Sunday, October 21, 2012

Future Prediction 2

Corduroys, pointless life-preserver vests, and even some of the hairstyles from the 80's have come back in style. This means that by the time Oct 21, 2015 rolls around, the "future" will look indistinguishable from the 1980's. Where did we go wrong?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Men Who Built America

In some trailers for Atlas Shrugged Part 2 is the text "will it influence the election?"

And I watched the first entry in the series The Men Who Built America. It's all about the great capitalists who had so much freedom from government intervention and such great work ethic they built America into a world power!

The first episode is about the railroad guy, Vanderbilt. Very quickly the show makes the point that because of Vanderbilt--a single man with ambition to succeed--over 100,000 new jobs were created. The period right after the civil war was a period of unprecedented growth all because of unrestricted capitalism.

Talk about timing. It comes across very strongly not as history, but public relations.

It's like someone is afraid of the attitude around the country after the economy crashed. Someone is afraid people will demand communism because gosh darn it capitalism is just not fair! TV shows and movies were made to remind people of the dangers of communism and the virtues of capitalism; that regulation hurts business; that unrestricted competition is what built America into the great nation it is.

Evidence? The section on Rockefeller, narrator: "Rockefeller is raised in a poor, Cleveland household. But even as a young man he yearns for something more. Something bigger. And he knows it isn't going to be handed to him."

What an odd thing to emphasize for a documentary. It sounds like the series is talking directly to all those OWS people, telling them to stop whining about how unequal things are and go out and get a job and make yourselves into great men!

This feels like damage control. Propaganda. Does somebody feel the need to defend capitalism and big business after the recession shook America's faith in it?

It seems like someone--perhaps many sometimes feel they need to change the atmosphere in America, restore the people's faith in the system that hurt them. They produce movies and TV shows that glorify the hardworking man and imply: if you work hard enough, you could be just like Vanderbilt! Sure, these businessmen were greedy psychopaths who had to win at everything and would stop at nothing to crush one other out of business so they can RULE THE WORLD!!!--but that greed and that drive to succeed at everything is what made America great!

Let us gather together and celebrate the glory of the entrepreneur! Let us revel in the cinematic glory that is competition, business and WORK! Let's celebrate WORK! Work is glorious! Work is wonderful! So go to work, all you lazy people protesting the system! Remember your place and keep working like good little citizens! That's what the series screams at me! It comes across very strong, especially in the interviews with various titans of business, because it doesn't take a historical point of view. Rather, an inspirational one.

Maybe they think we're as easily swayed as the crowd in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. I swear it feels like this series is not about history, but about calming the attitude in America--reminding the people how wonderful capitalism is. Do you realize what this means? OWS made a difference. Someone is afraid.

Between Atlas Shrugged being made into a movie, and The Men Who Built America, it's obvious someone has an agenda. I wonder if anybody tried to placate the people during the Great Depression, telling them it was their own fault they were unemployed and capitalism is still great.

I have no doubt America is great because of the freedom to do business and innovate and compete. America is great because there was no monarchy or dictatorship that kept the people suppressed. America let its citizens be everything they could be. I am not in favor of ending that--hell no. But does that extend to the freedom to manipulate the market, gamble with people's money and jeopardize the entire country so you can make a buck? Does that mean business should have more say in the government than the people do?

So, will it influence the election? We'll see.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Zeno Clash

Weird game. Weird art style, weird characters, off the wall gameplay. Think Final Fight or Streets of Rage in 3D from the first person. Every level is basically a boss fight, and you get to use your hands to beat the crap out of everybody.

It's repetitive. You'll fight so many people in the same basic way it gets old. It's frustrating at times trying to fight like this when you've got three other people punching you. I did a lot of running around to stay alive, which can also get awkward because though you run forward very well, your character seems to slow to a crawl when you try to run sideways, which makes it tricky to dodge anyone.

Every level is fight, fight, fight, run, dodge. Little else, and your companion character is totally useless. Eh, what NPC tagalong isn't?

As frustrating and repetitive as Zeno Clash is, it sure gets the blood pumping, and there is just enough story to make me want to continue. The revelation at the end is interesting, and more than enough to make the game epic as hell. I was disappointed the game is so short. I'm curious how the story continues. Hopefully the sequel will have more variety.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


New flash fiction published, Prophetess in Fiction and Verse.

Only takes a minute to read. Check it out!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Story time: Tibicen Politicus

I think this story is publishable, but I also think I wrote it too late to be published anywhere. So, in celebration of this U.S. election season, I present a freebie for everyone,

Tibicen Politicus
a Thursday prompt by James Steele

A family of four sat on the back porch, watching the trees as they shook and undulated. Several thousand trees all across the country seizured, quivered, swelled and contracted, and then burst open. Loud shockwaves cascaded over the entire country. The family of four, like all citizens of this nation, was wearing construction-worker's ear cups to protect them from the noise of the hatching insects.

They crawled from the bellies of the trees. Tall as a single story house, they had six arms, six different faces all looking in different directions, three distinct body segments and most of them were dressed in expensive suits which they had instinctually woven from saliva and digested wood pulp during their two years in hibernation.

They perched at the tops of the broken trees and looked around. They sought not food. They had eaten the insides of the trees hollow, so they were fed for life. Now it was time to compete for mates.

The insect atop the tree in this family's backyard looked down and noticed them watching. It spread its wings, flew down and landed with the force of a crashing helicopter. Three more insects saw the family at the same time and slammed down into the backyard. They stood on their hindmost legs, as was their natural instinct to do, and faced the family in a straight line.

"My opponent wants to take away your freedoms!" said the one on the left.

"My opponents are engaging in a negative smear campaign, which is unprecedented!" said the one on the right. "We must focus on the issues!"

The third giant insect, not wishing to be left out, jumped into the debate. "I am in favor of more jobs and more education. My opponents want to take that away from you, but I will bring both sides together and fight for you and your rights!"

"That is completely inaccurate!" said the one on the left. "I am as focused on the issues as much as the people are!"

The family of four was still wearing the ear protection and couldn't hear a thing the political cicadas were saying. Nobody ever did these days, but they watched, they gestured, they acted as though they were following along.

In backyards all across the country, giant cicadas were gathered in groups of three, four, six, or sometimes twenty or more.

"We're going to change the system!" one cicada was saying. "With your help, we'll get it done!"

"I love this country!" another cicada in another backyard said. "My competitors don't love this country as much as I do!"

"My opponent has failed!" said another in a faraway backyard. "If that tragedy had happened on my watch, I wouldn't have reacted the way my opponent did."

"My opponent is lying again! Let's bring honesty and transparency back into the process!"

"We're facing a real crisis here in this country. It requires real leadership, for the real world, to bring opposing sides together to solve real problems. I am the real candidate!"

"I represent everybody in this great nation! Choose freedom. Choose democracy. Choose the future!"

Human beings all over the country stood still, wearing their ear protection, pretending to pay attention. The insects couldn't be stopped, reasoned with, or exterminated. Giving the insects what they wanted was the only way to end this.

It was a cruel trick of evolution (or, some said, proof of God's sense of humor) that the mating calls of Tibicen politicus happened to be human words. The insects, of course, were not actually speaking the language or saying anything, rather just stringing words together that sounded good.

Nonetheless this correlation of language enticed the insects to look to the inhabitants of the country to choose who should mate with whom. They'd say any words, in any order, to impress people to vote for them, and not for someone else. Natural selection, ironically, dictated which random words were most likely to receive votes, so these days the insects pretty much all said the same things.

Life stopped while the insects campaigned. School was shut down, nobody worked, nobody talked to one another. The sound of their calls was so loud it was impossible to hear anything else. The insects didn't need sleep, didn't need to eat, and their mating calls shattered the sky day and night. The campaigning continued for weeks and weeks.

"My opponent wants to raise your taxes! I don't! I want to lower them!"

"I am for the middle class! I am for education! I am for jobs!"

"We must achieve positive results! We must fight for our right to move forward!"

"The electorate cares about ideals! People are smart, I know they are, so they will make the right choice for freedom!"

Weeks turned into many long months of debate. Finally the day came to cast votes for the cicadas. It was never that simple. There were always problems with the antiquated voting system and recounts were common, but somehow everyone muddled through the process and victors were chosen.

Satisfied, the cicadas took to the sky, the elected ones pairing up and the losers trying to squeeze in. The noises they made were loud enough to crack the moon, and they continued for days. After mating, the cicadas laid their eggs in the surviving trees and flew off to some unknown region where they probably shed their exoskeletons and died. Nobody bothered to follow them after the election.

Finally, men, women and children all over the country removed their ear protection and started conversing again. The family of four resumed their lives, relieved to be able to hear themselves think again. They tried not to dread the next hatching cycle.

People had proposed finding out what would happen if they refused to participate, but nobody dared try it. The citizens feared the insects would campaign forever if they were ignored. Other measures were proposed, but everyone was too used to the system to try changing it now.

 2012 James Steele. Do not reprint or alter.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New story, new anthology!

The man stood in the middle of the bonsai valley. Miniature redwoods, birch, sycamore and every other species surrounded him in the valley, reaching no higher than his waist. Between these were even tinier bushes and shrubs. The flowers that grew on them were miniscule to match. He felt like a giant.

The man was bruised, bloody and caked in mud. He masturbated. He planted his seed, and now the man stood exhausted. He had planted his seed all over the valley and had nothing left in him now. He collapsed and slowly died of starvation, content that he had succeeded...

New story released in the anthology from Bizarro Press:

"Life Cycle" is mine!

Originally written for Nicole Cushing's How to Eat Fried Furries short story contest, I had high hopes it would win. It didn't, but it found a home in Tall Tales with Short Cocks volume 2! Very proud of this one. Definitely one of my stranger stories, not for the casual reader, but perfect for those who like weirdness to be extreme. Check it out!