As imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the blogger’s pen turns them to shape

Hello and good morning.  As usual, it’s Thursday—well, that’s only usual on one day of the week, but since this is that day of the week, it’s usual on this day—and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I’m feeling pretty exhausted today, partly because of a temporary change in work schedule that’s throwing my mental functions into a minor tailspin, and partly because of frustration associated with trying to get feedback and do useful research about my neurophysiology through the advice or input of people with expertise in the matter.  Some of the fault is mine—I have a hard time forcing myself to initiate or undertake most interactions, including contacting and setting up some form of new relationship with a new therapist…or doing therapy at all.

I also get distracted—and I suspect that some of the people I’ve tried to contact have done so as well—by the ongoing issue of my dysthymia/depression, which is certainly troubling, but which is an old companions of mine and unlikely to improve.  But there’s only so much one can get from YouTube videos and reading, whether it’s technical literature or works aimed at laypeople.  And I have a terribly difficult time even contemplating joining online support or discussion groups (or “in person” ones, which seem even more intimidating and disruptive).  I may be stuck.  I feel stuck.  I could really use some help—of various kinds—but the very prospect of seeking it is too daunting and confusing, and it is further hindered by the fact that I feel, deep down, that I don’t really deserve any help of any kind.

On the other hand, work on In the Shade is proceeding reasonably well, as it has been for some time.  I’m doing a nice job trimming it down, at least as far as raw numbers go.  I hope it improves the story; it would be a shame if it made it worse.  In any case, though, I’m more than halfway through the overall editing process, and that’s a good thing.

A thought popped into my head this morning that has popped in many times before, and I’m tempted to send emails or similar to the likes of Brian Greene just to see if he can clarify anything about it.  But I would feel quite cheeky and rather obnoxious to trouble him, even if I could find a way to send him a query.

Roughly and briefly, the thought is related to the ideas of “M Theory”*—which encompasses more “traditional” string theory as I understand it—and the notion that our entire three-dimensional universe might be a “brane” embedded in a higher-dimensional “bulk”, and that we can only experience the three dimensional universe in which we live because we—all the force-carrying particles and matter particles of which we are made—are trapped within the brane, possibly because they are composed of open-ended “strings”.  However—again, if I understand correctly based on the reading I’ve done—the graviton, the hypothetical force-carrying boson of the gravitational force, would be a closed string, and could, if there are branes and a bulk and so on, travel between branes.  The hypothesis has been put forward that this might be part of the reason gravity seems so weak; it is not as narrowly confined dimensionally as the other forces, and so spreads out to a greater degree.

I played with some of these ideas very indirectly in The Chasm and the Collision.

Anyway, my thought was that, perhaps, this could provide the explanation for the apparent existence of “dark matter” which is proposed as the presence of a large amount of mass in the universe that doesn’t interact much with “normal” matter, or with light, but which has gravitational effects measurable in the speed of rotation of galaxies and of the interactions of galactic clusters and so on, and which, based on those various measures, would be about five times as abundant as “normal” matter.  But no one has been able, so far, to detect the presence of any such dark matter particles, which would be presumed to interact at least occasionally with normal matter in some way.

It’s proposed as possible in M Theory that there could be other parallel “three-branes” in the bulk, “next to” ours in higher-dimensional space, analogous to planes or pages that float, aligned but not touching, in three-dimensional space.  If most fermions and bosons are stuck in their branes but gravitons can more or less freely pass between them, and if parallel branes came into existence—in their current states, anyway—roughly at the same time, so to speak, then as those universes expanded and evolved, with initial quantum fluctuations leading to increasing clumping of matter, leading to galaxies, stars, etc., they would have influenced each other’s clumping, and so a galaxy in one brane might well tend to be “near” or roughly lined up with, a galaxy in nearby branes, and so on.  If so, and if gravity can, at least to some degree, pass between branes, then the vector components of such gravity that happens to align with the nearby branes’ dimensions might well be felt as an “extra” gravitational force without any source in detectable matter.

If there are multiple branes in parallel to each other—or perhaps even a limitless stack of them, so to speak—depending on their separation and the degree to which gravity can pass between them, the net effect might well be enough to generate the phenomena we measure as evidence of “dark matter”.  If one were only thinking of, say, a four-dimensional space between the three-branes (with other dimensions curled up small), the force of gravity between matter in them would presumably fall off at a rate of one over the distance cubed, but if there were multiple branes in parallel, and again, if the distance were right and the properties correct, then I don’t see why it couldn’t accumulate to give a net effect greater, on large enough scales, than the apparent impact of gravitating mass within a given brane.

Unfortunately, my math skills are not presently up to the task of even doing a “back of the envelope” calculation about how that might work, though I have tried from time to time.  I also don’t know much of the technical details about string theory/M Theory.  And, of course, the whole theoretical framework is troubled by difficulty creating measurable predictions, at least with current technology.  But…if such parallel branes could in fact account for “dark matter”, they would, if correct, predict that there would be no measurable dark matter particles.  Ever.  And so, of course, the longer we go without being able to find one, the more our Bayesian probability might edge toward the correctness of at least some version of M Theory.  Of course, if dark matter particles are found and have characteristics that explain the phenomena we see, then that would at least disprove my notion, if not all of M Theory.

It’s likely that such a notion is already ruled out by some specifics details that I just don’t know—which must of course be almost all the specifics of M Theory.

Maybe some day I’ll work up the courage to forward some version of this to someone like Brian Greene, or maybe Lisa Randall or Leonard Susskind**.  But probably not.  I have a hard enough time mustering the nerve to talk to anyone regarding my own neurological and psychological health.  And, in any case, those people have enough on their minds.  And I have books to write.  And—unfortunately—miles to go before I sleep.

In the meantime, I hope you all stay well and do your best to take care of yourselves and of those who matter to you—and also, while you’re at it, do your best to avoid causing problems for other people.

TTFN

more branes


*Which is, of course, speculative to say the least, but which is certainly intellectually interesting, and which could, in principle, be a description of the deeper physics of our universe.

**These are the three physicists from whose popular works I’ve learned most of what I “know” about such matters.  I first encountered string theory and M Theory in Stephen Hawking’s book, The Universe in a Nutshell, but alas, no one can get any messages to him anymore—or, at least, we can’t get any messages back.

A wretched soul, blogged with adversity, we bid be quiet when we hear it cry

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I don’t quite know what I’m going to write today.  That’s not so unusual; I often start my posts without any outline in mind.  Perhaps that’s only too obviously to those who read this blog on a regular basis.  Perhaps you would prefer that I made specific plans about what to write.  If so, I can only apologize and say that, at least for now, I’m not able to do that.  Sometimes when I try to plan what I’m going to write about, I feel stiff and tense about the writing, and it doesn’t flow well.  Sometimes I suspect that is the reason my little project about analyzing and exploring villains from various books, movies, shows, etc., didn’t come off well.  Probably, though, it was just because it wasn’t something that interested many people.

My editing has been going reasonably well this week, though I wish it would go faster.  I don’t ever get quite as much done on any given day as I ought to get done.  I find that, more and more lately, I need to take a rest in the morning and lie flat on the floor for my back to feel a bit better, and to clear my head and gradually break myself into the proverbial zone.  I’m just gradually becoming more and more mentally and emotionally exhausted, and it’s harder to develop energy and focus.  I still do it, of course, but it’s difficult.  I don’t really have much in the way of mental/emotional support; I’m very much on my own, as it were*.  Of course, in a sense, that could be said of everyone, but that would be a very cynical and pessimistic sense; I think it’s a bit too much even for the likes of me to claim.

Still, In the Shade continues to improve (I think), shrinking steadily but perhaps more slowly than at first, and definitely getting tighter and sharper…again, so I think, at least.  I’m not at all sure that I’ll finish the editing by the end of summer and have the collection ready before autumn, but it’s difficult to judge.  Time swirls about at bizarrely inconsistent rates—at “times” it feels like it passes ridiculously fast, the years being chewed up like…well, like some simile describing things being chewed up extremely quickly.  At other times, it feels as though each moment is proceeding far too slowly, and I just want to get to the end much more quickly than is happening.  I’m very tired.

I’m still pursuing that neurological thing that I mentioned last time—never yet by name in this particular blog—but the more thoroughly I educate myself, both from general consumption sources and from the medical and scientific literature, the more I’m convinced that I’m probably—almost certainly—correct in my assessment.  But I don’t like to rely solely on myself, even though I trust my mental judgement at least as much as anyone else’s, and more than most.

I’m having a harder and harder time dealing with social interactions, whether online or in person.  I even feel embarrassed writing comments on blogs and similar.  I feel that I’m sure to be saying something irritating or boring or inexplicable and nonsensical that will make others wonder why I don’t just shut up and go away.  Maybe that’s me projecting; goodness knows, a lot of the time I wish that I would just shut up and go away.

Anyway, I have at least put in inquiries to two organizations, one a non-professional entity that provides support and guidance and resources.  I investigated their available recommendations for professionals near me, but haven’t been impressed, so far, by the locally available people listed.  They don’t fill me with confidence or ease.  The other, a strictly professional organization, may be more promising, though they’re a little bit far from where I am.

A big problem I have is that all these kinds of people and sites and organizations have options for, and require, and provide resources for, calling or online chatting, or whatever, and the thought of doing any of those things is just terribly stressful, let alone actually going to some office somewhere.  I can talk on the phone at work, for goal-directed reasons, just as I’ve always been able to make friends or “friends” at school or work or whatever, in places where there’s a purpose, but when it’s seeking something for myself—let alone simple ordinary purposeless socialization—I’m at a loss.

It’s not that I’m afraid or anxious, exactly, though there is a bit of that; it’s just that I find the processes stressful.  They take so much mental effort.  I don’t feel I get much out of it, and I just inconvenience everyone else.  The last time there was a work-related outing, when the office (as it were) went to a restaurant after work to celebrate a particular milestone, I developed a migraine as the day went on, and ended up just not going.  I didn’t really put it together at the time, but the migraine was probably caused by the stress of anticipating dealing with a purely social situation.

So, asking for help at a personal level or a professional level is very difficult—mostly so daunting that I just can’t force myself to do it, even when I know I could really use it**.  It doesn’t help that I’ve had terrible experiences when dealing with “crisis hotlines” in the past, as I think I’ve described here before.  I’ve had other, similarly frustrating experiences on related occasions when seeking help or being forced to seek help.

I’m not sure at all what to do.  There probably isn’t any one right answer or best answer, and if there is, probably no one knows what it is.  The world is extremely complicated, and we’re never guaranteed that events will be fair or good or successful…at least not by any honest, reputable, reliable sources.

I know I’m being vague.  I started off meandering and, by God, I kept meandering.  That was the mode for today, I guess.  Apologies.  I hope to get again into a mental state where I can again feel optimistic about future writing and think and talk about the many story ideas and book ideas I have waiting in the wings.  I’m not sure if I’ll reach that point, or how to reach it, but I guess it’s possible.  In the meantime, I beg your patience and indulgence.  I also ask that you treat yourselves and those around you as well as you possibly can and try to be healthy and happy.

TTFN

broke down bigger


*This is no one’s fault but mine.

**It’s a bit like finding myself having swum a too far out from a beach and realizing that I’m in trouble because the current is sweeping me ever farther away from shore.  But calling for help will drain the strength I need to swim and tread water, and I’m not a very strong swimmer.  The people I can see in the distance aren’t really looking in my direction, anyway, and they probably couldn’t hear me no matter what.  And I’m not sure any of them are trained or qualified to make a rescue attempt without putting themselves at serious risk, which is something I certainly don’t want to happen on my account.  Better just to tread water quietly, trying to make my way shoreward (though the shore keeps getting farther and farther away), and let the ocean take me if that’s what it’s going to do.

Ruin hath blogged me thus to ruminate, that Time will come and take my love away.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, as happens periodically, and thus it is time for another edition of my weekly blog post.  It being the second Thursday of the month, it would have been another entry of the long-since-abandoned “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, had I continued that enterprise.  Unfortunately, that pursuit appears to be one of those idiosyncratic enthusiasms that a certain kind of person tends to have, holding little interest for others, and in fact boring them—a joy that, because of its peculiarity, cannot be shared.  Oh, well.  Life is rarely satisfying.

I made a follow-up video on the subject that I introduced in last week’s blog post.  I posted it on YouTube and embedded that in a post on Iterations of Zero.  If you want to learn more about what I was referring to in last week’s post, and about my personal reactions to it—and some rather random, meandering, and inconclusive thoughts on what I should do* about it—by all means, I encourage you to view it.  I tried to cut out most of the hemming and hawing, the pauses and mutterings, and to make the audio as clear as I could in a reasonable amount of time.  The fact that I still can’t bring myself here to write explicitly what the subject of that video is may give some clue as to how unsettled I am—unsettled because I think, more and more, that the results of the tests I discussed are probably right, based on my explorations and reflections since then.  But sharing such personal matters has always been difficult, at a certain level, for me.

I’ve always had trouble expressing my wishes for other people’s input and even (gulp) help.  I find the prospect of such interactions daunting, partly because I find interaction itself daunting.  More and more over time, other people have come to seem indeed very much “other” to me, in a deeper than usual sense—almost alien.  I’ve always felt quite different from the people around me and find much of what they say and do inexplicable** and stressful.  I’ve also, frankly, nearly always felt that I have no right to request or expect help of any kind from anyone.  And so, when I’ve tried on numerous occasions to make subtle requests for help, or for input, or for whatever, I’ve tended to be too subtle—or so it seems—and no one responds…or if someone responds, the things they say and do are often counterproductive or confusing, though the attempt should always be appreciated.

I think I’ve mentioned before how much I’ve long resonated with the last four lines of Pink Floyd’s Brain Damage, from the album whose name is invoked in that song:

“And if the cloudbursts thunder in your ear

You shout and no one seems to hear

And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.”

 Well, the “band” I was in has long since gone on to play completely different material from anything I knew.  I don’t even get to hear of any of the performances—by their choice—and only one of the “members” communicates with me at all anymore***.  It isn’t the first time I’ve experienced such alienation, though it is by far the most wrenching, and certainly the most heartbreaking.  But that kind of heartbreak—produced by and causing such alienation—is something for which I seem to have a talent.  It’s hard to blame anyone else when I’m the common denominator.

Oh, well, as I said before, life is rarely satisfying.  Most days it hardly seems worth the effort.  Actually, most days it seems utterly not worth the effort.  But I guess I’m stubborn, or habituated, or just the victim of my biological drives, at least so far.

Speaking of stubbornness, I’m continuing to edit In the Shade, and it’s progressing nicely.  I’ve finished three passes and have already almost achieved my level-one aim in word count reduction, which means I may have a decent shot at reaching or at least approaching my level two target:  a 20% reduction in word count.  I know that’s an arbitrary and mechanical target to use, but it’s not intended to be an end in and of itself, just a means by which to trim unnecessary discursions that may, I fear, lead people to find my writing too laborious.  I don’t really know—I’m hypothesizing without much data.  In any case, I have no idea whether any but a handful of people will ever read the story, anyway…or if I’ll even finish and publish it and the collection.  The future is stochastic, after all.

That’s more than enough for this week’s post.  I hope you’re all having a nice summer so far—I know it’s been hard for many people in many places, what with sweltering heat and fires and storms and viruses and building collapses and various other slings and arrows.  But many people seem to be astonishingly gifted at finding and making joy in their lives despite everything that drives weirdos like me toward despair.  Please keep it up, all of you.  You deserve to be as happy as you can possibly be—as long as it doesn’t infringe on the happiness of others unnecessarily.

TTFN

reaching out


*I’ve had a link open on my browser for more than a week asking if I want to chat online to a licensed professional about my results.  I cannot seem to work up the nerve to click it.

**It’s not so much that it’s impossible to understand as it’s impossible to credit, to believe…the sorts of things that lead one to think, “You can’t be serious.”

***Apologies for straining the metaphor here.  It’s part of that same severe difficulty I seem to have expressing myself explicitly when referring to anything emotion laden.  It’s something I’m aware of and recognize, but I can’t seem to overcome it.

So quick bright blogs come to confusion

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.  I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for it on tenterhooks.

It’s the first day of July, and in the U.S., we’ll have our founding holiday this weekend—Independence Day, popularly referred to merely by its date, The Fourth of July.  I prefer the more formal term, myself, since it reminds us of what we’re supposedly celebrating.  It’s a nice day to reread the Declaration of Independence, if you’ve not read it in a while, or have never read it.  It’s not very long, and it’s okay to skip the list of grievances if you want.  Actually, it’s okay if you skip the whole thing and just spend the day with your family (if that’s an option for you) and maybe watch and/or set off some fireworks.  It’s not as though any of it really matters.

Of course, if you’re outside of the United States, you probably will just have an ordinary Sunday.

I’ve continued to edit In the Shade, being fairly draconian in my word trimming, and I think it’s having a good effect.  Of course, I don’t know how others will perceive the outcome.  For one thing, no one is going to be able to read it in its first draft form and then compare it to the final draft to see which they like better.  Then again, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever read it but me, anyway.  And if they do, it’s unlikely that I’ll get any feedback about it.  So, again, it’s not as though any of it really matters.

A rather peculiar, or disturbing, or enlightening sequence of events happened to me over the course of this last week, some of the details of which I’m not quite ready to get into, but the general shape of which I’m prepared to share.

As happens sometimes, the YouTube algorithm—drawing from its vast, mindless database of patterns of videos people have watched and “liked” after watching others—presented me with a video on a subject that I’d not seen before.  Not to say I wasn’t aware of the subject, I’d just never watched or sought out any such videos, nor read any but very general information about it.  It’s one I was aware of, as a medical doctor (by training and degree, though no longer in practice), but I was far from an expert in the subject.  Something about the video’s thumbnail intrigued me, so I watched it, and one or two others by the same person.  I was truly flabbergasted by how familiar many of the things this person was saying were to me.

So, I decided to take an online test (it’s created and provided by a legitimate scientific source, not some click-bait website), and I got a surprisingly high result.  Higher than this video-maker had scored when he took the test, and higher than that of some other people who do videos on the same subject.

I assumed that I must have been exaggerating, overestimating, and misinterpreting the test questions, and so the next day I took it again, trying to control for such overstatement.  It came back with a higher score.  So, being me, I watched more videos and bought a book or two* and looked up some research papers and less formal writings, and I’m sneaking myself toward the suspicion that this test may actually be correct.  I’ve even retaken it again since, trying harder not to be melodramatic, and my score went up more.

(I only once took a related, subsequent test, created by the same scientist/group that had created the first; on this one the lower the score is, the more “positive”, and my score was so surprisingly, remarkably low that I think it has to be an error or a fluke of the way I took the test, or a product of my bias, or something like that.  I haven’t taken that one again.  I’m frankly afraid of the result.)

I know I’m being terribly vague about all this, but please try to bear with me.  I don’t like jumping to conclusions, and I’m quite hesitant about my ability to be objective about myself.  I’ve only told one person (my employer) about the results with full information about what it was, partly because of the understanding way he’s always responded to my weirdness.  He was only generally familiar with the subject but seemed almost congratulatory about the result, which caught me by surprise.  I don’t quite know what to make of that.

I also don’t know what to do about all this; at first it seemed like a possible boon, a useful discovery, but now I fear that it really doesn’t change anything or, again, really matter at all.  There are links provided, after one takes the test and gets a high score, to possible people to “speak” to, to find out more, or get “help”, or whatever, but frankly, the thought of interacting with such people, or even of seeking out others who have scored highly on such tests is about as pleasant as being told that, to achieve some moderately desirable result, I need to eat a large bowl of fried eggplant.  That may not sound bad to many of you—you may happen to like eggplant—but even the smell of cooking eggplant makes me physically prone to throw up**.

I can’t even bring myself to seek out a new therapist regarding my dysthymia/depression, which is a confirmed and often dangerous problem for me; I’ve been through it all so often and in so many ways, and I have actual, clinical, expert level understanding of the problem—I’ve literally helped treat people for it, as a medical doctor.

It’s not out of arrogance that I avoid getting the therapy (though I think I am arrogant sometimes); I’m quite sure there are many people out there who could provide useful feedback and input for me, even if there’s no greater explanatory insight involved.  I’ve had therapists I liked, and who helped me, and if I could go to one of them again, I probably would, but none of those is close enough and I have no interest in trying to meet and develop a relationship with a new one.  The prospect is such a huge and daunting chore as to make me feel more depressed (see above about the eggplant).

So, anyway, for right now, I’m caught in a conundrum, with all the force vectors pushing against each other and holding me, pierced like a dissection specimen, in the center of their arrows.  It reminds me of a conversation I had with a psychologist (not about me, this was in a professional context) who said that in family therapy, in a severely dysfunctional setting, sometimes the only thing they could do would be the equivalent of setting off a stick of dynamite in the family dynamic, and hoping that after the explosion, things would settle back into at least a less dysfunctional pattern.  It sounded awful.  But sometimes I fear that it will require similar metaphorical dynamite for anything to change for me.  I’ve been through such explosions, more than once, and I don’t think the new patterns are better.  I don’t like my odds.

So, anyway, I’m knowingly being nonspecific, partly out of embarrassment, partly out of honest confusion about what, if anything, to do.  I guess it might be nice to find a kindred spirit of some sort, but I honestly doubt whether such a person exists, and the notion of hoping they might be possible and then finding they are not, or failing in some other fashion, is worse than not knowing.  Tennyson was an idiot, frankly, and similarly, Sisyphus would have been far better served just to stop pushing that stupid boulder.  He wasn’t going to get anywhere with it, no matter what he did.  He’d have been better served just to use it as a chair or a back rest and go to sleep.

That’s enough of all that for now.  I hope you’re all well, and that you have a terrific month of July, holidays or not.

TTFN

indecision


*Academic in character—the “personal” ones seemed entirely too subjective and anecdotal, which is probably unfair of me, especially given the nature of this blog post, but I’m trying to learn objective things, as much as possible, and most stories of and by real people, in written form, tend just to spin my head around, or bore me, and aren’t useful for insights.

**I’m not exaggerating.  It’s worse than mildew, worse than the smell of a dead skunk on the highway, and far more nauseating than walking into a camp latrine that hasn’t been cleaned in years.  It’s a physical response, not a value judgement.  I’m honestly envious of people who like eggplant, as with other foods I find intolerable.  They get so much pleasure from them, and it’s pleasure I can never have.

I am a fellow o’ the strangest mind i’ the world; I delight in blogs and revels sometimes altogether

Hello, good morning, and welcome to Thursday, on which day of the week we complete the scared ritual by having me write my weekly blog post.

It’s been a fairly uneventful week, as far as writing and related matters go.  I’m editing In the Shade, as per usual, but that’s been going somewhat slowly.  I’m working on it every day, but I’ve been getting a bit less done than usual, due to some lifestyle changes I’ve made regarding allergy treatment, back pain interventions, and food habits—and other such things—and until my personal, mental clocks adjust to these changes, my concentration is a bit lacking.  To be fair to me, I am adjusting rapidly.  Today, for instance, I’m much more alert than I was yesterday and the day before.  I don’t think it will be long before I’ve gotten back up to full speed.  I may even accelerate.

I’m trying to consider what to work on after I finish In the Shade and complete and publish Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities and then complete and publish Outlaw’s Mind.  I think I may want to swing toward lighter fare.  I’ve been doing mainly horror or horror-related stories for quite a while now, which is fine, but I think veering toward more of a fantasy/sci-fi adventure tale might be good for a bit of a change.  Of course, there’s an element of horror to most of what I write—that’s just who I am, I guess—but still, it might be nice to do something a little less dark.

Among my released novels, two are purely horror stories—The Vagabond and Unanimity, though the latter disguises itself in a science fiction veneer.  The other three, however, are not.  Even Mark Red, which is about vampires and demi-vampires, isn’t a horror story; it’s more of a teen fantasy-adventure of sorts.  The vampires in the story are not merely the protagonists but are actually the good guys*.  Weirdly, though The Chasm and the Collision is a youth fantasy adventure, it could not only legitimately be called science fiction—albeit highly speculative—but it also has more horror elements than Mark Red does…which, I maintain, is essential in any youth-oriented fantasy adventure.

Of course, Son of Man is pure science fiction, though much of it is quite speculative, involving notions of complex time being used as a partial workaround of the Uncertainty Principle, and as a way of doing “time travel” without actually traveling through time.  It plays with identity questions related to the whole “Star Trek transporter”, copy-versus-original, destroyed and recreated versus actually transported question, but with the added levels of differences in time, and with chains of inescapable causality as well as unrequited love and the inability of even a supremely powerful being to change its past.  And, of course, given the title, it indulges in a bit of a playful religious allegory, or whatever the proper term might be.  Though there are references to truly horrific events in it—worse, frankly, than in any of my horror stories—it isn’t a horror story at all.  Go figure.

Of course, among the three tales in Welcome to Paradox City, two are clearly horror, though of quite different subtypes, while the middle one is sort of a supernatural low-key comedy.  I don’t know how funny it is, but though it involves “the unquiet dead**”, it is not a horror story.

All this is my way of reminding myself that, no, I don’t just write horror, though that’s what I’ve mainly written in recent outings.  So, I don’t have to write anything horror-ish for my next big project.  I’ve considered starting the novelization of a story I’d originally conceived as a manga***, based on two separate doodles/drawings I’d done, The Dark Fairy and the Desperado.  If you look at pictures on my Facebook page, you should find some drawings of these characters, and scenes I envision them experiencing, and which are part of the narrative in the story in my head.  They are unlikely heroes, and quite unlikely companions, originally from different worlds (literally), who are tricked/forced to work together on a quest to serve the desires of an extra-dimensional wizard who is trapped in a tiny universe of his own making.  Along the way, they encounter another extra-dimensional being, properly considered a demi-god, who calls herself Lucy (not Lil), and who is a huge fan of the Beatles, and who models her realm accordingly.  As you might guess, Lucy is prone to call the Desperado either “Rocky” or “Dan” or even “Bungalow Bill”, depending on how generous she’s feeling toward him, and she refers to the Dark Fairy as “Sexy Sadie”.

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As you can tell, this story is conceived of as a fun sort of bizarre adventure, with few restrictions on what can possibly happen (though I do insist upon internal logical consistency, as long as it’s not too much trouble).  But I truly like the characters, as I imagine them so far, and would like to find out more of what happens to them, and to introduce them to other people.  I fear, though, that it would require an entire series to tell their tale(s), much more so even than with Mark Red, which can sort of stand on its own, though there’s more to that story than is currently written.

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This is Lucy. In the sky. With diamonds.

And, of course, I have a story waiting called Changeling in a Shadow World, which is about a boy/young man who believes himself to be a normal human, but who is actually the transplanted last survivor of a race of beings that perceive, move through, and manipulate higher spatial dimensions (and non-spatial dimensions), and who were wiped out by a creature or entity that exists between physical planes of reality, without integer dimensionality of its own, and which desires to invade realms of “normal” realities, either to become “dimensional” or merely to ruin such realms for everyone else.  It’s quite non-sane, being a creature without fixed dimensionality, and it has appeared in my stories before.  It’s referred to by those who fear it as Malice, or the Ill-Will, or the Other.  Its (rather unwilling) servants include less powerful irrationally dimensional creatures known as Crawlers…at least one of these appears in one of my soon-to-be-released stories already.

So, these are some of the options for what to work on after my current projects are done, which shouldn’t take too much longer.  If any of my readers have thoughts or preferences about what sounds like a good story for me to write next from among these descriptions, I would be honestly delighted to get your input.  I don’t absolutely guarantee that I’ll go along with your requests, but there can be no doubt whatsoever that you will influence me.  Surely all authors want to write stories that people will enjoy reading, and to which people will look forward!

In the meantime, I hope you all continue to do your best to stay safe and healthy and, especially, as happy as you’re able to be.

TTFN

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This is the original drawing of the Dark Fairy


*I’m using “guys” here in a gender-nonspecific way for convenience.  The lead characters include a female vampire (Morgan, my favorite character that I’ve written so far) and a male demi-vampire (the title character).

**They find the term “ghost” offensive and would prefer that people not use it.

***Mark Red was also so conceived, originally.

And there is nothing left remarkable beneath the blogging moon

Good morning and hello*!  It’s Thursday, June 17, 2021, and it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

Not much new is happening.  I’m steadily editing In the Shade, being quite assertive about cutting down words, including trimming back something of my tendency to be digressive with characters’ thoughts.  I don’t necessarily think that such digressions are bad.  People do tend to be pretty tangential, with one idea randomly triggering another, often only superficially related, thought.  However, I think that in times of stress and danger such meanderings may be more curtailed than usual, and since much of what happens to the protagonist of this story is stressful, I’m trying to keep him from thinking too many random thoughts.

They’re realistic in their way, but I don’t want them to distract from what’s happening and slow the story down.  After all, it’s a supernatural horror story.  I like having people in such stories behave as much as possible like people in real life would, since the whole idea is that these are ordinary people in what seems to be the ordinary world, to whom unexpected and inexplicable things happen.  But I don’t want the story to be dull.  That would be a shame in something that’s supposed to be at least a little bit scary.

As for other matters, well, I still haven’t gotten myself moving on Iterations of Zero.  I keep thinking that I should make it just a stream-of-consciousness blog, a sort of online free association but with no Freud sitting behind my sofa.  But it’s been difficult to commit to a time and situation in which to do it.  Weirdly enough, my schedule is remarkably full, what with writing every morning before work, then practicing guitar a little bit, doing this blog on Thursdays, and during the day, of course, managing the logistics of the office**.  There is a fair amount of down time during my workdays, but it’s haphazard, and it would be difficult to carve out a long enough period to make any kind of cohesive posts, even if I were to commit to two or so short ones during the week.  I think doing it might be good for me, but I have a hard time doing things that meet that description.  I’m not my biggest fan***.

I’ve been trying, as I constantly do, to find lifestyle modifications that improve my chronic pain and make my mental health better (and my physical health as well, since that is likely to help my pain in more than one sense), but it’s a difficult problem, and progress is slow and erratic, with regression happening nearly as often as improvement.  Earlier this week I experienced an episode (not for the first time) of inexplicably abrupt and severe worsening of my baseline mood, so strong that I felt it should be blatantly visible to everyone around me, perhaps as a dark gray cloud of acidic fog seeping from my body and poisoning the air.  Apparently, that wasn’t the case****.  But internally, it felt perilously close to one of the horrifying scenes from the M. Night Shyamalan movie, The Happening, and I had to do something quietly desperate to mortify the terribly strong urge I felt to do something much more extreme.

No one noticed.  I guess I’m better at hiding things than I might have thought; it becomes so habitual that even when you’d prefer not to hide, you can’t help it. And all the while, the band you were in continues to play different tunes, apparently not even noticing that you’re no longer there.

Sorry.  It’s a bad time of year for me, I’m afraid, what with Father’s Day coming, followed nine days later by what would have been my thirtieth wedding anniversary.  I don’t like to complain, since it’s rarely useful and usually is just annoying to everyone else, but if I can’t do it here on my not-for-profit blog, where can I do it?  I probably shouldn’t do it at all.

Still, I’ve got my latest story and the story collection to finish, and all that whatnot.  It would be nice to find some answers, or at least partial answers, or something that might help me, but I’m not optimistic.  I hope you’re all feeling much better than I am.  It’s not a high bar, but see if you can keep raising it for yourselves.  Why not?  You all might as well be as happy and as healthy as you’re able to be; that would certainly please me.

TTFN

Moon 2


*See what I did there?  I switched up the order of my usual salutation.

**On weekends, which are only one day long at least half the time, I can barely find the desire even to leave my bed, and there’s not much reason to do so.  I don’t see myself writing blog posts on the weekend.

***As a person, that is.  As far as my writing goes (and my music, as well), I’m almost certainly my own biggest fan.  I’m not sure how many other people even read my books and stories.  I have recently had the pleasure of having a coworker read both Son of Man and The Vagabond, both of which I gave her as gifts (I give out copies of all my books to my coworkers when they are published, both to spread the stories and to encourage people to read).  She seemed to enjoy them, particularly Son of Man, and she asked me the famous, eternal question about The Vagabond, which was, “Where did you get the idea for that story?”

****These types of situations often remind me of the lines from the Pink Floyd song, Brain Damage: “And if the cloudbursts thunder in your ear / you shout and no one seems to hear”.  That last line is what captures things.  When things are truly bad, it feels like you’re screaming like a banshee, and that surely anyone and everyone can tell that something is wrong.  Yet, weirdly, no one seems to notice or say anything at all.  I’m pretty sure I have only myself to blame.

But modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise, the tent that searches to th’ bottom of the blog.

Okay, well, hello and good morning as always.  It’s Thursday, June 10, 2021, and it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  I’m a bit under the weather—some low-level gastrointestinal bug has troubled me for the last three days—so I intend to keep this comparatively short.  However, I have long experience of such intentions going astray, like so many of the best laid plans of mice and men.

It feels, at first thought, that the plans of mice ought to go astray more often than those of men, but perhaps the plans of mice, if there can honestly be said to be such things*, are more constrained and simpler than those of “men” and so may have fewer contingent and unpredictable aspects.

Who knows?

It’s been a reasonably productive week.  I’ve finished In the Shade, as I think I might have mentioned last week, and I’ve been working on the initial editing run-through, which is now all but done.  This is only the first edit, of course; there will be many passes to follow before I consider the story fit enough to publish.  I’m being particularly assertive about reducing the story’s word count.  I obviously don’t want to take out anything that I think adds to the tale, and certainly nothing essential.  Nevertheless, I do tend to run off at the keyboard, so it’s useful to be hard on myself.  I enjoy writing words and conveying thoughts in written form, so I sometimes do too much.

This might come across as egotistical, as a sense of loving to “hear myself talk” so to speak, but I think that would be a mischaracterization.  My writing certainly doesn’t make me feel proud of myself, or that I’m particularly special, nor does it produce or reflect some narcissistic self-love.  Self-love is not one of my noteworthy attributes.

Indeed, I’ve often thought of depression (and dysthymia) as a sort of deficiency in the ability to delude oneself (positively) about one’s nature and abilities.  According to at least some studies of which I’ve heard, people with a tendency toward depression rate themselves more realistically on self-assessment tests of certain kinds, as opposed to their peers, who tend to overrate their own relative abilities.  This can be comically stated as a situation in which most people tend to rate themselves as above average, which is often declared to be mathematically impossible.  However, if by “average” most people refer to the arithmetic mean, it is possible for most people to be above average, if those people are only modestly above average and the others are well below it.  Such a circumstance is pretty unlikely, but it’s not a mathematical impossibility.  However, if one is referring to the median as the “average” then, by definition, it is impossible for most people to be above average.

I’ve recently read a book called On Being Certain, by Robert A. Burton, M.D., and he makes some interesting points about how the nature of being certain is related mainly to a feeling of being right, an emotion, produced in the limbic system, not actually to a process of thought or the conclusion of a logical train of argument.  That feeling—that sense of knowing, of revelation, of being convinced of something—can even happen spontaneously in certain kinds of seizures, and in certain psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.  As a feeling, it can’t readily be overcome in the same way that a logical conclusion can be abandoned if the flaws in the logic are demonstrated.  But only such emotions, not mere logical conclusions, prod us to action.  In reading the book, I realized that another possible aspect of the disease states of depression/dysthymia involve, at least in my case, a deficiency of this feeling**.

There are very few things I feel certain enough of not to allow myself to entertain significant doubt.  There have been times when I’ve even doubted the conclusion of the cogito ergo sum—though you would think that, by doubting it, I’m demonstrating its truth.  But part of me thinks that if there’s a supernatural being (or a civilization of machines, a la The Matrix) that can simulate all the external facts of reality, then why could they not be “simulating” my very experience of thought?  As an author, I’ve created many characters who, within their stories, would certainly think that they are thinking; my readers can read those thoughts from the characters’ points of view.  Yet, those thoughts are artificial, in the strict sense of being brought about by external artifice—in this case, mine.

So, this combination of deficiency at positive self-delusion, coupled with a sincere doubt about one’s ability to be certain of nearly anything can engender an exhausting enervation, the deterioration of motivation, and a broad sense of pointlessness.  At least it leads to the avoidance of dogma, and I think that’s a good thing.  I think the world as a whole would have far fewer large-scale problems if more people could feel less certainty and more doubt.

But it would be nice to be able just to feel good about myself and my right to exist, however unjustified such a feeling might be.  It might be nice to feel that I—or anyone—deserves to be happy, even though that’s an incoherent notion.  Unfortunately, on those rare occasions in which I’ve felt a strong degree of certainty about myself or my conclusions, or about my value or values, it’s frequently been disastrous.  So also for humanity at large, I think.

And here I’ve gone and not written a short post, as should come as no surprise to anyone.  I really do need to try to get some of these thoughts out in Iterations of Zero on a regular basis, so I can spare hapless readers of this blog from the ordeal of such topics.  I haven’t given up on that notion, at least, which is rare enough for me.

TTFN

doubt


*And why not?  Mice surely have at least some rudimentary conceptions of courses of action to take and expectations of likely outcomes of those courses of action.  They are certainly not simple automata.

**He points out how this deficiency is prevalent or evident in OCD, for instance, as in cases where a person simply cannot feel convinced that they really did lock the door or turn the oven off, say, and so can become paralyzed by unreasonable doubts.  I don’t have OCD, but I certainly have some of those attributes.  As I leave the house in the morning, I check my pockets multiple times to be sure that, yes, I really do have my keys, and my phone, and my wallet, all of which I have already checked, and which I always bring with me.  I simply don’t trust my memory, nor my habits—I’m too well aware of how malleable memory is, and how fragile habits can be.  This does mean that I almost never forget to bring any of these items, but I also never can seem to embrace the conclusion that I should be able to trust myself not to forget them—and so every day involves that feeling of not being certain at all.

Make dust our paper, and with rainy eyes write blogs on the bosom of the earth

Good morning.  It’s the first Thursday in June of 2021, and since it is a Thursday, it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

I finished the first draft of In the Shade last Friday, as predicted, and have since embarked on the first editing round.  I’m already nearly halfway through it, so hopefully it won’t be very long before the story is ready, and thus I will be poised to compile my upcoming collection.  I haven’t decided on the order of the stories, except to say that I’m going to put House Guest first and In the Shade last.  I’m also going to put Solitaire roughly in the middle, and as I think I’ve said before, I’m going to surround it with comparatively light fare, since it’s probably my darkest story ever.  “Comparatively” is, of course, an important qualifier.  Most or all of my stories tend to be rather dark, at least in parts.

It will be interesting, if anyone out there reads the story carefully enough, to learn if there is any qualitative difference between the parts of In the Shade that were originally handwritten and those that were composed directly on the computer.  For anyone interested in investigating, the first portion of the story—right up to when the boy, Kyle, predicts that the deputies investigating the strange house where his friend was injured will not come back—was originally handwritten.  What follows was composed on the computer, until the very last section, in which we change our point of view to that of the owner of the house (you’ll understand these references when you read the story).  That final section was also handwritten, constituting just shy of the last 6000 words of the story.  It’s difficult for me to judge any possible difference objectively, so I’d be grateful for any feedback; I don’t have any actual friends who might read it and let me know ahead of time*.

I don’t know what else I should write about today.  Ideas and thoughts and reflections on many subjects frequently pop into my head, often during my commute or while reading some science-related book or upon encountering some absurd event in the news.  These are sometimes stored as my proposed posts for Iterations of Zero, but I haven’t yet worked out how and when to produce them consistently.  The video idea was simply not worth the effort; I’m not photogenic enough (to me, at least) to justify viewing or sharing my image.  I’m not sure exactly what possessed me to try it in the first place.  Whatever it was, that urge seems to have disappeared.  I considered trying to write the posts by hand and retyping them, but that’s more onerous than I have the will to carry out, and I’ve noted often that I don’t want to take time away from my fiction writing more than the one day a week I give to this blog.

I keep toying with the notion of just doing voice recordings when the mood strikes me, sparing myself much of the burdensome editing by simply committing to noise reduction and level adjustment, then putting them up as is—pauses, breaths, coughs, “umm”s and all.  So far, unfortunately, though I frequently feel the urge to talk about ideas, it tends to happen when I’m not readily able to record my thoughts.  It happens a lot during my commute.  So, what I end up doing quite often is just talking to myself, partly in my head, and partly out loud.

Ah, well, it’s not really that important.  Probably such thoughts are of little value to anyone but me, if even that.  I had a brief burst of Twitter enthusiasm, but it’s too short form a medium, and anyway, I can’t seem to find any energy for social media, or for any other kind of socialization.  I find interacting with other people, including on Facebook and Twitter, increasingly stressful, though I’m not sure quite why.  Seeing a notice at the top of the Facebook screen indicating that someone has sent me a message is enough to make me avoid the site for a very long time, though I continue to share things like videos and articles and so on through Facebook and Twitter.  I apologize to anyone who considers this rude.  I can honestly say, “It’s not you; it’s me.”

Part of the problem—though not all of it—is that when I’ve posted on Facebook at times when I’m particularly depressed and having an especially strong case of my frequent “promortalist” urges**, and am honestly hoping that someone out there might have something helpful to say or to think or to suggest or to do, I get at best some discussion of the sorts of points that I’ve already encountered years and sometimes decades ago and found wanting***.  Others offer supportive words and thoughts which, while definitely appreciated and valued, don’t seem to have the power to change anything.  And then, of course, occasionally I’ve received statements of actual offense from some people who I would have thought knew better or were better—as if the fact that I have “issues” with which I struggle were an insult or slight upon them.

Well, that’s the last thing I need.  And, of course, the never negligible baseline level of human stupidity (my own far from the least) is positively enhanced by social media, ironically—though I feared from the outset that the internet and its byproducts would produce at least as much harm as good—and so the whole thing becomes a painful experience, and I’m not masochistic enough to keep laying my hand on a stovetop when I can’t tell if it’s hot or not****.

So, social media isn’t very beneficial to me in general, and I’m not good at pure personal socialization of any kind.  It’s never been my greatest strength, and it seems to have weakened over the years.  I often become confused, stressed, and even angry even at seemingly inevitable, ubiquitous, pointless inquiries like, “How are you doing?”  I honestly don’t know how to reply without lying.  The only person with whom I socialize at all, in any purely social sense, is my sister, and it’s hard for me not to feel that she’s never committed any sin or crime grievous enough to merit that burden.

I honestly would love to be rescued somehow from this mental state or tendency.  I would also love to see world peace.  But I fear that the only reliable ways to achieve either goal are probably similar in character and similarly irreversible.

Anyway, sorry about all that.  I’m venting, I guess.  I’ll try not to indulge in this so much in the future, and will strive to stick to my brief, or whatever the phrase is.  I do honestly, fervently, and sincerely hope that you’re all as well as you can be, and that you can keep your own spirits up, despite reading my gloomy grumbling.

TTFN

Lost in maze


*This is entirely my own fault.

**I’m euphemizing to avoid triggering any automatic responses either by computers or by people.  These aforementioned euphemized urges of mine happen, to a very good approximation, every day, and they have done so for a long, long time.  A day without them would be so rare as to merit something like the Dickensian description of the Cratchett family’s Christmas goose as “a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course.”

***I am, after all, a medical doctor who has had dysthymia occasionally veering into full depression pretty much my entire adult life, and thus have taken a particular interest in them.  I understand the pathophysiology of the disorders, to the degree that they are understood at all, and the means, nature, and reliability of treatments at a level slightly better than most general practitioners, though perhaps not at the level of specialists.  I’ve partaken of numerous medical and psychological/therapeutic interventions, and I continue to use that which has historically been my most effective treatment.  That’s right:  all this is me while using the best treatment I’ve found.

****In a similar vein, the one time I called the “crisis hotline”, I found myself handcuffed by PBSO deputies (causing nerve damage that lasted almost a year to my left hand), and was brought to a shit-hole of a facility where I was assigned to sleep on a battered sofa, then discharged about thirty-six hours later, with a follow-up appointment in one month, which provided nothing I hadn’t already been doing.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their blog

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday—the last Thursday of May in 2021—and so, to the possible consternation of many, it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

It’s been a reasonably uneventful week, though at a personal level, it feels like it’s been full of drama.  I did not feel well at all over the course of the weekend, for various reasons, and that rolled over into the beginning of the week.  Because of this, work on the (handwritten) final portion of In the Shade didn’t proceed at quite the hoped-for pace.  Nevertheless, I am within spitting distance of its end.  I should be finished with the first draft by perhaps midway through my usual writing time tomorrow, and I can then begin typing it into the computer and then moving on to rewriting/editing.

My overall mood tends to be slightly buoyed when I’m writing new things, so I get nervous when I enter a period solely of rewriting and editing.  The psychology of this feels rather transparent, to me at least—writing new things, especially new stories, is basically all that gives me any reason to be alive, so the writing of first drafts supports me a bit against my tendency toward nihilism and pan-antipathy.  Editing, while absolutely essential—and a legitimately creative process—is somehow unable to provide the sense of worth and value to life.  This was why, during the course of the very long editing and rewriting of Unanimity, I had to take a few breaks to write short stories.

Thankfully, In the Shade, though long a for a short story, as mine so often are, is still not going to take too much time to edit and rewrite.  Then putting together Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities shouldn’t take much longer and may take less time.  After all, it’s a collection of things that have already gone though all their edits and are just going to be merged and ordered and laid out together.

From there, I’ll go on to finish Outlaw’s Mind, which will be another interval of new writing, followed by another interval of editing, and thence to publication.  After that, I’m not sure what I’m going to write next.  I had considered doing my silly little fable-type story, Neko/Neneko, but that was largely because I had an artistic coworker who hoped to draw the cover for it, and I thought that would be great.  But that person is no longer my coworker, and I haven’t seen or heard from her in quite some time, so there’s not as much impetus.  And without that impetus, I don’t feel particularly strongly about the story.

Other things that tease at my possibilities include the potentially quite large story Changeling in a Shadow World, or a very old book idea of mine called Destiny (originally The Maker of Destiny, but that seems too clunky), or another horror story whose title oscillates in my mind between The Created and Entropy.  And there are at least two more books in the “saga” of Mark Red in my head, but I’m not sure that anyone’s interested in reading more about him, and if no one is, it’s hard to revisit prior characters when I could make new things.  Also, of course, I could someday try to recreate Ends of the Maelstrom, my long-lost handwritten book from high school.  And I have a significant list of jotted down short story ideas as well, some of which—knowing me—could easily metamorphose into novellas or novels.

This is all assuming, of course, that I live long enough to do any of it, which I often don’t think is the best of the available options.

In the meantime, I’ve pretty much given up on doing more video entries for Iterations of Zero, at least on anything like a regular basis.  The process is just too lengthy and data-storage intensive, and I don’t like looking at myself any more than absolutely necessary.  I’ve written a short post on the subject that I mean to put up on IoZ soon, and I have a final, whimsical and silly video that I’ll post as well, but I think I’ll hold off on doing more of them.  Videos, I mean.  I may try to work back toward doing some of what I call “audio blogs” (the term “podcast” seems far too grandiose, though that’s how some of them show up in Google searches, to my surprise).  IoZ still struggles to find its way, so to speak.  Sometimes I consider just nixing it and posting the occasional material that I would have put there on this blog.  I’d wanted to keep this venue dedicated to my fiction writing and related topics, but maybe that’s a silly idea.

Well, it’s not as though any of this is of any consequence whatsoever.  Talk about iterations of zero—I think all that I’ve written, here and elsewhere, and the songs I’ve sung and played and recorded (and some of which I’ve written), and pictures I’ve drawn, and all the rest, are just a very small pebble-splash with evanescent ripples in the middle of an ocean far vaster than the Pacific.  In a certain sense, that’s undeniably true—for me, and for anyone and everyone and everything else—given the size, scale, age, and future of the universe.  But it’s possible not to find that fact disheartening, and even to find it uplifting, if one just has a personal meaning and reason and justification and purpose.  Alas, all my versions of such things have long since fled.  I can’t be arsed to find or invent any new ones, even if I knew how, and I have no hunger for delusional or illusory comforts.

But writing stories is its own justification, even if no one ever reads them.  It’s pretty much what I’ve got, anymore.  And, on that pleasant note, I think I’ll call it enough for this week.  I truly hope you’re all as well as you can possibly be, and that you remain well…and even improve over time.

TTFN

“What do you blog, my lord?” “Words, words, words.”

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so, if you’re so interested, it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.

I’m nearly done, now, with my “short story” In the Shade.  I use scare quotes there because, as is usually the case with me, the story has grown larger than I expected.  I won’t say how large except to admit that it’s well over thrice what it was when I picked it back up.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad—though I guess it may be—but it does mean it’s not very short.  As I think I’ve mentioned before, I mean to try to be even more draconian than usual about word count reduction in the editing process, to see if I can streamline it at least a bit without removing any of what I consider the important substance of the story.

I sometimes fear that I let my characters get too introspective.  There is, apparently, a modern common recommendation that as an author one should “show, not tell” what is happening to one’s characters and even what they are thinking.  But if a character is experiencing something alone—as we all, ultimately, experience life alone—then one must get inside that character’s head if one is to give the reader any sense of what the character is experiencing.

I think the “show don’t tell” edict is misguided, anyway.  A written story can only tell.  All it can “show” is a set of squiggles on a page.  Perhaps modern writers have been influenced by the prevalence first of movies, then television, and now all the various other forms of visual media.  And yet, ultimately, nearly all stories must be told largely in words.  Even silent movies contained intermittent panels of written explication.  And video is simply a different kind of medium than the written word.  In my opinion, though its impact may be more immediate, it tends not to be as deep or involved.

For instance, the movie versions of The Lord of the Rings were wonderful, and I loved them all, but they are not close to being as great as the original book(s).  They are also, ironically, much more data intensive, even though they had to leave out so many things from the books to fit the action into three long movies.  Books call upon the readers to provide their own special effects, but if a reader has a decent imagination, then the special effects budget is unlimited.  And the experience of the books is much more personal.  It is unique to every individual reader and every new reading.

I am biased, of course.  I cannot be otherwise.  But I think words are the most important part of any story, even movies and TV shows and the like.  Tales are told largely through the words shared between characters, from the plays of Shakespeare to a modern sit-com.  I’m sure that movies or videos exist in which there are no words at all, with stories told purely by action and motion.  If done well, they could be quite interesting*.  But such tales will tend to be outliers and curiosities.  Language—especially written language—is the lifeblood of civilization.

We know some of what Plato and Aristotle and Archimedes thought because they wrote it down.  If, on some distant future day, all computers and other video players were lost, or some catastrophe made their function impossible, we would not see any movies.  But as long as a written language is not dead, a book can play itself for any reader, and can be recorded on paper, in computer files, carved in stone (if one is so inclined), and can even be read aloud onto some recording media.

I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent, and maybe I’ve gone farther than is really warranted.  But I am a lover of the written word and consider writing the purest form of storytelling.  That being said, I do still recognize my tendency to run off at the word processor, and sometimes to say more than is necessary to get my point across**.  So, as I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m writing the final part of In the Shade with pen on paper, to slow myself down a bit and—just maybe—to make myself more concise.  It’s not much of a handicap.  Yesterday was my first pen and paper day, and I wrote a little over three pages in my morning session, which is probably on the order of over 1200 words.

I fear I may be incorrigible in this wordy tendency; neither Mark Red, nor The Chasm and the Collision, nor Paradox City could be called particularly short works, and they were initially written on notebook paper resting on the cover of a cheap photo album in FSP West.  But I’ll try not to get too carried away if I can help it.  Who knows, maybe some readers enjoy that tendency in my stories?  But it can’t hurt to cut out the truly unnecessary and the distracting.

With that thought, I’ll call this blog post to an appropriate end.  I wish you all the best, and I hope you stay safe and healthy, and try to be happy when you can.

TTFN

words


*The horror movie A Quiet Place does this to some extent, and is quite powerful, but even it must lapse into words for explanation, including sign language.  Nevertheless, kudos to the makers of that film!

**I know, you’d never realize that by reading this blog, right?