Thursday, December 31, 2009


Funny how time changes your perspective. When I was a kid, the Genie in the Sabu version of Thief of Bagdad scared the crap out of me. Rex Ingram (the African American actor, not to be confused with the Irish Rex Ingram who directed movies and wrote the incredible bullfighting novel Mars in the House of Death) just blew me away with his booming voice and diabolical attitude. Over the years I grew to like him more, until, these days, I admire and identify with him.

In more viewings of the film than I can count, I realize that the Genie is the most interesting and most important character. He had an agenda. He didn't just want to be freed from the bottle and his slavery, he wanted cosmic revenge. He manipulated Abu/Sabu into stealing the All-Seeing Eye of the mysterious unnamed goddess, blinding her to the doings of humanity for ten thousand years. When it is done, he is delighted.

I've often wondered, did that crime damn or free us? After the ten thousand years are up, will the goddess like what she sees with her new eye? When he yelled "Farewell, Little Master of the Univoise!" where did the Genie go and what did he do?

And why do I feel like him?

For the last decade, I've spent most of my time in Big Box, being Mr. Customer Service. It wasn't bad. I earned an honest living, and learned some hard realities about being an artist and writer in our global civilization. Now that it's over, fate has allowed me to pursue my own interests and my own agendas.

You shouldn't spend your entire life serving the Little Masters of the Universe. You should break out and do your own thing if you can. Do your damnedest to gore the matador. It's what aesthetics, spirituality, and life are all about.

I hope to achieve that Genie's attitude. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to laugh like Rex Ingram.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Theme & Variations a podcast anthology of science fiction with musical themes edited by Michelle Welch became available during my recent computer outage. It features my story “The Rise and Fall of Paco Cohen and the Mariachis of Mars.”

It first appeared the April 2001 issue of Analog -- about a guy working as a janitor on a Mars colony. The corporation in charge tries to use him to manipulate the workers. Paco has his own ideas, and so does the nanohudu that’s doing the terraforming on the molecular level.

This wacky idea started back when Em & I got involved with some people who were experimenting with making videos. This junkie showed up who claimed to have contacts in Hollywood, and soon had us wasting a lot of time coming up ideas for movies. We met a guy who knew a lot of cowboy/stunt men who needed work. I had a blurry vision of a sort of spaghetti Western passing off Arizona as Mars with a lot of low-budget Road Warrior-type stuff.

The so-called production company crashed and burned. I sold my first two novels. Em & I went for lots of walks in the mountain preserve behind her Mom’s house. My brain entertained itself by making the landscape into something Martian.

Then I couldn’t sell my third novel – hell, Nueva York and me never got along – I got depressed, started listening to everybody about how to write the sort of thing that they will buy. I took the Mars stuff that was cooking in brain, and instead of the simple, Flash Gordon-ish adventure I first envisioned, I tried to make it into the grand epic that everybody assured me was the only kind of science fiction that would sell.

The problem was, I hated it. I struggled with world building, drew pictures of NeoMartian creatures, did some sample chapters and an outline, but that monster never got up off the slab. And Nueva York rejected it.
I shelved the mess, Em & I got by cleaning houses and sweeping classrooms. We did illegal alien work and listened to ranchera radio, saw how music disconnected from the corporate infrastructure affects people’s lives.

One day, while washing windows in Sun City, I felt a biting pain. I had backed up into a cactus. When Em pulled the spines out of my butt, I was amazed at how big they were. They looked like long fangs. The NeoMartian world in my brain stirred. The vampire cactus was born.

Yes, sometime inspiration literally bites you in the ass.

Over the next few years, as I sucked up dust, bits and pieces of my aborted novel rearranged themselves without much help from my conscious mind. I felt like a mariachi, doing the dayjob, making my “music” when I could. Paco Cohen came to life out of the ashes of that aborted novel. And the NeoMartian world keeps eating away at me. I’m working on a sequel. And the original, straight-up, adventure story keeps after me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

BABY JESUS, MATADOR keeps amazing me. When I saw the cartoon of baby Jesus fighting a bull in the manger, I wished that is was a Christmas card. I put it on my Facebook page. Avant-garde artists and angry satirists wrack their brains trying to come up with stuff this outrageous, yet this is not meant to be outrageous, just a subculture putting its own stamp on a holiday.

We keep hearing about how, in this age of globalization, Hollywood has conquered the planet, and North American notions of political correctness are universal. Yet there are still quaint local traditions that can make those who swear they believe in "tolerance" act line lynch mobs.

We hear a lot about religious freedom, but suggest a simple Aztec blood ritual or a bit of good, honest voodoo, and people want to call the police. It makes me laugh.

Humans are so wonderful. And twisted.

I never dreamed that in South America, child bullfighters would be so popular, and this activity would be considered a Christmas-kind of thing. If you identify the Child Jesus with the matador, the archetypes clash and waves of transformation radiate through human consciousness, and yes, the very fabric of reality. Is the bullfighting salvation? Then what is the bull? Our sins? Is the ritual more than has ever been perceived?

Even though I'm obsessed with La Fiesta Brava, I must admit that kiddie tauromaquia gives me the same queasy feelings I get from child beauty pageants and prepubescent college students. A kid may be able to learn to perform brain surgery, but I wouldn't let one open my skull.

Still, I applaud this manifestation of the human spirit. When we celebrate, no matter what we think we celebrate, we awaken some primal things. Truths emerge and frolic, no matter what kind of camoflauge the unnatural act called civilization puts on them.

Besides, it's not much weirder than the American consumer orgy, with people running amok like piranha with credit cards. Would Jesus feel at home with either ritual?

So Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday you choose. And be careful with spirituality. It'll gore you if you give it a chance.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I haven’t posted anything here in a few weeks. I am still alive. Do not believe the rumors that Emily and I were kidnapped by Lemurian terrorists. The Olmec Yakuza had nothing to do with it either. Honest.

It was just another computer meltdown. Nothing special, it’s happening to a lot of people. Em went into detail about it on her blog, so I don’t have to do that here.

So, we’re hurtling into another decade and it’s looking apocalyptic as all hell. The times they are a-changing, my friends. Then, the times are always changing. It’s the nature of the beast, though the Maya would call it a burden.

Rest assured, I’m okay. Em, too. Fangs gleaming, the gods have smiled upon us. We will no longer be bookstore clerks. We have a new computer set up. We have decided to start living the way we want to.

The sacrifices we’ve made are paying off.

The final days in the bookstore biz will be rough, so will dealing with the switch to Mac, but the future looks bright.

Yeah, I know a lot you think this kind of optimism is sick, but a lot the stuff that’s crashing down around us needs to die. New things are being born. By 2020, it will truly be a different world.

Meanwhile, I’m fumbling around, trying to get my new life in order. Soon I’ll be able to tell the inside story of the Bookstore Holocaust, and offer insight into the Publishing Apocalypse. I’ll be taking my nefarious plans off the shelf, dusting them off, and putting them into action.

And then things just hit me. With the new computers, I not only have the facilities for self-publishing, but my own recording and animation studio. As that was sinking in, while I was helping Em get her books for her return to college, I realized that with a little more time and effort, I could get a degree in Archeology or Anthropology . . . I’ve been playing the amateur for years, as a famous wise guy who blew his brains out a few years ago said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

I feel like for the last decade, I’ve been hanging out in querencia, like a bull bristling with banderillas, bleeding, and weary from the fight. Now I feel recharged. Think I’m gonna hold my horns high, rush out, and gore the matador.