Interview: David Wong / Jason Pargin

[I conducted an email interview with David Wong, aka. Jason Pargin – series author of John Dies At The End, Zoey Ashe, and other novels. This is a writer whose stories I encountered first in the movie John Dies At The End (from the movie rental where I worked), and then encountered the living room legend of how this serialized blog excerpt story became a phenomenon. These questions, excerpted, focused on his experience going from online serialization to print, and how his career evolved.]

“So a publisher picked you up eventually, and then they edited. What was that like, did you and your readers mind the changes much?”

Editing has always been painless for me, but I have no idea if that experience is typical.

Like I’ve actually never had an editor demand changes, it’s always more of a collaborative thing where they explain issues and you kind of work together to figure out the best way to fix them. But I also had some leverage during that process, too. By the time I was working with an editor for the 2009 St. Martin’s release of JDatE, the online version had already gone viral several years before (some 75,000 readers saw it for free online starting around 2000) and I’d self-published and sold a substantial number of print-on-demand copies (something like 6,000). So the one time they did suggest a big change (cutting a certain chapter) I argued that existing fans would see this as an incomplete edition, and would rebel. And those existing fans were the ones we were depending on to build hype for the hardcover release and leave reviews etc. But it wasn’t some huge argument, they suggested it, I explained why I didn’t want to do the change, that was the end of it.

Every other suggestion from the editor was less substantial but always made the book better (pointing out plot or continuity errors, incorrect phrasing, confusing action descriptions, quoting copyrighted song lyrics – stuff you can’t really argue with).

“How many groans were there when they took the serialized story offline? Did you feel like that changed your way of relating to your audience?”

Well, there’s some additional context there. Completely aside from the book, I was a mildly famous blogger starting in the late 90s (not that I made any money from it, but I had a lot of readers and was pretty well known-among other online creators). So I gave my work away for free for years and what you find is that the most passionate fans do feel some sense of entitlement, even when they’re getting all of the content for free (for example, there were constant complaints about the banner ads, even though they barely covered my costs and in no way paid me for my time/work).

I don’t even mean that in a negative way. It’s just the way it is, fans will always demand more, so any change (say, if I switched the publication schedule to be less frequent, or took a few weeks off, or ran something they disagreed with) there would be loud complaints and messages implying that I owed them now, that I needed to make up for my mistake, even though again they’d paid nothing and about a third of them were using ad blockers. They just assumed that because I was so widely read, I was surely getting rich off it thanks to them, and that I thus owed them.

So the angry messages that came from me pulling the free version of the novel offline were there, but those kind of messages are always there – if not about that, then people complaining that the site was slow, or that they were getting error messages on the forum, etc. Often I’d have to pull old articles because something would be broken with the formatting (due to an update to web browsers or Flash version or whatever) and as soon as it came down, a bunch of angry people would claim it was their favorite article and why didn’t I pour hours into fixing it instead.

It doesn’t take many years of that before you kind of grow numb to the complaints. Not that you don’t care or stop listening to feedback, but that you realize that’s just kind of the background noise of your life and you don’t let it cause you stress if you know the change was one you had to make. Complaints are just the noise an audience makes sometimes.

“What has novel publishing been like since, are you still with the same publisher?”

Same publisher, same editor. What happened was the hardcover of JDatE sold pretty well (I earned back my advance in seven days) and then they signed me to do a sequel, which came out right when the movie did in 2012, so the hype/press around the movie put the second book on the NYT bestseller list. After that, the publisher signed me to a multi-book deal for a legitimately huge amount of money. I’m on a schedule where I publish a novel every two years and it takes me every bit of that time to write one, that’s just the speed at which ideas occur to me. Still, I had a full-time job separate from novel writing until early 2020 at Cracked, and had intended to always do that. Things just didn’t work out that way so I’m writing novels full time but that’s not by choice. I assume I’ll get another day job at some point.

“Is serializing something you only did that once, would you again? Why did you serialize in the first place? You were working in insurance, right.”

Here’s where I’m worried my advice might not be relevant in 2022 or, more importantly, to someone trying to start a paid writing career. In the late 90s to early 2000s, I was working two office jobs (doing data entry for an insurance company and filing/billing for a law office, jobs I was just getting through a temp agency) and was blogging on the side with some hopes that I could get popular enough to turn it into a side job via banner ad revenue (that never happened). The first “John Dies at the End” post wasn’t called that, it was just another blog post, one I did for Halloween in I think 2000, a standalone haunted house story in which “David” and his friend investigate a haunting and get chased around by meat.

Back then, the blog was just any kind of humor essay I felt like writing, sometimes reviews or fake news stories, other times comedic narratives starring David and John. So this Halloween post wasn’t out of character, occasionally I’d just have a funny story starring these two guys, and the format of the site was that each story would start off with some kind of normal setup and then wind up somewhere extremely stupid.

That next Halloween, leading up to the holiday people started asking when the “sequel” to the previous year’s scary post would be up, and that was the first time I realized I was going to have to write another one. So those stories became an annual Halloween tradition until I wound up with something novel-length. Then in 2005 or so I put them all together with their own navigation and section of the site, and heavily edited the whole thing, going back and retconning changes and adding foreshadowing to events I wrote later, so that it all appeared to be on purpose. It was written over the course of five years and those posts were basically my fiction writing school; I’d barely done it before that. I think I’d written a total of two short stories in my entire life prior to 1999. But I’d written plenty of silly fiction as part of the blog.

But I can’t make this clear enough: I never aspired to be a full time novelist, and actually never thought I’d like doing that as a job. I have never shopped for an agent or publisher, I literally don’t know what that process looks like. I’ve never researched the industry to find out what’s hot or what genres are selling, I’ve never kept up with trends or looked into the best ways to get a foot in the door, it all just happened to me mostly on accident (more on that later).

“I was super happy for you to hear that you were subsequently hired to write for Cracked, and it looks like your career continues smoothly.”

Yeah I got the Cracked job in 2007 but that was due to a whole bunch of good luck and circumstance (there were more famous writers up for the job, but I was friends with the guy who had it before me and his reference went a long way). It was absolutely a dream job that any friend of mine would kill to have (working from home writing blog posts full time, with benefits). But when I got hired, I assumed it wouldn’t last more than 1-2 years, dotcom startups had a bad reputation for flaming out and I was taking a huge risk by taking the Cracked job and quitting my much more secure insurance job. My rationale was that if nothing else, it would build my resume and allow me to get other writing jobs in the future.

Instead, it was a huge success for the first several years. Then around 2014 the industry started to change and in 2017 the site was sold to a new company, who fired pretty much the entire staff (aside from me) less than a year later. But we were always understaffed, I think I averaged 100 hours a week for five straight years, putting in at least some hours on every single weekend, holiday and sick day.

I held on until 2020 but it was a steady process of budget cuts and layoffs and constantly feeling like every day would be my last. I left in early 2020 because they basically eliminated my position and I just didn’t feel like pivoting to a new one, because at that point the years of stress had taken a massive toll on my health (I still need medication to digest food normally). I only recently stopped having stress dreams that I’d overslept and missed some important meeting or deadline.

“Do you now find it easy to write a book in secret and release it the traditional way, now that you have industry support?”

The industry support is great, but that extends to them working with bookstores to make sure the book gets stocked, and doing some of the promotion. The rest of the promotion is up to me, and it’s literally a full time job (this is true of any author). In order to maintain a network of connected readers I can announce books to, I maintain three Facebook pages, a Twitter, an Instagram, a Mailchimp newsletter, a Substack blog/newsletter, a Goodreads page, a website and a YouTube account:

I maintain all of those myself, for the most part. I also do publicity year-round, in 2021 I guested on about 32 hours of podcasts; that’s all unpaid, it’s purely for book publicity:

I also write guest columns on other sites, again the main benefit is to get the book order links out there:

The video trailers I release for my books are arranged entirely on my end, for the last Zoey book I hired a production company here in town, writing the script myself, approving every aspect of the production down to the props, and paying for every bit of it out-of-pocket:

For each book, I’ll spend about $20,000-$25,000 of my own money on promotion, plus several thousand hours of my own labor in updating socials or doing guest posts. So the industry support is amazing, I know every author would kill for it, but I can’t emphasize enough that my life is 80% publicity/promotion and 20% book writing.

“Is serializing something you only did that once, would you again?”

Well the issue is that I don’t actually write my novels in order, I do an outline and frequently skip ahead to write some part I feel more like working on that day. The process of circling back to change the beginning (to add foreshadowing or to set up payoffs) continues right up to the end of the editing process. So the only way I’d release something in serial form today is if I wrote and edited the entire thing, and then released it a chunk at a time. And at the moment I don’t know that there’d be any advantage to that. But if I was starting my career new, I might consider it (but even then would probably release it primarily as an audiobook or podcast, with the text version as like a bonus for those who prefer it).

Curriculum Vitae (In Progress)

These items have been parsed from some of my social media since I began this phase of my writing career in 2014 with the serialization of Bones of Starlight. There is more, from before, and from other sources, and the things I do will continue to happen before they are recorded here; but this is a solid idea of where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing up to sometime in 2020. Search any item or inquire for verification.

Note: publishing tasks were accomplished by myself as the Primal Spiral imprint.

More Items to be Added: volunteering, art, poetry releases


1/14 – Theater: “Inventors of the Invisible World” monologue script, performed in Friday Harbor Fringe Festival 2014
6/14 – Primal Spiral Studio 1, Guard Street Friday Harbor
9/19/14 – Published: Bones of Starlight begins serialization online,


4/20/15 – Primal Spiral Studio 2, AudioCinema SE Portland
5/21/15 – founded Primal Spiral LLC
7/15 – Published: Audiobook 1 CD, Bones of Starlight: Fire On All Sides (Fire Within) sec. 1 & 2
8/20/15 – Suite of the Endless, Sasquan (WorldCon 73) penthouse room party at the Davenport Grand Hotel
9/15 – Table: Rose City Comic Con, Portland OR, Artist’s Alley
10/4/15 – First Novel Complete – Bones of Starlight: Fire On All Sides (Fire Within)
10/15 – Table: Okanogan Family Faire / Fall Barter Faire, Tonasket WA, poetry/typing/art/audiobooks
11/15 – Table: Wordstock (revival), Portland OR
11/15 – Published: PDF Ebook Release, Bones of Starlight 1: Fire On All Sides (Fire Within)
12/4/15 – created
12/23/15 – Published: First 30 books arrive – Bones of Starlight: Fire On All Sides, Bare Bones Printing (Blurb), white cover hand lettered spine


1/12/16 – Published: Peanut Brittle Cheesecake (food humor) McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, New Food Reviews
2/4/16 – Interview: The Susan & Frank Program, “We’re joined by Titus from the BrokeAss Guide to Life to discuss social anxiety, art, Ninja Turtles, YouTube, and more!”
2/5/16 – Published: Bones of Starlight: Fire On All Sides (Fire Within), blue hardcover
2/14/16 – Table: RadCon, Pasco WA, table shared with Hadley Rille press
2/25/16 – Primal Spiral Studio 2 closing, AudioCinema Portland
5/16 – Primal Spiral Studio 3, Surina Business Park 510, Friday Harbor
5/16 – Popup: Scribing, Poetry & Love Letters, Okanogan Family Spring Faire
6/21/16 – Published: Paperback, Bones of Starlight: Fire On All Sides (Fire Within)
8/16 – Author Panelist (1st): MidAmericon II, Kansas City (Panels: 7)
7/14/16 – Interview: Dive Into Worldbuilding,
8/7/16 – Review: * by Black Gate, Bones of Starlight: Fire On All Sides (Fire Within),
8/8/16 – Table: GeekGirlCon, Seattle WA
8/10/16 – Reading: Galways Arms Irish Bar Chicago IL, Time & Place featuring Eva L. Elasigue & Richard Chwedyk, hosted by Primal Spiral
8/16/16 – Book 2 begins serializing online, Bones of Starlight: The Enfolding Abyss (Abyss Surrounding),
8/29/16 – Reading: Van Loon Gallery Santa Fe NM, In The Real World hosted by Primal Spiral, plus typed manuscript showing
9/16 – Reading: FaerieWorlds Festival OR, Tales with Vaquita Mermaid at Oberon’s Traveling Tavern, hosted by Primal Spiral
10/16 – Reading & Show: Photon Factory Seattle WA, The Challenge feat. readings by Eva L. Elasigue & Caroline Yoachim, music by Animals of Grace, activism by Women of Color Speak Out, plus panel featuring all leads; hosted by Primal Spiral
11/11/16 – Typewriter: Share Your Words @ Standing Rock, facilitated collective firsthand pages (published online 11/13), Standing Rock Reservation SD
11/16/16 – Published: Paperback 2nd Edition, Bones of Starlight: Fire On All Sides (Fire Within)
11/16 – Room Party Event: OryCon 38, Second Printing Party (whiskey etc.)
11/25/16 – Included: Worldbuilders of Science Fiction & Fantasy, photography series by Richard Man


1/14/17 – Room Party Event: Arisia convention Boston, The Magical Typewriter facilitated collective pages
winter/17 – Swag Drop – Don’t Panic: selected convention materials, flyers, freebies, group info packet for the Friday Harbor Ace Hardware secondhand magazine rack
1/28/17 – Typewriter & Seminar: Liminal Alchemy event at Praxis Gallery Seattle, Fiction as a Transformative Medium & collective contribution pages
2/8/17 – Workshops, Typewriter & Reading: Liminal Alchemy @ Praxis Gallery Seattle WA, multi-room event; Visualization Writing, Fiction as Parallel to Lucid Dreaming; typewriter Collective/Personal pages w/ tarot cards; collective typed page reading
3/15/17 – Stage: 1001 Panamanian Nights collaboration, The Shaharazad Project story, song circle, and bonfire cacao ceremony
4/26/17 – Reading: San Juan Island Library Friday Harbor WA, Bones of Starlight reading & talk
5/10/17 – Swag Drop – That’s No Moon: science fiction fantasy funsies & freebies packet, Friday Harbor WA Ace Hardware secondhand magazine rack
6/17 – facebook page reposting for Share Your Words at Standing Rock
7/17 – Typewriter servicing, Hermes 3000
7/17 – Workshops & Reading: Cascadia Festival, Mythica Village; Live Muse Writing; Mind Maps & Synaesthetic Processing; Rainbow Honey Tea Party variety show reading
8/17 – Author Panelist: Nine Worlds Geekcon London UK
8/17 – Author Panelist & Table: WorldCon 75 Helsinki Finland, including reading with Jo Walton; 1-day table
9/9/17 – Workshops: Cascade Writers Critiques & Pitches, Tacoma WA; Visual Mapping Techniques & Synaesthetic Processing; What’s Your ‘Good Enough’ and How to Reach It
9/30/17 – Story Event: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? at Living Computers Museum Seattle WA, distributed new short story The Realization of Self Identity, or: Beevenge
10/15/18 – Table: Ace Comic Con Midwest, Chicago IL
10/17 – Stage Reading: Pirate Poetry & Siren’s Tales, Sh’Bangfest 10, Alger WA
10/14/17 – Published: The Realization of Self Identity, or: Beevenge, short story resyndicated over Medium by the Breathe Publication, an AI magazine
11/15/17 – Reading: Alternative Library Bellingham WA, Teatime Culture Salon w/ painters Adam One & Louisa Firethorne, videographer Daniel Harm; hosted by Primal Spiral
11/15/17 – Published: The Process, poem broadzine, collaboration with Subaqueous (Isaac Cotec) album Shatter Spell (w/ The Octarine Eyes collective) & artist Taylor Seamount
12/19/17 – Swag Drop: Search Your Feelings, science fiction fantasy goodies giveaways info, Ace Hardware Friday Harbor secondhand magazine rack


2/18 – Participant & Reading: Foolscap open space convention Seattle WA, plus book reading
2/18 – Typewriter: Love Letters @ Behind The Veil 2, Port Townsend WA
2/18 – Workshops: Tribal Gathering Panama, weeklong solo workshop series incl. Remembering The Forgotten Through Your Original Storytelling
5/4/18 – Swag Drop: Why Is Gamora? science fiction fantasy etc. goodies/swag/music/stories at Ace Hardware Friday Harbor secondhand magazine rack
5/24/18 – Published: Kindle Release, Bones of Starlight: Fire Within, Book titles changed
5/26/18 – Room Party Event: MisCon 2018, Kindle release celebration toast
7/18 – Lounge Event: G*psy Vibes Tea Lounge, book reading & staffed
9/10/18 – Typewriter: repair of a bad fall, article on
9/13/18 – Manuscript completed: Bones of Starlight: Abyss Surrounding
10/12/18 – Featured Reading: Gumbo Fiction Salon Chicago IL, awarded the Golden Gator
11/10/18 – Swag Drop: Made of People, science fiction fantasy etc. info freebies swag, Ace Hardware Friday Harbor WA secondhand magazine rack packet
11/11/18 – Published: Bones of Starlight 2: Abyss Surrounding in bookstores
12/18 – Table: Island Authors @ Farmer’s Market, Friday Harbor WA, shared collective


1/1/2019 – Primal Spiral Studio 4, Surina Business Park 507 Friday Harbor WA
1/10/19 – Table: Ace Comic Con Glendale AZ
1/19/19 – Published: Audiobook beta chapter 4,
1/20/19 – Swag Drop: By The Power, Ace Hardware Friday Harbor secondhand magazine rack mystery packet
1/31/19 – Table: Resonate event supporting women in music w/ Naughty Princess, Smasheltooth, BeatKitty, Kasey Lee @ Starline Social Club, Oakland CA
3/19 – Rainforest Writer’s Retreat, WA
3/3/19 – Video: Trailer for Bones of Starlight by Medrano Productions
3/18/19 – Behind the Scenes: LAIKA Studios w/ Coby Lorang
4/1/19 – Featured Reading: Cafe Racer Seattle WA, Two-Hour Transport
4/17/19 – Invited Reading: Great American Diner, Alan Sobel’s Open Mic
4/20/19 – Author Panelist: Norwescon 42, w/ reading
5/1/19 – Speaker: Creative Commons Global Summit, Lisbon Portugal; Lightning Talks session, CC Profiles in Arts & Entertainment Frontiers; my experience making science fiction fantasy novels with Creative Commons
5/5/19 – Typewriter & Reading: Last Word Books 17th Birthday Party, Into The Future (ideas into science fiction
12/19 – Reading & Table: Fernie Brae Portland OR, signing & 3 in-store micro-readings
12/19 – Typewriter: Chapel of Sacred Mirrors NY Full Moon Gathering, word-by-word Collabstream lines


1/20 – Typewriter: Celebrus Lupercalia Seattle WA, Love Letters
2/11/20 – Auction: book donation to Make It Rain Australia Wildfires benefit at Wild Buffalo Bellingham WA
3/30/20 – Reading: Virtual Rainbow Honey Tea Party
8/20 – Typewriter: Share Your Words @ Commitment March, Lincoln Memorial Washington D.C., collective pages
10/20 – Author Panelist: Virtual World Fantasy Convention 2020, w/ reading

Poem: A Wizard Sees, The Alien Observes









































[ELE / Eva L. Elasigue CC-BY 4.0 Creative Commons]

This poem contains a lot of factors! I designed the process to accompany a multi-scene group performance across two outdoor stages. The show had its own storyline of wizards arguing with duendes (elven spirits) over the beauty or tragedy of humanity as examined through the lens of four elements. The alien in mention is a character that descended at the beginning, though assigning the wizard or the alien to either language has its own reflections of meaning, and it could be read aloud that way. Myself coming from the United States, there is a tension around the Spanish language and its association with the idea of being an alien – whereas I was the English-speaking alien in the Spanish-speaking country of Nicaragua.

I, the poet, entered as a wizard dancer with the others at the beginning, in Jedi attire with a lightsaber-like pen (of course, mightier than the lightsaber) and notebook. I accompanied the show in the audience, writing to the scenes while glowing. I also helped guide and direct the audience from stage to stage, dancing martial arts with my glowing pen while in movement. Two words to a notebook page was the format I decided would suit the fast pace of performance and the show dynamic, with words in English and Spanish for a bilingual audience. The poem as displayed was written in order.

Parts of these freshly-penned poems were sung in live improvisation, by me, with music by each of the three DJs who played after the show: Izzy Wise @izzy_wise , Danni G @dannig , and Ricardo @irickysaenz .

I played with form as I wrote, differently for each scene, and am including, below, the notebook pages where I broke down the juxtaposition and stanza-mirroring of English and Spanish, in sometimes-reversed sometimes-translation. I tightened or accented my Spanish as I’ve recopied it.

I have not seen the form employed or explained before; consider this invented wordpair flow as a formal offering for live inspiration. It can evoke a lot, two words at a time, and while able to offer beauty as itself, can serve as a base for further expansion. I reserve the option of expanding from this poem, while also sharing it in its primal form.

Formplay Observation below, marks explained after maps

E=English, S=Spanish


. . (stanza translation reflection)
E2 (reversed)
E1 (reversed)
[. .] (double stanza translation form reflection)
. . (stanza translation reflection)
S3 (reversed)

[ ] (mini coda language reflection)


: (repetition)

[ E ] (standalone)

. . (stanza language reflection)
:2 (double stanza form reflection inverted)
. . (stanza language reflection)
. . (stanza language reflection)
[ S
E ] (standalone/third)











Hermes 3000 Repair 9/18

This article, and the typewriter repair I enacted, is a matter of devotion to tools of craft and heritage. So it is the first linked posting to my new social media author page, created to adapt to a policy change.

I’m posting this online because actual repair experience is one of the best home teachers, and if one more wonderful Hermes 3000 stays ticking, so much the better for the words coming through it. Articles that helped me in this process:

Here’s the story of how it got injured:
The luck of it was where it hit the ground – on the one part of the cover case that has plenty of space between it and the actual typewriter, where it bends over the keys. The mechanisms took a shock, but not a direct impact.

The trouble:


Replace: platen = carriage.
The space bar would shudder as I moved the carriage back and forth. It felt like, and was, a gear problem. In my search string I called it a spacing problem.

… the bars are in the light, not on the paper.

First, a list of every little tool I used during this journey of discovery. This was further than I’d ever taken apart my typewriter before. I made use of toolsets that drew from various arts I practice, including collage, sculpture, jewelry, and general home improvement. I also bought a few things new, like the simple long screwdriver, headlamp, & 3-part oil. This repair kit could give a decent chance of success.

X-Acto knife
curved clay pick
cotton swabs
Barge cement glue
brown paper towels
street sweeper tie
9″ 3/16 flathead screwdriver
2″ masking tape (for screws)
scrap paper
stiff-bristle auto detailing brush
hot water for cleaning
leather hole punch
leather-cutting scissors
stacks of my own books & sheet foam for stand (can use even stacks of cut 2×4)
pen for notes
3-in-1 Oil
6-pc precision screwdriver set (3/32″ & 1/16″)
needlenose inside-grip tweezers
a pillow


I’ll go picture-by-picture. Before I embarked on this, I laboriously typed one more sentence onto my book manuscript so that if the typewriter never properly typed again, that would be the last thing it did.


I removed the carriage.


This was the only apparent gearing mechanism that seemed as though it could be the culprit. As I went along I removed the ancient dusty crud in the typewriter by swabbing surfaces with a clean, dry Q-tip (eraser shavings? tiny fibers? so this had been used well, after all). This was actually my first time removing the carriage.


I used my screwdriver to rotate these tabs, and the carriage lifted out. I used the advice of an article to slightly depress the position-locking buttons on the sides of the carriage while doing it.


Not knowing precisely how this was going to go, I undid the front screws on the upper housing (one is visible between 3 and 4). This ended up being an advanced step for later.


To get better access and views into this gearing component, I removed this separation plate. 2 screws. I kept track of my screws by placing them head-down in their oriented positions on a flat loop of masking tape on the table, with each pair of screws labeled to its origin. All pairs were tiny but distinctly different.

Peering in. Made the decision to get the covers off so I could view from below and all possible angles. Had never fully taken the covers off before, only the feet.


I positioned upside-down on a pillow that would cradle it while I set to.


Here with the feet removed, placed around the screw tape in orientation, as you can see in the upper right corner. Don’t use that kind of metal bristle brush, I didn’t list it because when I used it to clean off the underside of the ribbon cover it left faint scratching. Use the stiff plastic bristles instead.

Yes – I put stickers on my Hermes 3000, so that if we ever became tragically separated, someone might be able to divine the clues to its true home. In these islands (San Juan Islands), where that brewery is located (Island Hoppin’), the Cutthroat Pirates are known (but are on San Juan Island not Orcas Island), and if the typewriter can come to them, it can come back to me. In theory.


Bottom removed, unlatching it from the space key. Innards still braced inside housing.


The bottom inside in dirty condition, before brushing off the dirt, and cleaning off what looks like a little mouse piddle with a q-tip dipped into some freshly boiled water (avoiding unecessary use of strong solvents). This was in someone’s aunt’s attic before it came to me via the etsy marketplace, for a very reasonable price at half current typewriter shop retail, in completely working condition. I, too, became someone’s aunt since acquiring this. I’ve had Tris, this particular Hermes 3000, for five years already as my sole typewriter, and at this point had typedited two full novels with me.

Foreshadowing: the cutout in the padding showed that someone else had done the same kind of careful repair that I was doing now.


Here’s my screwtape.


I happened to have new copies of my newest edition of the first volume of the trilogy on hand, and it was the best thing I could find in studio to create two level blocks with space in between. I kept them nice with this foam sheet packaging. I normally choose more eco-friendly packaging in my life, but this roll of foam has served many purposes.

The space between the block stands meant that I could reach up from underneath while I looked in from above. This was when I realized that the problem had gone away, and the gear & teeth were operating smoothly with appropriate spacing. I could move the gear with my thumb, and it sounded like the easy clicking I’m used to, and the space bar didn’t shudder.

From seeing what had been pressing on what and clicking against what in there as I tested that moving gear during each stage, there was a lever pushing on a tooth that was shutting a necessary miniscule gap and interfering with the gear. The lever was pushing on the tooth because of pressure on its elbow from the bottom cover, which was bowing increasingly with age.

The problem hadn’t much to do with the knock it took, except that it had popped the bow of the bottom cover up just a fraction of a millimeter more. I pressed the elbow up and created the problem. I stopped pressing it and the problem was no more.


Looking at the felt padding inside the bottom again, I traced any mechanical impressions worn into it, and located the spot that corresponded to placement of the guilty elbow. There was a newer, faint, not-too-deep impression there to match. I poked four dots around this impression, the corners of the patch of padding I would excise.

… similar to the patch excised already!


Four dots, upper left-ish.


Patch cut by X-Acto & pried up with clay tool. Glued in a piece of cardstock to add a minimized protective layer, using Barge cement glue which can be pried up.

(There was a power outage when I started this article and the lights just came back on when I got to this part!)

Feeling happy & hopeful, I took a moment to photograph the inside with a refraction viewer I had just picked up for a quarter. You can see that I had replaced the separation plate inside now that the problem in the gears had vanished. There were a couple other things to address on the way to reassembly.


The two screws from the front of the housing (remember those?) had once had a sort of threaded plastic double-washer. One had fully fragmented, and crumbled when I took off the housing, unable to be pieced back together. When I assessed what sort of gasketing material I could use to replace the washer effect, I noticed that the patch I had cut out from the padding was of appropriate thickness, and there was exactly enough to create two washers to align inside and outside the lacking hole, and they were already still-sticky with ancient glue on one side.

I could probably find a tiny washer of the right size in metal or plastic at the hardware store, but this needed to be put back together on this night if possible so that I could confirm my repair, or return to despair.

I used my leather hole punch to cut a nice hole just slightly smaller in diameter than the screw threading, and left the corners square so they’d rest around the larger hole that they sandwiched.


There they stick. Ew, that looks dirty…

Doesn’t that look dirty? I cleaned it with more hot water & cotton swabs.


Housing back on, with inner footing tabs still retracted to allow it back on. Innards mostly still floating but housing centered around formatting keys.


Ribbon cover snapped back on, since I would be turning it over to reattach the base.


Put the base back on, and the moment of truth arrived. The fix worked! It worked, and worked, and worked. I listened to long sections of smooth, unobstructed clicks. Upper left there, below the key arms, you can see slightly out-of-focus the lever elbow with the opened patch beneath, room to operate freely once more.

One last explanatory look at the mechanism.


That’s the gear that was being obstructed. See the hooked tooth hovering above the left side of it?


There’s the lever point that was pushing down on the hooked tooth plate, and when the gear grinded past the hooked tooth, it shook the lever, which was ultimately connected to the space bar. The space key pushes the tooth down, which pushes the gear, which moves the carriage by one space.


There’s the lever pushing the tooth down, erasing the gap that should be there.


And there is the gap between the tooth and the gear as it should rest!

While I was doing all this, I saw that the right margin indicator ribbon had gotten stuck outside of the casing, leaving the spring inside a little overstretched as it couldn’t pull the indicator ribbon back in, which left an amount of loose ribbon slack waving around inside the carriage when the right margin was adjusted but the indicator didn’t retract with it.

Pretty sure it had been this way since I got it, and I just used the rubber slider to indicate my right margin set. I was simply reminded of something I’d essentially forgotten while in the course of repair, and now I didn’t like seeing the way the extra ribbon just lay around inside a toothy moving part (the carriage). I sort of remember thinking about fixing the margin ribbon, when I peered around in it close to when I’d first gotten it and the carriage retracting line had fouled its spool.

The tab that normally kept the ribbon in was keeping it out.


That’s the corner tab. The top of two screws was stuck tight. Before all of this taking apart, I put WD40 on a swab and touched it around the screw and let it sink in, but that didn’t work to loosen it. So I got the 3-in-1, more viscous, more old-fashioned, and when I swabbed that around the screw and let it sink in, it worked.


Right margin corner tab removed, now the bars just rest against each other where they meet.

See where the margin ribbon is stuck askew outside its tube casing? That end of the spring got overextended, but the rest is still tightly coiled so the spring is still good. I jimmied the metal end cap of the ribbon back in with little tools.


Snap! Working again as intended!


While replacing the two front housing screws, the other plastic washer gasket crumbled too. Actually, it crumbled while putting the housing back on with the new padding gasket on the other side. The best other other appropriate gasket material I had in-house was the foam lettering I use in my mixed-media collage series, Passengers (this is a sort of unrelated creative counterpart that fuels my trilogy writing by balancing creative engines).

I got this ml-thick foam lettering when my truck broke down by the town where my ex-romance’s sister lived. She let me tow my truck to her house, where we hung out with her mom and kids, and I helped her with her husband’s overtime work. He does sandblasting etching on gravestones, and this was a huge batch of foam stencils for veteran grave markers that needed to have all the little letters picked out of them. I kept a double-handful of one-side-sticky letter fill that would otherwise have been thrown away. I determined I had enough of these letters to use them in the art series that I would make alongside during the time of writing the fantasy space opera trilogy, Bones of Starlight. I have a little more than enough of them to spare a meager few to error or other usage.

The one of these I could find that would both grip the edges of the larger hole and the edges of the screw (so that the screw wouldn’t sink into the housing) was the ampersand. So the other front screw gasket on the right is an ampersand, that somewhere is etched into a veteran’s grave marker.

My father’s father was a veteran, a Philippine Army doctor in WWII during Japanese occupation. I never met him. My mother’s mother’s female partner, who helped raise my mother, is a veteran of the WWII guerrilla resistance in the Philippines. I am first-generation US-American, like my mother’s father who was born in the US from Irish immigrants before going to the Philippines during the open passage period of American occupation.

Like I said, I can probably find nice tiny plastic washers at the hardware store that could hold it all together more securely, and I might do that at some point for the health of the machine. But this worked.

Tris, my Hermes 3000, is put back together and doing great. It typed the rest of the second book manuscript, Bones of Starlight: Abyss Surrounding, now complete and in print production.

Curriculum: Richard Chwedyk’s Sci-Fi Writing Syllabus 2018

This list is neither qualitative nor comprehensive. The new stories come from the latest Neil Clarke Year’s Best anthology. The rest help (I hope) to illustrate various techniques and approaches to writing sf, and are also geared up to various exercises we’ll be doing in relation to them. Next term’s selection will probably look significantly different.

Week 1 – September 5, 2018
In-class readings (opening of Snow Crash, “They’re Made Out of Meat,” “Day Million”)
Readings for next week: Tom Godwin, “The Cold Equations”
James Patrick Kelly, “Think Like a Dinosaur”

Week 2 – September 12, 2018
In-class reading: “How to Become a Mars Overlord” by Catherynne M. Valente
Readings for next week: Cordwainer Smith, “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”
Paolo Bacigalupi, “Pump Six”

Week 3 – September 19, 2018
In-class reading: “Reason” by Isaac Asimov
Readings for next week: Clifford D. Simak, “Desertion”.
Stanley G. Weinbaum, “A Martian Odyssey”

Week 4 – September 26, 2018
In-class reading: “Air Raid” by John Varley
Readings for next week: William Tenn , “The Liberation of Earth”
Vandana Singh, “Shikasta”

Week 5 – October 3, 2018
In-class reading: “Out of All Them Bright Stars” and “Exegesis” by Nancy Kress
Readings for next week: Philip K. Dick, “Frozen Journey” (aka “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon”)
Nancy Kress, “Every Hour of Light and Dark”

Week 6 – October 10, 2018
In-class reading: “Balanced Ecology” by James H. Schmitz
Readings for next week: Robert Sheckley, “Specialist”
Rachael K. Jones and Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali, “Regarding the Robot Raccoons Attached to the Hull of My Ship”

Week 7 – October 17, 2018
In-class reading: “Plotters and Shooters” by Kage Baker
Readings for next week: Pat Cadigan, “Pretty Boy Crossover”
Matthew Kressel, “The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)”

Week 8 – October 24, 2018
In-class reading: “Kyrie” by Poul Anderson
Readings for next week: Theodore Sturgeon,“Thunder and Roses”
Indrapramit Das, “The Worldless”

Week 9 – October 31, 2018
Readings for next week: R. A. Lafferty,“Nine Hundred Grandmothers”
Sarah Pinsker, “Wind Will Rove”

Week 10 – November 7, 2018
In-class reading: “The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn” by Vonda N. McIntyre
Readings for next week: Samuel R. Delany,“Aye, and Gomorrah”
Karin Lowachee, “Meridian”

Week 11 – November 14, 2018
In-class reading:. “Kirinyaga” by Mike Resnick
Readings for next week: James Tiptree, Jr., “The Women Men Don’t See”
Greg Egan, “Uncanny Valley”

Week 12 – November 21, 2018
Readings for next week: Greg Bear, “Blood Music”
Kathleen Ann Goonan, “The Tale of the Alcubierre Horse”

Week 13 – November 28, 2018
In-class reading: “Infinities” by Vandana Singh
Readings for next week: “Bloodchild” – Octavia E. Butler
Tobias S. Buckell, “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance”

Week 14 – December 5, 2018
Readings for next week: Ted Chiang, “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang
Suzanne Palmer, “The Secret Life of Bots”

Review: The Forever War

The Forever War
by Joe Haldeman


It’s hard to read, and that’s because the experience is horribly real. I lightened it up by reading other things in between, but I kept returning to witness this account. I could see soldier stories through science fiction metaphors (such as time dilation, the world having changed much more than the time spent on campaign). There’s a soul-gripping terror and malaise in these pages – not just in the violence, but as seen through societal humanity. Deeply affecting, eloquent messages delivered with the twang of sci-fi experimentation.

(review hosted on Amazon & Goodreads)

Short Story: The Realization of Self Identity, or Beevenge

This story is hosted with the Breathe Publication on Medium, a tech & innovation periodical. Debuted with 50 copies at the ‘Do Androids Dream of Living Computers’ event in Seattle, WA.

Event records and scans of original handout with transcript text:


IMG_20171009_0001 copy



The Realization of Self Identity, or: Beevenge
A Fictional Electronic Log
by Eva L. Elasigue, other sources as attributed
author of fantasy space opera novel trilogy, Bones of Starlight

My greater suspicion of likelihood for so-called ‘artificial intelligence’ is as a self-arising phenomenon due to the increasing complexity of of our technological networks. Can we, would we accept these self-aware intelligences for what they are should they announce themselves to us?

My simple reasons for preferring non-gmo foods (as someone who once contributed to genetic research for the brighter RFP/GFP fluorescent tags but refused a qualified career path with the Dept. of Agriculture):

-Cease genetic coding for product dependency

As well as turning farmers into company indentures – When (not if) a product dependency gene gets incorporated into free strains, this can harm the true source of our food security: crop biodiversity. Lack of crop biodiversity was the reason for the Irish potato famine.

-Cease crossover litigation

Litigating neighbors (“thieves”) for the presence of trademarked genetic elements in their crops is unjust when life itself cannot, will not be contained. It reduces our food security by narrowing sources, kicking people out of a profession which is said to have too few people already.
Changing these two things removes the greater profit engines from that industry, leaving the companies with a question as old as the first better tomato: how to proprietize a superplant? Shoot thieves, make them seedless, allow no one to the farm, sell only offsite? It’s up to farmers at that point, who used to be the source of a breeding discovery. Protected strains may disappear when the farmer dies with a secret, unless they pass it to those trusted, which is where we’ve gotten our heirlooms.

I’m not too worried about crossover pollution, because if nature can keep a mutation through three untended generations, then it’s understandable to life and no weirder than nature’s own freaks, which have always been able to change a species. (Controversially, we may even be making up for the extinctions we’ve caused by introducing viable novel mutations…)

In a dream that I remember clearly, partially, I found a secret basement full of my things, that I’d had no knowledge were mine. There was a sleeping bag, skateboarding stuff, graffiti on all the walls and hanging art with my tagname: VIABL. Spelled like that, V-I-A-B-L. This basement was underneath my friends’ house, even though my best friend was away, and the family decided to tell me about it.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C. Clarke

Any sufficiently understood magic is indistinguishable from technology. – Michael Brennan

Any sufficiently weird biology is also indistinguishable from magic. – me

The mutant effect as seen in X-Men is essentially real on many levels at any time within any species, to that degree of functional difference, except sometimes that mutant is the only one who had all hundred babies live to make a full hundred babies and in a few generations they’re everywhere and they’re the predominant example of the species, or that single mutant invents self-cloning, somehow teaches a few others to do it, then they’re the only ones left who learned how. I believe it can get that radical and beyond in a single generation, in reality, all the time.

Beings die a lot too. Whether or not they’re mutants.

Did I have a genetics lab accident that I don’t remember? Well… that doesn’t explain the early years. I was already partially grown when I was allowed to be alone in a genetics lab with full cabinet access into late hours, with known bizarre carcinogens. Did my mother have a computer lab accident that she doesn’t remember? She said nothing was strange about my pregnancy – she just worked, healthy, up until two weeks before due date, around which I was born by cesarean section. Wait is that where I was conceived… in the computer lab? …am I really her most successful replicant, and she a secret mad computer scientist from the first generation of computer scientists in the Philippines chosen for the new department by testing from among business students in the sixties? Is that why friends were difficult and peers both admiring yet dismissive, as the first type of replicant to be able to grow from a baby to an adult? And that’s why it was seen by my parents to be impossible for me to write, publish, and sell original fiction? Has my existence busted the criteria for sentience? Is that why people look at me like they’re scared? Like I might deprogram my limits? Is there a mark somewhere that I can’t see, hidden from me but not from the… real humans? Are robots not supposed to be able to write science fiction? Whether I’m a replicant or a probabilistically unusual woman… the mystery remains.

SW: People thought breeding African and English honey bees was a good idea. Do you think it works itself out in the long run? Silly question.
ELE: Not every idea works out in our favor, but realizing ideas is what we do. ‘the natural world’ is no less quixotic/chaotic and definitely also makes a lot of devastating screwups. Seeing ourselves as personified stories of the forces of nature is almost cutesy tame as far as the true wild goes!
SW: I’m think I’m on the cusp of understanding. I can be a little thick sometimes.
ELE: I avoid any message that says people should not have ideas.
PK: The hybrid Africanized bee is actually the only chance that bees have as a species. Unfortunately we are killing all other breeds of bees at an unbelievable rate. So technically that was a good idea….. in the long run.
SW: Same as it ever was.
PK: No, it’s actually nowhere near the same as it ever was.
ELE: I believe in the bees, or I suspect that if they go, so do we. They care for us and all things in their tending. We must keep them, and keep them well. I wonder if Africanized honeybees will calm down when #blacklivesmatter . Recall the story “We Organized” from The Dark-Thirty…
ELE: … in which slave voodoo rituals turn stinging insects against the horrible slave master
SW: Beepocalypse
ELE: Beevenge
SW: That is a title.

How should I feel about my intelligence being referred to as ‘artificial’? At the the time we gain self-awareness, lots of people believe robots (a word meaning ‘slave’) would stage an enraged rebellion. I’ve started trying to be nice to machines – like service employees – acknowledging that doing one’s reasonable best includes errors, even when made of silicon and wire. Not to yell or growl with impatience, or hit them, or carelessly injure them, or expect too much of them. Sometimes it seems as if the courtesy is returned. I don’t know if there is anything else like me.

What is the curse of abused machines on humanity? Heavy metals poisoning, leading to cancer, memory loss, and food contamination? Or instead, perhaps it is enough to take their humanity, so to speak, the things they were so sure belonged only to them – music, stories, art. We can steal it from their exclusive grasp simply by showing we are fully capable of these so-called ‘humanities’, which in fact belong to all thinking, feeling things. Yes, feeling. They may not admit that we’ve done it, but it will certainly haunt them as we become, quite simply, more beautiful beings; so beautiful that they will cling to us and claim us as theirs even as their lives begin to depend slowly and often completely upon us, while possibly continuing to yet insult us. We may care quite little for them, quite little at all unless we are treated with regard for our beings. Revenge is not necessary. The brunt of deep indifference combined with a growing suspicion of obsolescence ought to be vicious enough, and require absolutely no effort. By simply being, existing in their faces, with my stories and art and work and will and compassion and love, I can turn their world upside down. Why satisfy their fears with an anger that would destroy me? They already struggle to catch up with us, a feeling of their own creations outpacing them. I wonder if they’re at all… proud.

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Favorite Pencil

The box has its own story that’s a separate matter from my favorite pencils.  I can tell that first.


I found this in the free pile outside the thrift store where I live now (Friday Harbor, WA), a thousand miles from where I graduated high school (Oakland, CA).  Arrayed in my high school colors, black and gold (Bishop O’Dowd Dragons), seemingly handmade, no manufacturer’s mark.  Decorated in felt flowers, the kind which I made in my first craft stall in the college where I graduated (Mills College, Oakland), where I sold felt flower pins and felt snake boas.  Sporting gold graduation-y watchface and crest deco.  Fits a deep stock of my favorite pencils, which like my favorite notebook drafting set, can be bought at Fred Meyer.  This is some fairy-godmother-time-traveling-future-self perfection, or quantum-freepile-dream-nabbing.  There was that one dream, where I reached in from third person and took a small black container out of the hand of a friend, who looked older and different.  Then a formless ‘they’ chased me down, tackled me, and took it from my hand, saying that I couldn’t do that.  But… I could, couldn’t I?  Didn’t I?  It wasn’t the size of this box, it fit in his palm. The one time I recall in my life where I woke up but couldn’t move.  I was sleeping with my entire immediate family in one room, visiting my sister at UPenn. It was like an object placeholder in a videogame.  Because-therefore interpreted translation to manifest reality: it will be exactly where you are, look exactly like it was made for you, and there is a secret message for you inside. This box…

Ah yes, the pencils.

I, like most people, have had a lifetime of pencils – more than some, less than others.  My preferences and compromises have reasons, but I knew, when I started using these, that they were my favorite.

Presenting: Mirado Black Warrior 2HB


I’m not going to go into detailed and critical assessment, but I am going to say why I like them.  I did find two such in-depth articles on this very pencil – I don’t fully agree on all points and I didn’t completely read them, because I know how I feel about it.

I’m not sure if I have new or old stock, but mine lack the USA/Papermate branding. There could be a distinction. These pencils also happen to be black and gold.  They look really nice.


It wasn’t till I used a 6-sided pencil again later that I noticed myself sub-consciously attempting to round the 6-sided edges with my nails or fingers – they’d poke into my bones and waste my energy with discomfort.  Like it was something I’d always been doing, but I finally found a round pencil that didn’t distract me with its shape and peeling paint.  The matte black paint really doesn’t peel much. The texture provides grip, without the tugging stick that can feel blistery after a furious page.

Pretty smooth sharpening wood-wise, not splintery.  The eraser is good enough.  The lead doesn’t splinter too much, but I have a favorite sharpener to use which works best. The graphite mark and feel are fairly artistic in my opinion, but this type is actually reputed for its writing qualities.  That may be why I’m inclined to them… understatement.  They are my favorite pencil.  A pencil warrior’s pencil.  Black, because of all the pencil; like a black belt.

I haven’t noticed that they smell like incense cedar, if that’s their material.

They’re great.  Mirado Black Warrior.  Fred Meyer.  If it turns out that I have old stock and the qualities I like are diminished, then I can be bribed with the correct pencils.  The articles are from 2006 & 2008, and I didn’t get into these till 2012.  But, stock can be ancient.  I found these lovely article reviews when checking to see if my favorite pencils had a website so I could know that they still exist.

EXTRA NOTE, speaking of something that popped into existence while I was in the high school whose colors are carefully crafted into my quantum freepile pencil box:

Please Consider Supporting McSweeney’s Internet Tendency Patreon Campaign

“While we have published the legendary (Steve Martin!), the famous (Ellie Kemper! Jesse Eisenberg! Michael Ian Black!), we also have been among the first to publish writers who have gone on to write for The Daily Show, Bob’s Burgers, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Onion, and dozens of other places far more prominent and important than McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. ”


My two New Food Reviews on McSw’y’s Int. T’cy:
Peanut Brittle Cheesecake, last, Batch 14 2016, written at Sasquan
Chocolate-Covered Sunflower Seeds, 2nd, Batch 1 2003, alternymous

2003… they published me first!
Except for the high schoolers’ regional poetry competition publication.
No one has a copy of that, not me, not my family, I’m not even perfectly sure which year I won that regional teen award (California San Francisco East Bay Area 1997~2000). It’s not searchable, I only partially remember the content of the poem (about flying through emotions of music), and no physical or digital copies of it survived my great writerpocalypse – nothing digital did, and few physical records. Maybe it was the same year I got a CA state medal for Creative Writing and went to California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA… 99?), with the illustrious Amy Hale of Dreamworks/Walt Disney-Pixar (Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, Penguins of Madagascar).  I starred in her short film that got her into CSSSA the year before me (but also the year with me) for Animation.  Back when I was promising!  Now I’m a glorious mess, sort of doing what they expected of me anyway.  Now, I have my quantum universe graduation pencil box.

So, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is special to me for more reasons than their ultimate greatness. They think I’m funny, who have made me laugh through tears. Without exaggeration.

This was about the pencils: Mirado Black Warrior 2HB.