KLR003: Don’t Be That Species

Posted in Kingfisher Lab Report with tags , on 27 December 2018 by Josh Fisher

Hey all you creeps and cretins, this is the Kingfisher Lab Report #3. I’m sleep-deprived, highly caffeinated, and writing this on a keyboard that is only 90% functional. The engines are being held together with duct tape and spit and we are racing toward the next year at near-fatal speeds (yes, this lab has engines). If we go any faster we’ll raise the global temperature another 0.3 degrees C and we’re all close enough to cooking as it is. But how has your month been?

New Job November
As astute readers of the Lab Report will know (let’s be honest, you’re all my friends so I may have just told you in person), I started a new job last month after being out of school and unemployed since May. And it is…friends, it’s really great, and I’m not sure how to handle this. My experience with jobs in the past has always been ultimately negative. Best case, you work with cool people, but you’re still being told where to go and what to do and when to do it and its mostly bullshit stuff you have no interest in, but we can’t all be professional video game players or musicians so most of us just toil along in the trenches and try to eke out whatever small measure of joy we can find in this broken world. And, y’know, that’s kind of okay because our chances of getting eaten by a bear or shitting ourselves to death is pretty low, so hopefully that’s an indication of a general upward trend in civilization, but there’s still plenty of places where shitting yourself while a bear eats you alive is still a very real concern, so I don’t know what that sums out to. Can you imagine how many humans died by shitting themselves to death? The number is probably embarassingly high. When we meet aliens, and Earth gets inducted into the Supra-Galactic Psychic Trans-Federation, let’s all agree to not tell any of the other Beings about how many of our ancestors shat themselves to death. We don’t want to be known as That Species.

Oh man that went weird, quick.

Finite Lives in an Infinite Universe
Of course, part of getting adjusted to the new normal is figuring out new routines, and trying to find time to continue with my writing, which has proved challenging. The best time I have for writing is during my long commute, which works okay for rough drafts but is not a great set-up for editing and re-writing. You may remember my plan to put out four flash fiction pieces for November, and then publishing one to the blog and going radio silent. Well, I did write two more stories, both of which blew past the 1500-2000 word limit I was aiming for, and both of which I wanted to do some light editing to before publishing. But the editing time is difficult. I’m going to be taking some time off with the family for the holidays, and I hope to get those stories up before 2019.

We Are All Time-Travelers
I’ve been thinking about what to do with Kingfisher Labs in 2019. The last six or so weeks have given me a better idea of how much writing I might be able to get done in a week or a month, given my other obligations. I had wanted to try for a new short story every month, which I think is achievable but difficult. I don’t want to scale back to something too easy, but I’m concerned that if I’m just churning out rough drafts I won’t have time to do second drafts. And I think there’s a lot for me to learn in that second draft. So I’m going to split the difference. Six new short stories, and six rewrites for old short stories.

I’m also going to be migrating the Kingfisher Lab Report to email and launch it as a newsletter some time in January, so keep your eyes open for that. I’d like to put it out on a biweekly schedule, but monthly might end up being more realistic. We’ll see how things go. I’m still not sure about the format, so if any of you have preferences between the more personal/creative updates and the research-based ones, let me know.

Brainfeed
Fiction
“Farewell Concert at the End of the World” – Pseudopod #620
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse – Take one part noir, two parts Navajo mythology, a heaping cup of post-apocalypse, shake well, garnish with ghouls and romance. Fun, quick read, and looks to be the start of a series set in this world.

Music
Bought to Rot by Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers – especially the track “Born In Black”
Low and Station to Station by David Bowie – the soundtrack for writing this edition

Podcasts
Revolutionary Left Radio – my new favorite source for radical left politics. Great source for anyone wanting to know more about leftist political theory, philosophy, and history.

Racing Toward The Future At Breakneck Speeds
It was a hell of a year, 218. I know a lot of you had a much more difficult time than me, and my heart goes out to you. The only way we make it through this shit is by doing it together, with love and kindness and empathy and understanding. None of us can change the world alone, and if the load you’re carrying feels too heavy sometimes, go ahead and put it down for a little bit. You deserve a break. We’ll still be here when you’re ready.

Stay safe friends. I love you.

See you in the future.

–Josh

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Monday Music: “Apocalypse Now (& Later) by Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers

Posted in Monday Music with tags , , , on 19 November 2018 by Josh Fisher

Get ready for LJG to show up in multiple posts this week…

KLR #002: Manifestos

Posted in Kingfisher Lab Report with tags , , on 10 November 2018 by Josh Fisher

Hey all you creeps and cretins. This is the Kingfisher Lab Report #002, broadcast to a worldwide computer network from America’s Second City on the Third Coast.

The Moon Is Dead, Long Live The Moon

According to some ancient myths, a monster devours the full moon as it wanes. Upon its complete consumption, it is reborn, in an endless cycle of death and regeneration. New moons are a time for beginnings.

I’m going to be starting a new job soon, one that I’ve been working toward for the last five years when I decided to go back to school. It struck me the other day that this is the first job I’m actually looking forward to. (We can start the clock on how fast that new job smell wears off.) Every job is subject to the uncomfortable and inconvenient and outright shitty realities of life. People you don’t like, or who don’t like you, tasks that suck but have to be done, the eventual monotony when the day-to-day becomes rote. I’ve already been running into the realities of working within a massive bureaucratic system, as my start date has been repeatedly pushed back due to the glacial slowness of the HR department. Every human I’ve dealt with has been perfectly lovely, but we humans tend to design large, clunky, impersonal systems that grind us beneath their wheels without even noticing. But, like I said, I’m looking forward to it.

In Which I Give A Rambling, Vague Leftist Manifesto

And that’s a new thing for me. I think most jobs are shit. Do you like your job? I’m betting most of you would answer no, and if you did answer yes, ask yourself if you really enjoy what you do or if you just like the people you work with and realize that there are more disagreeable ways you could be making ends meet? That’s been my experience, at least. The best jobs I’ve had ultimately came down to liking my fellow workers and not hating the work too much. Those of us who have truly found something they enjoy to do, a calling or a passion that also pays the bills, are the lucky few.

So you have to ask, is it necessary to have so many people working at jobs they hate? The lack of access to life’s basic needs drives a lot of that. You need to work to eat, have a roof over your head, get access to medical care. Society as a whole needs people to work for things to function. Someone has to flip the burgers and clean the carpets and shoot the raccoons in your attic, right? Maybe. I’ve always been drawn to leftist political ideologies — socialism, communism, anarchism. You get told a lot when you’re a kid (or when you’re in your twenties or thirties or whenever) that when you grow up and/or “start living in the real world” you’ll become more conservative. Because the Left is seen as idealistic, but what’s wrong with that? Why is idealism something that should be abandoned just because you get a job and start paying bills?

Conservative ideology is, at best, interested in maintaining the status quo. I think most conservatives want that because they fear their lot in life could become worse. And that is absolutely a fear that the ruling classes use to generate support. But anyone’s life can nosedive into the gutter at any time for any number of reasons. Using that as an excuse to not try to do something to help others is simply cowardly.

There is a value in idealism, in trying to figure out a better way that society can function and working toward that end. Our reach should exceed our grasp, it’s the only way we improve as individuals and as communities. Maybe we don’t achieve our wildest dreams, but we will often find ourselves somewhere that is better than when we started. People tend to keep a very limited historical perspective in their minds. This can make the current system of global capitalism seem like the only way to do things. But its primacy does not grant it status as the best economic model. Humans have organized society in a myriad of different ways, and to think that right now we’ve got the best one is ludicrous.

We should absolutely be analyzing how capitalism fails us as individuals, as communities, as a species, and how we might be able to organize society to better serve the needs of us all. Because if you think there’s no value in idealism, then you’re saying that Jeff Bezos deserves to have $156 billion dollars and 3.1 million children deserve to die of hunger every year so that you can get a 24-pack of tube socks for $5 dollar with same-day delivery.

Total global wealth is estimated at $280 trillion. That’s about $36,000 per person for all 7.6 billion of us. Now, I know that’s a gross oversimplification of things, but if you look at that, and the fact that 1% of the population holds half of the total wealth, you’ve got to at least agree that we could be doing better. Let’s start there, and work together to build a better future for us all.

P.S. That better future doesn’t involve anyone in fucking cages.

Brainfeed

All right, it was far too easy to rattle off all of that, so I’ll keep the rest of this short.

Did anyone catch that super racist Republican promo last weekend? They’re not using a dogwhistle as much a blowhorn these days. Sure, it’s been pulled off the air, but it still got prime time play during Sunday Night Football and was shown on most of the major TV networks, so they all got to have their fake liberal outrage cake and eat their advertising dollars, too. I’m encouraged by the increased voter turnout for the mid-terms this year (seriously, I’ve never seen so much enthusiasm for a mid-term election!), but the right is obviously still getting their old, racist, white base out in solid numbers, and they’ve got more practice at it. So take some time off, but get back in the fight soon, cause this shit isn’t going to be beaten at the ballot box alone.

What shit, you ask? Why, America’s frightening slide into becoming a corporate fascist state, that’s what shit! Just take a look…

Okay, okay, I said I’d keep it short, I’ll save that for later.

 

Fiction

I’ve been reading Autonomous by Annalee Newitz. There was a lot of buzz around this when it came out earlier this year, and for good reason. It’s a solid hard SF adventure story set about 100 years in the future. It’s biopunk in the way that early William Gibson was cyberpunk. Newitz’s future is full of unleashed biotech — think body mods, ubiquitous socially acceptable drug use (especially if they’re productivity drugs), disposable biodegradable tech that melts back into the environment after use. There’s also robots and AI, too. Speaking of imagining alternate social systems, Newitz envisions a global society that has grown out of our present capitalist nation-state paradigm into something new which relies on debt slavery (indentured servitude is how they refer to it in the novel) to form the base labor for the economy. There’s a lot of ideas here, maybe too many for any of them to get as much depth as I’d like, but I’m only halfway done with it, so we’ll see how well it sticks the landing. Definitely worth a read.

 

Music

http://loveandpainmusic.bandcamp.com/track/we-ride – I can’t find much about this band, but this EP they released this year is moody and dreamlike and I love it.

 

  —Podcast

Desert Oracle Radio – Weird, haunting dispatches from the deserts of the American Southwest.

All The Leaves Dropped At The First Sign Of Frost

While everyone else is doing NaNoWriMo this month, I’m going in the opposite direction. I’m doing a flash fiction project for November: four flash pieces released on Fridays. The first one went up yesterday, and you can read it here. The second one is already on course to be well above flash fiction length, as I am a wordy bastard, but it remains to be seen if I’ll have time to edit it down to size. I’m going to publish what I’ve got each Friday, complete or not, warts and all. Think of it as a stress test. And it’ll also keep me writing during the first weeks of my new job so I can establish a writing routine around going back to full-time work.

Wish me luck, weirdos.

November Flash Fiction: “Wolfskin”

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , on 9 November 2018 by Josh Fisher

Some of my fellow writers out there are busy plugging away at NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month, if you’re not familiar, an annual project where masochistic writers endeavor to write a whole novel (or at least 50,000 words of one) in 30 days. It’s a daunting task, and my hat is off to anyone taking that on this year. I, however, am dedicating this November to flash fiction.

My November project is to write one piece of flash fiction each week. Each Friday in November (except last Friday, cause I needed a couple days off after October), I’ll be posting a short story under 1,500 words. Or maybe it’ll be longer than 1,500 words because I didn’t have time to cut it down. Why are you complaining, anyway, it’s free fiction!

Without further ado, I present my first story, “Wolfskin”. Continue reading

A Month of Halloween Microfiction Collected

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , on 2 November 2018 by Josh Fisher

For the month of October I did a microfiction project, writing one piece of horror-themed microfiction and posting it to Twitter each day. It was a fun endeavor and made me stretch my creative muscles to come up with a new idea every day, let alone one that I could fit into the 240 character limit. Continue reading

Posted in Pictures on 28 October 2018 by Josh Fisher

Kingfisher Lab Report 001

Posted in Kingfisher Lab Report with tags , , , on 24 October 2018 by Josh Fisher

Hey all you creeps and cretins. Welcome to the very first Kingfisher Lab Report, a grab-bag round-up of whatever’s churning around in the neuro-linked brain jars we keep in the store room, pumped with a direct feed straight from the heart of the internet.

This Newsletter Is Lunar-Powered

Tonight is the full moon, the Hunter’s Moon. The harvest is over; winter is near. You can feel it in the crisp autumn air and the chill of the nights. Time to prepare for the lean months ahead. Clean your altar and prepare your offerings. Ask for clarity and guidance. Pray for cloudless skies. Be safe in your travels by the light of the full moon. And whatever your game of choice, good hunting.

Department of Apocalypse Burnout

I got smacked in the face with full-on apocalypse burnout on Wednesday and had to step back from the social media for a bit. It’s easy to feel like the whole world is on fire these days. We’ve got a President here in the States that is, at best, a fascist Nazi sympathizer and all around despicable human being, and at worst…well, just take out “sympathizer”. He’s been playing things right out of the classic fascist handbook. His lukewarm response to the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is just the latest instance of a concerted effort to disable the effectiveness of the free press and the public’s trust in the news. When everything is fake news, you can just pick whatever truth helps you sleep at night, right? Now he’s walking back the gains made in recognizing the rights of transgender and gender queer persons, a clear attack on one of society’s most vulnerable and least powerful groups. He’s coming for them now, how long until it’s your turn? I’m a cisgender white male, but I follow a lot of radical politics online and I’m unapologetically anti-Trump, so I might be on that list too, albeit further down than a lot of people that I love.

Add to all that the impending climate apocalypse, and it’s been tough to keep my mind on the present. We’ve got big changes coming over the rest of the century, and there are some real tough times ahead the likes of which no one alive has seen. With the amount of chaos and instability that will come from a dramatically changing climate, we can expect massive social upheaval and possibly even collapse. I say possibly, but I think it might be more realistic that widespread collapse of the current social structure is inevitable. We humans tend to have a very short-term view of things, which makes things like countries and political systems seem like huge, unchanging monoliths that can do nothing but withstand the test of time. But anyone who’s studied history should be able to tell you that the opposite is more often true. And the trend so far is for the rise and fall of empires to speed up. So do I think that the planet will be “inhospitable” to human life? No, but my money is on the world of the 22nd century looking dramatically different than what we see today.

Big fat bummer, huh? Yeah, that’s why I had to step back for a few days. Social media is intentionally designed to funnel us into echo chambers of our own making, surrounding ourselves with people and brands and ads that reinforce our worldview. This contributes to a lot of the complacency that prevents our democracy from functioning as it should (of, by, and for the people, what a wonderful idea) and it makes it that much harder to mobilize people into the kinds of mass action that can affect real and lasting change. After all, if everyone thinks like me, then these problems should just iron themselves out, right? Of course, when a host of big time capital “B” Bad News starts churning in the news cycle, that echo chamber starts beating down on your optimism and resolve, and…well, we all should take a break sometimes.

Brainfeed

Here’s a quick sampling of some of the things we’ve been piping into the brain jars this week:

   –Fiction

I recently finished A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. That and his other novella in the same universe, The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, are the freshest takes on fantasy I’ve read in a long time. Wilson has some other short stories and novellas floating around on the web, including an excellently produced audio version of his short “The Lamentation of Their Women” and a number of stories available free on Tor.com. He’s an author you should be watching, and I can’t wait for the next thing he puts out.

I’ve been diving into a lot of short stories lately, particularly because that’s the format I’m doing most of my work in at the moment. I’m trying to approach things with a more analytical eye, to figure out the nuts and bolts of the thing (and I might be sharing some of my analyses with you all in the upcoming months…stay tuned). A couple of recent standouts:

“Godfall” by Sandra M. Odell on Podcastle – A quick, pulp-infused story set in a world where the old gods literally started falling dead from the heavens one day. And what would any good capitalist society do? That’s right, chop ’em up for spare parts. A fun, fast-paced action story with a great high concept.

A Siren’s Cry is a Song of Sorrow by Stina Leicht in Apex Magazine #112 – On the completely opposite end of the spectrum is this gut-wrenching story of a pair of sisters desperately grasping at any shred of hope that they will be able to escape their abusive home life. There’s magic, but not really, but maybe really? But maybe that’s just me, the reader, hoping that Jill and Alex will get some tiny bit of good out of their tragedy. The story also gives a glimpse into one girl’s experience living in a world that is constantly bombarding her with demoralizing, degrading, and contradictory messages about her place in society as a woman. For any of the men reading this, please read this story and try to put yourself in the narrator’s shoes, just for the half hour or so you spend with the story, and imagine it feels for that to be your lived experience.

 

–Music

Kim Boekbinder is a musician and filmmaker who makes beautiful dark synth-pop sounds and mesmerizing videos that are hypnotic and provocative. The video for “Fractal” is her latest release. This song is one of my favorites from last year’s Noisewitch. The whole album is excellent, and perfect listening for this most occulty of seasons.

Titus Andronicus is a band carrying the torch of raucous guitar-based rock and roll. Patrick Stickles, vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist, writes catchy, lyrically dense songs packed with more allusions than an English major’s undergraduate thesis. I found this band years ago when Stickles was on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, and I couldn’t decide whether he was a genius or some pompous, over-educated windbag. I’m still undecided on that point, but I fell in love with their music (unsurprising since I am also a pompous, over-educated windbag). They are also a fantastic live band. I saw them for the second time earlier this month at the Bottom Lounge, and they never disappoint.

The Protomen are an ’80’s infused rock band known for their two concept albums based on the Mega Man video games. Now, you might think that means they’re just another novelty band, but let me tell you, they deliver energetic, electrifying rock and roll that’s way better than you’d expect. I think their success lies in the undeniable talent of the musicians and their unironic, straight-faced approach to the source material. It’ll have you pumped up and ready to fight evil overlords everywhere. Credit to my best friend and brother Tony for finally getting me to go see them live, where they won me over from the very first power chords.

 –Podcasts

Adventures in New America is a new podcast from the Night Vale Presents network of podcasts. It is “the first sci-fi, political satire, Afrofuturistic buddy comedy, serialized for New Americans in a new and desperate time”. Seriously, this is some of the funniest, sharpest satire being made right now, and done as a full-cast audio drama. Sound effects and everything! There’s only two episodes so far, so you can get in on the ground floor.

Optimized for Existential Dread

That’s all for this report. I want to keep these around 1,000 words or less so that you can get in and get out with minimal friction this ultra-fast postmodern future world. Something you liked, something you didn’t, something you’d like to see? Let me know in the comments or at kingfisherlabs@gmail.com

Until next time, weirdos.

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