Spawn of Mars
Don't worry. If you like your religion, you can keep your religion.
Sundry & Motley
As of Today
Sunday, September 6, 2020 6:59 pm
So I finished the fourth Hamlin Becker story, that epilogue of sorts to An Uncommon Day at the Lake. I had hoped to make it a succinct 4K words. As it is, it's 5.3K. That's still shorter than the last two (which are ~10K each) and below the pulp standard of 6K (which I regularly exceed). I think it is also fairly succinct in any event. It is entitled His Own Ends.

This means I might have two stories in StoryHack in 2021. Assuming there are enough issues planned. And that the editor likes them both. Which he will. Because they're great.

What annoys me about my writing "process," such as it is, are the numerous, unproductive periods. 

I finished Uncommon Day at the end of April. I found it impossible to make headway on His Own until July. Then, somehow, I started writing; but even then, I didn't finish until August was gone. Two months down; two months up. Four months to get out 5K words.

The horrible thing is, the down times seem necessary. They are, at least, inevitable. No, I am not "recuperating" or "recharging." I'm just lounging. And my will is empty. Until it's not. And then... not suddenly, but with a certain useful steadiness, I manage to write a complete tale.

So now, having finished His Own Ends, do I have months of nothing ahead? Probably.

Since Cirsova is apparently not an option for 2021, and I've already got two possibilities for StoryHack, and Stupefying Stories seems to be dying (and my two stories, already accepted by them, may revert to me unpublished), I don't precisely have any successful markets to target in the short term. Not having to write for specific markets, I am going to let my next story be rather... whatever I want. Just some idyllic SF. No pulp, no action, no thrills, no nothing but what pleases me. This is a kind of freedom, to be sure. I'm looking forward to it.

The drag of it is, I still have to do some planning and such. I really would like to free-form it and just write. But I decided decades ago that, whatever stream of thought I might indulge, there still has to be a story of some sort. A plot. Or at least a point. Hence the tedious preliminaries...

It should be cool, though. It's about a man who decides to produce some good, like maple syrup, except not that. His community resides above the surface of a neutron star. The inhabitants of the star, akin to spirits, maintain the livable fragments above. The story is a kind of journal, about his not-maple-syrup endeavors and his benign clashes with his neighbors and local government. It's idyllic. A summer in the life of his family.

I don't expect to sell it to anyone. I just want to write it.

I haven't done a very good job avoiding Twitter. It's not so much that I want something to read (however piecemeal), although there is that; it's more that I am so bored. If nothing else, Twitter provides stimulus. Still, I've been cold turkey for a day. Ha! I may avoid it for a time...

Sundry & Motley
As of Today
Friday, August 7, 2020 1:40 pm
I wrote to Alex, the editor of Cirsova, and confirmed that Cirsova's plans and budget for 2021 leave no room for my story The Impossible Footprint. I wouldn't have asked Alex so pointedly, except he had tweeted that he was only going to invite contributors — no open submissions, that is — and I needed to know my chances. What a shame! I still think it's perfect for Cirsova.

So now I am going to send it through the rejection mill. Maybe Cirsova will take it for 2022. Or maybe it will be a little masterpiece kept in a drawer. 

Submissions for StoryHack will likely open, as I expected, in the fall. I've got An Uncommon Day at the Lake, the third Hamlin Becker tale, ready to go. It's funny how much I am presuming my story will be accepted. I don't usually operate with such hope. But having had two Becker tales published in StoryHack, my hope is not unwarranted.

As I have mentioned, my productivity of late has been contemptible. In the past couple of weeks I have finally started writing again. It's another Becker tale, but pithier. I am targeting no more than 4,000 words, in four tight chapters. One thrilling fight and out. The sisters Day are not even in it, except as troubles in Becker's thoughts. It's a kind of epilogue to Uncommon Day and a transition to another, perhaps too ambitious, Becker novella — or novel, should I dare!

Anyhow, this new short, as yet untitled, might be finished before StoryHack's fall submissions close. That is, maybe I can get two Becker tales published in 2021.

It's true what they say. Reading Twitter agitates and depresses the reader. At first I was getting that nice flow of thoughts that even busy blogs can't match. But the times are far too infuriating. I have been mourning the Republic and my people for years, but now I am certain we are truly finished. We are passing through the greatest history. And I don't need Twitter to remind me of the coming end.

I'm retaining my Twitter account but, like many people, I am stepping away. I'll use it for announcements only (and maybe to carefully track Cirsova and StoryHack).

One frustrating aspect of my (now ended) recourse to the Twitter Timeline was that I just wanted something to read. Gads, it has been hard to find good fiction. I've been enjoying the pulp magazines well enough, but stories are hit and miss, even in good mags like Cirsova and StoryHack. Besides, I really wanted a book.

I have a lot of samples on my Kindle. The other night I brutally started reading through them. If I didn't like a thing right away, I erased it (from device and cloud). In some ways that's unfair. I never forget that I was initially bored by Crime and Punishment and had to give it another, later attempt. But then I was young. Wow me now, because I will be dead soon!

Anyhow, I found something that may be really good. We'll see. If nothing else, a nice read surely helps with my mood. Even my will to write is increased.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 10:45 am
For me it's been a remarkably unproductive couple of months. I finished The Impossible Footprint around the start of May and have written nothing but a few tweets since. The early summer days have been wonderful, though; especially pleasant for gloomy old Michigan.

Now through the 28th, my collection The Spare Midge is available for free at Amazon. As I said in my tweet about it, and as I have mentioned in this blog, these tales are from my Grim Period, from the late '80s to the turn of the century.

Fun fact: There is a location in the cyberpunk tale, The Courtship of Jay and Elusivebeth, called Little Bosnia. In the original version of the tale it was called Little Managua. I updated it when Nicaragua had become antique news. I probably should have left it alone, for that authentic flavor. Amusingly, of course, Bosnia itself is now antique news.
Friday, May 22, 2020 4:26 pm
So I've joined Twitter. As a matter of principle I normally wouldn't, given its biased suppression of free speech, but monopolies are monopolies and Twitter is where everyone is. Though I may initially treat it as a glorified RSS feed for this blog, I suppose I will eventually start tweeting more independently. Even then, given my history with my internet presence, my tweets will not likely be numerous. We'll see. Follow me at Spawn of Mars.

P.S. I've actually been inclined to tweet a few snarky jokes and images about the riots etc. Then I embraced my inner coward and decided not to become the target of SJWs and BLMs, nor risk the inevitable misconstructions. Tempers are too high and minds too shallow.
Cirsova Summer Special 2020 Is Out!
Read My Story in It!
Thursday, May 14, 2020 3:53 pm
The annual Summer Special of Cirsova Magazine is here!

Buy it on Amazon (to give the publisher money). Review it on Amazon (to increase its rank). Read my story The Fourth Gift and be amazed by my wonderfullestness. Go, now!

P.S. From Twitter, here's a gratifying review of my story.
Rarely does one come across a story both intellectually brilliant and artistically beautiful. The Fourth Gift by DAVID SKINNER is absolutely one of that. A meditation on immortality, humanity, science, and struggle, it’s both a dense read and one utterly worthwhile.
You Will Be Assimilated
My Career as a Cartoonist
Tuesday, May 12, 2020 10:33 pm
Recently I noted that I have, on occasion, attempted to make clever-funny comics. Prompted by that note I have finally finished a certain comic, the rough pencil sketch of which has been stashed near my desk for years.

Since there is a lot of talking in the comic, I didn't directly ink the text. The text and layout and so on were done on PC (in GIMP). I did draw the one character, in ink and water (using nib and brush). I then scanned the drawing and integrated it with the layout.

My scanner is so old — an Epson Perfection 1200U — that a driver hasn't been released since Windows XP. Luckily I can use one of the later Epson drivers, although there's a bit of jiggering to do so. I thought it was already installed on my PC but apparently my Windows 7 64-bit forgot it was there, and I had to reinstall. Bothersome.

To keep the comic legible I had to make it too big to fit in the normal column of this blog. The image will overlap to the right but should be fine on most browsers. If not so on yours, download the image (via right-click) and view it elsewise.

Enjoy!  


Derivative of Nictzin Dyalhis
Writing Another Chronicle of the Venhezian Heroes
Monday, May 4, 2020 10:11 pm
Somehow I became aware of The Sapphire Goddess: The Fantasies of Nictzin Dyalhis, a collection published by DMR Books in 2018. It collects all the fantasy stories of the unprolific Nictzin Dyalhis, who wrote primarily for Weird Tales between 1925 and 1940.

Two of Dyalhis's contributions to Weird Tales are science fiction: When the Green Star Waned (April 1925) and its sequel The Oath of Hul Jok (September 1928).
I really liked both of these stories — so much so, that I have written a derivative work. Since Dyalhis's stories are in the public domain, I am free to have my story published, and I hope that Cirsova Magazine will accept it when submissions re-open later this year. 

There's an earnestness to Dyalhis's two stories. They are all superlatives, exclamation points, and outsized drama. The seven friends are the very best of their kind: the greatest scientist, the greatest diplomat, the greatest warrior, the greatest cultural scholar, the greatest biologist, the greatest reader of minds, and the greatest... well, the narrator is not presented as the "greatest" chronicler and poet, but he is part of the amazing circle.

The stories are clearly science fiction written before World War II. There isn't a lot of hard science. Nor is there magic; but there is an easy and intriguing occultism. Evil is as much a force as electricity. The technology has that alluring mechanical flavor, free of the atomic and the cybernetic.

The setting is the Planetary Chain, an alternative Solar System. Maybe it's the far future of our own but it seems much more a different place. The names of the planets are just a little off — Venhez for Venus, Jopitar for Jupiter, and so on. There are invocations of Our Lady of Venhez, a being who is not really Aphrodite. Venhez is a planet of love and its sign is the Looped Cross (i.e., ), but everything is sideways of our reality and mythology.

And that was my first handhold in creating my derivative work. Dyalhis doesn't develop things deeply. The world-building, though neat, is mostly suggestive.

My second handhold was the sketchiness of the characters. Hul Jok the warrior is vivid, Vir Dax the biologist has some color, Lan Apo the mind-reader is not a blank, and Hak Iri the poet, if only because he is our melodramatic narrator, is not one-dimensional, but by and large the characters are just carriers of superpowers. As you revel in Hul Jok you lament the general blandness of the others.

So there is a lot of foundation in the two stories but not a lot of definition. There's also an enjoyable spirit (and the touch of an outlook rather removed from 2020). The past century has not exactly produced a communal literary expansion of Hak Iri's Friends & the Planetary Chain. I may even be a pioneer. In any event, I had cause to continue Dyahlis's work; and therefore I did.

No, I did not write a gritty reboot. I'm not out to subvert expectations. Vir Dax does not have a gruesome past with a missing call-girl and Lan Apo is not struggling as a transgendered pansexual. My story is not a parody or even an affectionately comedic re-imagining. I simply wrote the third in a series.

Obviously I am not Dyalhis. Yet there is a manner to his writing that accords with my own and I don't need to mimic him wholly to evoke him. My goal was not, in any event, to don a Dyalhis mask. My work is truly derivative, neither identical nor separate. It follows well, I think.

Now I just need Cirsova to accept it — so that you can read it! Sadly, even in the best case, it won't be published for a year or more. But keep an eye out for The Impossible Footprint.

P.S. "Nictzin Dyalhis," though nom-de-plumey, was the man's actual name, near as can be determined. And I do recommend the collection from DMR.

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