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Eric: Spider webs and shadows, and the purgatory of New Hampshire malls in summer.

As you know, I had a blowout on Friday night. Caused, as near as I can tell, by Orson Welles. He's had it in for me ever since I made all those "planet" jokes at his expense post-Unicron, but I digress. Yesterday was the day I was scheduled to get the front tires on my car replaced. This involved driving to Portsmouth on a donut spare, which made me the tiniest bit nervous as I crept along. But that's okay -- I had something to think about: the bastards who came up with cool names before I did.

See, I've listened to a lot of old time radio recently, as you know. That led me to read a lot of pulp. And, as with many folks in the Twenty-first century, that's made me think "why can't we return a pulp sensibility to fiction, here or there." In particular, centering on the Shadow, since that's who I'm currently obsessed with listening to many episodes of and reading many stories about.

Now, using the Shadow is simplified by the fact that the copyright on a bunch of his magazine stories -- most particularly the first couple of stories that established his premise -- expired some time ago. That means that some of the key Shadow stories are in the public domain. And that means the details of those stories are in the public domain. However, the radio character predates the Shadow's magazine and fictional life. Originally, "the Shadow" was just the narrator of a detective show sponsored by a magazine publisher. However, it was such an evocative narrator that people who ran out to buy the magazine demanded to know where the Shadow's adventures were. The publisher contracted with a writer named Walter B. Gibson. Gibson was a professional magician and a journalist, and was hired because he was very fast and used to hitting journalistic deadlines as opposed to fiction ones. He turned out a mind-numbing amount of prose as a result, heavily influenced by stage magic and misdirection. That the stories turned out to be excellent was a happy coincidence. (He wrote under the pen name of Maxwell Grant. Later, the publishers used different writers but kept the pen name. Just for the record.)

Anyway -- many of the Gibson stories were published in the days when copyright needed to be renewed regularly, and many of them weren't renewed. Thus, they're free. Blackmask has a bunch. And they're ripe for the mining. However, the Shadow himself is still under trademark and most if not all of his radio shows are under copyright protection. So I can't write stories about the Shadow. It can't be done. I would be sued by Conde Nast, and they would win, and I would have to go to a tan brick building called the "Poorhouse" and eat turnips for dinner and be poor, by law.

But, that's hardly an impediment. Writers have been shamelessly raping those writers who came before them, taking their creativity and repackaging it with the serial numbers filed off inspired to create homages to beloved stories of yesteryear for centuries. Shakespeare himself stole most of his best source material from other places -- it was the alchemy of language and innovation that transformed it into something unique and new. And Warren Ellis, who's a better writer right now than I'll ever be, has directly stolen characters like the Shadow and Doc Savage under barely disguised variations. And I won't even get into Alan Moore and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Suffice it to say, there is a case to be made for the transmutation of our shared cultural heritage into something new, if you're into that sort of thing. And sometimes that means writing something that most people know was directly influenced by a work you can't legitimately use, but also don't want to get sued over.

So. No problem. Carry a lot of the elements of what makes the Shadow so cool forward into a modern pulp setting. That's largely style and tone, rather than specifics. I don't need "Lamont Cranston" or "Margot Lane" or "Cloud Men's Minds" or "Who knows what evil lurks," per se. I need horror turned against evil instead of for evil. I need psychology and mystery blended. I need the supernatural with a veneer of exotic science to handwave it away.

Most of all, I need a name. A theme. A metaphor. If you listen to the old Shadow broadcasts, they work "shadow" and "shadows" and "his shadow" and the like into everything. It's a good thing they were good actors, because it borders on the ridiculous, sometimes. You need something like that -- something that can be a metaphor for the alien, the unknown, the frightening, that you can relate essentially anything to.

And I had one. And it was perfect. I would call my faux Shadow "the Spider." Spiders work perfectly, because they're unlike anything else in our experience. They crawl unseen in dark places. They have venom they use on their prey. They spin and weave webs -- and society is a web. A web of interpersonal relationships and shared experiences. A web of deceit and a web of honor. You can get a ton of milage out of creepy web metaphors.

More to the point, I am terrified of spiders. Seriously. I've used firearms on them before. They scare the Hell out of me. I'm terrified of their pictures. The only two spiders that don't scare me are Charlotte (because honestly -- who could be scared of someone that pedantic? Besides, I always liked her) and the spider that used to run around with the bugs at the bottom of Cricket Magazine's pages.

And it occurs to me that using something you're absolutely terrified of in pulp horror is probably a success strategy.

But in my slow creep to Portsmouth, I wasn't thinking about "The Spider" and working out the ways he would be different and unique, in a series of stories I might or might not ever write. Oh no. Not at all.

You see, we've already got one.

Damn it.

So, here I am, driving south. Slowly. And I'm annoyed as Hell because someone used my idea for a Shadow knockoff specifically for a Shadow knockoff and had the audacity to do it thirty-five years before I was born and get a couple of movie deals out of it and an enduring legacy. Fuckers.

So, when I drop the car off at Sears, I'm annoyed at people who are dead for a literary character that I hadn't heard of before doing research on spiders, and for my own hubris for thinking I had come up with a character no one had ever used (setting aside Spider-Man and the like -- this was a very different tradition, after all). They tell me that the car will be ready in two hours, which means I have two hours at a mall, which once upon a time would have been exciting, but now I'm in my late thirties and besides, I don't have a lot of cash to spend on non-tires or food for the next week and a half. So, I was kicking around a mall with a story trying to express itself in my head and what seemed a fatal stumbling block impeding it. And very little to do but think about it.

I'd worked out a lot of my "The Spider's" background already -- I enjoy such things greatly, and besides, the key to creating a pulp character set in the twenty-first century instead of 1938 is setting. My Shadow knockoff had pulled heavily from the literary version -- which makes sense since those are the bits in the public domain. In particular, I liked the idea of the Shadow's agents -- those people whose lives were saved by the Shadow, and in saving them were also claimed by the Shadow, whose organization against even ever grew. There was a lot of good web imagery you could make out of something like that. And the obvious variant name -- "The Web" -- was right out. If I'm going to be stymied by a largely obscure literary character having the same name as my supernatural crimefighter, I sure as Hell won't name my character after an Archie Comics superhero.

At this point, I'm wandering out of Sears and into the Mall, when I hear over the Sears PA "would Eric Burns please return to automotive? Eric Burns? Please return to automotive." This can't possibly be good.

It's not. I'm brought out to my car, and shown my rear tires. It becomes apparent within a couple of seconds that those need to be replaced as well. They're largely to 'bald.' Orson Welles had done his work well, damn his Paul Masson drinking hide.

I do some math in my head, don't like the answer, and say "will they last two weeks?" I get paid in two weeks, you see.

"Probably," the person said. "But we should do them today."

"Yeah, but unless you want to get paid by the sight of a fat man dancing, they're not going to be."

We priced out cheaper tires than I had ordered, and I could have afforded them, barely... but damn it, Orson Welles is trying to kill me. I need good tires, damn it. All weather tires. Tires with a warranty that'll last longer than getting to the house. And it's the front tires that do all the work, so the rear tires can make it two more weeks if they're not actually wearing through right now.

So, if I'm dead on August 10, my crumpled body pried out of the remains of my car with the Jaws of life, my two pristine front tires unharmed even as the rear of my car looks like it was shelled by artillery, I give you all permission to forward this particular essay around the internet with the subject header "stupid fucker." In the meantime, I plan on minimizing my driving even though I have been assured the risk is minimal.

I was again told to be back by eight. So I wandered out, my mood if anything worse. And the Spider still lurking in my head, insisting he could still exist. His organization could exist. He would just need another name, and there had to be other names.

Only, there's a fine line between the pulps and super heroes, and a fine line between a creepy sounding sobriquet and a goofy one. Sure, the Green Hornet was a pulp hero instead of a superhero -- with the very pulp methodology of convincing the world he was a mob boss while using that position to smash organized crime -- but he carried through so simply that when the Green Hornet was brought to television in the sixties, it was done in the same style as the camp Batman television show.

(If you ever want a fun time, track down the crossover show between Batman and the Green Hornet on Batman. Since everyone thought the Green Hornet was a villain, there was the inevitable fight scene, which meant Robin got to fight the Hornet's manservant Kato. Robin, of course, was played by Burt Ward, who styled himself something of a martial artist in real life. Kato, on the other hand, was played by a then little known asian actor named Bruce Lee. And Ward agreed to let Lee choreograph the fight. Watching Robin get his green pantied ass handed to him is one of the great unexpected joys of sixties television. But I digress.)

So, the Dark Spider or the Black Spider or the Silver Spider or the like just didn't fit right in my head. Those wouldn't do. And you have to understand, when you're a writer and you have something in your head that has to come out, it has to be right or it drives you insane. I needed a name for this character that fit, that made sense, that wouldn't be confused with anyone else's character, that wouldn't be a problem. Even if I never actually got around to writing the story, I needed that name to be able to write the story. Without it, it would fester in my brain. It would drive me nuts.

I knew the elements of his organization -- the Margot Lane figure, who wasn't very Margot Laneish at all. The various operatives he had recruited into his web -- each one flawed and broken in some way or other, each one needing something that the Spider could give them. Each one willing to swear themselves to fight and die at his command because each one had deeper reasons beyond his saving their lives. It wasn't just gratitude -- it was rebirth for them all. And at the center of the web, a figure, solitary but connected to them all, with powers and abilities beyond easy comprehension -- lacking invulnerability or strength or speed, but having his hooks into the minds of others, having a venom of his own.

And until I had that name, the rest would just sit there, open and raw.

And here I was, walking aimlessly for two hours in a Mall.

It was another warm night in New Hampshire. There were men and women on all sides. Well, boys and girls. While there were some folks my age there, it was mostly an extended advertisement for the Gap, Abercrombie and Fitch and Hot Topic surrounding me. Boys and girls expressing themselves to each other -- presenting and flirting and assuming attitudes. I wasn't anywhere near their world. I didn't belong to their world. When you're thirty-seven and by yourself, you go places in a Mall. You hit EB Games, or Sears, or Radio Shack, or Macy's. You have something to actually buy. That's why you're there. If you have nothing to buy, the Mall isn't your store. Killing random time at a Mall stops being leisure time. It's Penny Arcade all over again -- it's not for you.

There is only one sit down restaurant in this mall, and it's Mexican. Typically, I would hit the food court, get something from Subway. But I wanted a sit down restaurant. So I went, and found the one sandwichish item I could eat (with a few changes), ordered it, and took out my computer. I had scripts to write for Gossamer Commons and other projects, but I couldn't. The Spider was in my way, and he was demanding. So I played with words, and phrases, and synonyms, and tried to find something. He couldn't be the Black Widow -- setting aside the Marvel Comics superheroine, someone called a Black Widow really had to be a woman, and "The Black Widower" just sounded dumb. There was something to be said for "The Orb Weaver," but it didn't sing quite right -- and just "the Weaver" didn't work at all. There wasn't the right kind of resonance. There were other ideas. I opened up my computer's copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and I read about spiders and got skeeved out by the pictures -- and yes, it remained a fear I could use. But I had no internet there, which meant no Google, no Wikipedia. And the Britannica is best as a starting point -- it's so rarely a satisfactory destination.

I finished the food, and headed to the one bookstore in this place -- a B. Dalton's. I thought perhaps I could thumb through a book on spiders -- get some thoughts (and frighten myself even more -- the mere fact that I was willing to look at those hideous things should tell you the kind of drive I was feeling. The hunger to resolve this thing.)

Only, B. Dalton sucks.

I remember when I used to be excited to go to B. Dalton's in the Bangor Mall, on trips. We had no bookstores in Fort Kent, Maine. The mere idea was ridiculous. So a store chock full of books thrilled me. I bought dozens of books there. Heinleins. Donaldsons. Piers Anthony (I was very young. Don't judge me). Anne McCaffery. Philip K. Dick. Asimov and Clarke butted heads with Eddings and Norton, during different periods of my young life.

But now I'm an adult, and while the Science Fiction section remained good, B. Dalton's selection on insects was particularly poor. In fact, their selection on any kind of animals was poor. They had the Field Guides: a field guide to birds, to mammals, to fish, to weather. They had a field guide to weather, as if I would encounter weather in the wild and need a quick reference guide to identify "rain." I even check the childrens' section, figuring that spiders were ooky and kids liked ooky. But, while their Childrens' fiction section was pretty good, their Childrens' nonfiction was pretty much limited to several books about Jesus, several Chicken Soul for the Soul books (see books on Jesus), and Bill O'Reilly's The O'Reilly Factor for Kids. This is when I despaired.

But I couldn't be surprised. This was a Mall bookstore, after all. They had no books on spiders. Not even a field guide to arthropods. You needed either a specialty store, or a University bookstore, or a really good Independent Bookstore, or pretty much any given standalone Borders or Barnes and Noble to have that kind of depth.

(I digress a lot in this essay. But if you've read this far, you really don't care. You're just along for the ride. And this is where I confess that I actually like Borders and Barnes and Noble a great deal. I agree that it's tragic that they hurt the really good independent bookstores like the Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle. However, setting aside solid specialty independents for a moment, ignoring quality used bookstores and most especially ignoring the ridiculous "vintage books" bookstores that charge more for old ratty paperbacks than you would pay for a new copy -- and focusing on most general independent bookstores... Barnes and Noble and Borders tend to have vastly better selections. Their history section has depth. Their science section has broad and narrow books alike. If I took the time to walk to Barnes and Noble, I'm sure I'd have found a dozen books on spiders. And while it means that bookstores like Borealis Books in Ithaca have been steadily dying for two decades -- and I liked Borealis a great deal -- that doesn't change the fact that at Borealis's peak it just wasn't as good a bookstore as the Barnes and Noble in fucking Newington, New Hampshire. But, as always, I digress.)

I wandered out. My back hurt from lugging my backpack around. The teenagers continued to do their dance around me. It was close to eight, finally. Close to the time I could pay the good folks at Sears and just leave. So I headed back that way. And walking through Sears, I couldn't help but notice most of the customers looked like me, not like the mallcrawling teens out in the main part of the mall. I am of the Sears generation, now, I thought. I don't look at cheap tawdries, posters and blacklight shit at Spencer Gifts, any more. I don't sit in food courts unselfconsciously and people watch or girl watch. I don't wander the halls of the mall contentedly, just looking at stuff in stores. I am a Sears person now. I come to Sears for tires, and when the tires are on my car, I leave the Mall.

The mechanic was apologetic. The tires were on the car, but they were backed up on alignments, and you need an alignment after a blowout. I remember how badly the car shook just before the tire blew, and didn't argue. Nine, he said. Maybe nine-fifteen.

So I went back into the mall, after first putting my backpack in the car. My back hurt now -- I was sick of schlepping a computer around, when I had no real place or inclination to write. I could let the Spider fester and bitch at me without a computer, it seemed to me. I went back into the mall, and went to Hudson News. Like all "newsstands" in malls it was chock full of magazines, but it's mostly a smoke shop. Hundreds of brands of cigarettes. A humidor of cigars. Full tins of tobaccos for pipes or hand rolling. Lighters. Tampers.

And of course, porn. Racks of comics that didn't interest me, and general magazines, and the teen version of Porn pioneered by Maxim and Stuff, and a back section of the real deal. Playboy and Penthouse and Hustler, of course. But this is a full on "newsstand," so they also have Gent and Swank and Family Letters and God knows what else. At sixteen, I would have been desperately interested in that section -- the allure of the forbidden is strong. At thirty-seven, it barely registered as a clinical interest. And of course, I couldn't even satisfy that -- a pause to carefully look at the titles and figure out the range and depth of pornography at the back of the brightly lit Hudson News would make me into a creepy old guy scoping porn at the Mall. No thank you.

That's the advantage the Shadow has, I thought to myself. Or my Spider, who can't be the Spider. The Shadow is invisible. He walks among us unseen. He creeps out the criminal element because they never know he's there, and when he speaks they can't see him. He has ventriloquism and a hypnotic power that means they can't even trace his voice well enough to shoot. The Shadow can stand and stare at the racks of porn -- or anything else that might embarrass you or me -- because he can't be seen. He can satisfy any curiosity without censure. He can be curious about what porn magazines a non-adult bookstore can and will carry without being suspected by strangers of being a porn fiend. He can be thirty-seven years old and still wander around the parts of the mall that belong to the teenagers, and even if he's out of place no one knows.

Finally, I bought coffee. I sure as Hell didn't need caffeine at that time of night, but I was sore and tired and wanted to be alert for the drive home. And I sat in one of the "shiatsu massage chairs" that sit out in the mall. Stick money in, and get a machine-driven 'massage.' I stuck money in. I was sore, and maybe that would help. It was a place to sit, and do nothing for fifteen minutes, and that was worth paying. And if I were going to look out of place anyhow, I might as well go all the way with it.

The machine cranked up. Poles and gears ground into my back, pulsing with a vibration meant to be soothing. It squeezed and released the flesh of my back, not so much relaxing and massaging as making me feel like I'd sat in a breadmaker. But I stayed in the chair, because I had nowhere else to go, and I looked around. I looked at the "portrait booth," that took pictures of people and then ran a photoshop filter to make them look sort of like sketches. I looked at Abercrombie and Fitch, with its pulsing music and its air of street exclusivity -- were I a teenager, I still wouldn't be welcome there. I wasn't the Abercrombie and Fitch type. Nor was I a Hot Topic type back then, though I'd have felt more comfortable there.

Maybe I've always been a Sears person.

I watched a young guy and girl -- maybe fifteen each -- walking through the Mall, clearly on a date. He wore a letter jacket and jeans. She wore low rider sweats and a white spandex spaghetti top. They were full of attitude, doing an ancient ritual of dating. Putting on airs for each other, and for anyone who might see them. I glanced at them, and then looked away -- but they stayed close. They looked at the portrait booth. And giggling, they went in, the guy saying something sort of macho and dismissive, the girl saying something slightly coy, playing as much to the nonexistent crowd as to her date.

I leaned back, the chair grinding my back, the Spider still demanding I think. I didn't want to think. I was tired, and poor, and stuck in a Mall. I wished there was an Arcade. You could kill time in an arcade in a Mall, when I was young.

I glanced back at the booth, and did a double-take. There was a video screen outside, showing a live, real time video... of the boy and girl who were getting ready to pose. The kids clearly didn't know they were on television -- they had every reason to think it was private. But it wasn't. I glanced around, and saw a couple of mall workers watching. Clearly, whenever this happens, it becomes an impromptu show for the folks who work the mall.

If I were a better man than I am, I would have looked away. If I were as good a man as I'd like to be, I would have gone over and told the kids we could see them. As it was, I stayed in my chair and I watched. Had they started making out or if the boy had gone for second (or the girl offered second up), I'd have said something. But they didn't. Instead, something wholly more remarkable happened.

They became natural. They became who they are with each other. There was no kissing. There was no groping. There was instead an odd sweetness that descended on them both. We couldn't hear them, of course. But they lost all sense of the crowd they were playing to. The girl remained coy, but it was less a dance and more a sense of privacy. The boy lost almost all his affectation. This is a girl he actually liked, and he felt like he could show that without pretense, when he was in a booth with the curtains drawn.

This is the power the Shadow has, I thought. More than knowing the evil that lurks in the hearts of men... the Shadow sees the faces we wear when we think no one can see us. He sees who we are with someone we like, when we're feeling unguarded. He knows our hidden face. This is the power he possesses. In that moment, I understood the Shadow... and understood the side of the Shadow they didn't do radio plays about.

They posed, and took three pictures. We saw them select their options, which were displayed on the outside as well. And then we all looked away as they stepped out, and waited. They saw the video screen then, and the boy said "oh, no way!" and tried to cover it up, laughing, since their still picture was on it. They still didn't know that we'd seen the posing -- he just thought it was the picture itself. Still, if he was embarrassed at that flash of his true self being seen by the mall in general, it was a mild one. And they both bought a print and took it with them.

The chair stopped grinding. I got up, finishing my coffee. I walked to Sears. I paid the man for my car. I noticed my car seemed... bouncier, with its new Goodyears on the front.

Driving home, it began to rain. You might have noticed a few Northeastern websites last night, talking about the rain. Talking about the storm. Well, I was driving in it. It was Orson Welles, taking his last shot at taking me out, once and for all. It started to rain, and then it was pouring. Sheets of rain and wind, lightning from all directions.

It is worth noting I identified the thunderstorm without resorting to a field guide.

I knew then just how badly I needed those new tires. When heavy rain came before, I would skid a little. I figured that was life in the rain. These tires gripped the road hard. It was a comforting feeling. Still, I was conscious of the nearly bald tires on the back wheels, and while I have front wheel drive it seemed an opportune time to stop. So as I passed through a toll booth, I turned off and went to the parking area for big rigs next to it. A number of cars had stopped, since the storm was wild and vicious. I parked, parallel to the road, and turned off the engine and lights. I leaned back in the seat, and slid the moon roof's inner panel open, and I looked up into the heart of the storm.

It was glorious. Rain slamming down. Wind everywhere. Flash after flash of twisting lightning. Hail, finally, raining down and drumming along the car. Maybe it should have scared me -- I knew that there had been tornado warnings in Northern Maine -- but it was exhilarating. I was staring up into the very heart of the storm, a tiny little man confronted with the hugeness of nature, and I felt perfectly safe.

I thought about spiders, staring up into the storm. Perhaps it was because I was in the storm that I could think about them without being scared. Spiders wouldn't come out in this weather. They would hide away -- crawl under things or behind things, batten down the hatches and wait it out. Hidden, squirreled away, reclusive....

I thought about spiders, and I saw a tremendous thunderbolt, the clap shaking the car, itself being pelted with rain and hail, and I had my name. I knew what the character was called. It would do. It was better than "the Spider." And the voice in my head chuckled, and quieted down. I knew I could write scripts now. I could write anything I wanted. And my character and his organization were there, whenever I was ready to write their story.

And I laughed, the tension in me breaking like the storm. I laughed and I stared into that glorious, turbulent sky, and I knew that Orson Welles wasn't going to kill me today.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 2, 2005 3:20 PM


Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at August 2, 2005 3:31 PM

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?


Man, that's got a nice ring to it. I applaud your choice.

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 2, 2005 3:42 PM

You didn't know about The Spider? Newb.

Bet ya never heard of The X-Man, either.

Comment from: Ben G. posted at August 2, 2005 3:46 PM

Thanks to the infamous frozen peas recording, any mention of Orson Welles causes me to giggle.

In a manly sort of way, of course.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 2, 2005 3:46 PM

Which one? The Doc Savage antagonist or the one with the X-Ray Eyes?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 2, 2005 3:46 PM

Which one? The Doc Savage antagonist or the one with the X-Ray Eyes?

Comment from: Jon Lapak posted at August 2, 2005 3:47 PM

I've thought about creating an account to comment before, but that got me. I'm interested in seeing the character and the world that put itself together in your head as you wandered that New Hampshire mall, but mainly I signed in to say:

You should write about the process of writing more often. (You write about it a fair amount. You should still write about it more often.) You illustrate the creative process - your creative process, at least - as clearly as if you were painting on the inside of my mind. I like Gossamer Commons, but I'd probably buy a book of essays on writing if you published one.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 2, 2005 3:54 PM

Ben -- there's also an infamous series of outtakes of Welles shooting a Paul Masson wine commercial when he's clearly hammered. It's not exactly Citizen Kane.

Almost everyone involved with The Shadow ended up in Citizen Kane, though.

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank posted at August 2, 2005 3:56 PM

I thought about spiders, and I saw a tremendous thunderbolt, the clap shaking the car, itself being pelted with rain and hail, and I had my name. I knew what the character was called.

And, naturellement, you don't tell us.

Damn it, I'm going to need to buy whatever form you sell these ideas in, aren't I?

You know, you're as evil a genius as David Willis is for this: give away enough to hook for free, don't make the free stuff dependant on the paid stuff. Just bask in the glory of hooking people on your style.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 2, 2005 4:02 PM

Eric, you know, you really need to close your tags. I'm slipping in an Italics close tag just to keep the comments from going amok.

I personally have my own name for when I work with pulp, complete with catchphrase. And damn the world if it's already taken, because I won't care.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 2, 2005 4:09 PM

32 -- I caught it, but only after I posted. So it's fixed already.

Will -- damn straight I'm not saying what it is, yet. Not until I write the story. ;)

(I have, however, largely verified it's open for use.)

Comment from: lucastds posted at August 2, 2005 4:11 PM

The Storm?


The Rain?

maybe the sky was trying to tell you something that day, and The Web should not be the web, but instead thought of as some sort of gathering cloud, sort of just waiting to burst with showers.


Comment from: Zaq posted at August 2, 2005 4:13 PM

Rule: The best bits of writing are the ones that get the reader to think, and prompt discussion.

Exception: Eric Burns.

I feel that a post such as this deserves something other than "Gee-hyuck, you shore do lahk to write!", but what did you leave for us, or at least for me, to say?

I could almost see myself writing something like this, though. Not nearly as well, of course, but I could see elements of my style (on the rare occasion I choose to write, that is) in this piece. I get the impression that you wrote this all at once; you didn't think about it too much beforehand, you didn't think of where you were going or where it might end, you just sat down and 30 (or 45, or 60, or whatever) minutes later you woke up, so to speak, to find there was, well, this sitting in front of you. And you know it without realizing it. You could probably recite it if you were so inclined, but if someone were to mention a particular word choice, turn of phrase, or point in the middle, you might say "Huh? What part was that, again?" If you reread it, you'll notice bits you barely even realized you wrote..

Or maybe I'm comepletely full of it, which is more likely all around. That's how I write, almost certainly not how you write. What I'm getting at is that I could feel a hint of what you may have thought when you realized you had written this. At least I hope I did.

Comment from: Coralie Coelsch posted at August 2, 2005 4:17 PM

Thank you, Mr. Burns, for providing yet another fantastic reading experience. I started reading websnark for the webcomic reviews; I started loving websnark for, well... this.

I find myself checking websnark for updates more and more frequently. I'm starting to think what dull a place the internet would be without it. I'm desperately thinking about ways to become a tasty-tasty-biscuit-deservingly-good webcartoonist, because one day I want to see a thumbnail of MY comic on this site IF IT'S THE LAST THING I DO!!! *pant* *pant*

I've got it all scheduled. First step: websnark. Second step: WORLD DOMINATION!

...or maybe I should just cut down on the chocolate. Maybe.

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank posted at August 2, 2005 4:25 PM

Hey, Eric, of course I understand it. I was just saying, you know, you're an evil genius.

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 2, 2005 4:28 PM

I got lost somehow in reading this latest verse.

I pity you that you had to deal with revising mechanics, the kind of scumbag who will call you back with a "hey, look what else we've found wrong with your car" kind of attitude, followed up by a "you need to have this fixed today, or else."

And you're thirty-seven? I had you pegged as a twenty-five year old indie guy that Questionable Content revels in. I mean you and Wednesday might as well be guest characters watching in the background Pizza Girl battles out Chinese Takeout Man for supremacy of the College Student section of Boston!

Comment from: jnspath posted at August 2, 2005 4:35 PM

I just have to say that I greatly enjoy pieces like these as much (if not more) than I do the ones on anything else.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 2, 2005 4:38 PM

Just use the Spider anyway. There are only so many descriptive phrases in the english language, and getting sued generates good publicity and a solid underground cred.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 2, 2005 4:47 PM

Christopher -- the problem with using "The Spider" now (which probably wouldn't get me sued -- the character would be substantially different, for one thing) is that the Spider, though I didn't know him myself, is known by a tremendous number of pulp fans. Doing a pulp with his name but not his character creates a situation of confusion, first off (and I'm not sure it isn't trademarked), as well as a direct sense of competition. This character by definition is going to evoke the Shadow... evoking another Pulp as well would be too much baggage for the story.

(Which is why "The Web" wouldn't work either. It's not that I think Archie would sue -- it's that I don't want Archie fans to flash to the guy in the green and yellow when they see my book.)

Comment from: Montykins posted at August 2, 2005 4:51 PM

"why can't we return a pulp sensibility to fiction, here or there."

Lavish agreement. Fu Manchu and Doc Savage are wildly entertaining reads, possibly because they were written in great haste by people with no greater goal than "make it entertaining and compelling". The Not-Spider looks like an interesting idea; what are you going to do with it?

Comment from: Kazrak posted at August 2, 2005 5:02 PM

First: I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. This is just an informational pointer. Consult your attorney about what to do with this information.

That said, you may wish to look into the case law for Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. (See

Wikipedia for details, perhaps.) Basically, the Supreme Court decided (8-0) that you cannot use trademarks to restrict use of works that have passed into the public domain. Now, you still may not wish to get involved in legal scuffles - an entirely justifiable point of view, in my opinion. And there's definitely an appeal in creating something that is yours. But, assuming the works are in the public domain, you do have the right to do what you will with them.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 2, 2005 5:07 PM

Kazrak -- yes, agreed. However, the fact that I could publish the Shadow's adventure "Brothers of Doom" without fear of litigation (well, successful litigation) legally doesn't mean I can write a new story starring the Shadow, Moe, Harry Vincent and the like. It particularly doesn't mean I can print it with the Shadow's name across the front. Derivative works are among the blackest of arts in Copyright, especially when we're discussing a derivative work of a derivative work. And Conde Nast is much, much larger than I am.

Besides, there is something to be said for making something that is actually yours, even if it's clearly "strongly inspired" by a public domain work.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 2, 2005 5:09 PM

Montykins -- it's becoming a series of novellas, I think. Or short stories in collection, with certain evolution through them.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 2, 2005 5:21 PM

Where to start?

Writers have been [s]shamelessly raping those writers who came before them, taking their creativity and repackaging it with the serial numbers filed off[/s] inspired to create homages to beloved stories of yesteryear for centuries. Shakespeare himself stole most of his best source material from other places -- it was the alchemy of language and innovation that transformed it into something unique and new.

The only difference, aside of course from Sturgeon's Law, between internet fanfiction and Shakespeare - or Malory, or Homer - is electronic communication and modern intellectual property law. The onus against fanfiction derives from the profit motive: "Why waste your time on something you can't sell?" Of course, in the early days of the previous millennium - say, when the seminal Arthurian texts were being created - readers demanded a story have a pedigree, to the degree that authors had to claim bogus sources if they wanted to create original work. That was partly because people then didn't distinguish between fiction and history the way we do now, but I'm not sure I wouldn't rather deal with that than the contemporary attitude that a lack of profit is without honor.

As far as Wells is concerned, let's get back at him. Let's start a campaign to convince the world that the most effect he's had on American- and world- culture comes from that stupid unintended Halloween prank. It may even be true.

When I was stranded at the free wifi at the mall Panera in Iowa City (actually in Coralville) last week during my wife's three-day bar exam, I girlwatched. Yet I am a Sears person. It's possible to do both. In fact it's better that way, because now the grown women look good too.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 2, 2005 5:40 PM

Had I had a Panera Bread (or some other Wifi), I would have been in my element. There isn't even a Starbucks in that given mall. Sans a comfortable place to sit and hang out and wait and (preferably) surf a little, I'm stuck out of my element. ;)

Comment from: Duff the Tragic Wagon posted at August 2, 2005 5:42 PM

That was excellent. Out of everything of yours that I've read, this is quite possibly my favourite. Thank you.

Comment from: SeanH posted at August 2, 2005 5:44 PM

Who knows? The Ovaraptor knows!

Comment from: Godspiel posted at August 2, 2005 5:53 PM

So, is it "The Eye sees all" or "One Of The Actors who voiced The Shadow will drink all of your booze"?

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at August 2, 2005 5:57 PM

Man, I had that problem a while back. Wanted to do a minor character in my upcoming project who was a superheroine named "White Rabbit." Sat around all afternoon at work thinking up the details, and then got home only to see there already was one.

I intend to go through Alice in Wonderland again sometime soon to see if my second choice is actually in that book or Looking Glass.

But this new thing intrigues me. Yesh indeed.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at August 2, 2005 6:04 PM

Okay, so the Unseen Observer or whoever is available. There's no guarantee that status will last. I suggest putting together some sort of teaser story that will lay out your territory and copyrights fairly soon, before you put too much more work into the stuff not-yet-written.

Get that IP established, with witnesses, then work on the anthology. :) Alone or with others.

Comment from: Andy H. posted at August 2, 2005 6:17 PM

I'm betting on "The Recluse".

Comment from: McMartin posted at August 2, 2005 6:28 PM

The name "Black Widowers" is taken too, idly; they were a mystery-solving dinner club in a series of short stories by Isaac Asimov.

Comment from: Ian K. posted at August 2, 2005 7:14 PM

It's Thor isn't it? You bastard. The mysterious and enigmatic Thor... god... I'm amazed I didn't think of it first. I'll get you for this, Burns. When my Go-Bots serial is finished, we'll get you and Thunder God, P.I.

Comment from: Brian Smith posted at August 2, 2005 7:27 PM

In regards to using the Spider: Stan Lee, in his "bio-autography" called "Excelsior!", talks about writing the Spider-Man comic strip. In the Sunday strips, he likes to end with a "Next Week:" blurb, and Lee would occasionally use "The Spider at Bay!" or "Menace Stalks the Spider!" or some such.

According to Lee, he got a warning from the people who own the rights to "The Spider," because taglines like that were too close to that character.

So, yeah, fan base or no fan base, it's really out of the question.


Comment from: Doug posted at August 2, 2005 7:43 PM

No fair! I'm stuck with The Adventures of The Bias Ply Moonroof in my head now, and only because The Candid Camera is also already locked down.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 2, 2005 8:30 PM

All this pointless questioning, when we all just know that Eric just picked "The Cliffhanger." I mean, just read the post, it's so obvious...

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at August 2, 2005 8:35 PM

I'm surprised more people aren't trying to guess, honestly. My best shot is The Recluse, too, although that brings to mind less clouding of men's minds and more J. D. Salinger.

(The Man-Spider! The Snark! The Tick! Um, wait . . .)

Comment from: Matt Blackwell posted at August 2, 2005 9:16 PM

Plus Eric can't use "The Spider" because They Might Be Giants wrote a theme song for him back in prehistoric times. (1992, IIRC)

Comment from: tem2 posted at August 2, 2005 10:52 PM

It could work with Vincent Price narrating:

"Who knows what evil lurks...? Only the Photo Booth knows. Ah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!"

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 2, 2005 10:56 PM

What, like that's stopped Eric before. I mean, if you think about it, the post about how all these troubles with his car began started with the name of the 1998 TMBG live album. Trust me, I racked my brain repeatedly to find a good related "Planet of the Apes" reference I could make and failed.

That, and if I've proven anything conclusively, TMBG doesn't really give a damn if anyone uses their song titles for internet-related activity.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 2, 2005 11:19 PM

You know, titles can't be copyrighted. Sammy Khan told a story on the Tonight Show once about seeing a familiar song title in a blurb about an upcoming production, and he had to phone the producer to find out whether it was the song by that title that he wrote. Lyrics are one thing, but if They Might Be Giants want some blogger to stop using their song titles to title his posts, I don't think they have any legal recourse beyond asking nicely.

Comment from: Merus posted at August 3, 2005 12:07 AM

"The Eye" works for me.

Comment from: Connor Moran posted at August 3, 2005 1:02 AM

Also, while I understand that it doesn't match your "spider," I think that "The Weaver" would be an awesome pulp hero.

But maybe that's just my love of the LucasArts adventure Loom talking.

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 3, 2005 1:07 AM

Man, whenever I write about a day of activity on my LJ, it just comes off as rambling. Even when I did some interesting things. I need to learn how to tie things together. And work on that whole interesting-observations-about-the-world-around-me thing.

And, yeah, while reading that Wikipedia article I had TMBG's song running through my head. "Spider! He is our hero"

Cricket Magazine 4TW BTW

Comment from: John W. Wells posted at August 3, 2005 3:17 AM

No, no, it's THE HOBO!

Or maybe... RED-BACK!



Comment from: vark posted at August 3, 2005 4:20 AM

If you havent read vernor vinge's 'a deepness in the sky', consider it. spiderlike protagonists.

Sears Tire has previously been busted for deceptive consumer practices and overcharging. -Maybe- they've reformed. I wouldn't go near them again.

Nice read.

Comment from: kamagurka posted at August 3, 2005 5:00 AM

This reminds me: where is that huge monster of a SciFi book you wrote for nanowrimo?

Comment from: Kaychsea posted at August 3, 2005 5:33 AM

So why can't "The Spider" be a woman in the 21st century? Call her the Black Widow or Arachne.

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at August 3, 2005 10:03 AM

...dude. I want dibs on 'the Hobo'.

Comment from: Matt Blackwell posted at August 3, 2005 11:27 AM


Actually I wasn't thinking that TMBG might sue (or even ask him to stop using the name.) It was that if the character was well known enough to show up in one of their songs, then it's probably still well known enough that using the name might raise some eyebrows.

Comment from: Stan posted at August 3, 2005 12:35 PM

As long as it's not "That weird old guy at the mall who keeps staring at the teenage girls."

That's my schtick, for my "Monarch of the Mall."

This was the best thing I've read all week. Slice of life with philosophy and literature mixed in.

(would have posted sooner but IE6 decided to undo some changes)

Comment from: vortexae posted at August 3, 2005 3:18 PM

Damn, Eric, that was just beautiful.


A fellow Cricket reader)

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 3, 2005 3:48 PM

My point, though, is that TMBG wouldn't give a flying whatever even if they did have legal recourse (which they might - I remember there was a row with the company behind Nyquil over the song that was eventually called AKA Driver on the album John Henry). Trust me - they've known for quite some time that I've been using one of their song titles as a nom de plume since 1999, and the band's management still contacts me semi-regularly to ask if I want to volunteer for flyer handouts and the like. And unlike the two examples mentioned above, "32 Footsteps" is not a phrase used elsewhere or a single word that's considered common.

Though, on Matt's point, there's no evidence that TMBG even knows about the pulp character, The Spider. Based on notes from the band, it's most commonly assumed that Spider is about Spider-Man.

Though switching gears, it does surprise me that a female-oriented reworking of the pulp style hasn't caught on at all. Even the modern pulp-style stories I can think of these days revolve around male characters.

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at August 3, 2005 3:50 PM


A fellow Cricket reader)

Oh yes! Crickeeeeeeet!

I saved a whole bunch of back issues, somewhere, but I think my mom threw them out. But that was good stuff.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 3, 2005 3:56 PM

32 -- is this where I mention that for many years, my personal e-mail went out under the name "Whistling in the Dark?" I think that's still the name that my In Nomine Mailing List mail goes out under.

Kate and Nicole -- Old Cricket would be very proud of us. And yeah, my sister and I hoarded all our old Crickets, and when her daughters were of age, they read them voraciously.

Man, I should really try to get published by them.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 3, 2005 6:19 PM

Wait, you mean, there are other geeks out there that like They Might Be Giants? I'm flabbergasted!

Personally, I've come to the conclusion that an awesome pulp hero would be The Blood. And his catch phrase could be "The Blood of the Innocent shall be your undoing." Eh, I think it could work.

Comment from: Robotech_Master posted at August 3, 2005 6:59 PM

Incidentally, apparently the Shadow novels may not actually be out of copyright after all. John Gunnison wrote on alt.pulp a couple of years back:

The reason you won't find [The Shadow novels] listed [in the Library of Congress web site at www.loc.gov], is that the Library of Congress hasn't updated those files. You have to go to the Madison Building, 4th Floor and into the Copyright Card Files to find the renewal. I can tell you...you will find the renewals and the original copyrights. The Shadow is under copyrights and all those text files are illegally posted and reprinted. This is a problem, when someone assumes. If these are all public domain, why hasn't some decent publisher rushed to reprint these stories? I can tell you why...Advance Magazines, Inc, which is a subsidary of Conde Nast Publications hasn't granted permission. That's why!
It's unclear to me why exactly the Spaceport s site and Black Mask haven't been sued into oblivion yet, but you apparently can't argue with someone who's actually gone into the card files and checked it out.

Of course, there's no real reason why this should affect the Unnamed Shadow Clone; if the folks doing the Spider could rip off the Shadow with impunity while the Shadow was still being published, there's no reason why you should feel constrained from doing it now.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 3, 2005 7:16 PM

Unnamed Shadow Clone is perfectly legal, in part because it's diverging away from the source. It's clear that the Shadow is a spiritual antecedent, but it's just as clear that he's his own beast.

Someone above asked why it couldn't be a woman named the Black Widow. Setting aside the rather prominent Marvel Comics Superspy, the voice in my head wasn't female. That's pretty much it.

Comment from: tsuibhne posted at August 3, 2005 9:25 PM

BTW, I feel the need to say something about this,

...Bill O'Reilly's The O'Reilly Factor for Kids

but I can't figure out what.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at August 3, 2005 9:25 PM

As far as I know, NyQuil Driver becoming AKA Driver was simply the result of a panic twixt recording and album release. Preemptive litigation avoidance, if you will.

I don't see how anyone could peg TMBG's Spider to be anything less than a badly-dubbed-Japanese-James-Bond-ripoff-type.

(Yeah, I'm one too.)

(A fan, not a spy.)

(Big N, little y . . .)

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at August 3, 2005 9:27 PM

tsuibhne: Don't worry, The Daily Show's got you covered.

Comment from: tsuibhne posted at August 3, 2005 9:34 PM

Because acctually going to look at the link is to much trouble right now,

Robotech Master, is he talking about the novels, or the magazine stories? If memory serves, one is in the public domain and the other isn't.

Or am I thinking of some other pulp stories?

BTW, tsuibhne = Matt Sweeney, now that I've found out how Eric is listing his proper name. Silly me.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 3, 2005 9:38 PM

hmm... That didn't work. May be this will

For content, Robert, I'm well aware of the Daily Show's America book, I've got a copy somewhere around here. They don't have a book for kids though, at least not that I know of. It is the idea of O'Reilly for children that I'm having trouble wrapping my head around.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at August 3, 2005 9:42 PM

Matt: I was going more for the idea of it being redundant. TDS regularly does a segment, Great Moments in Punditry, where children read transcripts of various "debate" shows. It fits oh so well, unsurprisingly.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 3, 2005 9:46 PM

For content, Robert, I'm well aware of the Daily Show's America book, I've got a copy somewhere around here. They don't have a book for kids though, at least not that I know of. It is the idea of O'Reilly for children that I'm having trouble wrapping my head around.

When the Communists were in full power in the Soviet Union, children would recite details of the five year plans as a group and as individuals. There were organized and very carefully laid out methods of properly preparing their minds to be productive and loyal members of the state into adulthood.

There's a word for that, if I remember correctly.

Inspirational books, religious books, and Bill O'Reilly. That was the nonfiction children's section.

But no books on bugs. Or science of any kind. Or history. No books on the Founding Fathers. No books on math.

Inspirational books, religious books, Bill O'Reilly.

This too has informed my story plans, for the record.

Comment from: Doc posted at August 3, 2005 10:15 PM

Eric your description of the children's non-fiction section scares me. Books on bugs, dinosaurs and the like were a big part of my happy little childhood. The idea of replacing the learning of simple and fun facts (along with the requisite awesome big colour pictures) with, well, indoctrination into a religious or political viewpoint (regardless of where it falls on the political spectrum) gives me the creeping heeby jeebies.

Comment from: nyarlathotep posted at August 3, 2005 10:20 PM

I sort of assumed the name was "The Heart of the Storm".

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 3, 2005 11:04 PM

I've still got a stack of old Crickets sitting somewhere.

Connor: Loom also wins.

TMBG's "Spider" is clearly inspired by terrible campy Japanese spy movies.

I played around with a sort of pulp hero character called "The Vigil" for a while, but never really went anywhere with it. The twist was that the secret society was the vigilante: it was a group of people with identical costumes whose real identities were kept secret even from each other, pretending to be a single crimefighter. They could creep criminals out by seeming to be everywhere.

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 4, 2005 3:37 AM

Crickets? Are these slightly higher versions of Highlights for Children?

Comment from: Kaychsea posted at August 4, 2005 5:32 AM

Someone above asked why it couldn't be a woman named the Black Widow. Setting aside the rather prominent Marvel Comics Superspy, the voice in my head wasn't female. That's pretty much it.

I was angling more to Arachne, maintaining the spider and web connections.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at August 4, 2005 10:30 AM

Gwalla, you might want to check out the TMBG-based Wiki out there. It's got plenty of proof on why Spider is directly about Spider-Man. And I know that TMBG likes many different sources and interpretations, but I think that if the connection you made was obvious, someone would have mentioned it before now given the song's age.

Heh, the idea for The Vigil was similar to my idea of The Blood, except that there would be a cadre who would know the truth about the character. They'd also make pains to make the different versions as alike as possible (a chestplate to disguise women as men, lifts for shorter vigilantes, and so forth).

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 4, 2005 11:44 AM

Re: The Vigil. The idea sounds really familiar, didn't somebody write a story similiar to that? I want to say it was a comic, but I can't remember for sure. I want to go even further and say that it was one of the early Vertigo writers, may be Grant Morrison or Peter Milligan. I can't put my finger on it though. This is going to drive me nuts.

Comment from: Wandering Idiot posted at August 4, 2005 6:16 PM

Dear Eric:

The Tarantula

- The Wandering Idiot

P.S. Send royalty checks pls kthx.

P.P.S. That was a really good read. I especially liked the second reference to the weather field guide. Although in their defense, I can imagine the need for a formal way to determine whether you're being drenched by what is technically sleety rain or rainy sleet, etc.

On second thought, no I can't.

Comment from: Wandering Idiot posted at August 4, 2005 6:17 PM

Dear Eric:

The Tarantula

- The Wandering Idiot

P.S. Send royalty checks pls kthx.

P.P.S. That was a really good read. I especially liked the second reference to the weather field guide. Although in their defense, I can imagine the need for a formal way to determine whether you're being drenched by what is technically sleety rain or rainy sleet, etc.

On second thought, no I can't.

Comment from: Wandering Idiot posted at August 4, 2005 6:21 PM

Dear Eric:

My streak of managing to fuck up my Websnark posts in some way remains unabated. It wasn't the line spacing this time, it was the fact that my post wasn't showing up in Netscape. (I went over to IE, and viola, it was here! Twice, no less.)

- The Wandering Idiot

P.S.- Someone shoot me now.

Comment from: Mike Escutia posted at August 4, 2005 7:27 PM

Ah, Fox Run Mall... I used to go there a lot back in my UNH days, mainly to go to B. Dalton.

I know how you feel about malls, Eric. I hardly go in any of the ones down here anymore, especially now that the Mall of NH no longer has a B. Dalton.

The funny thing is, I'm going to a Sears tonight to buy a new window fan.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at August 4, 2005 10:58 PM

Gwalla, you might want to check out the TMBG-based Wiki out there. It's got plenty of proof on why Spider is directly about Spider-Man. And I know that TMBG likes many different sources and interpretations, but I think that if the connection you made was obvious, someone would have mentioned it before now given the song's age.

I see one rather weak item of proof. And, uh, lots of people have said "hey, sounds like some bad Japanese spy movie dialogue" for years and years.

Comment from: david malki ! posted at August 5, 2005 2:17 AM

A nicely-drawn piece of writing. Good luck with your new concept.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at August 5, 2005 12:15 PM

Maybe I'm the only one who's ever dated a biology geek, but I have to say, I was thinking of and rooting hard for "the Brown Recluse" even before you used reclusive as the last word before your aha moment. It could still be wrong (my guess, that is), but I did have it drilled into my head at one point that there are only two spiders you should really fear: the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. And you said reclusive. It better be that. I know it scares me (as a name), but I don't know if that's just because I know I should be scared, so there's some chance you wouldn't choose it because it also sort of suggests an easy chair, mentally.

As for all the storm guesses, my reading was that the storm was the catalyst, not the solution.

Uh, Eric? If by some weird chance I'm right, and you didn't want people to know, could you remove this post or alter it or something? I'd kinda hate to screw up your fun, but it seemed like it would be okay to post guesses.

Comment from: Alun Clewe posted at August 12, 2005 11:49 PM

Okay, I know I'm writing this reply more than a week after the post, and nobody's going to read it, but, well, I didn't read this entry when it was first posted, and reading the comments now, I just feel obliged to mention...

I had an NPC superhero named the Brown Recluse in a Champions campaign I ran a few years ago. (More information on which is available online here.)

Not that this would in any way prevent Eric from using the name, of course, if that's the one he decided on. I just felt like sharing.

Comment from: PlaidRab posted at August 17, 2005 2:38 PM

WRT O'Rielly. How's this for somethin to say... WHen I happened to flip across to his radio show a few weeks back he was pissed that someone named Lemony Snicket was outselling his kids book...

Comment from: Sean Duggan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2008 3:42 PM

I recently ran into this topic while glancing at the sidebar. That is a terribly poignant commentary on life as you get older, and of image versus actuality of relationships. It is a shame that you never released your book. It sounds like it would have been very interesting.

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