Electile Dysfunction by P.A. Piatt

“What can I help you with today, Juan?” Doctor Venkman asked his supine patient. “Is your IBS acting up? Perhaps your ED has you down?” He smiled inwardly at his clever joke. “Something new?”

Juan Schmuzzi, award-nominated author, raised a chubby arm and pointed. “That.”

Dr. Venkman leaned forward to examine the “that”, a dark-colored cube Juan had placed on Venkman’s desk when he arrived.

“Uh-huh. Yes, uh-huh. Indeed.” Venkman uttered the series of sounds and words in an attempt to appear interested and thoughtful. His client, no stranger to meaningless dialogue, seemed to appreciate the effort. Venkman leaned forward to examine the cube by the dim light of his decorative desk lamp. He preferred to work with the shades open and lights on, but the distraught author insisted.

The cube was about six inches on each edge, black and smooth, with rounded corners. There were no visible

 

markings or grain pattern, so Venkman guessed it was made of some composite material.

“Quite an object, Juan. What is it?”

“What is it? What is it?” Schmuzzi sat up, and the pitch of his voice rose with him. “It’s a block!” he cried, leaping to his feet. “A writer’s block!”

Venkman leaned closer, turning the block one way and then another with the tip of his pen. “Hmm,” he repeated with each new angle. “Hmm. Hmm. Hmm.”

Schmuzzi paced the carpet between the couch and the solid wood built-in bookshelves Venkman had installed a few years back. Gleaming mahogany, they gave the office a splash of sophistication. All the classics were there: Freud, Jung, Ray, Dix, Robbins, Winfrey. Venkman dreamed of the day his own book–

“Venkman! Did you hear what I said?” demanded Schmuzzi.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Juan. I was pondering the meaning of this cube—”

“It’s not a cube, doctor, it’s a block. A writer’s block.”

“Okay, it’s a writer’s block. Where did it come from, Juan?” While attending a self-improvement seminar several years ago, Venkman learned that successful people used a person’s name frequently in conversation as a means of making the other person feel like the center of attention. Mostly, it was just annoying.

Juan stopped pacing and sat down. “It came by special delivery on Wednesday, November 9th 2016. I remember the day clearly. My friends and I were in our drum circle, passing the talking rock and sharing our feelings, when the doorbell rang. I got dressed and answered the door, and there was a box on my porch with this inside,” he moaned.

“Was there a note or a return address, Juan?” asked Venkman.

“Just a plain brown wrapper with my name and address,” replied a tearful Juan. “I didn’t know what it was at first, but now. Ugh.” He clutched his stomach and fell over on his side. “It makes me sick, Doctor.”

Venkman leaned back, alarmed. Sick? He tried to remember if he actually touched the block, decided he hadn’t. He slipped his pen into the trash can next to his desk and took a surreptitious squeeze of hand sanitizer, just to be sure.

“Don’t worry, it’s not contagious, Doc,” said Schmuzzi, his voice thick with torpor. “Writer’s block is a personal thing, it’s unique to me. You can’t catch mine.”

“I see,” said Venkman. He rocked back in his chair, hands clasped in front of his chin, index fingers forming an inverted “V” with the point resting over his lips. It was a bold, powerful pose that conveyed deep introspection and analysis, and Venkman practiced it every day in front of a mirror at home.

Venkman didn’t want to appear ignorant, but he didn’t understand what the writer’s block represented. After a thoughtful pause, he spoke. “What do you do with this writer’s block, Juan?”

“Do? DO?” Juan’s voice crackled with emotion. “I don’t DO anything. That’s the problem. I’m a writer. The writer’s block prevents me from doing my job!” Schmuzzi started sobbing and Venkman motioned to the stylishly understated tissue box on the table next to the couch. Sleek and black, with faux-gold flowers inlaid along the sides, the box was rumored to have come from the office of Deepak Chopra himself. Venkman wasn’t completely convinced, but he paid the asking price anyway in the off chance the story was true.

“Why don’t you simply throw it away?”

“Ha!” Schmuzzi leaped to his feet again, pacing and rubbing his hands together. “One does not simply “throw away” a writer’s block, Doctor. One must work through it, let it die on the vine and dispose of it.”

The doctor peered at the writer’s block again, but he didn’t see any vines or leaves. Was this writer’s block some sort of vegetable, or a seed pod? Best not to ask, he thought.

“I tried, Doctor. I really did. I put it in the trash, and it reappeared on my kitchen counter. I threw it out the car window, and it showed up on my doorstep. I slipped it in another writer’s promotional materials at a convention in Helsinki, for Pete’s sake, and it beat me home. I can’t get rid of it.”

Venkman stroked his goatee in what he hoped Juan would see as a thoughtful manner. He wasn’t a fan of facial hair, but it gave his face a certain gravitas and hid his most unfortunate trait – a fatally weak chin.

“It’s not like I haven’t been busy,” continued the distraught writer. “There’s my blog, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, even Gab. Plenty to do. And when I’m not online I’m meeting with friends, collecting pink yarn for my gal-pals to knit hats, keeping up on the latest trends in social injustice and intersectionality. I’ve even been reading back through some of the classics of my genre to see if there’s a novel or two that needs some updating. But writing? No way. I am blocked solid.”

Venkman glanced through Juan’s file lying open on his desk. It was unnecessary, he had the file memorized, but Juan clearly needed a moment to settle down. All this talk about social media just confused him, anyway. Venkman didn’t care for the collective insanity it promoted. He dealt with crazy people for a living. In his off time, he preferred the quiet companionship of a good book and his cat, Sigmund.

His finger traced the list of medications Schmuzzi was currently prescribed. Xanax, Prozac, Risperdal, Viagra, Bentyl. Quite a cocktail, Venkman noted, but all were necessary to keep the writer on an even keel.

“How is your diet, Juan? Are you eating well?”

Schmuzzi slapped his stomach. “Packing on the weight since November, thanks for noticing,” he snarked. He cupped his fatty chest. “I started growing man-boobs, too. Ever since that damn block showed up, all I’ve done is cry and eat. My acne is back, and don’t even get me started on my halitosis.”

Venkman assumed the pose he liked to call “Father”: Sitting up straight, elbows on the desk, hands clasped in front of him. “Time for some fatherly advice,” this position said.

“You need to find out where this block came from, and send it back, Juan,” he offered.

“I know where it came from!” cried the author. “It came from Trump!”

“From Trump?” Venkman was puzzled. “How do you know Trump, Juan?”

Schmuzzi sank back down on the couch and Venkman braced for another crying jag, but it didn’t come.

“I don’t know him, but I know of him, and he’s,” Juan paused, looked around the room suspiciously. “He’s worse than Hitler!” he hissed.

“Hitler? I see. And you think Trump sent you this block, Juan?” Venkman inquired. His hand slipped along the edge of his desk, close to the button hidden underneath.

“Maybe he didn’t send it personally, but he caused it to appear at my house,” claimed the writer. “Since his election, I haven’t been able to write a thing. I’m months behind on my contract, my name is fading from the headlines, and even my fans are starting to read other authors.”

“All because of Trump?” Venkman hated to ask the question, it felt vaguely like entrapment, but it had to be done.

“Yes!” Juan sat up. “Exactly. I’m blocked, my life is in ruins, my ass is getting fat, my face looks look like a pepperoni pizza, and I have the breath of a dragon. All because of Trump!”

Venkman pressed the button and two wall panels slid open without a sound. Uniformed agents stepped in the room and fired tranquilizer darts into the seated author. Juan was unconscious before his face hit the couch, and the agents dragged him out through the panel doors.

“Another one for Nebraska, Doc?” asked the lead agent.

“Yeah, he is,” replied the doctor. “Chronic TDS. A few months in the camp will straighten him out.” Venkman handed Schmuzzi’s file to the agent and watched as the uniformed man disappeared through the wall. The panels slid shut with a “snick” and the office was like it never happened.

“Sorry, Juan,” muttered Venkman. He used his pen to push the soggy tissues Juan left behind into the trash can, then dropped the pen in on top. He picked up the block and examined it. It was quite heavy for it’s size, shiny and smooth. He threw open the shades, flooding the office with brilliant sunlight, and turned the block over and over until he saw it. A faint holographic reflection, deep in the ebony finish.

MAGA 2020

Venkman walked over to his bookshelves and added Juan’s block to the growing pyramid on the top shelf.

The intercom buzzed. “Doctor, your next appointment is here. She has a block.”


Dr. Venkman recommends reading MAGA 2020 & Beyond to cure electile dysfunction. Pre-order your copy today.

 

PRE-ORDER

Why do lady SF writers suck?

Before you seek to lynch me, let me clarify the title slightly. Not all female SF writers are bad and I work with a number of very talented ones. What I am wondering is, why do places like Escape Pod and others think they are so dreadful?

Jon Del Arroz has been doing some interesting investigative journalism and has discovered that the long running Science Fiction podcast Escape Pod has a policy of giving preference to female writers over male ones. There is also the phenomena of regular anthologies and magazine issues that are women authors only (or some other “minority”).

The question I have about all this is, Why? Are female writers of science fiction really so terribly unreadable that they can’t actually get published without needing to rely on someone taking pity on them? The long history of science fiction publishing would suggest otherwise with many female authors writing under male pseudonyms and have successful careers, not to mention the large number of female authors who do just fine without needing one. I’ve bought stories as editor of Sci Phi Journal and as editor of Astounding Frontiers. The last thing I care about when purchasing stories is the sex of the writer, all that matters is that the story is good.

Usually when I say things like this someone will articulate concepts like “structural oppression”, “unconscious misogyny” or some other political buzz phrase to excuse why they need to make excuses for bad female writing but I find this unconvincing. The reality that a woman can submit under an obviously male pseudonym means that the barrier doesn’t really exist, they can always bypass the gate keeper (if he exists) in such a fashion. Is there any research today that shows a large number of stories submitted to different magazines using different names of both sexes, that get accepted at different rates based on the sex of the author? I realise such research would be difficult to conduct because you can’t just submit the same story to the same editor with different pseudonyms and expect a useful result, but the same author (or group of authors) could easily submit under many different names, a large number of different stories, and then get some statistically useful results. At least then there would be evidence of this bias should it exist.

My guess is that they would discover that female writers get bought more often than male authors in certain markets and in other markets there would be no meaningful difference. They did a similar experiment in Australia where they degendered resumes and used voice disguising technology to conduct candidate interviews. In such environments the men did better than the women, and in a sexed environment they actually did worse. They ended up needing to discontinue the practice because it got the “wrong” answer.

So what is the answer? Should places like Escape Pod be giving women a helping hand when buying stories? Such a patronising practice is not going to do the women authors any real favours. A publishing credit with Escape Pod for a woman will now unavoidably seen as some sort of participation prize for a crappy author. Who can have any idea how good an female author is, if when she is published in Escape Pod the bar has been artificially lowered? Maybe she is a good writer but there is no way to tell because it isn’t a level playing field.

At Superversive Press, we have published the wonderful Dystopian story, The Product by Marina Fontaine. Why did we publish it? Because it is a great story of the struggle for freedom in a nightmare future. Read it today and see what a good lady SF writer looks like. Marina has no need of an artificial helping hand because she is talented and I would never want to suggest she was a lesser writer that needed such a leg up.

The real solution to the “problem” of “under representation” is not to lower the bar for crappy author but to encourage them to become better writers and to encourage them to persevere in the face of setbacks. Ladies if you want to succeed, then suck less and persevere more. It really is that simple.

A Rambling Wreck, with Hans Schantz

The Catholic Geek: A Rambling Wreck, with Hans Schantz 06/25 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts:

Hans Schantz joins host Declan Finn to discuss Social Justice in Science, and how it relates to his books ‘The Hidden Truth’ and ‘A Rembling Wreck’ 

Dr. Hans G. Schantz is a physicist, an inventor, and a co-founder and CTO of Q-Track Corporation, a supplier of indoor location systems. He wrote the science fiction thriller, The Hidden Truth, a textbook, The Art and Science of Ultrawideband Antennas, and a short history on The Biographies of John Charles Fremont. Hans will be launching A Rambling Wreck, the sequel to The Hidden Truth, at LibertyCon next weekend. Hans lives in Huntsville, Alabama with his wife, and two sets of twins.

Pius Politics

I mentioned politics in the last post, and I meant to really get on that a little more, but I sort of drifted away from politics and into my general temperament, which impacts my politics, but doesn’t spell out what the bleep they are, or how they show up in my novel, A Pius Man — which centers around Pope Pius XII as a MacGuffin.
As I said before, I lean libertarian-right. More laws just means that the government can screw you over in more and more various and sundry ways, so I’m wary on laws for the “common good.” I won’t say kill all the lawyers, but I think tort reform can do that easily enough. Unfortunately, like most people, I’m a bit schizophrenic. I dislike the premise of feeding Moloch, but there are certain people I really want to remove themselves from the gene pool. I’m a New Yorker who thinks everyone should own a handgun, a rifle and a shotgun. I think drugs a really, really bad idea, but hey, legalize them — the more people who get high, the more Darwin awards we can hand out…. except for PCP, not even drug dealers will sell that crap anymore, as a general rule.
Like libertarians, there are a lot of things I don’t personally believe in, and wouldn’t recommend, but I’m leaving the fate of your own soul between you and God. Enjoy.
I generally despise politics with the burning passion of a thousand suns. The government should leave me alone unless I need actual aid — like someone has broken into my house and I’ve run out of bullets.
So, of course, since I truly loathe politics, A Pius Man happens to be the most politically charged book I’ve ever written. With the overall topic of Pius XII, I do take a side. I believe my conclusions are obvious based on my research. For those of you who have read The Irrational Atheist, you probably have an idea about that punchline.
However, the political portions of the book are discussions, not rants. And the politics are driven more by the characters than by me.

For example…

Sean A.P. Ryan. Mercenary. Believes in the free market system, heavy weaponry, and grew up in Hollywood: therefore he has lived his entire life swimming out of a Leftist cesspool, and dove into the chlorinated waters of libertarianism. When queried on his political affiliations, he would say, “I believe people should be able to own marijuana and machine guns. I will laugh at the marijuana crowd, but if I have my guns, I’m happy.”

Scott Murphy. He’s a spy who huts down terrorists for a living. His politics: “I believe in the power of waterboarding. But I’d sooner talk terrorists to death. It’s more painful in the long run. When you can talk them into revealing everything they know, kill them, move up the chain of command. Repeat until they’re willing to be peaceful, or they are peacefully dead.” He’s an accountant by training, so his first thought is how to steal terrorist money.

Giovanni Figlia. Cop. His father was blown up by a Red Army faction in the 1980s, so he has a grudge against extreme, gun-toting Leftists. Aside from that, his politics are: “I have to protect the most powerful religious leader on the planet, and he insists on pissing off nearly one-third of the world’s population. Leave me alone and let me do my job.”

Pope Pius XIII (Born: Joshua Kutjok): Hard right-wing. Has all but declared war on the Sudan. Thoroughly dislikes tyrannies, which means North Korea and China dislike him right back. “I am against abortion, gays being married in my church, and contraceptives are against the religion. Then again, you should only have sex with the person you marry, so abortion and contraceptives shouldn’t be needed. However, my homeland of Sudan is going through thirty years of religious and ethnic warfare, I have better things to do than deal with whining hedonists!”

Father Francis Williams, S.J.: “I’m a Jesuit transfering into the Opus Dei. I speak six languages and I can kill people with my rosary beads … what was your question?”

Maureen McGrail. Interpol. “I’m too busy being shot at to have a political opinion. Leave me alone.”

Secret Service Agent Wilhelmina Goldberg: As a special adviser to anyone who wants the Secret Service to audit their security, she has been all over, and her political opinion is simple. “At the end of the day, America looks good by comparison.”

The above characters have more influence over how the political discussions go than I do. So, the topics will be… interesting.

So, have enough fun yet? Just click here.

And, if you’ve done that….
The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

A Doctor to Dragons is Launched!

A new hilarious collection of short stories by G.Scott Huggins has been released today by Superversive Press:

The Dark Lord’s favorite dragon is constipated. Dr. James DeGrande, veterinarian and orc-slayer, is going to have to deal with it.

This one could get messy.

“Everyone says it was better in the Good Old Days. Before the Dark Lord covered the land in His Second Darkness.

As far as I can tell, it wasn’t that much better. Even then, everyone cheered the heroes who rode unicorns into combat against dragons, but no one ever remembered who treated the unicorns’ phosphine burns afterward. Of course, that was when dragons were something to be killed. Today I have to save one. Know what fewmets are? No? Then make a sacrifice of thanks right now to whatever gods you worship, because today I have to figure a way to get them flowing back out of the Dark Lord’s favorite dragon. Yeah, from the other end. And that’s just my most illustrious client. I’ve got orcs and trolls who might eat me and dark elf barons who might sue me if their bloodhawks and chimeras don’t pull through. And that doesn’t even consider the possibility that the old bag with the basilisk might show up.

The only thing that’s gone right this evening is finding Harriet to be my veterinary assistant. She’s almost a witch, which just might save us both. If we don’t get each other killed first.”

If that wasn’t enough, here is a promotional video (thought up during a sleep-deprived creative frenzy) that inflicts my vocal stylings upon your ears, and I must warn you it shall not be the last such torture to accompany a book launch, so be afraid!

Click the image below to grab the book for yourself.

The paperback version can be found here

For those of you who want to subject yourself to the full song, see below:

One Day More! (A roleplaying-Kickstarting musical)

This arrived this morning. To enjoy it fully, one needs to know that this is for Heroic Fantasy & Barbarian Conquerors Collection, a Kickstarter that ends today, and the Hafling class is the one that has not yet been unlocked:

With just one day more to crowdfund this effort, I present… ONE DAY MORE, sung to the tune of the song of the same name in Les Miserable. 

Macris
One day more!
Another day, another ask from me
For funding of Heroic Fantasy.
The ones who did not give a dime
I’ll ask again a second time.One day more!

Bugman Dredger
I did not live until today.
Cause my book’s just getting sorted.

Macris
One day more.

Bugman Dredger and Ovate
We’ll both be ready for some play
Because of you, our race got started!

Halfing Burglar
One more day without a home.

Bugman Dredger and Ovate
Will our class be overpowered?

Halfling Burglar
One more day with them not caring.

Bugman Dredger and Ovate
We were born to play with you.

Halfling Burglar
What a life I might have known.

Bugman Dredger and Ovate
Our classes are completely new!

Halfling Burglar
But the funds are just not there!

Macris
Tomorrow we’ll be on our way
Tomorrow is the funding day

ALL
Tomorrow we’ll discover
What Autarch’s backers have in store!
One more dawn
One more day
One day more!

(To see on Kickstarter.)