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Taxes Procrastination

I’ve had the folder with all my tax documentation sitting on my desk for months now. I had intended to do them early in January (I’m the guy who hands out the W-2s at my job, so everybody got them about a week into the new year), but when I went to the IRS website to download the 1040 form, they didn’t have the current version up yet, apparently because of the so-called “tax reform” overhaul that had just come through Congress. I also do Julia’s taxes, and she hasn’t brought it up yet, so I haven’t had that fire lit under me (recently the podcasts have been a huge time burden, which undermines the Saturday afternoon I would otherwise need for doing all the taxes).

As a measure of my incipient bourgeoisie status, there’s several new and exciting tax issues I’ll have to research and work into the tax documentation. First, I now have a Health Savings Account, with some exciting ramifications for deductions. Second, I have a personal stock portfolio, which means I may have to worry about Profit and Loss calculations.

Next year I guess we’ll have to worry about how the tax overhaul affects various mortgage deductions. It doesn’t look good so far, but I guess as a liberal I should want to pay more taxes? I just wish those taxes weren’t going toward dumb things.

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A Sudden Plethora of Podcasts

It seems like one day your podcasting days are behind you, and then the next you’re practically swimming in podcasts.

I both consumed and produced podcasts way back in the early days. Along with Steve Wilson, we put together a few episodes of a Space Squid podcast, and the beginning of the RevCast podcast. RevCast became way more popular once others took it over and gave it a more coherent format. The Space Squid podcast is still around somewhere. Those were heady days.

A few weeks ago, almost without conscious volition, I ordered a pair of smartphone-powered lapel mics. When they arrived, I put one on myself, and one on my fishing-colleague Jamey. Jamey took to performing for the microphone like a fish to water. Like Athena springing from the forehead of Zeus, Last Cast Podcast appeared, fully formed and articulated. I think that in some ways, our years of fishing trips were practice for this podcast. I highly recommend that you subscribe to Last Cast. It’s sort of a podcast vérité, a lot like tagging along with one of our fishing trips, except with all the long, frustrated silences cut out.

There’s a section at the end of every episode called, That Wasn’t That Bad. It’s a little bit of a joke, because after a fishing trip, as we’re piling into the car, there’s usually a conversation between Jamey and myself where we recount the experience, or as I like to put it: “Try to convince ourselves that it wasn’t that bad.” Sometimes that process takes longer than others.

At about the same time, my long-time writing colleague Steve Wilson suggested that we start a podcast based on our Sioux Cantu novel series. The problem with this novel series is that it’s not intentional, it’s the byproduct of a series of agents and editors requesting re-writes. In fact it started out as an encyclopedia, and now it’s two or three middle-grade books.

Steve’s solution is to make the podcast about the multiverse. This Week in the Multiverse follows our eternal champion Sioux Cantu from one world to another, where each version of himself tackles the problems of his particular storyline, whether those be the quasi-mythical beasts of backwoods Wisconsin, waves of alien invaders, or an empire of space-faring zombies.

The first episode of This Week in the Multiverse is already up, and I have to say that it’s perfectly lovely. Steve edited together a podcast that’s fresh and funny, not just for the target audience of kids, but for adults too. I do the fiction reading part, and Steve put together the sketches and news segments with his kids.

You should be able to find both these podcasts in the podcast service of your choice (iTunes, BeyondPod, etc.) and if you can’t, be sure to let me know! Please subscribe to Last Cast Podcast and This Week in the Multiverse. I think you will enjoy them.

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Study Predicts the End of Zombie Movies

This summer I was tapped by the Armadillocon programming committee to participate on a panel about zombie movies. For some reason I did a modicum of research before the panel and I discovered the Wikipedia list of all zombie movies ever. Since this was displayed onpage in a table format, I thought, hey, let’s export this to a spreadsheet, which I did. The resulting graph was nothing less than eye-opening.

Bar graph of zombie movies by year

Bar graph of zombie movies by year


The clear bell-curves pop out first. There are no plateaus, there is an interest and a ramping up of zombie movies, followed by a tapering off at nearly the same rate. Looking at the graph, 2018 will have negative four zombie movies.

The Zombie waves

The Origins

It all begins with Bela Lugosi in White Zombie in 1932. The first zombie movies worked exclusively from the voodoo model of an undead slave. There’s a zombie movie every few years or so, taking up a noticeable fraction of the horror market, but there’s long periods without any zombie movie at all. From the end of World War II until late 1950s there were essentially no zombie movies. An entire lost, zombieless decade.

Drive-in Zombies

It’s probably not a coincidence that the resurgence of zombie movies parallels the popularity of drive-in movies. In the late 50s, early 60s, there’s a glut of zombie flicks, with an unusual burst of zombie movies in 1964. They start out playing off the voodoo model: zombies as terrifying representatives of an exotic culture. But soon the zombie trope takes on new variations. A zombie becomes any reanimated corpse, whether it be by magic, science, or alien intervention. Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space is a pioneer in this respect, taking the zombie out of the Caribbean and taking it home to the American back yard.
There’s a tapering off in the sixties, as the drive-ins wane, perhaps. But there’s a slow simmering of zombie ideas, opening up possibilities for the trope, and preparing audiences for what’s to come next.

The Romero Years

In 1968, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead changed everything. It threw gasoline on the movement of midnight cult movies in the 70s, and may have been the first genuinely scary zombie movie. It’s important to note that none of the movies which followed in the 70s wave followed the Romero model of epidemic-spread post-apocalyptic head-shot zombies. There were a lot of foreign-made zombie films, a global democratization of the trope which would help to fuel the boom in the 2000s.

Zombie Revival

In 1980 there’s a sudden boom of zombies. There’s a mix of Italian and US productions which tapers off in time for the Romero-nostalgic Return of the Living Dead in 1985, and a new boom which will take us to a new zombie height in 1988. It’s hard to pin down where this boom came from and what they had in common, except they were mostly gory and grim. The voodoo slave model is almost entirely absent, these zombies are the ickiest re-animated corpses available.
The 90s are slow for zombies. Between ’94 ad ’98 we typically only had two zombie movies a year. When the only American zombie movie in a year is Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, you know the genre is in trouble.

Millenial Zombies

Between 2000 and 2017 there were nearly twice as many zombie movies than in the previous century. Independent film has a lot to do with the success, as well as a truly global participation. Asian film accounts for a lot of the space under this bell curve. The Romero model dominates throughout, fueled no doubt by it’s public domain status. A lot of the cultural conversation played off this model, allowing for asinine arguments about fast versus slow zombies, as if zombies actually existed. Irony and parodies and self-referencing proliferate through the genre in this period.

The Presidential Theory

If we’re being perfectly honest, we would have to say that the bursts of zombie-movie activity had a lot to do with the genre building off its own ideas, changes in distribution and public values, and the relative ease of funding and production during the heyday of any genre.
But I can’t help looking at this chart and not compare it with Republican presidential administrations. In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president, and the big wave of 70’s zombie movies started. In 1980, Ronald Reagan began the next biggest wave of zombie movies, which ended in a decades-lowest nadir during the Clinton administration. And the biggest bell curve of course began with the Bush years and began to taper as soon as Obama hit office.
When you look at the production time lead-up needed to make a zombie movie (and our current president and his comparably low zombie movie production), it’s hard to maintain a cause-effect relationship, but it’s a correlation that’s hard to ignore.

The Future of Zombie Movies

During the panel, I aired my working theory that zombie movies, like men in prison movies, are at their heart libertarian fantasies. Authority and law has collapsed, making it virtuous to kill your neighbors. Nobody disputed this, which I found a little disheartening (no libertarians at Armadillocon?). Perhaps this accounted for their success, or perhaps the flexibility of the zombie-subtext which allowed audiences to map virtually any morality message about otherness over those sunken zombie eyeballs.
So yes, zombie movies hit their peak in 2008, with 31 in a single year. But the real reason for the decline may be that we’ve worked through all the possible iterations. It could be that we’re just tired of it. At this moment I have Train to Busan on my Netflix queue. I’ve watched two-thirds of the movie, and I don’t know if I’ll go back. It’s a good movie, I just don’t feel a need to watch more zombies.
As a culture, we may have done what we needed to do with the trope. We’re past peak zombie. At last, at long last, zombies are truly dead.

Future Research

During the early 2000s, I recall everyone asking, what’s going to be the new zombie? We all predicted zombies would come to a head and then peter out as a new golden boy genre trope replaced it. It looks like it’s finally happening, almost ten years later than expected, but there’s no clear replacement. Some effort was put into making pirates the new zombie, but not much came of that. As I said in the panel, if you want to make a zombie movie you just need a few friends and black eye shadow, if you want to make a pirate movie you need a whole damn ship.

If I get the time, I’d like to export some data from IMDB (they have a mechanism for that), and compare their zombie movie data with the Wikipedia list, see if the trends hold up under additional scrutiny. I’d also like to look at other genres and tropes, see if anything else had a beautifully elliptical surge like that, or if it was just zombies. Presumably we’d see something similar with Westerns, but we’ll see.

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My Last Published Short Story

I’ve not been writing a lot recently, for a number of reasons. Another symptom of how much I’ve checked out of the writing lifestyle is the conspicuous lack of self-promotion for my last published short story. It’s not unlikely that this will be my last published short story ever. Luckily, this is probably the most fun of my published stories, and it appears in a very strong anthology of Texas writers.

It came out well over a year ago, but you can find Rayguns Over Texas online. My story “Babylon Moon” is a post-singularity Rastafarian space-opera with strong Lovecraftian overtones. And the other writers in the anthology are all Texans, so you know it’s got to be good.

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Obligatory Hugo Endorsements Post

It’s only one day left to fill out ballots for Hugo nominations, those of us who are WorldConnners. Here’s some suggestions. These are basically just people I know, but you can be certain that they absolutely deserve a nomination. I know that you’ve spent the last few months since WorldCon in a state of hibernation, torpor, or perhaps estivation ( you know ), but this is important.

Novelette

Babylon Moon by Matthew Bey

Short story

texas died for somebody’s sins but not mine – By Stina Leicht
I Will Trade With You — by J. M. McDermott

Best Graphic Story

Black Science
Sex Criminals
Adventures of the Red Panda

Editor Short Form

Rick Klaw

Professional Artist

John Picacio

Semi-Prozine

The Drabblecast

Fanzine

Space Squid
RevolutionSF
Bookworm Blues
My Bookish Ways

Fancast

Revcast
SF Signal Podcast
We’re Alive: A story of survival

John W. Campbell Award

Max Gladstone
Marshal Ryan Maresca
Rhonda Eudaly

Does that make sense?

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After the power goes out…

…this is what I look like.

IMG_20140220_110709

You can find the actual moment I’m on the show “Revolution” online on Netflix. It’s the episode “Austin City Limits.” Look for the shot where the whole team is crossing Congress Avenue, just before they go into the gun shop, which used to be Little City Coffeeshop. It was all on location, which was a little surprising. Just look for us pedaling around in the lower left of the screen.

Question of the day. Did you know that Italy has it’s own aircraft carrier called the MM Garabaldi? You can learn about it here.

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A microscope. Just because.

image

I just bought this microscope from Goodwill. It was only five bucks and promised to enlarge things as much as six hundred times.

So far the only thing I know for sure is that q-tips may clean smudges, but they also leave a lot of tiny fibers on microscope lenses. The other big discovery: my spit is filled with lumpy stuff.

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Tofu Jelly Salad

tofu jelly

tofu jelly

A Japanese friend who was staying with us made a little traditional desert for us. It has cocktail fruit in it, and a tofu jelly which had a very similar texture as the fruit.

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