTs based on raw power. There’s a problem, though. She’s not all right, she’s off her rocker. A hangover from her free-flying, careless model days, she’s got truckloads of inner demons. She self medicates, often resulting in uneven temperament and behavior. She’s wild, untamed, vacillating between crazy and brilliant. Her methods are often quick and effective but messy. She’s prone to simply sewing lost limbs together in ad-hoc fashion, and half-resurrections. She even has the reputation of accidentally resurrecting an entire dead planet as zombies. CUNT is still cleaning up after that mess.

She’s a nymphomaniac, often developing crushes on her undead-frankensteined creations and having romantic flings with many of them. She’s constantly sampling her ointments, antidotes and prescriptions. She’s messy and her methods are questionable. However, there’s nothing she can’t fix in her own way. She’s young, naive and self-absorbed.

She’s also a Tentaclist, having a tentacle fetish, getting hot and bothered around anything resembling one. She’s currently married to a top TV personality from a planet of giant squids. She must constantly broker deals to keep her infidelities hidden.

Because she is from a planet very similar to Earth, her appearance and physiology is not too far removed from humans, making her a prime candidate to come to the aid of Earth in the event CUNT is needed. Those slight differences are skin color (her’s is slightly green) and skin texture (she has patches of scales along her body).

She lives up to her name, mostly speaking in verse.

CUNT has provided her limited military training. She is decent with a firearm (when she’s not tripping), and rudimentary hand-to-hand combat. Her real talents are the medical-mysticism.

NOIRLEANS: Dire Wolf, pt. I

A couple ribs gave; exploded like braided firecrackers, one after the other. Damn things. Never hold up under scrutiny.

Scrutiny had a name: Jack-of-all-Blades. A heavy for the bigs in Noirleans. He’d done tours with Mock Turtle, Plaster Gangboss, and, now, apparently The Haberdasher. That wasn’t here nor there. This wasn’t business. No, this was payback. This was a twenty year hard-on for Connor Frey. And Jack had skipped foreplay. Straight to the rough stuff.

All over spilled milk.

Literally.

Jack Derveger and Connor Frey spent intimate years together as youths at The Dubreuil de Villars Retreat for Moral Readjustment. Fancy talk for a loony bin; a prison for deranged little shits.

They were too young for cigarettes and porn to be valued commodities. For them, it was milk. Forced to drink skunky tap water three meals a day, seven days a week and the kids of Dubreuil would drag a plastic butter knife across their bunkmate’s throat if it meant getting milk.

Milk little Jack had and Connor wanted. He skipped his fist across Jack’s eye socket until it splintered, then bashed his brains against the cafeteria table. Jack’s little nose split like peas, spilling puss everywhere. The milk lost.

He swore he’d kill Frey, and connecting the dots, Conney Frey to Dire Wolf ain’t tough. Just google one and you’ll find the other.

Now, here he was, damn close to snuffing out Frey’s vigilante persona, Dire Wolf. It didn’t matter that that was two lifetimes ago, literally. That Frey had died twice since then. That Frey and Dire Wolf were two different entities. Jack knew the two as the same and was hellbent on needing a third headstone.

Jack wasn’t much for fighting pretty. He was a beaut with a knife, nothing else, but he was at least six paces quicker than Frey and about three times as strong. He didn’t move like a human. Despite looking it, there was something else going on under the hood.

Another blow to the upper body, this time, the small of the back. No ribs to break, just a kidney. It ruptured like a frozen pipe, drowning his insides with spilled matter. Dire Wolf coughed violently twice. He gagged hard on the sour metal taste that filled his mouth. Blood. Another cough, thick syrupy gore dribbled from his lips and tongue. Blood soiled dark with bile seeped through his lips, tainting his chin a dirty purple.

Dire Wolf collapsed to his knees.

“Look’s like you’re fucking dead, Nancy-boy.” Jack showed a pleased, fanged grin. “Told you I’d kill you.”

“Looks like it.” Another cough. More blood this time. “I’ll either bleed out or suffocate on it before long.”

Jack clapped his massive paws across Dire Wolf’s shoulders, tossed him to his back. He steadied the sole of his boot on the ball of Dire Wolf’s right knee.

Jack-of-Blades tsked. “I’ll just have to be damn quick about breaking every bone in your body, then.”

His boot hung off the bone; his pupils faded into large whites and then the sole found floor again, shattering anything between.

continue…

mugshots: BULLET MAGNET

Albert Danzig is the greatest soldier ever to serve. He swears that’s not his fault.

First appearing in the Korean War (we think) Private Danzig – Dancer to most everyone – was a communications expert tossed onto the frontlines with the grunts. A place he certainly had no business being. When his unit was ambushed, Danzig took his first bullet. A slight grazing, it was good enough to get him his first Purple Heart, a week in the MASH, but not a plane ticket home.

When the young man was shot again, the grunts called him “Unlucky.” When he took another round (while recovering at the MASH, no less) he earned his new nickname, “Bullet Magnet.” And yet, he just kept on ticking. They sent him home briefly (with three Purple Hearts), but somehow along the way (even our records can’t confirm) he found himself back on the same theatre, deep in the trenches, running communication for the frontlines. When the enemy overran his unit – his guys dropping like flies around him – Danzig managed to stay alive, somehow. He was shot five times, none of them fatal. Through sheer incidence designated valiance, Danzig stemmed the tide and even held off the enemies. After that accommodations (and a Silver Star) rolled in for Danzig, well in over his head.

A few tours later, with a total of five Purple Hearts, and a Silver Star, Danzig wound up a Colonel.

Afterward, records – as inconceivable as it might be – show Danzig enlisted in The Secret Service, attached to John F. Kennedy’s personal detail. His file is immaculate. Almost too immaculate. Following the assassination of the President, Danzig returned to the military. He served through the Vietnam War, taking a few more rounds (and taking home a few more Hearts), dictatating several successful campaigns. By the time of the Cold War, Albert Danzig was now General (two-star) Albert Danzig.

Somewhere in that time, one of the bullets that hit Danzig ruptured his larynx, making him a mute. He played out the rest of his military career in comfortable obscurity until retirement.

Retired from a most illustrious military career, in his 70′s and growing weary of a quiet home life, Danzig wanted more. He got it. There are holes at this point in our records, however, somewhere along the way, Danzig was co-opted as field leader for The _________________, the world’s greatest superhero team.


Okay, so if this “dossier” doesn’t set a tone for the character’s world, and how asinine it in fact is, then I’m not doing my job. Danzig IS “metahuman.” Unfortunately for him, his ability is being able to get shot, or take bullets. Even ones that aren’t meant for him. He’s lucky in a sense that these bullets will never kill him. He’s not actually a good soldier – he’s actually quite inept – but his inability to die from convention weapons means that he doesn’t have to be much in order to survive and be successful.

So, his service is entirely hot air, but it reads well. There is a plot wrapped up in how, it seems, Danzig winds up in places he wouldn’t be allowed to be (due to military regulations) or how he can be a part of the Army AND Secret Service. Rest assured those plots are absurd.

Other things that might stick out, yes, he’s in his 70′s (at least, according to his D.O.B.) and yes, he’s going to lead a superhero team. He’s field commander and strategist. That’s something he’s actually not bad at. Problem? That bullet to the larynx…he’s mute. To pass along commands to his heroes, he scribbles on notebook paper.

This character is from a very classic character set. A mad cap, incidental hero in the vein of Inspector Clouseau, and in that sense, it is something well outside my comfort range. I am however, very interested in the juxtapose of a gritty/soldier/merc type character with an otherwiser pure mad cap zanity.

mugshots: ONITSUKA LOLA

So, a new feature of this blog will be a semi-consistently released spotlight on characters. More than likely mine, or those I’m in the process of borrowing. To start off we’ll use a character that many people know about, but few have read any of.

Onitsuka Lola, Taiwanese, 19 years old. As a young child Jiang He was trained by her father in Jin-Ying Chuan style martial arts. While she never really had much interest, and her father never intended it to be a serious avenue for his daughter, it gave an outlet for the tomboy child and father to bond.

As Jiang grew up, she slowly drifted out of the martial arts, only doing tai-chi as exercise with her father. However, that training prepared her well for when a group of her friends began to use the Taiwan streets as their own playground as part of the subculture, parkour.

As parkour began to gain more prominence and fame across the globe, the art legitimized and more and more focus was put on Jiang, who, even at such a young age was the most talented traceuses in Taiwan. At age seventeen Jiang found herself an icon of parkour in Asia. She was given a full sponsorship by classic Japanese shoe company Onitsuka Tiger to wear their shoes exclusively, while also using the young beauty as the company’s public face. This earned her the nickname “Onitsuka Lola,” also an ode to the films Run Lola Run and Banlieue 13 (a 2004 cult parkour film).

In the years since, Lola has been featured in hundreds of parkour mixtapes, and has become a pop phenomenon in Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Hong Kong, even cutting a pop album in native Taiwan.

Her fame became so great that not a soul in East Asia could escape her beaming likeness, or her name on athletic equipment, television shows, music albums, etc. The Lola supersaturation is so great that rival athletic company, Anime (a splinter company of Onitsuka perpetrated by current fictional CEO – Sato Yasuyuki and Sato Eiji – of Asics) attempts to combat the Lola phenomenon with a parkour-starlet of their own.

When this plan backfires miserably, the Anime team actually places a hit on Lola. Disguised an event between the two companies, Lola and the Anime girl are placed in a parkour-course turned deathtrap in hopes that Lola will be eliminated, either by the course, or at the hands of the Anime girl. Again the plan backfires when the mixtape is released and it not only shows a victorious Lola, but a disgraced and malevolent rival who not only is attempting murder, but defies the codes of parkour.

Anime is quickly put into financial ruin, and in an final attempt at retribution against Lola and his brother (while trying to resurrect his company), by amassing a hit squad – including the rival girl who lost in the competition – he puts Lola in danger, who is now on the run from these would be assassins.

Lola is equal parts 이효리, 蔡依林 and 倖田來未, but as hired full time by Tiger. She’s already a megastar by the time a hit is put on her, forcing her into an uncomfortable realm of self-defense. She’s not a hero in the truest sense, she’s just forced to defend herself from Sato Eiiji and his cadre of hitmen. Because of this, she becomes the reality TV/youtube generation’s hero. Her exploits, fights are everywhere. And of course, Onitsuka still leverages this with marketing packages. You want a battle armor Lola doll? You got it.

Created as a synonym/counterpart to Artifice Comics’ Silver Shadow II (Lin) for the group the Faux Mages, Lola’s a young, competitive character, yet entirely unaware of what’s really going on around her. The stardom is more or less, extra. She just wants to do what she wants to do, and that’s parkour. She’s extremely athletic, also having a chance to be part of Taiwan’s national football team, but turned it down because it wasn’t “fun.” She would be on equal athletic prowess as, say, Spider-Man, or since I hate Spider-Man, Araña.

This character was made entirely for Jac.

Gal Pals (who incidentally hate each other).

You don’t remember (because you don’t read this blog…unless you’re English), but a while ago, here, to be specific I dabbled with the idea of a pulp-styled heroine called Black Tar Heroine. Well, now she’s got a friend. Or an enemy. Or a frenemy (with benefits, assuredly). Meet (in name only) Suicide Blonde. Coming to a short story near you sometime before I die.

I Ain’t Dead, Bitches.

I’m still around, still writing.

Jac, I’m still confused at exactly what it is or ISN’T I’m supposed to be doing with your super secret friend RPG project.

We can pretty much scrap that old schedule, as it clearly didn’t happen. I’d explain why, but, frankly, it’s not worth the effort.

I’ve recently reconnected with a creative force from projects long past dead, and we’re spitballin’ on something, that, if, we get it rolling would be full of the whatthefuckery™.

A lead into said project that I’ve been putting scant words to is for a character called “Bullet Magnet.” I’ll just let that simmer for a bit. It would be full of war-time goodness (sans Depp), time travel, JFK and THE APOCALYPSE!!!

…and maybe, if you’re lucky, birthday cake.

Blog Features Schedule

I’m going to be gone for a few days, and though I promised a certain English gent that I’d have posted They’ll Always Be an England already, I have not. In the interest of keeping the two diehard fans and handful of bots that hit my blog informed, I’m posting a schedule, kind of.

Next Week

They’ll Always Be an England 0.3 (Three quarters finished)

Ishmael: King of Black France, cont…

Technique Wreckingball: Elmore Leonard’s Rules of Writing (this may be scrapped in favor of more narrative)

Following Week

They’ll Always Be an England 0.4

They’ll Always Be an England 1.0

Man From Mars Introduction Piece, 0.1

Week After

Ishmael: King of Black France, cont…

Man From Mars Introduction Piece, 0.2

possibly…

Grotesk/Chance 0.1

So, that’s the plan…to crank out little 600 word bits of stories until conclusion while toiling away privately on Grotesk proper.

Houdini/Tesla (and …)

Iron Man aint got shit on me!

Iron Man ain't got shit on me!

So, I was letting my mind wander – as I’m wont to do – and I thought about Nikolai Tesla in all his grandeur and how he’d make for a wonderful superhero. A sort of predecessor to the likes of Tony Stark or, Bruce Wayne if you will. He’s the grandaddy of science and if he had reason to create arms, well, no one could best him. Then of course, being aware that Tesla is a contemporary of one of my all-time favorites, Harry Houdini, who was in every way, already a superhero (and spy), why not put the two together?

Quite the genius idea, ‘natch.

Imagine my fear, when, I found someone had already beaten me to the punch. It seems American author/illustrator and geomorphologist (whatever that is) Sesh Heri had a very similar idea when he created the book Wonder of the Worlds.

Wonder of the Worlds listing at Amazon

Wonder of the Worlds listing in Wikipedia

Apparently, the story is pretty much about a spy, Houdini, a scientist, Tesla, and Mark Twain (I’d have opted for Lovecraft myself) trying to defeat Martians who have stolen some crazy crystal technology from Tesla. Tesla builds some awesome ship, talks about how he knows everything about Mars including a secret war between the two planets (he IS Tesla, you know) and they all go and kick some Martian ass.

This book was part of a trilogy, I guess, though the other two books aren’t listed anywhere and this books seems to be out-of-print. So, not only was a great idea stolen from me, but now I can’t even read this awesome idea. For shame.

Anyway, having found this, and having an intimate knowledge of The Prestige (I was going to link this, but if you don’t know what it is, then, just leave. Now.) I’m feeling kinda sour on the whole idea. I know that both Houdini and Tesla have been used in fictional capacities about a million times and there’s probably room for one more, I just…ugh. My idea for a Verne-ian adventure book with Houdini and Tesla seems a whole lot less inspired now.

It could still be fodder for a Plankton anthology.

Oh well, both Tesla and Houdini will show up in various parts of Grotesk (which I really DO need to get back to writing) regardless. Edison will not show up because Edison is a chump.

In other news, I finished Millhauser’s collection of short stories The Barnum Museum. I had previously read ‘Eisenheim the Illusionist’ (from which The Illusionist film is LOOSELY based). I was a huge fan of that story, but I was very aware that, well, there was no real climax to the story and hardly much plot.

ALL of The Barnum Museum is like that. Millhauser has a style that I greatly enjoy and in fact, heavily identify with. He’s so busy setting a theme and feel; using such well written (though sometimes too plain) and heavily detailed setting that he almost always forgets to have a story somewhere in there.

Trappings I often fall into. It was quite a treat to be able to examine myself so much through another’s work. And, for the most part, it was highly enjoyable.

I was treated early with a lengthy examination of the board game Clue. Then the titular museum. Both were so vividly and extensively described that they really stuck in my mind. I can pull from my mind big chunks of description, for for the life of me cannot tell you what the point was. The game of Clue didn’t even finish. I went back and examined further to find that, yep, there wasn’t really a point.

But still, I sprinted through the majority of the short stories because I was always excited to get to the next one, and always anticipated what new wonderful worlds I might find. Until I got through the majority of the book when I realized that between the collection of short stories I wasn’t going to get a single resolution. After that the book came to a grinding halt (with only the absolutely delightful ‘Rain’ to get me going again). Millhauser’s voice is good, his setting is amazing, and mood/theme top notch. There’s a problem, though: it’s always the same. The theme for each story is pretty much exactly the same for each: the losing of, and longing for wonderment. No matter how talented a writer is, they run a huge risk of losing readers by treading the same exact concept over and over (especially when there’s no real change in voice at all).

This was most painfully pointed out in one of the short stories I was most looking forward to, ‘Alice, Falling.’ As you might expect, this whole story takes place during Alice’s lengthy tumble down the rabbit hole. It plays with Alice’s dreams, and her confusion at falling for so long down the rabbit hole and the wonderment of it all, except, it’s done in Millhauser’s own voice, rarely parroting Alice’s own and it comes off completely wrong. It seems dry, stagnant and at times, a mischaracterization (not nearly bad as Beddor’s attempts in Looking Glass Wars, but still). It was really hard to get through. Alice was falling, seeing the same things over again, dreaming of dreaming Alices, and falling some more. Matters made worse with this vaguely satisfying conclusion. Overall it was a struggle to finish.

There was another story where one of the ‘main’ characters was thrown in without any introduction. That character later tried to pull his head from his neck, but was stopped. The story ended without explaining anything about this character. Who he was, what he knew, how he could think about pulling his head off, and what happened to him. Meh.

The final story in the collection was Eisenheim, the one I’d read before. It is, and was the best of them (with ‘Rain’ a VERY close second) which is a disappointment as I’d read it before. However, it’s nice to now own it.

I’d say that Millhauser is a very talented writer. He can do things with setting and mood specifically that many cannot (or just don’t) do which appeals immensely to me. He’s in desperate need of a new muse, though (I’ve heard other collections have almost exactly the same theme). It’s also evident that he should never write more than short stories. With his inability (or unwillingness) to have a climax, a plot or satisfactory conclusions, he probably couldn’t hold my attention in anything more than a short story capacity.

I had been interested in picking up another collection of his short stories, Dangerous Laughter as there’s subject matter I’d like to see his voice applied to, but, I’m afraid of treading the same ground any more. I may just find the stories I want to read for sure and leave the collection alone.

At the end of the day,  I had fun with most of the stories until the ugly middle to two-thirds section (and ‘Alice, Falling’) and have even recommended the book with heavy cautions. Most importantly, it served as a good cautionary tale for myself.