Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Corn-pocalypse

Want to see what the end of the civilized world looks like?

This is what 90% of the corn fields between KC and Emporia look like. Since the entire American economy is based on corn, this isn't a good thing. Corn is the lynch pin of the meat, fuel (more corn is now used for fuel than for feed), and BOURBON industries.

We screwed. The only silver lining I can think of is that maybe more processed food producers will start using sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Reluctant and Ambivalent Geek Wars Post

First, for those who only know the colloquial usage, ambivalent means pulled in two directions, not apathetic. Ever since taking debate (which comes up later) and having to vigorously and persuasively argue both sides of an issue, I've found myself ambivalent about most things. Anyway.

Because thoughts about it keep bouncing around in my head, and because I want to close certain tabs in my browser (that’s how I usually keep track of what I plan to blog about), I guess I’ll talk about geeks and geek pride and so on. It’s very important that everyone have an opinion and express that opinion (barf. Honestly. Opinions? BAAARRRRFFFF).

So there’s been a big stirring in geekdom (barf) recently. There was some hullabaloo on the news about some geek saying hot cosplayers aren’t real geeks and should leave (here’s a geek rebuttal from Scalzi) and then there’s Nick Mamatas’ ongoing battle with geek pride. I mostly agree with Nick except that I don’t think that everyone who had trouble in school did so because they were socially awkward. Sometimes it only takes one bad event and you’re an omega  til graduation, and sometimes there’s just no appropriate omega, so the pack chooses one. Note that Nick has no problem with geeks, but with geek pride.

I don’t exactly understand what it means to be an authentic adult geek, and my understanding of inauthentic adult geekdom involves at best basing your entire personality on the media you purchase and consume and at worst hypocritically shunning those who don’t like what you like because at some point in the past people did it to you.

A geek can’t just be someone who likes things obsessively, because I hurl myself into my interests with as much force as is humanly possible and I’m not a geek. I suppose that if you were to call me a horror, film, or lit geek (recently a chess geek, once a video game and comic geek), I might not argue. But to just call me a geek… No. And I probably prefer the term “enthusiast” because it doesn’t have all these inapplicable secondary implications. My interests may say something about my personality, but my personality has not been formed around my interests. I don’t expect to like someone because they play chess, though I would like to meet more people who do play chess and have personalities complimentary to mine.

In high school, I was a geek and had fierce geek pride. I formed my personality around certain interests. I displayed those interests with how I dressed and the items I surrounded myself with. I needed to fit in somewhere, I needed an identity, because school is fucking brutal. Kids are brutal.

After school, I didn’t decide to start lifting weights and not wear my interests on my sleeve and become a non-geek. It wasn’t conscious. Quite simply, once I was out of school and I was no longer caged in with some horrible, brutal kids, all that armor faded naturally.

 It’s important to say here that many people I went to school with were great and still are, and that in response to trouble I’d had since I started school, I lashed out and brought more trouble down upon myself. Not that I deserved it. No one deserves some of the treatment I got. It’s also important to point out that primary and secondary school seem to make kids horrible, and that many bullies are immediately fine people after graduation.

So why was I a geek? Probably a lot of factors. I have always had social anxiety. I had big curly hair in a place full of white, fair people (I don’t think I encountered racism for being half black, but I did look a bit different). I didn’t have the cool clothes or the cool lunches. I was probably behind a bit in some respects for having started school a year early, and also a bit ahead for being so smart. I was too big to avoid notice. And these things just snowball. A lot of people do fine with any of these traits, but they added up to problems for me.

I arrived at college with a ton of anger, thick armor and the expectation that I’d need it. I discovered otherwise, that the adult world isn’t like high school, and probably because of my tendency to not think of the past, the geek pride slowly faded. Hell, I was a member of KUGaR (KU gamers and role players, though my table was the edgy, cool group!). I worked at a used game store that didn’t have a computer database of prices, so that I needed to have knowledge of every game ever made and how much we could sell it for and therefore how much I could buy it for, and I did indeed have that knowledge—before I even started. My interests didn’t change, but the secondary, unrelated traits slowly dropped away and I found at some point that I was no longer a geek. I just liked what I liked.

One trait that has stuck is a tendency to react extremely aggressively and violently to little things. My school situation actually got pretty dangerous, and I found that reacting to a small slight with a huge escalation of aggression tended to at worst bring on the inevitable fight faster, but at best get me out of a bad situation and discourage kids from fucking with me. In the book Outliers, Gladwell describes how pastoral societies tended to be honor-based while agrarian societies weren’t. Show a bit of weakness, and someone can steal your whole flock and your family starves to death. It’s harder to steal a field full of crops. There’s some postulation that this is the root of the family feuds and insane violence in the Appalachians. High school is like that, too. Let someone give you a bit of grief, and you’ll keep catching it for years. I’ve been trying to let it go. Last time I was at the movies, a horrible family talked behind me the whole time and I never told them to shut up, which is unprecedented. It’s hard though. The ability to go from zero to sixty in less than a second requires a rewiring of the brain that, after many years of being useful, I’m trying to rewire again. But disrespect brings back the old feelings. Anyway.

As an adult, it’s possible to like things a lot without signing up for the whole package. I can like hardcore and horror and Lady Gaga (well,  Fame and Monster) and I don’t have to answer to any authenticity committee. You aren’t the media you consume. Purchasing is not personality.

Then again, we’re all just filling the hours, and finding connection has become so difficult. I don’t understand the need for adults to geek. I’m not exactly psyched about a situation where you have to subvert your true feminist thoughts because you like video games and comics but to gain full membership it’s important for you to worship Joss Whedon  and be okay with his insulting and condescending version of feminism which is based on all women having super powers, but if it makes you happy, whatever. Who does it hurt? I don’t like the fact that when I get with a group of self-proclaimed geeks I can be involved in the conversation about movies but then am the only one left out of the conversation about Dr. Who which goes immediately into Game of Thrones and I can’t even talk to someone else left out of the conversation because each geek has completed the geek curriculum. Yeah, its a frustrating situation for me, but I understand that without a real culture, we’re making do. Fine. That’s why I have chess and Minecraft PE on my phone.

But I’m against geek pride when it’s hypocritical and exclusive. I’m against the idea that there are real geeks and fake geeks and that some people make the cut and some don’t. If being a geek makes you happy and hurts no one, go for it. And if Nascar or pro-wrestling does the same, go for it. Just don’t think you’re better than anyone else, or countercultural. We’re all just filling the hours and trying to make it through, right? Being otherwise makes you exactly the same as the bullies who turned you into a geek in the first place. Oh the extremely obvious irony.

I was obliquely accused by a person who didn’t know me in high school of not understanding what it was like to be treated badly for your interests. Hehe. Hehehehe… I guess I should take it as a compliment that it’s hard to imagine me being a bullied nerd. I think I adequately covered the fact that we’re not in high school anymore and that it’s okay to move on (a comment on the Scalzi post said something to the effect that "geeks don’t want to tell people what to do. If we wanted that, we’d be popular.” I hope to god that person is still in high school. Popular?  Barf.) But here’s a story that explains some of the rage I can’t quite shake off:


I know bullying. I know the “You fuckin D&D nerd!” kind, and I know the kind where the stress of thinking every single day that you might get killed rewires your brain and makes you hateful and exclusive. Don’t be that way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Everything's Coming Up Ryker!

When Greg Gifune contacted me round the first of the year about submitting something to Darkfuse, I was ecstatic. I danced around my house in quite an undignified manner (la-di-da!). But then began the months-long  torture of not being able to broadcast my good news, for fear of it falling through.

This last torturous episode was thankfully much shorter, and the news even better. I just signed a 6 book deal with Darkfuse / Delirium. Besides The Hoard, due out in November, they’ll be publishing a novel and novella of mine in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Every writer has different goals, and different paths to reach those goals. I accomplished one of my biggest goals when I signed the first, one-book contract with Darkfuse, but I still had anxieties regarding my writing career. Now I’m going to be able to take the time I need to write, and I’m going to have at least 7 opportunities to get my work in front of a lot of horror fans. For the first time I can remember, I have no anxieties about the future of my fiction.

Now all I have to do is write it.

Oh God…

I’m hoping to start updating streaminghorror.net again soon. But until then, I wanna mention a really quality low-budget horror movie that just got added to Netflix Instant: Absentia. It’s smart, subtle, twisting, and most importantly creepy. Check it out. I did a bit of research on it and found that it was funded through kickstarter. I also found this hilarious fundraising video:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sorry 'bout the weather...

The Hoard, which I wrote in the first months of this year, has a timeline beginning in late spring and ending in summer. The starting point was necessitated by the time when certain crops are planted and harvested in Kansas. But I also needed it to be hot, so I wrote that the summer heat had come early, bringing drought and fire which drove a deadly new creature before it.

I wondered, as I wrote it, if it was believable for it to be so hot in June. Then a few months later my questions were answered, as Kansas experienced multiple June days over 100 degrees.

So the question is: did I prognosticate or progenerate this hellish weather? Coincidence? I think so!

Here’s the thing: once the heat wave has passed and you’re enjoying pleasant, 90 degree November days (global warming puhshaw!), you’re going to miss the feeling of the air being sucked from your lungs when you step outside. You’ll miss the sense of déjà vu when you open your car door and a blast of heat hits you in the face, and you realize you’re remembering the last time you opened the oven on a roasting chicken. You’ll miss the confidence brought about by the knowledge that Hell could hold no worse for you.

Luckily, you’ll be able to re-experience it all in The Hoard!  There will be a collector’s edition limited to a hundred hard covers, but the TPB is already available for pre-order at B&N for the ridonk low price of $11.46 (I have no idea if it will stay that way, since it says it’s discounted from 16.99).

The pitch:

THE HOARD by Alan Ryker
A new breed…a new evil…

Hidden deep beneath its landfill lair of trash and filth, a strange new organism has come to life.  When an accidental fire drives it out, the mysterious creature escapes across the drought-blasted Kansas prairie and finds the home of elderly hoarder Anna Grish.  In desperate need of shelter, it burrows in, concealed amidst the squalor and mess.

When Adult Protective Services force Anna to vacate her junk-riddled home, she moves in with her son and his family.  But there is something wrong with Anna, something more than her declining mental condition and severe hoarding disorder.  Something sinister has taken hold of her, and it’s not only getting stronger, it’s spreading.  Amidst the wide-open Kansas plains, with endless blue sky above and flat, open vista stretching from one horizon to the next, there is nowhere to hide from…THE HOARD.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

June Reads

Books can be read any month of the year. These are the ones I read in June:

Farm City: The education of an Urban Farmer – Novella Carpenter
Her name is Novella! I thought this would be preachy, or deadly serious. It was really, really good. Funny, educational, and often delightfully vulgar.

Fill the Grand Canyon and Live Forever – Andersen Prunty
This is bizarro fiction of the transgressional style. It was a delightful read. Really. The wild, elliptical logic between one sentence and the next provided constant small joys. Not every concept worked, but enough did.

Watership Down – Richard Adams
I’d never read this book, and I decided it was time. Thoroughly enjoyable. How is it that the rabbits in this Arthurian tale seem so much more realistic than the tired archetypes found in the humans of its genre?

A Bum Deal – Rufus Hannah
Autobiography of Rufus the Stunt Bum from the Bum Fights video series. Written in a raw, direct voice with real soul. Great stuff.

Spin – Robert Charles Wilson
This is one of those ideal scifi books that is fascinating in concept, and still rich in character.

The Long Way – Ramsey Campbell
Not his best, but enjoyable.

Kronk – Edmund Cooper
Scifi in the vein of Kurt Vonnegut, though not nearly as good.

The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon
What can you say? I enjoyed it, but Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco is better.

By Force of Arms – William Dietz
A nice distraction, but unremarkable. I probably won’t read any of the rest of the series. Saberhagen did the villains much better in his Berserker series. There’s a very weak, very forced romantic thread. The end is incredibly anticlimactic. The lack of black and white morality was great though. If everything had been as interesting, this would have been awesome.

McTeague – Frank Norris
McTeague is an enormous, slow-witted dentist in San Francisco round the year 1900. Boy did this book take a strange turn. I liked it.

A very satisfying sequel. Expands the big story without seeming like an incomplete episode. If you enjoyed the first, you’ll definitely enjoy this.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Penny Dreadnought Omnibus! Volume 1 Out Now

Oh, hi. I didn’t see you there. Do you remember those great Penny Dreadnought stories of early 2012? I sure do. They just don’t make them like that anymore. Wouldn’t you like to revisit those great times, any time you wanted? Now you can.

No, I don’t mean by taking powerful hallucinogens, putting on someone else’s prescription glasses and touring your local slaughterhouse. Now you can own all 4 issues of Penny Dreadnought, with all 16 stories, in one convenient omnibus. And at a great, low price!

I’m talking about “Lilies” by Iain Rowan, “He” by James Everington, “All the Pretty Yellow Flowers” by Aaron Polson, and “The New Words” by Alan Ryker. I’m talking about “Foreword” by Iain Rowan, “Foreword” by James Everington, and “Foreword” by Alan Ryker.

Wow, that’s a lot of value in one little ebook. And if you buy right now (or later), you’ll get a bonus gallery of never-before-seen covers!

Penny Dreadnought Omnibus! Volume 1