Posts Tagged ‘novels’

The Truth in Consequences

April 4th, 2007 3 comments

(I apologize for posting this late. I literally forgot Gerard sent it to me because he posted it in the body of an e-mail, and when I got to looking and didn’t see an attached file, I … well, anyway…here it is…sorry it’s late – DNW)

by Gerard Houarner

In an effort to be at say something at least occasionally useful to new writers who may be lurking on this board, I’ve been wanting to babble a bit about plotting.

Some writers spend an enormous amount of time worrying about plot. I know I have. Folks here have talked about their plotting/story generating techniques, and I’ve eagerly lapped up the information and perspective. Every little bit helps.

The one tried and true method that’s worked for me, mainly because it’s one of those things around which I can consistently wrap my feeble little brain, is to approach a plot as a set of consequences.

Shit happens. All the time.

You think you put a cup on the table but you missed and the cup fell and shattered against the tile and broke into a million pieces.

What are the consequences?

Are there kids or animals in the house? Is someone about to get cut? Did the cup have an emotional meaning for someone? Did the noise trigger an unexpected reaction in you – sadness, joy, rage? Is there someone else in the place, and how do they react to the accident?

You might try the left-brain thought balloon exercise and free associate from that central action and see what jumps out.

The point of the exercise is, I believe, that it forces, or perhaps tricks, a writer to think of the details of a story without actually thinking: I’m going to write a story now, and then freezing up in front of a blank page or screen. It’s a way to structure the imagination. It’s the old “what if?” of science fiction. But instead of a premise based on scientific principles and a writer’s development of a chain of consequences based on that principle that leads to an unexpected set of circumstances and conflicts for character, the story starts with an action – something, anything happens. What’s the reaction? And once you shoot off a reaction – a barefoot little boy comes running into the kitchen to investigate the sound, eager to catch mommy breaking something for a change, and cuts his toe – what happens next?

And why?

If that doesn’t grab you, maybe a mother or father yelling from the next room, treating the adult who just accidentally broke the cup like a child, will spark something. Off we go on another series of free-association idea balloons.

I like the idea of free-associating because it allows whatever’s bubbling inside to rise to the surface in the writer, become part of the story, without the need to become overly intellectual about the process. This helps get the creative juices flowing, the writer excited and engaged with the story.

However you do it, starting off with an action and exploring the consequencest just seems to me a natural story and character generating method for a certain kind of writer. Pick up a newspaper, watch a travel show, and you can start your story off.

I suppose it’s a little Twilight Zoney – meteor crashes in a lake, so what are the consequences: takes the bridge out, forces bus passengers to hang out in a coffee shop. Out of those actions, a Martian and a Venusian make appearances. But out of an action, characters are created, and the writer is forced to explore them in order to continue the cascade of consequences. At some point, the writer “knows” the characters and the story “writes itself.”

In the old days, the “action” serving to inspire the writer might be the cover to the latest pulp magazine an editor just bought and now needs a story to go along with it. These days, it could be a “theme” anthology (shifting just a bit from an action to a situation or a setting as a method of setting off a chain of consequences) – pirates seem to be hot, as do sea stories. So the premise isn’t the action of a cup breaking, but a ship at sea – why is out there? Who’s the captain, and why is he, or she, out there? What’s the crew up to? Is there a storm? An attack? A questionable or interesting cargo? Someplace to go?

There I go again – looking for something to happen to set things off.

Of course, actions aren’t the only way to set off the big bang of consequences.

People are consequences waiting to happen. Because of this or that awful thing that happened in your past; because you were born with this or that kind of sweet or obnoxious personality; because you are having one or another kind of day, you are primed to react (or not react). What are the consequences?

Bad decisions have consequences. Characters making stupid decisions are a staple of story telling, but when those decisions aren’t examined in the story, aren’t supported by details and character development, they become just a cheap way to move the story forward. Bad decisions grounded in a character’s history or personality displayed in the conflict of a scene leading to that bad decision create consequences. Story. Aristotle says so, or something like it, in his Poetics (you know, I spent a semester with Greek tragedy thirty two years ago, and things get a little hazy after a while, especially after the prof was still arguing about the meaning of plot at the end of the term – no wonder he didn’t last as department Chair….).

There must be truth in those consequences of character action. They must come from some understandable, logical place, just like science fiction is based on a ground work of familiar scientific principles. So the work of a writer becomes drilling down into the details of why each reaction happened, so the next consequence follows in logical, and hopefully surprising, order.

Decisions judged to be “good” by society have consequences, too. Taking a risk for someone else, sacrificing oneself, protecting the weak, helping someone through a tough time.

I suppose this is a “genre” or even “pulpy” way of generating stories. No slippery stream of irony or narcissistic metafiction here. Some might call it the “what happens next” school of writing, what happens being whatever pops into a writer’s head at the moment, without grounding in character or setting or previous actions (actually, that might be metafiction). But my point here is that thinking in terms of consequences forces a writer to look more closely at all the things that might come together to create a reaction, and presents a way to clarify and focus characters as they move forward and interact. Given x,y,z, a character is going to act this way, but because of an action, another character, a particular setting, something else happens.

You can start with a precipitating event that catches your attention – murder, vanishing, noises in the night, meteor crash, a falling cup. Or you can kick off with a “character” (including the possibility of an individual or conglomeration of people you’ve met) you feel strongly about, doing something that sets off a reaction around him or her. However you choose to start, looking at the series of consequences generated from an action or the way a character behaves is a way to create a story.

If your brain happens to work that way….

–Gerard Houarner

Cliche Guilt – What If I just Like To Read This Stuff?

March 4th, 2007 7 comments

Gerard Houarner

Early in February, a thread on the Shocklines board exploded for a few hours as the subject apparently touched a nerve among many readers: people were asked to list five storyline cliches that really irritated them. Our fellow unplugged storyteller Jim Moore started the thread in part as research for his own column February 12th on story telling cliches.

Now this is a fairly interesting topic for writers trying to stay on the edge of readers’ expectations and intent on building literary reputations, or at least breaking out of the pack of nameless hacks churning out indistinguishable product.

A few brave souls resisted – including our own Elizabeth Massie – who pointed out that some of the cliches listed were actually “favorites” of theirs, or that they didn’t care about the cliches as long as the writing was engaging. I detected a faint echo of something I heard Joe Lansdale say years ago – paraphrasing: that he enjoyed going along for the ride and surrendering to his sense of wonder in reading a story, which seemed to indicate that he didn’t necessarily engage his obviously keen critical faculties when reading for entertainment. Hopefully, I didn’t misunderstand him (or else I’m due for a serious ass-kicking), but basically I thought he was saying he just liked certain kinds of stories, and if they were well done he didn’t care if he’d heard the same type of story before.

There was even some conflict about identified cliches that others felt weren’t cliches. Jim’s column also inspired further discussion, which was great stuff.

And then John Rosenman followed up with a dead-on column on the joys and pitfalls of writing workshops, which touched on some of the same issues based on the needs and personalities of readers approaching stories we write. There was even a posting by my buddy Gary Frank on Shocklines with the subject, “What I wrote vs What they read,” which pretty much summarizes the stunned reaction I’m sure many of us have had to critical and reader feedback.

I am not, of course, forgetting Richard Steinberg’s valuable lesson on communication and clarity, from his January 22 posting. I’ll try, but I’m afraid my parenthetical nature will get the better of me.

The general topic of reaching, or turning off, readers is certainly not new to this blog or to the writing community – one might even say it is cliched. And yet obviously some of us are drawn to it, fascinated by the view another writer can bring to the pit of our demise and doom. It may be superficial to some, but to creative types bent on making money, the discussion has significant value.

Which brings me to my own interpretation of the problem of cliches and reader expectations. Basically, we’re a genre. In fact, everything is a genre – style, plot choices, characters fall together into a pattern readers identify and react to, hopefully in ways that ease the money from the wallets. (Yes, I know, horror is an emotion, not a genre, but for the sake of playing devil’s advocate I’m going with genre as defined by a recognizable pattern of techniques and creative choices that bring the reader to the emotional and/or intellectual state they’re paying good money to attain – fear, terror, horror, or at the very least, unease).

Mystery, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, westerns, urban. Or, if you like, stories about family, or coming of age, or young adults, or space. Folk, pulp, media tie-in, commercial, post-modern, slipstream, experimental, bizarro, literary.

All genres. (Well, maybe.)

Of course, you can then slice any book into a lot of different genres, as well you should.

My point is that it’s all cliche, to a significant degree. In mysteries and certain kinds of horror, the killer’s either going to be a man or a woman, as is the victim. You go to a ghost story for, well, a ghost. Same with vampires, werewolves, etc. If you want to approach plot and character from a point of view of irony, with emotional distance and intellectual curiosity, then I suppose you’ll want post-modern with its own unique way of doing and saying things. But like New Wave, splatterpunk, experimental fiction in general, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. There’s an expectation of predictability in the fiction readers seek out. We want gore. Or atmosphere. Or footnotes.

There are only certain things you can do once you’ve chosen a situation, mood, character you want to write about. You can only mix and match so many genres before losing audience share – a slipstream vampire slice of life? Fascinating, but damn you’ve got to be talented to make that work, and then you risk pissing off slipstream readers with the vampire cliche, and vampire readers with the “no story” slice of life cliche (I don’t know if anybody can be upset by yet another slipstream “twist”….).

And, even worse (and how’s this for a cliche) – everything’s already been written.

But that’s okay.

Because I think most readers, from the media fans to college professors making a living interpreting and teaching classic literary fiction, are all looking for comfort food that will satisfy their reading soul, or stomach, or mind.

Many readers (I won’t say all, or most, even if those iconoclastic types who insist they only want to be surprised get pissed off when they’re not surprised in the way they’re looking for – they’re not getting the genre or mix of genres they want) want the cliches they like. They don’t call those things they like cliches. They call it the good stuff. It’s all that other stuff that’s cliched and hackneyed and stupid. Which may be perfectly true, in the sense of what I think we really want cliche to mean – lacking originality. But for many, vampires are cliched and there’s no room for originality and just bringing one up ends the reader/writer relationship on a sour note. Writers writing about writers is cliched. Small towns, young rebels, abusive fathers, victimized mothers, all cliches.

When I was an undergraduate, the English department had a “writers’ track” of literature courses they organized into genres like the Political or the Religious Novel (fortunately, Kafka fit into every genre and I made quite a literary term paper living interpreting him for my various professors). Now the fact that some works showed up in more than one course speaks to genre mixing and bending, which may point to the strategy for folks fighting for cliche liberation – certainly we have vampire detectives and romantic vampires and vampire-killer vampires, though I believe there’s an opening for a vampire clerk story in The New Yorker, but only if the piece is drained thoroughly of plot and infused with rich irony and topical references and commentary. Vampire cowboys, anyone? Well, I suppose now they’d have to be gay. I know a few years ago the horror field was nearly invaded by vampire roaches, but the project wandered into the Publishing Motel and never came out.

Except, of course, if you’re lucky enough to be branded sui generis, in which case booksellers don’t know where to put you, readers don’t know what you are, and so you’re screwed, anyway.
Yeah, the cliche thing can drive anyone pretty crazy.

I guess the struggle against the cliche leads to outbursts of things we feel is new, in terms of technique (splatter to post-modern), character (serial killer to children), setting (haunted to mythic, with an overpass of technology). But ultimately, the “new” quickly becomes “cliche” (visually, everything from Universal Dracula and Frankenstein to Alien) and we’re back to the norm of boredom.

Boredom for some. Satisfaction for others. The plots, the characters, the stories all lead to theh same menu of conclusions – life sucks, life is great, people suck, people are great, the universe is a mystery, the universe is defined by spiritual entities good and/or evil, etc.

So maybe we’re not talking about cliches at all, and maybe not even genre, but form. A structure, a story pattern. An archetype? The abusive father story, the tale of the killer, the vampire or ghost or mermaid story.

It sure seems like I’ve read a lot of mermaid stories. I’m not wild about them. But somebody is. And sometimes I even find them entertaining, not because mermaids scratch my itch, but the writer has done a fine job of defining character and conflict (thought for me there’s a depressing sameness to the these aspects of the story, too). So the writer for me has elevated the both of us out of the cliched aspects of the archetype if with nothing more than the rhythm and power of language. Other readers seek out these kinds of stories.

I like noir, though, and it’s hard to find a form more bound by limitations. And yet, I like the story pattern. The characters and message corroborate my world view. I find in noir a reasonable depiction of the true nature of things and people. It makes me feel better.

The blues is about as cliche a form as you can get – even stretching beyond the twelve bars, you’re still talking about a limited point of view – life sucks, and/or this is how I’m gonna deal with this here sucky life – and a limited set of progressions and rhythms. A number of horror writers have made the observation that the blues and horror are related, parallel expressions of the same aspects of humanity (like horror, the blues are an emotion). And yet, for all its predictability, the blues as a form sings eternal for a small but loyal following, and has spawned other genres/forms from r&b to rock and roll all the way to hip hop.

We need these forms. Not everybody needs all of them, but it’s evident by their survival that there are forms writers consider cliched which still speak to a great number of people willing to part with the beer money to pay for the book. They fulfill an expectation, a desire, a need. Even the space opera media tie-ins and the vampire stories. I’ve seen Ed Bryant bow his head and shake it from side to side in mourning for the commercial fate of writers (in the case I’m thinking about, William Browning Spencer) who try something new and put themselves on the bleeding edge of literary creation, beyond the reach of reader expectation. Messing with reader expectations for a writer making a living at the game seems dangerous – maybe some of the full time pros on the board could speak more to that aspect of writing, if they haven’t already….

But as for the cliches, even as some folks need them, others react harshly to their use (one shocklines poster even singled out monsters, which is pretty funny on a horror board). There’s a wide borderland between cliche and cutting edge where, judging from the board reactions, the babies can get tossed out with the diapers.

So my struggle now boils down to finding the cut off line for something a writer does with a much-used form even fans of that form consider cliched. (Another struggle might be to find the right form, or combination of forms/genres, to make a hit with editors and writers, but that, as they say, is not the subject of another essay but simply the nature of the beast.) Someone on one of the boards made the very cogent observation that, for horror, imitating the superficial components of a style or storyline, without getting to the root fear, defines cliche.

That observation helps me get a handle on the issue. Like the blues, or horror, it’s the emotion of the piece that helps it transcend its predictability, at least for devoted followers. I’m not quite sure how the observation would translate for other genres – in mystery, is it the bracing intellectual challenge of the crime’s solution or the reality of the emotional journey of the crime’s perpetrator and/or investigator that provides the spark (or illusion) of originality? For science fiction, is it the sense of wonder provoked by the vision of a future us, or the audacity of a premise rooted in the intersection of a character and a sliver of that vision? In “literary” fiction, is it the delicacy and precision of selecting and deploying details and language, even structure, that separates the forgettable from the memorable, or how deeply the ordinary, the “real,” can be plumbed?

False dichotomies, I know. Ultimately, I think it’s how the story makes the reader feel, or rather, how successfully the story makes the reader feel (what they want to feel) rather than think, that becomes the litmus test for the cliche. Even in the intellectually-oriented forms, I believe the reader comes to them not just to solve a problem or admire the construction of sentence or smirk at irony, but to feel “smart,” to connect with the part of themselves that happens to function at a higher level and experience a connection with someone who shares their world view, or the thrill of understanding a complex set of ideas, or catch a reflection of what they perceive to be the “real world.”

If a reader doesn’t have a need to experience the emotion implicit in the form, or can’t, then there’s no connection between creator and consumer and the work becomes irrelevant, cliched. Lame. Stupid.

Like watching hockey when you’re into football. Or any team other than the one you were raised to root for. Or a classical music fan confronted by rock and roll, or a goth at a couture show.

So I don’t know how important it is to worry about what readers may feel are cliches – at least part of the reaction may simply be that the work is reaching the wrong audience. Vampire novels are, for many in the horror field, tired and played out. But they’re still selling. To me that means for many readers, and for some writers, vampires are not only important but emotionally meaningful. Is that any more “wrong” than writing for critics, professors and a handful of literary journal readers? We write and read what we need to write and read, not necessarily what the masses or the elite judge is good for us.

As writers, it is perhaps more important to listen to the reaction of the hard core fans to the work (or the editorial gatekeepers to that audience), whether their zombie zombies or vampire slaves or into realistic characters/settings or the supernatural – if a consensus judgement of “cliched” is passed, then the writer needs to pay attention – the itch hasn’t been scratched. The emotion inherent in the form hasn’t been reached.

You haven’t reached the intended reader’s inner zombie, or vampire, or sensibility for language and structure.

At least, that’s what I’m thinking today – please, feel free to educate me. I’d really hate to wind up being cliched about all of this….

— Gerard Houarner

The Five Percent Solution

February 4th, 2007 10 comments

by Gerard Houarner

By a happy coincidence, this one follows up Elizabeth’s great essay from a few days ago, though takes a different track (which is scary, because you never really want to wander too far off a trail blazed by Ms Massie, but I’m brave, or perhaps a little too much like those unsung stars of COPS, with their inspirational bad choices…..).


I was reading Entertainment Weekly for January 15th (yes, I read EW, mostly because it’s the only nationally distributed periodical I know that treats horror, sf, fantasy in various media and cult art in general with a delicate balance of critical snark and geeky respect – it’s not WIRED, but it isn’t the Sunday Times Book Review, which doesn’t know it presents a viewpoint delicately balanced between critical snark and geeky respect on its own cult world that is as deeply rooted in a finely nourished and tuned cultural aesthetic as it is in very big money).


Breath. Taken.


Anyway, I was reading EW’s interview with Norman Mailer (his presence in EW perhaps taken as a sign by some of how far he’s fallen from the literary pantheon – you can hear Gore Vidal giggling), and he was asked about enjoying taking on the first-person voice of a “devil” in his latest novel, The Castle in the Forest. He answered first by saying you want to have fun with your narrator. Then he referred to Warren Beatty, who after his performance in Bugsy could have been worried his friends wouldn’t want to hang out with him anymore. The actor said something to the effect that you only need 5 percent of someone in yourself to perform the part. Norman Mailer then said that’s all you need in novel writing, and admitted to being 5 percent devil.


Now there’s a few things I found interesting in this point of view.


I personally think most of us, including Mr. Norman Mailer, have more than 5 percent devil inside us, but that’s just me talking.


If you do the math, that’s only about 20 sustainable characters inside you, including the ones you play in everyday life, unless you’re Max Bialystock (a bialy is a New York baked breakfast staple, with onions and sometimes other tidbits in the middle, originally, according to Wiki, bialystoker kuchen – oh, Mel) in which case you can sell limitless investment shares in a near infinite number of identities to unsuspecting little old lady readers.When I thought about this for a minute, I started reaching for the checkbook to sink a few bucks into old Max’s latest production.


How many characters are inside of us? For some folks, this is a pretty easy answer. They were raised right, vote red, or stay true to blue, believe in morality or ethics, hang on for dear life to what keeps the world simple and get pissed off at the use of the word “nuance,” never mind the phrase, “cognitive dissonance.” They are perfectly normal people who state firmly that they have one person inside them, maybe two if they’re Geminis, and I am frightened by them because they do not believe, or certainly don’t admit in conversations both casual and heated, that they may be capable of actions or even thoughts inconsistent with the identity they present to the world. They are who they were brought to be, who they think they are, and could never be anything other than the rational, faithful and balanced individuals they observe themselves to be in any and all situations.


Assorted riots, lynchings and cultural revolutions aside, I do believe there are a great many people who are solid, consistent, firm in their investment in and interactions with humanity. Rational and fair-minded. I just don’t think there are as many as stake a claim to this territory. Of course, I’m an urban guy, I read the newspaper, and I’m working at a state psychiatric facility after years in street clinics. I have a different perspective. Pressure tends to expose the inner landscape. Gut irrational reactions are easier to come by than facts or questions, however unpleasant either might be. Maybe I’m jaded.


But I believe there’s an unpleasant number of people who present an array of lies to the world, and to the themselves, about who and what they are. I include myself, though I struggle against the lies I tell myself, those pesky irrational impulses, the fear of questions I’d rather not answer. Really, I do. Trust me. I’m a writer.


Anyway, the folks who use normality as a shield against even the potential for irrational reactions and feelings frighten me far more than the sociopaths and psychopaths I have known who pretty much lay their cards out on the table, at least in the circumstances in which I’ve interacted with them. Because these nice Dr. Jekylls’ can turn and do turn on a dime, causing considerable damage at the drop of an exchange with a culture they know nothing about, or the sound of an alarm, or the unfolding of a natural or man-made catastrophe. And you don’t see them coming. They shake your hand, say hi, and the next thing you know they’re trying to deport you.


The revelation of character (good and bad) through crisis is one of those fundamental writing rules that works equally well as life advice – listen and watch during those first moments of meeting someone new, the opening of a relationship’s story, when the end may be implied; and listen and watch when the shit hits the fan.


Anyway, I’m saying all of this to say the writer in me feels more comfortable with the belief that we have tiny percentages of a vast array of characters at our disposal. Our central self-concept probably does revolve around a handful of daily roles we fulfill – parent, lover, friend, family member, geek, day-job worker bee and/or creator.


But there are daily life experiences ranging from childhood to about five minutes ago, from events that happened to us to things that occurred to people close to us, all the way to what we may feel when we read or see something on television, that plant the seeds of other selves in us.


Victims, abusers, raging killers, suicidal depressives are the types that come immediately to mind for the typical horror writer. We’re sensitive to any number of traumatizing and traumatized personalities. A long time ago, I read an article by Nina Kiriki Hoffman discussing the idea that horror is about pain, and in a recent Locus interview, Peter Straub talked about using pain and humiliation in his writing. Pain is certainly in horror’s roots.


But there are many paths through pain, and I think we come across them on our individual journeys – family, friends, associates, even strangers you stop and help. You hear about pain every day in the news. On the boards. Around the water cooler.


With a touch of empathy and imagination, encountering someone else’s pain can open the door to another character, somebody not at all like you, with nothing in common except that they experienced something traumatic. This is a point of vulnerability which opens up people to each other, because if it’s one thing we all share, it’s suffering.


But there are other common points. Rage works. Love. Those irrational impulses. The rational ones.


Whatever’s inside of us, each little five percent segment, especially the pieces we’re afraid to approach, is a resource for character development, and a window to other people which allows us access to a larger cast of characters. Bits and pieces of ourselves we may call desires and roles and fears and duty, the inner devil and the angel, whatever lie or hope we may hold up as a momentary mask, are all connections to types of people we might normally think we could never understand, never write about. I think it’s possible for us to identify on some level with just about anyone, if we have the stomach for it.


I suppose the process I’m trying to convey is something like what some actors do to prepare for a role – research the background of a character, the culture, study people and catalog physical and behavioral details, borrow from personal history and the lives of others, yes, but also reach for an emotional perspective in yourself, particularly the uncomfortable or scary ones, to reach the scary places in a character, perhaps even a hero; reach for the loving places to find the more tender parts of a villain.


I guess another way to say what I’m trying to say is that we’re all human, that the masks we wear – culture, religion, ethnicity, work – both shape and express what we are beneath the masks. We may not recognize ourselves in the masks of others, but somewhere in the funhouse mirror image of a man in a suit or a woman in a kimono, a kid in hip hop or goth uniform, is a piece of us. And the way to find it is in the basic human hungers, fears, lies, pain, joy, catastrophes and miracles we all contain.


I know what I’m saying goes against the tribal urge to separate, demonize, to engage in the us vs. them, red vs. blue, etc. Much of what I’m talking about rests on a foundation of empathy, which in many quarters is viewed as a weakness, even a betrayal of the tribe.


But as writers, working directly with the human condition like sculptors dipping hands in muddy clay, I think self-exploration and empathy is part of the job. Pretending to be someone else, doing something very different from our ordinary life, is probably one of the things that drew us to reading and writing in the first place.


We want to have fun with our narrators and characters. I’m saying as writers, we can create a richer, more diverse cast of characters by stretching beyond the limits of our casual daydreams and fantasies, reaching into more personal spaces. Everybody has limits, places you might try to reach and simply can’t. I personally can’t do child abuse. Don’t have the stomach for that. But I do try to go other places, in myself and others, to write about characters who may not necessarily be fun, or certainly don’t have anything to do with what I’ve experienced in my life. I do it to stretch, to play in someone else’s secret garden. I do it to tell a familiar story in a different way, to see the same stories we all tell through different eyes. I do it to try to reach new readers, to make a sale by being different, in a coherent and logical kind of way.


It’s a job to pay attention to those other selves inside us, face pain, weakness, the demonic, and find more than twenty 5 percent selves to use as emotional templates. Empathize with pain, the demonic, the normal beneath the odd costume. No matter how ugly, or scary, or different. Because we’re human, and those other selves are human, too. Even if they’re human in what we may call an “inhuman” or monstrous way, beyond the comfort zone of our expectations of others. Even if they don’t listen to the same music you grew up with, or use different spices in their food. To my mind, that stuff is also human. But call it inhuman if it makes you feel better.


Well, I’m afraid I’ve wandered away from the village of clear and concise advice once again. That is apparently my way, my secret and unpleasant self running rampant over the logical discourse of rational discussion and instructional presentation. Damn, I hate when I do that.


Just, you know, don’t take it personally. I wouldn’t want to be you when you’re angry…. –Gerard Houarner