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Message from 2139

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Hey, guys, I was just grabbing my mail yesterday when I found this thing.  It was inside a beaten-up envelope smudged with ashes and what looked to be the blood of the innocent.  It had a variety of stamps on it, and the address read ‘WHEREVER THE PEOPLE ARE,’ which further confused me because I’m not sure how the mailperson decided my apartment was such a place.  I opened it up and what I read astounded me.  I want to clarify that this is 100% totally not a hoax, flim-flam, trick, prank, or deception.  This is also DEFINITELY not a farce or a satire on the tragic relationship our culture has with corporate power structures and neo-conservatism.  This is, again, a totally legit document that was delivered to my door for reasons unknown to me.

It reads:

“Greetings, 2014.  My name is Columbus Jesus Webster, and as I think this memo into existence it is the year 2139, I sit in my comfortable cubicle under the watchful gaze of my supervisor.  I am writing you to discuss the way of life we have, now, so that you will have a greater understanding of how your actions might affect the future.

I understand that in the year 2014, you still have the vestigial power aggregate known as ‘The United States Government.’  I am pleased to inform you that such a power structure no longer exists, though we still have a House of Representatives and a Corporate Senate.  The House represents the various interest groups within a company (those of us interested in longer lunch breaks, for instance, as 20 minutes is a very short time), and the Senate comprised of representatives chosen by the Executives after a rigorous application process.  Since the establishment of this system in 2086, we have solved the national healthcare issues that currently plague you.  The corporation is now responsible for 0% of a citizen’s healthcare!  All health-related costs must come directly from the employee’s pocket, except when forbidden by our religion.  Those medical services and goods forbidden by our religion are illegal to purchase, but they are legal to sell and, indeed, our leaders accrue profits from their sales.  I hope that sounds as attractive to you as it does to me.

The official religion of our country (now known as The United Companies of Conglomo) is one you are only vaguely familiar with, now, called ‘Conservatism.’  The scripture, a series of ancient bumper stickers and corporate pamphlets pasted together over the pages of a book from some inferior religion (I believe at some point the book was called ‘The Bible,’ though most of it is now unreadable—save for certain parts of ‘Leviticus’), is primarily concerned with issues you have not yet resolved.  For instance, I understand that you are currently embroiled in debate over birth control.  The corporate senate has resolved that issue — women are disallowed from deciding whether or not to have a child.  An Executive, analogous both to your “employers” and also your “priests,” will inform a woman when she is and is not going to have sex or become pregnant.  When it is time for her to be pregnant, she will continue working through the maternity process (as no leave is given), before finally retiring from her job to be a full-time care-unit for the child.  This usually occurs between the ages of 30-35.  The concept of female autonomy has been dealt with, as well: no female is autonomous.  As males are a superior sex, they are given preference for all jobs, corporate positions, and religious roles.  This also means that our divorce rate has declined spectacularly from your era, as it is nearly impossible for women to hold jobs, and therefore they are entirely dependent on their Household Heads (“husbands” they were called in your time.)

As a jobholder, my life is very easy.  As long as I do not get sick, I make a steady, almost uninterrupted wage.  I live and work in the same building, in the arcology known as Google Town.  My rent, utilities, groceries, insurance, maintenance fees, holo-bills, neural-net access, and various et cetera are all drawn automatically out of my paycheck, which rarely ever varies.  With what money I have left over, I often go to the Google-Plex or stop by the bookstore Barnes & Google to make a purchase.  It is the only bookstore in the entire arcology, as holo-reading, auto-reading, and never-reading have replaced most people’s libraries.  I occasionally visit one of the many Google-owned pubs in the area.  My personal favorite is Any Google in a Storm, where Google employees receive a 20% discount, and every customer is a Google employee.  The staff is also comprised only of Google employees.

After dealing with the issue of women’s rights (they have none, of course), the next people we dealt with were those of the “lesbian gay bisexual whatever” persuasion.  It was decided that, generally, these people were workplace disruptions and anti-Conservative, and that no employer would have need of them.  The more Orthodox corporations (those who adhere most closely to our scriptures and listen most attentively to our singular news station), herded their homosexual populations out into the streets, where the unmaintained buildings have fallen into disrepair and destruction (much like your current “Detroit,” a city I’ve read about in my history texts.  I’ve heard that the people who lived there destroyed it, despite the hard work of a virtuous political system.)  Google is less orthodox in their observance of our religion, and so there are a number of homosexual people who live in the lower levels of the arcology.  They are kept away from the general population in case they decide to force their agenda on us.  I sometimes feel bad for the homosexuals, as many of the apartments on the lower floors are no larger than a closet, but I know it’s for the best for everybody that they stay there.

By the year 2014, you are probably aware that racism hasn’t existed for half a century, and any remnants are really more related to class.  The correlation between race and class isn’t so much a byproduct of hundreds of years of abuse and dehumanization as it is, say, pure coincidence.  Things have continued in much the same way since your time!  While a decent percentage of our working and ruling class populations are ethnic/urban/etc, most of the minority population lives out on the streets with the homosexuals and the unemployed non-ethnic proles, scavenging the desolate landscape beyond the walls of our arcologies for food and goods.  This isn’t to be conflated with racism, of course, because the ethnic/urban members of our working and ruling classes, as the exceptions to the rule, prove that anyone can achieve greatness (though it is admittedly more likely if you’ve inherited it through generations of substantial wealth).  I’m sure the Executives don’t even see color, anymore.  Though, to be honest, the Executives don’t see much of anyone.  They only receive reports on advancements and output and make decisions based upon those.  So, I suppose what I meant, is that the Supervisors don’t see color, anymore, since they’re the people watching everyone constantly.  They judge us all based on our merit.  No one here is a racist.

As you can gather, we now live in a perfect world, where our corporate benefactors have resolved many of the social and economic issues you now struggle with.  Of course, the unions had to go immediately (but they were already well on their way), and we’ve turned Saturday into a work-day to make sure that profit margins remain acceptable, but these are minor costs to pay for such a comfortable lifestyle.  On my day off (Sunday, when we celebrate the rhetoric of our founding fathers, like Bill O’Reilly), I sometimes peer out of my bullet-proof window and look down on the proles meandering the desolate unemployed streets, burning fires in hollowed-out garbage cans and living in half-collapsed warehouses, and think about how grateful I am to live in this wonderful era.

Okay, my supervisor has just left.  The real reason I am writing this is so you will STOP THIS MADNESS.  My paychecks are very irregular, with random deductions made for ‘improper neural-net usage’ and ‘profit-risk analysis,’ and often I take pay cuts for reasons I never learn about, only to have my wages return to normal weeks later.  The employees are powerless.  We can do nothing to stop these things from happening.  We have no real representation.  The House elections are all bought and rigged!

This world is not what it should be.  I can feel the walls crushing in against my body.  I smell oppression everywhere.  I smell it in the stale scent of air conditioning.  I smell it on the Super 200 suit my supervisor wears.  I smell it in the artificial parks they’ve constructed, since going outside is too dangerous for employed citizens to do.  It’s awful, and it’s all around me, the reek of it, the constant rancid stench.

The proles are restless.  They have begun carrying signs, scavenged poster board mounted to long sticks and metal poles, and even with the security squads patrolling the street I get the sense that things are not safe.  It seems that despite their most rigorous efforts in their stop-and-frisk policies, the police can’t maintain control!  I suspect it is only a matter of time before bloodshed is incipient, and I will not stand for it!  Or, rather, I hope you won’t stand for it.  You see, I really need this job, and I can’t afford to lose it, so I won’t be doing anything.  I’m scared.  I’m hoping that there are some of you in the year 2014 who are less scared than I am.

Luckily, an underground fringe organization called ‘Scientists’ has informed me that not only is global climate change real, but that The United Companies of Conglomo’s decisions have opened a rift back through time.  I only hope that I can get this memo through the temporal rift back to an era when people can still change things.

Please, do whatever you can to stop this nightmarish place from existing!


Super-weird letter, right?  Well, anyway, I’ve got this really important yoga thing tonight, so…I think I’m just going to throw it out.  I just wanted to show people in case, I don’t know, someone else felt like doing something?  Whatever.  #livingforthepresent.

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Response Essay: 5 Things Women Can Do To Be More Attractive to Men

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It is really hard to “get” a man or whatever, apparently, and that’s exactly why there are thousands of articles in dozens of magazines and blogs that deal with this exact issue, because obviously “getting” a man is the major priority in women’s lives and it needs to be addressed from every imaginable angle by every writer who has a keyboard. Otherwise, a woman might “have” to be single for an extended period of time, and that is a terrifying, unimaginable concept that nobody should ever “settle” for.
Okay, that entire paragraph above was a lie. I told it because I am a man, and men love to pretend like we have some kind of magical aura that makes us super special and definitely worthy of being chased after by every woman in the world, and we lie to ourselves and to women and to everyone else who happens to be listening in hopes that you will all pretend we’re magical, too. We are the unicorns of the gender kingdom, sure enough. Sorry, that was also sarcastic. I can’t control it. It just happens when I am furious to the point of physical illness with the bullshit that the mouths of my fellow men spew out like so much jager vomit. It happens other times, too, such as “always,” but for the purposes of this essay, we’ll focus on that first example.

As a man, I am here to continue to convey to women what men are looking for from you, because that’s something you should care about. I will attempt to be more honest than a lot of other men, because I assume you want to date someone who isn’t shitty—a detail that many of these articles and op-ed pieces leave out. Why? Probably because shitty men run literally everything.

Here are things you (women!) can do to be more attractive to people who don’t actually suck.

1. Be Yourself.

I know that this goes against what all the magazines are trying to tell you, and also bloggers, and also mainstream media, and also your mother who keeps telling you it’s time to settle down—but it turns out that if you aren’t being yourself, you will end up crawling out of your miserable bed one morning and looking in the mirror and realizing that you’ve altered the very core of your personality, of your entire life, for *someone else* because you thought they wouldn’t like the real you. I want you to know…that’s insane. That is absolutely insane. Don’t do that. No one you will ever meet in your entire life should be worth more to you than you are. Case closed. Case fucking closed!

Anyone who isn’t shitty will meet you, the real you, and because they aren’t shitty, they will like you (the real you), and you will hopefully like them (because you will have common ground/similar ethics/similar desires/similar—oh, I guess ‘similarities’ is a good way to summarize this), and nobody even has to pretend to be a caricature or a fictionalized neutered version of themselves to accomplish it, because you will have genuine connections. AMAZING CONCEPT.

There is also the possibility that you don’t want to meet a guy, or a gal, or whatever. THAT IS ALSO OKAY! It will happen, or it won’t, or maybe you’ll invent a world-changing technology or fantastic art that rocks culture to its very core, and as long as you’re doing the thing you actually want to do, that’s awesome. Go you! People will appreciate that.

2. Stop Reading These Articles. Even This One. Right Now! Close the Window!

Seriously. This is poisonous. Even the one you’re reading right now, in its own special way, is poison. These things are written to brainwash you into believing you aren’t good enough, or aren’t cool enough, or just simply AREN’T ENOUGH. This is a lie, just like all those other lies men like to tell you, and have somehow convinced other women to tell you as well (somehow = generations of brainwashing, marginalization, and abuse, JSYK).

There is nothing these articles can offer you except self-doubt and insecurity. I bet even reading the first note of this article got you to think “am I not being myself, enough?”—I would bet on that. Real money. Not a lot of it. I have $4 in my pocket, right now. But that’s not the point.

The point is that buying a certain brand of make-up, acting more submissive (ew), learning to cook (because men can’t cook for themselves, obvi), doing your hair a certain way, and any other et cetera of shallow nonsense will not actually help you to find someone who isn’t shitty. I’m not sure if the same rules apply to finding someone who *IS* shitty, so if you’re looking for shitty people, maybe those are helpful dating tips, but this isn’t about finding shitty people. This is about finding someone who likes you because you are the person you are, and that’s that.

3. Be Subversive.

As a woman, it will be simple for you to be subversive. All you have to do is exist on your own terms without allowing yourself to be defined by other people, especially men. Congratulations, you are now subverting social norms, and people who aren’t shitty are probably okay with that because social norms are, generally, pretty shitty.

Now, because the instructions are so simple, some people out there (probably men who are reading this article for kicks) might think that this is easy. It is not. It is not easy because everywhere you look almost every second of every day, you will be bombarded with media messages about how you should look and/or dress, who you should idolize, and how you should behave. Men on the street will also gladly provide their input and opinions, often without you even having to ask! Because of this, leading a life in which you define yourself can be challenging, and at times extremely strenuous. Someone who is not shitty will understand and be supportive in these matters. If you’re a male reading this right now, and you are not supportive in these matters, you’re probably shitty.


4. Do Whatever You Want With Your Style!

Do you love make-up? Do you hate it? It doesn’t matter! You can do whatever you want because it’s your fucking face! I KNOW! IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE! The same thing goes for clothing, such as dresses, jeans, leather jackets, business suits, gowns, skirts, shorts, skorts, or jorts! You can wear any clothing you want! Someone who is not shitty will not judge you for it! The people judging you are probably shitty, and you would end up hating them anyway. They are not worth pursuing. They will probably treat you as if they have a breadth of wisdom that they can impart on you, because you are the mental equivalent of an unlearned child and know nothing of how to comport yourself around civilized members of society. That’s shitty. They’re shitty.

Do not take fashion advice from someone you did not ask for advice from. If you ask someone for advice, and they provide you with advice (because you asked), you can feel free to accept or deny that advice as you desire. And then you can go ahead and do whatever you want, anyway. If someone really cares that much about how you’re dressed or what your make-up looks like, they are probably shallow and easily put off. I’d bet they argue a lot. Are these people really worth the effort? (Survey says: probs not.)

5. Don’t Let Someone Else Control Your Life.

This is very similar to point 1, but more specific. So there you are, being yourself, not letting the world drag you down with its incessant clawing at your personal values and appearance, pursuing the things you want to do, and et cetera…and suddenly you find someone who seems to be not shitty! You start dating this apparently not shitty person and all of a sudden he wants you to stop being friends with Someguy or hang out less with Somegirl or don’t go to this rally in DC because IDON’TKNOW. You’ve addressed these issues through intelligent, calm conversation and this guy is not very compromising and…

And then it hits you!—This guy is actually shitty! WHAT? I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.

I will restate the major underlying point encapsulated in Step One—there is no one in your life who should be more important to you than yourself. Or, put another way, “Bro, he’s not worth it.” Or, put a third way, “kick that shit to the curb.”

When someone else exerts control over your life in ways that make you uncomfortable, don’t put up with it! By not putting up with other people’s bullshit, you strengthen your resolve and willpower, and who doesn’t want stronger resolve and willpower? Nobody. Plus, by claiming control over your own life, you’ll be better suited to guide it (and yourself) towards the things (and people) you most want to do.

Best of all, it also means you’ll be more apt to…

6. Stand Up For Yourself.

The ultimate turn on for non-shitty people everywhere! Not only are you subverting cultural norms simply by being yourself and not allowing other people to alter or change that person, you’re showing your willingness and capability to fight to keep that person your own! THAT IS EXTREMELY SEXY (to non-shitty people)! Always remember that you are a force to be reckoned with, and that you have an equal share in a relationship dynamic that your boy/girl/whatever-friend has. You are not owned, you are not theirs, you do not need to back down because surrender is not what compromise is about. Subservience is way last century, and non-shitty people who are around today are probably not looking for it. Confidence, fearlessness, and self-esteem are the things you’ll need in the 21st century! Welcome to the future!

Now, I can’t guarantee that following these incredibly difficult steps will mean your *next* relationship will be your last one, but I can guarantee that you will meet less shitty people if you follow through with them. I know this is asking a lot from you, and that most of the items on this list are extraordinarily challenging to accomplish, but as a man who is into women (and only a little bit shitty, I promise), I can say with a certain degree of intelligence on the matter that these things are worth doing in pursuit of people who don’t suck. Plus, there is a fair chance you might actually end up as a happier person. Who would’ve thought?

As an aside, I would like to say that pursuing non-shitty people and people who don’t suck may not necessarily yield immediate returns. Even following this carefully curated list, there is a large range of men between the categories of “not shitty” and “actually awesome.” But don’t fear! In your tireless pursuit of finding the perfect mate, these tactics will take you far, and will result in never having to “settle” for being alone.

(That was sarcasm, again. Not sorry.)

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Flash Fiction #7

I was walking down Canal Street in crowded China Town, navigating around the press of sidewalk salesmen and shops that mostly offloaded ‘I <3 NY!’ merchandise, when a voice called out to me…

“Hey, man, you like luggage? I got a whole set here, real cheap.
They’re perfect. Like new.
Nothing wrong with em.
No body parts stuffed in em or anything. I swear.”

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Flash Fiction: NYC Marathon Edition

A herd of human beings stampeded down the street, sweaty and gasping, limbs flailing as they powered through mile 12 of what seemed like an endless race.  I watched at a safe distance, considering their tormented faces as they pushed themselves to near oblivion, running, running, running…

What are they running from?

Don’t they know it’s inescapable?

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Flash Fiction: Everything Bagel

We open on…

EXT. New York Streets, Evening

Our main character walks down a gum-stained sidewalk.  We focus on the line of apartment buildings running along the road.  They all look exactly the same.  Our main character’s life has been a long trail of patterns, habits, and events, all so similar that they run together into one indistinguishable path, rendering memory, itself, a blank canvas.

He stops at a bagel shop.  He orders the “everything bagel,” even though it means nothing.

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Flash Fiction: Ghost Writer

I’ve been considering a position as a ghostwriter.

There’s this dead guy who haunts a mansion upstate, in the Hudson valley.  It’s a huge creaking structure that looms over the river proper, crouched in a vernal forest.  It’s gray, ancient paint chipping off of it like old scabs.  There are 40 rooms in the house, and I would get to have my own.  The only material mortals I’d have to share the place with would be the transient addicts who pass through barren halls looking for a place to dope, and the dead inhabitants tell me that they really aren’t so bad once you get to know them. Worst-case scenario, they leave a few dirty hypodermic needles lying in the foyer and maybe overdose and vomit in one of the corners.  Only one of them has died there, a rail-thin spectre who haunts one of the upstairs bathrooms with vacant eyes, a rasping voice asking over and over again, “Hey, man, you holdin’?”

There is the risk, however, that I may die on site (from terror/fear/hobo knives).  Apparently the whole estate is cursed so that anyone who dies there spends the rest of eternity meandering its labyrinthine halls, walking room to room in senseless paths until time quenches itself.  I would be immaterial, so my only friends would be the other spirits of the damned who haunt the winding halls of the dilapidated structure.  For the rest of eternity, the only hobby I would have would be to scare drug addicts, urban explorers, and paranormal investigators taking up brief residence in the derelict mansion.  I guess someone could tear it down one day and build a hotel in its place.  That would be cool.  I could be like those spirits in The Overlook in The Shining.  Maybe I would have the opportunity to drive a man slowly mad.

There’s no WiFi, though.

I dunno, maybe it’s kind of “millenial” of me, but I think that’s a deal breaker.

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Flash Fiction: The Monster Under My Bed

You know that song, The Monster, with Rihanna and Eminem?  If you don’t, that’s good, that’s very good, stay far away from it.  If you do, then maybe you’ll understand my position, here.

Every time the phrase “I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed” is repeated in the song, I get slightly agitated.  Because, obviously, we’ve ALL made friends with that monster!

When we were children, we thought the monsters under our beds were going to eat us!  (Mine is named Phil, he has only one mouth but it is three feet of mangled fangs and serrated teeth) — our only options seemed to be “future midnight snack” or “make friends with it.”

Phil and I are still friends.  He stays under my bed pretty often.

One night, a couple years ago, Phil and I were getting drunk together (it takes a lot of booze to get a shadowy chitinous monster with a three-foot murder-mouth drunk, but we succeeded), and he told me the big secret.  I couldn’t believe it.  If I wrote for Buzzfeed, I would call it “The Biggest Secret You Have to Know About Today!”

But I don’t, so I’ll just tell you.

We spent a lot of our childhood hiding from the monsters under our beds, pulling the covers up around our bodies as tight as we could, hiding under the comforter, etc… we would hold our pee and sit in the center of the mattress because we didn’t want the monster to grab our ankles as we slid out of bed to run to the bathroom.  We would leave all the lights on out of some mistaken belief that evil things couldn’t happen in the wide bright open.

But it turns out, the monsters were under the bed for a reason.

They were hiding from us.

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Flash Fiction: Trying to Write

I was supposed to be writing.  I knew it.  I had revisions, edits, and rewrites to do.  I’d started other projects.  I had the second draft of a new novel at 30,000 words.

I sat down in front of my laptop.  The skittering shadow creatures that live in my walls moaned.  I typed out a paragraph.  Their moan crescendoed into a groaning howl.  I sighed, “What is it, now?”

“Must you type so loudly?” the shadow aether shuddered from cracks in my cheap plaster, creeping across the walls.  “It’s just, you know, very distracting.”

“I’ll just put on some music.”  And so I turn on iTunes and spent half an hour finding the perfect music to satisfy their eerie hungers.  It helps that I write horror.  I was trying to write horror.  I don’t know.  The music was creepy.

I saddled up for more typing.  Ah, good, I noticed, I’ve managed to get 500 whole words!

The shadows thundered in the wall.  ”Aren’t you bored?”

“I’m trying to get work done.”

A rasping sigh creaked through the walls.  I stared at the cracked plaster.  The shadows in the room shifted around me, blanketing the corners and billowing impossibly across the walls.  ”You know, there’s a new comedy special on Netflix.”

“Who is it?”

“Iliza Shlesinger.”

“Will you give me terrifying nightmares, tonight, if I watch it with you?”

“…Probably not.  She’s very funny.”

I did not get much writing done.


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Flash Fiction: NYC Apartment Hunt

“Well, here’s the room you’ll be staying in if you move in with us,” the place was 10×10, a cramped hallway-sized chamber slotted into a miniature apartment.  It looked like an accident.

She continued: “And this is my roommate.”

“That is…literally a swarm of insects writhing over each other,” though it was vaguely humanoid in shape, the thousands of carapaces grinding against themselves gave it a distinctly inhuman presence.

“Yeah, well, he pays rent on time and I don’t discriminate based on appearances.”  She leered at me, her face tight with a look of disgust and consternation.

“Yeah,” the swarm of crawling insects chirped, “you fucking racist.”

I did not end up moving into that particular apartment.

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Halloween Re-Release on No Reflection

frontcoverNo Reflection has an added foreword and an early-draft sneak peek of the sequel, No Grave!  No Reflection is also available on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

No Reflection follows the trials and terrors of young fashion designer Nicole DuPond as she’s dragged kicking and screaming into a world of shadows and secrets writhing beneath New York City’s gritty underbelly.  Stalked by a killer and forced to confront her own acute anxieties, Nicole can feel her sanity slipping away from her as she tumbles down this dark, horrifying rabbit hole…

“Suspenseful” and “terrifying,” (Clarion Foreword), No Reflection is a book where “a strong stomach is a must” (ACReads).

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