Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Werd from the Nerd: Updates and Changes

Hello, again readers!

Comments and rankings are now available on the new blog, and all I'm waiting for to blog the Doctor Who Christmas special review is for Santa to belatedly bring me my sonic screwdriver from Dragon's Lair. Had to cancel a tattoo appointment, and had hoped to blog that as well.

The Happy Campers performed last week at Jovita's in Austin, Texas. An awesome show from Ken Burchenal.

Things are going well over here, and I hope my readers had an amazing holiday! See you all soon!

The Nerd

Monday, December 19, 2011

A New Home for The Squealing Nerd

I am officially announcing that The Squealing Nerd is ready to be completely migrated to the new blog site at www.squealingnerd.com. From now on, I will be officially blogging from there, and all blog posts and comments will be available at the new URL before Christmas.

Thanks again, to all my readers, for your continued support while we make this transition to The Squealing Nerd's new home.


I Salute the Internet. It Was Fun While it Lasted.

First of all, I'm a proud United States citizen, who is writing this disclaimer in the event that the FBI is flagging my IP for suspicious activity and a lack of patriotism.

The Lone Gunmen are the property of the
Fox Network. 
That having been said, long live The Lone Gunmen, the American Nerd's favorite conspiracy fighting trio of American patriots! They fought for the common man who could not defend himself from government interference and died protecting this country from the threat of alien invasion. I am still Lady Manhammer to Langley's Lord Manhammer in the X:Files afterlife.

...

I have never considered the possibility that The Squealing Nerd might not be here tomorrow.

I have never really had to consider that. Imagine now, though, the fear, the palpable fear, I'm feeling now as I sit here and write to you about that all-too feasible future. Imagine with me, if you will, a world where we could not sit all together on the Internet and look at Doctor Who pictures on our brethren blog sites because those pictures don't belong to us and therefore we have no right to them, even if we cite those sources. Imagine not being able to share our opinions on copy-righted, or written, material because we might be caught in the act of linking a web source that is not sanctioned by the rights holders. Imagine sites like Tor.com, YouTube, Facebook and others being gone forever because occasionally we link a video here, an image there, and share fun facts with each other that do not belong to us. A valuable tool for networking fans is about to be obliterated thanks to the Stop Online Piracy Act, an act that looks every day like it might pass because of the ignorance of those voting on it. The entertainment industry's money lines their pockets, and so many of us are about to be out of a job. Along with it could go webcomics and self-publication, sort of like some of the things I've done here. Webcomics such as The Girls Next Door who feature copy-righted characters and anything having to do with Blizzard Entertainment, who at any moment could decide that fan art is costing them profits, and could ask the government to terminate any websites featuring fan art, comics, reviews and screen-shots taken of people who pay for their games (I very much doubt that will happen, as Blizzard knows that their fans are their biggest source of income and that to alienate those fans would violate the first rule of marketing).

Speaking of which...

The First Rule of Marketing: Never Alienate a Target Audience. Ever.


Anyone who knows anything about marketing and self-promotion knows that the last thing a company should ever want to do is alienate the people who might purchase their products. Tattoo artists do it all time because its a seller's market, and if you ask me, they really shouldn't--I apologize in advance if any tattoo artist has ever lost money from me because they ran me off for something as stupid as being female (and if you think I'm kidding, you've never met a deusch tattoo artist). If the entertainment industry thinks that by shutting down sites like The Squealing Nerd will boost revenue because people will be forced to buy a rights holder's product to experience it will be grossly mistaken. According to other bloggers, namely Paul Tassi over at Unreality--who wrote his opinion in Forbes on Friday--there is no guarantee that rights holders will suddenly and magically be able to recoup supposed losses because we as consumers no longer have access to copy-righted material online. That simply isn't true. In fact, its the exact opposite. The first thing I'm going to do if I feel threatened is quit buying a product.

I'm a slave to market research, but I also tend to be militantly opposed to bad business acts. I don't buy from Amazon directly because they are killing local book stores. I shop at Wal-Mart, but not because I like to, or because I think a company who exploits their consumers and employees should be supported, but because dammit, sometimes I need a pair of jeans, a video game and food all at the same time. Big entertainment companies think that stamping out those of us that share information that can be publicly accessed will protect their profits. They should here and now be properly disillusioned of that notion. I don't own a television. If I cannot stream something on Netflix because its copy-righted material--no matter how much its being paid for--I will simply stop watching whatever it was I was watching. I'm not attached to my shows at the hip. I do steal popular music because I do not buy popular music. Quite frankly, it sucks. I do not steal video games because of the many that I can play online, and there's plenty of games out there that don't require that. If I cannot write what I want to write online, I will stop using that medium. I will publish in print or as a subsidiary of print media. Might cost me a little more, but MLA, Chicago, and APA standards of citation already protect publishers from copy-right infringement (or plagiarism as its known in this setting). Want to keep us from stealing your property? Make it more affordable. Make digital television affordable for everyone. Stop gouging us on the cost of movie tickets at the theater. Force publishers to allow you to keep part of the rights to your intellectual property. Make Charles Band pay his people!

There are any number of things the entertainment industry can do to accomplish their goals without infringing on the constitutional rights of users and consumers to link material that chances are most viewers have already paid for. If Michael Moorcock wants me to remove all the posts about Elric, all he has to do is ask. If John Picacio doesn't like that I've used his images--with citation--all he has to do is give the word and I'll remove it. That does not mean that I won't buy--or haven't already bought--their works. I do not torrent or steal movies and music from artists because I don't think I'd like it very much if someone was stealing from me. How would you like it if you wrote something, published it online, then found someone on another site passing off your work as their own? Not very much, I'm sure, so why would an artist steal from another artist? Fortunately, I would never pass off a character like Elric as my own, or say that a John Picacio image is my own artwork. First of all, I'd be found out as a liar, and second of all, I have too much respect for artists to steal their work, and hopefully others will feel the same way about my stuff one day.

Conclusion: The Inevitable End

I wish all of this would blow over. I wish I could continue to sit in blissful oblivion about this, and never question the government's decision to pass this law, that everyone is overreacting, but that would undermine what I know in the marrow of my bones. The time of the Internet as we know it is at an end. Soon, we'll be using the Internet to shop on and check email, but that's all it will be good for. So much for networking. I guess now is the right time to start up that book club I've been meaning to moderate. I can only hope that those in favor of the bill will be quickly educated on the lack of constitutional propriety and put an end to it, and that those opposed to it will prevail, and if it is passed, perhaps it will be repealed. If this is not the case, another vital part of our economy will be gone.

Also, you can see a copy of the letter I sent to my congressional representatives here

In the event that the entertainment industry can't get the Stop Online Piracy Act passed, they should probably go Occupy the Internet. According to social networking sites, #Occupying is trending right now.

...

Prince Elric has is own Facebook page now. Go like him, because he's really interesting.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why I am Disillusioned of the Holidays

My Christmas tree at the apartment
in San Antonio

I hate the Holidays.

I should probably explain. I don't hate the Holidays; rather, I am disillusioned of them. The Holidays usually do not go well for me. I despise outdated, cliched Christmas music, I never have money for gifts (even when I had a job, I never had money for gifts), and I hate Christmas shopping if I do have money. The price of food tends to go up, as well as the price of gas, and I usually have to travel.

My idea of celebrating the Holidays is complicated mostly by having no money, which means I cannot even do what I plan to do, which is give to charities. When I worked at Papouli's Greek Grill, we had an Angel Tree from the Salvation Army. Everyone got to choose a child to give to, and what the child wanted was listed on the angel, as well as their clothing size and shoe size. The employees were encouraged to participate, but didn't have to, as most of the time it was directed at customers. Every year we had the tree I tried to give to a child, which meant going all out. I got the kid a set of clothes, a book, and what they listed for enjoyment (if I could afford it). If they had a few small things listed, I tried to get all of it for them. One year a kid asked for a scooter. I had to put that one back on the tree after I found out I would only be getting my husband one thing, and he got me a lot of stuff (he usually does). You see my idea of giving at Christmas is not giving a useless gift to someone who already has stuff. I give gifts to people who start at having nothing and go from there. My idea is that if you have something already, you should be giving gifts to children who wouldn't be having a Christmas at all if it were not for your generosity. I complain that I have nothing, but I have a roof over my head, nine computer systems, a car to drive, a husband who doesn't beat me, a college degree and parents who love me. There are people out there who don't even have the first one, much less any of the others.

And now there is the special problem of getting gifts for the kids, my adorable nieces and nephew, all of whom have had their Nice Cards from the North Pole threatened due to their greedy present mongering and milk-flinging. I can't stand to watch Christmas get ruined because those kids can't keep their noses out of what my mom liked to call the Christmas Closet. Don't get me wrong, as a child, I was one of the worst gift-guessers, present shakers, and peekers of my time. It forced my mom to threaten our Christmas fun altogether. Now my sister and I are getting a taste of that for ourselves. So, today, I am taking my niece, Audrey, to go pick out a gift to donate to a child in need. I had hoped to get my own children into this some day, and I hope I can help Audrey discover that giving a gift to a child who isn't expecting one is just as fun as getting one.
Audrey and Cole play Christmas music with Uncle Ben. Nerd
hovers in background.
I don't hate Christmas. I just hate the way everyone treats it, and I need not remind you about the music thing. Generally speaking, with all the trouble in Europe, ending the War in Afghanistan, the economy swimming in the toilet, and Occupy Wallstreet, how can anyone get out there and spend their hard earned money--possibly ignoring medical bills--on presents for people who go out and buy their own stuff anyway. Everyone except the kids is getting baked goods from me this year. Hope that's okay, because I have way too many bills to pay for a person without a job.

So...Merry Christmas!

A Werd From the Nerd: New Blog Site and Holiday Calendar

Hello again, Readers.

The New Squealing Nerd Website

I am proud to announce that the rapid progress made by the Drunken Coder is bringing our new website to near completion. We have only a few more details to work out for small matters before we can begin posting in earnest. We are also in the process of populating the archives section. At the insistence of my web designing husband, we will be keeping the JQuery Music player, but we won't be playing all of my favorite music all the time. We are currently constructing a system in which subscribers may make playlist suggestions on a monthly basis. You can go see our progress on the new Squealing Nerd website at my own domain, www.squealingnerd.com.

I say "We" and "Us" as if there were more than one of me now. Well, that's because there are more writers than just me now. The Squealing Nerd is currently in the process of developing a whole staff of writers. The latest staff acquisitions are Zarissa Cline, my webcomic officionado and best friend of 6 years. Zarissa is an amazing writer, and if you think her quiet features are shy and unassuming, you would be very wrong, especially if you cross her at Dungeons and Dragons. She is as quick with a keyboard as she is with a d20. I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us. She is currently getting her Graduate degree, and so will leave us from time to time, but we can always hope for her return. She has been deeply involved in webcomics for years, and will be bringing that knowledge--as well as a great deal more--to The Squealing Nerd.
Hugest Fan Ben Balentine, seen here,
trying to expound his delight at meeting Neil Gaiman.

I cannot wait to see everyone over at the new website. The Blogger site will go down officially once all of the archived posts have been migrated. I will give you plenty of notice here when you should be expecting that, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

What to Expect for the Holiday Season

As the Holiday season continues, we can expect several happy things. The Ninth Day of the Month is tomorrow and it will be Holiday themed. I will be starting a blog event next week in which I will feature a quote from an author about Christmas. It usually lots of Charles Dickens, but I'll try to mix it up a little. Also, I will be following that with an example of why I dislike the Holidays, though my spirits are not as Bah Humbug as you might expect.

And as if we weren't exploding with enough Holiday cheer, The Doctor Who Christmas special is almost upon us. Check back often as I try to keep up with the goods on this one.

Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas in South Texas, as the weather has been bellow freezing almost every night this week. My Christmas tree is up and decorated, and Starbucks was running their red cup design almost  before Thanksgiving was over. As Bah Humbug as I might feel these days, I cannot help but put on Trans Siberian Orchestra and jam out to the best Christmas music there is.

I'll be back all this week and next with new material. Thanks for reading!

Ashley
The Nerd


Sunday, December 4, 2011

I'm Literate, and I'm From Texas, or a Lesson From Twitter

Ladies and Gentlemen:

When you get on Twitter, and have the gumption to tag famous people in your posts, please know what the hell you're talking about.

I say this to you now, before you make an ass out of yourself in a public forum: fact-check, fact-check, fact-check.

But when you get schooled by Neil Gaiman...man, its kind of like sticking yourself in the eye with your own English degree, which I did just to prove that I have one.

I was sort of trying to partake of @neilhimself's discussion with others that Kurt Vonnegut's persona had perhaps been misinterpreted by a publisher. Then I suggested that "was this the guy that wrote A Clockwork Orange?(italicized, because in English, this is the correct way to present a book title), which is why I deserve to have my English degree taken away. It only took Mr. Gaiman two words to knock me down a peg. A little fact-checking proved to me that Anthony Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange. By the way, the movie having been set in England should have been enough to remind me that I am both #americanlitfail and #britishlitfail, since Kurt Vonnegut was an American author and Anthony Burgess was British.

Quite honestly, it was about all I could do to keep myself from groveling at Mr. Gaiman's feet, screaming, "I'm literate! Really I am! I have an English degree! See?!", which would have been humiliating.

My friend and
professor, Dr. Ken Burchenal
teaches American Literature
and the Classics (among other
things) at UT and UTSA.
Seen here, hopefully playing
"Bad Dog" with The Happy Campers
You see, I spent the better part of my college career--when I wasn't fencing or playing D&D--trying to prove that I was literate despite being from Texas. My philosphy was, "You're from Texas. Try not to act like it." Despite the hard work of  myself, Dr. Ken Burchenal, Dr. Mark Allen, and several others, Texans continue to go on being stereotyped as illiterate yokels who ride their horses to school. No matter where we turn, Texans are being portrayed as backward and ultra-conservative (I looked all over for that Family Guy episode "Boys Do Cry" where the Griffins ran to Texas. I can assure you: we don't hand out handguns at the liquor store as mandated by state law--that's just stupid). During orientation at UTSA, a foreign exchange student asked me if I had a horse and if I rode it anywhere. I responded, blushing, that yes I had a horse, but that didn't mean everyone did, and no, I didn't ride it places. I found it difficult to not be offended. I told my father the story, and he related that once he had gotten thrown out of a movie theater in Vietnam where they were screening a John Wayne movie that my dad found particularly amusing.

"Outside of Texas," he said, "The rest of the world takes their cowboys very seriously."

Compounding this unshakable problem is the fact that MySA.com published a laughable review of American Gods soon after its publication. I'm glad I never got to read that review, though I can probably categorize it alongside my treatise on what not to ask Maynard James Keenan. Mr. Gaiman commented on it in his journal (you can see it here, Wednesday, August 8) and its something that, as a Texan, I have been trying to live down ever since. This is by no means a criticism of Mr. Gaiman's response to the San Antonio Express News. If only I could ever be in humor to give consequence to newspapers who employ ignorant journalists (that goes for The Current too!). Nothing brings out the militant literature buff like someone getting something wrong about you or your intellectual property. In my case, I'll probably be seeing a couple of angry deceased authors in my unprotected dreams tonight.

I would like to give a bow to Mr. Gaiman--again--and a bow in general to those of whom it has been my pleasure to get face-pwned in a literary debate, especially Dr. Allen.
Dr. Mark Allen teaches medieval literature and culture, Chaucer, Arthurian legend and Tolkein
at UTSA. It was always an honor to get face-pwned by a pro.  I made the mistake once of challenging him on a point
while we discussed the invasion of the Turks and conquest of Constantinople. Honestly, did I really expect
to know more about that than him? Face-pwned! 
If I take anything else away from today, it is that I am far to quick to feel belittled or cornered by criticism. As a writer, this is a bad thing. The urge to crawl into a hole and die is a testament to how badly I take constructive criticism, and how easily I can be intimidated--probably a side-effect of working in food service. In addition to brushing up on my Vonnegut, I'll try to accept a bit of constructive criticism in the form of what will more than likely be the rejection of my submission to the Blizzard Global Writing Contest. I found four technical errors in my story.

That said, I am going to be a fan girl now:

Did Neil Gaiman respond to a comment I made on Twitter?

Why yes, and in about three seconds. Man, he's fast.

Ah dude, Burgess wrote A Clockwork Orange? Mah bad...

I think I'd rather be schooled by Neil Gaiman than Dr. Allen or Dr. Ken. I've been wrong plenty of times in their classes, and I probably got schooled.

And in all three cases, I'm a better person for it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Happy Birthday, Brian Lumley!

Courtesy of www.brianlumley.com
Brian Lumley was born December 2, 1937. Today he is 74 years old, and still reigns supreme as one of the world's top horror writers. There are very few writers out there that can master Lumley for style, character and originality. Though I have been influenced subconsciously over the years by R.A. Salvatore and Raymond E. Feist, there is a special place in the scope of those who have shaped the way I feel about writing and genre fiction for Brian Lumley.

Brian Lumley was born to a simple family in County Durham. He had tried his hand several times at writing as a young man, but received very pragmatic advice about writing professionally when his father told him, "You can't eat words," (The Taint, introduction, Subterranean Press). Lumley went into the Royal Military Police, writing stories in his spare time. He retired in 1980 from a successful military career and began writing professionally.

Brian Lumley first began publishing stories under August Derleth at Arkham House, adding to Derleth's Cthulhu Mythos. Lumley's hero Titus Crow appeared in many of those stories and would go on to have several anthologies based on his exploits. Titus Crow, and the other heroes of the Cthulhu Mythos, including Tarra Khash of Themedra fame, were singularly different from H.P. Lovecraft's characters in that they had a profound attachment to life and sanity, a tenacity that even the Elder Gods themselves could not best, and a lust for life (some of them, a very lusty lust). Titus Crow is among my favorite characters in Brian Lumley's mythos. I remarked a few days ago that Titus Crow and the Eternal Champions needed to hook up and battle chaos, since Crow has many of the personality facets essential to the Eternal Champions, and has been all the way to the End of Time itself.

Stock photo
Though I have read most of Lumley's Mythos stories, Necroscope remains the series of choice when I talk about Brian Lumley. My first introduction to Brian Lumley was one of his genius stories involving the infamous necroscope and his battle against the evil, horrifying Wamphyri lords and ladies. It was, unfortunately, one of the last Necroscope novels, an E-Branch novel called Defilers. I was only a kid in high school when I read that book, and admittedly, had to put it down and come back to it some years later. I never had any censorship or restrictions on my reading, but I knew when I was not ready for some material. I came back a few years later and finished it. Though I put the book down, Nephran Malinari was added, and remains, a member of my vampire pantheon as one of the best, worst monsters ever to grace me with his awesome presence. I even devised offspring for him in some of my racier short stories. Of course, this was also when I was writing X:Files short fiction, and Malinari's son was adopted and raised by Dana Scully. She named him Fox. If Fox were a real boy, he would be about eleven years old now.

The Necroscope novels changed the way I thought about vampires. Lumley subscribes to the school of thought that vampires are monsters, perhaps not unholy creatures of the night, but forces of nature that feed off of subordinate races in order to survive. Instead of vampires who gained their powers by selling their souls, Lumley's vampires are spawned as leeches, parasites that imbue their hosts with certain powers while taking every shred of their humanity away from them in order to perpetuate the species. Lumley's works are very much a cross of science fiction and horror, mixing the natural order with futuristic science, paranormal talents with computer programs. The Necroscope series was, in many ways, ahead of its time, and yet always grounded in myth and mysticism. I have read all but four of the Necroscope novels (some of them are kinda big, and Lumley wrote so much more) and own all of them, including several recent releases under the Lost Years classification, Harry and the Pirates and Necroscope: Plague-Bearers. Short of the re-releases, I own all of Brian Lumley's collected works, including a gorgeous hardback of Kai of Khem, and two signed Necroscopes, Defilers and Avengers. Though the Necroscope took on as many forms as he needed, Harry Keogh will always be the original, and the days when I could sit down to Harry's exploits are now done, as he was succeeded in death by his grandson Nathan Kiklu and later by Jake Cutter.


Brian Lumley was president of the Horror Writers Association from 1996 to 1997, and In March of 2010, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association in Brighton, England, where he was also a special guest at the World Horror Convention. He also received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010. I consider it one of the highest honors and greatest fortunes of my young life to have met him at Horror Con. in 2010. I wish that, as I stood there in awe of my hero and inspiration, that I could have told him the story of how I discovered his works, and how I had been so strongly influenced by his work, and to ask him if it was difficult to write all those sex scenes. I barely had the courage to ask him to sign my book. Later, I was introduced to Lumley's wife, Silkey, by Stephen Jones, who I was also honored to meet. I was convinced--and still am--that I had made a complete ass of myself in front of my hero. If I could do it over again, I would have approached him with a beer instead of a book to sign. I hope I might have that chance again.

This is a video excerpt of Lumley reading "The Thief Immortal" at Horror Con. 2010. This video is a rare treat, and is not on YouTube or anywhere else. Trust me, if I find it anywhere else, it goes bye-bye.


Lumley is retired, officially. He told Paul McClain in an interview on YoggRadio that the last thing he wanted to do was die chained to a desk, his last words on paper, "Aaaaaaaaaah." He lives with his wife in Dover. According to brianlumley.com, you can order a copy of a recent release called The Fly-By-Nights. If anyone wants to know what they can get me for Christmas, there you have it.

Happy Birthday, Brian, and many happy returns!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Werd From the Nerd: Change of Local

For those few of us who remain frustrated that--among the many things they have learned to do in their short 26 years--HTML remains largely out of reach, I say build a new website for yourself.

And so I am. 

I have long wondered at my inability to properly customize Blogger's UI. Despite the fact that there are many features of Blogger that I like--checking stats, keeping a reading list, Google AdSense--there are somethings I'm unhappy with. I also noticed that several of the well-known authors I follow have their own domains. With that in mind, my glorious drunken coder husband set out to purchase www.squealingnerd.com. If you click on the link right now you will find some very crude lay-out and a play button you can push to play a piece written by my father-in-law, James Balentine. Its not ready. Its far from ready. But its coming, and when it does, it will be convenient and fun, with many more pages and lots more nerdiness, on top of the fact that I have been practicing css to make it all so very "Me." 

I will re-announce the coming of the new blog home when I deem it fit for visionary perusal. 

As a reminder, The Nerd is on Twitter at @SquealingNerd and Facebook at The Squealing Nerd page.

I hope everyone's holidays are going well. Keep checking back as my holiday calendar includes a "Ninth Day of the Month" and the gift of Christmas quotes from Charles Dickens and many more. 

The Nerd