Clever Soup

Alphabet pasta letters in a spoon spell out "SOS"

A holodeck and a human actor: a best-case scenario for AI filmmaking. Human actors reacting in human ways to whatever scenario the filmmaker invents, which is not much different from what goes on now.

The thing is, you can’t fake human, and maybe it’s not worth trying.  Everything else in filmmaking—sets, props, locations, eldritch horrors—can be represented artistically and therefore generated with digital imaging.  It’s the people you can’t fake.

Consider: we pay people to do nothing but be good at emoting.  Certain people emote i.e. act more skillfully than others, and we make them millionaires and give them gold statues and big parties and all our attention.  One individual, idiosyncratic human with their asymmetrical face and personality quirks and gut biome, singular among all other humans currently alive, can win the hearts of millions.  You’re telling me a calculator (which is what a computer is, writ large) is going to be able to fake that any time soon?

AI research has over the years taken up billions of dollars, and we’re still nowhere near faking people.  Maybe it can’t be done.  A computer as intricately modeled as the human brain might need to be either the size of a mountain or be an actual biological brain, grown in situ.

We are clever soup.  But we are like nothing else.  We’re cheap to make, easy to teach, endlessly inventive.  Why bother trying to mechanically replicate what’s already so abundant?


You know the feeling that someone is standing nearby watching you? What if they were doing that not to make you afraid but because they love you?

I generally like all my characters. If I’m going to spent fifty thousand words or more with someone I have to like them, right?

Then there’s a few who get inside your heart and never leave…

But that’s the thing with love: it’s not always up to us.  Sometimes love comes out of nowhere and takes over.  Makes you want to take chances.  Do things you never thought you could.

And yes, romantic love does this, but so does true friendship.  So can mentorship when given with a pure heart, in the spirit of service.  So does love for yourself.

That’s all my characters are.  Little bits of myself I set loose in worlds I created. 

That I can feel such love both for and from these unreal avatars of my unconscious is part of the mystery of the human mind.  I’ll take it, though.  Unconditional love? We should all be so lucky.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash


how did we let it happen?

this televised delusion

spectacularized demons who accuse us of their crimes

while they are still committing them

like a schoolyard bully asking

why are you punching yourself?

and we reply politely

offer counter points of view

and they laugh and call us snowflakes

and we let them

let’s go on strike

whenever someone uses a lying word like



those people

those queers

those…aw, but we can’t say that word no more

go on strike

walk off the conversational job

demand better conditions

or walk away

“I don’t owe you my time.”

“You call it an opinion but to me it sounds like hate.”

“We work together.  We don’t need to be friends.”

“You’re talking about people I care about.”

“How could you believe that about another human being?”

do not do their labour

don’t scab yourself to their delusions

refuse to negotiate on the definition of your selfhood

or the selfhood of others

their lies have no authority in the court of your self-worth

they are the ones in prison

they have built the walls themselves

and here we are outside

you and I and all of us

together in the garden




I originally thought of calling this not-quite-a-poem “You Fuckers Wanna See Some Cancel Culture?” but sometimes short titles are better.

I also acknowledge that many of us live and work in unsafe places and cannot ‘walk away’ without causing ourselves immense harm. It’s perfectly acceptable to strike by simply not dignifying the offending party’s remarks with a response. A blank stare can work wonders when someone’s fishing for a laugh.

The post nobody read

[edit] Look, I don’t mean for this to sound like a complaint, a “I did a cool thing and no one noticed, boo hoo” entitled little sulk.  I’m just baffled.  I haven’t had *crickets* in ages, maybe never.  So let’s stir the pot.  Will someone go back and read this? 

Interestingly the post had a lot of meaning for me.  The next day, I tossed together a stream of consciousness poem and posted it right away, and boom, views.  And you would not believe how common that is across the creator-sphere: the thing you pour your soul into gets barely a glance, and the piece of fluff you made for a laugh goes viral. Which is really justification for making as much art as you can.  Who knows what will get noticed?

The Post FKA: “The Ides of March? Never Met Him. What’s He Like?’

Three years ago, I self-published my first short story.

Two years ago, I had fourteen titles on sale, was writing a few novels, and felt like I was figuring things out.

Last year, I went over the edge.

Any old edge will do. How about this one? (photo by Alan Tang on Unsplash)

Up till then it had felt like I was doing everything right.  I don’t think I knew how depressed I was, which is something my mother said in reference to the same time in her life.

Taking medication was me making a sensible choice for a goddamn change. A grown up, self-disciplined decision to rein in my worrisome habits of thought and behaviour and become (what the hell was I thinking?) a productive member of society.

The results were predictably bad. You may recall that I am manifestly incapable of doing anything directly. Plans adjust themselves, reality reorganizes, and my intentions never end up aiming at my goals. I must approach all challenges and opportunities sideways: improvise, adjust, create new ways in the midst of living them. This is a very durable feature of my personality, and it affects everything I do, including taking medication to regulate my brain function. I’m sorry, but my brain function is a bratty queer with a glitter gun and the first six rows of the audience *will* *get* *wet.* Trying to rein this in leads to wildly unregulated emergent behaviour, and it was bad.

While high on legal speed, I did not buckle down and focus on my writing, which I was suddenly unable to do. Nor did I get really organized and plan my next year, down to the hour.  No, in between the bouts of tremors and sobbing into the carpet, I decided to start another blog, devoted not to writing but to (honestly, what the hell was I thinking?) historical menswear.

I swear it made sense at the time.  A distraction from the stress of a publishing career and encouragement to do more sewing, and if I was lucky, a back door into being known for anything at all, which somehow optimism and fairy dust would turn into a book career. It became one more task looming over me, one more chore to neglect. I needed to write books, not faff on about cravats on a blog no one would read without me promoting it like crazy.

I took the medication for a week. I quit when they wanted me to up the dosage.  Once I recovered from my inadvertent meth bender, I wrote a novella in which a doctor gets punched. I’ve done plenty of drugs under my own recognizance, and if I’d paid a schemy 22-year old in a nightclub bathroom for a pill that did to me, I’d hunt the little shit down and get my money back.

The blog lasted six months.

edit: This blog? This blog I do nothing to promote, that doesn’t sell my books, that does nothing for anyone? It’s coming up on two years. 152 posts. See? It’s just like I said. Sideways or not at all.

Slay all day? In this economy??

You’re not going to believe this, but I learned a lot about writing from reading this article about, er, recording and mixing pop songs. But what does an interview with one of Beyoncé’s sound engineers have to do with writing a book about kissing?

I write genre fiction, the pop music of the literary world.  And before you sneer at that, consider that romance novels make up 40% of the entire global book market.  Your literary stream of consciousness debut novel is a free-rider on our sales (you’re welcome.)

Pop music has to get its point across in three minutes.  Less, ideally, because if the first fifteen, twenty seconds don’t slap, no one is going to want to hear the rest.  And by slap I don’t mean bombast.  I mean that the opening has to suggest a big payoff is coming.  A fat beat, a mad drop, some crazy vocal run that make your hair raise.  The money shot, if you will.  The Big Fight at the end of the action film or the last kiss at the end of the romance (where we always promise a happy ending.)

But again, what does that have to do with writing books?  It’s all about Stuart White’s commitment to the first take as being the truest. Understand that this first take he’s talking about isn’t a demo.  When Queen Bey walks into that sound booth, it’s already planned what’s going to happen when she starts to sing. Hours of thought and setup, years of training and experience, all come into play in creating a perfect moment, where singer and song unite at an instinctive level, the way they ideally do onstage.  Everything after this first take is fine-tuning.

Similarly, by the time I write my ‘first draft’ of a book, I’m ready to deliver a great performance.  Even though I call it a ‘zero’ draft (gives me permission to let it be bad) I go into writing a book with a full synopsis, and all the scenes I’ve collected since thinking of it all nicely laid out in order. With chapter headings. Ready to write.  What’s missing at that stage is the feelings.  And those can be planned for but not plotted.  That’s what I deliver when writing a chapter from my notes, the emotions of the scene, which register in my body* while I’m writing. I don’t want to stop and figure out which character is sitting on which side of the bed in the middle of getting them into the bed.  If all those bothersome details are plotted, everything else just flows.

Your results may vary, but this is my system and it’s what my high-diffusion scatter ADHD seems to like: wild ideas, usefully structured, with a flowchart of operations and a minimum of attractive nuisances i.e. side-quests my characters don’t need to go on.

What my dang brain hates is editing. The rewrite, the do-over, the second take.  A rerun of the same creative form that strives, and often fails, to improve on the first instinctive attempt. And for my busy little enterprise, a massive time and/or money sinkhole.  

I despise writing words that I’ll have to delete, and that’s what happens when I write without a plan.  Being very (problematically) imaginative, I can take a story in any of a dozen directions if left unsupervised.  My plan is therefore my supervisor, and they’re a hard-nosed bitch who I hate to disappoint. Speaking of, they’re looking meaningfully at me over the imaginary cubicle wall.  Time to clock in.

*This is why I hardly ever watch tv or movies and am very selective in my reading.  By the end of the day I’ve had So Many Feels that I don’t want to have any more, and certainly not most of the feelings that ‘broadcast entertainment’ wants you to feel: jealousy, confusion, revulsion, futile anger at the establishment (I have that to spare, you want some?)  When my day is done, I want real people.  Or sleep.   

the violence

I heard they have a plan in America

to replace all the human beings

with self-driving cars with neflix subscriptions

in a landscape of drive-thrus stretching from

sea to sea

the most efficient system ever

to eat their own people alive

“thank god for the river or those people from down south would overrun us”

she said, watching them pull three point turns

in the parking lot of homeland security

that night after we’d blown the rainbow bridge

cruelty has purpose

the violence just is

a live grenade in a hospital lobby

a ship on fire

all hands on deck

“I don’t understand why you’re so unhappy”

he said when I showed him where the swimming pool tiles had cut my face

like I was meant to thank him

that was the day we lost Bruce

what did you expect

a guy like him

getting lost in his own neighbourhood

though all the houses do kind of look the same

a wall of tanks

shedding sparks on the way to put out a fire that isn’t burning


Solve for x

come! thou stalwart edge of dawn

and break this calcified intrigue

which day denies

a sightless sigh into the sweating sheets

break, o break the sky


all things you made


encase me so that I may break as well






Planning Systems: a non-systems approach

It’s taken me until this many years old to understand my brain enough to keep it focused on things it needs to do.  In this time I’ve gone through countless planner systems, from hand-held Filofax style books in the 90s to Google Calendar to several writer-specific planner systems I’ve trialed in the last few years.

Setting up any such system (let’s not dance around it) fucking sucks.  I’ve abandoned enough of them to have some perspective.

What falls apart for me is the transition from Planned to Achieved. Which is a fancy way to say that just because I put an event in my planner doesn’t mean I am going to follow through.  I have shunted certain tasks down the line for months.  Years, even.  There’s no accountability if I don’t do a thing, other than I screw up my own plans.  I can pass a buck indefinitely.  This is a very dysfunctional situation, and I hope I’ve figured out how to amend it.

I have two planners now.  Both of them paper.  Emails?  Notifications? I can ignore those for  months.  So it’s got to be paper.  One book is for planning.  The other book is for WRITING DOWN WHAT I ACTUALLY DID.  Caps for my own need, because I am the kind of smart that needs this level of reinforcement.

The thing with having only one planner is that every time I don’t complete a vital task, I need to shove it down the line.  For those who don’t have my particular form of high-twitch ADHD and are therefore good at //doing what they set out to do// lemme just say that this is not a sustainable system.  I spend more time rearranging my schedule than I would spend just doing the dang work. 

But like I said, I’m the dumb kind of smart.  It’s taken me until now to figure this out. 

Now I have two planners.  One that records what I intend to do, and the other that records what I actually achieve.  To-do lists aren’t enough for me.  I need to keep track of my Didn’t Do’s, so I can make sure they become Done.