Laugh Out Loud Stuff

It's not easy being (Judge) Green

This political billboard ad, which I pass daily going to work, has to be one of the worst ever. I mean, can you imagine the stoned photoshop wiz who convinced Judge Green to go with this ad. "Oh wow, dude, your last name's Green. We should totally make you, like, green!"

Every time I see this billboard I want to start singing "It's not easy being green" alongside Kermit the Frog. 

The sad thing is that Judge Green's a highly respected and effective judge here in Ohio. I sometimes think this ad might be so bad it's actually genius because it forces people to remember his name. Since judicial elections have problems with voters remembering candidate names, that wouldn't be a bad thing.

But then I snap back to reality and realize, no, this ad does Judge Green absolutely no favors.

A Novel of Cliched Discovery: A Subtitled Guide to the Worst Fiction Subtitles on Amazon

I shouldn't do this. One of the unspoken rules of being an author is you shouldn't pick on your fellow authors.* (see exceptions to rule below)

But no. I can't let this go. The other day I was browsing on Amazon and I realized that almost EVERY SINGLE NOVEL on the site has a subtitle, and most of them are bad. Really really bad.

I mean, what the hell? Have we reached the point where people can't buy a novel without seeing an annoyingly cliched subtitle summing up the book in the most trite way possible? Are readers lost without someone telling them that this is My Story: A Novel of Discovery in an Age of Love and War, Book 1?

Before you think I exagerate with that intentionally bad subtitle, do you know how many novels have the subtitle "a novel of love and war"? Check out the list. Since Amazon returns four pages of results with that subtitle, let's simple agree that it's quite a few.

Now don't get me wrong: subtitles can be a great thing, and Lord knows I've used them in my time. Two anthologies I've edited — Million Writers Award: The Best New Online Voices and Million Writers Award: The Best Online Science Fiction and Fantasy — both sprouted their titles in the fertile fields of subtitle land. After all, subtitles can be a useful way to both brand your book and convey added information to potential readers.

In my case, I needed to let readers know the anthologies were tied in with the annual Million Writers Award while also helping readers tell them apart. And for some genres — such as with nonfiction — subtitles are a vital tool to help potential readers quickly determine a book's subject matter.  

But that doesn't mean most novels need subtitles. And if they do, novels certainly don't need the cliches which most publishers and authors believe qualify as subtitles.

In many ways we're living in the literary landscape left by J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. He'd originally wanted his epic fantasy story to be published as one massive novel, but his publisher balked at the cost of doing that. Instead, they released the novel as a trilogy, resulting in bastardizations such as The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

When other authors and publishers realized the payoff which could result from successful series, we began to see increasing numbers of subtitles proclaiming the series and book number. This trend picked up even more steam when mega-blockbuster films like Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope tricked a new generation of authors into believing subtitle land was the only place to write.

I'm probably fighting a losing battle against this trend, but such is life. Still, where logic and literary analysis don't succeed, there's always humor and snark. Below are the worst subtitled novels I've discovered on Amazon. I know there are many more out there — if anyone finds a jaw-droppingly bad fiction subtitle, add it to the comments below.

* Exceptions to the author-picking-on rule. Authors are not supposed to pick on fellow authors unless:

  • You can do it anonymously. Because oh yeah baby, authors love a nice anonymous flame war built on the bonfires of each other's books.
  • The author being picked on is successful. If an author makes the best-seller lists and becomes a household name like J.K. Rowling then the knives come out. Because dang it, when you're an author sometimes you're only reward in this world is extra-heavy envy of those who are more successful than you.

Why I can't vote for Mitt Romney: His favorite novel is Battlefield Earth

All of the second-tier candidates in the Republican Primary must have crap for campaign budgets, as evidenced by the lousy opposition research they've done on Mitt Romney. I know this because, all on my lonesome, I've discovered something extremely disturbing about the Republican front-runner. To my mind, this bombshell totally disqualifies Romney from even visiting the White House, let alone being elected president.

Drum roll please: Romney's favorite novel is Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard!

Romney made this claim in a 2007 Fox News interview (you can also find additional coverage of the statement here). In case you're not familiar with this massive 1000-page novel by the founder of Scientology, let's be generous and say Battlefield Earth reads like it was cranked out by a bunch of hack monkeys defecating on a broken typewriter. Yes, the book hit the best-seller lists, but only because of a Scientology-backed purchasing campaign. The novel was also the genesis of one of the worst SF films of all time.

I simply can't believe a serious presidential contender would pick Battlefield Earth for his favorite book. As this newscast states, "Given the existence of every other book ever written, it was a curious answer." And the best part is that once Romney realized praising a bad novel by the founder of Scientology wasn't in his best political interests, he flip-flopped and claimed Battlefield Earth was only one of his favorite books (with his new favorite book being ... you guessed it ... the Bible).

But this flip-flop doesn't change the fact that Romney still claims Battlefield Earth as his favorite, or one of his favorite, novels.  

Since Newt Gingrich is a science fiction fan, you'd think he'd have some strong words to say about Romney's choice of a favorite novel. After all, Newt may be a crap SF writer but he must know enough about the genre to recognize the cliched badness oozing from every page of Battlefield Earth. 

Of course, perhaps this won't be a big issue in the campaign. After all, Romney is a fabled flip-flopper and, according to a 2011 news report, he has already moved on to praising another set of novels--the Twilight series!

Which, considering my views on sparkling vampires, is another reason I could never vote for this man.

Author Nearly Trapped in Avalanche of Ego-Destroying Rejection Slips

Dateline Jason's Desk -- During a routine desk cleaning, a sudden avalanche of papers and magazines engulfed science fiction author Jason Sanford today, trapping him for several minutes.

"I was truly fortunate," Jason said. "I was buried by those science fiction magazines which have already published my stories. Thankfully, that's a tiny, almost insignificant pile and I was quickly able to dig my way out."

While scientists agreed that Jason had a close call, fears of an additional collapse continue to grow. "While Jason is correct that his pile of acceptances isn't big enough to pose a threat of bodily harm to anyone," avalanche expert Ivana Falls said, "his nearby mountain of rejection slips is another matter."

This mountain of rejection, easily reaching several stories in height, is the accumulation of all the smashed dreams from Jason's writing career. Included among the rejections are the elusive six-year rejection letter, the rejection from the editor who ridiculed Jason's personal hygiene even though the two of them had never met, and the rejection from the scammers at the International Library of Poetry, which accept every poem sent their way but made a special exception for Jason's writings.

"Yeah, that rejection pile scares the heck out of me," Jason said. "If it collapses, I'd easily be crushed beneath the oppressive, humiliating, ego-crushing weight of years of rejection."

As of the filing of this report, there is no word on what Jason plans to do with the stack of checks he's received for his stories. But according to Ivana Falls, this stack poses no threat. "I mean, we're talking about a writer who only publishes short stories. How much money could be in that check pile? Five dollars? Maybe ten at most?"

This reporter shared a cruel chuckle with Falls before setting off for the hospital's burn ward to poke fun at the survivors of the most recent literary flame war.

The Evolution of My Love Affair with Google+

  1. I love Google+ because it's not Facebook. It's also cool that I got an invite and you didn't.
  2. I love Google+'s features. Let's hangout 24/7. Let's drag the whole damn world into a circle.
  3. Google+ is the be all and end all of human achievement!
  4. I will name my first-born son Google+!
  5. Ah. That was absolutely amazing, Google+. My best social media experience ever. Now what do we do?
  6. I see. Okay, I guess we can hangout some more.
  7. What do you mean you don't recognize my webcam. It worked the last fifty times I plugged it into you.
  8. What kind of question is that, asking if you're still hip? Of course you are, Google+. But is the word "hip" still hip?
  9. Sigh. I guess we can do a hangout to discuss whether or not hip is hip.
  10. Where the hell are all my Facebook friends? Don't they know they're missing out on the pinnacle of human civilization?
  11. Maybe I'll just pop back over to Facebook to see what everyone is up to.
  12. Oh God! Google+ caught me! I swear it was nothing. Facebook doesn't mean anything to me anymore. We're only friends.
  13. Please don't cry. Sigh. Yes, we can do another damn hangout.
  14. Are you sleeping, Google+? Good. Let me just see what my friends are up to on Facebook ...
  15. Sonofabitch! What's with you, Google+? How do you know everything about me?
  16. Oh. Of course. You are Google, after all. Do no evil my ass.
  17. Am I breaking up with you? No, not really. I still like what we have. But I'm hoping for more of an open relationship.
  18. No, I don't think Twitter and Facebook would be interested in a three-some.
  19. Don't get me wrong, Google+, it's nothing you did. It's me. I'm the one with the problem. 
  20. Hello Facebook! I'm back! How have you been?
  21. What the hell did you do to my privacy settings? No, I don't want Facebook using my profile picture to sell advertising for Sweaty Swine Kissers Anonymous.
  22. Google+, wait! I didn't mean it. Take me back! Please!

You Won't Survive the End of the World

Today's Dilbert strip perfectly sums up how planning for the end of the world is doomed to failure. I mean, whether we're talking the collapse of our financial system, nuclear holocaust, zombie armageddon, or the return of Y2K, the odds are you and I would not survive.

Here's my reasoning: There are almost 7 billion people in our world. If the world ended today, the first people to be selected out is everyone reading this essay. Think about that. If you have a computer in today's world, then odds are you're highly tied in with the current economy and skill set. Well guess what – if the world ends there are no computers, Starbucks, or smart phones, meaning your skill set is totally irrelevant to survival. Instead, the people in this world who'd have a chance to survive are those with more traditional human skills like hunting and farming and simple manufacturing.

"But I plant a garden in my spare time. Surely I'd survive?" Err, no. And the same with the part-time hunting skills where you pack up the Hummer with a half million dollars in gear and drive five hours to bag a deer.  You see, those are not true hunting, farming, and maufacturing skills. When you have lived off your own farming and hunting for several years, or can build a generator from scratch, you can claim to have the skills to survive. Until then, you're merely playing.

However, there is a bigger problem, which today's Dilbert strip alludes to. No matter how many supplies you lay in, or how many traditional skills and guns you have, if you live in the parts of the world with computers and modern conveniences the odds don't favor you. 

For example, say the world ended and you're living in the United States with a population of 300 plus million. Even if half that population died, the other 150 million would be desperate to survive. The problem is that most of those people don't have the supplies and skills needed to survive outside our current economic order. 

So there you are, holed up in your rural safehouse with a thousand guns and ten pounds of seeds and enough know-how to impress even the author of that silly Farnham's Freehold. The problem is there are still 150 million people who want what you have. The odds do not favor you.

Sure, in one way or another humanity would survive. We're like that. We're the intelligent cockroaches of the animal world. But don't pretend you would survive the end of the world.

Burn Baby Burn (The World's Shortest Vampire Romance)

I'd never given much thought to how different Edward and I were – though I'd had reason enough in the last few months of our whirlwind romance.  But now that we were finally on our honeymoon, the differences were becoming ever more evident.

I stared without breathing across the dark room as Edward stood in front of the closed drapes, which blocked the sun from our Acapulco hotel suite. On the wall beside Edward was a tall mirror, which didn't reflect his image. Still, I didn't need a mirror to tell me of the beauty I saw before me. Edward's pale, chiseled body heaved as he smiled at me, and his taut buttocks tensed slightly, running an erotic flash between my thighs.

Edward's gaze was mesmerizing. I felt like prey caught in the eyes of a powerful predator. A predator who could rip me apart if he chose – rip me to pieces and drink my ever so vital fluids.

"You know I'd never harm you," Edward said, reaching for my hand. He pulled me close and hugged me to his sweaty body. "Never forget," he added. "I may be a monster, but I love you."

"You're no monster," I said as I kissed him.

"Perhaps. But the leaders of the vampires won't be happy that we've married."

"Why should they care?"

Edward looked pained, as if I'd asked him to bare his soul for all the world to see. "There are things about my people we never show outsiders."

"Like what? Do you glow in the sunlight or something?"

I'd meant the comment only in jest, but Edward looked at me with his ages-old gaze and nodded. "You are close," he said. "It's supposedly the most intense feeling any vampire can experience."

"Better than sex?" I asked, wicked memories of last night flashing through my mind.

"Far better. Would you like to experience it with me?"

My body shivered in excitement as Edward again pulled me close and we kissed, a kiss which reached into the depths of my soul and caressed my very being. As we kissed, Edward reached out with his free hand and flung open the drapes, revealing the morning sunlight angling across the beach and the waves.

In the sunlight, Edward sparkled, light jumping around his body as our kiss grew even more passionate, our emotions crashing like the waves outside our hotel room. I felt like I was on fire.

Except I wasn't on fire – Edward was on fire!

He looked at me in panic as I stepped back. His skin smoked and his sexy hair flared. His wondrous taut buttocks charred black.

"Aw shit," he said. "They always told me we sparkled in the sunlight."

As he said this his body exploded in flames, knocking me against the window. When I stood up, ash rained across the hotel room.

I guess Acapulco wasn't a good choice for a vampire honeymoon.

New Mottos for Our Social Media Overlords

I've always liked Google's informal motto of Don't Be Evil. I mean, when you state upfront that you don't want to be evil, that's a great way to deflect complaints when you start acting like Darth Vader on a roid rage.

So in the interest of helping other social media companies come up with their own informal mottos, I offer the following suggestions:

  • Google: "Don't be evil unless there's clear profit in it."
  • Yahoo: "We coulda been a contender. We coulda been Google, instead of a bum."
  • Facebook: "Privacy? What effin privacy?"
  • MySpace: "The Facebook for people who can't even spell aesthetics."
  • LiveJournal: "For people who still think the word 'hip' is hip."
  • Renren: "Make a killing with your IPO by calling yourself China's Facebook!"
  • LinkedIn: "Why network when you can pretend to network?"
  • FourSquare: "When you absolutely, positively want to tell a robber where you are."
  • Twitter: "Twitter is over capacity."
  • YouTube: "Because every fool deserves 15 minutes of fame."
  • Skype: "We aim to prove that Microsoft will always jack up a good thing."
  • Digg: "Who knew stopping our users from acting like a mob would kill our business model?"
  • Yelp: "Because bitch-slapping businesses is fun!"
  • Wikipedia: "As accurate as Encyclopædia Britannica, unless an editor has a vendetta against a subject."

Yes! Ohio is the Nerdiest State!

The-United-States-of-Shame So a map called "The United States of Shame" is making the rounds by listing what your home state is worst at. Since I was born and raised in Alabama, I'm less than pleased to be from the nation's stroke capital.

But the good news is I now live in Ohio, where the worst that could be hung around our neck is that we're the nerdiest state in the union. I mean, compared to being the bestiality state, the dumbest state, or the state with the ugliest residents, I have no problem embracing Ohio's nerdhood.

I'd also like to point out that Ohio is home to a number of other science fiction writers, including Tobias Buckell, Kameron Hurley, Geoffrey A. Landis, Paul Melko, Mary A. Turzillo, and John Scalzi. It's quite likely that our combined nerdhood helped bump Ohio over the top in this category. So if you live in the Buckeye state, thank your local science fiction author. We may have kept Ohio from being known as the state with the most mobile homes.

How to kill a writing career

This afternoon while slaving away on the novel which will rocket me to the heights of literary superstardom -- maybe even to the level of Paris Hilton superstardom -- insight struck. I realized I was working way too hard at this writing gig. Instead of trying to succeed through hard work, talent, and dedication, there was a much better way to reach my fictional goals.

I simply needed to thin the writing herd.

Think about it. There are thousands of fiction writers and wanna-be authors in the world. As we all know, when one species overpopulates an ecosystem all creatures are at risk of starvation until the population stabilizes. So why not knock off the competition? This way the survivors -- and their fiction -- will naturally float to the top of an empty literary world.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions on how to destroy a writing career. Simply retitle these suggestions as positive advice -- such as "What every successful writer knows!" -- and send them to both budding writers and established pros. Budding writers won't realize the success you refer to is your own until AFTER their buds have been nipped, a la Barney Fife, while established pros are so cocky they won't recognize what's happening until they're knocking on heaven's remainder bin.

So do your part, and dump a little weed killer in the garden of literary delights by passing this "advice" to other fiction writers.

How to kill a writing career
Remember: Before sending this to a writer, retitle it in a positive way, such as "10 sure-fire ways to publishing success" or "What publishing insiders don't want you to know."

  1. Heed the immortal writing advice of Allen Ginsberg: ''First thought, best thought." Revisions and rewriting should be left to those without the talent to be writers in the first place.
  2. Proper spelling and grammar are traps to keep authors down. Dare to reach greatness by following your own linguistic path.
  3. Only writers lacking vision worship coherent plots. So every time you sit down to write, mutter this simple chant: "James Joyce's Ulysses is a great novel. James Joyce's Ulysses is a great novel."
  4. Write only what is popular and trendy. After all, if drunk and horny vampire biker chicks are the hot thing this year, imagine how much hotter they'll be when your book comes out three years from now.
  5. Embrace adjectives. If one adjective is descriptive, why not five or six in a row?
  6. Waste the readers' time. After all, if readers want to drink from the fountain of your literary greatness, it's up to them to pucker up and suck.
  7. Write only when the muse moves you. Only bad writers force themselves to write every day. You answer only to your muse. And don't forget -- the muse loves to drink! Lots and lots of drink!
  8. Guidelines are for writers afraid to push the boundaries. Not only defy every guideline you encounter, when submitting tell the editors you don't accept their limited ideas on what fiction they should publish. Be sure to also address submissions to "Dear Editor" to show these little people their proper place in the literary supernova that is you.
  9. Continually act neurotic, paranoid, angry, annoyed, psychotic, or better yet, all of those at once. And remember, you can't be a great writer unless you are addicted to something obscure and weird. (Like wow man, that dried gnat excrement is nature's only truly righteous high!")
  10. Flame wars are your friend. If you don't post a nasty repartee somewhere on the web at least once a day, how will you succeed as a writer? And be sure to engage in flame wars with other writers, editors, and literary agents. Nothing says you've arrived on the literary scene like a flame war!

Hate email to me, read by Richard Nixon!

Two weeks ago I asked if the term SciFi was still considered derogatory by the science fiction community. In response I received a number of emails from people none to pleased with my comments. I'm sure every writer gets these messages, which rant on and on about how feeble minded you are for daring to state an opinion.

Lucky for us, writer and critic Edward Champion refuses to allow such anger and venom to disappear with the emptying of our email's trash. As part of his Hate Mail Dramatic Reading Project, he's turned one of the emails I received into an amazing performance--read by none other than Richard Nixon. What was once merely an inbox irritation has been transformed into a work to stand proudly beside the best of Richard Nixon's many, many recordings.