Monthly Archives: May 2017

Chuck Norris vs. Your Mom

The Chuck Norris facts here come from the Internet, for the most part. A couple of them are hearsay. The responses are mine. There is also an earlier version of this that isn’t as good, that’s available on request.

When Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone, he had three missed calls from Chuck Norris:

A warning, a plea, and finally a wedding invitation, all of them concerning Your Mom. 

Chuck Norris once fought Bruce Lee and survived.

But will he survive Your Mom? 

Chuck Norris is “what Willis was talking about”.

And Your Mom is who he was telling it to.

The original title for Alien vs. Predator was Alien and Predator vs. Chuck Norris. The film was cancelled shortly after going into preproduction. No one would pay nine dollars to see a movie fourteen seconds long.

Except Your Mom. She would buy it, and she would watch it over and over and over again.

Chuck Norris can touch MC Hammer.

And Your Mom? She’s totally touching Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris’s tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

Yet. But I bet Your Mom could make Chuck Norris cry.

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep at night, he has to check the closet for Chuck Norris.

And when Chuck Norris goes to sleep at night, he has to check the bed for Your Mom.

Some magicians can walk on water; Chuck Norris can swim through land.

And it’s a good thing, too, because Your Mom has eyes and ears everywhere, and she does not give up. 

Chuck Norris can light a fire by rubbing two ice-cubes together.

But he knows that now is not the time to do that. No matter how cold the fire is, he knows Your Mom is like a heat-seeking missile. 

Chuck Norris made a Happy Meal cry.

The liberal media was all over that shit. That’s how Your Mom finally tracked him down. 

When you’re sitting in class, look to your left, then to your right, then behind and in front of you. Chuck Norris had sex with that kid’s mom.

So why not with Your Mom? 

There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’s beard–just another fist.

There is, however, a beard right now on Your Mom’s chin–and it belongs to Chuck Norris!

Chuck Norris goes to the Bermuda Triangle on vacation.

And he takes Your Mom. She likes the palm trees. 


Doing unspeakable things to Your Mom. 

Chuck Norris always has sex on the first date. Always.

Because yes, Your Mom is in fact that kind of girl. (And good for her, too, that’s a woman who knows what she wants!)

Chuck Norris doesn’t need to swallow when eating food.

Neither does Your Mom. Not when it’s food she’s eating…

Chuck Norris once drank a Red Bull and the can grew wings.

The only thing that gives Chuck Norris wings is Your Mom. 

Chuck Norris isn’t on the Earth, the Earth is on Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris is on Your Mom. 

Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.

Waldo said some stuff about Your Mom. Nasty stuff, too. Ooh!

Chuck Norris can round-house kick someone through a window without breaking the glass.

Good thing, too, because Your Mom would have to clean it up–and she’d be pi-issed! 

Chuck Norris drinks napalm to cure his heartburn.

Which he got from eating Your Mom’s delicious chili. *gulp* Yum. 

Chuck Norris cuts his steak with his fist.

But Your Mom doesn’t like that because it’s not exactly sanitary.

When Chuck Norris eats at a restaurant, the wait staff tips him afterwards.

But Your Mom doesn’t let him keep the money—I mean, have you ever tried living on restaurant wages? This is Chuck Norris we’re talking about. 

Bloody Mary is afraid to say Chuck Norris three times.

Chuck Norris now wishes he hadn’t called three times for Your Mom. 

Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.

And that’s just what he did. Now Your Mom is all alone in that hotel room. 

There used to be a street named after Chuck Norris, but it was changed because no one crosses Chuck Norris and lives.

Your Mom moved to that street. Just so that she could be close to the memory of him. 

Death once had a near-Chuck Norris experience.

But Your Mom knew what was going on—Moms are like that—and she grabbed him and pulled him back just in time. 

Chuck Norris died 20 years ago, Death just hasn’t built up the courage to tell anyone.

And who could blame him? Your Mom’s still in love with the guy. 

Chuck Norris can cut through a hot knife with butter.

But that knife… That was Your Mom’s knife. And he suddenly finds he doesn’t want to. 

Chuck Norris counted to Infinity—twice.

The first was in an attempt to prove he was smarter than Vin Diesel (which didn’t work, because it turned out Vin Diesel also included every number between all the integers, but that’s not the point). The second time was standing outside Your Mom’s window, just being silly to make her smile again. 

Chuck Norris can win a game of Connect Four in three moves.

But he lets Your Mom go first. Because he knows that she’ll beat him in two.

Grace and Glory

Once upon a time, there were twin sisters named Grace and Glory Goodkind who did everything together, especially once they realized that they both had special powers.

Grace was the first to realize what was going on. She noticed something was up one day in Math class when the teacher gave her a D on a test, but then changed the grade to an A once Grace started to express her opinion. From that day on, she knew (after a couple of other experiments) that she ws able to convince people to do things against their will simply by exerting her own.

Naturally—because they were twin sisters and allies—she spoke to Glory about this, convinced that, if she could do something extraordinary, they both must be imbued with the same abilities.

Sadly, though, her hopes proved unfounded as it seemed Glory could not even make their mother absentmindedly put that extra teaspoon of vanilla in the cookie recipe. It was only after several months of careful observation that Glory discovered where her power truly lay.

It became apparent over time that everyone felt about Glory exactly the same way that she felt about them. Now, obviously, this effect is very subtle and as such Grace herself was, at first, reluctant to admit it (as was Glory). But the truth of it became undeniable when they remarked that the neighbor from across the street whom both sisters hated was nice to Grace but rude beyond accounting to Glory. This was exceptionally striking in that this particular neighbor had never been able to tell them apart.

By the careful application of these two Talents, Grace and Glory were able to secure themselves quite a bit of comfort generally denied to high school students.

That all changed the day that Ralph came to their school.

Ralph was, despite his name, the most singularly astoundingly shaped and proportioned boy that the two girls had ever known in person. This was a problem, of course, because the girls both felt the same way about this beautiful boy. And it’s amazing how long it took these two girls, who had always shared everything, to realize that this was a very big problem.

The problem stayed hidden, in fact, until the day that Ralph walked up to Glory as she was standing in line with her sister and completely ignored Grace.

Grace noticed and took exception, whereupon she immediately flung Ralph the singular thought: Talk to me. The reaction was, as usual, instantaneous. Ralph broke off in mid-sentence and turned on his heel, stopping shortly thereafter with a frown on his face to wonder what he had just done. And why.

Later that day, the sisters spoke to one another of the incident by way of review. “Well, obviously we can’t both have him,” argued Grace. “You went ahead and proved that.” She was annoyed because “yours” and “mine” had always been “ours” before and she was getting the feeling that that was changing now.

“Then I guess there’s just one thing to do,” said Glory. “We have to ask him which one of us he likes best.”

Any sane outside observer would have expected Ralph to be confused and unable to distinguish between these identical twins, but Ralph didn’t miss a beat. He didn’t need to say “Glory is the one I want” because it was all in his eyes as he said simply, “Grace,” then closed his eyes and shook his head with a look both dazed and confused. “I meant—Glory. Glory. Sorry.”

Glory glared at her sister.

“Well, it’s only fair,” Grace said later. “You’re obviously using your powers on him to get him to like you. It’s like this whole contest is rigged!”

But Glory couldn’t accept that rebuke. “Grace,” she said, “You can have any other guy in the world—all you have to do is think it. Just let me have this one love of my life and I won’t need any more.”

How is that fair? Thought Grace. How is it fair she gets the guy just because of her power? Well, if she’s gonna use her power, by golly, the game is on!

The next day was when Glory was expecting Ralph to ask her out, but when he came up to the two of them at lunch, though he had been looking at Glory, it was to Grace he turned, wearing that same puzzled look on his face as he flirted with her and ultimately asked her out.

Glory was not pleased at having lost. She remembered the look he had had in his eyes as he’d approached her—her, not her sister. She remembered the silky tone in his voice the one time he had spoken to her, the one time she had seen him when Grace hadn’t been there, which Grace didn’t know. It was the only thing Glory knew that Grace did not.

That was how Glory knew something was afoot and just before class, she excused herself and chased down Ralph, but once she’d caught up to him, she found herself utterly tongue-tied. And she didn’t know why. Until she turned around and saw her mirror image, smiling.

That night, Grace met up with Ralph to go out on a date while Glory stayed home, in tears, much to the amazement of her family. But out on the town, Grace started to notice that though he was out on a date and, more importantly, a date with her, Ralph wasn’t smiling. So she told him—or, rather, though at him, to smile. And he did, he smiled; yet the smile wouldn’t reach his eyes. So she taught his eyes how to smile properly, the way she wanted them to smile, and they still did, but there was something wrong behind them.

When he took her home, he dropped her at the front door and turned to leave with a wave of his hand, but she stopped him and made him come kiss her. It was her first kiss and she felt a fluttering of pride at having beaten her sister once again, and yet the kiss was not as she’d imagined. When she let him pull away from it at last, he gave an awkward smile and a bow, turned tail and she allowed him to go.

Still, she gloated her way up to her room.

Over the next couple of days, she saw Ralph constantly and made a point of making out with him every time, just to see if it got any better. But no matter how she instructed his mind, there was simply no way for her to feel the magic she was supposed to have been feeling.

Then finally she realized the problem.

“It’s you!” she told her sister. “You’re doing this to me! You can’t stand it that I’ve won and he’s with me, so you’ve decided to ruin my fun, is that it? Is that what you’ve been doing?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Glory replied innocently.

Grace screamed: “Don’t lie to me!”

Glory fell silent.

“Are you messing with my emotions?”

Grace stayed silent.

“Did you make me fall out of love with him?”

Still, Grace stayed silent.

“Answer me!” Grace commanded.

“You were never the one that he wanted and you never wanted him, you were just trying to get back at me for being the one that he wanted when you thought you had all the power!”

“I do have all the power!” Grace gloated. “He’s with me, isn’t he?”

“Is he?” said Glory. “Is he really?”

And Grace shut her up again. “The only reason that he loves you is because you’re making him love you!”

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s what you do!”

“How do you know?”

“Because I’ve seen you do it!”

“How do you know that’s not just how people think of me? As opposed to you. Could you love someone who you knew was forcing you to date them?”

Grace left the conversation angry, and yet, deep down inside, she knew that her sister was right. Even if she was forcing him to love her, he still loved Glory, not Grace, and Grace was the one keeping him from what he wanted. She didn’t love him, but she did love her sister and she was hurting both of them by using her powers for selfish ends.

So, yes, maybe it was unethical for Glory to force him to love her and to make Grace fall out of love with him, but no more so than what she was doing. And, most of all, none of what she was doing was making her happy, in the end. So she decided to let him go, to accept defeat with grace and to leave her sister all the glory.

The Man on the Bus

The dark figure rose the slight step onto the bus from the pavement. The long, black trench-coat, the black gloves that quietly flexed and unflexed with every breath he failed to take and the boots that seemed to fall so lightly in his tread, the perfectly black sunglasses he wore in spite of the gloom that day…

But they were unphased. No matter how bad the road, no matter how sharp the turns, how sudden the stops, no one noticed how firmly he kept his feet planted, his poise perfectly balanced as he stood in the empty space at the very back of the bus.

But no one joined him, either, until after a few stops, a woman got on at the back with a baby stroller. A kind-hearted gentleman outside was good enough to lift up the end of it on his way in and nodded his welcome when she smiled and offered her “merci”. The dark figure moved out of her way, twisting in one broad motion and spinning to join back his feet.

The woman with the stroller muttered to the infant child something about staying quiet and what a good boy he was. Though no one on the bus could see the man’s eyes through the dark sunglasses, they had been following the young woman and her stroller in a steady sweep from the moment she had boarded to the moment she sat down. Now those eyes rested on the child.

The child craned its neck—his neck—to look at the dark man. The man’s face seemed imperceptibly to have pointed itself down and in his direction. The little boy, too small to speak, smiled. A goofy, open-mouthed smile. Not just the smile of the innocent, but the smile of the precious. The dark figure raised an eyebrow, but quickly lowered it again in discretion.

The bus started moving again. The little boy waved his arms. His mother tried to tell him to keep himself still, though, after all, the little boy only waved his arms in excitement. It was then the figure smiled.

Few enough people in this part of the world ever desire their child to be looked at, let alone flirted with, and understandably so. It was only natural that the mother start to shift uneasily. And yet this mother thought her fear irrational and so, set it aside as paranoia, trying her best to look the other way, leaving no more eyes to check the black-clad figure smiling now behind those glasses. So no one saw how, in response to the child’s grunts of excitement, the smiling lips curled back and the mouth opened to reveal its fangs and a tongue that forked and hissed.

But the child, still smiling, rocked back and forth and giggled, and a single eyebrow lifted itself up behind the sunglasses.

Too Soon?

HENDRIX: You got it?

REED: I got it.

HENDRIX: Well, that should make Tanner happy. You wanna tell him?

REED: You tell him. He gets too excited when I talk.

HENDRIX: Seriously? Didn’t you just move in with your boyfriend? He needs to back off.

REED: Are you gonna tell him that?

HENDRIX: Isn’t that such a sad situation, though? Wait, but you did move in with him, right?

REED: With Darryl. Yeah. Yesterday. We just spent our first night together in our new place. Well, my new place. His old place. But I’ve officially taken charge of the kitchen.

HENDRIX: Really? That’s so 1950s.

REED: You haven’t seen him try to cook. I’ll make him help me, though. Just because it’s my kitchen doesn’t mean he’s not my, like, slave. You know?

HENDRIX: Even if it was his kitchen, he should still be your slave. But seriously, though, how long have you been dating that guy?

REED: Two months.

HENDRIX: And you started dating, like, right after you met him, right?

REED: We spent a couple weeks flirting at the bookstore. Although, I had to tell him after the fact that it counted as flirting.

HENDRIX: Is he really that clueless?

REED: He’s really just shy. I don’t know. I like it. Better than the alternative, anyway.

HENDRIX: Which is what?

REED: Tanner.

HENDRIX: Good point. But, like, seriously, though, two months?

REED: I know. I know. It’s quick.

HENDRIX: It’s kinda crazy.

REED: That’s kind of how I feel about him, though. And I mean, you know me, I do not… I do not feel that way easily. I’m not one of those girls. I don’t know. He just gets me.

HENDRIX: But do you really know him? Like, have you met his parents?

REED: I have actually Skyped with his parents. So while I haven’t met them in person, I almost feel closer to them right now than I do to my own parents–

HENDRIX: And has he met your parents?

REED: No, but that’s my fault, I don’t want to introduce him to my parents.

HENDRIX: Yeah, OK, I guess that’s fair. Are we gonna use this?

REED: How many have we got?

HENDRIX: Like, umpteen. And a half.

REED: Well, we’re not using the half.

HENDRIX: Right, but what about this one?

REED: I think we got enough.

HENDRIX: You think so?

REED: Yeah.

HENDRIX: But you’re not sure?

REED: I am, like, ninety-five percent sure that we will not need that specific–what are you getting at?

HENDRIX: Are you more or less sure of this jam than you are about moving in with your boyfriend?

REED: Give me that! Bitch! That is not funny!

HENDRIX: I had you going there for a second.

REED: I cannot believe you!

HENDRIX: OK, so, on your wedding day–

REED: Oh, God!

HENDRIX: Because I will totally be your Maid of Honor, let’s face this. On our wedding day, this is going to be the story that I tell. And I am going to include–

REED: The fact that you did it just so could talk about it on my wedding-day?

HENDRIX: And I am going to include your answer. Are you more sure of this–what’s this called?

REED: It’s a brace! Honestly, you call yourself a carpenter?

HENDRIX: Are you more sure of this brace than you are of your current boyfriend?


HENDRIX: No? You’re not?

REED: Wait, what?

HENDRIX: You’re less sure about your boyfriend than you are about this brace?

REED: No! What? That’s not funny!

HENDRIX: This is gonna be the best wedding story ever!

REED: You are being purposefully confusing! And also, I am not getting married.


REED: Yet.

HENDRIX: But at the rate you’re going–

REED: Hey!


There’s a video game that I want to write. It’s called Technomancers. The idea is that you are a hacker and you have to make programs that protect or disseminate different kinds of information. Information is the McGuffin, but it’s also the weapons and the tools to use it. The information reflects real-world issues and if you play the game right, you can affect the real world just by hacking the code and manipulating the information.

The problem is, I don’t know how to write a game like that. I wouldn’t even know how to play it. I’m a fiction writer drafting this story out by hand with a fountain-pen: the very definition of a luddite. I don’t even play video-games, they’re too time-consuming.

But it makes me wonder how many games like this are being played without our knowledge. How many hackers are building and besieging firewalls around fortresses of info-treasures or palaces of lies. How many massive online multiplayers fall victim to coups and find themselves infiltrated. How many social platforms are robbed.

And above and beyond, how many forces are at play in our actual world, tweaking the data and twerking to distract from such magic until the world is unrecognisable, the very fabric of reality altered by these tailors of code.


I wake up next to a stranger. It’s despicable how often I end up in this situation, but it’s not like there’s much that I can do about it. I know how I got here, but that doesn’t make it any better. Does it make it any worse? At this point, it doesn’t matter.

I look at the man. The boy. The kid. He really is just a kid, probably no more than fifteen. That should make me feel bad—worse—or something, but it’s hard to feel anything anymore. Right now, though, he’s still asleep. He is dreaming, so his mind is not on me. I steal to the bathroom.

I look at myself in the mirror. The face I see there is the same face that I see every morning when I wake up, as long as I wake up first, or alone, but it’s not the same face that I saw in the elevator mirror last night. This is my face. These are my dark green eyes, these are my damp hands sweeping back my curly hair. This is the color of my skin. I try to enjoy it while it lasts, but what’s the point?

I can hear him groan himself awake in the next room and I close my eyes, hating myself, hating him, hating everything.

“You still here?” the kid asks. His question demands an answer, a very specific answer. Sometimes, if they’re uncertain, I can choose to stay silent. But this one? This one has plans.

It’s showtime, I can’t help but think. I spin on my heel and my posture straightens against my will even as I lose three inches of height. His attention is on me and it makes my skin lighter, it makes my hair straighter and it turns my eyes blue. By the time I’ve opened the bathroom door, my face is unrecognizable—it would never be confused for the one in the mirror.

Against my better judgment and against my very will, I linger in the doorway, coy, balance shifted all to one side to subtly show off the other leg, hand at my hair (is it longer or is it just the lack of curl?) to twirl it, and my lower lip curls up under my teeth, again to draw attention to it, to my mouth, as my eyes brighten. It shouldn’t confuse me anymore that my hair is suddenly sopping wet, but the surprise that I feel when my fingers touch the dripping ends of it doesn’t register on my face. Because I shouldn’t be surprised.

I shouldn’t be surprised, as far as he’s concerned, because I just took a shower. I just took a shower, because (as far as he’s concerned) that’s what girls do the morning after, so that they can look good and be clean again for their man—and let’s not forget the fact that wet hair just looks so amazing, right?

He is right, though, I should have just taken a shower. If it was up to me, I would have used any extra seconds to wash off everything that happened last night. It wouldn’t do me any good, of course, because the first person who saw me leave the hotel, alone or otherwise, would assume things about the girl trying to make her escape, would see her as dirty, and all of that would be back again. It would only be symbolic.

But that’s not how this all plays out in his mind, so it doesn’t really matter anyway. It doesn’t really matter what I think. I’m just a blank canvas.

“Hey, babe,” he says, putting one pasty, smoothe-skinned arm back behind his head like he imagines an adult would do and smiling in the way he figures the hot guy smiles at the woman he just slept with.

This is his script, I’m just acting out the lines.

“Hey,” I tell him, still smiling, still swaying on one leg.

“Some night, huh?”

Does he really not have anything more interesting to say?

“How ‘bout you come back here for round two?” He puts his other hand on the bed next to him and rubs it like it’s flesh.

“I’d love to,” I find myself saying. “But I really have to leave.” It’s what I want to say, but that doesn’t mean it’s me saying it. These are still his words.

“Come on, baby…” He reaches out that hand, but does he really want this?

“Look,” I tell him, “last night was really great, but…” What will be my excuse? What will be his excuse? “I have a boyfriend,” I hear myself say, like a casual reveal at the beginning of a movie, a minor character’s confession to illustrate that the main guy is a stud who can take another man’s girl just because.

“That’s okay,” he assures me.

Am I going to give in? Is that how this goes? Is he that kind of man? He’s not a man at all, of course, but is that the kind of man he wants to grow up to be? “No, it’s not okay,” my character says, suddenly blaming herself. “I can’t, I can’t do this.”

“It’s all right,” he says, but—

“No, it’s not all right! I’m… I’m dirty, even after taking a shower.” Sometimes I think the worst part of these little charades is the dialog they come up with.

“It’s okay. We don’t have to… We don’t have to do anything.”

That’s a comfort—note the irony. “Are you sure?” Why is he playing with me? Why is he playing with himself? It plays like indecision, but—No. This is a carefully planned script.

He lures me back to the bed under false pretenses and then waits for me to break the arrangement and have at him again. And I’m helpless—after all, didn’t he act the gentleman? Gentlemen are always rewarded, aren’t they?

I remind myself that he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. No one ever knows what they’re doing with me, what they’re doing to me. I play into their fantasies without them even noticing. If they’re confident, like this one is, I end up on my back. If they’re not, if they doubt themselves and their abilities, they will leave me alone. If they feel guilty afterwards, sometimes they will let me go. Unless feeling guilty is what they want, too.

This one is simple. All he wants is power: to win the girl, to get laid, to get one over on some other guy. I hear myself pleading with him when he’s done and leaves. “Will I ever see you again?” I ask.

“Is that what you want?”

Coy, “Maybe…”

He has no intention of ever seeing me again. I’m nothing but another notch on his belt—am I the first? Honestly, most men are such shit and keep being such shit, it’s hard to tell for sure. I probably was. He was a bit more awkward.

Why am I even asking these questions? It’s not like I care. It’s not like I care about him—at least not as a person. But I do need to know. For strategy. I care because understanding him might—what? What can I do?

I gather my things, I put on my clothes, I go back into the bathroom. I still don’t look like myself. The image is starting to fade, but he still hasn’t forgotten me. He may be thinking more about himself than he’s thinking about me, but he’s still thinking about me more than anyone else is. I’ve left an impression on him, so he’s left this impression on me, of this girl that I’m not, of this girl that he slept with, this girl who slept with him, who isn’t me.

But who am I?


Roger Llywelyn left his family.

It’s easier to think about it in the third person, think of him as a fictional character in a story I’m telling myself.

Roger Llywelyn abandoned his family when his youngest daughter was in middle school. It happened a week after she got her third period.

I knew it was going to happen. I didn’t know the details and I didn’t trust myself quite yet, but in the weeks leading up to it, I did get premonitions.

There were a couple different kinds. At first, I kept wondering where he was in the generalized visions that I was getting that I eventually realized were of after he was leaving. Then, sometimes I’d get flashes of him elsewhere, not with us, but too blurry to track him down. Those were upsetting enough, but at times…

You know how, when something bad happens, you find yourself forgetting about it? Like the proverbial phantom limb everyone talks about amputees getting? You wake up, turn around thinking your boyfriend will be there because it takes a minute to remember he died in a car crash three months ago. Sometimes, you even get it with dreams. It takes a minute to get out of it. So it shouldn’t be too hard to imagine the opposite. Just imagine waking up three weeks in a row thinking your dad isn’t there anymore, taking five minutes to remember that he is—maybe he even knocks on your door before going to work and you think He’s back! when he never really left. And then imagine that he did. After three weeks, the lie became the truth. Roger Llywelyn abandoned his family without a word, without a trace. He just didn’t come home one night.

His youngest daughter had known something was going to happen, but hadn’t brought it up, hadn’t wanted to. She didn’t really believe it and she was afraid that by bringing it up, she’d somehow put the idea in his head—no, no, she tried to tell herself, I just don’t want it in my head!

Life, after he left, after he disappeared, was different. I’d like to say it was the little things, like Mom not finding his razor in the sink after he used it, but I can’t even think of any “little things” because he was the primary breadwinner—the only breadwinner, for any practical purposes. Any money Mom made as a paralegal was extra. And to make matter worse—

“What do you mean, gone?” we all heard Mom on the phone with the bank. All our savings—he’d cleaned us out. Thanks, Dad. We had to move to a place that wasn’t big enough and at the same time, we all had to readjust everything we thought we’d known about our father.

There were no “little things” anymore.

I had it easy, considering. Was it harder on Jasper, the man of the house just starting high school, finding out his primary role model was a piece of shit after all, or was it harder on Aly, the half-sister, Cinderella to a mom who wasn’t hers, abandoned by a second parent? At least she wouldn’t be part of this make-believe family for long.

I knew how it was going to turn out. I didn’t trust it, still. I still couldn’t convince myself of the difference between prophecy and self-delusion, but would that have made any difference? Would I have been happier, knowing how it would all turn out?


Detective Kent Noxom was not above the law—but sometimes it felt like the assholes he was sent to chase down were.

“It’s these goddamn Mexicans,” he complained to his girlfriend, Alicia. “Minute you get ‘em in cuffs, you get the liberal media coming in with their bleeding hearts talking about systemic this and institutional that, and before you know it, you got drug lords running Houston.”

His girlfriend, sprawling naked on the bed, blew cigarette smoke and looked at him with half-asleep eyes and reminded him she’s got another customer coming in soon who might not take kindly to cops.

“You got the time, amigo?” some Hispanic cabrown asked him on his way into work while he was stopped at a light. He says, “Buy a watch, hombre,” then runs just before it turned green. He saw the kid in the side-view mirror, looking after him, chewing tobacco or some goddamn hallucinogenic bell pepper or whatever the fuck, and he had this look on his face, that deer-in-the-taillights look of somebody doesn’t even speak English.

Except there was more to it. He couldn’t tell what, but it was there.

“What do we got here?” he asked at the crime scene.

“There’s six of ‘em, and they’re bigshots,” said the guy from homicide.

He handed Noxom the list. “Jesus Fuck,” said Noxom. He knew these names. Some of these names’d been up on his board for a while.

“A hit?” he suggested.

“A very palpable hit,” said Detective Schiller, like it meant a damn thing.


“Eyewitness says this was one guy,” said Schiller, “and he didn’t fire a shot himself.”

The story was like something out of the funny pages or some goddamn tabloid fluff. Guy walked into a drug deal, started wise-crackin’. Next thing you knew, everybody was shooting, nobody was hitting the guy. Survivor who saw the whole thing said he couldn’t tell whether the bullets were missing the guy on account of him being so fast, or just bouncing right off him.

“Ballistics suggest both,” the Lieutenant announced in their meeting, then explained in detail where each bullet they’d found had come from and how they believed it had gotten there. “And then here,” he said at the end of the run-down, “Here’s where our vigilante crushed the 30.06 with his bare hands. “Then just in time, he added, “Supposedly.”

“Eyewitnesses say what the guy looked like?” came the peanut gallery.

“Said he didn’t look human,” said the Lieutenant. “Big eyes, one horn middle of his head—we figure it’s a mask.”

“Goddamn superhero,” somebody muttered under his breath, but not far enough under.

“That’ll be enough talk like that,” said the Lieutenant.

They didn’t find him, of course—investigation was ongoing. More incidents arose on the beat, robbery, even homicide. Vice stayed pretty quiett, though, until one day they’d set up a raid on a pot dealer thug they’d been tracking for months, but the minute they beat down the door, they knew something was wrong.

Nobody was home.

“Hello, officers.”

They turned and it was him—the big eyes, the horn, it looked so…

“The hell you supposed to be?” said one of the rookies.

“I am the Alien,” said the intruder.

“Drop your weapon!”

“I have none.”

“Put your hands up!”

“Why do you think that will help you?”

Faster than the eye could see, he disarmed every one of them. “Mr. Torres is not at home,” he informed them, and leaped out the window.

Noxom led the pursuit, but now he was so confused. I thought this guy was on our side! Hadn’t he been helping them out? Stopping robberies, foiling drug deals? So now here he is, crapping all over our country. What was up with that?

The trail went cold.

“Hey, amigo?” said a voice he could swear he’d heard before. “You got the time?”

He turned. Some dumb Mexican. Couldn’t even see his face. “Get outta here,” he told the kid, “I’m chasing bad guys.” But he had to stop now to catch his breath.

“You know, amigo,” said the voice in the darkness, “You should be more careful who you chase.” Then he lit up what looked like a crack-pope and Noxom saw his face—that face that didn’t look like a face.

“Shit!” He fired. In the light from each blast, he saw the Alien in a different place in that alley. He shouldn’t be wasting bullets like that. He stopped. “What do you want?” he asked, panting.

“I want the same thing you want,” said the Mexican-sounding Alien, “I want justice in the world. The problem is, I don’t think that you and I think the same what justice looks like.”

“You killed those drug dealers,” said Noxom.

“Correction,” said the Alien, “those drug dealers killed each other while they were trying to kill me. They were bad men making millions off others’ addictions.”

“So was that asshole in that house!”

“Correction.” Noxom was getting tired of hearing that word pretty quick. “That kid was making money to support his sister, who is sick. And there is no such thing as an addiction to Marijuana.”

“That’s ot how the law works.”

“It should be,” said the Alien. Then he paused. “I did not mean for those men to die. I acted too soon and I apologize. I would like to work with the police to work inside the law on strategy, but there are so many laws on the books that are unjust.”

Noxom finally lowered his useless weapon.

“Will you help me?” asked the Alien. “I would like to help you.”

“With the things you can do…” Noxom thought about the Kingpins. The high-level corruption he knew was going on. The Cartels. What this Alien could do about them. “Sure,” he said. “Sure, I’ll help you.”

“Thank you, amigo,” he didn’t realize it had lost the accent until it was back. “And I should give you extra special thanks.”

“For what?”

With that, the Alien stepped out into the street light and pulled off his face. It was a mask all right, just a really elaborate one. “For not asking me if I am on this planet illegally. I knew you were one of the good ones.”

The Circle as Sequel to 1984 in Canonical Science Fiction Tradition

I just watched the movie of The Circle, directed by James Ponsoldt and based on the novel by Dave Eggers. I only just started reading the book, so it’s possible that I will amend this later on when I finish, but let this serve as a review of the film as it stands, in addition to being an essay on the mechanics of the Science Fiction tradition. Be informed that there are some general SPOILERS ahead for this recent release.

To quickly define what is meant by Science Fiction and more specifically the type of Science Fiction that I will be talking about in this essay, I am going to be focusing on the concept of a Novum. The Novum in SF is the “new thing” that makes the world of the story different from the world that we live in. Some Sci-Fi, most notably Space Operas like Star Trek and Star Wars, live in multi-Novum universes where it is hard to pinpoint what specifically is under scrutiny because the focus is more on the story and the characters, but the “traditional” SF genre is tailored to a specific point.

One of the aspects of the SF genre that makes it almost unique in literature is the way that non-literary forces can render (aspects of) a particular work irrelevant over time. In other, more “realistic” genres, even when a work no longer speaks to the mass audience, it can nevertheless still be said to be an accurate snapshot of the times that it depicts.

Science Fiction, on the other hand, is, in its most traditional and recognizable incarnation, an estimate of what the future will hold. Even works of SF that take place in the present usually depict a scientific discovery that will have a definite impact on the future. For this reason, most Science Fiction has a shelf-life—even if that shelf-life happens to be tens of thousands of years, as in the case of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, for example—after which its accuracy becomes suspect and its relevance can be called into question.

We see this in the history of the Star Trek TV show. In the 1990’s, as revealed in the first-season episode “Space Seed”, which would spawn the notorious Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, there were Eugenics Wars that resulted in the creation of super-humans who terrorized the planet. The show itself backed off on this in the later series when it became apparent that not only were no such wars going to take place, but the technology necessary to create the circumstances for that particular kind of war did not exist yet and even now does not yet appear to be in a sufficiently advanced stage for such a war to be a possibility.

In other cases, the science upon which a certain Novum is based could in time develop past the point where the Novum is useful or accurate. My favorite example of this is in the novel Red Star by Aleksandr Bogdanov. The story takes place on Mars (the “red star” in our sky) and its inhabitants, who tell the main character from Earth that the reason Mars appears red to us from here is because the plants on their planet have evolved a red color in response to photosynthesis, meaning that they are red, in a way, for the same reasons that ours are green. This is excusable since, at the time it was published, we had not yet invented the spectroscopy necessary to know anything substantial about Mars, let alone landed a rover on it.

This is not, however, the main Novum present in Red Star. The plot centers around the Communist society on the red planet trying to decide whether to go to war with the totalitarians on ours. It was published in 1908, before Communism had ever really been tested, which no doubt has something to do with the utopian nature of the narrative. By 1921, four years after the Russian Revolution, Yevgeny Zamyatin had written We, which would become perhaps the most influential novel in the Dystopian sub-genre of SF, having since inspired both Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and the increasingly relevant 1984 by George Orwell.

Of these, it is 1984 that has endured because that is the one that has maintained the most relevance, at least in our Western society (I can’t really speak for modern-day Russia). That is probably because a large part of the sociological Novum centers on the erosion of private life in the interest of government-run security. This issue has gotten a lot of traction in the last few years as the debate has developed between net neutrality and the dissemination of disinformation in the Information Age.

But the one thing Orwell didn’t account for was the Internet and, by extension, the phenomenon we have come to know as “social media”, through which, little by little, the population has voluntarily ceded much of its privacy not to any governmental body directly, but by means of services provided by privately owned and operated companies.

That’s where The Circle comes in. Even though it does not sport any significant technological advances that would qualify as Nova, it pushes everything we have right now to the furthest extreme and for that reason, I would argue that it qualifies as SF, if “only” in the “softer” sociological category. And as such, its relevance to modern life eclipses 1984 in the way that 1984 eclipsed We and We eclipsed Red Star.

The story centers on Mae Holland, a young woman who joins the tech company known as The Circle as a low-level customer service worker, but after an incident off-site, she is offered an opportunity to achieve fame by having every waking moment (except when she’s in the bathroom) recorded and broadcast to an army of ten million fans.

In this way, it is almost like The Truman Show in that Mae is the only one in her position of unparalleled fame, but it is not as existential as Truman because she is complicit in it, even receiving and responding to blast after blast of tweet-sized messages for half the film.

The scariest scene in it for me personally, though, was early on in the film, when she has been working there for a week and is asked why she hasn’t even set up her social media account with them. In the culture of this company, everyone is expected to know everything about everyone else, to have their information at their fingertips, intimate details of their lives, to facilitate relationship-building. It is stressed to her that the weekend events are “not mandatory” but that nevertheless her absence will be noticed. When she reveals that she had been kayaking alone, one of her interrogators remarks that he likes kayaking and she should have told him because he would have loved to come with her. And any attempt she might have made to stress that she enjoys time spent alone is cut off at the knees when the other interrogator implies that continued antisocial behavior could be indicative of mental-health issues.

This is nightmare for me. It is, in fact, exactly why I can’t stand the idea of going back into customer service, let alone a “welcoming” corporate environment like this. People should not be forced to be social with other people. A great many people become uncomfortable in large crowds or among strangers and even people who do love to kayak sometimes enjoy doing so on their own terms. But the film suggests (and its case is compelling) that we are rapidly moving towards a world in which isolation is automatically considered suspect.

The gist of the plot, though, is even more terrifying on a societal level, as it follows Mae not only embracing her status as a person whose every move is scrutinized second by second by millions (if not billions) of people, but at times even gleefully pushing an agenda that would, to put it bluntly, create the perfect preconditions for Orwell’s Dystopia.

I did feel there were some flaws in the film, which is why I intend to revisit this post after reading the book. Everything that the film did, it did wonderfully, there were just some pieces I felt were missing, corners cut, arguments that weren’t made to my satisfaction (a problem I have been having more and more with films) but regardless of any technical or even storytelling flaws, I think this is an important story that everyone in our Digital World needs to be exposed to. It is a conversation that needs to be had.

“We Will Rock You”

It started the way sibling fights always start: with something stupid. I can’t even tell what, whether Declan was taking too long in the bathroom (ew) or Tommy used his toothbrush, or what. What I do know is that Tommy had finally stopped growing and Declan was catching up to him, so when it did devolve into the inevitable wrestling match it always had to be, Tommy still won, but he noticed that it was getting harder for him.

That’s why he brought up the band.

“What about my band?” said Declan.

What about my band?” Tommy mocked in that voice all older brothers have to mock their youngers.

“Oh, yeah, well, what about your band, huh?” Declan countered.

Tommy p’shaw’d. “My band’s good, man, the Elk’s gonna be tking it all the way to the Eagle this year.”

The Grey Eagle is this venue in town that hosts the classic all-American Band-Battle Extravagonzo every year, and of spring.

“You’re not gettin’ the Eagle,” Declan scoffed back.

Tommy threw up his hands in a condescending “We’ll see, sugar,” except maybe with something stronger than sugar, and that was the end of it.

That’s what gave Declan the idea. “We need unity,” he said to the others at their next meet. They’d been practising, but not very well. Not very focused. Raven had a killer voice (when she used it) and was starting to sound okay on the bass; Blake on the drums was a natural, almost a no-brainer; and Declan? Well, he didn’t like to toot his own horn, but he knew what he was doing on the git-fiddle. Now, Jasper—I mean, don’t get me wrong. He got better. But he was never actually good at playing the guitar.

The problem was the overall sound. “We’re all doing different shit,” Declan clarified. “And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if that’s how we sound, we still gotta make it work.” Declan was not a big believer in the idea that a band should have a unified sound like a brand or a lable. Having a voice was important—limiting yourself to one was not, necessarily. “Take the Beatles,” he would point out. “Listen to I Wanna Hold Your Hand and then skip ahead to Across the Universe. Do those sound like the same band?” They don’t to me, but I’ll admit I don’t know much about music. “What about Yellow Submarine? That sound anything like those others? Anything like Helter Skelter?” Another band he liked to bring up was Acid Monsoon. “Sometimes they’re this hardcore heavy metal and then they’ll blend that into this Trip-Hoppy Jazz weirdness—and they’ll do it in the same song, like, ‘cause they just don’t give a fuck.”

Caspar June, Acid Monsoon’s front man and lead singer, disagrees with his judgment that this means they don’t have a unified sound, but whatever. That gave Declan a target.

And now his asshole older brother had just given him a goal.

“I wanna play the Eagle,” this high school freshman told the band he’d incited. “I wanna play the Eagle this year.” And after he’d explained to all these noobs what that entailed, he got them all to work.

“Hey, Deck-face,” his brother mocked him in the halls the next day, and once he had his attention, Tommy crouched down low and started flapping his arms and caw-cawing in a desperate screech.

But Declan just rolled his eyes. “Whatever, dude,” he said. “I’m going Elk-hunting.”