Marscon 2017 Schedule

Where I will be this weekend at MarsCon. As always, things can change quickly.

Friday, March 3:

5:00-5:50 p.m., Krushenko’s. Panel: Anne McCaffrey and the Dragons of Pern
Posthumous GOH Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011) produced a large and diverse body of science fiction and fantasy. We’ll survey her several series, with special attention, owing to this year’s convention theme, to the Dragonriders of Pern series, featuring lizards that are sentient species genetically engineered to bond with human riders. We’ll also look at how her various series have influenced both science fiction and fantasy.
With: Eric M. Heideman, mod.; Rick Gellman, Michael Merriam, Polly Jo Peterson

Saturday, March 4:

11:00-11:50 a.m., Re(a)d Mars. Massive Literary Autographing II
With: Sharon Lee, Steve Miller, Rob Callahan, Michael Merriam, Kathryn Sullivan

1:00-1:50 p.m., Krushenko’s. Panel: Western Women of Page and Screen
While there is a tendency to look upon the Western as a male genre, frontier women have contributed greatly to Western history and to Western fiction, movies, and TV. We’ll share enthusiasm about some of our favorites.
With: Eric M. Heideman, mod.; David Christenson, Michael Merriam

4:00-4:50 p.m., Krushenko’s. Discussion: SF Writing Groups: The 2017 Scene
Since 1986 the Minnesota Imaginative Fiction Writers’ Alliance has hosted an annual meeting at a local SF convention, first Minicon, then CONvergence, now MarsCon, at which representatives of science fiction/fantasy writing groups talk about how their groups got started and how they function; after which the group representatives go into a huddle with writers who are looking for an SF writing group.
With: Eric M. Heideman, convenor; Michael Merriam

10:00-10:50 p.m., Re(a)d Mars. Reading: Michael Merriam
Local author Michael Merriam reads from his latest works and publications.

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Bus Tale: WUT? – Follow Up Thoughts

I want to talk with you more about my previous post concerning the homeless couple having sex in the Uptown Transit Station.

Yes, the story was amusing. Yes, the story had a WOW! factor. Yes, the story was a bit shocking. Yes. All of that.

But as entertaining and amusing as the story is, it is also a story filled with terrible pathos. These are real people in this story, people who are barely hanging on, or maybe not hanging on at all: people who are homeless and hungry and cold and sick and possibly mentally ill. People who find themselves needing to trade their bodies for food or a shower or a warm place to sleep because their bodies might well be the only thing they have left to trade.

And there are no angels in this. When I read this to my Beloved Spouse, she pointed out that people don’t usually talk to each other at the transit station or bus stops, especially not Minnesotans. Yet here they are, engaged in conversation, stressed and strained, trying to ignore what is happening just a few feet away, trying to ignore not only the couple copulating, but also Stan and Tim, both of who are also obviously on the fringe of our society.

Maybe some of them, like me, thought about doing something. But embarrassment and being unsure what to do stopped me, and as someone pointed out in a comment about the story over on Facebook, “Face it, this scene is a perverse testament to Minnesota Nice, but underneath people were probably seething. The masked revulsion, shame, and self-justifications for doing nothing must have been eating away at all the commuters.”

There is so much truth in this statement. I thought about calling St. Stephens Street Team, but I didn’t, and once it seemed like they were all going to be someplace warm and with food and a measure of safety that night, I went on about my own business when my bus rolled up because I had the privilege, the money, the mental health, the ability and skills, even in this broken body of mine, to go to the store and buy cheese.

And those four people at the Transit Station – they don’t. It’s important to remember that. It is important to remember that these four human beings are vulnerable, pushed to edge. They are the kind of people we look past, that have become invisible to society.

I don’t have any answers. I barely have the right questions. But I would implore you and I to remember to be kind, to witness for them, to not let them be invisible.

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Bus Tale #WUT? (NSFW)

I enter Uptown Transit Station and discover what appears to be a homeless couple having sex on–and wrapped up in–a pile of old coats and rags on the floor of the transit center. Nearby is a large backpack, a pair of bags from a local fast food place, and a pair of heavy boots. Another backpack is under the woman’s head, like a pillow.

They look to be in their late twenties or early thirties and what little I can see of them looks like they could both use a shower. They both have ragged, uncombed greasy hair on their heads. The beard on his thin face is long and scraggly. Her face is round and pale. While they are completely covered by the coats and rags and bits of old blankets, he is obviously between her legs, thrusting and grunting softly. She is silent, her knees raised, eyes closed. There is a smile on her lightly flushed face.

Startled, I look away. They are, after all, having a private moment, even if it is in a public place. I join the rest of the transit users waiting for their buses and going about their business as if a homeless couple isn’t copulating a few feet away. People are talking on their phones, talking to each other, talking about the buses and where they are heading and who they are seeing and what they are having for dinner tonight. A dozen mundane conversations continue on with the low murmur of love-making as a musical undercurrent in the background. I wonder if I should call the St. Stephen’s Street Team to come and talk to them. It’s cold and they obviously have nowhere to go or they wouldn’t be having sex in the transit center. They are probably both homeless and mentally ill.

Meanwhile, outside the station a large, powerfully built older gentleman using one of those 4-wheeled rolling stability walkers–a rollator I think it is called–is talking to the people getting on and off the busses. He has a big, booming voice and for the last several minutes he has been asking people if they believe they are square with the world, because the angels see all and want to take the good people to dinner. To Outback and Appleby’s and Perkins and Denny’s. For a burger. Or a steak. Or hash browns. Apparently the angels like American Cuisine. Either satisfied that everyone outside would soon be having a Grand Slam with the angels, or else needing to get in from the bitter cold, he enters the transit station.

Rollator Dude: “Um-hum I see you. I see you all. See through your soft flesh and brittle bones to the burning flames under your skin. I see you.”

Random Transit Rider: “I see you too, brother.”

Rollator Dude: “I’m sure you do. Mmm-hmm. Right through all of you.” (Pauses as he notices the couple having sex) “What is This! What is This! Fornicating in public!”

At this point I reach for my phone, figuring I might need to call the police.

Woman Having Sex: “Hey, Stan.”

I look over. They are still having sex, the man thrusting harder and grunting softly. She is smiling up at Stan, who has ambled toward them with his rolling walker. I look away again, but keep an ear on things.

Stan (Rollator Dude): “Hey, O-Live-E-a. I see you Johnny-John, I see you and hey, Johnny-John, you keep tapping that sweet thing, man. You make your lady happy and maybe later I can tap that as well, umm-hmm. What do think O-Live-E-a? If Johnny-John don’t have no mind.”

Olivia (Woman Having Sex): “I don’t know Stan. Can we come stay with you for a few days?”

Stan: “You know I can’t let no one live with me. I can’t lose my place O-Live-E-a.”

Olivia: (Makes a small little pleased noise) “Just until we find something, Stan.”

Stan suddenly goes off on a long rant about how he is a bank robber who robs banks and gets away with it because he is the best bank robber at robbing banks.

Olivia: “Stan? Stan! Can we come stay with you?”

Stan: “You guys could come over and use my shower. That should be worth something.”

Olivia: “I’m not fucking you for just a shower.” (Pause. Little gasp) “But maybe we can work something else out.”

New Voice: “I keep telling them they can live with me. I’ve got a nice place. Clean. No one cares if people stay with me as long as they’re quiet and don’t smoke crack.”

Olivia: “Yeah, but I know what you want.”

Johnny-John (Guy Having Sex): (Grunt) “I don’t mind.” (Grunt) “Tim’s nice to me.” (Grunt) “I don’t mind at all.” (Grunt-grunt) “Tim makes it not hurt.” (Grunt) “He’s always nice and gentle.”

Olivia: “I just want a shower. I just want a shower.” (Pause. Gasp.) “You’re a good guy Tim. I just—” (Gasp)

Tim walks toward them. I glance over. They are still having sex. Olivia’s right leg has come out from under the coats and towels. She still has on her shoes and socks. Her skin is very pale and her calf is very thin. I look away as Johnny continues to thrust into her. Around us people come and go, keep talking about normal stuff and playing on their phones. Newcomers to the station walk in, pause as they see the couple, then go on about their business. Stan starts talking about how he works for the CIA/FBI/Police and is in disguise. Tim says he is in disguise too. Stan says he can right through Tim, right to his soul, right into his brain. Right through Tim’s life all the way to the womb, all the way back.

Olivia: “Stan? Can we use your shower?” (She is starting to sound a little breathless)

Stan: “Oh. yeah. Come on over. I’ve got a crockpot full of pulled pork and a case of Hamms. We can eat and fuck and shower and have a laugh.”

Tim: “Yeah. Yeah.” (Starts to hum. Stops humming) “Guys! Guys! Cops! No, wait, it’s a taxi. You guys can live with me. We can all live together. I’ve got a clean place.”

Olivia: “Stan. Stan, when does your bus get here? What bus, Stan?”

Stan: “The 23. Whenever it comes.” (Short digression about rare steak and raccoons and how the raccoons will come and steal a man’s steak right off the grill) “Whenever, O-Live-E-a.”

Olivia: “What time does the 23 come?” (No one answers) “When is the fucking 23 going to be here?”

Me: (Looks at the board) “You’ve got 16 minutes.”

Olivia: “Damn it, Johnny, finish up. We’ve got to go. A shower, Johnny. And hot food.”

Johnny: (Grunt) “We’ve got a few more minutes.” (Grunt) “We’ve got time.”

Olivia: “A shower, Johnny! I want a fucking shower.”

Stan: “Here. Here. Let me cover you up. Let me cover you. It ain’t decent, you showing all that leg to these people. All these strangers with their lights. All these strangers watching and wanting and wishing and licking their lips.”

I glance over as Stan kneels down and covers Olivia’s bare leg with a coat. Johnny continues to thrust. Stan stands back up

Stan: “Fornicating! In Public!”

Olivia: “I’m getting that shower.”

The Number 12 bus arrives and I start for the door.

Me: “The 23 will be here in 13 minutes.”

Olivia: (Gasps in ecstasy. Groans. Hums. Sneezes.) “Fuck, Johnny. Come and get off me. I need to put on my pants. A shower, Johnny. A shower and a hot meal. I’m not missing that fucking bus because of you.”

I walk out of the station and board the #12. I stop at Trader Joe’s and buy goat cheese and catch another bus home.

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Bus Tales #65.62-5.9

I climb aboard the #17 at Uptown Station. We’re sitting there stopped because the bus is running early and as we wait, a man in his twenties climbs aboard, does that thing where he starts going through all his pockets looking for money.

“Hey! Hey! Someone got fifty cents? I need fifty cents!”

Finally, someone in the back offers him the fifty cents. He pays, gets a transfer, and sits in the seat across the aisle from me. The bus starts rolling up Hennepin and I can feel him looking at me.

“Hey! Hey, blind guy! Hey, blind guy. Hey, blind guy, what you got in your backpack, blind guy?”

Now, I don’t want to conjecture that this gentleman had nefarious intentions. Perhaps he was just curious. Perhaps. But I doubt it.

“Hey, blind guy, what you got in your backpack?”

So I turn to him and say, “A laptop that stopped working in 2004, four rolls of pennies, a bag of dirty socks, the severed mummified head of Jimmy Hoffa, and one very angry weasel.”

Long, long pause.

“You’re shitting me, man.”

“The weasel’s name is Tim.”

“You’re a crazy man! You’re crazy!”

And he moved to the back of the bus and I never heard from or saw him again.

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The Obligatory 2016 Year-in-Review Post

Despite everything, I still managed to make a little art in 2016. Here is the round-up for posterity, if posterity was to really care.

Theatre Performance:
“Unsafe at Any Speed.” Five performances of my one-man show as part of Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Spoken-Word / Storytelling Performance:
“Ghost on Hennepin” as part of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers – Word Brew Event.

“The Way of the Cane.” One performance as part of Patrick’s Cabaret CaberABLE.

“Now Arriving on Track 12” as part of The Not So-Silent Planet.

Excerpt from “Unsafe at Any Speed” as part of American Underground.

Stage Plays Produced:
“At the Edge of Flight.” Three performances as a part of Gadfly Theatre Company’s Final Frontier Festival: Heroes and Villains.

Literary Readings:
“At The Edge of Twilight, Melissa Remembers Flight,” “Ghosts of the Places You Live” and “The Fifth Nazgul” as part of MarsCon.

Podcasts:
The Not-So Silent Planet Episodes 4 & 5.

Presentations:
“Impostor Syndrome” with the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers.

I think my one disappointment is that, for the first time in a decade, I had no new fiction or poetry published. That stings a little. I do have things out there on submission (1 novella and 3 short stories) and looking up at the list, it seems obvious my career is moving more and more toward the stage, but as an artist, I still identify primarily as a fiction writer. To have zero new publication this year…like I said, it stings.

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The Not-So-Silent Planet Podcast Episode #4

So I did this podcast with Phillip Andrew Bennett Low and Ben San Del. We might have had a little too much Canadian Bourbon and a little too much fun. This podcast is definitely Not Safe For Work.

Listen Here!

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Performing at the MinnSpec Word Brew Event

Here is the video of my performance at the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Word Brew event at Acadia Cafe on November 20th, 2016. Enjoy!

 

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After the Election

At the end of this last election, I found myself feeling like King Theoden watching the Orc army laying siege at Helmsdeep.  There he is, tired, shocked, his squire strapping him into his armor, and all he can think is, “How did it come to this?”

How did it come to this? Well, there are many reasons. Some are understandable. Some are beyond comprehension. Some are too terrible to contemplate. But we don’t need to – and frankly I don’t want to — rehash and gnash and clash. Done is done.

The question now is: What do we do? What can we do?

I have decided that shouting into the eternal echo chamber of social media is useless. It just burns energy, starts useless fights among supposed allies about what is The Perfect Way or The Right Way or even The One True Way to support each other and to fight back. We are screaming to the choir. We are screaming at the choir. We always seem to end up screaming at each other. I’m done with that.

Here is what I will do:

I will be more alert to overt bullying, racism, and misogyny in the wild, and I will intervene. 

I will continue to make art because in times of darkness art can be a light and art can give hope.

I will fight for these three issues that are dearest to me: Healthcare. Disability Issues and Rights. Public Transit.

I am giving serious thought to joining the City of Hopkins Civil Rights Council and I may revisit the idea of becoming a disability rights advocate and lobbyist at the state level. A lot of that will hinge on how much energy I have. 

Because the thing is, standing there in Helmsdeep, Theoden might have been wondering how it had come to this, but he still put on his armor and fought for what he believed in, defend those he loved. I can do no less.

I can do no less.

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I’ll Make Art Tomorrow

This is the time of day when I typically try to write. I’ve finished my medical billing work for the day, I have the place to myself, and I’ve finished as much housework as I can stand. I’m mostly ready for tomorrow’s business meeting. Once I have finished dinner, I usually settle in and do a little artist work.
 
Not tonight. Tonight I just don’t have it in me. Probably not tomorrow night either or anytime this weekend.
 
But maybe by Monday. At some point next week for sure. Because creating art is what I do and right now, I think we will need art. To amuse. To entertain. To distract.
 
In the end, that’s why I do this. I do it for the people who read my stories, or see my shows, or listen to my tales. That’s my job. To entertain. To provide amusement or distraction at the end of a tough day.
 
Stories helped me when I was younger, got me through some dark times. Saved my life. If I do the same for just one other person – give them a little brightness, entertain them, help them get through this life in any way, then I’ve succeeded as an artist.
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Things in the Works

CaberABLE – I will be performing a 15 minute piece as part of an evening of wonderful cabaret. Saturday, November 5th, 2016 in the JSB TekBox at Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts. 528 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403.   Show starts at 7:30 pm. Event sponsored by Patrick’s Cabaret and VSA Minnesota.

Word Brew: The Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Showcase: I will be part of this annual event showcasing Minnesota authors of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Sunday, November 20th at Acadia Cafe, 329 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454. Show starts at 3:00 pm.

Not So Silent Planet Podcast. I be recording an episode with them in late November. Once the podcast is available to the public, I will provide a link.

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