My latest #baseball #board game graphics…

box-top-wrap Version2

This is my provisional box cover art

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Example of an At Bat card, a Grounder Right. Watch out for the Double-Play!

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“Yer OOOooUUUUT!!!”


Front side. Defensive coach places six of these (with different values) on the board’s zones. This is a chunky two-inch tile that makes a clacking noise when you slap it on the board to intimidate the batter.


This is the back side… when things start to go wrong for the defense. Sometimes the wheels fall off the bus…


Roll your mouse cursor over each illustration below for commentary…

If you  don’t want to write down the score, you can use these 2-inch tiles to keep track of runs.

The rules are in progress! It’s a different kind of technical writing challenge. I’m on it! I’m hoping to make this available to you this spring…

Published in: on January 31, 2018 at 9:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Shocking Perturbations of the Idle & Innocent Kind (#Baseball-ish Intimations)

I have a prototype of a baseball board game in sample production. I have my usual unwarranted optimism about it, even enthusiasm!  Still, it offers minor relations of the Fallen world. Ideas are one thing, but making them practical–well, it takes care, and compromise.

Game on! — I hope, yes, before the next season starts.

Here is a production test of a box top… Stay tuned!Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 6.50.14 PM.png

Published in: on January 25, 2018 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Troubled but Magnificent Raptor Metaphor as #Review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s THE MARBLE FAUN (1860)

My metaphorical review delivered as a phone text:



Here is (the now-neglected) poet James Russel Lowell’s perspicacious 1860 review in The Atlantic:

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Next on my list, a certain house with a certain number of gables.


Published in: on January 25, 2018 at 1:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Oblique Angles in Nathaniel #Hawthorne’s BLITHEDALE ROMANCE and Holbein’s “The Ambassadors”

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Why does Nathaniel Hawthorne’s BLITHEDALE ROMANCE, (1852), ostensibly about a socialist utopian community, visit and revisit the social phenomena of spiritualist “veiled ladies”? Compare this fume of gossamer, psychology and humbug to the quantity and price chart of hardware and seeds in Thoreau’s “Economy”, the longest chapter in Walden (1854), his solitary attempt at intentional living.

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Hawthorne’s preface to THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES (1851) claims a definition of Romance as a veiled form of literature. It’s an artistic legend where the author asserts a “latitude” away from realism, but is wise to “mingle the marvelous rather as a slight, delicate, and evanescent flavor.” Mid-novel, BLITHEDALE’s character Zenobia tells the tale of the Veiled Lady using similar words:  “the silvery veil covering her from head to foot; so impalpable, so ethereal, so without substance, as the texture seemed, yet hiding her every outline in an impenetrability…”

There’s textual evidence in BLITHEDALE to support Hawthorne’s awareness of spiritualism as pseudoscience, and that a woman’s veil has resonances with women’s rights. However, Hawthorne is more interested in the veil than any map toward progress. There is little if any reference to the plan of the Blithedale community, other than acknowledgment that it requires agrarian and domestic work. Indeed, the labor required is the easiest secured part of the dream. Miles Coverdale, the first person narrator, thrives under the regime of manual labor, as do the other men. In terms of work, the community is readily ideal. The communities’ problems lie elsewhere, within the faces behind the veil…

Hans Holbein’s painting “The Ambassadors” (1533) is a double portrait with still-life objects of worldly accomplishments. And yet… it includes a troubling, strange shape. which may be hard for an uninitiated viewer to understand.


Hawthorne’s “Custom House” introduction to THE SCARLET LETTER (1850) describes:

Thus, therefore, the floor of our familiar room has become a neutral territory, somewhere between the real world and fairy-land, where the Actual and Imaginary may meet, and each imbue itself with the nature of the other. Ghosts might enter here, without affrighting us.

As Hawthorne’s self-defined genre of Romance thrums the liminal barriers between actual and imaginary, Holbein’s strange shape in “The Ambassadors” suggests another realm of understanding to the realistic portrait. The shape is a distorted projection perspective of a skull. The skull undermines everything that the painting seems to celebrate. I don’t know if everyone agrees that this disturbing element lifts it in interest and meaning, but it unquestionably adds a moral and spiritual dimension.


The Brook Farm experiment which inspired BLITHDALE lasted from 1844-1847. If the Blithedale phalanx is where the Actual and Imaginary met, the novel does not reveals an authorial definition of progress. What Hawthorne does instead is lift the secret of the Veiled Lady. This has its effect on the course of the novel, but what about progress? At the end of the novel, the narrator Coverdale muses years later…


As regards human progress (in spite of my irrepressible yearnings over the Blithedale reminiscences), let them believe in it who can, and aid in it who choose. If I could earnestly do either, it might be all the better for my comfort. As Hollingsworth once told me, I lack a purpose. How strange! He was ruined, morally, by an overplus of the very same ingredient, the want of which, I occasionally suspect, has rendered my own life all an emptiness.


There is a shape hidden at the foot of the Blithedale urge toward progress, a distorted projection of emptiness that lurks, skull-like. What is it that veiled lady mediums do? They speak with the dead…


I by no means wish to die. Yet, were there any cause, in this whole chaos of human struggle, worth a sane man’s dying for, and which my death would benefit, then—provided, however, the effort did not involve an unreasonable amount of trouble—methinks I might be bold to offer up my life. If Kossuth, for example, would pitch the battlefield of Hungarian rights within an easy ride of my abode, and choose a mild, sunny morning, after breakfast, for the conflict, Miles Coverdale would gladly be his man, for one brave rush upon the levelled bayonets. Further than that, I should be loath to pledge myself.


Does a veil guarantee a substance beneath it? Probably Hawthorne intends more than one meaning when Coverdale admits, “Further than that, I should be loath to pledge myself.” It is not only a wise statement, but also self-condemnation, for he had just admitted the emptiness of his life. It is only in the last sentence of the novel that Coverdale unveils a secret about himself–an effort he did not make perhaps because of “unreasonable amount of trouble”–that suggests another perspective on his departure from Blithedale and the dire events that followed. The narration itself is a distorted projection.

You can read BLITHEDALE ROMANCE here for free.

You can listen to BLITHEDALE ROMANCE here for free.


Published in: on January 4, 2018 at 9:39 am  Leave a Comment  

More Wickedness Than Men Can Make Right. #Sciencefiction by Alice Bradley Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr.)


Chaucer’s Wife of Bath anticipates that women’s literature would express an inconsolable anger of women toward men.

693       By God, if wommen hadde writen stories,
                By God, if women had written stories,
694       As clerkes han withinne hire oratories,
                As clerks have within their studies,
695       They wolde han writen of men moore wikkednesse
                They would have written of men more wickedness
696       Than al the mark of Adam may redresse.
                Than all the male sex could set right.

James Tiptree Jr. is the most common pen-name for Mary Bradley Sheldon (1915-1987). She is a recognized master of popular science fiction storytelling. I haven’t yet read all of her work. At least a handful of her stories explore gender conflict in dire ways. The best treatments are, in my opinion, the astonishing ones that share a low opinion of men. The others are worthy entertainments that share a low opinion of men. Can you find the common theme? It’s not pleasant for me to share group punishment, but I like these stories. This essay will examine two of her novellas. One describes an Earth without Men. The other describes an Earth without Women. Both are at least sometimes uncomfortable reads, but worth it.

Problem! It’s difficult to discuss The Screwfly Solution and Houston, Houston, Do You Read? and offer full analytic treatment without spoilers. I will restrain myself here with more limitation against spoilers of the better story.

The strongest of the two stories is The Screwfly Solution. It first appeared in Analog magazine, which reached my mailbox as a teenager. It doesn’t just touch the mostly highly sensitive and upsetting problem of gender conflict, male violence against women. Rather, it embraces that violence for larger effect on the reader. The story arms the very idea of “male violence against women” with explosive metaphorical power. For that reason, it is reasonable to join it to the horror genre, as well as science fiction. Its protagonists ask what is causing the disease that weakens the barrier between male desire and male violence? I don’t want to spoil it because the answer is a shocker. The path of the narration toward that conclusion shocks all the way to a world without women. A horror story, horrible also in a common sense, and a powerful story.

If you can grant yourself 55-minutes to listen, this radio play leads to a world without men. The novella “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” not at Tiptree/Sheldon’s highest level of work. However, it is fun and free to hear as a radio play (link below). Its postulate is a little like Planet of the Apes: Wayward male astronauts return to a changed Earth of women and trans women-to-men. Planet of #TheFutureIsFemale! Some of the sexist things two of the male characters say about the women seem dated, but some do not.

This is important: I’m unable to conclude the authorial intent here… is there something self-consciously sinister in the way the women treat the men? Or does the narrative fabric consider the men to deserve it? There is a scene of sexualized violence, but the women have the power. Arguably, but without full clarity, the women rape one of the men for conspiratorial reasons, although he doesn’t know it. It’s sinister.

Returning to my fundamental unease with the narrative opinion, near the end the women assess the role of men, evolution and civilization in a way that doesn’t bode well for men. Assuming procreation is not a problem, does the human species need men to continue be human? The women of Tiptree/Sheldon’s planet without men have no doubt: Maybe humanity needed men tens of thousands of years ago, but not anymore. And men aren’t worth with risk to preserve. Does the narrative mind consider this sentiment evil, or is it progress, as the women of the future assert? That’s what intrigues me most…


Here (below) is the trailer for the merely adequate televised version of Tiptree/Sheldon’s  novella, The Screwfly Solution. It’s an episode of a TV series called Masters of Horror. Again, Sheldon does not shy away from upsetting ideas. I suppose the written version might be less disturbing than to see them on screen. While I don’t want censorship, I myself sometimes walk out of the room during any kind of murder scene on TV, then rush back. This is no exception, but nonetheless, the story’s weaponizing metaphors of gender conflict are so precise and so chilling.

In The Screwfly Solution, the future is male. In contrast to Houston, Houston, Do You Read? a male-only future unambiguously leads to human extinction.

Both Houston, Houston, Do You Read? and The Screwfly Solution reserve an aggressively misogynist roles for male preachers which sometimes sound like a selectively worst sample of the religious right.

In sum, women’s fear and resentment of men, sometimes rising to hatred, can be more than just a social movement or social media post. It can be the force behind bad, fine, good, even great art, just as any disturbing aesthetic or set of ideas can. In addition to their value as stories, these two Tiptree/Sheldon novellas provide anthropological data points of women’s rising expectations. Revolutions happen when social conditions start to improve. Whether or not revolutions succeed in building a better world is another question. Is gender conflict a zero-sum game? Tiptree/Sheldon’s stories suggest that it is. This could be the author’s opinion, or it could be a way to tighten the conflict. Unlike social movements, it’s not the duty of storytelling to provide solutions. Tellingly, neither of these two Tiptree/Sheldon novellas foresees a solution to gender conflict other than emphatic androcide. If men by their nature can’t make it right, as the Wife of Bath claimed, is it truly even the fault of men?

The wikipedia links below include a couple more descriptions of Tiptree/Sheldon’s science fiction treatment of gender conflict:

The Women Men Don’t See

The Girl Who Was Plugged In

Published in: on December 12, 2017 at 11:53 am  Comments (1)  

“The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (a #Review)

Reader! Don’t ask, what is in the wallpaper? Ask, who:


Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.

Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.

And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern–it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.

They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white!


“The Yellow Wallpaper” is 6,000 words of striking through the mask. In the quote below, from Ahab’s explanation of his pursuit of the White Whale, I have changed Melville’s word “man” to “woman”:


“Hark ye yet again—the little lower layer. All visible objects, woman, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If woman will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall?”



With the husband/doctor’s infantilizing endearments such as “little girl,” the patronizing care of the woman suggests real domestic oppression. Clearly, the woman (sometimes women) in the wallpaper are in a prison:


“She just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.”


At the same time, the source of the narrator’s mental illness arrives ready-made from offstage.  1887 patriarchal oppression has a role here, and this is inescapable. But to limit it to that seems to trivialize the narrator’s humanity. A human being doesn’t need domestic or political oppression to have a problem with reality. Rather, what assumptions do we carry today that sanity is the default point of human equilibrium?

What everyday miracle (or hubris) of civilization helps us to feel that we are, most of the time, living in a shared reality?

This short story doesn’t answer. Instead, it offers delightful creepiness and narrative tricks to bring its full impact:


“Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was.”


Warning bells go off when I read these assertions. Healthy, unconfined people do not need to offer such reassurance. As a reader I’m not prepared for the wallpaper’s assault on the senses, its unreal behavior, tactile disobedience, and odor. The ragged line of many one-sentence paragraphs at to the experience of unraveling. It also offers a generous readability.

Further claxons roar when the narrator hints that her husband and doctor do not want her to write. My initiation reaction as a reader what this was a male evil inflicted on her. However, after reading Gilman’s 1913 biographical statement about her story, I understand the author references this as part of a prescriptive “rest cure.” It is not simply evil to ask a person suffering a “nervous breakdown” (Gilman’s words) to abstain from work. Arguably, as compulsion, it was an act of medical ignorance. The evil part was to compel her to do so, and with the narrator’s dark liminal resources, it fails to take away her liberty. As the narrator declares from her state of creeping madness:


“I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”


Even today, there is an ethical question, often heartbreaking, of when compassionate authorities should compel people suffering mental illness to accept treatment. When is a mentally ill person responsible for determining her or his treatment, and when not? Treatment can still be invasive. Common wisdom and law on this question changed in my lifetime toward personal freedom. Relatedly, there are hundreds of mentally ill homeless people camped among garbage not far away as I write this. These are additional realms in which the story touches a discomfort between thresholds.

Gilman makes clear in her 1913 statement about that she needed to work to become healthy again:


“I went home and obeyed those directions for some three months, and came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over.

“Then, using the remnants of intelligence that remained, and helped by a wise friend, I cast the noted specialist’s advice to the winds and went to work again–work, the normal life of every human being; work, in which is joy and growth and service, without which one is a pauper and a parasite–ultimately recovering some measure of power.”


Who was the “wise friend”? I don’t know.

In the story, the husband’s arrogant, sometimes infuriating good intentions and patriarchal power lead him to override the narrator’s repeated hints and evasions. These evasions turn inward in passive-aggressive rebellion, seeking solitude, locking the door, seeking to enter the wallpaper. Mental illness brings an illusion of freedom.

Maybe the sick woman’s confinement has something in common with modern prison solitary confinement—a condition that induces madness and, in prisons could arguably qualify as a cruel and unusual punishment.

Without intellectual stimulation, there is a fungus of decay. The wallpaper has become her psychic expression, in it, of it, behind it.


“I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion.”


We have all seen faces in patterns… The word “pattern” appears 25 times in the story. The human mind is a pattern seeker… how potent the imagery of the wallpaper, its color, weavings, its smell and movement. It’s delightfully creepy, and reminds me of the Lovecraft’s story of an early radio operator who finds a way to make visible the horrible animalculae who inhabit in its waves. There’s the mediocre Twilight Zone’s “Little Girl Lost” who gets lost between walls, with 4th dimension…


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How effective the hint of a creeping woman going round and round her room like Doré‘s image of prisoner exercise, revisited in yellow by Van Gogh in the year of his suicide.


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What is it about the color yellow? Is mental health the baseline state? Or is it an aberration? Is it connected to artistic people like Gilman or Van Gogh? How does the nuclear family, the demands of small children, commodity consumption, relate to mental instability? Is it something about women and modern living? Something about her upper middle class life? Does the narrator’s servant Jennie have the opportunity to succumb to madness? She’d probably die in a wallpaperless ditch, like Bartleby the Scriviner, in a prison yard.

The theme of a woman’s unhealthy descent toward the liminal in “The Yellow Wallpaper” made me think of another character, Beret. She is the wife of the protagonist Per Hansa, in the novel Giants in the Earth (published 1924, set in 1873) by Ole Edvart Rølvaag. Per Hansa is a man of action who thrives in the challenges of homesteading in the north American plains; she, however, suffers from loneliness and desolation. To make her feel more at home, he painted the walls of their half-sunken sod home white. Like the all-too-permeable yellow wallpaper, the white walls pushes the woman’s mental health deeper into depression.


The lime had been mixed according to directions, and spread over the walls–three coats of it, no less; now the sod hut shone so brightly inside that it dazzled the eyes. . . . Before the snow came, Beret thought it delightful to have such walls; but after there was nothing but whiteness outside–pure whiteness as far as the eye could see and the thought could reach–she regretted that he had touched them. Her eyes were blinded wherever she looked, either outdoors or indoors.


She becomes more religious without becoming less melancholic. Unlike the narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” there is no “rest cure” available to a pioneer woman. Unlike the real Gilman, the regime of work does not ease her mental distress of Beret:


Beret went about her work with a greater determination; but her sad mood did not lift.


During a harsh winter, over many days, she wants Per Hansa to make a journey to fetch a minister for a dying neighbor. Over the course of many pages, she pushes and pushes Per Hansa to make a dangerous trip in the cold. She remorselessly threatens to do so herself. Finally he relents, attempts it, and freezes to death.

I bring this up because I want mention that Gilman’s story recognizes that the suffering of women impacts the suffering of men. As Gilman points out, there is a liminal issue, a trap door of our shared problem with the fragility of the relation between our self and our reality. “The Yellow Wallpaper” ends with ghoulish, wink of misunderstanding of the man’s utter horror, or possibly worse:


Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!


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As a helpless kid in the 60s-70s, I grew up hearing of how much women hated being housewives, of the lurking option of putting their heads in the oven. Without claiming expertise on the genre, you could put “The Yellow Wallpaper” on the unhappy shelf with Diary of a Mad Housewife, and The Bell Jar. There are others, old and new; let’s not forget Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre. Since rumor has it, women even with careers continue to be unhappy, there may be further such works. Alternatively, you could frame this story in a way that emphasizes our shared suffering (7 out of 10 suicides in the USA 2015 were white men). You could place “The Yellow Wallpaper” among categories of human literature among those that poke reality and find it more fragile than we might have otherwise assumed.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a much stronger work than Gilman’s Herland. It’s more interesting to explore problems than perfection. From the first paragraph to the last, this is highly effective, creepy, feminist gothic. “The paper stains everything it touches.”

You can read “The Yellow Wallpaper” here for free.

You can listen to The Yellow Wallpaper here for free.

You can read Gilman’s 1913 statement “Why I Wrote The Yellow Wallpaper” here.

Published in: on December 6, 2017 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

#Herland (1915) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (a #review)

To prepare for #theFutureIsFemale, I thought I’d read the 1915 utopian novel Herland. As seems fitting, it offers both more and less what, I guess, Gilman details in the story. A land of women without the influence of men is a fun concept that fits in the fecund genre of that time concerning the discovery of lost worlds. In short, three men find the hidden land and, with some trials, learn their ways. The men leave with some companions who want to learn about our world in Gilman’s sequel novels.


Is there an earnest, non-humorous, non-satiric utopian story anywhere that succeeds? Yes, most people want to live in a beautiful place. But that’s only part of utopia. Who wants to live in a place that purports to have solved all problems? Without problems, is the human experience reduced to that of a beautiful machine?

The women of Herland treat the captive men well, and with patience. They are physical, aesthetic, intellectual superiors, though not god-like. They agree with each other. Herland once had men, but lost them all through war and the natural disaster that sealed the land from the rest of the world. Herland has replanted all of its forests with fruit and nut trees, a gesture toward permaculture at the expense of wilderness. Herland has many cats bred to lose their meow and ability to hunt birds. Yes, like a late 1990s Internet email, Herland takes time to discuss the idea that women prefer cats, men prefer dogs. Herland educates its young through play, the USA does not—well, a man remembers, there is the Montessori method. Herland raises its children apart from the biological mother.

Is this engaging reading? Meanwhile, there are references to drama, dance, music, religion, and education. I don’t want to shock you, but all of these are superlative accomplishments. They also don’t have disease: apparently, all it took was 2,000 years without unsanitary men, and there you go, cured. I don’t recall seeing any reference to politics, industry, economic classes, money, energy sources. The Herland guards pick up the men and drive them in electric motors (cars), which, unless I missed it, they never mention again. Herland references communications system that are different but equivalent to USA’s, but does not explain.


The female utopia Gilman envision is a realm of mutants. These women reproduce by parthenogenesis. Individuals have some control over self-pregnancy through will and diet. A reader could question, then, to what extent they are human. If they are not human, is this even a utopian novel, or a novel about a visit to female elf-land? I believe most human women would say their reproductive system is important to their experience in life. However, a most generous gesture as a reader I think would be to accept the parthenogenesis as an ultimate form of birth control. It’s also a way of avoiding social censure of a disreputable concept.

My guess is that Gilman did not intend the following interpretation, but she does anticipate the future. We already are see trans-human intersections of our birthed selves with technological implants and genetic medicine. I assume without particular knowledge that in my lifetime, real human women will be able to reproduce without any kind of male contribution. Then what happens? Does this novel lend insight?


Unfortunately, by literary standards, the only real characters in the book are the men. Characterization of the three men show them as three individuals, with different values, different personalities. They even disagree with each other. In their relations with women, one is a chauvinist cad, one puts women on a pedestal, and one is moderate.

There are pale hints of differences between the women of Herland, their size, age, intellect. In one part of the book, the women differentiate themselves in reaction to the three male types. Herland fails the Bechdal test.

For the most part, the women are not even mutant humans. They are cardboard cutouts of Gilman’s ideology. They are smart, beautiful, poetic, unconvincing, polemic machines. Once in a while they rise from one dimension to two. Sometimes their combination of strength and kindness hints of a richness to them that the text never fully realizes.

I think the novel might have been stronger (and less predictable) if three women of USA 1915 visited Herland and brought different opinions in argument with each other and the women of Herland.


Herland over and over asserts ways, specific and general, the way woman is a social construct. Herland smashes restrictive roles for women that the men describe. When Herland is not making those strong arguments, it is asserting Motherhood as essential to womanhood. It often does so with quasi-religious feeling.


As I was reading this, I felt an urge to stop reading it and instead meta-read it. Instead of taking the words as Gilman wrote them, I sometimes wanted to find the shadow of Gilman’s personal life and world, its restrictions, prejudices, and privileges. I heard some hints about her life that I wondered about as I read. I don’t know if this is fair, but it might be a more generous way for a modern reader to plow through the preachy passages of the text. I don’t think Gilman would have liked this anthropological attitude, though. Of course, readers will bring their own non-literary motivation to the reading, and that might suffice.


As a reader, I don’t understand why the three Herland women marry the three men. It happens in the context of their curiosity of the outside world, and urge to explore. I have the impression that it happens for no reason other than narrative necessity, to bring the utopians into 1915 USA for their critique in the next novel, which I haven’t read. If this was an opportunity to draw lines of, perhaps, females struggling with conflicted human complexity, the novel avoided such messiness. Was it just too much to imagine independent women carrying their ideas across international borders of propriety?

Surprise! Men bring mess and conflict to the utopia. It’s sometimes difficult to pin down the evasive language, but I think the utopian women of Herland have no sexual desire. The male narrator patiently and ethereally accepts his bride’s request to wait before intercourse, and it never happens in the book.

The only sexual intercourse that may or may not happen is the chauvinist cad’s attempt of marital rape. This upset is the part of the book that feels the most real. The women who fight him off even kick him in his private parts, the book makes clear. So urgent is the narrative feeling against this male violence that the sanitized curtain rents apart. Aside from that, Gilman’s female utopia conceives no sexual happiness, only relations as cloud-tripping with Oos and Ahhs.

The other two times the men bring conflict is their attempt to escape, which never had a chance to succeed, and introducing harsh ideas from human history. It turns out that all of Herland is like a North American university of 2017, one big safe space. When the narrator vaguely explains concepts of Damnation and Hell, she runs “blinded and screaming” to a temple to have the idea removed:

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Although #theFutureIsFemale excludes me, still, I am not comfortable with this novel’s connection between an uber-female’s sanity and the sanitization of ideas. How does Gilman intend the reader to interpret this utopian female weakness? Is it a hint that the utopia harbors a stagnancy? Or is the book merely trying to offer the isolated mutant woman’s reaction as an objective assessment of dark human history? That’s probably too generous, because the utopia has such a ready way to remove unpleasant ideas. This may be an unintended hint of the cost to our human natures to establish and hold on to a state of perfection (even if only brain-suffocating, mutant perfection). The idea that the unsanitary is “male” continues, however. Some of my female friends who attend the Michigan Womyn’s Festival tell me that the only men allowed in are the ones who clean the portable toilets. A google search today offers 2,460,000 results to the term “toxic masculinity,” part of the ready vocabulary of the current androphobic sex panic.

Listen to Herland for free here.

Read Herland for free here.

Published in: on December 4, 2017 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lamp Eyes, Look Out! a #novel

Cover D light

The West is in decline.

A man lost his ability to see the future. To try to restore this strategic asset, a government physicist has been whirling him in a centrifuge. When the former seer blacks out, he dreams. But these dreams aren’t profound—they’re ridiculous sitcoms.

Now an Army psychoanalyst arrives to find out what happened to him…



The two women who love and confound him. Strange incidents after a Beethoven string quartet. Ghoulish confrontations at a Halloween Party. Communication with a hominid cannibal. A lighthouse built by Freemasons.

Can analysis of the absurd dreams lead to a restoration of the West’s confidence and optimism? What happens when a man perceives fate and tries to stop it?

180 pages.

Lamps Eyes, Look Out! is available exclusively on Kindle Unlimited until mid January 2018. The price for members is free; for others it’s only $2.99. In late January 2018, the novel will be available in paper from Infinity Publications. It will also be available in all common eBook formats.

If you’d like to learn more about LAMP EYES, LOOK OUT!, please click here to download a 1 page PDF sell sheet.

Cover A

Published in: on October 26, 2017 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The #mysterious #fever & gloom-inspired #origins of ISLAND OF THE MOTHS #graphicnovel #comic @NSkorpen

Here are the first four screen shots from the Afterward to the new ebook edition of ISLAND OF THE MOTHS (art by the pen-wielding bon vivant Neal Skorpen). These are excerpts from our email correspondence in 2006. As you can see, I suggested we stop a current project (which I was writing as he drew, a bit like trapeze artists). And not just stop that project and go home crying, as usual, but start a new one. This one would take a different artistic approach on the same grimace-faced Urge and grumpy, brooding Irritation (“that the girls love”) that motivated me (I think Neal too in his individual, cryptic, thousand-mile-stare way). And I would complete writing the text before asking him to draw… But first, he had to agree with the proposal! Would he?  Tremble, tremble….





Ha! I read that I had the flu when writing that email…. so it all started with a fever dream. At this moment, October 2015, I’m getting over the flu again, so there is something going on here.

The Plume references are the project we halted to begin… ISLAND OF THE MOTHS (which I request you say in a certain ominous and intriguing  tone of voice).  What I called in the 2006 email “the Zonny project” is happily now finally available for you as a quite inexpensive ebook, DANGEROUS BICYCLE MYSTERY QUEST, available in popular eBook formats around the world, and will be available as a paperback in a few months.

How did that curious twinkle-eyed fellow and martial arts board-chopper Mr. Skorpen reply, back in that primitive year, 2006? Between “hiiiii-YAAA” cracks of his steely metacarpus against birch and pine blocks, which I assume supplemented his living, did he agree or decline? Well I can’t tell you, for it’s in the book; but okay, yes I can at least tell you that Neal replied with style ideas and specific graphic novel examples. You can read his actual historically-inscribed words through the dust of time, and see ACTUAL ARTISTIC EXAMPLES (don’t call them scribbles please) of his initial probing, experimental drawings, along with the rest of our first correspondence, in the ISLAND OF THE MOTHS ebook Afterward.

Photo on 9-18-15 at 1.21 PM

This is how the cover looks on the iPad. Curmudgeonly face optional!

The stunning and surprising ISLAND OF THE MOTHS ebook is available here in radiant pixels on Kindle …. as well asNook.

It’s also available on your local non-USA websites, as well as other ebook distributors such as KoboScribd, Tolino, and Page Foundry. At this time the price is quite cheap! 

The large paper version is available here (glorious large paper-from-willing-trees format with rich black–and whites at no extra cost, but without the new Afterward). 


This is an example of Neal Skorpen’s exploratory artwork before starting ISLAND OF THE MOTHS. I love the fat cumbersome suite, the enormous helmet with lantern… must weight about eighty pounds. I don’t see a breathing tube but….

Neal Skorpen’s colorful website of comics ferment is . Check out his new project, AETHERNAUT.

Published in: on October 8, 2015 at 3:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Question & Answer: The #Bicycle Adventure #Novel, DANGEROUS BICYCLE MYSTERY QUEST … #Energy, #Demographics and the Urban – Rural Divide

Question: How did you come to write this novel?

Answer: I wrote it as a serial for a small bicycle magazine starting August 2001. Given its venue, it had to feature bicycles. Much followed from that need. Much later I rewrote it to its current novel form.

Question: What were some of the influences on your novel?

Answer: The disaster genre is an old one and there are many examples. Defoe’s novel A Journal of the Plague Year came out in 1722! Of course there’s the Flood story in the Old Testament… Anyway, I read Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague shows the rise of brutality and loss of knowledge and social class in a depopulated Bay Area. I noticed in Day of the Triffids, the world suffers two calamities: not just widespread blindness, but also mobile carnivorous semi-intelligent plants. I noticed in J.G. Ballard’s disaster novels (The Wind from Nowhere, The Drowned World, The Burning World, The Crystal World) his plots send his characters toward, not away from, the source of peril.

I saw a lot of disaster the movies of the 20th century, such as the movie No Blade of Grass that shows England starving and violent after an agricultural virus kills off wheat and rice. Some of these types of stories use it to satirize or explore contemporary society.

Question: What do you mean about disaster stories exploring society?

Answer: This is also an old idea, for example that there is a drought because of a sin in the community. I think the most well known examples are some of Romero’s zombie movies that satirize consumerism or bigotry. But also a disaster can be like a receding tide that removes the protections and comforts of civilization so it’s an opportunity to see what’s left behind. A common theme is that we people are worse than the monsters or whatever it is…

Question: Do you think our society could exist without gasoline?

Answer: Sure. It would take some time to adjust. We already have more automobile engine choices now than we did when I first wrote this novel. I don’t think most people have any idea that hydrocarbons are chemically amazing. It interests me how an energy source shapes society, and how it forms our assumptions.

My story posits that the shock happens suddenly. That is the part that is hard to withstand. When I was a little kid, my brother would hold the heavy gallon of milk out to me. He would ask if I had it. With my little hand on the handle, I would say yes. Instead of slowly letting go as I expected, he would quickly remove his hand and the suddenly weight would make me drop the milk. That way he proved I couldn’t hold it. However, if he had removed his hand slowly, I would have held it.

Question: Do you think our society could exist without automobiles of any kind? or many fewer cars?

Answer: That is a more radical question and more difficult. I think a lot would have to change, particularly outside of cities. It’s an interesting thought-experiment. I think it might upset people to even ask the question, for example, in a novel…

Question: Is your story a bicycle and environmentalist wish fulfillment story?

Answer: No. What sane person wishes for a disaster that seems to destroy the nation, modern life, and cause widespread starvation and violence? If my novel were wish fulfillment, wouldn’t it show a society that solved their problems? There is such a book, Ecotopia by Callenbach.

In Dangerous Bicycle Mystery Quest, the sympathetic characters disagree on what should be done. They fight and steal; some abandon the cause. The main character refuses to grow anything. Even in the last chapter she feels doubts about the enterprise. Portland is desperate to avoid starvation so transforms itself. Take a careful look at the ending. Is that a wish fulfilled?

The book does start with a premise that bikes are important to the story, that’s true. But the point of the adventure is to explore ideas energy, demographics and the urban – rural divide in the USA. Dismissing the story as wish fulfillment seems a way to avoid its questions. Mostly I hope the ideas in the story make the adventure more interesting to readers!

Dangerous Bicycle Mystery Quest is available for Kindle, Nook, iBook, and other eBook formats around the world. It will be arriving as a paperback in January 2015.

DBMQ_Yard Sign

Published in: on October 7, 2015 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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