It warms the very sickness in my heart that I shall live and blog him to his teeth “Thus didst thou.”

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Hello and good morning!  It’s Thursday, and that means that it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  I’m afraid I’m a bit behind schedule today, but then again, I’m behind on quite a number of things this week because I have been, as Disturbed might say, “down with the sickness.”

Yes, that sickness—the dread Covid-19 sickness.

A fairly goofy (but loveable) coworker came in last Wednesday feeling ill, without telling anyone, and he is not very careful with his mask protocol so to speak.  We basically ran him out of the office once we found out that he was ill (especially when he told us he had lost his sense of taste and smell!), and he got tested and was positive for Covid.  He too is currently down with the sickness, of course.

Well, I tend to be the leader-by-example at the office when it comes to mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing, but that protects others from me more than the converse*.  And thus, last Thursday early afternoon, I started to feel headachey and achey in general, and when I took my temperature, it had already risen to 100.2 F.  I immediately took myself home and have been here almost ever since.  Of course, I got tested, and it came back positive.

It’s good to be positive about something.

I tell you, this Covid is no joke.  I won’t say it’s the sickest I’ve ever been, but it’s the sickest I’ve been in quite a while.  And it definitely has a flavor all its own, if you don’t mind me putting it that way.  For instance, I’ve had very little congestion, but my nasal passages, my throat, and my chest have been tight and burning a bit ever since last week.  I stopped spiking fevers after about the 4th day, but my energy has been very slow to return.  In fact, going to get tested was one of the most exhausting things that I remember ever doing, and afterward I had a fever spike to 102 just from the minor exertion of driving to the testing center and back.  And the body aches have been at least as bad as any flu I can recall, and worse than most.

I’m steadily improving, as you can probably tell, but the DOH advised me to quarantine through the 24th, and I will follow that recommendation.  I’ve been trying to do at least some work from home, since I don’t deal with idleness very well, and there are only so many videos on YouTube in which I’m interested.  Ditto for Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and even Crunchyroll.  Frankly, none of them are terribly exciting.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much more energy to read than I have had to write.

I’m sorry to say that I have not worked at all on The Vagabond this week, nor have I written any kind of new fiction.  I have, only in the last 2 days, practiced guitar a little (about ½ hour each), which is probably a good sign.  I feel bad about not doing more, but unfortunately, I really do feel like crap, or at least, at peak illness I did.  I’m gradually improving now, but man, it’s a corker.  I can only imagine how hard this would hit someone who is a bit older and/or a bit less inherently healthy than I…though I don’t have to imagine, frankly, since we know how hard millions of people are hit by it, including 400,000+ deaths in the US and a couple million deaths worldwide (so far).

To those who say that they have a right to go out in public without masks and without social distancing because…I don’t know, because of some imagined Constitutional right claimed by people who have probably never read the Constitution all the way through nor indeed read anything not written in bold on some fly-by-night website, I say this:  You have no more right to expose other people to even a tiny increased risk of infection for the sake of your minor convenience and your spoiled, bratty tantrums than you have the right to drive drunk on public motorways.  If you don’t mind risking death for yourself, that’s fine with me; I’m here to help.  But you’re not just risking yourself.  You’re risking random fellow humans’ lives and health, and you have no right to do that.  If you insist on doing it, others would be morally** justified in killing you in self-defense.

Such people are not taking a stand to protect individual liberty and the American Way.  They are spoiled, bratty shitheads who whine and stamp their feet and deliberately spill their diced carrots whenever anyone tries to suggest that they ought to do anything out of social concern.  They are not adults engaged in a reasoned philosophical defense of freedom; they are intellectually and morally lazy cowards, and frankly, the world would probably be better off without them.

Maybe we should introduce a blanket ban on free-solo rock climbing for such people, with especially harsh restrictions against doing so in rain and snow.  We could get AOC to sponsor the bill just to give it that little extra likelihood of being rebelled against.

Anyway, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a bit miffed, at a personal and social level, by people being assholes about infection control.  I’m not as personally angry with the guy from work, because he’s mainly just terrible at taking care of himself, and he is strongly in favor of infection control, but his self-discipline is…underdeveloped.  He deserves better, but no one in his life ever trained him in such things.  I honestly hope he’s feeling okay, because he’s less healthy than I am at baseline.

And that’s about all I have to say about that for now.  I hope you all do your best to stay safe and healthy and not to unnecessarily endanger those around you.  And if you aren’t willing to take minor personal precautions to slow the spread of a deadly pandemic a bit and not to endanger your fellow humans, then I’ll just say, I hear that the Half Dome at Yosemite is really great climbing at this time of year, especially without ropes and harnesses.

TTFN

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*In that, at least, I have been successful.  Though I came to work last Thursday morning before I started feeling ill, no one else in the office has gotten sick.

**This would not be legal, obviously.  We cannot encourage or allow people to take such matters into their own hands; that’s a recipe for disaster.  But we do incarcerate people who insist on driving drunk, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to throw a little jail time at people who insist on becoming potential disease vectors during a pandemic.  Typhoid Mary was forced to spend the last decades of her life in quarantine because she simply would not refuse to work as a cook (!) and thus exposed numerous people to disease and death.  Of course, it would probably be only fair to put such reckless individuals in isolation cells, at least until testing showed them to be negative for Covid…

Cleanse the stuffed blog of that perilous stuff which weighs upon its heart

Okay.  Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and thus to another blog post.  It’s Thursday the 14th, which feels like it ought to be some inverted, retroactive, complex-time-based lucky or unlucky day, but as far as I know, no one takes it as such.  Of course, there’s no reason to think that the arbitrary dating system we humans use should have any effect on any given day’s intrinsic “luck”, but it can be fun to think about and play with such notions.  Now, at an individual level, there are indeed lucky and unlucky days, but these designations are applied after the fact, since luck is just a description of specific outcomes of events governed by probability and statistics.

I’m going to try to keep this relatively brief, today, which is unlikely to break anyone’s heart.  There’s not much going on in my personal life (though the world, as always, continues to produce new and exciting brands of chaos).  I haven’t even done an Iterations of Zero post this week, though there are plenty of older posts to read if you’re so inclined.  I continue to struggle to work regular IoZ entries into my schedule, even though my lack of “a life” would seem to imply that there would be ample space (or, rather, time) to do so.  There are, however, simply too many empty distractions, and the ever-present problem of “will” or “drive” to accomplish things.  Contrary to what may be popular belief, willpower is very much a neurological function (interacting with other bodily states), and it is subject both to exercise and to fatigue.  It is certainly not constant, any more than physical vigor is.

That being said, my will to work on The Vagabond has seen no significant faltering.  The editing process goes well; the book is subtly improving with each run-through, which is gratifying, at least for me.  It continues to be a good horror story, in my biased estimation, and I’m pleased with my past self for having written it.  I can’t go back and give him a pat on the back directly, but I can at least thank his memory, though most other things associated with that memory trigger sadness and regret.  I suppose that’s the nature of recollections of things past, whether they are triggered by the smell of madeleines or by editing a horror novel*.

As I’ve said before on more than one occasion, my mental health doesn’t tend to be very good, specifically with respect to dysthymia and depression, when I’m not writing new fiction, but I also know that I am too prone to diversion if I interrupt one writing project—such as editing The Vagabond—with another.  That was one factor that led the original writing of The Vagabond to take so long, and also ensured that I rarely completed any long projects prior to the period when I was an invited guest of the Florida DOC.  If I allow myself to be distracted by a new creative writing idea, I will continue to be distracted, and enterprises of great pith and moment will with this respect their courses run awry and lose the name of action.

Not that I never completed anything in the past; quite the contrary.  I wrote a longish fantasy/sci-fi novel** in high school called Ends of the Maelstrom, the cosmology of which lurks still in the background of many of my other universes, though that original novel is long since lost in time like Roy Baty’s tears in the rain.  One day, perhaps (it’s a very big perhaps) I might rewrite it.  But I’m not getting my hopes up.

I also wrote at least one complete screenplay in high school (a lot of it done in idle time at my after-school job at GM, where I usually finished my official work rather quickly).  It was a deliberately cheap horror movie, which I intended to produce, with my friends playing the parts.  Some of them were good actors.  Unfortunately, the technology available to me then made it unworkable, though if I had modern video technology, I probably could have pulled it off.  It’s just as well that I didn’t, I suspect, since even one of my best friends, who was to play a major part in the movie, said that the story was unworthy of the title (Night Vision).

Well, I said I’d keep things short this week, so that’s enough recherche du temps perdu for now.  Hopefully I’ll be able to work in an IoZ entry this week, on some random, walk-in science or other.  In the meantime, I’ll wish you all the best I can realistically wish you.  Try not to let the chaos get you down, and especially, try not to let the absurd, tragi-comic antics of many of your fellow humans make you demonize and revile them or consider them inherently your enemies or beyond redemption.

That’s my job.

TTFN

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*I’ve never read any Proust.  Most of what I know of his work is from other people’s descriptions, first and foremost from the Monty Python “All-England Summarize Proust Competition”.

**It was all hand-written on very narrow-ruled notebook paper, with many digressions into the margins throughout, and was over five hundred pages long.  It would have been much longer than The Vagabond, and if I were to rewrite it now, I’m sure that I would make it longer still, because there were interesting ideas that could have been explored further than I did at the time.

For here, I hope, begins our lasting blog.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, the first Thursday of an already rather tumultuous 2021, and thus—“Sound drums and trumpets!  Farewell sour annoy!”—it’s time for my weekly blog post.  We thus continue the regular pattern from yesteryear.  Hopefully, some other patterns will be less persistent.

At the beginning of last year, I posted (on Facebook, I think) that I hoped that 2020 would be “the year of seeing clearly,” since it sounded like the usual pronunciation of the (American at least) description of normal vision.  Alas, as is often the case when I attempt to be optimistic, I was disappointed.  I’m also likely to be disappointed in my less serious wish that the year following 2021 should be 2223, but at least that’s just silliness, while the former was a legitimate hope.  Maybe I should stick with silliness.

I’ve been doing my best to continue with my usual processes over the course of the dismal holiday season, and thus I can happily report that The Vagabond has now entered its penultimate editorial run-through, and I’ve even begun formatting it for eventual publication.

I think horror aficionados will appreciate it, as will even some who may not be true horror fans, but who enjoy fantastic adventures interposed into seemingly ordinary reality.  Based on my own experience of popular fiction in one form or another, I suspect that a great many people do enjoy such stories.  It’s just kind of fun to think about the usual, mundane* rules of ordinary life being suspended or infringed upon by epic, paranormal events.

Yesterday I posted a new “audio blog” on Iterations of Zero.  It’s a meandering soliloquy about, among other things, the biological source of the human tendency not to appreciate what we have but only to bemoan its loss or impairment.  I did an audio blog because I had trouble writing another post using my smartphone, partly because of the continuing musculotendinous pain in my left hand and forearm.  Also, I just felt too glum to summon the will to do it.  It can be hard to find the motivation to put one’s words out into the aether.  If a voice cries out in the wilderness and no one hears it**, did it really say anything?

I gave myself the freedom not to edit out background sounds and whatnot too much for that post, to make it easier and more likely that I really would upload the recording—which I did, so I guess that worked.  I don’t know whether the audio has so many such artifacts as to be irritating, but at least I put it out there.  If anyone listens and has comments, feel free to leave them in the appropriate section on IoZ or here.

I continue to have trouble getting interested in new fiction (new to me, anyway) of any kind, whether movie, TV show, book, or even comic or manga.  This distresses me greatly, because fiction, especially novels and short stories, but also movies and TV shows, has always been one of my greatest joys.  That’s one of the main reasons I write fiction.  I bought a new tablet, of decent size, so that I could read manga and some of my old favorite comic books from my youth on it.  That pursuit ran out of steam after about one and a half days.

I still do enjoy some nonfiction—science, particularly—but I’m running out of new material that interests me even there.  I’ve read so many of the science books that interest me, and I’ve watched most of the hundreds of YouTube videos on science-based channels that I like, such as PBS Spacetime, Sixty Symbols, Numberphile, Veritasium, and so on.  I even have (in the office at work, where I’m given a fair amount of leeway, which is nice) a collection of harder science books, like Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, Thorne el al’s Gravitation, Sean Carrol’s Spacetime and Geometry, and Hawking and Gibbons’ Euclidean Quantum Gravity, but it’s hard to be surreptitious when perusing a big-ass textbook during moments of downtime, and let’s face it, those books require some real attention.  I’m interested in the last one because I was quite taken with Stephen Hawking’s notion of complex time as eliminating the singularity problem of black holes and the Big Bang, making the nature of such boundaries no more unreasonable than the fact that one can’t go further north than the north pole while on the surface of the Earth***.  But this material is…well, it’s complex, obviously, and to understand it deeply would take some real concentration.

That’s what I seem to have trouble with, perhaps.  Real enjoyment, I think, requires concentration, and that requires the will and discipline to concentrate.  I’m not the sort of person who can come and go while a movie is playing, for instance, and I get irritated when other people do it.  But it’s getting harder and harder to be interested in anything enough even to care to watch or listen to or read it, and I certainly have no one with whom I’m able to share or interested in sharing any of these experiences…not anyone who wants to share them with me, anyway.  (Can you blame them?)

Sorry, I don’t know why I got off on that tangent so much, but it is bothering me tremendously, and it makes everything else in the world seem progressively, increasingly gray, muddy, and faintly noxious.  Maybe I’m hoping that someone reading this will recognize the issue and know of some hitherto unimagined solution.  But I don’t think that will happen.  As with Moriarty and Holmes, I suspect that everything people might have to say has already gone through my mind and has been found insufficient.

I could be wrong, though.  I’d be quite satisfied to be wrong on this matter.  I don’t mind being proven wrong, myself, because what I really want it to become more right as time goes by, if that’s possible.  Maybe that goal simply isn’t conducive to satisfaction and enjoyment; I don’t know.  But if ignorance is necessary for bliss, then I guess I’d rather be uncomfortable.

Anyway, that’s enough of that.  Welcome to the new year.  I’d like to be optimistic about it, but at least if I’m not, I will only tend to be pleasantly surprised.  Stay well, and stay reasonably safe, and do your best to stay (or become) sane.

TTFN

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*Of course, they’re only mundane because we’ve become inured to their familiarity.  If you stop and read (or watch or listen to) some works on cosmology and physics or on natural history, biology, ecology, or similar things, you will encounter forces interacting at scales both vast and minute with character that the greatest mythologizers of the past could never have imagined—or would never have had the audacity to share.

**Not even the chair.

***I even used some highly bastardized related notions in Son of Man to describe the workings of the “Assembly Chamber”.

I’ll have my blogs ta’en out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a New Year’s gift

date yearHello, good morning, and welcome to the last day of 2020 A.D. (or C.E. if you prefer).  It happens to be a Thursday, and so of course it’s a day for this, my weekly blog post.

I don’t think anyone is going to be heartbroken to see the end of 2020; at least the majority of people in the world will probably not be sad to wave it goodbye.  I’m sure that there are many individuals who have had good years overall—there are people who have fallen in love, have gotten married, had children, received hard-earned degrees, gotten good new jobs, started exciting careers, and so on.  There are, no doubt, some lottery winners out there, as well.  But even they cannot have been utterly shielded from the vicissitudes of a year that has included political chaos of higher-than-usual degree in the United States, in the UK, in the rest of Europe, and to some degree in China as well, to say nothing of the more numerous, smaller economies of the world that have likely suffered more than the larger ones in the face of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.  It’s been a tough, and weird, year for a lot of people and, as I said, many will be happy to see it go.

Of course, there’s nothing magical about January 1st, 2021.  The annual January restart is a purely human marking point, rather arbitrarily chosen.  The laws of physics—and of biology in general and virology in particular—know nothing of human dating systems.  But the psychological impact on humans can nevertheless have value, and may actually, truly, cause changes in human civilization, and hopefully those changes will be at least slightly for the better*.  Optimism is not my strong point, but I’m hopeful that the world will move in a net positive direction this year through the phase space of civilizational states.

As for me, I continue to move forward in my little, local fashion.  Specifically, my editing of The Vagabond is going well and at a good pace.  I’m near the end of another run-though already, with only a few more to go after that.  I’m very eager to see The Vagabond finished and published—it’s been more than thirty years since I first started writing it.  Then, of course, I hope to finish Outlaw’s Mind and get it ready to include (I hope) in my collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I’m eager to get back to new fiction; my mental health seems to deteriorate when I’m not writing new stories.  Stephen King has famously said that he finds writing to be the greatest therapy he’s ever known, and though I can’t say for certain that it’s the very greatest therapy for me—my personal history with such things has been complicated—it does seem to help.

As far as other creative matters go, I think I mentioned that I was having some trouble with my left hand and forearm due to apparent overuse in working on learning the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia among other songs.  Well, it’s not fully recovered, but it seems to be getting stronger, and I haven’t been able to avoid practicing every day despite the pain.  In fact, my housemate, who built two of my guitars, just two days ago changed the strings and reconditioned the fretboard on the Les Paul copy he’d made for me.  I’ve already said that it is the most beautiful sounding instrument (of any kind) that I’ve ever had the privilege to play.  Well, I tried it out last night, and its sound is even more lovely than it was before.  I think I described it as “entrancing” to him.  When suffering from my usual insomnia last night, I couldn’t help but get up and play it a little more in the dark.  It was quite a nice way to pass the time, but it’s probably best that I not overdo things too much with respect to my left hand and arm.

Given the newly enhanced guitar, I think I’m soon going to record and then share on YouTube (and here) my own piddling little versions of Julia and of Blackbird, both of which songs are comprised of finger-picked guitar and solo voice.  This makes them comparatively simple to perform, though not simple to get sounding good.  And, of course, when you’ve just got the one guitar playing, if you screw up, it’s pretty obvious.  But it’s a good challenge, and I’m reasonably pleased with myself to have come as far as I have in the short time I’ve been playing.  I’m also working on learning/getting better at playing the Radiohead song Street Spirit (Fade Out), which is a darkly beautiful song over arpeggiated chords.  I’m also having fun with the simple guitar part for their song Talk Show Host, which sounds great even though it’s simple, as well as Polyethylene, Parts 1 and 2.  The latter was one of the bonus tracks on their rerelease of OK Computer, subtitled OK/Not OK, to note the inclusion of several such songs that had not been included in the original album.

But all that’s just hobby stuff, really, even the writing and producing of my own original songs.  I love playing and singing music, but writing is my true calling, if there is such a thing.  As evidence of that fact, I am writing this here, today, as I do every week.

And with that, I’ll draw this last blog post of a tumultuous year to a close, and wish all of you a very happy, and especially a healthy, New Year.  Hopefully, we can all do our parts in this vast, spontaneously self-organizing system that is human civilization to make things head in an ever-positive direction, keeping and strengthening what’s good and improving what’s not so good.

TTFN

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*There are always those who sardonically say that things could not get much worse, but of course, this is never really true.  As Calvin (the comic strip character, not the religious philosopher) noted, life is almost never so bad that it cannot, in principle, get worse.  But we can hope at the very least for regression to the mean.  Unless that’s what’s already happening.

At Christmas I no more desire a rose than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled blog

Hello, good morning, and Merry Christmas (Eve) to everyone who celebrates the holiday, directly or indirectly.  Considering how pervasive it’s become, and how pervasive Christendom was and is, I imagine there aren’t too many places—in the western world, at least—that don’t have at least some peripheral awareness of Christmas.  Though it is interesting how the celebration has evolved in places that don’t have historical religious associations with it.  Based on my consumption of manga and anime, I get the impression that, in Japan, Christmas is more of a romantic, couple’s holiday than anything else*.  I have to say, I can understand that interpretation; some of my most vivid Christmas memories from my teenage years carry that feeling.  The lights and the snow and the music, as well as the associations with huddling together against the cold are all quite evocative.

Though, of course, living in south Florida as I do, snow is no longer relevant to this time of year.  I even wrote and posted parody lyrics of “White Christmas” on this blog before, focused on that fact.  Here’s the link, so I don’t need to include a copy of the words.  There’s nothing particularly clever about them, they’re just sort of ironic but celebratory about warm weather.  It’s refreshing, at least at first, to have warm weather in the wintertime, especially after having grown up in Michigan (and then living in upstate New York and Chicago and then New York City).

Of course, in Judea of two-thousand years ago I doubt they had snow around this time of year.

There are those who (as I have below), in the spirit of “The Big Bang Theory”**, spread memes of Merry Newtonmas at this time of year, since Isaac Newton was born on December 25th, while Jesus almost certainly was not***.  But Isaac Newton’s birthday was measured on the then-ascendant Julian calendar, so it wouldn’t have coincided with what we now call December 25th using the updated Gregorian calendar.  I could look up what his birthday would have been had the Gregorian calendar already been in use, but I can’t be arsed to do it.  Anyway, Newton probably was born closer to the time of the Solstice than was Yehoshua ben Yosef****.

All these things are trivia, admittedly.  But, after all, in the spirit of Ecclesiastes, “all is vanity,” which could be rendered as “all is trivial”.  And I like trivia, so…I guess it’s okay for me just to go with it.

Less trivial to me by far is the fact that the editing of The Vagabond is proceeding well.  It’s quite rewarding and satisfying to be able to make such rapid progress on it after having done Unanimity.  I love Unanimity, of course, and I’m very proud of it.  But, my oh, it was an immense labor.  In contrast, The Vagabond, while not to be released this year, will likely be available for publication in the earlyish part of 2021.  Perhaps you’ll be able to read it while you wait in line to get your Covid vaccination!

I’ve done a few posts recently on Iterations of Zero, which is a welcome change.  I decided to go with the idea of writing them on my smartphone, and so far, I think it’s working pretty well.  I did, after all, write a significant part of Son of Man on the smartphone I had at the time, and it was a much smaller, and thus less wieldy, device to use.

I have also released the “commercial” version of my song Breaking Me Down, which I embedded on my last IoZ post.  By “commercial” I mean that, if you listen to the song (or watch the “video” on YouTube), I make a tiny bit of money from it.  It’s also on Spotify and on iTunes (though I do not yet have the links) and supposedly on a whole slew of other social media and music sites, most of which I hadn’t even heard of let alone seen.  If you’re on any of those, and you’re interested, just search for the title, and my name, and it should come up.  It’s not a Christmas song, of course, and it’s not exactly a happy song, but it has a good beat, and I’m told the melody is good (I’m too biased to be able to judge), and it even includes some borderline decent guitar playing.  I like/am proud of the lyrics, but they are rather gloomy, I’ll admit.  They’re cleverer than my “Green Christmas” parody, at least.

And with that, I think I’ll wrap it up for this week.  I wish you all the very best of the holiday season, no matter what holidays you may or may not celebrate.  As Bill and Ted said, “Be excellent to each other.”  As simple advice goes, that’s hard to beat.  I suspect that Jesus would agree.

TTFN

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*And people there apparently like to eat KFC(!) for Christmas dinner (thanks to some very impressive marketing).

**The show, not the actual cosmology theory.

***It’s my understanding that the early Christian church appropriated the date from the festival of Saturnalia and similar related and pervasive solstice celebrations.  Of course, given the current “conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, and some of the amazing photos circulating online of it, it’s not inappropriate to think of Saturn now.

****Of course, if you believe in the literal truth of the story, then a more appropriate Hebrew-ish version of his name would have been Yehoshua ben YHWH.  But that’s hard to say.

All my books and stories are available and would make excellent Christmas gifts for book lovers!

Hello and good morning.  It’s not Thursday today, of course, but I just thought of something that I wish I had thought of and posted yesterday instead of the rather rambling and negative post that I did create.

Although it’s probably too late for Hanukkah*, it should not be too late, if you have avid readers on your list of Christmas gift recipients, to order them a copy of one of my books, if you think they would be interested.  I have six titles available in paperback through Amazon, which I’ll summarize here:

Welcome to Paradox City IconWelcome to Paradox City:  A collection of three dark “short”** stories, one of which is a light-hearted near-comedy and the other two of which are darker.  The first, The Death Sentence, is about a man who finds a previously unnoticed room in his public library, and in it discovers a bizarre but intriguing book containing illustrations and writing in languages he doesn’t know…but which also contains one particular line that can be at least pronounced, as it is written in Latin characters.  He only slowly discovers the secret of that sentence…and of the rest of the book itself.  The second story, If the Spirit Moves You, is about a man who suddenly discovers that he can see ghosts—or “the unquiet dead” as they prefer to be called—and that he may well be the only one who can, and who can help them make contact with the modern world.  The third story, Paradox City, involves a man who enters a popular but rather peculiar nightclub, which bears the name of the story’s title.  Though the entertainment is good, and the service is excellent, and he meets and falls for a charming young woman who is equally taken with him, this is a club in which peculiar, impossible, sometimes paradoxical, and ultimately horrifying things can happen…and if you make the wrong decision, you might get stuck there forever.

Mark Red Cover

Mark Red:  Mark Reed, the title character (obviously), is a teenager who spots an attempted mugging and rape.  He tries to intercede to help the woman, but her assailant stabs him, giving him a mortal wound.  However, it turns out that the mugger’s target was a vampire, who deliberately put herself in the situation to prey on the criminal.  She makes short work of her assailant, but then has only one way to save Mark, which she feels compelled to do because he got hurt trying to help her.  She gives him some of her blood to replace what he’s lost, turning him into a demi-vampire—with a combination of the aspects of humans and vampires, the nature of which state he learns over time.  The vampire, Morgan, determines to stay with and protect Mark from his own urges for blood until such time as she can find out how to cure him, for as she explains, contrary to popular folklore, a full vampire can never die at all, even if they wish to.  And if Mark ever kills a human by drinking their blood, he will become a full, uncurable vampire, cursed with immortality.

41lnfutijalSon of Man:  David McCarthy, a college student in Chicago, is going to the university library one morning when, without transition, he finds himself in a featureless cylindrical room.  The wall of the room opens, and two men—Anderson and Greer—eventually explain to him that he is now more than two hundred years in the future.  They tell him that only a few decades after the time from which he was taken, an apparent global thermonuclear war, now call the Conflagration, destroyed civilization and most of the people, but that the human race was saved by a “man” now known simply as The Father, who united humanity, willing or not, under his control and guidance, and rebuilt civilization, with his astonishingly advanced technology and inexplicable genius.  He also initiated the “domestication” of the human race, killing any person who initiates violence against others, and sterilizing their first-degree relatives.  Though grateful for the Father’s rescue of civilization, the two men, their friend Michael, and some others think that he has gone too far, and they enlist David to help them either convince the Father to abdicate or to find a way to remove him…choosing David for reasons that he at first cannot believe.  The Father has an enemy within his own mind—a mind that now spans the entire world—and that enemy wants to help them overthrow the Father.  He alters David in an inexplicable way and assist the group in their quest to achieve their goals.  But his motives are not certain, and he also reveals to them some secrets of the Father’s past and nature that horrify them, especially David.

CatC cover paperbackThe Chasm and the Collision:  Alex Hinton and his friend Simon come home from middle-school one day and find that Alex’s mother has, apparently, left a newly purchased and unrecognized—but delightful-smelling—bunch of berries in the fruit bowl in the house.  Alex tries the fruit and discovers that it tastes even better than it smells, and he shares it with Simon and with a girl name Meghan, on whom Alex has a crush.  Soon, Alex and the other two begin seeing and hearing seemingly impossible and sometimes terrifying things, which no one else perceives, and they begin developing new, amazing abilities.  They also find a strange apparent “space warp” in the wall of the dining room of Alex’s house.  Eventually, they are accosted, captured, and brought back to what turns out to be a piece of another world—Osmeer—which is the counterpart to Earth, but in a universe that lies adjacent to ours in higher-dimensional space.  They learn that some process has set the universes on a collision course, and that if they collide, the impact will wipe out everything in both universes in a new Big Bang.  A great genius of Osmeer has created what is called The Chasm—a way of taking part of Osmeer out of its world and positioning it between the two universes to hold them apart, at least temporarily.  Within the Chasm, that part of Osmeer has permanently sunset-colored skies, and time flows there roughly thirty times faster than in the original universes.  The pre-teens learn that in the other universe, not only are there intelligent “dinosaur dogs” called tixuns with advanced sense of smell, who work with humans, but also intelligent, furry “mole-weasel” creatures called orcterlolets, that can tunnel and build by manipulating the fabric of space itself.  Most amazingly, they learn that all the plants of that world are conscious, and can communicate with each other telepathically, as well as with gifted humans and tixuns called Gardeners.  The man who created the Chasm has also helped breed and create a special tree, called Wynestrith, whose purpose is to save both universes by returning them to their proper places.  Alex, Meghan, and Simon have unwittingly become embroiled in that quest, and they learn that there is a cult, and a Prophet, and a much darker and more terrible Other, an Ill Will, that wants the collision to happen, and that only the three friends, working with Wynestrith, will be able to prevent the collision, and the destruction of two universes.  But they will have to survive to do so, and also—hopefully—they will be able to succeed without their parents and teachers finding out they were ever gone.***

Unanimity Book 1 simple Cover ProjectUnanimity Book 2 simple Cover ProjectUnanimity Book 1 and Unanimity Book 2:  Charley Banks is a pleasant young university student, majoring in English, with a long-term girlfriend he loves very much, nice parents, and a positive outlook on life.  He takes part in a seemingly harmless neuroscience experiment, testing a new form of external magnetic cortical stimulator, innovated by one of the school’s professors.  After the test, though, in the follow-up MRI, he has a severe grand mal seizure.  When he wakes up in the hospital, he discovers, to his amazement and delight, that when he touches other people, if he focuses on the curious sensation that now happens at the point of contact, he can merge with their minds, taking over their nervous systems, replacing their consciousness with his own, but with access to all they know and are.  At first the union only lasts while he’s touching them, but soon this ability grows, and he is able to maintain his presence in others even after separating.  He then becomes able to control more than one person at a time, and then becomes able to extend himself further using bodies he already controls, all while still controlling his normal, original body.  He keeps this gift secret even from his girlfriend (at first), and as the power grows, he decides to use it to correct some perceived and real injustices done to people he cares about.  But his methods are extreme and horrifying, and it becomes clear over time that his mind has been altered in other ways than simply giving him his new abilities.  This becomes still more dangerous when he discovers the astonishing effects of having a person die while he’s controlling them.  His power, and his willingness to use it, seems to grow without obvious limit, and even after a few other people, including his girlfriend, learn of his ability, and of his altered character, its unclear what, if anything, can be done to prevent Charley from someday encompassing the entire human race.

All of these titles are also available in Kindle format, including Son of Man, for which I somehow failed to link the paperback and the Kindle versions.

I also have several “short” stories that are only available in Kindle format for now, though I plan to collect them into a paperback edition along with a new novella soon.  Most of them are available through Kindle Unlimited if you’re a member, and anyway, they’re less than a buck apiece if you buy them.  I won’t go into too much detail; instead, I’ll copy the blurb from each listing on Amazon.  My short stories tend to be rather dark, and most of them would count as horror (not “Ifowonco” or Penal Colony, though).  They include:

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords”:  Peter Lunsford, a lonely, book-loving, self-educated and self-destructive salesman, has an abrupt and radical change of fortune.  His subsequent actions lead a genius named Darrell White, enabled and inspired by Peter’s choices, to create the world’s first artificial intelligence.  Unfortunately, this happens at a time when humanity has devastated itself with global war and is unprepared to accept the existence of these new and superior minds.  These facts will combine to create a future that Peter would not have had the courage to expect, and the implications of which are impossible to foresee.

Prometheus and Chiron:  Tommy—a former Marine, a part-time construction worker, dependent on opiates for the treatment of chronic pain—is waiting for the train home one evening, when he sees a strange, shivering, ill-appearing woman seated on a bench across the track from him.  Her presence fills him with dread and revulsion, for no reason he can understand.  Even after a month passes, she remains seated in the same place, always visibly suffering.  No one else at the station ever seems to see her at all.  But Tommy sees her, and even dreams about her.  And she sees him.

Hole for a Heart:  While driving through central Pennsylvania on a road trip from New Jersey to Chicago, Jonathan Lama spies a peculiar pairing on top of an approaching hill:  A huge pecan tree, next to which lurks an out-of-place scarecrow.  Intrigued, and craving a break in his long drive, he pulls off the highway and goes into the nearby gas station.  There, he hears the story of a man named Joshua Caesar, a person of possibly supernatural evil, who terrorized the region almost seventy years before, and was finally brought to rough justice by his neighbors in retaliation for his crimes.  Local legend holds that the figure of the scarecrow is Joshua Caesar’s body—not changing, not decaying, staked out next to the highway for nearly seventy years.  Jon is entertained but of course does not believe the tale.  Then his car suddenly refuses to start, and while he waits for a tow-truck to arrive, stranger things begin to happen…things which lead him to doubt his sanity, and to wonder if, just maybe, the legends of Joshua Caesar’s unchanging scarecrow corpse are actually real.

Solitaire:  (This is my oldest—and darkest—published short story.  It’s not for the faint of heart.)  It’s the early nineteen-nineties, and Jerry, a successful advertising executive, is having a breakdown.  He’s done too much shading of the truth, and he’s watched too much Headline News, and he can no longer make sense of the world.  Now, sitting at the breakfast table, he contemplates the possible future for himself and his family while dealing out a hand of solitaire…

Penal Colony:  While heading for his car after a night out celebrating the closing of a big deal at work, Paul Taylor meets a strange, despondent man, poorly dressed for the cold, who seems horribly depressed by some personal setback.  Still slightly drunk on both alcohol and success, Paul invites the man for a cup of coffee and some food at a nearby all-night diner.  There, this peculiar man tells Paul of a conspiracy begun by the creators of various social and virtual media companies…and of technology that allowed these conspirators to control the minds of the people of the world for their own personal enrichment.  He tells of the overthrow of that conspiracy by a group of which he had been part…a group which had then turned on and “exiled” him.  Though the man’s story is engaging, and the man himself is personally convincing, Paul is forced to admit that he has heard of no such conspiracy or overthrow.  The man finally explains to Paul why he hasn’t heard of it.  It’s an answer that Paul cannot believe…until the man proves it.

Free Range Meat:  Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day?  Brian certainly would.  As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can.  So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.  But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV?  Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside.  And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off?  What breed of dog makes sounds like that?  These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.

That’s everything (so far).  None of it is, perhaps, traditional Christmas fare, though CatC is a fantasy/sci-fi adventure whose heroes are middle-schoolers, so its arguably a holiday-worthy story.  But a book, like a puppy****, is not just for Christmas.  Most people can’t read one of my books in one day, in any case.  And to a book lover, there is rarely any better gift that can be given than a new book.

(I would advertise my songs here as well, but they definitely aren’t holiday-type ditties.)

Happy Holidays!


*Except for Kindle books, of course.

**I use scare quotes because though not truly novellas, they are quite long for short stories, especially Paradox City, which gives the book its title.

***This is my most “family-friendly” book.

****Which is also very good cold on Boxing Day.

The beauty of the world! The paragon of blogs! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s Thursday again, and thus it’s time for my weekly blog post.  I have no idea what I’m going to write about today—I have no agenda in mind other than to carry out the weekly ritual, which is a good thing in and of itself, I guess—so I’m just going to start writing and see what happens.

I suppose this is what we all do whenever we’re in a situation in which we converse with other people; we just say whatever we say, without thinking very much about it ahead of time.  Indeed, it may be that most of our real thinking, most of our logical, linear, rational thought, happens in the form of conversation, either between people or in our heads.  We often don’t seem to know what’s going to come out of our own mouths—or out of our minds, so to speak—until it comes out.  Of course, we could probably make some broad predictions about what sorts of things are likely to come out, based on our own experience with ourselves.  I, for instance, am unlikely to start discussing the latest events in the lives of the hottest new pop stars, or the surprising happenings on some reality TV show.  But what exactly is going to come out, I discover in much the same way that someone reading my writing or hearing my speech will.  I just may be less surprised.

It’s not too difficult to predict, of course, that I’m going to write about how The Vagabond is going.  It’s going well.  I’m almost halfway through my latest iteration of editing/rewriting, and I’m happy to say that—in my opinion, at least—it’s improving as I go along, and I still like the story, and very much like the characters.

These latter facts are more reassuring to me than might be obvious because it means that I can enjoy at least some fiction still—at least my own, up to a point.  I emphasize this because of an ongoing problem that I think I’ve mentioned before.  For some time, now, I’ve had increasing trouble getting interested in any new fiction of any kind, even in rereading (or rewatching) stories and authors (or directors or actors or subjects) to which I’ve always been able to turn in the past.  I’m even getting lassitudinous* about much of the music that I usually enjoy, including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and so on.  If I go to my Spotify “Main Playlist”, into which I’ve stuffed almost all the songs I can find that I would have been happy to hear if they came on the radio (back in the old days), and I hit “shuffle play”, I can skip through entry after entry that comes up, saying, “Nah.  Nah.  Not right now.  Nah.  Meh.  Never mind.”  Off goes Spotify.

Hitherto, I’ve been able to maintain interest in the various nonfiction books (and YouTube channels) that engage me, often ones about science or math, but even that is beginning to peter out.  I have to scroll madly through my Kindle library to find a book that will catch my slightest interest**, and even the various science books mostly seem banal.  Yes, even Brian Greene and David Deutsch, Sean Carroll and Max Tegmark, even Richard Dawkins and Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan for crying out loud can’t draw my attention.  Jonathan Haidt has at least been able to provide some engagement for the moment, but his stuff is pretty quick reading.  This is a compliment to him, but unfortunately, I’ve only got three books of his, and am on the second reading of the second of the three already.

Despite the oodles of quality shows being made by the likes of Netflix and Disney and Amazon and the various more traditional sources, I can’t seem to find any will to watch any of them.  I ought to be thrilled by the prospect of watching The Mandalorian, but I haven’t even started the first episode.  I cannot conjure any desire to do so.  Ditto for various animes and dark sci-fi programs that have come out, as well as movies, and so on.

It feels as if I’ve somehow been stranded in the south Pacific, where I’m just treading water in the middle of a very large expanse of ocean.  The water’s warm enough, so I’m not in danger of hypothermia, and there don’t seem to be any sharks about to add a bit of excitement.  The weather is basically calm.  And I know that I can keep treading water indefinitely, and I even seem to have enough food and water with me, somehow, to last a lifetime if need be***.  But man, it’s so boring.  The biological organism, the deeper, older parts of my behaviors and drives—what Haidt would call the elephant—is built to keep treading water, and it seems to want to keep doing that, whether or not there’s any good reason, so I have to keep doing it.  But even it seems to be getting bored.  There’s no land in sight, and in fact, I know there’s none for hundreds or thousands of miles.  And the only ships known to frequent these waters are pirate vessels and smugglers.

Okay, I’m getting carried away with the metaphor.  Sorry about that.  But I did say that I didn’t know what I was going to write about, so whatever came out came out.

I hope you all have a wonderful week, anyway.  Seriously, I do.  And I hope you stay healthy and safe, and that you enjoy the various holidays as best you can.

TTFN

Ocean


*Is that a word?  It should be.  If not, I’ll make it up.

**Not pausing even for a moment on The Lord of the Rings, or anything by Terry Pratchett, or the Harry Potter books, or the works of David Eddings, or Isaac Asimov, or Orson Scott Card, or any others of their previously ever-thrilling ilk.

***It’s an analogy, so I guess I don’t have to be too particular about such things, but darn it, I can’t help thinking to myself, “How would that even work?  Where would I keep such food and water?  Is it in some floating pack of some kind?  Do I have a distillation apparatus in the pack, or a reverse osmosis system?  If the pack floats, why am I treading water?  Wouldn’t it make more sense just to hold onto the pack, or to ride on top of it?”

Yet, do thy worst, old Time; despite thy wrong, My love shall in my blog ever live young.

It’s Thursday again, and thus, it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  I would like to say, “Hello and good morning,” to all my readers, even though you may not be reading this in the morning.  (I switched up my usual starting order to keep things fresh for those who read my blog regularly, and for me as well.  It’s not much variety, but it doesn’t take much to break up minor monotony.)

Speaking of things that might seem as though they would be monotonous, but which somehow are not, the editing of The Vagabond is proceeding well.  I said last week that I was only twenty or so pages from the end of the latest run-through, and I’m now well into the next.  I’ll be more than halfway to the end of my usual, rather laborious process, by the time I finish this current iteration, and getting past the halfway point is always a good feeling.

Unless you count life itself, I suppose.  For most people, realizing that they are already (probably) halfway through their lives is a somewhat troubling thought.  Sometimes it’s a very troubling thought.  One readily sympathizes with their angst, particularly when one realizes that, as we grow older, our subjective sense is that time passes much more quickly.  Much of our perception of time is dependent on how much of it we’ve already experienced, so the years before us seem far less substantial than those that came before.  I can remember, when I was much younger, that being told that it was twenty minutes until dinner time felt like an almost unendurable wait.  And if it was still an hour before dinner?  It was hard not to think that I would surely starve to death.

But though I can recall the fact that I felt that way, I can’t recall the feeling itself.  Twenty minutes now feels like an eye-blink, and an hour is barely enough to get anything useful done at all, unless one applies that hour daily.  Pink Floyd captured this nicely and concisely in their song, Time:  “Every year is getting shorter/ never seem to find the time / plans that either come to naught / or half a page of scribbled lines,” as well as, “And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking / racing around to come up behind you again. / The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older / shorter of breath and one day closer to death”.

Of course, everything is a matter of scale and comparison.  Over the course of a single day, the sun may not change in a relative way, but it is older, and though its “lifespan” is measured in billions of years, it is finite.  Likewise, on even larger scales, our universe itself has a limited lifespan, enforced by the laws of nature and the inexorable tendency for entropy to increase.  There are some very good recent popular science books that deal with this, and I personally recommend two of them:  Until the End of Time, by Brian Greene, and The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), by Katie Mack.  Both authors are working scientists who know their subject well.  Mack’s book is slightly more playful but is nonetheless clear and informative.  Greene, as usual, gets slightly deeper, but his love of the subject is unmistakable and contagious.  He uses a wonderful metaphor to try to convey the vastness of the time scales he’s discussing, asking the reader to imagine an Empire State Building in which each subsequent floor represents ten time as many years as the floor below.  The top floor is a lot of years later than the bottom floor.

And yet, as Carl Sagan first told me (and a lot of other people) in the ninth chapter/episode of Cosmos, “The Lives of the Stars”, neither a googol nor even a googolplex is any closer to infinity than is the number one.  Even the lifespan of our universe is just an eyeblink from a certain point of view*.  Of course, there may exist some grander arena, a metaverse, which is truly eternal and infinite in all possible dimensions.  I suspect that this is the case, mainly because I find it harder to conceptualize an end of actuality (What’s there at the end?  How does it know where to end?  What could it even mean for there to be nothing beyond it?) than an infinite regress.  But reality isn’t constrained by the failures of my imagination (thankfully) so that’s just a strong intuition or prediction or supposition.  I make no claim to final knowledge.

Anyway, what was I talking about again?  Oh, yeah, the changing subjective sense of time over a human lifespan.  The fact that our own sense of time changes so drastically (in a seemingly logarithmic way) over the course of our lives can lead one—or at least me—to wonder what the subjective experience of time would be for a being, like one of Tolkien’s elves, who lives a very long time, or forever.  It’s more or less pointless to think too precisely about the latter, because forever never happens, or at least it never finishes happening.  But a being that lives for many thousands or millions of years would eventually, I imagine, come to see even the rising and falling of nations as no more momentous than, say, the life of an adult mayfly, or the brief growth, sporulation, and then shriveling of toadstools after a rain.

I think it can be useful to imagine such perspectives, though I’ve found few authors who have tried really to get into the mindset of such possible characters.  Still, to see things from the long view can help us keep our own concerns in perspective.  Our petty differences can be seen to be all the pettier, our urgent ideological divisions not much deeper or more consequential than changes in fashion, and the experiences of our lives both less cataclysmic and at the same time more precious and beautiful.

With that thought, I’ll close by sharing with you a picture that I encountered on Jerry Coyne’s website, taken and shared by one of his many readers.  It’s a photograph, edited in camera** only, by Joseph Routon, who said that I was free to share it if I wanted.  I think it’s beautiful and brilliant, and I like his title for it:  Life is beautiful!  Wear a Mask!!

TTFN

Life is Beautiful! Wear a Mask!!


*In fact, if I recall correctly, in Roger Penrose’s book The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind he points out that, taken from the scale of the Planck time, and the time scale of subatomic processes, the lifespan of a human is comparable to the lifespan of our universe itself.  Now that’s thought-provoking.  I was so pleased when they gave him the Nobel Prize this year.

**I mean that in the literal sense, not that it took place in a judge’s private quarters, without the press or the public present…though I in fact doubt that there were any members of the press around when he did it.

For they blog truth, that blog their words in pain

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and so—as required by the dark ritual, which is designed to summon the Great Old Ones and bring about the end of mankind’s dominion over the realm that rightly belongs to Cthulhu*—it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

I can’t say that there’s much new happening around here in the past week.  As you know, last week was Thanksgiving in the US, so I wrote an early blog post that was nonetheless released on the appropriate day, thanks to the wonders of computer technology.  It was not a terribly exciting holiday for me.  I just loafed around in my room, played some video golf, went to 7-11 for some snacks and lunch, and loafed around some more.  I don’t remember specifically giving thanks, but I suppose there must have been some general thankfulness there somewhere, as I expressed in last week’s post.  I can at least honestly say that no turkeys were harmed in the making of my Thanksgiving celebrations.

The Vagabond is still proceeding well.  I’m within 20 pages of the end of the latest run-through, and it’s getting a bit better each time, which is good, since that’s the whole point.  It’s soooooo** much faster to get through than Unanimity was.  Not that I don’t love Unanimity.  I do love it, very much, and I’m quite proud of it.  I like the characters in it a lot, which is not unusual; I almost always like my characters, even the bad guys.  But it is a long book, and editing it was laborious.

It occurred to me yesterday, though—and with a bit of irony, since they’re bit players at most—that in Unanimity, I particularly like Charley’s parents.  They seem like people you’d like to know in real life.  They’re not my favorite characters in the story; I’m not sure quite who my favorite would be.  Possibly Michael; he’s the one with the most attributes of my own personality, though he has them in a much more pleasant form than they occur in my real self.  But Charley’s parents are fun people.

In unrelated news, not even tangential to what I’ve been discussing so far, but which I can’t help but think about:  I’ve been developing some inflammation/strain in the proximal portion of my left forearm, near the origin of some of the hand flexor muscles and tendons.  I know why it’s happening.  I’ve been working on the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia (it’s actually the only instrumental part of the song) and that involves fingerpicking a long series of changing chords, many of which are barre chords.  I’ve practiced to the point where my hand no longer wants to cramp before the end of the song, and I’ve duly impressed myself (which isn’t too hard) but apparently the repetitive strain continues to take its toll.  I’d better finish learning the song and record myself doing it so I can feel that it’s finished and move on, since NSAIDs don’t seem to be helping much.  Do any of you know whether there would be benefit in using a spandex elbow-forearm “brace”?  My medical background suggests that it might be useful, but not with a high degree of confidence.

As far as the infectious disease front goes, I remain Covid-free***, though not everyone in my office is so lucky.  This makes an already slow time of year a bit slower, which in some way makes my job easier, and in other ways makes it harder, and overall makes it gloomier.  This was particularly trying yesterday, when we had a surprising cold snap for south Florida.  I’m sure that people up north would not be impressed, but the temperature dropped by almost thirty degrees in twenty-four hours, and it usually doesn’t get that chilly, even in passing, until January or February.

Oh well.  Subtropical world problems, I suppose.  You may find it funny, and you’re welcome to enjoy the schadenfreude.  It’s already warming back up, in any case, and at least the rainy season is more or less over, as is hurricane season.

That’s about all I have for now, though I’m sure I could find tangents down which to become lost if I chose to let it happen.  But I’ll spare you that indulgence and keep things short this week.  I hope you all continue to have the best possible days and weeks and months and years and other intervals of time that you can possibly have.  At the very least, try to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*Though, to be honest, in my view—and I imagine that Cthulhu would agree—if one of the Elder Gods can’t just claim the realm on his own, he frankly doesn’t deserve to have it.

**That should be read with a long “o” sound, not with an “oooh” sound like a ghost.  In case you didn’t know.

***Which seems like it could be an excellent bogus marketing claim to put on product packages to lure in thoughtlessly health conscious people, as when one sees “gluten free” on products that of course are gluten free…like plain corn chips or plain potato chips.  I half expect to see motor oil advertised as gluten free and GMO free.  Which it is.

My conscience hath a thousand several blogs, and every blog brings in a several tale

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another of my weekly blog posts.  It is not Thursday morning as I write this, but it will be Thursday (or later) when you read it.  I’m writing it a day early, to be published on the usual day, since this Thursday is a major holiday where I live.

Given that, I would like to wish Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the US who are reading this, and to everyone else, a happy day in general.  It can feel as though there’s much not to be thankful for right now, but I’m sure that, in the modern world, we still have many reasons to feel fortunate—certainly those of us with the luxury of reading and writing blogs.

Positivity isn’t my strong point, as my regular readers may know, but it is worth remembering that we take for granted a tremendous number of incredible advances that our forebears even a generation past could not have imagined.  If you go back a century, to the time of the 1918-ish flu pandemic, it’s sobering to realize that they didn’t have antibiotics to treat the numerous bacterial infections that often complicate influenza, let alone ventilators, oxygen monitors, corticosteroids, or molecular biology to be able to discern the nature of the disease-causing agent.  Indeed, DNA itself was decades away from being described, so the tools for understanding and treating a highly contagious and dangerous viral illness were far weaker than they are today.  Vaccinations had been invented, but they were in crude form, and the science of understanding, let alone designing them, was in its infancy.

And the internet, of course, or anything like it, was not even a dream of science fiction yet.

So, if we work at it—and I say again, it’s not my strong point—we can find things about which to feel truly thankful.

On to other, lighter matters.  I did a rather unusual experiment recently, one about which I have mixed feelings.  I’d be thankful (!) for any feedback you might think appropriate.  As those of use who use Amazon know, when you’ve purchased something, Amazon often sends an email asking if you’d be willing to rate and review what you bought.  I think this is a useful service, but it can become onerous at times, so I don’t review nearly everything I purchase, even books that I read and enjoy.

I received a request to rate a jacket I’d just purchased.  It was the same brand I’d bought a few years ago, and my old one was getting a bit raggedy with use, so I ordered a new one (in a different color—black, of course).  I decided that I really should give a review, since I’d used the product and liked it enough to buy it again.

Well, as you may also know, once you’ve reviewed one item, the Amazon page asks you if you want to rate and review other items you’ve purchased—you know, while you’re in the mood and all.  And at the top of the list was my own creation, Unanimity Book 1, for which I’d already received more than one request for reviews.  I bought copies of the book for the people at my office I thought might enjoy it, and then another one for someone who asked me later for a copy, so the review requests were recurrent, as tends to happen with all of my books.

I’ve occasionally been tempted to write a comical, self-serving review that makes it obvious that I’m the author to anyone reading, but I’ve never done it before.  It was my understanding that Amazon doesn’t allow people who have a fiduciary interest in a product to provide reviews for it.  I respect that policy, as I understood it.  But they kept asking, and asking, and asking…and I’m not made of stone (except perhaps for my heart).  Finally, on a whim, I wrote a brief review, starting off by revealing that I am the author of the book, and I rated it five stars.  This is not, of course, an unbiased rating, but it is at least an honest one, in that I really do think it’s worthy of that rank to me, not least because of the effort involved in writing it and the characters, whom I like very much.  I wasn’t really expecting the review to go up.  I figured Amazon’s automatic checkers or whatever they might be would block it and send me a kind but firm email stating that they can’t publish reviews from people involved financially in a product.  Well, only Amazon itself is more financially involved in my books than I am.  But at least so far, the review is there, which is amusing to me, at least, but I do feel the need to repeat my disclaimers about it and the rating.

To be honest, if I’d thought it was really going to work, the book I’d feel least conflicted about reviewing would be The Chasm and the Collision, which is certainly my most wholesome, family-friendly story, written specifically with my children in mind at the time*.  I’m quite proud of the world-building I did in it, which includes telepathic plants, mole-weasel creatures called orcterlolets who can directly manipulate the local shape of space itself, flying manta-ray like monstrosities called gowstrin, a bit of bastardized M-theory describing universes floating next to each other in “the bulk” and in danger of colliding, and three middle-schoolers who inadvertently get caught up in the emergency attempt to prevent that collision, which would destroy everything in our universe as well as the one of Osmeer.  And, of course, as I say in the jacket blurb, our heroes must try to help prevent this cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for being late for school.

Yeah, I don’t feel any qualms about recommending that book to pretty much anyone.  My sister has read it more than once, and the last time she did, she actually thanked me for writing it.  That was pretty huge.

The Vagabond, of course, being a horror story, is far from as family-friendly as CatC, but it is coming along nicely, and it is fast-paced, and a far more in-your-face horror story than, say, Unanimity.  The horror in the latter is complicated, partly psychological, partly existential, involving the threat of the complete loss of free will, autonomy, self-awareness, etc., without anyone even knowing of the threat, let alone being able to do anything about it.  At least with a traditional, moustache-twirling, evil incarnate type villain, you know what you’re up against and can make a stand.  When the villain is one of the people you love most in the world, who doesn’t even think that he’s doing anything bad, and about the threat from whom you know only because he told happily you, things are a little dicier**.  At least, I think so.

But The Vagabond will probably be more straightforward fun for most people, and it is certainly shorter.  Still, if you read only one of my books, I would recommend The Chasm and the Collision, without knowing more about your preferences and tastes and whatnots.

With that, I think I’ll draw this prematurely written blog post to a close.  I do, honestly, hope that all of you who are in the US have as good a Thanksgiving as possible, while doing everything you can to keep yourselves and those you love safe and healthy.  Hopefully, you can console yourself by imagining the November blow-out that will come once we have this latest virus*** under better control.  “So tighten your belts, and think with hope of the tables of Elrond’s house!”

TTFN

Thanksgiving (2)


*I don’t think either of them has read it, or any of my other books, though each book is dedicated to them.  They don’t want to have much to do with me since the time I was invited to be a guest of the State of Florida for three years…in fact, my son won’t interact with me at all, though my daughter does stay in contact, and shares news of her various adventures.

**I think that’s a neologism.  Certainly, MSWord doesn’t recognize it.

***And our various politicians and the political processes itself.