I used to write with professional intent, a few years back.
The rejection slips were annoying, but what really inspired me to stop was the lack of feedback from editors. I
do understand why editors don't provide feedback -- they're busy,
they've got mass quantities of slushpile manuscripts to pore over,
yadda yadda yadda -- but knowing why I got no feedback, doesn't change the fact that I got no feedback. How am I supposed to improve my skills if the people
who judge such things don't tell me where I fell short?
In the last part of 2000, I discovered the TSA and TFWF mailing
lists. Now I'm getting feedback, praise Cthulhu!
In case you were wondering, yes I do write for money. After
reading the stories on this site, I expect you'll know whether
or not you'd like to hire me to write for you...
There's a guy named Mark Van Sciver who created a nifty little setting he calls "Tales From the Blind
Pig", and who chose to let other people play in the sandbox he'd
Start with the world you and I live in. In the year 2001, the
Beagle II space probe comes back to Earth with a microscopic hitchhiker,
the so-called "Martian Flu virus". To a first approximation, this
little piece of work kills 25% of those it infects; another 2/3
(67%) or so suffer cold/flu symptoms for a while, with no lingering
aftereffects; the remaining victims, about 8%, develop a complication
known as Stein's Chronic Accelerated Biomorphic Syndrome -- SCABS
for short -- which remodels your bod. Changes you, to a greater
or lesser degree, according to no known pattern. Some folks get
a few non-human physical traits grafted on, others get a complete
physical transformation into some other species, and so on. As
well, SCABS can sometimes grant/inflict inhuman abilities, ranging
from the relatively minor (heightened senses, etc) to the physics-breaking.
Most of the Blind Pig stories are set in the 2030s, a couple
decades after the Martian Flu made its unwelcome debut, and deal
with the goings-on in and around a SCAB-friendly bar called the
Blind Pig Gin Mill. I envision the bar as being laid out this way; others, such as BossHoss, have their own ideas.
One interesting facet of the Blind Pig setting is that it's
a veritable orgy of self-insertion fanfic -- most/all of the major
characters in it are based heavily upon various TSA subscribers,
and SCABS tends to work over each "persona" in accordance with
the specific transformative preferences of its "original model".
Fortunately, Blind Pig authors (as a group) are made of sterner
stuff than the pathetic Trek-obsessed wretches who have made "Mary-Sue"
a byword for bad self-insertion fanfic. So if you're looking for crap like thinly
disguised power fantasies, best look elsewhere, because you won't
find that sort of thing in Blind Pig stories (thank God!).
My character in the Blind Pig setting is a marginally anthropomorphic
cheetah who calls himself Jubatus. He doesn't use a last name,
but if pressed for one he'd say Jubatus Acinonyx -- you all know
that the cheetah's scientific name is acinonyx jubatus jubatus, right? He's one of the numerous Blind Pig characters whose SCABS-derived
abilities could qualify them to be low-grade superheroes (speedster,
in Jube's case), except that they've got other ideas. Further, deponent sayeth not; you'll just have to read
the stories. They're listed here in order of when they occur in
A Good Run of Luck is the story that introduced Jubatus to the Blind Pig. I was
mostly trying to see if I could have a viewpoint character who
insists that everything is just dandy, while at the same time
making it clear to the reader that, in fact, everything is actually going to Hell in a handbasket.
Second Heat, in which Jubatus displays certain strong and weak points, is the cheetah's second tale. And yes, I do intend to put some sort of reference to speed and/or motion into
the title of every Jubatus story; "run" in the first tale, and
"heat" (in the Track and Field sense) this time around.
Speedy Trials is the third tale in the continuing story of Jubatus. Your (and
his) favorite cheetah finally comes to terms with something that's
really bothered him ever since the fur coat arrived.
Actions & Reactions was written by a promising gent named Hallan Mirayas, and it's
Jube's first appearance in a story writ by someone else. The local highschool has a rule against the use of claws, which
doesn't help a lionmorph student deal with the school bully. Maybe
it's just me, but I detect some foreshadowing of things to come...
No Quick Fix is an odd one for me. It's a vignette, a pure "mood piece", not my usual kind of thing at all; while
it's the fifth Jubatus tale I've written, its place in the cheetah's continuity is between #s 3 and 4; and
it was blatantly sparked by Real Life events which don't bear
Life in the Fast Lane is a story arc involving the Strikebreakers, an all-SCAB band,
and their misadventures on a nationwide tour. If you'd like to
start at the beginning of the saga, the link that opens this paragraph
will take you there. Or, if you'd prefer to go directly to one
-- Track 1, Building the Perfect Beast, reveals how the Strikebreakers came to be. It's the fourth story
I've written with Jubatus in it.
-- Track 2, So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star, is a look inside the heads of all the band members (and an experiment in multiple PoVs). It's the
eighth Cubist-written story of Jubatus.
-- Future tracks: Going Mobile (addressing the logistics of SCABs on tour). The Cover of the Rolling Stone (publicity is such a whore...). Jesus Loves Me (a first, fond look at one band member's old stomping grounds).
Big Time (the tour's grand finale). There will also be a minimum of two
bonus tracks, which aren't directly related to the main story
arc; Running Down the Dream (a look at the current state of one old glory) and Veronica (a slight detour in the schedule) for sure, and perhaps others
Throwing Down the Gauntlet, by Hallan Mirayas. Fifth non-Cubist tale featuring Jube. Hallan
Mirayas, young lionmorph SCAB last seen in Actions and Reactions, continues to have problems with bullies; fortunately, he's got
help this time, in the form of a certain cheetahmorph.
Something to Live For is Michael Bard's first TBP story, and the second non-Cubist-written
one that features Jube. In addition to introducing his character
Sue Carter, Bard raises some cogent points that will probably
continue to be ignored by most other TBP writers, unfortunately...
One Small Step... is a collaboration between myself and Michael Bard; we started
it to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Tales from the
Blind Pig setting. Jubatus, however, is commemorating a very different
anniversary... and Sue Carter isn't celebrating at all.
Man in the Mirror comes to us from Sly 'SurviFur' Squirrel, and is the third non-Cubist
story in which Jube has any significant role. In this case, a
freshly SCABbed-over full-morph squirrel decides that talking
to Jube would be a great way to help him overcome those dratted
'run away!' prey instincts he's been saddled with...
It's Time That I Realize..., the 4th non-Cubist story with Jube, is the immediate sequel
to Man in the Mirror, and likewise written by Sly. Reality sets in for Jim Hart after
the euphoria of the previous story's ending has faded.
Fast Break, by me and Hallan Mirayas. My 5th-completed (me and Bard began One Small Step before this'n) tale of Jubatus.
Death by Calculus, the 6th non-Cubist tale featuring Jube, by Hallan Mirayas and
Michael Bard. In which leonine SCAB Hallan asks for help with
math homework, and discovers that the phrase Too Much Information
is not necessarily restricted to sexual matters.
Acquiring Targets, the 9th non-Cubist tale featuring Jube, by Michael Bard. Sue
Carter is not pleased: Not only did she not find out about Jube's accident
until after he made a full recovery, but she can't even persuade him he was
wrong to keep her in the dark... (Sue's view of Death By Calculus, which occurs simultaneously with this)
Christmas Resolutions, one of the two 7th non-Cubist tales featuring Jube, by Wanderer.
The Caped Canine has a family -- and his favorite niece makes
a surprise appearance to brighten his Yuletide! (Written for the TSAT 25 anniversary celebration; hosted offsite, at TSAT)
Christmas Rush, my 7th-written tale of Jube. How does the fastest (and most cynical,
and most paranoid) SCAB alive deal with an attack of the Christmas
spirit? (Written for the TSAT 25 anniversary celebration; hosted offsite, at TSAT)
Schroedinger's Dryad, one of the two 7th non-Cubist tales featuring Jube, by Michael
Bard. Sue Carter doesn't believe there's anything Man was not meant to know, and she's just the SCAB to prove it...
(Written for the TSAT 25 anniversary celebration; hosted offsite, at TSAT)
I've got other Jubatus stories kicking around inside me head,
among them Quick and Dirty, The John Moschitta School of Elocution, Godspeed, and The Velocity of Money. Me and BlueNight are collaborating on a twisted little number
called The Quick and the Dead. And as stated above, there'll be more of Life in the Fast Lane. A lot more.
You'll see them as soon as I post 'em, and I'll post 'em as
soon as they're ready.
The Human Extinction Agency setting comes to us courtesy of
a bloke who goes by the name Oren the Otter. About all I know of him is that he's a devout Christian of one
denomination or another, and I'd expect that his remarkable affinity
for otters has the Almighty looking at him with a somewhat bemused
expression on His face.
This setting diverges from the Real World in the late 1990s,
I believe. Whatever the exact moment, what happened is that a
batch of gaseous extraterrestrials revealed themselves to all
humanity... and the Nacalites (as their species calls themselves)
declared their intention to wipe us out through a five-year program
of multi-staged transformation. When the smoke clears, every human
on Earth will have become some other species entirely. The Human
Extinction Agency is a bureaucracy set up by the Nacs to ensure
that their genocide runs smoothly, with trains running on time
and all that.
It's an interesting concept, but there are certain themes which
show up in altogether too many other H.E.A. stories for my taste. For instance, armed resistance to
the Nacs which doesn't take into account the fact that the aliens have an interstellar culture backing 'em up. Even if we did somehow manage to wipe out every Nacalite on Earth, our victory
wouldn't last any longer than it takes for an armada-ful of Nac
warriors to arrive here and finish what their martyred brethren
Sowing the Wind... introduces an ill-tempered human by name of Andrew Aikens Tesla
to the world of the H.E.A. I was provoked to write this story
by those themes I mentioned above, as a response thereto.
Contamination is the "umbrella title" of a trilogy I'm working on, involving
the further adventures of the aforementioned Mr. Tesla. None of
the three parts are ready for prime time as of yet. Were it not
for the fact that Oren himself is actually steering things towards the general direction of
where this trilogy's going to end up, I would say that Contamination is pretty much going to nuke the H.E.A. setting...
TSA-talk is one of the mailing lists I mentioned up topside.
During the course of a protracted discussion about "how would
you react if you got transformed," one of the regulars, BlueNight, came up with
a setting intended to explore precisely that question: List Transformed,
LTF for short. So far, 28 of us listies have joined BlueNight
in writing stories for this setting. My own LTF stuff is right
here; if you're curious about what the other guys have done, click
on over to the LTF index and start browsing.
LTF guidelines is for people who want to write LTF stories. Ignore it if you just want to read them.
Wholesale Alterations is my personal slice of the LTF saga. It's a work in progress;
what I've posted here is as far as I've gotten with it.
Take My Rights -- Please! is an essay that appeared in the 5 Feb 2001 issue of Newsweek. No, you didn't miss anything -- this essay appeared in the LTF
universe's Newsweek, not yours and mine.
The Turning of the Wheel. Synopsis: Various Changelings (including my LTF avatar) get
involved with the rescue/recovery effort after the destruction
of the World Trade Center. I wrote this one after (and in response
to) the attack, which went slightly differently in LTF than in
the real world. In reality, two airliners destroyed one of the
Towers apiece; in LTF, only one Tower got hit, thanks to a Changeling
passenger on the other plane who managed to divert it, taking
out the Statue of Liberty instead...
Another fine by-product of the TSA-talk mailing list. Fellow
member Sly Squirrel came up with this thing; it's an odd and interesting
cross between a writer's exercise and a game show. It follows
the Survivor model fairly closely, with an exotic setting isolated from civilization
(a several-miles-across structure called the BioSphere), tribes
(four members apiece), challenges, tribal council meetings, and
so on. As far as the characters are concerned, the goal is to be the last contestant who has
any vestige of their former humanity left; from the authors' point of view, however, the goal is to come up with interesting
stories in a setting which pretty well guarantees a subinfinite
number of interpersonal conflicts.
Sadly, of all the several hundred List members, exactly four
chose to participate in Sly's game/exercise: Joseph Gibbs (aka Ch'Tah), Daniel Lin, Michael Bard, and myself. Ch'Tah wrote the
Queens tribe; Lin,the Bronx; and I collaborated with Bard on the
tribe called Harlem. We like to call this little story arc Predators at Play, and here it is for your reading enjoyment:
The Commercial: In which Harlem's members -- Michael (centaur), Mary-Anne (anthropomorphic
cat), Norman (human with a light sprinkling of panther traits),
and Mal (fully human) -- explain why they should be on the show.
The Doom that Came to Redmond: Introducing Harlem's members (and the reader) to the BioSphere,
and to each other.
A Night on the Town: First challenge: Walking away with your humanity after spending
an evening in the big city.
Second Tribal Council: Written by me and Bard while Sly was off at wrestling camp,
believe it or don't...
Evil Eats Everything: Second challenge: In which Harlem beats the scavenger hunt,
and survives each other.
Around the 'Sphere in Seven Biomes: Third challenge: Harlem's first casualty, in a 7-biome cross-country
The Meanest SOB in the BioSphere: Endgame. The ultimate battle between Good and Evil, this one's
for all the marbles. Now that it's open warfare, how can Mal survive?
A Long Day's Afternoon, as stated elsewhere, is the first story I posted to the TSA
mailing list. It's something of a departure from what has come
to be my customary fare -- for one thing, the viewpoint character
isn't an ill-tempered SOB of one kind or another.
What in the World is Carmen Sandiego? is a song parody, a new set of lyrics to a previously-written
song. In this case it's the Rockapella-written and -performed
theme to the PBS show Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and I think my version ended up pretty good...
The One That Got Away is another atypical example of my oeuvre. It's about as close as I've come to a standard love story; the
main character is nice enough that you wouldn't have to tolerate her bad points; and never before have I dabbled in the 'modern
fantasy' genre. Finally, I wrote it on commission -- my thanks
to patron Phil Velasquez for his permission to post it here.
Down and Away From Pig Broke: My second commissioned story, also my heaviest use of dialect
to date. It's a tale of how the love of money can mess you up
if you let it... Thanks to patron Phil Velasquez for his permission
to post it here.
Challenge of the Superfriends: Plush Cthulhu Arises: Me and Michael Bard wrote this thing; it's something of a tribute
to a true landmark of televised animation. Yeah, right...