Alert Nerd Press Spotlight: Do You Want to Grok My Avatar?

Alert Nerd Press Spotlight: Do You Want to Grok My Avatar?

Mar 24

In college, I made my own ‘zine. It was called FanGirl. It had a purple cover, a stapled spine, and multiple unfortunate font choices. I still have many, many fond remembrances of parading down College and Telegraph Aves in Berkeley, dropping issues off at Cody’s and Pendragon, hoping someone might be drawn in by the cute cartoon astronaut girl on the cover.

All of us at Alert Nerd have “I made this!” memories like that (ask Matt about his Clara Peller ‘zine sometime, won’t you?) and I think that’s one of the big reasons we started Grok, our little PDF ‘zine that houses essays, fiction, and general silliness centered around nerd culture. And Grok led to Alert Nerd Press, which has now published multiple booklike things. We’ve got some pretty dang crazy plans for ANP this year, so I thought it might be fun to keep you up-to-date via a monthly column that spotlights various aspects of stuff we’re working on: upcoming releases, Grok contributors, random incriminating pictures of Chris and his proton pack collection. It will be an absolute delight, I’m sure.

At the moment, we’re cranking through Grok #6, which features the theme “avatar.” Now. Please note that this is avatar, the thing, and not Avatar, the movie. In hindsight, perhaps it would’ve been smart of us NOT to pick a theme that conjures images of gigantic blue dragon-bonking monsters from Endor. But whatever. We’re going with it.

My piece in Grok #6 is another short story set in the One Con Glory universe. I honestly thought these characters were kind of done (they got their own book, after all — what more do they want?!), but then I revisited them in our last issue and decided maybe they had a few more adventures in ’em after all. Here’s a work-in-progress excerpt of the story you’ll see in Grok #6, due out in May. One of my goals here is to give a bit of screen time to a supporting player who didn’t have much to do in Glory — but a lot of folks have told me they love her and want to see MORE. (Hopefully, they weren’t lying in an “Oh, but Jar-Jar is so underrated” kind of way.)


“I haven’t had sex in three days.”

I stare blankly at the disheveled source of these words — flannel shirt misbuttoned over coffee-stained tank, hair pulled into ratty bun/ponytail hybrid, face screwed into a mask of from-the-gut distress.

“It’s before noon on Saturday, Layla,” I finally say. “My comprehension skills aren’t fully functional and I’m not very good at rousing girlfriend pep talks in general, so why don’t you come in and we’ll take this from the top?” I open my apartment door a little wider and she sweeps in, all long limbs and balletic grace, her off-kilter elegance somehow enhanced by her messy appearance. Then she whirls around, hands shooting out to lock my shoulders in a death grip. “You,” she breathes, eyes narrowing suspiciously. “You had sex recently.” Her head twists as she wildly scans the room, evoking unpleasant Exorcist-type imagery. “Is Jack here?”

“First of all: ow,” I say, batting ineffectually at her claw-like fingers. “Your Hulk-on-fucking-steroids strength never ceases to amaze me. Second of all: yes. He’s sleeping.” I incline my head towards the bedroom. “Third of all…third of all?” I frown. “That doesn’t sound right. Anyway, third of all: are you making it your own bizarre mission to perceive when people last copulated? Like some kind of…sexdar?”

“I call it my ‘sex sense,’” she says sagely.

“Well, whatever it is, it’s broken: he got here at 3 this morning after back-to-back 17-hour shooting days and passed right out. And I think I like ‘sexdar’ better.”

“Auuuuugggggggh.” With that anguished cry, Layla pirouettes herself into my rickety papasan and slumps over in defeat, deflating like a week-old balloon. “What the frak is wrong with me?”

I settle myself into the apartment’s only other piece of seating — a sad little desk chair — and look at her quizzically. “Ya know, three days isn’t that long for most people,” I say. “Isn’t Mitch really busy at work right now? Also, um…did the queen of pop cultural ignorance just correctly use ‘frak’?”

“I think I’ve managed to absorb a fair amount of Bubblestar Galactica terminology from you guys,” she says distractedly. “And yes,” she adds before I can open my mouth. “I know I just got the name wrong.”

Her eyes narrow, focusing on a haphazard pile of clothes on the floor. “As for being busy at work…that’s not why,” she mutters, her voice morphing into a low growl. “As a newly-cohabitating couple, it should be happening once a day at the bare minimum. Preferably in as many creative locations as we can manage.”

“Alright, alright.” I hold up my hands in surrender. “Please. Say no more. There are tons of awesome things about your two best friends being a disgustingly happy couple, but hearing about their supposed-to-be prodigious sex life is not one of them.”

Her head flops forward and she heaves a mighty sigh, glaring murderously at the pile of defenseless clothes.

“Um. You seem…well, really not so much like you right now,” I say hesitantly. “And nothing against embracing your inner Angelus, but you’re pretty much the least dark and broody person I know, so…is there something else going on? Besides the lack of sex?”

She tilts her head to the side, a slight smile playing across her lips. “That was actually a really good girlfriend pep talk, Julie,” she says, a ghost of her usual carefree cheerleader persona coming through.

More coming in May! See you then.

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