Painting With Shotguns XXXVII

Digging Up (And Into) The Bones

Part of gaming — gaming at the table, I mean — is the dice. The feel in your hands. The local table-side myths surrounding said dice. The mojo. The voodoo. The math. The possibility. Well, the Brothers Hindmarch and Tidball put together a book of many thoughts about dice, and that book is The Bones.

That book features essays by a number of people I adore and respect (I mean, c’mon, Fred Hicks, Jess Hartley, Wil Wheaton, Matt Forbeck, Jesse Scoble, John Kovalic, Kenneth Hite — shit, the list goes on and on, and there’s not a bad name on that list), and I’m proud to say that somehow, by an error of computing or a bad roll of the dice, I ended up with an essay in the book.

I also rolled a critical, because that photo you see on the cover, that’s also mine. And it also constitutes my first paid photo credit, which is sort of insane. Needless to say, I’m very, very geeked about this book.

You don’t have to be a game nerd to love this book.

You just have to love good writing. Focused writing. C’mon, you’ve played with dice. You’ve played Yahtzee. Dice are awesome. Random is awesome. Probability is bad-ass.

What I’m saying is, the book is now available in a (drum roll please) Special Edition.

You can pre-order that Special Edition here.

Deadline for preordering is soon, June 6th.

If you love me, and I know you do because you keep sending me flowers and candy and little squirrel heads wrapped in pretty pink bows, then you’ll get on over there and place your preorder. Don’t make me come over there. Don’t make me.

Patient Zero, by Jonathan Maberry

I like to call it, “The (re)Bourne Identity.”

I’m not big on book reviews, so I’ll keep this one short.

Joe Ledger is snarky. He’s a little grumpy. He kicks ten kinds of ass.

He’s recruited by a mysterious government agent to fight terrorists.

And zombies.

Because the terrorists are the zombies. And the zombies are the terrorists. And the terrorists want everybody to be zombies.

Right there, if I haven’t sold you, then you just need to walk on by. Are you seriously going to sit around and tell me you don’t like some combination of high-powered weapons, martial arts, terrorism, conspiracy, and a zombie plague? You’re really going to tell me that this book — which is effectively, “What if Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy had a baby and that baby grew up to be Stephen King?” — won’t wet your whistle?

Mm. Don’t lie.

See, this is pretty much one of those perfect summer novels. Escapist, but not stupid. Fun, but not “light.” It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s gory. I’ve sadly never read any of Maberry’s other books (doubly ironic because he’s a local fella, if I remember correctly), but this book has convinced me to correct that oversight. The guy can write a fight scene, too — they go on a hair too long for my tastes, but even still, they’re exciting and orchestrated in a great “ballet of violence” kind of way.

Dude doesn’t mess around.

Neither should you. It’s a recommended read. Pulpy action-horror. Or horror-action. Horraction. Actiorror. More coffee. More coffee, stat.

Riddle Me This: Lost’s Unanswered Questions

(spoiler warnings)

Yes, I want to keep talking about Lost.

No, you don’t have to like that. No, you don’t have to read it. Seriously, no nerd tribey, geek-clan nonsense here. I saw the Lost finale. I watched all six seasons of the goddamn show. I really enjoyed it, and now I want to talk about it, and if you don’t like it, then please exit my house until I’m done talking about it. I don’t want into a room where people are talking about the Super Bowl or cross-stitching and say, “I do not want to talk about this! Please stop talking about this! Your cross-stitching fails to amuse me!” Feel me? I said, do you feel me? *grabs crotch* Hah! Get it? Feel me? Like, feel my junk drawer? My man-stuff? My crotch monster? Yeah.

Anyway. Lost.

A handful of unanswered questions.

Mostly, I don’t care. I mean, it’s over. They handled the things I wanted them to handle, so everything else on top of that is icing. Still, who doesn’t like icing? Especially when sucked from a hobo’s beard. Mmmm.

I’ve seen compilations of unanswered questions all over the web at this point, and I figure it’d be fun to take some of those here — and any you care to add in the comments — and see if they don’t have easy answers. Because I suspect most of them probably do. Ready? Begin.

What’s up with Walt?

I dunno. He’s special. Do we need to know more than that?

Why wasn’t he on the show?

Because he’s huge. Unrecognizable. Puberty did what puberty does; he grew up fast.

Why couldn’t women conceive on the island?

I assume it’s because of what happened when Jacob and the MiB came to the island. Their own mother ends up bludgeoned by Witchy McHooHa, which possibly curses that process. Or, when Jacob throws the MiB into the Glowy Happy Cave and it flenses body-from-soul, maybe that’s a taint (heh, taint) on the island’s healing abilities.

What is the island?

Really? Do we really need to answer that? It’s an island and it’s goddamn special. That’s it. That’s all we’re going to get and all we’re going to need. It’s special the way the Force is special. Or the way magic in Harry Potter just plain fucking exists. That’s a nonsense question. You’re ejected from parliament! Get out!

Why was Desmond special?

Nope, not sure. Once more, like with Walt or the island, not sure it matters.

Why did Desmond see flashes of the Sideways limbo?

Tricky one — I assume it’s because he’s basically suffering near-death experiences (much like when Juliet is dying after Jughead’s explosion she quotes lines from the Sideways world). Or maybe we’re left to assume that the Sideways limbo is still a timeline unto itself, even if one given to spiritual provenance, and that Desmond can do what Desmond can always do: hop into and out of those different timelines.

Who was shooting at the characters in the canoe when they were time-jumping in Season Five?

Ehhh. This one, I’m not sure. You could assume that it’s… well, whoever was out there at that time, be they the Others or Dharma, or Rosseau’s people, maybe. It’s not a critical question, but feels a bit dead-endy.

Did the Jughead explosion do anything?

I think so. But not what everybody expected. I think it just filled in the timeline of “what had already happened,” meaning, it becomes The Incident. And it catapults them forward where they can battle Smokey. So, that makes it not a failure, per se. Did Juliet die for nothing? I’d say not exactly, but certainly to a degree — but you can’t say this show doesn’t have some measure of tragedy.

What was the black horse?

Smokey, I guess. Then again, hard to say. A rewatch of the series might yield some answers to, “Who were actual ghosts (ala Michael), and who was just Smokey?”

If Smokey was Christian Shepherd on the island, how did Christian Shepherd appear off-island in Los Angeles?

Best answer: that Christian was a hallucination. But that’s possibly a bad best answer. I really don’t know.

So, what else?

Do I have any of these answers wrong in your mind? What questions do you feel remain unanswered? Are you unsatisfied with any answers? My head’s still circling Lost as a series; let’s talk about it.

Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp

PUGRANHA Ta-da! More links for your clicky pleasures. If it’s underlined, click it.

I’m fortunate enough to have the manuscript for Frank Bill’s DONNYBROOK, and it’s a meth-fueled backwoods noir. Really. It’s so good. I can’t wait till it winds its way onto your bookshelves. In the meantime, Steve “Pedal to the Metal” Weddle interviewed Frank, and so you should go and check that out right fucking now.

Holy shit. Crazy images of the BP oil spill and explosion as it happens.

Guy “The Dread Pirate LeCharles” Gonzalez tells you a secret truth: “Writers Write, Even When They Don’t Realize It.”

Pugranhas. Sharkodiles. Sharkopotomuses. Demon chickens. You know you want to read some flash fiction based on that SyFy-style mashup. Courtesy of Chris Holm (mistyped as “Christ Holm”).

Mystery Team is now out on DVD. From Derrick Comedy. I got mine coming to me from Netflix. Seriously, click here and watch the preview, and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Finally, tonight, we head out on a crazy culinary adventure. A local restaurant, Honey, does this thing called their “Surrender Menu,” which sounds like there’s bondage involved, and metaphorically, maybe there is. Honey does tapas, small plates, and this menu is a 16-course-tasting menu. It’s omakase, but with more than just sushi. So, this tasting menu is the chef basically just throwing all sorts of crazy foods at you. They make it clear when you call for reservations, “We’re not effing around over here. We’re going to put some crazy shit in front of your face. Raw. Offal. Whatever we want.” If you want one dude’s description of his meal, you can click here to check it out. I’ll do a full report at some point.


  • 1. Thanks for the book rec, I’m ALL OVER that zombie shit.
    2. I just think Walt has abilities like Miles and Hurley did. They didn’t explain why they could see/hear dead people, so…
    3. I think the no-baby thing predates Jacob and Samuel, which was why their “mother” acted so swiftly to acquire them. She needed a replacement because the electrical/magnetic force screwed up the ability to make/have babies there. Like, the force IS life, so you can’t slough of any of it to make another life without a tremendous sacrifice, or summat.
    4. I loved that basically the island needed a reboot in order to get rid of the aberration that was MiB/Samuel. They reminded us that “all you need to do is unplug it, and that fixes it” with Juliet and Sawyer, too. AWESOME.

    I’m having a problem with people that are totally okay for their to be alternate universes (sideways world, etc.) but once that’s put in a positive/afterlife place, they think it sucks, is contradictory to the whole theme of the show, and I just want to know: WHAT SHOW WERE YOU WATCHING FOR 6 SEASONS?

    Vincent lying down with Jack so he wouldn’t “die alone” was one of the most touching moments in tv history, imo.

    • It’s good zombie shit, too. He’s got a second book out in the series, and a third on the way, too — so, if you like it, more will come.

      Walt, Miles, Hurley — right. Psychics exist in this world. We know this. It’s enough of an answer, for me.

      Birthing problems — yeah, maybe, and that certainly makes a kind of sense. It is an interesting conundrum: the island is capable of healing, and yet, no children can be conceived (and then born) there. Aaron escapes that as he wasn’t conceived there, I assume.

      Reboot — hah! Yeah, I never thought of it that way. Heh.

      And the Vincent/die alone scene — classic. Really classic. Sad, wonderful, happy, tragic, all good.

      — c.

  • It’s early. It’s daytime. It’s Chuck’s Blog.

    Time for to make an ass out of myself!

    Let’s start point by point: My hot little bootie wants some The Bones. Everything about this looks like the kind of book I’d buy multiple copies of, then drape over myself in alluring ways and strut around convention floors with (Don’t laugh – I did exactly that with copies of Vampire: Revised at Dragoncon years ago. I was asked to put on boxer. Bastards). I am hoping we’ll have the funds for something special.

    Patient Zero: You had me at “ten kinds of ass.”

    Lost: All of these are valid questions, but I think you are missing some of the unanswered questions that matter the most. I don’t know what those questions are, however (what, you expect me to do everything for you?). With Walt, I really think his story was over. Yeah, puberty is a bitch and that makes a reason for the character’s absence, but what more could he have added to the story? And maybe it is just me, but I had the impression that the built up electro-doodle was what stopped them from having kids and once the hatch got blown it wasn’t a deal anymore (it is highly likely I am misremembering though). Desmond is special because he uses the word “brutha”. What more do you need? I think I am really happy that Dezzie was never explained, because I know how dissappointed I was with both Richard and Jacob/Douchimus Prime. It is nice to have the mystery (I also feel that way about the Island and the Light. However, we all know that the Light is Marcellus Wallace’s soul, so fear not – one day Vincent will go the Island grab it, while eating a Royale with Cheese).

    Also, I had forgotten about the black horse. You’re right. This show makes no sense. The horse was the last straw. That’s it, I am never watching any new episodes of Lost from now on. Take that, ABC. Way to alienate your audience.

    • @Rick:

      YEAAAAH! Let’s boycott this shit! Eff you, Lost. Eff you in the ay.

      Okay, though, I want more of these questions that matter. Spit ’em out, boy.

      — c.

      • Oh, also, damn:

        I’m up to 916 people on Twitter.

        That’s *does some quick math* 84 tweeps away from a FREE CODPIECE JOHNSON short story.

        If you consider that a good thing, then help me get more followers.

        If you fear that day, then I would encourage you to help me *lose* followers.

        — c.

        • Holy Crap on a Cracker.

          Another good link:

          Every line of dialogue from Tracy Morgan / Jordan on 30 Rock’s 4th season.


          Well I’m sorry Sean, and child actor whose name I can’t remember. You haven’t walked in my shoes! All my life I’ve tried to forget the things I’ve seen. A crackhead breast-feeding a rat! A homeless man cooking a Hot Pocket on a third rail of the G train! The G train, Nermal! There’s something inside of me that needs to come out. And if Garfield 3: Feline Groovy can’t tell my story? Then I’ll win my Oscar elsewhere or I’ll die trying.

  • Holy hell — congrats on the essay, and on the cover! Very cool, that.

    Also, thanks for pimping my ridiculous flash-fic challenge. And contributing an image I won’t soon forget. (Is it me, or did O’Shea bring it? What started as parody may have inadvertently veered into something the world needs to see.)

    Also also, re: LOST, women were able to give birth on the island in the period between MiB’s matricide and Jughead’s detonation (Ethan Goodspeed/Rom comes to mind). So chalk that little mystery (and the “vaccines” and “illness” that, during Claire’s pregnancy at least, were tied to it) up to “yeah — never really gonna know.” It’s funny; I had my share of notes about the finale, but one I didn’t particularly have was that they didn’t really close off any of the longstanding mysteries. Oddly, though there were some I wanted badly to learn answers to — and that I would have said were central to the show, therefore requiring they be addressed — I was rendered incurious by the conclusion. What happened happened, you have to let go, and all that. I feel like some storytelling opportunities were squandered, but all in all, a hell of a run.

    • Chris:

      O’Shea *always* brings it. The guy’s a beast. I want to be him when I’m 50. I want that so much, I plan on stalking him and cutting out his heart and eating it for his power. Don’t tell him that. He can’t read this, right?

      Re: LOST — yeah, good call, I guess that does put that back into muddier territory. Hurrm. You’re right that the ending essentially renders the mysteries inert; a curious choice, as the ending could’ve happened at any point in the series. (Though, I will add that if that ending was the one they intended all along, I’m surprised we didn’t see more “hint” toward it — then again, maybe we did, and that needs to be compiled.)

      Also a question is, what is the “sickness” that Rosseau’s people fall prey to? Or Sayid? Seems to be some kind of “soul sickness” — on the one hand, it seems like Smokey is basically getting in there and ruining their souls. On the other hand, the “Cerberus System” (which *is* Smokey) destroys Rosseau’s people with the sickness, so… ehh? Not sure what’s up with that. Another loose end, maybe. Another part of the labyrinth.

      — c.

  • PATIENT ZERO was one of my favorite books last year. Maberry’s follow up, THE DRAGON FACTORY is just as good.

    I read the segment of DONNYBROOK on DSD Monday. Wish I were able to read more. Great stuff. The kind of stuff I’d try to write if my stories were localized.

    • @Ron:

      DONNYBROOK is going to find life on bookshelves, and people are going to dig it with a shovel. It’s that good. I’m a fairly critical reader, and this just brought me in full-bore.

      PATIENT ZERO was a hoot. Meaty, too — not some little thin slip of a book. Looking forward to DRAGON FACTORY, which I might get to after I finish David Simon’s HOMICIDE.

      — c.

  • I suspect that when they say they knew the end for years, they meant in a more trivial sense. They may have known they were going out with GIANT FUCKING SPOILER Jack’s heroic death, his closing eye. You ask me, the epilogue was simply a way for them to honor the characters and give them each their final due.

  • Oh, re: Desmond. He’s special because he spent 3 years building up a resistance to the electromagnetic currents via pushing a button every 108 seconds. He lived on top of the damn thing, there’s sure to be leaks.

    Also, i thought there were NO children conceived there, that Ethan and Ben came as babies on the subs? I could be wrong.

    • From Lostpedia:

      In 1977, Amy of the DHARMA Initiative went into labor two weeks sooner than was expected, and so she couldn’t go off-island to give birth as she and her doctor had planned. When her baby was found to be breech, the doctor was worried about performing the delivery, because it needed to be a cesarean section and he was just an internist.
      Juliet holding a baby Ethan. (“Namaste”)
      Juliet was brought in by Sawyer to perform the procedure and deliver the baby. (“LaFleur”)

      The next day, Juliet walked up to a sleeping Amy, attempting to retrieve the sub manifest without disturbing her, but accidentally woke Amy up. Juliet picked up the baby and asked Amy if she and Horace had decided on a name. Amy replied the baby’s name was Ethan. (“Namaste”)

  • THE BONES sounds like a cool read. I’m not a gambler, but I’ve played and came up with my own dice-based games since i was a kid and have always been fascinated by what can be done once you understand probability. Thanks for the rec, and congratulations.

  • I want to get The Bones. I’m thinking that personal cash flow is likely to prevent acquisition during the pre-order cycle. Is it ok if I come to your house and steal yours?

    Zombies + spies = awesome. I must acquire this book.

    Honey sounds kinda awesome and kinda scary. I can’t even watch Andrew Zimmerman. Is that going to be a problem? I look forward to your review.

  • @Lugh:

    You my come to my house and steal mine as long as I can earn your soul in its afterlife. I use them as currency to barter with various devils and djinn. Thanks!

    Bizarre Foods is a great show. Zimmern eats stuff that is so obscene, I am floored. Tonight’s 16-course misadventure should be far less hardcore than that — Zimmern’s over there eating like, bug gonads, and I’m eating a lot of stuff I’ve already eaten (foie gras, sweetbreads).

    — c.

  • Walt may be the only major question I wanted addressed in the finale that wasn’t even glanced at. If he were dealt with, I imagine it would have been a retcon, anyway, but I’ll accept that. Writing, especially for television, often requires revision in the midst of the tale. I just feel bad for Walt (from the actor on through to the character) that something as uncontrollable as puberty got in the way of his tale. I suppose he just wasn’t bonded to the other characters enough to turn up in the “sideways” timeline*, though. Certainly not in his grown-tall mode, at any rate.

    Thanks for mentioning The Bones here.

    • @Will: I guess that’s why I didn’t much care if they addressed him — I already knew that his fate was driven by forces outside the show, and thus it seemed best to have a clean break and not try to fumble it together. But I see your point; Walt was clearly intended to be a part of the series in a big way, perhaps even beyond his father, and he himself speaks to one of those bigger “father/son” themes.

      — c.

  • Right on. Even though I get why his story presumably had to be changed, I wanted to see them change it to something, ultimately, instead of just writing him off of the show, essentially. I wanted to see some narrative trickery that turned his fate into an opportunity. But whatever.

    You know what else I want to know about is where that Dharma food-drop came from and how. Was it a warp in space-time around the Island, part of how the Dharma Initiative learned that they can’t just fly things into the Island (because back in the 1970s that food drop vanished)? I mean, I’ve essentially answered that question using the available information from the show, haven’t I? And yet. And yet.

  • @ Chuck,
    Yep, did a simple football simulation a couple of years ago, with my Beloved Spouse providing the graphics support. It’s a simple game, designed for me alone and ease of play, but it works pretty well for what I wanted and is statistically accurate. I’d never consider doing the work to make it marketable–way, way too much number crunching involved–but I had a lot of fun putting it together and playing it on cold winter nights.

  • The Fucking Button: A Half-Baked Theory
    The hatch station was put in place because they drilled too deeply into one of the weak spots in the crust of the island and broke almost broke through to the evil that was being held at bay (corked up) in the cave. In order to fix their mistake, a concrete slab was poured into the shaft (just like all of the rubble dumped into the shaft that the MIB was building back in ye olde times) – which we saw when Desmond had to turn the key on the failsafe when the button could no longer be pushed.
    The turn of the key detonated a small nuclear device – exceedingly tiny would be my guess, but it’s also possible that while the detonation would be explosive, it have been contained by the suddenly freed electromagnetic energy of whatever was buried. Luckily, though the force of the explosion would have brought everything down on top of the fail-safe, so nothing would escape. Kind of like a run-flat tire – it gets punctured but then is immediately sealed.
    But, I digress… what did the button do? This is a tough one and my best guess – degaussing. When the button wasn’t pressed everything metal was pulled to the weakest part of the room – where the magnetic pull was strongest. So, something had to combat that pull constantly and effectively negate the force of the field. The way degaussing works is that it introduces an opposite magnetic field. Simple – opposites cancel each other out, or at least achieve a balance.
    Look at it this way – remember the old CRT computer monitors? The more they were left on, the more the screen would slow become distorted or the colors would be slightly off. You’d hit the degauss button, and BZZZZT! everything would be back to normal. This is where the assumptions creep in, so bear with me.
    Obviously, the DI had some way of monitoring the hole or the weakness of the seal and even had a way to utilize the unique properties of what lay beneath (think numbered bunnies). So, either the seal the slab/patch they poured/installed was never strong enough, or they purposefully bypassed their own seal enough to play what was beyond it. In doing that, they then introduced a fault that had to be accounted for – the button and the machinery behind it. My guess is that whatever machinery was put in place to keep the forces at bay while still allowing them to experiment and research, also required a regular degaussing to keep it from overloading and allowing the cork to pop out, so to speak.
    I can’t even begin to speak to the hieroglyphics on the countdown timer above the doorway… that one’s beyond me.
    What am I missing here?

  • Here’s the thing that we’ve all missed that just occurred to me…

    Ready? This is gonna be huge…
    Ready? Ok…

    Lost takes place in the Simpson’s Universe.
    A Massive 3-toed statue? C’mon… erm… wocka… w-wocka?

  • You may say that flippantly, my sweet little Wendig, but in your mind you are starting to draw more and more connections. You know it to be true. Out of all the red herrings or potential crimson sardines in that show, the 4-toed statue was the only seemingly rufescent monkfish that pointed to the true nature of what we were seeing.

  • Chuck…thanks for the smart and funny review. Glad you liked PATIENT ZERO.

    ABC announced the other day that ‘Department Zero’ (based on the Joe Ledger novels) is on the shortlist for a mid-season slot. The pilot is being written by Javier Grillo-Maruach (LOST, MEDIUM, MIDDLEMEN).

    There are also two free Joe Ledger short stories available online: “COUNTDOWN” is a prequel to PATIENT ZERO ( and “DEEP, DARK”, which takes place just before the second book, THE DRAGON FACTORY. Here’s the link:

    A third Joe Ledger short story, “ZERO TOLERANCE” will appear in the anthology THE LIVING DEAD 2 edited by John Joseph Adams for Night Shade Books. That story is a direct sequel to PATIENT ZERO, and the anthology will be out in September.

    And there are four more Joe Ledger novels: THE DRAGON FACTORY (out now), THE KING OF PLAGUES (Feb 2010), THE OTHERS (2011) and VISITORS (2012).

    Hope you stick around for the rest of the ride. Even I think it gets weird.

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