Michael Avolio's sci-fi war story romance webcomic
Michael Avolio

I saw the film The Lobster this past week. It's a strange, allegorical satire - at turns eccentrically funny and piercingly painful. It presents a unique, fully-realized world of mannered speech and revealing rituals. As with some of the best satire, its story functions on its own but also prompts us to look at ourselves and the world around us with a more critical eye. It's best experienced without much foreknowledge, but if you decide to watch it, prepare yourself for an idiosyncratic film with dark deadpan humor and stung humanity. It has a great cast, some of whom are doing the type of work I've never seen them do before. And the usage of voiceover, the delivery of exposition, and the methods of storytelling are all very well done. I've never seen anything else by this director before, but I'm eager to correct that.


I've been listening to a lot of blues icon B.B. King the past few days. Amazon has a bunch of his classic albums at low prices (his 1956 debut album, Singin' the Blues; 1969's Completely Well, featuring probably his most famous song, "The Thrill is Gone"; 1970's Indianola Mississippi Seeds; etc.). One I hadn't heard till this weekend was 1971's B.B. King in London.

The 1960s' white English electric blues artists (The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, etc.) had a lot of respect for the original black American blues artists, and since their popularity dwarfed the bluesmen's, there rose a trend to fly the older artists over to the UK so they could make a record backed by English rockers. Muddy Waters did a couple (Fathers and Sons is the better of the two, but The London Muddy Waters Sessions is still a Muddy Waters album), and Howlin' Wolf did one (maybe the best of the lot, it also features the Wolf's regular guitarist, Hubert Sumlin, who Clapton insisted Chess Records fly over to England with Howlin' Wolf - Chess didn't want to pay for the extra plane ticket and hotel room, but Clapton threatened to not do with the project without him, so Chess complied).

B.B. King in London is another such album, and the whole thing is an off-the-cuff, high-energy romp. You can tell everyone's having a lot of fun - King having a blast playing with these guys, and them thrilled to be playing with King - and that fun is contagious. 


New pages of my comic Flesh Machine can be read at I appreciate you reading and sharing it with others who you think may enjoy its blend of science fiction, war story, and love story.


I was cleaning out my email account recently and came across some stuff I wrote over ten years ago. So I'll wrap up this week with a weird little fiction piece I wrote back in 2005...

Probably Your Last Night Alive

Twenty times you've called, twenty times and no answer. You let it ring until the machine picks up, and sometimes you listen to her voice, but it only makes you happy the first two times, and after that it just makes you sadder than you already are. Maybe you shouldn't be drinking. Almost definitely you shouldn't have taken those pills. Andy gave them to you, and who knows where Andy got them at? Probably from someone looking for Jack's cow. You shouldn't have taken the pills, they've got you making jokes with references to fairy tales. Funny how you tend to revert back to childhood stories and memories when the rest of you is on the blink. On the blink, who used to say that? Concentrate, try to remember. Stop dialing, put the phone down, and concentrate. Uncle Martin, wasn't it? Yeah, old Uncle Martin, with the funny hairpiece, which was better than the ugly comb-over but still funny since he'd had a comb-over for so long that he really wasn't fooling anyone. Who did he think he was fooling? Really, now. If you were to get a hairpiece, you'd do it right when you started balding. Otherwise, to get one that would actually fool people you'd have to start over with a new life, a new identity, a new name. And that's too much hassle, especially at the age you'd be at that point. You say now you'd never wear a hairpiece, but how can you know? You'll be a different man in twenty years, and you'll probably be starting to go bald. Your eating habits won't have changed enough and you'll be overweight. Not by much, but more than you'll be willing to exercise off. You'll either be divorced or stuck in a bland marriage like your parents and you'll be realizing you're closer to the end of your life than the beginning, or at least halfway to the end, and then you'll start to go bald. Criminy, you'll say, because you will have picked that word up, along with using the word hobble to describe your attempt at walking, since that knee of yours will stop playing around with you and get down to business, the business of not working well at all. Criminy, you'll say, I'm going bald, on top of everything else? Criminy, this is just what I need. That last part, the part about it being just what you need, will, of course, be sarcastic, and you'll say it to yourself out loud, and your wife if you still have one will be within earshot but will have long since learned to recognize the tone of voice you use when talking to yourself and she'll ignore you and go on with her crossword. And it's then you'll more than likely decide to get a hairpiece, like Uncle Martin had before he died. Not that his death had anything to do with the hairpiece. His death wasn't connected to the hairpiece, and he himself wasn't connected to it when he was buried. Aunt Margie wouldn't allow it. What did they do with it? Probably they threw it out. She wouldn't want it around, not after all that ordeal. His death, you remember that? It was an ordeal. Months, it stretched out over months. The cancer took his strength but he fought it till very close to the end. The pain, they said, it was too great. Too great for him to continue with. He couldn't handle any more treatments. You got to miss half a day of school to go to the funeral. Your parents came and took you out of school right before lunch, and you and them and Andy, he was just a baby then, you all started driving up to Maine, where the funeral was the next day. You stayed in a hotel overnight, but you were too tired to ask to use the pool that night before bed, and probably your parents hadn't packed your swimsuit anyway. Travel always wears you out. There was that cross-country trip you and Andy took when he graduated college. That summer seemed endless as the highway stretched out in front of you, but somehow the freedom made you sad. Probably it made you sad because you were aware of your adulthood, because if Andy was done with college then you, you who were almost three full years older than Andy, you must surely be an adult by now. And being an adult means having more than a job during the summer to make some money so you can take Jenny down to the beach on the weekend and buy concert tickets and save up for a guitar. Being an adult means having a career. And it means, someday, dying. Uncle Martin looked sad lying there, you remember that. He didn't look peaceful, he looked sad. Probably he was wondering who'd taken his hairpiece and if he could have it back. Probably you should've went up to his casket and pulled his hairpiece out of your pocket and solemnly placed it on his head and adjusted it till it was the way he liked it. You shouldn't have done it, of course, and where would you have even gotten his hairpiece at? This is what those pills will do to you, making you think these crazy thoughts. Or are the pills just the excuse? All your life you've made excuses for things, way, way too much. When Andy got a broken arm falling off the tree fort and really it was actually your fault because you pushed him, gave him a nasty little shove right off there, you excused yourself from the whole ordeal by pointing out, as he cried, that you guys were playing pirates, and he was supposed to walk the plank. He'd been sneaking extra water, after all, and you hadn't seen land for days. Days! Weeks, even. And every time you're late picking up Jenny you have an excuse. Traffic, usually. But you know there's almost always traffic on the way to pick her up, because she lives near two different very busy roads, especially around rush hour, but still you don't leave early. She's tired of all of that. Tired of you, more than likely. You had that fight last night and she called you all those names and you said you didn't care but really, of course, you do. She's still not picking up the phone and probably she's out with some other guy who'll buy her roses and rides a motorcycle. You've tried all that before, but you don't know the language of flowers and you've never been good at balance. Probably you should just stop calling her. Try again tomorrow when you're sober and you're off these pills. Why'd you take them, anyway? You're like a baby, you'll stick anything in your mouth to find out what it is. Any dirty old thing off the floor, you'll put right on in there. Andy used to do that with your toys and markers and books. Sometimes you'd put down gross things near him to see if he'd try and put them in his mouth and he always did but eventually your mom caught you doing it and made you stop. Andy's judgment can't be trusted on subjects like these, he's far too trusting of people and often misled and manipulated. When you told him Roger, the neighbor kid, was from Egypt, he believed you, and Roger was just from Cincinnati. Andy is just the sort of guy who'd trade a whole cow for a handful of beans. You can't count on him to be reliable about important things such as pills. Probably you should call a doctor. Probably this is your last night alive. This, surely, is no way to go out. You'd much rather die doing something exciting, so they'd all say, oh, he's the guy who died on top of that mountain hanging from that pole, or, oh, he's that guy who died on top of that subway train. What did he think he was doing up there? No one knows. What would you be doing on top of a subway train? And how would you stay on top of it to die? Almost definitely calling a doctor is the right thing to do. You should do it right now, your stomach feels like there are bugs inside. They're just crawling around right now, but what if they start eating your guts? There's nothing you can do. Maybe drink some lava. Of course, there aren't really bugs in there and you should call a doctor or even Andy or somebody. But if you pick up the phone now, you'll just dial her number again, and that's the last thing you should do. The last thing except getting on top of that subway train, even though right now it sounds like it could be fun. So just lie down, nice and easy. Don't move your head too fast or you might get sick all over the bed. And go to sleep. Steady your breathing and sleep. Things'll be better in the morning, more than likely.
MFA 5.20.05

"The art in Flesh Machine is deceptively simple, with a hint of Mike Mignola influence, but this comic is one cool science fiction story for older readers. Once you start reading Flesh Machine, it is easy to get warped right into this mysterious and provocative universe."
- Farel Dalrymple
(Pop Gun War, NY Times bestseller The Wrenchies)

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