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]

lost time incident 32 – truth hurts I know


lost time incident 32
Welcome back, fellow travelers! This week, we’re taking a break from fiction. In the newsletter below, you’ll see something from Twitter, some photos I took in El Cerrito of some sad person’s desperate graffiti, and a sight gag from a game I’m playing.

You want fiction? Come back next week. Maybe. Who can foresee the future?

If any words are okay, welcome welcome. Have a few more words: these extra words right here are for you. Fill your pockets. Fill your shoes.



twitter magic

among_the_quiet_books_pixlrTurns out jokes about librarians spread pretty fast if someone you know is a librarian. This joke ended up becoming my third most popular tweet, edging out my pinned tweet (which is the one that all the porn bots like to favorite)!


end is always near

endisnear_pixlrI was out in the neighborhood yesterday, off to get some grocery shopping in, and I decided to walk alongside a nearby stream. This stream runs along Albany Hill and faces the backs of several buildings where I noticed that someone had contributed a run of desperate messages among the usual graffiti.

It was all apocalyptic in tone. I would characterize it as “right-wing, religious, and terrified.” Conspiracy theory references alternated with requests to find Jesus. Climate change is real, but Sandy Hook wasn’t. We’re all doomed, blah blah blah. Talk radio and/or the internet had filled the writer full of paranoia, so it was a good thing their religion had all the answers.
endiscomingsoon_pixlrBut you know what? I’m of the firm opinion that every one of us has a fair amount of the non-rational bouncing around in our heads. We’re just not motivated enough to grab a marker. Or we have enough wherewithal to doubt the voices in our heads when they get superstitious.

For example: Even though human history is full of people who were positive they were living during the End Times, like this person, at some point one of these generations is going to be correct. On the one hand, humans have survived wars, drought, floods, political upheaval, natural disasters. On the other, July was the hottest month this planet has had since we started keeping track… the 15th record-breaking month in a row. I find myself wondering if I’m going to live long enough to experience a societal collapse thanks to climate-related upheaval. I’m gonna be too old to food riot with any enthusiasm.

My dumb mammal brain struggles with questions like “Why is there something instead of nothing?” and “Why are we here?” It hasn’t helped much to believe that the human ability to understand the concept of “why” was an evolutionary fluke that we happen to benefit from. “Why” is useful for planning, and for understanding cause and effect, but it had an unintended side effect of making us think everything has a cause and purpose. Even when the universe is demonstrably absurd.

Tiger got to hunt,
Bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder, “Why, why, why?”

Tiger got to sleep,
Bird got to land;
Man got to tell himself he understand.

— Kurt Vonnegut, CAT’S CRADLE

I’ve had the thought that since we’re getting better at creating fictional worlds in our video games, creating detailed virtual worlds, that it’s not a great leap to wonder if this universe we live in is a simulation as well. After all, statistically, you only need one universe to be real, but in that universe, an infinite number of additional universes could be simulated. That being the case, the odds are against anyone existing in the “real” universe, as opposed to being in a simulation.

Is my life, with its repetitive tasks, some other entity’s normcore simulator game? If so— and if this hypothetical player could choose any time in human history to play in— wouldn’t they be interested in seeing how things end? Wouldn’t their game be more interesting if set against a backdrop of extinction?

Crazy thoughts. But not worth writing on walls about.

… he wrote in his newsletter, smugly.


as a favor

mechanistturnback_pixlrI’ve been spending time in the world of Fallout 4 again. I set the game down for a while because I had engaged in too many “fetch quests” in a row and had gotten bored. (A fetch quest is when a character in a game asks you to go on a long journey across the map to do something not terribly difficult, then gives you a reward that doesn’t seem commensurate with the rate you should be charging as the wasteland’s most deadly hero. More often than not, it’s then immediately followed up with a request for another, similar favor.)

A video game shouldn’t feel like a part time job, you know?

But the game added some new content recently, so with a renewed sense of discovery, I went back to post-nuclear Boston. I’ve been having fun building murderous robots, building bear traps and luring bad guys (who are not bears) into them, and building signage that brands this apocalyptic nightmare world with my particular sensibilities.


ending theme song
Today, Amanda and I joined a longtime friend to go hunting for donuts. We bought this friend a calendar full of paintings of donuts from the San Francisco Bay Area, not realizing that this gift would be received as a dare to visit every month’s donut shop. Today’s hunt took us to Treasure Island and a flea market, where our donuts awaited in a back lot, from a food truck.

Lovely views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge out there.

Good luck finding your own views and your own donuts this week. That’s your homework.

—Michael Van Vleet

The Signal: EP127


The Signal: EP127 – Exactly 45 minutes of music to accompany an animated, murderous vapor cloud as it haunts hallways. You can download it and listen to it all you want. For as long as the power grid holds.

We’ve got video game-inspired grime from the UK, R&B experimentation, pop punk, cough syrup-infused hip hop from Spain, UK folk and African highlife combined at last, jazz,  race cars, Native American bass and more!

The mix will only be available online for a limited time. Maybe, by the time you’re reading this, it’s already too late. Sorry.  I don’t put the track listing here. You can right-click on the file itself and read its id3 tags, or you can subscribe to my mailing list, The Tuned In, the recipients of which are granted a full track list, a permanent download URL, and are among the first in the world notified when a new mix goes up.

Continue reading The Signal: EP127