Oh My Dear Lord, It’s a Video of My Band From High School

This just surfaced on Facebook. I had no idea this existed. I am not sure it should exist. Nevertheless, it does. And I am showing it to you. Spoiler: We’re not good. Prepare yourselves.

Context: The name of the band is Dead Rats Don’t Fly, and it was the brain child of my friend Tom Kim, who took on the role of the producer of the band. Scott Moore is there on vocals, my friend Kevin Stampfl is on bass, Chris Godfrey’s on keyboards, George Huang and John Herpel on guitar, and I’m on the drums (there was also a second vocalist, Steve Shenbaum).  The song being performed there at the beginning is called “It’s a New Reality,” and I will note I wrote the lyrics. In my head, it sounded like a Van Halen II-era rock and roll rave up. I want to emphasize: In my head.

So: Not good. But you know what? We had fun pretending to be rock stars. And our friends had fun watching us pretend to be rock stars (we opened for an air band contest, speaking of pretending to be rock stars). It was fun being young.

Also, I still have that drum set. It’s in my basement. I’m totally going to play it soon. Just for fun.

(Thanks — and curses! — to Eric Hutchinson, who uploaded this thing to YouTube)

(Also, for those of you wondering, yes, I have since done other music. Slightly more competently! You can find it here.)

New Look Update

I think I have it pretty much where I want it at the moment, though I might do a little bit of further tweaking around the edges.

For those who are curious, the design is WordPress’ “Twenty Thirteen” theme, lightly tweaked via basic personalization (colors, images) and with a little CSS work to shrink the headlines down from their previously somewhat obnoxious size and to bump up the size of the main body text. Also, if your computer has the font Cambria in it anywhere, you’ll see the body text in it; otherwise it should be some sort of san serif.

Generally speaking, I like the new look. It feels a little more open and airy to me than the previous iteration of the site, and I suspect the bumped up typeface of the body text means it’s easier to read on retina-level tablets and laptops (also, for those machines, the sidebar automatically slides down underneath when your tablet is in portrait mode/your browser window is sized smallishly). In all, it brings the site up to, well, 2013, without making it overly complicated.  It’s mostly the same, in fact; just a little bit prettier.

DON’T PANIC: Changing Designs

I’ve decided I’m officially bored with Whatever’s design, which has been the same for about two years now. I’ll be making some changes today, effective around 3pm Eastern. Between then and whenever I’ve said I’ve stopped, the blog may look weird or wonky for a bit, and features may disappear, reappear, or otherwise flicker and shift. Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out.

Dayton: See Me Thursday, 7pm, Books & Co in Beavercreek! Plus: Chinese Books

First things first: Hey, Dayton and the surrounding area, why not come see me at Books & Co at the Greene in Beavercreek tomorrow at 7pm? Why not bring the kids? And the parents? And the neighbors? And their pets? Especially if they are ferrets? Because I love me some ferrets, man. There’s nothing I enjoy more than doing a reading positively covered in ferrets. It’s, like, a bucket list sort of thing. So bring everyone and their ferrets! And if you don’t have a ferret, well, that’s okay. Come see me read and answer questions and sign books anyway. I don’t judge.

Second: Below, for your pleasure, the Chinese versions of both Old Man’s War and Fuzzy Nation:

Fun fact: That’s actually the second Chinese edition of Old Man’s War; the first version had a rather, uh, more somber cover. It’s a new publisher who’s also changed the title. Well, I hope it works for them.

I like the Fuzzy Nation cover, however, especially because I discovered this is actually the slipcover art; underneath the slipcover is this book cover art:

Yeah, that’s really kind of cool. Well done, Chinese publisher! More of this, please.

How My Daughter Is Spending Summer Vacation

Hey. That horse won’t ride itself.

The Big Idea: David J. Schwartz

Author David J. Schwartz is offering his latest, Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib, as an Amazon Kindle Serial: Buy it, and every couple of weeks a new episode drops into your eReader. A neat concept (and I know from episodic content), but what’s the story? Well, as Schwartz explains, head to the 1940s… and swerve.


I don’t know about you, but I spend an embarrassing amount of time wishing some things had never happened, or had happened differently. Part of what’s embarrassing is that a lot of these events I think about changing happened in high school, and the changes I would make mostly have to do with helping me appear a lot more With It than I was then or indeed ever have been since. My own personal alternate history, in other words, with divergence points like that time in ninth grade when–to be honest, I’ve blocked most of those things out by now. Trauma, you know.

A divergence point, as you probably know, is the event upon which an alternate history hinges. Take the battle of Gettysburg. Back in 1931 Winston Churchill wrote an essay from the point of view of an historian in a world where the Confederacy won the American Civil War, titled “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg.” Alternate histories tend to focus on big events, because big events tend to have more consequences. Lee wins at Gettysburg, so the South wins the war, so–well, that changes everything. And that’s how science fiction is supposed to work: you change one thing and explore the implications.

My serial Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib isn’t science fiction; it’s contemporary fantasy with an alternate-history backstory. The primary divergence point, and in some ways the central idea for the entire world and story, is this: there was a top secret research project in the United States during World War II, but its object wasn’t the development of an atomic bomb. Instead, a team of magicians–including the late Aleister Crowley–found a way to weaponize demonic energy. As a result, magic has at least temporarily supplanted science as the preferred way of doing things. Instead of microwave ovens there are salamander-powered MagicWaves. Teleportation (known as “portalling”) is mainstream. Computers and the internet exist, but aren’t as reliable–or as relied upon–as in our world. Cellphones were never invented, but most people carry personally attuned crystals that allow them to place person-to-person calls–they never drop a call, but there is the occasional problem with ghosts picking up the line.

As you might imagine, magic has become a gateway for dozens of careers. File clerks and travel agents get certified in Spatial Distortion. Want a job with Dow or GE? An Alchemy degree might get your foot in the door. If you want to freelance for the rich and famous, putting up security wards around their lavish homes, Security Magic might be the path for you.

The school of the title is, in many ways, an unremarkable one for its world. It’s located in Gooseberry Bluff, Minnesota, just across the St. Croix River from Wisconsin. It’s more or less a technical school, not a fancy school for higher magic studies, like its crosstown rival, Arthur Stag College. It’s a good school as trade schools go, but not one that attracts much attention, until a couple of events attract the attention of the Federal Bureau of Magical Affairs.

That’s another thing that Aleister Crowley did, in this world; the U.S. government was so pleased with his research in weaponizing demonic energy that they asked him to head up a new law-enforcement agency, charged with protecting the public from the threats and abuses of magic. And there are plenty of those. Among the most frightening and mysterious are the Heartstoppers, terroristic attacks in which dozens–sometimes hundreds–of people are left lifeless, though not technically dead. The attacks are fueled by demonic energy, and have taken place all over the globe.

That’s the world in which my protagonist, undercover FBMA agent Joy Wilkins, has to maneuver. It’s a world that’s been dealing with the implications and complications of magic for seventy years, and I try to reflect that. Some of the most fun I’ve had with the story has been in making up things like the Magical Currency Destabilization Act, figuring out how a conflict over magical/intellectual property rights might influence an interrogation, or all the utterly awesome ways in which libraries might exploit magic to, say, make Inter-Library Loans obsolete by enabling you to simply walk through the stacks to the library in the next town.

Joy has her own built-in challenges. She’s a rookie agent who comes into Gooseberry Bluff to investigate the disappearance of a professor and the illegal trafficking of demons. She sees auras, but she has trouble with faces; she has prosopagnosia, or face blindness. In a way, I think that has determined what this story is about, at least thematically: it’s about the deception of appearances. The deeper she gets into her investigation, the more difficulty she has deciding who to trust, and where to turn for help.

That’s the story, but the story doesn’t happen without the world, and the world of Gooseberry Bluff is built on that simple science fictional premise. Demons instead of atoms. That could change everything.


Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib: Amazon

Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

My 8,00th Post*

Hello! This is my 8,000th post on Whatever!*

*Not actually the 8,000th post on Whatever, because other people have made guest posts over the years. This is actually the 8,093rd post on Whatever.**

**It’s not actually the 8,093rd post on Whatever, either, because the posts here currently only go back to March of 2002, and I was writing on the site far earlier than that (going back to September of 1998; September 13th, 1998, to be precise). There’s probably between 1,000 and 2,000 posts unaccounted for.***

***Speaking of unaccounted posts, I don’t know that Big Idea posts should count as posts by me, because they are mostly written by other people; I just put in an opening graph and post them, which means the WordPress software counts them as mine.****

****Also, now that I think of it, there are some guest posts from several years back which I accidentally deleted and then reposted, which are now reposted under my account. They probably shouldn’t be counted as mine, either.*****

*****Also, I think there may be at least a couple of duplicate posts, caused when the database of entries was ported over to the WordPress VIP servers back in 2008.

So, uh. Yeah.

Hello! I’ve been writing on Whatever for a really long time now.

Here, have a picture of a cat.