He was called, in the southwest where his reputation spread, Lean Wolf. And in those places, where desperation is a familiar companion, it was clear why. But his was not a want of material wealth, nor even a want of basic sustenance. For he prowled the byways and backwoods and the highways like his namesake, and like his namesake, was cunning, and like his namesake, had what he needed from the land, and from the lesser creatures. Also like his namesake, he was feared, and rumor flared about him, calling him many dark things, though by and large he was not so.

In truth, Lean Wolf was a man, like many others, but one who knew his hunger and grew close to it, like a lover. It was in the early days his strength, and in later days, a trusted friend.

Blog, Fiction, Nonfiction

Zombie Gangnam Style

A little bit of silliness to start the day:

I was researching proper punctuation with quotation marks, and found these examples:

Bob snorted and said, “I don’t believe in zombies”―right before thirty of them emerged from the tunnel.

Her favorite song was “Gangnam Style”; she spent weeks trying to learn the dance.

Kind of mundane, in the end. I think they could be spruced up a bit:

Bob snorted and said, “I don’t believe in zombies”―right before thirty of them emerged from the tunnel. Their favorite song was “Gangnam Style,” and they had spent weeks trying to learn the dance.

I’m envisioning a gaggle of K-pop-loving undead eager to come out to the world. They decide the best way to do so would be to put together a group choreography, maybe get it filmed and put online in the hopes it’ll go viral, so they work it out and practice and practice and practice, making sure to get all the steps just right. They even find the perfect rehearsal space—a cold, underground room off an abandoned tunnel, where they won’t disturb anyone or be disturbed themselves, and where decomposition will be limited. They work hard, and finally, after weeks, they’re ready to emerge and show the world what they’ve got. And then, when they do, what happens? People like Bob are stunned and everyone thinks there’s a zombie outbreak and panics.

Those poor, rotting souls.


The Asura Trilogy – Preview

I’m working on a novel. Well, really, a series—a trilogy and a spinoff duology—inspired by this Reddit writing prompt. The basic premise is that humanity, having spread into the solar system, begins to explore other star systems. We establish a small handful of colonies and encounter a few so-far-peaceful alien species. Then, without apparent warning, one of the colonies is destroyed in an attack that seems to originate from one of the species, but involves a previously unknown and enormously powerful being—the species’ god, or one of them. Humanity retaliates, but finds that it is difficult to fight a god with conventional weapons. In defense and as a means of striking back, a team is outfitted with strange weaponry and equipment reverse-engineered from the technology left by another, long-vanished alien civilization. Their actions and the consequences thereof will lead humanity to ethically treacherous ground, and uncomfortable questions about the nature of the universe and its place in it, as well as its own status vis à vis its religious or spiritual beliefs.

The general idea is to have a trilogy exploring the initial response and the beginning of a multi-system war, unforeseen consequences on both members of the strike team and on certain alien civilizations, and the ultimate unfolding of the enormous changes humanity’s arrival on the interstellar scene provoke. And, in the midst of it all, a two-book spinoff series following a search for more remnants of the vanished alien civilization, in the hopes that it will provide both answers to some troubling questions and additional technological advantage for humanity. This search will ultimately have important consequences for the resolution of the original trilogy; it will occur simultaneous to the second and third books.

I’ll be posting previews—character sketches, technology concepts and descriptions, and glimpses of the world as I build it—for patrons over at my Patreon page. So if this kind of thing interests you and you’re not already a site supporter, head on over and sign up to check it out!

For those who aren’t already in the know, Patreon is a crowdfunding platform that allows creators of all types to receive regular monthly support from their fans. Unlike Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and many other such sites (which do one-shot campaigns for individual projects, usually of large scope), Patreon campaigns are ongoing and support the creators’ entire set of activities, rather than just one project. As such, reward thresholds for donations are much lower, and recurring. The result is a sort of monthly salary for producing beautiful, interesting, and useful things. Curious? Check it out.


An Essae on the Trētmennt and Percepsun of Gyantkinde bye Men.

ritten bye the grate and humbel scrīb to Kin Thane Olorff Gravius III, yorse truly, Antavian Bolwr

            Hisstoricly Men hav hated Gyants indisputabley. Gyants hav eten Men. And thayre livestocke. Gyants arre biger then Men. Thayrefor thay are Monstars. It is truu that Gyants arr tall and Men ar muche smallar in all thinges. Perhappes this is the reall reson Men hav hated Gyants all along. Men, yff youe ken beleev suche a thynge, mezhur oanley in inches.

This aloan has cauwsed meny Men to attacke a Gyant out of feyr an envey. But it thayre have ben maney moar slandars to Gyant nām too than this. Men say we grynde Men’s bones withe owr teeth, yet Men do note noh the truu cases off this pracktise. Thare is in facte a shortege of calseeum Dentiste in the dyet live of the Gyante, and Men being beying small and Handey, Gyants emplye tham to cleyn thayr teeth. Yoou can see how, in if an unknoing wacher wer to sea this acte of syimbyosis ockerring, one myghte thynke sumthinge bad. And then if one were to triy to stoppe this affayr and wer to startel the Gyant, the Gyant mighte inadvartenly byghte down oar yven swallo the helpfol Dentiste, cawsing a tarribel mizundarstaining.

Of thea accyuzatchans of horeding Men’s tr welth, theese ar bayseless. Men hav ample monney and thay covar the cowentreyside with et. Aney that stumbels into the hoames of Gyants is thare by Men’s playcing or by vertue of “Fynders, kaypers,” Men having left et in thay open for aney one stumballing bye to have. Or the Men that coume toa attacke a Gyant arre call kynde enoff to brynge with thaem monies foar reparations, whych the Gyant is happeye enow to resseve in compansachon fore his enjurey. Ande iff a Man shold dye in battel withe one off Gyantkind, wea are kynd enouph to bary hem in the Arth so to be consumd by worms an to furtelīz our gardens, whyche es whot you Men do, or to eat him so as note toa wayste this preshis meate and to remembar hime our apponant.

Farthar, we do not raype an pillege, as yoar Wymen an yore hoamz ar too small far thet. Enywaie wee hev owar oane Gyantessez whou arr fahr pratayer an moare kyne. If Men wold myke thayr doars and houzas bigger, we wold not brake tham whan we caym to calle.

Soa youu seey it is nott for meaneness or hayt we hav thes repyutaytian, but fōr Men’s owne misledding hemsalf and hes jalossnass of our membars and his incoansideretness that thay hāyt us. Wye on Arth Godde wold myghte crayt some suche spaycies, smalle anvious an domb as thay are, Godde oanley knoes.

Comments: Oh, man, I wrote this one a loooong time ago! (Almost 15 years, I would guess.) I just stumbled across it the other day when cleaning out my computer. Dusted it off, gave it little polishing, and here it is. Enjoy!


Blogging the 30-Day Novel

A colleague of mine a couple of months ago turned me onto The Guardian’s pieces on how to write a novel in 30 days. Admittedly, their title is misleading (and mine might be, too), since the process they tout (created by XXX) really only (“only”) has you create a sort of very thorough and detailed outline that (they say) should practically count as a first draft, or at least make your first draft potentially your only draft.

But I started looking at the process, and I’m intrigued. As an experienced (but, silly me, practically unpublished) poet, I am familiar with, and comfortable, writing short pieces that I can revise in great detail ad infinitum, until they feel perfect. This procedure doesn’t really work for novel writing, though, and so I’ve become interested in various authors’ systems for getting their bigger stories down on the page. I’ve tried the Snowflake Method (helpful for me in some ways) and 5KWPH (which has dramatically improved my ability to ignore errors and let go of my tendency to tinker endlessly with the tiny details that might make or break a poem but would be of infinitesimal significance in a novel). Now I’m trying this one.

But here’s my idea: like others before me, I’m going to blog about my process. Maybe I won’t follow the method to the letter—I do have many other things to manage in my life—but I’ll follow it all the way through and talk about what I come up with. Maybe show you some cool things. And at the end, maybe I’ll have a novel!


Jerry Proves God


It was the tone Jerry’s mother used to use when she was annoyed. Jerry rolled his eyes out of habit. “What?”


It was then that Jerry realized he didn’t know whom he was talking to. No one was supposed to be in the Maths wing this late, and he was pretty sure he would have heard the classroom door open anyway. He looked around hesitantly from the chalkboard. Behind him about two meters back, between the lectern and the front row of desks, and hovering perhaps a half meter off the floor, was a figure robed in elaborate white—tall, with a red and gold stole, and three brilliantly backlit heads that emerged from one neck, noon sunlight streaming from a spot just behind them.

Jerry gaped. “Wh-Who are you?” he managed to stutter.

For a long time, the being didn’t answer. Then:


Jerry raised a hand against the light and squinted. “What does that even mean?”


“You’re God?”


“Stop? No! I can’t. God, no!—sorry—Don’t you realize what this will do to the world? Of course you do, you’re omniscient.” Jerry rolled his eyes at himself. “Jesus!—sorry, sorry—it’s just, this would revolutionize everything! How can I stop? Why? Why would you tell me to do that? You can see the good it would do”


Jerry gave the three-headed being a look. “You’re omnipotent. If my equation is so problematic,” he said, “why not simply prevent me from finding it. Or better yet, make it unproblematic, or make me interested in entomology instead of math?”


“Free will is— So I needed to find faith in my own way, and I need to be allowed to decide what to do with my discovery on my own? You can’t—or won’t—stop me. You want to persuade me.” Jerry sneered out that last verb.

God was silent.

“What if I do publish the formula? What, then? Will you punish me?”


“Is that a threat?”


“You’re threatening me.”


“Great.” Jerry almost rolled his eyes again before a thought stopped him. “Now, wait a minute! I’m not going to preach any sort of religion whatsoever. This is hard, mathematical proof here. Not craze-brained hallucinatory belief.” He spat the last word out like a knot of mucus.


“So some of those prophets had it right.”

The figure looked at Jerry.



“OK, so which ones were right?”




“Alright. So why all the contradictions among accounts? Why all the resultant conflict?”


Jerry narrowed his eyes. “I call bullshit. That’s a cop-out answer, and I won’t accept it. You’re God, or you say you are. Creator, divine spark, all that. Presumed all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful. You made choices. Deliberate ones. Informed ones. There’s no other option for you. Even changing your mind isn’t really a change, let alone a surprise for you, but rather a calculated decision. If it can really be called calculating, since for you, it’s merely knowing. You can’t make something and let it go free to do as it pleases, since you’ve always already known what it will do and become. Maybe it’s not control, per se, but it sure as heck isn’t freedom either.”

The triune figure said nothing. Jerry crossed his arms. “You don’t deny it.”


“Oh, fuck off. You’re not above this. You came down to me.” Jerry got bolder. This whole thing was going tits up and he was going to blow the cover off it. “Everything you say or don’t say, every little action you take or fail to take, influences me. You know that. You know exactly what you’re doing, and where this conversation will end.”


“And you’re a royal ass, is what.” Now that Jerry had said it, it seemed a little small, like not enough blanket to cover the bed. Like a baby blanket on a king-sized bed, even.


“No. Yes. I was, up until I said what I just said.” Truth was, Jerry was tired. “Look. You try coming face to face with your creator only to find out he’s—it’s a giant fucking manipulator. See how you feel.”

A pause. The being floated there, saying nothing, showing nothing.

“Are you—are you hurt?” Jerry asked.


“Like fuck you do. Don’t change the subject.”


“Uh huh. Right. Well. I guess that’s better than the alternative, O He of Two Emotions. I don’t really fancy being wrathed into a pillar of salt.” Jerry felt his cheeks flush again. The fucker was good at pissing him off, wasn’t it?


“Yeah. What sin does? Real goddamn reassuring, you are. You’ve already determined the outcome. Doesn’t matter what I say, or even what you say. My end is going to be my end, whenever and however that happens, because you chose it. Or actively didn’t not choose it. Fuck you.”


“No, seriously, fuck you. Fuck you for coming down here to tell me what to do, fuck you for trying to make me think I have a choice, and fuck you for predetermining everything anyway.”

Jerry was breathing heavily now, red-faced. This was not how he had expected his proof to turn out.


“What?” Jerry was taken aback.


“I- you- they- gaaAAAAAAa!” Jerry kept growling for a minute.


“What a dickish question. Yes, I want you to leave me alone with my math, but no, I don’t want you to go away. (How often does one get this sort of chance?) I don’t know. Do whatever you intend to do. You were always going to do that, anyway. Fuck.”

There was silence for awhile, then clicking as Jerry picked up the chalk and renewed his work.


“What does that have to do with anything?”


Jerry hissed out a sigh. “Threats again? How does one tell God to go to hell?”


“Yeah, yeah. Fatigue, stress, etc. I exercise four days a week and I get plenty of sleep, thank you very much. You sound like my mother. Go to hell.”

There was more silence. Then:


“Of course it is,” Jerry said, wiping sweat from his cheek. “I don’t get paid to do this. I get paid to coddle undergrads.”


“What else is new?”


“Fine,” Jerry said. “You know what? I think I’m going to finish this. Just to spite you, I’m going to finish my proof.”


“Yeah? Fuck you.”


Jerry clenched his mouth into a firm line. Then he went to move back to the board, but something twinged somewhere in his chest and he stumbled. Tried to catch himself against the chalk ledge, but instead he was on the floor. Everything far away and moving in stilted clips. The distant sound of a door opening, and voices, and

Fiction, Uncategorized


We stood back fifty or so paces from the forest’s end, unsettled. We were used, by now, to the monolithic presence of trunks—wide as towers—the stunted, dark-dwelling shrubs/undergrowth. The phosphorescent moss. Even when we encountered ravines, crevasses, one could always make out the other side, dim glow-light at least. Here, though, there was none of that. Beyond the last few wall-like mammoths of living wood, for the first time in seven months, there was only unnerving blackness. No one wanted to go further. “Alright, break!” I called.

The others set down their packs, squatted or bounced, stretched their legs. Moved around.

“Thom, with me please,” I said. Our blond mop of a cartographer stepped up and uttered my favorite word: “Sir.”
I exhaled long, steadying myself. “Let’s have a look at this, see what it is, what we have to do about it.”
“Yessir.” A slight croak, covered by confidence, or feigned confidence.

We stepped forward, a heavy reluctance trailing around our ankles. The comforting pillars around us gave way to emptiness, and suddenly, after over 6 months of marching among primeval giants, we looked out into void.

We stood at the edge of the earth. Below and in front of us, the forest floor dropped off steeply and disappeared. Above us, the air was dark and still, and I could see the ancient timber sinews stretching out beyond our lamplight, patches of moss dimly visible along them. I could only assume that somewhere far above us, great branches arced out into the abyss to join with their twins on the other side—the twins I could not now make out. Hence it remained black, impenetrable beneath the leagues-distant canopy.

Yet when I looked at last out from my vantage point at the edge of the trees, it was not into mere darkness, no. I stared into something terrible and atavistic. A great, vibrating emptiness. There was nothing out there, nothing beyond the dim rim of our light. Our torchbeams reached/struck out into blank space, searching, searching—

I remember as a child shining my little dynamo torch into the night, hoping to see the beam trace its line into the dark. This was like that, save that where, as a boy, I caught hazy cloud-sketches of leaves, branches, here our little light was swallowed by infinite black. No object to reflect anything back to us. No trees, no other lip, and looking down, no bottom. Just, for a little distance, the earth on our own side sloping into emptiness.

By Thom’s calculations, rough as they were without stars, we were some 1600 leagues from our starting point, and theoretically nearing the other side, the end of our long trek. The mythical deep forest, through which we had moved these past months, and to which we had grown accustomed, had enveloped us, cocooned us. Shielded us. As we marched deeper, further from sunlit lands, the life that moved in the deep grew stranger. We grew used to the unusual, expected the unexpected. Now, though, that same primordial bastion of strange, unexpected life had just thrown up something unexpectedly unexpected. In the middle of the boundless forest, a strange place absent of vegetation, life.

Thom spoke up, a breathy whisper that barely carried, trailed off as if swallowed by the void: “It’s…”

I rocked my head in a small nod. One way or another, all the other gullies, cracks, and canyons we had faced had a way across, even if it meant going down through them. But here—here was an abyss with no boundaries.

No. That could not be. Somewhere on the other side of this monstrous null space, was land. Trees. And after that, Asia. There could not be, on our round planet, a crack in space leading to nowhere. An end to reality. There would be no end to our journey, until we reached Formosa.

Shivering, I shook off the despairing mantle and said to Thom, “Look. Nothing within reach of our light out there.”

Thom uttered, trance-like: “No.”

“Nor right, nor left. Only down.”

“Even that’s more tumble than trot, sir” he added, coming out of his stupor.

“Well. Let’s get back to the group.”

The others, of course, were disbelieving. I told them they could go look if they liked, and most of them did. They returned, sobered. I spoke up: “Now. What are our options? Thom, where are we, do you reckon?”

“Ah, by my calculations—rough, mind you, hard doing this with no stars—we’re maybe 1600 leagues from San Fran. Mostly west, a little south.”

“Alright, 1600 leagues and seven months west-southwest. Where does that leave us?”

“Well, if we’ve kept our bearings right, we’ll be nearing the other side, relatively speaking. Maybe another 400 to 450 till we reach Taihoku Prefecture. We’re four fifths of the way there. Still long, but…”

“So then another month and a half ahead of us.” Grumbles followed my estimate, though not from everyone.

“Except that there chasm got us blocked.” That was Pierce. Pessimist, but a good man in a scrape. Followed orders, too.

Jill Tomlin chimed in. “Well, yeah. Praps. But we ain’t tried to go around it yet. An’ it don’t take much down here to be dark as Satan’s arsehole. Could be there just ain’t no moss t’other side to light us up our way.”

“Could be. Could be we don’t know.” Jameson, always practical, stood up, brushing off his pants. “Way I see it, we test first before giving up. Find out if there is another side we can reach easy from here. If not, we find out if we can go around.”

“Sure,” I said. “Good thought. So here’s what we’ll do.”

“On my mark,” I said. Jameson held the flare rifle to his shoulder, waited. The others stood nearby, a few paces back from the abyss. “Fire!” I shouted, and Jameson’s flare raced out into the dark, a gleaming bead. We traced it as it flew, arcing up over nothing and then slowly down, down, down, down. No sound as its light fell away.

Everyone was silent, taking it in. “Thom?” I asked.

After a few seconds, he replied. “300 meters out. Nothing. Too far anyway for our ropes.”

“And down?”

“You see it. Just keeps going, getting smaller. Like a little star.”

“Yeah, a little star swallowed by the empty ether.” Pierce sounded grumpy. “All this work, we have to turn back.”

“Alright, now. We’re going to split up. Jill, Thom, Pierce, you’re with me. Jameson, you’ve got the rest. We’ll go north, you go south. Travel light, leave our main packs here. Take only the minimal supplies and tools. Try to get as far as you can in half a day, following the rim, then stop, turn back and meet here. Red flag I’ll nail to the tree to mark the location. Let’s go.”
Some four leagues later, we halted not far from a small outcropping that jutted/stuck into the abyss. We had kept just inside the line of trees during our march, and the deep, unsettling blackness of that endless dropoff had faded to an uneasying hum. Stepping out from behind their shield, the vast alien emptiness of it poured onto us, threatened again to drown us, sweep us away. There was nothing beyond the rim of the abyss, a great nothing that rested here in this secret part of the world like a monstrous, lurking predator. Hiding behind the trees, we had dimly felt its presence, but coming out to the edge was as if it had suddenly turned its gaze on us and was hungrily preparing to pounce. It was too big, too vast to exist, and yet it did. It was the incongruence one wants to ignore, but that is too real, cannot be pushed under the carpet.

We stood in silence. Shining our torches further north, we saw only continuation. And beyond, the dim glow of tree-moss diminishing into the near distance and the dark. Jill was the first to speak. As always, it was poetical. “By zounds I done seen enough o’ this void. It ain’t ne’er gonna end. Long’r than God’s cock it is.”

I nodded. “We”ll turn back here, then. We’ll place a marker, first, though. Thom.”

Thom stepped, fumbled in his pack, pulled out a folding spiked rod and unfolded it, attached a small version of our expedition’s flag to it, and jammed it hard into the soil. The banner picked up and fluttered nicely in the fair constant wind that poured through this abyss.

We left the marker and the remains of the boar jerky remonte-esprit we consumed on that outcropping, and turned back toward the place where we first met the abyss.
Jameson stepped forward, wiped grime and sweat from his forehead. “Took you long enough, sir.”

“We stopped for tea on the way.”

He chuckled at my reply. “What’d y’see?”

“Just keeps going north. No way of knowing how far, nor if it’s getting any narrower.”

“Or wider,” added Thom.

“Or wider,” I confirmed. Jill rolled her eyes and said “Not like that’d be useful fer us to track.”

“What did your team find, Jameson?”

“A stair.”
It wasn’t a stair. Not exactly, not as we knew it. Not hewn (rough or smooth), not built—more a vague jumble of boulders and earth. But it would do. No way north, no way south, no way across, and too far out to turn back now. I turned up my lamp, looked back at the crew, and stepped down onto the first monolithic step.


This story was a response to the writing prompt “Overnight, the world’s oceans have been replaced by vast forests inhabited by strange creatures. You are on an expedition to find a lost ship in what used to be the middle of the Atlantic“.

In retrospect, I think starting at the lip of the Trench means that I sacrifice the potential buildup of atmosphere that would come from describing a long trek through dark, ancient forest, and thus the emotional surprise of removing the claustrophobic insulation of the trees all of a sudden. Instead, I end up focusing more on the act of exploring, the decisions made in the face of such a radical departure. I’m not sure if it’s as interesting, in the end. Certainly not as dramatic.

I also toyed with the idea of ending on evidence of some strange civilization (i.e., the stairs are actually carved or built, and clearly not of human proportions, and the team decides to descend all the same).

Fiction, Uncategorized

Untitled (for the moment)

“Dude! This is gonna be great!” Paul says. He’s practically vibrating.

Grant rolls his eyes. “You checked the systems, right?”

“Three times. You were with me.” Grant sighs. He doesn’t like being reminded to do his job. Especially when he’s already done it. But Paul is a little puppy. He wants their experiment to work, and there, on the verge of success, he can hardly contain himself.

“Alright,” Grant motions to the machine. “It’s ready.”

Pete moves into the circle made by the displacement arms. “This is gonna be awesome!” He drawls out the syllables of the last word in a sort of singsong. “I’m gonna catch a dinosaur!”

Grant snorts. “Good luck with that. You’re only going back a year first. We gotta make sure everything works before we do anything drastic.”

“No fun, man. Way to ruin the mood.” Paul laughs a little, then pulls the plexiglass shield down around himself. Grant speaks up again: “Remember, the plan is to go back, verify the year, make sure everything checks out, then activate the retrodrive circuit and come back.”

“I know, dude, I know.” Paul’s voice sounds muted behind the shield. “I’m ready. Let’s get this done!”

“Alright.” Grant moves over to the console. “Activating base field.” He flips some switches. “Priming temporal circuits.” He raises one hand so Paul can see it above the monitor. “Firing chronodrive transmitter in five…four…three…two…one.” There is a sizzle and the smell of ozone and Grant peers around the edge of the flatscreen. Paul is gone. If everything goes right, he should be back in five minutes, as they agreed to avoid confusion.

Paul, however, finds himself suddenly not in the lab where expected, but floating in the barren void of space. He exhales a silent shout of surprise—a reflex which probably extends his life a few seconds. Almost immediately, his eyes and open mouth dry out as their moisture boils away, and his body contorts weirdly as his muscles suddenly swell.

He reaches for the retrodrive switch on his forearm. But moving has become difficult, his joints painful and stiff. He cannot quite get there. Still, he has time before it all goes black to reflect on what might have gone wrong, to realize, sinkingly, “Astronomical motion. We forgot fucking astronomical motion.” And then, briefly, to wonder why he doesn’t feel colder.

Note: This piece was originally posted as a response to the writing prompt “Time Travel is finally invented, but you can only move through time and not space” on

Legends from Transcendentia

Nonsense Fragment from Plank Town

I used to be red, but now I am white.
I used to think green, but now I throw stones.
I used to feel, but now I sow corn.
How can I sow corn, when my feet are bones?
How can bones grow in the soil? You have not watered them. All these years,
and you have done nothing. You, the King. You, the Grand
Remark. Double coin and handbasket. Breakfast sim and ground down goblet. Murder child and murder dog. Blood swings
free and blood drinks me. Thinning
of the family elephant. Torn open for none
to care. I
once cared. What have you done. What
have you done