Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

My apologies. The blog’s been dormant for a while. A bunch of stuff came up — primarily a new job — and I was obliged to put it on the back burner. But I’d like to start it back up. So how about I begin with a new, original novelette, presented to you for free?

Here’s the deal. I have a young, talented friend named Frank who portrays a character known as “Cuddles McSpanky” at haunted attractions. He knows I’m a writer. At a recent party, we got into a discussion about our mutual love of horror and noir. And we agreed that it might be fun if I tried writing a story featuring his character. I found myself really getting into it. To my surprise, the short story I initially intended to write somehow expanded into a novelette.

I tried including it in my short story collection, “The Devil’s Kazoo Band Don’t Take No Requests,” due out from Codorus Press early in 2016. But my publisher told me we’re a bit late in the process for that.

So I figured, what the heck. I wrote it mainly as a fun project anyway. And I’d like Frank to be able to share it with his friends and followers. So here it is, presented as a freebie. Enjoy. Share it, if you’re so inclined. And if you like it, keep an eye out for “The Devil’s Kazoo Band Don’t Take No Requests.” Or check out my Pushcart-Prize-nominated debut novel, “The Freak Foundation Operative’s Report.” You can find Cuddles McSpanky’s page here. And if you’re REALLY brave and/or crazy, you can go see him in person here.

For the record, this is a work of fiction and is not intended maliciously. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any other resemblance to actual events, groups or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

So here goes:

 

THE LEGEND OF CUDDLES MCSPANKY

By Tom Joyce

Based on a character created by Frank Paul Staff IV

 

 

Somewhere in the night-darkened pines to Kevin’s left, chainsaws buzzed like mechanical hornets. Followed by screaming.

Startled, a cluster of girls in Kevin’s group let out screams of their own, giggling at themselves immediately afterward. The Trail of Terror at the BloodShed Farms haunted attraction in Pierce Township, N.J., followed a snaking trajectory, frequently turning back on itself. Intermittent cries from the densely encroaching pines on either side signaling that the group ahead had encountered whatever as-yet-unseen horror would ambush Kevin’s group next, be it zombie, vampire or psychopath.

An unnerving effect, Kevin had to admit, jangling his already jangled nerves.

Kevin trailed behind a dozen or so teens and adults venturing through October darkness punctuated by pale lights on poles set at infrequent intervals along the paved path. Wishing that the night’s errand was already over. He yanked the brim of his baseball cap down lower on his forehead and pulled the hood of his sweatshirt tighter about his face.

(more…)

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I love old science fiction TV shows and movies. Does it have a bunch of intrepid astronauts smoking cigarettes in the suspiciously cardboard-looking cockpit of their rocketship for a 15-minute flight to the forested landscape of Mars where they’ll encounter a warrior race of women with beehive hairdos? Dude, I am SO there!

But I think my favorite vintage science fiction cliche involves computers. I’ve even seen versions of this in relatively high-end stuff, like “The Prisoner” and the original “Star Trek.” Now by computers, of course, we’re talking about wall-sized metal boxes. They usually have blinking buttons on the control panel. Sometimes, for extra measure, they have a pair of reel-to-reel tape spools. And they speak in halting, tinny voices.

And every computer in vintage science fiction — no matter how advanced, no matter what alien civilization designed and built it — comes with one inherent flaw. If you confuse it, it self-destructs. And by confuse it, I don’t mean input some kind of destructive code. All you have to do is say something confusing around the computer and it will self-destruct, usually while shooting streams of sparks out of its control panel and repeating “DOES NOT COMPUTE! DOES NOT COMPUTE!” in its reedy, nasal voice.

Now, obviously it’s a good thing that real computers don’t have this flaw. Although it’s kind of a shame, too. Think of the fun you could have at the office. You’ve got some downtime. You’re bored. So you go over to the desk of that guy Lou in purchasing who’s kind of a douche. And the following exchange takes place.

You: Hey Lou! What’s shakin?

Lou: I’m busy. What do you want?

You: This statement is false.

Lou’s computer: IF THE STATEMENT IS FALSE, IT MUST BE TRUE. BUT IF IT IS TRUE, IT CANNOT BE FALSE. THEN IT IS TRUE. BUT STATEMENT PURPORTS TO BE FALSE, THEREFORE …. DOES NOT COMPUTE! DOES NOT COMPUTE! ZZIIIIRRRRKKK! (Computer throws of a shower of sparks from its control panel, then shuts down.)

Lou: Thanks a lot, asshole! (Picks up phone) Yeah, technical support? Could you send a guy up here? Somebody just said something confusing in front of my computer.

You: Heh heh heh!

Lest I sound too hard on science fiction screenwriters of the past, I’m aware that the purpose of science fiction movies and TV shows — then as now — was to entertain, not to provide documentary-style realism. And entertain they did.

And to be fair, computers were still a pretty esoteric field of study in the 1950s through the 1970s. Those writers can certainly be forgiven for not grasping how they work. These days, everybody’s got a computer. Bookstores have entire sections devoted to making computers accessible and user-friendly. So do more modern screenwriters have a better handle on the subject?

Well … according to the movie “Masterminds,” this is what hacking looks like: