What Makes You Live

Update: Apex Book Company revised their website, and my winning poem is no longer posted there, so I’m including it below.

Update the Second: On July 11, 2015, Tom Piccirilli lost his battle with brain cancer. I’m happy to say that his treatment did give him another couple of years to be with us.

What Makes You Die

(for Pic)

Back in the day, death was binary
Alive or dead, on or off, one or zero
Now, there is no zero state
Hit by a car?
Pick a new body. We’ll restore “you” from backup
Brain cancer?
No worries! We’ll grow another one
It’s not about whether you live any more,
It’s about what you create while you live

Art is the new yardstick
Content is the new blood
The more you bleed, the less you die, so
Open a vein and try to keep up

Whatever you do, don’t keep it to yourself;
That is what makes you die.

— Stace Johnson


Original post below:

I got some great news today! Lesley Conner at Apex Publications notified me that I won a poetry contest that they sponsored as a way to promote Tom Piccirilli‘s upcoming book, What Makes You Die, due out on March 19th, 2013. The prize is an advance reader copy (ARC) of Pic’s book, which I will attempt to get signed the next time I’m in the same room with him. I’ve met Tom a couple of times before at readings here in Denver, and I can say from those brief encounters that he’s a good guy. I know he’s been inspirational to several of my writer friends, so I’m glad to be able to pay tribute to him in some small way by participating in the contest and dedicating the poem to him.

Tom has had a rough time of it recently, dealing with brain cancer, chemo, and surgery, and I’m astounded at how well he has been able to recover. He wrote about the experience in an essay called “Meeting the Black”, which you can purchase and download here. All of the proceeds from that modest purchase, as well as all of Pic’s titles at Crossroads Press, go to help offset his staggering medical bills. Go. Purchase and download it now. I’ll wait.

I have a few other poetry irons in the fire right now, and I hope to make some more announcements soon if all goes well. I’m thrilled to have some momentum behind my writing again, and I hope I can build on this opportunity. After all, I firmly believe that creativity is what makes you live.

Good Riddance, 2012

Every year is a mixture of good and bad, but I’ll be particularly glad to see 2012 pass into history.

The year wasn’t all bad; we did manage to move into a house that we love, even if the circumstances forcing the move were stressful.  I started working on material for a new band with my pal Hal, and I feel like I’m growing as a musician because of it.  Most importantly, Lannette’s ovarian cancer scare at the beginning of the year turned out to be just a scare, not the real thing.

However, the year has been overshadowed by the death of my mom in March.  When family members die, I tend to grieve very slowly and it usually doesn’t hit me hard until long after they have passed.  When my brother died on January 1, 1996, I didn’t really deal with it until well into 1997, when I was able to write this poem to say goodbye to him and deal with my own guilt about pulling the plug.

When my last grandparent died (I was 12), it wasn’t until months later that I was flooded with grief and loss while sitting on the couch, watching TV.  I just suddenly started crying, scaring my parents.

I have no idea when that cathartic moment will happen in regard to my mom’s death.  I certainly miss her, and I wish she wasn’t gone, but I haven’t broken down yet.  I wish it would happen, though, because waiting for the shoe to drop is stressful, and I suspect that my state of semi-grief has affected my relationships with family, friends, and coworkers over the last few months.  My anxiety has been elevated all year, and I’m convinced that’s partially due to not having dealt with her passing yet.

Here’s hoping 2013 is a happy year for everyone, myself included.

MileHiCon 44

As promised, here is my schedule for MileHiCon 44.  The convention is taking place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the Denver Tech Center from Friday, October 19th through Sunday, October 21st.

Saturday

Online Alphabet Soup, Grand Mesa B-C, 11:00 AM
This promises to be a fun panel about SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, and various other attempts to control the Internet. I’ll be in the esteemed company of Andrew Burt (former SFWA vice president, notorious Critter Captain, founder of the world’s first ISP, and e-publisher of out-of-print works by Ben Bova, among others), Marie DesJardin (technical writer and author of For the Time Being), Arlen Feldman (software developer, computer book author, and recovering costumer), and Doris Beetem (a longtime fixture of MileHiCon and short story author.)

Playing with Participants, Atrium, Table 2, 2 PM
This is an opportunity to sit down for an hour or so and play a game of … something … with me.  Assuming I can find them in the sea of boxes that materialized after my recent move, I’m likely to bring along some of my old Magic: The Gathering decks or my Car Wars boxed edition.  Any takers?

Sunday

Falling Skies, Terra Nova, and Primeval, Mesa Verde A, 12 PM
Join me, Daniel Dvorkin (the writer, not the Chicagoan who hired a hitman to kill a rival businessman), Patrick Hester (from the Hugo nominated Functional Nerds podcast), Christopher M. Salas (Colorado Springs author and martial arts expert), and SFWA Grand Master Connie Willis (!!!) as we discuss the above television shows.  I followed Terra Nova all the way through its short run, and enjoyed it quite a bit, but I’m going to have to brush up on the other two a bit.

Poetry Fantastique, Wind River A, 3 PM
I have the honor of moderating the poetry panel this year, and with guests like Gail R. Barton (who read some wonderful poetry last year), Daniel Landes (Westword writer), Dr. Rob S. Rice (historian specializing in ancient and military history, poet, fiction writer, non-fiction writer, and steampunk fan), and anyone else who happens to show up (Owen Allen and Laura Deal, I’m looking your way), it should be a great hour of poetry. I may even get up the guts to read the steampunk rewrite of “The Windhover” that’s been rolling around in my brain.  (Imagine if Gerard Manley Hopkins had never entered the priesthood, and instead became an early Vorticist or Pre-Raphaelite.  Does your brain hurt yet?)

When I’m not on panels, I’ll probably be checking out other people’s panels, getting books signed, or wandering around with my lovely steampunk-bedecked wife.  I’m looking forward to it!

My MileHiCon 43 Schedule

It’s October once again, which means MileHiCon is taking place at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center on October 21-23, 2011.

I’m not normally much of a convention goer, but I do enjoy attending MileHiCon every year, and I’m honored to be chosen for some panels again this time.  If you’re interested in attending any of my panels, here’s where I’ll be and when I’ll be there.

 

SF (and Otherwise) Poetry Slam — Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 1:00 PM in Mesa Verde A

Like last year, Rhysling Award nominee David Lee Summers will be moderating this event, and I get to share the panel with Robin M. Ambrozic (author of the Piccolo epic fantasy novels), artist Gail R. Barton, and others to be determined.  This is likely to be less of a poetry slam and more of a reading, if David runs it like he did last year (and I hope he does!)

 

Sounds Like Steampunk — Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 4:00 PM in Wind River A

New York Times bestselling author Carrie Vaughn will moderate this panel.  I’ll join panelists Jason Heller (Westword music writer), artist Alisia Silliman, and David Lee Summers (who is evidently stalking me, or vice versa), presumably to discuss Steampunk’s influence on music.

 

Polyamory in SF/F — Sunday, October 23, 2011 at Noon in Wind River B

If someone were to create a Venn diagram of SF/F literature and alternative lifestyles (and somebody probably has), the area of intersection would probably be greater than in a similar diagram made about mainstream literature.  This makes sense, because science fiction and fantasy allow for a wide range of thematic exploration, and a number of SF & F authors have explored polyamory in their work.  Join moderator and author Thea Hutcheson, author Jane Bigelow, self-defense author Marc MacYoungLoving More Non-Profit Managing Director Robyn Trask, and Yours Truly as we discuss polyamory in the context of science fiction and fantasy literature.

 

I hope to see some of you there!

Connections (Vorticism 2010)

This is a poem I wrote for a poetry panel at MileHiCon 42.  It’s the third in my series of Vorticism poems (which are not really about Vorticism as much as they are about embracing technology in general.)  Like most technology-related creative writing, it’s already outdated (Google+, anyone?), but it’s an interesting snapshot of where technology and my mind were at the time.

 

Connections (Vorticism 2010)

iPhones and Androids and tablets, oh my!
Twitter, Facebook, and SMS in the
Palm of your hand
Instant availability
Instant accessibility
Instant interruptions
Disconnected communication
Never before have we been so
Connected, yet so fragmented.

These are not the ‘droids we were
Looking for.

— Stace Johnson
© 2010