Thursday, July 28, 2011


Going over a file of a scanned book, correcting all the glitches generated by the fact that an OCR program doesn't understand human language, is tedious work. It's something a lot of us writers are doing in these days of the Ebook Revolution. Not as exciting as rioting in the streets, but necessary, and the results will be more world changing than mere mob violence.

But, ay, it ain't much fun.

I've found that, like with writing, music helps.

As I go over Cortez on Jupiter until my blood-shot eyes cross, I've been playing Miles Davis' On the Corner. It fits so well, I'm beginning to think of it as the novel's unofficial soundtrack.

That clankity, wailing funk always sounded sci-fi/futuristic to me. Feels like moving through crowded megalopoltian streets teeming with people and machines up to all kinds of business and/or pleasure like the blaxsploitation/underground comix characters in Corky McCoy's cover art. Are those spaceships overhead? Sure we got illegal aliens, and not just from this planet, amigo!

There's also something cybernetic about that sound. The 1972 technology probably didn't have many computers in the mix, but you can hear the hints toward sampling and digital editing. It is the street finding it's own use for technology, but to a beat that William Gibson never imagined. It's the shape of funk to come, pointing the way to rap, hip-hop, techno, the Afro-pop of King Sunny Ade and Fela Anikulapo Kuit.

It doesn't as much make you want to dance as make you want to move through complicated environments to its rhythms. Oh, to be cruising recombocultural streets in customized-to-the- Frankensteinization-point vehicle that can roll and fly, with On the Corner leaking through the windows, and vibrating through the frame . . . and your bones . . . your DNA . . .

Pablo Cortez and his world, and him slinging paint around it, come alive in this music. And it keep me focused as I go over the words, zapping those glitches, making it all come through loud and clear.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


It's been a summer of writing, drawing, and ebookization for me. I often end up with a buzzing brain that needs distraction. And now that San Fermín is over, aside from the latest bullfight videos, I like to watch cartoons.

I prefer old cartoons, from the movies that I saw in my Atomic Age childhood in the early days of television. I especially like them when they get weird.

Like this Wild West romp with Bosko, the little black guy who brought musical merriment where ever he went, only this one has a postmodern ending:

And here, Flip the Frog, another early Warner Brothers character, seems to have wandered into Día de los Muertos territory:

And for our grand finale, Popeye, before the Fleisher brothers nailed down his formlua. There is no spinach, Popeye drinks liquor and beats up a lot of Mexicans:

Kind of disturbing, but then all real entertainment is.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


La Fiesta de San Fermín in Pamplona is over. My Chicanonautica coverage of it can be found at La Bloga. For Mondo Ernesto extras, here's some videos:

First, a look at what an encierro was like back in 1951:

Next, this year's stand-out, record breaking encierro, featuring the incredible Resistón knocking the runners around in the final stretch:

And finally, from this year's closing ceremonies, the Gigantes dance with the Cabezudos watching:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Here's one of my favorite examples of contact metamorphism,” said Em.

We were on a one-day road trip to Sedona. The temperatures were getting up into the hundred-and-teens in Phoenix. You can't spend the entire summer in this town without a break, or else you end up with that zombified look in your eyes, like all those people walking their sizzling brains down the blazing sidewalks.

It's cooler up north. Red rock country is full of geological wonders for Em, and just plain anthropogenic anomalies for me. Sometimes you just have to get out and sniff the roadkill – and we running heavily into dead skunks.

Once I spilled coffee on pants, I started to relax. I thought I spotted some roadside datura, but was just a shredded plastic bag caught on a bush.

The interior of El Troque is like a space capsule – especially when Em's driving. This had me fantasizing about a customized Gemini capsule with scaled-up 1957 Cadillac Eldorado tailfins, and scaled-down Volsok booster nozzles. The nozzles would just be for looks and perhaps rigged to leave vapor trails, because it would have to be propelled by a kind of zero-point/antigravity drive. And of course it would have a flame-job in psychedelic, anti-friction paint.

Then I spotted some actual datura by the roadside. It was blooming like mad. And no authorities to control the spread of the dangerous, mind-altering plant, the way the world's largest marijuana fields were being burned in Baja.

We did some hiking past the town of Rimrock with its “RESTAURA T” near Dry Beaver Creek. There was a bee was poking her face into the datura that grew near a visitor's center – was she trying to make some special honey?

I carried and wore Em's pink backpack for her because yo soy muy macho como un torero en un traje de juz rosa.

Later a Japanese girl informed me that the Kanji on my samurai T-shirt said, “Bushido” – the Way of the Warrior.

A lot of tourists with bluish vampire skin were cooking themselves along that trail. Then I saw a little cross made of two crooked sticks tied together. Maybe this really was vampire country.

There were plenty of clouds over Sedona, near Oak Creek. We drove through Main Street, looking at the wacky art in front of the galleries next to places where neon signs advertised psychics. We weren't really tempted to stop.

Does any body buy that art? And what do they do with after they buy it?

After more hiking under clouds, cooler air, thunder and lighting, as well as distant, blurry grey shafts of rain, we had “dunch” (Em's term) at Oaxaca Mexican Restaurant. We had Sopapillas Mexicalli on the covered patio as the storm hit. Pelting diagonal rain leaked in and blotted out the red, hoodooistic mountains. The monsoon had come.

Before heading back, we bought mochas from a barista with a trilobite tattooed on his arm.

We couldn't resist one more hike, even though it was starting to rain. Splashing red mud turned our socks pink. We were soaking wet when we headed home through downpours and lightning that made the windshield into abstract art.

Past the Mogollon Rim, as it cleared up, we rolled down the windows, and were dry by the time we approached Phoenix, where a huge dust storm was crossing the valley, blotting out the sun. This is a summer for haboobs.

By some miracle it did not rain frogs.

Another day of contact metamorphism in Arizona.

Friday, July 15, 2011


It's done! The third and final part of "Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song" is available for your reading pleasure at Marty Halpern's More Red Ink.

Be sure to buy the Alien Contact anthology in November, so you can re-read it in the full, non-electronic experience, and have it to entertain you in the case of power outages.

Meanwhile, I'm back to work ebookizing Cortez on Jupiter. The illustrations are examples of what I'm doing in my groping for a cover image -- these are attempts to make a icon out of the Great Red Spot.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The second part of "Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song" is up on Marty Halpern's More Red Ink blog. Whoo-hoo!

Meanwhile, here's a couple of Pablo Cortez-inspired experiments from my sketchbook. What do you think? Spot art? Scene separators?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


"Guerrilla Mural of a Siren's Song," the first story to feature Pablo Cortez, zero-gravity splatterpainter, that I later expanded into the novel Cortez on Jupiter, has been posted online at More Red Ink, editor Marty Halpern's blog. At least the first of three parts.

This is in anticipation of it's being reprinted in the Night Shade Books anthology, Alien Contact, in November. I highly recommend that you buy the book as well as reading it online, as insurance against an electromagnetic pulse device being set off in your neighborhood.

Meanwhile, I'm getting Cortez on Jupiter ready to be released as an ebook. I'll let you know where to order it as soon as I've got it all worked out.

Meanwhile, enjoy these drawings that I did after selling Cortez on Jupiter to Ben Bova, after he asked for suggestions about the cover. Note the presence of the Quetzalcoatl. This was because he said Tor believed that dragons promoted sales, and the Feathered Serpent was close to a dragon.

I'll let you know when Part Two is posted.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Yeah, Minister Faust's The Alchemists of Kush is about Sudanese “lost boys” struggling to survive in Edmonton, up in Canada. But it's not another one of those books that Americans like to read to make them feel glad they weren't born in an “underdeveloped” country, or to feel good about how ways other than their own are being wiped out. Go ahead, let corporate franchises bring civilization to primitive neighborhoods near and far. After all, is there anything outside of your everyday consumer life worth knowing?

The title hooked me. And the Africentric modernism. Then Ishmael Reed praised it. I bought it, read it, and was blown away.

Here is a book you can recommend to young men who listen to hip-hop and play video games, and who aren't impressed by today's light-weight young adult fantasy. Rap and “Jackie Chan's” struggle for survival in the Twenty-First Century is one that they will identify with. And not just the “blacks” – I'm reminded of how in the Borders where I worked, the only kids who looked at the rap CDs were white . . .

This tale of strangers in a strange land builds on modern “pop” culture rather than merely worshipping it. DC and Marvel, make way for a mythology that faces a new world and remembers a ancient one. Good to see in a time when all our superheroes are owned by corporations, and I keep hearing the target audience say that the latest megabudget comic book movie is, “Okay, not great, just okay.”

The Alchemists of Kush challenges everything. It tweaks the language to make the reader hear the accents and feel the rhythms. It destroys genre-distinctions; realistic depictions of fantastic contemporary life with Facebook and Twitter will be misinterpreted as science fiction by some, and it is not fantasy or magic realism – if we are lucky it is pointing the way to a new kind of realism. It steps out of the bounds of the young adult category – I remember when that category came into being, someday it will cease to exist. It's a book too big to be corralled by the publishing world's self-imposed limits.

Besides, that publishing world is crumbling.

It's hard to compare it to other books. The closest I can come is Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo – not in the plot or content, but the effect. Reading it gave me the same feelings I got when I read Reed's classic decades ago – the feeling of finding a universe that had been hidden. Having access to it expanded my possibilities.

It just might be exactly what the current generation needs.

It may be what we all need. After all, in a rapidly changing world, aren't we all immigrants and refugees? We wake up one day, and the things we were used to are gone, weird new things have replaced them. You might as well suddenly be on another continent, or another planet.

Yeah, Minister Faust. It's all about transformation. Don't accept the Pyrite. Go for the Gold.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


In my latest Chicanonautica over at La Bloga, I go from singing the praises of bullfighting, to celebrating the Fiesta de San Fermin, better known as the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

I mention PETA, the FBI, Ernest Hemingway, and how you can enjoy the Fiesta online.

Here's's irreverent take on the Txupinazo (the opening ritual):

Instead of showing this years reenactment of PETA's dull protest from last year, here's one of their wilder ones from the past:

Here's a tribute to Hemingway and bullfighting:

And San Fermin Encierro's artistic take on this year first run: