Pimping Out My Co-Blogger

Cam Lee, aka Chaos Lee, has hired me as his pimp. I accepted the request with alarcrity.

I’ve been reading his stories and listening to the evolution of his novel for well over a decade now, and it’s about bloody time some of his writing goes public.

He’s going to kick the collective asses of Warren Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, and any other author you care to name whose books leave you gasping, “That was the most fucked-up thing I’ve ever read in my entire fucking life.”

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life wishing I could be even a fraction of the writer he is. My work seems plodding and pedestrian compared to the constant mindfuck that spills from his pen. He brutalizes words into singing for him. Setting, mood, theme, plot and character all end up twisted like a hangman’s noose in a hurricane.

Even a simple description of his day turns into something else again:

Today’s been a bit of a paranoid day. When people at work seem to actually know I’m sitting at my desk and not working and looking for ales on whiskey or making voodoo dolls that not-so-coincidentally resemble certain directors at certain corporations. But anyway, I need to find thought suppressants because they’ve become loud. People are hearing them.

The risk here is that not only will the bastards get forewarning, but they might try and steal my brain. And I like my brain. It sponges up the whiskey my liver rejects.

See what I mean?

The above excerpt comes from Cam Lee’s Chaos Hangover, his new MySpace Page, where he’s posted the short story “Halo.” Go read “Halo.” Then go read everything else. And then go demand more.

Because as good as “Halo” is, it’s only the barest tip of a fucking enormous iceberg. Trust me when I tell you it gets a lot more bizarre, dark and mindblowing.

I know. I’ve read. And I’ve never been the same.

Pimping Out My Co-Blogger

What, When You Get Right Down to It, Is a Soul?

‘Tis the witching hour. And I’m going to think out loud here, as input would be most welcome.

One of the things I’m always cognizant of when I’m world-building is influences. I was, alas, raised in a culture that’s heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian ideas, and while I appreciate some of same, I don’t want knee-jerk assumptions creeping into my fiction. I read far too much stuff wherein the author just plucked the low-hanging fruit and didn’t think outside of the culture they’re immersed in. You’ll see some poorly-incorporated elements from “exotic” cultures thrown in any-old-how, just for the sake of appearing different. But when you pick at the surface, you realize it’s all gilt.

The more I scratch at my writing, the more gilt I find. It would be nice if I could just scrape it off and rebuild from the bottom-up, but we’re talking core concepts. I won’t be telling the stories I want to tell if I remove all the gilt. So the problem becomes, how do I turn it solid gold?

Take souls, for example.

The major concept in my series, the foundation upon which the rest of the edifice is built, is the Ahc’ton K’san Torveneh: Souls Who Travel. For years, I just took it for granted that these folks were unique souls who get reborn over and over in service to their people.

But that’s mere gilt. That’s assuming a soul. Even with the little bit of gloss a physicist friend added – the concept of the soul as an other-dimensional entity with a propensity for attaching itself to biological forms in this dimension – it’s still just gilt. I never really questioned it before now, but having embraced my atheism and hanging about with science buffs and proud atheists, I’m certainly questioning it now.

And the question is fascinating. What, in fact, do Atheseans mean when they refer to a “soul”?

I can tell you straight up they don’t mean anything religious. The soul isn’t something as solid as a body, and you can’t extract a soul from a body and study it (that I know of – who knows what these buggers will get up to as I explore this question?). But it has a physical reality. It has nothing to do with religion, any more than electricity does. Because it’s so hard to grasp, directly perceive, it’s easy to put it down to something spiritual, but it’s a really real thing with an objective existence.

The Ahc’ton are special because their souls are reborn with identity intact. That’s the whole point of being Ahc’ton: to remember who you were, carry all of the accumulated knowledge of lifetimes with you and put it to good use in new lives among alien species. No other souls travel this way. The soul as a distinct identity ceases to exist once a person dies. If we’re talking an other-dimensional entity, it basically loses the “I” it became when it was attached to the physical body. There’s no eternal life, no consciousness beyond death – except for the Ahc’ton.

So that’s the challenge of the week. I have to go beyond my assumptions, peel off the gilt, and really get into the meat of this thing. If the soul is not something religious or spiritual, what is it? Why does it have this propensity for attaching to a brain? How did the Ahc’ton’s souls end up being discrete entitities with an identity they’ve carried for millennia, when everybody else’s soul goes back to being an undifferentiated something?

It would be so much easier if I could just take the religious view and be done with it, but it’s so much more fun to struggle with the concept of something material, objective, and so far beyond our current science that it just looks like a miracle.

There ye go. Speculate at will, my wise and wonderful darlings.

What, When You Get Right Down to It, Is a Soul?

Your Opinion Please: Should We Have a Carnival?

Update: Postdated to stay up here a spell.

PZ just threw out a call for volunteers to host the Tangled Bank. Got me to thinking: along with that, why not throw a carnival of our very own?

I’ve a few ideas:

Carnival of the Media Clowns – wherein we bash the wretched state of the modern American media.

Carnival of the Elitist Bastards – wherein we enjoy the novel fact that we use our brains for thinking and we know stuff.

Political Sideshows – wherein we unleash our rapier wit and scathing satire upon those politicians who have proven themselves no better than circus freaks.

I know a majority of you are excellent writers – I read your blogs, and you blow me away. I know a good number of you enjoy bashing politicians – otherwise, you wouldn’t be dropping by for Happy Hour Discurso. I know you’re smarter’n all get out, because your comments here are always insightful. And being that all of the above are true, I know you’re probably frustrated to death with the overwhelming stupidity of our nation’s mainstream media.

So what say you? Up for the challenge? Ready to create our own three-ring circus? Any of the ideas above catch your fancy? If so, let me know, and we’ll put together the greatest show on earth.

Or at least one that’ll pass for it given enough alcohol. The Cantina is open!

Your Opinion Please: Should We Have a Carnival?

Tequila and Great Music, Anyone?

Post-dated to stay up here awhile.

My darlings, I’m not sure how many of you may be near Seattle, but if you’re in town April 25th, so are the Peacemakers. We should go.

Never heard of the Peacemakers? No problemo. You’ll still have a great time. I’d never heard a Peacemakers’ song before I went to my first show. I enjoyed it immensely anyway.

Don’t like that kind of music? Doesn’t matter. Neither do I. I’m a symphonic/power/black metal person myself, the occasional foray into my sordid Western/80s New Wave distant past aside. But the Peacemakers transcend normal tastes.

Besides. You’ll be drinking. A lot.

Don’t like tequila? For shame That’s perfectly fine. There are plenty of other beverages that will compensate.

And you can hang out with Dana. Really in real life Dana. How cool is that?

It’ll be pretty cool. I’ll be pissed, plastered, smashed, hammered, and not to put too fine a point on it, pretty damned drunk. People tell me I’m fairly amusing when I’m sloshed, snookered, or otherwise intoxicated. You’ll at least have that for entertainment value until the Peacemakers take the stage.

So drop on by Neumos on April 25th. I’ll be there. You know what I look like. Same hair, same hat. Just look for the drunken black metal chick in the black straw hat screaming “Roger!” at the top of her lungs.

Tequila and Great Music, Anyone?

Go Forth and Encourage, My Darlings

Brian Switek over at Laelaps is having a bad moment. My fellow writers, and interested readers, we need to troop over there and give him some love:

Given all the false-starts and struggles I’ve had as the concept of this book has evolved in my own head, it’s not unreasonable to ask why anyone needs another book about evolution. There’s presently a glut of books talking about evolution and why it is important, so what can I really hope to achieve? I have no idea if the finished product will be popular at all, but I think it’s important to try and express why I find evolution so fascinating.

I think so, too. Let’s all tell him so. There’s always room for one more, and Brian has the potential to be one of those science writers who fires up the next generation of evolutionary biologists. Don’t let him forget that.

Go Forth and Encourage, My Darlings

A Nation of Idiots

That’s what Bush & Co. want. Stupid people can be led. They won’t ask for evidence, because they’ll believe arguments from authority. They’ll swallow any lie because they don’t know better. They’ll talk endlessly about the outrage of ordering orange juice instead of coffee, because they’re fucking clueless about the outrage of war crimes.

George “What the Fuck Do People Need to Read For” Bush has now decided that $26,000,000 is too much for a children’s literacy program.

Reading Is Fundamental was eliminated from the President’s proposed FY2009 budget. Congress can save it.

Congress can indeed save it, and so can you. Write now. Takes about 30 seconds, sends a note to your senators and Congressman, shoves the old British two-fingered salute firmly up both the Bush nostrils. What’s not to love?

A lot of us were lucky enough to have parents who could give us houses full of books. A lot of kids aren’t. Reading Is Fundamental does something about that:

Founded in 1966, RIF is the oldest and largest children’s and family nonprofit literacy organization in the United States. RIF’s highest priority is reaching underserved children from birth to age 8. Through community volunteers in every state and U.S. territory, RIF provides 4.5 million children with 16 million new, free books and literacy resources each year.

A book of their own. Every kid should have their own book, and someone to read it to them. Now Bush wants to take even that away from kids.

John Lynch over at Stranger Fruit puts things into perspective:

Consider: an F-16C/D fighter will set you back $19 million and B-2 bomber can be yours for between $737 million and $2.2 billion. The USAF has ~200 of the former and twenty of the latter. Twenty-six million just doesn’t seem that much, now does it?

No, John. It doesn’t. Especially not when those numbers are compared to these numbers:

By age 17, only about 1 in 17 seventeen year olds can read and gain information from specialized text, for example the science section in the local newspaper. This includes:

1 in 12 White 17 year olds,
1 in 50 Latino 17 year olds, and
1 in 100 African American 17 year olds.
(Haycock, p5)

You want to know why we’re having to wage such a pitched battle against creationism? You want to know why otherwise intelligent people might get snookered by Expelled’s pernicious lies? There’s your answer. Kids who can’t fucking read turn into adults who can’t fucking read, and those adults turn into uninformed victims of the first snake-oil salesman who comes along. They have no way of understanding the information that would tell them the assclown’s full of shit.

So get on the ball, my darlings. Write your own dear representatives. Let them know that this country can afford a few more books and a few less bombs. Let them know we don’t plan on becoming a nation of idiots.

*This, the 71st post of En Tequila Es Verdad, is dedicated to 71-Hour Ahmed. If you haven’t met him yet, now is the perfect time to pick up a copy of Jingo by Terry Pratchett. I think you’ll find it has plenty to say about what’s going on in America just now, for all it’s written by a Brit and set on a flat world carried through space on the backs of four elephants standing on a turtle…

A Nation of Idiots

Skeptics Unite! Take Back Your TV!

Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer himself, could become a TV star!

The pilot episode of the Skeptologists has been filmed, and it’s time now to shop it out to the networks in hopes that they’ll nudge aside enough pseudoscience, bullshit, mindless yapping, and otherwise pure crap to make room for a nugget of pure gold.

You can find more information on the show here and here. You can throw your weight behind the show thusly:

Also, if you want to support the show (and given how many people responded to the call for a transcriptionist, I see that y’all do!), you can send an email to [email protected]. You’ll get an automated reply, but we’re collecting emails to show networks that there is a demand for quality shows for intelligent people who don’t buy into all the nonsense being aired right now.

Wanna see Phil & Crew on TV! Wanna wanna skeptical show! So do you. So start bawling with me in hopes we get fed. Mmm, tasty fun skepticism!

Skeptics Unite! Take Back Your TV!