So my totally awesome buddy Lauren Dixon asked me to write something for her totally rad ‘zine, Superficial Flesh. I did (in something like thirty minutes, no less; tea is a hell of a drug), she rather liked it, and it will be coming to an Internet Near You very soon. It is, I am told, squicky. Very, very squicky. Like ‘Ponies’ squicky, if nowhere near as brilliant as that masterwork. Be on the lookout for it. Bring your best ‘what the fuck is wrong with you, Bo?’ face.
It’s that time of the year again, kids. The season when a young writer’s fancy turns to thoughts of Clarion and how many goats will have to be sacrificed to gain entry into that sacred realm. From now until the deadline you won’t be able to spit without hitting an encouraging post by an alumni telling you why you need to, nay, must apply if you’re at all serious about this writing thing, and there’s a very good reason for that. Are you sitting down? Have you taken a good, cheek-bulging mouthful of your beverage of choice so you can execute a proper spit-take?
Here it comes: because it’s fucking true.
This is not some dark conspiracy dreamed up by a shadowy group of chain-smoking, half-lit ner-do-wells working on behalf of the Secret Cabal of Genre Authors and UCSD Bigwigs, weaving their wicked webs to Steal Your Money from some leather-and-mahogany den beneath the lit department. It’s not rose-coloured nostalgia for a time when, for six whole weeks, you lived in a magic bubble by the sea where everyone around you was a writer and believed fully in your talents. Clarion works. I can’t say it works for everybody because what the hell ever does, but nine times out of ten you are going to come out of this thing a stronger, wiser writer, fully aware of both your strengths and your weaknesses. The instructors and more importantly the other students will teach you what works and what doesn’t. When you are sad, they will pick you up, dust you off, and buy you an ice cream cone, even if that sadness is because they just gently tore your story a new back passage. When you make a sale, they will be there to get rip-roaringly drunk alongside you and trumpet your praises to the heavens. And when you leave? You go with all those connections, all those little strands, all those I know a guy who knows a guy threads that honestly really, really help when you’re just starting out. Connections are important. They are so fucking important, and you leave with a host of them tied to your wrists like balloons, in addition to being a fully-fledged Clarion Alumni. These people are going to be your pack from now on. They’ll understand what you’re going through even when the well-meaning folks back home don’t.
I know I haven’t gone into a lot of depth about the actual teaching process and how effective it is, but I don’t need to tell you that; Clarion’s track record speaks for itself. It is VERY fucking good. The major thing – for me, at least – was growing an entirely new family that pummeled me into believing in myself. Teachers, other students, they all know you can do it, even when you don’t. If you’re anything like me, you’ll come back with a little more self-confidence, and that’s half your battle won.
And please, while you’re there, feed my ravens.
Back in the early days of my writing career, when the world was a molten ball of magma and I still adamantly believed I couldn’t write fiction to save my life, the first rejection letter I ever received was from Strange Horizons. Being maybe a little more cocksure than even I understood at the time, I sent them the only original piece I’d ever written, despite the fact that they were and remain a pretty huge pro market with a pretty small acceptance rate.
The rejection came after a very long time. It was a personal one, nearly two paragraphs long and almost completely positive. The story just wasn’t the right fit; there wasn’t anything wrong with it or my prose. I cannot describe how fucking happy that letter made me, just coming out of the gate. It was almost as good as a sale. I framed it (yes, I framed my first rejection letter), sold the story to another ‘zine with the improvements they had suggested, and moved along to other things. Strange Horizons became something of a white whale after that, though. Later attempts to sell them stuff netted me nothing but form rejections.
Until this past week. The story will probably go up in February, the same month ‘Vixens’ premieres at Lightspeed. I’m going to frame the acceptance letter and hang it next to that first rejection, I think.
Deep down inside everyone – I’m making sweeping generalizations for the sake of my argument, here – lurks an idea for a movie they would kill to see become reality. I am no exception to this rule. If you know me well, you’re probably already sick to death of hearing about this plot. If you don’t, well, hold on to your butts, because have I got a pitch for you.
It is called, quite simply, Three Creepers And A Chica.
Alan Rickman, Jeremy Irons, and Tim Curry are flatmates in, oh, let’s say New York City (that is where these movies tend to occur). Much to their collective theatrical chagrin, they awake one morning to find a baby girl in a basket on their doorstep. The sensible one (Rickman) wants to do the sane thing and call the po-po. The party animal, however (Curry), strongly suspects the kid may be his and insists they keep her until things are sorted, despite the fact that none of them have any sort of child-rearing experience (that’s rearing, not sneering). Can they keep the adorable tyke’s existence a secret from their nosy landlord (Steve Buscemi)? What happens when two Child Protective Services agents (John Malkovich and Kevin Spacey) get thrown into the mix?
Three Creepers And A Chica. Make it happen, Internet. Spread the word.
The old man sits on his porch facing the sea, an oyster-shucking knife clutched in one barnacle-chewed hand. It’s not much of a weapon – the blade is thick and stubby, made more for prying than anything else – but, as some salts are fond of saying, it ain’t the length of a thing matters, just what you do with it. Captain Avery knows goddamned well what he’s going to do with his little sharpened bit of steel, knows he should have done it years ago. The entire town is to blame, really, but the time for sticking blame to things is done and gone. Vanished into the Atlantic, like the children and grandchildren and every blessed tot from ages four to fifteen. Even the tourist brats, not that there were a lot of them hanging around here in October. They usually only showed in July, lining up with their parents along Main Street to gawk and squawk as the annual roundup brought a wave of flashing manes and tide-slicked hides down the thoroughfare. Hooves clattering like tossed bones on the oystershell. Yellowed teeth and yellowed eyes peering out from beneath matted forelocks, tracking the chubby fingers outstretched to stroke. Ave feels a little queasy thinking about it.
He watches the whitecaps with his own rheumy eyes, heart thrumming. Occasionally a ray of light from Assateague Lighthouse cuts through the evening mist, there and gone again, there and gone again.
He too is waiting for the ponies to arrive.
There were wild dolphins playing off the pier at Pacific Beach, the weather was fully in character for San Diego, the booze was plentiful and free, and I was surrounded by writers for three days. I made amazing friends that I dearly hope I didn’t manage to alienate, supportive, wonderful people who tucked me into the feathery bosom of their community and took care of my awkward, clingy ass. Thank you, guys. If I did anything to be a twatblossom, please don’t hold it against me too much.
Did poorly at the reading, but that was fully expected. Hopefully it won’t put anyone off reading the short when it finally hits.
An individual henceforth known as the WFC Creeper, who wandered around groping, harassing, and awkwardly hitting on every woman at the function. He cornered an acquaintance of mine at one of the parties and gave him a thirty-minute spiel on how he could totally astrally project into the dreams of ‘uppity bitches’ and give them nightmares about centipedes in their vaginas or something, because bad hentai is the universal nightmare of everyone with a uterus. Also? Lemmy Kilmeister from Motorhead totally taught him the psychic secret to picking up strippers. It’s true. He’s a wizard who can apparently make any woman want to sleep with a pudgy, greasy roadie in a stained band t-shirt. Acquaintance stood gamely listening to the dude ramble on for a good thirty minutes before gently misdirecting him out of the party and down the hallway (he was looking for some blonde who had rejected him, apparently). If we had known what he was getting up to elsewhere, we would’ve locked him on the balcony and called the cops right then and there.
(My only actual interaction with the man outside this incident was him creepily telling me to have a good day as I passed him at a party. I have never been so glad to look perpetually pissed.)
While I can’t disagree with the fact that it would take a fair amount of dark magiks to make any vagina-bearing creature want to bang this dude, I have to call shenanigans on the rest of his story. You have to study under the Kilmeister for at least a good hundred years before he’ll teach you that trick. Also he was a giant piece of shit who made many, many women uncomfortable and it is my dearest wish that he have dreams of candiru fish violating his shriveled peen from here until the crack of doom. Don’t be this guy, folks. Men like him make me want to learn Krav Maga so I can politely re-arrange their reproductive organs without breaking a sweat.
Head’s up for anyone attending the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego this week: I’ll be reading an excerpt from my upcoming story, ‘Her Words Like Hunting Vixens Spring’, at the Fantasy Magazine panel on Saturday afternoon. Stop by and watch me do a terrible, terrible job of things in front of quite a lot of people!
Yes, it’s a month on and the site continues to look a hot mess. But hope is on the horizon! For I now have in my employ one BreeAnn Veenstra, brilliant artist and web designer extraordinaire. She’s going to build me a labyrinth so lovely and wondrous you’ll be glad to wander starving through its halls, menaced by minotaurs and griffins and whangdoodles and lord knows what else. There may even be a surprise or two along the way! Stay tuned.