Talkin’ Turkey

It’s Thanksgiving for our American cousins—it strikes me that late November is a weird time to be giving thanks, especially if you happen to live above the Mason-Dixon Line and your kids have already built a congregation of snowmen in your front yard.

And, frankly, I don’t need the excuse of a national holiday to carve up a turkey and then subsist for the next week on turkey leftovers, turkey sandwiches and, finally, turkey soup (sorry, I just drooled all over my keyboard).  Turkey, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, with pumpkin pie for dessert.  If I somehow manage to gain admission through the Pearly Gates I fully expect that to be the first meal St. Peter and his horde of super-efficient seraphim waiters place in front of me.

* * * * *

Yes, indeed, busy times here at Burns Central:  Sherron seems to have been on the road since her first day back at work in September. Driving hither and yon throughout her massive, far-flung school division, giving workshops and presentations. She’s seen more of this area of the province than this homebody ever will.

Both my sons are deeply involved in their individual obsessions, namely, submission wrestling and film-making.  Sam and his creative partner Sean hope to have a short movie ready to enter in the “Youth” component of the Yorkton Film Festival and are collaborating on a script. I accompanied Liam to his twice-a-week wrestling session last night and my 48 year old body recoiled and quaked when I saw how those young lads (and one lass) were bending and twisting each other, their bodies impossibly elastic. I was one of those seriously inept, uncoordinated kids who couldn’t even stand on his head so watching my athletic oldest son going through the paces with grace and strength fills me with immeasurable pleasure…and pride.

Meanwhile, I continue to labor away on my western novel, The Last Hunt.  Two consecutive weeks of 12 hour days, grinding and polishing, adding in some of the research material I gathered during my Montana sojourn this summer.  Still insisting that I will release the novel in late March (2012), come hell or high water.  But it ain’t been easy and my body is feeling the effects of the strain.

You’d think after 25+ years I would have learned how to pace myself, manage my time and energy more effectively.  Er, no.  Instead, I completely immerse myself in a project for prolonged intervals, work myself into a state of exhaustion and then, literally when my body-mind-spirit can take no more, I pronounce the story/novel finished…and collapse.  At that point, I usually come down with a nasty virus which lays me out for a week (complete with cold sores, intestinal problems…ah, fun).

How does that gibe with your methods?

And then I read a comment by self-publishing’s latest superstar, Amanda Hocking. Yes, she of a million Kindle sales.  She states, without an ounce of  self-consciousness, that she writes her juvenile vampire novels in about 2-4 weeks.  That’s right, all you fuckheads who were stupid enough to download her awful tripe, a month (usually less) to write a novel. And some of you “writers” out there actually hold her up as an example of a successful author, someone you’d like to emulate.  Message to you wannabe assholes:  I spit in your face.  You disgust me.  May your fingers rot off your hands and your putrid brains liquify in your paper-thin skulls. Leprosy and ALS are too good for you.  I loathe you and what you and your ilk are doing to literature.  You are nothing more than ambulatory turds.

But I won’t cede the field to you, do you hear me? I refuse to allow your excremental scribbling to carry the day. To my last, dying breath I will be composing literate, intelligent, innovative fiction, even if only six people on the planet read it.  I will follow the lead of the Masters, write in defiance of all the trends and market niches, write despite the Amanda Hockings of the world and the offal they disgorge.  Hocking will be nonexistent in a very short time, her moment in the sun is almost up—let her have her money, it will keep her warm as she wallows on literature’s scrap heap, where all the non-talented hacks end up.

I’ll trust posterity and put my faith in the notion that as long as humankind exists, there will be discerning readers and that, eventually, my work will find the audience it deserves (even if I’m long gone).

I’d rather work for nothing than be stinkin’ rich and unable to look at myself in the mirror.

Which begs the question:  what price do you put on your soul?

“B.C.” comic strip by Johnny Hart


  1. Robert Runte, Ph.D.

    I don’t know, Cliff. I’m not sure that is a fair comparison. Hocking writes a book in a month, and her readers cruise through it in, what, two hours? Whereas it takes you, what a year? But then your readers savor your novel for weeks at a time. It’s like comparing a twinkie with a seven course meal. I don’t think it fair that anyone would ask her to spend more than a month baking twinkies. It would be extremely sad to discover that hocking had spent more than a month on her books. You know? And would you really want her readers reading Your books? Please. One does not invite twinkie eaters to a banquet…One expects there to be more twinkie sales than banquets..and it is okay if the chef is a bit distainful of twinkies being real food, but you don’t really see chefs calling down the wrath of the gods on twinkie bakers. It’s just really not related to food or what chefs do, so why would they resent the existance of twinkies?

  2. Cliff Burns

    Ah, Robert, you’re a far gentler soul than I am.

    Someone has to speak on behalf of literate, sentient beings whose knuckles aren’t skinned from dragging on the fucking ground. Hocking represents an epic dumbing down of the printed word, not merely diminished expectations but the equivalent of sifting through used toilet paper, trying to find a brand name.

    I wish her nothing but the worst.

  3. Keith Shannon

    At this point, why would anyone call vampire fiction literature?

    I would guess that 99.9% of anything written these days following a supernnatural theme is horseshit. That includes zombies, vampires, therianthropes, the (what used to be uberawesome) old gods, etc…

    Once the pre-teen fad of Harry Potter and Twilight moves on to a new theme, then the hacks will follow the trend and some quality authors will re-emerge. Same as it ever was.

  4. Cliff Burns

    “Therianthropes”: love that word. So much funner than “shape-shifter” or what have you.

    The horror genre is an embarrassment and DESPERATELY requires the arrival of another Clive Barker or Richard Matheson, someone who transforms the entire field with a single short story. Have you read Barker’s “In the Hills, the Cities”? Jesus Christ. After I read that one, I wanted to snap every pen on my desk. And Matheson’s impact on horror/dark fantasy is too huge to be measured. He and Charles Beaumont were the SHIT in the late 1950’s-early 1960’s. Without them, there would have been no “Twilight Zone”, maybe even no Ira Levin and Stephen King.

    Those motherfuckers could/can tell a good vampire/zombie/therianthrope tale, dude. Seek ’em out and spread the word, brother…

  5. Keith Shannon

    H.P. All The Way

    Lovecraft was a man who could really set a scene and then turn it inside out.

    His works were mindbending. He had some bad pieces, sure, but his body of work holds up I think.

    Are his stories dated now? Absolutely. Do they still work? Hell yeah.

    Added bonus: they work the vocabulary muscle.

    Much like the current supernatural theme, Lovecraft had his legacy raped by terrible authors.

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