Jobless Insomniacs Motorcycle Club

The benignly-neglected online home of writer Desmond Warzel

Category Archives: Uncategorized

2016 in the books.

Stuff I read in 2016 (I wish I had found time for more…):


A keystone state of mind.

Shameless self-promotion: I have a new story out as of last month called “You Can Not Have a Meaningful Campaign if Strict Time Records Are Not Kept.” By far, it’s the longest title I’ve ever employed. It’s a direct reference to something, and I wonder if anyone stopping by will recognize it. If you’re under about thirty-five years of age, probably not. Answer at the bottom.keystone

The particulars: “You Can Not Have…” appears in the anthology Keystone Chronicles, edited by Juliana Rew and published by Third Flatiron Press. The premise: any interpretation of “keystone”; that is, something on which other things depend for support, the heart or core of something, the crux, or central principle.

The lineup:

Our Problem-Child: Langerfeld the Moon by Marilyn K. Martin
Hunt, Unrelenting by Sierra July
Coding Haven by Brandon Crilly
Splinters by Maureen Bowden
Desol 8 by Edward Palumbo
Telling the Bees by Judith Field
Daman by Zerrin Otgur
You Can Not Have a Meaningful Campaign If Strict Time Records Are Not Kept by Desmond Warzel
Racial Memory by Gustavo Bondoni
The White Picket Fence by A. P. Sessler
Every Planet Has One by John Marr
See You on Hel by Bear Kosik
The Keystone Mine by John M. Campbell
How Far Away the Stars by Sam Muller
To Their Wondering Eyes by Sharon Diane King
TANSTAAFL by Bascomb James
Rejection by Larry Lefkowitz
I Should’ve Known Better by Art Lasky
Remembrance of Saint Urho by Damian Sheridan

The title: “You Can Not Have a Meaningful Campaign if Strict Time Records Are Not Kept” is a direct quote from Gary Gygax’s first edition Dungeon Master’s Guide, one of the core rulebooks of the original version of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The book was completely chaotic, with no chapter or section breaks, and information imparted in seemingDungeonMasterGuide4Coverly random order. It’s a glorious dog’s-breakfast of odd charts (prostitute encounter table, anyone?), oft-ignored rules (encumbrance, psionics), and awesome Gygaxian prose that fortified the vocabularies of all of us gamers who were lucky enough to read it (abjuration, castellan, hobilar, menhir, troglodyte…). Right in the middle of a relatively pedestrian section on time management, the above title appears out of nowhere in URGENT CAPITAL LETTERS.

I’ve always been amused by that phrase, and this is one of those cases where I chose it as a title and then wrote a story to fit. “You Can Not Have…” isn’t a D&D-style story at all; rather, it’s a humorous time-travel piece (in fact, fair warning: this one’s a little wacky, even for me). I hope some of you pick up the book and check it out.

Ephemera at the local bibliotheca.

One of the libraries in my area held its annual book sale fundraiser a couple of weeks ago. I scored twenty books; not bad, but I’ve done better. The SF/fantasy selection was slim pickings as usual (and if I get there more than thirty minutes after they open, some other nerd always beats me to it and swipes everything), but the key is to search every table, because a lot of stuff gets misfiled.

I can usually find something interesting. Last year I found several first printings of we haveVonnegut paperbacks in near-perfect shape, as well as an immaculate copy of the first paperback printing of Shirley Jackson’s novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1963, priced at sixty cents). What happens, I think, is that Granddad, the avid reader, never gets rid of anything, and when his time’s finally up, he’s accumulated an attic’s- or storeroom’s-worth of books, all read once and then laid gently aside. Enter his children and grandchildren; all they want is to empty the house as quickly as possible so they can move in or put it on the market. It doesn’t occur to these regressed-to-the-mean troglodytes even to open the boxes, much less put down their phones and sort through them for something that might grab their attention. Off it all goes to the book sale without a thought. It’s a theory, anyway.

One often finds things tucked inside used books; bookmarks, usually, or innocuous slips of paper pressed into service as bookmarks. In going through my recent acquisitions, though, I found a few I’d classify as unusual.husband

In a paperback copy of The Husband by Dean Koontz I found a boarding pass for Delta flight  752 from Denver to Atlanta on July 25 (the year is not specified). Congratulations to Louis T. Fantacone for scoring Zone One seating, though I’d have thought Koontz a trifle déclassé for that neighborhood.

If2001n a copy of Fantasy: The Best of 2001 edited by Robert Silverberg and Karen Haber, I found two Mega Millions tickets dating from March 2014. They were purchased via the South Carolina lottery, which means, I believe, that they would have to be redeemed in South Carolina. For a few hundred bucks, it wouldn’t be worth bothering; I’d probably just look up a random Humane Society location in that state
and mail them the tickets as a donation. For a jackpot, though, I’d make the trip. Of course, observant readers will have noted that the tickets are no longer valid, and it’s been well over a year since they could have been redeemed. I checked the numbers anyway; of course I did. They didn’t win. I’m glad of that. I’d shudder to think what I might have done if they had.

I also snagged a paperback edition of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Per the copyright page, this edition originates in 1969, but is in its eighteenth printing, which probably places this particular copy sometime in the 1970s. Tucked inside was this photograph:


Handwritten on the back is “Bill Hawkins — Irene / Horner Campground” (as best I can make out, anyway). I doubt googling would do much good; most people of the age they’d be today leave very little trace on the web. I did find one vague, offhand reference to a Horner Campground in New Jersey, but no details were available. Assuming they were a couple, I’d like to think they’re alive and still together. I wouldn’t hold my breath, but on the off-chance anybody does know one or both of these people, point them in the direction of this blog (and ask them what they thought of Brave New World; I haven’t read it yet). And if they’re no longer with us? Well, having someone think and talk about us after we’re gone is the best that most of us can hope for, and they’ve achieved it.

If I had more poetic sensibilities, I could find some higher significance in the convergence of these three objects from such disparate places as Georgia, South Carolina, and New Jersey/wherever; the way they all ended up in a small northwestern Pennsylvania town, and ended up sharing a destiny together in my bag of books. You know, the way Thomas Hardy did with the Titanic and the iceberg. But I can’t. I just think it’s interesting.

Radio gaga.

For you completists, the (relatively) recent release of Quickfic Anthology 2 from Digital qf2Fiction Publishing marks the first time that my 2009 story “On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy,” wherein a drive-time radio host deals with flying saucers over
Cleveland, sees actual physical print. (It’s out for the Kindle as well). Better yet, it appears alongside a plethora of other great stories by people like Deborah Walker, Alex Shvartsman, Pedro Iniguez, and numerous others.

[And yet, despite the fact that it goes against all the rules of intelligent shilling, I cannot mention that particular story without directing you to the audio version that aired on episode #340 of The Drabblecast (the sound file is at the bottom of the page). It’s a work of art.]

Not-so-quick fic…

…in the sense that I promised to announce when the first Quickfic anthology came out, quickficand it’s been about two months since the release and I never bothered to do it.  So…

In conjunction with the Quickfic feature on the Digital Fiction Publishing website is Quickfic Anthology 1: Shorter-Short Speculative Fiction, which reprints my 2012 story “Habemus Papam,” and which also contains great tales by Rose Blackthorn and Alex Shvartsman and lots of other talented people.  In print and for the Kindle.

When in Rome…

Over at the website of Digital Fiction Publishing, the folks responsible for the Digital Science Fiction, Digital Fantasy Fiction, and Digital Horror Fiction projects, there’s a feature330px-sistine_chapel called Quickfic which features very short pieces in all three genres–from 250 to 3500 words.  Clicking on “Quickfic” will take you to several pages of great short stories, but I’d like to call your attention in particular to my story “Habemus Papam,” which has actually been there since March 20th.

“Habemus Papam” is a brief horror tale that takes place during a papal election.  It first appeared in the anthology Night Terrors II (Blood Bound Books, 2012), but is now free for the reading at Quickfic.

(I believe the fiction from this Quickfic project is eventually to be collected in an inexpensive Kindle anthology as well, so keep an eye out for that.)

N.B.: Hopefully, nobody takes my approach to the papal election as disrespectful; for the record, I consider the cardinals in this story to be legitimate heroes.

Humble origins.

The origin story is an integral part of the superhero genre.  While some of them are weak (most villains, for instance, seem to gain their powers from laboratory or industrial accidents–see Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Electro, Mr. Freeze, et. al.), some are downright iconic.  Who could forget this image from Superman:


[Iconic only goes so far, of course.  Spider-Man’s next cinematic incarnation, taking place in the Avengers universe, is due in 2017.  Happily, a bit of dialogue in last year’s Ant-Man hinted that this version of Spider-Man was already active as a hero at that time, and this was just confirmed in the latest Captain America: Civil War trailer; thus we’ve apparently been spared our third Spider-Man origin story in fifteen years.  We don’t need it; everybody knows how Spider-Man got his powers.  You know; I know; your grandmother knows; remote mountain tribes in Cambodia know.]

All of which is in service of saying that my own humble foray into superhero fiction, a short story called “The Dilettante and Leonard,” was just published over at SFReader, a great site that features well over a thousand fantasy, science fiction, and horror book reviews, and that also publishes some great fiction as well.  Check it out if you like, and find out why some origin stories aren’t what they seem.  Register and leave a comment if you wish; I’m sure the SFReader folks appreciate feedback.

Additionally, writers and aspiring writers might want to bookmark SFReader‘s fiction contest page in anticipation of its opening to entries once more this December.  This is a contest that I don’t think gets nearly enough love…

Physical comedy.

I got a package in the mail the other day, and what should I find inside except the newly-minted print edition of Funny Science Fiction from UFO Publishing.

Eagle-eyed and sharp-minded readers will recall that this anthology was released as an ebook back in August.  I’m reliably informed by the publisher that it’s done well enough to warrant a physical

I must say this pleases me.  Despite the fact that the particular story of mine that’s reprinted therein (must I even mention which one?) gained its original popularity by being widely shared via the web, and despite the fact that I owe ninety-nine percent of my tiny measure of notability to the viral nature of that story, I’ve never been able to shake the idea that stories etched on bound slivers of processed dead trees are somehow more satisfying.  It’s an irrational opinion–obviously tangibility rarely has any bearing on the quality of the story–but I hold it.

All of which is in the service of pointing out that if you were holding out for a paperback edition of Funny Science Fiction  (whether because you’re an obsessed Mike Resnick fan who simply must acquire every occurrence of his work in print, or because you’re a devotee of UFO Publishing and wish to own all of their fine products), the universal forces have aligned in your favor.

2015 in the books.

Stuff I read in 2015, presented without comment or apology.

Killing Hitler again.

I’ve had my work performed on several SF/fantasy podcasts over the past few years;Wikihistory once on Escape Pod, three times on Cast of Wonders, and three times on The Drabblecast.  I’ve always enjoyed it.  Now Rish Outfield and Big Anklevich, the proprietors of The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, attempt the impossible: an audio adaptation of my first published story, “Wikihistory,” which appeared in Abyss & Apex in 2007.  The story takes the form of postings on an Internet message board; how will this translate to audio?  There’s only one way to find out, of course; have a listen.  (For the record, I thought they did a fantastic job.)

Some fiction podcasters just read the story and sign off.  The Dunesteef crew doesn’t do fiction drive-bys.  Stay tuned for nearly an hour of discussion from Big and Rish on various topics related and unrelated to the story.  They always go above and beyond.  And if you’re new to their work and liked this show, going back and listening to the previous 176 episodes would be a fine use of your copious spare time…