From the OPI

Office of Perpetual Investigation
Popular Music Division

Memorandum: Purple Berries?

Here are the facts as we know them:

An unspecified number of people are leaving, because they are not needed. They are leaving by sea, on ships made of wood (very free, apparently). We don’t know how many ships, but at least two, as the plural is specified, we don‘t know the size of the ships or the crew, although both seem small, and we don’t know of a destination, although aimless roaming is strongly suggested.

We also know that at least one person has subsisted on purple berries for 6 or 7 weeks, or the better part of 2 months, and we know that a second person has requested some of the same berries, and that the request has been granted. Some questions immediately arise:

1. Where were the ships procured, and how? Were they bought, built, or stolen?
2. Where were the purple berried procured?
3. What kind of berries, purple or otherwise, were nutritious enough to sustain someone for that long, especially without “getting sick once?”
4. How were enough of them to eat for the better part of 2 months stored on what certainly appear to be small vessels?
5. How were they stored in such a way as to keep them from spoiling for such a long time?
6. What was everyone else eating, since it appears to be the first request for the berries to be shared since the departure of the ships?

Unless and until these mysteries are cleared up, I’m afraid there will be serious doubt as to the veracity of the account.

Document No. 1235a

Document No. 1235a
Classification: Top Secret
Subject: Report on Operation Nullification

Pursuant to the development of a viable instrument for travelling back through time and returning safely (Document no. 1234), and the subsequent approval of Operation Nullification (Document No. 1235), this report details the results of said operation.

The objective of Operation Nullification was to travel back to 1917 and assassinate Oberleutnant Heinrich Knebel, later known as Heinz Volker, the charismatic leader of the National People’s Party (Napi) beginning in 1934. Removal of this target was deemed to forestall the rise of the Napi Party, and thereby vitiate the events leading to World War II.

Result: Objective successfully completed.

The bloggings will continue until morale improves

Is it possible that blogging hurts your chances of getting published elsewhere?  That depends.

The ordinary opinion piece, like this one you’re reading now, can only help, always assuming you write well.  Even if you only have 30 followers, that’s 30 more than would ordinarily see your ideas expressed so fully otherwise, and potential publishers can get a very good overview of your writing skill with a click of a mouse.  Since opinion pieces tend to be transient, there’s little danger of “using up” good ideas, so you’re not competing with yourself.

For more imaginative writing, however, it’s a different story.  That’s because most publishers consider your work, whether it’s fiction or poetry, to have already been published if you’ve posted it on your blog, and almost none are open to work that’s already published elsewhere.  Most writers would like to be published by someone else, if only to validate their work.  Although it’s true that self-publication has lost some of its stigma these days, there still remains the issue of whether anyone else whose opinion you might value thinks your work is worthwhile.

So, if a blog is considered a publication by the majority of editors, who want only unpublished material, where does that leave the poet or short story writer? You could simply consider your blog just another publication to which you submit your work. That’s fine, but you know it will get accepted there, because the editor is…um…you. As a result, you will tend to send what you consider your best work elsewhere, either by design or unconsciously. Your blog becomes a repository for second-rate work, stuff you have low confidence in, or that has been rejected elsewhere. In the best case, it will have experimental material that you feel will have little chance of exposure elsewhere. In this blog, I often post pieces which blur the boundary between fiction and essay, or which I think are simply too short to be considered by magazines and journals, although I have to admit, that seems to be all I write in the way of fiction anyway. Still, I don’t feel I’m competing with myself.

For me, the problem is with poetry, which I post on my other blog, Exile’s Child.  Lately, I find myself neglecting Exile’s Child, because if I write a poem I think very highly of, I tend to send it off to a journal.  Rather than posting just leavings on the blog, I have to sit down and write specifically for it, which leaves me questioning the wisdom of not sending the result elsewhere, or, if I don’t think it’s good enough, of posting it on the blog.  I like to think I have enough sense not to post second-rate material, but we are all very good at self-deception when it’s required, aren’t we?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, especially if you happen to be an editor.

The power of positive thinking

Manuel and Jorge Fazú were two brothers, born just 18 months apart, and as close as twins. They grew up in a run-down flop house in an impoverished district of an anonymous city in Brazil. Seeing them as boys in their surroundings, no one would have thought anything would come of them.

But the Fazú brothers had a dream. They wanted to be musicians, and work their way out of the slums, and into the great world outside. Manuel learned to play guitar, and Jorge sang; they worked the busker circuits in their town, and eventually hitchhiked to Rio, where they reinvented themselves as the Fabulous Fazús. In no time, their logo, FF, could be seen spray painted all over town. It became the question of the hour: who or what was FF? It was an ingenious advertising gambit, and it worked wonders. The time came, carefully calculated, when they began to reveal who they were. There was only one problem.

They weren’t very good. In the first club they played, they didn’t even get through the first set before the manager threw them out, refusing to pay them. Worse, the scene was repeated in every first and second tier club in Rio, until the only gigs they could get were in the lowest dives on skid row, where patrons got a kick out of laughing at them, and throwing bottles.

Jorge grew discouraged, and wanted to quit, but Manuel talked him out of it. He was sure that, now that they were in the big city, there would be lots of opportunities to improve. He dragged Jorge to the clubs they were ejected from, where they sat and listened through the night to the bands who played there regularly. Afterwards, Manuel doggedly practiced, and Jorge did his best to maintain his spirits and practice along.

But it was no use. After a several months, Jorge confronted Manuel.

“Listen, we’re just no good. I’m quitting. I’ve got a chance of a job gardening for some rich family up town. I’m out of here.”

Manuel was devastated.

“You’re quitting now? Just when we’re starting to get somewhere?”

“We’re not starting anything. We’re no better than we were when we left home. We just don’t have any talent, bro, face it!”

“Talent?” said Manuel, “What’s talent? We got heart, man. And hard work. Come on, stop talking crazy, we got three new songs to learn before our gig tonight.”

‘Gig!” Jorge spat the word out, like rotten vegetables. “They only let us play there so people can make fun of us! And they don’t pay anything!”

“So what? We pass the hat, we do okay. That’s how all the great bands started, man.”

But it was no use; Jorge had had enough, and left that very day to take the gardening job.

But Manuel? Manuel had a dream, and he refused to let it go. One furious night, he went around to all the walls of the city and obliterated the second F from every place he found their logo. Then he realized he could simply call himself Fabulous Fazú without the plural, and went back and put it back in. Now it looked like F●F, which he thought was an improvement.

Anyway, he continued to work and dream, practicing until his fingers bled and his voice grew hoarse, playing the dives on his own, determined to prove to Jorge that he could make it.

Twenty years passed. Jorge was still working as a gardener. He had saved up his wages and started his own landscaping business, but, basically, he was still a gardener.

And Manuel? Manuel died of a heroin overdose in an alley behind one of the dives he played at.

Such is the power of positive thinking.

Letter found in a drain tile

Dear Donald,

Hoping this letter is still legible, after 80 years in the agreed upon place for communications. If, indeed, you even exist. I have to tell you I’m in a bind.

I know, we agreed that, in going back to 1934 in the time machine we invented, I would have to be super careful not to do anything that might change the course of events, that I was to be an observer only, and that the only way to do that was to be as inconspicuous as possible. We thought that should be easy enough, given my natural tendency to disappear into the wallpaper.

Well, something has come up, and I need you to transfer me back to 2014 ASAP.

Remember how we made sure I had plenty of money, and how we thought ordinary dollars would be fine, since the dollar was the same currency then as it is now (or in my case, now as it will be then, or something)? Well, we forgot something.

See, I’m in prison for trying to pass counterfeit currency. Not only that, but I’m a laughingstock for making such obviously fake bills, that they had colors other than green, and were dated in the 21st century.

Actually, not a complete laughingstock. Some people here believe I’m from the future, and are working to spring me, convinced I’ve been sent here to save them. From what isn’t clear, but there it is. Then there are others, who I suspect are completely capable of imprisoning me and capitalizing on this by forging writings they will purport to have come from me.  I know, I know, I can’t write a thank you note to Aunt Sally, let alone a book, but nobody knows that here.

So I’m caught in this situation where, to keep from inadvertently making a big whoopsie change to the future (where you and I live, or, rather, where I used to live, and you may not ever have even been born), I have to try to convince people that I’m not really from the future. Of course, that would mean I’m a counterfeiter, and not a very good one at that.

Already, I’m anything but inconspicuous, but, can you imagine if they manage to spring me?

Please, please, bring me back immediately. If you don’t do it soon, I’ll be stuck here, and, who knows, I might become the center of some kind of weird cult, or something.

In sincere hope you’ll find this,
L. Ron Hubbard

A fable

Crusty Paul sat in his apartment, water lapping at his feet, when there was an insistent knock at his door.  He sighed and got up to answer it, knowing full well it was Larry, his annoying neighbor from downstairs.  He opened the door, and sure enough, there was Loopy Larry, a look of stern admonition on his insipidly righteous face.

“There’s water dripping on my head again, Paul,” he said.

“Well, I’ve told you before, just get used to it.”

Loopy Larry sighed.  “Have you let the bath run over again?”

A flush rose to Paul’s face.  “So what?  It’s just your stupid theory that that’s what’s making water drip on your head.”

“It’s not just a theory.  Every time it happens, I come up here and you’ve let the bath water run over.  Look at your floor, for chrissake, it’s covered with water!”

Paul looked at him with an expression of someone explaining some simple fact to a rather dense child, for the hundredth time.

“If you look at the past, you’ll see there are lots of times when water just falls out of the sky, for no reason.  How can you say my bathwater causes your problem, when we know that happens naturally, all the time?”

The vampire’s confession

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  Peccavi in extremis, I’m afraid.

It has been … ages since my last confession, a time beyond recall.  I must say I have been rather good, but for one irresistible indulgence.  How shall I say it?  Out with it, then.

Father, I am a vampire.

Yes, I heard that gasp, involuntary though it was, through this rather flimsy barrier.  Why bother, I wonder?  Is it to protect my delicate sensibility, or yours?

No matter.  The sins I have to confess surely blow through such refinements like a spring squall through a spider’s dewy web.

Where shall I begin?  The burgher’s rich, leathery Sangiovese, or the light Beaujolais of girls in the springtime?  Ah, the sublime innocence, with just a touch of peppery insouciance!  I confess to a weakness for the unpresumptuous, even coarse, at times.  A cheap Zinfandel, just this side of plonk, fills the bill more often than I’d like to admit.

There was a certain lawyer, officious, but charming in his utter unawareness, a Malbec, precisely sour, and his lovely Shiraz of a wife.  I dream of her still.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have a profound appreciation for the refined as well.  How can I neglect the rich Barolo of the bishop, or the tawny Port of the late monseigneur, aged to perfection?  Yes, that was me, I’m afraid.  But look at the bright side, we have you, as a result.  I saw you walking to the confessional, with your springy step, that optimistic, wide open demeanor that refuses to be daunted.

I believe I fancy a nice Grenache, on such a fine, sunny afternoon.