Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Sexual Themes of the Mario Universe

WARNING: The following contains suggestive themes, language, and ideals. If you are offended by offensiveness, crude humor, poor puns, shoddy metaphors, or risque talk, now is the time to back out.

It's come to my attention that there is something really wrong with Mario. And not in the way that he's a plumber in the magical Mushroom Kingdom and eats mushrooms to grow large and jump on turtles and other various creatures all day. Everyone recognizes how fucked up that all is. No. I'm talking about something far, far worse. Something terrifyingly obvious, once you see it. Something that has forever warped my appreciation of the Mario series:

The Mario games, by and large, are inherently sexually charged.

Let us begin with everyone's favorite damsel in distress, Princess Peach. Peach is inherently sexualized. Not only is she the typically portrayed feminine figure in the Mario universe (she gets captured, gets mad, but sits around and gets saved) but there are also great efforts being made to capitalize on her image as some sort of bizare, fetishistic sex symbol for those males who grew up struggling to save the princess who was always, sadly, in another castle.

What is she doing in this other castle? Typically being stolen by Bowser, who regularly has plans to marry her and thus steal her Kingdom. But his plans run much deeper than that. Bowser's plan to marry Peach isn't just constrained by political gain. Instead, he intends to take it further to some sort of twisted bestial romance. It is revealed even in Super Mario Sunshine that Bowser has told his son that Peach is his mother. Given how much time she's spent in captivity, it would not be surprising if it turned out to be true.

As the games have progressed to the RPG front, Peach's sexualization is not only acknowledged, but revelled in. In Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door she is captured by a sentient robot who monitors her every move. He even films her while she options to take a shower, something the player can do every time they are in control of Peach. The robot, over the course of the story, falls in love with the unwitting Princess, thus leading to her means of escape. Peach doesn't seem to mind, using her wiles to charm the robot just long enough to make good her escape. One wonders if the same trick was what got her into trouble with the much more aggressive and sexually dominant Bowser. The man wears a spiked choker, for Christ's sake.

In Super Paper Mario, something very similar occurs, though only in a more surreal, post-modernist fashion. The player is guided into the castle of a giant Iguana named Francis, who is apparently obsessed with anime and video games. His household is populated with butlers that look disturbingly Hello Kitty-esque, while his rooms contain every Nintendo system ever created, plus multiple volumes of DVDs (not only the original releases, but the Collectors Editions as well). When this very stereotypical example of a 'fanboy' meets the Princess, what does he do? He instantly falls in love, and decides to win her over by treading the conversation as if it were a dating sim. The player is suddenly forced to control the sim choices, as the enemy tries to make the moves on an increasingly frustrated and angry Peach. In the end, Peach uses her power over him to catch him off guard, spelling his doom and her victory.

I don't need to point out, I hope, that even the name Peach is sexually suggestive. The original American name of Princess Peach was Princess Toadstool, but that was mostly because she was a member of the mushroom kingdom and yet bore no similarity to a mushroom in any way (as though naming her Toadstool would grant her monarchy legitimacy, but that's an argument for another time). However, the Japanese name has always been Peach, and the American games began using the name starting with Mario 64. This was also shortly before the invention of Mario Sports.

Mario Sports is the worst thing that could have happened to Peach. Whether it be golfing or tennis or soccer, Peach is typically portrayed as the token female of the group. She is one of the weakest characters, but she always makes it out for some face time. And by the looks of her revamped costume design, she takes great pride in showing off the latest fashions in dangerously high (for a cartoony character with G-rated appeal) mini-skirts.

But Peach is not the only one who has been scandalized as part of the Mario tradition. There is one who is even more maligned than Peach. A statement for transgendered gamers to rally behind. A character that defies all normal stereotypes and lives in a world all it's own: Birdo.

Birdo was first introduced in the American release of Super Mario Bros 2 for the NES. Birdo was one of the common mid-level bosses, spitting eggs from its mouth-shaped protrubance at the character to catch and throw back to do damage. A little weird, but pretty par for the course for Mario. It even sported a bright, pink bow. Cute, and charming. That is, until the gamer decided to peek into the instruction booklet where the enemies were given summaries.
If this is not a telling statement, I don't know what is. Birdo is not a female, as would be obvious. Instead, Birdo is an egg-laying male who thinks that he's a female. Not only that, but he dresses as and identifies with being female.

In every Nintendo publication since then, Birdo has been referred to as a she, but who can be sure? Perhaps Nintendo didn't change their minds, but were simply willing to accept Birdo on he/she's own terms. A progressive move for a traditional Japanese company in the late 80s, but also a rallying cry for transgendered people everywhere.

Then again, Nintendo has major issues with gender and their characters anyway. Yoshi the Dinosaur, Mario's faithful companion, is always described as male, yet is one of the few characters in the Mario universe capable of laying eggs. Not just laying eggs, but laying fertilized eggs that hatch into other Yoshis. Either there is some seriously twisted biology in the Yoshi anatomy, or Yoshi is equally suffering from transgender problems.

It might be worthy to note that in Mario Sports titles that feature doubles (such as Tennis or the two-'man' Mario Kart Double Dash!!) Yoshi is always paired with Birdo by default. Coincidence, or Nintendo grouping like with like?

Of course, there are other symbols of sexuality in Mario. One of the most obscure, but also the one that inspired this whole piece, is the Tanooki Suit Mario from Super Mario Brothers 3 for the NES. The Tanooki Suit Mario is based on the Tanuki of Japanese mythology, of which more can be found here. In brief, however, a Tanuki is a Racoon-like fertility symbol that is typically known for its enlarge scrotum, with which it has even been reported parachuting and sailing with.

The Tanooki Suit that Mario wears is similarly racoon-like, but gone is the enlarged scrotum. Instead, the Tanooki Suit is nearly genderless, though it does contain a protruding tail. The identification of 'tail' and the removal of the scrotum symbol could be seen as signs of Mario's castration, in his powerless struggle to once again free the sex-savvy Princess from her recurring bestial trap. One might think that this is reading too much into it, but the Tanooki Suit serves only one useful purpose within the game: like a Tanuki gliding on its giant scrotal skin, the Tanooki-suited Mario can fly.

I leave you with one last damning image, and perhaps the most absurd. The Mushroom Kingdom is home to the Toads, anthropomorphic mushroom-headed creatures that are generally peace-loving and friendly. Yet, in direct opposition to them, Bowser's main shock troops are typically seen as the Goombas, twisted Mushrooms who have turned to evil.

A mushroom is already a phallicly-oriented symbol, but the Goomba design goes one step further, in deliberately recreating the shape and structure of a glans. It is this scowling penile-shape that forms the brunt of Bowser's bestial rape of the Mushroom Kingdom and the Princess Peach.

What does this all mean? Let me break it down for you, real easy like. Bowser, King of the Koopas and all evil, is a mean, animalistic, sadist/dom character who wears aggressive fetish wear. His army is spearheaded by shock troops that are all phallic in nature. These troops march into the Mushroom Kingdom, attacking gender-neutral toads left and right, enslaving them and oppressing their idyllic ways. These asexual toads are ruled by the hypersexualized Princess Peach, a symbol of all that is feminine, once virginal but now sexually aware and powerful, in a commanding female way.

Given this clash between feminine sexual dominance and bestial male brutality, is it no wonder that the Mushroom Kingdom is populated by sexless denizens? Is it no wonder that Birdo and Yoshi, the two characters who are removed from this clash of gender due to them transcending it, are paired together? Can we really be surprised that Mario, hero of the realm, a figure of general masculinity, wears a male fertility suit that has been effectively castrated and feminized? Of course not. To side with the Mushroom Kingdom is to side with the female. To side with the Koopa King is to side with inherent male-ness.

And that is the true source of the everlasting conflict that drives the Mario universe.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Harpies Three

So I was sitting in the cafeteria today at work and I saw three women walk by. And I was feeling good, very open and receptive, to I appraised them with all the openness I could. My state was a little altered, perhaps. When I'm receptive I'm very … altered. Let's just go with altered, hm?

The three women were tall and thin. Their age was indeterminate. I figure that they were likely in their later 20s, only a few years older than yours truly, but their skin and hair looked like they were pushing their late 30s and they dressed like they were in their late teens (and in that lets-not-look-too-easy phase to boot). When they spoke, they sounded like arrested 15 year olds. Stuck at that whiny, demanding, entitled and spoiled stage that they probably hit early and will never climb out of.

Their hair was long and had seen one too many die jobs. It was also all straight, though none of it looked naturally straight. The one on the right, by the look of her, wore extensions. She also seemed to be the intelligent one. Paradoxes all around, I suppose. The one in the middle had a face that looked like it produced enough grease to fry something in, a palor somewhere between wax sculpture and sweat. It was gross. I wondered if it was just bad makeup or some truly horrendous skin condition. Like perspiring Pam. Maybe it was the very unnatural tan she had. Gotta put on aloe or somesuch.

The third had the same trim, neat figure as the other three, but was edging towards that too-thin look that's unique to sufferers of concentration camps or eating disorders. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that she hasn't been in a concentration camp. Her purse would likely have been enough to buy her way out of one.

They were all wearing sweaters and jeans and those boots with a high heel and pointy toe that make their legs seem odd and unreal. As I looked at them, I was reminded that I, too, have long hair and a sweater and jeans, though my shoes are mercifully both flat and rounded, and I don't worry so much about my figure. Nor do I have a bad complexion, too much tanning, an eating disorder, an expensive purse, or hair extensions.

I'm also not stupid. When I heard them speak, I was reminded of a conversation I heard over my shoulder earlier today. There were some females talking about a movie (which one I don't know) and going on. One of them, the one that I now recognized as Pamface the Leader, was talking about a movie. Then Ms. Extensions-Wanna-Be mentioned how the book helped explain some aspect, thus proving that she wasn't completely stupid (because I have a bias towards book-readers, even if they only do it for movies they like or something). But then Pamface laughed and said the follow, ignorant and enraging statement:

"Books? Hah. Who reads books? I have way better things to do with my time than bother to read books."

And then, in what proved the crushing blow, Ms. EWB went and said, sheepishly (in every definition of the term), "Yeah, you're right, I guess."


I don't think I have to explain my position on that. I don't mean to pre-judge, but … if you don't read, you're less of a person. Period. No excuses. I know that's hardline, but I'm okay with playing hardline. I guess I could be willing to be convinced by someone who was blind, or dyslexic, or any number of other things. But someone who says "Books, like, um, books are stupid, y'know?" deserves unending hatred and judgment thrown down upon her. I'm pretty flexible, but people who are willfully ignorant, even if they're in a corporate environment, have used up all their excuses in one gloriously stupid waste of life.

There is NO excuse for willful ignorance. There is NO excuse for that kind of stupid laziness. There is NO excuse for that kind of blind conformity. These are the people who destroy the good parts of humanity and reinforce the bad. Ignorance is no excuse. Ever. Especially when it's self-inflicted.

Short Order Cooks

There are multiple ways of approaching the industry of food preparation. On one side, you have the assembly-line fast food machine, which is barely prepared by humans. On the other, you have the top chefs of the world, who create each dish as a work of art. And in between you have everyone else, the normal restaurant chefs who work on meals, not quite art but tasty and each one getting his full attention while he's making it. And then you have the short order cook. The cook who must juggle multiple demands from multiple customers all at once, in a high-paced kind of environment.

I love short order cooks.

Don't get me wrong, their food is typically not anything remotely approaching the pinnacle of gastronomical excellence. Typically they're quick with grease and oil and butter and fat. It's all fried or grilled. The food is typically of a lower, cheaper quality, for lower, cheaper clientele. And that's okay. Because while the food itself is down to earth and utterly without garnish or pretension, the short order cook himself is a practitioner of a very peculiar art.

A short order cook is under constant demand to perform. Whether its in a family restaurant where he's safely behind a wall in the kitchen, or whether it's a diner or a cafeteria where he's right up there taking orders directly, his job is one of balancing the demands of his customers with the demands of his food. Each order is taken and remembered, often times from memory. A good cook can handle over a half dozen orders, each one with specific ingredient and cooking demands. One veggie burger on wheat bun with lettuce and two tomato slices. The philly cheese steak with provolone over swiss and onions and mushrooms, but no peppers. The chicken sandwich, no butter on the toasted bun, chipotle mustard and two pickle slices. A pancake, scrambled egg whites (2) and two pieces of bacon, but fry the bacon with butter and the egg whites with spray.

That is just a sampling of the kind of demands that fly at a cook who works in this realm. And the cook remembers them all. He balances the demands of each order, and then goes to work. The grill surface is partitioned and sprayed and buttered. The meats are set out to cook together, the vegetables laid out and covered and squirted with water. Eggs are broken with expert skill. Foods are flipped with the kind of mad speed that never seems to make a mistake. Everything is able to be cut with a straight metal spatula. Everything is done with an eye to making it all ready at once. Things are flipped and mixed and seasoned. The few things that need to be stirred are done in bowls right next to the grill. The cook balances it so that everything cooks at once but finishes in a predetermined order, so that everything isn't all ready at the same time. And when it's time for the batch to go, the cook is a flurry of buns on plates and assembling dishes and pulling ingredients together. All while taking new orders as each spot is freed on the surface. No rest until the line is satisfied. Always something ready to be thrown on to be cooked. Always more mouths to feed.

The food is plain and straightforward, but the job is not. A short order cook balances the precarious job of cook and server and order-taker and juggler. All while keeping an eye on the whole domain. The grill and the ingredients are his charges, and he commands them with the proper skill and respect they're due. And while he flies through order after order at a pace that can only be described as frenzied, he himself remains in a state of calm. The best short order cooks work in a kind of zen state, unruffled and still while their situation is chaos. It is with that zen state that they turn the demanding job into something more than a job. It is a job, yes, but it's also a complex dance of fire and food and people, taking desires and making them real for person after person, all through no more than a handful of ingredients and knowhow and fast reflexes.

Every time I see a good short order cook, I make an effort to thank him. If tips are appropriate, I tip him. He is not just making your meal, he's doing it while making everyone else's. And in a venue where you interact with him, he's performing for you in a way not entirely unlike the performance preparation at sushi restaurants or mongolion grills or any other place that specializes in food showmanship, though with much less pomp and circumstance and a lot more eye to the practical. It is a decidedly american art, steeped in the demands of our fast-food society. But that does not rob it of any of its beauty. In fact, the no nonsense, unrecognized aspect to it just makes it all the more beautiful, because it is unconscious.

I'm not afraid to say it, I love short order cooks. Their food may not be the best, but it is the process that is fascinating. The results, good or bad (and I've had some amazing meals made my short order cooks, let me tell you), are secondary to the process. Stop, look, experience. They're performing for you, without even knowing it. How magical is that?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

On Striving, Philosophy, and Myself

So last night I was witness to something amazing. I don't know exactly how one would describe it, maybe a … personal awakening? Regardless, it was completely empowering. It made me feel as if I wasn't completely insane. I felt justified. Even if I had nothing to do with it, really, I felt justified. I want to see more of those. I want to make them happen, like lighting off fireworks or folding paper cranes. Just create them by my existence. That would be very rewarding.

And then it was brought to my attention today that my personal philosophy is lacking. Lacking what? Mostly a name and structure and concrete themes. I have one, of course. And it's actually extremely sophisticated and well-developed. But it's all in my head, and it's an amorphous mass determined in no small part by the whims of the moment. I've allowed my emotions to override my better sense before, and that's from a lack of structure.

So I'm tempted to formalize my philosophy into something more concrete. It wouldn't be a book, per se, but a kind of treatise paper. I don't think I would ever publish it formally, either. Mostly because it will be a doctrine of insanity and paradox, fueled by a very interesting stance on the world. Also, I would NEVER presume that it would be a finalized doctrine. I am in a constant state of flux, and as my understanding grows I regularly change my mind on even very simple topics. So formalizing a published document would kind of back me into a corner in the eyes of most people who don't accept chaning your mind as a matter of enlightened living.

So I might hash something out, and I might even make it available to people who are curious. But I'm not going to expound upon it as the new philosophy for our generation. If it continued to hold true when I'm older, I'll unleash a refined version of it upon the world. Until then, it's not really something that I feel is suited to unleashing.

The main reason I do it is because of my writing. A good part of the reason I write is the ability to touch people. Fiction inherently gets under people's barries by presenting fictionalized situations and sympathetic characters and whatnot. Once it's there, under people's barriers, the theme becomes all important. You can write a book to entertain, and that's a noble enough pursuit, but books can also contain within them deepseated convictions and truths that you wish to impart to the reader. That is what I do. That is what I aspire to.

The problem is, without a structured philosophy, what I instill is largely devoid of conscious control. Which is why I've always struggled to know what I believe about almost anything. Even when it's wrong, I need to have an opinion. Without some viewpoint, something other than ambivalence, how can I effectively put forward any philosophy or viewpoint as inherently my own and worth knowing through my works. Knowing myself allows my themes to happen naturally as an extension of what I believe.

Let's just examine the main themes of my first three novels:
Margot: The death and corruption of heroic ideals in the face of 'rationality'
MS: The importance of asking 'why do I do what I do' and the power of creativity
WTC: The necessity to choose true life over the alternative options.

And both Margot and WTC contain within them the belief that reality is what we make of it, no more and no less.

These are all themes that are greatly personal, and very much in line with my philosophies. Without slowly gaining an understanding of my philosophies, I would not be able to develop these themes, I would not be able to properly instill them in my works. In the end, they would be hollow entertainment. And like I said, that's a noble enough pursuit, but I would never settle for it. I write to inspire and teach and provoke thought, entertainment is just the vehicle for those goals.

So maybe I will work on my philosophy. Its something to do. And putting my thoughts into words usually helps me with all that I do. In the end, it might be best for me to draft something up. So that when I need to, I can refer to it. So that I have a baseline on which to operate. So I have a structure with which all new things can assail and hope to topple.

Because the best part of creating a structured philosophy will be the pleasure I have in making it fall apart with some eventual revelation. Death to dogma. Death to stagnation. Death to death. Embracing the capacity to change is the true gift of humanity. Or at least, so I believe.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Look at t3h SWANKY!

So, I now have the super sexy template up. Big thanks to Tony for the coding, Kathleen for the guy standing in lights, and myself for doing the text and thinking the whole scheme up in the first place. I think it's got a kind of glitzy thing going for it that totally fits in with the theme.

I now have links up along the side. Those are links of awesome, not to mention a convenient RSS feed. The About Me section is down temporarily, because I hate Blogger's defaults for about-me, and thus I'm simply going to make an 'about me' post that I can edit at a later date and use that as my about me. So expect that to be the next post, though I might see if I can't retroactively bury it in the archive instead of having it show up all the way here.

Editing went well tonight. Tore through roughly 4000 words that I thought were going to be really difficult and turned out to be a great pleasure to un-suckify. Tomorrow I'll break 50 edited pages ... out of 338. If I keep up this pace, however, I should be done in time for my deadline. In the end, that's all that matters.

And so ... my calendar's obsolete.

My Calendar

And that makes me very unhappy. It was a nice calendar by Anne Taintor, full of tongue-in-cheek semi-misogynist statements accompanied with pictures of happy 50s homemakers. It was offensive in a completely harmless, kitchy kind of way. I looked long and hard for a calendar that suited my moods and purposes, and now that it's worthless, I'm left wondering what I should get for this year.

There's always the Nuns Having Fun calendars. Those are a blast and a half.

Anyway, I spent New Year's Eve hanging out with people all over the globe, watching as we were suddenly displaced in time one after the other. That was cool. And then on New Year's Day, I made myself a banner image for the soon-to-be-utilized-or-else new format for your neighborhood friendly LRS blog.

I had a picture that Tony was nice enough to get a friend of his to do (thanks Kathleen!) and I did the lettering myself when I dled and started to play around with GIMP. Pretty swanky, if I do say so myself. Expect to see that up as soon as everything's sorta in place. Then the blog'll be playing with power.

Editing has been very touch and go. I find it very hard to focus on editing for any extensive period of time, and it's just plain old not-as-fun as the writing stage. I'm hoping to work through that, but at this rate I'll be pushed right up against my deadline unless I can make some strides.

I was going to do a bit on editing for the blog, as kind of some interesting, writing-related content, but I realized that I have nothing to contribute. I don't know what works and what doesn't with editing yet. I can hash out problems and whatnot, but making the text flow well, with efficiency and a good narrative voice, is a struggle to say the least. So I'm going to put the editing thing on hiatus until I feel like I have something to say about it.

In other news, I'm hoping to move up the time frame for fiddling with a webcomic from late summer to as soon as I get a tablet with my tax return. Playing with GIMP has left my mind aflame, and I keep getting ideas. So once I have a tablet, I'll begin that work, which should be entertaining (at least for me, and hopefully for anyone who reads it).

I've talked to some close friends about it, but I'm not sure yet if I'm going to link it to this blog, yet. It might be more fun to just have them as separate entities. Eventually, this will be the regularly published blog of a published author, and that comes with certain expectations and public image. It might be fun to just have the comic exist as a separate entity, and allow people who casually come across one or the other to enjoy them with the judgment of 'oh, I don't like his comic so I won't like his books' or 'I like his books so his comic must be similar' especially since the webcomic idea I have in mind bears very little (if any) resemblance to my proper fiction in terms of structure and theme.

It's a thought. Friends would know that I have a webcomic, as I've regularly discussed my desire to do one with them. In fact, it's because of them that I'm actually going to step up to the plate and give it a shot. All other decisions can be figured out when the time comes, because there's no point in worrying about them now.

And that's about all, I have to say. I would highly recommend that anyone who's anyone go out and see two movies this post-holiday season. Sweeney Todd is beautifully violent and great, joyous fun. And Juno is both very funny and rather touching, in a crazy, offbeat sort of way. Not to mention that Ellen Page is very hot in an indie sort of way.

With that, I'm off. Expect something else tomorrow, but lord know's what it might be. I'm flying blind here for a while.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

sketched bibliography

The following is a list of all the novels I've completed up to this point. Contained within are the title, my shorthand abbreviation for the blog, a rough summary about them, and a note on their status and written history.

Once these get published, I'll take great delight in adding ISBNs for them. We can only dream.

The Margot's Quest for the Sun [ margot ]
written fall '03 to spring of '07

In a world of oceans and islands, Atrius emerges from the island of his birth with a long-smouldering quest suddenly leaping into his heart. Rejoining the wider world, he's thrust into a world on the brink of cataclysmic change as he pursues the agenda that burns in his own heart--a long lost love, calling to him from across the sea in a land where the Sun was birthed.

current status: first draft, 210,000 words
current plans: on hold until I can bare to look at it again

Marton Syan [ MS ]
written july '07 to october '07

New York City, home of millions. Among them: a shock artist with the deadline of his amateur career right as he becomes persona non grata in the press; a garage band musician who's just remembering what it means to dust of the dream again; and a button-down broker suddenly feeling the pinch of his empty life and the trophy wife whose free spirit he was never entirely able to squash.

Headed there way is Marton Syan, a band that's attained the status of myth, whose first and only live performance lead to a riot and a dozen deaths. As Marton Syan blazes across the US on tour, it's final show in New York pulls everyone into it, and four disparate lives are pulled together for the concert of a lifetime.

current status: second draft, 98000 words
current plans: second draft sent out, ready to prep third draft mid-summer 08

Ways to Commit Suicide When You're Bored [ WTC ]
written november '07 to december '07
NaNo Novel 2007

Max has hit an interesting time in his life—he’s dropped out of college, stuck in a dead-end job in the middle of Nebraska, and longs to have someone special in his life after a bad break with his long-standing girlfriend. So when an old flame shows up at his door, he leaps. The problem? She’s well on her way to popping a kid and asking him to help her get a not-so-legal solution.

Now he’s scouring through the city, trying to both win her and deal with his crumbling life. It doesn’t help, though, that her arrival has set off a long-awaited mental collapse. Or that his imaginary companions are now fighting over what he should do. Or that there’s a horrible specter out to get him and the only way to protect himself is to wall himself in his own mind, out of touch with the outside world that needs him more than ever.

current status: first draft, 103,000 words
current plans: editing scheduled for summer, 2008

Of Children and Chimerae [ OCAC ] <- FILM SCRIPT! written april 08 (co-authored by Tony)
script frenzy 08

Justin Lowe’s son, Dustin, has been taken. The cops are looking, but they’re looking in all the wrong places. Justin knows who took his son—Georg Henrikson, a long-suspected, never-charged pedophile who seemed to vanish not long before Dustin disappeared. Yet when his only proof is a hunch and his disturbing dreams, it’s hard to get the police that interested.

Justin, armed with nothing but determination, decides to set out and find his son. With only one sympathetic detective to help him, he begins to look into the depths of the underworld where children are bought and sold at a rate to rival Wall Street only a scant few blocks away. What follows is a disturbing trek into the darkest parts of reality, as his nightmares begin to show him clues and lead him further and further down the trail left behind by Henrikson and the victims he’s claimed.

current status: finished
current plans: none

Tango Diagonal [ tango ]
started march 08

Frank is a time-traveler. That’s right, the good old bread and butter back and forth to the past and future kind of time traveler. But when he’s suddenly approached in the year 2385 with an offer to attend an elite time-traveling academy, he learns two things: 1) some people can travel forwards and backwards through time, some people can travel side to side through the universes, but it takes a true rock star of time/space travel to do both and 2) if you meet your soul mate, they’ll always be your opposite in ability and together you can move about as if you were a rock star of two.

Then he meets Samantha.

But why oh why does she have to be such a pain in the ass? And why is it that despite his resistance, he just can’t turn down the ability to see everywhere? So begins a whirlwind of adventure and suffering, as Frank realizes that his soul mate is a royal bitch, but there’s just too much to do to worry about trivial details like the whims of an unbalanced girl in control of half of his destiny.

current status: on hiatus until further notice
current plans: to be resumed at a date TBA

The Cafe Between Reality and Dreams [ cde ]
started may 08 finished october 08

When Melody Aames receives a sudden phone call from Jason Wickham asking her to come to the desert, she follows. Maybe it's because she still feels slighted that he dumped her once and wants a second chance. Maybe it's the allure of the 'secret project' he says he's working on. It certainly doesn't hurt that Jason is the world's foremost technological revolutionary, a man who is poised to change the world.

Yet when she arrives, she finds a project in turmoil. Jason's new prototype communications device is unstable. One team member has died already due to a malfunction. Some members of the team say that it will fall apart. Others say that it's so complex that it's ascending into something greater than even Jason could have predicted.

Now Melody is thrust in the middle, charged with being the outside eyes on the project. But as pressure mounts from both sides and the project itself starts to reveal its secrets, is Melody even equipped to make the decisions asked of her? And even if she can, will she be able to make them in time?

current status: first draft, 76,423 words
current plans: set aside for editing at some future date

an interview

An Alleged Encounter with a Supposed (Future) Literary Rock Star
By David Taurino
reprinted with permission of the author

(c) 2008

I've been asked to interview a lot of famous people in my time. Normally there's a demand from the readers or an interest from on high or just good common sense that tells me who I'm going to bother for money today. Well, my squirrel literati, today is different. Today I was asked to do a piece by the person it would be on. That's normally kind of self-indulgent fluff, so I was going to say no, but then I found out who it was.

Who am I interviewing? A nobody. A wanna-be.

And why not? It seems as good a subject as any. In fact, it might even be better. Talking to established authors is nice and all, but they've made it. They're comfortable and they have an image to maintain. They're the lottery winners of the literary world. They've got everything to lose and little more to win.

Then there's the rest of the aspiring writers. The ones who haven't made it or didn't make it or won't make it but don't know that yet. For every published author, there's a thousand that will never see the light of day in the publishing world. Just the harsh truth. So how could I be fair to my profession if I didn't bother to report the other side. The faces you don't see; the people who still have everything to prove and nothing to lose.

Today's guest is an aspiring novelist from the middle of the frozen tundra of Omaha, NE. After our new poet laureate came out of there, it seems like in certain circles the midwest is the place to be. It isn't. I showed up on a cold, cold January weekend, with ice and wind and general nastiness.

His name is Matt. But he prefers to flit around online under the handle of Literary Rock Star (his website is visible at As in THE Literary Rock Star. An enigmatic and all-encompassing symbol of the transcendental power of uber-success. It sounded pretentious to me, but Matt seems unassuming. He's only 22, and while he's got a good head on his shoulders he's shy and soft-spoken at first like most other writers. He's also one of the few males in the midwest who wears his hair long and isn't sporting a mullet, visible tattoos, or any drug paraphenalia. It's surreal seeing someone so out of place in the middle of the northern Bible Belt.

When we sat down over drinks at his local bar of choice, we made small talk for the first ten or fifteen minutes as I got him warmed up. It wasn't of import. Just things about the city and my flight. I decided that he was just good at upselling himself and that he had nothing of importance, so I decided to turn the interview into a short one and call it a night. But when I asked him about his work that I started getting responses that are worth printing. In fact, they're pretty damn good. And he definitely switched to his A game the moment I turned the discussion to writing. This was a topic that interested him. It was like talking to a whole other person.

David: So, about literary rock star...
Matt: How about literary rock star, huh? It's a pretty wild idea. I know it sounds like the most horrible lie ever, especially coming from someone like me. I understand that at first glance people are going to go "how arrogant is he to label himself worthy of that kind of title." But the point is that literary rock star isn't a title. It's a philosophy.

D: A philosophy?
M: Let me explain. There are a lot of ways for people to go about writing. But the way I propose is to go at it like a rock star. A rock star is an entirely special breed of human. A rock star is absolutely insane, but for good reason.

Writing requires a lot of risk and investment and you get really involved with it. You don't become a writer just because and make it a living. Some part of you has to want it. Otherwise why bother? There are much easier careers out there. Writing isn't something you just fall into.

So if you're going to front all of that effort and time and take the risk, you might as well go for it full force. That's where a rock star comes in. You see, the rock star is different than the musician in that while the musician makes music, the rock star lives the ideal of music. When a musician performs, he shows off his piece, and then he goes and writes more music. A rock star jumps out on stage and all his life is suddenly given over to this performance.

D: So it's about effort?
M: Effort and risk and work ethic. Look, rock stars are prone to excess and self-destruction. Guess what? So are most writers. But you can be defeatist or you can refuse to give up. There are the rock stars who give up, who kill themselves or stop performing. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the kind of rock star who can trash his hotel room and then go and give the best show of his life. Or can be coked out but still prop himself up and manage to get through his set because that's what's important. The kind of people who live life and bring it all with them when they're out there. When they perform, they are who they are. There isn't a whole lot of calculated safety going on. They just let it all hang out.

D: And that's what makes them special?
M: Sure. Why not? Look, a lot of people have dreams. We're growing up and we have these conceptualizations of what we want our life to be. It's just that most people end up giving that up for something different, saying that their dream is too impossible or afraid of failure.

A rock star doesn't do that. A rock star lives the dream. They defy anyone who would give up their dream. It doesn't matter who you are or how many problems you have. You live the dream and you make it real. That's what matters. A rock star isn't just a crazy, insane musician. It's a figure that lives and breathes dreams, showing people that it can be done.

That's what I strive for. To live the dream. It's just a writer dream, so I chose literary rock star. It's got a nice feel to it, I think.

D: So your blog is the speculative memoirs of a literary rock star. Could you tell me a little bit about what that means and the theory behind it.
M: Well, I chose speculative memoir because to me that's the perfect description for almost all description. It's supposed to represent truth, but what does it really represent? How the writer perceives truth. It's not always going to be true true, in that everything I say isn't always right and I might not always agree with it, but I write it because at that moment it seems true to me.

The hope is that the blog will serve as a personal touchstone between myself and anybody who reads it. Writing is inherently a lonely activity. You go out there, and it's just you and your word processor of choice. Nobody's there beside you, and you're succeeding or failing on your own merits.

That's fine and all, but I'd like to establish some sort of community. People who understand what that's like, or people who are just interested in the life and times of a writer who's a little bit crazy. If someday I publish, perhaps it'll be a good place for fans to figure out what makes me tick, and allow them to communicate with me in a more direct way. That's kind of foreward thinking, I suppose, but I'm not above being optimistic.

D: So you're doing it for people, then?
M: Well, don't get me wrong. It's not just for them. I get something out of it, too. I mean, I like having a sense of having people out there who are interested in what I have to say. Especially since I'm not published yet, the words that I toss into a blog are my only window to a readership. It's a good ego-boost to know people appreciate the content I'm putting out.

Also, I use it as a sounding board for things that cross my mind that wouldn't fit into my writing. Or when I'm editing, my blog allows me to keep writing new content and not go completely mad. When I'm in the middle of a new story, it's less intensive, but I keep trying to keep things updated.

D: Outside of the blogging and writing then, what do you do? Certainly an unpublished author still has bills to pay.
M: And how. (laughs) Yeah, I have a job. I do corporate work. It's nice, but I don't really worry that much about it. It's a job to keep me afloat while I write. So I don't talk about it, because it's not an important part of who I am. I probably won't mention it ever.

D: So what else are you working on?
M: Well, there's always the books. And the blog. But I'm also hoping to get an audio podcast up off the ground and a webcomic as well. I'd like to just dabble in those other media. There are things that spoken or visual mediums can do that written words just can't, and I'm really looking forward to exploring those things.

D: What are your aspirations then? Do you want to be a writer, or do you want to be an artist?
M: That's a hard question. I would rather be an artist in the general term. Doing things that fall under the general definition of art. My main work is my writing, and I don't think that'll change, but people seem to have a hard time believe that a 'writer' can be good at other things. So instead I can just be an artist if it'll make people more receptive to my work. It also excuses slightly more eccentric behavior than writer does.

D: Do you want to talk a bit about your books?
M: No, that's all right. I'm still working on them, and they're not for sale yet, so I don't really feel like I should try to chat up what they mean or how good they are when someone can't go out an get one should it tickle their fancy. When that day comes, I'll be happy to talk about my books all day long. Until then, I'd rather just keep working on them. I'm hoping that when I finally do get them published, they'll speak for themselves.

D: What do you hope that people will take away from this interview, or from your blog, then?
M: Well, I want them to know that I'm right there with them. I don't have any answers, either. I'm just struggling through life like everyone else. But I refuse to give up on what I want, and neither should anybody else. We all have something great we can achieve if we go out there and do it. I hope that I can inspire people to go out there and grab that thing. To live the dream. In the end, I'd like every person I meet to be the rock star of their own life, literary or not.

D: Thank you.
M: No, thank you. It's been a pleasure.

I'm left wondering what to make of the encounter. I mean, he seems genuinely concerned with people on a level not completely unrelated to batshit insane. And sometimes he spouts platitudes like a zen master out of an after-school special. But I'm not sure if that doesn't make him invalid or not. He made a lot of sense, and he had conviction. In the end, that conviction is what made the entire evening worthwhile. He might be trying to do something difficult or impossible, but he believes in it. It's not often I come across that kind of dedication.

Next time we'll return with another popular author. Coming up is Andrea Glauster, author of several popular novels and soon coming out with her fourth book __________. But for this installment, here's to all you writers who haven't quite made it yet. The ones who have a dream and not much else. Everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Live the dream. Rock out. And don't stop trying.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 (e) - Looking Forward

And here comes 2008. A leap year. I love leap years. An even number. I like even numbers. A holdout from my "I <3 Math" days, I think. 2008 is going to be a very interesting year.

2008. 2008 is going to be the year of accomplishment. IS. Not hoped to be. It will. There isn't an option. I've always toyed with not leaving myself options, and now I know that its truer on a deeper, fundamental level than I had even thought. It's how I define my accomplishment. I make it truth. Then it just happens because its true.

So what's the goals for 2008? The goals are pretty straightforward. This is the year I get my shit together. I'm going to edit MS, and work on getting it published. I'm going to keep writing, keep editing, keep getting better at this craft that I try to do. I'm going to pick up my pet projects. I'm going to explore interests and hobbies. I'm going to read a shit ton of books.

I was tired of the way my life was going, so I built up a new direction for it. And it seems to have worked. I'm full of hope. 2008 will prove whether or not I did a good job with it. If all goes well, by the end of the year I'll have one finished book, looking for an agent, one at least edited once, and three new ones in the can. I'll have a podcast, an audio drama, and a webcomic. I'll have a new computer and be nearly out of debt.

There's a lot I want to do, and there's no time like the present. So it's going to be a wild ride. It is a wild ride. Sometimes good and sometimes bad but never not worth doing. I'm looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

And this is short, but I've found that I don't really need to talk much about this next year. You'll find out. I'll find out. My goals are written out quite neatly for myself elsewhere, and I'm following them like a mantra. It's going to be a challenging year, but I don't have enough challenges in my life. It's time to push beyond my comfortable boundaries. It's time to live the dream. It's time to rock out.

Onward to 2008!