My Embarrassing Juvenilia: THE MUTT

Our tour of my embarrassing juvenilia, promised as a “reward” for your assistance (oh, you poor goddamn people) in Operation Steve and Emma, continues! This week… just what was the Terrible Secret of SPACE… er, THE MUTT?

You’ve already met the Chensakau, the Space Velociraptors who were one-half of the story. The MUTT was the other half. Seven unfortunate human souls, crammed into one artificial body and given a week to avert interstellar war by hunting down conspirators in the year 2296. That’s right, when I was 17 I thought it would be really cool to recycle the central conceit of HERMAN’S HEAD as my narrative framing device. Facepalm. ALL THE FACEPALMS, ALL AT ONCE.

Here’s the largest image (click the little link above) in this particular collection, a “splash page” sketch emphasizing the epic lameness of the whole shootin’ match. The idea was: In 2296, the Chensakau Imperium coxesisted uneasily with the Terran Republic, each species controlling a handful of star systems in an old and long-settled galaxy. The Functionary Corps, professional bureaucrats sworn to the service of the Chensakau empress, hatched a plot to drag the two powers into a full-scale war. I cannot remember their reasons, if they had any. Let’s assume the usual: A lifetime supply of free cupcakes and beer if they somehow pulled it off.

TSS Wallenberg, a Terran patrol vessel with a crew of seven, was ambushed and destroyed by a Chensakau vessel lurking in the Oort Cloud. I was really, really confused about the nature of the Oort Cloud, envisioning it as something like the asteroid field in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. There was no Wikipedia back then, kids. We had to go check actual books out of the library, like the beasts of the field.

Anyhow, that would have been it for the intrepid crew of the Wallenberg, if not for the intervention of a vastly more ancient species based, as you can see, on the eerie anal-probing little guys from Whitley Streiber’s COMMUNION. These guys wanted to prevent the war, but like all Cheapskate Magical Omnipotent Fantasy Assholes, they didn’t want to use any of their vast actual cosmic powers. Or do anything sensible and logical. So they, uh, collected the souls of the seven dead crewmembers, put them into an artificial body, and sent this brain-chorus of the damned back to earth with a mandate to hunt down the human traitors who were helping the Functionary Corps spring their scheme.

Big Shyamalan Surprise: One of the MUTT souls turned out to be one of the major conspirators. Gasp! Tweeeeeeeeeeest!

So, uh, yeah. An ancient alien race so powerful they could capture and re-use souls at will, but so stupid they’d use that power on a cockamamie plan like this one. Above you can see my equally dimwitted initial conception of the Mutt; a patchwork of body parts (and mullet parts) salvaged from corpses found floating in deep space. Because when you want your secret agent to be inconspicuous… that’s what you make ’em look like.  Fortunately, I soon wised up and settled on this final design:

A synthetic male body with African/Pacific features. I’m almost 100% certain this guy was influenced by King Mob, as I was an INVISIBLES reader at the time. I do dig the face, I think it was one of the few things that worked, but damn… that left shoulder is apparently dislocated so far out of its socket, the Mutt in the tie ought to be begging for death. “To be an artist means never averting one’s eyes,” they say, and to that I would add: Especially in anatomy class.

Now Begins Operation Jay

At this time, I am declaring Operation Steve and Emma to be a resounding success; thanks to your astounding generosity (and to the fact that those two have spent decades engendering warm feelings across the planet), I think they’re now as taken care of as they can be. Both are recovering from their surgeries, and have useful bulwarks against lost time, unforeseen disasters, and un-fun complications. I’m also stuck coughing up the complete list of incentives I offered. :)

And so, I’m turning the beam of Whatever This Not-A-Kickstarter Thing I’m Doing is on someone else. For the future, unless any sudden new emergencies erupt and need to be dealt with, (come on, writers, just quit having mortal frailties already) the 2/3 of QUEEN OF THE IRON SANDS donation income I give away will be going to lend a hand to Jay Lake.

As Jay has recently discussed quite nakedly on his own blogs, he’s currently in his third go-round with his virulent, recurring, simply-will-not-take-the-hint liver cancer. Jay has recorded, in excruciating detail, all the long physical and emotional struggles of his previous surgery and chemotherapy regimens, which have stolen his life for months at a time but not yet shut him up for good. If there’s anybody on earth who’s a Goddamn Cancer Professional, it’s Jay. Chuck Norris desperately wishes that his facts could be anywhere near as bad-ass as Jay Lake Facts:

Jay is trying to be level-headed and pragmatic in his pronouncements, but he says the math is clear… his mortality horizon is likely creeping into a single-digit number of years, and it’s not a big number. And that’s with a significant amount of remaining time being stolen, as before, by the hardships of treatment.

Jay has always worked hard to keep his financial house in good order, but the next few years are going to kick the shit out of much of what he’s worked for. Jay’s got to deal with providing for his teenage daughter, his treatment, his legal and estate expenses… and all of us want to see him claw enough time from this goddamn illness to write at least a few more things, and drop by at least a few more cons.

So know, if you leave a tip in Violet’s tip jar, that that’s where most of it is going for the foreseeable future. Jay’s new round of chemotherapy starts on September 21, one week from this writing. And if you’ve ever appreciated his work or enjoyed his company, let me gently stress that the time to send him notes and good wishes is sooner rather than later.

Memory, Sorrow, and Mars

What a week or two it’s been. Technology has made me its chew toy several times over, and I’ve been smacked in the face by piping-hot anxiety attacks fresh from the neurological oven. On the bright side, I survived my first Worldcon and my girlfriend walked away with her third Hugo award. She’s now here in Wisconsin for a few weeks, and is essentially the reason I’m still coherent and functional.

I’ve been organizing the house and packing things, since I expect to leave this place before November (total distance of my intended move is about one mile, nothing dramatic), and I keep stumbling over the detritus and evidence of my ex-marriage in the goddamnedest places. The mementos of a 12-year relationship simply get everywhere, like fine volcanic ash. My reaction has been variable. Sometimes it feels like those things happened to another person entirely and sometimes it feels as though they happened five minutes ago. The scribbles on one envelope recognizably belong to the woman who left me in 2010; the writing on the very next piece of paper just as clearly belongs to the girl I fell in love with in 1998. Throwing them in the same box feels disrespectful to one or the other; I can never figure out which, and I never want to think about how long I’ve held these crumpled old things poised above the box while trying to decide… fuck it, sigh, mumble, sigh some more, into the box they both go. Into the hermetic memory vault I’m sealing up for Eventually Whenever. A little present tucked away in a corner of the TARDIS for some future regeneration to stumble over and curse me for. That’s the way it works. I had to clean up the mess the last guy made of this place. Future Me can figure out what to do with the papers.

In happier news, there is more Violet. QUEEN OF THE IRON SANDS continues with the second part (of three) of Chapter 8: Across Savage Mars. I hope to get the last third, the longest bit by far, up some time this weekend. E-Book making is frustrating at the moment, but good old HTML and RTF are so simple even a clusterdunce like me can reliably tame them.