Paul's collaborative writing on the web

The Inferior 4+1 is a Livejournal community maintained by Paul, lizhand, Paul Witcover, lucius-t and ljgoldstein.

Recent posts:

  • Lost City of the Pain God May 22, 2016
    Very glad finally to snag a copy of this Ellison prequel.
  • Free Story! May 18, 2016
    My story "Sawing" is now available at Nightmare magazine.  There's also an Author Spotlight saying a bit about the story.
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE May 18, 2016
    Four novels by Frank Herbert!
  • New Review at LOCUS ONLINE May 12, 2016
    I look at a new story collection:
  • Story Is Out! May 1, 2016
    Nightmare Magazine, with my story "Sawing," is live now.  Right now you have to subscribe to read it, but it will become available on May 18.I actually have something to say about this story, which isn't the case with some of them.  Sometimes I'll start a book or short story by smashing together subjects that seem interesting and seeing if they turn into something.  So, for example, with my novel Dark Cities Underground I put together children's books, subway systems, and Egyptian gods, and, much to my amazement, they gelled into a story.  I don't recommend this as a system for writing because it works about as often as it doesn't, which can be very frustrating.Anyway, the things I put together for "Sawing" were the Depression in the 1930s, live magic shows, and one other thing, which I can't mention because it's a spoiler.
  • Dear Halls Cough Drops April 30, 2016
    I’ve had a wretched cold for the last week and a half, during which I ingested about a pound of cough drops.  When I surfaced, a few days ago, I noticed that Halls cough drops puts little uplifting mottos on their wrappers: “Take charge and mean it.” “Bet on yourself.”  “Get back in the game.”  “Power through.”Dear Halls:I am lying on the couch, trying to work up the energy to open a bag of your cough drops.  If I were not exhausted, and coughing my lungs out, your mottos might make some sense to me.  Might I suggest slogans more in keeping with your clientele?  Something like “Don’t worry about that deadline.”  “Go back to sleep.”  “You can take Nyquil during the day too, you know.”Yours sincerely,Lisa

The Weird Universe explores a human and natural cosmos that is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. The usual suspects are Paul Di Filippo; Alex Boese, curator of the Museum of Hoaxes; and Chuck Shepherd, purveyor of News of the Weird.

Recent posts:

  • Beer Can Launcher
    Send beer cans flying straight into some innocent bystander's head into space with a .22 shell? I'm sold!
  • Pre-Game Frog Head Biting
    1977: Larry Canaday, football coach at Eau Gallie High School in Florida, would inspire his players to victory by biting the head off a live frog. No one at the school was particularly disturbed by this. Parents would even give him frogs before games to help fire up the kids. But when word of the unusual motivational technique began to attract national attention, school officials told Canaday that the "frog-biting must cease." The Bloomington Pantagraph - Oct 14, 1977 Coach Canaday, with frog statue
  • The Billiken
    Woman imagines a deity, it become part of the native cultures of Alaska and Japan. That's pretty weird. Wikipedia entry here.
  • News of the Weird (May 22, 2016)
    News of the Weird Weirdnuz.M476, May 22, 2016 Copyright 2016 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Lead Story Researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced they had recently (a first, they claimed) transmitted high-speed digital data through slabs of pork loin and beef liver. The signal cleared the muscle and gristle so cleanly that it permitted streaming of high-definition video--enough to watch Netflix, said the lead researcher. (Actually, the advance is crucial in that it allows a patient to swallow a transmitter and for physicians to monitor inner workings of the body in real time and externally control implanted devices such as cranial sensors and defibrillators.) [Engineering at Illinois press release, 4-18-2016] Can’t Possibly Be True Religious leaders associated with the Quiverfull ministry announced intentions for a November retreat this year in Wichita, Kan., at which parents will meet to plan “arranged” Christian marriages for their prepubescent daughters, to maximize the future couples’ childbearing potential--supposedly the number-one priority of all females. Quiverfull activist Vaughn Ohlman has written that female fertility is optimal during their teens (actually, just after age 12) and drops off in their 20s. The local district attorney, queried by the Wichita Eagle, said such marriages are legal as long as all parties consent--but Ohlman has maintained that the Bible does not require the bride’s consent if her father has given his. [Wichita Eagle, 5-5-2016] Apparently, Japanese taste buds easily become bored, for manufacturers seem eager to create extravagant food combinations to satisfy them but which might prove daunting to most Americans. The latest exhibit: the familiar Kit Kat chocolate-coated wafer--but with the ripe taste of melon and cheese (specifically, “Hokkaido Melon with Mascarpone Cheese”). As Japanese foodies know, Kit Kats in Japan come in at least 15 coatings, according to a 2013 review by, including Edamame Soybean, Purple Sweet Potato, Hot Japanese Chili, Matcha-Green Tea, Wasabi, and Red Bean Sandwich. [London Daily Mirror, 5-2-2016] [, 2-11-2013] The Daily Pakistan newspaper, covering the Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi in April, reported that a judge in Courtroom III asked a constable if he knew how the grenade entered into evidence worked. Rather than assume that an explanation was requested, the constable pulled the pin to demonstrate, and the resulting explosion injured the constable, a court clerk, and another police officer. The constable is said to be facing severe discipline as soon as he recovers. [Daily Pakistan, 4-11-2016] Latest Religious Messages Great Britain’s prisoners claiming to be adherents of the ancient Celtic pagan religion are allowed, under rules from the National Offender Management Services, to be excused from jailhouse routines to celebrate four festivals, including (of course) the Festival of the Lactating Sheep. Although “Skyclad,” or naked worship, is forbidden, prisoners can wear the silver pagan ring (to avoid “distress”) and are permitted their own chalices, crystals, “worry beads,” pentagram necklaces, hoodless robes, and flexible twig-wands. [Daily Express (London), 4-14-2016] An Israeli man (unidentified in press reports) petitioned the Haifa Magistrate’s Court recently for a restraining order against God, pointing out that the Almighty has exhibited (according to a May Times of Israel report) “a seriously negative attitude toward him,” especially over the previous three years. The judge rejected the petition even though God was not present to argue against it (or at least His presence could not be detected). [Times of Israel, 5-4-2016] Parental Values (1) In the latest ruling on a familiar theme, a court in Modena, Italy, ordered a father to continue paying living expenses for his son, age 28, who had meandered through a degree in literature but now has decided to seek another, in experimental cinema. (Almost two-thirds of Italians aged 18-34 still live with their parents.) (2) In Beijing, an elderly couple secured a court order in March forcing their 36-year-old daughter finally to move out after she had refused for years. The couple admitted to the Beijing Morning Post that they might have pampered her excessively over the years, even lending her the equivalent of $23,000 to buy a house. (Still, she stayed.) [Daily Telegraph (London), 4-27-2016] [, 3-30-2016] New World Order Gynecologists interviewed by the New York Times for an April report said they were baffled by the recent increase in teenage girls demanding cosmetic surgery on the external folds of their vulvas--since there is rarely a medical need and the safety of the operation on young girls has not been demonstrated. Some doctors called the “need” just an extreme example of teen girls’ beauty obsessions and suggested the presence in some girls of the psychiatric malady of “body dysmorphic disorder,” in which a person imagines or exaggerates a physical characteristic. (The phenomenon is different from the “vaginal rejuvenation” requested by older women, especially after childbirth, because that involves tightening internal tissue.) [New York Times, 4-26-2016] Texas School Blues (1) Houston’s KHOU-TV revealed in May that the French teacher at the Houston school district’s Energy Institute High School doesn’t speak French (but did take one year of it, in high school). (2) The Sheldon school district near Houston admitted in May that a 7-year-old student at Sheldon Elementary had written her own successful “please excuse Rosabella early” note (using lettering typical of 7-year-olds) and was allowed to go home instead of attending her after-school program. (3) School police at Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Houston threatened to arrest a 13-year-old girl during the last school year because they were unaware that the girl’s $2 bill (cafeteria payment) was valid U.S. currency. [KHOU-TV, 5-3-2016] [KTRK-TV (Houston), 5-3-2016] [KTRK-TV, 4-28-2016] Police Reports (1) In April, police in Brighton, Ontario, responded to what was reported by neighbors as a domestic dispute, involving shrieks like, “I hope you die!” They found only a man “arguing” with his pet parrot (who the man said, was “beaking off” at him). No arrests were made. (2) Kayvon Mavaddat, 28, was arrested in Natick, Mass., as police enforced three arrest warrants. He had been on the loose until May 6th, when he politely (inadvisedly) held open a door at Natick Mall for a police officer who, in that brief moment, thought he recognized Mavaddat. Checking his cruiser’s computer, he found the warrants, went back inside, and arrested Mavaddat. [CTV News (Barrie), 4-22-2016] [Metro West Daily (Framingham, Mass.), 5-9-2016] Cavalcade of Rednecks Timothy Trammell, 36, was arrested on several charges in Jonesville, S.C., in May after a sheriff’s deputy spotted him spray-painting a car that was not his. According to the deputy’s report, Trammell had just finished angrily painting “C-h-e-e-t-e-r” [sic] on the car (belonging to a woman, identified in a WSPA-TV report as his girlfriend). [WSPA-TV (Spartanburg), 5-9-2016] Updates (1) In April in Oslo district court, Norway’s most notorious terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik (77 killed in 2011), prevailed in his complaint against prison treatment and was awarded the equivalent of about $41,000. The prison (part of a system generally regarded as the world’s most inmate-friendly) was found to violate Breivik’s human rights by restricting his outside contacts and excessively restraining and strip-searching him. (He had also complained of poor food choices.) (2) The Veterans Affairs hospital in Tomah, Wis., among the system’s most troubled (in personnel issues, falsifying reports, and overdependence on patient opiod use), is reportedly working on a “100-day plan” for reform and recently posted a job opening--for interior decorator ($77,000 position, doctoral degree) to, presumably, improve everyone’s attitude. [Washington Post, 4-21-2016] [Daily Caller, 4-27-2016] News of the Weird Classic (March 2012) Fine Points of the Law: In February [2012], a jury in Thousand Oaks, Calif., acquitted Charles Hersel, 41, of child-molestation. Though Hersel admitted through his lawyer that he had paid high school students to spit in his face and yell profanities at him, and had offered kids money to urinate and defecate on him, jurors found that, regardless of why he felt the need to do those things, it must not have been for reasons of "sexual gratification" and therefore, technically, was not a violation of the particular law under which he was charged. [KTLA-TV (Los Angeles, 2-21-2012] Thanks This Week to Dan Bohlen, Greg Hoggarth, Stan Kaplan, and Robin Daley, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors. *****, weirdnews at earthlink dot net, and P. O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33629
  • Now you can lick your cat
    The inventors of the Licki Brush say, "We have designed LICKI brush to bring you and your cat closer. By using LICKI with your cat on a regular basis, you'll develop a more intimate and bonded relationship, much like a mama cat bonds with her young." As of May 22, on Kickstarter they're one-third of the way to successfully funding the manufacture of this thing.
  • That Sly Old Gentleman from Featherbed Lane
    Charming song about elderly neighborhood Peeping Tom.