Behind the Scenes of “The Pizza King”

A while back C.C. Finlay interviewed me about my latest story for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal.” That interview is now available online, for folks curious about how and why stories like this get written.

F&SF: What made you decide to write this story right now?

DEN: I didn’t. I actually wrote this back in early 2018, completing the draft in just two weeks (which is maybe a record for me). But it didn’t really become the story it is now until late that year. I listened to every word of Christine Blasey Ford’s congressional testimony—which included her detailed account of being sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh (who now sit on the US Supreme Court) when they were teens. I was in the kitchen, puttering, and something she said somewhere in the middle of her testimony stopped me dead, because it was a near perfect poem just as she spoke it. A poem like that, one spoken accidentally, hits you like lightning. It stops your heart. I wrote it down right then…

…And that’s when I understood what this story was really all about. It was a different story after I heard that poem, and so I rewrote it to be that story.

…and it goes on that way. Read more: Interview: David Erik Nelson on “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal”

BURIED LEDE: Given the current state of segregation in the U.S., it may not be possible for us to ever naturally reach “herd immunity” to COVID-19

This simulation is extremely worth your time—even if you think you understand the challenges we’re facing with coronavirus:

Washington Post: A vaccine, or a spike in deaths: How America can build herd immunity to the coronavirus

Sadly neglected here: They do not mention that the previous world record for developing an effective vaccine is four years—not the ~9 months the PotUS keeps insisting is possible, or the “Idunno; maybe about a year?” the rest of us keep saying.

Four years.

That’s the fastest humanity has ever developed a vaccine. The average is more like two decades.

It’s totally possible that the Russian vaccine is safe, legit, and works.

But it’s unlikely.

And it’s likewise unlikely—to the point of impossible—that a nation like ours (where cities within miles of each other have massive racial/economic differences, massively different experiences of this virus, and rarely commingle) will develop herd immunity soon (if ever).

Meanwhile, this virus is killing Americans 10x faster than guns.

You are doing things differently now than you did a year ago. The immediate future looks a lot more like last May than last Christmas. Prepare yourself for that.

All Hail the Pizza King!🍕👑

The latest issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction is hitting newsstands, e-readers, and mailboxes, and I’m pleased to brag that the Pizza King himself graces the cover (and my story “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal” graces the interior).

Need your copy? Order online: paper or digital. Wanna review it on GoodReads? You can! (There is currently one review up, and the reviewer didn’t finish the story because it was “gross.” I respect that decision; it has a solid basis. Know your limits, my Dear Readers and Best Belovéds!)

THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION

July/August, 71st Year of Publication

NOVELETS

  • “Spirit Level” – John Kessel
  • “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal” – David Erik Nelson
  • “‘Omunculus” – Madeleine E. Robins
  • “The Monsters of Olympus Mons” – Brian Trent

SHORT STORIES

  • “Knock, Knock Said the Ship” – Rati Mehrotra
  • “Last Night at the Fair” – M. Rickert
  • “Bible Stories for Adults No. 37: The Jawbone” – James Morrow
  • “Madre Nuestra, Que Estás en Maracaibo” – Ana Hurtado
  • “A Bridge from Sea to Sky” – Bennett North
  • “Crawfather” – Mel Kassel
  • “The Staircase” – Stephanie Feldman
  • “The Shape of Gifts” – Natalia Theodoridou

POEMS

  • “A Quartet of Alphabetic Bubbles” – Mary Soon Lee

DEPARTMENTS

  • Editorial by C.C. Finlay
  • Books to Look For by Charles de Lint
  • Musing on Books by Michelle West
  • Film: Darkness Visible by David J. Skal
  • Science: What the Heck is an Analemma by Jerry Oltion
  • Curiosities: The Contaminant by Leonard Reiffel (1978) by Thomas Kaufsek

Cartoons by Arthur Masear, Arthur Masear, Danny Shanahan, Kendra Allenby, Nick Downes, Nick Downes

Cover: By Alan M. Clark for “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal”

Turn Off Our Screens, Open Our Eyes

I want to write about the protests I saw yesterday, with my daughter, who is an 8-year-old string-bean, blonde and strong.

There are the protests we see on our screens—the photogenic protests, the darkness and fire, the police taking a knee, screams and smoke, rods and shields. We all see one picture, and we all feel the protests are one thing. 

But they aren’t. Even in one place, on one street, they are many things at once. 

I saw two protests yesterday, here in Michigan. 

The first was a lone Black woman—young, maybe just a girl. She stood flanked by the trees at the edge of Washtenaw Ave—four lanes of fast traffic, a commercial strip connecting this town and the next. She wore a blue surgical mask and gloves and a plaid shirt, buttoned to the wrists and neck, despite the heat. Her head was bowed over a wide cardboard sign, particolored letters:

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

The other protest was a march down Industrial Ave—which is exactly what it sounds like: an industrial strip of carpet stores and auto shops, a car wash and a bowling alley, the old rail line running along the backs of their lots. I stumbled into this protest with my daughter, after going to the hardware for lumber and locks and candles and a garden hose.

We watched them pass. They were silent. No songs, no shouting, no slogans. It was like no protest or rally I’d ever seen, not in decades of attending protests (occasionally to protest, but far more often to watch or report or chaperone teens).

This was like a funeral procession. So quiet. So steady, implacable. Not mournful; dignified.

Many ad hoc and improvised signs, scraps of cardboard, mostly BLACK LIVES MATTER riffs. One said “DO NOT AVERT YOUR EYES.” And so I did not—it was only in seeing that sign that I realized that it was my inclination to do so, even though I’d come down the street specifically to see what I could see.

Those who walked were Black and White. Young. They wore their masks and shorts and t-shirts—it was hot, and the sun fierce on the street.

Another sign, the largest, a flattened refrigerator box, read:

STOP KILLING BLACK PEOPLE

The sign’s bearer was extremely light skinned, a Black & White son in black shorts and t-shirt. My heart always goes out to the kids who are neither fish nor fowl. I’m with you, brothers and sisters: The world constantly demands we not be half of what we are. 

I raised a fist. Eyes turned to me, fists raised in acknowledgement, and my heart stopped.  It was like being saluted by ghosts. 

The procession had a police escort. An SUV slowly rolling to the fore to clear traffic, another slowly rolling behind, protecting the procession from the impatient cars piling up. No lights. No sirens. A couple more SUVs scurried ahead, blocking each intersection before the procession arrived. Like school crossing guards.  

What are you seeing where you are?

“My plans vs. 2020,” but automated

My plans2020

DISCLOSURE: This is totally automated, ’cause that just feels a lot more honest to me right now. Images are from Lorem Picsum, which makes this sorta gag incredibly easy, and is a great tool when you’re mocking up a website/design and just need the graphical equivalent of lorem ipsum.

Kind of a coin-toss what I love about this most…

… but I think it’s maybe that this patent was issued in 2007, and still looks so damned olde-tyme Cold War Fallout™ goofy. Patent diagrams are their own artistic genre, and I love it:

image of patent application for bra that converts to particulate-filtering face masks

Incidentally, as it turns out bra pads actually make pretty decent DIY face masks for coronavirus.

(all props to Harper’s for the image)

I’m a lifelong Michigander, I’ve been to Isle Royale, and I can confirm that this is a true and accurate assessment of that stony archipelago…

…and, in fact, one of its most charming aspects:

This artist is living her best life, in my humble.

source: I Illustrated National Parks In America Based On Their Worst Review And I Hope They Will Make You Laugh (16 Pics)