Scalzi’s Redshirts

Expected the laughs, but not the tears. Damn, I love Existential Fiction, science-based or otherwise.

Speaking of which, just finished Death Sentences by Kawamata Chiaki. Also very much at the intersection of artistic creation and meaning of life. How can you not like a book that has both Marcel Duchamp and a Martian mercenary as characters?

I’ve read a lot of criticism lately of modern writing being “downbeat” with “passive” characters, mostly from editors with rallying cries for optimism! and action! Both of these works capture the bewildering complexity of living, while avoiding maudlin answers, hopelessness, and passivity.

Now to steal everything I can from them…


There’s a pretty cool website called  I can’t remember how I came across it, but it allows you to time-delay an email to yourself.  A little time capsule shows up on your doorstep just when you’d forgotten it existed.

In 2006, I wrote a note to myself for 2009. Last week I received the note that I wrote to myself in 2009.  It reads:

Wassup? Don’t know if you’ll remember this one. You didn’t the last.

It’s June 2009. You’re about to move into your new home. You’re at 19 w 1 d. Don’t know the sex yet. Fatherhood, a home, they’re all just slightly more than an idea…

Writing, writing, writing. What to do? How to do it? I hope you’ve figured that out by now. Still struggling, to get motivated, figure out how to overcome the demons.

Hang in there.

“Wassup” aside, what’s remarkable about the message is that it captures a psychic state three years ago, that is unchanged today: anxiety about being a father, fear of adult responsibilities, tackling the obstacles of writing, and an underlying hope that these are obstacles that can be “overcome.”

I wonder if that’s the case. One thing that’s a struggle as a psychiatrist is the illusion of change, the Holy Grail of change, for that matter. To deny its possibility is to give up hope, and hope is a very powerful therapeutic tool. On the other hand, to pretend that we don’t have some inherent human nature is to ignore the obvious.

There’s a great video that captures transient global amnesia. It’s heartbreaking to watch (remember it’s transient!) but it also reveals something about our baseline personality, beneath all the mishmash of the day, the person we are underneath it all. I’m left wondering if this email, which seems so close to what I might write today (and am tempted to), will resonate again with me in 2015.

I guess what I’m saying is this: for each of us, life is a type of struggle. And while at various times the rhythm changes, overall the melody remains the same.


Last year I had the distinct honor to have my first fiction published by Catherynne M. Valente at Apex Magazine. Cat had an amazing year individually and Apex was Hugo-nominated.

I am deeply proud to have been a tiny part of a great year for the zine and a part of this great volume.  Pre-order now available with free shipping.

Baby is healthy. Move is (mostly) complete. Job is (barely) settled. Many new works in the pipeline. So here’s to looking forward, and celebrating great company.

Betamax Memories

When my sister and I were young, our parents told us about a magical, mysterious machine that would allow us to watch movies at home. I remember the awe, the wonder. But today, it’s hard to imagine. Watching movies at home? I’ve long since become inured to any feelings of revolution or amazement.

The opportunity to watch a movie in 3D, while sitting in traffic, that might provoke the same feelings.

Now, my parents purchased the Sony Betamax. As much as the machine would be lauded in the years to come as “ahead of its time,” it lost the war to the VHS, meaning that the local video store stocked a limited (and never updated) selection of movies for our infinite re-rental.  

I am reminded of that experience this weekend when I found Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on demand and watched it with my daughters. Growing up, there were only about ten options (if my memory serves) and each must have been at least a monthly rental.  So, somewhere encoded in the noggin, are all the lines to the following Mason’s Video Rental classics:

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking Goes On Board

Duran Duran’s Girls On Film (aka my intro to pornography)


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang


Cloak & Dagger


or so the memory goes. It is amazing to remember a time where laughter wasn’t on demand, but was confined to a few memorized moments, and when titillation only referred to one illicit cassette in a small downtown store.  But with limitation comes great nostalgia and cherishing, something I’m less inclined to believe my daughters will ever experience.

Long live the limitations of the Betamax!