An Obituary For @talkwordy

Correction: Brian J. White, known on Twitter as the estimable @talkwordy, is not dead in the literal sense. I mean, he’d want want you to know this fact. But a hilarious series of events caused @wa7trel to request this “obituary”, and I turn in my assignments as ordered.

Latest Obituaries: Local Spotlight

BRIAN J. JONAH JAMESON WHITE, of Boston, MA and Elsewhere. Beloved husband, newspaper editor, publisher, miscreant, and hedgehog fetishist, Mr. White died suddenly last week while announcing that he was stepping down from Fireside Magazine, which he had founded. White, who had quietly suffered for years from an embarrassing illness which caused uncontrollable shouting on the internet and an inability to use simple punctuation, passed away surround by his wife, cats, and a pile of improperly nibbled KitKat bars.

White’s death was announced online by his dear friend, , who immediately began gathering messages of grief and support from the community, under the hastag #RIPwordy. Hundreds of tweeters shared their favorite memories of the cantankerous clown-fondler, from the way he mangled candy with his face, to his innocent love of hedgehogs, and of course, his many cat pictures, which will be missed.

The family has been alerted to ongoing activity on White’s Twitter account, which seems to have been hacked after his death; though it’s unclear whether the faux-Wordy tweeting from this account now is a fan or a Markov bot, the cats have decided to hold off deleting @talkwordy for now, as a sign of respect for the community’s need to grieve. (The harsh language directed at @KitKat_US, the social media intern behind the official US account for Hershey Kit Kat, has caused some confusion, as it is especially on message for White’s brand.) Please bear in mind that any responses White’s Twitter bot provides should be consider parody, for entertainment purposes only.

White’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers, you consider supporting Fireside Magazine on Patreon, so the publication White began may continue to publish great stories, and pay writers well.

Those interested in reading a collection of newsletters, created by White and found in a desk drawer after his death, may subscribe to “his” Patreon here. (Though these newsletters will be checked for content and clarity before being sent to subscribers, White’s cats have stated for the record that as cats, they cannot read, so it’s possible a few clown references will sneak in.)

An “unofficial” public wake will be held at this year’s Readercon, in the bar.


I’ve been taking prompts from friends and fans who contribute to my rent and expenses, and writing them into flash length fiction stories. So far in this round, I’ve posted six other tales:

If you want to inspire your own story, you can get on the list by donating any amount via my PayPal, HERE. (Seriously, any amount. I appreciate the help.) You don’t need a PayPal account to use that link.

What I’ve Been Reading: Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy

There are two things I have to admit before we can talk about the Southern Reach trilogy:

  1. My partner and I have a secret, special place online… a shared folder of ebooks. This magical spot includes every DRM-free file we’ve ever bought, plus all the digital books and magazines we’ve gotten free at cons, as contributor copies, or in giveaways. Between the two of us, we have hundreds of reading options, collected over a decade.
  2. Last November, he got me a tablet for my birthday. It was inexpensive, a few years out of date, and doesn’t run very quickly, on purpose, because I wanted something with a 10 inch screen that I couldn’t use for games. I wanted a reading tablet, something to help me get through that giant digital to-be-read pile. The tablet I was gifted is absolutely perfect for the job.

So, you’d think I read a lot. I haven’t been. For a couple of years, I haven’t been able to get into a headspace for reading for pleasure, so unless a book or story promised to enhance my writing techniques or was for research, I put in the “someday” pile and moved on.

Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, US cover.

Last week, I opened up Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, the first book in his Southern Reach trilogy. I’d put off reading it for a long time, partly because I had this idea in my head that it was going to be hard to read. Smarter than I am. Too literary for my mood. More… something, than I was ready for. It’s not.

Annihilation is so well written that it feels easy. I didn’t notice the work that must have gone into writing it at all, even though it’s my job to analyze writing, break down work into its component parts. I planned to, when I started reading, but I forgot about studying the technique as I got into the story.  Annihilation is that rare kind of beautiful epic which creates an entire world yet effortlessly flows from the page as fast as you can move your eyeballs. I tore through the first book and ended up reading the whole trilogy in two days. Continue reading

Two new fiction sales: Mad Scientist Journal and Kaleidotrope

I sold two pieces of original fiction this week, both on the 4th of July!

Since I’ve got the contracts, I can announce that “In Defense of a Water-Bound Adventure, My Dearest Fran” will be appearing in Mad Scientist Journal. The story will be published in their March 2018 print edition, and appear on the website in April 2018.

This is a sort-of followup to “On the Methods of Preserving and Dissecting Icthyo Sapiens” which Mad Scientist Journal published in 2013. It has the same “author”:

Dr. Stephen Mackle holds a Doctor of Science degree in Aquatic Biology from Cleveland College, and a Doctor of Agronomy degree from the Yerevan Veterinary Zootechnical Institute. He briefly taught at Huron Street Hospital College before leaving to pursue other research opportunities. He considers the study of Icthyo Sapiens and other aquatic cryptids to be his life’s work.

In the latest missive from Dr. Mackle, he’s tackling the biggest cryptid of his life, with a half-baked plan and a well-baked stack of apple pastries…

“Last Bus to What’s Left of Albuquerque” sold to Kaleidotrope, a new market for me, and will appear online in 2018. This story is set in one possible future which I think if you squint, you can see from where we’re standing. It’s about a man being released from prison, and the way we look at convicts as repeat-offenders who just haven’t had a chance to commit another crime yet.

I hope you’ll enjoy these stories, and I’ll keep you updated about them!

 

Free Short Story: “Tomorrow Can Be A Better Day”

I admit right now that this is not “flash” fiction. At 1727 words, it’s definitely a short story. Clarissa Ryan asked for one that included a lot of cute and happiness-inducing things, and when I’d finished drafting it, there was nothing I wanted to cut out. So, a short story it is, and I hope you enjoy it.

Tomorrow Can Be A Better Day

Jana stroked the kitten’s soft, calico fur as the elevator rose slowly. She left it cling to her shirt, held tight to her chest, as its tiny claws extended and retracted happily. The elevator stopped at the 7th floor, and Jana carefully reached down for her bags with her free hand.

“Time for you to go to your new home, honey,” Jana said to the kitten as she searched the recipient’s apartment. Spotting the right number on the door, she stopped, and set her bags down to one side. She pulled out square pink box large enough to hold the kitten, gently unhooked its little paws from her shirt, and placed it inside. “Now, shh,” she whispered. “You’re a surprise.” She grabbed a shiny bow from the bag, set it atop the box (careful not to cover up any of the air holes) and knocked on the door.

Just as Jana was about to knock again, the door finally opened a crack. An older woman, her graying hair up in a loose bun, clutched her bathrobe tightly with wrinkled pink hands. Her sandy blue eyes were red and her eyelids were puffy.

“Mrs. Margorie Hanta? Happiness Delivery Service,” Jana said in her bubbliest voice.

“I don’t want whatever it is,” Mrs. Hanta said softly. “Thanks anyway.” She started to close the door.

“Oh, but wait,” Jana said. “You’re the only one who can take this.” She held the box up.

The other woman sighed, but let the door stay open.

The kitten in the box mewed softly.

“No,” Mrs. Hanta said to the box, shaking her head. “I am not ready.” Continue reading

Art History Resources For Writers

I’ve occasionally talked about different aspects of art history here: semiotics, evolution of style, photo references, and so on. I don’t work as an art historian now, and I’m no longer pursuing a degree in that field (though I do have one and studied for another), so I’m always on the fence about how much time to devote to discussing it in this space. I think most people who read this blog are here for writing — my writing, or conversations about writing — and I’m not sure how much interest there ever was in me excitably sharing some obscure piece of history or culture that I read about this week.

But the truth is that I read non-fiction every week, in addition to fiction, and most of what I’m studying on my own is related to art history. I’ve always been a sociocultural art historian, which means I seek to understand art by  understanding the culture and context within which it was created, instead of trying to fit the art of another time and place into a framework I’m imposing. (I’m looking at you, Marxist aestheticists.) That’s part of why semiotics is an integral part of my art criticism; visual communication, including art, is an extension of linguistics, and like language, can’t be truly understood unless you know the context in which it’s spoken, and the culture of the people speaking it.

So, I think I’m going to incorporate more of that into this space. It’s a part of who I am, and that’s what you signed up for when you read my blog.

Before you go, check out these links to some previous posts that might interest you:

If you’d like me to talk about anything in particular, please leave me a comment below.