More Sleeptalk Stuff

So after recording myself talking in my sleep (I have no idea why that sounds grammatically incorrect) for a couple of weeks now, I’ve learned some interesting things.

1. I don’t talk as much as I thought I did. A total of a few minutes a night, but I do seem to say something almost every night.

2. Half of what I say is totally indecipherable. Mubble zubbla wug wug, and out.

3. I seem to be a very nice and polite guy in my sleep. This threatens to make me the polar opposite of Sleeptalkin Man Adam, who is apparently very nice and polite when he is awake. (He is also far more articulate, inventive, and funny than I am in his sleep.)

4. I laugh a lot in my sleep, and I also say, “Oh, thank you very much” a lot. Maybe I’m just insecure and I give myself a lot of compliments in my sleep.

5. Sometimes I sound eerily like my father, who also talked in his sleep. My father was raised in Birmingham, Alabama and had a pretty strong accent. The other night I laughed at something in my sleep and then said, “Shee-it.”

6. I’ve read that sleeptalking does not happen when you are dreaming at all, but in hypnopompic states — that is, the sort of twilight consciousness when you’ve just gone to sleep and especially before waking. Supposedly when you sleeptalk you are actually responding to external stimuli being incorporated into your consciousness.

Far as I’m concerned this last one is bullshit. I’ve heard too many snippets now that caused me to remember a dream I’d had that I hadn’t thought of until the lines triggered it. Last night in my sleep I said, “What? A Samoan narrator?” and started laughing. I remembered that I had dreamed about my boss from back in the Internet Bubble days, Tasi Ponder, a very interesting woman who had been a competitive bodybuilder. Tasi’s mother was Samoan. (Don’t ask me where the narrator bit came from.)

Later in the night I said, “What the hell are you talking about? I never lived with her. She was an actress. She worked really hard.” Hearing that, I remembered that I had dreamed about an old girlfriend, Marilyn Chin, who had indeed been an actress (she was on an episode of Stargate, and I campaigned for her to play Deanna Troi when ST:TNG was in preproduction) and a model. Someone in my dream had been disparaging Marilyn as an actor in some way and I had leapt to her defense.

The best was a couple of nights ago when I not only sang, I sang in a weird voice with this huge vibrato. I realized I was imitating Anthony Newley singing “Candy Man.” Weirder, in my dream I had been telling someone how David Bowie had been influenced by Newley (which is true; even Bowie said so), and I was demonstrating by singing “Candy Man” as Newley but exaggerating the Bowie qualities. (I mashup imitations all the time. The other day I caught myself [not in my sleep, which in a way is weirder, huh?] doing Gollum imitating Christopher Walken, and then did Christopher Walken playing Gollum. It’s a percentage difference. It was pretty funny, though:  Five hunnrid yeeuhz … I carried dis ring … up my ass … an’ now it’s yours … little man.“)

Mortality Bridge – Finished Cover

Subterranean Press cover

Here’s the final version of the J.K. Potter cover for the Subterranean Press hardcover of Mortality Bridge. Pretty spiffy, I think. Pub date is end of July.

I haven’t been blogging about the book (or anything else!) lately because I’m working on the Mortality Bridge website. It’s coming along nicely and I hope to launch it in mid May. It’ll have sample chapters, Google Earth maps, audio, and more. I’m playing with the idea of an “outtakes” section of cut scenes. It’s a cool feature on DVDs, why not a book’s website?

I’m still not certain about going to Worldcon in August. I better make up my mind fairly soon.

Unbelievably, World Fantasy Con sold out a month ago (probably because Neil Gaiman is the Guest of Honor), so that’s probably out for me. Shame; it’s in San Diego this year. A nice drive and a pleasant town. Oh, well. Of course, I can always go anyway and hang out in the hotel bar. It’s where everything happens anyhow.

Author Pikcherz

I wonder if “camera shy” is an anachronism. It’s hard to imagine anyone under thirty being camera shy. A generation born with the camcorder and raised on increasing megapixels and direct-digital recording to the extent that pictures and videos are routinely recorded by telephones (!) and placed on a global bulletin board, a generation whose fawning and narcissistic Baby Boomer parents insisted on recording every diaper change and Gerber’s yark before handing that torch off to the kid’s own grasping hand — camera shy? Yehright.

So perhaps I set myself on the other side of some techno-immersive media-chic line of demarcation when I say that I am camera shy.

Well, not camera shy.  More like camera conscious. When I know a camera is pointed at me I get self conscious. Either my face tightens up or I start to mug — the headshot equivalent of William Shatner’s acting.

Mostly this isn’t an issue. The world isn’t really clamoring for artful pictures of Steve obscuring famous landmarks, or looking all writerly and authoritative on a convention panel, or whatever. But then there’s the issue of the Author Picture. Publishers want a picture of you on the book jacket, especially if it’s a hardcover, and when you promote the book you want a good headshot for interviews. Then it’s an issue. Mostly because very very few people can get a good picture of me. It’s not their fault; some of them are very talented photographers. It’s that camera-conscious thing.

Now here’s the deal. I’ve gotten to where I want my Author Shot to reflect the book it’s on. To be similar in mood and theme. Because of that, and because I seem to change my look a lot, I want a different author shot for each book.


Enter Ken Mitchroney. He’s been my friend for 28 years. I could write a book about him, and if he isn’t careful, I will. Ken is a director, animator, comic book publisher, modified sportsman-class race car driver, pinstriper, car customizer and pinstriper, friend of and collaborator with the legendary Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, railfan and classic locomotive restorer, steel guitar player, official illustrator for the Oakland A’s and the Baltimore Orioles (he redesigned their logo a few years back), and god knows what else. I have been blessed with great friends with whom I have had the good fortune to work on a number of memorable and creative projects, and Ken is most definitely one of them.

steven r boyett
Elegy Beach author shot

Ken somehow manages to take good pictures of me. He took the author shot for Elegy Beach (the same photo session that yielded the shot on my writing website banner, as well as one of the main shots I used on my podcast newsletters for a long time). So I asked Ken if we could do a shoot for Mortality Bridge. “Sure,” he said, “it’ll be fun.”

I’d planned to come down to L.A. and get some shots in some of the locations in the novel. Then Subterranean moved the pub date up from November to July and I needed to get some shots fairly soon. “No problem,” sez Ken. And next time he comes home to the Bay Area he takes me to the Point Richmond Ferry Tunnel. Which was perfect.

As a director Ken’s very aware of the ambient light throughout the day, and we got there in the late afternoon when the tunnel’s textures would really pop. We took a ton of pix, but it soon became evident what the best location was and we concentrated on that. Cars zooming by and honking in the tunnel, pedestrians and cyclists streaming across the walkway, and us grabbing as many shots as we could in between. Ken saying, “Follow my finger. Don’t look that way, look over my shoulder. Chin up. Smile. Not that much. Hold that.” Click click click.

I mention all of this not out of egotism — believe me, when it comes to photographs of me I got nothing to be egotistical about — but because author pix are one of those things you see all the time but maybe don’t think so much about (and I see a lot of author pix that I don’t think the author thought so much about, either), and it seemed worth talking about what goes into getting one. For me, anyway.

You run all over the location and take about 100 pix to find the 4 or 6 that really stand out. You crop them to accentuate the composition. You color correct and sharpen. You try them in black & white and adjust light & contrast. You bother the crap out of friends like some ophthalmologist (“Better this way, or this way?). Then you pick one and send it off. And with any luck the other contenders can be used as publicity stills.

Here’s the one we picked for the Subterranean Press dust jacket of Mortality Bridge.

steven r boyett

Talking the Talk

Sometimes I talk in my sleep. That means that a part of me is conversing while the thinking part of me — the part I usually think of as me (during the day, anyhow) — is unconscious.  I find this a bit creepy. It’s like being possessed, or operated by remote control, or having multiple personalities, or something.

Yet it’s also perfectly in character as well. My forebrain often has a monkey grip on the rest of me. It lets go during yoga, martial arts, great sex, and great drugs, which of course has made all of those things fairly appealing over the years. Not, you know, that some of them wouldn’t be appealing anyhow. But even during some of these I tend to be pretty high-verbal. (I’ll leave it to you to decide which ones. But you can probably rule out yoga.)

I’ve awakened myself more than a few times, either yelling something or just laughing out loud, and I’m told that if you respond to me while I’m talking in my sleep, I’ll reply. Apparently if I’m contradicted, though, I get all flustered. At least I’m consistent asleep or awake.

I recently subscribed to the Sleeptalking Man blog. If you don’t know what it is, I urge you to run over and take a look. (Go ahead; I’ll wait.) If I lived a thousand lives I could not be as consistently creative, brilliantly narcissistic, and entertainingly belligerent as Adam is in his sleep.

But the blog made me slap my head in one of those “D’oh!” moments. Adam’s wife records his nightly utterances with a voice-activated recorder. Whythehell didn’t I ever think of that?

I immediately switched the little Sony voice recorder I use to record readings & lectures to “voice activation” and set it by the bed that very night. And the next morning I listened to myself say, “Oh, thank you very much!” twice, with genuine pleasure in my voice, as well as “I know I can do it; I saw it in a movie!”

Hearing myself talk in my sleep is both more and less creepy than I thought it would be. More, because I’m saying shit I wasn’t there for. Less, because what I’m saying isn’t all that creepy. In fact, I seem to be kind of a nice guy in my sleep. Perhaps I am the temperamental opposite of Adam, who apparently is a very nice guy while awake. Hmm.

The next night yielded “Oh, no, I read her obituary in the L.A. Times,” and, “Great to see you, man!”

The Sony’s battery doesn’t like to last all night on voice-activation, so I bought a nifty little iPhone App called Audio Memos 2 that records in .wav format and has threshold, limiter, volume, and decay controls along with voice activation and stereo options. I used it last night and it’s even better. (Afterward I learned that there is a dedicated Sleep Talk Recorder app that seems pretty nifty, too. I shoulda known.)

I realized that there some other potential benefits (and pitfalls) to recording yourself in your sleep. Increasing awareness of sleep apnea, for one. Making your partner believe he or she snores like a bathtub sucking down jello, for another. For me, though, I’m fascinated with these little glimpses into brief and unaccompanied journeys a part of me takes most nights.