Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's Comic-CON, not Comic-Con't!


A novelist down on his luck
Went to Comic-Con hoping to f**k
His advances were spurned
And quickly he learned
That being a writer can suck.

This post is a little dated because the special free promotion is over, but the ebook in question is still available for way less than the cost of a tube of anti-fungal cream!

The bottom half looks way funner.

You’ll note a slight change in format for this blog post. Instead of drawing my usual self-portrait cartoon, I’ve put up the book cover I recently created for my new ebook.  I slapped it together with the help of lots of wonderful Facebook feedback (comments, vents, votes, and notes). My graphic-designer wife and I then collaborated on the layout and type treatment. Great way to test a marriage. Amazingly, we’re still together. Last I heard.

The thing is, the reason for the change in the format this time around is this weekend I’m off to Comic-Con to promote the re-launch of my very first novel as an ebook. Yay, me! (Took me long enough to join the 21st century!) I’m going to wander among the Stormtroopers and Doctor Whos and Sailor Moons, handing out postcards promoting the book and continually reminding myself how high up the eyes are on those dressed as Slave-girl Princess Leia and Poison Ivy.

Since the Kindle version of the book will be FREE FREE FREE for two days (July 25th and 26th) of this festive weekend, I figure Comic-Conners might be the perfect audience. But you folks playing at home can also get it for free that same Friday and Saturday too! Yup. You heard me. Click here during those 48 hours and enjoy my novel for nothing. It’s worth at least twice that.  

Maybe three times.

Below is the text of the actual press release I sent around to various newspapers and magazines and websites and such as I tried to drum up interest. I’m sure as soon as this press release arrived, shouts of “Stop the Presses!” rang out through the newsroom hallways. Front page stuff here, people.



Peter Emshwiller’s Levels: The Host, a post-apocalyptic science fiction suspense novel originally published by Bantam Spectra, launches digitally next week at San Diego’s Comic-Con. Kindle downloads of the ebook will be free on Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26th, during the convention.

An old painting I did of a goofy spaceship motocross thingy.
I put it on this-here blog post just 'cause it's appropriately science fiction-y.
Levels: The Host follows Watly Caiper, who is framed for a murder he didn’t commit. In near-future Manhattan, poor First-Levelers barely survive beneath a fifth-story ceiling while far above in the sunlight, rich Second-Levelers get their kicks by renting the bodies of First-Levelers in a dangerous ultra-real game called Hosting. Desperate for cash, First Leveler Watly Caiper takes on the dangerous job of Hosting. But instead of using his body for sordid fun, the anonymous Second-Level Donor commits the perfect crime. Hunted by the police and on the hook for murder, Watly must find the mysterious killer before time runs out.

Amazing Stories hailed the novel’s “page-turning power.” Locus Magazine praised its “suspense,” and Analog Magazine said, “This one could make a very good movie.”

Since its first publication, Levels: The Host has been optioned for film development by numerous Hollywood powerhouses, including Jerry Bruckheimer and Buena Vista Entertainment.

Author Peter R. Emshwiller is the son of classic Science Fiction cover artist and avant-garde video auteur Ed “Emsh” Emshwiller and literary feminist Science Fiction writer Carol Emshwiller.

Levels: Short Blade, the sequel to Levels: The Host, will release digitally this fall. The Levels Trilogy will be complete with a third novel, to be published in 2015.

Levels: The Host is available now on

Sunday, July 20, 2014



A dual-headed feline named Gitties
Hired a dozen expensive committees
To entitle his book
With a real catchy hook
But he settled on “Tale of Two Kitties”

I'm of two minds about this post.

Back in 2009 I stood in line with some friends to see the first Star Trek “reboot” movie on opening day. First, my bone fides: I’m a Trekkie from the days The Original Series (TOS) first aired, back during the early Cretaceous. In fact, I’ve been regularly credited -- ahem -- with making the very first Star Trek fan film ever, which you can watch here. (I was ten and it’s been downhill ever since.) And if you click here you can read a recent interview I did about this eight-minute masterpiece. Oh, and also, my two Bantam Books science fiction novels even have a few Star Trek “inside joke” references sprinkled in for fellow fans. So I’ve got some pretty decent Trek cred.

Just needed to establish that. Okay, then.

So there we were, me and my wife and my friends, watching the eagerly anticipated “reboot” movie. My friends loved it. My wife loved it. And… I? I loved it. I cried, I laughed, I screamed, I sighed. I loved the casting, I loved the sleek new design of the Enterprise, I loved the score (yay, Michael Giacchino – a brilliant composer and really cool human being I actually met that one time!), I loved the respectfully retro-ish wardrobe, I loved the dazzling modern special effects, I loved all the winking references to the original series (and the non-winking ones), and I loved the campy closing credits featuring the classic theme. I came out wanting to watch it again right away. I felt like I was ten years old again. Great film.

Ten-year-old me chewing the lack of scenery
as Captain Kirk Jr.
Then, just few days later, I had a chat with a close buddy who’s also a Trek TOS aficionado. He hated the film. And he told me exactly why. And I agreed with him. Everything he said was absolutely true. The plot was full of ridiculous holes, the science was pathetically bad, the story made no sense, the attitude and morality was completely at odds with the heart of the original show, the tone was way more militaristic Star Wars than humanistic Star Trek, and so on and so on. Horrible film.

I wasn’t lying when I agreed with him. He was absolutely right.

A few years later I stood in line for the sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, and the exact same thing happened. I loved it. Great film. And, in hindsight, I also hated it, horrible film.

I’ve since bought both of these movies on Blu-ray and watched them multiple times. Love them. And, yes, kinda hate them, too.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Hmmm. I’m not sure Fitzy would consider my intelligence “first rate,” but I do agree with him that it can be a good thing to be able to juggle multiple views at once. Insisting that all your opinions and thoughts are firm and unwavering can close your mind and you end up missing out on stuff. Being able to hate and love the very same thing is, I think, a plus.

Hell, I even simultaneously hate and love certain people. And I definitely both hate and love, say, New York City (sometimes for the very same reasons). And, of course Los Angeles, where I live now. And stinky cheese. And Lady Gaga. And the beach. And hats.

I just wish I still had those dreamy eyelashes.
The old expression about having a “love/hate relationship” with something doesn’t mean the love is any less real or the hate any less deep.  

A few years back my wife and I, both of us serious anglophiles, were glued to the TV for an entire weekend, watching every single one of the Queen’s “Diamond Jubilee” celebrations taking place across the pond. We had a blast. We happily cheered (and even got misty-eyed occasionally) during all the wonderful pomp and circumstance. We reveled in the glorious, ornate outfits and grand music and all the blissfully-overblown ceremonies. Such a wonderful spectacle to witness. I loved every single extravagant, theatrical, oh-so-British second of it.

I mentioned this to a close friend the next week and he flew into a rage. He hated the monarchy. He hated everything about it. The very idea of it. He hated the massive waste of money and time and resources and real estate, he hated its outdated, backward concept of divine right and strict hierarchy, he hated all the brutal, oppressive history behind it, and most of all he hated the fact that these “Royals” had done nothing at all to earn their glorified, privileged position -- beyond being randomly born into the right family. Celebrating or exalting the monarchy in any way was, he insisted, a disgusting disgrace.

I totally agreed with him.

Monday, July 14, 2014



A lovely young widow named Droste
Couldn’t face that her husband was toast
Suitors pursued her
But no man who wooed her
Could get her to give up the ghost

As always, just thinkin’ out loud here, people.

Comedy is easy. Dying is hard. Wait-

Years ago I used to get Newsweek delivered. At one point they completely revamped the magazine, adjusting the layout and fonts and column titles and whatnot. Part of that “rebranding” involved changing the obituary page to a page they now called “Transitions.” This confused the hell out of me. Every week it messed with my head. I’d flip through a new issue and see something like “Oscar-winning actor John Smith has transitioned….” And I’d automatically think, “Cool! He’s real old so it’s especially inspiring to hear a guy his age is trying different things. Wonder what he’s up to?” I’d read on excitedly, only to find out they meant he died. Their euphemism fooled me every week. I never learned.

But I supposed to some believers, death is indeed a “transition” (beyond simply being a clear transition from a living thing to a dead one). Which brings me to the subject of this post: My advice to the devout about how to behave when an, um, not-so-devout person has someone close to them, um, “transition.”

Here goes.

Dear Religious Folks Who Believe in Life After Death,

When an atheist or agnostic friend or family member suffers the loss of a loved one, please try to be respectful in how you speak to them. Yes: be supportive, be giving, be loving, and express sincere condolences. Be there for them. Bring multiple-beaned casseroles and mango-filled cakes and sappy Hallmark cards and plenty of frosty adult beverages. (Non-frosty ones will do, too.)  Listen to them. Hold them while they cry. Let them talk. Let them babble incoherently, even. Hug them (avoid any untoward groping, though). Offer a monogrammed hanky from the breast pocket of your brass-buttoned blazer, if you’re old-school classy.

But please, if at all possible, take care not to say things like “he’s in a better place,” or “she’s with her maker now,” or “you’ll see him again one day,” or “God has called her to his side,” even if you sincerely, deeply believe those things. I know it’s hard, but keep that stuff to yourself if you possibly can, and – oh, yeah – try not to use expressions like “transitioned,” “went home,” “passed on,” “crossed over,” “entered the great beyond,” or “slipped beyond the veil.”

Just say “died.”

I get why you do all these things. It comes from a good place. I know. To a fellow believer, such sentiments are kind, sweet ways of offering support, comfort, and trying to ease suffering. But to an atheist like myself, in the darkness of that bleak moment it sometimes feels like you’re saying, “Hey, your loved one didn’t really die die, dude, so what’s the big deal?”

A painting I did of our dear cat, Elric, after he died.
Note the fabulously furry halo and wings.
Implying that the dead person is still “out there somewhere” may give fellow believers great comfort, but to a non-believer it feels kinda like you’re trying to deny us the honest grief, pain, and devastating loss of death; trying to whitewash the finality of it and the brutal, soul-wrenching sadness we experience in its wake. It feels, in our anguish, like you’re desperately trying to snap us out of our mourning by explaining to us that, hey, the person’s still kinda hanging around somewhere out in the ether. That our Loved One is actually just fine and dandy, playing Parcheesi with Jesus, bowling with that treasured pet gerbil they lost as a kid, or sharing cheese sandwiches with 72 freshly fluffed & folded virgins… or some such thing.

The bottom line is to be respectful of the survivor’s beliefs (or lack thereof) during their bereavement. Yeah I’m an atheist, but I would never go to a funeral and walk up to a grieving friend who sincerely believed in the afterlife and presume to say something like: “Face it, they’re gone, kiddo. They don’t exist anymore. They’re nowhere, dude. But, hey, you’ve got your memories, right? That’s what matters. And I brought a harmonica – would you like to hear my rendition of ‘Dust in the Wind’?”

The point is I happily shut up about my own beliefs and just listen and support and love and hug (sans groping) and bake (okay, maybe not) and fetch them some generic-brand tissues (since I’m not old-school classy enough to have monogrammed booger-collectors). I’m just gently asking you devout ones to please try your level best to be sensitive and show us non-theists the same kind of respect we try to show you nice folks during these tough moments.

A friend’s loss is not the time to display to the world what you believe, it’s a time to put yourself aside and be of service to the person suffering. Follow their lead.

That said, I’m transitioning my butt out of here.