Cheeseburger Gothic

Dear Santa

Posted December 24 into Blunty by John Birmingham

I'm not allowed to write about politics for Ninefax anymore, but occasionally I sneak one through.

Dear Santa,

I know this is a bit late, Big Fella, and that you’ve been busy with the toy factory that fell into the mile-deep crevice when the polar ice sheet melted underneath it, but I’m really hoping you’ll bring some of that jingle-bell magic to the job this year, because we need it.

Our exhausted heroes could use a little Christmas cheer.
Our exhausted heroes could use a little Christmas cheer.Brett Hemmings/Getty
I have a list of things we need you to pack into the sleigh, and sorry, but it is a long list. Before you go getting your own list out and adding me to the naughty column for being so greedy, I should point out that none of this is for me. Or not directly.

First up we need about 20,000 bright-orange coveralls. It’s for some friends. They’ve been wearing theirs for more than a month now because they only had one set to begin with, and, while you’ve been rescuing elves and reindeer from that disintegrating glacier, they’ve been trying to save the world...

At Blunty.

1 Responses to ‘Dear Santa’

Halwes is gonna tell you...

Posted December 24
Not allowed to write about politics for ninefax anymore? Since the nine takeover of the Sydney Morning Herald? All the best to you and yours for the Christmas break John. There is still a bed and boat in Gove for you if you ever make it to Arnhem Land. Don't come for at least 6 months though. It is punishingly hot like I've never seen it and not even a trace of any rain yet. Record temperatures forecast again tomorrow. Thanks and best wishes to the people on Cheeseburger. You never fail to amuse and inform me. Dave

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Yes Virginia, Die Hard is a Christmas Movie

Posted December 23 by John Birmingham

Dear Sir,

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. Papa says "If the movie is at Christmas, it is so." Please tell me the truth, is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

My Dear Virginia,

Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the fake news of a skeptical age. They believe nothing except that which they see in their Facebook feed, which tells you everything you need to know about just how little are their minds.

All minds, Virginia, whether they be officer John McClane’s or international super villain Hans Gruber’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, but not like Ant-Man who has super powers and should be set aside as an outlier for the purposes of this discussion.

Yes, Virginia, Die Hard is a Christmas movie as certainly as love and generosity and teams of international super criminals exist to provide bullet magnets for maverick outsiders like maverick New York police officer John McClane.

Alas. How dreary would be the world if Christmas movies could only be released at Christmas. Should we have no enjoyment, no eternal light just because of a scheduling issue? It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias! There would be no yuletide joy for most of the year, which is why the producers of Die Hard released it in July, which is often celebrated in the southern hemisphere as a second Christmas anyway.

Your friends do not believe in the murderously festive magic of Die Hard? You might as well not believe in fairies or the ability of a barefoot man to run across a room full of broken glass when most barefoot men will not even venture into a room with a single lego piece waiting for their unprotected footfall.

You might get your cynical little friends to watch Die Hard with you and play a drinking game in which they must throw down a shot every time Christmas busts a move in the Die Hard Christmas movie. Then, when they regain consciousness the next day and find themselves sickeningly hungover, point them at the 2015 edition of Empire magazine which voted Die Hard the greatest Christmas movie ever made. Not just a Christmas movie, Virginia. The greatest.

Ah, but what would that prove? Only that you and I are right and everybody else is wrong.

Nobody sees Christmas in Die Hard, who cannot find the joy of Christmas in 132 minutes of homicidal violence and gratuitous undershirt wearing.

The most real things in this world are those that neither children nor men can see, like why since the international super villains’ whole plan relies on the FBI cutting power to the building so they can open the vault to steal the bearer bonds, they don’t just use their own obviously extensive knowledge and control of Nakatomi Plaza to cut the power themselves?

Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world, Virginia, particularly when they are found in Christmas movies, like Die Hard which is definitely a Christmas movie. For instance, you kill a criminal pretending to be a terrorist and send him back to Hans Gruber in an elevator with a snarky note because this is somehow a better plan to protect your wife, who’s already ticked off with you, than simply killing the guy and stealing his detonators to thwart a critical part of Gruber’s plan. But Virginia, there is a veil covering the unseen world and a Santa bonnet covering that dead terrorist criminal when the elevator doors open and the snarky note to Hans reads “Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.”

Virginia, not the strongest man, or even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could shift the immovable truth of that stiffening corpse in a Santa hat and the magic of the words "Ho Ho Ho”

Die Hard not a Christmas movie? Virginia, a thousand years from now, maybe ten times 10,000 years from now, maverick police officer John McClane will still be walking across broken glass, stealing machine guns and detonators, and humorously murdering Hans Gruber’s henchmen before dropping Hans a couple of hundred floors to his death and he will do it all and always on Christmas Eve, with complete legal impunity to make glad the hearts of children and those of us who are but children at heart.

Merry Christmas, Virginia.

From The Seven Stages of Drinking Martinis.

9 Responses to ‘Yes Virginia, Die Hard is a Christmas Movie’

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted December 23
Damn right it's a Christmas Movie.

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insomniac reckons...

Posted December 23
I can't believe that's even a question.

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tqft is gonna tell you...

Posted December 23
The Long Kiss Goodnight is a better Xmas movie

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted December 23
It is an excellent Christmas movie, with outstanding motherfucking dialogue. But it was not voted the Greatest Christmas Movie Ever.

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Dirk would have you know...

Posted December 23
By virtue of the fact that Christmas over here consists of two days (Boxing Day is known here as 2nd Christmas Day) one is considering one of the holiest acts one can do. The Die Hard Binge ... One might utter the holy words: "I am too old for this shit. to which the congregation answers with a solemn "Yippikayee, MotherFucker".

For was this not for told in that other sacred text, The Gospel of Browning ,,,

Burgers, may I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy 2020, subtly decorated with 'splosions and mayhem.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 24
Merry Christmas to to you, mate.

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted December 25
This one seems to have blown up on facebook, weird how some generate lots of responses others not so much. I bet its a secret the FB team is desperate to discover.

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AgingGamer asserts...

Posted January 5
You know what is a great companion to watching Die Hard at Xmas? The Fir Hard the board game:

I got a copy for my birthday late last year and it is excellent fun. Plus you can now live your fantasy by playing as John McLean. Yippie ki yay Melon Farmers!!

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 6
Holy sheet!

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Listen to these darts fans go wild

Posted December 20 by John Birmingham

A woman called Fallon Sherrock has won the world championship of darts (first time for the ladies) and there is something just so fucking wildly gleeful about the crowd reaction that in line with my new policy on publishing only good things, I have to run it here.

I haven't played darts in years, and was never any good. But this makes me smile every time I watch it.

4 Responses to ‘Listen to these darts fans go wild’

insomniac puts forth...

Posted December 20
I don't want to rain on your parade of all things good and nice, but she didn't win the championship. It was the first time a woman has won 'a' match at the championships. Still a good thing, pioneering and all that.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted December 20
Even better. More worlds to conquer.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted December 20
i like the "ooooh" as she misses it the first time - the dead silence and drawing them in for the kill. Darts players are mental - i was doing a conference with the father in law (he makes wooden toys and flatpacks them for team building exercises . . . .man, the stories i could tell) but it was held across the hall from the state darts championships and they were all wandering around with their jim and cokes at 10 in the morning. I guess it was priming fluid, as we all know a game of pool is better on a couple of drinks.

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Matthew F. mutters...

Posted December 20
At some point in my last jaunt around England the TV where I was staying ended up on a championship darts match and yeah, it was surreal. The fans seemed to be burning way more calories than the competitors - it looked less like a crowd of fans watching a sports match and more like a large unruly party which happened to have a darts game going on at one edge of it.

The two contestants even had big-production entrances and personas, pro wrestling style. One guy came on in an Aloha shirt surrounded by surfies and hula girls to the Hawaii 5-0 music, and the other one came on to the Imperial March, complete with assorted Star Wars cosplayers and a little video of him holding a dart where the point was a miniature red lightsabre blade. Madness.

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The secret of regular blogging? Scrambled eggs

Posted December 20 by John Birmingham

For a very long time, I found it difficult to write here. It started when my dad got sick and got worse after he died. Partly it was depression, but even after that cleared I didnt seem able to just login and write. I was too busy trying to rebuild my writing career with ebooks, private columns, and this year with screenwriting.

Every minute spent here was time subtracted from that effort.

And then I found a cafe that opened at 5.30 in the AM.

Climate change helped too. An easy part of fitness routine was walking the hills of Paddington in the morning while Jane cranked out the laps with her swim group. But as this summer turned brutal I just could come at hiking in the heat. I found a cafe nearby that opened super early and took up a regular perch. With an hour to kill it was pleasant to simply noodle around with blog posts. I can't do any deep constructive book writing in cafes. That just doesn't work for me.

But jotting a few thoughts down? Sure. I could do that.

And so here we are. It's really fucking nice to write without deadlines or invoices or marketing plans or any of that shit. Just write, usually after a plate of eggs and maybe some fried halloumi.

Of course that's done terrible damage to my calorie balance for the day, but I've never been productive in the afternoon, so I now just head off to the gym and do my penance then, after logging four or five hours of paid writing.

Not sure how I'll go when the apocalyptic weather backs off and I can go back to morning exercise, but by then I should have my blogging momentum back.

2 Responses to ‘The secret of regular blogging? Scrambled eggs’

she_jedi asserts...

Posted December 20
Look I don't blame you for not being able to write without a cooked breakfast first; maybe that can go in an update to How to be a Writer. But it's such a pleasure to suddenly have oodles of updates on the Burger to consume, I'm not going to argue with how you get there :)

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Rob ducks in to say...

Posted December 21
Ok that's great and the everything but what does ole JB think about the Baby Yoda in the Mandalorian? That's what I demand early morning bacon and eggs thinking time spent on. Or afternoon, either way get on that yoddler train.

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"In the last episode of the apocalypse..."

Posted December 19 by John Birmingham

One of the knotty little challenges in writing any series of books is the reader who arrives halfway through. It happens. All the time.

Some of them don't even realise they've stepped into a story that's already rolling. They just feel a bit confused and frustrated and don't know why.

All writers have ways of dealing with this. In Harry Turtledove's World War series, the leader of invading space lizards had a debriefing at the start of each book, bascially recapping the story. In After America I used the ceremony to appoint the next US Poet Laureate to go back over the events of Without Warning. (Even paid an actual poet to write me a poem).

In FAIL STATE, the sequel to ZERO DAY CODE, I was lucky in having one trick I could turn to two purposes. The little vignettes scattered throughout the manuscript to give the reader/listener a broader overview of the cyberwar and civilisation collapse also proved super useful for recapping. One of my faves is below, a cut away in the second chapter to the International Space Station, a location we never visit again, for reasons that quickly become obvious.

The end of the world had arrived. It just wasn’t evenly distributed. Darkness fell hardest where the light of civilisation had burned with the brightest splendour. The crew of the International Space Station were ideally placed to observe the dying cities of the North American continent, but immediately after the Chinese cyber attack on the US, there was surprisingly little to note. Unlike the morning of the 9/11 atrocities, no vast grey plumes soared into the atmosphere like dark volcanic ejecta.
Indeed, as the edge of darkness crept across the continent at the end of that first day, the Canadian crew member, Dan Frith, noted that the dense filigree of electric brilliance that traced the veins and arteries of urban life far below, seemed noticeably brighter – a consequence of tens of millions of automobiles trapped in gargantuan traffic jams. Second order effects of the cyber strike, such as panic buying, creeping hunger, and eventual mass starvation were not readily obvious from four hundred kilometres above the Earth’s surface, unlike the accelerating collapse of the power grid over the following week and a half.
It would be six months before the continental United States was completely dark, save for a few hundred pin points of light scattered far from the ruins of the great cities. But by then the four men and two women who had observed the trifling struggles of mankind as the Gods once had looked down from Olympus, had themselves perished. No NASA missions came to their rescue. The European Space Agency, like Europe itself, was taken into the maw a new Dark Age. Roscosmos, ESA’s Russian equivalent was quickly militarised with the outbreak of hostilities on the Eurasian landmass, and just as quickly destroyed in the short, brutal war that followed.
Roscosmos was always an unlikely hope for salvation, Frith noted in one of the last mission logs. A quirk of the crew rotation schedule meant that he had replaced the previous Russian crewmember, Cosmonaut Colonel Danya Spasojevic, when the final Soyuz docked with the space station, two weeks before the catastrophe that came to be known, however briefly, as Zero Day.
Nobody read Frith’s mission log.
The ISS burned up on re-entry fifteen months and two days after General Chu Jianguo of the 2nd Bureau, Third Department of the People's Liberation Army General Staff pressed a single bright red key, labeled ENTER, to launch Operation Golden Path.

You can grab the books here, if you have a credit going spare at Audible.

5 Responses to ‘"In the last episode of the apocalypse..."’

she_jedi asserts...

Posted December 19
Just got your email pimping out Fail State, even though your pimping is too late because I pre-ordered it, so there. But this line "...all your favourite characters are back, unless I killed them. Sorry." made me laugh very loudly in a quiet office and everyone looked at me strangely. I regret nothing #WorthIt

Ceramic mumbles...

Posted December 22
Yeah, I chuckled at that line too. Now that I know it's a writer's thing. Helped by writer's discussions after George RR Martin's line about killing off a character whenever someone asked about them.

Like the idea of the space station's crew setting the scene.

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jl puts forth...

Posted December 20
FAIL STATE was excellent; I burned through it in a few days of chores and car rides. Frightening book, really. Of course I left a review on the Beast.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted December 20
I’ve been really surprised at how well it came together. It was Hell to write.

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pitpat ducks in to say...

Posted December 20
Thanks John,
I have it loaded up and am waiting until the Christmas drive fest between the Smoky Coast and the still bright lights of Brisbane. Can't wait and might just crack the first bit of Christmas cheer early. I am treating it as my little present to myself as no one else in my tribe appreciates the whole dystopian future thing. Yep, I am surrounded by barbarians more interested in Agatha Christie and Anime than modern literature that explodes in your ears.
Have a great break and thanks for all the words this year, hope they paid off handsomely.

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Missed it by this much

Posted December 18 into Books by John Birmingham

Had a moment of high excitement today when James McPherson on Twitter reminded me that Felafel was a book I wrote.

He was excited that he'd been able to find a couple of second-hand paperback copies, but his tweet reminded me that the contract I signed with Pan Mac handing over the rights to Felafel and Babes (just before everything went pear-shaped with them) was coming up on the end of its term.

Perhaps it might even be over by now! I dug up the papers, amazed I could find them to be honest, and rifled through looking for that all important end date. Gah!

It's November 15 next year.

Sad trombone.

Still, that's something to look forward to. I don't know what I'm going to do with those books when I get them back, but I will definitely do something.

8 Responses to ‘Missed it by this much’

she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted December 18
At least you know, and can plan now. How peeved would you have been to discover that it was Nov 15 last year, and you'd wasted all this time? :)

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted December 18
You are very wise.

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Leftarc reckons...

Posted December 19
Maybe an update for today's kiddies stepping out into the brave new world. Instead of druggies stealing spoons, and how to get free food, it's sharing Netflix passwords and slurping of the neighbors unsecured wifi hotspot.

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jason is gonna tell you...

Posted December 19
I reckon this lends itself to a "Demons of Butte Crack County" type arrangement where people can contribute true share house stories to a compilation as part of a relaunch.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 20
That would end up being a never ending stream of quality content. As soon as the kids are finished with school i'm booting them out to go experience share house living. Grows hair on yer chest it does.

Ceramic reckons...

Posted December 22
Yeah man, I'd totally be up for that. Was telling someone a bunch of first rental and sharehouse stories stories on Thursday.
We were out at Wynum eating fish and chips. She asked if I'd find it easy to write at the beach. I was like "My Wynnum stories, yeah. I reckon I could do that with the suburbs I'd lived in". Like a writing road tour.
Will have to admit to some crappy and irresponsible stuff. I'm one of those peeps who kept being kicked out or just slipped away in the night. Couldn't handle confrontations.

Made my oldest friends in a sharehouse. They had a party one night where I, dressed elegantly as always sang Hallelujah then rocked Bloodhound Gang's Fire water Burn. The shocked faces looking up at me was gold. Was it inappropriate or was I subverting their expectations? Either way, they knew I was more than an apparently shy pencil skirt, hehe.

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Therbs reckons...

Posted December 20
Rewrite it in the Dave universe and have monsters eating housemates and then becoming housemates. Sometimes who'd know the fricken difference?

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted December 20
THIS!! I'm sure we can all contribute stories

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