02 October 2009

Prime Time on the Interwebs

On Friday, October 23rd at 10PM Pacific, I will be a guest on Strange Love Live, a weekly online show featuring "the movers and shakers of the social web" (an earlier episode of which I rebroadcast from this very blog).

More details over at CKL's HotSheet.


"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead"

By Curtis C. Chen

The woman in the black jacket hesitated before opening the container. The man in the blue suit stared at her. She had seen many different expressions cross his square-jawed face over the years, but now she saw something new: desperation.

"I'm going to ask you one more time," she said. "Don't do this."

He gave her the thinnest of smiles, and she remembered the first time they'd met and the fleeting thought of romance she'd entertained. But he was never interested in her. He had never wanted anyone except Lois.

"I appreciate your concern," he said, his voice steady and comforting, as if the woman in the black jacket was the one who needed reassuring. But she did, didn't she? If something went wrong—if he died here—she would have to live with it. She would be the woman who killed Earth's greatest hero.

"You understand that the change will be permanent," she said.

He nodded. "You mean, until the next time the universe is reshaped by events beyond our control? Yes. I understand."

She knew he wasn't talking about some cataclysmic battle against supervillains or extraterrestrial conquerors. He was talking about losing his wife in something as mundane as a traffic accident. There had been no warning, no evil plot, no significance to it. If she hadn't been his wife, few people would even have noticed.

The woman in the black jacket couldn't leave it alone. "We all feel powerless sometimes," she said. "But even you can't save everyone. Nobody can. It's not meant to be."

"I know that," he said. "But I can do more."

"You'll die sooner," she said. "Maybe that means only hundreds of years instead of thousands, but you don't know when the world will need you most—"

"Last Tuesday morning," said the man in the blue suit. "Twelve minutes after eight. And I wasn't there."

"It wasn't your fault!" she said. "You can't save everyone, Clark!"

"I don't want to save everyone," he said. "But if I can save one more life because of this—prevent one more family's suffering—it will be worth it."

She couldn't think of another argument, so she just said, "Please."

He smiled at her. Not condescending, just—compassionate. He was always so damn nice. He put a hand on her shoulder.

"I'm ready," he said.

She nodded and opened the container. A white glow emanated from its interior. He leaned forward, and reflections danced over his eyes. She wondered if he was trying to see through the relic, or using his microscopic vision to inspect its surface.

It wouldn't work. His powers were useless against magic. That was why he had come to her.

"What do I do?" he asked.

"Put your hand into the mist," she said. "The relic will do the rest."

The man in the blue suit raised his hand, then looked up at her. "Thank you, Zee," he said. "Whatever happens—thank you."

The woman in the black jacket shook her head. "I just hope you'll forgive me tomorrow."

He reached into the mist.



This week's story, the first of 512 Words or Fewer: Year Two, introduces a new feature to replace the audio podcast: illustrations!

As mentioned previously, I've loved comics for a long time. When I was younger, I drew my own comic strips and books, featuring anthropomorphized animals as the main characters because I had trouble drawing human faces. I could tell you about the Star Trek parody with Garfield as Doctor McCoy and--on second thought, I've probably said too much already.

Thankfully, my drawing skills matured in high school, and I did NOT turn to the dark side.

I dropped out of the comic scene in college, mostly because there was no convenient way for me to hit a comic shop every week. Also, I had by then slogged through several massive, multi-title, continuity-altering, universe-changing crossover EventsTM, and I'd grown a bit weary of the mainstream publishers' storytelling excesses.

The world of comics has grown up considerably in recent years, and there's some excellent, weird, amazing stuff out there. I started reconnecting while doing "research" for the Justice Unlimited Game, and I'm glad I did; otherwise, I might not have found Fables, Y: The Last Man, PS238, or Queen & Country. And my life would be all the poorer for it.

This week's illustration is just a pencil sketch. My drawing skills are a little rusty, but I hope to move up to finished inks and colors and maybe some other, more experimental stuff before the end of 512 Words or Fewer: Year Two. Watch this space, true believers!


01 October 2009

Happy Birthday to Us

Today is my actual birthday,* and this Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of 512 Words or Fewer.

As we sail into the second year of this project, I thought it would be fun to review some statistics from the first 52 weeks. I've never really trusted web analytics, because it's impossible to infer intent from raw hit counts, but it's fun to look at the numbers every now and then:

Current feed subscribers: 104
Reach, last 30 days: 9**
Average reach, all time: 6

Percentage of traffic from Direct links: 25.50
Percentage of traffic from Referring Sites: 51.83
Percentage of traffic from Search Engines: 22.55

Most unusual repeated search keywords:
gangsta words
beautiful descriptions
im super thanks for asking
funny voices
audio about the earth
how do you say robot in french
laura barson
words that rhythm with open
words that stay the same

Top Ten Referring Sites:
  1. facebook.com
  2. friendfeed.com
  3. twitter.com
  4. boingboing.net
  5. staticzombie.com
  6. ccmixter.org
  7. blog.nella.org
  8. linkedin.com
  9. playdash.org
  10. blog.stephenharred.com

Most popular stories, by hit count:
  1. "The Incredible Machine"
  2. "Martian Standard Time"
  3. "Better"
  4. "Ghosts of Earth"
  5. "Bad Boy of the Spelling Bee"
  6. "Finale"
  7. "The Coronation Will Not Be Televised"
  8. "Bachelor of Science"
  9. "Sam Spayed"
  10. "Universal Language"

Most popular podcasts (based on FeedBurner "item use"):
    "The Incredible Machine"
    "Kangaroo's First Day with the Eye"
    "Martian Standard Time"
    "Ghost Machine"
    "What You Should Know About Water Rites"
    "True Story"
    "The More Things Change"
    "Bad Boy of the Spelling Bee"
    "Sam Spayed"

Thanks for reading, and if you enjoy these stories, please tell your friends! (That's what the SHARE button at the bottom of each post is for.)

* I am now 2*2*3*3 years old. Or, if you prefer, 1001002.

** Yeah, I'm not real happy with these "reach" numbers, but I imagine I'd be more upset if I understood what they actually meant and trusted the calculation method. For now, I'm just going to shrug and move on.


28 September 2009


Well, there's good news and there's bad news.

The good news:

100% of survey participants want more 512 Words! So I will be continuing this project for another year. Thanks for all your lovely comments; they're very encouraging.

The bad news:

Only two people said they listen to the podcast. So I'm discontinuing the audio portion of this program for now. (Sorry, "Poor College Kid," but thanks for the positive review on iTunes. May I recommend Cory Doctorow's podcast for your listening enjoyment? You can find that at craphound.com.)

I will also be changing the 512 Words or Fewer blog format a little bit. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!


Music: instrumental stems from "Chiron Beta Prime" by Jonathan Coulton, licensed under Creative Commons.