Saturday, June 21, 2014


Happy summer solstice, everyone—though it really is the more somber of the two occasions. For the next six months we're on a downward slope towards winter. We wax, we wane, we change, we change. Through the accumulation of recognizable cycles we come to find ourselves unrecognizable. All things on this little Earth and the unfathomable cosmos beyond.


A few things I've neglected to mention here:

Back in May, a short story of mine called "And the Angels Ministered unto Him" appeared in EAP: The Magazine.

I've been doing some blogging for Carve lately. The highlights so far: an interview with Carve's associate editor, Old Media in a New World, and Books Are Not Immersive—And That Might Be a Good Thing. I've got an interview with Spenser Gordon set to appear next week, so take a gander at that when it appears.

And I wrote a blog post for The Town Crier about "The Fighting Game," which I wrote for The Puritan last winter.

I have another novel coming out next month—I think. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 13, 2014

From The Simplicity of Disorder

William Carlos Williams:

I think these days when there is so little to believe in—when the old loyalties—God, country, and the hope of Heaven—aren't very real, we are more dependent than we should be on our friends. The only thing left to believe in—someone who seems beautiful.

("The Simplicity of Disorder," 1929)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Photinus Pyralis

Marc R. Hanson, Firefly Dance

 Busy lately. Been revising a batch of short stories written in the last six to eight months and trying to find homes for them. Doing some blogging over at Carve. (I'll provide links later this month; the posts are written some weeks in advance and several haven't gone up yet.) Just finished an "author's notes" post for The Town Crier about a short story I wrote for The Puritan. (I'll also post a link to that whenever the Town Crier folks put it up.) And I'm finally beginning to work on that Bob's Burgers writeup to complete the Bouchard Buffet. This all means I haven't got much to offer this week.

Hmm. The fireflies have started to appear in the backyard. Once again I find myself missing my two-year home in Pennsylvania. The fireflies out here only appear sporadically; they're nowhere near as abundant as they are in the Crum Woods or even in the forests around the family digs in Jersey.

Since fireflies were on my mind tonight, I thought I'd share a short poem about them. A short poem that I wrote—written long enough ago that I can shrug off any criticism with "yeah, whatever, it was a while back, I know better now."

I had a hard time finding it on my flash drive; I'd forgotten that I'd saved the file under the name "hotaru" and changed the title at the top of the document to "firefly" whenever I shared it with somebody.

"Hotaru" requires some explanation. Thanks to SNK, I'm aware that "hotaru" is the Japanese term for the type of insect that English speakers identify as "firefly" or "lightning bug." (In the United States, the most common species is Photinus pyralis; Japan has Luciola lateralis and Luciola cruciata.) And I have to admit I've preferred the term "hotaru" to "firefly" or "lightning bug" because they are such awful names for the thing they denote.

Maybe awful is too harsh a word, but the appellations are certainly misrepresentative. When I use them I can't help feeling like I'm doing a kind of semantic injustice to this creature that I love.

Here's what I mean.

First, "firefly." A compound of "fire" and "fly."

So we're using two words—one for the light, heat, and flame produced by the process of combustion, and the other for an insect of a totally different order—to describe Photinus pyralis. One of the words in the compound is inappropriate; the other is unfortunate.

"Fire" blazes. It consumes, rages, blisters, scorches, crackles, incinerates, calorifies. To use the word "fire" to characterize the soft chartreuse flashes of Photinus pyralis is as malapropos as using the word "horse" to describe a dog.

As for "fly:" none of the most salient qualities we attribute to the rapid, noisy, shit-eating, maggot-breeding pest Musca domestica are shared by the gentle Photinus pyralis but the fact that they are flying insects. Again, we are calling a horse a dog. (More literally, we are calling a member of the order coleoptera a member of the order diptera.)

Second: "lightning bug." Is this any better? Not really.

"Lightning" is no more analogous to bioluminescence than "fire." A flash of lightning is brilliant; the flicker of Photinus pyralis is faint. Lightning is quick and violent; Photinus pyralis floats gently and harmlessly. Lightning BOOMS; Photinus pyralis makes no sound we can hear.

"Bug" is maybe a better noun for this compound than "fly" for its vagueness, but all sorts of animals can be called "bugs:" spiders, caterpillars, maggots, silverfish, gnats. "Bug" is suggestive of something with hundreds of legs, a stiff carapace, and pinching mandibles crawling up your pant leg. "Bug" might also be something so small and insignificant that it might as well be squished. Photinus pyralis deserves better than "bug."

I always thought "hotaru" is such a nice term for Photinus pyralis because it names the creature without reference to unrelated animals or bad metaphors. And also because I never did my research.

Lafcadio Hearn writes:

Written today, the Japanese name of the firefly (hotaru) is ideographically composed with the sign for fire, doubled, above the sign for insect. The real origin of the word is nevertheless doubtful; and various etymologies have been suggested. Some scholars think that the appellation anciently signified 'the First-born of Fire' . . .

Well, fuck it all. You know what? Now the stupid poem is going to be called "Photinus Pyralis"—a term which has its roots in the Greek term for "light" and the Latin term for "funeral pile." It seems humanity is afflicted with longstanding lack of imagination with regard to these animals.

Anyway, here's the damn poem about some bugs that I wrote a bunch of years ago.

Photinus Pyralis

What do they all—
these things that I carry—
what money I spend—
and titles I've earned
what objects are mine—
what facts I presume—
what do they mean,
these things that I carry
what purpose have they
for the voiceless ones
who need only love
to light up the

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Stories and ska and such

Catch 22

On the drive home from work the other night I was listening to Catch 22's Keasbey Nights and the memories came flooding back. Driving around in Charlie's Econoline van, working with Jack at FYE, hanging out with the band and drinking forties in Joe's basement—which was really, truly bizarre because none of that actually happened. It was all stuff I made up for The Zeroes.

I remember listening to tracks from Keasbey Nights at the whim of the randomized 100-disc CD changer at the Hot Topic I worked at in high school (don't laugh), and I chose it to name it as the favorite record of The Zeroes' protagonists simply because it had left somewhat more of an impression on me than the other ska records on rotation. I never even listened to it from start to finish until after finishing the first draft of the manuscript (but I listened to on loop for hours while fleshing it out in the revisions).

Strange. I wrote the The Zeroes from a first-person perspective, and I guess being in that guy's head for so long caused me to absorb some of his music-related memories and nostalgia. I imagine this must be sort of what it's like for the stage actor who has be Prince Hal, Walter Younger, or Pryor Walter two hours a night for six months: the character they become gets under their skin and never really completely bleeds out.

Thinking on this makes me a little anxious about novel #2 (titled "All the Lonely People"), which I'm still planning to toss up on the Kindle and in paperback sometime in July. It's written in the third person and is much more impersonal—born of a concept rather than the kind of emotion that inspired The Zeroes. I don't think there's much of a chance I'll be getting myself and my memories mixed up with the main characters' anytime in the future. Should I be worried about that? Could that mean it simply won't be as good as The Zeroes?

Time well tell, I guess. In the meantime, I'm going to put it out there, expect it to be read by a handful of people, and then that will be that.

I guess all that's important is that I try, try, try.

(Also: trying to get better at replying to comments. Sometimes it takes me a week or longer, and I often don't have much to say, but I am reading and responding to them!)