The official website of Brandon Black.

Archive for Oct, 2013

Thanks for making our book signing a success!

Thanks so much to everyone who attended our book signing and everyone who wished to attend but couldn’t make it! Thanks to Chris Smith and the East Bank Jefferson Parish Library Writers’ Circle. Thanks to our editors and readers! And thanks to you, the community that came out to support our effort and meet our authors and poets. Thank you all so very much!

Our upcoming projects are: Cairo By Gaslight, a steampunk anthology set in Cairo, Egypt and The Other World, an anthology of poems and stories about the fey. You can find out about both at: http://www.brandonblackonline.com.

Additionally — our authors will be giving two panels at CONtraflow this weekend: one on Friday at 1 pm and the other on Saturday at 3 pm. Copies of the anthology will be on sale and our authors will be glad to sign them for you!

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New Orleans By Gaslight Book Signing/Release Party

Book Signing/Release Party for New Orleans By Gaslight
Tuesday, October 15th, 7 pm. East Bank Jefferson Parish Library
4747 West Napoleon Avenue, Metairie, Louisiana

You are cordially invited to the book signing and release party for New Orleans By Gaslight, the first locally produced and locally written anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in the city of New Orleans.

https://www.facebook.com/events/636681846350315/?ref_dashboard_filter=calendar


Why I became pagan

I don’t know how to boil down why I became pagan.

I didn’t care for pretty much anything about Christianity. The whole Old Testament needs to go. A god asks you to kill your first born child, you’re supposed to tell him to go fuck himself, not wait around for him to laugh and say, “Just kidding.”

I don’t want to worship a deity who according to his own holy book wanted humanity to be ignorant and punished them when they learned too much. He lies about them dying if they eat of the Tree of Knowledge and the serpent (some how cast as the villain) is the one who’s telling the truth. I don’t want to worship a deity who by his own holy book is a drowner of infants. This guy gives the finger to every man, woman and child on earth except Noah and his family and even kills all the animals except the ones on the Ark. That’s just fucked up.

I don’t like how Christians go on and on and on about the Bible being the One True Word of God — when it suits them — and ignoring it because “well, you just have to follow Jesus’ teaching of compassion” whenever it doesn’t. I mean really. I can’t remember how many arguments started with a quotation of an obscure verse from the Bible that backed somebody’s pet theory. I can’t remember how many times I heard someone want to ignore some tenet of the Old Testament because “Jesus brought a new covenant.” Don’t tell me this is the literal word of God and then treat it like a salad bar.

I don’t like how judgemental Christians are. I had a co-worker who was talking with some nurses. The nurses get into a religious discussion and ask him to participate. He says no thank you, I don’t want to get into trouble. They say, no, no, we’re inviting you to participate. It’s okay. So he says fine. One woman says, “I don’t see how you can resolve a belief in reincarnation with a belief that the Bible is the literal word of God.” And my friend says, “I DON’T BELIEVE THIS (emphasis mine) but it does say that you have to be born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” The nurse doesn’t like this answer. She complains to her nurse supervisor. The nurse supervisor calls our home office in Mobile. The manager responsible for the site calls my friend’s manager who calls him into his office and says, “Don’t discuss weird things in front of the nurses.” I nearly started a shitstorm over that one until my own manager simply said, “Look — you just shouldn’t talk about religion in front of customers. The other manager just didn’t phrase it right.”

I don’t care for the “unspoken rules” that have cropped up around Christianity. When I was a teenager, I assumed that it was a bad idea, religiously mind you, to date outside my race. Nobody told me in those words not to date white girls but no one in my Baptist church ever did it and since everyone was always proclaiming how moral and better than the “people of the world” they were — it logically followed that actions you didn’t see any of the congregation conducting were immoral actions. Now that might be a race thing. African Americans, as a minority, have always had a “group think” that I’ve found distressing. But that it took one of my fellow high school students asking me: “Let me get this straight: you come home. Your parents are out of the house and won’t be back for hours. There’s this white girl on your bed and she’s naked and beautiful and ready to go. You’re gonna tell her no?” for me to realize “No, I’m not going to tell her no.” and that it was okay to date white women, that’s just fucked up. And it took me until college to be okay with the idea of dating a woman older than me. And I wasn’t the only one. I have a friend — he’s black too — who thought the same way. No one ever told us you couldn’t date a woman older than yourself — it was just assumed — and it was assumed to be because of religious reasons. The Christianity we were taught was the legs holding up the status quo — and without any rhyme or reason given. “Lean not to your own understanding” is the most fucked up concept imaginable — it’s just created for abuse.

I left Christianity because it made no sense. It had no rules, no rhyme, no reason, no structure. Killing was bad — unless the Israelites did it — or God did it to little kids. It’s the worst thing imaginable for you or I to kill children but I had a girl in my Sunday school class actually say to me “You don’t understand — God made us so He can destroy us.” Like your parents can just murder you and it’s okay. That’s fucked up. I was in the car with my Mom once and she’s listening some preacher on the radio and this guy is whipping his congregation into a frenzy. I think he was talking about David. He made some statement about David killing so many enemies of the Israelites that he was unclean and thus unwelcome in the temple. And the crowd is eating this up. And I just start shaking my head. And my Mom looks over at me and asks why I’m shaking my head and I just say, “Uh — thou shalt not kill?”

I came to paganism by chance. I was taking a creative non-fiction writing workshop at LSU and my instructor asked us to interview someone we were afraid to interview. I had heard of a group of witches in New Orleans and decided to interview them. I knew I was on to something when I pitched my project to the class and the table went “oooh!” I interviewed the then male co-coordinator of CUUPS (the Covenant of Unitarian-Universalist Pagans) and after listening to him go on about his politics for four hours, he invited me to attend their Wicca 101 classes as part of my project.

This is where I learned much of the basics of paganism — this and the books of Scott Cunningham, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the subject. Cunningham had a unique gift for simply, easily and quickly conveying not only the core ideas of the Wiccan religion but its inherent beauty as well.

Nature and ecology as the centre of one’s spirituality — this is a core concept. The Divine has wrought the world — by one means or another, who can say? And by understanding the natural world, we can understand the nature of the Divine Presence. And the first thing we note in Nature is plurality. There is nothing singular in Nature. We do not see ONE of anything. We see unique expressions of plurality — I am not you — you are not me — but we don’t see species of one. Even the Sun is just one star among many. Ecology — diversity — a dependence on interactive systems — these are at the heart of the Wiccan viewpoint.

Equality of the genders: Instead of a God, we have a God and a Goddess and all the myriad deities who comprise them. A Wiccan coven is led by a High Priest and a High Priestess working as a team, expressing the energies and force of their genders in tandem. Traditionally, initiation of a witch requires a member of the opposite sex. The understanding we have of the universe as being comprised of a multiplicity of forces is key here. Yin and Yang working together the way male and female come together to bring about new life. Fertility is key to Wicca. Other branches of paganism, particularly gay themed ones, de-emphasize this but the concept of a joining of diverse forces typically holds true.

Mysticism: We do not have a single holy book. Each of us is free to learn what lessons we will from Nature. I am fond of saying that “What is given for me to understand is not necessarily what is given for you to understand and vice versa.” Recall the story of blind men encountering an elephant. One man touches the trunk and says that an elephant is like a snake. One man touches the elephant’s side and says that an elephant is like a wall. One man touches the elephant’s leg and says no, an elephant is like a tree. The Divine Presence is like that. It is too complex an issue for everyone to have the same view as everyone else. We encounter different aspects of the Divine Presence in different ways. And we must always be true to that experience because I believe the Divine finds the best way to communicate to each and every one of us, if only we are willing to listen. So if you only encounter one God, then for you, there IS only one God. If when you encounter the Divine, you encounter the God and Goddess, then that’s what there is for you. If you encounter the whole Greek pantheon, the whole Greek pantheon is real for you. And you should structure your spiritual practice around these understandings. You should take no notice of anyone who tells you “This has to be done such-and-so a way or it’s wrong.” You should ignore that person entirely. Learn their reasons, give it a try if you care to but ultimately you must find the ways and means of religious practice that suit you and fulfil you and make you happy.

We do not proselytise: For the same reason as the above, we accept that you must find your own path. If you come to me and ask me to show you my path, I will but it’s with the understanding that my way up the mountain will not be your way up the mountain. We may walk similar paths near to one another and be able to talk as we go along the way but my path will always be a little different from yours.

Reincarnation: I like Babylon 5’s idea that “the soul is not a localised phenomenon.” It’s a bit more refined than my own simple idea that the Earth renews and reuses everything in its ecological sphere — so why not reuse consciousness? Living a single life to be tested and then die to go to some eternal reward just seems a primitive idea. That we, like matter or energy, cannot be destroyed but only transformed, just seems more valid, to me. We are renewed and then we go forth again to journey outwards to learn and to be.

Magick: Magick is a tough one but I do believe in it. I believe in the power of prayer — because that’s all magick really is — to change the world, literally. I believe we receive what we need from the universe and that we can take an active role in guiding the universe and it’s part of our tutelage by the gods that we learn how better to do that. But ultimately, magick is asking the universe for something and the universe is wise enough sometimes to tell us “No.”

So — that’s a little about why I’m a pagan.


My treatment for a Justice League film

Opening scene: Luthor and the Injustice Gang are throwing down their showdown with the Justice League. Luthor’s backed up by second stringers: Shade, Cheetah, Ultrahumanite, etc. They lose and go to jail.

Next 15 to 20 minutes is the League rounding up stragglers of the Injustice Gang, shutting down Luthor’s operation for good. Three scenes say of paired heroes taking down single crooks and associated gang members. At the end of the second scene, the heroes return to the Watchtower and we get a glimpse of the League’s orbital space station. In each scene is a figure watching in the shadows, the same figure. Neither the League nor the villains are aware of this shadowed figure. Each scene, the shadowed figure leaves via some strange oscillating special effect. (In the Watchtower scene, we trade Green Lanterns: Hal for John Stewart. We have to have Hal because he got his own movie. We need John because we need a black on the team. Hal gets called away by the Guardians but introduces John as his replacement. This makes John the rookie and thus we can get scenes in with Flash jostling the rookie.)

Air Force One streaks over Metropolis, flanked by jets from some unknown power. American F-22s shoot down the escorting fighters and take up positions on her flanks. A super-high tech supersonic transport bearing US markings takes up position right over Air Force One and docks with it in flight. A tube locks onto the top of the plane and a hole is burned in and SEALs board Air Force One. There’s a firefight between the SEALs and some unknown uniformed troops. The SEALs win. One of them makes it to the President and says, “SEAL team one. We’re here to rescue you, Mr. President.”

Cut to: A familiar figure in red and blue streaks over Metropolis.

Cut to the crowd:

“Look — up in the sky!”

“It’s a bird!”

“It’s a plane!”

“No — it’s ULTRAMAN!”

Ultraman flies onto the scene at high speed and takes out the US fighters with heat vision. He rips the supersonic transport loose from Air Force One and backhands it out of control and boards through the hole — it flies into a skyscraper and explodes. He tears a seat free and tosses it up into the hole and patches the hole by melting it with his heat vision and cooling it with his breath.

A pointless firefight ensues. The SEALs buy time for their last guys to prepare a super high tech looking sonic cannon to protect the President. Ultraman slowly kills his way to the last SEALs who fire the high tech gizmo at Ultraman. He’s staggered for like a whole second and then advances on the gun, places a hand on it and crushes it. He lifts the last SEAL with his other hand and breaks his neck. “Please return to your seat, Mr. President,” he says. The President, terrified, nods and goes back to his seat.

More Crime Syndicate fighters replace the downed jets on the flanks of Air Force One as Ultraman flies off.

Cut to: Washington D.C.

Ultraman looks out over the city and then burrows his way with superspeed underground. He comes up underneath the Pentagon. He burns random people to ash with his heat vision, letting most of them run away. He kills anyone stupid enough to try to stand and fight or just melts their weapons leaving their hands covered in molten metal watching them scream. He makes his way to the office of the Joint Chiefs. An Army general objects. Ultraman incinerates him. He also incinerates the senior Navy admiral in the room (since the SEALs made the attempt.) “There was an attempt to liberate the President today from our protection. I don’t know if you were in on it and I don’t care. But if it happens again, I will be back and I will be angry.”

Ultraman flies straight up through several floors and out into the night sky over D.C. The full moon is visible in the background.

Cut to: The moon.

We see a base that we know isn’t the Watchtower (cause we’ve already seen it) on the surface of the moon but it looks much like the Watchtower, including the classic round table with costumed figures sitting around it. A Zeta tube opens and Ultraman walks in and takes a seat.

“Trouble?” Superwoman chides.

“Nothing I couldn’t handle.” Ultraman says.

The oscillating effect occurs again but this time in plain view and the figure from the shadows becomes completely visible. It’s Owlman.

Owlman explains very quickly the basics. He’s found a means of inter-dimensional travel. There’s another world with counterparts of theirs but their counterparts work for justice, not themselves. The Crime Syndicate lays out a plan to invade this world and take it for their own. (In quickly describing the Justice League members and their powers, Owlman effectively relates characters like Black Canary to the audience and communicates that the Crime Syndicate are evil versions of the Justice Leaguers.) “This one — the Flash — is their speedster.” “Oh, like me,” Jonny Quick says. That sort of thing.

Crime Syndicate and troops and six legged combat walkers and uberweapon/macguffin take Washington D.C. defeating a couple of second stringer heroes trying to back up the armed forces. They capture the President and the Vice President and go on national TV demanding the Justice League surrender on the White House lawn in 24 hours or they will start incinerating American cities with thermonuclear weapons starting with Memphis, Tennessee. Their troops surround the White House.

“Why Memphis?” Power Ring says.

“Why not?” Owlman says.

The League meets and decides to fight.

Battle in D.C. Heroes are defeated/driven off by the Syndicate and their uberweapon/macguffin. Heroes look like they might have had a chance against the Syndicate even with their backup troops but not with the backup troops and the macguffin.

Heroes retreat realizing they can’t win until they find a defence against the macguffin. John is knocked out and taken prisoner.

Syndicate raids D.C. to show their power. We get in some nice scenes here that are reversals of usual DC heroes’ behaviour to use in the trailers. Example: Shadowed city at night, criminals against police. Birdarangs fly through the air and knock the guns out of the SWAT guys’ hands. Criminals get away as Owlman stomps the SWAT guys into the dirt. That sort of thing. Everyone gets to know each villain’s name and powers and can figure out which Leaguer they are basically a mirror of.

Heroes figure out possible way to deal with macguffin.

Luthor escapes prison while everyone is distracted. He has the opportunity to bring one of the second stringers with him but doesn’t saying something like “I don’t reward failure.”

League splits into two teams: one to rescue John and one to counter the macguffin.

Superwoman and Owlman are in bed together — even though Superwoman is married to Ultraman. Owlman gets a priority transmission and answers it, sans costume. It’s Luthor. Luthor does the whole “I am Lex Luthor, the most brilliant criminal genius of this world. I believe we have a mutual enemy.” speech. Owlman hangs up on him. Superwoman asks who it was and Owlman says “Some loser” and they get back to sex.

Syndicate figures out League’s plan to deal with macguffin. League conducts raid or op to get components to counter macguffin. Syndicate fails to stop them.

Team to liberate John succeeds. Reveals it was part of Batman’s plan all along as the ring has recorded details of the Syndicate’s powers and defences even while off of Stewart’s hand.

Heroes return to D.C. to fight the Syndicate. Plan to defeat the macguffin the way they planned fails. They improvise a defence and defeat the macguffin. The League faces off in a fair fight against the Syndicate and they win the day.

A grateful President awards medals to the Justice League and announces they are officially recognized as deputized citizens by the federal government.

Credits.

Credits end.

Cultists surround a grave in a graveyard. Ritual takes place. Cultists leave except high priest who keeps going alone. High priest sacrifices pregnant woman. Her blood seeps into the earth. High priest leaves without looking back. Ground rumbles. Ground shakes. Ground gives way.

A lone hugely muscled pale forearm bursts out of the ground. We can see the tombstone now: Solomon Grundy. Grundy breaks free from his grave. He doesn’t seem aware, doesn’t seem conscious. He staggers forward. He walks. He walks. He walks. He walks. He walks.

Scene changes. He’s still walking. The sun passes overhead into night. Night to day. Day to night.

Grundy trudging through the swamp. He stops.

The familiar skull headed fortress rises from the swamp. Grundy looks up; he seems more awake and aware now. We look up as he looks up. The doors open and there’s the classic Legion villains from Superfriends sans the second stringers who went to jail earlier in the movie. Luthor (in powered armour for the first time) speaks: “Welcome, Solomon Grundy. Welcome to the Legion of Doom.”