Because the times seem to demand it, and because I like the sound of my own voice so much, I decided that The Paper Kingdom needed its own podcast. I know lots of intelligent and creative people, but of all the artists I know, the one I like most is myself. So that's whom I interviewed for my initial outing into dialog-based entertainment. I should have known that I wouldn't cooperate.

Sadly, that interview was lost in last week's studio fire. However, I did manage to save the written transcript from this week's studio fire. So myself and I present to yourself and you...

PK Podcast One: Dead Writers

by Michael Channing and Michael Channing

Hey, kids. Welcome to the The Paper Kingdom Podcast Number One. I'm Michael Channing.

And I'm Michael Channing's brain.

I figured for our very first podcast, we'd talk about writers. Specifically writers who have passed away during our lifetime. This is in honor of Ray Bradbury, who died earlier this week. So, what are some memories we have of reading Ray Bradbury?

Oh, man. Remember that time we read "The Trapdoor," sitting under the bed?

Yeah. I had a bunk bed with the bottom bunk removed, so there was this underneath where I would sit and read. I would drape blankets over the sides of the top bunk so it made like a cave, and I would sit in there with my desk lamp and read books for hours. And "The Trapdoor" was about a woman who hears a sound in the attic, a shifting sound.

Yeah, and she keeps thinking about opening up the trapdoor to the attic and checking it out, but she's too scared.

I don't really remember what happened in the middle of the story, the lead-up to the end. I just remember that she finally opened the trapdoor, and something reached down and grabbed her head and twisted. Scared the piss out of me. I was sitting in my reading cave, sweating, my heart pounding. I remember that being the one true time a story gave me an actual fear reaction.

You know that really wasn't that great a story.

Wh... Why do you say that?

'Cause it's not. A woman hears something in the attic, she checks it out, gets killed, the end. I mean, what kind of story is that? That's dumb.

Hey, that's Ray Bradbury you're talking about.

I'm sorry, but not every story the man wrote was perfect. That's the truth, and you know it. What about that one about an old guy who wakes up with his first erection in years and calls over his old girlfriends for a boning party but loses his stiffy before they can ride the ride the meat train? Thanks for that image, Ray.

Can we not talk like that?

Okay, fine. What else you wanna talk about?

Let's talk about some other writers. How about Philip José Farmer? When he died, I wrote my first Writer's Hall of Fame entry about him. The Riverworld Series is one of the great--

He was famous for putting sex in his stories.


He was. He was like, one of the first science fiction writers ever to use sex in his stories. Everybody else was like, "Space ships and FTL drives and let's terraform the moon," and Farmer was all, "What if a human fucks an alien?"

Why are you bringing that up?

'Cause it's true. That was his first claim to fame.

But... I'm trying to talk about what these guys meant to me, and you keep--

Isaac Asimov died from AIDS.

[frustration noises]

That's true, you know.

It was complications from HIV which he got from a transfus... why are you bringing this up?

'Cause not a lot of people know about it.

Damn it, brain. These were important people to me growing up. I'm trying to have a respectful conversation to honor the dead. Stop doing this.

Robert Heinlein was into free love and incest.

I haven't even read any Heinlein.

Yeah, but you know he was into freaky stuff.


Calm down, okay. Look. I'm not being disrespectful. I just can't get into the love fest of remembering these guys as perfect. You wanna be all, "They were great artists and changed my life and were my stand-in fathers and taught me how to write and blah blah." Yeah, they were good. But sometimes they wrote crap. And they had hangups and fetishes just like everybody else. They were people. Not gods. Remember them as flawed humans who did better than most with what they were handed, who got old and got sick like people do, then died.

But that's a horrible story.

Yeah, but it's the best any of us can do.

All right, so this really didn't go like I wanted. And I'm kinda depressed. Ray was just a guy, but he was my hero. Yeah, he got old and crotchety and was kind of a technophobe. His view of Mars was not scientifically sound, and maybe his Green Town was a little too idyllic. But he wrote better than just about everyone not named Shakespeare, and he wrote every day of his life. That's worth looking up to him for. Bye, Ray. Thanks.

In Praise of Greatness

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Chokes and Warbles
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Chokes and Warbles, a collection of essays and poems by Michael Channing