Friday, December 21, 2012

And the bomb drops down

Some thoughts on surviving the Apocalypse:

I'm not going to.

This is a rough thing for anyone who has grown up as steeped in pulp fiction -- superhero comics, Doc Savage novels, the science fiction of Robert A. Heinlein and Dean Ing and all those other good After The Bomb shock jocks -- to admit to. But it's the simple truth.

You see those people on THE WALKING DEAD? Yes, every single one of them except Darryl is a disfunctional asshole I'd walk a mile to avoid (well, I liked Dale, too, but he's gone now). But here's what they aren't -- they aren't fat, like me. They aren't legally blind, like I am without heavy duty corrective lenses. They aren't dependent on medication, like I am on allergy meds and Prilosec. And, apparently, they don't fly into a panic and run screaming into a tree or a wall or an abandoned vehicle, like I would if a horde of slavering Undead, or even one, came shambling at me out of the trees.

Also unlike me, they have useful, practical skills. They can operate, maintain, and repair complex machinery, like motor vehicles, generators, and firearms. They can shoot straight, move quickly and quietly, think quickly, and keep their heads when all around them are flipping their shit. None of this remotely describes me.

I am a child of civilization. I am a dreamy, imaginative sort. I do not like snakes or rats or bugs or wearing wet clothes or being dirty or the sight of blood (especially my own). I am a picky eater. I enjoy reading and watching movies and eating pizza and cuddling with my wife and occasionally my youngest daughter, who has not yet outgrown the occasional snuggle with her folks. I love hot showers, and central heating/AC, and soft places to sit and lie down and sleep, and blankets, and doors that lock.

I'm not going to survive the Apocalypse. I'm just not. And here's a news flash:

You're probably not either.

I don't care how many guns you stockpile, I don't care how much canned food and bottled water you have in your basement, I don't care how carefully you have reinforced all your locks and windows and checked all the sightlines from your front and back porches. I don't care. You, also, are a child of civilization. You may have wonderful vision (although few of us do), you may be flat stomached and wiry as hell, you may not get sinus miseries in the spring and the fall and the summer and any time except the dead of winter, you may not be diabetic or have high blood pressure or bad acid reflux or any of the many, many other chronic conditions we take effective medications for now.

Nonetheless, you are a child of civilization, and you are not prepared for the Apocalypse, no matter how much you kid yourself you are. You are not ready to kill. You are not ready to fight tooth and nail. Youa re not ready to make tough decisions.

You know how I know this?

Because if I know you, you are a nice person, and nice people are not going to prosper after the Apocalypse. Only really violent amoral sociopaths are going to do well after the Apocalypse. You know. Uncivilized sorts.

I'm not going to survive the Apocalypse.

That's okay. I don't want to.  Life in the ruins of Western Civilization will be a waking screaming horror for someone like me, and, I suspect, someone like you... but more important, I don't think the Apocalypse is going to happen.

Why not?

I'm a child of civilization... and I have faith in its inherent resilience.

But if I'm wrong, I won't be for very long.

Monday, December 10, 2012

George Bailey Lassoes Heartbreak

Watching IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE every year has always been a Christmas tradition for me, and it's one my wife enjoys, too. So we watched it again last night.

I cannot count the number of times I've seen this movie. We used to book it every year when I was on the campus Cinema Board, so I probably saw it five times while I was going to college actually projected on a movie screen in a theater, and, of course, I've no doubt seen it at least another fifteen times on videotape and DVD.

As with that other great classic movie of its era, CASABLANCA, the appeal of this film is entirely emotional... there is simply no internal logic to the movie at all.

Just as one random example... one of the earliest scenes in the film shows George Bailey at the age of 11, saving his obviously much younger brother Harry's life when Harry falls into an icy creek while sledding. A few weeks later, George heads in to work at Gower's drugstore and we see Mary and Violet waiting for him at the counter. George has been clearly identified by heavenly authority as being 11 at this point in the narrative, and both Violent and Mary seem to be pretty much the same age, while Harry was obviously much younger... nearly a toddler, which would make since, as Harry is supposed to be around 4 years younger than George, which would make him 7 when he nearly drowns. However, when the narrative flashes forward to Harry's high school graduation, we find out that Mary is actually the same age as Harry -- 18. We know brother George is 4 years older than Harry and, in fact, George's contemporary, that jack ass Sam Wainwright, announces loudly that he has just graduated from college in that same scene. So, apparently, Mary was 7 years old when she declared in George's deaf ear that "George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die". Which simply makes no logical sense at all.

Yet the movie is so overwhelmingly powerful on an emotional level that stuff like this just doesn't matter, and, in fact, I had to watch it around thirty times before I realized it. It wasn't until around my 12th viewing that I realized that the guy who eggs Mary's obnoxious date at the dance on into opening up the floor and dumping George and Mary into the hidden swimming pool is Mary's older brother Marty... who is, clearly, some kind of manic depressive psychotic, as he has, just prior to this, begged George to dance with his sister, as a special favor to her ("you'll give her the thrill of her life"). Apparently, Good Marty wants to make his sister and his friend happy, but when Bad Marty sees them having a wonderful time, he thinks "That tramp! I'll show HER!" What a nut job!

Anyway, this time around, I noticed something else for the first time. You know that really corny sequence where George and Mary are walking around in the borrowed clothes after the swimming pool mishap, and George throws a rock at the old Granville House, and Mary asks him what he wished for, and George says "Oh, not just one wish, Mary, but a whole hatful!" and proceeds to detail how he's going to 'shake the dust of Bedford Falls off of his shoes and SEE THE WORLD!'

And Mary gets this peculiar look on her face and starts looking around for a rock to throw so she can make a wish, too.

I realized as I watched that this time that what Mary is thinking at that moment is:

"And now... I must crush his dreams... forever!"

And she does, too.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The black rabbit

You know, I'm a negative bastard... or so it would seem from what I post on the internet. I nit pick, I criticize, I bitch and moan endlessly about all sorts of shit that displeases, annoys, or offends me, and there is indeed all sorts of shit that rises to that apparently very low standard.

I should be more cheerful. I should. I have a wonderful wife and tremendously excellent daughters and good friends many of which I do not see anywhere near enough (like Mark Gibson and his inestimable family, who are so tremendous as to be nearly as tremendous as my family) and I've got a job which provides excellent benefits and the opportunity to be screamed at thirty or forty times a day by strangers for shit that isn't my fault and that certainly reasonable enlightened adults wouldn't scream at anyone about.

I should be more upbeat.

But then I walk into the break room to get some lunch and nobody else is in there but FAMILY FUED is blathering from the TV so I grab the remote and switch it to something else, anything else, please, God, I'll take the fucking Kardashians for the few minutes I'll be in here over the goddam wretched appalling excrement-encrusted consensus celebrating conformity rewarding FAMILY FEUD... and I haven't made it to the vending machines which are thirty feet away before someone else has come into the room, shrieked in horror upon discovering that the TV is not tuned to FAMILY FEUD, and hurled their bodies across the room towards the remote, gibbering in dismay that they may have to spend as much as four seconds of their break or lunch period without the slick urbane inanities of Steve Harvey or the emotionally retarded dimwittedly risque topics he so smoothly exploits each and every weekday.

Has there ever been an episode of this show where at least one contestant did not smugly preen and posture about their involvement with their local church? Has there ever been an episode where some homely woman did not squeal in glee when her homelier mate or disfunctional family member managed to match "my wife's butt" with a topic like "things a man would like to eat off" as if this were the very apex of drollery and finely pointed wit in human experience? Has there ever been an episode where the two teams of contestants did not all appear to be bovinely unconcerned with anything beyond how much money they could make wringing their barely functional brain cells for the most obvious semantic and thematic linkages conceivable and then announcing them in the most unctious, smarmy manner they could manage?

What the fuck is wrong with the culture I inhabit, that we enshrine this show as an object of daily worship, and yet not one American high school graduate in ten can even formulate a coherent written sentence any more... much less an original thought?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Schadenfrude Claus

If the Mitt Romney nomination and the political campaign that followed it demonstrates any one thing with crystal clarity, it is the deeply held belief on the part of the Republican Party's uppermost hierarchy that all they have to do to win an election is nominate a good looking, smooth talking white guy.

On some level, at least some of them (not Rush, but Karl Rove, probably) are aware that a good looking, smooth talking white guy will piss some people off, if that's all that's there... especially if the smooth talk is almost entirely smoke and bullshit. As it absolutely was with Romney, and generally is with any Republican candidate to a great extent ("morning in America", "family values", "compassionate conservatism"... what the fuck does any of that even MEAN? Republicans are masters of emotionally loaded phrases that, upon any kind of semantic analysis, have absolutely no real meaning at all).

But while they realize that there is a part of the electorate that will not be fooled by slick sounding bullshit, and will not be automatically charmed by a big toothy grin plastered all over a good looking Caucasian face, they have not yet fully grasped that that part of the electorate is now large enough to actually elect someone else. They simply cannot comprehend that we now live in an America where your candidate (lying thieving not particularly bright scumbag that he was) can snatch up 60% of the white male vote... and STILL FUCKING LOSE.

It's like these guys have watched so many episodes of MAD MEN that they no longer really dig that it's a period piece... and, you know, fictional. Because by God, they ran Don Draper for President, and 60% of American white guys voted for him... and he LOST. WTF, America?

But they have a genuine quandary. The Tea Party originally intended to be a third party, and Karl Rove ran from one end of the country to another passing out candy and handjobs to keep them inside the Republican tent. So there they are... and they've absolutely poisoned the well. Republican candidates for ANYthing are now faced with a horrible dilemma... they can appease the Tea Party and get past the primary... but then they'll lose the election, because the Tea Party is nuts. Or, they can try to take some kind of sane, reasonable position on the issues people really care about... and have the Tea Party denounce them as heretics, which will destroy them in Republican politics.

The Repubs HAVE to let the Tea Party go; they're crazy and they're no longer even remotely helping. But if they lose that 12%, they have no way to make it up with moderates and undecideds... unless they substantively revamp most of their policies. Which they really don't want to do.

I say, Christmas came early and Santa was packing a big bag of schadenfrude.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The way things ought to be

Having a discussion with the Romney supporter in the cubicle across from me.

"What do you know about disaster relief?" he asks me.

"I know your boy wants to privatize it completely," I respond. "Private disaster relief means a lot of rescued rich people."

He shakes that off. "Yeah, I don't think disaster relief should be privatized," he says.

"Maybe not," I say, "but that's what you're voting for. Plus, no gay marriage."

He shakes that off, too. "I don't care about that stuff." He then explains to me that marriage should simply be a religious ceremony, but anyone should be able to enter into a civil contract.

I tell him "Okay, I agree, basically, but whatever you think, you are voting against marriage equality for non heterosexuals."

He shrugs. "No, I'm voting against Obama's economic policies. I don't think we can afford another four years of them."

When I asked what policies he means, he shrugs again. "When I ask myself, 'am I better off now than I was four years ago', I have to say, 'no'."

I hear this argument all the time, and it infuriates me, since it is generally coming from someone on the right, and on the right, everyone claims to be patriotic... except when it comes time to vote against the darkie, in which case, it's all about them, and Are You Better Off Now Than You Were Then.

I ask him if he's a patriot, if he believes in the greater good of the United States of America. He says of course. I say, "And you honestly believe that a guy who made millions of dollars buying American companies, putting their assets in his own pocket, shutting them down, and sending those jobs overseas, is the best guy to run our country?"

He blinks, but he's not fazed. "That's not how it would be," he says. "Look... we just can't afford for more years of Obama's economic policies. What's he done about the federeal bureaucracy?"

"The federal bureaucracy?" I ask him. "Like FEMA?"

"No, no," he says. "It's these public worker unions. They're ridiculous."

"Oh my god," I say. "First it's Obama's economic policies, and then it's the public unions. Just tick on down that list of Fox talking points. Look, dude... if your'e voting for Romney and you make at least six figures, I get it. You're evil and selfish, but I got you. But you're poor, like me. If you're voting for Romney, you're just..." and I substituted, not saying 'stupid' at the last second... "misinformed. Badly misinformed. And you ARE voting for privatization of disaster relief, and continued legalized bias against non heterosexuals. "

He shrugged.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Blah blah blah

One of my favorite writers thinks I suck.

Yeah, it's true.

Well, no, it's not, either.  I am vast, I contain multitudes.

I'm Facebook friends with one of my all time favorite sf writers, whose name I will not mention here to protect me from snoopy search engine related recriminations of which I want none.  This guy has been very friendly to me in the past and he actually read some of my fiction.  He read one of my short stories that I was very proud of ("No Good Angel", you can probably read it yourself by clicking a link on my sideboard) and his response was 'mehhhhh'... he indicated that he wasn't surprised it hadn't sold, as it hadn't grabbed him.  On the other hand, he said, he wouldn't have been surprised if it had sold.  He could see it going either way.

Now, look... I know this guy is a working author and he did me an enormous favor reading the story.  And he didn't say it sucked.  So when I say 'one of my favorite writers thinks I suck', I'm being whiney and melodramatic.  I get that.  Still. 

Anyway, sometime later he bought one of my novels off Kindle (ZAP FORCE) and I never heard anything back about whether he'd even read it or not.  I mean, six months went by and he didn't say a word.  Then, in a completely unrelated thread (well, I was bitching on FB about how apparently I just suck as a writer and I should just give up the dream) he mentioned that he had "really liked" ZAP FORCE.  And offered to do a blurb for it.

Now, weeks later, he's finally done the blurb:

""If you love Silver Age comics, and what decent person doesn't, D------ M------ has recreated what you love in 'Zap Force.' It's nostalgic, it moves fast, and you can almost see the colored pages as you read. Tons of fun."

This is like when you're trying to fix your homely cousin up with a date.  This is the "he/she has a great personality" blurb.  Notice (as anyone else reading it will instantly) that at no point does he use any genuinely positive descriptors.  He never says "great" or even "good".  He doesn't mention my writing abilities at all.  He advises that my book is 'nostalgic' and 'it moves fast' and 'you can almost see the colored pages as you read'... and finally, he says it is 'tons of fun'. 

What he doesn't say is that it's a good book, that it's well written, that the author knows what he's doing, that the author has a great style, that he loved the characters or the story or the dialogue... he doesn't say any of that, and my guess is, he doesn't say it because, well, none of it is true.  He didn't like it.  He doesn't think I'm a good writer.  He's simply not going to say so... any more than you're going to tell your homely cousin "I can't get a date for you, dude, you're ugly as shit". 

Now, I've recently reread ZAP FORCE and I think it's a terrific little novel.  It does indeed move fast, it has awesome characters, terrific dialogue, it's funny and it's witty and it has a great plot and stuff blows up in it real good... and that's the kind of blurb I want from the people who read it.  Especially when they are one of my favorite authors in the world.

A mediocre blurb like that isn't fooling anyone, and it isn't going to help me.   It's not going to help my morale and it's certainly not going to help my sales.  It's very much as if he thinks I'm a child, or at least, an idiot; like I can't see, from that blurb, what he actually thinks of my abilities.

Or maybe he is pretty sure I can see what he actually thinks of my abilities from that lackluster blurb that he sent to me in a Facebook message rather than posting into his own stream or on his own page. 

Maybe he's just letting me down as easy as he can.

I think I'd rather he just said "you suck".

* * * * *

Here's how you blurb someone's book if you really like it:

""D.A. Madigan crams more classic pulp tropes into one story ('A Dish Best Served Cold') than 'Kenneth Robeson' managed to shoehorn into 181 Doc Savage novels. If you like your pulp extra pulpy with a big slug of purple stirred in, D.A. Madigan is the writer for you."


"They don't write 'em like that any more... D.A. Madigan is a consonant connoisseur of all things pulp, and an absolute master of the form. His dialogue sizzles, his plots move fast, his heroes are noble and his heroines are hot. If you don't find your favorite pulp story ever somewhere in this anthology, you don't love pulp fiction."


"ZAP FORCE is pure pulp from start to finish -- hard hitting heroes, villains that rant and rave with the worst of them, evil aliens, capes & cowls, zombies & werewolves, particle beams & explosions, all mixed up with the most kick ass fight scenes Jack Kirby never drew -- if you dig that kind of thing, this one should be on your Christmas list."

Unfortunately, if I want this shit done right, I have to do it myself.

Tales of the Nebula: the Purple Pulp Fiction of D.A. Madigan

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Wrath of Doc

I used to game with a bunch of guys in Syracuse, and sometimes some of us would get together to go out and see movies, too. They very quickly learned (right around the time STAR TREK III first hit the theaters) not to ask me how I felt about the movie we'd just seen. The last time they did it was, in fact, after we all watched STAR TREK III for the first time. We were all walking out and they were gibbering like idiots about how wonderful it had been, the best Star Trek yet, and quoting "Don't call me TINY!" over and over again... and one of them, I think it was Gary, said "Hey, you're kind of quiet, what did YOU think?"

So I said "Well, for starters, when the best line in a movie is 'Don't call me TINY' and it's supposed to be funny because it's a little Asian guy saying it... that ain't good. Also, next time one of you repeats that idiotic piece of drivel, I'm going to throw up on your shoes. No lie."

After which, I proceeded to dissect the moronically plot free morass that was STAR TREK III: "There was a moment," I began, low, my voice almost reverent, my tone deliberately pitched to inspire confidence, "a shining moment of wisdom and truth in the Star Trek franchise... a moment when Hollywood itself opened its corporate eyes and said 'Hey, you know what? People get older. They mature and move on. They get promoted, they grow, they change, they take on new roles, new responsibilities. They age, and others come along the trail that they've blazed, walking in the footprints they've left, bringing their own skills, their own strengths, their own peculiar ways of doing things, to the tasks that will always be there, the roles that will always need to be played.' There was a time when a great and classic franchise accepted that entropy happens and we all get older, but it ain't all bad; there was a time when yesterday's titans and heroes gracefully passed the torch, after one last grand adventure, to the sons and daughters of their bodies and spirits, when they handed over the baton of frontline duty and entrusted the guardianship of the universe to newer, younger, fresher hands. There was a moment when that happened, and it was wondrous and moving and for that one brief shining instant, the two dimensional, almost cartoonish near caricatures that were Kirk and Spock and Scottie and McCoy and Sulu and Uhura became truly human and three dimensional and far more than the sum of their parts."

And I paused, for a great crowd had gathered 'round to hear my mighty rolling words. And I let my voice come back up, and I continued:

"And then Paramount sobered up the next day, said 'What the fuck were we THINKING?' and greenlighted a movie that completely destroyed that moment, that went back and pissed and shit and vomited all over that wondrous shimmering transcendent moment, that did its best to kill that unique and glorious moment so dead that no one would ever remember it had happened, by rooting out every last new, innovative element of that franchise which that moment had introduced and murdering them, butchering them, blowing them straight to hell and oblivion with retarded bullshit plot devices like 'protomatter', completely trashing the greatest heroic sacrifice in the history of heroic fiction with what had to be the most ridiculously contrived and hopelessly dumbass resurrection stunt since the Jackal cloned Gwen Stacy, and proving once and for all that the good of the many never ever EVER outweighs the good of the few or the one, if the few are stockholders in Paramount Pictures, and the one is a Leonard Nimoy terrified he'll never ever have another part. And that glorious moment when James T. Kirk was an Admiral and Spock was his Captain and the Enterprise merely a training craft and that was *okay*, it was *all right*, because the galaxy was still vast and the frontier was still final and other heroes and heroines were standing ready to boldly go where no one had gone before... that moment was gone forever, beaten down, broken, burned to ashes and trampled underfoot into the muck of mediocrity. And once again, then and forever, galloping around the cosmos was a game for the old, the tested, the true, the guaranteed box office."

And my voice became a naked flame as I spat: "Star Trek III sucked so hard I thought the movie theater had suffered a hull breech. The characterizations didn't exist, the dialogue was drivel, the plot was so utterly vacuous as to make the admittedly nonsensical plot of STAR TREK II look like Shakespeare, and if William Shatner had chewed the scenery any harder he'd have gone into toxic shock from an overdose of paper mache and spraypaint. That movie was sheer shit from back to front, start to finish, top to bottom, and now I feel like I need to take my brain out and have it dry cleaned."

Okay, I may not have said all that quite that eloquently, but I said a lot of it, as we drove in Gary's car back from the movie theater. 

And they never asked me for my opinion of a movie again.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Lies about money

Oh, and: Don't buy this bullshit the learned conservative wonks are now trying to spew about how this deep concern they have about Obama's reckless increase of the deficit. They'll roll out ominous, fulsomely rotund phrases like "You can't keep spending money that doesn't exist", but Republicans, and Mitt Romney in particular, have absolutely no problem spending money that doesn't exist... unless it's happening with a Democrat in the White House. It's not about whether the money 'exists' or not (and if you're that concerned with fiat spending, you need to be voting for Ron Paul, as he's the ONLY viable Presidential candidate who wants to put us on hard currency again). It's about two things: What We Spend It On, and Who Gets The Credit.

I'm not a registered Democrat. I tend to vote Democrat because I'm a progressive liberal and I want my tax dollars spent helping everyone, and where I would prefer my tax dollars do not get spent is on hurting (much less killing) people unnecessarily. Republican/conservatives are EXACTLY the opposite; at the base of every Tea Party hissy fit is their perception that (a) they have to pay any taxes at all and (b) that their taxes might conceivably be spent helping out somebody who does not look like them (black welfare queens in New York City) or behave like them (gay people in New York City and/or San Francisco). 

However, Republicans/conservatives will, grudgingly, pony up some tax money (they'll still cheat, mind you, but they'll send in something) as long as it goes to jailing, killing, or otherwise harming people who neither look nor act like them. 

Poor conservatives are primitive, tribal, bigoted people. They love Rush Limbaugh because he tells that that this is not only okay, but it makes them cool and patriotic and better than those goddam commie dope smoking hippie liberal assholes. Rich conservatives are deeply tribal, too... they have absolutely nothing but contempt for anyone who doesn't make as much money as they do and who didn't go to the same prep school... and while they really don't give a shit what anyone thinks of them, when they do, they enjoy writers like Ayn Rand, who extol the virtues of selfishness and being a complete prick with wonderful sounding phrases like "Productive Men" and "job creators". Mostly, though, they don't give a shit because they're RICH. To them, America is a place where the rich are a noble class that is above the law... just like every other culture, nation, country, and authority structure in human history. And they are desperate to keep it that way.

These are the people who are voting for Mitt Romney. The vast majority of them (the poor ones) don't like Mitt, but they hate Obama, because they have been convinced by the tiny minority of very rich conservatives that Obama is Other. They do not have to convince these folks that Obama is not on their side and that he will not help them, and that's good, because it isn't true, and it CERTAINLY is true of Romney. No, all they have to do is make these people feel that Obama is Not One Of Them. Because poor conservative Values Voters will NEVER ever under any circumstances vote for someone who is not a member of their tribe. 

The tiny wealthy minority will vote for Mitt because he is one of them, and they know it. He's got their back. He'll keep the help in line, God love him.

The poor conservatives are simply toxically, willfully stupid, spiteful, petty, hateful people. The rich conservatives are utterly selfish, mean spirited, trollish, glassy eyed haters who simply can't stand the thought of living in a world where someone who makes less money than they do might ever be able to give them shit without dire consequences. Either way, this is a hateful, poisonous mob, not a thoughtful segment of the electorate.


I'm going to say this, and castigate me as you will:  I like Taylor Swift's music.  And the reason I like Taylor Swift's music is because she is one hell of a lyricist.

I can enjoy a song that has incoherent lyrics, as long as they are evocative and have at least some clever word play in them (this pretty much sums up nearly every Blue Oyster Cult song, at least, the ones written by Sandy Pearlman, and seems to comprise everything Adele writes, too... "set fire to the rain"?  "Rolling in the deep"?  does anyone know what these phrases actually mean? ).  I can dig a song that has dumb ass, simple minded lyrics ("Dance the Night Away" and "Jump" by Van Halen are among my all time guilty pleasures).  I can even enjoy a song that is about absolutely nothing except cheap, meaningless, mindless vices, like pretty much 90 percent of the stuff recorded by the Rolling Stones.

But for me to truly enjoy a song, it has to be written well.  It doesn't have to be deep or meaningful (Jeff Webb and I used to say that we both loved Pink Floyd, but we couldn't listen to more than four sequential tracks by the band without wanting to kill ourselves) but it has to have a style, the words have to work together, they have to be memorable and evocative and the song has to either make some kind of narrative sense (to the extent that it actually tells some sort of story) or it just has to be so overwhelmingly powerful that it doesn't need to (like Springsteen's "Thunder Road").  But beyond all that, there have to be phrases that slap me up side of the head, grab my attention and hold it, that stick with me, that I can roll around the corners of my skull for hours afterward with a big, admiring grin on my face, thinking "God, I wish I'd written that".

I left work early Thursday because my voice was pretty much shot by this chest thing I've got going on right now.  The bus back home from up there wasn't going to show up for another three hours, and while I'd have preferred to just stay at my desk and surf the Internet until then, that seemed like it would just piss my boss and other co-workers off if they saw me doing it.  So I left and not wanting to spend fifty bucks on a cab ride home when the bus trip would be free (my wife and I are both working, but the words of House Madigan are "Christmas is coming" and this time of year, that's more true than it usually is), I trekked over about half a mile to a Culver's at the corner of Interstate and Preston.  Got a coke and some chicken and sat down with my Lovecraft compendium (the gigantic black leather bound one that all my black co workers kept smiling mysteriously at last week, until one of them finally asked me if it was The Bible, and I had to deeply disappoint him by telling him no) to kill 180 minutes or so.

Now this Culver's is the only fast food franchise in the entire city of Louisville where every employee is as white as Mitt Romney, and similarly, it's the only one that plays country music.  I'd gotten my nose deep into "The Thing On The Doorstep" (which is excellent; fully mature Lovecraft in absolute control of his form, and probably the inspiration, in many ways, for King's CHRISTINE), having absolutely tuned out whatever drivel was coming over the speakers (I'll listen to some country; Emmylou Harris will always get my attention, and that song about 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu is another guilty pleasure of mine, but for the most part, while it's generally not as offensive to me as rap/hip-hop, still, I'll selectively dis-perceive the vast majority of it in a big way, given the opportunity)... when abruptly I was hauled out of Lovecraft's wonderfully eldritch tale of hideous trans-possession by awful evil wizards by the realization that Taylor Swift was singing "Mine" -

"...I was a flight risk with a fear of fallin’..."

And then, yes, a decently written stanza about laying on a couch, nice imagery, okay, but then she swings into that recurring chorus:

"Do you remember, we were sitting there by the water?
You put your arm around me for the first time.
You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter.
You are the best thing that’s ever been mine."

'A careless man's careful daughter'... that's fucking nails, right there.  That's the true gold, that's diamonds and rubies and pearls.  That one beautifully evocative wonderfully rhythmic fantastically well wrought phrase... that's one that stays with me.

And then she does that sneaky little, heart-grabbing reverse in the last chorus, when the female narrator has walked out the apartment crying and the guy she's singing to is chasing her out onto the street and she thinks he's about to break up with her, but instead:

"You said, "I remember how we felt sitting by the water
And every time I look at you, it’s like the first time
I fell in love with a careless man’s careful daughter
She is the best thing that’s ever been mine."

And you know, I just want to cry, because goddamit, this girl... woman... person... human entity... this one right here... she can WRITE.

Goddam, I wish I'd written that.

And it's not uncommon for her.  The cascade of images in a little nothing song like "You Belong With Me" -

"She wears high heels, I wear sneakers
She's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers"

is so deft it approaches brilliance, and she makes it look easy... casual.

Oddly, the other lyricist Swift reminds me most of is Billy Joel.   But where Joel's lyrics are mostly about affluent entitled douchebags whining about the ennui and disappointment of their easy easy lives and how hard it is to be rich when you're sensitive, Swift writes about genuinely likable people with recognizable emotions that you don't really honest to God wish would just kill themselves by the end of the song.  (I'm sorry.  I love me a lot of Billy Joel songs, but his narratives are all about rich, cocky pricks who are pissed off because while the world will constantly fellate them, sometimes it spits instead of swallows.  He'll occasionally throw together an exception to this rule just to try to stake out some street cred, as with "Allentown" or "Goodnight Saigon", but it's obvious that his heart is really with the dissipated whiner sniveling his way through "I've Loved These Days" and "Summer Highland Falls", or the braying jackass strutting and crowing his way through "Uptown Girl" or "You May Be Right".)

So, anyway... I enjoy listening to Taylor Swift's songs.  The woman can write.  Even if, apparently, she can't maintain a relationship for shit.

I wish I could write as well as she does.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rejection, and what comes after

No finer way to start my day than finding this in my email box:

"Thanks for submitting "The Pyramid of Skulls," but I'm going to pass on it. It didn't quite work for me, I'm afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way."

Back in around 2003-2004, I made a hard push to finally break through and get something published in a real market. I had about half a dozen stories I considered professional level; I spent about eight months, all told, submitting hard copies of each story, in turn, to several different magazines... MAGAZINE OF FANTASY &SF, ISAAC ASIMOV, WEIRD TALES, ANALOG, BLACK GATE.

Everything wound up rejected. Everything I submitted to one particular venue wound up rejected by the guy who sent me the note above, which is virtually identical with all the other notes he has ever sent me. 'It didn't quite work for me, I'm afraid' is a phrase that is going to haunt my nightmares, I fear.

When I realized, after I'd submitted "The Pyramid of Skulls" to a particular online venue day before yesterday, that this guy (he has a very distinctive name) was now the publisher/editor there, my heart literally settled a centimeter or two closer to my colon. There's no way this guy even reads the stuff I submit to him; when I was living in Tampa, I once put a story (a damn good one) in the mail to F&SF on a Saturday, and found it back in my mailbox the following Saturday. That's the round trip from Tampa to New Jersey, and back, in five business days. There's simply no way he even read more than the top sentence of that story before scrawling a signature across one of these cutesy, maddeningly unhelpful and infuriatingly arrogant little rejection notes ("it didn't quite work for me"... what the fuck is that?) and stuffed it back into my SASE before tossing it on his OUT stack. In fact, my guess is, he didn't read more than the return address before flipping it to the reject pile... having noted, with lightning quick professionalism, that this was from an unknown nobody whose name on the cover wouldn't sell any additional copies for him.

I know I can't take these things personally, and I don't. But "The Pyramid of Skulls" is a damned fine story, and so are the other stories I submitted out back then (I reread most of them, and posted links to them from FB, yesterday). And the absolutely certain knowledge that, had any of these stories gone into any of those magazines with a "by Stephen King" or "by Joe R. Lansdale" byline on them, they would have been snapped up as fast as they were otherwise rejected... I don't take it personally, because it's not personal, it's just how the business works... but it aggravates and frustrates and exasperates me no end.

"The Pyramid of Skulls" is a fucking wonderful story, and I'm proud of it, and now I'm pissed off all over again.

He didn't say 'send more', though, so at least I'm excused from ever trying him out again.

I do, actually, realize I'm whining in a most unbecoming manner. I do, actually, understand that I cannot be objective about my own writing, and when I look at an issue of this mag I was just rejected from, and read the stories that he has accepted, and say "My stuff is absolutely as good as this stuff, or better", well, I don't get to make that call.

But I don't think he actually read this story before he rejected it, and say hey and by the way... this is my LIFE, here. This is what I've wanted to do since I was 12, and this is yet another example of why I don't get to do it... because the people in positions of absolute authority over this crazy business only have so many spaces to publish stuff in, and only so much time to wade through unsolicited submissions, and if what ends up getting published every month is stories by their long time friends and podcast partners, and stories by authors with reputations and followings whose names will bring in additional sales, well, that's just how it is. Sorry, buddy. This might be a Nebula award winner, but I don't know your name and I don't have time to really read this thing, I've got two hundred other nobodies to kick in the kidney before I can go to lunch today, so, you know, 'it didn't quite work for me'.

This shit just aggravates me. It really, really does.

So, today has started out shitty, and, you know, thanks, Mr. Big Shot, for taking the time to reject an excellent short story without bothering to read it. I appreciate your efforts on my behalf.

* * * * *

Heh. So I just responded to this morning's rejection note:

""Thanks for sending me your rejection note in re: my story "The Pyramid of Skulls," but I'm going to pass on it. It didn't quite work for me, I'm afraid. Best of luck to you being less of a tool, and thanks again for sending it my way."

Before anyone types the word 'unprofessional' into a reply window, please consider the following:

(a) I AM unprofessional. I'd like to be professional, but buttweeds won't let me. So, whatever, this is how that's going to be for a while, I guess.

(b) If we're going to have a discusson regarding professionalism anyway, let's start with, professional editors/publishers who reject manuscripts without reading them. If that's professional behavior, then so is calling them a tool for doing it with a snotty little note about how something 'didn't quite work for them'.

I'll probably add more to this later.

* * * *

So I just read two of the stories available for free at the e-mag I was just rejected from.  The first, by the long time business partner and I guess close friend of the toolneck that rejected me, frankly sucked.  The second... was interesting, and had flashes of real style, and a genuinely original premise.  But it wasn't any better than "A Pyramid Of Skulls". 

It's how these things go, I guess.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


So, writing PYRAMID OF SKULLS was interesting.  (To me.  I have absolutely no expectations that this 'process' post will interest anyone else at all... in fact, I might as well post it on my old blog.  Maybe I will.)

I'd been restless, lately, with a feeling I've come to recognize over the past forty years or so as "I want to write something".  I've found various useful (or, bad, depending on how you look at it) substitutes that more or less satisfy this feeling over the years... running my RPG is probably the best.  But playing a detail heavy game like ARKHAM HORROR is sometimes enough of a fix, too.

But, mostly, when I feel like I want to write, what's best is, to sit down and write.

Sometimes I have a story idea that is banging around inside my skull, picking up velocity until I get it outside of me.  Other times, though, the feeling is more general... no real story concept, but, I just want to write.  Something.  Anything.

This, I've found, is the impulse that tends to produce interesting story frags.  I used to have a big manila folder of these, some from as long ago as 8th grade... but I lost it during one of my many moves.  Which is too bad, there were a lot of hilarious three or four page Star Trek parodies in there that used to amuse some of my classmates in high school no end.

So yesterday I had this feeling, and I was at work and had no real ideas at all for what I wanted to write, but I wanted to.  So in the hour or so I had before my shift started, I opened a Notepad window and started typing.

All I had was a title... the rather Conanesque PYRAMID OF SKULLS.   I had no idea what it was or where to start the story or how it would get eventually so some pyramid built out of skulls, but I just started typing.

My opening paragraph went something like this:

"As Kordek Axehand came around the last curve of the River to the north of Bearfang Bay, he could see that the main gate leading through the city wall was jammed with a sherdak caravan."

I had no idea who Kordek Axehand was, and while the story was clearly going to be set in the backdrop of my long running fantasy RPG (Bearfang Bay is one of many cities situated along The River where various parties of Player Characters have wreaked havoc over the last quarter century), I still had no clue what Bearfang Bay had to do with a pyramid of skulls, or how Kordek Axehand was going to be involved with a pyramid of skulls.

Hell, I didn't even know what a 'sherdak' was, except that it was big.

I typed on the story until my shift started, then kept typing on it between calls all day. I had about 3,000 words of it down when my shift ended.  By then I knew what a sherdak was (it's a mammoth).   I knew more or less who Kordek was at that point, and had introduced a buddy for him, some obnoxious little puke named Gafeq the Sunfingered.  And I'd started to get an idea of the shape the story would take, and how the pyramid of skulls was going to come into it.  

I typed another thousand words or so last night.  Today, I sat down and finished the story.  It comes in at just over 7000 words, so I did about another 3000 today.  In the course of it, I found myself continually surprised by where the story was going.  In the end, I was probably as astounded by how that story got to the pyramid of skulls, and what happened when it got there, as I hope any readers the story may eventually have will be.

I generally start writing a story, regardless of length, without having any clear idea how it's going to come out.  This is the first time, though, that I sat down with an empty word processor window and just started typing and an entire coherent narrative came out.

If I were interviewing myself, and I asked myself "Where do you get your ideas?" I would have to honestly answer, "I have no fucking clue".

Monday, July 02, 2012

The smartest man in the room

Okay.  So today I found out two things... well, more than two things, several things, so let's just knock them out:

I'm officially out of training after this week, and today I had a sit down with the guy who will be my new boss.  In these situations, I'm always hoping my new boss might be someone I could actually talk to about stuff... someone with a sense of humor and proportion about work, someone who might actually agree with at least a few of my (always) heretical and blasphemous opinions about our shared workplace.

In this case, I was really hoping I'd get a boss who believes, as I do, that it's a really, really bad idea for customer service reps to try to sell things to customers.  I think this is a bad idea for one simple reason:  customers hate it.  I hate it, when I have to call customer service for something and they try to sell me some kind of upgrade, and I've done time at enough call centers to say with absolute authority, there is not a single customer in the thousands I've spoken with who called customer service hoping to be shilled, and while some are more tolerant of it than others, and a few will even buy what you're selling if you pitch it right, none of them are happy you're pitching to them and most of them are actually aggravated about it.

But my new boss is, of course, a True Believer; he looked at me with his big earnest puppy dog eyes and explained to me that technical proficiency of the troubleshooting process was only 33% of my job, and customer service was only 33%... the other 33% is sales.  And he meant it; he actually sat there and wrung his hands, bemoaning the fact that each of us is asked, in our initial job interview, if we have a problem with selling, and each of us answers "no, of course not"... and yet, so many of us seem to really need to be pushed to doing it more than perfunctorily when we get on the floor.

Now, I wanted to say, "Look, dipshit, there isn't a single person working in this building who would be here tomorrow if we won the Powerball.  We NEED these jobs.  It's not hard to figure out what the guy on the other side of the table wants to hear when he asks you 'do you mind selling'... or the consequences for giving him any other answer.  We're going to lie.  We're not going to in any way feel ashamed of it.  Get used to it... and get used to the fact that, having been forced to take a job we really don't want to do, we're only going to do the parts of it we really, REALLY don't want to do really, really reluctantly."

But what I actually said, very quietly, was "To be fair, what I was asked was if I minded pitching on every call, and I said I didn't.  And I don't."  That's a lie, too... I hate pitching on every call... but I never agreed to sell a goddam thing.  If I wanted a sales job, I could have had any number of them, that pay much better commissions, at nearly any point earlier on in my life.  Even in the worst economic conditions there are always sales jobs going begging; it's because sales jobs suck and hardly anybody wants to do them.

I'll pitch on every call, because that's what they require of me on this job... but I don't care if I ever sell ANYthing.

He also, at one point, mentioned that, 'as my father must have told me at some point in my life, you get out of something what you put into it'.  I said, again very quietly, that I did not have a father.  He waved that off... "Well, your father, your coach, your uncle... somebody."

What a douche.

I also discovered that the guy who has been training my class for the last five weeks has never taken a call at this call center.  Excuse me... he's taken three calls.  Total.

Plus, he was telling some anecdote to my new boss about how one of the people in my class told him after a grading session "Well, but, the score isn't always everything", and he had replied "No androgyny, dude, I can't handle androgyny".  This baffled me, so I asked him, "Do you mean ambivalence?  Or subjectivity?"  He snapped his fingers and said "That's it, ambivalence."  I said, "Do you know what androgyny means?"  He said "Apparently not."  I said "It means being effectively without distinctive sexual characteristics at all, or, having the characteristics of both genders."  He said, "Oh, yeah."

This guy's been training me to do this job for the last five weeks.

There are a great many things that are annoying about this job... what do I expect?  It's another call center job.  It has great benefits,  though, and we really need the money, so... I guess I'll just have to learn to put up with it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

An incomplete list of stuff I've created in the last 20 years or so


NOVELS: [* = not yet written]

Universal Maintenance

Universal Agent*

Universal Law*

Time Watch




Warren's World

Warlord of Erberos

Return to Erberos*



The Fear Masters


In The Early Morning Rain

Short Stories:  


Good Cop, Bad Cop


Talkin' 'bout My Girl

No Good Angel

No Time Like The Present

Pursuit of Happiness

The Last One

Return To Sender



The Drowned Scroll

A Dish Best Served Cold

Power 2 The Peepz


The Eldritch Horror From Beyond The Nether Void



The Servo-motor That Rocks The Cradle

Alleged Humor:

Ask A Bastard!

On The Road Again

Meeting of the Mindless

Star Drek

="" father="" ny3="" o'brannigan
Fan Fic:

The Captain and the Queen

A Day Unlike Any Other (Iron Mike & Guardian)

DOOM Unto Others! (Iron Mike & Guardian)

Starry, Starry Night(Iron Mike & Guardian)

A Friend In Need (Blackstar & Guardian)

All The Time In The World(Blackstar)

The End of the Innocence(Iron Mike & Guardian)

And Be One Traveler(Iron Mike & Guardian)






Help Us, Batman...

JLA Membership drive

Don't Leave Us, Batman...!

Ever wondered what happened to the World's Finest Super-team?

Two heroes meet their editor...

At the movies with some legendary Silver Age sidekicks...

What really happened to Kandor...

Ever wondered how certain characters managed to get into the Legion of Superheroes?

A never before seen panel from the Golden Age of Comics...



Buffy Lives! Her Series Dies! And Why I Regard It As A Mercy Killing..

ROBERT A. HEINLEIN, MARK EVANIER & ME:  Robert Heinlein's Influence on Modern Day Superhero Comics

KILL THEM ALL AND LET NEO SORT THEM OUT:  The Essential Immorality of The Matrix

HEINLEIN:  The Man, The Myth, The Whackjob

BILL OF GOODS:  The Words of A Heinlein Fan Like Nearly Every Other Heinlein Fan I've Ever Met, But More Polite

FIRST RAPE, THEN PILLAGE, THEN BURN: S.M. Stirling shows us terror... in a handful of alternate histories

DOING COMICS THE STAINLESS STEVE ENGLEHART WAY!by "John Jones" (that's me, D. Madigan), & Jeff Clem, with annotations by Steve Englehart



Why I Disliked Carol Kalish And Don't Care If Peter David Disagrees With Me

MARTIAN VISION, by "John Jones, Manhunter from Marathon, IL"

WHEN TITANS CRASH or "SURRENDER, ROBOTBOY": A Scathing, Vitriolic Attack on Wolfman's Finest



METAPHYSICS FOR METAHUMANS Part 1: I Need More Power, Scottie

METAPHYSICS FOR METAHUMANS Part 2: Things That Make You Go Zoom


METAPHYSICS FOR METAHUMANS Epilogue: You Will Believe A Man Can Fly

I HAVE A DAYDREAM:  Why ‘Childish’ Is An Insult In Our Society

TARNISHED GLORY:  DC Resurrects the Silver Age... sort of...

THE EVIL THAT MEN DOODLE:  The Influence of the Writer/Artist Singularity on Modern Comics

DIAL H FOR HAWKMAN: A Look At The Essential Absurdity of Superhero Comics
(Not That There's Anything Wrong With That)


COMIC BOOK NOTION: Bradford Wright's Historical Fantasy About Funny Books

CRAPPING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS: The Comics Pro I Hate The Most, And Why You Should Too


HEY, KIDS, COMICS! part I:  Absurd and Childish Elements Of Superhero Comics, and Why I Like Them Anyway

HEY, KIDS, COMICS! part II:  Absurd and Childish Elements Of Superhero Comics, and Why I Like Them Anyway

HEY, KIDS, COMICS! part III:  Absurd and Childish Elements Of Superhero Comics, and Why I Like Them Anyway

THE ELECTRIC SWORDSMEN: Explaining Why There Can Be Only One

SORCERERS, SWAMP THINGS, SANDMEN, AND SOPHIE: The Stream of Consciousness Running Through Four Occult Superhero Comics - Chapter 1

SORCERERS, SWAMP THINGS, SANDMEN, AND SOPHIE: The Stream of Consciousness Running Through Four Occult Superhero Comics - Chapter 2

NO EVIL SHALL ESCAPE MY DICE: Running A Green Lantern In A Sensible Superhero World

AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE... RE-VISIONS: Exploring What The Hell Is Up With The Android Avenger

PRAYING FOR THE END OF TIME: The Annoyances of Internal Entropy In Ongoing Imaginary Universes

OF GOOFS AND GROVERS:  Putting the Soup in Super, the Uh in Ultra, and the HAI! In Hyper

PANTHER IN MOTION: The Leap From King to Priest

TEN FEET SMART: Super Scientist Henry Pym's Tale To Astonish

FOUR COLOR CARNALITY: A Study of Superhuman Sensuality

TOOL OF THE TRADE: What Continuity Is, Isn't, And Shouldn't Ever Be

BOOK OF THE DEAD: Who And What Crisis Killed (besides my childhood, DC's Silver Age, and good writing in general in comics for ten years)

SLAYER'S HANDBOOK: The Metaphysics of Buffy-Earth (Expanded) Part 1. Data

SLAYER'S HANDBOOK: The Metaphysics of Buffy-Earth (Expanded) Part 2. Analysis & Speculation

COUNTDOWN TO SENILITY: Part 1 The Best Superhero Comics Of All Time

COUNTDOWN TO SENILITY: Part 2 The Honorary Mentions List

COUNTDOWN TO SENILITY: Part 3 The Little Tales That Were Not There

BREAK: REFLECTIONS OF THE MANHUNTER - An In Depth Analysis of Avengers Forever

THESE GO TO ELEVEN:  Why America's Best Comics Is No Idle Boast

CRIME AND NO PUNISHMENT: The Criminal Justice Non-System In Superhero Comics

OKAY -- WHO HAS BEEN MESSIN WIT MY LASER?!? :The Politics of Powerlessness




This doesn't include my newest novel, HIGH SCHOOL OF THE DAMNED (for young adults), any of my probably several million words of blog posts, certainly doesn't include my prolific commentary on various other websites over the decades... but still.  Even incomplete, this is a good hunk.

Amazing that I've never been paid for any of this stuff.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


So I've started rereading A GAME OF THRONES, and... it's like... hmmm... I never really noticed all these hints and portents before, but... is it possible that Jon Snow is Ned Stark's bastard child... by Ned's sister, Lyanna Stark? Is that the dreadful guilty secret he's lived with for the last fourteen years? Is that why Ned has never told anyone who Jon's mother is, why Ned won't even tolerate discussion of the subject? Most importantly, is it why Ned's response to learning that Cersei's kids were the product of incest was so bizarrely compassionate?

When you think about it, Ned's attempt to give Cersei a chance to run away with her and Jaime's kids is very strange. The typical response to children born of incest in Westeros is one of disgust and horror, and while Ned is certainly an unusually honorable man, and one could argue that he is even an unusually compassionate man, still, there's nothing in his character to indicate that his views on incest should significantly vary from his cultural norm... and certainly, there is nothing in his experience with Cersei and her children to cause him to want to save them, and, in fact, he has excellent reason to despise Cersei and, at the very least, Joffrey. Upon finding out that the kids are not Robert's, but are, in fact, the product of an incestuous union, why should Ned go out of his way to try to keep them from being killed by Robert's wrath?

Yeah, yeah... Ned has clearly been deeply troubled by the manner in which the youngest Targaryen children were slaughtered by the Lannisters, and so he grits his teeth and says "I don't kill children" to Cersei... but on the other hand, if Ned has no special reason to feel empathy for children born of incest, it seems like he might well feel that Tywin Lannister having to watch as Robert Baretheon murders his son and his daughter and his grandchildren is justice, or, at least, karma... and Ned is big on justice.

So, again... why is Ned so deeply moved that he goes out of his way to give Cersei -- a woman he despises -- a chance to take her kids and run, before he goes to the king, a man he loves as a brother, and tells him the truth about the parentage of Cersei's children?

The prevailing theory among fandom seems to be that Jon Snow is actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaeryen; that Lyanna and Rhaegar fell in love and ran off together, and that the general belief that Rhaegar kidnapped and raped her hundreds of times over a course of months is mistaken... and that keeping the truth secret, while pretending that Jon Snow is his own bastard child, is what Ned promised Lyanna he would do, as she died in his arms, presumably as a result of complications arising from childbirth. Yet Martin makes it clear over and over again that Ned still thinks about Lyanna, and his promise to her, every day and night of his life... that his promise, whatever it may have been, is somehow tied to some guilty secret that has wracked him with remorse every since. However, on page 381 of my copy of AGOT, Ned thinks a peculiar thing: "For the first time in years, he found himself remembering Rhaegar Targaryen. He wondered if Rhaegar had frequented brothels; somehow he thought not."

Now... if a day hasn't gone by in fourteen years that Ned hasn't been haunted by his promise to his sister Lyanna, and that promise has to do with concealing the fact that Jon Snow is Rhaegar Targaryen's son... how in the name of God are we supposed to accept that "for the first time in years, he found himself remembering Rhaegar Targaryen"?

If, on the other hand, Ned and Lyanna were lovers, well, it accords well with Ned's passionate devotion to Lyanna's memory, his absolutely unwillingness to even discuss Jon's parentage (even, or especially, with Robert Baratheon or his wife Catelyn), and his strange sympathy for Cersei's relationship with her brother and the children that relationship produced.

What prompted all this musing in the first place is a strange remark Tyrion Lannister makes to Jon the first time the two of them speak: "You have more of the north in you than your brothers." How can this be if Jon is half Targaryen? In fact, how can Jon have more of the north in him than his brothers... and in fact, Jon is frequently said to look much more Starkish than any of his siblings but Arya... unless both Jon's parents are actually of the north?