Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We Wished You a Merry Zeppelin

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The day before yesterday I wrote to recommend Chris Lester's wonderful Metamor City. Today - it must be karma - Lester posted the final chapters of his A Lightbringer Carol. The novella ended as powerfully as it began, and then some, with a conclusion that I won't spoil for you (not even you, Jon - long story).

Before I move on, I wanted to pass on to you something that occurred to me this morning: if you're new to Metamor City, it's my opinion that you should not begin with A Lightbringer Carol. The novella is wonderful, but full effect depends on prior knowledge of the main character and his relationships. I recommend that you go back and listent to the earlier episodes - especially those tagged "Janus" - to really get the impact of the events of this story.

Of course, once you've done that, you'll probably end up listening to the rest of the series. That's my evil plan.

Anyway, that's enough of me for now. Until next time, always remember to look both ways before you cross the zeppelin.

Actually, you know what? Just don't cross the zeppelin. It's safer that way.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Turn Off the Funk, Part One: The Fool

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As I promised last week, content! This week's card is The Fool, and this week's content is a little flash, by me, for you.

The Fool’s Errand
By Mark L.S. Stone

“This is ridiculous,” Jeff said.

Frank shrugged. They both heard what might have been low laughter, but might have been the sound of pigeons taking wing.

“Seriously, what the fuck?

Frank shrugged again and gulped down the last of his coffee. He tossed the empty paper cup aside and started dragging the two unconscious, tied-together men into the back of the police car.

“You gonna help out or what?”

Jeff put his own cup on top of the squad car end grabbed one end of the bundled perps.

“Since when,” Jeff huffed, “do we have a superhero?”

“He’s not a superhero,” Frank replied. “He’s a masked vigilante.”

“Same fucking difference.”

Somewhere in the distance, a little dog yapped.

The two cops finished wrestling the unconscious men into the back of the squad car.

“It’s not going to do any good, anyway. These guys will wake up and deny everything.”

Frank shook his head. “Nope. They’ll confess. Always do.”

Frank slid into the squad car and turned the ignition. As the engine hummed to life, Jeff paused to retrieve his coffee. For a moment Jeff thought he saw someone standing across the street.
He was tall and slender, with wind-tossed blond hair and a long-nosed harlequin mask covering the upper part of his face He had a rose in one hand. A small white dog crouched at his side.

Jeff blinked, and the man was gone. Jeff shook his head and got into the passenger seat.

“What are they calling this guy?” Jeff asked.

“The Fool,” Frank replied.

“The Fool, huh? Well, fuck me.”

Monday, February 21, 2011

Metamor City (Belatedly) Takes on Christmas...

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... and the Burning Zeppelin Experience (belatedly) reviews it.

First of all, what is Metamor City? A braided anthology podcast of short stories, novellas, and full-on novels set in a post-industrial fantasy, a world of sword and sorcery all grown up. From the very first episode we are introduced to a universe where vampires, elves, communist psychics, and people transformed by an ancient curse that still lingers on the city live side by side, and become embroiled in corporate intrigues, police dramas, and occult investigations. Some of the stories are produced in the traditional single-reader style, but many of the stories and all of the novels are full-cast audio productions, complete with sound effects and music. The production values are incredibly high, on par with anything else I've heard on the internet and better than most.

Metamor City's writing is also very good. In my highly amateur opinion, Chris Lester is a promising up-and-comer; like yours truly, he's got some work to do to hone his craft to professional levels, but he's definitely fun to listen to in the meantime. His stories are fun, his characters are compelling, and the world they live in is incredibly deep, dense, and dynamic (as well as other good words beginning with the letter "d").

Another interesting thing to consider about Metamor City is the "braided" in "braided anthology." Not all the stories here are by Chris Lester! So far, the podcast has run at least one story by others in the podcast community - as well as a story that Chris Lester wrote for another podcast - and promises to run more stories set in Metamor City (in fact, I've got an idea I've been kicking around my head and might eventually get to writing down and sending to Lester... eventually). It isn't that a Metamor City listener needs or wants a break from Lester's writing, but the change of style and perspective is definitely refreshing, and brings a lot to the podcast.

One warning: Metamor City is not for the faint of earbuds. There's a definite adult spin to many of the stories. The inhabitants of Metamor City have sex, use foul language, and end up in some extremely unpleasant and disturbing situations. There are scenes that some people will call pornographic, and at least two stories (one a Metamor City story written by a contributor) are openly fantasy erotica. Lester does a very good job of making the degree of explicit content clear in the intro, so the self-censoring can go to town. Nonetheless, I don't recommend Metamor City to anyone who would be bothered by writers getting sex in their fantasy, or fantasy in their sex.

I was going somewhere with all this: the recent production of Chris Lester's A Lightbringer Carol, a Metamor City novella that began shortly after Christmas and continues to this day (alas, due to slow release rather than length). I'm singling A Lightbringer Carol out for special attention because it showcases Lester's talent for making the old and tired new and fresh. I had begun to think that A Christmas Carol - never the closest to my heart, Jew that I am - had lost all power to effect me. I've seen the movie version(s), and the muppet movie version, and listened to the Escape Pod version, and all in all, it was beginning to yawn me. But Chris Lester, with his modern fantasy tale of a hard-bitten and hard-boiled inter-dimensional priest-cop learning the true meaning of Christmas has managed to really touch me. I've listened to Stave One, Stave Two, Stave Three, and I'm eagerly awaiting Stave Four.

And you should be, as well.

Until next time, folks, watch out for vampire street gangs and remember that implantable amulets are definitely the way to go.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Transition is Complete

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I have (finally) figured out how to change the ownership of this blog, such that I, Mark L.S. Stone is its owner and operator, as opposed to my former identity, Mark Simmons. At last, I can post without logging in and out. Also, your comments will now be emailed to my new email address - you guys are going to comment lots, right?

Right?

Ahem. Anyway.

One of the things done by my podcasting idol (as in idol who podcasts, not idol in podcasting, because in case you haven't noticed this is definitely not a podcast) Mur Lafferty of I Should Be Writing fame is the self-critical update. It's been a while since I've told me adoring fan(s) where I'm at, so here we go.

Thus far, this has been a very good year for writing - and by "year" I mean "school year." I've actually managed to revise one story to the point that I'm ready to send it out, write another - one I'm really proud of - from scratch, earn two rejection letters, and actually get a story published in an awesome podcast magazine. I hope to see more of the same, but that's not actually the best news I've got to report.

The best news is that the Abigail and I have talked, and we have decided that we can afford for me to write full time in the summers, as opposed to teaching summer school to make ends meet. This year might be a sad exception, but that is a shape to my life that I could definitely enjoy. It also means that I may soon be facing the challenges of full time professional writing for months at a time; I'll be sure to blog all about it.

Now, on to the less good news.

Personally, I'm in a bit of a deep blue funk right now. Ah, screw it - I'm full on depressed. My life and lifestyle aren't in danger, but it's definitely put me off my game, in teaching, writing, and relationship (sorry, Abby!). I haven't written anything worth the electrons since the end of January.

Ah, well, the funk will pass. In the meantime, I'm throwing myself into this particular wall as often as possible. I may not achieve much of anything until the funk is over, but at least I'll be writing.

This brings me to my last point, my newest mad idea. Partly inspired by my own desire to climb out of my funk, partly inspired by the Abigail's fascination with 365 Blog phenomenon, and partly inspired by Matthew McFarland's brilliant Mage: the Awakening supplement Key to the Supernal Tarot (and my own long-standing fascination with Tarot), I am taking on a challenge, to last from now until my funk ends. Every week, I will post something inspired by the Major Arcana of the Tarot. In order, from the Fool to the World. I don't know if they're going to be roleplaying ideas or written content, short stories or character or location sketches. All I know is that they're going be based on the Tarot and they're going to come out once a week.

Wish me luck.

Until next time, if you can't bring on the funk, at least bring on the zeppelin.