Tag Archives: humor

Nebulons

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Part of the Traveller Role-Playing Game is dealing with alien races.  So, as a game master for the Traveller Adventures back in the 1980’s, I had the opportunity to create alien races of my own.  Truthfully, the alien Telleron race that I created for the novel Catch a Falling Star already existed in my cartoons and fiction stories before I began playing the role-playing game.  The Nebulon Race, however, was invented entirely for the game.  Only later did they become a part of my fiction.

Space Cowboys3  So, what are Nebulons?  Gyro Sinjarac on the left in the picture is an example from Aeroquest of a Nebulon.  They are aliens who are human in every respect except for their blue skin.  Interestingly they can even successfully interbreed with Earther humans.  This is apparently due to either the evolution of Nebulons from Earther explorers, or, more likely, the galaxy being seeded with Earth humans and Earther DNA by the mysterious alien race known only as “the Ancients”.  What is not debatable is that Nebulons have unique skin.  The blue skin with high levels of natural copper sulfate in it has evolved as a protection from interstellar nebula radiation.  No one who has learned their language and studied their culture has ever identified a planet of origin.  Instead, the Nebulons have been a space-born race since humans first encountered them, travelling in  their symbiotic space-whale space cruisers.  They are a mysterious deep-space race of alien beings who use organic symbiotes,  in other words, living creatures, as their pervasive technology.

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Junior Aero makes an excellent example to use to explain what Nebulons are.  You can see by this picture that not only does he possess the Nebulon blue skin, but also the bright yellow hair, the red heat-transfer cheek organs, and the small stature that makes them easily satirized as “Space Smurfs” in honor of Peyo’s beloved blue comic characters.

The Nebulons as a race are often cited as evidence of the evolutionary trend of intelligent races towards neoteny, the retention of childlike features into maturity and adulthood.  Even the oldest and the most physically fit of the adult Nebulon population resemble children and young teenagers rather than Arnold-Schwarzenegger-like humans.   But believing them to be soft and weak like children is a mistake that often yields tragedy for those who contend against them, especially in battle.  The Nebulons have often fought in space wars like the 5th Unification War, both for and against the human-led Imperium.

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But the Nebulons are not automatically at odds with humanoid races in any way.  They are generally happy in demeanor and temperament,  easily befriending other races, even the snake-eyed Galtorrian humans that tend to dominate the Imperium.  They seem to be particularly fond of Pan-Galactican Space Cowboys, having helped them during the border conflicts with the mysterious race known as the Faceless Horde.

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So, there is a glop of information about an alien race from my science-fiction comedy writing that you can sort out as you like, and can probably learn from as a science fiction writer yourself.  They are probably an excellent example of what not to do when creating a science-fiction-style alien race of your own.

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Nudist Notions

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This nudist camp is entirely fictional.  The actual camp in Clear Lake is a Methodist Youth Camp.

I have learned a lot more about nudists in the last few months than I probably ever wanted to know.  The book I wrote about a boy being invited to go camping with the family of a girl he liked, and then finding out it was a nudist camp, was written as rough draft back in the late 1980’s about life experiences I had in the early ’80’s.  Some things I learned back then have proven to still be true.  Some things have changed.  The things that have changed, are mostly about me.

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Nudist families in touch with nature are beautiful in ways I can’t explain.  It’s not the clothes the wear.

Naturists are happier than normal people.  They shed a lot of their hang ups and worries with their clothes.  Sunshine and cool breezes on bare skin have a healthy psychological effect.  I know this from having experimented myself.  Socially nudists are able to comfortably “live in their skin”.  Their confidence in self translates into sensible nude social behavior.  It is not about sex.  Sex is private behavior to a nudist, not public.  When nudists interact, the conversations occur eye to eye, not eye to somewhere else.  And the acceptance of how others look when naked is a critical factor in nude social interaction being beneficial.  Most nudists are not beautiful or ugly.  They are a spectrum of everything in between.  And they don’t talk about body parts or make comparisons.  Nudist men talk about sports teams and vehicle repair and politics the same way the guys in overalls at the Nutrena Feed and Farm Store.  Nudist women talk about… well, the stuff women talk about in the secret language of women that guys like me don’t understand.

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Sherry Cobble at the Sunshine Club

So those things about the nudist community have not changed over time.  True in the 1960’s is true today.  The thing most of you don’t realize is that there are lot more nudists in the world than you are reasonably ready to admit.  And the nudist community has a lot more old naturists than you probably thought possible.  Naked wrinkles and beer bellies are a thing.

What I have learned about myself by joining the nudist community (though only once at only one of the several nudist camps available in sunny Texas) is that the nakedness and thoughts about nakedness in my novels is there for a reason, and it will not go away.  I am trying to be a Young Adult novelist, which means my novels are basically aimed at a junior high and high school audience.  I have to dance a carefully straight line between the need to be honest with naked reality and Amazon’s prohibition of adult content in YA novels.  Sherry Cobble luring young boys into going camping naked with her family is on that borderline.  It is not sexual content.  But it is naked content and the barriers have been physically set aside.  The humor caused by sexual tension can’t cross the line into bawdy or lewd or pornographic.  Nor would I want it to.

But people who write fiction do it not because it’s fun.  It is necessary.  We have lived lives that leave us damaged in ways that can only be fixed through fiction.  The world has to be reshaped in words by people who can’t live with the world the way it was.  The truth is, I was sexually assaulted when I was a child, one traumatic event that clouded and warped my self-confidence, my sex life, and my self-concept.  Healing has been a life-long process.  In fiction, it means characters having to deal with the naked truth and make peace with it.  This I believe I have done in so many different ways as a teacher, a husband, a father, and a story-teller, that it simply has to be shared.  I will publish Superchicken on Amazon soon, and hopefully Edward-Andrew’s nudist adventure will pass the Amazon test.  I have some nutty nudist notions in my nerdy old noodle, but in a novel, they can all be made new.

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A Girl Called Dilsey

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Mary Murphy, mother of Dilsey and Little Sean… among others.

If you have never written multiple novels about the same set of characters, you will not have inside knowledge of the process I am going to talk about in this goofy blog post.  Because you don’t fully understand what I am talking about, you are welcome to call me an obsessive-compulsive fool.  I am definitely a fool, but I prefer to believe the obsessive-compulsive part is off base.

I fell in love with Dilsey Murphy.

“You’re kidding!” you say with a disbelieving smile.  “You fell in love with a fictional character from one of your stupid hometown fantasies?  Nonsense!  Not only is she not real, she’s just a supporting character.”

I think that might be the one thing I love most about Dilsey.  She’s never the one demanding to be on center stage.  She’s a shy, sweet-natured girl from a big family who does the best she can to avoid being the ant under her brothers’ magnifying glass.  And yet, when she is called upon for empathy, or a little bit of sister wisdom, she mines the gold from King Solomon’s mine.

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A new picture of Dilsey Murphy wearing her father’s old Carl Eller T-shirt.

You may not know this if you are not a writer of fiction, but a lot of the character-building process consists of compiling the character’s personal facts, personal history, and back story, developing an in-depth storehouse of details that may, in fact, never get used in any book, short story, or other writing.  In order to create a character that feels real to the reader, an author must know the character far more intimately than the reader will ever be made privy to.

Dilsey is a member of the Murphy family who live in Norwall, Iowa.  Her parents are Warren Murphy and Mary Murphy.  Her father was a member of the infamous Murphy Boys, all of them brothers, that played brutal linebacker defense for the Belle City Broncos high school football team in the 1960’s.  Mary Murphy is famous for being a small woman with a very large personality.  The family is Catholic and of Irish heritage, determined to avoid church and yet hoping to get into heaven.  They ar e also devout Minnesota Vikings football fans.

Dilsey’s older brother is Danny Murphy, a skinny, goofy kid that grows up into a reliable problem solver and mature young man.  Danny eventually falls in love with Carla Bates, the sister of Blueberry Bates, Mike Murphy’s girlfriend.  Danny and Carla marry in 1992.

Dilsey is the second oldest, born in 1977, so she is a young teen in most of the stories she appears in.

Mike Murphy is her younger brother, a member of the Norwall Pirates, a kids’ gang and 4-H softball team.  Mike is a year younger than Dilsey. His girlfriend, Blueberry Bates, has a terrible secret, one that makes Mary Murphy turn resolutely against her even though she previously loved her.  Mike and Dilsey refuse to abandon Blueberry even when Mike is forbidden to see her any longer.

Tim Kellogg is Mike’s best friend.  Dilsey believes him to be a jerk and a hopeless goon. And yet, even though Dilsey hates him and is a year older than Tim, he is the only boy she dreams about naked.  They eventually go on dates in high school and it is rumored that they will be married in 2000, though my hometown stories never progress beyond the 20th Century.

Dilsey is based on my unmarried sister and my daughter, though she really isn’t very much like either one in the long run.

Okay, so I know I haven’t sufficiently explained why I am so much in love with Dilsey Murphy.  I, of course, take that as a challenge.  I will write more stories.  You will fall in love with her too.

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Novel Nudists

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I have known nudists for a long time, since the 1980’s in fact.  I have recently dabbled my toes in the cold waters of being a nudist myself.  I did work on pool cracks this past summer while naked.  I made one visit to a nudist park and actually got naked in front of strangers who were also naked.  It is a certain kind of crazy connection to nature, my self, and the bare selves of others to be a nudist, even if it is for only a few hours.  I used to think nudists were crazy people.  But I have begun to understand in ways that are hard to understand.  And being a novelist, that was bound to creep into the piles of supposedly wise understanding that goes into the creation of novels.  I say “supposedly wise” because wisdom is simply the lipstick on the pig of ridiculous human experiences.

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The Cobble family appeared first in my novel, Superchicken.  It is a semi-autobiographical novel that uses some of my real life experiences and the real life experiences of boys I either grew up with or taught, mixed in with bizarre fantasy adventures that came from my perceptions of life as an adult.  So the Cobble family really represent my encounters with nudism and the semi-sane people known as nudists.  Particularly important to the story are the Cobble Sisters, twins Sherry and Shelly, who fully embrace the idea of being nudists and try to get other characters to not only approve of the behavior, but share in it.  Sherry is the more forward of the two, more willing to be seen naked by the boys in her school and in her little Iowa farm town.  Shelly is the quieter of the two, a bit more shy and a lot more focused on the love of one particular boy.

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In fact, the Cobble Sisters are based on real life twin blond girls from my recollections of the past.  The Cobble farm is out along the Iowa River and just north of Highway Three in Iowa.  It is a real place where real twin girls lived when I was a boy.  They were blond and pretty and outgoing.  But they were not actually nudists.  There was another pair of twin blond girls from my first two years of teaching who actually provided the somewhat aggressively sensual personalities of the Cobble Sisters.  The real nudists I knew were mostly in Texas.

The sisters appear in more than one of the novels I have written or am in the process of writing.  They appear for the second time in the novel Recipes for Gingerbread Children which I finished writing in 2016.  They are also a part of the novel I am working on now, The Baby Werewolf.   That last is probably the main reason they are on my mind this morning.  Writing a humorous horror story about werewolves, nudists, pornographers, and real wolves is a lot more complex and difficult than it sounds.  But it is hopefully doable.  And my nudist characters are all basically representative of the idea that all honest and straight-forward people are metaphorically naked all the time.  That’s the thing about those nudist twins.  They don’t hide anything.  Not their most private bits, and certainly not what they are thinking at any given time.

So as I continue to struggle with revealing myself as a writer… and possibly as a nudist as well, I will count on the Cobble Sisters to make certain important points about life and love and laughter… and how you can have all three while walking around naked.

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David Mitchell is Genius!

Yes, David Mitchell is a very smart man… a very smart English man.  (That isn’t to say that his genius is any less genius than an American Genius.  Just that he is a genius who also happens to be English)

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And I, of course, don’t mean this David Mitchell either, though this David Mitchell is also a genius and also from England.  I have to tell you, though I have always loved British humor, this particular tongue of silver fascinates me enough to make me binge on hoards of old episodes of “Would I Lie to You?” from the BBC on YouTube.  He’s a quick-wit, Brit-wit, smooth-talking  bit-wit who can make you laugh even when he’s playing a thick-wit… which he is certainly not.

Anyway, that is the wrong English genius David Mitchell.

I mean the other English genius David Mitchell.  The one who wrote Cloud Atlas.  Also the one who wrote The Bone Clocks.  And, of course, the one whose book Black Swan Green which I just finished reading early this morning.

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Yes, I mean this David Mitchell.  The absolute genius writer who creates exactly the kind of books that I long to read.

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Now, this post should probably be more of a traditional book report than it is.  This book I just read is swimmingly, swannishly excellent in a David-Mitchell-is-GENIUS! sort of way.  It is about an English boy from Malvern, England undergoing the trials and tribulations of his thirteenth year of life.  The boy is a stutterer and secretly a poet.  The girl he pines for is the girlfriend of his greatest enemy, the boy who relentlessly bullies and taunts him.  One even suspects that this portrait of a Margaret Thatcher-era boyhood written in exquisitely horrible detail might be based on the author’s own boyhood somehow, so vivid is its detailing.

But this is already too cacked-up to be a proper book report just because of the two David-Mitchell-English-genius thing.  If you really want that sort of book review, read it elsewhere, or read the danged book yourself.  This report is more of a vow of fealty.  I must now turn my hoarding disorder sufferer’s exacting zeal on the matter of reading everything this living author writes.  I did the same thing to both Michael Crichton and Terry Pratchett because they are geniuses too.  But they are both now no longer living and writing new books, at least, not unless there is new meaning to the term ghost writing that I don’t know anything about.  So now it is David Mitchell’s turn to be the object of my intense fan-boy love of good writing.

Here are some David Mitchell books that I now must stalk and make my own;

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And hopefully, there are many more yet to come.

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Stardusters… Canto 64

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Canto Sixty-Four – The Ruins of Tanith and Davalon’s Nesting Quarters

Farbick led his small band of rebels into the gaping hole the forward stabilizer arm of the Bonehead had cut into the side of the bio dome.  The wreckage inside the building was pretty extensive.

“You really think we can stop the Senator?” Stabharh asked Farbick from directly behind the Telleron leader of the rebels.

“We can if we can convince more of his crew to join us in resisting his mad planetary death wish.”

“That’s going to be pretty hard.  Senator Tedhkruhz is extremely evil and his men are mostly very weak minded.”  Slahshrack was a real ray of sunshine in the gloom of the situation.

“We have to try,” said Starbright, “otherwise your species and your planet will be extinct.”

“Wait a minute, what’s this?” Farbick said, hearing a moan in a rubble pile and noticing a slight movement amidst the shattered concrete shards.

With Stabharh’s help he and Starbright began un-piling the stones, and soon two small Telleron bodies were revealed.

“Davalon!  And is that Tanith with you?”

Davalon was holding Tanith tightly in his arms.  The tadpoles were both bruised and bloodied, but technically still breathing.

“Can either of you still talk?” Starbright asked.

“A… a little…”  Davalon was obviously wearied by the effort.

“What are you doing here?” Farbick asked. “You tadpoles should all be safe on board the mother ship.  Why would Xiar send you here?”

“He… ah, didn’t.  We took a wing without permission and came to help this world survive.”

“We… ah, didn’t know we were doing that last part when we… ak, set off on the adventure,” Tanith said with a painful wince.

“You both have extensive injuries.  We have to get you both to someplace safe where you can hibernate and recuperate,” Starbright said.

“Do you know what this place is?” Farbick asked, since the tadpoles had apparently been in the place for a while.

“Yes… ouch… it’s a science facility where they are trying to restore the atmosphere of the planet and create new viable… ahg!…food sources.”  Davalon was in quite a lot of pain.

“So scientists survived?” asked Stabharh, quite surprised.

“One,” answered Tanith.  “A little Galtorrian girl named Sizzahl.  But she’s… oof!… a very intelligent little girl.”

“She’ll be the reason Tedhkruhz came here,” said Stabharh.  “He means to slay anyone and everyone who might be smart enough to bring this planet back to life.”

“We have to stop him,” Farbick said.  “Where do you suppose he is now?”

“I don’t know,” said Stabharh, “and I have no idea how to find him.”

“When I was a little lizard,” said Slahshrack, “I would turn to the last chapter of the book and read ahead to find the answer.”

“We can’t do that here, stupid,” said Stabharh.  “This is real life, not some idiot fiction book!”

“Yeah, too bad about that, huh.”

*****

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The Man in the Mirror

Every now and again we have to stop what we are doing for a moment and examine ourselves.  If we are writers, we tend to do it every fifteen minutes or so.  You have to expose the soul to the light of day for a moment and take a look with eyes wide open, prepared to see the worst… but also open to seeing beauty where you may not have seen it before.

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So what do I see when I look in the mirror?  More darkening age spots, more patches of psoriasis with increasingly red and irritated potential infections.  Drooping eyes that have lost their sparkle and now darken with blue melancholy.  I see a man falling down.  Falling slowly, but falling never-the-less.  It happens to everybody with age.  I can no longer do the job I loved for 31 years.  I am no longer the goofy Reluctant Rabbit with the big pencil in the front of the classroom, telling stories and making learning happen.

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Once I was a big deal to little people.  Once I created magical experiences involving books and great authors, poems and great poets… and I taught little people how to write and master big words.  I mattered like a big frog in a small pond, able to make the biggest splash in that particular pond.  I was the froggiest.  But I haven’t drawn myself as a frog yet.

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Of course, I was never as big as that other Michael.  He made a really big splash in a really big pond.  He was a really big frog.

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He and I have a lot in common.  Not far off in age.  We got married about the same time.  Both had three kids, two boys and a girl.  Both were associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses at one point.  Both of us never really grew up.  He had Peter Pan Syndrome, and I stayed in school my whole working life.

And everybody has a dark side, in counterpoint to their better angels.  I’m not entirely sure what my dark side entails.  Being a grouch?  A diabetic?  A closet nudist?  But I have one.  I trot it out to make fun of it constantly.

But as I was feeling sorry for myself, being forced by the city to remove the pool, becoming a bankrupt poor guy thanks to Bank of America, and generally in such ill health that I feel like I am wearing a lead suit all the time, I stumbled across one of those life-affirming moments.  A former student asked me on Facebook to post a picture of myself so he could see how I was doing.  I posted this picture.

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Yep, the man in the mirror is definitely me.  I got loads of complements and howdys from former students, former colleagues, a former grade school classmate, and my Aunt Wilma.  I heard from people I care about and they reaffirmed that they still care about me, even though some of them I haven’t seen in more years than I am willing to admit.  Sometimes you have to look in the mirror to see what needs to be changed.  Sometimes you just need to see the precious few things that were always good and haven’t changed.  It is a process worth the effort.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, grumpiness, humor, insight, inspiration, Paffooney, rabbit people, strange and wonderful ideas about life