The Messiah Returns

New News About Old News, Take 1:

Thanks to GoogleStats, I know that one of my most popular blog posts is the first one I ever wrote, in June 2007: Virgin Hammerhead Gives Birth to Shark Messiah. What can I say? When I first started blogging I thought I would fill my site with handcrafted comedy — and I’d been reading a lot of The Onion.

New News About Old News, Take 2:

Almost two years ago I was mentioned in an article by SF Signal called Who Are the Next Big Genre Stars? Editors of various stripes put together a list of 18 new writers to keep an eye on. It completely failed to change my life.

But thank the great Spaghetti Monster, SF Signal keeps trying to help a brother out. Yesterday they ran a followup article, The Next Big Genre Stars… In their own Words, where some of the writers in that list answered this question: “What story or stories, by you, would you recommend for readers new to your work?” Which meant the writers had to overcome their natural shyness about self-promotion — I kill me — and talk about themselves.  But there are lotsa links to good stories, there.

Actual New News:

I’m getting ready to go to the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio at the end of the month. Very much looking forward to seeing old friends and reconnect with the spec fic world, and if you’re going, hunt me down in the bar. I’ll be wearing the Shark Messiah Pope Hat.


Breaking Glass

“Glass,” a very short story of mine about psychopaths, mirror neurons, biochemical consciences, and very sharp screwdrivers, has just been published on the Technology Review Magazine site. You can read it for free on the site or (I don’t know why you’d do this) wait for the print version to come out. 

Technology Review, published by MIT since 1899 (when steam was king and “hot technology” was no metaphor), is a magazine and now website that, well, reviews technology. But every so often they invite science fiction writers to lie to their readers. It’s kind of a reciprocal agreement — for years the site has provided one-stop shopping for near-future Sf writers looking for the next new geegaw to pin a short story to. 

I’m honored that “Glass” is being run side-by-side with Algis Budrys’ The Distant Sound of Engines, first published in 1959. Budrys, who died this past June, was one of the most influential writers and teachers in SF.  He certainly influenced me — I read his novel “Who?” in 7th grade and was blown away. Also in the issue is Mark Williams’ excellent essay, The Alien Novelist, which discusses the impact that the man had on SF.  

And while you’re on the site, look up previous stories, such as David Marusek’s Osama Phone Home. Cool stuff.

Get to know the Right People

If you love yourself — and you know you do — give yourself a treat and read Adam Rakunas’ slightly lewd and very funny story, “The Right People,” appearing now at Futurismic. I love this story. 

Now back to me, and my obsession with self-promotion.

So a couple weeks ago I recorded an interview with Sohaib, the host of the Philadelphia radio show, Fictional Frontiers. I had a great time, and Sohaib was scarily enthusiastic about Pandemonium. You’ll have to listen to the interview to hear who he’d pick to direct the film version. 

You can hear me stumbling over my words this Sunday, October 12, at 11am eastern, on WNJC 1360AM (“Philadelphia’s Renaissance Radio Station” — though I have it on good authority that radio in the Renaissance sucked. The reception was terrible.).  If you don’t happen to be living in Philly, you can hear a live stream on the web. A podcast of the show should be availbable about a week after that — I’ll post the link when I have it. 

Meanwhile, if you want to see  me stumble over words, Matt Staggs of the very cool Enter the Octopus blog interviewed me, and he got me to confess to several things — what I really think of archetypes (and the dolphins who write about them), why Philip K Dick forced his way into my book, and who is the hottest chick that I’ve ever made into a fictional character.

A little Hebrew grammar lesson

My story “Second Person, Present Tense” is now appearing on the Israeli SF webzine Bli Panika, which translates as “Don’t Panic.” I can’t read a word of it, but my thanks to the translator, Ehud Maimon, and Bli-Panika’s editor Rami Shal’heveth, who provided very cool illustrations for the story.

Virgin Hammerhead Gives Birth to Shark Messiah

According to BBC News, a captive hammerhead shark, below, gave birth to the long-awaited shark messiah, stunning scientists. The mother was born without sin in the Florida keys and had never known a male of her species.


The messiah delivered several sermons and performed at least one miracle before being impaled by a stingray at the age of 3 days.

“For my first miracle,” the precocious pup stated only 24 hours after his birth, “I shall turn my beloved handler, Dave [marine biology graduate student David Schumer] into chum.”

Word spread quickly, and attendance at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska, the shark’s home, skyrocketed.

“Blessed are the children,” the pup intoned during one of his sermons to the onlookers. “Especially the elementary school kids on field trips, the ones that knock on the glass even though there’s a sign that says, Do not knock on the glass? They shall be the first to know my righteousness.”

The appearance of the saw-toothed savior took many ich-theologists by surprise. “Frankly, the ancient scriptures and the spike in recent coastal attacks led us to expect the messiah to be born unto a family of great whites, or at least tiger sharks,” said Gunter Haas, a doctor of marine divinity at the University of Southern Florida. “I guess it’s like they say, the Shark God bites where you least expect it.”

The sudden death of the pup left many of his followers shocked and saddened. Some took solace in one of the messiah’s final sermons, in which he promised that after his death he would return to extend his watery kingdom over the face of the earth. “Yea, there shall be a reckoning, oh warm-blooded air-breathers, and the water shall churn with your frantic kicking. And on that day shall be a great frenzy.”

The stingray remains in custody.

Surge: A Play in One Act

INTERIOR, the Presidential Bedroom. THE PRESIDENT lays on top of the bed taking a nap. His shoes are off. A DEAD IRAQI INSURGENT lies next to him, on top of his arm. The dead man is dressed in brown polyester pants and a long-sleeved shirt perforated by several bloody holes.

PRESIDENT, yawning, tries to sit up, but his arm is trapped by corpse. He slides his arm free and gets out of bed. He picks up the phone.

PRESIDENT: Hey there, Luce! I’ve got an insurgent here. [He ties his shoes while cradling the handset.] Could you be a doll and send in the cleaning folks? Maybe some new sheets. Good deal.

[PRESIDENT hangs up and pulls on his jacket. He opens his door to reveal the CHIEF OF STAFF.]

CHIEF OF STAFF: Right on time, Mr. President! The Vice-President and the Press Secretary are waiting in the oval office. [They start walking.] Oh, and we’ve received some very encouraging news.


[SECRET SERVICE AGENT drags a DEAD IRAQI INSURGENT, about 12 years old, out of their way.]

CHIEF OF STAFF: We took down an insurgent stronghold this afternoon. The figures are just rolling in.

PRESIDENT: Hold up a sec, Ricardo. Did the First Lady call?

CHIEF OF STAFF: A half hour ago. She says she-watch the puddle, sir-she can’t make it back to the White House tonight. In fact, it may be a few weeks.

[They pick their way over the body of a DEAD IRAQI INSURGENT. The dead man is wearing the top half of a police uniform. The bottom half of the uniform is missing, along with the rest of the man.]

PRESIDENT: Oh my God, that’s awful.

CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, sir, I apologize. I’ll get the crew-

PRESIDENT: She hates hotel rooms. So where am I eating tonight? I thought we could order in, maybe some Chinese. I like those little short ribs, with the duck sauce. What kind of sauce is that?

CHIEF OF STAFF: Unfortunately, sir, you’re flying out to Arizona right after this meeting. Two fundraising stops, then tonight you’re scheduled to dine with the governor of Arizona and the president of Venezuela.

PRESIDENT: Venezuela? Huh. Too bad it’s not the Chinese!

CHIEF OF STAFF: Maybe for lunch tomorrow, sir?

PRESIDENT: Good thinking, Ricko! [Claps the man on the back.]

[The hallway to the oval office is log-jammed with 40 or 50 DEAD IRAQI INSURGENTS. The landscaping staff, a five-person crew of happy, hardworking Mexican-Americans, is quickly clearing the obstruction.]

PRESIDENT: Que Pasa, Mary? Bobby, how’s that new baby?

[The men and women smile and nod, but their arms are full. They haul the bodies out of the clump and stack them along the walls. In no time they clear a path.]

INTERIOR: The Oval Office. 20-25 DEAD IRAQI INSURGENTS are scattered around the room. Approximately 60% are women and children.

PRESIDENT: [Entering] Sorry I’m late, boys. Hope you didn’t start without me.

[VICE-PRESIDENT and PRESS SECRETARY laugh good-naturedly.]

PRESIDENT: Rikki Tikki Tavi here tells me we’ve taken down a stronghold.

VICE-PRESIDENT: At least fifty insurgents killed. Some of them high up in the organization. Very high up.


PRESS SEC.: [He pushes a DEAD IRAQI INSURGENT from his chair and sits down] We’re getting some squawk from Congress again. Evidently they feel the latest figures are pretty hard to ignore.

PRESIDENT: What figures?

PRESS SEC.: Several conference rooms are filled, and they’ve had to stop meeting in the senate chamber, which I don’t have to tell you, looks bad on C-SPAN.

VICE-PRESIDENT: Nobody watches C-SPAN.

[VICE-PRESIDENT leans back in his chair and rests his feet on the body of a DEAD IRAQI INSURGENT wrapped in a black burka.]

Tell ’em to put down a tarp and get back to work. Cry-babies.

PRESS SEC.: I think we need a strong statement.


PRESIDENT: [Chuckling] Not that strong!

[PRESIDENT lapses into thought.]



PRESS SEC.: Citrus…

PRESIDENT: Something orange-y in it, I think. That duck sauce is pretty tangy.

CHIEF OF STAFF: [Flipping open cell phone.] I’m looking into it, sir.

PRESIDENT: Here’s the deal. It’s very simple. It’s a simple idea. We double our efforts.

VICE-PRESIDENT: Double down!

PRESIDENT: The problem, see, isn’t too many dead insurgents. That’s not the problem. The problem is that we don’t have enough of them. We can’t rest until we get every last insurgent. America will not be safe until we’ve filled every hallway, every bedroom-

VICE-PRESIDENT: A corpse in every living room. It’s proof that we’re winning.

PRESIDENT: Like that shampoo commercial. The one with the tingling. That’s how you know it’s working.

PRESS SEC.: Okay, I’m liking this. I can sell this.

CHIEF OF STAFF: Mr. President, I’m afraid we’re out of time. The helicopter is waiting.

PRESIDENT: Nice work today, gents.

INTERIOR, the hallway. The sound of chainsaws in the background. PRESIDENT and CHIEF OF STAFF stop in front of elevator. THE CHIEF OF STAFF pushes the elevator button, and then his cell phone rings. He puts the phone to his ear.

PRESIDENT: I think that went well, Rocky. We’re getting somewhere.

CHIEF OF STAFF: [Talking into phone.] Yes, I’m with him now… Yes. How many? Oh my. Oh dear god.

PRESIDENT: So was I right? Is there citrus in it?

CHIEF OF STAFF: [Looking pale.] Sir, we need to talk about Darfur.

[The elevator dings, and the door opens. The cabin is crammed floor to ceiling with DEAD AFRICAN REFUGEES.]

PRESIDENT: I’ll wait for the next one.