Location, Location, Location: Obama speaks at Amazon!

Obama will speak today to deliver one of his ‘Better Bargain’ speeches at Amazon’s distribution center in Tennessee. I am not typically very interested in politics but I am interested in the book industry and the choice of location seemed very important to me. Mostly, I was surprised to see that Amazon’s distribution center was the location chosen given the amount of press circulating about Amazon this year. If you haven’t necessarily been following, I’ll try to catch you up to speed:

Agency Pricing, “The Big Six”, and a big win for Amazon –

Back in 2010, each of the “Big Six” publishing companies — Hatchette, Macmillan, Penguin Group, HarperCollins, Random House, and Simon & Schuster — was prompted by Apple to adopt what’s considered an ‘Agency model’ in regards to Ebook pricing and distribution. Agency pricing, is essentially a fix in pricing across retailers. The publishing company (in this case companies) would decide the price that an Ebook would sell for and then retailers such as Amazon, Apple, Overstock.com etc. would take a cut (I would assume the amount was negotiated with the publishers and perhaps not the same for each retailer).

What an agency model means for readers, is higher prices. Publishers defended the move saying that the higher price was justified because of the level of quality that ‘traditional’ publishing companies were able to give their content. Readers believed that because there was not a physical object which the company must produce, then the cost should be lower. However, large companies continued to price their Ebooks at similar costs to the printed versions because they felt that the backend procedures (marketing, editing, formatting, artwork etc.) gave a significant cost to the publisher, and they were attempting to recoup some of that cost at point of sale. John Scalzi, a fairly popular Science Fiction writer, has a great post (from back in 2010) which is very comical and pretty much sums up the work that goes into a producing a quality book. I feel he probably agrees with the higher prices associated with his work.

Amazon fiercely defended what is called a whole sale model. It means that retailers would decide the price of the item and sell it at whichever price they felt would make the sale (again I’m assuming that the publisher would then make a percentage of the sale). A whole sale model would allow Amazon to sell books at a loss (selling the book for less than it’s worth) and train buyers to expect lower prices for Ebooks. Considering Amazon is pretty much the only retailer of it’s type, there really isn’t any consequence for them should they do this. When some of the ‘Big Six’ publishers threatened to withhold their products should Amazon continue the practice, Amazon turned off the buy buttons on many books. They were called to testify in U.S. vs Apple et al. They argued for the conspiracy and because of the judge’s ruling, will continue to price Ebooks at whichever price they deem necessary for sale (i.e. way lower than the books are worth).

***Here are some good sites that explain everything pretty easily if you’re interested:

The E-book wars: Who is less evil, Amazon or Book Publishers?

Everything you need to know about the e-book lawsuit in one post (a little dated but still pretty good)

Tax Evasion –

Interestingly enough, Amazon has had some of its own legal trouble as well. In May 2013, Fortune Magazine released a story called “Amazon’s (not so secret) War on Taxes”. Fortune reports that Amazon has been evading something like 11.4 billion dollars a year in taxes through a loophole in internet tax law. The company argued that since they are an internet based company and don’t have physical stores (such as Barnes & Nobles or Books-A-Million) they shouldn’t pay sales tax to the state government where the products are sold. This has given them a crucial leg up on the competition (not just in the book industry but in other industries as well). It sounds like domestically, the loophole has been closed, but abroad, the U.S. is actually fighting for Amazon to ease proposed restrictions.

Amazon Acquires Goodreads –

Amazon purchased one of the largest social reading sites on the net. As reported on their blog last week, Goodreads has now reached 20 million readers on the site. On paper, Amazon seems to have made the acquisition to help readers and build the community surrounding the site. Goodreads founder Otis Chandler stated: “Partnering with Amazon will help us focus on making Goodreads an even better place for readers.” (via Goodreads). While Amazon will undoubtedly continue to invest in Goodreads and develop the site, many are worried that Amazon may not be using data retrieved from the site in an ethical manner.

Reported Losses –  

Despite all of this maneuvering, Amazon posted a loss this July in its review of the 2nd quarter. Investors don’t seem all that worried, and there was not a huge rush to sell as might be anticipated. The company is known for having slim profit margins and investors seem to hold on to hope that eventually Amazon will be the only fish in the pond, and when it is, they can make as much money as they want.

So what does this have to do with Obama and middle class Americans?

When I first heard about the speech, I hadn’t the slightest. The only thing I could come up with was:

A) Amazon seems poised and in position to expand their business over seas where Ebook readership is much less stable. Perhaps Obama would speak to something about making America a great exporter. Other companies should not hesitate but perhaps look to Amazon and their “Head West” mentality (although I guess really they’d probably be heading east).

B) The publishing industry is quickly changing. Everyday there are seemingly drastic changes in the way people access material, sell it, distribute it, discover it etc. It’s certainly a hot bed of innovation, and greatly rewards innovators. There are a lot of small presses, and independent companies which are competing each day but it is important to recognize that they have the opportunity and space to compete. From a certain perspective, the Kindle, and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing have busted the industry wide open allowing for small business owners to enter the industry in a way that was heretofore impossible.

However, based on everything I’ve written above (the tax evasion, data mining, a convenient lawsuit, and posted loss) I was still surprised by the choice. I don’t feel like authors, publishers, and perhaps even readers, don’t really think Amazon is a great company. I was certainly very interested to see how Obama would use this, or if he would. Maybe he would just deliver his message and ignore the location completely. But he still chose it and there had to have been a reason.

So what did he end up talking about?

I’m not sure. Couldn’t find any record of what time Obama is supposed to begin and it doesn’t appear the speech will be broadcast. I’m sure I’ll eat those words about ten minutes after this post goes up but it’s all I know for now.

Was able to find two more interesting links which I think make the picture a little clearer:

The first is a press release explaining that Amazon is looking to hire 5,000 new employees for Fulfillment Jobs across America.

The second is from Shelf Awareness. It takes into account the release from Amazon and also has some good quotes about how Independent book sellers or Small Business Owners are taking the news. Interesting stuff.

I suppose that’s all for now. I’ll post anything else I feel is relevant.

A&A welcomes D. H. Aire!!

Hi there. This is James Weber. We’re taking some time today to talk with author D.H. Aire about his revolutionary work of Fantasy, Highmage’s Plight . Hope you enjoy!

JW: Hi there. Please, if you could give us a little bit about yourself before we begin discussing Highmage’s Plight

DH:I’m D.H. Aire. I’ve a love of history, particularly archeology. In my travels I have walked the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem and through an escape tunnel of a Crusader fortress that Richard the Lionheart once called home. I’ve toured archeological sites from diverse cultures that were hundreds, if not thousands of years old… experiences that found expression in Highmage’s Plight.

I was a “closeted” writer since college. I can’t help but write stories; however, the very idea of facing another rejection letter was rather daunting way back when. Then one day I didn’t care anymore. I’ve amassed over a hundred rejection letters since then and have had some success, including the publication of my first novel, Highmage’s Plight.

JW: Anything you wish our readers should know before we begin discussing Highmage’s Plight?

DH: Highmage’s Plight is the first book in a sci fi/fantasy series that was serialized in the ezine Separate Worlds and published in novel form by Malachite Quills Publishing’s Chimera Tales imprint last year. Highmage’s Plight’s sequel Human Mage was also serialized and is being published later this summer.

JW: Please explain Highmage’s Plight. You’ve termed the series an experiment. How does it work?

DH: The Plight is a blend of science fiction and fantasy, exploring ideas such as what happens when technology is mistaken for magic. What if magic trumped science, what might a world look like, and what might it mean to be human under such circumstances? The Plight is the story of a world under the ultimate threat, being suborned by an evil, which has been cutting off all hope of prophecies being fulfilled until history is changed through the power of a paradox which starts with the summoning of George Bradley, a man of science from Earth’s future, an archeologist who falls through a ripple in reality, with only the clothes on his back and his computer staff, which among other things can help him envision what a dig looked like in the past.

Another look at the cover!

Another look at the cover!

Highmage’s Plight is the start of an epic fantasy series with a protagonist, who wants only one thing… to go home. George arrives in the world in the wrong place, fleeing the minions of the demon who wishes to destroy the human race. He crosses a wasteland, crosses mountains and the lowlands beyond, which is riddled with city-state kingdoms, in order to reach the Aqwaine Empire, a land ruled by elves and those of elvin blood. If that was not bad enough, his computer is rather sarcastic.

This is a world of prejudices, including one that knows human cannot do magic because they don’t have souls. This is a world where fate is going to bring George unlikely allies to help him survive all those who seek his life.

What makes Highmage’s Plight different on a completely singular level is that I was not trying to really get it published. I first wrote it more than twenty years ago and when I found myself out of work as the Great Recession hit, I asked myself during my long job search why my beloved books in the digital age needed to remain static. By that I mean, what if the book you read changed. What if the dialogue or a character’s actions diverged from the last time I read it? Why couldn’t a book evolve with reader input in electronic form?

So, I began serializing the Plight on Writing.com and found there was an ezine interested in serializing it. My evolving science fiction/fantasy project seeks to involve readers in new ways, but it hasn’t the audience at this point to make the next phase possible just yet. I offer a limited number of those who are interested, who purchased the book, to have a complimentary membership. At this point, they get an advanced look at the next book I’m serializing and additional stories from some of the other stories in the series. Ultimately, I want to “sell” character memberships, allowing readers to become the spirit behind a character, and advise on their exclusive character. If I agree, I’ll make changes to the evolving version, even consider adding to the storyline, whether affecting the first book or another as time goes by.

There are interactive stories, but nothing like what I seek to do with Highmage’s Plight. Perhaps it might be called an “intra-active” story, since I’m seeking to engage readers in the creative side of the story. No one else is doing an experiment like this (learn more at my website, www.Dhr2Believe.net).

Once I’m ready for the next phase, I am going to offer exclusive character memberships (for both major & minor characters) and general memberships as well (which is the currently complimentary access level now). All members of the group will need a free basic membership to Writing.com and will be able, as members of the group, to read and comment on the books and short stories posted in the series, published and unpublished.

The experiment is evolving, but those are my objectives. Writing.com, established in 2000, makes a lot of what I want to do today possible, which to me is the exciting part of trying to launch a new idea.

You got this!

You got this!

JW: How do you see your role in this project? Has it met your expectations? What has been some of the difficulties you’ve experienced?

DH: At this point I’ve only a few readers who have been interested in my promotional offer of a complimentary one year membership, which gives them access to the backend of the series. I can have 250 members presently, but can expand to 2,500. I never expected the series to find a publisher so quickly once I began the project. I’ve even written another series, Dare2believe, a young adult urban fantasy based on the idea of fans becoming their exclusive characters and turning into trolls, ogres, elves, etc. Suddenly they can do magic… and the world as we know is coming to an end.

Ultimately, it will take a significant audience to make an evolving story approach like what I’m experimenting with work. That’s going to take time and a commitment on my part in building an audience, which means writing, writing some more (including articles on my learning experience as a writer), going to sci fi and fantasy conventions, and networking as much as possible. I’ve gotten some great advice on what challenges my little project faces and ideas as to what I have to commit to in order to try to make it work. It’s led to my featuring the opening chapters of Dare2believe on Wattpad.com, a free website used by millions of young adult readers. Dare2Believe is basically Gulliver’s Travels meets Urban Fantasy and is available at: http://www.wattpad.com/story/5048546-dare2believe.

JW: There is a sequel coming out soon? When will it be published? Any difference in the process?

DH: Human Mage is currently being copyedited for publication and, if I say so myself, the first sample drawings for the cover art are “cool.” It should be out around Labor Day Weekend. The next sequel will begin being serialized by Separate Worlds in August. I’m hoping to see it released at the end of 2014.

Sweet logo

Sweet logo

JW: What is your experience working with publisher and imprint?

DH: Highmage’s Plight is published by Malachite Quills Publishing’s Chimera Tales imprint. The sequel is being published by Spectacular Publishing, which publishes Separate Worlds.

Malachite Quills is a small press, established in the fall of 2011. The Plight is one of the first books they published. They’ve grown into several imprints and the Plight is published under their fantasy imprint. Spectacular Publishing released an anthology at the same time as MQ published the Plight. Their anthology, Flights of Fantasy, Vol. 1, featured a number of my short stories and the opening stories of the Highmage’s Plight. They love Human Mage and approached me to see if they could publish and MQ concurred. So voila’ the ebook and print-on-demand editions will be available shortly.

JW: Any authors that influenced your work? Specifically Highmage’s Plight? The series as a whole?

DH: Among the many authors that influence my work are Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover Series, Anne McAffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, and Roger Zelazny’s Amber Series. You’ll also see that Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, and J.R.R. Tolkien have taken a toll on my psyche.

JW: What aspects of the story are you most proud of?

DH: I love turning the tables on the classic stories. For example, I’ve got liveried sword wielding warriors (musketeers of a sort), who are all women; trolls who think they are human; and an ogre who’s a good guy at heart, just trapped by circumstances, poor guy. But what I’m most proud of is George’s relationship with his sarcastic computer alter ego, Staff, and his “family.” Together, George and Staff make quite the human mage. Together with his friends, George makes quite a human being.

JW: Are you working on any other writing at this time which is not involved with Highmage’s Plight?

DH: I’ve a two book space opera I’m hoping to see published in the next year or two called The Terran Catalyst and lots of short stories like Crossroads of Sin (a time travel tale), which appears in the anthology RealLies.

JW: Any closing remarks or thoughts which you would like to give to our readers? Also, Unicorns? Anything juicy behind that?

Sorry couldn't resist. Just love this pic!

Sorry couldn’t resist. Just love this pic!

DH: My motto is “Dare to Believe.” As a writer I’ve dared to believe in myself, knowing I’ve plenty of challenges ahead of me. I believe that’s true for all of us at one time or another and if I hadn’t, I’d never have published a single short story or Highmage’s Plight.

Okay, why a unicorn, you ask? You’ll have to read the series to find out… or you could read my Dare2Believe series to find out. Fine, Dare is completely based on the Plight, not just the idea of the evolving story experience run amok. That’s a plus in my book, particularly since those pesky characters seem to think playing in our world might be fun…

In other words, I write because I love to and, well, not writing drives me crazy. All I can say is, Dare to Believe.

D.H. Aire


Deadman’s Hand: Not Your Average Case

Aww yea . . . She's dead alright

Aww yea . . . She’s dead alright

It’s not my first night working the beat. I’ve experienced a lot of detectives solving a lot of crimes. Of course I’ve read the greats. Poe & Doyle. Agatha Christie and Dorthy Sayers (ugh I should do a whole post on Wimbsey alone). I can’t think of any modern authors right now but I think I’ve watched enough Law & Order (and NCIS . . . and CSI . . . You get my drift?) to know a Police Procedural when I see one.

Needless to say, most detective fiction fails to impress. However, I still seem to have a ‘soft spot’ for ‘hard boiled’ detective fiction. Dashiel Hammet and Raymond Chandler will always be my go to guys when it’s time to start handing out recommendations (unless you like fantasy and sci-fi, then it’s a whole different list). There’s something about a guy who has every chance to take the easy way out but doesn’t. Something about a man who stays by his principles (even if they’re screwed up principles) and does the right thing (even if it’s for the wrong reasons) . . .

Well let’s just say I’d like to buy that guy a drink. Maybe I’m a Romantic. Or maybe that guy would have great taste in drinks. Not sure which (what’d I just say about doing things for the wrong reasons?). That being said, sometimes even my precious hard-boiled detective fiction can run a little dry. After all, formula is formula and lord knows there are hundreds if not thousands of imitators out there (will the real slim shady please stand up?)

Dress like me and solve crimes like me and wait . . . what?

Dress like me and solve crimes like me and wait . . . what?

What was the title of this post again?

Ah yes. Not your average case. Well in the case of Richard Levesque’s Dead Man’s Hand (Ace Stubble), imitators need not apply. When I say Ace isn’t your average detective, I mean it. He’s actually not a detective at all. He’s a lawyer who defends less than normal clientele . . . Oh and did I mention zombies? That should give you at least a hint as to what’s going on here. Should at least give an idea of the world we’re inhabiting.

Basically, Ace Stubble defends vampires, werewolves and any other sort of paranormal crook who ends up on the wrong side of the law. He’s going about his business, drinking (ah yes the true staple of a hard boiled detective) and needing a vacation, when he’s attacked by a werewolf on a full moon. He’s able to walk away with his neck (mostly intact) because of a young, seductive hacker (possibly a vampire?) who happens to have some silver. Ace does the gentlemanly thing to do and accompanies her back to her flat. Turns out she has an abundance of problems and when Ace offers a helping hand, our vixen (name pixel) pulls one (a hand) out of the refrigerator. You’ll have to read the rest yourself, and I recommend that you do.

Incase you’re skimming . . .

What I love about this book is the way the author mixes two genres that I don’t think normally mix together. The whole ‘Vampires, Werewolves, & Zombies’ thing seems pretty trendy right now and there is a lot of content being produced in this vein. However, I wouldn’t say there is a lot of quality work out there (I’m sorry that you love Vampire Diaries but really?).

And ‘Hard-boiled’ detective fiction?

Well it died around the same time Kennedy got hitched. So essentially, Levesque takes one dead genre mixed with a dying (or perhaps undying?) genre of fiction and creates something that is refreshing and quite comical at some points (oops forgot to mention the humor until now).

But enough of me prattling along. Just go and read it already!

Hello Red.

Hello Red.

Highmage’s Plight by D. H. Aire

Aww yea. Cover yea.

Aww yea. Cover yea.

Looking back through my notes on this one, it appears that my initial reaction to this novel was:

Unicorns? Really?

All joking aside, that addition to the story was actually pretty great as far as fantasy creatures go. My prior experience with unicorns is effectively zero (actually it is zero) so I was (and still am) interested to see where that piece of the story goes and how it will develop.

Anyway, before I get into the meat of the review I’ll give you a quick set up of the story so you can decide whether or not you might be interested in reading further. Essentially, our main character, George or “Georj” as most of the other characters call him, is an ordinary Archeologist (for the future anyway) concerned with seemingly ordinary archeological problems (dating the site, continuing funding etc.) when he stumbles across a magic gate which transports him through time and possibly to another planet.

In this time (or on this planet) magic is an important part of the society, its cultural hierarchy/power structure etc. George and his computer, shaped like a large walking staff, must navigate through this new world, learn and use magic, and fight the attempts of an evil elf king to thwart their movements and destroy the world as we know it!

Why couldn't it have just been snakes . . .

Why couldn’t it have just been snakes . . .

Not just another day at the dig site huh?

Highmage’s Plight is interesting in a variety of ways. First, in some aspects Highmage’s Plight functions as a normal story. It has characters and plot, a climax etc. However, this isn’t the whole story. It is actually meant to be an interactive, or perhaps ‘intra-active’ series in which fans and other story tellers alike can make decisions about the plot, and imbue the characters with their own individual spirit and personality. I’m hosting the author, D.H. Aire, on the site Friday and we’re going to discuss the process some more, so make sure to stop by then as well. In the mean time, you can take look at it yourself at DHR2Believe.net It’s pretty cool.

The second is in the way the story’s world is structured. Magic and technology compete in stark opposition. Both are real, and affect the world in very real ways. George and Balfour (his Healer guide) meet, and are married to four Cathartan women (2 apiece) which serve as bodyguards along the quest. These women were born into a society in which a plague ravishes the male population (definitely some evil magic going on here). Of course typical gender roles are non-existent in favor of a society where women occupy almost every role available. It’s a strange dynamic in that you have strong, ultra competent women who are still beholden to men because of their rarity. However, George arrives on the scene with the aid of technology on his side and seems reluctant to wed them or bed any of them. I sense social upheaval, the likes of which have only been propositioned in the most epic of fantasies (I’m thinking Wheel of Time here).

As far as the story elements are concerned, I feel that this piece was something of a foundational work. It set the stage for more writing to follow. The characters are interesting and have lots of room to develop. Also, it seems there are wuite a few characters to work with. Many heroes but also a great many villains. It will be interesting to see the way these threads are woven together and what the end result will be.

I’m gunning for more Unicorns! Bye all.

This one almost looks real!

This one almost looks real!

Super Bass: Just about Love?

Tor 5Tor.com turns five today (Aww). All this week they’ve been posting a variety of different content on their website to celebrate. I love it. It’s their birthday and they’re the ones giving things away. Well done Tor. Well done. I stopped by on Wednesday and found this little gem awaiting me (you’ll have to register but it’s so worth it and all you need to give is an email address). It’s the past five years of short fiction published by Tor on their website. A short fiction reviewer’s wet dream if there ever was one. I was perhaps more excited because, despite my general love of all things related to this company, I hardly ever get to read any of their short fiction. Tor’s pretty massive when it comes to all the content they produce. It’s really quite impressive. All the blog posts, re-reads, read throughs, newsletters, TV show re-watches . . . and then the novels! Sadly, when I get my newsletter I tend to skim over the links to the short fiction in favor of the news and other little tidbits they pack into those emails. I always save the emails for a while with the intent to come back to them but alas . . . I have a short attention span.

But there is no longer anything to fear! They’ve compiled everything for me in a (rather large) file which I’ve uploaded to my kindle (although not to my amazon account; it’s too big!).


Anyway, this week’s short fiction review happens to come from this large anthology and it’s entitled Super Bass by Kai Ashante Wilson. I’ll be honest, I have never heard of Wilson before and I sincerely hoped that Super Bass was somehow related to the Nicki Minaj song of the same title.

It isn’t (at least not so far as I can tell).

But it is a great story! It tells of a place called Sea-John which, by the by, has people marry in groups of three. Sometimes two dudes and a chick, sometimes two chicks and a dude, and as often as not, three dudes or three chicks (really wishing I had gone with bi-the-bi earlier). Weird? Not in the slightest. The story, while taking issue with traditional gender associations, doesn’t dwell on the differences between our culture and that of the work. The differences simply are.

This was quite refreshing for me in a lot of ways. As an English major, I’d read many books and stories (and watched films too!) that took issue with sex, and gender, and the different ways our society is constructed which won’t allow for ‘like’ to sleep with ‘like’. I heard the message. I understood it. I wanted it to change. However, I was always left with a feeling of guilt. That because my preferences were aligned with the [suppressing] majority, I couldn’t truly understand the cause or help.

I didn’t feel that way at all while reading Super Bass. I felt more as if I had been invited to celebrate something beautiful, maybe exotic, but beautiful none the less. Perhaps a better way to describe it is welcomed. I was welcomed to celebrate something beautiful and exotic.

LGBTI think this is something common among science fiction stories in general. In one of those afore mentioned English classes, we talked a great deal about Octavia Butler’s work. I’m certainly no Butler scholar (although I see that Wilson’s work is also published in an anthology written by real Butler Scholars so I assume that he is), but I got the sense that she looked towards a future in which gender (and for that matter race as well) might no longer be such an obstacle for those who are in opposition to the mainstream. Not only that you might love only for that which makes you love, but that others might accept it as they accept something simple. Like an alternate route to work one morning or your favorite flavor of ice cream (mint?).

What I haven’t decided yet is whether or not things have progressed enough that Wilson writes without hesitation. Does he write, as any of us might, about love simply because it is love and these are ways in which we might love?. Or does Wilson write with a sense of duty? Does he write because we are still keeping the status quo and because without some vision of a more accommodating future, we might never reach it at all. I would like to believe the first but feel again as if my situation makes me naïve. Perhaps I can resolve to just be happy that I enjoyed a great story. Perhaps I’m still not doing enough . . .

Posting on Vacation.

Yea this boat right?

Yea this boat right?

Ahh the guilt! I wasn’t going to post this week. I’m on vacation in Stone Harbor and have been greatly enjoying some much needed R&R. But alas, I couldn’t hold out. I’ve been catching up on a lot of reading because the only thing to do here is sit on the beach and read (it’s amazing!). I’ve been reading novels mostly. I finally finished Highmage’s Plight, so there will be a review on that later (I’ll post it during the BBF so stay tuned). I also started World War Z which has been great so far. But then the guilt . . .

A short fiction post every week. That was the deal I made myself. My Kobi posts are all but non-existent (I miss that little guy!) since I moved out and if I don’t keep up the short fiction posts then everything I’ve worked so hard (well medium hard) to  attain will collapse into ruin.

Dramatic much?

Well without further adieu, I suppose I should begin this week’s short fiction post. It’s about George R. R. Martin’s Meathouse Man. I’ve come to understand George R. R. Martin is fairly popular these days. Certainly a household name. I’m pretty sure you can get a good deal through a conversation just by mentioning his name and spouting out a few random facets you’ve happened to pick up along the way. It works even better if you’ve seen an episode or two of his HBO series. You don’t even really have to have read any of his work. I never had and I’ve been getting by pretty well (granted I did start watching the show and am pretty much caught up as far as that is concerned).

So, at the beach I was skimming through a zombie anthology and saw his name. It seemed like an opportunity.

I won’t comment on any literary aspect of the writing except to say that it was superb. Everything measured and tempered for maximum effect. Very well done there although I expected as much given the nature of the criticism surrounding his other work.

What I would like to comment on is the content of the piece. It’s horrifying. I often forget how good horror makes a reader feel absolutely uncomfortable while reading. At each break between sections I stopped and seriously debated whether or not I would continue.

Let me explain.



The premise of Meathouse Man is rather simple. It is the story of a man who is in search of true love. A man who struggles to rise above base pleasure, above anonymity , above being numb. Something along the lines of having loved and lost being better than having never love at all. He eventually decides that the world is built to break men down and that to believe anything else is just and intricate deception constructed by those too weak to see the truth. Depressing huh?

If that isn’t hard enough to take, please also consider the universe this man lives in. He is a Corpse Handler. Basically, he controls the bodies of six people who are already dead with the aid of synthetic brains (something of a techno-necromancer I suppose). Now the ability to control the dead is fully integrated into this society. Dead men work in the fields, the mines, the forests. They act in theatres and shows. Worst of all, it is dead women who pleasure their customers in the whorehouses.

Yea, pretty revolting stuff.

I think I’ll end the post here and let that sink in. I’m not upset that I read it. Nor am I upset that it exists (freedom of expression and all that). I’m a little bit grateful to be put outside my comfort zone. However, I am still upset; that’s really all I can say to express my feelings after reading it. Perhaps that is the point. I’ll let you decide. Please comment if you can.

Short Fiction: Sometimes it’s good to get “Literary”

True story. Sometimes you need something heavy to think about. If you’re in that sort of vein, I recommend William Faulkner’s The Bear. There’s a lot to swallow. Probably more than one blog post can suffice to say but . . . I want to talk about it anyway. I found The Bear in a summer English class, about two years ago. We were reading all sorts of ‘Literary’ books and stories. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E. Dubois, some poetry by Frost, and something by Joseph Conrad though I don’t think it was Heart of Darkness. I read that when I was younger and wished I’d had a professor there to help explain it to me. Still do.

Now, two years later I found myself thumbing (well I guess scrolling) through its pages a second time. I was taught in class that it was about ‘Modernity’ with a capital M. I find myself searching for meaning in that word even as the young boy hunts for Old Ben in the woods of the great . . . wherever. I still haven’t found him. I’ve crossed paths with ‘Modernity’, recognized its trail and ran its woods a thousand times but I don’t seem to be any closer to bringing home the kill.

As I read it this time, one passage really stuck in my mind:

“There was an old bear, fierce and ruthless, not merely just to stay alive, but with the fierce pride of liberty and freedom, proud enough of liberty and freedom to see it threatened without fear or even alarm; nay, who at times even seemed deliberately to put that freedom and liberty in jeopardy in order to savor them, to remind his old strong bones and flesh to keep supple and quick to defend and preserve them.”

Now read that passage again and take a shot every time you see the words ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’. Am I right?

All joking aside, I feel that this quote is in a lot of ways ineffable. I imagine the wilderness this bear must live in. It’s complete and utter disregard for rules or regulation (civilization?) because there aren’t any in sight. A time before the land was developed, sectioned off, built up and disastrously torn down. Before modern conveniences like roads and computers, Twitter or Facebook, cell phones and television.

It also says something to me about competition. The Bear is “playing the game” to its fullest potential. At war with those who would try to capture its independence and limit its fulfillment. I think this exists in the world we live in today with all of the modern convenience mentioned before (note that I’m not trying to argue any sort of lifestyle in which we give up these conveniences; I love them). To me, those boundaries seem like a new wilderness through which the bear must run and through which men will hunt and attempt to capture him.

I also find the hunters in this story interesting too, because in my mind they are the same as the Bear. The reason they hunt is to push the same boundaries and fulfill the same need as their target. To push themselves to life’s limit so that they may better appreciate that life and those limits. To give them motivation to reach and succeed at new challenges. It’s just the same as that which they hunt. It seems to me a very American mentality. Good thing the 4th’s tomorrow.

There is definitely more to this story. Of course there is more meaning in this story than can be properly expressed with another hundred posts of this quality, but I think this short was included in a larger work by Faulkner called Go Down, Moses. I seem to remember them capturing the Bear and a rather sad eulogy to follow. I also seem to remember another story which made me think that I was no less a man if I poured water into my whiskey . . .

I think I’ll be talking more about Faulkner in the weeks to come. Until next time . . .

Old Ben? Maybe?

Old Ben? Maybe?