Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Why Read the Book? If It's Any Good They'll Make It a Movie.

I have a very dear friend I don't want to name because I care about him quite a bit and he got me through some very difficult travails.  He was a movie fiend, even more so than me, which, if you know me, is saying something.  And when I asked him about reading once, he said one of the cringeworthiest things I've heard in my life, and it still haunts me to this day (obviously.)

"Nah, I don't read.  If a book's any good, they'll make a movie of it eventually.  So I'll just watch the movie."

And you know something?  At the time I didn't have a really good answer to that, because it's partially true.  Good books do get made into movies all the time!  Sometimes they're crummy movies, but what are you going to do?

But I was thinking about this again today and a couple of things occurred to me.  Novels and movies are very different forms of media (duh.)  But since there's so much interchange between them, we do not perhaps focus on their differences a whole lot anymore.  Some authors write with the sole intent of being cinematic.  And this isn't necessarily a bad thing.  A novel could in theory do nothing differently from a movie and still be good.  Just straightfoward descriptions of people, scenes, and actions.

But I started thinking about things that novels can do that movies quite simply can't.  An obvious example is getting inside someone's head using first person.  A movie can have some voiceover inner monologue, but a story with a quirky narrator is a whole other kettle of fish.

A brilliant turn of phrase is also something that a movie can't produce outside of dialogue.  Consider the Douglas Adams line, “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."  It's piss yourself funny, and yet in a movie it could only be conveyed by the visual of a bunch of ships up in the sky.  The whole beauty of that sentence is lost.

It also occurred to me that there are certain assumptions we, as readers, take into a novel.  I've preyed on those more than a few times myself.  For instance, in an as-yet unpublished piece, I never describe the main character because as an author surrogate I knew that readers would simply assume he's a white, Pennsylvanian male like me.  Then, only at the pertinent moment, well more than midway through the book, I reveal the character's actual provenance.  My goal was to perhaps surprise the reader, perhaps even make him reconsider his own subconscious prejudices.  You quite simply can't do that with a movie.  The audience can immediately see the main character. 

Another great example (spoiler alert) came in my colleague Elizabeth Buhmann's wonderful LAY DEATH AT HER DOOR.  (In fact, for a master class in examples of things novels can do which films can't, just read the entire book.)  At the conclusion, Buhmann plays with the very fact that we as an audience are willing to accept a first person narrative at all.  Many novels leave the exact nature of the first person narrative unexplained, and this is perfectly well accepted.  Others make mention of the book being an epistolary, but otherwise don't bother much with deeper explanations.  The final reveal in LDAHD is of a criminal, not writing her confession for publication, but in an e-mail program with the immediate plan to delete it.  And thus our assumption throughout that she was brought to justice is exploded.

What about you, dear readers?  What sorts of things do you find that novels can do which television and film can't?  Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Some Ground Rules for Being a Good Fan due to recent events (but, really, just the same sorts of bullshit recurring every few years) we need to talk about flamewars.

So here's the deal.  If you're a fan of mine (or, for that matter, a family member, or lover) here are some ground rules that will make you a good citizen of the bookosphere:

1.)  Feel free to read my stuff.  This is the best way you can support me.  But you know what?  I have a day job.  I won't be quitting it any time soon, and I certainly won't be quitting it if I'm not 100% certain I can maintain my livelihood with writing alone.  So if you don't buy my stuff, it's not going to hurt my career, my livelihood, take food out of my mouth, or anything else.  And even if my writing was my sole source of income, I'd be a damned ass to believe that any one person was obligated to buy my stuff.

2.)  Feel free to tell other people about my stuff.  If they're not into  Not everybody reads horror and sci-fi.  Even people who do won't necessarily be interested in my stuff.

3.)  Feel free to leave good reviews of my stuff.  Good reviews are good for me. 

4.)  Don't feel obligated to leave a good review if I wrote something you didn't like, or that was objectively bad.  My opinion of you will not be affected one way or the other.  I will not stay up late nights worrying because you didn't like that one novel I wrote.

5.)  Feel free to leave a bad review of my stuff.  As I've reiterated over and over and over again, bad reviews are good for an author.  They positively influence the Amazon algorithms and lend credibility to good reviews.

6.)  If someone left me a bad review that you disagree with...that's fine.  There's no need to respond.  No need whatsoever.  My feelings aren't hurt.  My career hasn't been affected. 

7.)  If you feel the desperately pressing need to respond to the points a person made in a negative review, you can write a positive review yourself addressing each point.  You don't need to mention them by name, attack them on GR or Amazon, leave comments on their review, berate them on social media, or just generally interact with them at all.  They didn't do anything wrong.  Just remember: them writing a review has helped me.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Re-Animated #16: Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law

Over the last two installments we talked about early [adult swim]'s recurring oeuvre of rehashing Ted Turner's recently acquired Hanna Barbera library, so we won't go over that again in great detail.  "Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast" was the pioneering show in this regard, and due to its budgetary limitatons, relied on a cheap-to-produce talk show format and surreal humor in equal measures.  Its spiritual successor and (sort of?) spinoff "The Brak Show" took the tack of relocating its characters from a superhero-populated galaxy of wonder to suburbia, and allowed the natural strangeness of the juxtaposition to inform a great deal of the humor.  "Sealab 2021" took perhaps the most obvious approach to repurposing an old adventure show as a comedy: keeping the setting and characters the same, and essentially continuing to write situational comedy, but where the situations are bizarre and the reactions are hyperbolic.

And then there's "Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law."


"Birdman" took perhaps the strangest approach to this unique opportunity to play in a pre-existing sandbox: they played it, for all intents and purposes, straight.  Birdman was the same Birdman who had fought crime in the sixties.  He had just decided to get a new job as a criminal defense lawyer.  As with Space Ghost, no one's long-simmering affection for Birdman was going to hamper a show making fun of him.  Nobody remembered who the fuck who he was, and he hadn't been that great in the first place.

And what about all of Birdman's supervillains from the sixties show?  They had all, similarly, taken on unlikely careers as judges and prosecuting attorneys, allowing for them to remain "enemies" in the adversarial courtroom system, while also having many coyote-and-sheepdog moments after they punched out for the day.  Harvey Birdman and such luminaries as Myron Reducto or Mentok the Mindtaker might snipe at each other over drinks, because they still sure as shit didn't like each other, but they weren't typically going to bash each other's brains out.

While the humor remained bizarre, it was never quite surreal or bizarro the way "Sealab" and "Brak" were.  In fact, while its contemporaries often and loudly smashed the reset button at the end of each episode, "Birdman" technically remained in continuity throughout the whole run of the show.  For instance, when Judge Mightor, who sat on the bench for most of the first season, runs into hiding to evade mafia don Fred Flintstone, he is replaced by Judge Mentok the Mind-Taker.

Oh, did I just kind of gloss over that Fred Flintstone reference?  Because I was just getting to that.  "Birdman" doesn't just remain internally consistent.  It also presupposes a world where all of the Hanna Barbera characters coexist and intereact.  This gives Birdman a chance to defend Fred Flintstone as a mafia don, as mentioned, but also to take up the case of the poor young marijuana addicts Scooby and Shaggy, Quickdraw McGraw/El Kabong for carrying a concealed weapon (a guitar), the custody battle for Jonny Quest, Atom Ant for being a terrorist, and so forth.

I guess what I'm saying is, "Birdman" was ambitious.  Damn ambitious.  It presupposed a world full of characters the audience was more or less going to vaguely remember from their wasted youths watching Saturday morning cartoons in the den.  It gave you a chance to catch up with those characters, see what they're up to these days, and what their behavior would have resulted in had they lived in a real(ish) world.  

And in keeping with such ambition, "Birdman" had a shockingly impressive voice cast, full of already-theres and soon-to-bes of the turn of the millennium.  The title character was Gary Cole (you know, Lumbergh from "Office Space?") but other voices included Lewis Black, Peter MacNicol, Michael McKean, Phil LaMarr, and a just-before-he-became-world-famous Stephen Colbert as Birdman's boss.  As with his character in "The Venture Brothers," Colbert disappeared from "Birdman" after he got his own show.

"Birdman's" ambition would also influence the burgeoning [adult swim] in other ways.  Having decades worth of characters and material to draw from, the writers took a kitchen sink approach to gags (doubtless, much to the chagrin of the animators.)  There's what the characters are saying - which is clever - and then there's what the characters are doing - which is often in contradiction to what they're saying - and then there's a veritable army of background characters watching, while pulling faces, tripping over banana peels, and anything else you can imagine.  Every 11-minute episode of "Birdman" was packed with a cornucopia of densely layered gags.  Where thirteen years before it was often said that you would be rewarded for paying attention to what was going on in the background of "The Simpsons," starting with "Birdman" you practically had to take repeated viewings on slow motion to catch everything that was going on in [adult swim.]  

This meant that "Birdman" was eminently rewatchable - a clear advantage on a channel which replayed all of its shows twice a night and was mostly watched by stoners and college kids who weren't paying a terrible amount of attention to begin with.  It would also seep into the [adult swim] ethos and deep into the DNA of shows like "Superjail," "Metalocalypse," and "China, IL."

But we're not done with the original hourlong block of [adult swim] shows yet!  And we've save possibly the best - certainly the longest lived - for last.  See you next time, Reani-matey-os!  That's your new...that's your new term for yourselves.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Learning to Edit "By Ear"

I'm editing a novel right now, a sequel to THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO called NOTES FROM THE UNDEAD.  I'm a little ashamed to say it's been taking me upwards of a year to edit.  I'm literally about to go back to doing that (hey, we're snowed in, it's that or play Zelda and my girlfriend's been hogging that all day) but I thought I'd say a few words about editing first.

At this point in my career I'm able to edit "by ear," so to speak.  When I look at a sentence, the issues with it pop out at me.  When I read a paragraph, certain repeated turns of phrase or ugly, insufficiently descriptive parts jump out.  And I have to say, it's no longer conscious, or even voluntary anymore.  If there's something "wrong" with a piece I've written, I will sit there and be unable to move on until it's "right."  In a way it's infuriating - and one of the reasons why it's taken me a year to edit NOTES FROM THE UNDEAD.

In another way, though, I understand that this is a skill and a talent, perhaps an enviable one.  So how did I get here?  Let's make a listicle!

1.)  Edit.  A lot.

The simple, almost glib, answer is I've done this shit a fuckton.  In the last five years I've done author edits followed by professional edits on seven novels and nine short stories.  That's significantly more than the million words often cited as required for mastery as a writer.  But perhaps you're saying, "But Steve, I don't write professionally and I'm not getting book deals like that.  How does that help me?"

Well, my friend, you're also looking at a helpful tool for editing mastery this very instant.  I try, with varying degrees of success, to write three blogposts a week.  Even if they're no more than 500 words, that's 78,000 words a year that I need to edit.  And I edit my blogposts a hell of a lot more than I do my published work.  Blogs have to be instantly pithy and quotable.  People will give your novels a little more leeway.

2.)  Work with a professional

It's a truism that "you don't know what you don't know."  But there's a reason it's a truism.  I didn't know shit about editing until I worked with a couple of really great editors on my first novel.  

A professional editor sees the same issues over and over.  Overused words.  Ugly metaphors.  Cliches.  Stuff that would never even occur to you.

Here's an example.  In my first draft of THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO I used the word "niggardly" once or twice.  It's a perfectly innocuous word meaning "miserly."  It had literally never occurred to me that because it sounds like an unrelated and very ugly slur, you should just generally avoid that word.

The more you work with professional editors, the more you'll be able to identify what they're looking for, and the more you'll be able to find it yourself.  Not only that, but regardless of how good your editor is, they're a different person.  Which leads into our next topic.

3.)  Work with non-professionals

Editors are great for teaching you the technical ropes.  But you're not writing regulatory manuals (I assume.)  You're writing for public consumption.  And quite often we as writers can disappear up our own assholes.  Trust me, I know.  I do it twice a day, and three times Sundays.

The reason you want to use beta readers is that when they're confused, you'll know you're doing something wrong.  Since you're writing the book, everything makes sense to you.  You know each character's super secret backstory, so you won't be confused when the guy with the alcoholic mother smashes a hobo's bottle.  But your beta reader will say, "Why is he being a jerk to that homeless guy?"

The more you work with beta readers, the more you'll be able to identify what regular ol' people are looking for in a story.

4.)  Try Reading in Different Fashions

Common editing advice is to read your work out loud.  Things will ring false to your ears that don't to your eyes.  

I've also heard that you should read out loud into a mirror.  

I've also heard that you should record yourself reading out loud, then play it back.  

I've also heard that you should print out your manuscript, because things look different on the printed page than they do on the monitor, and edit the printout.  

I've also heard that you should edit the printout using different colored markers to look for different issues - grammar, story, character, etc. - because different colors pop out at you.

Look, I've tried all of these methods and I don't get much out of any of them.  But I get the concept.  You need to step back and look at your manuscript in a different way.  Frankly, the only way of looking at my work that I find helpful is to set it aside for a few weeks or months.  That gives me the fresh eyes I need.  In the case of NOTES FROM THE UNDEAD...they're very fresh eyes indeed.


What about you, dear friends?  How do you hone your editing skills?  Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, March 19, 2018


Image result

Sorry, no time for a blog post today!  I'm too busy being excited for my new favorite show, "Final Space."  Make sure to tune in on TBS at 10:30 pm EST.  I've got a feeling a "Re-Animated" post is in the offing...

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Why I Won't Be Reviewing Books Anymore

So I'd like your input on something, dear readers.

Up until now I've been a very studious book reviewer.  I've talked on this very blog about the importance of reviews and how difficult they are for authors to garner.  So, putting my money where my mouth is, I've done my best to review as many books, movies, and even just goods and services as I can.  Again, I've done that a lot right here on this blog.

But I've also talked about how difficult it is, as an author, to write reviews.  I think it's understood that authors are also readers, and we're also (fairly or not) looked at as a sort of breed of "super-readers."  You should probably really listen to the review of a person who has read and reviewed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books.  But in practice, those aren't the reviews that get shared on book covers.  Blurbs come from other authors.  Paul Tremblay, for instance, got an unsolicited blurb from Stephen King for A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS, and that's been featured on every book he's written since.

I've been asked for blurbs.  I've also asked other authors for blurbs.  And while that whole business is its own kettle of fish, it's made me understand that an author writing a book review is not quite the same thing as a reader writing one.

Discussing another matter with a publisher of mine recently, it suddenly all gelled when he said something along the lines of, "I've never seen an author succeed when he tried to keep being a reviewer." 

And it makes sense.  Are you going to be the guy who's constantly shitting on your friends and peers in order to maintain your honesty and integrity?  Or are you going to be a cheerful Santa Claus, handing out five-star reviews to everybody and sundry, whether they deserve it or not?  Those are really the only two outcomes, and neither one is going to be good for your reputation. 

So I've decided as of now I'm not going to be reviewing the books I read anymore, except for the usual give-and-take of author blurbs.  If you follow me on Goodreads, you may have noticed this already.   I felt it was important to state this publicly somewhere, though, lest Michael Garza, Christina Bergling, Greg F. Gifune, and the other estimable authors I've read so far this year take offense, or think that they are in some special category of "so bad I couldn't review it."  Far from it, in fact.  The books I've read this year have been extraordinary.  I just don't think it's healthy or wise to keep pretending to be some impartial judge of an ecosystem in which I'm so fully integrated.

So, what do you think, gentle readers?  Am I making a terrible mistake?  Can this needle actually be threaded?  Or have you all been rolling your eyes in disgust and wondering when I would finally make this obvious decision?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks! 

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Electric Monk

The term "thoughts and prayers" has become shorthand for hypocritical inertia recently.  The first time I recall hearing it used as a punchline was in an episode of the most recent season of "Bojack Horseman," but I'm sure that wasn't the first occasion.  As of the recent Parkland High School it's come in vogue as parlance for "the assholes with the power to do something about gun control refuse to."

And why?  Well, imagine a sailor has fallen overboard and is drowning.  He sees his comrades up on the ship and calls out to them.  They even hear him.  They know he's there.  They even have life preservers, hanging right there on the gunwales or whatever they're called.  But instead of tossing the damn life preserver, the drowning sailors comrades call down to him, "We see your plight down there and we're really rooting for you."

That's what "my thoughts and prayers are with the victims" has become.  An infuriating statement of do-nothingness.

Gun control is a complicated fucking issue, and I'm not even very well versed on it.  But what's the point of me outlining any arguments here?  If you're on the internet to read this blogpost, you already know literally every talking point on both sides of the spectrum.  Guns don't kill people, people kill people.  Australia banned guns and they don't have gun violence anymore.  Switzerland has the highest gun ownership rate in the world and no gun violence, either.  But in Switzerland guns are locked up by the National Guard and ammunition is all but impossible to purchase.  Small arms are a constitutional right, and no one can trample on our constitutional rights.  But common sense gun control could at least keep people from dying all the goddamned time.  And without guns, the government could take over.  But what good are guns going to do against tanks?  And so forth.

So it's whatever.  I hope the Parkland kids are able to start a movement that changes gun culture in this country.  But I also know the genie's out of the fucking bottle, and there are millions of guns out there available today.  There's no easy solution to turning this thing around.  Doing nothing but sending thoughts and prayers seems untenable, but we've also been doing it for twenty years, so, you know, "untenable" is probably the wrong word in that circumstance.

Instead, today I'd like to talk about the relationship between religion and the internet.  When I was religious, prayer was  deeply personal business that I attended to by my lonesome in solemn meditation and thought, and once a week in a communal session where we were encouraged to pray about certain things.  My recollection of the Bible, admittedly coming from a certain religious vantage point from a certain cultural vantage point, and all of the usual caveats, was that you weren't supposed to pray in public.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees for praying in public and rocking and quaking, and calling attention to their piousness.  It indicated, according to Jesus, a lack of true piety, and a desire for recognition that was incompatible with real religiosity.

But people still pray in football stadiums and rock and quake and now they broadcast their thoughts and prayers on the internet.  Politicians broadcast it as the closest thing to action they plan to take on mass shootings.  And that made me wonder...are these people who claim to be thinking and praying even actually doing it?  Or is simply stating that you've thought and prayed the extend of your actions there?

Remember the Electric Monk from DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY?  He was a robot created to pray because none of the people had time to anymore.  The implication being that a deity demanded prayer of some sort, but it didn't really matter who was actually doing it, as long as it was being done.  And now it feels like the internet has become our Electric Monk.

Have you ever seen a meme on Facebook that indicated "like" or "share" this meme to pray for the subject...usually some miserable suffering little kid who likely doesn't even exist?  So in this case, is clicking like actually replacing prayer?  Is the implication that you can only click like if you actually got down on your knees and prayed about it?  Or, as it seems to me, is it that the act of "liking" the meme is the same as praying in the eyes of the Lord?  Because whatever your thoughts on religion, if FBing is replacing actually communing with your deity, that's a fascinating development of the modern age.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Re-Animated #15: Space Ghost Coast to Coast/The Brak Show

Welcome back, friend-os!

The year (chronologically, according to our ongoing timeline) is 2001.  After "The Simpsons" brought the idea of primetime, adult-oriented animation into the mainstream, there were a few clones, some failures, some successes, but nonetheless cancelled ("The Critic," "Duckman") and some had managed to weather the storm and become Sunday-night staples ("King of the Hill," "Futurama," "Family Guy.")

Then, after "Rejected" opened the door, came the experiments.  Weirdo-beardo experimental adult animation litters the airwaves today, but at the beginning of the millennium, they were pretty much all concentrated on [adult swim].  In the last entry in this series, I went over what Cartoon Network was doing and why, which boils down to trying to find new ways to repurpose the newly acquired Hanna-Barbera cartoons of yesteryear.

Now, likely some of you have been yelling at me for a while about not including "Space Ghost Coast to Coast," which debuted in 1994, in this blog series.  Well, the truth is, I was waiting for this entry to hit it.  Unfortunately, chronological order is not always perfect, but we do what we can.

Space Ghost, Moltar, and Zorak sit around a coffee table

"Space Ghost Coast to Coast" was one of the earlier experiments Cartoon Network did with repurposing the Hanna Barbera back catalog.  Space Ghost was one of the lesser-remembered characters of '60s animation, and one of the more batshit ones, which is saying something in the era of Adam "Bat Octopus Repellant" West. 

Space Ghost himself was a serious-minded character, but he flew around space with a pair of twins and a pet monkey fighting villains.  In a way, his less-than-stellar history made Space Ghost a prime candidate for repurposing in a way that, say, Superman would not.  You can imagine the jeers and proto-internet anger around someone's beloved childhood superhero being made an object of derision.  In Space Ghost's case, there were mostly crickets.

And so "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" came to be.  It is, in a lot of ways, a prototype for what would become [adult swim].  Using pre-existing characters allowed the writers to eschew normal origin stories, and the fiscal limitations of the whole product led to an unusual, surreal brand of comedy.  You can imagine, I suppose, this process. 

"Let's dub the character's mouth movements.  Nothing quite fits.  Eh, fuck it, let's just say some nonsense."

"We have a little clip of the characters doing something from the original show.  If we use it, we'll save on the animation budget.  Let's write a way in for them to go running off on a different planet or something."

And so forth.  But SGCTC followed a pretty simple format that allowed for these weird asides.  The concept was that Space Ghost, who took himself ridiculously seriously, was now a talk show host.  His former enemies, lava monster Moltar, the cat-like Brak, and space mantis Zorak, had now been shanghaied into being his producer, Ed McMahon-style sidekick, and bandleader, respectively.

Mostly the characters would bicker, their old statuses as enemies having never quite been forgotten.  Space Ghost, as a talk show host, would have guests on, who appeared in live action on a television screen within the animated studio.  In an early version of what would evolve into Tim and Eric-esque anti-humor, Space Ghost would either bicker with his guest, ignore him altogether, or force him to play the straight man.  We'd also see this concept by-and-large revisited in the later-era, live-action talk show "The Colbert Show."  The guests, depending on how game they were, would either become irritated or play along, in any case allowing for some amusing shenanigans.

I haven't revisited SGCTC in many years, but that's pretty much for the same reason I haven't revisited '90s era Conan O'Brien shows or even something I loved more recently like "The Daily Show."  And the simple reason is because talk shows don't age well.  Unless something someone was slumming it back then and went on to become a major celebrity or if there's some kind of universal, age-proof sketch, talk shows are disposable media of their era, and best left to it.  I imagine there are still diamonds from the SGCTC era, but I shall leave the business of sifting them from the rough to you, dear readers.

The Brak Show.png

Now, with that as preface, we can talk about SGCTC's spinoff (well...or whatever) "The Brak Show."  "Brak" aired alongside "Sealab 2021," "Harvey Birdman," and "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" in the original [adult swim] lineup.  Even amongst such scintillating stoner comedy companion pieces, "Brak" easily won the race for most sophomoric.

Which is not to say that I dislike "Brak."  I enjoyed the show a great deal, and think it has been somewhat forgotten in the scrum of people saying which [adult swim] shows they liked best.  But "Brak" was, most likely deliberately, the "dumb" show.  Brak himself was exceedingly dumb.  Zorak also made the jump over from SGCTC, this time as Brak's cruel and exploitative neighbor.

His villain days long behind him, Brak mostly worried about being nice to people (usually while failing miserably and fucking things up) and singing jaunty tunes.  His father is an out-of-place normal-sized human surrounded by giant monsters, and a vaguely wise, vaguely psychotic figure with a Latino accent.  Think Desi Arnaz by way of Donald Trump.  His mother is possibly whatever feline race Brak is, originally with an American accent, then later with a British accent when the voice actress was replaced.  In keeping with the general ethos, the change was often mentioned but never explained.

And, aside from Brak's many anthropomorphized stuffed animals, rounding out the cast was perhaps "The Brak Show's" greatest creation, Mr. Thundercleese.  Thundercleese is a giant, world-saving robot with a soft side, often fussing about his goldfish and whatnot, but never in anything less than an insane, auto-tuned bravado. 

"Brak" was the first of the original [as] shows to be cancelled, after four seasons.  So, in a way, it feels like it made less of an impact than it did.  But for setting up the network's ongoing ethos, it's at least a quarter responsible.  So, if you've never seen it, it's worth a re-watch. 

On the next two installments of "Re-Animated," we'll be rounding out the rest of the original [adult swim] lineup.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Making the Sausage: Book Length

You may find this hard to believe, but I'm a bit of a nerd.

I like to make spreadsheets to plan things out.  I've already discussed the spreadsheets I use to track my agent queries and review requests.  Similarly, I'm a slave to my Pokemon Go spreadsheet (it lets me know which Pokemon should be evolved, which need to be walked, and so forth.)

A few weeks ago I decided I needed to get a head up on my Goodreads reading challenge for 2018.  It's been five years since the Hundie Challenge when I read the Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (according to The Modern Library.)

The last few years I said fuck it and read at the rate and pace I felt like.  Needless to say, I did not read much.  So this year I decided a challenge might make a dent in my TBR pile and make me feel better about how illiterate I am.  But by the end of February I was already way, way behind.  So I decided to make a spreadsheet of the Kindle books I own and sort them by length.  I figured I could knock out a bunch of the shorter books, thus seriously making inroads into the length of my TBR pile, if not the volume necessarily.

As I was attempting to sort my Kindle TBR pile by length, I noticed something.  I had no idea how to sort it by length.  I've explained in the past how books are measured by word length, because 500 words could be a 30-page children's book or a single page of an unillustrated adult novel.  Depending on formatting, books of the same length in words can vary by sometimes hundreds of pages.  I knew this, but I figured it wouldn't be terribly hard for someone to determine the length of his Kindle books.

Boy was I wrong.

Let's take a look at a short sample of my spreadsheet, shall we?

Title PP
DOWN 139

In this instance I've sorted the TBR list by page length, per Amazon.  But I know pages are based on formatting, so I squinted and took at look at the Kindle "location" length.  Here's what I came up with:

Title Location PP
THE WANING 2068 183
SACRIFICE 2540 180

Hmm.  Not quite the same is it?  So then I thought to myself, perhaps there is some kind of ratio between location and page length.  Once I had that ratio I could simply multiply that number by the page length and get the actual lengths of every book in my pile.  But a quick attempt to do so determined that was not the case:

Title Location PP
CUT CORNERS 406 32 12.69
SQUABBIT FARM 1099 101 10.88
KINGDOM OF SHADOWS 1462 99 14.77
THE WANING 2068 183 11.30
LUST, MONEY & MURDER 2323 278 8.36
THE HORROR SQUAD - 2441 2441 278 8.78
HE LEFT HER AT THE ALTAR 2508 168 14.93
SACRIFICE 2540 180 14.11

The ratios ranged from 2.5 to 23.8.  Basically, that's useless.  Even an average of the ratios would be useless.  So here I had been thinking that Kindle "locations" were independent of formatting - but they are not.  But I was not out of data yet.  So next I decided to sort by the length of time it takes to read.  Surely that would get me to the center of this Tootsie Pop.

Title Length in minutes Location PP
CUT CORNERS                              30 406 32
FANTASTIC EARTH DESTROYER ULTRA PLUS                               30 650 255
SQUABBIT FARM 78 1099 101
THE WANING 150 2068 183
LUST, MONEY & MURDER 164 2323 278  That's when I realized that the length of time it takes to read a Kindle book is not some independent, objective time.  It must be based on an average of the length of time it took every reader which Kindle collected information on to read.  So very popular books would have different average read lengths from very unpopular books.  And books which are easy to read would have very different lengths from denser books.

At this point I was starting to tear my hair out.  As you can see, a few of the regular suspects kept cropping up, so I could guess that CUT CORNERS, for instance, was going to be a quick read no matter what.  But otherwise the books in my TBR pile varied so much by page length, time to read, and location length, that I had no idea what the hell constituted "short" anymore.

But one more vital statistic called to me.  I noticed that ever kindle book has a series of dots under it.  And I guessed that those dots represented content.  FANTASTIC EARTH DESTROYER ULTRA PLUS, for instance, is a somewhat lengthy book at 255 pp, but it is illustrated, so its actual content of words is very small.  Pulling out a magnifying glass I set to the laborious task (yes, as I stated at the outset, I am a nerd) of counting dots.  And here's what I came up with:

Title Location PP Dots
SQUABBIT FARM 1099 101 3
CUT CORNERS 406 32 3
THE WANING 2068 183 6
DOWN 139 7
Now that looks a bit more like it.

So what's the moral of this story?  I don't fucking know.  I just thought it might be interesting to look at how hard it is to determine the actual lengths of books, particularly on Kindle.  Remember the old adage "Don't judge a book by its cover?"  Similarly, I suppose we should not judge a book by its width.

Monday, March 5, 2018

On Shitbirds

I've been thinking about shitbirds a lot lately.  Not deliberately.  In fact, if I could, in any way, avoid them, I would.  There's just been a veritable army of people popping up lately who want to take a big old shit on society and common decency and then act all flustered when they get called out on it.

Am I talking about anyone in particular?  Yes.  Am I going to name and shame?  No, not in this particular circumstance.  And, incidentally, this post has been planned since before WiHM began, so you're not going to be able to pop over to my social media and backwards engineer who in particular I might be referring to.

What I want to talk about today is not any particular shitbird, just their general behavior.  So picture, if you will, someone who decides to toss a turd into the swimming pool of the internet: it could be a statement that's bigoted, libelous, misogynistic, what have you.  Now here's where our narrative splits into two branches.

Now, I'm a normally socialized human being, or at least I like to think so.  I'm aware that I was born a few decades ago and societal norms have changed.  On the playground I used to regularly say "gay" to mean, quite literally, "stupid."  Add thirty or forty years to me and I'm going to have grown up in a time when "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" was considered some groundbreaking, progressive stuff.  Am I going to slip up and say something ugly online now and then?  Statistically, it seems quite likely.  Hell, comb through the archives of this blog and it probably hasn't been all that terribly long.

So what would I do if somebody called me out for saying something nasty and out-of-fashion?  Well, I'd most likely apologize.  If I was feeling a bit salty that day, I might even bring up my age and say I didn't really mean it that way and it's hard for a leopard to change its spots.  But most likely, unless I thought somebody was being willfully obtuse and nitpicky, I'd probably feel bad and apologize for it.  Or maybe, worst case scenario, ignore it or even delete it out of shame.

But here's the other branch of the narrative.  More and more lately I've been seeing people who toss a bomb, then defend it.  Then the next step is to say that anyone who pointed out that the shitbird tossed a bomb is being overly sensitive.  Then the next step is to say that anyone who disagreed with the statement is a bully.  So these shitbirds double down, triple down, even quadruple down on what adds up to being an ass.

So, setting aside that I know some people are just hopelessly obtuse and narcissistic and will never admit that anything they've done is wrong I'm left to wonder...why?  Why die on the hill of an unpopular statement?  I mean, even if you're nothing but self-serving, you'd think you'd prefer to rescind your unpopular opinion.  If the choice comes down to being thought of as an asshole or not, why wouldn't you prefer not?

Then I found out about Vox Day's book about lying SJWs, which will, strangely enough, remain untitled and unlinked-to here.  Now this book serves as essentially a playbook for a particular strain of right-wing trolls, which, though I have no special love for conservatives in general, I don't care to lump in with the entirety of that political coalition.  And in the book Day outlines this basic plan: toss a bomb, double down on it, insist that anyone who disagrees is overly sensitive, once things get heated insist anyone who disagrees is a bully, then by the end you have a great big flaming dumpster fire of negative press.  But then, all press is good press, right?  And hopefully you've roped in a few detractors more popular than yourself to give you an undeserved signal boost.

So here's my question for you, dear readers.  Does this work?  Is it effective?  Is it desirable?  Is it deliberate?  As I said, I can't swear that everyone who does it is doing so because they're following Day's playbook.  They might just be severely myopic narcissists.  But that being said, are these shitbirds actually getting the attention they so clearly crave in any lasting kind of way?  After going through with this bomb-throwing, do other shitbirds then follow their careers closely?  Does it boost product sales?  Or is it a garbage fire that just needs to be consistently fed?  In a way, are people who call out shitbirds playing into their hands?  Is it best to just ignore their shitty statements?  Or should we go on making a point of calling them out?  Your thoughts in the comment section would be very welcome.

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Comprehensive List of Every Conversation Held in a Workplace Ever

A comprehensive list of every conversation held in a workplace ever.


A: Hello. How are you?
B: I am well. However, it could be better. It could be afternoon/Friday/a holiday.
A: I agree with your assessment.


A: Oh, I notice you're wearing a [color] shirt.
B: That is an accurate representation of the facts.
A: X, Y, and myself/not myself are also wearing [color.] It must be [Color] Day and I got/did not get the memo.
B: Fascinating.


A: Yum, the object in the microwave smells delicious.
B: I am aware of that fact as I am the one that put said object there.
A: Did you make that or did your spouse/significant other make it?
B: I/my spouse/my significant other made it.
A: Fascinating.


A: Do you remember [coworker who formerly worked here]?
B: I do not. My employment began after theirs terminated.
A: [Coworker who formerly worked here] was quite a card. Once they did something amusing/outrageous/no longer appropriate for the workplace. Perhaps you had to have been there/known them to properly appreciate this story.
B: Likely so, yet you related the anecdote so vividly that I could still appreciate it.
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