Adventures in West Virginia! (aka meet the neighbors and more)

First off, I’ve moved over to Guilded, and discarded Discord because of their extra-eeeeeemly censorious choices. Thanks PLA owned Tencent. You can find much more frequent updates of what’s going on in my author’s life there. For those who wish to join, click here:

It has been an exciting week here at home. We’ve had some wonderful houseguests, an unexpected visitor and lots of fun times of fellowship.

On Tuesday night, after a severe thunderstorm that contained a very rare “Double Derecho” that knocked out power all around us and our internets for most of the day, we discovered a visitor fell down the bank next to our house, and then wandered across the street to my in laws and tried to get a snack. The paw prints in the mud are the size of my rather meaty hand.

Bear Tracks less than 15 feet from our bedroom
That’s hangry right there.

Always a fun thing to wake up to.

Yesterday was fun and excitement, (cough cough), but today it is beautiful and cool and a great way to spend with a gathering of 6 fellow Seraphim. Okay 2 families but still. For those not in the know, the Seraphim is my gaming guild, and I’ve met several wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ through it. So we had a great day together.

But as I announced yesterday, we got caught in a severe thunderstorm and nearly hit by a possible EF-0 tornado in the Monongahela National Forest. The events were a clear sign of God’s providence as far as we were concerned and His grace on so many. There were no deaths or injuries out by us, and didn’t see any destroyed homes, but lots of evidence of what might have been a “jumper” tornado that would touch down for a few seconds then bounce back up to drop again somewhere down the storm track later.

So why God’s providence? Our plan that day had been to eat lunch at a picnic area up by the Cass Scenic Railroad where we took an excursion rail trip (Pics and videos some other time) and then drive down for an afternoon of swimming at the lake with the kids and our friends. Just as we were heading over to the picnic tables, we noticed that the officials had cordoned it off for an event that evening. Left with no place to eat, we decided to just do so down by the lake and push on. We’d been in a cell blackout thanks to the Green Banks Radio Observatory, so we still had no cell coverage or communication. Had no idea what was going on across the state.

That decision to go is what kept us out of the path of this weather event, only catching the edge of it.

After misjudging the distance, we got there just as the skies were darkening and passing between a couple pop up showers. We had our lunch and even got the kids ready to go swimming. I was able to start heading out to the back buoys of the swim area, when the rolls of thunder were suddenly getting pronounced, and the sky started getting really dark. The wives were packing up the picnic we’d finished.

I turned to look to the south west down the lake, around a point of the mountain that blocks view from the beach and saw near black skies almost on top of us, and “tornado green” underneath! I was about 50 yards from shore. I holler back, pack up we’re going to get hit fast, they’re moving. Tarnekep Portree is getting his kids off to the cars, and I’m suddenly swimming for the shore alone. That’s a freaky feeling. Swimming in a mountain lake with a tornado and lightning storm nearly on top of you.

I tell you, it was like in slow motion with the wind hitting from multiple directions hard enough to cause waves before I got to shore. Those things make you realize how small you really are. Be grateful God cares for you, personally.

We packed up as the rain wall hit and some huge gusts blew through, but really, it wasn’t anything beyond what we are used to from a strong thunderstorm. Figured we’d find a branch or two down. But the forest wasn’t “roaring” like it does when things are going very wrong, but as we traveled down the 2 lane highway, we saw no cars for a long time, but more and more debris from the close in trees got bigger and bigger.

Then one lane was blocked off. Then the other side, but we could still get around. We started having to drive over small trees of less than 4 inches thick and through branches. Then traffic was stopped. A huge 18″ trunk birch had been uprooted and several trunks of it fell across the whole road. Tarnekep who was in the car behind us, threw on his hazards and charged in to deal with the situation if he could. His brother, Fryan Cobblebay put on his poncho and did the same, and I slowly ambled after them, still in my swim trunks and shirt, stopping only long enough to put on my arm brace.

Once the guy behind us, an electrical worker in his work truck who was on vacation at the campground came up with the chainsaw, it was on and we were cutting up the tree and dragging the pieces to the road.

We were maybe 5 minutes away from clearing the hole before the US Forest Service came in and took over telling us to wait because of “liability”.

:face_with_rolling_eyes: reaction icon

Where there’s a petty functionary with a clipboard, there’s a liability.

Unfortunately, they stopped at that point, and when they got that hazard clear, we had to navigate 4 other road blockages on our way out of the forest on our own. Which we did, and got safely back to their hotel pool and enjoyed an excellent evening of swimming, food and fellowship together. But here’s some photographic evidence.


The first blockage while we get ready to help clear they way.
The second blockage. Tarnekep taking charge, and guiding people through and me assessing what’s going on. He has a better OODA loop than me.

So if you want more fast updates of life, come on over to Resonant Point’s Guilded outpost!

Assemble! …For What Purpose?

Photo by Sharon Snider on Pexels.com

Moving to West Virginia and living high in the mountains this last year has been a great challenge for me in many ways. I’ve been grateful for my wife and my in-laws who, after a bit of a rocky start, have been a great help for me in acclimating myself.

For example, the roads up here made me seasick for the longest time. The altitude got me because I was used to a much lower elevation. I was kinda prepared for the small town/wild living environment. It’s like living in Northern Wisconsin or the UP, but with mountains instead of lakes and bigger grades on the roads. Winters are nicer though, and the altitude helps with the summer.

…BUT… there’s been something spiritual gnawing at me. Not just work worries or Covidiocy inspired anxiety. No. It’s something spiritual and deep and unrelenting.

Why did God bring me down to this place? I felt, and still feel, like something is on the verge of bursting out in this place. A good, productive, and decent thing is hiding just under the surface, but is being held in check by apathy and hopelessness that I find rather disturbing. For months, I wasn’t sure what was going on or what I was sensing. I saw needs for improvements to the area, but was told that’s the way it always was. I hate that answer now.

My father joked that maybe God sent me down here to be a community organizer of some sort. To which I told him to ‘bite his tongue’. We laughed, but as the weeks rolled on, I started worrying that he may have been speaking something much more prophetic. I started worrying if this was not God speaking something through him. I don’t want to be a community organizer. It’s associated with so many people that have done the world great harm in the name of “the greater good”.

So that happened and I kept pondering.

I also have begun going to my wife’s church, and well… that’s been a bit more of a culture shock to all parties involved. The Darling Bride has said that I’m like a big boulder dropped into a small pond. Her assessment hasn’t been wrong. These wonderful people sure haven’t been able to make out whether I’m fish or fowl at times. I keep telling them I’m not going to ever be a Baptist, let alone a bad Baptist, but I’m Christian and fiercely faithful, even if it’s anti-denominational apostolic in nature compared to theirs. (Although “recovering Lutheran” is another good description for it.)

It’s also not been that easy for me either. I get all itchy and discombobulated with the cultural/religious aspects of the church. Sunday School in my experience was for the children, not the adults. The idea of “Three to Thrive” every week leaves me squirming. And of course the mantra “You need to be in church every time the doors are open” really chaps my ass (to borrow a phrase from Mike Rowe). If you’ve read my books, there’s a lot of Brother Finn in me, just as much as Reimar. But, God has continued to pester me and bid me keep going in spite of it.

So I kept praying and struggling with God as to why here? Why this place? What am I supposed to be doing for Him!? In His inimitable fashion and timing, God waited 6 months before revealing the title question.

But first some context. (I heard your facepalms from here.)

My church is shrinking. Dying really. But it has a chance to rebound, so don’t think I’m all gloom and doom here. There is a spiritual dryness going on that is something familiar to me. It is a drifting away that killed my childhood church (which was torn down recently after standing as a centerpiece for the city of Appleton, Wisconsin’s downtown for over a century) by lack of membership. The youth leaves, and the old die off till the remainder blow away.

But they’re fighting! Fighting hard to figure out how to bring people back and bring in the youth. So many fled because of COVID and are not coming back to the church. They stay at home and watch online instead. The heads of the church are hollering we need to get people in the pews! Only then will we grow! Special singers and preachers come in, discussions are held about a new youth ministry… But really, there is no growth. “Do not forsake the assembly!” they cry. “Do not forsake the assembly!”

And that’s when I heard it. “For what purpose?” came the whispered question.

We are assembling, but why? What mighty cause was the church taking up? What projects were happening under their watch? How were they leading the community? For what purpose was this body of Christ called together to serve the Lord? I’ve come to realize that a community needs a purpose to exist. Sitting in pews and listening to sermons 3 times a week and singing badly to hymns is not a draw, it’s rote. I talked to the deacons to ask what sort of projects were going on in the community right now? We’ve hosted missions groups, but what else are we as the church body doing? The answer was “nothing”. That’s when I realized the depth of what God was pointing out to me. The church I went to had no purpose for being anymore.

I asked my wife when the last call came in announcing another member died when the last wedding was before ours? Almost a decade. So again, I had pestering me, “Assemble for what purpose?”

My church and community right now may be a valley of dry bones, but there is something wonderful and big here just below the surface waiting to burst forth like a fresh spring from the rock. All it needs is for Moses to obey and touch the rock with his staff. (No I’m not making such grandiose assumptions about myself, but the metaphor is accurate. Someone must take their staff and touch the rock.) So we’re back to that whispered question which in the weeks since has become even more strident. Militant even.

“ASSEMBLE FOR WHAT PURPOSE!?”

We must all be asking ourselves this same question as we struggle against the rising tide of Mass Formation Psychosis (COVidiocy) that is sweeping the world. We are swamped with fear porn of the pandemic, of war drums, of supply chain shortages and economic collapse. We have a world where there is serious talk as well as government action taking place regarding the unvaxxed. They are being turned into the new pariahs… lepers of the modern world in a fashion not seen since 1930’s Berlin. To be shunned, hated and removed… if not exterminated by those who have been seduced by the new germophobic global world order siren song.

We, as individuals, or even church bodies can’t fight against such things. These are the powers and principalities contending for the shape of the world. We can only live in what is done and our only weapon there is prayer. Pray for His protection, guidance and providence.

But as we pray, we must start doing something to give ourselves more purpose. A Martha to balance out our Mary. Small things to help prepare for the trials and tribulations to come. We must ask ourselves in our churches this very same question. If we are not to forsake the body, and all seems to be dry bones or dying on the vine, what can we do to reverse this? How can we regain a practical purpose? What is it in the world you and I can control? How can we use this to make our worlds, and by extension our neighbor’s world a better place?

If we are not a light unto the world how can we lead out of darkness? What happens to salt that loses its savor? The Church in general as much as my church must find purpose. Now some are probably thriving, but many are most likely struggling. Many are suffering in the pews wondering why they’re even there. Always sick, never healing.

This is the pathway back to sanity and goodness. To give purpose to assembling as the Body of Christ.

Pray. And ask God to show you what His purpose is for you. Till then, find something you know will make your life and your neighbor’s better. Assembled together, with purpose, even if it’s as simple as having a meal together or picking up garbage from your neighborhood, or planting a vegetable garden to help stave off hunger for those who may be too poor to buy food thanks to inflation or job loss. In serving each other in Christ’s name, we gain purpose and reason that house by house, block by block, can save the world from insanity.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

They Gots This Depression Goin’ On… (Among Other Things)

Photo by Rick Miller on Pexels.com

2022 had hardly begun when 2021 took a final shot at my wife and I, literally. Maybe I shouldn’t have given it the finger as it went out the door. And then this week…

I got a lovely email from the printer last week, and after a short investigation, I’m going to have to act on it. It seems that the cost for printing books is going up thanks to the second global great depression we have right now thanks to germophobicovidiocy caused shortages.

Unfortunately, it’s going up so much that it is forcing me to raise my prices on printed books to just keep pace. Mind you, my royalties are miniscule. I still make more per e-book downloaded than I do for these books which I shave off my profit margin to make sure I support local/small retailers allowing you lovely readers to order physical copies there.

I haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet, but it’s coming soon, and that means that the price on the back cover will not match because I don’t have the wherewithal at the moment to pay to have the books reset. Yes, to just change the barcode on the back costs me a set up fee. Six of them to be precise, and that’s not an expense I budgeted for, nor will any sales at the higher price cover it at the moment.

On a bit of positive news, I’m going to have details to announce of an upcoming podcast interview! I tape this week, and am not sure where I am in the podcast’s release schedule, but you’ll get more details once I know more.

And lastly…. Novella 3 for Tales from the Dream Nebula is now DONE! Yep, first draft in the can. It’s gone through some critiques and is now into my editorial passes. So far it’s been received by my early reader groups with great enthusiasm and excitement. That means although I’ve not released anything last year, I am setting up for rapid release starting (we hope) by sometime this Autumn 2022. If all things go well, we will also be looking at some interesting bonus extras to go with the releases! Gonna have to figure out how to set it up, and realizing that my website might have to change significantly in the not so distant future. Ugh, the business side of being an author. Hopefully I can keep things all together without getting too crazy.

…then again, isn’t crazy how things go, am I right?

Talk to y’all soon!

Ghostbusters: Afterlife – (With Spoilers) A Gushing Atypical View

I went on last Friday, and the above title should say it all. (Happy Thanksgiving BTW)

TL:DR if you don’t go see this movie in the cinema, you are not going to get more quality films like this. It serves as the bridge between what was, and what may come if you show some love for this franchise. So get your buns in seats, people. Buns in seats. See the bloody movie!!!!

I give it a 9/10 because of a few minor things I’d wish they’d had more of and missed opportunities, but that’s like asking for 3 cherries instead of 2 on top of an incredible sundae.

If you want your standard synopsis, this is not the review for you. This is about my experience with the film and my takeaways and why I felt it is a great accomplishment in filmmaking. Roll your eyes all you want, if you are so inclined at my gushing, but again… my personal thoughts/experiences. Just enjoy the squee and thoughts.

First, let me say I am on the trembling edge of being a superfan of this franchise. I will not see the 2016 version because the studio/director/cast make sure I knew what it was: a soulless woke remake with a political agenda first and no care for the fans of the original themes and less respect for the creation of those actors, writers and directors that made the franchise.

If you’re sick of being pandered to by people who see you as nothing more than a buck to pluck, this is your movie. These are your people. With one sentence, they expunge the blight that is GB2016 from the canon and do it with a more inclusive, diverse cast than it was with none of the typical “Look at how politically correct and relevant I am! Love me for checking the right boxes for social justicetm! If you don’t you’re a racist/sexist/homophobe nazi.” The same people who all the while sneer at you… the fan… as a rube to be cheated of your money and love. That alone gave it a lot of extra credibility with me as a fan.

In that regard, I am a purist. I’ve not played the 2009 game which was in spirit (hah!) the actual third movie, and heard very good things about it. Thus making Ghostbusters: Afterlife (G:A) the fourth of the franchise. BTW, there is some harkening back to the cartoon, “The REAL Ghostbusters” and the toy line with the appearance of the gunner’s seat, which is just a blast that even the characters squee over.

G:A has many good scares and leaves an anti-woke nip on the tongue. Just as much as it makes you laugh, you’ll clutch your popcorn. It’s messages are wholesome and affirmative. Evil’s clear and defined, good struggles and is wounded but ultimately victorious. (In another post I’ll toss some thoughts in for the spiritual side for my fellow Christians who wonder about this movie.)

The cast and director Jason Reitman have stated in interviews time and time again, this movie is about family. Particularly from what I saw, a family dealing with the loss of a loved one, and struggling with old wounds that must heal for the sake of the living. JR was uniquely placed as the only man capable of having the tools and the talent to save this franchise. He grew up surrounded by this franchise. (He even is the snotty kid in the birthday party laying into Winston and Ray in Ghostbusters II.) To him, as well as Akroyd, Murray, Ramis and Hudson, plus Weaver and Potts, this was a passion projects and work of love. It was sad that Rick Moranis could not come back, but he is retired from acting and firmly so. God bless you, Rick, you were missed, but we understand. You hear this from cast interviews on press junket all the time, but for the first time, I actually believed them. This gives the movie a heart you won’t find from other reboots/restarts/re-envisions that have come out.

What is this movie to me? Good hearted, in many ways wholesome, family entertainment like we used to get in the 1980’s. If it wasn’t for the fact that it is completely dependent on the original film, it would be the superior film.

From the opening credits when I heard the iconic piano trill, I personally was in a state of squee till the final “For Harold” at the end… and then for the mid and post credit scenes. STAY THE WHOLE MOVIE OR YOU MISS IMPORTANT DETAILS! There were at least 3 audio call backs in the credits alone which made me smile so wide it darn near bisected my head. My wife was laughing at me just as much as she was the film because of my reactions and bouncing in the seat.

By the time the film was over, I was crying happy tears as well as feeling the loss of both Egon Spangler and Harold Ramis. Something to note, this movie is a sign of healed wounds between Ramis and Murray as well as the rest of the cast who lost so many opportunities with each other due to the feud. It was a treat to see. In Harold’s memory, all things are made right again.

The opening sequence is the death of Egon being very heroic. It is terrifying in so many ways. Even more so, if you are a fan going in. You know what is going to happen and it’s unavoidable. You can smell it and dread the result the entire time, but it must come. It was handled beautifully, setting up the movie without a single word. I admit, it got me verklempt.

The new faces of Phoebe, Trevor and Callie… the estranged human detritus of Egon’s vanishing and death in mystery are on point if you want to be realistic. Through the movie, you see the wound of Egon’s departure. left because nobody understands why he left suddenly. (A point driven home with a sledgehammer later in the film by Ray Stantz in a conversation on the red phone.) They are fully realized and have their own story arcs to complete.

Granddaughter Phoebe’s is the anchor of the film, and she struggles with the awkwardness and social alienation brought about by being hyperintelligent, and an awkwardness that smells remarkably like a child knowing they have autism/aspberger’s and fighting hard to cope. Her awareness makes it touching. Older brother Trevor tries to help her because he sees how special she is, but is not equipped to help. In an attempt to connect, Phoebe cracks what I call “dad jokes” in an effort to connect with her peers. They’re real groaners and you love ’em. But one in particular had me howling for an inordinately long time. Watching Phoebe cracking these jokes in the face of Gozer leaves you both laughing and cringing in fear once again of what could possibly happen. Reitman utilizes Alfred Hitchock’s theory on suspense perfectly. You the audience know there’s a bomb under the table as the characters sit down for dinner and you’re praying they get out alive. That’s serious craft.

Podcast, a plucky boy who becomes Phoebe’s only friend at summer school (why they were in summer school was kinda fuzzy to me. I may have blinked or laughed to long to catch the reason) is a weird and endearing character. He’s a surrogate for the audience with trying to comprehend the mystery of what’s going on in Summerville. Podcast possesses such an innocent joy at all things new, seeing everything with unjaded eyes, is refreshing. He’s definitely a fun “Mini-Ray”, wearing Stantz’s old goggles for so much of the movie made me smile. (When he clicks the goggle’s polaroid and you watch the old picture shoot out the side which he uses to fan himself after the excitement of the proton pack’s first successful test, I just howled with laughter. Yeah, I’m that guy in the theater.) Because Podcast sees himself as a possible social media influencer, his silly commentary for his podcasts are wonderful. One part clueless, one part kid at play, one part marketer. You can’t help but love a kid brave enough to lick ectoplasm. The chemistry between him and Phoebe has spots of puppy love at its finest. My singular complaint about this character is you never learn his real name.

Callie Spangler’s damage from Egon’s estrangement is more subtly expressed at first, but builds. Callie embodies abandonment and her inability to relate to her father’s super-science brain and iconoclastic behavior has devastated her all the more. She was a typical girl in the shadow of a genius even his peers and friends couldn’t understand. Her mother (who is not Janine, and clearly there is some bad blood toward Egon, judging by Callie’s reaction, is out of the picture,) must have hated Egon as well for leaving. Because of the pain, she has expunged her father from her children’s lives. The lingering question of “why did he abandon me?” is essential to her character. One single line encapsulates her resentment and bitterness when going through the “Dirt Farmer’s house” (the name all the locals knew Egon by) saying “Huh. Not a single photo.” You see she believes that Egon forgot about everyone who loved him and never really cared. When Phoebe is on the trail of the ghost of her grandfather in the middle of the night, you see Callie in the background passed out drunk at the kitchen table after clearly struggling with what to do with their lives. I suspect this will resonate with many viewers who grew up in a split/divided home where a parent left. I can attest friends who had divorced parents exhibited many of the same traits to one degree or another. But when Callie finally learns the truth over what’s going on, and sees that all the pictures were in Egon’s secret lab (complete with firepole, because of course it has one) she sees how much he loved her, and how much attention he paid to her life. He just couldn’t afford to be there because Egon was literally saving the world on a daily basis while the planet was in blissful ignorance.

There’s a very touching scene between Phoebe and her mother Callie where the girl demands “Why didn’t you tell us our grandfather was Egon Spangler?” You see the wounds on both character and for a second you feel it with them. It makes their reconciliation at the end all the more powerful and will put you in tears if you’re a romantic so-and-so like me.

Trevor, has the most ordinary, and least interesting arc which helps make the film more real. As I thought about it, this is not because they didn’t know what to do with him, but lay in what furtive interests a 15 year old boy would have. Girls and cars. Possibly in the reverse order. He chases the cute girl at the local drive-in the instant they hit Summersville. Her name is Lucky (or is it a nickname?) is the unattainable girl. All the boys know it and mock Trevor for trying. He lies to get a job at the drive in, just to be near her. Which gives him entrance to her circle and connection to the greater story because of some teenage hijinx.

But it’s Oklahoma, so he needs a car to have independence. This ain’t NYC. One of the few places in the world you can live your life without owning a car. That means getting one of the junkers left by his grandfather’s working again, and of course that would be Ecto 1. He has no clue what an iconic vehicle he has thanks to his mother expunging all things Ghostbuster and Egon from his life. This is so grounded and real you wonder how he gets involved. It’s through Ecto 1 that Trevor becomes involved in the mystery and insanity that is growing around his sister, and ultimately to him being one of the team to stop Gozer.

Then there’s Gary Grooberson. Paul Rudd, when he got the part was so excited he couldn’t help but release the fact that he was cast in the movie. The actor’s personal reaction as a fan at seeing a genuine trap is a palpable. I love the fact that he connects with Phoebe first, and then Callie second. You can see that he has a certain amount of hero worship toward the Ghostbusters that rose tints his vision toward them, but at the same time makes him more sincere. He is the missing piece to their family, even if none of them realize it. The dialogue between him and Phoebe and Callie are some glittering jewels. Rudd also gets the joy of many call backs to Rick Moranis’ character Louis Tully, but also driving the stake through the heart of GB2016 with the singular line “There hasn’t been a ghost sighting for 30 years.” BAM! DONE! I cheered even though nobody else in the theater did because I doubt they realized what just hit the citadel of wokeness, and sank their agenda boat in one salvo. (P.S. this is why the critics are raging.) I will admit on his date with Callie, I got very scared when he started talking about fracking. I literally said “Oh, here we go” and gritted my teeth. But then Callie takes the piss out of it, which Gary detects and says “Are you that drunk or am I boring you?” Bye bye environazi narrative. We the audience were right along with Callie on that MEGO (Mine Eyes Glazeth Over) expression. The beauty there was that Reitman then uses this as a segue into how Callie can’t connect to Phoebe, but Gary can. That’s some good writing right there.

Lucky was the only character that I felt was more or less a prop. Not for the actress’ part. She does a stellar job in what she’s given. She is the “Love Interesttm“. I did like the fact that she was the police chief’s daughter too. She has a bit of street smarts but used for more comedic effect, despite being “third generation dump” stuck out in the middle of nowhere. I think a lot can be done with her moving forward, since any sequel now (which from what I understand is greenlit, and Sony wants to create the “Ghost Corps” cinematic universe) they will all be college age and can do so much more. Again, if Lucky is her nickname, give her a real name. Someone I did want to see a little more resolution to was why did the whole police department disappear when the ghosts started showing up? You don’t even get a hint of where they were or what they were doing as spooks invaded Summersville. Again, one of the rare rough spots that could have been solved with a 5-15 second shot of deputies or the sheriff trying to deal with the deluge of the supernatural.

The only other missed opportunity and waste of talent I’d give to J.K. Skinner as Ivo Shandor. Although I agree on one level with his fate, I’m going… “Dude! That’s J. K. Skinner, man! You gotta do something with that talent!” Oh well, back as a spirit next movie! Jason Reitman, are you paying attention?

Seeing the old faces come back… and some looked very old as 35 years will do… was heartwarming and touching. I wanted to see more of them, but alas, this wasn’t their movie alone anymore. The next generation must rise up.

This movie is also about sacrifice. And not just for loved ones, but for all mankind. Egon you learn felt a genuine care for all of humanity. Not the happy fluffy “We Are the World”, but in the right to exist and live according to our conscience. He sacrificed his entire life to save the world and forestall the apocalypse Gozer tried to inflict in 1984, and managed to do so till his death when his last gambit failed at the start of the movie. After Phoebe, Trevor and Podcast capture their first ghost, causing considerable damage to the community in the process they’re in jail, and Phoebe uses her one phonecall to contact Ray Stantz. When you hear him say “Egon Spangler can rot in hell, for all I care,” your heart hurts. But as the story unfolds and you learn what Egon had done because he couldn’t get them to see what he knew was coming and had to act, you realize these are metaphors for the rift between the three actors as well. When Phoebe tells Ray that Egon is dead and she is his granddaughter, the regret and pain in Ray’s eyes says it all. It’s a good scene, but I felt it is where Afterlife left the most cards on the table. You hear but don’t see Winston or Venkman, which would have been great to see a few minutes spent of “getting the band back together” with Ray going out and giving these moments a chance to shine. Even including Dana Barret (possibly Venkman?) as they convinced a reluctant Peter to come back for one last time, so to speak would have been brilliant.

I will add that it was great to see the original trio (and then Egon in spirit) coming back does feel a little Deus Ex Machina… but it is a rusty Machina, and Gozer has learned a trick or two and crossing the streams isn’t going to do it any more. Egon burnt that trick out keeping Gozer at bay. It would have been nice to see them get some mentor time with the kids, but I also get it. Pacing and they might dominate the scene too much. Sigh… such are the editing choices one must make for good storytelling.

Something else I want to point out is this movie addresses woke virtue signaling in a way it’s acolytes aren’t happy about. While the cult of woke use the “checkboxes” as a way to supposedly prove their virtue and superiority over the knuckle dragging orange man lovers, this movie checks the same boxes, without making it an issue.
Strong female lead? Phoebe. Check.
Racially diverse cast? Podcast is asian and Lucky is black. Check.
“Alphabet” people inclusion? Gozer is gender fluid non-binary. Check.

Snuck that last one in on you didn’t I? Yep. Gozer doesn’t need a gender and can be whatever it wants to be. BTW, that’s the proper singular pronoun for something that doesn’t line up with a male/female alignment, per the rules of the English language. “It”. If you have a problem, it’s with language (which you don’t have control over) not me.

So there you go. Not only does the movie fix canon, it shows how to do all the virtue signaling right without being obnoxious. No focus is put on this. It just “is what it is”. Focus on the story, not ticking boxes of pseudo offense based on an agenda in your head.

Ultimately, this is a great movie, but if watching some of my more trusted critics out there, I can see that my sentiment is not shared by people who aren’t fans of the original 1984 film. And even then, too many fellow watchers in the audience are not paying close attention. There’s so many details that slide by, that if you’re not attentive, you’ll miss them and it will diminish the experience. Add to that, the hatred for the fans by the “professional” critics working for major media outlets that seem to think all things not in direct service to their political agenda is therefore bad and want revenge for the public turning up its nose at GB2016… well… go and make up your own mind.

That may be why I gush a bit about this movie, and see it as such an achievement, but if you’re not the target audience, or are “meh” about the property, you’re probably not going to care about it. The themes won’t hit, the sacrifice of Egon’s life because of his belief in his life’s work will mean little, and that will diminish your experience.

On the other hand, if you are like me, a fan of the franchise, love the characters this is the sequel you deserved and a chance to see a franchise relaunched in a positive way.

I ain’t afraid of no ghost

A September to Forget

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This September I had a close brush with death.

I’m not exaggerating this at all, but honest to goodness, sitting there going “you know what? I think I might die very soon!”

Me and my household caught COVID from my wife’s best friend, S. She caught it from work. Ultimately, no one is to blame. You may believe in the medical security theater of masks and social distancing. I do not. I’ve done my research and looked into these policies origins and found circular reference junk science at the root. You do what you feel to function in your life. Just don’t expect me to join in.

That said, COVID is dangerous, but not for the reasons you think. It tears up your red blood cells and hemoglobin, which forces the liver to try and extract those dangerous bits of cell and free radical iron, but it can’t do that very well. So the next line of defense against that is your lungs which quickly become inflamed and fill with liquid that THEN turns into the real killer: pneumonia or other lung infections. Of course it’s doing incredible damage to the alveoli in there too. So don’t think I’m downplaying the danger of COVID. I respect it and regard it like I would Meningitis or Measles or Pneumonia. Deadly if ignored, but easily dealt with, if you take care of your nutrition and get the proper therapeutics (therapeutics that are illegal in the US, but working miracles in a dozen other nations).

And no, don’t talk to me about the vaccines either. If you want to take it, you do that. I’ve done my research, and I don’t trust any of those companies to do me anything but find a way to cause harm. So, if you want that discussion, don’t. Please. You do what you need to feel safe and I won’t talk down to you for your choice.

But I survived. I’m into week 3 since I got infected and it’s been a very tough road with hospitalization and supplemental oxygen (I was down to 65 at times at my lowest and panting like a dog in heat. Normal is 96). My Dr. figures it will be another week or two before I’m more or less fully back to normal. At that point, I hope to get back to writing, working on the graphic novel, talking to artists and all that. It sucks that this cancelled my honeymoon, but whatcha gonna do but reschedule? So more to come soon.

Rest assured, I’m resting and being careful, lest there be some hidden damage caused by COVID like Myocarditis or blood clots. My Dr. has been very very good (even with the FDA and CDC refusing him access to proven drugs to cure the disease.) and moved quickly to keep me out of the ICU where our friend S. is.

Prayers for S. are greatly appreciated. She is still intubated and ventilated and her status has plateaued. We pray that she can overcome this and her previous health conditions, but it’s all in God’s hands. We are praying heartily that He shows his grace and mercy and takes all the glory unto Him in healing S, but if that is not His desire, we pray that He takes her home. After events in August, and the deliverance and spiritual warfare we were all involved with, I’m certain she will be glad to go home to Him, if He does not have more work for her in this world.

With a bit of a smirk and an eye roll I will say that there have been two silver linings from all this. #1, I am free of pitting edema in my left leg. This health problem has dogged me for over a decade, and its finally gone. Amazing. #2, I dropped 40lbs the hard way. That’s almost 6 inches on the waist, so that’s pretty fantastic too. I do NOT recommend the COVID diet where I couldn’t eat for 4-5 days. Don’t do it.

But I hope all is well with you all and the Lord’s blessing you mightily, as he has blessed me and my family. Major cheers to my wife who was my nursemaid through out all this. She was just wonderful and I cannot say enough good about her. I wouldn’t have made it without all she did.

Go well, God bless.

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The Fertile Earth that is Post-Post-Modernism

“And then what happens?”

This is the question I’ve been hearing in my head a lot lately. When talking to other writers trying to get going with their first project, or more importantly, with my own work. It’s the question at the heart of every Stephen King novel (by his own admission during an interview) that drives him to completion. It’s driven me through every tabletop RPG I ever ran. If the characters have a lot of stuff, steal it/break it/lose it. If they are sitting around doing nothing, attack them. Basic D&D fare, but it keeps the players entertained and gives hooks to hang a plot on.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the little brushes I’ve had with Post-Modernist philosophy as I sit there watching the world burn around me in this soon to be Post-Covidiocy world with monetary collapses, market collapses, and the death of western civilization staring me right in the puss.

“And then what happens?”

As a spec fic author, this is really important when I start considering the future. How much of it will be Mad Max? How much “1984” or “Brazil”? Will it be “A Brave New World”? Anyone for “Soylant Green”? Or will it be all of it with a side of “Hunger Games”? My money’s on “A Brave New 1984 in Brazil while having Soylent Green for Tea with Mad Max”.

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But it’s also got me thinking more deeply on the roots of creativity thanks to a video by “The Quartering” who talked about the new “Cruella” film being a female version of “Joker”. Mind you, I’ve seen the spoilers and went…. really? Not my cup of tea, but at least the fans seem to like it so who am I to criticize too severely (of course to laugh yourself silly, See the “Pitch Meeting” video on Youtube lampooning it… come to think of it, that’s really what got me into the question I’ve been facing lately.

BTW, all this pop culture jargonist mish-mash has been in service to my point today.

What all this spawned in my head lately was this: If Post-Modernist philosophy posits the smashing of the old symbols, semiotics and semantics in which to create new things out of the wreckage (think mashup music, crossover films, retellings, trope twisting and pop culture pile ups like “Ready Player One”… none of which am I criticizing because I LIKE much of these things) at what point are the symbols so broken down that they become the fertile soil for the creation of NEW ideas?

Yes, yes. Stop there now. I know “there’s nothing new under the sun”. This has all been done before. I, for one do not believe that history repeats itself, but lean more to the “but it does rhyme” school of thought. I’ll go so far as to say it will also riff and ad lib too. The broad tropes/genres/mediums will always exist to some degree for they speak to the human experience, but consider the evolution of how mankind reacts. How does it cycle through history? There’s always been horror stories for instance. But what was once cautionary fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm have evolved to slasher films and torture porn of today thanks to mankind’s memory and boredom for the familiar.

So, now that I’ve committed to using up my allotment of “Quotation Marks” for the month… I’ll sort of get to the point of what I’ve been pondering. When will we start seeing some new and “truly unique” creative endeavors in entertainment? When will it stop being a recycling of “Star Wars”, or a perversion of “Superman”? Is it possible to break free from the Pixar Formula? Will we finally be far enough removed from nostalgia porn to want to put something great and new that can thrive on the silver screen instead of just crappy imitations of the masters who came before? Are there any masters left or do we have to wait till we are sufficiently removed from them to finally have new ones show up on the scene again?

How many people know or have read great authors or playwrights from the Roman empire? Beyond Cicero that is, but that also belabors my point. There’s a good chance that the tens if not hundreds of thousands of artists who existed then, and may have created great works are lost to time. Destroyed by neglect or burned up in the destruction of institutions like the Great Library fire. Some may say that’s the same conundrum looked at by sci fi in dozens of books/shows/movies as they try to save mankind from becoming extinct. But that type of extinction seems to be central to existence in this world. Species go extinct. Houses rot away and are reclaimed by the land. We are just dust in the wind, and so are our ideas.

I look at my own work and wonder if it will stand the test of time? In 500 years, assuming the Rapture didn’t happen, will my books be remembered like “Pilgrim’s Progress”? Or even “The Chronicles of Narnia”? Now that would be the real achievement! The real blessing of God. At least in heaven I may know the true impact of my work. But on earth?

I mean, consider one of the greatest films of all time that was on the verge of being forgotten till someone missed the deadline to renew the copyright and it lapsed into public domain: “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Thanks to that mistake, the movie was run almost non-stop at Christmas in the US because it was cheap and nobody wanted to work in the TV station on the holiday so it was discovered by a whole new generation of viewers, and was reborn without ever having changed. An artistic resurrection.

So what fertile soil is coming from the grinding down and emulsification of the symbols of western civilization as multi-culti-green-globalism tries to roll over everything? What new fronds will grow up from the digested mass media and symbols that once were considered holy and proud? Even my own “Tales From the Dream Nebula” is supping on small pieces and inspirations from dozens if not hundreds of sources, drawing itself a new vitality from the loam of creative history. Am I making something new and fresh, or am I making a mosaic out of the pieces of entertainment symbols as I dance in the graveyard garbage dump that is the current state of pop culture?

Early in my writing endeavors that I realized there was a chance my books would be my only bid for immortality in a world where there is no immortality. With no prospects for progeny, this was where I would grasp the mane of eternity and attempt to hang on as long as I could. But in the end, just like every artist that came before me, how long would it be before I was forgotten. Would it be the day after I died and my manuscripts were thrown into the trash? Would my tombstone wear away in the rain? The internet is not forever. It must have electricity and human desire to persevere… or would (as some would believe… not me) some A.I. rise up and delete all of man’s history in a microsecond? None of us know for sure, but we who create all hope to be the exception to the rule, and are re-discovered like “Beowulf” or never forgotten like Homer’s “Odyssey”.

So we circle back to the original question, but now standing on top of a giant societal “Butte Des Mortes” and cry out to any who will listen:

“And then what happens?”

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Road Trip! (& a Life Update)

I wasn’t sure this was going to happen. Really really wasn’t, but I put it on the altar for the Lord to make the decision.

This last week I got my answer. The City and County of St. Louis dropped their masking mandates and the hotel is being all mealy mouthed on following local ordinances. So I’m going back to Realm Makers! (Those of you on my Discord channel learned about this last week of course.)

So cue up the house sitter so the cats don’t get lonely-

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Bwing us tweats, hooman.

-aaaaaaaaand it’s time to go hang out with my fellow Realmies in the flesh again! I’m so glad it’s back in St. Louis, even if it’s now an extra 3 hours of drive time for me. At least the first half of it is going to be very pretty coming out of the mountains.

I’m not sure if I’m going to do the consignment store this year. I could, and I have something I can get for the gift bag if I can find a printer in time. I really didn’t prepare because I didn’t expect to go. Oh well, even if I don’t bring anything since finances will be tighter this year, it is still going to be very much worth my while.

I guess what made me the most enthused about this year is that the guest of honor is Frank Piretti. His “This Present Darkness” was the book that made me realize that you could write about the spiritual warfare side of Christianity in a refreshing and interesting way that was an evolution of a pair of my all time favorite Christian books, “The Screwtape Letters” and “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis. Seriously, if you’ve not read those two, check them out. Amazing stuff. Piretti took the concept and ran. If things are going berserk in your life and you have no idea why, I highly encourage you to read “This Present Darkness” too. It may make some personal sense to you.

As for my writing, I’ve been getting scolded for leaving Akiniwazisaga on the back burner too long in my alpha reader’s eyes, and I have another fan who’s been telling me to hurry up so she doesn’t run out of series to read. She doesn’t want to wait for the conclusion of the story. Thanks guys.

Lately the writing focus has continued on the third novella in the Tales From the Dream Nebula series. Making sure you all get your money’s worth out of it before I let it out the gate. The first two novellas have hit the editing stage, and once that’s complete, we look at doing the script for the graphic novels.

One big discussion that’s started up though has been merchandise. I’m curious to hear what others would love to see as merchandise to buy from Akiniwazisaga. Apparel is coming (yes I know I’ve said that for a while, but we’re finally getting ready to move on some of this. The easy answers are of course typical book merch like coffee mugs, posters and bookmarks. There’s been some talk of different things too (I personally want a life sized plush version of Bergamot, but oof, the cost of making custom toys. I don’t even want to think what it would take to make Popvinyl toys even. A much bigger fan base to be certain)

Anyway, I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on merch ideas they’d love to see associated with Akiniwazisaga or the characters.

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Into the High Places… For Real

Well, the last few months have been crazy…

…Even for me.

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For the last few months, not so productive. Yes I’ve gotten some editing done, but I’ve been distracted. More precisely, I’ve been a bit… twitterpated. Some have accused me of being besotted. It’s unfortunately sapped a lot of momentum from my writing. But twitterpation is a darn good reason to not write much.

That’s because there’s wedding bells in my very near future, and with it, I am relocating. Yes, I’m leaving this land of lakes, cheese and beer with a big “O yah! See yah lader, den!” as we who are fluent in Yooper would say. And with that, I’m headed to the mountains of West Virginia to live with my soon to be wife. I wish my departure from the Badger State wasn’t so convoluted, but with Covidiocy running rampant and civil liberties being obliterated by panicked sheeple driven by power mad wolves in politicians clothing… well. Let’s just say the timing could not have been more fortuitous.

So I’m off, and hopfully when the dust settles in… :::whistles low::: 30 days, I will be building a new routine. One that hopefully includes a LOT more writing. Here’s hoping!

So what’s been going on?

Ohhhhh… A little of this and that, but primarily, I am up to the 3rd draft of TWO novellas. Yes, the Dream Nebula is taking shape. There are a few big opportunities coming with that I may have mentioned, or hinted at. I can’t quite reveal yet, but I will say this… I’m looking for an artist skilled in not only doing character ship design, but also sequential art. So if you’re one of those types of people who’s an accomplished/previously published comic book artist and is looking for a project to work on next, get in touch. Not kidding. If your style is right for what I’m about to dig into, I want to talk with you!

(Yes I know I said I was starting the 3rd novella shortly… see the above distraction/twitterpation explanation. It’s still coming. We’ll just see about when.)

And due to current world events, I’ve been getting an idea for a set of short stories. The idea had bubbled in the back of my head off and on for a while, but maybe it’s time I try my hand at flash fiction. You know, short stories/scenes/vignettes in this world I have coming pecking at me.

So, let’s see… getting married, moving, novellas, ummm…. flash fiction ideas…. what am I forgetting?

AH! oh yeah. Akiniwazisaga. Good news. Thanks to my computer frying it’s cooling block last week, I had to get back on my backup “Wee Beastie” and use it while waiting for it to get fixed. When I did that, I found a LOT of information I thought I’d lost, including maps and many other things.

As for music, I’ll be posting some new stuff sooner or later here. I finally got some made into video format. Why Propellerhead Reason won’t directly export into that format is beyond me! Ugh! Just requires a little editing and we should be good to go.

So that’s the news from the land of the mad, and this Cheesehead is going into exile… or becoming an expatriate for good. Only time will tell. So till the next update which will be coming at a much higher elevation and farther south in the hollers and the hills… This version of the song fits my bittersweet but looking forward to a joyous future mood.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwpXjtK5m20

State of the Onion & a Late Christmas Present

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I pray you made it to today in once piece, more or less safe and sound, happy and hale.

So why do I call last year an onion? Because 2020 sure stank and made most of us cry! I’m firmly convinced that it will be looked back on as the year before we entered the next dark age or came into a Golden Age.

It has been a factory farmed dumpster fire…
In a flood…
During a hurricane…
That busted through all our living room windows…
And turned upside down…
to wreak havoc in our lives.

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Many of us weathered the year better than others. Some had to learn the truth of the “pandemic” the hard way, while others are still terrorized by it. As for myself and my family, it’s been a very rough year both in the terms of health and employment, and is part of the reason for this update.

Now, I am going to strive to keep my politics out of this save for this one blast of steam from the relief valve. It’s been extremely difficult to do anything these days (write, work, live) in the era of #Covidiocy, #stolenelections and #justus for the implementation of “The Great Reset” which is poised to re-establish a new neo-feudalist world order and turn us all into serfs of a Godless world police-state. With the amount of stress, anxiety and depression I’ve fought against, plus a few new things in my life has made it very difficult to focus on things that matter to me in a creative sense. To realize what I’ve accomplished so far is pretty surprising. At least I’ve survived this plague that only kills 0.03% of all who catch it with no lasting issues. I expect things to change for the better in the future, barring a full on civil war/revolution. Okay. So now you know that we’re all struggling in these days, depending on your nation and state, some worse than others. I pray you all have kept safe, healthy and sane enough to keep living life in accordance to your conscience, and that God bless you all as He knows you need. Amen?

Cool. #MakeOrwellFictionAgain

Despite all these hardships, I’ve been able to make ends meet thanks to God’s grace from a variety of sources, and some lucky breaks on keeping money rolling with new day jobs and assignments. I’ve had to swallow my pride on more than a few occasions, but I’m very grateful for all the positive things that happened to keep me afloat and in my home, fed and safe. Happy is a relative term of course. I make sure to get my sourpuss curmudgeon card stamped daily by the news and current events.

There have also been some personal triumphs as well, but those are for a later date. It has distracted me a bit from writing, and I apologize. In the long run it will be helpful and maybe facilitate even more writing. They’re not ready for the big public reveal.

One year ago, book 3 of the Akiniwazisaga (Into the High Places) still on Amazon came out. I personally think it’s probably the best of the series to date. Don’t let the lack of reviews fool you. But if you haven’t bought a copy yet, come on! It’s there! You’ll love it!

Since then, I have gotten about 30% through Book 4 of the series before I had to shelve it to focus my creative power on a new project that I hoped to have farther along by now: Tales from the Dream Nebula.

As I talked about last blog. Positive side, two novellas are done. The third is percolating in my head and is about to start rolling out soon enough as I can get some obstacles out of the way on the mechanics of the plot. Some great ideas have come up that I can’t wait to implement.

I hope that I will be putting out either 4 novellas for Dream Nebula this year, or finally finish book 4 of Akiniwazisaga. At least that’s my aspirational goal. I’m not a big believer of resolutions. I always manage to blow through them like a small town red light at 3am. So why set myself up for failure. Just sharing what I hope to accomplish and bring into your lives. Otherwise, I’ve been working on music from time to time, though I’m not sure where to put it out there to share with you all. Youtube has been getting a tad…. persnickety and I’m not thrilled about that. We’ll see what comes up and share then. It’s some nice stuff. Still working on the first movement of an actual symphony. Yes… an actual honest to God symphony. We’ll see what comes of it. There’s been some great learning experiences with that so far.

But anyway, in the spirit of your enduring with me, I figured I’d give you an early look at one of the first pair of scenes of “Tales from the Dream Nebula” as a thank you to you all. Mind you, this is like a third draft before going to an editor, so we’re not even talking beta read level, but fans be fans, and one should give treats and surprises to them from time to time. Yep, I mean it. Your fandom is deeply appreciated. In this era more than ever.

Synopsis: Tales from the Dream Nebula
“Series 1 : Omnipresence”
Episode 1 : “Dreams Within Dreams”

Tales of the Dream Nebula is a high Sci Fi fantasy adventure in the vein of classic Raygun Gothic stories. Think Flash Gordon meets Smokey and the Bandit with many other cyberpunk, film/neo noir, space opera and classic suspense influences mixed in. Earth is no more. Conquered by Xiao the Eternal who came from somewhere deep in space and conquered the planet, breaking it up into pieces, where the chunks of the planet floated as islands in an endless sky of breathable air. Meet Winston A. Harper, pilot of the tug, Sierra Madre. A man who is haunted by his past, drifting with the circumstances of his life. His partner Billy Joe Bob, a sentient industrial mechanoid haul freight with their tug, the Sierra Madre through the skylands that make up the remnant of Earth, living small and unnoticed in the blind spots of the new nations of a humanity subjugated by Emperor Xiao, for now.

Note: this is an early version, copyright M. D. Boncher. Final product may contain changes.

1.

Black and white flickers of an ancient film entranced Winston’s eyes showing him illusions of an Earth and a culture that no longer existed. Like his life, it was carved up and lost to the Dream. He took another long sip on his sweaty tumbler and shifted in his favorite green couch. Heavy ice cubes clanked in the cut glass. A smile wanted to touch his lips, but faded away.
The detective on screen caught the dirty little stool pigeon in another lie and was giving him the third degree after a sharp sock to the jaw. The bug eyed mousey little man whined and groaned as he spilled his guts.
“Winston?” came the call from somewhere behind him. He tried to ignore it. His daughter, Emmy continued to play her quiet game on the living room carpet, pushing her dolls around in cars, making up her own stories.
“Winston!” the woman’s voice was sharper. Had she gotten in the house, he wondered.
“Hun, I think Mother is here,” his wife’s voice drifted in from the kitchen. Valerie was making lunch for him. Now he smiled at the clanking of dishes and the whiff of her barbeque ham sandwiches.
There was a terrific pounding at the door, as Mother battered it with her fist.
“Winston-on-on-nn-stonn!” Mother’s voice stuttered as her connection to his virtual home instance lagged for a moment.
He sighed, she had hacked her way into his local server again.
“Go away, Mother!” he shouted back, taking his eyes off the movie. He could hear Valerie leaving the kitchen to let her in.
“Val! Don’t let her in. I don’t want to deal with her cheis today. There’s a reason I have the instance set private.”
“Okay, Hun,” Val replied and went back to her cooking. Emmy ignored the racket and Winston turned up the sound.
“Oh for the love of…” came the growl and with a terrific splintering bang, Mother forced her way through the locked front door in a spray of pixels and static that rippled throughout the home.
“Nahq it!” Winston hollered spilling his brandy Old-Fashioned. He shot up off his couch and glared at her angrily.
“Nahq it, yourself! Billy Joe Bob and I have been trying to contact you for three hours. You know better than to log out when you’re being unloaded! I’m hardly surprised I found you here in your own little Levitown nightmare of a shrine watching old movies.”
Mother looked like a woman in her forties today, like she could have stepped out of the movie Winston had just been watching. A sharp gray suit with A-Line skirt and a bright white blouse and a string of pearls, gliding in the room on impressive impractical heels. Her blond-turning-white hair was in a tight bun, with two strands of long bangs framing her face.
“In costume today, Mother?” Winston sounded almost amused as his dispatch agent sneered at him.
“No. it seems your behnging server came up with this. Blended my avatar code in with your stupid movie.”
“And so what if I’ve been down for 3 hours on the dock? Those lumpers normally take my whole break to get me unloaded. I’ve got another five hours at this rate.
“This was a hot load, Winston. They started offloading you the instant you bumped dock. They’ve been done for hours and have been screaming at me to get you moved so they can bring in the next one! I do not appreciate being screamed at by overclocked Wirey warehouse managers every five minutes while you play ‘Father Knows Bankruptcy’. Which is what you’re facing I might add!”
Val came into the living room, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. Her apron which Winston bought her to tease her domestic skills giving off even more of that ancient film era’s vibe.
“Hun, would you like me to escort her out?” her voice was pleasant, but with a hint of iron as Winston’s private server security protocols leaked into her subroutines.
“Try it and I’ll turn you into a thermostat subroutine, missy!” Mother snapped with a sharp taloned finger thrust at the simulation.
“Nahq it! Fine, mother!” Winston shouted. “All of you, shut up and I’ll get off the dock and get rolling!”
“That’s all we ever wanted,” Mother smoothed.
“Wait. They said I was unloaded, but they didn’t give me a backhaul?” Winston said as he readied to exit his home server instance.
“They decided to go with a different vendor. Since you didn’t leave right away, that dock lead decided he couldn’t trust you to deliver on time or follow their rules any more.” Mother said, arms crossed.
“For sleeping three hours on his dock?” Winston whined.
“This isn’t the first time you’ve pulled this stunt with them,” Mother reminded him. “He warned you there would be consequences. Once you’re moving, contact the guardpost on the way out to get further instructions.”
“And what does that mean?” Winston shouted.
“They wouldn’t tell me. Said they’d only give it to you in person as it were.
Winston let out a growl that escalated into a frustrated scream and exited from his home instance.

2.

The snap back to his sleeper cabin was jarring. Winston peeled off the induction rig headband and threw it back onto his bed rack with a tired groan and rubbed his eyes. The sleeper was just big enough for a generous bed, a small shower and kitchenette with impractical storage under the mattress and in cupboards over his head. Billy Joe Bob was knocking on the locked door.
“Hoss, y’all gonna get up in there?” came the autotuned voice of his lumper.
Winston said nothing and swung his legs over the side. His flight suit rumpled and feeling dirty for sleeping in it. No time to shower, so Winston grabbed his hat and opened the door to the cockpit.
Billy Joe Bob glided backwards and got out of Winston’s way.
“Mother’s all sorts of mad, and that dock boss has been bangin on the windscreen off and on for an hour. Paint’s busted up on the side of the sleeper but nothin’ that cain’t be buffed out,” the industrial mechanoid prattled on, like a dutiful but rather clueless deputy.
Billy Joe Bob’s rotund torso bulged like a beer gut that vanished into a glittering pile of volcanic sand that surfed silently across the floor, picking up after itself as it went. His humanoid chest and head rode on top of that bulky core with massive brawny arms and hands made of the same glittering charcoal sand that poked out at the shoulders like he wore a sleeveless tee shirt. The BJB series of industrial mechoid was an incongruous mix of metal and grit but created a lot of flexible utility, plus it humanized him enough to feel personable to most people. Although a biologically modeled head was less efficient as a sensor suite, most industrial mechanoids preferred them. Or as the sentient ones, called, Indus, did. It helped with inter-sentient interaction. Nothing seemed to freak out bionts faster than a giant insectoid or incomprehensible sensor suite for a head.
The particle shield was down on the canopy leaving the cab dark, lit only by the monitors and blinking LEDs. An angry red pulse from the comm suite indicated Mother was on the line. The large number of missed messages snarled at him in a red insistent font
Winston grunted at Billy Joe as he took the few steps to the pilot’s chair. The co-pilot and navigator’s seats remained empty. Ever since he bought the Sierra Madre after his life was destroyed, they were never filled. Billy Joe sure didn’t need to sit in one and he avoided the pretense of that level of humanity.
Winston flopped down into the seat, and the crash frame slowly descended, and wrapped him securely in place, he started to do a quick instrument pre-trip checklist. There was a smooth vibration as the grav fans could be felt through the hull of his tractor.
Green across the board.
His pair of bulk trailers reported back their hitches were working proper with a double hook and they were free of the dock and station-keeping. They were go for departure.
The message continued their accusatory glare, till with a sigh, Winston raised the particulate shield and the outside came into view in a bright golden glow.
The clouds went on forever in all the colors of the sunset with darker blots of green, black and brown skylands drifting among them. Like the islands of Earth before it was conquered and consumed by the Dream and its lord and master, Xiao the Eternal. Closer in, the huge industrial anchorage of Omnifeed’s complex was peppered with other draymen waiting for their dock. Some had only one trailer hooked on to their tugs and tractors, others were pulling sky trains with over ten over sized containers.
The windows of his cab’s canopy slowly revealed more of this busy scene as the shield retracted extending a little past him, revealing the four huge open maws of his grav fans that compressed gravity and sucked in air with their usual dull rainbow flicker when more substantial than gas was sucked through and mangled in the compression.
Winston threw on the Sierra Madre’s running lights and fired up his nav computer’s course projector.
“Hoss, look out.”
A man was flying to him on his Bumblebee flight harness from a tug parked danger-close.
“That jackass.”
The man, landed on his canopy over his head and started yelling at him in a language Winston had no clue about.
“Get the behng off my hull!” Winston shouted and slapped the horn. A low chord of ear shattering sound cut through the hull. The irate pilot grabbed his ears and staggered. Winston smiled as the fellow driver was no longer cussing at him in his gobbledy tongue. Apparently he decided to tell Winston off without putting on his proper protective gear. One hundred and forty decibels at close range will do that.
“Shut down number four, Hoss,” Billy Joe Bob said quickly. The careless pilot had staggered too far back and was close to being dragged through the fan.
“Way ahead of you, Bubby,” Winston said, his hand already hitting the emergency shutdown for the number four fan just as the gravity well plucked the careless pilot up and fired him through its maw. The tidal forces, though no longer fatal, shot the man through its open vortex guards at hundreds of klicks per hour out the other side, zipping past Winston’s trailers like a musketball. His flight harness’s emergency safety protocols protected him from impacting another object. At least the man could float back to his tractor, once he regained his senses.
“Uhhh…” drawled Billy Joe Bob in horror as the monitor tracked the man through space. “This ain’t gonna… this… Aww cheis.”
Panic shook Winston wide awake. He sounded the horn again signaling his departure from the dock with two shorts and a long blast. The Sierra Madre left her dock behind and followed her assigned path toward the guardpost, an irrational part of his mind hoped that by getting out of there fast would somehow absolve what just happened.
Winston said nothing. His mind whirling on what just happened. It was not his fault, he rationalized. That pilot climbed onto his tractor without proper gear inside a restricted area. The fact he saved his life by shutting down the grav fan in time made it all just a near miss. No one was really hurt. Right? Just pride and ego. Cheis, cheis, cheis.
“You think we’re in trouble?” Billy Joe asked.
“We’ll find out soon enough, Bubby,” Winston said, as he eased the Sierra Madre into their prescribed flightpath.
Another call was coming in to his comm suite, priority one.
Winston tapped the channel open.
“This is the Sierra Madre, receiving you. Over.”
“Sierra Madre, this is Omnifeed Control,” came the professional sounding AI voice. Their voices had been modeled on the ancient art of flight controllers’ speech. No matter what, everyone was equal in their eyes, or so the timber of their voice implied.
“Go ahead Omnifeed Control.” Winston squinted as he fought to keep the fear out of his voice.
“You are hereby charged with violating site safety rules as well as professional rules of conduct on site for failing to leave dock when ordered.”
“He climbed on my hull! Without safety gear! I shut down the fan but it was too late,” Winston complained. “Blame him!”
“Understood and he will be dealt with accordingly,” Omnifeed Control replied. Winston could hear the ‘but’ hanging unsaid. “Regardless, you have four violations of loading dock policy in the last five weeks. Your company is hereby suspended from all Omnifeed facilities for six months due to those violations. After that time you may reapply to be a certified carrier.”
“Aw, come on!” Winston shouted at the AI.
“For the safety incident, you are hereby personally permabanned from this loading facility.” The passionless words were worse than being cussed at.
“I’m being permabanned for him violating your loading dock policy? He climbed on me!”
“His discipline is a private matter. Be glad he was essentially unharmed. Your legal information has already been exchanged with his agent for the incident, in case there is permanent harm and medical bills.”
“You have no right to do that!” Winston protested and slammed his fist against the armrest.
“That is the law in accordance with Xiao’s covenants and protocols of commerce. Hail, Xiao the Eternal.” the controller said in Pavlovian reflex. “We, as a third party witness, must report what was recorded to maintain good standing with the empire. Omnifeed maintains the highest rating and will protect it with all due legal effort.”
Winston let out a defeated sigh, and as if she could hear it, his comm bleeped again as Mother tried to get through.
“Copy all that Omnifeed Control. Sierra Madre out.”
The other comm continued to blink as he sat there considering his situation.
Was this to be the final plunge?
Will he be rockbound and sucking on the Imperial dole because he just couldn’t find work after they impounded the Sierra Madre?
This was his last regular client. It was all low paying spot work from here on out. Last second frantic runs to cover for people who dropped the ball. Sure you could look the hero doing that, but the hassle. Oh my Xiao! The hassle!
Winston flipped the comm from Mother open but said nothing.
“It isn’t as bad as you may think, Winston.” Mother’s words were gentle.
“It certainly isn’t good. Did the payment process out?”
“Yes. We’re paid in full, so there’s a little money in the kitty, but you can kiss your insurance goodbye. I have several texts to respond to from Omnifeed, and that pilot’s lawyer.”
“Did you see Omnifeed’s evidence?” Winston said with a little hope.
“I did. He was at fault and so I might be able to get my lawyer in to provide a good defense and resolve this with some lost time and wages from him.”
“Mother, did I ever tell you that I loved you?” Winston said with a smirk. Behind him Billy Joe Bob let out an arpeggiated laugh.
“Eugh!” Mother let out a strangled groan. “You Biomes and your erratic emotions.” Winston knew she appreciated his sentiment, otherwise she wouldn’t have called him such a racist name. AIs were often just as emotional as humans.
“Okay, I know we’re on the bubble, so what’s next, Mother. Am I untouchable now?”
“Give me a minute to put some feelers out,” Mother said. At least she hadn’t abandoned him. Winston knew he screwed up but really, it wasn’t like he had been impairing himself on the job. She knew he slept in his home instance. It kept his own dreams away. Controlled.
He flipped through his cameras to watch the Omnifeed facility recede behind him on his way back home in Pseudomaha. The big nanofabrication feedstock tanks dwarfed the skyland they were originally built on as it consumed the natural and turned into an artificial station. 
And then the facility disappeared behind a cloying yellow cloud of sulfur dust.
“Hoss, you want me doin’ anything right now?” Billy Joe Bob asked.
“You got chores left?” Winston asked eyes glazed over on the traffic sensors. The little blobs of blue, green, yellow and red, slid past with neon trails in the holographic hud.
“Naw. Not really. Containers are empty and undamaged. We have an extra free day with ‘em before getting them back to Consolidated Freight for maintenance.” Billy Joe said
“Rog that,” Winston said. “I got nothing for you then. Go on off duty and enjoy yourself. We should still have access to Omnifeed’s network for another hour or two of flight time. We’re slow go till Mother gets back to me.”
“Rog that, Hoss.” Billy Joe went back to his rack up in the engine compartment with a slithering hiss of his utility liquid skirt leaving Winston alone with his worries.

Out the Other Side & Much More

Last week I kinda got some crummy news but it was wrapped with lots of silver linings. Lots.

But first…

I’ve survived the plague, and the lockdown, and have managed to crack out 20 chapters on Book 4 of Akiniwazisaga.  The sad part? This may only be 20% of the entire book length.  I’m not sure, but this bad boy’s going to be a whopper.  If you want to keep up with the latest details on what’s going on in writing and life in general, you can check it out on my Discord Channel.  Link above. It’s worth it.

it even gave me a chance to read some Realmie books I purchased last conference.  Here’s some of them I bought:

 

 

Speaking of Discord…

The news finally broke this year that Realm Makers 2020 conference has gone virtual, thanks mostly to the State of New Jersey unable to unclench long enough to pull their head’s out and take a breath.  That means RM2020 is now a virtual conference, like all the other conventions and conferences all over the US stretching into next year.  I just… I… Come ON people, you don’t quarantine healthy individuals!  So here’s where the silver linings begin.

In the process of setting up for the virtual RM2020, we were told that it will be using Discord as a big part of it’s operation.  I happened to be right place/right time cheerleading and helping out on a different RM related Discord forum and got the powers that be to understand what was happening and how the system works. Thanks to those fortuitous (yeah, I see God’s hand all over it) I became a moderator to help out with handling the training of a lot of conference goers and then assisting as a mod for the con!  Woot! So that’s kinda fun to be on the inside of that one. A lot of energy has been spent on this setup and onboarding of writers from all over the world, it’s almost been a full time job.

Which leads me to the blessing in disguise of being laid off just as COVID19 shut everything down. So we’ll see how long it takes either to get a call back (ain’t holding my breath) or a new position.  Till then, writing, RM modding and creative endeavors will fill my days, mortared together with job hunting.

What about those other creative endeavors?  Music!  I’ve mentioned for a while I’m doing music, well now I’m posting some stuff on my youtube channel, with more to come as I feel appropriate and have the time.  Unfortunately the last song was too long, so Youtube rejected it.  Will have to try with some others. Here’s one example.

I’m an enthusiastic amature, so take that into account.

 

And as sort of a bittersweet farewell to the idea of going to Atlantic City this year, here are pictures from last year’s RM to cheer me up, and for you to enjoy too.