Fascinating courtly intrigue and bloody power games set on a generation ship full of secrets―Medusa Uploaded is an imaginative, intense mystery about family dramas and ancient technologies whose influence reverberates across the stars. Disturbing, exciting, and frankly kind of mind-blowing.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Needing a Wal Mart

Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.

Monday, Jan 10
Needing a Wal Mart

How difficult is it to know where you are? How tedious? Doesn’t seem too much to keep track of if you ask me. I called a motel the other night to ask what exit to take off of the main highway to get there. The front desk clerk said he couldn’t really tell me - he “just works there.” Okay, I asked, how does he get there? Does he drive? Does he walk? Does someone drop him off? Does he live there and never leave.? Perhaps he is beamed down daily and back up from the Starship Enterprise? (No, I didn’t ask that last one).

The real answer is he takes a bus. A bus, huh? How does he know where to get off, I thought. So I asked him. His answer made all the sense in the world (just not this world). His precise words were, “I just get off at the same place every day.” What bus does this guy ride, Heresy One?

I hate the phrase, “it’s a sign of the times.” I refuse to make myself generalize that way when things like this happen. I knew what was coming next from the guy who didn’t know how he got to where he is and thus couldn’t tell me how to come join him. 

“Just Google it on your phone.” When I hear this response after the opening conversation I just described, all matter of facty and such, it always comes across as “you idiot - anyone knows that’s just what you do.” The tone of his comment convinced me that he was genuinely wondering what cucumber I had just popped out of. I felt no need to disclose that I was the scheduled keynote speaker at the Luddite International Conference this year. Again, the questions were, where are you and how do I get there? The motel turned out to be just one block off the aforementioned state highway.

“Well,” I said, is there anyone else there who could give me directions?” He went away. A short time later a woman showed up on the phone. The first words from her mouth were, “just use your GPS.” How helpful. Sign of the times. She also wasn’t sure how to get there, not being able to understand where I was coming from because she “only knows street names, not highway numbers.”

In the end, I found the place. Would it not be a reasonable idea to post a little piece of paper on the wall at the front desk on which might be stated simple directions to the property when coming from either the north or south on the main highway to the motel, one block away? Or maybe a directive on the website stating, “don’t call.”

Yes, I like most people, can navigate the website enough to get directions. Sometimes I’d just like to hear a voice. It would warm my spirit and jack my confidence that someone would actually know where he is.


Sunday, June 9, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Chicago

Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.

Jan 8

Strange dreams are, well, strange. I am traveling around to shows again, this sequence being Cincinnati, the Chicago area and Salina, Kansas. Last night my mind went on its own little road trip, and I was but a passenger - an observer. This time it was largely unsettling.

To be sure, I dream. A lot. Occasionally they are frightening, but rarely. Just as rare are the times I wake up laughing hysterically. Most of the time the dreams trip the light fantastic or are simply absurd. It is common for characters I don’t know to engage me in conversations from which I cannot wait to extract myself - stupid conversations in which they proceed to argue with me or about pure nonsense. One of those was the opener last night.

I was standing around on the concourse of some amorphous place when I heard a little whirring sound. I looked down to see an eight inch long mason jar chugging by on wheels. Just a jar and wheels. No motor or other source of propulsion. I watched. A voice off to my left asked me, “What do you make of that?” I responded, “I don’t know. Ask someone else,” sensing that I was about to get sucked into one of those conversational abysses I mentioned earlier. But, as always, he wouldn’t go away. I sighed. “Why me?” came to mind.

“How is that possible?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I quipped. “Ask someone else.”

“Yeah, but there’s no motor. Who’s doing that?”

“I don’t care. Go away.” 

“No need to get testy, man. Let’s figure it out.”

“No, I’m busy” (which I obviously was not). “It’s probably not even happening.”

That did the trick. The jar and the guy both disappeared. Thank Dog! They say entire dreams happen in seconds, no matter how detailed. This was probably a micro-second. Now I could get back to sleep.

Not so fast. The second dream showed up. Strange, but not particularly annoying or disturbing. I found myself at a mini mart on the west end of Flagstaff, where I live. It was nighttime. I followed a farmer-looking guy out of the store to his mid-eighties forest green Chevy pickup. He got in and started the engine. I opened the passenger door and climbed in next to him. He seemed unaware of my presence, put it in gear, and headed down Milton. He made the bend at the tracks just before Humphreys and continued east. Nothing was said between us. Down around Switzer Canyon, near the Smiths supermarket, he let me out. I was hoping he would take me all the way to my destination but realized I didn’t know where that was.

“What do you do?” he asked as I got out. I told him I was an artist who traveled the country doing art shows. He said, “Where’re you coming from now?” I said, “Phoenix. I was helping a friend roof his house.” Asphalt shingles were protruding out of a backpack I was carrying but had never noticed before this moment. He waved and drove off. That was it.

I found myself standing, inexplicably, next to a pickup I haven’t driven for years because the motor is blown. It sits in front of my workshop out in Doney Park. But there it is, transported out of thin air, next to me near the Smiths. I am nonplussed.
I go back to sleep. Later on, dream three shows up.

I am now standing on the gravel lot at a Truckstop somewhere I don’t recognize when what drives up is a well-used work van that has been sawed in half right down the middle, front to back. Obviously it rolls around on only two wheels, both on the same side. The driver, who for reasons that mystify me, is a person I actually once met. His girlfriend (or perhaps lover) is perched on a plywood bump out halfway back behind the guy. There has been installed a bubble window next to her out of which she has a view.

The steering wheel is at the right front, European style, in line with the two wheels. Logic would dictate that the mason jar, which didn’t show up in this dream even as a referent, was a more stable ride though less occupant friendly. To be fair, the mason jar car could have not hauled all the used and salvaged plumbing pipes perched upon racks behind the van driver. Some were coated here and there with carelessly splashed house paint.

The driver jumped out of the van followed by the woman, he dressed like an air conditioning repairman in a dirty monkey suit and she looking like she was headed to a dance. Odd scene. He said “Hi, Michael.” I returned the greeting. We chatted for a while about nothing and I eventually determined that I had met him in some past time at a party at daughter Sarah’s home. Really. The woman never talked but stroked his forearm idly as he spoke. He never offered to give me a ride to wherever I was going. The two of them ultimately piled back into that peculiar vehicle, she returning to her beltless plywood bench and he to the driver’s seat. They waved as they drove off in a cloud of dust.

When I arose this morning to remembrances of these dreams I found them in some way unsettling. Writing of them has cleared that cloud. Dream analysts are said to be able to explain these things to us. Personally, I don’t see it and as I told the guy who harassed me in the mason jar with wheels dream, I don’t care. Thought I’d just share them.



Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Michael's Chronicles: Cincinnati

Michael Thiele is a woodsmith who makes musical instruments and playable furniture. He spends most of his life either in the shop or out on the road buying wood and selling his work at craft shows. In recent years, his travels have begun to inspire his own writing, so he sends me his thoughts.

May 30
5:15 a.m.


No, I’m not referring to Orange Sphincter Man - the ex “You’re fired” guy. Note the time. I was sleeping - as in used to be. Past tense is appropriate here because it’s obviously not true at the moment. The motel in which I’m staying this time doesn’t have particularly thin walls. It’s not a Motel 6, known for having merely “room dividers,” but a purportedly better one. So much for claims. “Clean,” yeah. But “Quiet?” Not so much.

If you’ve been following my travels (travails?”) you are probably thinking I’m going to whine again. I am. I don’t choose my neighbors at these places. But sometimes I think they choose me. For all the wrong reasons. I love loud music, televisions and yelling people who don’t mind sharing their discontent with one another in shrill mode. But only when I can’t hear them. 

I didn’t request a sound proof room, but a bit of spacing would have been appreciated. Given that this is a property with nearly one hundred rooms one would think that the fifteen or so guests currently present could have been housed with a measure of space between them. But no. “Nesting” seemed more appropriate to the vicars of room assignment. 

So, 5:15 a.m. the television in the room next door is messaging me that it’s time to wake up. I don’t use alarm clocks or ask for wake up calls, both of which I find offensive. I simply set my brain to the task when I go to bed the night before, which works just fine thank you. Last night I set it for 7:30 this morning. So much for good intentions. 

When I called the front desk for the third time the clerk said he’d rang my neighbor several times but gotten no answer. Our rooms are at most fifty yards from the front office. I have suggested that perhaps he could walk over and knock on the neighbor’s door. Friendly style, know what I mean? Timid, he said he’d check with the manager when he comes in at 9 a.m. this doesn’t resonate with me. Think I’ll just get up. And yes, I’m whining here.