Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Literary Copulation

I graduated from Cal Poly this last December. My senior project was comprised of two short stories. I have compiled them into a tiny book, now available through CafePress.com. The short stories are Chiaroscuro, which won honorable mention in Cal Poly's creative writing contest last year, and a longer one called Arrested Decay. The smart cover was designed and photographed by my good friend, Josh Tobey (yes, that's a penis on his front page). I called the project The Hands That Built The World, a line from the second story that I felt applied to themes from both. How? You'll just have to find out.

It's unfortunately a whopping $9.00 a pop, but well worth it for the stories inside. I did raise the price from the base price of $8.77, so I'm making a $.23 profit from each book, but I figured if I'm going to make any money off of any of the stuff that nobody's buying, it would be this one.

Here is the front cover:


And here's the back:


So, if you pick one up, I hope you enjoy it, if not, well then I hope you contemplate it. The actual production of the book was a lot of fun to do and these stories I'm really proud of. I'm thinking I would like to do two of these a year. It would motivate me to write regularly and maybe give me more confidence to ship stories out to magazines.

Keep a good thought.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

East is East, and West is West, or More Than Meets The Eye

"Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet."
-Rudyard Kipling
Barrack-Room Ballads, 1892

America exists among a pair of realities: the political and the living. They exist in parallel and the world seems fine as they go along, but when they intersect we, as American citizens, are forced to stop because it feels, with no better word for description, weird.

Honestly, as regimes are switched from conservative to liberal or vice versa, we live pretty much the same despite all the fire and brimstone talk of those lambasting the opposition. Whether Nancy Pelosi is the devil or Dick Cheney is a man-hunter, no matter what they do any day of the week I can still go to Best Buy and pick up a recently released special edition DVD in consternation since I already own the original release which only in hindsight oozes "non-special." But I need special things...special things that I expect to be released every Tuesday. And on sale.

Political reality exists in its own nameless -osphere, floating in some bitchy ether above the world (or below). We watch that realm with interest probably because, in the end, we like to root for teams and take sides and talk about bad plays made and the best trash-talking among figures of might and prowess. This world shown to us in the newspapers and on television is untouchable, and its separation lends it an almost mythic quality that even ancient peoples would have loved. Imagine if the quibbles throughout the Greek pantheon were broadcast over Achaean television:

Anonymous sources close to Zeus say he suffers such harsh mood swings because his father consumed all of his previous children. Whether the public release of this knowledge will aid or diminish his bipartisanship in the ongoing Trojan affair is unknown as Zeus's own son, the spoiled Sarpedon, continues to fight despite being disliked by both Achaean and Trojan soldiers alike.

With me and (I'm assuming) my generation, the Cold War and the ended never-ending rivalry with the Soviets are much like tales of yore. If the symbolic end of the Cold War was the disassemblage of the Berlin Wall, then I was but a babe of about nine years old. The Cold War was my parents' fight, their scare, the Soviets were their enemy and their target. I grew up hearing about it, feeling the fear that the previous generations still harbored. But when the Wall fell and Democracy found the permanently ravaged CCCP they became merely Russians again and the threat as well as the vibrant red flag were gone forever.

But it's hard to make people forget, and our parents and/or grandparents would always have the Red Soviets to make jokes about and distrust, Communism is still the great enemy. Hearing them talk about it, though, the subversive manner of relations that the respective countries adopted during this time is as good as anything you'll find in Bulfinch's Mythology. Where this is now Russia there was the Soviet Union, a dark, oppressive superpower that lived in caves of fire and spent every day upon its throne planning the next move to take down the unquestionable superheroics of the United States of America. It was modern mythology, it was Achilles against Hector, Michael against Lucifer, Optimus Prime against Megatron. Honestly, to me, it felt as real as James Bond presented it (and what a presentation that is).

Though my ilk and I felt the echoing pangs of Cold War fever through our parents, our menace and fear came from Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Nearly immediately after the fall of Soviet Russia there rose this harrowing figure with a name that was easy for an eleven year-old to pun. He looked like Stalin and apparently walked Hitler's walk what with a boisterous megalomaniacal public persona. He fit in easily with America's previous super-villains. His opposition ushered the first socially large-scale battle into my memory, what with Optimus America's transformation into battle mode from Desert Shield to Desert Storm, complete with battle bunker trailer attachment. And afterwards, Hussein and his Iraqticons hid away in waiting until I got to be about draft age and we bounced right back in there, guns a blazin'.

Hussein and his demonic Iraqi regime was my Cold War, the wave of terror that paralyzed my generation that I will tell stories about to my children and bore them. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I wanted that fear to continue or stretch any farther than it had already reached. I'm just saying that it's weird, is all. I wonder if this was how my parents felt when the wall fell, when they were officially told that a Soviet threat was over. It was a long fall, to be sure, but they were conditioned to hate and fear them like I feel I and mine were for Iraq. Look at our movies and public stance. When the Sum Of All Fears was being adapted into a film (written before September 11th, 2001) the main Middle Eastern villains of the book were changed because producers felt that those types of antagonists in films were becoming cliché. Talk about foresight, Tom Clancy (the author of Sum Of All Fears) was one of the last great capitalists on Cold War tensions.

Some say that we don't need to be in Iraq right now, that we shouldn't have gone in there in the second place. Osama Bin Laden-Scream did attack our country and needs to be brought to justice (however that may be met) but he wasn't the icon that Hussein was and is. Maybe Bin Laden will step up to take Hussein's mantle as America's premiere villain, but it's obvious from appearances and actions that the classic super villain is gone and in its place is something much more subversive but no less sinister.