Tuesday, October 25, 2011

All Hallow's Read #3: Vampires on the Fence

"Perfect! That's just perfect! Burn the place! Burn everything we own! Have us living in a field like cattle!
"You thought you could have it all."
"Oh, shut-up, Louis!"

Lestat and Louis
The film: Interview with the Vampire

I feel a few lines from our friends in New Orleans only fitting in light of the approaching weekend.

Lestat de Lioncourt
These lines were not in the novel. This scene was rather condensed for the film. In the novel, the plantation house, Pointe du Lac burned after it was sacked by slaves. Louis had just finished forcing Lestat to make peace with his father (which speaks well enough to Lestat's character in and of itself) before Louis mercifully--if a bit against Louis' will--ended the old man's suffering. These lines, however, are the sum of Louis and Lestat's relationship. Louis lived always existentially, even before he was turned. Lestat had been trying to live a normal life ever since he was turned by Magnus (The Vampire Lestat) and his abandonment by Marius. Everything Lestat ever strove for was to be as extravagantly fabulous as possible. His attachment to Louis was fortuitous, in that he managed to attach himself to a wealthy land owner. The argument that Louis and Lestat must constantly play out revolves around their differing opinions of their existances: Lestat maintains throughout his relationship with Louis that Louis cannot hope to continue to deny his true nature as "a killer"; Louis cannot live on rats alone. However, the flip-side is that Lestat's constant need for material wealth to create his smoke screen  (when it would be much more discrete to hide among the thronging poor) illustrates Lestat's own continued denial.  

Louis de Pointe du Lac
Anne Rice's vampires play many roles, not the least of which is trying to appear human. As I mentioned, Lestat, when he could, often lived behind a smoke screen of opulence. His attachment to a plantation owner, for instance, which you would think would be a completely opaque title ended up being as transparent as plate glass. In our modern society, this would be accomplished much easier; you could stick yourself in a huge mansion, never come out and people would call you a recluse, but not think much of it. In the late 18th century in New Orleans, a plantation owner had slaves, duties and obligations which the inability to appear in day-light alone would have aroused suspicion. And it did. Louis' existentialism probably would have served him better. Louis was trapped in his caste. Short of suicide, he did everything in his power to escape it, even gambling it away. He did not have to wait long before his own slaves revolted, seeing through the smoke screen created by Lestat, which he also thwarted, as his lack of restraint led to questions, and eventually dark suspicions. Lestat and Louis are not the only vampires in the novel that must act the part. Claudia, after her initial change wore off, eventually grew into a woman in a girl's body. In the movie she was about ten or eleven--in the book she was only just five years old. She often had to act the part of a child in public to withdraw attention from her high manners and uncharacteristically high vocabulary and diction. Well educated and rich, she did not take long to mature in everything but form. Louis described Armand's cast of vampire actors as "vampires pretending to be humans, pretending to be vampires." However, Armand succeeded with his coven where few others had, in that the truth was also their lie. By shrouding his brood in  mystery, he actually drew attention away from himself. He had been successfully doing whatever he pleased without censure for hundreds of years. 

The basis behind the role-playing is laid out in Claudia: vampires do not change--she can never grow older, and even her appearance cannot be altered for long. The fact that vampires are always aspiring to be human is evident in Lestat's talents: he can play the violin and piano, sing and dance, but only through imitation (The Vampire Lestat). Louis, though deeply troubled, is the only stable vampire in the entire novel, simply because he is more down to earth. He was always unwilling to be what he was, but when he accepted his fate, he was never willing to play the part. He would do so to survive, but he never fooled himself into thinking that he would ever pass as anything more than a monster in men's clothing. By the time he encounters the interviewer, he is fully reconciled, while Lestat has trouble adapting. 

The entire novel calls the morality of the vampire into question: are vampires evil and unholy? Where do vampires come from anyway? Has our world finally become so amoral that vampirism is "the only real evil left?" Can a vampire be a good person in spite of what must be done to survive, or are vampires truly evil, playing the role of genteel citizen in order to eek out a baseless existence? 

I am not a fan of Anne Rice--despite whatever idea I might have given you to the contrary. I do not have much of an appreciation for her novels in general, but I do appreciate what Anne Rice has done to contribute to our current vampire lore, especially with regards to existentialism and morality, and I haven't even touched the homosexual tendencies of her characters. I will say this: when all the boundaries of existence have been broken down, can we honestly expect to be shocked by anything? Anne Rice's vampires are moody, in denial, existential, even a little "emo", but they are the original emo vampires, and that I can almost put up with. What a vampire does through imitation in fiction is merely another way in which fiction imitates human nature. Anne Rice's vampires are real people disguised as fictional characters pretending to be real people. This is a level of realism that Stephanie Meyer only wishes she could posses. 

Countdown to Halloween

Louisiana is breeding ground for dark urban legends about vampires. Its superstitious legends are kept alive even today by the Creole population, who even still speaks a dialect of French patois. There are any number of vampire stories and novels set in New Orleans, where we will eventually wrap up this year's Halloween activities. Unfortunately, I had to change gears for  my costume this year--literally. I'm now going as a steam-punk mad-scientist, if for no better reason then that I already had most of the costume put together without spending more money or time than necessary. I hope everyone continues to have an amazing All Hallow's Read, the new and inspiring tradition made-up by Neil Gaiman only this year. I have the honor of continuing that tradition here. 

Until next time, readers.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

All Hallow's Eve Read #2: The Second Bad Vampire

"Well, and here we are."

Nephran Malinari
Brian Lumley, Necroscope E-Branch: Invaders

He doesn't say much. He doesn't have to. That's how much of a bad vampire Nephran Malinari is.

Brian Lumley has written more novels than anyone can comfortably hold on one shelf, and even more short fiction. Though the original Necroscope defies traditional vampire tropes, and employs far more science fiction than previous horror novels in its massive scope, it is not my favorite. The fact that I started the Necroscope series out of order might explain my close affinity to the E-Branch novels, the books devoted to searching for, and destroying, the three biggest vampire threats to come out of Starside since Faethor Ferenczy: Lord Nephran Malinari, Lady Vavara, and Lord Szwart. 

The Necroscope series originally involved the Necroscope, Harry Keogh, a man who could speak telepathically to the dead with something called "deadspeak", and could traverse our dimension in time and space using the Mobius Continuum. I had never encountered anything so ambitious in my young life, but by the time I got to Harry Keogh and his original adventures, I had already read through the entire end of the series: the Necroscope novels involving the new Necroscope, Jake Cutter, and the newest generation of vampire hunters. E-Branch has been, and always will be, the world's first line of defense against extraterrestrial invaders, be they vampires from another dimension (Necroscope through Necroscope E-Branch: Avengers) or aliens bent on consuming all of our precious resources (Necroscope: The Touch). What makes E-Branch so special? It takes a particularly talented group of people to discover these invaders and deal with them in the quiet, unorthodox manner that is necessary to keep the general public from the knowledge that the world almost always teeters on the brink of destruction. The operatives at E-Branch are professional telepaths, pre-cogs (pre-cognition), "lie-detectors", the environmentally sensitive and computer hackers. E-Branch is a section of the British government that no one is supposed to know about. Even MI-6 follows their orders. E-Branch is not unlike Kota Hirano's Hellsing Organization, the only difference being that Hellsing finds the employment of vampires useful, whereas its customary in E-Branch to put someone down like a lame horse if they have come into too  much contact with a vampire, even if it was only mental contact.

Lumley's vampires rank as some of the worst vampire villains in the lore. They are ugly, beautiful, intelligent, deadly, and completely unpredictable. A Wamphyri has all the natural feelings and emotions as a human's, only magnified by their parasitic leeches: lust, greed, hatred, anger, even love. The stronger the leech, the better the vampire, and everything about a Wamphyri Lord or Lady should be considered highly suspect. The uglier the vampire is, the chance is very high that the vampire is not very strong or even very confident. A very dangerous vampire may not grow third eyes on their shoulders keep lesser vampires from sneaking up on them. A very dangerous vampire does not need to project, yet there are even serious exceptions to this rule. A very weak vampire might have every reason to appear beautiful. A vampire who appears to have everything under control is less likely to lose it all in a clan war, like Lady Vavara, or Devataki Skullguise. A very hideous vampire could be just as dangerous as a very confident vampire, such as Vasagai the Suck, Lord Szwart or the original Lord Shaitan (not to be confused with his great-great-great-grandson, Shaithis). A vampire can either be born a Wamphyri Lord (Yulian Bodescu, Nephran Malinari), given an egg in order to ascend (Lord Nestor, Thibor Ferenczy), or ascend through natural selection (Korath Mindsthrall). The most frightening aspect of the character of the Wamphyri Lord or Lady is that whole novels have been given over to the detailed treatment of their lifestyles, down to the mundane every-day tasks their servants and monsters perform for them. Aside from the fact that they could own our world with very little effort, after reading about them long enough, they almost become domesticated. In one novel, Yulian Bodescu hosted his aunt, uncle and cousin for a week, doing chores and helping out, until he slowly ate everybody.

Nephran Malinari is one of the best, most developed vampire characters (and almost all of Lumley's vampires are "fleshed out", as it were). His first name means "A wrong that can never be righted". His mother named him that because of the irreversible nature of the leech and what her capabilities were as a Lady. His last name is literally the Son of Malin. His vices are sex, blood, vengeance, more sex, more blood, and nice music. In terms of appearance, he couldn't complain. He's tall, "but not too tall", alienly handsome with long black hair that curls to his waist "like a bird of prey", with bangs that stick out behind pointed ears. Malinari has a lineage very few vampires can boast: he was the love child of a human healer woman who was turned Wamphyri, and the Wamphyri lord Malin. Old Malin died accidentally at the hands of his wife while Malinari was a child. His mother, despondent and very old, left her son the entirety of their fortune in Malstack and road a flying monster into the sun, burning as she went. As traumatic as that might have been for young Nephran Malinari (then about two hundred years old), he went on to be a very successful Lord. There is just one problem with Nephran Malinari: thanks to his mother's talents and his father's mentalism, he has a strong, irresistible, terrifying, and uncontrollable telepathy. He has a very strong natural ability to shield himself from prying minds, but has zero natural ability for blocking out the thoughts of others, which come piling in on him day and night, asleep and awake, whether he wants them to or not. It causes him to have severe migraines, which he believes he also inherited from Old Malin. Nothing can soothe those migraines quite like the gentle playing of the violin or the low tunes of a Starside minstrel. Malinari tends to take his rage and pain out on those around him.

Malinari's one failing, aside from his natural one, is his sharp tongue is paired with a penchant for terrible escape plans. Before Malinari even gets to our world, he gets Vavara and Szwart chased into the ice chambers of the frozen mountains of Starside. Once he gets to our world, he is repeatedly chased down by E-Branch, though they are aided by the unstoppable Necroscope. Malinari was almost always responsible for his own failures, and the failures of his two refugee partners, Lady Vavara and Lord Szwart.

You know, I always say the only good vampire is a bad vampire. Brian Lumley's vampires are anything but good. They don't sparkle in the sunlight. If Nephran Malinari ever met Edward Cullen, he would slap his face off with his bare hand, stick his elongated, fleshy fingers inside his ears and wiggle them around until Edward's brain was goo, which Malinari could then suck out through his eyeballs like caviar. Then Malinari would use Edward's corpse to feed his mushroom garden, imprinting his vampire DNA on every single spore, and I would laughThat is what a real vampire does to his enemies, and that's what makes Brian Lumley's character so bloody awesome!  Though Mr. Lumley is retired, he has left me with enough of his work to last me a very long time, and enough bad vampires to destroy this world's bad rash of trendy blood-suckers.

Brian Lumley reading his short story "The Thief Immortal"
at Horror Con. 2010 at the Royal Albion Hotel.

The Halloween tradition started this year by Neil Gaiman called All Hallow's Read continues here, at The Squealing Nerd.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

All Hallow's Read #1 The Original Bad Vampire

"But at that instant, another sensation swept through me as quick as lightning. I was conscious of the presence of the Count, and of his being as if lapped in a storm of fury. As my eyes opened involuntarily I saw his strong hand grasp the slender neck of the fair woman and with giant's power draw it back, the blue eyes transformed with fury, the white teeth champing with rage, and the fair cheeks ablaze with passion. But the Count! Never did I imagine such wrath and fury, even to the devils of the pit."

The Journal of Jonathan Harker
Bram Stoker's Dracula

Frank Langella
Though not exactly my favorite Gothic novel, Bram Stoker's Dracula was the story that started it all for me. Well, almost. Actually an almost unhealthy devotion to the life works of Gary Oldman was the cause of my love for Dracula. I love Dracula, and all things Dracula--except the Playstation games; those spun the Dracula story in the direction of Radu, and that just ain't right. My first adventure into the story of Dracula began when I watched the movie adaptation of the novel directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It was amazing to watch Dracula come to life on the screen in the form of my most beloved actor. Some of the best names in film were part of that movie: Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Richard E. Grant, Winona Ryder...okay, Keanu Reeves, but only because of the first Matrix. In fact Keanu was very distracting throughout the entire film. Seeing the film inspired me to read the novel, which was in fact so close to the movie that when I saw other film adaptations of the novel, I was very confused. Many of the films I saw did not adhere to the novel at all. Coppola remarked in the documentary explaining his Dracula that he made each of the main characters read the novel, and if they found any discrepancies, they should point them out, and if they felt it necessary, request to have them added to the script. I gave up my search for the perfect Dracula almost immediately--except for Frank Langella; he was an amazing Dracula.

Gary Oldman
Coppola's film departed entirely from the cliches of Dracula. Gone were the cheap tuxes and shabby old lines. When Gary Oldman said, "I have already dined, and I never drink...wine," the line subtly exploded with new meaning the likes of which had not been seen since Frank Langella, who could so naturally back-pedal. When Gary Oldman greeted Keanu Reeves at the gates of Castle Dracula, he did it in the red silk robes designed by Eiko Ishioka. In Coppola's film, Lucy was the one that died and Mina was the one who nearly became Dracula's bride, not the other way around. But Coppola's film went way above the demand that the movie adhere to the novel: Coppola's film married historical Dracula, Vlad Dracula, to the fictional character, reminding the world that Vlad Dracula III, or Vlad Tsepes (pronounced Tzepesh) had existed and ruled the Wallachian throne from his puppet-placement by the Turks at the age of 19--followed by imprisonment to Prince Matthias Corvinus--and again until his death in 1476 at the age of 45. Dracula, the man who became a household name, impaled thousands of his own people and enemy Turks to prove that his rule and his country would not be intimidated or controlled by Turkish occupiers or puppet princes hoping to profit by selling their young children to the Turks and giving away their land and money in exchange for protection. Dracula is considered the King of Monsters the world over, except in his native Romania, where he is not a vampire monster, but a hero and a patriot. Vlad Dracula may very well have done terrible things to many people, but he preserved the right of his people to be free, and his legend, his terrible legend, has been the inspiration behind the geniuses of Bram Stoker, Fred Saberhagen, Elizabeth Kostova, Francis Ford Coppola--and dare I say it--myself. 

Fred Saberhagen was one of the first to marry the historical Dracula with the fictional character in his Dracula series, beginning with The Dracula Tape. In this novel, Dracula himself attempts to justify his actions those months in the Borgo Pass and London. Lucid, amiable, and completely rational, Dracula sits down with the direct descendants of Jonathan Harker in the late 1970s, hoping to set the record straight. In this novel, Van Helsing is the hideous monster, who in fact caused Lucy's death by repeatedly experimenting with different blood types until her body gave up. The vampire hunters were persistent, but heinous, denying Dracula every attempt to unite with his beloved Mina, who indeed, was engaged to be married to Harker, but fell in love with the vampire lord and became his bride as well. The novel ends as it had before, but the story of Dracula had been altered forever, especially in my eyes. Dracula would go on to do a great many things. He worked with Sherlock Holmes himself to solve a hideous mystery in The Holmes-Dracula File, told from the perspectives of Dracula and Dr. Watson. In the early 1990s, Dracula saved the life of a man named Radcliffe, a supposed descendant of one of Ben Franklin's bastard children, who nearly died in the French Revolution, had it not been for Dracula. Though not all of Saberhagen's Dracula novels were as wonderfully wrought as these three, this version of Dracula has been my companion and constant source of inspiration since my high-school years. Saberhagen is now deceased, and the Dracula novels out of print.

Old Dracula, vinyl
and acrylic 2011.
Dracula has become many things to me: patriot, father-figure, inspiration. My love for the Dracula legend, my respect for Dracula the man, and my devotion to the character led me to get my first tattoo in 2005, the red 'D' in running blood from the Coppola font. I spent the last two months painting a vinyl model of Dracula that I purchased in pieces from a comic book shop in 2001. I don't know of many people have a Dracula Corner, but I do. I very much doubt the real Dracula would appreciate so much devotion, and the fictional character even less, but I maintain that I owe some of the most crucial parts of my craft to all of the authors and actors who have ever endeavored to give Dracula a voice. 

So one could imagine my elation and excitement to discover that my husband is descended from Dracula down the female line from Dracula's second marriage to the Hungarian daughter of Matthias Corvinus. A cousin of my mother-in-law's traveled to Hungary and Romania to track down their lineage, and uncovered the truth. I was lucky enough to marry the man of my dream...it just also seems to be fated that I am at last united with Dracula, a very far removed great-granddaughter by marriage. My children may be very far down the family tree, but they will have the faintest traces of Dracula blood in them. I am very proud of this knowledge.

In kicking off my new All Hallow's Read Tradition, begun only this year by Neil Gaiman and, hopefully, perpetuated throughout the country, I felt it only right and proper that I begin with my favorite horror character, the villain to end all villians, who can be both rational man and cruel monster. I know its crazy, but I share the hope that, while there are no such things as vampires, Dracula is still out there somewhere, watching over his people, ready to return whenever they need him most. Long may he live.
Dracula: 1431-1476

A Werd From the Nerd: And Thus the Manuscript is Sent...

The deadline for the Blizzard Global Writing Contest is at hand. I have finished and submitted my story to the contest and delightedly await the decision, which should take some time. Until then, I will perpetually hang by metaphorical tenterhooks.

I would like to thank the many readers who have partaken of, commented on and enjoyed "A Warlock's Work". It was so much fun sitting down to write and flesh out the character of Zennith and his friends. I hope, though daring to hope is at best optimistic and at worst presumptuous, to present Zennith to you again in the form of Blizzard publication. I worked extremely hard on this story, now called "Zul'Ftagn: The Barrow-Caller", and spent many wonderful hours at Starbucks, using writing as an excuse to get coffee--or vice-versa. It was, as you will recall, my chance for redemption for the horrible, lame excuse for a badly-written story I submitted in the spring of 2009.

Unfortunately, my submission to the contest has forced me to comply with all of the submission rules and standards. The story, "Zul'Ftagn: The Barrow-Caller" is now property of Blizzard Activision and cannot be any longer printed for public viewing as "fan-fiction", not even in its previous incarnation as "A Warlock's Work." I am, as of this morning, removing all blog posts and chapters related to the short story in order to remain eligible for the contest.

Thanks again to my story enthusiasts and regular readers. I would like to thank our friend Von over at GAME OVER for his feedback and support early on. I would like to thank my good friend Zarissa Brewer for her time spent in editing and support. I thank also my husband Ben Balentine for his last minute grammar checks. For everyone who loves World of Warcraft as much as I do, getting the opportunity to add our characters to the extensive roll-call kept by our mutual lore-keepers is really an honor.

Keep your fingers crossed, and remember to check in with Blizzard in the next few months to see who will win the title of Global Writing Contest Winner! Keep your fingers crossed for Zennith.

For the Horde!

The Nerd

Monday, October 10, 2011

"The Ninth Day of The Month..."--Eh, Close Enough

I'm not getting lazy, I swear...well that's a total lie, but I think you get the picture.

I was back in San Antonio for the Ninth, eating at Luby's, home of the mediocre food and elderly people who really know how to pick a fight with people who don't want a salad. I went down to visit my family. My uncle was killed Tuesday October 4th. There was a small  mass in which he was mentioned. My aunt had everyone over for lunch afterwards. I was unable to attend, and it seemed none of my cousins went either. I am not surprised. My uncle did not wish for a service. Many of us were unable to take off of work or gather up the kids in order to attend a one-hour mass in which he was only mentioned. We will, of course, meet sometime before Christmas. Until then, we have Facebook, and its the most useful that particular site has been to me in a long time.

This week, and the days leading up to our favorite day of the month, have been Hell in the very sense of the word. It has been difficult to get back into the swing of things. Even what little work I have been doing has seemed insurmountably hard. I went out with friends to prove that I was myself. I stopped writing, canceled my contracts and dropped my hobbies. This is only a fraction of the pain my cousins, my uncle's children, must be feeling.

I have recently forced myself to begin my routine again. I have turned in my work for a small SEO contract and began another contract. The fact that I have a little income is very comforting, though employment of a more steady type would be preferable.

The finished product.
Click to see it bigger.
I finished my vinyl model of Gary Oldman as Dracula, a month after I began it. They all mocked me because I started work on a model that was very important to me, so important to me that I became very nervous when someone touched it. They laughed because, well, it was the first model I had ever painted. Naturally, I should have started on something less meaningful. When you are in the aisle buying acrylic paint, you don't think about how important the model is, but how bad-ass its going to look as part of your Dracula montage bookcase exhibit in the hallway by the bedroom. And it looks amazing.

I am working on my Blizzard Global Writing Contest. As I stated previously, it is almost finished, and as I--perhaps vainly--hope to be nominated for one of the honorable mentions, I have stopped posting chapters of "A Warlock's Work". For those of for whom that work is never done, it was getting a little old. We can move onto his later and earlier exploits once the results are in. Fingers crossed, Readers...

This belated Ninth Day of the Month post is brought to us Hellsing Ultimate and Samurai Champloo. Anime season seems to have descended upon my house. Its really my favorite time of year. Halloween season also means...Subspecies re-watches and All Hallow's Read. I will be following this post with an All Hallow's Read post to get the ball rolling.

Happy Belated Ninth Day of the Month! I hope this month will be as fun-filled and frightening for you as it will be for me!

59 Years Wasn't Long Enough

Nothing stops life in its tracks so definitively as the death of a family member. For the McGee family, the wife and four surviving grown children, 59 years of life for Larry W. McGee wasn't long enough. He was hit by a pick-up truck while he was biking down FM 1303 just south of 1604 outside of San Antonio. He was not killed instantly. A passerby tried to resuscitate him until an ambulance arrived. He died at 9:30 am on October 4, 2011. Up until today, I have been unable to approach this subject on paper without breaking down.

Left: Fern McGee. Right: Larry McGee. This picture
was taken by my uncle Dwayne McGee at my
wedding in March of 2010.
Larry McGee was a decorated and retired San Antonio Police Department homicide detective. As horrifying as his death was, how it was handled was even worse. An investigation was curtailed by my aunt's being brushed off by Bexar County deputies, who told her she did not need a lawyer to prosecute the driver because it was an accident. My aunt went home to grieve her husband with very little in the way of closure. Whatever the intentions of the deputy, I believe that it is unfair to say that a man on a bicycle should die under the wheels of a truck (though technically he died of his injuries in the hospital) and the only explanation that was given was that the driver was incapacitated, "The sun was in my eyes."

It is very convenient that the four other people in the truck had the sun in their eyes as well.

I do not buy that my uncle's death was an accident. Nor will I believe the story The San Antonio Express News ran detailing the events, explaining that my uncle was an honored man, but that he was also biking incorrectly, which is what ultimately caused the truck driver to not see him. The truck hit him at 65 miles an hour on a narrow, winding road that my uncle had ridden his motorcycle, bicycle and any number of horses on for 20 years. The driver never even slowed down. My mother said to me that it wasn't The San Antonio Express News' fault that the article was spun that way. I wish I had been the editor responsible for placing that article. I wish the author of that article had bothered to try to get in touch with my aunt or one of my cousins. A good man died in a terrible way, and the best that journalist could do was include a statement from statistics saying how few cyclists have died in 2011.

"We have been lucky."

I somehow doubt my family looks at it that way, nor the families of the other four cycling-related fatality victims in Texas.

My uncle led a full life, always doing what he loved, and he loved a great many things and a great many people. He will be missed. The hole left in my family where his presence used to be can never be filled. The great rift that occurred when my grandfather left this world has widened. No service is being held for him, at his own request in his will, but the family looks forward to getting together some time soon to celebrate my uncle and honor his life. For my family, we try to believe that death signifies nothing. My uncle, as well as my grandfather and my father, had and have very dangerous jobs and equally strenuous hobbies. We live while we are alive and enjoy each other while we can. This is how we move on. No matter how many of us strive to live this way, dealing with the loss of a father, even an uncle, and it becomes a very poor philosophy.

This tragedy has brought my family closer together. I am now friends on Facebook with cousins I do not speak to more than twice a year. My cousins and my sisters all used to be very close, but marriage, kids and distance are not conducive to keeping in touch. In spite of the horror that has inspired this, I cannot help but be very happy at how connected we all are.

I know my uncle would wish us all to be strong, and strong we shall try to be, especially for my cousins and my aunt.  I wish I could offer some sort of conciliatory advice, make some sort of remark that we should all be more aware of cyclists and motorcyclists on the road. But that is all very well in good to those who it can still apply to. For us, and the man who ultimately killed my uncle--accident or no--this is advice coming too late. Suffice it to say that my uncle did not die in vain, and that we will remember him the way he was.

My husband and I had a beer in his honor at lunch the day I got the news. I tried to find a Tecate, but they didn't have it. We had to settle for Dos Equis. I like to think that he would have wanted us to have a beer for him as well. Larry McGee, you will be missed.

A Werd From the Nerd: 1,000 Page Views and Counting

As September ends and October begins, I cannot help but remember my progress in the last eight months since The Squealing Nerd first came into being. Now, as usual, I am proud to announce that The Squealing Nerd exceeded 1,000 page views this week. I cannot tell you how happy I am that, though my posting as been somewhat lax of late, that people continue to read my past blog entries and are interested in my new ones. Thank you all for stopping by my little corner of the cloud.

I am proud to continue bringing up-to-date nerd news (excepting Doctor Who, which I am sad to say is in a gross state of back-log). It seems the more successful I become, the worse my discipline gets. I try to remedy that with more work, thinking that I have become "unmotivated." Lets just say, that kind of "motivated" is somewhat self destructive. I think my readers have noticed, and I hope will forgive, my current state of what might be termed negligence on my part. I apologize for not being more on the ball, but I hope a small amount of  explanation will clear that up.

Though I have been unusually busy, there is always that in life which tends to bring reality to a screeching halt; there is that in life which calls for every thing to be cast into stark contrast, and for us to take several good long looks in the mirror and decide what is real. I speak, of course, of the death of a family member. On Tuesday, October 4, 2011, a good man was taken from my family forever under the most horrifying circumstances. Lawrence W. McGee--endearingly referred to by his nieces and nephews as Uncle Larry McGee (I have two uncles named Larry. Oddly enough, I have two cousins named Matthew)--was hit by a pick up truck and killed while he was biking on a farm road just south of Anderson Loop 1604, not quite in San Antonio, but in a little annex called Elmendorf. My nuclear family (my aunts, uncles and cousins) on my father's side has, heretofore, only known the loss of two members. My uncle's sudden and untimely death at the age of 59 has given my entire family and a great many friends pause. McGees are singular in that we have an uncanny ability to move on, and so, two days later, I find myself nearly whole again. My family, however, is missing a beloved uncle, brother and father. I will be following this post with a much more in-depth remembrance of my uncle.

And yet the world at large has also lost a great man this week. Steve Jobs died, finally succumbing to cancer. In light of my uncle's death, the loss of one of mankind's greatest inventors and achievers did not fall silently upon my ears. As much as I will miss my uncle, I cannot help mourning Jobs' death as well, and I know that I am not alone. This afternoon, I was listening to the radio on KVET in Austin, where someone had mixed "Live Like You Were Dying" with a speech from Steve Jobs', saying that we must do what we love, and that we should, "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." For those who do not know, Steve Jobs was the co-founder of Apple and is responsible for the iPhone, Mac and iPad. The world will never be the same again.

In spite of all that has been going on, I feel compelled now more than ever to keep doing what I'm doing. I am excited to be able to bring you a review of Titus Awakes in the next few weeks. Blizzard's Global Writing Contest is approaching its deadline, and I am almost through with my story. This is why I have stopped writing posting "A Warlock's Work." Hopefully, even Zennith Shadow Blast will find closure, and we can move on to his other adventures. Though I am close to finishing the story, it is not progressing the direction I would have liked, and will require extensive re-writes. In the all-too-likely reality that I will not be chosen as the winner of the contest, I will post the finished short story as a blog post for all to see--provided I don't get honorable mention. I'm optimistic.

Also, I will be finishing a count-down of the last four episodes of season 6 of Doctor Who. I have seen up to the season finale, and no excuse can be offered as to why I haven't posted yet. I'm a bum. That's all I got.

In addition to finishing my sleeve in December, I am also working with an artist in San Antonio--if she'll have me--on a tattoo commemorating the deaths of my grandfather and uncle. Pictures will come in the order that they are received.

All Hallow's Read will also commence as planned. I have a great many books to talk about. Some well known, some not. I hope everyone is ready to freaked out by some truly awful stuff.

Thank you again, Readers. I look forward to writing all rest of October. Don't forget to check in October 29th and 30th as I will be posting in costume in glorious New Orleans. I'm dressing up as The Grave-robber from Repo: The Genetic Opera. We'll be visiting a graveyard, fencing the Crescent City Open, rolling the slot machines in Herrah's hotel and casino and clawing our way back from Halloween weekend on Bourbon Street. If you  never hear from me again after that. I didn't make it back. Have a great week and a great evening!

The Nerd