Sunday, May 23, 2010

SyFy Flash-Fic Roundup

So a couple days back (er, yesterday), I threw down a challenge. A challenge to write a trailer, scene, or treatment for the most ridiculous schlockfest of a made-up SyFy Original Movie you could muster. And for some odd reason, people did. Talented people. Funny people. Awesome people.

You want to read their entries. (Note that wasn't a question. You so very do.) Well, here they are:

Maggie Carroll
Dan O'Shea
Julie Summerell

And of course, little old me.

Oh, and a hat-tip to Chuck Wendig, who contributed the glorious photo that accompanies Dan's tale.

Now, I have it on good authority that others have got theirs cookin', so check back often; there's more schlocky goodness a'comin'. And if you've partaken in the challenge, let me know -- I'll be sure to include you in the links...

Meanwhile, thanks to all who participated. If and when we ever meet, the first round's on me. And obviously, when SyFy contacts me to option these works, I'll be sure to pass you along a solid 3%.

UPDATED MAY 26: Jimmy Callaway's joined the fray! Huzzah! Check his delightfully exclamatory entrant here!


So here it is: the trailer for my made-up SyFy schlockfest TOXIC SHARKODILE Vs. DOLPHIPOTAMUS. Wondering what the eff I'm talking about? Go here to get the deets. (Did I just say "deets"? Ugh. Sorry.)

First, a couple caveats. Caveat The First: Dan O'Shea prefaced his stellar entrant in the challenge (PUGRAHNA!) by saying all he knew of writing scripts he learned in sixty seconds before writing his. Well, all I know of writing scripts is nothing, so, um, I didn't. And Caveat The Second: astute readers may note my title's changed since I issued this ridiculous little challenge. Just one more case of network suits meddling with an artist's clarion vision. That, or I couldn't make any sense of my original premise. Anyway, here goes:


We open on a beach, a cloudless night (or the filtered high noon that, in B-movies, passes for cloudless night). A teenage couple in their late twenties stagger drunkenly arm-in-arm across the sand. Kissing. Laughing. Passing back and forth a flask. Because an earthen jug with three Xs on it was presumably unavailable.

"Wanna go for a swim?" the boy asks.

"I dunno. The ocean's creepy at night."

"Oh, c'mon," he says, stripping down, "what's the worst that could happen?"

He splashes out into the surf, paddles out a ways. Then he turns and calls back: "Come on in -- the water's fine!"

The girl considers it, but hesitates, unsure. "But what if it's not safe?"

"You watch too many movies; it's perfectly --"

His head dunks under. Then he surfaces, tries to speak, but gets dunked under again. He's thrashing now, trying desperately to escape, his girlfriend screaming all the while. But eventually, he stops thrashing. All is quiet and still.

The girl calls to him from shore. "Bobby?"

No reply.

"Damn it, Bobby -- I told you not to go in there! You should've stayed up here, where it's safe!"

Then something bursts from the water -- massive, primordial, and vaguely gelatinous in the way of half-baked CGI -- and races up the narrow strip of shore toward her. She shrieks. The light glints off of teeth and claws and dorsal fin as, with a vicious snap, hers cries are suddenly silenced.


It's early morning. A gleaming laboratory. Empty, but for one woman, beautiful in her lab coat and glasses. Her lustrous blond hair is tucked behind one ear as she peers into a microscope, lost in whatever nebulously sciency things beautiful, faux-bookish types do for a living in these sorts of movies. Biogenetiphysigeology or something. Point is, she's smart and pretty. I mean, just look at those glasses, that hair! (Also, said beautiful scientist totally looks like the girl who was in that thing you used to watch when you were little. You know the one I'm talking about.)

A harried grad student bursts through the door, panting and waving a stack of computer printouts and impossibly detailed satellite imagery that looks like it was taken from about four feet above last night's attack. A vaguely sharkodilian blob can be seen noshing on a twenty-something teenage girl.

"Dr. Splyce!" he calls. She looks up from her microscope. "It's begun."

She frowns, and pounds the bench top, so you can tell it's serious.


A different beach, this one bathed in afternoon light. A small wedding ceremony is taking place. A handsome couple, he in a linen shirt and rolled up pants, she in a diaphanous white dress. Maybe twenty people are watching the ceremony from folding chairs just up the beach, and to the right of the couple is a string quartet, silent during the ceremony.

The reverend says, "If anyone objects to this lovely man and woman being joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace."

All is, of course, silent as their family beams on. That is, until the sharkodile bursts forth from the water, launching itself at the groom and biting off his head. The crowd screams, the bride runs -- and the reverend, too stunned to move, is swatted aside by one gray-green clawed flipper thingy.

Wait -- did the cellist just play half a bar of the Jaws theme? 'Cause that's just tacky. Probably happened accidentally during all the panicked fleeing.

The reverend regains his senses, and scrambles away from the feeding beast. But his limbs are heavy, and his eyelids, too. As paralysis creeps through him, emanating from the sharkodile's scratch, he mutters, "My God, it's toxic... for some reason." Then he collapses, and all fades to black.


Our lovely protagonist, Dr. Jean Splyce, is sitting, hair tousled, in the lab, laboring over calculations. "Oh, if only I could find a way to reverse the process that my mentor Dr. Cronenberg used to create the toxic sharkodile only to have it escape from the lab and kill him, at which time I dedicated my life to stopping it from killing again," she exposits awkwardly.

Once more, her harried grad student bursts in -- you know, all harried and stuff. "It's getting worse," he said. "There are attacks all along the eastern seaboard. Why just today, a hippo from the zoo was mortally wounded, and an injured dolphin washed up on shore three miles from here. Also, there was that wedding party the sharkodile ate."

"Wait -- did you say dolphin and hippopotamus?" She thinks a moment, all frowny and cute. "That's it!"

"What's it?"

"Well, apart, they wouldn't stand a chance, but together... they'd be a sharkodile's natural enemy."

"Uh, I'm not sure you know what natural means."

She ignores him. He's just a grad student, after all. "Call the military. Tell them we need those animals. Tell them we can save them. Tell them we can save us all..."


A shot of a helicopter, airlifting in a hippopotamus. Another of a dolphin, transported by ambulance. Then a chamber -- iron, portholed, and apparently occupied by a floodlight and a smoke machine.

The chamber hisses open. Dr. Splyce and her harried grad student wait, expectantly, for the smoke to clear. And when it does, they see a magnificent beast, its eyes full of intelligence, its face all cute and cuddly -- its blowhole glistening majestically in the chamber's light.

But Killjoy the harried grad student is having none of it. "How do we know we haven't simply created another abomination?"

"The toxic sharkodile is the abomination," Splyce replies. "And our dolphipotamus is the perfect antidote."

"Abomination? Antidote? I think your metaphor's a little jumbled."

But Dr. Splyce doesn't care about metaphors: she just made a freakin' dolphipotamus.


Showdown time. The streets of Vancouver New York. Splyce and dolphipotamus track down the toxic sharkodile, corner it in an alley.

Before she sics dolphipotamus on the sharkodile, Splyce calls, "This is for killing my mentor, you son of a bitch!"

But the sharkodile opens its mouth. A creaky, inhuman voice says, "No. I did not kill Dr. Cronenberg. I am Dr. Cronenberg."

"NOOOOOOOOO!" shouts Splyce, as the sharkodile charges. Dolphipotamus follows suit.





Sharkodile and dolphipotamus, together finally in the same shot, about to collide in a tangled mess of poorly rendered CGI.

And... title card.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


So here's the deal: the other day, my little sis was over for dinner, and casually mentioned her persistent childhood fears of sewer grates (on account of the freaky, mutant crocodiles that live in sewers) and of pool drains (based upon her fantastically awesome belief that, inside said drains lurked tiny, chlorine-and-fresh-water-immune sharks that, if you were to swim directly over, would burst forth, growing instantly to full size and eating you.)

Naturally, as the decent, kind, loving older brother I am, I responded to this by mocking her heartily about the head and neck. And then, when she went home (presumably to avoid further mocking) (I kid -- it was late and stuff, and she wasn't crying or anything) (as far as you know), I brought said mocking to Twitter, where things, as they are wont to do on Twitter, got a little out of hand.

The result of all this Twitter ridiculosity (with a hat-tip to Dan O'Shea) is what could only be described as the all-time-greatest movie idea of all time: TOXIC SHARKODILE Vs. SHARKOPOTTOMUS. How, you may be asking, did we get there from my sister's childhood fears? To that, I answer, "Who cares? It's a movie about a toxic sharkodile and a sharkopottomus!"

So, fellow netizens, I issue a challenge. A flash-fic challenge. I challenge you to come up with a treatment, cold-open, or trailer (your choice) for the most ridiculous, most over-the-top, most godawful SyFy-style schlockfest of a movie this side of MANSQUITO or ATOMIC TWISTER. Does it have to make sense? No. Does it have to be in script form? Heck no. All it has to do is rock.

So get cracking. And if you write something, let me know so's I can link to it.

Sometime this weekend, I'll cook up one myself. My title, of course, is TOXIC SHARKODILE Vs. SHARKOPOTTOMUS. And my tagline? "One created to kill. One created to protect. And one trusty sharkadoodle sidekick."

Are y'all in? Or am I standing on this limb all by my lonesome, hoping the sharkodile below fails to notice me?

UPDATE: Okay, I may have changed the title in my own flash-fic challenge. We'll know come tomorrow when I publish the darn thing. Also, one would think it would be spelled "sharkopotamus". One would be wrong.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"The Toll Collectors" featured on FictionDaily!

Yesterday, I received word from David Backer, editor of FictionDaily, letting me know that The Toll Collectors is to be their featured genre story this coming Monday.

FictionDaily is an aggregator site for online fiction, featuring three stories a day they feel deserve a wider audience. They post a blurb of selected stories, and link directly to the magazines they appeared in -- which, in the case of The Toll Collectors, is the always-fantastic Beat to a Pulp. It's a cool model that not only provides a boost to the author, but to the publication as well, and I couldn't be happier to be selected.

So thanks to Davids Backer and Cranmer, the former for selecting The Toll Collectors for FictionDaily, and the latter for publishing it in the first place. 'Tis much appreciated on both counts.

UPDATE: "The Toll Collectors" actually wound up appearing on FictionDaily Wednesday, May 26. You know, just in case you're keeping score.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tuning Fork

One of the challenges of my current bout of unemployment is the fact that, without a workplace to go to every morning and the coworkers that come with it, my interaction with others has dropped precipitously. Not a huge deal for someone who likes quiet (I do), but there's one area in particular that I feel the sting: writing dialogue.

See, writing dialogue requires a good ear for how people really talk, and a good ear requires constant tuning. Tuning that would normally happen at work, but that lately, I find I've had to go out of my way for.

Not today, though. For today, quite by happenstance, I found myself at one of my favorite places to sit and listen: a diner. I'm not talking some fancy-pants chromed-out rail car diner, lovingly restored, and with a menu full of designer Benedicts; I'm talking about a hot griddle, bunch of regulars, got-a-lunch-counter-'cause-people-really-go-there-to-eat-lunch diner. The kind of place that hasn't changed since it opened in '53. The kind of place where neighborhood folks run into one another and wind up sharing a table. The kind of place where you can get two heaping plates of breakfast and a gallon's worth of coffee for just a shade over ten bucks.

The kind of place where you can hear gems like these:

Table One: Middle-aged, middle-class office-types talking health care. Conservative, by the sound of them, and so riled, they don't seem to notice they're all talking like they're arguing, even though they all agree. Every group bigger than two has got its alpha talker, and this one's no different: a peroxide blonde with a smoker's rasp that says government "guv'mint" and begins every sentence with "What people don't get is...". Money line of the table was, "What people don't get is Nancy Pelosi wouldn't let nobody read the bill before they voted on it -- she said they had to pass it to see it. So now our own government doesn't even know what's in this bill."

Table Two (with a cameo from Table One, the lone male of the group, who wandered over to say hello to two women in the booth behind me when his party made for the door):

"So nice to see you again," he said. A long beat with no reply. "You know my brother."

"Of course," the woman replies -- polite, distracted. "What's his name again?"

"You should know that," he says, surprisingly short toward someone he doesn't seem to know. And then, to her dining companion: "Who's this?"

"An old friend from way back."

"Really? I like old friends from way back."

And then he no shit sat down with them, as if distant, vague replies amounted to an invitation.

But my favorite table of the day was Table Three, occupied by a couple of genial old-timers:

Waitress: "What can I get you two?"

"I'd like a plate of eggs --"


"--but the yolks, and this is important, the yolks should be over medium."


"I mean really over medium. I'm very particular about how I like my eggs."

"No problem. What kind of toast would you like?"

"What are my options?"

She rattles off his options. He mulls. And mulls. And mulls. And then his buddy pipes up.

"You should get pumperknickel," he says. Then, to the waitress, as if it settles the matter: "He's Jewish."

"I'm not getting pumperknickel," the first guy says, mock-tetchy. "I don't like caraway seeds in my teeth."

The beauty of these two was, they had rhythm. They had banter. They had the waitress smiling. Heck, they had me smiling. So I kept listening. Once their order was in, talk turned to fishing (brown trout are particularly hard to catch.) The weather (78? Can you believe it?) And then, when their plates arrived, back to food. But even there, these guys surprised me, because it wasn't Egg Man who complained. It was his buddy. The waitress dropped his plate of pancakes in front of him, and he threw his hands up in distress and declared "I'm gonna need more butter" with all the weight of Brody telling Quint he'd need a bigger boat.

I swear, I wish I could've taken those two dudes with me. They were funny -- and they knew it. Charming -- and they knew it. But they came at it from a completely different place than anybody I'd write.

Or rather, anybody I would've written before today.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Way back in January, I mentioned a nasty little slug of noir I wrote called Green. I wrote Green at the request of Keith Rawson, one of the twisted minds behind Crimefactory Two: Electric Boogaloo. (Crimefactory Two: The Quickening? Crimefactory Part Deux? Or should I have gone with The Legend of Curly's Gold? Eh, no matter. Point is, they brought that mofo back from the dead, bigger, badder, and hungrier for brains than ever.)

Where was I? Oh, right. Green. Seems it's set to appear in Crimefactory #4, which should hit the Innertubes in August. So between that, Needle #2, and the upcoming Beat to a Pulp anthology (not to mention another little something I've got cooking that's not ready for mentioning just yet, except obliquely in a parenthetical digression), this is shaping up to be the Summer of Me. Which, if you've ever seen me at the beach, so pale I freakin' glow, may not be a good thing. (Hmm, was that out loud? Man, I've got to learn to filter...)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My, but that's pretty...

So this is where The Hitter's gonna be. More details as I have 'em. I just had to share this now, on account of it's my first (print) cover, and (thanks to the mightily talented John Hornor Jacobs) it's a doozy...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Heavy Hitter

Okay, yeah, I've been scarce of late. But I've got a good excuse. See, I've been writing. Writing a lot.

It all started about a month ago. Got an e-mail from a friend of mine. Said he wanted a story for his new magazine -- something hardboiled, noir -- and he wanted it to be a long one. And okay, I'd never written a short longer than 6,500 words, but I'm not one to turn down a writing gig.

Three weeks later, I crossed the finish line on The Hitter, a big, sprawling, man-I-hope-epic tale of violence, loss, and redemption. How big, you ask? (Yes, I know you didn't ask. It's a rhetorical device; roll with it.) Just a hair over 11,000 words.

Yeah, that's a lot.

And it turns out, I kinda dug sinking my teeth into such a long story. It felt more novelistic in its construction, in its characterization, in its scope, than any of my other shorts. But it was still leaner, more economical than a novel. The turnaround was a little tight for my tastes -- I tend to revise the hell out of my stories before they go out the door -- but even that was exhilarating. It forced me to step outside my comfort zone and just let words fly, so I could have more time for revising afterward.

So would I do it again? Man, I don't know. Not on my own, I'll tell you that. Too grueling, and not enough of a market. But if somebody asked? That's another matter. (Almost said "that's another story", then I realized what an obnoxious accidental pun that would've been.)

Oh, and a brief aside. I know I was all kinds of vague about who did the asking, and where this story's ending up. Those who've been reading my blog a while have probably noticed I've done the same with every story request I've ever blogged about. There's a reason for that, and it ain't 'cause I'm teasing. It's because as far as I'm concerned, there's no guarantee that anything I write doesn't suck. I'm fortunate enough to have a decent track record placing stories, but one of these days, I may well cough up a dud. And the editors who contact me asking for stories are folks I consider friends. Far as I'm concerned, they're under no obligation to publish anything of mine, and I'm not going to publicly put 'em on the hook for a yea or nay.

So cross your fingers The Hitter's as fun to read as it was to write. There's something to be said for getting a new story out the door...