Announcing Pravic Magazine

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2012 by theclockworm

It’s finally official. The estimable David Gill of Total Dick-Head and I are starting a magazine.

Pravic is our response to the disappointingly limited offerings in SF publishing, to the dominant tropes and concerns we find ill-fitting and misplaced.

The official announcement:

Pravic is a new magazine bringing you literary Science Fiction stories, along with discussions of esoteric pop culture, music and movie reviews, and anything else we feel like. Why? We’re unhappy with the current state of SF – especially what’s being published. Having read what’s out there, we’re left feeling most of that shit is awful.

We think we can do better. We want to build a new grammar for SF.

In short, we’re here to fuck with your program.

Send your fiction, non-fiction, art, and whatever mind-bending miscellany we haven’t conceived of yet to:


So send us your stories, and if you’re a skilled illustrator, we’re interested in talking to you too.

Here’s the announcement at Total Dick-Head.

Find out what we’re about here.

New Worlds

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 31, 2012 by theclockworm

So, I’ve been pretty absent lately. School has become pretty intense, and other ventures also occupy my time, leaving precious few moments to vent steam or scribble out ideas or criticisms. I’m going to make an effort to come back, though. I can write coherently and frequently with greater ease than ever, so maybe it’s time to give it another shot. It’s likely that this time around, I’ll be talking about SF more and esoteric cosmology less; that’s not to say I’ve lost interest, but, well, it’s at a different place – a less public, less academic place. So instead, I’ll focus on the art and let it hunt out truth, instead of taking stabs at speaking truth directly (you can get in a lot of trouble for that, you know).

Relevant to this blog and my own goals, I got published! Back in March, my first “real” story, “The Exploded Manifestations of Ari Ascher,” was accepted by burgeoning e-zine Mad Scientist Journal. It’s a really cool project, and you should read the other stories too.

Also, I just signed up to participate in the Clarion Write-A-Thon, which supports the Clarion workshop program, from which writers like Ted Chiang have emerged like weird, craft-perfect butterflies (or avenging angels).

Finally for now, keep your eyes open for big news in the coming days or possibly weeks. I’m going to be starting a pretty exciting project with some pretty exciting and talented people. More when the world knows…

Shaking the Tree

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 3, 2012 by theclockworm

There’s something I’ve been struggling to put my finger on about a lot of newer SF;  it has to do with the prevalent mood, pacing, and characterization I’ve been seeing for a number of years. Let me preface by saying that there are certainly very good stories being written, and that some of the people whose work sometimes falls into the realm of these criticisms have a great deal of my respect. But.

But there’s a sense of flatness to most lead characters I come across lately. It seems an echo of the cyberpunk ethos, something more hip (even in loser-ey characters) than I am drawn to, something just a bit too self-comfortable, too solid, too witty and vernacular. It’s not so overt or extreme, most of the time, that it ruins stories, but it leaves me feeling a bit empty, like I’ve watched a heavily-produced film or ad campaign. I find myself, especially now that I’m knee-deep in my own stories and can recognize such things, asking the same set of questions: what is the motivation? Is this character a real person in some universe? Is she round? Is she too consistent? People aren’t a set of clear goals, an area of obsession, and a neurotic tendency. But that seems to be the rule lately. Beyond the characters, there’s simply a sort of atmospheric paradigm that screams of a very particular and relatively limited influence. It’s post-Gibson, post-Sterling, maybe, if we’re lucky, post-Stephenson. And all these writers have something to offer, especially the latter, in my opinion. But there’s a thread of aesthetics and values that seems to emanate from this school and which seems to have set the tone total for modern SF.

The problem?  That 80s cyberpunk school was largely an oppositional movement – it didn’t intentionally incorporate older SF influences in the way SF had always done, even f it was critical and carried out critically. It ignored it. That’s the “punk” in cyberpunk. But for a generation of writers to echo only (or largely) the kinds of worlds implied, if not created, by these writers is to eschew a lineage of writers and works whose influence is sorely needed. Where are the writers who could be accurately (though not thoroughly) described as post-Dick, post-Delaney, post-LeGuin? If they exist, are they SF writers?

One of the factors that drives a wedge between this heritage and the prevalent narrative is that of science – in particular its unambiguously positive powers. But it’s not just that there’s too much utopianism (maybe there is a hint of an older SF influence, but if so, it’s old and stops at Asimov, still neglecting the entirety of the “New Wave”). It’s also, quite simply, its ubiquity. Yes, technology everywhere in our world. And no, I’m not advocating a harsh revival of dystopian SF, with all its didactic finger-wagging. But let’s face it: the role of SF is more nuanced than either extreme; it’s not some luddite warning-cry that despises progress. But it’s not the futurist consultant telling you how to fix everything with science either. We’ve gained too much ground, become too relevant, and we’ve done what so many before us have done in such a position: slid easily into the comfortable role, the vizier role. SF shouldn’t be all about saying “wow, look how far this could go!” It should be, by its nature, self-critical, world-critical, paradigm-critical. It should always be asking what things are like for the underdog.

I feel a distinction needs to be made when it comes to science. Science, for all its might and beauty (and I revel in the amazing discoveries being made as much as any wide-eyed SF fan), is a language of description, not of articulation. The biggest hole in most SF now is not the believability of the technology or its implications; it’s the way the dirty, ugly, boring, compromise-laden translation of discovery into anything you can use as a plot device is completely neglected. SF writers who say, “Hey! Check out all these technological, engineering solutions. Isn’t physics cool?” are being irresponsible. There’s a lot of space between the observations and the implementations, a space of culture-clashes and pragmatic issues, where other civic and technical languages (like engineering, law, public policy, ethics, ownership rights, politics, etc) have to take the static and make it dynamic without killing everything in sight, including the beauty and meaning of the discovery. We need to stop equating things which are different. The ripples are not the stone.

But beyond that, we only see how these things filter through a very limited set of disciplines, despite the obfuscation of that process: we see the outcomes in engineering. We sometimes see it in politics. And, in an increasingly mundane way, we of course see it from the standpoint of people. But people are a little bigger than the sketch of a life. People are where the lofty questions find poignancy. If nothing else, our characters, flat and culture-perfect, show us a documentary-style glimpse at a handful of implications. But not enough.  What I do not see is the way those things filter through ontology, through spiritual thinking, through legality; I don’t see nearly enough of what happens at the edges. There’s been a retreat, even as more cultural diversity is seeping into SF, from a critical examination of colonialism, globalism, education.

I keep going back to the pre-Socratics, to the whole mess of human history where there weren’t the hard delineations there are now. Of course I’m glad science isn’t in the purview of the church anymore; but the separation of the physical from its non-corporeal counterparts has killed entire schools of thought, entire disciplines, that I am amazed every day to discover still have value. Whither cosmology that is neither physics nor theology? Whither latent forms, metaphor as both symbolic and true, soul as literal substance, universe as mind?  Natural Philosophy has become science, which is not philosophy at all, while philosophy has failed to keep up with the questions posed by scientific discovery.

SF should never be simply the wagging finger or the optimistic smile. It should be the devil’s advocate, where the devil is whatever stone has been left unturned. Science is great, though it’s not synonymous with technology; but we know that. In this respect, SF accomplished part of what it set out to accomplish. And that means, for a field as vital as ours, that it’s time to move on, to look at the latent, the hidden, the troublesome, the ambiguous. Perhaps there are other stories worth telling.

All Souls

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 7, 2011 by theclockworm

Also from TCP. A reflection: Body as Trash/Trash as Value-Bearing Medium.


I had been dragged through the living middle of the parade, absorbed into the temporal life-form that was built of remembrances of death. In Tucson, Arizona, the Day of the Dead – Dia de los Muertos – is celebrated not only in the traditional, private manner borne of Aztec ancestor-worship and Spanish Catholicism, but also in a public event, the All Souls Procession. This is not Halloween: it is not an effort to ward off spirits, but rather, to attract them, to guide them home. There is no line one must or mustn’t cross: to be present is to be assimilated.No folding chairs line the streets, full of spectators, like the parades of my youth back east.

Families and groups and lonely single entities clustered together to proclaim their own, personal dead. A group of people, family of soldiers killed in Iraq, held up a sign that said this:

 “We Died in the Desert”

Vendors sold candy skulls, which are meant to be exchanged; I will eat the skull which bears my name, and you will eat your skull. We are to consume our deaths, to consume our bodies, through the artifact of food, consecrated by the magic of the name, the word, the low logos, least bright but shining nonetheless.

Through the trash-strewn streets, past masks of death and drums that promise to bear it, always to bear it, whipping past demons on stilts and into little sugared artifacts, our names have broken into being and are inscribed. We commune. The drums continue. The clocks do not stop.

Artifact, Ritual, and the Hypostasis of Time

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 7, 2011 by theclockworm

An edit of material written for Total Cognitive Penetrability #1, available on request.


When the Balinese dance, they dance the dance their fathers danced. They wear the masks their fathers wore. They play the parts their fathers played. There is an esoteric meaning which proximity does not confer, which anthropological holism cannot synthesize by gestalt. These rituals are a form of time-travel. Eternal Choreographies, cyclical motions, ever available, which can be accessed. It is literal magic.

Balinese Hinduism is not only a loop but a cycle. Observe the Balinese baby-worship: a baby, newly born, has been in the heavenly realm very recently, and is revered as a result. But her arrival in this, the “lower” earth, is also celebrated. There is no apex of a circle in a void of gravity, in a world without poles.

Time is a wheel, and the dance is a way of spinning it. They smile from behind the hologram of character, from beneath the overlay of myth. They have collapsed time in that moment, distributing themselves amidst all other times, a thread connected by nodes of ritual which form a smooth and unbroken cord. Plucking this cord, they smile, and no material change in the world can pull them back from the All-Time where they have always lived.


Where once it was said with some assurance, “Gnosis is the presence of truth,” we can now say, “Gnosis is less untruth, which is not less doubt. It is the intersection of improbabilities into a gestalt of doubt. It is a noise unheard by others that causes us to travel down a darkened corridor. But what will we find? Hearing the sound is not knowing its source, or the intentions thereof. It does not attach itself to this savior or that, to this orthodoxy or that heterodoxy. It is not about god. It is about the world and us in it.

It is not finished speaking.


The organization of information that constitutes the universe is misconstrued by the human mind in terms of time. Time is a doldrums dialect of the information-weaving procedure of reality.

Yes, the kipple is entropy. Yes, it is often wetted with blood and packed into castles in that endless annexation of our world by the Black Iron Prison. But it is not death itself, nor likelier to become death than truth. It must be able to wax and wane, to bloom and rot. This is how the universe protects itself.

To wear a name is not enough.To be struck by the light is not enough. To eat one’s own death is not enough. To remove duality is not enough. To send the golem back is not enough.

To wear the face is enough.To respond to the name when it is called, and not be a liar: this is enough. To internalize the tastes and thoughts of the other, to heed its advice, is enough.

Year One: What I’ve Learned About Writing (So Far)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2011 by theclockworm

So it’s been about a year since I really decided to buckle down and write fiction seriously. I still haven’t been published; to catch you all up, I had a near-miss rejection from Clarkesworld for my story The Exploded Manifestations of Ari Ascher, the first story I finished. It was a happy sort of disappointment; cracking the top 10% of that market is an accomplishment in its own right, especially for my first story. Today, I got a rejection for the same story from Asimov’s. In total, I’ve submitted five times.

In the meantime, I’ve written three other stories of considerable length, all of which need some amount of finishing-up/editing, as well as four or five shorter works. In addition, I’ve generated pieces, beginnings, ideas, and have even been working on a collaboration.

So I obviously don’t have any secret wisdom when it comes to getting published, though I’m not sure there is any, really; I’m fairly sure it’s a balance of talent, skill, timing, and luck, with a dash of procedural correctness for good measure. But I can reflect on some of the practical things I’ve learned about the writing process and the other end of doing it yourself – the hunt for markets and the process of submitting.

1. Learn how to use manuscript format. Look at examples from many sources (they differ), learn what publishers in your area (genre/level) really want, and then write in it. I got tired of having to convert everything afterward; it felt like a whole pile of busywork, and it kept me from submitting. Once I got the format down, I started writing all my stories with it in place from the start. In addition to getting rid of that pesky bit of effort later, it gets you out of thinking in terms of “lay-pages -” a ‘nine page story’ might be twenty-six pages in MS format, and that’s the way you’re going to want to think about it.

2. Don’t over-think cover letters. Most places don’t require them, and if you have nothing to include in the way of publishing history, that means you have nothing to mess up, and therefore nothing to worry about. If a market requires one, look at this little guide and keep it brief. A good story speaks for itself (though “active member SFWA helps).

3. Get used to rewrites. That’s everything from nitpicking a story line-by-line to starting from the original idea, again, on a blank page. I wrote Ari Ascher initially in first-person present tense; knowing how unwieldy that can be, I reworked the entire story in third-person past tense. That made certain parts totally useless, and necessitated new things I’d been fine without before. After living with it for a while, I realized it didn’t work, and I converted it back, having to work with both the old version and some of my new changes. I changed the basic premise – twice. In the end, I’m glad I let go of my initial choices, even if I reclaimed them later. It’s a better story now than it was before.

4. Figure out whether your story needs the amount of attention you’re giving it. Some premises are totally solid, and you might think it’s a fully reasonable device for a twenty-page tale. But does it need twenty pages? Some of the ideas I was most excited about ended up being flash fiction when I realized they were basically just neat premises or characters or moments, snapshots instead of tomes. Which leads me to my next point…

5. Write flash fiction- write it regularly, write it at will. It helps to get you into the habit of writing regularly without the looming tension of a big goal. It also outs the fakers – ideas that are good at lobbying for your time, but which might not be worth the investment. You’ll build a nice little collection pretty quickly, which is a boost to confidence – having something to show makes every new story that much more executable – and there are a lot of markets for flash fiction, which means that in theory you could get a few sales in before shooting for a bigger market, padding out your cover letter a bit. Or you could post it for free – it’s a good way to get people reading your stuff.

Prophet Margins: Predictions 2025

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 19, 2011 by theclockworm

As we all know, becoming a SF writer means predicting the future. Now, don’t get me wrong; I know that’s not what we actually do. But there are always going to be folks who think otherwise, and they’ll always be there to demand prophecies of us. We’ll bicker and defend and elude, but in the end, we’ll give them a list and hope the universe does something both self-serving and ironic with the information.

I’ve decided to jump the gun. Why wait until I’m published? Here, with tongue planted more or less firmly in cheek, are my predictions for the year…TWO THOUSAND TWENTY-FIVE.


1. In the wake of the fallout from the First Mormon-Scientologist War, a new religious sect will emerge. Following the teachings of Robert Heinlein, they will practice a rugged brand of survivalism, solving social conflict through handgun-brandishing. Though they will preserve the institution of marriage, they will permit polygamy in all forms, as well as conducting themselves in a generally permissive manner sexually. They will practice a form of eugenics based on the society in Heinlein’s books; the long-term results will never be known, as a tragic explosion on their hand-built spacecraft will kill them all.

2. The Occupy movement of the 2010s eventually becomes totally ubiquitous. Out of public spaces in which to make a stand, people begin to occupy their own houses, making it very difficult for authorities to determine who is involved. Presidential candidate Bristol Palin concludes that Anonymous must be growing, perhaps bolstered by their victory in the war. However, she is unable to continue her campaign when she is reminded that the office of the president no longer exists.

3. As genetic re-programming becomes affordable and safe, a whole new lifestyle/art movement will arise. Combining performance art, cosplay, and socio-political activism, genomorphic groups will recreate various fictional worlds and stories, with varying degrees of success and commitment. Of special interest will be the Gethenians, a group of people who choose to adopt the un-gendered state described in Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Left Hand of Darkness. They will buy up land in Alaska, utilize the systems of time and culture described in the book, and attempt to eradicate non-Gethenian ideals. Ignored initially, they will be the focus of much media attention when a break-off sect of evangelicals, the Neuter the Earth movement, begin re-infiltrating the mainland.

4. The most popular of the genomorphic groups will be the Vulcans. Recognizing that Vulcanism is a practicable, attainable state, this group will spread over much of the globe, extending far beyond Star Trek fans. By suppressing certain mental functions, Vulcans will be able to control their emotions to a degree unavailable to un-morphed humans. The cosmetic differences will be considered comparatively minor, and will be shunned altogether by some. Many non-religious Jews will join the movement, as it offers a focus on tradition, contemplation, and ritual without religiousness.

5. The majority of divorce papers filed will cite Dream Linking as a major factor. The practice, which will allow two or more people to “meet” in a non-corporeal world, will allow for an explosion in infidelity. The state will involve full nervous system arousal, making it experientially equivalent to sex, but it will be difficult to trace, often anonymous, and will not carry the risk of disease or pregnancy. The birth-rate will drop for the first time in years after the service hits the market.

6. While searching for survivors from the war, workers will discover the secret underground lair of what will become known as the Cabal of Child Actors. A secret society of supposedly inactive, drug-addled, or dead child stars, the CCA will be suspected of controlling everything from the banking system to the military. Haley Joel Osment, having ousted the ruling duo of Coreys Haim and Feldman, will warn officials “We are your Dennis the Menaces. We are your Kevin Arnolds. We bring your rom-com leads together, and turn Hugh Grant into a nice guy. We see dead people – ALL THE TIME. We are your Malcolms, in the middle and otherwise. Do not fuck with us.”

7. In a coup unrecognized until much later, a heavily-bearded Wil Wheaton will single-handedly dismantle the CCA, saving the entire ship. I mean world.


Thanks to io9 for the idea about Vulcanism. Thanks to Wil Wheaton for saving the entire ship. I mean world.