Fiction (and poetry) update

It’s been a while since I posted a fiction update – Jan 2017 to be precise. The one before that was two years ago. Alas, the pattern of outlets I write for ceasing to exist continues.

Reviewing those last two updates, not much happened. However I have submitted a story and a poem to Non-Binary Review’s anthology of pieces inspired by Dante’s Inferno. And I am trying to think something up for the “Still On Patrol” call I blogged about earlier.

And I have also retooled a couple of stories which have been bounced back a few times by various publications – submitting one to Willow Zine and one to Fabula Argentea. So let’s see what . happens!


“Still on patrol”

I came across this call for submissions for an upcoming anthology by Otter Libris:

There is a tradition in the United States Navy that no submarine is ever truly lost at sea. Those boats and the crews who don’t return to port are considered “still on patrol” in perpetuity. Active duty sailors would never dream of leaving their still on patrol shipmates behind, so every year, usually at the Christmas holiday, sailors manning communications hubs ashore and at sea send out a message. They send holiday wishes for health and happiness to those they know will receive it, and the same wishes to those listed as still on patrol.

What if those submariners who never returned are still out there? What if it’s the energy of the yearly good wishes that keeps them going on their eternal patrol? And what if their eternal patrol protects the living against threats more otherworldly than mundane wars between nation states?

What about other military men and women, disappeared or lost at sea, in the air, or on land? Is there a Roman Legion still manning Hadrian’s Wall? Are there ghostly flight crews who herd hapless aircraft away from the Bermuda Triangle? Tell us stories about military men and women who continue to protect humanity long after they’ve taken their last breath. Tell us what happens when they take the oath to protect their people not just from threats foreign and domestic, but supernatural as well.

I hadn’t come across the “still on patrol” concept before. From Wikipedia, here is a memorial plaque from the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia:


It sounds like an interesting anthology at the very least….reminds me of J G Ballard’s One Afternoon at Utah Beach (the text of which is not, as far as I can find, available online)

A silent Inferno from 1911 – “arguably the first ever blockbuster

 Via the the twitter account of Ewan Morrison, I came across this gem. The oldest existing feature length film is none other than a 1911 silent version of Dante’s Inferno from Italy. The whole thing is on YouTube:

For those who might prefer a suitably bite-sized chunk for our modern age, here are the bits from Ewan Morrison’s tweets:

Who could not be terrified by these poking devils?:

“Hugging the cactus”

I came across this phrase in a video of Robert Downey Jr receiving the American Cinematheque Award  in 2011. Downey Jr had requested Mel Gibson present the award and went on to, well:

This page has a transcript:

When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope, and he urged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his faith or anyone else’s, as long as it was rooted in forgiveness.

And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me as the lead in a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head, and he kept food on the table. And most importantly, he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoings and if I embraced that part of my soul that was ugly — “hugging the cactus,” he calls it — he said that if I “hugged the cactus” long enough, I’d become a man of some humility and that my life would take on a new meaning.And I did, and it worked. All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume that at the time he didn’t imagine that the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight.So, anyway, on this special occasion …

I humbly ask that you join me — unless you are completely without sin, in which case you picked the wrong fucking industry — in forgiving my friend his trespasses, offering him the same clean slate you have me, and allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame.

He’s hugged the cactus long enough!

I found this rather more heartfelt and touching than the usual awards ceremony sentimentality. And this world needs a lot of more of let-he-without-sin-cast-the-first-stone so Downey Jr’s rather profane formulation is welcome.

The phrase “hugging the cactus” stuck with me. I presumed it was some kind of phrase from a twelve step style programme or somesuch. However, an internet search doesn’t turn up that much. It pops up, for instance, here as an idiom for something not that pleasant:

“Parenting teens is like hugging a cactus. Even as the ‘warm fuzzies’ are not often reciprocated, teens still need them, still need to know they are loved unconditionally. Don’t miss the opportunity to say or show love, warmth and affection toward even your most prickly teen.”

The main online use of the term I found is this blog by a lady with Type 1 Diabetes:

My diabetes journey began on Christmas Eve in 1997. That day, I became the third person diagnosed with type one diabetes in my family. I was four years old at the time, so I’ve lived most of my life with diabetes. While some people may view this as sad, I’ve learned to embrace my chronic condition and live my life without limitations. You might say that I’ve taught myself to hug the cactus, so to speak.

It is an interesting idiom. Perhaps Mel Gibson did indeed invent it. Is there anything he cannot do?

In which I discover Mavis Beacon Isn’t Real

You can learn something new every day. Years ago, I learnt touch typing and sporadically honed what skill I have with Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. I always vaguely assumed there was a real touch typing expert called Mavis Beacon behind it all – perhaps owner of a successful chain of secretarial colleges in New York State or some such .

However she isn’t, being created from whole cloth.  This near 20-year old New York Times article discusses this phenomenon, including her significance as a female African-American role model.