The Fireman

I’m delighted to offer a new short story, one that means as much to me as anything I’ve written to date.

“The Fireman” (read or listen: narration starts @ 6min mark) is out today at the award-winning PodCastle, narrated by the best voice in the business, Keeper of the Buttery Man-Voice himself, Dave Robison. If you’re curious, in a moment I’ll share why this story means so much to me, but honestly, just do yourself a favor and let Dave’s dulcet tones transport you to the fiery world he brings to life with the magic of his wizard’s tongue.

Photo credit: Gabe Medina

So, why does this one mean so much to me? First, it’s edited by Eleanor R. Wood and hosted by Matt Dovey, co-editor and host of PodCastle, respectively. These two brilliant writers and editors have each had strong influences on my storytelling, starting from way back when we were critiquing each other’s work in the same online writing group. Matt Dovey and I both won the Writers of the Future Award the same year, so I had the pleasure of adventuring around Hollywood with him. He is the Most British Person in the World.  

But the most personally meaningful aspect of this story is how it began.

A decade ago, when I was working as a wildland firefighter, a friend and coworker confided in me about his long struggle with bipolar disorder. As much as tried to empathize, I struggled to grasp what drove some of his strange behaviors, and I began writing the story as an attempt through allegory to better understand him.

Years later, after his untimely death, I revisited the story he’d inspired. This time, I saw more of myself in the main character than I’d previously allowed myself to recognize, and realized that all along, the friend I’d found so inscrutable mirrored some of my own habits. Leading me to a more honest self-awareness is just one way the fireman continues to enrich the many lives he touched.

Perhaps, through this story, he’ll enrich your own.


Enjoy “The Fireman” here. Narration starts @ 6 minute mark.

Such Stuff as Stars are Made of

Do you 1) have a juvenile sense of humor? and 2) think celebrity worship is laughable?

If you answered yes to both the above, you’ll probably enjoy my new short story, “Such Stuff as Stars are Made of,” which you can now read free at Space Squid, the magazine that’s “like uber-famous” for, among other antics, printing an issue on cuneiform clay tablets (Wired story).

I wrote this one while in Hollywood for the Writers of the Future Award, where I was challenged to interview random strangers on the Walk of Fame, then finish a short story in 24 hours. Though I spoke with some truly interesting people, the general Hollywood atmosphere of celebrity worship and fame-chasing struck me as so absurd, when I sat down to write, everything that emerged was equally ridiculous. Crazy in, crazy out.

Years later, the creators of South Park came out with the episode “Turd Burglars,” which has the same plot, except with more Dune references. Trey and Matt, if you are reading this, in lieu of royalties I will accept samples of your spice melange, so I might one day be funny like you.

If any of you lovely readers are brave enough to still want to read this story after my warnings (seriously, if potty humor makes you squeamish, this isn’t the one for you), here’s a fresh sample so you have an inkling of what you’re getting into:

"Stool transplants?" I asked my agent. "Please say you're joking."

Angela shook her head. "I swear I'm not making this up. It started with mice. When researchers transferred the stools of outgoing mice into anxious mice, the recipients became more outgoing. And when they gave people fecal transplants for digestive disorders, they found the same thing--recipients take on characteristics of their donors. Point being: the microbes in our guts exert significant influence over our personalities. If you really want to be a star, you need to have star stuff inside you."

"You mean star shit."

Angela waved her hand dismissively. "Semantics."

"How would you get a sample?"

"I know a guy, former P.I. It'll just be a matter of figuring out Robert Downey Jr.'s patterns and disabling a toilet."

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you do read “Such Stuff as Stars are Made of,” as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.