Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Joke of the Day

From a co-worker...
A passenger in a taxi leaned over to ask the driver a question and tapped him on the shoulder. The driver screamed, lost control of the cab, nearly hit a bus, drove up over the curb, and stopped just inches from a large plate glass window.

For a few moments everything was silent in the cab, and then the still shaking driver said, "I'm sorry but you scared the daylights out of me."

The frightened passenger apologized to the driver and said he didn't realize a mere tap on the shoulder could frighten him so much.

The driver replied, "No, no, I'm sorry, it's entirely my fault. Today is my first day driving a cab. I've been driving a hearse for the last 25 years."

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 29, 2006


Read my new short story at 365 tomorrows:


I know a lot of people who have birthdays in October: Jeff (currently overseas), Suzie (Loren's wife), my wife D, and myself, just to name a few. Today, the 29th, is my mother-in-law's birthday. And our friend Cary says his sister and his grandmother have the same birthday as D. Spooky!


P.S. Yes, I know it's very difficult to OD on ibuprofen. All I can say is, them astronauts is mighty clever.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Pancake, sausage, stick. Any questions?

Jon Stewart must love days like this, when the show practically writes itself.

And yes, folks, that's a real product: Jimmy Dean Pancake and Sausage on a Stick.

The only question you need to ask yourself is, "Do I want the 14-pack or the 18-pack?" Unless you're south of the Mason-Dixon Line, in which case you'll be asking: "Pan-fried, or deep-fried?" But we all know there's really only one answer to that question.


Thursday, October 19, 2006


Someday I'll look back on this and laugh. Right now I'm just embarrassed.

But I choose to look at it this way: the story was worth 39¢ and an envelope to them.

Earlier this month, I submitted three stories to three different magazines, and forgot to include an SASE with, or write "DISPOSABLE" on, any of the manuscripts. Yeah. 'cause I'm smart like that. And by the way, none of the stories was really very good-- I found them in my old computer files while I was prepping for NaNoWriMo and decided, what the hell, I might as well start collecting rejection slips now. And I have!

As D pointed out, my other mistake with this particular story might have been dropping the F-bomb far too liberally, starting in the second paragraph.* Respectable magazines generally don't like to print too much of that sort of thing. Good to know.

I suspect the other two manuscripts aren't coming back. They won't fit in a #10 envelope, and it's too much trouble for editors to deal with a clueless n00b like me. (in Napoleon Dynamite voice) Idiot! It's probably just as well-- I can and should write better stories now. Just gotta get into the habit of actually finishing them and then sending them out into the world to seek their fortune.

Hey, did I mention that "Antique" was published on the flash-fiction web site 365 tomorrows? That didn't suck.


* She asked me: "Were you listening to the Penny Arcade podcast when you wrote this?" But no, it was years before I ever met those hooligans, so I can't claim them as a bad influence.

House is the new Law & Order

D and I have recently become addicted to House, the Fox show about the grumpy gimpy doc who solves medical mysteries. I was first intrigued by the frequent references to it on TV writer Jane Espenson's blog, and when she kept pointing out the title character's similarities to Sherlock Holmes-- well, that was an easy sell.

Structurally, the show is very similar to Law & Order Classic: a cold open featuring the victim succumbing to his or her ailment, followed by four acts of misdiagnoses and treatments-- which slowly reveal more about the nature of the illness-- and often a B-plot featuring supporting characters, before the resolution in the fifth act.

Formulaic, yes, but that's part of what makes it so satisfying. I love watching intelligent, competent people solve difficult problems. And unlike L&O, the personalities and personal histories of the individual characters actually figure into the stories. You might think this means I also like the L&O spinoffs, especially Criminal Intent, but you'd be wrong. TV shows must strike a delicate balance between plot, character, and tone, and many contemporary cop dramas just don't do it for me. (BBC's Life on Mars is a different story. Literally.)

House is on a brief hiatus right now, but we're burning our way through the first season on DVD. Love that Netflix!


Saturday, October 14, 2006


Read my short story at 365 tomorrows, the daily flash fiction site:


It's less than 500 words, so it won't take you long. Then, if you have anything to say, feel free to share it on the forums.

This is my first officially submitted-and-published work of fiction, and it feels pretty damn good to see that title: "ANTIQUE by Curtis C. Chen." I could definitely get used to this.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tales of the Brin-y Deep

Today, I picked up a library copy of Tomorrow Happens and read the first story, a prequel to the Uplift Universe novels. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that dolphins are involved.

The title of the story?


Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

But which one is the superhero?

Last night, I attended a Neil Gaiman event (my third in two days, but that's another story) at Kepler's bookstore in Menlo Park. During the Q&A, someone asked how Neil's Jewish heritage and upbringing had affected his writing, if at all. He said he wasn't sure, but told a good joke about a rabbi and his driver.

Later, as I watched Neil brushing his mop of dark hair back, it occurred to me-- Jewish? Storyteller? Likes to wear black clothes and sunglasses? Wry sense of humor? And the face, fully revealed in that brief moment, seemed awfully similar to another one I'd seen elsewhere...

A Google image search this morning provided the photographic evidence, confirming my suspicions.

Neil Gaiman

Richard Lewis

I mean, think about it. Have you ever seen the two of them together at the same time?


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Flying toasters are so 1989

I think I've figured out why I don't like the new Battlestar Galactica. As Kevin Smith said on Ebert & Roeper, "it's more drama than sci-fi [sic]." In fact, it's fantasy, but doesn't want to admit it. And that bugs me.

George Lucas got a free pass with his preface: "A long time ago, in a galaxy far away" (basically "Once upon a time"); but the producers of "BSG" have set their show in a universe where our Earth apparently exists, yet they never attempt to explain why-- well, I'll let The Flick Filosopher speak to this point:
Hey, wait: American accent? Aren't these people supposed to be on the other side of the galaxy or whatever, separated from the humans of Earth long before there was an America? What gives?

This may be the worst thing about this new Galactica: It looks like the society of the part of Earth we call the industrialized West, maybe a few years into the future, and where everyone dresses really sharp, like Armani did all the costumes. The captain of a civilian spaceplane, for instance, gives welcome-aboard and if-you-look-out-the-left-window speeches that are a stunning instance of pangalactic synchronicity. I mean, c'mon: The French think we're insane because we refrigerate our cheese, and let's not even get into how alien the Japanese are, and yet these people on the other side of the Crab Nebula would fit in right next door?
The original Galactica at least laid out its premise in the opening voiceover, and as cheesy and ridiculous as the "ancient astronauts" hokum was even then, it was enough. And they committed to that premise, with the wacky Egyptian flight helmets and made-up slang. It was clear where they were coming from and what they expected the audience to believe; I didn't have to wonder why expressions like "scot free" and "laughingstock" (both uttered by Ellen Tigh in "Resistance") would even exist in a world with completely different cultural histories. I just don't buy it.

Which brings us to the names: the BSG writers toss around names like "Apollo" and "Troy," names that are familiar in our real-world mythology, but use them haphazardly, without any connection or resonance. Why name someone "Apollo" if you're not going to explain or exploit the significance of the name? Why waste such a rich opportunity for establishing character?

This kind of thing works if you're using those references for effect, as in the satire of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the book, not the ghodawful movie). But BSG does nothing with these references; they just sit there, like interchangeable serial numbers, only used to label things, not to imbue meaning.

I mean, you wouldn't give the Lee Adama character a middle name of "Harvey." Because that's just too loaded (so to speak). The closest they came to actually getting leverage out of a name was establishing that a character who turns out to be a Cylon came from a city named Troy-- Trojan horse, get it?-- but there are so many other missed opportunities, it breaks my heart. They barely even acknowledge the original series, almost as if they're ashamed of it. So then why re-use the name, the premise, the characters, the structure?

Look, I'm not saying it's a bad show. It's just not for me.

Back in 1991, there was a brilliant episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation titled "Darmok." The featured aliens, the Tamarians, spoke entirely in metaphors. If you didn't know their stories, if you didn't know who Darmok and Jalad were and what happened at Tenagra, you couldn't communicate with them.

And that, in a nutshell, is my problem with the new BSG. It doesn't build on the established power of its names, or tweak their existing mythological connections to any effect; it simply uses them because they happen to sound cool. Because they sound like they should mean something. But they don't.

It's not for me.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Countdown to NaNoWriMo

Less than one month before the fun starts! I've got my premise, main characters, basic outline, and the cold open. I've worked out the flow of a few scenes and one of the major set pieces. I still need to nail down some of the math and science (yes, it's going be one of those novels), but I'm feeling pretty good about it right now.

Working title: Waypoint Kangaroo. I'll come up with something better. Maybe.