Word of the Nerd: Radio Free Albemuth – June 27th

RFA-fromthemindI have a new article this morning on The Word Of The Nerd Online. Radio Free Albemuth, the lastest Philip K. Dick film adaptation, is set to hit theaters June 27th. Discovery Films has released a new extended trailer which gives a pretty decent glimpse at the movie. I’m really looking forward to this one. It could be the one that finally gets PKD right.

The film’s writer, producer and director, John Alan Simon, was kind enough to sit down and chat with me. We talk about the film, his approach to writing, and all points in between. It was a great conversation and only bolstered my excitement for the film. Look for the interview soon. It will be coming to The Word Of The Nerd Online as we get a little closer to go time.




Any Team Can Have A Bad Eon

goatThere’s a mantra one will hear in Chicago. It starts in the spring and usually by June it grows to a cacophony of disgust. “There’s always next year.”

Today the teams owners spoke up about this oft repeated phrase. They are asking everyone to refrain from saying it, as it gives the coaching staff and management unbearable anxiety. The thought of putting together a successful team and having them ready to compete in only a year,  it puts a lot of pressure on the organization.

The city is developing a concession phrase, working with the team as well as the general public. So far their offerings of “Give it ten years or so,” and “There will be other millennia,” were both rejected by the team as unrealistic time frames.

In the end the Cubs and the city came to an agreement. The phrase they chose is much longer than anyone wanted. It lacks the poetic ring of the old phrase, but at least it now reflects an attainable goal for the team.

“There will always be survivors in the dystopian post-nuclear-apocalypse wasteland, and perhaps some of them will form a baseball team as a nostalgic display of escapism, maybe then, and only then, will the Cubs have a chance at winning their division.”

Flip Top in Slumberland

A Salute to Winsor McCay

Flip Top in Slumberland: A  Salute to Winsor McCay

Flip Top in Slumberland: A Salute to Winsor McCay


The Plastic Static



Damn. How did so much time get away from us?

It’s like one minute you are standing in the middle of a warehouse in the early nineties, high on cheap beer, brown weed, teenage freedom and rock and roll; next thing you know it’s a different century and a different world, and everyone is compartmentalized and plastic and isolated.

Yes, we are getting older. Some of us, not all of us survived.

And one has to wonder sometimes, who is the winner in this game? The ones who checked out early? The ones who missed so many years? Those of us left behind? To carry on, to trudge forth even as we see everyone and everything around us crumbling.

These days I’m not so sure.

I crawled out of a cave. I fell asleep sometime in the last century and woke up here. In a museum, in a cheap science fiction movie. Here, we are both the spectators and the spectacle.

This hallway is black. Not dark. Black. Light doesn’t dare traverse it’s expanse. There are glimpses of neon here and there, but it’s impossible to tell if they are real or hallucination. The absence of light makes the hallway feel immense, long, possibly unending. That’s another scary notion. Eternity. The thought that there may be no end to this.

And then we must ask ourselves again, which is worse? The eternal shuffling toward nothing, or the exit too early; the ones we have lost, who have fallen along the way. Are we sad they have gone? Or is it only us growing ever lonelier as they one by one depart?

I looked for you. I looked forward to reconnecting.

You wouldn’t recognize the place. Everything has changed since you left.

We’ve torn down nature and put up a plastic nature replica. It will last forever, and it doesn’t get messy like the real thing. We still aren’t sure if the birth defects are a direct result of the synthetic natural plastic alloy or merely a coincidence, but we aren’t letting it slow us down either way.

The streets are emptier too. You would get along a little better with less traffic, fewer distractions to fight for your attention. You see that’s where there was a bookshop. That used to be a record store. This was a Wags before it was a Perkins before it was a Bakers Square before it was the Sunshine Breakfast Club before it was finally abandoned and left to rot away.

This used to be the beach. Our beach. I wish I could say they left this one alone.

It almost feels the same, the yellow moon peeking down through slivers of cloud. That breeze that always hints of winter, even in August, always reminds you of how cold it could be.

As if it had any idea.

Nothing that lives or breaths or moves really knows anything of the true cold. The freezing. The motionless waiting, staring. Stuck in your tracks. So cold you can’t even feel it anymore.

It doesn’t matter, you wouldn’t recognize this anyway. It is not ours. This is no longer the world we knew.

This. You see this? This passes for sand. I know. It is cleaner. It doesn’t get in your shoes and stuck in every crevice. This is static. This is electronic noise, pixels, bits of information formed to resemble the granules we knew growing up but without all the mess.

Maybe that’s how they’ve done it. Maybe that’s how the rug was pulled out from under us. Maybe they filled up all the hourglasses with this synthetic sand. It bought them all the time in the world.

There was a point I was trying to make. There was something I wanted to say to you, but I seem to be only rambling. I’m sorry to waste your time. You would have laughed at that one. The idea of wasting time. Maybe you had it right all along, you and the Mad Hatter.

Maybe yours was the right move. Maybe I’m worse off for witnessing this. Maybe it is you who escaped and I who am trapped. Imprisoned in black iron, indeed the empire never ended.

Still, I thought there would be more time. I thought we would meet again. Even if it was out here in the fringes of reality. This crumbling pier hanging precariously over the edge, over nothing, a bottomless pit of black frozen emptiness.

©Robert Emmett McWhorter

Tree of Life, Foot in Mouth, Hot Dog in the Snow

Tree of Life, Foot in Mouth, Hot Dog in the Snow

The Overpass

overpassgirlAnchored to this parking lot,
Where crisp snow piles on window ledges
Like kaleidoscopes of sunlight,
Or a spectrum for your head.
You’ll look out from your bedroom,
as I stumble with the keys.
Will you walk me to the overpass
when I’m crumbling to my knees?

Staring down the frozen river,
You’ll elevate the spectacle.
And I’m not going to argue,
It’s like they’ve always said,
When it rains, you see red,
When it snows, you’ll see where you have been.

Pull through and see,
That these seas aren’t quite as black
As the mud inside your head,
And you’ll never walk again.

Snoring and ignorant,
You refuse to meet me,
Our words are whispered into lampshades,
Growing dustier and yellow.

Go home and scream.
There’s no one here you can tell it to,
And what do you do?
But hope the rocking chairs
Don’t turn to reminisce.

Rolling and rolling,
Out of controlling.

You spin,
You begin in your spin,
To begin to retrace,
The face you’re replacing,
Pasting new memories within.

And once it would have worked,
And yes, I guess our stars,
Still happen to align.

And I know, and I know, and I know
And I hate to remember how that song went,
The one they say we sung,
But I can’t recall it any longer,
And you never knew the words.

But we tried to sing along.
And I’ll try to recognize
Your handwriting,
Against all the works of history,
And masterpieces forged.

Dreaming of the frigid water,
You’ll celebrate the evacuation.
And I swear I won’t get sick again.
It’s not like they never said,
When it goes, it goes your way,
Until you blink and it goes away,
And it’s the only thing you’ve known.

Angled into this unmarked spot,
At dawn the snow begins to melt
Transmission from our yellow star
The buzz informs you who you are,
As it creeps in through the window,
and I crumble to my knees.
Will you walk me to the overpass
Where we can drown this old disease?

Final Transmission of the Annual Cycle

weirdstopwatchIt’s time to rotate and change your calendar, if your grasp of time is tenuous, please do not hesitate to contact a professional and ensure your transition into the future is as safe and smooth as possible…

So, just to be a pain in the ass and to stay true to my usual MO of difficulty and absurdity, I have decided that I don’t believe in New Years. I guess this is in part due to the politically correct atheists and all the fun they get to have keeping people on their toes around the holidays, and all the trouble they get to cause, everybody walking around on egg-shells and watching what they say. Not being insensitive to the beliefs of others, and just to be on the safe side, I have been wishing everyone a Merry Christmas/ Happy Hannukah/ Solemn Ramadan/ Festive Tet/ Joyous Solstice/ Rewarding Brumalia/ Enlightening Kwanzaa/ and a Festivus for the rest of us.

But due to my personal beliefs I just cannot join in with their rain-down games, plus all that PC nonsense, as absurd as it is, just isn’t silly enough for me.

So I have renounced New Years. Of course I can back this up historically, it was only in the fifteenth century with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar that January 1st got the honor as international hang-over day .Previously, according to the Roman calendar, new years came late in march. Many cultures still start their new year with the beginning of spring. Chinese and Hebrew traditions still hold fast to their differing views of when one year ends and the next begins.

So who can say, really, when the year ends. I suppose realistically, it is relative to each person, depending on when they were born, technically speaking, a new year for myself would begin on March 20 (eerily coinciding with the ancient Roman calendar). Not to mention the other planets, with completely different solar cycles. I can almost assure you that the Beagle 2 Probe is not celebrating a new year tonight, but that is another story for another time…

So I realize this new credo puts me out of step with the rest of the western hemisphere, and most of the rest of the world. This does not bother me. As my friends around the world look back upon the past year, and make resolutions they have no real intentions of keeping in the next; as the Earth slowly rotates and rings in the celebration from one time zone to the next, I would just like to take this opportunity to wish peace and love to everyone, no matter what you do or do not believe in, and wish everyone, heartfelt and sincerely, have a festive Calendar Recycling Day.

(Wednesday, 31 December 2003)


Robert Emmett Fling CD 2006After it rains
Im finding my way
To who I was
When it was dry
After it rains
Ill go outside

After tonight
Its starting again
To who were are
When there is light
After tonight
I’m going dry

Can you ever feel like it’s raining everywhere?
Can you fell it in the air?

What’s wrong with you?
What’s wrong with me?
What’s wrong with everything?

After it rains
Im finding my things
And getting out
While I’m Alive
I’ll try to live
I’ll go outside

After the night
We shouted it out
To who we are
When we are not
After that night
It wouldn’t dry.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter/ 
published by Hermetic Medical Records (ASCAP)
all rights reserved




“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
~Douglas Adams

writerAs you may be aware, it is November Novel Month. A good portion of my writing friends are stabbing away at their stories, I’m left on the sidelines guarding the internet mostly, offering encouragement and insight where I can.

I have decided against participating this year. Mostly it’s because of Aftermarket Soul and my Short Story collection I want to get all edited and shiny and ready for public consumption. My plan has been to use the motivation and energy of the thirty-day novelists to propel me through my edits.

But I did learn of a short story contest and signed up for that. The rules and guidelines were announced Friday night at midnight, and the finished story was due Saturday at midnight.

So, I signed up friday and hung around the internet waiting for midnight. Many of you know by now I am just coming back to writing after a pretty lengthy dry spell. It is only in the last six weeks or so that I have been writing everyday.

And it has felt better than I could really imagine. I sat around for three years and didn’t write much of anything mostly because I didn’t think I had any ideas. But since getting back to it, it has been like a glob of grease on my brain, and the mechanics are once again moving. I am finding ideas to write about almost everywhere and anywhere. I have written more fiction in the last month than I had in the past six or seven years.

So I thought the contest wouldn’t really be a big deal, no pressure really. A few of the Writing Groups I am in will have lessons, writings prompts daily about different topics, styles, challenges; and I haven’t had much trouble writing on any angle thrown at me.

Midnight came, the requirements were posted. I read them and ran off to devise a plan.

I didn’t freak out when no idea immediately came to me. I trusted that one would. And I still really don’t know where ideas come from. I don’t know if there is a way to learn to harvest them quicker or consistently develop them, or if we are forever at the mercy of our muses. I know my creativity had kicked back into high gear mostly from the daily ritual of writing, it seemed to wake something inside me, but still I can’t force an idea to come. There is nothing I know how to do to make them come any quicker.

I went to sleep late Friday night still without a word written for my story or even an inkling of an idea. Still I wasn’t really worried. I awoke Saturday and puttered about the house, hoping to come across a story hiding somewhere. Saturday morning turned into afternoon and still I had nothing.

Finally at around four I wrote a little message to the group hosting the contest, letting them know that if there was no submission by midnight, it only meant I hadn’t been able to think of anything, and thank you for the opportunity.

Hours slipped by and still no thought would settle and build anything of substance within my brain. Honestly it was beginning to weigh on me, and I couldn’t help but dwell. Sure I was happy enough to be able to write what I can when I can, but the thought of still having no control over it, no real say in when it turns itself on and off, that came as discouraging.

I gave up and went on with my day.

I was online later in the evening. Playing around on Facebook and chatting with a friend. It was after eight in the evening, I had completely abandoned any inkling of submitting to the contest. And I wish I could be more specific here but I can’t give away any hints at the story yet. But the conversation I was having with a friend had a few distinct points that starting to work together in my head. The scattered little thought fragments, sprouting roots into the soil, propping themselves up and strutting exaggeration. The lightbulb always hovering just above my head snapped on, came brightly to life.

I excused myself and set to work, pounding words as fast as frantic as humanly possible. And I’ve said it before, but that feeling when my fingers are able to run free, galloping on the keyboard, it is one of the best feelings of freedom I have ever felt. I am sure I heard a few hollow cracks,the tiny sonic booms created in the wake of my fingers flying at a speed greater than sound.

I got the story down quick, I went through to clean it best I knew how; hopped over to the writing group and asked for a little help with my commas.

I turned in the story with little time remaining. I can’t wait to show it. It is one of the odder ideas I’ve had. And looking back over the text, I do see where it’s a little sloppy and not quite as developed as it could be. That’s okay, it’s not completely unexpected. Some debate was made about where a comma should lie in relation to quotation marks and depending on which side of the Atlantic you were typing from.

automaticI’m not getting hopes up about winning. I could see it being possible, and I would thoroughly enjoy it and soak it up, but really I was just happy to be able to participate.

It seemed the more I tried to think of something, the less I was able to let anything come together. I think this is a lesson we have to relearn, sometimes quite often, because we do, or at least I know I do, forget this important factor. Ideas will come and usually do, but trying to force them out only aggravates me. Once I was able to put the contest out of my head, was I ultimately able to let some thoughts fall together and land right side up on the factory floor of my imagination.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

the breeze

blue caveScratch out all my lines
until I am invisible
in certain degrees.
A breeze worse than winter.

Smash my coma
with a hammer.
Splinter on my spine.
Kick out the TV.
Stand up,
the real me.

Time takes its own sweet time.
You know how it can,
if you’ve seen it.
Stuck on your own
sweet time goes on without you.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter

n de Fens o da Speke

Saturday, 13 March 2004
Topic: linguistics

typewriterA few years back there were some motions to further amend the United States constitution, this time it would be to concretely define a certain word in legal and binding terms. Where I stand on the actual issue is not important, but I was mostly misunderstood when I tried to explain that I opposed the action strictly on linguistic terms, I was trying to avoid the actual issue, be it pro or con,  but from the point of view of the language itself.

I don’t like the idea of passing laws to define words. If you know what I am speaking of specifically, otherwise we should let it go, as I didn’t intend a political discussion.

Up until now, there have never been any set in stone rules to the English language. All the spellings we recognize are merely the ‘preferred’ spellings. In the late eighteenth century, eccentricity in spelling was deemed a sign of intelligence and originality; General Washington was often noted for his wild syntax. Even up until the 1960s there were alternate but acceptable spellings of words such as cigarets & connexion, and then somewhere along the lines ‘thru’ became acceptable in place of ‘through’.

Now, with the advent of the computer and instant global communications, the language is changing more rapidly than it ever has before. And it needs to be unhindered by legal binding of any sort in order to continue to adapt.

Yes, I learned ‘rules’ of English in school- more honestly, they taught it for twelve years, much of the time I had other things going on. But think about this one simple question concerning these rules. How do you prove them?

By the exception. “This is the exception that proves the rule,” the teachers use to say, amazing to me in retrospect that they were able to utter such nonsense with a straight face.

So therefore, ipso facto, the first rule of English is you have to break the rules for the rules to even apply. Sounds good to me!

This is more than a language, in fact it’s not even a language anymore. English is the only language where it is easy to take any sentence at least two ways. One of the hardest languages to learn just by the ever shifting qualities of words for different situations.

While it may be difficult to say exactly what you mean and impossible to shield it against how the reader will interpret it, it is extremely easy to be misunderstood. By this I mean to the point where random words can be strung together and come out decipherable as something intelligible a good majority of the time.

It has grown beyond being a language in this sense, that it is no longer strictly a means of transferring information. It is more off a means of artistic expression, ideal for abstract expression slightly more concrete, tangible than a symphony orchestra. What it is to a real language is comparable to what Velveeta is to real cheese.

But, linguistically it is the most important thing to ever happen. It is a constant study in human communication with ever-changing means of measure.

Sometimes it is fierce intellectual combat. Despite the number of languages colliding head on with English it remains a highly sophisticated tongue; in spite of environmental influences to revert to a form of Pig-English; the sprouting of dialects, the constant need for new words to describe what we are doing with the new things they are inventing, it is very important for the language to remain both extremely adaptable and easily accessible. Which means for the most part, it must border on chaos and nonsense at all times.

This is why I love this language. And I really do; the majesty, absurdity, profundity and playfulness of the English language. This is why I write, or maybe because I write I have fallen in love with the word. See what I mean?

This is why I write from where I do, from the fringe of reality. My favorite thing to do is to think up three completely impossible scenarios, and figure out how to write about them together so that it makes sense and, hopefully, seems plausible.

I think this sort of coherent explanation of the purely illogical, absurdly unthinkable, even abstractly implausible and just plain wrong is an important demonstration of what the English language is. By its own reasoning, we cannot know the full truth from the language until we have exhausted every possible exception to the truth.

Therefore when I write stories about couches that talk, I am helping to solidify some unspoken truth about furniture, or possibly linguistics (I think this is more true, but in a purely larval stage of my literary growth- I was still throwing random syllables together to see how they would stick).

I think it is a very important place for someone to write from, this little light shining in through  a crack in the semantic door; this little tree branch that caught my shirt as I tumbled over the steep cliff of sanity. It is important to show that even things deemed ‘impossible’ are possible within these words. And once you realize that you can, indeed, do anything here, you hopefully will see that this aspect of the language is very reminiscent of life itself.

© Robert Emmett McWhorter