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Spacey Stories

Buster 3

I am usually considered a Sci-fi and Fantasy author when anybody tries to categorize me.  I learned to write during the 70’s when Tolkien and Michael Moorcock and Frank Herbert were growing bigger, and Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov were gods.  Of course, I also have the YA-thing hanging around my neck like a bell.  I learned to tell stories being a dungeon master for middle-school and high-school boys back in the eighties.  And because it was Texas with a deeply-held and violently-enforced religious fear of anything with demons in it, I was forced to change my role-playing games from sword and sorcery to science-fiction.  I played endless Saturday-afternoon Traveller (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveller_%28role-playing_game%29) games that could span parsecs and light-years in a single afternoon.  And I was one of those game-masters who used humor to build a campaign and keep the players engaged and interested.  We had epic space battles and conquered large swaths of the Orion Spur of the Milky Way Galaxy.  When I began turning my Traveller games into fiction, I used the personalities of the boys who played the game with me for characters in the stories.  I often used the same plots (applying considerable polish to portions of plot where… well, you know… teenage boys, not remarkably G-rated.)  I created things that made me and some of the players laugh, and even feel sad… with deep, cathartic effects, as if we had experienced those things in real life.  (The deaths of favorite characters and tragic failures of galaxy-saving plans come quickly to mind.)

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I enjoy practically everything Sci-Fi, from Flash Gordon, to Buck Rodgers,  to Star Trek and Star Wars…  I loved Mechwarrior books and comic-book Sci-Fi like Adam Strange, Hawkworld, and Guardians of the Galaxy (the old ones that came before Groot and Rocket Raccoon).  I let it warp and weave my imagination and the imaginary worlds that blossomed from it.
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nd the ideas continued to morph and change and become stories that I really had to tell.

Phoenix1My first published novel, Aeroquest is a compilation of old Traveller adventures.  I published it well before it was ready for market and used a cheap-o publisher that wasn’t worth the free price-tag,  They gave me no editorial help and apparently didn’t even read the novel.  I will not defame them by name here, but if they sound to you like Publish America… well, there might be a reason.

I love stories about time travel and sci-fi gadgets…  trans-mats and starships and meson cannons and sentient plants… oh, my!

And now that I have revealed that I have such a massive nerd-head that I really ought to own Comicon by now, I hope you will not suddenly turn me off and read my blog no more.  I can’t help it.  I was born that way… and any child doomed to be born in the 50’s and a child in the space-race 60’s was bound to have George-Lucas levels of Sci-Fi nerdism.

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Picture Tricks

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I have discovered things about being an artist by blogging.  I have discovered things by learning from other artists.  I have also discovered things by trial and error.  I have also discovered things by random acts of God.  So let me share some of the ill-gotten picture secrets that I have added to my vast bag of useless incunabula-juice squeezed out with my arcane-secret juicer and internet blogger good luck.

#1.  Save everything arty… as you see above, I have three different pictures of my Catch a Falling Star character Dorin Dobbs, all made from the same pen and ink line drawing.  All the color is digital paint from my computer’s own paint program.  Simple and cheap to do.  Save functions multiply the pretty.

#2.  Splice stuff together and make new stuff…  I have the cheapest possible photo-shop program, but using its entire $7 value every time I paste with it, I am able to create new art out of old.

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New art out of old;

Val at the barn Val B2 tree time banner

#3.  Weave things together to create unity…  My art is not for its own sake.  I am not Picasso or Van Gogh.  My art is very much tied to the stories I tell as a writer of Young Adult novels.  (Snow Babies is awaiting its turn with the editors of PDMI LLC Publishers.)

#4.  Promote the art and writing of others…  I have spent a ridiculous amount of internet time stalking artists like Loish and sharing their work on my blog.  Writers too.  I do my little book reports in order to connect the reading and the literary influences I have completed (or stolen from) and show where much of my own style and je nais se quois comes from.  If the artist or writer is still living and notices what I have done, they will often return the favor (hopefully, if they don’t find my work to be an offense against the gods of art).  If they can’t return the favor (because they are quite dead or thoroughly disgusted by me), I have at least associated my work with theirs in the minds of my readers,

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#5.  It’s all about digital photography…  In order to share my colored-pencil menagerie of live Paffoonies on the internet, I have to get better at photography.  I have taken far more photos of drawings in the last two years than I have drawn drawings.  That has not been a life-long way of things.  I love color, and poor photography skills turn out various shades of gray.  Sunlight?  Incandescent?  Fluorescent?   I haven’t discovered that secret yet, but it will never be uncovered if I don;t keep trying.

#5. Find connections that help pull your work together in one big, messy bundle…  Facebook, WordPress, and Deviant-Art are all better forums if you can connect them.  I did this by labeling everything Mickey with a meaningless made-up word that no one else in their right mind would use.   The word is Paffooney.

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A picture search on Google using the words “Beyer Paffooney” gives you an almost complete gallery of my artwork and nonsense.  Googling the word itself yields a link to a plethora of my old blogs.  Do you not know what plethora means?  Try it and you will learn that very good word.

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François

Francois spotlight  What I am endlessly burbling about today in purple paisley prose is a raw novel idea.  I have not started to cook it, bake it, or even burn it at all yet.  It is not ready for the writing oven.  It is still that mass of daydreams, nonsense, and foofy-foofram that we former English teachers like to call Pre-Writing.  (Note the capitol letters… teachers make this goop high on the writing-process, lies-the-teacher-has-to-tell list, because, otherwise students will glop out some words on paper and call it a final draft without even re-reading or thinking about the dang thing.)  (Note too the use of the parenthetic expression that breaks up and uglifies the paragraph and identifies this writing as less-than-serious purple paisley prose.)  This goofy post is obviously, then, not only about Pre-Writing, that’s exactly what it is… gloppy, sloppy word mash that I hope to one day boil into something stunningly beautiful.

So here’s what I actually have.  I have a character.  His name is François Martin (not pronounced the Iowegian way, Frank-oyce Mahr-tinn, but the French way, Fran-swah Mahr-tah… because the character is actually from France… duh!) (I will have to post an explanation of Iowegian and the foreign language the people of Iowa actually speak another day.)  François is a recently orphaned young boy whose father, Rejean, was a masterful and loving parent who made the mistake of relying on relatives to take care of his children in the case of something bad happening to him and his wife.  Car accidents are bad and tend to happen too fast to correct this sort of mistake.  François Is sent to live with the family of his father’s American half-brothers and half-sister in Norwall, Iowa.  Here’s where the trouble starts.  Victor Martin, the eldest brother, is the only one of the three who even has a job.  He owns and operates a seedy Midwestern bar in the middle of the tiny town and is universally disliked and berated by local church ladies (the heart and soul of any Midwestern town in the 1980’s.  The other uncle and the aunt are even worse.  They are lazy, detestable, foul-mouthed… and those are their good points.  The other uncle, Richard, has a son named Billy dropped off one day by the hated ex-wife and made to live in the basement of the old house they bought when Ona White’s relatives actually decided to sell her house after her untimely death by werewolf.  Okay, you see by now that this is a tragic story full of emotional heart-ache and pain… and bursting with humorous potential.

This nebulous family drama idea has a name.  Originally I called it Little Boy Crooner because François can paint his face with sad-clown paint and sing karaoke like an angel… an angel who can potentially save his horrible half-uncle’s business and horrible-er family.  I have re-titled it Sing Sad Songs… with Clowns because I added to this novel-notion the idea that François also loses himself in dreams and finds his way to H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands via the magic ways of the three clowns from the Dreamlands, Mr. Disney, Mr. Dickens, and Mr. Shakespeare.   What a mess of an idea!  but I am betting that if I live long enough to get to it, it will be among the best things I have ever written.

Francois

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Naked and Nude

Be warned… this is one of those art things that people use to post naughty pictures on the internet.  Some of my conservative Christian friends will tell you that the local art museum is one of the most atrocious sources of pornography and images of naked people you can find.  It is a terrible thing.  People being exposed to what people look like if they take their clothes off!  How could I do such a dastardly thing as to draw people… naked?

Beauty and Beast

It is difficult to rationalize my terrible crimes.  I mean, the “Beauty and the Beast” picture is clearly the depiction of mental depravity and sex addiction from the mind of a fiend.  There could be no other explanation of it, right?  I mean, Beauty’s stark nakedness can’t possibly represent fearless innocence in the face of ugliness… or a compounding of meanings that have to do with the notion that true beauty exists also under the outward ugliness of the Beast.    After all, I am a cartoonist.  How dare I think that I have the same right to draw naked people as some great painter or long-dead artist?

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It doesn’t count for anything that I had art training in college and sat through at least two courses in anatomy drawing where I not only drew skeletons and body parts and clothed people, but also sat down in front of live nude models (mostly fellow art students, but all were paid for modeling… I think I posted elsewhere about what happened when it was my turn to model… but I also think you have to search my posts yourself if you want to know more about that embarrassing episode).

I must also confess that I have had some experiences with naturists.  Here we are talking about those crazy hippie-inspired folks who go camping in the wilderness with their kids, take off all their clothes, and go hiking and biking and playing volleyball in front of real bears.  It was there that the artist in me first noticed there was a difference in anatomy, shape, color, and form between bare kids and bare adults.  There are distinct differences between my pictures of Eve and Artemis here, based solely on the fact that one is an adult and the other a child.

Artemis

I am not trying to depict something evil and horrible that will strike you in the eyes and corrupt your very soul.  I am not a pornographer or a pervert when I create these drawings and share them with you.  They really represent only about one per cent of all the drawings in my portfolio.  They represent mainly my need to get the form and lighting right on the most fundamental level.  They are an attempt to share something about what is like to be human.  Being naked is a part of the life of everyone except the most monumental of prudes who don’t ever get naked and probably wear long underwear in the bathtub even in the summer.  Let me end with the first paragraph of Kenneth Clark’s 1956 book, The Nude; a study in ideal form.  

“The English language, with it’s elaborate generosity, distinguishes between the naked and the nude.  To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition.  The word “nude” on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone.  The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body: the body re-formed.  In fact, the word was forced into our vocabulary by critics of the eighteenth century to persuade the artless islanders that, in countries where painting and sculpture were practiced and valued as they should be, the naked human body was the central object of art.”

So, you see?  I am not merely making excuses for posting naughty pictures on my blog.  At least, not unless all artists are making the same excuses and there is a vast world-wide conspiracy to put pornography in every art museum…  Conspiracy?  Wait a minute… let me think about that some more.

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Rabbit People

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On days when I am still recovering from life-altering blows, I often try to find new realms, alternate realities to live in.  (Retreating into a fantasy world is one of the reasons she gave for leaving.)  And since, as a youth in Iowa, I raised rabbits for a 4-H project, I know rabbits better than I do human people.  Rabbits are people too.  So, I have been walking among the rabbit people.  Seriously, bunnies are better people than most human people.  They are not trying to profit off you.  They are not trying to get everything they can off you.  They are merely there to wiggle their whiskers, sniff for food, poop, gnaw on stuff, and make more bunnies.

Mr. R Rabbit

I often see myself as a rabbit person.  In cartoon form, I am the bunny-man teacher known to the Animal Town School System as Mr. Reluctant Rabbit.

As a teacher, I am always pulling out carrots of irony and gnawing on the ends of them in front of students.  If they complain that eating food in class is supposed to be against the rules, I ask them, “Do you want a carrot of irony?”

“Oh, no, thank you sir.”

“They are good for your eyesight as well as your insight.  You really ought to chew on healthier things like that.”

“Oh, no sir,” they say.  “We prefer Hot Cheetos.”

And so, I taught on like that… like a rabbit, fast and frumious (a Jabberwocky sort of word), and never really bit anybody.  Teaching is like that.  You offer the good healthy stuff to nourish their little animal minds, and they always choose the junk food instead.

Millis

And so life goes on like that.  Looking to rabbit people to ease my pain and need for good, wholesome carrots of irony.

I have started on the final edit of my novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.  One of the main characters in the book is Tommy Bircher’s pet rabbit Millis.   During the course of the story about invading aliens, Secret Agent Robots from the CIA, and making friends when you need friends, Millis is turned into a rabbit-man by a lab accident.  He teaches Tommy that you don’t have to be human to be a good, caring, self-sacrificing person.  He also teaches him to eat his carrots and greens like a good boy should.

So, I will spend more time with the rabbit people and heal a little bit.  That is what you do with the tragedy that life brings you.  You spin it into whole cloth, making humor and poetry out of everything bad that happens… wrapping yourself up in a comforting blanket of lies (you can also call those fiction stories), and eating a little chicken soup on a cold day to heal your soul.  (Oh, I forget, rabbits often gag on chicken soup.  Let’s make that bean soup with carrot chunks.)

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Wisdom from the Outsider

There is so much left to be said before my time runs out.  Wisdom, whether hard won or acquired entirely through wit, bears a certain responsibility in the possession of it.  We are duty-bound as wizards, the masters of wisdom, to pass it on.mrFuture

Now, you certainly have every right to protest that I am not wise and I have no wisdom.  You are certainly right to point out that I am a doddering old fool that sits around the house all day in the midst of his poor-health-enforced retirement doing little beyond writing silly stories and drawing pictures of mostly naked cartoon girls.  I get that.  But the beginning of wisdom is the realization of how big everything is and how little I really know about anything.

Take for instance the question of where we came from and what our purpose is?  (And the question of why I put a question mark on that when it really wasn’t a question.)

I originally believed in the God of the Christians and in the promises of Jesus… everlasting life and an eternity of sitting on a cloud with a harp and…  Okay, it didn’t take me long to see the logical holes in that line of reasoning.  So much of that is fear of death and the need to believe that I am the center of all things, the most important person in existence.  The truth is I am only a tiny part of a nearly-infinitely-large universe.  And the universe is conscious… self aware.  How do I know this?  Because I am conscious and self-aware.  I am an infinitely tiny piece of the whole… but there are untold trillions of others just like me.   Mai LingAnd when I die… when this body ceases to function, as it already has a great deal of trouble doing, the parts that make up the individual creature and thought patterns I identify as me will be scattered to the far corners of everywhere to be gathered up once again and be something new.  All of mankind passes away.  Human beings and the planet Earth will one day be no more.  But that is not what matters.  There is so much more beyond the boundaries of what my limited eyesight can behold, and what my limited mind can comprehend.   I am made of star-stuff (just ask Neal DeGrasse Tyson or Carl Sagan), and I am a part of the universe as a whole.  I am in no hurry to die.  Life is worth fighting through the pain for… but I do not fear death.  Like birth, it is only a stop along the way in a journey that, as far as I can tell, never ends.

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Stupid People

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It is generally considered an insult to call someone “stupid”.

Okay, I get that.  I am not without feelings on the subject.   Stupid people have feelings just like I do.  But if I have to live with “nerd”, “geekazoid”, “brainiac”, and “four-eyes”, I am thinking they don’t have to be more sensitive than I am.

Truthfully, life as a mentally gifted person of no color is a bit of trial even if people don’t generally understand that.    I have an I.Q. in the range of 155, (calculated from my ACT and SAT scores using standard statistical analysis, give or take 5% for margin of error due to the nature of the calculation… am I scaring you yet?)  I had trouble fitting in with my peers as a child.  I related better to older people rather than my appropriate age group, and until my best friend, a preacher’s kid, moved to town when I was nine, I really had no friends and was routinely picked on and preyed upon by other kids.  It was so bad that I was making C’s and D’s in school primarily because I didn’t want to be identified as smart.  Once the eye doctor hung black horn-rimmed glasses on my face, my fate as a socially doomed uber-nerd was sealed.  And my friend Mark, who would grow up to become an actuary with mathematical gifts, moved away when I was a freshman in high school.  I had to help stupid people with homework and class work… I was required to endure threats, bribes, and tearful pleas to help athletes cheat on tests.  Bullies made me tie their shoes and endure endless jokes about the size of my private parts.  Life was terrible until I decided to go out for high school football.  I was small and thin and probably doomed as I made the team, but I had a secret weapon.  I understood almost instinctually that angles, trajectories, and leverage can make the difference over sheer muscle power.  During one football drill where we had to pick up and carry our partner for five yards, I was matched with the big offensive tight end, George Merlock, who outweighed me by almost a hundred pounds and was literally Incredible Hulk-like in football pads.  I simply used my shoulder on the proper spot under his armpit and lifted with my legs.  I picked him up and carried him for twenty yards when some of the other players who were bigger and stronger than me couldn’t even lift him.  After that moment, I was never bullied again.  For one thing, I impressed George so much that he would’ve killed them for even looking at me cross-eyed.  Life got better.  A cheerleader asked me out on a date (though I said no because I thought they were still making fun of me… which I later learned I was mistaken about and I had accidentally hurt her feelings).

So what does that whole long-winded whiffle-story of my misspent youth have to do with stupid people?  Well, I am one.  (Doesn’t the cheerleader thing prove that?)  Smart people can be stupid more often than your average ordinary Joe.   A character like Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory is funny because his intelligence and his social abilities are so wildly mismatched that he often makes totally stupid geekazoid mistakes.

Harker

But there are also stupid people who are actually not smart.  Writing humor has taught me to draw upon the experiences of people I have known who were less than knowledgeable.  People with lower than normal I.Q.’s.  Life has taught me to value and even love people like that.  In my novel Snow Babies, at least one of the clown characters is a stupid person.   Harker Dawes is an inept businessman in the process of destroying a successful business that he bought from one of the town’s most beloved and respected elders.  He immobilizes himself with super glue.   He gets nailed to a poster board with a nail gun.  Accidents and near-fatal pratfalls are his trademark.  And yet, he is a sympathetic and loveable character.  He is generous to a fault.  He has a simple, good heart.  Practically everything he does is a mistake, and yet, people grow fond of him and help him out because they appreciate his innate goodness and value as a person.

So, I really think calling someone stupid can be a sort of compliment.  Forrest Gump calls himself stupid, but that character from Winston Groom’s novels and the award-winning movie of the same name is really a very wise and lovely man, though he is not smart.  I have to say that I really no longer resent being called stupid, because no matter how smart I actually am, stupid is sort of a compliment.  (But how about climate-change deniers, Texas politicians, and anybody who believes what they say on Fox News, you say?  They are not stupid.  That is willful ignorance.  It may take a whole other post to make that difference clear.)

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