Briefly Surfacing…

I need to come up with some sort of rationalized system for regular posting here, I think…

The semester is almost over and, ahead of the deadline, I got the manuscript of my conspiracy/paranoia television book into the series editor’s hands. I now await feedback and catch up on everything else!

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There are now a number of television shows I don’t want to see for a very long time, including Dark SkiesHarsh Realm, and anything else having to do with virtual reality. I will say, however, that I have a new appreciation for Wild Palms–really interesting stuff that made no sense when I saw it on broadcast back in the early 1990s.

With this one out of the way, I can get stuck into the new conspiracy/history book for McFarland as well as polishing off a chapter for another television themed collection. Then I’m going to sleep for a long time.


Crossing things OFF the list for a change

Well, I’ve been writing. A lot. Sometimes I change it up by using computers that are older than some of my students.

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SLINGSHOT has been off to its editors, and has come back with relatively few changes needed, which is always a good feeling. I should have that completely off of my hands within a few days. SLINGSHOT is a chapter in a collection of essays on time travel in television science fiction and it has been great fun to work on.

EIGHTH WRENCH is nearing completion.

BLACK SCREWDRIVER is humming along and should be to the people who need it in plenty of time to keep everyone from being worried about deadlines. It seems to have benefited from its relatively long gestation period in the form of research and extensive outlining/planning. The writing itself is going pretty smoothly. I do have to talk to my editor about some structural changes I think would make it stronger.

CROSSROAD, the vaguely conspiracy shaped thing is in full-on research and material gathering mode.

There are some other little things hanging out, but they’re tiny. The one remaining not-tiny job is the final report for my sabbatical project.

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As part of the research and background for both BLACK SCREWDRIVER and CROSSROAD, I’ve been refreshing myself on the satanic panic of the 1980s and early 1990s which I slightly remember from the time. The Geraldo prime-time special was its own kind of fun and I’m currently reading Lucifer Dethroned by Bill Schnoebelen. Like Mike Warnke, Schnoebelen claimed to have been deeply involved in a massive Satanic occult conspiracy but then found Christianity. I know that Warnke (who I remember hearing on Christian radio as a kid) was outed pretty thoroughly as a fraud but I’ve not looked deeply into Schnoebelan’s story yet.

Schnoebelen’s book, being published by the Chick Tracts folks, is steeped in anti-Catholocism as well as DevilFear.

The Satanic Ritual Abuse stuff from a few decades back dovetails very nicely with a number of other conspiracy theories and, while I wasn’t planning on addressing it, the topic has started to surface in unexpected places. I’m now stuck, it seems.

On a side note, I was able to attend a writers’ workshop at my school for a day a few weeks ago. I’d have been there for the whole week if strep throat hadn’t waylaid me. It was strange talking to people who write fiction and poetry. It seems very difficult. Although, since history sometimes fails to make sense, it’s tempting to plaster over the discontinuities and poorly-documented events with made up stuff. Of course, then I’d just be the History Channel, wouldn’t I?



Writing Tools and Technology

In my position as a faculty tech consultant for our College’s Center for Teaching and Learning, I write an occasional email for colleagues on technology and teaching issues. This is a bit from this week’s missive about writing apps and tools (edited and expanded from what went to my hapless colleagues who received it, unbidden, this morning). 

Writing, often, involves technology. Now, when I’ve written stuff, the people I send it to want it in Microsoft Word format. This, often, involves me having to use MS Word. There are, however, other apps I use for writing that allow me to organize ideas, citations, images, and snippets of quickly conceived draft text.
Yes, I’m going to say Evernote. Honestly, I’m not getting money from them (opposite, in fact). Every digital thing I need to store somewhere goes into Evernote.
Do you engage in mind mapping? I usually don’t. But there are times when mind mapping and visual diagrams are the only way to make something make sense before I put pen to paper. Scapple is a great, easy to use app for Windows and Mac that makes mind mapping easy.
I would be (and have been) lost without Dropbox for making sure whatever I need is there whenever I need it; including and especially the actually MS Word files I write in and will send to whoever I’m sending stuff.
An iPad (or other largeish tablet) with some sort of physical keyboard makes a good writing tool when a laptop is impractical. I use a Zagg/Logitech keyboard case for my unfortunately sausage-like fingers and usually simply type straight into Evernote and copy the text into the master document at a later time. There are reasons I do it this way, but they are even more boring than the rest of this email.
Finally, there is the tech that rarely fails–pen and paper. I use Sharpie Fine Point pens, Field Notes pocket sized notebooks and larger Moleskines. While I obviously spend stupid amounts of money on paper it’s cheaper and healthier than many habits I could have.
The most important thing to remember about writing and technology is, as Warren Ellis has wisely pointed out, that there is no fancy pen, pricey hipster notebook, magic application or nifty gadget that will make you write better. The best way to improve your writing is to write more.
As a side note, Ellis’s writing about writing process (as in the link above) is one of those things that made me think about my writing more. He writes comics and novels and screenplays so it’s a different sort of thing from what I do but until I read some of his thoughts about it, I never thought to think about it, if that makes sense.
More travel this weekend, but writing on SLINGSHOT is nearing completion (which is good, because the deadline is nearing as well!) and as for BLACK SCREWDRIVER, I just finished the chapter that had been giving me fits for about two months now. I feel like I’m over the hump on that one (yes, I probably just jinxed myself). EIGHTH WRENCH is just about fully formed in my brain and in detailed outline form and will just need to be gotten down on paper (“just”?).
The new project, CROSSROAD, is the one that will need the mind mapping software or, at least, some sort of flowcharting. It’s slightly terrifying.

Down One of Many Rabbit Holes…

Just got done doing a very fun interview with Greg Bishop of Radio Misterioso. Unfortunately, the live stream at killradio was malfunctioning so it’s unclear how many—if any!—people heard it. Greg should have the downloadable version up sooner rather than later.

Along with talking about The Chaos Conundrum and Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist we discussed the nature of the paranormal, the hassles of writing (and the hassles of getting people to publish said writing), and thousands of other topics.

One thing, which i brought up when I was briefly on the other week was the Boxcar Willie as Lizard Person meme. It’s out there, in various places. Here is an un-retouched shot of a Google search I just undertook:

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So the idea is out there. One of the search results is a good interview of David Icke in the Guardian by Jon Ronson, author of The Men Who Stare at Goats, Them, and others. Ronson writes

Indeed, every individual accused of reptilian paedophilia by David Icke had so far failed to sue, including Bob Hope, George Bush, George Bush Jr, Ted Heath, the Rothschild family, Boxcar Willie, the Queen of England, the Queen Mother, Prince Philip, Kris Kristofferson, Al Gore and the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group.  

This was from early 2001, so the Boxcar-Willie-as-LIzard-person notion has been around for a while. On RM, with Greg, I posited that it emerged as a conflation of Icke’s reptilian stuff with the mind control/pedophilia/cocaine/country music industry conspiracy promoted by Cathy O’Brien in Trance-Formation of America, a troubling and strange book. 

While tracking down the origins of the various slanders against BCW is just plain fun, it also is part of a new project I’m working on (that will be finished sometime in 2015). Speaking of work, here’s some word-accountability:

Post PCA/ACA Debrief: More Secret Codewords…

I’m back from the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference for this year, held in relatively close-by Chicago. It was—as usual—a good conference. In particular, this year, I was able to attend some great Civil War/Reconstruction culture panels with some great papers on guerrilla warfare in North Carolina, Texas, and other places.

The best thing I learned though, was the existence of the 19th century Bible prophecy writings of one Samuel Baldwin, a Tennessee preacher. Excellent fodder for my early US class the next time I teach it.

My presentation (slides here!) was well-recieved. The topic is, generally, the basic direction of my under-way book project (BLACK SCREWDRIVER) and I’m not entirely comfortable posting the text of the talk since it’s very much part of an in-progress thing (and it was very much a note/outline/thing to talk from rather than a polished paper, mostly due to constant editing that just didn’t stop until I finally delivered the thing).

Other updates, met my editor on BLACK SCREWDRIVER in the real-world rather than just email and got to see my editors on some other projects (EIGHTH WRENCH and the newly christened SLINGSHOT) as well as other cool people I generally only see at this conference.

The epic sabbatical project is is rounding the last corner this week, finishing up next week, then tweaking and student-road-testing during the spring session.

More later, I hope. I recorded my author talk from last week and there may be some excerpts here if I have time.

They tell me it’s April…

That’s where I am right now on BLACK SCREWDRIVER. SLEDGEHAMMER GOLDEN, the conference presentation on roughly similar topics is currently sitting the “to be done” soon pile, as that needs be ready to go in a week or two.

Lots of traveling this month—just got back from Chicago for a thing that didn’t have anything to do with history, flying saucers, television, or education. It was strange. Below is evidence that I worked on this trip (that’s my low-end, road warrior Thinkpad on the Amtrak Blue Water line).

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I’m in Indiana on family and friend business from tomorrow, back to Chicago for the aforementioned conference the week after that. Blessedly I get to avoid aircraft and their attendant hassles for the foreseeable future, as all my personal and business travel is achievable with cars and rail.

The sabbatical project (ENDLESS WEATHER) is entering the final push to completion (or at least complete enough to inflict on students when I start teaching again next month). It will be good to have that completed. On top of that is the administrative stuff involved with getting back to work on campus. April will be busy.

This is coming up as well, on campus in a week or so. It will be fun, and I will have copies of The Chaos Conundrum to sell and sign. Light refreshments as well!

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I should get back to work now.

Podcasts, Doctor Who, Writing

Another quick podcast appearance to note, this time on Reality Bomb, a very well-produced magazine-style Doctor Who show. My role was as part of the “Gallery of the Underrated” segment, where I defended the 1983 story “Terminus” which featured the best 1980s Doctor, Peter Davison. It’s a great story and my defense of it garnered me a brief Twitter mention from its writer, the prolific Stephen Gallagher:

If you’re interested in writing and/or the ins and outs of television production, his account and website are worth keeping an eye on.

Gallagher is also a novelist. His The Kingdom of Bones is very good and I’m currently reading the sequel, The Bedlam Detective and enjoying it.

Despite it being the weekend, I’ve managed to get some work done on the new book. I’m currently slogging through the opening chapters while outlining some of the later ones and simultaneously doing some quick fact checking on the ins and outs of the American TV industry in the 90s. Also, this new convention of one space after a period is really difficult to cope with.

And I’ve still got this lot to get through in a bit:

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That’s not even all of it—there are the second two excellent seasons of Millennium as well as old episodes of Kolchak and In Search Of… as background viewing.

Project ENDLESS WEATHER continues apace—due to weather and illness my initial timeline for completion has had to be completely reworked but I’m still in good shape.

EIGHTH WRENCH is in the early planning phases. Unless procrastination or disaster strikes I should have that project taken care off long before its September deadline (which would make the people who need it very, very happy).

Sabbatical time is winding down and I’ll be back in front of students in a bit over a month, so I have to add syllabi creation and class prep to the task lists.