Jobless Insomniacs Motorcycle Club

The benignly-neglected online home of writer Desmond Warzel

2021 in the books.

The annual reading list continues to shrink.  (I didn’t really get much writing done, either.)  This time, it’s attributable to increased attention to other responsibilities, combined with a brief hospitalization for you-know-what.  Here’s to this year being a little more amenable.  As always, watch this space for pertinent announcements.

  1. Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady by Florence King
  2. Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn
  3. If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
  4. Autumn Princess, Dragon Child by Lian Hearn
  5. The Real Pepsi Challenge: How One Pioneering Company Broke Color Barriers in 1940s American Business by Stephanie Capparell
  6. Lord of the Darkwood by Lian Hearn
  7. Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman
  8. The Tengu’s Game of Go by Lian Hearn
  9. Fiddler Fair by Mercedes Lackey
  10. Tour of the Merrimack: Volume One by R. M. Meluch
  11. Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
  12. Tour of the Merrimack: Volume Two by R. M. Meluch
  13. Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat by Marta Zaraska
  14. The Ninth Circle by R. M. Meluch
  15. The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente
  16. The Twice and Future Caesar by R. M. Meluch
  17. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
  18. The Many-Colored Land & The Golden Torc by Julian May
  19. Resurrection Science by M. R. O’Connor
  20. The Nonborn King by Julian May
  21. Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan
  22. The Adversary by Julian May
  23. The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N. McIntyre
  24. The Surveillance by Julian May
  25. The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh
  26. The Metaconcert by Julian May
  27. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  28. Jack the Bodiless by Julian May
  29. The Down Days by Ilze Hugo
  30. Diamond Mask by Julian May
  31. Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre
  32. Magnificat by Julian May
  33. Bossypants by Tina Fey
  34. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  35. Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin
  36. The Plant Hunter: A Scientist’s Quest for Nature’s Next Medicines by Cassandra Leah Quave
  37. The Hierarchies by Ros Anderson
  38. Moon Flights by Elizabeth Moon
  39. Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
  40. Fraterfamilias by Judith Doloughan and Paula R. Stiles
  41. The People in the Castle by Joan Aiken

Late for dinner.

Suppose you discovered time travel. Obviously, level-headed individuals like us know what a bad idea it is to go messing around with pivotal historical events, so, once those reflexive notions have been entertained and rightly dismissed, what would you actually do with it? During a conversation on just this topic some years ago, I suggested I might go back and relive the fondly-recalled experiences of my youth: seeing favorite films

on the big screen, playing video games in an actual arcade, and, in particular, eating in sorely-missed restaurants that have long since closed their doors. My short story “I Only Time-Travel During School Hours” addresses exactly this idea, and if that premise doesn’t seem altogether loaded with dramatic possibility, all I can say is, travel back in time, see what you get.

The story appears in the new anthology The Trouble with Time Travel from Smoking Pen Press, edited by Catherine Valenti and Laurie Axinn Gienapp, taking its place alongside nineteen other time travel stories by Holly Schofield, Frank Roger, and a plethora of other talented writers. (NB: My story is a reprint, having originally appeared in Time Travel Tales, edited by Zach Chapman, in 2016. Read it in either place, if you like.)

2020 in the books.

My reading for 2020.  I wish it were more.  Some of us have to work for a living.

  1. Silk by Caitlin R. Kiernan
  2. Private Investigations: Mystery Writers on the Secrets, Riddles, and Wonders in Their Lives edited by Victoria Zackheim
  3. Murder of Angels by Caitlin R. Kiernan
  4. The Gimmicks by Chris McCormick
  5. Time Patrol by Poul Anderson
  6. The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings
  7. The Shield of Time by Poul Anderson
  8. Green Eyes by Lucius Shepard
  9. Roma Mater by Poul and Karen Anderson
  10. I Want You to Know We’re Still Here by Esther Safran Foer
  11. Gallicenae by Poul and Karen Anderson
  12. Palimpsests by Carter Scholz and Glenn Harcourt
  13. The King of Ys: Volume 2 by Poul and Karen Anderson
  14. Author in Chief by Craig Fehrman
  15. Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein
  16. Lincoln’s Sword by Debra Doyle and James D. MacDonald
  17. Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
  18. The Starry Rift edited by Jonathan Strahan
  19. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein
  20. Writers of the Future Volume XXVI edited by K. D. Wentworth
  21. To Sail Beyond the Sunset by Robert A. Heinlein
  22. Hasan by Piers Anthony
  23. The Knight by Gene Wolfe
  24. Martian Knightlife by James P. Hogan
  25. The Wizard by Gene Wolfe
  26. Accelerando by Charles Stross
  27. Snuff by Terry Pratchett
  28. I. Asimov by Isaac Asimov
  29. Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
  30. Red November by Joel B. Pollak
  31. Thieves’ World edited by Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey
  32. The I Inside by Alan Dean Foster
  33. Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn edited by Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey
  34. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  35. Shadows of Sanctuary edited by Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey
  36. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
  37. Storm Season edited by Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey
  38. Saturn Rukh by Robert L. Forward
  39. The Face of Chaos edited by Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey
  40. The Rake by William F. Buckley, Jr.
  41. Wings of Omen edited by Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abbey
  42. Armada by Ernest Cline
  43. Tales from the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke
  44. Home Truths by David Lodge
  45. Phoenix Without Ashes by Edward Bryant and Harlan Ellison
  46. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  47. Inheritors of Earth by Gordon Eklund and Poul Anderson
  48. Last Orgy of the Divine Hermit by Mark Leyner
  49. Soul Catcher by Frank Herbert

Cleveland rocks.

Back in 2009, I published a short story (“On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy”) about alleged flying saucers over Cleveland, written in the form of an afternoon radio call-in show.  This appeared on the website SFReader.  In retrospect, itDrabblecast epsidoe 340, On A Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy, by Jonathan Sims cried out to exist in audio format, as it’s practically tailor-made for that (this was even pointed out to me at the time, but I’ve always been a slow adapter, and it was some time before I was on board with this “podcast” business).  The story eventually appeared on the pioneering SF podcast Escape Pod in 2011, gamely narrated by Joshua McNichols.

And yet, in the back of my mind, I felt that the tale could aspire to something even greater.  Along came the Drabblecast and its intrepid editor Norm Sherman, who adapted the story once again in 2014, this time with a full cast (including Dave Robison, Mike Boris, Rish Outfield, Mat Weller, Nathan Lee, Ray Sizemore, and numerous podcast listeners portraying Cleveland denizens calling in to the show) and that inimitable Drabblecast/Norm Sherman audio production that longtime listeners will know so well.  I’m biased, but I consider it nothing less than a masterpiece of SF audio fiction.

Earlier this week, Norm resurrected “On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy” for his occasional Drabblecast Director’s Cut feature, wherein he plays a favorite story and then interviews the author about the piece as well as whatever other subjects happen to arise.  Needless to say, I have intense hatred for the sound of my own voice, so as of this writing, I have yet to listen to the interview; moreover, I probably won’t do so until I have the chance to get a few drinks in me (at least as many as it took to work up the motivation to do the interview to begin with).  Most people, however, have no idea whether they can stand my voice, and this would be an excellent chance to find out; so feel free to give it a listen.

(N.B. On the off-chance that “On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy” is your favorite story [and why not?  Any story might be one person’s favorite story], and you’re just dying to see it in actual print, it did in fact appear in Quickfic Anthology 2: Shorter-Short Speculative Fiction from Digital Fiction Publishing in 2016.  [Of course, if you had clicked on the “Bibliography” tab above, you’d already know that.]  Right now Amazon has the paperback in stock at a price of $2.94; why so low, I have no idea, but there you go.)

Everyone needs a hug.

Episode #712 of Pseudopod, the premier horror fiction podcast, dropped a couple of days ago. This one features three very short stories:

  • “The Boy in the Mirror” by Drew Czernick, narrated by Karlo Yeager Rodriguez
  • “Rock Dead” by Jennifer Gardner, narrated by Autumn Ivy
  • “Free Hugs” by Desmond Warzel, narrated by Setsu Uzume

The first two are excellent, and the third isn’t bad.  It was inspired by a vague memory ofFree hugs #door #bunker #forest #wild #trees #leaf #hole ... seeing the picture at right, or a picture similar to it, in my Facebook feed some years ago.  These days, an image search results mostly in pictures of people wearing shirts or displaying placards bearing the titular slogan, apparently in all earnestness and sincerity.  I suppose everybody needs a hobby.  Some people collect stamps.

I liked “Free Hugs” when I wrote it, and now that I’ve listened to it, I like it even better.  Setsu’s excellent narration elevates it to a higher plane.

Future Shock

In 2007, the webzine Abyss & Apex published my first short story, about time travelers engaged in a Wikipedia-style edit war of history.  In 2010 I returned to their virtual pages with a tale of an interplanetary customs officer who suspects that a reformed smuggler has begun backsliding.  Now, a decade later, I return to where it all began with “Future Imperfect,” the story of a man who can see a few minutes into the future and the well-meaning friend in search of a way to exploit that talent.

I wrote this story some years ago.  One outfit held onto it for four hundred forty-four days (the exact length of the Iranian hostage crisis) before finally turning it down.  Abyss & Apex accepted it in 2018, but that fine magazine receives many more quality stories than they can publish in a timely manner; as a result, “Future Imperfect” makes its debut in issue #75 nearly two years after its acceptance.

In the weeks before publication, I reread the story myself for the first time in that two-year period.  Unusually for me, it turns out that I still like it.  Quite a bit, in fact.  I think that’s a good sign.

Of heroism and humility

Lately there’s been a justifiable surge of support throughout the media, both social and otherwise, for the unsung heroes of our society.  By sheer chance, the anthology Forgotten Sidekicks dropped yesterday courtesy of the fine folks at Kristell Ink and editors Peter Sutton and Steven Poore.  I assure you, this is not a cynical attempt to cash in on the zeitgeist; book releases are planned months, if not years, in advance.  From the back cover:

“We all know what happens when the hero saves the day, but what about their sidekicks? Too often the hero is held high and celebrated whilst their sidekicks and comrades are brushed to the side; their own battles forgotten, and their actions airbrushed to nothingness from the tales of victory. These are the stories of the ones who aren’t remembered; the ones who helped save the day, and got cast aside; the ones who don’t want the applause, and the ones who deserved the applause and never received it. These stories didn’t make the headlines – but they happened, and they’re glorious.”

At this point, you’re thinking I probably wouldn’t be mentioning this if it didn’t benefit me in some way, and you’re right; Forgotten Sidekicks contains my superhero story “The Dilettante and Leonard,” as well as this line-up:

  • “The Bardic Guide to Disobedience” by Courtney M. Privett
  • “The Dilettante and Leonard” by Desmond Warzel
  • “The Hour of the Rat” by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt
  • “Saving Simon” by Allen Stroud
  • “A Harlequin in the Shadows” by Su Haddrell
  • “Henchman” by Chrissey Harrison
  • “Charioteer” by John Houlihan
  • “Just Like Goldfinger, Right?” by Ian Hunter
  • “Well-Suited” by  Steve Dillon
  • “Sidekicks Anonymous” by Jim Horlock

Why not check it out if you have some Amazon credit burning a virtual hole in your pocket?

2019 in the books.

Slower year this year.  Where did all the time go?

  1. The Long Night by Poul Anderson
  2. Heroics for Beginners by John Moore
  3. The Night Face by Poul Anderson
  4. Friday by Robert A. Heinlein
  5. Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz
  6. Space Vulture by Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers
  7. Saint Odd by Dean Koontz
  8. Penny Dreadfuls edited by Stefan Dziemianowicz
  9. No Phule Like an Old Phule by Robert Asprin and Peter J. Heck
  10. The Domino Men by Jonathan Barnes
  11. Phule’s Errand by Robert Asprin and Peter J. Heck
  12. Home is Everywhere by Charles L. Novak
  13. Chthon by Piers Anthony
  14. Starburst by Frederik Pohl
  15. Phthor by Piers Anthony
  16. Resonance by Chris Dolley
  17. Plasm by Charles Platt
  18. The Empire of Fear by Brian Stableford
  19. The Cynic in Extremis by Jacob M. Appel
  20. Soma by Charles Platt
  21. Mars Life by Ben Bova
  22. Neuromancer by William Gibson
  23. Scouting for the Reaper by Jacob M. Appel
  24. Count Zero by William Gibson
  25. Paris by Edward Rutherfurd
  26. Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson
  27. Triplet by Timothy Zahn
  28. The Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes
  29. The Corridors of Time by Poul Anderson
  30. Beowulf’s Children by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes
  31. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  32. Cities in Flight Vol. 1 by James Blish
  33. Bodyguard by William C. Dietz
  34. Cities in Flight Vol. 2 by James Blish
  35. One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
  36. Halting State by Charles Stross
  37. Boondocks Fantasy edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg
  38. Rule 34 by Charles Stross
  39. Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
  40. Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz
  41. Jesus on Mars by Philip Jose Farmer
  42. Seize the Night by Dean Koontz
  43. More Stories from the Twilight Zone edited by Carol Serling
  44. Top Dog by Jerry Jay Carroll
  45. The Draco Tavern by Larry Niven
  46. Dog Eat Dog by Jerry Jay Carroll
  47. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  48. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  49.  Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan
  50. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  51. Playgrounds of the Mind by Larry Niven
  52. Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury
  53. Starsong by Dan Parkinson
  54. The Liars’ Asylum by Jacob M. Appel
  55. Testing by Charles Oberndorf
  56. Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets by Jacob M. Appel
  57. The Dancer from Atlantis by Poul Anderson
  58. Balsamic Dreams by Joe Queenan
  59. Ring for Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
  60. Jeeves in the Offing by P. G. Wodehouse
  61. Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks
  62. The Lurker at the Threshold by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth

…oh, my.

An early story of mine that has been unavailable for some time has reemerged from vzg2 coverthe darkness and been made available once more in Vampires, Zombies, and Ghosts: Volume 2, edited by Laurie Axinn Gienap and Catherine Valenti and now out for the Kindle and in other electronic formats from Smoking Pen Press.  My tale, “A Good Boy,” first appeared in the magazine Alternative Coordinates in 2009 and the e-anthology 31 Days of Halloween Horror in 2010.  Both of those publications have vanished from the material realm, but “A Good Boy” lives on once more.

(Despite the anthology’s title, my story concerns neither a vampire, nor a zombie, nor a ghost.  The title is indicative, not definitive.)

There are rumors of a print edition in the near future.  Watch this space for updates as they happen.

(Particularly observant readers will have noticed that the presence of the modifier “Volume 2” suggests the existence of a first volume.  There is.  Why not check that out as well?)

No, it’s not “123456.”

My first publication of 2019 is finally at hand: The new anthology Lost and Found: Tales of Things Gone Missing, edited by Terri Karsten is now out from Wagonbridge Publishing.  Fifty-seven authors tell tales of lost things: people, objects, memories.  In my case, it’s a forgotten computer password that incites the difficulties which abound in my story “One Thing Leads to Your Mother.”  The story first appeared in Unidentified Funny Objects 2 in 2013, but I’m happy to share it anew with a fresh audience.  Do check it out, if you like.