Author: Jim Reader

Speed Writing 2/4/2017

prompts: The Prodigy, The Doctor, Destruction

They wanted the perfect child… Evelyn swore if she was going to go through the whole primal experience of birth, she’d be goddamned if she’d put up with that for less than perfection.
Ed… well, whatever Ed thought, he kept to himself, courtesy of a long exposure to Evelyn.
So, with the help of some geneticists, who had a pretty good idea what they were doing, and some absolute quacks, who talked a good game, and a metric butt-ton of money, they got little Amber.
She was speaking at six months, complete sentences by nine months, reading a month later.
Graduated high school at twelve, had two PhD’s by the time she was sixteen.
There was no stopping her insatiable curiosity, and backed by her family’s money, she went wherever that curiosity took her.
Amber proved the existence of alternate dimensions when she was barely twenty.
Traveled between them a year later.
Discovered the Elder Gods when she was 22. Three months later, they followed her back to our universe, resulting in its chaotic destruction.
She was barely 23 when her insatiable curiosity destroyed everything.


prompt: Delusion, Pain, Alliance

It’s quiet here… you wouldn’t think that of an asylum, but the nurses sedate anyone who makes a fuss, and the neanderthal orderlies enthusiastically help.
So, quiet. I mumble to myself a lot, but I keep my voice to a whisper, so Nurse Clapham doesn’t use the big needle again. Clapham’s the most sadistic of the lot, and has been known to perform spinal taps as a form of punishment.
State oversight of this place is a joke. The current inspector gets paid off in sex with his choice of the patients. The one before him, Mr. Hobson, I think, couldn’t be bribed… but his brake lines could be cut. Probably Vanner did it, a real gorilla of an orderly.
Vanner licks Nurse Clapham’s naughty place most nights.
I’d rather stick my tongue in a meat grinder.
I try making friends, but with old-fashioned shock treatments, and the odd lobotomy here and there, people don’t stay themselves very long, so what’s the point?
Wednesday night!
Mystery Meat Surprise! If it isn’t rat, it’s a surprise.
Maybe we’ll get jello!


prompts: Harmony, The Wolf, Strength

There are nights to just let it all out, and howl at the moon…
This is one of those… nothing on my schedule, the fiancee is busy, just me, some guys from work, and Mr. Jose Cuervo.
They want Scaryoke, and after a few shots, I agree. What the hell – Jose and I can do a duet!
We’re all on stage, mangling the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”, when my phone chirps at me… the chirp I’ve selected for texts from my fiancee.
Then it hits me. It’s Thursday, not Friday.
Working hungover tomorrow? Not a problem, done it plenty of times.
Missing dinner with my fiancee Valerie, and her parents?
Moments later I’m flagging down a cab.
“The Montclair! For the love of my ball sac, hurry!”
Cabbie looks at me strangely, but steps on it.
Formal attire, de rigueur.
I’m in my work clothes, reeking of tequila, with a fresh nacho stain on my shirt.
“Hi honey, Mr. and Mrs. Compton… sorry I’m late…”
Valerie’s giving me that look – the assassin look.
Her parents’ opinion of me is confirmed. I’m shit to be scraped off their shoe.


prompts: Denial, Health, Law

When we were kids, we specialized in ‘dumb shit’. If you listened to our parents, they’d swear not a day went by without us excelling at our specialty.
Bottle rocket fights? Check. Kenny fuck near burned two fingers off.
BB gun wars? Check. Took a week for the swelling around Alan’s eye to go down.
Jumping our bikes down at the gravel pit? Check. I walked funny for a week after I flipped, and tried to drive a handlebar up my butt.
Annoying the neighbors? Check. Baseballs through windows several times a month.
Mucking about places we shouldn’t? Check. Cops brought us home so many times we knew them all by name.
We paid for our indiscretions. Spanked butts, broken limbs, cuts and scrapes and the infections that sometimes went with them, glasses repaired with electrical tape, teeth knocked out… parent-teacher conferences.
We were just kids, and kids live forever… nothing was too high a price to pay for following a bad idea to its logical outcome.
The worried expressions on our parents’ faces just made we young immortals laugh.


prompts: The Leech, Ignorance, The Assassin

He had learned to read. He tried to  hide it, but the Bureau puts written signs up, with hidden cameras to catch the reactions of those who see, and understand.
He was good, but we’re better. It’s what we do.
No telling if he’d passed the skill on to his family, so I overrode the locks on their home, and set it on fire.
The loss of two proles, and their child… unfortunate, but necessary.
When I started with the Bureau, I used to feel guilty about such things. But one outbreak of literacy, printed pamphlets preaching insurrection, cured me of that guilt.
We had to cordon off three square miles of tenements, and burn the lot of them.
Desperate times, and all that.
Getting rid of books was easy. The rise of electronic media did most of the work for us, albeit slowly. Making ebooks disappear merely required killing the entire internet. Easy.
Now, education by cartoon, and simple stories from the highly redacted and rewritten Holy Word of the Commerce God.
Blessed are the wealthy, righteous is their every whim.
Tomorrow I’m to chase down a writer who’s been preaching an end to the theocracy.


listening to: the whir of my desk fan
mood: pretty mellow

Speed Writing 1-7-17

prompt: crashing a wedding

a wedding.
my ex… well, two of my exes… girlfriend, and best friend.
i don’t really need to go into details, do i?
so, no. no wedding invite for me.
and i was okay with that, i really was.
until Jose Cuervo and i had a long talk the day they were getting hitched.
i didn’t drive… saving grace, that, as i would have wrecked, no doubt about it, no telling who i’d hurt and how bad.
i was sober enough to give the Uber driver the address for the reception – her parent’s place. i figure i told her everything… it was a rather long drive. i seem to remember the driver trying to talk me out of the incredibly stupid action i was committed to.
no, i was determined. she dropped me off, asked if she should wait. she felt sorry for me… i told her that would be nice, i’d see her in just a bit.
i was quiet… subtle… stole one of the bridesmaid’s gift bags, took a crap in it, lit it on fire, and threw it on the buffet.
then… things get fuzzy… i got beat up some, that i remember all too well… but i broke away, ran out the front, and was thankful my driver was still there.
she had the door open, i dove in, and off we went.
we started dating a few weeks later.
she’s very understanding about my lack of funds – damages, still paying them off.
and i’m absolutely sure if she and i ever marry, it won’t be announced anywhere my exes might see it.

prompt: three wishes

cliched genie, pale pink, not blue, looks nothing like the one from ‘Aladdin’, or Barbara Eden, androgynous, but yeah, harem pants, small vest, sort fez-like hat.
“you rubbed the magic 8-ball. you have three wishes, master.”
“you were in the magic 8-ball?”
“i angered my previous master most grievously.”
“must have…”
“your three wishes, master? i was watching “ellen”…”
“oh… can i get back to you on that?”
“whatever… rub the 8-ball.”
so, hours later…
“you ready?”
“yes, yes i am.”
“first wish…”
moments later, Elizabeth Warren was the Queen of the United Kingdoms of the Americas.
“second wish…”
it’s nice having a serious bank balance… twelve figures… that’ll last me a while.
“third wish…”
so, the good news – no one will ever be sick or infirm again. bad news – at some point, for no apparent reason, people will drop dead.
sorry, guys, best i could come up with. now, i have to go…
dinner date in Paris…

prompt: “Are you listening to me?”

he was angry.
seems he gets that way a lot these days. i’ve tried to keep him calm, happy… but in the end, there’s only one thing that will… oh, call it ‘reset his mood’.
so i get in the van, and drive him around to all ‘those’ parts of town, and he makes his choice. it takes a while, sometimes several trips, but he always finds someone.
we stop, it’s quick, no prelude, courtesy of the drugs, usually ketamine, no fuss, into the back of the van they go.
then, in the barn out back of the house…
he takes his time… he’s a perfectionist. i watch, no matter how long it takes… depends on if he grabbed one or two.
first time, i wanted to vomit, but i’ve gotten used to it.
we’re gonna get caught, sooner or later, and that won’t go well. we might not live through the arrest process.
we turn them loose, of course. we’re not killers!
he just likes tattooing abusive police officers, full body, in interesting pastel colors.
they rarely stay with the force afterward. wonder why?

prompt: inheritance – a rug

“probably braided from the crushed hopes and dreams of her students…”
my wife was not a fan of my family… my aunt Cassandra in particular.
i hadn’t expected anything from her estate, but i’d always liked the rug in her study, and now it was mine… well, ours.
“no, the crushed hopes and dreams rug went to cousin Evelyn. this is the smart-ass comments of nieces-in-law rug. that’s why we got it.”
“it’s hideous!”
my wife and i have disparate tastes in furnishings.
“fine, i’ll put it in my office.”
“long as i don’t have to look at it…”
so, yeah, it was a pain moving my desk and filing cabinet out – i have a very small home office. the rug itself barely fit, and then it was move furniture back in. but finally, lime-green flooring disappeared under the deep and rich earth tones of aunt Cassandra’s rug.
i was working on a story late one evening, i was tired, and i wrote ‘they’re’ instead of ‘their’.
“Edward! You made an error! Correct it, immediately!”
aunt Cassandra’s voice…
fingers trembling just a bit, i fixed it.
“thank you, auntie…”
“You’re welcome. Perhaps you should go to bed, it’s rather late.”
“yes, auntie…”


listening to: St. Matthew Passion – Bach
mood: okay, overall



She Took No Shit…

i’ve told the story before, so i’ll give the short form…

saw the marvel comics… looked interesting (wondered why they didn’t use a better artist)
read the novelization… seemed interesting… i was hopeful
made a flying trip to San Antonio with a friend so he could borrow money from his credit union to buy a betamax vcr to record the footage channel 7 out of austin was going to show the night before
watched that brief clip (the millenium falcon fight with the tie fighters) countless times before finally going home to sleep… a little…
opening day, Capital Plaza Cinema, first (and second, and third) showing of “Star Wars”, May 25, 1977

who is this ‘Princess Leia’? cute…
and she took no shit.
not from Han, not from Luke, not from Tarkin, not from Vader (although he did make her fearful… which i always put down not to the little syringe-wielding droid, but to Vader’s cybernetic penis… and wouldn’t that have pre-dated a theme of accidental incest established in “TESB”?)
along comes “Empire”… yet again, taking no shit from anyone. you could capture her, but you couldn’t break her.
“Jedi”… the metal bikini that launched a million masturbations (not any of mine, mind you… too skinny, even that early in my life. again, cute, but not sexy as far as i was concerned). strangled a Hutt (with the help of the Force, according to the novelization), made friends with ewoks (okay, yeah, they should’ve been wookies, but Lucas was busy selling toys), and took no shit from anyone, at anytime.
a princess who got her hands dirty… wasn’t above killing…
then the gun-wielding ex in “the blues brothers”…
the nun in “jay and silent bob strike back”…
her books (oh my, the brilliant, painful genius of her books), her interviews…
Carrie Fisher took no shit.

ever since her heart attack, i had feared the worst. this year has felt like a malignancy, waiting for any chance to spread sorrow, and so, when i heard the news today, i was merely sad.
until i read this, posted by someone on the Alamo Drafthouse Wastebook feed…

“There has been a disturbance in the Force.
“RIP Carrie. We love you.”

and i fuckin’ lost it. still losing it, whenever i read it.
this year cannot be over soon enough…

listening to: whatever Dorris is watching on tv
mood: teary

Speed Writing, 12-7-16

prompt: use “hospital”, “sore”, “pace”, “lavishly”

“You’re hung over, it’s not a goddamn tumor…
“No, I don’t care how sore your head is… not a tumor, just tequila! You don’t need to go to the damn hospital!”
I pace the floor, phone to my ear, rolling my eyes at the lavishly, and obscenely, decorated bordello.
“No, I will not come take you to the ER!”
I mute the phone, and tell Reynaldo, “She’ll do… dress her in pink leather, seriously sharp spikes, and send her in.”
Unmuting the phone, “No, Vic, I’m at work, I don’t have time for your shit. Goodbye.”
Husbands… seriously more pain than they’re worth.
“Now, the next girl…”

prompt: haiku, using ‘salt’

the salt of the earth
thick veins of hypertension
high magma pressure

Judas spilled the salt,
so we dragged him out, hung him.
Christ betrayed himself

assault, battery,
panic, bloody bludgeoning,
Black Friday shopping

chili and saltines
she throws in onions and cheese.
yuck! unwashed heathen!

“don’t look back,” he said
i didn’t listen… camels
lick on me daily

marching on Moscow
naught but burned and salted earth,
war’s own welcome mat

prompt: okay, this gets confusing. pick a letter. list 15-20 words that start with that letter. write a sentence using each word. choose one sentence as title, organize others into some form of coherent narrative that works with title. i don’t think anyone, including our moderator, who gave the prompt, followed the rules. we just muddled through as best we could. i chose “J”, and after all was said and done, used the only word i’d forgotten to put in a sentence as the title.

I went for the jugular.
“Mom, your marriage is a joke! He’s a talentless jack-off, a marital Janissary you’re just renting.”
“You’re too judgmental! You’re jaundiced by your relationship with that Jamaican son-of-a-bitch!”
“No, Mom, you’re a cougar. No, worse than that… a jaguar, letting yourself get jerked around by another pretty face, who was nice enough to let you rescue him from a jam. He plays the victim, and you, the needy jackass, tired of jilling herself off, takes the opportunity to bring home a little jelly for your lonely bread.”

prompt: a list of eight words, revealed one per minute, to be worked into a coherent whole

The entrance of the dungeon was rather off-putting… four impaled bodies was simply gauche! One would have been sufficient!
Not that I have all that much room to talk. The bar in my inn is so baroque, why, the naked angels alone are a visual overload!
Oh my god, would you look at that! Shackled slave girls, just inside the door? Naked? Far too much, far too soon. If I had a gun, I’d put a bullet in the decorator’s knee, then watch him crawl around in a circle.
Crystal chandelier, first actual room, over red and black everything?
Too jarring, I want to throw up just to augment the interior color palette!
Whomever’s responsible should be out front, another body for the impalement palisade.
I swear, someone got roofied by the Heinous Fairy before approving this decor!
I simply must leave. Winston, find me a route out of here that won’t offend my eyes, there, be a dear, won’t you?

prompt: two packages arrive at your door at the same time

She gave the UPS man a treat, opening the door in her sheerest negligee.
He lowered the large package with his hand truck, and, mouth agape, put the much smaller one atop it.
“Thank you sooo much,” she said, as he backed away from his bad porn movie moment.
She put the smaller package on the coffee table, then threw on a house robe to wrestle the larger one into the house, and onto the plastic sheeting.
Rika whapped the side of the 4′ x 3′ x 3′ package with her hand.
“Are you awake in there, you venomous scum?”
There was no answer…
Rika pouted. Drug doses were an inexact thing. He’d wake up sooner or later.
She poured herself another cup of coffee, sat on the couch, and opened the second package. Rika fondled the 9mm Glock.
She could wait…


listening to: the heater kick on
mood: kind of numb 

Speed Writing 12/3/16

so, in spite of the inclement weather (temp above freezing, but rain off and on all day), we had a good turnout Saturday AM.

prompt: ‘the forgotten room’

what the hell? uncle morgan’s house, day after the will was read. i inherited the place, which sounded really cool, until i saw it.
fifty thousand dollars, six month’s work, it might be good enough to be condemned.
the inside… even worse. i won’t say morgan was a horder, not quite that level of clutter, but it looks like a rat’s nest… a bitter, angry rat’s nest.
seems morgan was a conspiracy nut, and innumerable notebooks are filled with the secret history of the world. lizard people, alien greys, atlantean survivors in a hollow earth, faked moon landings, and it seems the real question for morgan was who didn’t kill kennedy.
then i found it, behind a stack of moldering newspapers, a door.
tiny room, maybe 5 x 10, spotlessly clean, and a simple metal desk and comfortable chair at the far end.
i sat, bent forward, and a keyboard appeared on the desk top, and pictures hovered in the air above it…

prompt: a quote about a cage being finished whose author escapes me…

“what the hell am i gonna put in that? what am i huntin’?”
there’s nothin’ that big, lookin’ at the thick ol’ bars, or that angry i wanna mess with.
i’d answered an ad from the Vacaville Ledger, wantin’ someone fer critter control, five hunnerd dollars.
don’t seem near enough, lookin’ at the cage.
“oh, don’t let that scare you,” Daniella, my new boss, said. “that’s just in case…”
“just in case whut? dineysaurs done come back?”
“funny, beau… you’re a funny man. no, not dinosaurs. just an abnormally large… well, call it a gopher.”
“a gopher… you need that much cage for a gopher?”
“a large gopher, yes.”
there’s a squeal… loud, rolling like thunder… squeally thunder… from the woods.
“seven hunnerd, or you can go find your own gopher, lady.”
“six hundred.”
“seven hunnerd fifty.”
“but that’s more!”
“yep, it’ll keep bein’ more, you keep negotiatin’…”
“fine. deal.”
another squeal, an’ i’m wonderin’ if this here net she give me is gonna be big enough.
something big, movin’ through the trees, an’ i’m lookin’ at the tranq gun an’ wonderin’ the same thing.

prompt: a half-full bottle

brandy, large bottle, 1862. needless to say, edward saved it for special occasions.
not that he’d think today qualified.
he’s dead, finally, and that’s a reason for two snifters of the good stuff, perhaps three.
we drank the night of our wedding, and he drank the night i gave birth to our daughter.
he drank from it the night my father died, and the family’s money became mine, which really meant it became edward’s.
i think he had two the day of my miscarriage.
again, the night he killed my young paramour.
the day he put the shackle and chain on my ankle.
he took some the evening of our daughter’s wedding, though i did not. he had another snifter the night she died, and again, when her husband was convicted of murder.
today, i watched him choke on his own blood. the police have come and gone. i’m confident the autopsy will show nothing.
i think i might just finish the bottle tonight.

prompt: a quote about the past being a different country where they do things differently

i watch her, every day, a little lower on the pole.
the crowd was decent, i suppose. she’s wearing a course-spun robe, but how obscene is a naked body, or a clothed one, compared to the poll forcing its way through her bowels?
she suffers, obviously, but everyone says she deserves it. three days so far, and i imagine it won’t be much longer. i’ve heard those who have been impaled die of suffocation sometimes, thicker poles disrupting their breathing.
her dirty blonde curls aren’t so curly anymore, and every day shows the sham of her tan, as she discovers the real power of the sun.
the pole is dull, well-rounded at the tip, so theoretically, it could make it all the way through her digestive tract, come out her mouth, without tearing anything.
i’m reminded of the passion of the christ, or maybe, more accurately, the thieves who hung beside him.
what could she have done that was so evil?
(this piece is titled “with love and kisses, to Debbie Wasserman Schultz”)

prompt: a mysterious cupcake

not even my birthday, and there’s a cupcake, with an unlit candle atop it, on my desk.
i waste the first quarter cup of coffee trying to remember if there’s an anniversary or something else work-related, but to no avail.
i’m still full from my breakfast bagels, so i put the cupcake aside, and watch my co-workers for any sign or clue.
it’s lunch before i know it, and a bowl of soup later, i’m full again, so the cupcake remains undisturbed.
by mid-afternoon, the little candle is leaning over to one side, and i’m pretty sure this was put on the wrong desk. i don’t want to ask anyone about it, end up looking stupid, so here it stays.
four in the afternoon, i eat the damn thing.
vanilla cake, chocolate icing… i forego lighting the candle, and as tasty as the cupcake is, it’s gone in three bites.
feeling woozy…
i want to get up to go to the restroom…
can’t move…
slump to the floor, hit my head on the desk leg…
“god, i thought he’d never eat the damn thing.”
carl, next cubicle over.
“don’t worry, i’m told it’ll be painless. but you’re dying for a good cause. now everybody moves up a spot, instant promotions.
“sorry, buddy…”


listening to: “Blues in A Minor” – Modern Jazz Quartet
mood: okay, overall


Speed Writing 11/5/16

prompt: ‘harvest time’

they’re restless in their pens, they can mark the passing of seasons, the gradual cooling of the nights, more temperate days, and they know what’s coming.
we feed them, nurture them, fatten them, and when they’re at their optimum age and weight… it’s slaughtering time.
hang them in the smokehouse, preserve them for the long winter to come. folks get hungry ’round these parts, no matter what the weather does.
i don’t even hear their mouth noises as speech anymore. i mean, if i make the attempt, i can understand them with near-perfect clarity… we do speak the same language, just different dialects, but it’s easier for everyone if i don’t.
oh yeah, easier for them as well. if i talk to them like people, they believe there’s hope. cruel, all things considered…
better i don’t.
so it’s not language… they’re not people, they’re cattle.
they’re just cattle.
it’s easier if they’re just cattle.

prompt: “honoring our dead”

he wasn’t worth a bucket of piss. honest-to-God, my uncle Calvin was a waste of flesh, a waste of everything. i can remember, growing up, when times were hard for my family, my mother, his sister, would grit her teeth and growl.
“i will not call him for a loan. i will not…”
she said she’d tried once, when i was just a baby.
that’s all she’d say about it.
she’d tried.
nobody in town liked him either. he’d made his money in rental properties, letting someone else be the public face of the business. and he was quick to evict. we joked he kept a crew of leg-breakers on speed dial to facilitate the eviction process. it wasn’t really a joke.
and he was frugal, to the point of being a cheap bastard. we never visited him, mom’s choice again, but i passed by his house almost every day of my life, and it was small, shabby, overgrown yard, high wrought-iron fence. i couldn’t even see in the windows, not just because of heavy curtains, but the thick layer of dirt on them as well. it looked to be an inch-thick from the street.
the will gets read this afternoon. i expect he left his money to indigent hamsters, or the sour-old-men of america, or somesuch.
of course, i could be wrong.
“my uncle Calvin, beloved by all, was a pillar of the community, and a true philanthropist. i, and my family, cherished him in life, and will miss him now he has passed.”

prompt: “attack of the evil _______”

three hundred feet tall… a roar like a thousand jet engines… feet the size of Volkswagons… claws like scythes… teeth like swords…
“yeah, yeah, i get it. so how do i kill it?”
no, no, you don’t understand the worst of it…
“don’t know, don’t care. it has to have a weak spot. what is it?”
really, you must let me explain…
“fine, explain already!”
it’s only vulnerable spot, the only place you can damage the Marlovik, the only place…
“yeah? what?”
it’s sphincter.
“okay, ass shot. easy!”
no. it… defecates… lava…
lava… molten rock… constantly…
“what the actual fuck? where’d this… Marlovik… come from? who makes a creature like this?”
Ampature, the Volcano God, of course.
“Volcano God? perfect. so we’ve got to hit it up the… lava tube… while the lava’s flowing. all the time? even when it sleeps?”
Marlovik doesn’t sleep.
“great. just great. okay, where do we find an invulnerability spell? anyone have a line on an indestructible spear-like weapon?
“i wonder if we could find a plug of some kind… maybe it would explode, or something…”

prompt: “time to bring out the chainsaw”

“the Holy Chainsaw of Cletus? you want me to attack the Marlovik with a chainsaw? i’ll have to be right up there. there’s no Holy Missile of SAC, or Holy Nuke of Manhattan?”
no, i’m sorry, but you’re being silly, and disrespectful. the Holy Chainsaw of Cletus is your only hope.
“so, what about protection? any luck on an invulnerability spell?”
not as such…
“what’s that mean?”
there is something… well, two somethings…
the Teflon Suit of Reagan.
“okay, that’ll do it?”
oh, it will protect you from the lava, but not the ambient heat.
“so, the lava won’t burn me, it’ll just cook me?”
that’s why you’ll have the Ice Cubes of Nicholson in your mouth. they’ll make you cool, no matter what.
“are you sure that’s ‘cool’ as in lower temperature? or is it ‘cool’ as in the most stylish roasting corpse anyone’s ever seen?”
definitely both.
“so, Holy Chainsaw of Cletus, Teflon Suit of Reagan, and Ice Cubes of Nicholson… remind me why i’m doing this again?”
wealth beyond imagining, fame beyond reckoning, non-stop offers of a sexual nature…
“RIGHT! okay, let’s get me dressed! i’ve got a Marlovik to kill!”

prompt: haiku, using the word ‘boo’

down darkened stairway
only a candle… a breeze…
my shriek at the “BOO!”

boos per minute. great!
a horror film’s quality
measured at long last.

Friday the 13th
drinking game. a shot of booze
per boo on the screen.


why, yes, i was using left-over Halloween prompts. why do you ask?


listening to: “No Woman No Cry” – Bob Marley and the Wailers
mood: relatively mellow 

Why I Despair When Discussing Steampunk Films

So, let’s look at three lists that come up first when searching for “steampunk films” via Google…

One: The City of Lost Children (because… dream stealing?)
Two: 9 (because post-apocalyptic?)
Three: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (because Victorian fashion?)
Four: Going Postal (because ‘steampunk costumes’?)
Five: Atlantis: The Lost Empire (because submarine?)
Six: Hugo (because automaton?)
Seven: SteamBoy (because it IS steampunk)
Eight: Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa (because… I got nothing)
Nine: Wild Wild West (because it IS steampunk, no matter how bad it may be)
Ten: Treasure Planet (because Victorian fashion?)


The Prestige (because it’s Teslapunk… eh, close enough? Not really…)
Hellboy (because it’s Dieselpunk?)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (because we want it to be?)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (because it IS Victorian SF, and therefore ‘steampunk’)
Van Helsing (because it IS steampunk, at least as far as the technology)
The Golden Compass (because airships? and maybe this one IS steampunk as well, i’d have to rewatch it)
A Series of Unfortunate Events (because… I got nothing)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (because it IS steampunk)
The Time Machine (2002) (because… time? it at least begins in the Victorian era?)
Sleepy Hollow (because science?)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (because balloon?)
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (see above)
Howl’s Moving Castle (because… I got nothing. I’d have to rewatch it.)
Treasure Planet (see above)
City of Ember (might actually be steampunk)
Hugo (see above)
Stardust (because… airships?)
The Great Race (because it may well be in the gray area between ‘steampunk’ and ‘dieselpunk’)
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (because it might be in that gray area as well)
Brazil (because… I got nothing)
Kin-dza-dza! (because… science?)
Perfect Creature (because… vampires?)
SteamBoy (see above)
Metropolis (1927) (because airships? well, there is that strict caste system…)
Metropolis (2001) (because… automatons?)
Around the World in 80 Days (because… Verne?)
Sherlock Holmes (2009) (because Victorian?)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (because Victorian and big guns?)
The Illusionist (might be steampunk)
John Carter (because planetary romance and steampunk are essentially the same, but not really?)
Sucker Punch (because… zeppelins?)
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (because… pretty toys?)
Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa (see above)

and finally…

Sherlock Holmes (2009)
The Prestige
Van Helsing
A Series of Unfortunate Events
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The Time Machine (2002)
The Golden Compass
The City of Lost Children
Wild Wild West
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (because… Victorian?)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (because the list’s creator has no clue as to the difference between steampunk and dieselpunk?)
From Hell (because Victorian?)
City of Ember
Young Sherlock Holmes (because… Holmes? Victorian?)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Howl’s Moving Castle
The Brothers Grimm (because… I got nothing)
Time After Time (because it involves time travel and Jack the Ripper? begins in the Victorian era?)

so, maybe the problem is the very vague and ill-defined definition of ‘steampunk’… everything from ‘features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology’ to ‘Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery’ to ‘With a backdrop of either Victorian England or America’s Wild West at hand, modern technologies are re-imagined and realized as elaborate works of art, fashion, and mechanics’.
So, definition could well be a problem.

But let us, for the purposes of this discussion, say ‘Victorian, Science, Steam, Machinery’ – those, perhaps, we can agree on as a bedrock upon which to build ‘steampunk’. And they need to be Major Story Elements, not ‘gears glued on a hat’, as it were.

Now, look at the lists again.

Airships don’t do it. Submarines don’t do it. Costumes and fashion don’t do it. (Unless you’re first and foremost, and primarily, a cosplayer, in which case… whatever. Go play in fields of daisies, li’l fairy folk. Style over substance be thy honeydew.)
I swear to God, I could write a story with atomic-powered spaceships, robotic pirates sailing on lava seas, continents populated with gleaming crystalline cities inhabited by flesh golems wearing Victorian costumes, and some goddamned idiot would proclaim it ‘steampunk’, because it has Victorian fashion.

Okay… I’m almost through being curmudgeonly.
The problem is indeed one of definition.
I’m gonna go kick these johnny-come-latelies off my grass, and beat them with my cane.
Steampunk’s just jumped-up Victorian SF&F. It’s been around since, oh, let’s see… the Victorian era!
And it’s damn hard to find in movies. Many films get called ‘steampunk’ for purely aesthetic reasons, regardless of the story or setting. Some get labeled ‘steampunk’ out of wishful thinking.
And if you want to say “it’s steampunk to me!”, feel free to do so…
Somewhere far away from me.

(This disgruntled mental meandering was inspired by our recent Wastebook launch party for “Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires”.)

listening to: peace and quiet
mood: curmudgeonly


Wow, I Suck At Blogging Regularly

so, i was watching 1970’s “Patton”, and when it came to the intermission, i got to thinking ‘when was the last time i saw a movie in the theater which had an intermission?’
i know branagh’s “Hamlet” had an intermission, and ye gods an’ wee fishies, my butt appreciated it, i think “Titanic” did when we saw it, maybe Jackson’s “King Kong”…
i’m not a big fan of forcing films to stay under a certain length, so more showings can be run in a day. if your film is big, epic, you should feel free to make it the length you feel it needs to be.
now, if it’s “the hangover 4: the bile speweth”, no – keep it under 90 minutes… preferably about three minutes, which would be a trailer, and a big ol’ “Just Kidding” at the end of it.

elsewhere in the news, work continues on a number of projects, blah, blah, blah… y’all know the drill. the september short story ended up being the first part of a three chapter novelette (please, dear Creative, don’t let it grow to a novella). chapters 11, 12, & 13 of “oil of roses: beyond the wall of thorns” are still getting sections written rather higgledy-piggledy, so it feels like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes. “falling angels” is slowly having plot holes patched, and every time i think i’ve got the whole of the plot worked out, something else rears its head and utters the hated words “what about…”.
and then there are the other little projects which occasionally get patted on their punkin’ heads an’ told “i’ll get around to you… soon”.

something i’ve come to realize lately, in part courtesy of a conversation with Cap’n Double-Mama Rachel Brune, is that stories are often helped by ‘breathing room’. unlike the rest of reality, where everything tends to enjoy an entropic descent into a low-energy state, if you give stories some time – not forever, or we’d never get anything done – they can develop a greater complexity. all the threads you’ve already got can, as you get a better grip on them, and the possibilities they provide, evolve into a deeper, and more satisfying story than you’d originally envisioned.
of course, being me, there’s still room in my schedule for “holy-shit-last-minute-mad-dashes-for-the-finish-line”, where the story barely has time to be written at all, much less grow and mature into a better story.
but i’m rather amazed by the story that’s evolving in the novelette. threads i put in for no apparent reason other than they sounded good at the time are weaving themselves into a larger tapestry.

and finally, both Dorris’s and my job hunting continues. finances are getting ever tighter, and i’m really hoping we don’t lose this house. it has its problems, but it’s been home for a lot of years.


listening to: Dorris wash dishes
mood: anxious

Speed Writing, 9/3/16

He was too young to be so old… and too jaded by his years in the brothel. There was nothing in human experience that could shock him, or move him.
Then he met Jaylyn.
She was rather plain, and her dress and mannerisms didn’t fit anyone who’d be caught dead in a brothel.
And he’d never had a jane who just wanted to talk…
Still, she’d paid her money, and he could use the rest.
She said, “Tell me about yourself,” and he saw her eyes clearly for the first time.
Deep blue, not like ice, more like the blue just before black.
In spite of himself, he began talking. He told her truths about himself no one else knew, he revealed sides of himself he hadn’t known existed before the words tumbled from his lips. He laid  himself bare, and hated himself for his weakness, hated her for hearing his confession.
When he was done, and empty, she smiled.
“Don’t you feel better now?”
“No, fuck you, I don’t feel better.”
“Then do what you have to so you do feel better.”
And she left.
The water was slowly turning from pink to red, and he thought, as such things went, slit wrists weren’t a bad way to go.
Damn her to Hell…


Twenty-eight dead, slicker than owl shit.
It was like his mother said, “it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye”… or their lives.
Hell of a thing, industrial accidents. OSHA is a joke, and making sites a little more dangerous was easy… easier still.
His ad on Craigslist was subtle, and he got a lot of people looking for something other than his specialty… but enough of his kind of business to keep body and soul together… and feed his nest egg in Credit Suisse.
The client wanted the drilling sites shut down.
Easy peasy…
He watched from a hill, back to the sun, so no glint off his binoculars…
The workers hadn’t a clue… and any minute…
The explosion was bright, and oh-so-loud. The burning spray of oil like an offering to the heavens.
He smiled.
Third well that month.
Thirty-six dead.
Easy money…


I always liked Ed… whenever I needed to feel better about my life, I’d get together with him over drinks, and listen to him talk.
Ed’s life was never better than a bucket of suck, and no matter how bad things were for me, Ed had it worse.
But this… this was different, and I was pretty sure Ed couldn’t top this.
Divorce, not a community property state, and he took me for everything. I kept my car, and if I watched my money carefully, I could keep my bare bones apartment for another month or two.
Ed and I sat, drinking cheap Denny’s coffee, and I found I was wr0ng.
Ed had it worse.
“So, I left my keys at home, and yeah, I stayed out drinking late, but that’s why I took the bus, so I wouldn’t drive drunk.
“I got back around three, no keys, and knocked ’til I woke her up.
“Better I should have slept outside, on the ground.
“She was pissed, really pissed… told me I owed her a nice something from the jewelry store.
“Like we got that kind of money.
“So, I found out you can get real good money for a kidney…”
Thanks, Ed, you’re a lifesaver.


There wasn’t any reason to be a virgin at twenty-five. He was okay-looking, not Adonis,  but far from Quasimodo. He had a nice personality… good manners… his Mama had raised him right…
Just one little problem…
He froze when he tried to talk to girls.
Not ‘had problems putting words together’ – unless you took that to extremes, as in ‘said nothing at all, just looked at the ground, and shook’… seriously, not a single word.
So, his friends had to help.
“Look, Mandy, I know you like him, you’ve been mooning over him for the last six months, you even asked him out…”
“Yeah, and that was a disaster.”
“This is just taking your efforts a little step further.”
“Carl, I’m not putting that costume on…”
“Mandy, don’t be that way. The whole reason for the costume is to override his issues about whether you’re serious about… you know…
“You wear that, he won’t doubt your intentions. It’ll work, trust me.”
“Fine, all right, I’ll wear it… he really likes ‘Sailor Moon’ that much?”
“Yeah, and don’t talk. If you don’t talk, he won’t try to, so no embarrassment.
“Just meet him in the bar for drinks, leave no doubt you want to jump his bones, haul him up here, and do him.”
“You’re awfully good to him…”
“Listen, it’s self-preservation, Mandy. If we have to listen to one more lament about him still being a virgin, we’re gonna scream.”
“Okay… let me go get dressed… if you can call it that.”


“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I am impure in thought, word, and deed.”
“Go on, my son.”
“I have killed for money, I have murdered from rage, I have ended lives for no reason at all, just because it was Monday, another time because my coffee sucked balls.”
“You mean the Denny’s massacre?”
“Bingo, Father. Whole damn restaurant, full of corpses.”
“Didn’t you know the coffee would be bad going in?”
“Know it? I was counting on it. I woke up feeling bloody that day, just needed a trigger.”
“My son, I don’t think you’re feeling any remorse about any of this… why are you here?”
“Good question, Padre. Shit, I’m not even Catholic. I was raised Baptist. Lemme tell ya, those are some unhappy damn people. Not a laugh in the bunch.
“As to why I’m here… Padre, you remember hearing Johnny Matizone’s confession?”
“I can’t comment on who, or what, I’ve heard in the confessional.”
“Doesn’t matter, we’ve got it on video. You go in on your side, he goes in on this side, you talk for a long while… well, Father, you can guess he doesn’t come to confession often.”
“I don’t know what you’re getting at…”
The silenced pistol coughed eight times, punching holes through the thin confessional screen.
“You guys aren’t supposed to talk about confessions… but my bosses, they just aren’t that trusting.”


listening to: “Rock of Ages” – Def Leppard
mood: okay, all things considered


Speed Writing 8/18/16

some nights i’m on top of my game, other nights i struggle, other times it’s a mixed bag.
this last wednesday night was a struggle. (i really wish some of the other folks would post their stuff, because they came up with some lovely pieces…)

the only exercise i’m happy with is one where we’re given a word a minute (roughly) and we have to fit each new word into what we’re writing.
typically, for the evening, i started out with crap, and after two words had been given, started all over again, coming up with something i’m rather proud of.

He plays with his blocks on the floor, and I’m supposed to pretend it’s normal that they float in the air, a pair of them, yellow cylinder and green triangle, dancing around his head.
He made the stove explode one day, all because he doesn’t like the cheap store brand biscuits. Blew the kitchen windows out.
The men from the government say I have to stay with him, it’s my job, I’m his mother… and I don’t care anymore.
He refuses to go to the potty, just lays in it, and I get stabbing chest pains until I come, and change him.
I would leave if I could.
I’ve thought of killing myself, but I’ve killed him three times, and they keep bringing him back.
Why do I think they’d let me die?

listening to: Tina S. shred Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”
mood: barely awake, but okay