Knives Episode 33 Published!

We rarely outrun our pursuit, we outlast it.

Knives Episode 33: The Hardest Lesson has been published! Things happen, but they’re small things. Things that might or might not develop into large things.

Over here at Muddled Ramblings I talk for a bit about a character quirk of Martin’s I reveal in this episode, that to actually make sense I’d have to go back and tweak a lot of previous episodes. I left that quirk in for now, and perhaps you can spot it. In the next few days I’ll have to decide what to do about that quirk. Either erase it from this episode, or go back and do some rewritin’.

It is taking me much longer to get to looking at the goddam thing from the well than I thought it would. That’s because there are more important things going on. Or at least that’s my story now.

Behind the scenes, things are going pretty well. I’d like to welcome a new patron, and send out special thanks, while respecting privacy. Thanks, new patron! I’ll have your special access set up real soon. All y’all feel free to spread the good word.

Serial Fiction Blues

For the most part, writing serial fiction really agrees with me. When you release a story a chapter at a time, shit has to happen every chapter.

That’s a good thing. One of the most celebrated Fantasy Epics, the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, became so agonizingly cumbersome and long-winded that the networks probably won’t make it into a gigantic TV drama. Had Jordan written it as serial fiction, he would likely have told the story with about one-third the words. Maybe less. Things have to happen. There’s a ticking clock, but it’s not a plot device, it’s the readers’ expectations.

I realized recently that while I’ve spent months working on the story, much of the action for the characters has been compressed into a handful of days. The slow pace of Martin’s dissolution in Mountain Hole suddenly shifted to a steady physical pounding as his world has gone up in flames. More than once I’ve had to remind myself that it was yesterday that our hero(ish) took a right beating.

But those are good challenges, and I’ll manage them.

Today I wrote a sentence, and it revealed a character quirk of Martin that I really like. Nothing plot-changing, but indirectly and casually revealing something fundamental about him, a window into his not-quite-like-you-and-me nature. The thing is, to make that work I have to go back and put that trait into every observation Martin has made up to this point.

I expect most successful serial fiction starts out with a much more detailed character design than I had for Martin, but even with the best of plans, something like this is inevitable. Surely in season two of Mad Men the writers had a great idea about a character that was probably too late to implement.

But for me, what is the definition of too late? I don’t really have that many readers; I could revise the previous episodes and carry the trait forward. Perhaps the occasional new reader would be more likely to be hooked. But then again I’m already behind posting backstory content (Katherine’s youth will be coming REAL SOON), and a revision like that will slow me down even more.

But knowing this possible trait, can I write future episodes without it? Or what if I go back and retrofit it everywhere and it turns out to suck? I do not know how to deal with these choices, so I’m just going to write something and hope it comes out OK.


Last Night I Dreamt of Snakes

The girl lay, loosely curled, in a garden next to a gravel path, the autumn tones of her jacket blending with the dried leaves and flowers, her long brown hair collecting leaves. An early spring sun kissed her face, and here and there the plants around her showed the first timid hints of green. One of her hands lay outstretched, flexing unconsciously as a snake, blue with dark markings dancing down its body, entwined itself between her little fingers.

Perhaps she was dreaming; her other hand grasped at the soil. Only it wasn’t soil, it was another snake, gray and pale, as thick as her wrist. At first I thought it was dead, but then it began to move, unwinding and refolding endlessly, neither head nor tail discernible in the mass.

Another snake, the color of brick with black accents, reaches out timidly and touches the girl’s face with its shy tongue, and her cheek dimples with a fleeting smile. Another snake, orange-yellow, is coiled by her head.

The longer I look, the more snakes I see, surrounding her peaceful slumber, sharing her radiant warmth in the weak sun, whispering reptilian secrets that she probably can’t hear.


The Robots are Slacking

Over there on Facebook, I got an ad for some kind of wedding-related thing. I wasn’t surprised to see it; in retrospect I was surprised that it took four months after changing my Facebook status to “engaged” for an ad like that to show up. Sloppy work, robots!

Oh, and in case you don’t all hang on my Facebook relationship status 24/7, I suppose I should announce here that Sam and I are getting married in December. Woo Hoo!


I’ll Make a Note for Next Year

I didn’t realize it was turn right in front of bicyclists without signaling day. Had I known that, I might have made other transportation plans.

The Venues of my Youth: Tingley Coliseum

In this country, going to your first Big Show is a rite of passage. For a pair of decades at least, almost every youth in northern New Mexico passed through the gate and became Experienced at a crappy barn of an arena called Tingley Coliseum.

By John Phelan – CC BY 3.0

The building was not designed for music. It was a hollow box with a concrete floor surrounded by something like 10,000 seats not designed for comfort. In some arenas like that, the powers-that-be would hang fancy acoustic thingies that would mitigate the echoes. Other places would at least hang heavy tapestries from the rafters to catch some of the echoes. Tingley didn’t even bother to hang moth-eaten airline blankets. If you liked the note the guitarist played, you would have ample opportunity to experience it several more times, as it mixed with the following notes to create sonic quicksand.

But Tingley was (is? I have no idea) where the bands played. It was such an unquestioned truth that when the Thompson Twins played Popejoy Hall (a lovely place for music) I found it exceedingly strange.

Ah, Tingley. The Experienced among us know there are two ways to enjoy a performance in an acoustically-hellish barn: from the seats or from down on the floor. Some might say that you are not truly Experienced until you watch an act from the floor. I’m not that hardcore.

My first Big Show featured .38 Special and Jefferson Starship. It was, as the Arena Rock critic Charles Dickens said, “the best of shows, and the worst of shows.” It was loud. Oppressively, crushingly, my-ears-hurt BUT HOLY DANG I CAN FEEL IT loud. I was not particularly well-versed in .38 Special’s oeuvre, but a couple of the songs had been getting radio play and not long after this gig they were the main attraction, not the opening act.

Then Jefferson Starship played, and more than once I thought, “hey! I know this song!” Then I learned about the obligatory encore, after a suitable period of shouting.

Among my friends, opinion of the show varied. One friend said, “.38 Special was rocking so hard I didn’t know how Jefferson Starship would match it. But then they blew them away.”

Me, I think the Good ol’ Boys sounded better that night. From this distant perspective, I think their music was just better-suited for the venue. Simpler. Happier in the mud.

My next Tingley Experience was Kansas, the Point of Know Return tour – or maybe the tour after that. I was excited; but they canceled. Welcome to show biz.

In my college days, only a two-hour drive from the venue (welcome to the Land of Enchantment) I saw a variety of bands. Bands big enough to play in arenas but small enough to stop in Albuquerque. (I learned later that it’s really useful to have a connect-the-dots stop in the middle of nowhere to keep the tour generating cash.)

From the seats I saw Golden Earring (“Radar Love”) open for Rush; I saw two horrible choreographed bland-metal bands open for Aerosmith (who didn’t distance themselves from the opening acts that much) (an abbreviated version of the puking story you can find elsewhere); I saw Cindi Lauper pump her WWF connections while trying to keep those on the floor from killing each other.

But even by the hardcore definition, I am Experienced; I have been to the floor. I have been close to the stage, in the crush of sweat and anger. The funny thing is, I remember the sweat and anger much better than I remember the bands. Or it might be more correct to say, I remember the sweat and anger, and I remember the bands, but they are disconnected. I have no idea which band it was when the guy started to push his way in front of me and I resolved to make that as difficult as possible. Pretenders? Yes? Kinks?

Probably not the Kinks. That was an undersold concert.

Another show. Here’s where the sweat and anger is most disconnected from the band. I was on the floor. The crowd was rowdy. The obligatory encore was executed, including of course some Big Hits held back from the regular part of the show because the first encore is really just another short set. The band left the stage, and the shouting and chanting commenced.

Usually this is a staged drama, with each actor playing a part. The band was not inclined to do any sort of REAL encore, so the harsh stadium lights came on. The surge of anger at that moment was real, and thick; you could taste it in your mouth. People — all the people on the floor, as a single mass — shifted one way, then the other, and the noise rose. The lights went back out and the band played a couple more songs. You’d think I’d be able to remember which band that was.

Huey Lewis did their obligatory encore, and the crowd kept chanting. He stuck his head out from behind the curtain and spun his finger around his ear: “You guys are crazy!” They came back out and did another set, very informal, just playing around. It was a treat to watch. The pop stars were being musicians! One of my favorite Tingley moments. So don’t go talking shit about Huey where I can hear you. Dude loves to play; the fame and fortune are a side effect.

It was the Yes performance, which surprisingly included no potentially-deadly rush to the stage when the doors opened, and had no opening act. When they brought the massive light bars down over the stage while the bass started that hammering riff in Starship Troopers (am I mixing up my songs? I could look this stuff up but I’m not going to), that I got my first total rock and roll overload. Fortunately breathing and heart beat happen without conscious direction or I might not be waxing so pleasantly nostalgic right now.

There were other bands — musically, The Pretenders might have been the best show I saw there — but this is about the venue. A terrible venue. A seminal venue. The sort of place every First Big Show should be Experienced in.


Who is Going to Make the Electric Miata?

Sooner or later I’m going to have to replace my little car. It is the second Miata I’ve owned, and I have no regrets. The car is fun to drive, inexpensive to own, and I’ve got some great memories tied up in that car.

I hope that I still have a few years of service left, but there’s another part of me looking at what’s going on in the automotive market, and I like what I see. Mostly. So I’ve been thinking more and more about the requirements for my next ride. I want a little car I can drive across the country with the top down (and be able to put the top up when necessary), nimble on curves, and other than that I want to score the most Hippie Points possible.

I want an electric Miata with access to charging stations all over this country.

Tesla seems like a candidate to produce this car, and they have an answer to the fueling issue (as long as I stick to major highways). In fact, there’s a charging station going up very close to my office. Free fuel!

Tesla hinted about creating a new 2-seat convertible, and they intimated it would be absurdly fast. (“Maximum Plaid”) Also, therefore, very expensive. Lately the company has announced that their new roadster is on the back burner, because (not in their words) it’s a niche vehicle. There are few willing to pay for maximum plaid.

I don’t need a supercar! I don’t even want one. Mazda (and MG and Alfa Romeo before them) demonstrated that people drawn to this mode of transportation don’t need thrust to push their eyeballs out the backs of their heads. They need adequate performance and a nimble little chassis. This is not rocket science. Well, batteries are heavy, so there is some rocket science. But that’s solvable.

I widened my search. I found other electric convertibles, and they fell into two distinct categories: golf carts and supercars. Detroit Electric, Future Mobility, BMW, and others all seem to have forgotten who drives convertibles in this world.

Side note about the word “convertible”: I don’t consider a car to be convertible if you have to decide before you leave the garage whether the top will be on or off for the duration of your trip. That makes top-down road trips impossible. That important distinction pretty much clears the table even of supercars. There’s just nothing left. No electric convertible at all.

If Mazda plans to make an electric Miata, they’re doing a great job looking like they’re completely behind the curve. Volkswagen is probably my best hope, perhaps under the Audi or Porsche badges. Or there’s the rumored Beetle Electric Cabriolet.

But none of those companies are building the charging network that Tesla is. Tesla really understands this part of the automotive experience. Road trips should not require internal combustion. But Tesla doesn’t get that road trips are better with the top down.