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Kyler Fey, on his Tumblr blog yesterday, related that he had an “mpreg”-content sex dream in which he was knocked up by Justin Bieber, assisted by his own real-life spouse. He turned the theme of this dream into a short little fictional sketch in which depicts himself as an inhabitant of an alien world that has been invaded by Bieber and his “thugs.” Bieber forces himself on Kyler, undergoes a “knotting” phenomenon during this mating, and leaves Kyler pregnant. Later this child sires a whole generation of Justin-copies.

Because there appears to be a good deal of interest in mpreg among consumers of m/m erotica, I have considered that, as I release Kyler’s stories through M-Brane Press, I should perhaps tag them for that content. But I am never sure if it’s appropriate because none of his material is all about that. It shows up a lot, but it’s not necessarily the focus and therefore might not have enough of that concept to be of real appeal to fans of the sub-genre. Also, it varies considerably in how it's usually depicted in paranormal shifter stories or yaoi mpreg romance.


Kyler’s Commander Jace and the Unsuitable Boys stories repeatedly feature mpreg in various forms:

  1. In the very-shortly-upcoming The Twilight Boys at the Earth’s Core!, the part-plant boys have a reproductive option a lot like what Kyler describes from his dream story: a sort of vagina in their bellies, entered by the breeding male’s penis through their navels. 
  2. Elsewhere, the titular race of The Intersex Boys of Venus have a vaginal opening in between their anus and their testicles, and they require sexual intercourse with cis-males in order to get pregnant. Neither of these sex-variant groups appear to be able to achieve pregnancy through sex with each other, though they do have recreational sex with one another. 
  3. While the “knotting” phenomenon is not emphasized in Intersex Boys and does not appear to have been experienced by Braden and Patrick during their extensive mating with the Venusian maphs, it is established as a possibility in one chapter of The Strange Case of the Tattooed Twink. In what is intended in-universe to be a fictionalized flashback to the time of main character Braden Vaieux’s conception and birth, Braden’s father Radyn Vaieux experiences knotting. In the scene, Radyn is a paramilitary commander who has captured an enemy ship crewed entirely by a crew of young males who are implicated in an earlier mass-murder atrocity. He orders his men to rape all of their captives as a form of retaliation for the previous crime, and he takes for himself one named Cade Mutara who turns out to be a maph who is undergoing his “heat” and is ready to mate-bond with a fertile male. Their intense fucking, during which Radyn’s cock knots and he discharges a freakish amount of semen, results in Cade’s pregnancy with Braden, and with Radyn apparently mate-bound to Cade permanently. 
  4. In Twilight Boys, Zane experiences a phenomenon with Timothy while immersed with Tim in his bathpha tank. During anal intercourse with Tim as the insertive partner, it appears that Tim’s cock expands radically in size, and Zane imagines that he can see the head of it pressing his belly outward from inside his body, but it remains somewhat unclear as to whether this was a “real” experience or something that Zane imagined while in an altered mental state. 
  5. In Fey’s standalone novel FagJuv (possibly coming out by end of this year), the protagonist (also named Kyler Fey—he names characters after himself a lot)  fucks and impregnates a teenage maph boy, and he experiences knotting during this sex act. 
  6. The Spunk-Angels of Mars will, Kyler tells me, establish that the Unsuitable Boys core character Trace Battle once impregnated the maph jeddak of Kasei Vallis on Mars while working as a breeding slave and is the bio-father of the Martian ruler’s heir. 
  7. Core character Colin Vorta is himself a maph but is on a regimen of birth control to regulate his heats and prevent pregnancy from his constant vaginal sex with his teammates. 
  8. A short story contained within Fey’s sex-confessional One Hundred Times dramatizes an mpreg-themed sex role-play episode that Fey engaged in with the young man with whom he continually had sex during the period of the narrative. In this story, Kyler assumes the role of a Martian ruler and his lover assumes that of his son.  Since there are a fair number more episodes planned for Kyler's serial, and since mpreg is an established fact of that universe, I may revise listings to include mention of it.

The details are at the M-Brane Press site. Just showing the cover art here as well as I attempt to learn how to use images on Dreamwidth (just migrated my old LJ here).


Mar. 5th, 2017 07:13 am
mbranesf: (Default)
Last week when I was putting up Kyler Fey's new novellas in the ebook stores, I was a little bit baffled as to why every venue has a different hierarchy of categories. The print versions were easy enough to categorize the way I wanted them to be when I assigned the ISBN and arranged for print distribution, but the three ebook stores (Kindle, iBooks and Kobo) into which I placed them all varied. The most cumbersome was Kobo because for some reason I was not able to include "erotica" as a category without assigning  "romance" as its primary category. This is because in their categories system, pretty much all fictional genres except romance fall under "fiction," but "erotica" is not a sub-category of "fiction." It only shows up under romance, and when one tries to select that in combination with "science fiction," one is blocked by the rule of not being able to use catgeories from both fiction and "non-fiction." Which I would not consider romance to be, but anyway there  it was. I did end up sticking them both in romance because I felt it was fairly important to get them tagged as erotica (since they are both filled about eighty percent by volume with explicit depictions and discussions of m/m sex). But we actually consider them to be part of a serial of gay erotic "science fantasy" (some later installments of the series which I have gotten to examine also tread into supernatural horror).

Since I don't read a lot of genre literature crafted as "romance," I figured that I was probably not fully informed as to what makes it that. I know that its a multi-genre mode in that there can be contemporary settings, historical settings, science fictional settings, etc. But I wasn't entirely clear on what unifies all of this under the romance umbrella, and if erotica in general is under that umbrella or not (it's not necessarily). So I checked out submission guidelines for a few publishers who release a lot of Kindle books to see what they are shopping for when they say "romance." Here's what I did not know in my ignorance of the form, and which surprised me: it is evidently very deliberately formulaic in its construction in that whatever happens in the story, it is the expectation that every story conclude with a "happily ever after" (HEA) or at least a  "happily for now" (HFN) ending. I think every guidelines page that I read mandated this formula.This made me sit back and think for few moments. In most other genres--especially ones where the authors have some ambition of crafting "Real Literature" out of their SF or F or H concept--writers are constantly trying to subvert or evade the formulas. They'll get lauded when they succeed and their books are considered to be "better" than formulaic genre fiction. In fact it's a fairly common knock on a book that the reviewer didn't much like was that it was "formulaic." TV shows and movies are routinely panned over hewing too closely to an obvious formula (even though they all pretty much do so on purpose). So the story, in this mode, is really about learning how the characters reach their HEA state, because you know already that's where it's headed. The ending is not in doubt. There will be happiness. In this sense, the form reminds me of another very formulaic one that I got a lot of pleasure from when I was a kid and a teenager and even once in while still as an adult: Star Trek tie-in fiction.  I read tons of it in my youth, have a couple boxes of it still in a closet (only reason it's not out and shelved is because I dont have enough shelves), and once in a while will go back to one of those novels when I want something easy to digest. Like these romance novels, those Star Trek novels (many of which include romantic subplots) all ended HFN. You knew there was going to be another crisis, another adventure later on, but at the end of each story, things were pretty much reset to normal, the characters were all alive and well, and the mood was good.

So, are Kyler's books "romance" by formula? Intersex Boys of Venus ends with portents of an ominous threat that is not resolved and has yet to be fully uncovered (it's chapter 5 of a serial). But it does focus on two boys who plainly love each other a lot, but their relationship is not depicted as all that "romantic" in that they didn't just meet and fall in love etc. There's a little taste of HFN between them in their final scene of the novel, but then that's immediately followed by a creepy foreshadowing of future problems for them. One Hundred Times (the b-side of the print double with Intersex Boys) ends sort of HFN between the main characters, but it's also implied that they'll probably never see each other again, and it is explict throughout the book that the entire purpose of their relationship was fucking. They were never in love, and the narrator at one point grapples with feelings of "crushing" on his short-term sex partner and tries to bat those feelings away with rationality. So that's not a romance either, at least by formula. It's also true that the storyline is actually a thinly-veiled account of something that Kyler did in real life, so one probably wouldn't expect a memoir to hew to a genre formula in the way one would expect a romance novel to do so.

I'll be spending some time today on final formatting of the next episode of the serial, titled The Strange Case of the Tattoed Twink. The accompanying picture is the illustration for its cover. [updated to note that while this illustration was used for the final book, we changed the color of it].
After a few years of not releasing anything new, my little M-Brane Press is starting to be back in business a little bit. This year's first project is a gay erotica science fantasy serial by Kyler Fey. The "official" announcmentof it with links to the ebook sites is on the M-Brane Press site. Its first installment is a 35000-word novella titled The Intersex Boys of Venus. It's available in print, back to back in "double" format with One Hundred Times, Kyler's memoir about an intense hook-up with a young man who inspired a lot of the details about a main character in his serial. Both books are out separately in electronic form on Amazon, iBooksand Kobo.

The author, who likes to write a lot more than he likes to self-promote, has been encouraged (rather forcefully) to use more social media, and has chosen Tumblr as a venue. He has managed a couple/few posts about the book, including a little excerpt from the next installment. I am not immediately starting a lot of aggressive promo of the thing in the guise of M-Brane Press quite yet because I would like there to be at least one more installment of the serial published so that we can act more like it's a real series than a one-off. The total project has twenty-one installments. About half of them appear to have the major work of their writig complete, but they are all still missing some content. A few more of them exist only as a titles and synopses, but I am assured that they will manifest as complete works soon enough. I have been promised that I might have a new complete installment in hand as soon as tomorrow.

Originally, I was looking for a project whereby M-Brane Press could get in on the erotic ebook thing with a long series of little "quickies"--a lot of those Kindle books are really just short stories. The plan was to roll out a lot of them, or maybe even all of them, all at once and then put together one of those ebook "box sets" of them and also a print omnibus edition. But if they are all going to end up being novella-length like Intersex Boys, then the single giant print book
might be impractical. But I am still planning some sort of print format for the series--because I like making print books--but I haven't decided if they are all going to be doubles like this first book. It will probably depend on final page-count of some of these episodes. 

Annoying Dream:
For some reason, I've lately been having dreams in which I somehow end up in a wooded park and find myself getting lost and running into dead ends as I try to navigate its trails and roads. This park is a real place from my boyhood, a fairly large and heavily wooded park in the town in which I was born and lived until I was thirteen. It had (and I presume still has) hidden trails, a couple of weird bodies of water, an old stadium, a police shooting range, some assorted attractions like a public swimming pool and a dirt-and-gravel road that cuts through its back regions, but which doesn't really go anywhere--it just loops back around to where you started. But in some iterations of this dream, I am either walking or driving that road and somehow just can't quite find my way back out of the park. The road forks in strange ways, generates long sidepaths that dead-end in the woods or run into a large lake (there was in real life swampy flooded lake-like algae-choked area of water there that one could get to by following a dead-end path from the main road--and where it was believed that teenagers would go to fuck in their cars--but nothing nearly so large as the dream lake). In last night's version of the dream, instead of following the endless ever-changing road, I got similarly disoriented on a trail that cut through the woods and followed a narrow shallow stream. This trail and that stream were real things back in those days, too. During the summer when I was twelve, I frequently ventured down this trail by myself and masturbated. I enjoyed doing this outside so much that it became a nearly daily habit that summer even on rainy days, always standing in the same hidden spot and squirting on a clump of milkweed. It's amazing that I was never caught doing this because, while the path itself and my favorite spot on it were quite hidden from view, it was still traveled pretty frequently by other kids who liked to use it to cut aross the deep foresty middle of the park and feel some kind of sense of adventure from doing so. But I always got away with it. In fact, the only thing I was ever seen doing with my fly open was pissing in the stream that ran next to the trail, but that was totally non-controversial as it was absolutely standard for every boy who ever went to that part of the park to piss in that stream as if it were a long public trough-style urinal. In this dream from last night, I was on that same path, and I remember so many vivid details of it that makes me feel like my old impressions of it had risen whole and unchanged from some deep geological layer of memory. In the dream, I didnt jerk off and wasn't in the least bit horny enough to want to do so anyway, because I was intensely frustrated at how long circuitous the trail had become, and how it seemed that no matter which direction I went, I was just getting farther and farther away from the park's exit. At one point, I decided it would somehow be faster to simply go back the way I came and quit trying to find the end of the trail, but then the way back had changed, as if the path had been reworking itself behind me as I trod the woods' depths. Eventually, I made myself wake up. I can't always do this, but occasionally I have the ability to realize while in dream-space that I am probably dreaming and can just put an end to whatever dumb situation is going on by waking myself up.

New book project:
I am well into the editing and revision phase of a long project that I will probably release through (the long dormant) M-Brane Press hopefully later this year as both a series of ebooks and a single big print volume. It's a gay pornographic science fiction thing with elements of planetary romance and cosmic horror, set in a fantasy version of the Solar System several centuries from now, centered around a cast of specially-endowed characters that work almost like a Doc Savage-type secret organization to save the world again and again from various insidious threats (while continually getting their rocks off). I started it last summer, and added over fifty thousand words to it as my NaNoWriMo project last November, and it's been kind of growing gradually since then. I may release it pseudonymously, not because of its content but more because its built on the conceit that it's an assembly of several dudes' diary entries put together by an editor many years after the events described. So I think I will credit the book to its imaginary editor. It's become a lot more complicated, elaborate, nuanced, weird and just plain longer than what I had intended at the outset (which was just to knock out some quickie Kindle porn really fast and see if anyone would actually buy it), so I am months behind my own deadlines on it. The original idea was to release it as a bunch of ebooks, each "book" really just being a chapter in a serial. Typically these erotic Kindle books on Amazon tend to really just be four or five thousand-word short stories, and sometimes even shorter than that. My project is currently mapped out to have twenty-seven of these "books", each with a number and a lurid subtitle (I was kind of inspired to that number by Mark Danielwski's The Familiar, which he intends to tell in twenty-seven massive volumes). These individual book segments tend to be clocking in at around ten to twelve thousand words (and they get longer as I lard them up with "scholarly" footnotes) so a bit longer than is typical for the Kinde erotica format, but that's for the best, I think. I find a lot of that stuff to be too brief and not sufficiently fleshed out (and just plain awful) anyway. The final number of chapters may change by the time I am done, because a few of the unfinished ones seem to not need to exist anymore, while a couple of new ones that weren't even in the original outline have grown up and become important to the story arc. Also, I a few months ago, I had more or less decided to kill off one of the characters and excise him from the whole storyline because he didn't seem to be doing much of anything important, and I thought I maybe had too many major characters anyway (nine of them). But more recently, I kind of fell in love with the lad when he suddenly needed to be at the center of a couple new plot threads due to his special ability (he paints and draws stuff derived from prophetic visions). So he stays.

My pet project, the M-Brane SF Double: The New People/Elegant Threat is finally close enough to publication (due out May 31) that I can start a pre-order special for it
here at the M-Brane website. Featuring short novels by Alex Jeffers and Brandon H. Bell, the Double is a print book designed in the fashion of the old Ace Doubles series. For well over a year, I have been working on making this idea into a real book that people can hold in their hands and set on a shelf. Even in the undeniable age of the ebook, I think there is still a lot of value in the physical book as an object in and of itself, so I tried to make a really nice one. Also, since I thought the old Ace series was super-cool both content-wise and object-wise, I have long wanted to make something similar. While the old Ace books did not always feature content of uniformly excellent quality, they did provide a venue for a lot of really fantastic literature to get published under the cover of a cheap sf paperback--which is better than it never having been seen at all. Sitting right nearby me are copies of Doubles containing the first publications of items like Samuel Delany's Captives of the Flame and Ursula LeGuin's Rocannon's World. I don't really expect very many people to be as captivated by the Double concept as I am, but I hope enough people will buy it so that I can at least recover its cost and pay the authors a few bucks. But I do know that I'm not the only one who thinks that the novella or short novel is a great medium for speculative fiction in general and science fiction in particular. The length (both Jeffers' and Bell's entries are about 30,000 words) allows for a lot more world-building and character development than a short story usually allows, but it doesn't demand the huge, convoluted plot-lines that epic-length books do. If this first attempt at a Double goes well, I may do a series of them.
M-Brane Press's beautiful new magazine Fantastique Unfettered, created and edited by Brandon Bell, just got its first major notice, this review at the Future Fire site. Go read about and then visit the FU site for more info on buying the lovely, gorgeous print version or downloading and electronic copy (hint: we really, really want to sell some more copies of this, and anyone who doesn't have one is missing out; available also on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, and the UK Amazon).

My favorite line from the review is, "By and large the sensibility is ‘literary,’ and the quality is high (the two, of course, not always the same thing)..." I could not agree more, and would say so even if I weren't its publisher. Instead of starting small and slowly growing it like I did over two years with M-Brane SF, Brandon had the vision and daring to bring FU to life, full-blown, immediately with the first issue. This first issue is not just a first effort with a few hints of greatness, a mere promise of the future. It is from cover-to-cover a work of great quality, and once more people find out about this first issue and see the second (due soon), I believe that FU will suddenly move from being an obscure new publication that no one knows about yet to a leading, defining periodical of its genre. 

One other point: If you are a reader of fiction but think you're not especially into fantasy, you might be wrong. When I started M-Brane SF, I broadly excluded fantasy in favor of science fiction because I felt that the sf genre in particular needed a new outlet and it's what I wanted to read more of; also, I didn't want to read a lot of wizard/dragon/magic or Tolkienesque or Jordanesque story submissions, because I am not a big fan of that particular subset of fantasy (though I have, in fact, run a fair number of stories that might be more fantastic than science fictional over our 26 issues). If you read the review at Future Fire, it will give you a sense of what sort of fantasy editor Brandon Bell is into, and it's the kind that I, a reader who isn't always drawn to the genre, likes as well. 
I have spent some of this New Year Day bragging anywhere I can find to brag about the very nice review at the cool new Rise Reviews site of M-Brane Press's queer spec fic anthology Things We Are Not. I am way pumped up that someone has taken a look at this book again and posted about it now, because for the most of the past year, it has not done well as far as selling copies, and I hope at least a couple more people will consider buying it now. It started out strong with a lot of pre-order sales ahead of its release in October of 2009, and it did earn just barely enough money to where it is now technically profitable, but I have yet to disburse any royalties to the authors because it seems really dumb to Pay Pal everyone barely four dollars (my usual practice with royalties is to pay them when we're at least at $10, which is a good way away from happening with Things We Are Not.) 

The book has not been reviewed very often, and not usually in a very comprehensive way like this new review of it by novelist Kelly Jennings who really seemed to "get" me in what I was trying to accomplish with it. Is the book the greatest thing ever? No, certainly not. Would I change some things about it if I could go back and do it over? Yeah, probably. But with a bit more than a year of hindsight on it, I still think it's pretty damned great and I am very proud of the range of writers and visions in it. 

I must admit that my stomach nearly dropped out as I was reading the review and I realized that she was going to comment directly on my own story, "The Robbie." 

Then I heaved a great sigh of relief when the reviewer seemed to understand and like the story I was telling or at least trying to tell. My nightmare, ever since I made the decision to include my own story in that book, is that a review would appear saying something like,

"While Things We Are Not is overall a very solid collection of daring short fiction, it is tragically marred by its editor's own entry, the abysmal  'The Robbie.' He should have kept this one to himself. Leave the writing to the writers, Mr. Editor."  

So I gotta tell ya, it was a big damned relief to see a nice review of "The Robbie" (and especially so from someone who does not know me and has no vested interest in flattering me). But all this made me reflect upon my decision to publish the story in the first place. I do not ever run my own fiction in my magazine, M-Brane SF. It's a rule that I imposed on myself at the beginning of it because being the one controlling the content could make it too easy for me to turn the zine into a platform for promoting myself (or make it look that way, at least), which I definitely did not want to do (though I would like to follow Oprah's example and start putting pics of myself on every cover ;) ). So my little handful of published fiction credits have all been attained fair-and-square by submitting for approval from another editor and publisher (even my Aether Age entry needed to pass muster with my co-editor, and he would have told me if it was crap). Except for "The Robbie" which I accepted for my own antho and never showed a single other set of eyes before it was published. And that's what's a little weird about my thought process on it: why did I not at least pass it by a single "beta" reader or even just ask my friend Brandon (H. Bell, of Aether Age and Fantastique Unfettered) to look at it and warn me if I was about to print some real garbage before I did it? I did, in fact, show him my foreword to the book (which is admittedly a somewhat haranguing piece) and he wisely got me to turn down the volume on it a little bit. But I didn't show him or anyone else "The Robbie" even though I knew they'd see it eventually.

Why? Oddly, I think it is because I was somewhat embarrassed by the way I probably reveal a personal sex fantasy with it. It is very graphic in several places with its depiction of sex acts, and somehow to just hand a single copy of it to someone seems like more of an exposure than publishing it far and wide. I'm kind of an exhibitionist anyway (I think a lot of writers are, and probably certainly ones who write erotica) and am happy to share what turns me on...but it somehow seems more comfortable to do that in front of a distant audience than directly with one person.

"The Robbie" is one of two sex-oriented stories that I wrote in 2009, inspired by dreams and written rather frantically first thing in the morning. The other was an untitled werewolf story, that I gave the working title "Wolven" (yeah I know that's been used elsewhere). After some additions and revisions to both of them, I really felt that "The Robbie" was printable if only there were a market for it. ("Wolven," on the other hand, is so transgressive and sick-ass that it may never see the light of day even though I do like it; it's become the troll under the bridge of my unpublished fiction). Things We Are Not became the market for it, and now I think it was maybe not such a bad choice.

Things We Are Not is available at Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle. 
End of the year is a logical time to review one's status, either to identify things that point toward a decent next year or suggest that much improvement is needed. In no particular order, these were the major features of my year 2010:

Professional: In May of this year, I returned to a proper day-job as a working culinarian after years spent in the Exile. This has made all the difference as far as the management of the household economy and my general attitude on the ongoing, intractable need to work for a living. I owe this turn of good fortune to a very dear friend. Since I don't talk specifically about the day job here, and because I do not want to embarrass anyone, I will not mention him by name here. But good friends are things to be thankful for even more so this year than most. 

Homelife: We returned from the Exile this year. Our long, dark, insanely self-imposed sojourn in OKC was finally brought to its blessed bloody end by my partner's clear thinking. Well, Jeff had some help in the form of inheriting enough money to finance a move, but he talked me out of delaying the move until the end of the lease on our OKC home and instead saying "fuck that" and moving months early like we did. This wisdom on his part not only brought the Exile to an end months earlier but made the timing perfect as far as getting my new day job.

Writing: I wrote a lot, but didn't finish very much. On the other hand, I submitted two short stories for publication, which is far more than the zero that I had submitted during the previous three years. Of the two stories that I submitted, both were for specifically-themed publications and both were accepted. That puts my acceptance rate for the year at 100%, bitches! (Only two, I know...but still!) But tempering that success was my epic fail at NaNoWriMo in November. While I did clock about 30,000 words, they were quite a mess. Also, they were 30K words of a thing that needs to be more like 100K to actually be done rather than NaNo's 50K winner threshold. Projects that had fallen more or less into hiatus, like my military sf novel Shame and my non-fiction restaurant memoir/cookbook Stackin' Hogs, did not advance much during 2010, though both did have some words added and neither have been given up upon.

Publishing: If the actual work that I perform to make a living is my "day job," then my other job is as the editor of M-Brane SF and the publisher of the recently retooled M-Brane Press. 2010 was really only my second full year in this role, but it was a big one. Other than edit and publish the monthly issues of M-Brane, I also brought out a couple of single-author collections: Cesar Torres' The 12 Burning Wheels and Derek J. Goodman's Machina. I co-edited with Jaym Gates a one-off (maybe) erotic spec fic zine for Crossed Genres called The Little Death. I also published 2020 Visions, a really remarkable collection of near-future spec fic, edited by Rick Novy. We also started a second zine. Brandon Bell's Fantastique Unfettered published its first issue just a few days ago in a beautiful print edition. But perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the year was the publication of The Aether Age, co-edited by Brandon and me and published by Hadley Rille Books. This one was a long time in process and is absolutely the coolest book of the year, period. There's nothing quite like it. Anyone who thinks they know what it is but hasn't seen it yet is wrong. It may take a few months for the word to spread, but begun the Aether Age has!

Political: My undying disgust for teabaggers, Republicans, and other assorted morons reached new heights in 2010. If anyone had any doubt that American "conservatives" are wholly invested in promoting plutocracy, theocracy, know-nothing-ness and bugfuck dumbassedness, then no one need look any further than than the news of 2010.  I actually don't much care at the moment that these people have taken control of the House of Representatives. In fact, I look forward to how they will have to explain to the public why they want to destroy everything. The public needs a fucking refresher anyway: these are some of the same jackasses (Boehner) who ran the Congress just a few years ago, and now they are joined by some even crazier ones. On the upside: the health care law was passed and so was the REPEAL OF DADT!! In your face, McCain!

Personal: Ten years into the relationship with my significant other, I have never been more in love. This is why I do and care about all the rest of it.

I think that's everything from 2010.

2020 Visions

Oct. 13th, 2010 09:39 pm
mbranesf: (Default)
I am way excited (or as "way excited" as I can be in my current state of physical and mental fatigue) to finally launch the pre-order special on 2020 Visions, the forthcoming stunner of an anthology from my little M-Brane Press. This book is really freaking cool. Editor Rick Novy proposed that writers imagine not the far future but rather the future a mere ten years from now (which also provides what's got to be the coolest antho title this year). The sixteen stories therein (by established pros and relative newcomers) are wild, weird, scary, thrilling and mindbending. More information is at the Press site. Check out the awesome table of contents there and grab a copy early while it's cheap.
For close to a year I have been talking about publishing a fantastic book, including two novels published back to back, in the style of the old Ace Doubles. Gradually, I have cleared away the obstacles to bringing this dream to fruition. First, I needed to figure out how the hell, on my computer, to flip half the book's pages upside down (the two halves of the double are compiled in a tete-beche design, each upside down in relation to one another, a book with essentially two front covers, and I didn't want to pursue the project until the formatting issues were understood). I solved that problem.  Next, I needed two fantastic short novels of beautiful quality and compelling storytelling. These came to me in the form of The New People by Alex Jeffers and Elegant Threat by Brandon Bell. Alex and Brandon are two of my favorite writers--not just of writers that I have met and worked with as a result of M-Brane SF, but in general. They are both craftsmen of finely-wrought thought-provoking fiction. Their stories forthcoming in The Double will delight and astound readers and make everyone want to read more from them. A lot of luck surrounded acquiring these stories, too. Alex submitted his to the general M-Brane slush, with the comment that he was taking me at my word that there is not an upper word-count limit for submissions to the zine. As I started reading The New People, I understood that I had the first half of my Double. Then, not hopeful of a favorable reply, I asked Brandon if he happened to have any short novels lying about that he might want to submit for the Double. He surprised me by offering to finish his in-process Elegant Threat or write on the fly an entirely new thing set in the Aether Age universe. Either sounded great to me, and he soon presented the beautiful item that the world will soon read.

But one piece of the project remained: this book demanded two lovely pieces of cover art that would not only evoke the tone of the stories but which would hearken back to the era of publishing that I am trying to honor with the Double format itself. I don't quite remember how the thought/decision process played out, but several months ago it became clear to me that the Double's cover artist needed to be my partner-in-all-things, my boy, my #1 crush, the artist known as J, my Jeff. He does not recall how or why he agreed to this. I assume it was a drunken boast to which I then held him accountable. Jeff is very talented visually. If such things run in families, it would make sense since his late father was a commercial artist and a fine artist. Jeff would be horrified that I am posting these comments on the internet, but he never reads my Live Journal, so I can rest assured that he will never know about it (it's like hiding in plain sight). 

In the month's since he agreed to create the Double covers, Jeff mostly fought against it tooth and nail, even occasionally denying that he had ever said he would do it. To which I would insist that he had committed in an irrevocable iron-clad fashion to deliver two book covers to me on time. Then he would occasionally acquiesce and act like he was about to start work on them. He would ask me for visual prompts, doubting his own mind's-eye impression. He kept saying, "I don't know sci-fi. I'm not a sci-fi artist." To which I would say, "You don't even know what 'sci-fi' is. But you know how to draw stuff." His process (which I have seen on a lot of other projects, art and otherwise), is to fight, stall and resist until somehow, suddenly, the moment is right. He does not respond pressure on anything (not just talking about art here). But when he decides he sees what he wants to do, then it's suddenly done. In both cases with these cover pictures, he set aside most of the suggestions that I made or that I passed onto him from the authors and went with a subjective impression of the overall attitude of the stories. The New People image catches some literal detail--a faint suggestion of a space elevator cable vanishing into the sky, smoke rising above a city--but does not depict any actual scene from the story in a direct way. The Threat cover is rather abstract in design and depicts no specific event but it feels to me--as one of the few people who have read the story so far--like something of that world. The two together match very well as being two covers of the same book. While they are quite different images, their color palettes and the emotion that J somehow imbued into the paper make them seem like two sides of the same basic thing.

J is very unhappy with the way these images look on the computer, as above. For the actual print book, however, I will be using high-resolution scans of his pictures and they will be nearly as lovely as the hand-made originals.  I'll be starting a pre-order special on the book soon, and we estimate December 1 as release date.
I posted on the M-Brane blog my reflections on the venerable Star Trek, which first aired on TV 44 years ago, and some memories of the first magazine that I published, a teenage Trek fanzine effort which ran for 22 issues during my high school years.

I have had the opportunity to encourage several more editors to beware of the first-rights-reselling writer discussed in my earlier post, just in the short time it's been up. But meanwhile, over on the M-Brane blog, I was taken to task thus by one "Geraldo":

"You only pay $10.00? That's less than a cheeseburger deluxe. You really should pay professional rates, or at the very least strive to pay semi-pro rates or a decent flat fee. Sometimes writers make a living at this, and it's a known fact that, in some circumstances, reprints can be submitted for the lifetime of a writer's career. How can a writer live on ten dollars? Unless you are just a hobbyist publication, then it is understandable."

My reply there to this comment was perhaps overly harsh, especially the concluding "give up on your dream" statement, but I am admittedly rather prickly about this topic. Yeah, sure, I'd love to pay more for fiction for M-Brane, and I would if I could. And I expect to be able to do so one day. But as things stand right now, the thing makes no money at all (literally zero revenue in the last month), and I subsidize its minimal costs out of pocket and I don't even have to fucking do it! I do it out of love, same reason writers write short stories. Pay the bills? Make a living? On short fiction? Give up that dream right now.
For the past few days, I have been contemplating a dilemma in my capacity as editor of M-Brane SF Magazine. I discovered, to my great irritation, that a writer whom I have published a couple of times sold me first rights to his stories when, in fact, they had been previously published not just once but two times and three times. I don't take reprints, and if I did, I would 1) expect to be informed by the writer that the submission was previously published; 2) I would want to acknowledge in print the previous publisher;  and 3) I sure as fuck would not contract for first English rights on the story. 

For people not in the writing and publishing world, this may sound like an obscure and technical issue, but for me it is one of honor and integrity. This writer is a douchebag for misrepresenting his work as new, and he has made me look like a douche for publishing it as new. I have uncovered numerous instances of this kind of chicanery involving this writer and a number of other zines. I have informed the affected editors so that they can decide for themselves whether to do as I am doing and ban from consideration any future submissions from this person. I am sure there are many other publishers whom I have not yet informed because I am sure that I have not uncovered every instance of this situation. If this were some newbie writer who didn't know what he was doing, and had only done it once or twice, I could maybe forgive and forget. But this is a person with literally hundreds of credits (many of them evidently duplicative under false pretenses).

Despite my rage over this and my natural impulse to call out liars when I spot them, I think I have made the correct decision by not yelling this person's name far and wide and instead just dealing with it directly with the affected parties as I discover them. Word spreads among the zine publishing community. My research into this fraud happened to lead me to a blog that is evidently almost wholly devoted to hating this writer, and does so with great bile and personal nastiness. That sort of thing is not my bag, and I will not participate in it. But I will make sure to take any opportunity that presents itself to shut down yet another market for this particular writer. I have already closed about ten of them. 
I suspect that people who read this journal or follow me elsewhere are well ready for me to finally get done with moving. The day finally draws near, and most major hurdles have been cleared: 1) we have a place to move to (always key); 2) I have a fine new day job waiting for me (a huge plus); 3) the moving truck is rented; 4) utility services at the new home have been arranged; and 5) we're probably about 65% packed already, and truck-loading day is not until next Wednesday. After the stress of securing a home was done, it's all gone pretty much perfectly so far. Hell, we even have the installation of the cable TV/internet set up for day one in the new place, and that just never happens! All this success makes us wonder whether we are due for a setback. We are not used to having anything important go our way in recent times, and we wonder if the universe is somehow being put out of balance by all these wins. 

In other news: I am trying to get past two publication deadlines before moving day. I need to release M-Brane #16 (contents were announced today on the M-Brane blog), and I need to finish several tasks to bring the editing phase of Aether Age to an end and get it finally off to the publisher. As much as I adore AeA, I have to admit that I am glad to be into the final phase of it so that it's not such a big project to think about while we are getting settled into the new home and job. I have no other book projects coming in May, so M-Brane #17 will be the only real deadline for me during Month One in the new home, and that suits me just fine. By June, I should be able to announce some dates for upcoming projects including the first M-Brane "Double" featuring work by Alex Jeffers and Brandon Bell, the 2020 Visions anthology edited by Rick Novy, and a novel by Mike Griffiths set in his "Skinjumper" world, which we think may be out by Halloween. 
Jeff and I want to thank all our online friends that we have picked up from M-Brane and our social networks for all the well-wishes and morale-boosts and expressions of support during recent days as we went through the process of finding a new home to rent in St. Louis. As most people who follow me at all know, we have been living in OKC for most of the past three years (for reasons too convoluted and weird to explain, or at least it seems that way now), but we have been wanting to get out of that situation almost since we got into it and find a home elsewhere. As it happened, we settled on returning to our old stomping grounds in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis. This did not seem the most glamorous option at first, but it was the most practical. Now that it's a reality, we are very, very pleased about it.

We found a fantastic apartment just around the corner from where we used to live, within view of the fabulous Missouri Botanical Garden. Unlike a lot of people who can shop for a place to live, select among some options, make a decision and move, it's more challenging for us. The failure of our restaurant early in 2007 financially ruined us and we have horrendous, unacceptable credit reports as a result. This puts us in the position of having to do a lot of convincing of anyone that we want to trust us to pay rent. Also, we have the added disadvantage of being unwilling to live in A) a dump; B) suburbia; or C) something located more than a very few miles away from probable work locations.  But we succeeded--after days of grinding stress--and actually got our first pick of place to live.Our idea of nice digs (that can be gotten for less than $600/month)  is an early 20th century brick house with a lot of its original character intact, a lot space, and where we can paint the walls the way we want, and we got that with our new place, the top level of a two-family house in our preferred neighborhood. While our current home is as lovely as can be in our location, the new one will be better and a fair amount larger, too. And it will cost less, too. Awesome. 

But that's only one piece of the good news. When we were up in St. Louis to do this housing search, I got an email from my friend Lynn. I met him in 1998 when he was hired as sous chef at the St. Louis Art Museum and I was transferred by our company from the position of sous chef at the Whittemore House to that of executive chef at the Art Museum. We worked for a catering company that manages services at some high-end locations like that in St. Louis. We worked together for a couple of years at the Museum and became close friends. Then he was promoted to a new job running the restaurant at the Botanical Garden where he spent most of the past decade. But just recently, he was promoted again to an executive position at the company's central office. He knew I was moving back to STL and he asked me if I wanted to work for him. The timing could not have been better, and getting to return to the fold is a dream come true. I will once again have a day job that is at an intellectual and aesthetic level appropriate to my background and skill level. And it actually pays a salary that we can live on without needing to scavenge dropped pennies out of parking lots.

Since I am returning to high-end, creative food at long last, I am tempted to start a food blog. I know there are probably too many of those already, but I think I could do one that's more interesting than most, and maybe tie it into fiction somehow. I will wait and see if I have time for it. The new job will not necessarily occupy a whole lot more hours of my week than my current (soon to be former) day job, but it may be a bit choppier of a schedule, so I will have to reorganize M-Brane and my book publishing around it. I think I may consider trying to find one or two of those free slush readers that a lot of zines seem to have (such as my other zine Little Death of Crossed Genres) as a way of keeping control of the slush pile as other things transition. The current design of M-Brane has radically reduced how much time I need to spend just in formatting it for publication, so I think if I had some good help with the slush, then I would be able to take on another task or two and still keep everything in good order.
Last night we posted the story line-up for the upcoming shared world, "open culture" anthology The Aether Age, co-edited by Brandon Bell and me, to be published by Hadley Rille Books. We are very excited about the results of this project, which started as conversation on Twitter and then moved into a discussion on the M-Brane blog last summer. Now we are at the point where stories have been selected--nineteen windows into this amazing new world--and we are in a final (or at least close to final) editing phase. I am getting very excited about it as it finally comes to fruition. Indeed, as Vice President Biden said today about another topic, "This a big fucking deal!" Here's a peek at the cover art by M.S. Corley:

Though I had some book editing and publishing experience behind me, I learned a lot through the process of putting this project together. The biggest and most useful lesson I learned is that collaboration is really, really frakkin' awesome and that I don't need to to go it alone all the time, even as a micro-press guy. In fact, this project would be nowhere near as good if I had tried it as an M-Brane project without my terrific collaborators, co-editor Brandon and Eric Reynolds of Hadley Rille Books, as well as all the other talented people they brought to the party. Eric found a couple of writers for us who turned in fantastic stories. Brandon found the talented TC Parmelee who will be doing our audio and the Chameleon Chamber Group who will be doing our music (yes, this book will have music associated with it--I can't even describe how awesome I think that is!). Now it seems completely ridiculous that I had originally considered this shared world project as nothing more than a special issue of M-Brane (I was such a dork back then. Right. Just back then!).

Aside from the vast expansion of the talent pool that having collaborators provided, I realized during the process of reading and selecting submissions, and now editing them, that I would have been seriously under water without Brandon. The Aether Age, due to the very nature of the project, is no ordinary anthology as far as picking stories and getting them ready for publication. It's much more complex than a themed project; the stories are all set in literally the same world, but were written independently by over a dozen different writers, no two of which knew what the other was doing, with nothing to go on other than the writer's guidelines that we provided. Granted, we provided a rather extensive set of guidelines, but it's still remarkable to me the way this actually worked out. All these different writers produced work uniquely their own, yet which fits into this shared world, and which opened my eyes to potential for this world that I hadn't imagined myself. As we read stories and made our selections, Brandon and I let these stories and the various visions of these writers enhance and reshape the plan, too. My own idea of what the AeA world is now is a lot different in some ways than what it was a few months ago--and it's better. Because it is a collaborative creation.

Another thing that was very different about this project than my zine or my experience with Things We Are Not (queer sf antho from last fall) was the quality and quantity of submissions. While I always get great submissions for my other projects, I also get plenty that can go quickly to the reject pile without much thought, and that's actually what happens with a majority of them. The AeA submissions, however, were a bit fewer in number than I had expected, but as a group they were of a very high grade. Even the stories we passed on were markedly better than what's usually in the "no" folder for M-Brane. I can honestly say that were no really bad submissions, no totally unsuitable ones, just ones that weren't as strong for various reasons as the ones that did make the final cut. The writers who answered this call for submissions really worked on these stories. They really got into it, and that was maybe the most gratifying thing so far, the fact that a lot of people believed this was a good idea. 

I'll stop now. Just realized I am going on as if it's all done and I am just kicking back, reflecting on it. In fact, there is a whole bunch of work to do yet, but we're getting closer.
I will almost certainly attempt, as a near-future project for M-Brane, the publication of a book designed in the style of one of the old Ace Doubles, a book with a couple of short novels or novellas printed back-to-back in the same volume, each with their own cover art. The image below is an example of one (if you could flip it over, you'd see the cover of the other story with which it was bound). I think I will attempt to replicate that old sf paperback look as well, and get some really cool cover art for it. If it works out once, then I may try to make it a regular series (in fact, I think may have the content in hand for the first such book already). Writers sometimes tell me that they can't find markets for their mid-length stuff, those stories that aren't full-length novels but are still way above most zines' word count limits. The novella was once considered to be an ideal form for science fiction, and it seems a shame that so few editors are interested in them. The Ace Doubles were entirely made up of short novels and novellas. Indeed, long sf novels were not as commonplace in the 1960s and what ones there were often got their first printing as magazine serials. I don't really want to lock into serials for the regular run of M-Brane but the Doubles concept could be a good way to get some cool longer stories out there.

Another old largely vanished kind of novel for which I have some nostalgia is the trashy pulp gay porn novel. While it's true that there is still plenty of such fiction being written, there remains something pretty cool about old books like the one pictured here, relics of an age before the widespread availability of sexually explicit films and magazines with pictures. 

It occurred to me that if the Doubles plan takes off, I could maybe do a volume someday combining the concepts: a double composed of two short novels that are science fiction AND gay porn. Most of those sex books like the one above were pretty trashy from a writing standpoint, but what if I could get hold of some finely written trash? Some science fiction which is beautifully and literarily written but also chockfull of explicit sex. It would rule, that's what.
Now that I've made it into mid-February, it seems like a good time and review where I'm at in relation to some goals and predictions that I laid out for myself in this post back in September. At the time, I was feeling physically ill and I was feeling some depression creeping back in, aided by the crappy weather. Yeah, it's really sucked lately with all the snow and ice that we've had here, but we got cheated out of a large portion of our summer/fall season here, too, so I was already sliding into winter malaise even then. 

I resolved to fight against it by setting myself a long and involved list of interesting projects. I decided to ride out the dark season simply by being too busy to think about it a lot. So how did I do? Well, I claimed that I would occupy myself with the following things between 9/22/09 and 1/1/10:

M-Brane SF: publication of issues #9-#12
Things We Are Not: Promotion and sales of it, due out 10/15
Other M-Brane Activities: continue planning for the Aether Age
Other M-Brane Activities: Two or three "secret projects" to be announced later
Personal writing: Finish first full draft of Shame (October)
Personal writing: Revise three or four short stories that have been needing it
Personal writing: NaNoWriMo all November
Blogging: Maintain my own sites as well as my participation with GreenPunk and Outer Alliance

The first three items can be checked off as DONE. I did indeed publish those four issues of M-Brane and Things We Are Not, and Aether Age ramped up in a pretty serious way with my co-editor Brandon Bell recruiting some other creators to help make it a real multi-media extravaganza. We're about to select stories for it and make it real.

The fourth item happened also. The "secret projects" were the trade paperback version of M-Brane #12 and the books The 12 Burning Wheels (Cesar Torres, due 2/22) and Machina (Derek J. Goodman, due 4/1). More such projects are coming. I can think of three probable ones right now. But they're secret.

Now for some Fail. I did not finish the fifth item. I did do some more work on Shame, but did not really "finish" the draft and am still not quite there. Actually, I'll give myself an "incomplete" rather than an "F" on this one.

I didn't really do the next item (revise short stories) at all. I think I opened the files a couple times but that was about it. Indeed, as I sit here writing this entry, I am supposed to be finishing my attempt at an Aether Age story.

But some more success: I did indeed do NaNoWriMo in November and got my little winner's badge (still proudly displayed on the M-Brane SF blog). This was really good for me. It was a real confidence builder. It was a little bit rough getting moving on it during the first couple days, but once I got started, I really enjoyed it. Best yet, I dig my story. It's not terrible at all. If it were ever to be a "real" novel or if I ever wanted to publish it, then it would need a great deal of revision and some expansion as well (it needs to be closer to 75K words, I think, than 50K) but what came out of November is actually some of my best work ever, rough as it may be.

For the last item, blogging, I'll give myself a grade of "C-." I used this LJ as I needed to (it's here as an emotional safety valve), but I neglected the M-Brane SF blog a bit. I kept it updated on zine-related news, but I was hoping to have more articles of general SF interest on it. I still need to work on getting more and better content there. I've been even more neglectful of the Outer Alliance lately, and have done nothing about GreenPunk in ages (note to self: find out if GreenPunk still exists; if not, resuscitate it). But my lack of attention to the blogs is due largely to being quite busy with the other stuff (not to mention my ridiculous day job and sleeping). I am just one person after all. 
While I generally like technological innovations and the nice things they do for me, I have almost never been part of the first wave of people getting in on anything new. When I was a kid, I was behind everyone else on having things like a VCR or one of those portable cassette players that were all the rage before CDs took over. I was not an early adopter of CDs either. I was very late to the game on computers, too.

I am old enough to be in a generation of people for whom it seemed to be an actual decision whether or not to "get into computers." Sounds ridiculous now. When I was about 12, I had one of those cheap Radio Shack computers that so many kids got that year. It was basically a big calculator/typewriter-like contraption that was hooked up to a TV. It had almost no internal memory at all, and relied heavily upon cartridges that fit into a slot on the side of the thing (the programs actually resided on the cartridge--they did not load into the computer's memory; imagine nowadays if you wanted to use, say, Microsoft Word, you needed a physical disc spinning in an external drive the entire time). To save one's work, one would use a tape drive--literally a tape cassette recorder that plugged into it. To load your saved work back onto the computer, one would play the tape and it would squeal and whine for a while and eventually you'd have something to look at. The truth is, the Radio Shack computer was not easy to use, didn't really do much that was very interesting, and wasn't any fun. It was really much less interesting than an Atari videogame system. Somebody gave me a book of programs for it. I was expected to sit for hours at a time typing code into the damned thing, in hopes that it would cause some sort of primitive graphic event to manifest itself on the black and white TV screen. So I associated computers with programming them, and I didn't want to do that. It seemed boring and time consuming and I couldn't see what it could possibly have to do with my life. I don't think most other people were very interested in computer programming either. That's why we all have PCs and Macs now, and 99 percent of us know jack about how they work. And we're fine with that.

In general, my late-adopter mode has served me fairly well. By the time I realized that I needed to be a regular computer user (and not a typewriter or word processor user), they had evolved into a fairly modern and easy-to-use form. By the time I got online for the first time, the web already existed. It was not anywhere near as dynamic and rich as it is now. But it existed, and the internet was no longer just a mess of weird bulletin boards and mailing lists. I won't even be getting a Blu-ray player because I can see that convergence will soon make all discs obsolete. When I got my first cell phone, the devices and the networks for them were reasonably like they are now. Same with the social media stuff, which I have come to only recently. The verdict was pretty much in on what things like Twitter and Facebook and LiveJournal are for and how they work by the time I came to them. Easy. 

So being late to the party has the upside of being able to miss out on a lot of the early growing pains of new things. On the other hand, I am more and more into finding new things that will improve how I work and live. A couple of things that I actually was an early adopter were in that category: I started doing online bill-pay over a decade ago and only now are most other people I know coming around on that; I joined Netflix as soon as I heard of it (screw going to Blockbuster! I haven't seen the inside of a video store more than once or twice during this millennium). So I look for things that will improve efficiency and make more time for things that I want to spend time on. 

With that in mind, I am trying to figure out what Google Wave is about and assessing whether I will be an early adopter of it. It's in a preview phase right now, and one evidently needs to get invited to join it and test it. To listen to people talk on Twitter, pining for an invitation, in some cases almost begging someone to invite them into Google Wave, one would think it must be some sort of online El Dorado or Shangri-La. I have to admit that I was getting rather curious myself and started poking around for an invitation, and I eventually got one. I don't know what the etiquette is in this situation. I probably shouldn't say publicly who invited me. Maybe it's a secret. It is someone who occasionally reads this page, and so I will say "thank you" (you know who you are). 

So it is an online Shangri-La? I really couldn't tell you yet, because I really don't quite understand what all it does. It has a steeper learning curve than something like Twitter or Facebook. That much I can say for sure. So what is it even? It appears to be a communications interface that has the capability of merging things like instant messaging, document sharing/collaboration and even some email functionality (like sharing docs or links) into a "wave," which is basically a live document with all these functions and possibilities within it. I've only had one real interaction with another user so far. This afternoon, I chatted for a couple minutes with my friend, the writer Cesar Torres.  The window within which we chatted resembled more or less what you would expect from any instant messaging interface. But then it gets rather slick and fancy: communication is so instantaneous that you can see each other's messages as they are typed. Indeed, at one point Cesar was able to anticipate what I was probably going to say and he produced an answer before I was done saying it. This is very different than a normal IM operation or Twitter where you fully compose your message and then send it before anyone can see it. I'm not sure how much I dig this. I became very self-conscious of my sloppy typing when I realized that he was seeing my every keystroke as I made it. I suppose I can get used to it, but I am not a very good IM-er anyway, so I am not sure. 

But that's not even the coolest thing anyway. This "wave" within which Cesar and I were chatting could have been used for a lot more stuff. For example, I could have passed a document over to him. If we had wanted to collaborate on an edit of said document, we could have done that right there in our wave. If some other people that we know had appeared online, we could have invited them to join us live. And the wave, when "done" or not in use, remains in existence, like a document, unless you delete it, so you can keep going back to it to add to it or review it or change it.  But I still don't know what I think of all of this, despite how great it seems it could be. I need to learn a lot more about how to use it. For example, there exist a host of add-on apps that you can use to do things like send content from your wave to your blog or to Twitter, but I can't figure out how to activate any of them. Advice in the "help" directory seems kind of spotty. And I am generally fairly impatient and easily irritated when things don't do stuff for me the way I want them to. But I suspect that with a little more time, I will get the hang of it and discover some more uses for it.  I feel it in my blood that there is some way that this Wave thing will be of great use in building the M-Brane empire. But I have no idea how yet.  I'll report on this again some day.