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Why We Need Gods, Queens and Rock Stars

rock stars, gods, fame, idols, movie stars, queens, kings, royalty, adoration

creative commons: by crymz http://crymz.deviantart.com/

Not everyone wants to be famous but of those who would like to be few become famous. Some people, like the tyrants and murderers of the world, become infamous, famed not for the adoration of the masses but reviled. Not everyone wants to lead and not all those who lead want fame and glory but it often comes with the territory.

Many people want their independence, to work well within their expertise and live comfortably but they may not have the knowledge, vision, verve, ability, charisma, want or other traits that it takes to be a leader. We are often content to walk in our grooves, do what we do and hope that a few people (friends, family) might consider us great, or at least special. It is the way of human nature.

Likewise it is the way of humans to follow leaders, as history can attest to again and again. Once, it was not just enough to lead and know your fellow humans cemented you firmly on a pedestal as one worthy. It was even better to marry oneself to a god through belief or in actual ritualized marriages. After all, if you were god blessed or ruled by divine authority, what man or woman could nay-say you? Thus it’s been since human beings started congregating into groups and villages until they created cities, fiefdoms, kingdoms and empires.

As the religious fervor has waned over time (in some countries because we see a resurgence time and again) we have needed other beings to admire, adore, raise up on pedestals and idolize. Why? Because they epitomize the best and give us hopes and dreams that we too can be great. Greek mythology is a prime example of this. You had your gods but they tended to have sex with humans from time to time and make demigods. Sometimes a hero, like Herakles, started out as human but then achieved some divine status. Look, you too can become godlike!

So, what is godlike in terms of our modern world: beauty, riches, talent. Oddly we don’t tend to raise up the rocket scientists and neurosurgeons the same way that we do the rock stars and movie stars. They get to play act instead of saving the world and yet they shine brighter in our esteem. Because we all want to be beautiful, talented, rich. Oh and what’s next to god, above even those rock and movie stars? Royalty.

Perhaps this renewed idolizing of Prince William and Kate has captured the mundane population’s heart and sense of romance. But consider this. Any of you can become a surgeon, a politician, a leader, a musician, an actor (whether you’re beautiful or not) with the right training and perseverance. You can gain riches and some fame. But very few if any of you will ever be royalty. You can’t train for it, you can’t be elected to it, you can work your way into the position. Royalty is inherited. You’re born to the right parents or you’re not. You great granddaddy was the grand poobah so you get to be (but only if you’re the eldest and only if you’re a boy first; girls still come second). You don’t have to be beautiful, smart, talented or a good leader. You just have to have the right blood, which is just like anyone else’s. It’s one thing to be born to a millionaire and inherit the business; it’s another thing altogether to inherit a country and riches paid to the coffers from the pockets of the common person without having to prove your worth.

So consider this the next time you idolize the shallow trappings of beauty and money. There is often far more worth in your neighbor than someone born to a privilege fabricated from beliefs of their blood being better than yours. The other thing about placing people on pedestals; sooner or later someone wants to pull them down, especially if their flaws show. And guess what; we’re all flawed.

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Movie Review: The Train Wreck of “I’m Still Here”

I got to see the preview of I’m Still Here last night, another in a long list of reality, documentary, “real life” stories on film. So it’s shot with a handheld video and is grainy and old looking, as well as bad to incomprehensible sound quality in parts. Just like Blair Witch Project and all those other made-to-be-real stories. But it’s a documentary, sort of. Joaquin Phoenix, the star, or anti-star, of this documentary was filmed by brother-in-law Casey Affleck. Now in a way it’s unfortunate that Affleck let the cat out of the bag so early that in fact this is a mockumentary and not really Phoenix’s plummet into eccentric weirdoness. We sincerely hope–though stars going crazy, or doing too many drugs or booze is an old story and Phoenix seems to have had his brush with this in the past.

Joaquin as crazed hip-hop wannabe (from x17online.com)

In some ways, this reminded me of the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which had grainy handheld images by a novice videographer, for part of it. But let’s look at I’m Still Here as if it were being filmed as a true documentary. First, if Casey Affleck was revealed as the director at the beginning we then have to wonder, why does an actor with money and names at his disposal decide to use the lowest level of technology available to make this film about his brother-in-law? Only because it will look more like reality, but already I’m suspicious because it’s not some no name Joe and at least the filming should be a little more even, and the framing and sound better. That’s my first raspberry to the film.

Let’s not forget that for Affleck’s directorial debut it does keep production values and costs pretty minimal, and producing a film can be very very expensive. Not to mention paying those high price actors of which Joaquin Phoenix is one. But hey, he’s in on it and he’s Affleck’s brother-in-law and we know the Affleck boys are talented. So let’s do this badass hoax.

Phoenix, as always, is such a consummate actor that he’s believable as the tripped out, pot-smoking, coke-snorting, beer-drinking crazoid who wants to give up acting and become a hip-hop artist. However…through this increasing train wreck of two years, Joaquin gets fuzzier with a big untrimmed beard, uncombed hair, massive sunglasses held together by duct tape, sometimes a torn toque or shirt on his head and generally a slovenly appearance that radiates negative sex appeal. I kept wondering if they put a fat suit on him but it looks too real as he gains weight. Now there are many actors who have put on weight, starved themselves or gotten buff to play a role and I don’t doubt that Phoenix would do this.

However, I find it unbelievable that anyone who actually cared for the man, including presumably his brother-in-law and a sister somewhere (or the brief cameo of his father) would let a man slide for so long without wanting to stage an intervention, and that Affleck would put that in the video. Phoenix is crazed,  he’s drugged, he mumbles, he rants and is basically so fucked up that he’s unappealing to anyone but the sycophants/aids/assistants who are paid to follow and help him. But no one, not publicist nor marketing people nor agents ever say, “What the hell? You need serious help.” They just let him ride and let him slide, and that to me is unbelievable and missing from this mockumentary, hence making it a noticeable fake documentary.

As for the film itself, well there are funny moments because Joaquin is so crazed and the way he dresses so bad (because we know he’s a famous star) that you just have to laugh. His home doesn’t look anything like what a star would live in and seems half unpacked with his assistants living in bare bedrooms with no pictures on the wall and only a single size bed (also unbelievable–no one can love him that much). So yeah we laugh at his crazy looniness and at the lame-ass attempts at hip-hop, which, because the sound is never mastered in any way is hard to hear at times.

But those amusing moments don’t warrant a nearly two-hour film. It’s slow and drags and whereas Exit Through the Gift Shop moved along, had tension, humor, drama and a good story on several levels, I’m Still Here falls flat. So flat in fact that I kept trying to see what time it was when I wasn’t closing my eyes. An hour would have been long enough to document this style of train wreck life, whether real or not. Some judicious cutting would have helped.

If Casey Affleck hadn’t revealed that it was a mockumentary so quickly I’m sure that the critics would debate its veracity for months, (and more people would see the film) but probably Joaquin Phoenix is truly worried that people will believe it and that his movie career will plummet. Plus, he’s gotta get back in shape now. But like the phoenix Joaquin is named after, I’m sure this star will rise higher and that the only truly good thing in this film was the caliber of his acting.  As for Casey Affleck’s directing, well, with the right money and people in the right place, I know I could do as well if not better. I’d only give this film four stars out of ten. Watching my cat groom itself is about on par for the excitement in this film.

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The Death of Rock Stars

Untimely deaths in the world of entertainment may not be every day, but they are a little too common, and of course because these people are famous we hear of all the sensational aspects that went along with the death. Looking at three stars of the music world, we have Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Michael Jackson, to name a few but perhaps the most famous deaths.

Elvis made it to 42 and died from complications of obesity and drugs. His life of fame ate at him and like many stars, brought out the hollowness of always being in the spotlight and having money to satisfy every desire but a happy heart. His funeral was big and his grave still gets many fans at Graceland.

John Lennon, didn’t die by his own hand, but was shot down by a nut, at the age of 40 (and Lennon actually said in a interview that day that he would probably be popped off by a loony). I remember when he died and I was incensed that the local paper didn’t even mention it on the front page of the newspaper. But some deaths hit the front pages because they sell newspapers.Because Lennon had moved on from the Beatles to a new phase of his life, his death was big but probably not as big as Elvis’s though they had been contemporaries.

Michael Jackson made it to 50, so did relatively well of the three big stars. He too died from drugs, addiction and who knows what else. His funeral this week was a spectacle with rock and movie stars and the thousands who attended being chosen through a lottery. It was in one sense a big dead concert, with booklets being given out as souvenirs or mementos of his memorial.

Comparing funerals and the splash that any of these men made in death could be difficult. Even Sarah Bernhardt’s death in the 20s held a spectable. Jackson has died in the age of computers and internet, blogging and tweeting. That his death will have hit more media forms than any other big stars death is obvious. This will of course increase his impact on his fans, or the number of people influenced by him. On TV, there must be at least five stations with long, dedicated shows to dissecting Jackson’s life. Not to mention every news hour covered Jackson’s death in detail.

Although stars often do charity and public works, funneling some of the gross amounts of money they make into good deeds, they are not overall big on world impact. That often takes world leaders and the power of their countries behind them to make those changes. But the King of Rock n’ Roll, the King of Pop and the Fab Four were known for their music, for touching the hearts and souls of millions of people. On TV, in movies, on stage, they were more visible, more beautiful and more charismatic than our world leaders.

Is it any wonder then, that we idolize them, place them on pedestals and call them our modern gods? People must place their faith, hopes and dreams on someone. We may not all be famous but we can fantasize of these princes of music and try and dig into evey aspect of their lives. And we can hate them enough to pull them down or shoot them, should they show a flaw or just somehow be what we can’t be.

Michael Jackson, like Elvis and John Lennon, left a huge legacy. It will stay in the hearts and minds of people for a long time. It will be a hundred years or longer before they fade from memory. But other stars will rise and shine and burn brightly for a time, then fade. And amongst those supernovas, there will be millions of other stars, not so bright, but the lives of you and me and those around us who deserve attention and love while alive. The price of fame and fortune was that Elvis and Michael at least, sought drugs and were unhappy. So we, the little stars, should remember this and be happy that we have the ability to be obscure and not always in a spotlight that can singe us to the soul.

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Michael Jackson: Shooting Star

I grew up with Michael Jackson, or his music anyways. But that’s not hard to say for most of us. After all, when a career spans forty-five years, many people can say the same thing.

As the news rolled in, people and media have expressed their shock, that they were stunned. Sadly, I can say I was not. I have said that I expected that Michael would die an early death, like Elvis, than live to a ripe old age. I have called him a shooting star for years, for he is and was exactly that. A shooting star ascends high into the heavens, or so high up that everyone can see that light. But such a bright light eventually comes to an end. As opposed to a star that shines constantly and brightly for eons and then fades out at the end of a long lifetime, a shooting star seems all the brighter for its briefer lifespan, and that it will descend much quicker. The candle burned out long ago, to paraphrase Elton John.

That Michael Jackson was a brilliant musician and stage presence, the greatest pop icon of his time, is obvious by the number of albums he sold and the money he made. It’s irrefutable. That he lived a happy and normal life is arguable. The signs are not so hidden at all that Jackson was a troubled and unhappy individual. Like many of us, I’m sure he had his moments of happiness, but like many of us he was also unhappy with who he was. And he had the money to do something about it.

He was a good looking, handsome black child who grew to adulthood and was still attractive. Looking at those early pictures of Michael, you can see he is still black, his hair curly yet fashionable. Slowly his wide, broad nose, narrowed and narrowed again to the skeletal aberration that it became. I certainly hope that the plastic surgeon who mangled Jackson’s face doesn’t advertise that he did the great Michael Jackson. Of course, Jackson also had surgeries to change the shape of his jaw, his lips, his cheekbones, his eyes until the face does not resemble the earlier Michael Jackson at all. How much plastic surgery is needed for a burn of long ago? Not that much, I would think.

He took to straightening his hair, getting rid of any semblance to the negroid curl. And his skin turned white. It’s said that he suffered from a skin pigmentation problem, vitiligo. On white people this sometimes shows as a darker patch, or a pinker patch of skin. On black people, it shows as white or pinkish skin. This could possibly be true but any person I ever saw who had this condition, where the melanin starts to leave the skin, had it in patches, not an overall and even discoloration. Though it’s possible that he started with this and had a chemical depigmentation performed using monobenzone, to even out the skin tone. He also did not exhibit conditions of albinism, evident by the darkness of his hair and eyes. (The Philipines, as one example, sells many skin lightening soaps.) There are numerous ways listed on the internet on how to lighten your skin tone. Michael Jackson had the money, which gives you the means, to do this to the extreme. Perhaps it started as a pigmentation problem but I believe he went in search of being a white man.

These extreme examples of changing his body indicate how unhappy he was with who he had been born. And proves that money can’t buy you happiness. He was too famous to walk anywhere without being recognized, therefore negating his chances of having normal life experiences. As Michael grew farther away from a normal life (even as a child in a performing family he was more used to spotlight than to family life) it became more unattainable.

Where were the family and friends that could bring him back to center? His family wasn’t a good example as they all lived in the limelight to one degree or another as well. If Michael’s only friends were other stars (as often is the case) then they may have been his yes men, only telling him how wonderful he was, never saying, Michael you’ve gone too far. Or Michael, you’ve got to eat or you’re going to die. But if there were those who tried to balance Michael’s extremes, maybe he just didn’t listen. After all, he was rich and powerful in the music world.

Michael lived in fantasy palaces, with private zoos and was probably happiest when he took his creative genius into the realm of  music where he was an innovator and a leader. I was never that in to pop music but I would argue that there is no better music for teenagers, because pop music is catchy, upbeat and fast enough to engage a young mind. Yet Michael was seen as a god, not as a man. I’m sure he was a romantic icon for enough teens as well.

We have a tendency in our world today to put rock/music stars and movie stars upon pedestals. They are our modern gods. But we (people, the masses) are a fickle lot, that get bored too quickly and demand too much. If our gods slip up, we will pull them down, we ridicule them and we hate them for the fame and money and beauty that we cannot hang onto ourselves. We will pick at their every flaw and as their pedestal crumbles we will hack it to pieces.

And then Michael, the unfathomable recluse who invited children into his palace, was charged with child molestation. Whether true or not, such an accusation is devastating and scarring to the core. It could not do other to a man estranged from a normal life who could only live on the idolization of his fans. Even the supposed three children he had with the rather plain woman (who disappeared from the scene shortly after) were suspect. No matter how a man bleaches himself, or suffers pigmentation problems, they won’t transfer to his children. And black being more dominant than white would show in the features, yet these kids (the few pictures that exist) are more white than anything else, one especially being extremely white.

Michael Jackson’s life had become a circus, the star on its descent. The millionaire who owed millions. When I recently looked at a progression of pictures of Jackson through his life and I saw how thin he was (not just slim, but very thin) I knew he suffered an eating disorder as well. This fits in with someone so desperate to change into someone else. Anorexia starves the body on all sorts of levels. Not enough nutrients to feed the muscles or the organs and then those organs must work harder. Anorexics, unless they try to seek help and recover, often die of heart attacks when the strain on their hearts become too much. It really was inevitable.

Michael Jackson may have had other conditions too; it’s not clear. But one thing that is, is that he was fighting his body his whole life. To be so gifted and die so conflicted. Could most of us ever hope to shine so brightly? Could any of us fear to burn so painfully? I feel sad for his life, that he couldn’t have loved himself more. Michael Jackson joins the other shooting stars, the famous who died suddenly before their flame burned out naturally: Jimmy Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, River Phoenix, Princess Diana, John Lennon and many others.

Reports are saying that he died of a drug overdose or a cocktail of deadly proportions. Not really a surprise. Jackson was reportedly addicted to painkillers (Vicodin, Demerol, etc.)  since the face burning episode. Put on top of that, the numerous surgeries and his anorexia and you have a collapse just waiting to happen. A bit of a star’s standard way out, whether planned or accidental. This shopping list of pharmaceuticals does support my theory of a man disenfranchised and unhappy with the way his life continued to unfold. So he closed the book.

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Writing: British Fantasy Awards & Stuff

I’m listing the recent announcement of shortlisted works for the British Fantasy Awards. I am not nominated but the anthology Cone Zero that my story “The Fathomless World” is in, has been. But then, none of the stories from the anthology have been nominated so I wonder if that bodes ill for the anthology winning the award.

Of course, for me it would have been better if my story was nominate but that’s okay. And it’s too bad that some of the reviews really just recapped the book and my story didn’t make much of a splash. Pooh. I liked it but perhaps the most informative review was a very late, after the fact one, where the reviewer decided to leave his notes as haiku, partly because it was so late. The one which I’m sure was for “The Fathomless World” said something like, “more style than substance.”  That would be the middle line of the haiku if you count “style as a two-syllable word.

So it goes. I thought it had substance but I also did it in a mythic style. I continue to send works out and work on new ones. Unfortunately the whole economic crisis has affected story markets to the point that I’m thinking I should just be working on my novel and skip the stories right now. For speculative fiction, whether horror, fantasy, science fiction or other, there are not a lot of markets to submit to right now. Some have gone the way of the dodo, while the majority of the pro markets (those that pay five cents a word or more) are closed to submissions or on hiatus. A sad state indeed.

And it’s always been a sad state that the pay for speculative fiction has been so low. Definitely not a make-a-living type of wage. Literary markets as a whole tend to pay somewhat better but many of them also pay the equivalent of $100 a story, which many anthologies do. Some literary markets pay anywhere from $15-40 a printed page, which again could work out to the same amount.

Why do we write then? For fame? Partly, though that’s a long hard road. Hardly for fortune. And maybe most of all, because we love words and our minds just keep filling with them and we want to tell a story and share in the mysteries of what-if. And not onto the shortlisted works for the British Fantasy Award.

BEST ANTHOLOGY

    Cone Zero(DF Lewis) Megazanthus Press
    Myth-Understandings (Ian Whates) Newcon Press
    Subtle Edens (Allen Ashley) Elastic Press
    The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 19 (Stephen Jones) Constable & Robinson
    The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror(Ian Alexander Martin) Humdrumming
    We Fade To Grey(Gary McMahon) Pendragon Press

BEST NOVEL (THE AUGUST DERLETH FANTASY AWARD)

    Memoirs of a Master Forger(William Heaney/Graham Joyce) Gollancz
    Midnight Man (Simon Clark) Severn House
    Rain Dogs(Gary McMahon) Humdrumming
    The Graveyard Book(Neil Gaiman) Bloomsbury
    The Victoria Vanishes (Christopher Fowler) Little Brown
    Thieving Fear (Ramsey Campbell) PS Publishing

THE PS PUBLISHING BEST SMALL PRESS AWARD

    Elastic Press (Andrew Hook)
    Newcon Press (Ian Whates)
    Pendragon Press (Chris Teague)
    Screaming Dreams (Steve Upham)
    TTA Press (Andy Cox)

BEST COLLECTION

    Bull Running for Girls (Allyson Bird) Screaming Dreams
    Glyphotech(Mark Samuels) PS Publishing
    How To Make Monsters(Gary McMahon) Morrigan Books
    Islington Crocodiles(Paul Meloy) TTA Press
    Just After Sunset(Stephen King) Hodder & Stoughton

BEST NOVELLA

    “Cold Stone Calling” (Simon Clark) Tasmaniac Publications
    “Gunpowder” (Joe Hill) PS Publishing
    “Heads” (Gary McMahon) We Fade To Grey, Ed. Gary McMahon – Pendragon Press
    “The Narrows” (Simon Bestwick) We Fade To Grey, Ed. Gary McMahon – Pendragon Press
    “The Reach of Children” (Tim Lebbon) Humdrumming

BEST SHORT FICTION

    “All Mouth” (Paul Meloy) Black Static 6, Ed. Andy Cox – TTA Press
    “Do You See” (Sarah Pinborough) Myth-Understandings, Ed. Ian Whates – Newcon Press
    “N” (Stephen King) Just After Sunset – Hodder & Stoughton
    “Pinholes in Black Muslin” (Simon Strantzas) The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror, Ed. Ian Alexander Martin – Humdrumming
    “The Caul Bearer” (Allyson Bird) Bull Running For Girls – Screaming Dreams
    “The Tobacconist’s Concession” (John Travis) The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror, Ed. Ian Alexander Martin – Humdrumming
    “The Vague” (Paul Meloy) Islington Crocodiles, TTA Press
    “Winter Journey” (Joel Lane) Black Static 5, Ed. Andy Cox – TTA Press

BEST COMIC/GRAPHIC NOVEL

    30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow(Steve Niles/Bill Sienkiewicz) IDW Publishing
    All-Star Superman(Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely) DC Comics
    Buffy Season Eight Vol. 3: Wolves at the Gate(Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard/ Georges Jeanty) Dark Horse Comics
    Comic Book Tattoo Tales Inspired by Tori Amos(Ed, Rantz A. Hoseley & Tori Amos/ Various) Image Comics
    Hellblazer: Fear Machine (Jamie Delano) Vertigo
    Hellblazer: The Laughing Magician(Andy Diggle/Leonardo Manco & Daniel Zezelj) Vertigo
    Locke and Key(Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriguez) IDW Publishing
    The Girly Comic Book 1 (Ed, Selina Lock) Factor Fiction
    The New Avengers: Illuminati(Brian Bendis & Brian Reed/Jim Cheung) Marvel Comics

BEST ARTIST

    Dave McKean (The Graveyard Book) Bloomsbury
    Edward Miller (Vault of Deeds) PS Publishing
    Lee Thompson (The Land at the End of the Working Day) Humdrumming
    Les Edwards (Various)
    Vincent Chong (Various)

BEST NON-FICTION

    Basil Copper: A Life in Books (Basil Copper, Ed, Stephen Jones) PS Publishing
    Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale (Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook) BBC Books
    journal.neilgaiman.com (Neil Gaiman)
    Mutant Popcorn(Nick Lowe) Interzone – TTA Press
    What Is It We Do When We Read Science Fiction(Paul Kincaid) Beccon Publications

BEST MAGAZINE

    Black Static(Andy Cox) TTA Press
    Interzone(Andy Cox et. al.) TTA Press
    Midnight Street(Trevor Denyer)
    Postscripts(Peter Crowther & Nick Gevers) PS Publishing
    SFX (Dave Bradley) Future Publishing Limited

BEST TELEVISON

    Battlestar Galactica (NBC)
    Dead Set(Zeppotron/Channel 4)
    Dexter (Clyde Phillips Productions)
    Doctor Who (BBC Wales)
    Supernatural (Warner Bros TV)

BEST FILM

    Cloverfield (Matt Reeves)
    Iron Man(Jon Favreau)
    The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan)
    The Mist(Frank Darabont)
    The Orphanage(Juan Antonio Bayona)
    (With thanks to SFWA for supplying the list.)

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Vanity Searches

I spent a couple of hours this week searching myself out. Why? To fluff up my ego? Hardly likely. A vanity search will often reveal how insignificant we are in terms of the Google universe. At least I’m on the first google page but not so much for my published stories as for this blog. So maybe I’m the second most famous Colleen, on Google, for what it’s worth. Which is not much.

But still, I thought I better find what’s listed about me before it all disappears. Should there come a day for me to prove I published something or to apply for a grant, then in some cases this may be the only published proof, such as my online flash fiction “On Wings of Angels” in Vestal Review7. I found that still up and printed the page since I didn’t have a “published” copy, it being only internet published.

The vanity search also let me find out I had received two honorable mentions for my story “Hold Back the Night,” which had appeared in the Red Deer Press Open Space anthology. I’d known I had received an honorable mention in Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best SF, but only a few years later did I find out the story had received the same in Datlow and Windling’s Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. One story, both SF and fantasy honorable mentions, when there was no SF I know of in it. :) But who’s complaining: not me. Still, the vanity search has shown what few reviews of my work are still out there and though none scream that my work is stellar, most don’t say it sucks either. And I do have the distinction of “Hold Back the Night” being the only story in the anthology to receive two honorable mentions, plus having been shortlisted for the Gaylactic Spectrum award (a gay character in speculative fiction), which I only ever found on the net and otherwise didn’t know about either.

But still, I’m a small pea in a large pod and there are a lot of Colleen Andersons, some 80 google pages in fact. There is a songwriter and poet (Mother Wit) who seems to have the most hits, plus another writer with the same name. There’s a minister, a scientist, a professor, a real estate agent, a tax assessor, a nurse, etc. Of course I’m some of these things too. But I’m certainly not the only Colleen Anderson and perhaps I’m not the real one. I’ve run into a couple others in this city alone.

Still, a vanity search can be enlightening in just how many of your posts or even how your address ends up on the internet. I can’t help but think of my childhood nemesis Laura Morse who lived two doors down from me. We met at the age of 4 and never liked each other, and had the dubious pleasure of spending grades 1-12 together, going to the same schools. Her younger brother and mine were the best of friends. We were barely playmates. She used to say she would only read books that had her name in them.

Searching for Laura Morse today doesn’t turn up her name but then she married and changed her last name. Yet, google might still be useful to her if she has to find books with Laura in them (more by authors though, than characters, though google’s new wish to scan everything would change that). One can only hope her horizons have broadened.

And we, that fill one page in 8o, hope that some day there may be many pages, indicating perhaps a rise in pay for being a writer. Of course, one could always do something notorious and then your name would rise on the google listings. In the meantime, I now have printed copies of any reviews, should I decide to try and get a grant for writing speculative fiction. Hmm, I think I’ll wait a bit longer.

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Writing: A Fable–The Demon

Once upon a time there was a person much like you and me who came upon puberty and began to write feelings and thoughts upon paper. This person loved words and reading and loved to imagine and create things.

Eventually the person decided that maybe it would be good to share these words and ideas with others, to show them the ways of this person’s expression. After all art is part for viewing and part for showing. The first creations were poems but the person found that the words lacked and although thoughts and feelings had been expressed, they didn’t connect with other people.

The person decided to get advice and seek courses so that a common language could be found, while still keeping a unique mixture of words, thoughts and images. There was a need to show others the visions. It was a scary time, for the person did not know what others would think of these fledgling designs. Would the person be pulled down or ridiculed for such pretensions? This new writer had seen one person changed into a demon when other writers and readers had read about the terrible character in his story. Those writers and readers took the skin of that story character and pulled it over the writer of the story. It was very hard for him to shed it and say, I am not that person.

The writer had not yet built up the thickened skin that comes from critiquing and dissection. But the writer went on to write a couple more stories, perhaps four in all. They were all raw constructs, crawling out upon the land with their newborn descriptions. Sometimes they had more limbs than were needed or lacked eyes, such was the new writer’s unformed talent. Two stories were tried in one class and then the writer felt emboldened to move into an acolyte’s workshop, sending off two stories, for no one entered the hallowed halls of the workshop without first being judged on merit.

Some merit must have been discovered, for the writer joined others in the apprenticeship of their craft. After completing the rigorous conditioning the writer learned how much there was still to learn and that it would take a  lifetime to be perfect or become a god of writing. The writer was invited into a small enclave, where mages of imagination met and discussed the secret ways of writing, delving into the mysteries of words and how to make their words more powerful.

Here, the writer in innocence brought a story from that time before the workshop, when only a few stories had been painstakingly born. A  few stories were still wriggling infants, not yet shaped into gods or monsters. The other word magicians looked upon the work and saw where the incantations would not evoke the right responses.

However, there was one who looked upon the work and said, You have taken my words. The writer was confused because their stories were very different, and professed to having written the piece before even knowing the other wordsmith existed. Yet the other wordsmith proclaimed that the writer should be careful where one took their ideas from for people weaving had become sacred in the wordsmith’s story and the writer had used creatures weaving. The writer had written the story before meeting the enclave or reading the other’s story but suspicions were laid, of black arts used to gleaned the weaving idea.

The venerated wordsmith left the secret enclave since the other word magicians would not oust the new writer.  However the wordsmith was part of another group that gave displays of their skills in hopes that rich people would notice their wordfame and remember their names. From that group, the wordsmith pulled out the demon skin and waved it about, then threw it toward the new writer.

Although the new writer ducked, seeing some dark cloud descending, the demon skin stuck to the writer’s flesh. Not everyone believed the wordsmith’s words but the stigma remained on the new writer. Like a scarlet letter, others would wonder what it meant and really, could that new writer be trusted? Surely there must be some truth to the wordsmith’s allegations. And the writer, whether innocent or not, would always now stand out as “that one.”

The writer, who was just a person, did not understand. The brand did indeed burn though the demon skin was invisible and the new writer felt like everyone else. The other group never allowed the new writer in, stating that the wordsmith’s words and opinion were powerful. All other writers in the region could join but not the one new writer. The group was not rich nor powerful except in exclusion but that exclusion had done the job.

The writer, now a partial demon, had been wounded by these actions. Having always been a champion of copyright and protecting the artist’s right, and having enough ego as any artist, the writer believed in creating unique worlds, not copying someone else’s. But it was as if the one scouring agent, rare and expensive, that could clean the partial demon from the writer’s flesh and soul, was kept hidden away.

Though some wordsmiths supported the writer-demon in private, no one stood up to the wordsmith who had thrown the demon skin. The person who was a writer, who wasn’t a demon but had some of the skin of a demon would never be free of that taint. Ostracized for a crime not committed, that  person’s soul was marked with the knowledge that people saw the person as false.

The demon-writer could always feel the skin, no matter how small the patch and spent the rest of the long years of writing, trying to do what was right, trying to champion the arts or at least not go against any enclave. In one short burst the demon-writer tried to retaliate in long festering hurt, and barred the writer from one reading. But it was not the demon-writer’s true way. No matter what happened this writer who was really just a person felt different and felt that the other wordsmiths always saw it that way, and that the rift in the writers’ enclaves would never be healed. Just like those early days of trying to share words and thoughts, the demon-writer found that people didn’t see things the same way.

But it would not be the end of the demon-writer’s travails for others held skins and waited.

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