A Letter I Just Wrote to Author Paul Neilan

I finished reading Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children yesterday, and needed something else to read before I lost momentum (since I’m not going to write a review of it until next Monday). My e-reader suggested Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan. It is so far excellent. I decided to write the writer an e-mail. This is only the second time I’ve ever written to a writer.

Sorry if this bugs you. I shouldn’t apologize to people I’ve never met, but then I’m asking you to do me a favor so we should start off on the right foot. I mean I should. Damn it, this is going horribly already.

Hi, writer! I’m halfway through your book. It is excellent. I wish I could show you my expert credentials, so you’d find my praise meaningful. How about this: I’m enjoying it so much, I actually feel like the audacity to write to you this overly familiar message is allowable.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with how good something is and I have to go to the internet and research stuff. Your blog has not been updated in 4 years. You bastard.

Sorry, sorry. I’m confusing the writer with the narrator again, which is not nice. Not nice at all. But you see, I’m trying to learn humility. It helps me overcome inertia, and vote in elections. Something to do with Newton and calculus, I’m not really sure, but somehow it means I’m contributing. So. Please add my tiny voice to all the others asking you to write more.

And if you can’t write more, or won’t, or if you have but it’s not for me to enjoy, well. Okay. Fine. Whatever. I only read your book because my Barnes & Noble e-reader suggested it. No, that’s a lie. I only started reading it because of that. You know why I kept reading. You know.

I’m going to go finish reading your book now. You know how it ends, so I guess you know if I’m going to write another letter, later, asking you delete this one.

If nothing else: thanks. Sincerely.

–Jason Edwards

Let’s Say You Don’t Know Anything About Fly Fishing

fiction by Jason Edwards

Let’s say you come into the middle of a conversation about fly fishing. And let’s say you don’t know anything about fly fishing. How long before you finally realize that what these two people are amicably chatting about is fly fishing? And let’s be clear, it will be an amicable chat. Can you imagine a conversation about fly fishing steeped in rage? You’re no psychiatrist, but even you could figure out that if two people are shouting at each other with words pulled from the vocabulary of fly fishing, spittle and blood-red cheeks and bulging eyes and stiff fingers poised pointed and poking heaving chests, the real subject at hand isn’t fly fishing. Something deeper, something historic. But don’t get distracted. You sit down in your favorite booth at the diner, the waitress already knows what you’re going to order, but she gives you a menu anyway and wanders off to get you a diet sprite. The only diner in pretty much the whole world that serves diet sprite. And in the booth behind you, two guys.

Let’s say one is called Zdenek Fibich. That’s a coincidence, but one of those coincidences that you don’t know about. In addition to not knowing anything about fly fishing, you know nothing about the famous Czech composer. And neither did this guy’s parents. They’re Czech, sure, emigrated. But Fibich isn’t the most uncommon name for those people, and neither is Zdenek. But you don’t know any of that. And Zed says something about how he really likes what she did with the sinker, with the granulated flecking, green and yellow, makes for a swirly kind of bite. Don’t giggle. Here’s the waitress with your diet sprite. Tell her: cheeseburgers fries. She’s not listening because she already knows.

And the other guy’s called Dave or something. How many Dave’s do you know? Probably thousands. Or, if not thousands, enough who know people who know other Daves until it numbers in the thousands. That’s a lot of freaking Daves! Dave replies something along the lines of her greeber has a nice tug too, and she used real fake ocelot fur for the flange mixer. Not too shabby.

Figured it out yet? What they’re talking about? Fly fishing? The trick is to not think about thinking about it. Rather, let your mind wander. Fish be eating flies. Have been for millions of years, evolved over the course of tens of millions of years to recognize that vibration in the water, jump up, chew on a tasty fly. And along comes man. Evolves over a few million years himself, but over the course of only a few hundred thousand, figures out fish, and over only ten thousand or so, figures out society, and over only a few hundred or so, how to build fake flies and fish with them. Well god damn.

Here’s your cheese burger. Toasted bun, cheap-ass cheese but melted just right, soggy onion soggy pickle. Remove tomato, pepper it and eat it alone. Remove lettuce leaf, roll into a lettuce-leaf roll and dip in mayo, eat alone. Open bun, squirt ketchup on bun, use crinkle-cut french fry to spread ketchup around. Close bun, take bite, take sip of diet sprite, listen to Zed say something about ocelot fur’s probably more expensive than necessary for a worker. A show , maybe, but c’mon. You got to stick those things in the water, eventually.

The book you brought with you? Ignored. What is it. Something by Richard Brautigan, or Percival Everett? You’ve read it before, no big deal, the burger’s delicious, as always, it’s a nice day outside, sort of overcast and drizzly and there’s talk of snow, but a nice day in the sense that after ten million years of evolution you’ve got a cheeseburger and all the fish have got are fake flies.

So now have you figured it out yet? That they’re talking about fly fishing? There was a clue, Zed mentioned water. And then Dave said back something about it’s all for show, really, since if a man needs to eat that bad, he oughta just go to the supermarket anyway.

See? Water, eat, that must mean fish. And those words, sinker, flecking, bite, greeber, tug, flange mixer. They’re all made up words, they’re not the words you would recognize if you knew anything about fly fishing. But since you don’t, those words are as good as any, and you need to focus on other words, like water, and eat.

I’m guessing you’re a pretty smart guy. Yeah, you’re stuck in your ruts, with your diet sprite and your cheeseburger and the way you eat the tomato. I know, I know, no sense in putting ketchup on a burger that’s got a tomato on it, and you like ketchup more than you like tomato. I get it. Listen to me, I’m complimenting you, I’m saying despite these ruts– for good reasons or bad, okay? Calm down– despite these ruts, you’re probably a pretty smart guy. You probably figured out that Zed and Dave were talking about fly fishing pretty darn quick.

But that’s where you fail, see. Sorry, but it’s true. Because, smart as you are, as soon as you figured out that they were taking about fly fishing, even though you don’t know anything about fly fishing, you stopped listening. So, you didn’t learn anything about fly fishing. You and your cheeseburger and your crinkle cut fries. Decent tip for the waitress. Hoodie and walk in the rain back to work. You didn’t learn anything. So much for evolution. If you had been one of those fish, you never would have learned how to bite.

The Mysterious Benedict Society– review on Goodreads

The Mysterious Benedict SocietyThe Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read Harry Potter, skipped Twilight, and haven’t tried The Hunger Games yet (although I might. Probably just go see the movie). What is it about kids books that we adults like so much? Maybe it’s because they’re easy to read. I’ll grant you that— The Mysterious Benedict Society is an easy read, although it’s also a younger book than Potter, ‘Light, or Games. No death, no sex, no graphic violence. Just four kids sent on a spy mission to help defeat an evil villain.

Trenton Lee Stewart does a good job of taking a few outcasts and bringing them together to illustrate some nice principles for kids to develop: loyalty, honesty, faith, friendship, perseverance, creativity, teamwork. And rather than a dogmatic approach to these ideals, he has his characters bend their own rules and deal with consequences, which I found rather refreshing.

I don’t know if I cared for the major plot point of the story, the evil villain’s plans and how he was accomplishing them—it had elements of sci-fi and fantasy, but without the science or magic of either. Someone smarter than me could probably show how mind-control machines are a symbol for something significant, but I missed it totally. And the book does drag in a few places.

But just a few. And other than shifting the point of view from his main character to others on a few occasions, I don’t have any other complaints. Stewart fills the story with all kinds of puzzles and secret little word-plays, which were fun to discover and I’m sure a smart 5th grader would enjoy them as well.

I’m all for parents reading the books their kids read, and I’m happy to say this is one the parents can get through quickly, and pass on to their children with confidence that there’s nothing in it they can’t handle, and quite a bit for them to love.

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Tuna and Tea

They don’t got together, but they’re two of my favorite weight loss tools.

Tuna, canned tuna to be specific, is great because it’s low cal, high in protein, filling, and not horrible to eat. I mix in some fat and some salt (mayo and mustard) and some complex carbs (whole wheat bread) and I’ve got lunch right there. One can is two big sandwiches, so I have one and save the next for the following day.

Today I tried adding some chopped red paper, which didn’t do much to it. I also spread some kind of no-cal vegetable paste that a cousin left in the house during a recent visit. It, also, didn’t do much to the taste. Lesson learned.

Another favorite weight loss tool for me is tea. I’m not the biggest fan of tea who ever lived, but the process of making a cup is a good distraction. I’m a “boredom” eater (and I don’t mean “I have nothing to do” boredom, but the other kind: “I don’t want to do what I need to do” boredom). So a cup of green tea, with all those antioxidants, is a good way to survive an hour when I’d otherwise snack.

Because snacking leads to snacking which leads to snacking. Not cool.

Feeling Weird Today

I was going to tell you that I have low blood-sugar, but’s not true. I do feel like my head’s in a fog. But that’s not the feeling I associated with low blood sugar. I mean, think my body’s fine. When I have low blood sugar, I have drained feeling, and yeah, I feel it in my head. So my head feels funny when my body is sugar deprived, but I don’t think my body is sugar deprived, but my brain might be.

It’s times like these I depend on my to-do lists. I can’t concentrate, can’t get motivated, so it’s times like these I go to the list and just do what’s on ‘em one by one. Make the bed. Wash the dishes, fold the laundry. There’s a metaphor there. Fat me is in charge of what getting-skinny me is supposed to do. I don’t know what skinny-me’s role is. There’s probably a metaphor in there too.

Just now I had a cup of green tea while doing the Tuesday NYT X-Word using an R2-DS pen we got in some box of cereal, while listening to all of the They Might Be Giants songs I own on shuffle in my iPod touch. Now I’m writing this. Next: pull-ups and push-ups, a bunch of work stuff, 750 words at 750 words.com, floss my teeth, sort my inboxes, the daily doodle, the daily Lego photo.

And then I’m going to go try and fix a dishwasher. And then come home and eat tuna and soup. I might save the writing for after the tuna and soup.

My head is in a fog, but not a regular fog. It’s like tunnel vision but backwards, like I can only see peripherally, and nothing is easy to focus on. Don’t worry: I did the dream test, where you read something and then look away and read it again, so I know I’m not having one of those dreams where tangents lead to tangents lead to tangents.

Maybe I’m diabetic! I’ll have a piece of candy.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks– review on Goodreads

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A friend of mine in Chicago is starting a book club, and this is going to be their first book. So I thought I’d take a look. I’m not much one for non-fiction, or this kind of subject, but Rebecca Skloot is a fine writer, and I found the book to be very readable. A fine, good read. Engaging, compelling, interesting, and probably most importantly, eye-opening. There’s the praise.

Ostensibly an attempt to tell Henrietta’s story, this book ends up being more about the story of trying to tell Henrietta’s story. Maybe that’s the author’s intent. Maybe there’s some deep symbolism there. In as much as the cancer cells taken from Henrietta Lacks continued to live and multiply, so too does the ongoing effect of those cells on her family. Maybe. That’s seems a bit easy. I think what we really have here is just too little information available about Henrietta herself, and so she gets covered in a few short chapters.

There, of course descriptions of how her cells have set a course for cancer research, and genetic research in general. But the vast majority of the book seems to be around how Skloot has to deal with one of Henrietta’s daughters, Deborah, in order to get as much information as she can to write the book at all. Which is not a bad thing, per se, and it is a good story. But the book ends up being about itself, a book about what it took to write the book.

That’s what I got out of it, anyway. And just like you always suspect, in the back of your mind, that good guys are going to win, to survive, when you’re watching them put in danger in a movie, so too did I have that sense as I was reading this. “I’m holding the book, so Skloot must have succeeded in getting it written.”

Skloot manages to tell the story without making it just about racism and sexism and class. Those elements are present in the story, but Skloot doesn’t let them take over, doesn’t make this book just a screed. And she does give a good introduction, as much as needed, to the science of cell division, cancer, the commercial side of things, patients’ rights, rights to privacy, again without lecturing too much, to provide context for what Deborah is dealing with as she fights to understand and honor her mother’s legacy.

If, in the end, Skloot’s goal was to elevate Henrietta Lacks to the stature of important historical figure, and to make her a real person and not just a footnote through an examination of her families survival after her passing, then I’d say she succeeded, and the book is worth reading.

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Famous Pi on Pi Day

Semi-Fiction by Jason Edwards. I’m going to cheat and tell you what this story is about. This is the writer’s process, or at least one of a billion different process. It’s not always the process I follow, but one I sometimes use without really realizing it. Vaguery floats around, looking for an interesting morsel around which to coalesce. It is an unconscious process; even as I wrote this, I didn’t know what I was writing. I just wanted to write something, wanted to try out this little writing program called Dark Room. My apologies if the “ending” is not very satisfactory: since all endings are just beginnings anyway, I figure, why not use a beginning for an ending.

March 14th. Pi day. Isn’t that cute. I’m walking down a street somewhere in New Orleans. This place is supposed to be exciting. It’s not. This place is supposed to be warm, at least. It’s not. Maybe we’re too far past Mardi Gras. Maybe we’re not close enough to summer. Or even spring. Does spring start on the equinox? When’s the damn equinox. I’d rather not be wearing fleece, here in New Orleans.

My third visit. First visit: wife’s pharmacy conference. I came along for the ride, ran in the Mardi Gras half-marathon. That was fun. Bourbon street at nine in the morning is fun. I think we ran past Anne Rice’s house, because at one point there were people dressed like vampires passing out water and Gatorade. Orange Gatorade. Should have been red. But it was just one water stop.

Second visit: wife’s sister’s fiancée’s bachelor party. I was invited probably out of some sense of pity. I didn’t have a bachelor party of my own. Got married when I was 37. When you’re 37, you don’t get to have a bachelor party. If you’re 37, and you’re still doing the sorts of things that guys do at bachelor parties, things that you’ll miss once you’re married, you have no business getting married. But I digress. I was invited. I went. Whiskey and poker and steak dinners and city tours and few strippers. Typical, lots of fun.

Reason for third visit? I’m not sure. This is where the fiction begins. I woke up, and I knew I had a plane ticket. Couldn’t really remember why, but I checked, and my bags were packed. I almost remember that I packed them myself. I must have, because when I left the airport to get a cab, it was cold, and I knew there was a fleece for me inside the suitcase.

And the hotel, for that matter. They were expecting me. Walked right up the desk, told them I had a reservation. McGillan, I said, automatically. I have literally never heard that name before in my life. Of course, they said. We’ll just need a credit card. I pulled one out– it had the name McGillan on it too. I handed it over. Everything went very smoothly.

I also spied a driver’s license in my wallet, when I grabbed the credit card. But I’m afraid to look at it. Go ahead and laugh at me. When I got to the room (large, one king bed) I avoided all mirrors. I don’t want to see that I’m not actually me. Not yet.

And now here I am, walking somewhere in the middle of the place. Have you been to New Orleans? I bet you haven’t. It’s not a very large town. There’s the tourist part, of course, with a small slice for Bourbon street, a small slice for the waterfront. There’s a casino. Some jazz clubs you haven’t heard of, where musicians you haven’t heard of have played. But if you heard the music, you recognize it. “We heard that in third grade, during Black history month.”

That’s New Orleans. And I’m walking down clean sidewalks, not quite an industrial area, not quite residential, on the edge of the convention center district. Restaurants that cater to mid-week visitors looking for an authentic po’boy, jambalaya, or cat fish. I’ve had cat fish. It’s usually mushy.

Up ahead, I spy a sign. The word “spy” rolls around in my mind. Am I a spy? Have I been activated? Was I a sleeper, did I get a call yesterday, a cryptic word, a post-hypnotic suggestion? Am I Jason Bourne? Should I ask a cab driver to take me to the rough part of town, drop me off, walk into a pool hall and stick out like a sore thumb, invite trouble, an assault by three tough-looking youths, and me spinning around doing Jackie Chan moves with the pool cue and surprisingly useful empty bottle of Sazerac?

It could be like the witch trials, back in the day. If I survive, it’s proof I’m a secret agent. If I don’t, it’s proof I’m dead.

The sign hangs on the side of a building walled with corrugated metal sheets. I’m two blocks away now. 10 years ago my Lasik would have been good enough to read it by now. I can still see better than I did before the Lasik, but I can’t quite make it out yet. But there’s something compelling about it, something about its shape. I have no idea why I’m here, so I’m going to sate my curiosity and check it out. What else am I going to do.

First visit, wife’s pharmacy conference. I worked on my laptop, from the hotel room, and when I didn’t have to work, I wandered around a lot. The new waterfront mall. Bourbon street at 2 PM, not quite the night life I’d see during the bachelor party on my subsequent visit, but still some liveliness. I was teetotalling at the time, so I avoided the daiquiris, just got drunk from walking around. Not exactly drunk, of course. That’s artistic license. My point is, that first visit, even with the half-marathon notwithstanding, I spent a lot of time on my feet.

Second visit, brother-in-law-in-law’s bachelor party, there was also a lot of walking. I’m an early riser, so while the guy’s slept it off, I would get up and see the city in the morning. If another of them was awake, we’d eschew the cab and go for a long walk to one eatery or another. One afternoon they guys wanted to visit the World War II museum, and I decided to skip it. I’m not passing judgment, I just can’t stand that kind of thing. Went for a long-ass walk instead.

Is that why I’m here now, on my third visit? Just to walk around all over the place? I read a story once, might have been a book, about this guy who decided to just start walking all over the place, and for some reason people start to join him, and soon there’s a crowd of folks walking across America, and the crowd grows and grows, picking up more people, until the author reveals it’s this thing the Earth is doing to cure itself of the cancer called Humanity.

Did some failsafe trigger inside me? Do I have some sort of cancer of the soul, did I unconsciously book myself a ticket for this place where I had, a few times before, just walked around for no good reason? I’ve been to Las Vegas a few times, walked my legs off there too, so why not Vegas? I’ve pounded the streets of Paris, a fool’s errand, walking around looking for the Bastille, stupidly unaware that it had been torn down at the start of the revolution. So why not Paris. Why not Seattle, San Jose, Washington DC. My feet have seen a lot of pavement.

One block away from the sign now, and I can finally make it out. It’s a gigantic Pi symbol. I remember this place. It’s called Famous Pi, and yes, they make pizza. A feeling of completion comes over me. I wandered by here during the bachelor party, and yes, it was March 14th that time too. Took a picture, sent it to my sister’s wife, who appreciates math jokes. Famous Pi on Pi day. Isn’t that cute.

And now here I am again. I check my pockets– no phone. So I’m not here to take another picture. I check my wallet. No cash– and a placard on the door of the place says they don’t take credit cards. You’d think, whatever complicated machine put me on this path would have known that. So I’m not here to eat.

I check my gut. I’m not even hungry. But I’m apprehensive. Add I don’t even know why. But I don’t hesitate. I walk right in.

The smell of garlic, cheese, bread. I look around– none of this is familiar. I’d only ever taken a picture from the outside, didn’t go in. So this is new. There’s no one here, except a guy behind the counter, who looks at me.

“McGillan.” he says.

And then it washes all away. I’ve been to New Orleans more than twice before. I’ve been here dozens of times. I don’t have a wife– I’ve never been married. I’ve been to a few bachelor parties, but never in this city. Everything I was thinking I was, before, I’m not. I’m someone else entirely.

“Luther.” I say.

“Welcome. We’ve got a story to write. Sit down. Get you something to eat? On the house.”

A Few Words About That Book Review I Just Posted

Before I wrote that review of Promise Me Eternity by Ian Fox, I posted my misgivings over at Reddit, to see if anyone thought  I should give the author such negativity. For the most part, they said yes. Here’s that posting, which you’ll see has a few paragraphs I used in the review itself.

Additional note: a few days later, someone from Reddit has sent me a private message, asking me to read his book too, and provide “cruel cold feedback.” Oh boy.

Every time I finish reading a novel, I write a review on Goodreads. These are more like diary-style blog entries, but whatever. It’s about discipline, trying maintain an active reading habit. A few weeks ago, this guy sent me a message, via Goodreads, asking me to read and review one of his books. He sent me a coupon so I could download it for free from Smashwords. I figured, why not?

It’s really a horrible book. The characters are flat, stereotypical, and at the same time unrealistic. Entire chapters are dedicated to extraneous characters who have little, or nothing to do with the plot. The writer lavishly describes what they do, where the go, what they eat. It’s all very over the top.

A lack of verisimilitude pervades every aspect of this novel. None of the professions that the various characters possess are described in anything approaching a realistic fashion. I realize that most fiction takes license with this kind of thing (have a doctor watch Grey’s Anatomy, you know what I mean). But this novel shows not only lack of understanding, but a complete disregard for any attempt at reality.

There’s a plot, in the sense that people face conflict and attempt to resolve the conflict, but there’s no pacing to the novel, no rising action, and the climax is muddled. At no point is there a sense for why we should care about any of this. Deus Ex Machina in spades. I don’t mean to insult youth, or even insult inexperience. But the novel really does read as if it were written by an intelligent twelve-year old trying to sound like an adult.

But that’s my take as a reader. As a writer, I am questioning whether this kind of harsh judgment is even necessary. This guy wrote, proofread, and self-published a 400 page novel. I’ve written a few novels, but I’ve been too lazy to self-publish them. So I admire his work ethic. He reached out to me, and I assume he’s reached out to others. He’s making the effort. I can forgive ignorance (have to: I’m possessed of so much of it) but I can’t forgive laziness.

So I’m conflicted. On the one hand, this novel is so bad, I feel that pointing out its flaws ironically gives it credit, in that it’s worthy of being nitpicked. And it really isn’t. On the other hand, who am I to judge? I’ve heard horrible things about Twilight, for example, and what passages I’ve read were indeed horrible (in my opinion). But so many people love the book, who am I to tell them they shouldn’t love it? And maybe that’s the same for this guy’s novel. What credentials do I even possess that would legitimize a harsh review?

Perhaps silence is golden. But I should write back to this fellow, and tell him *something.* I don’t want to be cruel or mean or discouraging. The book’s already published, so there’s no sense in fixing it, and honestly, I don’t think it can be fixed anyway. But it’s not like I want to tell him to stop writing. Or publishing, for that matter. I reject the notion that arbitrary scholars get to say what’s good, so why should I get to say what’s bad?

TL;DR: Was asked to read a book, which turned out to be horrible, but who am I to judge.

Any suggestions?


Promise Me Eternity– review on Goodreads

Promise Me EternityPromise Me Eternity by Ian Fox

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I was asked by the author to read this book and write a review. I’m afraid I do not feel this book is a very good read. And I was reluctant to post what will mostly be negative things, but it seems others have also been asked to read and review, and so I am more or less echoing what they’ve said.

The characters are flat, stereotypical, and at the same time unrealistic. Entire chapters are dedicated to extraneous characters who have little, or nothing to do with the plot. The writer lavishly describes what they do, where the go, what they eat. It’s all very over the top.

A lack of verisimilitude pervades every aspect of this novel. None of the professions that the various characters possess are described in anything approaching a realistic fashion. I realize that most fiction takes license with this kind of thing (have a doctor watch Grey’s Anatomy, you know what I mean). But this novel shows not only lack of understanding, but a complete disregard for any attempt at reality.

There’s a plot, in the sense that people face conflict and attempt to resolve the conflict, but there’s no pacing to the novel, no rising action, and the climax is muddled. At no point is there a sense for why we should care about any of this. Deus Ex Machina in spades. I don’t mean to insult youth, or even insult inexperience. But the novel really does read as if it were written by an intelligent twelve-year old trying to sound like an adult.

I will admit that I may not be the right audience for this novel, and I recognize there are others who have read this and enjoyed it. Perhaps I am a snob. And I do think the author deserves credit for putting in a lot of effort, and jumping through the self-publishing hoops. But in the end, I simply could not immerse myself in the book, as I was too distracted by what I felt was amateurish writing.

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I Am a Werewolf

fiction by Jason Edwards

from Diary of a Wolf Man by Paul Lucas:

I am a werewolf. Do you want to me to talk about the change? It hurts. Do you want me to talk about running free in the woods? It’s exhilarating. There’s really nothing more for me to say. Ask a ballerina what it’s like to perform in front of a theater, packed. She’s lithe, she’s supple, she’s graceful, she has dancing in her DNA– but not words. She can’t tell you. And even if she had the right words, you wouldn’t understand. She’s an alien, she’s a one-way mirror. I’m a werewolf. I’m blood and fear, moonlight and rage. I might as well talk about quantum physics.

Or molecular biology. My condition is not natural. I’m the one percent who survives one percent of the time. A werewolf is nothing but the inevitable consequence of metabolism taken to the utmost extreme. The beast hunts its prey, and devours the protein. But it must be living protein. So the beast infects its prey with enzymes that keep it alive. The prey burns through its energy stores, begins converting its own body into more protein. It lives while the beast feeds. Eventually, even magic cannot keep the carcass alive. The beast leaves behind a pile of offal.

Sometimes, but very rarely, the prey escapes before the beast is done eating. But it is infected, and it continues to change. It goes mad. It really is very painful. You don’t know how painful it is, and you will never know. Pain is just a word, and words have no meaning, wrapped in that kind of Hell. Hell is just a word too. Eventually, the body dies, the beautiful complicated interlocking systems broken down, converted to a pile of protein. It’s almost worse, to die like that for nothing. If you’re not even food, what’s the point.

And sometimes, even more rarely, the prey escapes, and it’s only barely infected. The enzyme gets into the blood, into the brain, into the endocrine system. The body burns, hot, and in this early stage, you can never get enough to eat. You have never know such hunger. Naturally, at first, you turn to sweet things, sugary foods. That kick. But it’s just a kick. Just a punt, and you need a catapult. You need a rocket launch. If you’re lucky- actually, if you’re lucky, you starve to death. They find you twisted on your kitchen floor, emaciated and drained, your skin still hot for days.

But if you can get on top of it, if you can stay fed, if you can get that protein, you can survive. That’s what I did. It chased me through a city park, had me, bit me, and ran with me into the middle of the road. We were hit by a car. I woke up in a hospital, surrounded by doctors and nurses. They were pumping me full of protein. I got on top of it. I survived.

Why wolf? It’s in our DNA, all animals share DNA, and the enzyme just reprograms you for a little while. It would be elegant if it wasn’t so horrifying. The full moon rises, and ancient strands of valine, threonine, alanine, and glycine, time wearied patterns, respond to the pull and begin to devour you from the inside. You grow, literally grow, like a baby grows into a young adult, but in the space of a few hours instead of a few decades. This is what I mean when I say it hurts.

It’s an efficient process but it consumes unworldly amounts of energy and there’s nothing left to do then but feed. Find something alive and keep it alive until it’s dead and then find something else and do it again. You’re gifted with all the tools to do this: hearing and smell and eyesight and speed and agility and, oh, right, what do you call the opposite of morality?

Because you’re aware, you’re so aware of every single moment. There’s no amnesia. A creature that grows from man to wolf in the time it takes to watch a bad movie has the advantage of certain evolutionary benefits– the man who woke up in his own bed, washed of the night’s blood, was easily naturally selected over the man who woke naked in a field surrounded by slaughter with no memory except yesterday’s growling stomach.

This is why I don’t talk about the change, talk about running in the woods. Those are romantic notions, and ask yourself this the next time you’re tooth-deep in a piece of fried chicken and you forget for a second that you have a job and a family and a cock and a Playstation: what if your entire existence could be defined in that salty bite? What if, when you took that bite, the result wasn’t bloat and shame, grease and fatigue, but instead it meant strength and power and more rage than any one man can justify stifling? Would you, at that moment, answer silly questions about how the fried chicken was coated with flour, why they chose those colors for the paper napkins? No. You would just keep eating. Just keep eating and eating and eating and eating. Until it was all gone.