Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Two Dwarves and Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs" is Now Available (and Kinda Sorta Always Has Been)

To my faithful readers (by which I mean Mom, some guy or gal in Germany, and someone else in Australia, and maybe someone else in Russia, but I think my site was accidentally linked to some sex site in Russian, which accounts for hits from there):

My debut professionally-published story, "Two Dwarves and Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs" is available for purchase electronically.  Yea!

I'm not sure which of the "Nine Deadly Ports of Call" my story was.



But I think it has been for a while.

As a 21st century netrepreneur, I'm still feeling my way.

The June 2011 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, in which the story appears, is available at fictionwise.com.  The site is owned by Barnes & Noble, so you can certainly get the issue for their Nook reader.  But it is also, according to the site, in these formats as well:

eReader (PDB)
ePub (EPUB)
Rocket/REB1100 (RB)
Portable Document Format (PDF)
Portable Document Format - Large Print (PDF)
Palm Doc (PDB)
Microsoft Reader (LIT)
Franklin eBookMan (FUB)
hiebook (KML) [1.4 MB]
Sony Reader (LRF)
iSilo (PDB)
Mobipocket (PRC)
Kindle Compatible (MOBI)
OEBFF Format (IMP)

Just looking at all these formats make-ah my head-ah hurt.

I'm an author whose story is being sold in these formats.  (To be clear, you're getting that entire issue of the magazine, which includes my story.)  Yet I don't know what they are!

My only scraps of knowledge are these:

EPUB: It's my understanding that the people in the industry are sorta trying to coalesce around it as a universal format.

Kindle Compatible (MOBI):  I have a Kindle, but what do you have to do after you buy it to get it onto the device?  I dunno.

Portable Document Format (PDF) and Portable Document Format - Large Print (PDF):  Okay, this makes sense.  PDFs keep the formatting exactly as the author lays it out because the text is fixed on the page.  So if someone needs larger letters, they've got to get something that was saved in larger font to begin with.

Sony reader: I've heard of it. Er, at least I've heard of Sony.

Palm Doc (PDB).  Whaaaaa??  Are the Palm people even still in business anymore?  I mean, seriously, isn't this like Atari, or Studebaker automobiles?
After that, we get into some weedy territory.  HiebookiSilo?  Some of these things sound like the fake brand names that they use on t.v. murder mysteries, where the writers can't use real corporate products, else they'd be sued: 

"Chief, the victim was an executive at iSilo.  They're coming out with the new Hiebook.  He was hit over the head with a bottle of Bundmeiser beer.  Then he was shot at close range with a Schmidt & Weston revolver.  There's a rumor he was just about to post a video exposing corporate misdeeds on YooTabe."

Believe me, I love the fact that my story now has an infinite shelf life.  But I'm telling you honestly, I'm not sure how to reach some of these shelves!

I could have included the link to fictionwise.com (here it is again!) when I wrote my original post about the story, but I simply didn't know it existed.

I would be very interested in anyone's comments about how they shop, and read, using these devices.  I have my own experiences with the Kindle, which have been good.  But going forward, I want to be able to provide you, my readers (Mom, person in Germany, other person in Australia, either-person-or-accidental-clicks-from-sex-site-in-Russia) with good stories that will be visible on the reading device of your choice.

Comments are open.




Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

Yesterday morning (December 16, 2011), I drew in a sharp breath; I had lackadaisically logged on to Slate at breakfast, and there were the words: Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011.

How many people are there, outside of your own circle of family and friends, whose death would cause you to gasp?

In tribute to him, I shall attempt to, not parody exactly, but certainly emulate his offhanded-learnedness-mixed-with-pop-culture-accessibility-but-not-dumbed-down style.

But my real tribute to him was made that morning: a sharp, surprised, saddened intake of breath.  On behalf of a stranger whom I was never in the same room with.

All else is exegesis.

#

Percy Shelley said that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world; Hitchens showed that prose stylists could be the unacknowledged coup leaders.

Christopher Hitchens was a writer, a journalist, and an essayist.  He went to Afghanistan in the 1980s when Osama bin Laden and the CIA were making common cause.  He was in Bosnia when artillery shells were being lobbed.  He was also a lover of novels and poetry, and he showed that both the physical life and the mental life were vitally important.

Thoreau wrote: "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live."  Not standing up to live was one of the few types of vanity Hitchens could not be accused of.  Indeed, one wonders if he would have signed on with a magazine called Humility Fair.

Although he was witty, he is best not experienced as a collection of epigrams.  Indeed, Vanity Fair magazine, the morning after the night he died, put out a video tribute which I found notable for its blandness.  Hitchens was about his ideas, and a few sound bites could not express them.

Rather, his metier was the full-throated paragraph; typically laying out the case against (fill in the blank with a worthy opponent), lay out the case against that opponent with a recounting of its misdeeds (framed in deliciously unfair invective), and followed by a killing blow.  You might have said he was setting up and knocking down straw men, except that his targets were either powerful institutions (organized religions, governments) or sacred cows (Mother Teresa, notably).

His range of topics was so wide, one might think of him as a dilettante, speaking of matters he knew little of.  But, 'It ain't braggin' if you can do it.'  He was a polymath, much like that other prolific author, Isaac Asimov (although certainly with a vastly different personality!).

When musician Warren Zevon (cue "Werewolf of London") discovered he had cancer, one of the songs he wrote for what he knew would be his last album included the lines:

I don't want your pity or your fifty dollar words,
I don't share your need to discuss the absurd.
--"Rub Me Raw" The Wind

With that same grit, Hitchens went on the record saying that, if he did supposedly recant his atheism on his deathbed, "it won't be me," just a cancer-riddled, delusional brain.

His personal life was as chaotic as his prose was elegant.  His mother committed suicide when he was in early adulthood (a biographical fact he shared with that other mordant author, Kurt Vonnegut).  He made no secret of his fondness for alcohol.  His brother Peter became a conservative and a Christian; they debated in public a couple of times, but (admirably for both men) didn't turn it into a gimmick.  He knew his cigarette habit had given the genetic predisposition to esophageal cancer inherited from his father the push it needed to start growing in him.

Inevitably, with such a prodigious output, and with such savoring eagerness to jump into a fight, he ended up on the wrong side of some issues.  (By which, of course, I mean that he disagreed with me.)  His essay "Why Women Aren't Funny", generated predictable outrage among the column-writing class; it was a nothing of a piece that generated a nothing of a controversy.  His longstanding support of the Iraq war, on the other hand, which caused such discomfort in his many longtime admirers (including myself), was deadly serious.

But one of the risks of putting yourself and your ideas out there is the risk of being wrong.  And if he was wrong about Iraq (and, oh, he was!), he was at least not a chickenhawk; as a correspondent, he had been in more combat zones than some people who serve in uniform.  If he was wrong, he was at least a wrong adult, rather than the overgrown frat boys and technocrats (in America and England) who blundered in without a second thought.

I would have liked to close this post with a shout out to the man himself, but his own belief was that he would not hear such a shout post-mortem.  He agreed with early American poet Philip Freneau:

In spite of all the learned have said.
I still my old opinion keep;
The posture, that we give our dead,
Points out the soul's eternal sleep.
--from "The Indian Burying Ground"

Sleep well, Hitch.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Why Doesn't Anybody Want to Buy a Gag about Bernie Madoff being Brutalized in Prison?

I love writing.  I have a full-time job and commitments at home, so I have to squeeze it in on my commute (on a subway train) and on the weekends, but I just love it.

I experiment with everything.  I have written SF, fantasy, mystery, children's stories, and....

...drumroll please...

...gags.

I love visual humor.  Problem is (since I try to write to sell) there's not much of a market for it.  I could name seven different SF/Fantasy markets that pay pro rates, and at least two mystery magazines.  But humor?

I relished creating the gag below.  I wrote the text on the train, then created at home with a collage of publicly available images in PowerPoint, then Paint.

And then....

And then I sent it to Mad Magazine's Fundalini page, which accepts unsolicited contributions.  But, they don't respond if they reject your material.  (They allow email submissions, and their target audience is in their mid-teens; I am sure the crap-to-diamonds ratio is truly staggering.)  So you basically have to write it off after a certain time period has passed.

And that was about it.

Oh, I was able to send to another publication, The Funny Times (a publication of whose existence I was unaware before doing a desperate duotrope search).  The submission was done through something called "the post office" (I had forgotten it existed, too). 

The Funny Times staff sent me a rejection slip in a reasonable 46 days.  (I appreciated their professionalism enough to make their name a hyperlink on first mention.  Cline may be Cruel, but he ain't bitter.)

And that was definitely it.

But wait, didn't somebody go and invent something called The Internet?  Can't you just post whatever the hell you feel like, fer free, on yer own web site?

(Sigh.)  Yeah.

But, but...

...It just doesn't seem validated, man.

I grew up reading Mad Magazine.

In black and white.

Before they could use the word "piss" in print.

I look through it today, and it is definitely not your father's Mad (or, in my case, your creepy, deranged loner uncle's Mad).

I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, here.  I did a snarky one-panel joke about a sleazebag grifter being the victim of prison rape.  This isn't like John Kennedy Toole committing suicide, and then his posthumously published novel winning the Pulitzer prize.  Hell, this isn't even like The Odd Couple being cancelled and then Tony Randall winning an Emmy award for it afterward.

This is just, this is just....

(DEEP sigh.)
So, now that you've been burdened with the arr-tiste's baggage, enjoy the damn cartoon.

(Deep sigh, ending with the flapping of lips towards the end.  That kind of sigh.  Like a snorting horse.)



Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dawn of the Desperate Housewives: An Appreciation of George A. Romero's Season of the Witch

An Irishman named Dan Walsh is a fan of the Garfield comic strip, the one about the ravenously hungry feline title character and his owner, Jon.  But Mr. Walsh believes that “Garfield” is really about . . . Jon. 


So he has digitally removed Garfield from the strips, leaving only Jon’s straight-man responses.  Amazingly, this has been done with “Garfield” creator Jim Davis’s after-the-fact blessing.  (Reader, don’t you dare look at www.garfieldminusgarfield.net without coming back here right afterwards!)


Well, I’m probably as big a fan of George A. Romero’s zombie films as Dan Walsh is of Jim Davis’s Garfield.  So, I decided to rent the DVD of one of l’enfant terrible du Pittsburgh’s earliest films.


It is Romero minus zombies.

  
The film is called Season of the Witch (well, actually, it wasn’t called that, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)  Like most of Romero’s early films, the actors were drawn from Pennsylvania and the film was shot there.  The names Jan White, Ray Laine, Virginia Greenwald, and Ann Muffly are surely not ones to conjure with.  They’re okay performers, but no unsung Robert DeNiro or Meryl Streep will be rediscovered here.

The DVD begins (unpromisingly) with a disclaimer from the releasing company, Anchor Bay, saying that the available prints that were used to make the disc are not up to their usual standards.  And the print is indeed faded.

Unknown actors.  Bleached color print.  Low budget.  Imperfect film.

What’s to like?

A lot, actually.  For those who are fans of George Romero, it shows him working with similar tropes as in his horror films in a non-supernatural context.


(At the moment, the entire film is available for free on YouTube from Anchor Bay, on the above link.)

Plot: A 1970s housewife (Jan White) lives a bored, empty existence.  Her husband is a workaholic who seems to always be rushing out the door with his briefcase.  Her college-age daughter is spoiled and rebellious.  Whether these characters and this situation are stereotypes or archetypes depends, I guess, on your mood.


Romero (who, as I noted in a previous post is nothing if not political) heaps on the feminist allegory.  The opening dream sequence shows the wife (named “Joan Mitchell” at a time when singer Joni Mitchell was on the top of the charts!) being led around by a dog collar by her husband, then put in a kennel. 

Then it gets strange.

Actress Jan White has grave, staring eyes.  (At least in the movie.  A DVD extra shows a 2005 interview in which those eyes sparkle; when one sees the “real” her, one realizes her acting talent).  She works well here.  Housewife Joan Mitchell begins dabbling in witchcraft.  In a scene that presages the consumerist satire of Dawn of the Dead, she goes shopping for ingredients for her spells (eye of newt and the like) and then pays for it all with her, ah, “Mastercharge” card.

Romero deserves credit for fashioning a story around a few middle-aged women, and saying that their stories matter.  There are sexual dalliances, but they are done with a rare integrity; you see the inherent desperation, the attempt to do something wild and forbidden before they die (in one dream sequence, Joan sees her aged self in a mirror).

I also commend Romero for being critical of the “progressive” guy on display.  Joan, you see, has an affair with a young, long-haired college professor (Ray Laine) who teaches sociology.  But he doesn’t serve as an idealistic counterpoint to the straight-laced businessman hubby.  Greg, the hippy academic, is obnoxious, domineering, and cruel.  In one torturous scene, he gives Joan’s friend Shirley a “joint” filled with regular tobacco; as Shirley smokes it, convinced she is getting high, Joan looks on with horror, yet apparent inability to stop the mean prank, while the smirking Greg just eggs Shirley on.

Everything aesthetically awful about the 70s is on display here.  (How come Rob Zombie, Quentin Tarrantino, and Robert Rodriguez, all fascinated by the era’s sensibility, never show the utter crappiness of the era’s style?)  There are men in bowl haircuts, women in turtlenecks, thickly striped shirts with huge collars, parties where middle-aged adults read Mad Libs out loud, and dialogue such as “That’s just a cop-out!” and “That will blow her mind!” 

Perhaps it is a blessing that the colors are faded.

The film offers a real critique of magical thinking.  There is not a single thing in it that depends upon a supernatural happening.  Joan wishes to have a lover, and she wishes that her runaway daughter will come home, and she wishes to be free of her husband.  She casts spells to get all of these, and they do come to pass . . . but not only could it all be a coincidence, Romero stacks the deck in favor of it.  The night that she wants Greg to come over, she casts a spell . . . waits while the clock ticks . . . and finally calls him and asks him to come over!

Then there’s this compact little scene commenting on established religion:  The Mitchells are nominally Catholic, and Joan keeps her Wiccanism secret.  On Ash Wednesday, she quickly dabs soot from the fireplace onto her forehead (for those unfamiliar with the Catholic practice, one is supposed to go to a church and have a priest do it).  At the kitchen table, her husband yells at a business associate on the phone, slams down the receiver, growls out a general threat against his runaway daughter, and then, looking at the ash on his wife’s forehead, says, “Well, I gotta go get some ashes.  Jesus, I hope that church isn’t crowded!”  He’s entirely on automatic pilot.

In several nightmares, Joan dreams that a man in a sort of pseudo-Mayan monster mask is breaking into her home and chasing her around.  It’s interesting to see the fortress invasion (a la Night of the Living Dead and the later Dawn of the Dead) done specifically as a manifestation of psychological trauma.  It gives one a new perspective on what the zombie siege does to tease out the psyche of the characters who are so besieged.

(Incidentally, what is it with George Romero and stairwells? 
  • In Season of the Witch, Joan runs up and down stairs repeatedly.
  • In Night of the Living Dead, Ben encounters a dead body as he gets to the top of the stairs.
  • In Dawn of the Dead, National Guardsmen wrestle a zombie off of a woman and ventilate it with M16 fire, in a well-remembered scene.
Was he, like, traumatized by a fall down a flight of steps as a kid?)

Romero, a liberal, attempted to make a feminist film.  I think he succeeded.  Whether the movie itself succeeds is another matter.  I’ve mentioned its problems (and not gotten into the slow pacing and somewhat ragged continuity).  But as a fan of his body of work, I enjoyed the film partly on its own merits, and partly for how it comments on his other works.  I’m glad I gave it a chance.

By the way, a chance is what Romero’s original distributors didn’t give it.  Hoping to use sex to sell, they took the film, which was shot under the title “Jack’s Wife,” and retitled it “Hungry Wives”!!!  (And by God, Hungry Wives is what it is at IMDB.com.)  A trailer (which accompanied the DVD) shows their terrible attempt to sell it as a sin-in-the-suburbs exploitation film.  One can only imagine the raincoat crowd settling into the theater only to find that they were sitting through basically an art-house feminist allegory.  Of course, it utterly flopped because of this.


Now it’s available on DVD (and on YouTube, as mentioned above), as “Season of the Witch.” Perhaps the only big-budget item in the production was that they actually got the rights to Donovan’s original 1966 hit song of the same name:
.

It plays on the menu of the DVD.  Damn fine song.
Now that I’ve seen a film with Romero’s sensibility but without Romero’s zombies, it makes me want to go back and view any of the six zombie films again.  What would they be like if the walking dead were . . . digitally erased!  Say, maybe I’ll email that guy from Ireland for some hints . . .

Friday, June 10, 2011

Frozen in Time

My short story, "That will Spoil his Day," has just been published on Every Day Fiction.  If you have read it, thanks.  Now, with spoilers, here are a few thoughts:

First, writing requires practice.  I got the idea about 20 years ago.  Back then, I didn't have the chops for it.  Oh, it didn't take me 20 years to learn.  I was away from writing for a long time -- too long.  I've been practicing in earnest since about 2007, by which I mean almost every day.  So, if you're reading this, and you have aspirations to write . . . WRITE! 

You cannot successfully or skillfully do that which you have not practiced doing.



Second, some subject matters demand solemnity.  "That will Spoil his Day" is about a casualty of war.  We are in two wars right now.  (Americans and our allies are still in Iraq even if "combat operations" have ended.  People are still dying.)  I am sensitive to that.  I have not been in Iraq or Afghanistan, or any war, but I have known people who have been in them.  I would never want to exploit them. 

Right now, that is exactly what is happening in the entertainment media.  What do I mean by "exploit"?  I mean using the wars as a cheap plot device: think of all of the shows that have a mentally scarred Iraq/Afghanistan vet as the villain on that week's episode, or the "tortured soul; it's a cheap way of gaining pathos.

I tried to avoid cheap sentimentality with "...Day."  Each reader will judge privately whether or not I have succeeded.


Third, some stories take cross-fertilization.  When I first conceived of "...Day", somewhere in the early 1990s, I was inspired by the infamous Pulitzer-prize-winning photograph of the police chief of South Vietnam, Colonel, later General, Nguyen Ngoc Loan, summarily executing a suspected Vietcong in 1968. 

I imagined a story that would be set in Vietnam (named as such), with a young soldier whose face is visible in a photograph of his commanding officer committing a war crime.  Despite his merely incidental appearance in the photo, it follows and haunts him the rest of his life. 

In the real-life event, the photographer, American Eddie Adams, regretted the impact the photo had, saying, "The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera."  In the video below, Adams (who died in 2004) says (around the :44 mark on this particular video) that had he been in Colonel Loan's shoes, "I might have done the same thing."  Amazingly, he visited Loan in the hospital after the other man was wounded, and they had conversations.






Years later, I read the excellent book Flag of our Fathers by James Bradley and Ron Powers.  James Bradley is the son of John "Doc" Bradley, who appeared in the flag-raising photo on Iwo Jima in 1945.  Only three men who were in that famous photo survived the end of the battle itself.  (Mount Suribachi was captured as the first order of business by design; as the highest point on the island, it was the Japanese artillery observation spot.  Once that was captured, the Marines rooted the Japanese up from the rest of the island; three of the six men pictured died doing just that.) 

James Bradley's book was, in part, about the effect that photo had on the three surviving men, and how it followed them the rest of their lives.  Bradley spent years privately researching it, and then professional writer Ron Powers helped shape it into an elegant narrative

John Bradley, the most successful of the three survivors, did so by never talking about it, not even to his family.  Another of the men, Rene Gagnon, thought that his fame could help him financially, but could only find work as a janitor.  He died in his 50s of a heart attack.  Ira Hayes, the Native American of the group, attracted special attention because of that fact.  One of the great things the book does is to reclaim Hayes as a three-dimensional human being.


Flags of Our Fathers (RKPG)


It's a great book.  The movie made from the book, directed by Clint Eastwood, was pretty good, but this is a case where reading the book makes seeing the movie . . . unnecessary.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Contact Me

If you would like to contact me directly, please simply add a comment to this post, and include your email address.  I won't publish comments sent to this post.

All comments on Cruel Cline are moderated before publishing. Again, I won't publish comments made to this particular post, this one entitled "Contact Me."
 
Why not simply give out my email address?  No offense to you, dear reader, but the world is full of spambots that harvest emails off the web, and then send tons of spam to said emails.  I prefer not to get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from pressing "Delete" thousands of times!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Ourang-Outang" Means "Man in Debt to Edgar Allan Poe"

"Two Dwarves and Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs" is now available in the June 2011 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.  It is my first professional sale. 

[The issue with my story is still available on the Sony e-reader (U.S. and Canada only).]

Below are some random thoughts on the story's genesis.



#


There once was a mysterious stranger who would leave a bottle of cognac and three roses on Edgar Allan Poe's grave at midnight, on Poe's birthday.  He (and we only assume it was a he) stopped doing it.  He apparently died, quietly.

Died quietly?  Hardly seems like a Poe fan . . .



#


"Two Dwarves and Eight Chained Orang-Outangs," (a reworking of Poe's original story "Hop-Frog") has just been published in the June 2011 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. It had a more complicated conception than Valentine Michael Smith's, although at least its paternity was certain. 

I recall wondering what "Hop-Frog" would look like as a movie.  The character had been portrayed in one of Roger Corman's 1960s Poe mashups, The Masque of the Red Death, although I haven't been able to find the film.  As I thought about it more, I realized that we didn't have his voice; just that of a nameless outside narrator in Poe's story.

Hop-Frog is a darkly heroic figure, although Poe stubbornly remained on the outside of him.  (And yes, I realize how arrogant that sounds; Poe created Hop-Frog from whole cloth; I just altered the pattern a little).

I wanted to write some sort of sequel or perhaps alternate version, that let us see inside this tragic/heroic character.  I would be interested in any readers letting me know if I succeeded.



#


Arthur Conan Doyle, whose collected letters I reviewed in another post, said that:

If every man who receives a cheque for a story which owes its springs to Poe were to pay a tithe to a monument for the master, he would have a pyramid as big as that of Cheops.

Heady praise, but accurate.  Poe influenced so many genres.



#


For some reason, I love corny-sounding, old-fashioned words.  Few are more ridiculous than "Ourang-Outang"  (or "Orang-Outang"; the spelling varies.)  (The full title of the original story is "Hop-Frog: or, The Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs.")  As my friend, SF writer Rob Chilson, informed me, Ourang-Outang is actually a mistranslation.  Orang-Outan (notice the lack of a "g" in the transliteration, which changes the pronunciation) means "Man in Forest," that is, those wise-looking orangutans.  But the word Poe and others of his time used, "Orang-Outang," means "Man in Debt."



#


In the manner of Tom Stoppard, I worked bits of the original dialogue in.  I made Hop-Frog (or "Hopp-Frosch," as he is called by the Germanic king in my version) a fairly eloquent narrator.  And it actually worked well to weave in Poe's dialogue, because his original Hop-Frog is well-spoken, as seen in his final monologue to the assembled courtiers from atop the flaming chandelier!



#


Finally, my thanks to EQMM Editor Janet Hutchings and Assistant Editor Emily Giglierano.  They were a pleasure to correspond with.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bathroom Humor

You may consider this post to be the "DVD commentary" on my story, #2@Area51.


In the 15th century play Mankind, one of the characters utters the following less-than-savory words: 

I haue etun a dyschfull of curdys,/ Ande I haue schetun yowr mowth full of turdys.

"Mankind" is what is known to scholars as a "morality play."

Humor which involves bodily functions has been around for a long time.  Like, since before Christ.  When I was an undergraduate, and taking a course on Greek and Roman mythology, our professor had an interesting anecdote.  As she related it to us, when she was in graduate school, she had blushed to translate some of the filthy jokes that appeared in the ancient Greek dramas.  When she had attempted to translate some of the words into terms such as "penis," "vagina," and "intercourse," her own professors had told her, "You're mistranslating them!"

Earthy humor involving the human body is part of the human experience.  It has a way of piercing pomposity.  It is no surprise that religious dictatorships attempt to suppress earthy humor.  But it may come as a surprise (though it shouldn't) to learn that even officially atheistic dictatorships have also been sexually repressed.  (Recently, there was a Russian language film, Stilyagi ("Hipsters") about, well, hipsters in the Soviet Union in the 1950s, resisting prudish Soviet norms.) 

Laughter is liberation, and even dictators who don't claim religious sanction try to stifle our horse laughs to control us.

Now, there can always be too much of a good thing.  (I think I'd like to see one movie produced by Judd Apatow that doesn't induce cringes.)  Indeed, when #2@Area51 was accepted for publication in Every Day Fiction, I was filled with pride when the editors told me the story "does the job without being graphic or gross."

I hope you enjoyed it.