Trying to nail down silly


My parents use the word silly to describe literature and film. Best I can tell it has two meanings:

1. Of indeterminate quality but inoffensive and thus enjoyable.

2. Of embarrassingly low quality but inoffensive and thus can be consumed without shame.

Generally (but not always?) silly works contain an element of romance.


75-79, including a surefire Christmas gift for just about anyone


079) Nursery Rhyme Comics edited by Chris Duffy, finished December 14

This is it, folks! This is the Christmas gift you've been looking for! With nursey rhymes comicsized from every one from Mike Mignola to Roz Chast to Stan Sakai to Tony Millionaire to the Los Bros Hernandez to Kate Beaton to Craig Thompson to Gene Luen Yang---I could on. Everyone's in here. I keep going back and adding people. But let's add Jules Feiffer and call it good.

Suffice it to say, the book is even better than you're willing to hope. When you get this many of the best, they show you just what comics can do.

Seriously. If you have a family you need to get a gift for and have no idea, your search is over. Buy this book.
one evening


078) The Truth about Fiction by Steven Schoen, finished December 11

When I read this book as part of a college class a long, long time ago, I was impressed by its simple, direct (and good) advice for writing fiction. Rereading it now, I feel the same. The difference is that thoughts that were revolutionary then, are now so incorporated into my basic functioning that I either can't imagine not knowing them or am actively discovering how to break them.

Shame it's out of print. Prentice Hall should have Schoen rewrite the out-of-date appendices (try the "Internet" for research!) and put it back out. A great teeny introduction to the writing craft.
perhaps a couple months


077) Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch, finished December 3

Subtitled "Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl", which should be enough to tell you whether or not you are interested. And if you're not interested, why the heck not?

The book's imperfect (the way it chooses which words to incorporate into the text is inconsistent, for instance), but it's fun and I enjoyed it. Book one is really just chapter one so you may want to go out and get the second book along with the first. I hear the third will incorporate magic fish. And why not magic fish?

The thing I'm newly convinced of, however, is that you shouldn't wait. Start reading them now.

one day


076) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, finished December 2

The Big O loved this and so Large S wanted to hear it as well. Dahl, of course, is a blast to read. As a kid I thought this book was much weaker than the sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. I guess I'll find out. They were so sad it ended I admitted Elevator's existence instead of opening up The Hobbit.
some weeks


075) Spawn: New Flesh by David Hine and Brian Haberlin, finished November 29

About what I always imagined Spawn would be. Demons and violence and grossouts and grand attempts at depth. Nothing here folks, move along.
about half an hour

Previously in 2012 . . . . :

Read the reviews of 71-74.
074) Level Up by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham, finished November 23
073) The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck by Rodolphe Töpffer, finished November 21
072) The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim finished probably November 21
071) The Clouds Above by Jordon Crane, finished probably November 19

Read the review of 70.
070) Byuck by Theric Jepson, finished November 17

Read the review of 68-69.
069) Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub, finished November 16
068) Off Season ("The Author's Uncut, Uncensored Version!") by Jack Ketchum, finished November 14

Read the review of 67.
067) Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman, finished November 6

Read the reviews of 61-66.
066) Nurse Nurse by Katie Skelly, finished November 3
065) Best American Comics 2012 edited by Françoise Mouly, finished November 3
064) Everything We Miss by Luke Pearson, finished November 1
063) Amulet: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 30
062) Amulet: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 25
061) iPlates: Volume One by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished October 22

Read the reviews of 57-61.
061) Amulet: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 14
060) Amulet: The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 13
059) Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi, finished October 10
058) Feedback by Robison Wells, finished October 9
057) Mormons in the Media, 1830-2012 by Jared Farmer, finished October 8

Read the review of 56.
056) The Garden of the World by Lawrence Coates, finished October 5

Read the reviews of 52-55.
055) The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake, finished September 27
054) Lote That Dog by Sharon Creech, finished September 25
053) Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech, finished September 24
052) Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse: It Only Hurts When I Pee by Ben Templesmith, finished September 24

Read the reviews of 49-51.
051) The Zabîme Sisters by Aristophane, finished September 20
050) Little Death by Thomas Kriebaum, finished September 16
049) God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 11

Read the reviews of 44-48.
048) American Nerd: The Story of My People by Benjamin Nugent, finished September 7
047) Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, finished September 6
046) Simply Science by a number of authors and illustrators for All Aboard Reading, finished September 5
045) Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach, finished September 3
044) The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore by Nancy Butcher, finished August 27

Read the reviews of 40-43.
043) How to Analyze the Works of Stephenie Meyer by Marcela Kostihova, finished August 13
042) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, finished August 10
041) Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid and Jorge Molina, finished August 1
040) If You Believe in Mermaids . . . Don't Tell by A.A. Philips, finished July 28

Read the reviews of 37-39.
039) The Smartest Man in Ireland by Mollie Hunter, finished July 27
038) Blockade Billy / Morality by Stephen King, finished July 12
037) Dispirited by Luisa M. Perkins, finished July 9

Read the reviews of 34-36.
036) Hyperion by Dan Simmons, finished July 2
035) A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck, finished June 27
034) Kampung Boy by Lat, finished June 22

Read the reviews of 29-33.
034) The Giant Joshua by Maurine Whipple, finished June 20
033) Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl, finished June 18
032) Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart, "finished" June 18
031) Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese, "finished" June 15
030) The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, finished June 9
029) Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick, finished early June

Read the reviews of 25-28.
028) Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, finished May 24
027) The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan, finished May 16
026) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, finished May 10
025) Dominant Traits by Eric Freeze, finished April 10

Read the reviews of 21-24.
024) The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, finished April 2
023) UNTITLED MS by Kyle Jepson, finished March 12, 2012
022) The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 4
021) The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, finished March 3

Read the reviews of 14-20.
020) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
019) Good-bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson, finished February 26
018) Madman 20th Anniversary Monster HC by [everybody], finished February 25
017) Billy Hazelnuts and Crazy Bird by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
016) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
015) Habibi by Craig Thompson, finished February 20
014) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1910 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, finished February 15

Read the reviews of 12-13.
013) Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, finished February 12
012) Black Hole by Charles Burns, finished February 11

Read the reviews of 6-11.
011) The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980 by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 4
010) Blankets by Craig Thompson, finished February 4
009) Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, finished February 2
008) The Millstone Necklace (forthcoming) by S.P. Bailey, finished January 31
007) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, finished January 27
006) Across a Harvested Field by Robert Goble, finished January 23

Read the reviews of 1-5.
005) Hark! a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton, finished January 21
004) The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark, finished January 12
003) Bucketfoot Al: The Baseball Life of Al Simmons by Clifton Blue Parker, finished January 9
002) Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly, finished January 9
001) What of the Night? by Stephen Carter, finished January 5


Pants svithe


First, if you don't immediately grasp the meaning of pants today, please do not read the rest of this post. You're happier remaining ignorant (I'm not including any links) and I'll be addressing an audience already vested in the question of what color tie I wore today.

Now that the pants-ignorant (and thus blissful) have left, so's you know, I did wear a purple tie today.

When I first became aware of the Wear Pants to Church people I thought it was silly, poorly described, unnecessarily antagonistically presented, silly, etc etc etc; I rolled my eyes, and proceeded to forget about it, stupidly assuming the rest of the world would do the same.

The rest of the world would not do the same.

Next I was aware, the Pants people had turned into a bevy of shameless media-grubbers, and I went back to the Facebook page, hit DECLINE, and said as much.

To be clear, I am completely in favor of the group's intentions, but I thought the execution was awful and the courting of media frenzy tasteless.

Last night however, I reconsidered my position. Not because I felt any differently about the event, but because of the hater trolls that had come out in force. An army of fools and dopes and crueltymongers had come out to attack the Pants people. And as poorly as they had made their attempt to effect awareness, I never thought they were demons in pantsuits.

No one aware of both me and Pants Day can doubt that I would be aware of the latter.

And so today, in solidarity with the pantsers, I wore a purple tie.

I would rather be intentionally associated with a bunch of media-hungry but good-intentioned social hacks, then mistakenly associated with the hoard of antichristian haters that rose up to attack them.

So yes. Purple I was.

And seriously: Wear pants. As a symbol, it ain't bad.

previous svithe


First in a series? I mean—I certainly have the material . . . .


So I spend a lot of time talking about comics (to be meta, yesterday I talked about me talking about comics). But I don't often publish actual comics of my own making. In fact, mostly never. I made a four-page comics version of my Mike Allred interview for the Sunstone comics issue, but my boss deemed it too confusing to the uninitiated, so we just wrote an article instead.

That comic, however, prepared me to create "Mormons by the Bay."

(Not that I haven't used the newscaster idea before. In fact, I use it all the time. See here and here for examples.)

When I saw SF Weekly's call for comics as it prepared its Very First Comics Issue! (theme: Connected in San Francisco), I knew I was going to submit. And since I'm already working on a novel that takes place (partly) in an alternate version of San Francisco where the Mormons never left, I thought I would incorporate some of those elements into the comic.

I intended to fit myself into the smallest space offered to maximize the chances of being accepted and spent a week or two sketching ideas. Then I finally sat down and thumbnailed it, only to discover that, pared down, the comic was still running twice as long as intended. Then I checked the specs and realized that my "as intended" was twice as long as the actual space I was intending to fill.

Time for major edits.

So I scraped it down and got it in and now! what do you know! I'm in.

And I'll tell you what: Crushing my ideas into that small space forced me to prioritize punchline over list-of-facts, which I think was better for everyone.

I stopped by the newsstand on my way to work, but it only had the East Bay Express and the San Francisco Guardian, so I'm still not sure whether or not I'm in print or online only, but still. I published a comic. I'm pretty happy. And if it is in print, I'm getting paid.

The weird thing is realizing that by this time next week, "Mormons by the Bay" may well be the most read thing I've ever published.

I mean---SFW has a circulation of 50,000. Which I'm pretty sure is more than Irreantum.


Thmusings of Our Shared Past: "All Work and No Play"


Because I want to reference this in a post planned for tomorrow and because the original was written before the current blog design and is one of the posts that didn't transfer over well and because fixing them all will be hugely time consuming and because I'm rather fond of this post, I'm reposting it. I think I may throw these images up on Thumblr. as well. . . .

Of course what I should really do it find the original scans and take them into Photoshop and fix them up. Or, even better, find the original images and rescan them. But I'm afraid none of that will be happening.


All Work and No Play


It's a little known fact that in my spare time I do some freelance magazine illustration. Dr. M. A. Malien is starting a breastfeeding column for one of those ubiquitous new-parent magazines and I was offered the job of illustration. Then they decided to go with well lit but generic photographs of pretty babies with pretty mommies lounging on brightly colored furniture and I got was a kill fee in the mail.

Anyway, I had already done all the work on the first three months' columns, and while I lack the medical school credentials, perhaps if you, like Lady Steed, are a nursing mother known to complain that your “b**bs” hurt, maybe there will be something in it for you.

Dr. Malien's main thesis, however, I have already given the observant. Did you catch it?

(roll over for captions)

Dr. M. A. Malien

Dr. M.A.Malien

Dr. M.A. Malien

Dr. M.A.Malien

Dr. M.A.Malien

Dr. M.A. Malien

Dr. M.A.Malien

Dr. M.A.Malien

Dr. M.A. Malien

Dr. M.A. Malien

Dr. M.A.Malien

Dr. M.A. Malien

Dr. M.A.Malien

Dr. M.A.Malien

Dr. M. A. Malien

sources of scrap

the George Booth illustrations
the album cover
all other images

In memoriam: Preston McConkie


I don't know what I can add to David's post, but I would be amiss not to note the sudden passing of a loyal friend.

The timing makes it feel particularly . . . strange. Preston was an influential force on Byuck and his death arrives between seeing it appear for sale and holding a copy of his own in his hands. It feels so unfair that I don't get to share this moment with him.

Which is a bit petty of me, I know, but still. I owed him that much.

The most significant example of what Preston did for the novel is its final chapter. The original final chapter I'll make available at some point, but the much better version you get when you buy the book only exists because Preston forced me to write it. I was extremely hesitant, but now that five years have passed, I can go back and compare the two versions and he was unquestionably right. Moving the conclusion forward twelve hours? The best byucky advice anyones ever given me.

So while I'm unsettled that a friend only seven years my senior has died---

So while I'm saddened to know that his cheerful madness is gone from my life---

So while I'll miss him and mourn with his family---

Today, selfishly, I'm sad I can't send him a copy of my novel and thank him again and say see what thou hath wrought, Preston?



Danger! Byuck ahead!


The long and tortured path Byuck took to publication is over and I don't really want to go over the details. Let some graduate student from the year 2215 work it out. But I do want to consider some of the lessons I should learn.

I'm considering the what-should-I-learn question because I just read a couple articles that suggest I may be some sort of genius.

I choose to be skeptical of this conclusion. I mean---people keep telling Jonathan Safran Foer he's a genius and look what's happened. Talk about your cautionary tales.

So let's set my genius aside for a second and look outside Byuck for evidence.

(Not that eschewing the genius label much minimizes the navelgazing nature of this post, but I work out what I think by writing about it. And I then I throw it like spaghetti, onto this blog's wall to see if it sticks. And you, dear reader, are the only one who suffers.)

First, a couple things that both make me feel cocky and panicked simultaneously.

From Scott Parkin:
It seems to me that we are in the midst of a rather startling expansion of our traditional concepts of Mormon literature. As I’ve been reading Monsters & Mormons off and on over the last two months, and some of James Goldberg’s and Theric Jeppson’s short fiction over the past month I’m struck with how very different some of that work is from the traditional canon and assumptions I’ve had about Mo-lit over the last twenty years.
Obviously, being mentioned alongside James is always a thrill, and, given how much energy I put into Mormon writing, it's nice to hear I might be "making" some sort of "difference."

Second, a paraphrase of something I heard secondhand. Originally spoken by a writer I respect immensely but who doesn't know I know she said it. So we'll leave it unsourced.
Theric's a great writer, but he'll never be mainstream.
Although this was said about my work in general, I wouldn't worry had the immediate impetus been a reading of, say, Pargruffa. But it was said in response to a short story from which I had made a serious effort to excise any lingering weirdness.


Which brings us to Byuck as a test case.

As Diehard Thans know, Byuck has passed through three serious edits. Once with the to-date finest writing group I've known. Once, over about a year, with a publisher that then abruptly decided it was making a terrible mistake. And now with Strange Violin Editions, which edit is something of a hybrid of the first two. In addition, another publisher had me spend a year talking to women who [ a) were not related to me and b) did not owe me money ] into reviewing the book pro bono. Plus there were a couple other publishers that accepted it then rejected it . . . . Anyway. We're not talking about all that.

My point is this: a goodly number of people have read this novel over the years and I've had a lot of feedback. So, yes, Byuck is weird, but, yes, Byuck is accessible. I don't know what "mainstream" means, but I don't think Byuck is assuredly NOT that.

Then again.

I know one woman who was so offended she forbade her 18-year-old son from reading it.

I know one woman who still maintains a public crush on one of the novel's leads.

I know one woman, a U of U alumna, who thought it was BYU propaganda and hated it as such.

I know one woman who knew nothing about Mormons before reading it and finished the book thinking we're a-ok.

(Also men have read the book. Promise.)

Both blurbs that will appear on the softcover are from women I didn't know well at the time they read Byuck but who requested the book thanks to its reputation. Even Strange Violin contacted me to ask for a looksee. Because of its reputation.

Which reputation, may I remind you, is confused.

My Strange Violin editor was interested in making the novel more appealing to nonMormon audiences (which, natch, I was fine with). But I learned something this third edit.

Everyone reads differently.

Let's talk jokes because they probably play the most differently from person to person.

Banana grove?
Adored by some. First with-publisher edit required a lot of promprompromising that the joke worked and that people wouldn't throw the book across the room when they came to it. Second with-publisher edit didn't even blink at the joke.
No one blinked at this until the most recent edit. Then I had to battle to keep it. And I haven't looked at the version you can buy. I don't know if it made it to print. But that's okay. I'm have no plans to look at the final version for years and years. A published book is a dead book. Or, rather, it's left my womb and gone to college and ain't nothing I can do no more.
May I help you?
Not really a joke (neither was the last one), but it's structured like a joke and it helps the novel maintain its comedic tone. But any joke you have to explain isn't funny. And if reader one thinks a joke isn't funny, then that reader will not believe anyone else will laugh either. Which makes trying to save jokes from editors difficult.

Each of these "jokes" has been loved by some readers while looked at skeptically by others. Knowing that the jokes on the chopping block this time were different from those on the chopping block last time was, yes, educational.

So what do we learn from this?

I have no idea.

What I'm waiting for now is more data.

What will the ratios be between the lovers, the haters, and the indifferent?

Read the book, then tell me how much you wished more jokes had been cut.



Lost Songs: Let's do some 1988


KFOG's 10@10 hit 1988 yesterday and, contrary to snob opinion, I was terribly happy with the set. One of which I had planned for the Lost Songs series and another that would have certainly been planned had I thought of it.

The list:
1. Smithereens - Only A Memory
2. Enya - Orinoco Flow
3. The Proclaimers - I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
4. Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians - What I Am
5. Steve Earle - Copperhead Road
(Movie: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?)
6. Siouxsie and the Banshees - Peek-A-Boo
7. Robert Cray Band - Don't Be Afraid of The Dark
(Commercial - McDonald's)
8. Little Feat - Hate To Lose Your Lovin'
9. Tracy Chapman - Fast Car
10. Maxi Priest - Wild World

I don't care what anyone says. I love that Proclaimers song. I love that Tracy Chapman song. I pretty much dig the Edie Brickell song as well, though I don't think I heard it till I started borrowing my to-be wife's cds.

But let's talk about the songs that qualify, viz. I love them and have not heard them in at least three years.

It's probably impossible to overstate how important "Orinoco Flow" has been to me. And yet I didn't know who sang the song from its radio heyday until after I graduated from high school about six years later. What life was like before the Internet, kids.

It's hard to believe I haven't listened to Enya in over three years, but it's true. I never listen to Enya anymore. But I hear her influence in all the music I do choose to listen to. She's in my DNA. And you haters can suck it.

Even though I did find a few country songs to like during the 90s, it wasn't until my brother started buying Steve Earle albums and I discovered Lucinda Williams that my opinions on country really started to solidify.

I still think that if I need a country fix, I can't do better than Steve Earle. So I'm ashamed I haven't popped him in for a listen in ages.

I do not remember this ad. What I do remember is the record that came with the Sunday paper in which, if the chorus could make it through the song, you'ld win a million dollars (or something). That cheap floppy record? Me and the sibs listened to it over and over and over again.

In related(?) news, I haven't spent money at a McDonald's since 1998 when they had 29c-hamburger Tuesdays and 49c-cheeseburger . . . I think that was Thursday.


Though it was a fun blast of nostalgia to hear it again, can't say I missed this one much.

Here's the version I remember:

Lastly, "Wild World."

The Maxi Priest version is fun and all, but one canna spend too much time with Cat Stevens. Let's go original on this one. Play it for us, Yusuf! Live!

Man. He's the best.

But mostly we've always listened to Mona Bone Jakon because Lady Steed has the cd. I should really branch out. Guy's got a lot of albums, don't you know.


Byuck vs “Marital Matters”


I honestly can't quite remember how Dave and Curses and Ref first arrived into my mind. It's hard to image they weren't always there. But I'm quite certain they did not exist prior to the essay that serves as Byuck's preface.

That essay quickly spawned two more. And for a while, I intended to write an entire book under the pseudonym "Institute for Marital Concerns." But all my cleverness seemed to have been tapped. None of the later attempts quite sung.

Which may be why I turned to fictional characters.

I suspect the essays were not part of my original plan for Byuck. After all, the original title was Byuck: A Play. Because Byuck started out as a . . . play. (You probably saw that coming.)

Now that Byuck is published and dead, it feels moderately less monomaniacal to quote myself. So this is from the acknowledgments:

My first thank you also dates to ’99 when Donlu Thayer read character sketches and early scenes printed off my old 386 and told me they were good but maybe I wasn’t quite ready to write this yet. She was absolutely right.

Byuck was difficult to write when I, like my principals, was also single, also a BYU student, also crazymixedup, also just off my mission. I was just too much like them. I had no perspective.

But after two years of marriage and having left BYU, Byuck came quickly. I arranged all the extant scenes in order, started from the beginning, translated drama to prose and filled in the gaps. Wrote the ending and voila! I was done! Rough draft! Fob was incredibly helpful in turning it into a legitimate work, and then it was just a matter of (lotsa) time until it showed up in print.

"Marital Matters" meanwhile had served it's purpose. Though it came from the same primordial sludge, it had incubated its brother and no longer mattered.

That said, "Marital Matters" (and its successes) surely kept me going through the Byuck-writing process. And thus it is with great pleasure that I announce its release as an ebook.

I'm offering it for free. First because it's from so long ago I don't feel right making money of that other Theric's work. Second because, full disclosure, this is mostly a promotional gambit. The first one's free, etc.

But I am much better for you than heroin. I am. So click. Click. Click. You know you want to. Click. C'mon. What are you waiting for? Click!


Introducing Byuck

(officially this time)


Byuck is finally, publicly, unequivocally available.

December 4, 2012. Write it down. It finally happened.

Strange Violin Editions is offering Byuck for sale.

It's strange to realize that after years of people talking about it, people will finally get to Read That Book Theric Wrote What's It Called I Heard It's Funny.

I'll be writing more posts about the novel in the coming days and weeks as I share information (eg what it's like to work with Matt Page) or announcements (of which many remain to be made---at present, the book is only available as a download from Smashwords, but it will soon be available electronically and in print from all venues).

I'll explain the Twitter feed and point you in the direction of the Facebook page and talk about how my book fits in with Stange Violin's catalogue.

But for now, simply, Byuck.