lost time incident 35 – mallsoft aloewave plunderphonics


lost time incident 35

Hey there, everyone! Welcome back! How did you spend the last week?

I spent part of it learning a bit more about the sounds selected by Carl Sagan and his pals that they had encoded on a record made out of gold and shot into space. They launched the golden record on Voyager with the hopes that any aliens finding it could use it to learn important stuff about humans, like what we look like naked (sorta) and where to go to meet more of us (naked or not).

It also included a track by Blind Willie Johnson called “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.” How great is that song name? I had never heard of it, or him, which struck me as cultural negligence since apparently this work was regarded at as one of our alien-worthy cultural touchstones. So I looked it up.

I love it, but I’m not sure what an alien would make of it.

Pretend you’re an alien. What do you think?

No no. Don’t tell me. Send it to me on a record made of gold. You know how this works.


ailment fruit middle name
“Oh no, he wasn’t without sight,” said noted blues historian Edgar Grey. “He was given the nickname ‘Blind’ because he seemed incapable of anticipating the outcomes of his actions.”

“Oh no, he wasn’t given the nickname ‘Lemon,'” said noted blues historian Warren Peacock. “He was a literal lemon. He grew from a tree. The sorrow in his music was deep and informed by the plight of fruit-based musicians in the US at the time.”

“Oh no, there’s no such thing as blues history,” said noted blues revisionist Pants Volcanuts. “The music is too sad. No one can write down what happened, or who played what. Everyone who has tried has been found face down on the carpet, their laptops dead nearby, crying about deceitful women, or money woes, or the unfairness of the entire human condition. It’s the music that did that. We have no idea when the music started or for how long it will continue. But we have to act as if it will be around forever, because things aren’t getting any less sad.”


sky pirates
We caught up with Captain Windhammer, noted sky pirate, to ask him what separates a sky pirate from a regular pirate.

“About 20,000 feet!” he said, laughing. “But I kid. I tell that joke all the time. The truth is, there’s quite a bit we have in common with the pirates who work the seas below us. We both have to contend with moving through an unpredictable fluid medium. Nature is not always cooperative. We get similar sorts of crews. Many of the men working under me were without economic prospects, or real job skills, before I swooped down and recruited them.”

“And do you have any difficulty, once you’ve hired them on as sky pirates, with employee retention?”

Windhammer looked thoughtful. “I doubt it’s a bigger problem for us than with any similar organization. Did you know, for example, that pirate ships prefer to recruit individuals who can’t swim? The theory is that it will keep them motivated to keep their ship afloat in case of emergency. Along similar lines, I refuse to hire on anyone who can fly under their own power.”

Windhammer laughed at this joke for quite some time before we were interrupted by a senior mate whose face greatly resembled a sea bird of some sort. An albatross, or greater sea gull perhaps.

“Caw!” the mate shouted.

“One second,” Windhammer said to the mate. He turned to me and put his hand on my shoulder. “You get it, right? It’s funny, right? I don’t hire anyone who can fly on their own? I tell that joke all the time.”

“Caw!” repeated the mate.

“All right, all right, show me,” said the captain, who followed the bird-faced mate.

For a second, I thought I saw a set of feathers poke out of the mate’s greatcoat. However, during the onboarding process for we journalists who were joining the sky pirates for the first time, we were provided with a pamphlet. This pamphlet warned that the thin air at higher altitudes could cloud one’s mind, both in the figurative and literal sense. The water vapor in the clouds we passed through may enter us through our mouths and nasal passages if we weren’t careful, leading to sodden thinking as our brains become suspended in a cranial sea of sky fluid. I chalked the vision of feathers up to delusion, covered my nose and mouth with a scarf, and resolved to explore some of the head de-cloud-ification techniques contained in the pamphlet.

Many of them looked to involve rum.


ending theme song
Okay, now that everyone has stopped reading, we can pass secret messages to each other. I lost my encoding book, so just… just go to the nuclear bunker inside Inverness. I left the briefcase with the microfilm in the room marked 202. It’s stenciled 202 on the door. There’s a sticker label that says 13a, but I don’t think that’s the room number. The door didn’t lock either, so the briefcase is behind a couch.

The couch feels gross. Needs cleaning.

I’m not saying you should do it, I’m just warning you. Push the couch with a stick or something. Or wear gloves.

Anyway, thanks for your continued support keeping the Shadow Council in power. They really appreciate it. See you next week!

—Michael Van Vleet

lost time incident 34 – mannequin head delivery service


lost time incident 34
Hey, everybody! What’s the good word? What’s the rumpus? What’s the happs? What’s the skinny? What’s going down? What’s news? What’s … what’s… what are we doing?

Let’s start with what I’m doing. When I started this newsletter, the idea was that it would force me to sit down at least once a week and write something. At some point, the hope was that I would stumble across something I was really enjoying writing and that would lead me to my next project.

It’s taking a while, but I did see something inspirational this week: A book calledBABY HATER on Amazon that looks self-published. I haven’t read it yet, but it came along at just the right time to remind me that there’s no barrier keeping any writer from pursuing and publishing a pet project. Maybe that project is a story that opens with a baby getting punched in its dumb face! Who knows!

It’s been 2 years since THE SPIRIT LEFT ME (my previous fiction collection) came out. But it’s encouraging to remember that my next project doesn’t have to be that involved. I could be inventing short story ideas with attention-grabbing high concepts and putting them out as stand-alone projects. In theory. (See also: The works of Chuck Tingle, the Bizarro scene of Portland, OR, and the marketing geniuses atHorrible Vacuum)

That’s where we’re at today. Keeping myself from getting intimidated by how much work might be ahead of me by focusing on smaller, more attainable goals. Just need to keep typing.

typing typing typing
The two of them came through the detective’s office door: a pair of heavy-set aliens, holding translator rigs to their ear and mouth equivalents. Arm in arm. Wearing red lipstick.

“Well, don’t you two look like trouble,” muttered the detective.

“We have trouble, yes,” said the aliens. “We want to hire your services.”

“I can do that,” answered the detective. “But by law, I’m required to point out that I’m a robot.”

“That makes sense,” said one of the aliens, “as here in the future, robots are commonplace and have assumed many of the jobs that humans used to have, freeing them for leisure time activities such as designing cosmetics for my race.”

The creatures’ red lips caught the light from the dangling overhead light bulb.

“What’s the job?” asked the detective.

The aliens looked somber. Possibly. With their weird alien faces it was hard to tell. “We would like you to tell us how this short fiction piece ends.”

The detective scratched his titanium forehead carapace with the tip of an antique pistol. “You fellas are looking for a fortune-teller, not a detective.”

“No,” said the alien. “Everything in our lives, from the moment we started to exist outside the door of your office to this very moment has propelled us here, to hire you. Our instincts are true. You know how this piece will end. Look behind you.”

The detective swiveled his office chair and looked at the framed embroidered words hung behind his desk. It had been one of the first pieces of decorative art that he’d hung when he set up his practice and was such an established part of the office, he didn’t really notice it anymore. The irises in his eye units whirred to bring the needlepoint text into focus.

“Huh,” he grunted. “How about that? It was here all along.”



it works: candlewick
This fragment is set in The Beulah Candlewick School for Young Magicks. Candlewick is a dangerous institution for students, with a distressingly high rate of injury and death. Magick education comes with a high mortality rate, it turns out.

“Oh my god, I can’t breathe,” said Ms. Beak, the Candlewick Headmaster, bent over with the effort of trying to stop laughing. She held the hood of her cloak closed in front of her face so that any shell-shocked students who looked her way wouldn’t see her giant smirking grin. With her face hidden, she might get away with it, as her shaking shoulders might pass for convulsions, or nausea, or some other more sympathetic reaction to what had just happened. “This fucking school… oh my god, what are we— I can’t believe it.”

Nearby, the object of Headmaster Beak’s mirth stood in the school hallway, stock still, wand extended, in the epicenter of what had been a mystical explosion. The hallway was scorched in radial patterns centered on her, and a meaty smell in the air. Her clothing was covered in blood. The hallway walls resembled the inside of an uncleaned microwave primarily used to heat up chili.

Those students who weren’t wiping blood off themselves, or patting down flames, left a respectful but curious distance between themselves and stock still student.

Lemoyne Wills, a faculty member, pushed through the students. “All right, show’s over,” he said, wondering which student this was, underneath the blood and burn marks. With their hair slicked back and smoking, he couldn’t even be sure of the student’s gender.

As he leaned in to the student and used his thumb to brush their closed eyelids clean, he could hear them mumbling something.

“What’s that?” he said, leaning in.

“It works,” she was whispering. “It works. It works.”

Lemoyne looked around at the nearby students, kicking aside what looked to be a former student’s leg. “Anybody see what happened?”

A young man with a blue, asymmetrical haircut raised his hand. “She, uh… she was just talking to some upperclassmen who were making fun of her wand. Saying she made it herself, or something.”

Lemoyne sighed. “Why would that matter,” he said. He addressed all the students. “Everyone, listen up! Where your wand comes from is unimportant, okay? We make you buy wands from the school store if you don’t have one because, to be honest, it’s a revenue stream and it keeps the lights on.”

The Headmaster let the hood of her cloak fall open. “Lemoyne…” she said in a tone of voice clearly meant to curtail this burst of honesty with the student body.

“But magick is mostly about technique, and will power. The particular stick that you point when you cast something… it’s just something to focus with. And yes, that means that you can blow up a small crowd of bullies with a homemade wand. As has been demonstrated.” He gestured around at the gore-flecked hallway for evidence.

“So be nice to each other. Magick’s not going to be nice to you, so you have to be nice to each other.”


ending theme song
We’re going to close out this week with the usual stuff:

A reminder that there’s a Facebook page for the lost time incident where there’s still an e-book giveway for SEXTRAP DUNGEON going on. Tell your friends!

Thanks to my wife Amanda for the Candlewick illustration of a blood-spattered hallway.

And I’ll end with an informal poll:

How much have you historically paid or would pay for a work of short fiction, like a “Kindle Single” or short story or mini-novella e-book? Nuthin’? A buck? 3 bucks? A small-ish gold nugget? A velvet painting of a sad clown that has eyes that follow you?

Let me know! See you next week!

—Michael Van Vleet

Cabeza Flotante

For some reason, I’m the only person on Bandcamp who has spent money on this propulsive rock album from Argentina.

lost time incident 33 – sample cubes innocent victim


lost time incident 33
Hey, everybody! How’s your weekend going? Is it longer than usual?

It is around here. The United States is celebrating our Labor Day out of step with the rest of the globe, in a calendar-based form of union-bashing. (The rest of the world celebrates Labour Day on May 1st.)

I started my weekend playing Fallout 4 for a number of hours, as a new area of the game opened up, set inside a former amusement park (now full of raiders). My favorite element of this park are the raiders walking around in armor decorated with carnie prizes and stuffed animals.

I also used Fallout’s crafting mechanic to build some mannequins (see image above) and artfully arranged them in faux band photos. Just need to find some instruments. We’ll get the post-apocalyptic landscape rockin’ again.

But first… we’ve got a newsletter.

babes in the woods
In the village where I grew up, we used to tell stories about the local woods. That young women, not yet ready to be mothers, would leave their children there. Sometimes we’d go wandering in those woods, athletic socks hiked up, looking for babies left behind. If we got really lucky, we told each other, maybe we’d witness the exact moment a pack of wolves adopted a baby.

This, despite knowing that no wolves lived in those woods.

The guy who distributed piles of newspapers to all the newspaper carriers would claim that he was raised in those woods. By chipmunks, he said. Learned all their lore and their ways. He would prove it by pouring a can of peanuts into his mouth until his cheeks pushed out. The effect was ruined if you looked like you believed him, because he’d start laughing at you, and that was a good way to get yourself sprayed with half-chewed peanuts.

It was a more innocent age, honestly, when we assumed that babies left in the woods would be raised by animals.

But when I was in my early teens, a witch moved into those woods, and there was no mystery anymore. The trees became home to charms that would twist in the breeze: bones, feathers, strips of leather. The teachers at school told us all the proper names for witches, and let us know in no uncertain terms which ones were offensive, so we could be neighborly.

Within a few years of her arrival, we started seeing her around town, surrounded by toddlers wearing loose robes, and masks crafted from bark and mud, tromping through the Piggly Wiggly supermarket. All formerly abandoned babies. With those masks on them, you couldn’t tell whose kids they might have really been.

At the coffee shop, I heard some adults talking about how she’s home schooling them and several of them read at a proficiency level higher than their age, so who knows. Maybe we all should have gone into the woods to see if we could get adopted.

Some of the more religious types, they didn’t like the idea of their unwanted children becoming pagan. There was a while there where babies were getting left at the recycling center. The couple that ran the recycling center were Presbyterian, but they didn’t like kids, nor did they want to be stuck in the middle of a religious conflict. Called in social services. Put up a “Don’t Leave Babies Here” note by the bins full of beer bottles.

It worked.

With the benefit of hindsight, our village could have done a lot better with educating kids about birth control. Cut down on the high rate of baby abandonment. These are the sort of things that don’t occur to you until adulthood. Hindsight, 20/20, all that.

Just been thinking about it a lot since my parents told me one of those witch kids just got elected mayor. Turned his animal mask into a personal brand. Used it in all the ads. Still don’t know who his real parents are, but we know about his love for municipal governance, so…

I hope it works out.

I don’t get back there much anymore.

sextrap dungeon giveaway
Because Amazon made it easy, and because I like you, I’m giving away a copy of Kurt Knox’s groundbreaking first volume in the SEXTRAP DUNGEON series! It’s a choose-your-own-adventure narrative where you play an Axe-drenched oddball in a quest for love… but dangers abound.

Sex is your everything. You exist for the thrill of seduction and the hot, wet slap of flesh against flesh. Vanquishing honeys is your singular mission in life. Who knows why? Loneliness? A need for validation born out of your mother abandoning you as a child? Perhaps there’s a tumor pressing on the ‘sex’ part of your brain? Probably best not to dwell on it. Let’s get you out there and put another notch on that bedpost, playa!

It’s genuinely funny, so roll the dice and follow the link if you want a chance at winning. The odds are 1 in 10, which is pretty good, right?

ending theme song
I guess we’ll end this week with a reminder that there’s a Facebook page for this newsletter: https://www.facebook.com/losttimeincident/. It’s a place you can find behind-the-scenes notes, general updates, and feedback from your fellow subscribers.

I was recently reminded that it’s now been 2 years since I put out my last e-book, THE SPIRIT LEFT ME. Days go by. I am glad, however, that I’ve got this 33-weeks-long new body of work. The next step isn’t clear yet, but we’re probably getting closer to whatever comes next. Probably.

Maybe. We’ll see. Maybe next week.

—Michael Van Vleet

beach body season

It’s that time of year. Time to get your body into beach body shape. Time to wrap your head in seaweed and lay face down by the encroaching tide to ask Poseidon to swap every part of your body with sand so you can be pulled back and forth by the moon’s gravity and the waves’ motion forever.

It’s that time of year. Time to get a beach body. Carve yourself a body out of the beach, fashioned like a human, your first true friend, true because it owes its existence to you. Seashell teeth and a hermit crab living in each eye. Its hair, a mess of starfish.

It’s that time. The years keep coming and the beach keeps calling. You know what’s waiting down there. That’s right. The beach body. You can forget about it for most of the year, but you’ll never truly be free of it. Look down there. In the moonlight. Do you see it? Looking back at you? The beach body you left behind?

Bodies on the beach. Bring all the bodies down to the beach. It’s the season. The only way you’re going to avoid returning to the sea is if you can somehow, some way, become a being of pure energy and mind, your consciousness floating out into the universe, put pausing for just a second to short out the laptops at every women’s magazine everywhere. Sparks flying.


[originally sent to recipients of the lost time incident newsletter]