INTERVIEW: Annabeth Leong

Three things give Annabeth Leong a feeling of perfect peace: punching a bag, having an orgasm, and taking communion. Writing is a more tumultuous experience, but she loves it anyway. Annabeth has written romance and erotica of many flavors — dark, kinky, vanilla, straight, lesbian, bi, and menage. She particularly enjoys playing off myth, legend, fairy tales, and fantastic history. She believes passionately in freedom of speech, rights for people of all sexual orientations, and freedom of religion. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, blogs atannabethleong.blogspot.com, and tweets @AnnabethLeong.

In this interview, we talk about shame, sex, fairy tales, and what it’s like writing erotica for charity.

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INTERVIEW: Ash Nathans

Scribblegraph, a project of Australian artist Ash Nathens, started as a drawing project for his daughter, but after deciding to share his art on Google+, his work has become known the world over. Ash has recently been interviewed in Forbes and ArtInfo, and was kind enough to speak with Paper Tape about how he became the Scribbler, the development of his craft, and the future of the Scribblegraph project. 

 

(Ash Nathens, Street Sleeper)

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Barker

By Nate Chang

Sweat stains his required uniform; a printed t-shirt in ugly orange color, with the words “Girls, Girls, Girls” printed on both the front and back. A stack of cards, each bearing a naked woman and a phone number, flick-clicks back and forth in his hands, the moistness of his hands puckering the spots where his fingers touch card.   

He came to Las Vegas with hope in his heart, fortune on his mind and two dollars in his pocket. He had some moderate success, won a few dollars at the penny slots, a few more at the tables; enough to rent a cheap off-the-books apartment above a bowling alley well off the strip. As it does with so many, his hope faded quickly, his dreams of fortune washed away in a tide of alcohol served by equally-despondent cocktail waitresses: all he could drink for a two dollar tip, so long as he stayed sitting at a slot machine.

He knows what to look for; anyone who makes eye contact, preferably male, early twenties to late forties. Rings on the finger are not a problem, but women on the arm are. He knows that most of his cards will wind up on the pavement around his feet, glanced at for a moment, then tossed away, heedless of littering laws. But he doesn’t care; he gets paid the same wage whether the men who take his cards visit the hookers or not. He flip-clicks the cards again, allowing his hands to keep busy in the hope that it will take his mind off the monotony of his job, the drudgery of his life and the nagging of his wife.

He tried to take a straight job on the strip. Worked stints at a few casinos as a card dealer; he did alright. But there were months when tourism would slip, and some people would get laid off. He was always one of the first to go. Quick to get a job, and just as quick to lose it. It wasn’t his fault, really. He just wasn’t a very good card dealer. He tried moving down the ladder, to the maintenance department. That didn’t work either.

He rubs the back of his arm on his head, bringing it down with beads of salty liquid running along his skin. He looks further up the strip and sees a man selling water for a dollar a bottle. He considers this for a second, but dismisses the thought. He is not a smart man, but he has done the math several times, if for no other reason than to occupy his thoughts. He makes eight dollars an hour, or one point three three cents per minute. At his wage, the bottle of water will cost him seven and a half minutes’ wages. He could also run into the hotel behind him and drink from the faucet in the bathroom. This trip takes him two minutes and costs him nothing. He decides to take the faucet, to save his dollar.

The maintenance department was going well. They started him with elevators and in-room televisions. They moved him up to slot machines after he took a four-week training course at his expense. It seemed worth it; the course cost four hundred dollars, but would mean a five dollar per hour pay increase. It seemed like a good idea until he considered the fact that he would be working on machines that could potentially handle thousands of dollars in cash every single day. He resisted the temptation to tamper with the machines at first, but the idea of striking it rich, staging his own Ocean’s Eleven-type heist from within the casino was too much. It was a simple thing for him, to rig several slot machines to funnel their dollar bills into a secondary collection point, but still think they had stowed the dollar. It worked well for three days, netting him six thousand dollars.

The hotels smell like smoke. They all do. It baffles him how people can willfully kill themselves and pay for the privilege on such a scale as in Las Vegas. He tries to ignore the news reports he has seen on second-hand smoke. They always intrude on his mind when he enters a casino. He has never succeeded in forgetting the statistics. He believes them down to his feet, knows in his core that they are true: every minute he spends in a casino is a minute less he spends as a living, breathing human. He never smokes, for fear of dying early.

The bathroom is nice. Swanky even, though it’s just a bathroom to him. You go in, you piss, you shit, or both, you wash your hands and you leave. He comes in, sticks his head as far under the faux-antique faucet as it will fit and turns the tap to Cold. The water is cool, life-giving, revitalizing. He splashes some on his arms and head, dries off with a single paper towel. Then he returns to the street.

It was the best day of his life, the last day he emptied the slots machines. Collecting seventeen hundred dollars, he went out and bought a gold watch from one of the casino boutiques. But he was careless, sloppy. One of the casino security people saw him buy the watch and alerted his supervisor. Knowing that he couldn’t afford such a lavish purchase on his salary, the casino investigated the machines he had serviced. And before he could try and protest, his job was stolen, his Ocean’s Eleven scheme foiled, and his livelihood destroyed. He was told he would never look at another casino again.

Despite the smoke, he enjoys the air conditioning all the casinos have. He feels his heart tug at his chest as he walks through the doors, back into the humidity. He wonders for half a second why Las Vegas is humid. Doesn’t there need to be water or rain for there to be humidity? He remembers Miami was humid, but he also remembers it raining there. He cannot remember the last time it rained in Las Vegas.

He begins handing out his cards again, flip-click, flip-click, flip-click. He snaps his fingers between clicks, again trying to keep his hands busy so his mind won’t wander. It does anyway. He thinks of his wife, at home in their apartment above the bowling alley. She yells at him to get a better job, that it is no kind of work for a man to hand out prono flyers on the strip. She still can’t say porno correctly. He shudders. He thinks she sounds like an old lady.

He tried to find a few other jobs, but having been disgraced by the casino, no one else would touch him. Not even the fast food chains would take him. He passed a barker on the strip one day on his way to a job interview. He stopped and asked the man how he got his job. The man took a pen from his pocket, drew a circle around an address on one of his cards and handed it to him.

“Call this number, say Ricky sent you,” he says. “We always need more people to hand out cards.”

“Thanks,” he says.

He calls the number. He has a job two hours later.

The sun’s burning begins to slack off as it dips below the roof of the casinos. Another barker in the ugly orange shirt comes to take his place. He nods to his replacement, a silent signal that it has been a terrible day, and that tomorrow will be one too. He doesn’t know his replacement’s name. His replacement does not know his name. Both know that when the other shows up, their shift is over. It’s that simple. And they are at peace with the simplicity of their career.

He met his wife a year after he became a barker. He decided to take advantage of the “employees fuck for free once a month” offer his work afforded him, and spent an evening with Cunning Carmen. She was beautiful, wild and strangely humble once they had trashed her room with a particularly vigorous fuck. She decided to quit her job and try to find work as a secretary after they decided to see each other regularly. They got married in a small civil wedding on the old strip. He tried desperately to please her for the first few years of their marriage, but he could never seem to bring her to orgasm after their first encounter at the whore house. He began to wonder if she had faked it.

He tosses the rest of his cards to his replacement. Only one stack left. The replacement nods and begins flip-clicking. He trudges home, opens the door to his apartment, and is not surprised or shocked when his nostrils are assaulted by gin, whiskey and stale pizza. His wife lies passed out on their living room floor, a box of condoms lying open next to her, it’s contents used and discarded carelessly. Next to her is a small piece of paper.

Don’t ever fucking call me again, you whore.

He reads the paper, sets it back down. His whore wife mumbles in her comatose state before she pees herself. He watches her stain the carpet a darker shade of shit brown. He goes into their bedroom, kneels in front of their bed and says a quick prayer, for all the good it will do him. He reaches under the bed, finds the shoebox with the pistol he bought off a drug dealer. He loads it, goes back to his living room and sits down beside his whore wife. He speaks to her in the hope that she can hear him. He tells her he is sorry, that he hasn’t been much of a man. That his parents never liked her, and they disowned him for marrying her. He tells her that he forgives her for cheating on him, for drinking constantly, and never letting him sleep.

He racks the pistol’s slide back like he remembers TV action heroes doing. He puts a bullet in his wife’s head, then puts another into his own head.

The replacement waits out his shift, handing out his cards and flip-clicking them to keep his hands busy. He looks at his cheap cell phone to check the time. He wonders where his replacement is; he should have showed up by now. He waits an extra hour before he returns to his employer. He collects the day’s earnings, walks to the bus depot and buys a ticket to somewhere far away and very cold. He gets on the bus and never returns. He wonders if he should have told his employer about his replacement not showing up. He thinks better of it. He deserves a rest.

Nate Chang is a writer/artist who lives in Portland, OR with his wife and a cabinet full of model robots. His work has appeared inSoul’s Road: a Fiction Collection, andThe Pitkin Reviewliterary magazine.

REVIEW: Bloggers, Conspiracies, and Zombies – Oh My!

By Tom Quinn

In 2014, the dead rise from the grave and begin attacking the living. The living, however, are a hardy bunch, and twenty years later society still hasn’t crumbled. Then a trio of bloggers follow a presidential hopeful on the campaign trail, and all hell starts to break loose. Again.

Such is the opening of the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant, a series that grabs you by the jugular and doesn’t let go until it’s done with you. It’s tempting to hold this trio of books (in chronological order: Feed, Deadline, and Blackout) up against other mainstream zombie lit, like World War Z (by Max Brooks), but it wouldn’t be fair to either. In WWZ, the zombies take center stage, and the story revolves around humanity’s struggle with them. But the zombie uprising is in the past in Newsflesh – they are an environmental hazard, but they are not the main focus of the story. That honor is reserved for the conspiracy that only grows deeper and more dangerous as the blogging team digs their noses (and heels) in even further.

The real way this series shines is through its characters. Georgia Mason runs “After the World Times,” a politically-oriented site. Her brother Shaun runs around poking dead things with sticks on camera, and their friend Georgette “Buffy” Meissonier writes stories and poems and is the resident genius tech guru. At first, they’re hard to believe as real people – they feel too much like archetypes, and the first book of the trilogy – Feed – is initially mired down with pop culture references. However, once the story gets going, each character grows a third dimension that morphs and changes over the rest of the series in ways that make you begin to truly worry for their safety.

The cast of characters grows over time, eventually going so far to include full on government agencies. There’s also a sense that since Grant was able to get away with the events and set-up of the first book so effectively, she could throw caution to the wind and really screw the characters up, entangling their lives with each other in ways that anybody – pre or post apocalypse – can identify with. It’s an impressive feat, especially with the ever-present background threat of a zombie attack at any time. Which is to say nothing of the occasional outbreak and actual zombie hordes that appear at many of the most inopportune moments.

Taken as a whole, this trilogy is an excellent adventure and conspiracy story that features copious undead, likeable characters, shifty government agencies, and a zombie bear. If you’re planning on reading at the park, beach, or on a trip, make sure to pick this series up. You won’t be sorry you did.

Tom is a writer, a photographer, and a libertine. He’s currently heading a new story-a-week project that can be found at yearofthewriters.tumblr.com.

(CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

REVIEW: ParaNorman

By Kristy Harding

I was ten minutes late to a Friday night showing of ParaNorman. Since it had only been out for a week, I was worried that I would have a hard time getting a seat. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I got to the theater and discovered that it was almost completely empty.

ParaNorman was released with high expectations as a follow-up of sorts of the hit movie Coraline, yet, even with such a high bar, the critics were not disappointed. As of this writing, ParaNorman has an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes.

So, why the empty theater?

I’ll admit after watching the trailer I was a bit concerned that ParaNorman would be just a cleverly-animated butts and farts movie, but I was surprised to find a funny, atmospheric horror film with delightful characters and a fairly nuanced examination of mob thinking.

That’s a lot of different stuff to cram into one movie, but ParaNorman pulls it off. The plot was such a faithful example of the hero’s journey, I found myself going through the steps in my head as I watched: This is the part where he resists the call to save the town from the witch, now we discover that Grandma is really a mentor figure, now we watch him do battle with the threshold guardian who has been protecting the town, and so on. While this made the plot rather predictable, it also meant that the filmmakers had plenty of room for nuance in other places.

Like Coraline, the setting was gorgeous. As someone who grew up in New England and has spent a significant portion of my life in or near Eastern Massachusetts, I am difficult to please with New England settings, but dark woods and eerie town made me genuinely nostalgic for the North Shore.

Norman’s best friend, Neil, was one of the most endearing side-kicks I’ve seen in a long time. He could have easily been reduced to the stereotypical bullied-yet-easy-going clown found in every high school, thrown into the mix for comic relief. Instead, he is presented as a nuanced kid who drew the short straw on life and faces each challenge with a mix of resignation and acceptance.

In fact, none of the characters felt thrown in or like plot devices. Everyone Norman encountered had a place in the web of relationships in Norman’s small town and this connection is where much of the film’s heart and humor came from.

Maybe this nuance is why the theater was empty the night I went to see ParaNorman. It’s difficult enough to give a sense of the subtleties of this film in a review, but in the trailer the film’s complexity was absolutely lost. After such a short tour of the theaters, I can only hope ParaNorman will be available to stream before Halloween and gets the vindication it deserves in the Netflix afterlife.

Kristy Harding is the founding editor of Paper Tape Magazine. She can be found @kristyharding and kristyharding.com.

The Lamentable Kismet of D’arcy Montag

By Nate Chang

The Collins College of Advanced Physics and Quantum Mechanics (Redmond, Washington, not far from where Microsoft had erected their first campus during the personal computing boom of the early nineties, and only five kilometers north-northwest of where the Novell Robotics Corporation had begun construction of the Prometheus Orbital Elevator in the summer of 2016,) machine shop was “burning the midnight oils,” as the phrase went, as a veritable parade of screaming echoes, warped colors, and cacophonous voices as a string of maudlin cats, gilded dogs, unruly letters, punkish numbers, ersatz kanji (both Japanese and Chinese,) and three highly articulate pizzas all vied for viewing space in the eyes of one D’arcy Montag, student of the College of Advanced Physics and Quantum Mechanics (though due to a peculiar genetic condition, she was not so much a student as a teacher disguised as a student, and if one were to dig further, her knowledge of mathematics, science, quantum physics, mechanics, robotics, cybernetics, viral engineering and coffee brewing went far beyond what any ordinary professor might have to offer a class, even at the most prestigious of universities,) who was referred to by her classmates as “Skitz,” as in “schizophrenic,” (but misspelled due to the increase in usage of social networking tools which encouraged poor grammar as they connected people, and an increasingly wider gap between the grammatically correct haves and have-nots,) in order to gain the favor of her conscious mind, if only for a moment, so that they might take the opportunity to whisper sweet nothings in her ear, such as the answers to multiple-choice exams yet to be taken, the possible merits of immolating various political figures, offers of sexual coupling, and endless quantum formulae which would make a mockery of the strongest intellects in the field, and had already, upon discussion with D’arcy, forced two such experts (a Mr. Richard Bloomquist of Collins College and a Miss Rachel Truberitz of nearby Bellevue University) to commit ritual suicide in a manner befitting disgraced theoretical physics professors (Bloomquist was reported by a local newspaper to have hung himself from an eye-washing station in a chemical laboratory, while Doctor Truberitz, for those in the know, was rumored to have hired a male prostitute and engaged in sexual intercourse, during which she began to cut herself with a shaving razor, and severed her femoral artery in a fit of bloody ecstasy, unfortunately bleeding out before she achieved climax,)  tried her best, insomuch as was possible, considering the noise of it all, to busy herself with the tasks required to effect a repair of her particle accelerator, which had been damaged earlier in the week when D’arcy, in a self-described “blackout time” or indeterminate length and composition (as no one else was around to witness the episode in question,) caused her to initiate her experiment in particle acceleration, atomic recombination, and molecular engineering without supervision, assistants or indeed any safety precautions of any kind, the result of which was both A) an experiment that, performed on single a cubic centimeter of neodinium with a mass of approximately .72 kilograms, was successfully recombined, its component parts realigned and added to, creating a new element of approximately the same size (with roughly .018 cubic centimeters lost to impurities in the neodinium) which sported a new mass of nearly 720,000 kilograms, and upon attaining this fantastic new mass, promptly crashed through the holding apparatus, ten centimeters of cement flooring, two sub-basements, one boiler, one janitor’s plastic mop bucket and the accompanying six cubic liters of dirty water, and eventually landed in the remains of a World War 2-era bunker that had remained hidden and secret under the college grounds ever since the Herakles Viral Research Program was cancelled by President Truman in late 1945, deemed unethical and unnecessary in light of the victory in Europe and the deployment of the atomic bomb in the Pacific theatre, the facility was mothballed, ostensibly for a reopening of the Herakles Program at a later date, but lack of funding, increasing pressure from human rights elements in the government’s black operations branch, and an increasing body of research collected from British and French experiments during the war pointed to the cost-prohibitive nature of the program, and it was eventually terminated, the bunkers containing the research buried under a landfill and eventually under the machine shop of Collins College of Advanced Physics and Quantum Mechanics, leaving the research undisturbed for the better part of eighty years until it was damaged in D’arcy’s unauthorized excursion into uncharted scientific waters, further results of which included roughly two hundred thousand dollars in damages, plus incidental losses of various tools, raw materials and one lab cat that was to be used for hearing loss experiments by the adjacent Collins College of Auditory Wellness, and had for many months been affectionately referred to as “Oscar the Audible Stimulus-Comprehending Cat,” but would thereafter be referred to, with mixed feelings of anger, regret and unadulterated rage, as “Oscar the Unlucky,” insomuch as the Auditory Wellness students cared to remember the untimely death of Oscar, rather than his life which, up until its end, had been rather fruitful, and had included two kittens, seventeen couplings with other cats, one successful fight for a particularly vivacious house tabby and, most recently and finally, one near-death experience with a Firestone tire, size B-16, mounted on the front driver’s side of a white Ford F-150, which happened to belong to the dean of the College of Auditory Wellness, hence Oscar’s upgrade from “stray” status to “Laboratory Subject” and “Mascot” status in the summer of 2012, where after Oscar took part in no less than sixty experiments involving hearing loss and possible genetic, cybernetic and intelli-viral methods of curing chronic auditory dysfunction (commonly referred to as “hearing loss”) in adults of all ages, most of which had reached satisfactory conclusions, granting Oscar a decidedly austere reputation among Auditory Wellness students, who took his positive responses as a good omen, of course, until the day of the explosion, after which, the reputation of D’arcy Montag and indeed the entire College of Advanced Physics and Quantum Mechanics was lowered considerably, both by students of the Auditory Wellness program and by fellow students of the CAPQM, who had lost a small fortune’s worth of investments in personal projects, including, but not limited to: one mechanical arm, slated to become a replacement for static prosthetics, one hydraulic-powered exoskeleton, ready to receive armor mountings, weapon hard points and perform a demonstration for a pre-greased panel of military officials and defense contractors, and one bag of Northern California Sensamea, with a street value of approximately two thousand dollars.

Nate Chang is a writer/artist who lives in Portland, OR with his wife and a cabinet full of model robots. His work has appeared in Soul’s Road: a Fiction Collection, and The Pitkin Review literary magazine.

INTERVIEW: Lee Cody

In 2010, Lee Cody put a stamp on a balloon and mailed it. His intent was to examine the US Postal Service as a predefined system, an inquiry which lead to the creation of Unmailable Objects. Since then he has examined such internet institutions as Flickr (Flickr Album) and Google (Hypertext) in work that often not only inspires, but requires direct viewer participation. A recent graduate of California College of the Arts, he has exhibits at Root Division, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the internet, among others.

In this interview we talk about his work, relational art, and the way technology has (and hasn’t) impacted the art world.

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