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.

Were such things here as we do blog about? Or have we eaten on the insane root that takes the reason prisoner?

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s Thursday again—a week before Thanksgiving in the US—and thus it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  Given the upcoming holiday, I probably won’t be putting out a blog post next week, but it’s possible that I will.  That will be a decision for the Robert of Thursday, November 26, 2020, and I’m not him yet.

It’s been a somewhat tumultuous week, locally at least, for me.  Business has been slow, and there’s been a relatively high degree of absenteeism at work.  I think both facts are largely due to the current chaos in the social and political climate.  Much of the chaos ought to be unnecessary, but many things in the world are not as they “ought” to be, whatever you think that “ought” entails.

At least one person in my office has come down with Covid-19, confirmed by testing and highly specific symptoms, though thankfully it was/is a mild case.  Also, my housemate appears to have come down with it.  He’s got some flu-like symptoms and whatnot, but again, it doesn’t seem to be a severe case.  I, on the other hand, despite the fact that I am a wistful admirer—and even occasionally a stalker—of my own mortality, feel pretty much fine, or at least as well as usual.  My comparative health may be due in part to the fact that I am the only person in my office who consistently wears a mask*, and as a trained physician, I tend to wash my hands frequently and thoroughly.  I am, in addition, both voluntarily and involuntarily, a dab hand at social distancing.

Nonetheless, I did get myself tested yesterday morning, and I’ll have the results within a few days.  Then I’ll know whether I feel basically fine because I am one of the low-to-no symptom people with the virus, or whether it’s because I don’t have it (yet).  Whatever my attitude toward my own health and well-being, knowledge is generally preferable to ignorance.  Ignorance can only be bliss if there are no potential threats in one’s environment that knowledge could allow one to prepare against (whatever might be the nature of such threats or of that which is being threatened).  And, of course, without knowledge, one cannot know whether there are such threats…though a good starting assumption seems to be that, yes, there are.  There always are.

Existence wends a narrow path through phase space, with the infinitely high walls of reality on either side.  If you don’t do your best to steer your course in parallel with reality’s general direction, sooner or later you will collide with it.  And when you collide with reality, reality always wins.  That’s one of the ways you know that it’s reality; it doesn’t change to suit your convenience, your preference, or your beliefs.

Anyway, things in the world right now, both locally and globally, are certainly apt for a writer of horror fiction**.  Given that, it should be no surprise that The Vagabond is going well, and the editing process is achieving at least some of its goal, which is to improve the quality of the written work.  I’m still enjoying the story, and I feel more and more again that it really is my book, which at first it almost didn’t seem to be, since I had first written it so long ago.

It’s amusing to be editing a story in which the characters have to worry about missing phone calls because they’re away from their apartments, and in which they need to seek out pay phones or campus phones to call each other.  It’s likewise amusing to have characters learn of dire events in their world by reading a daily newspaper, since their TV is only inconsistently operational, and they don’t have cable.

Were such things really here as we do speak about?  Yes, it seems they were.  Reading my own story brings many memories rather vividly back to my mind.  Maybe it will do so for you if and when you get a chance to read it.  I hope so.  It feels a bit odd to think of the late-eighties/early-nineties as simpler times (they were quite chaotic for me, frankly), but as a matter of the creation and processing of information in human society, they certainly were.  The rate at which “stuff” happens has increased roughly in accord with Moore’s Law, though much of that stuff is effectively noise.  I suspect the overall signal-to-noise ratio in society has diminished significantly over time, but whether the signal has gone down enough no longer to be growing exponentially***, or even linearly, is a question about which I don’t have a strong sense of the right answer.

And with that flagrant declaration of my own ignorance, I’ll draw this meandering blog post to a close, which probably won’t disappoint you.  I hope you all do your best to stay well, both physically and mentally.  Keep reading, of course, and try to keep your spirits up.

TTFN

Narrow maze


*Because, after all, the masks do more to protect others from oneself than oneself from others, and whatever my own willingness to embrace a potentially life-threatening disease, I do not have the right to enforce that upon others.  This is a point that frustrates, disgusts, and angers me at those around me a lot of the time.  I have deep contempt for their irrational selfishness and willingness to endanger others needlessly, which they disguise as a declaration of freedom or some other political or philosophical ideal—at least to themselves—but which in fact appears to be simply the expression of laziness…and of intellectual and moral cowardice.

**Not that it’s the only thing I write, but I do tend to turn and return to it a lot.

***Even if it’s slower than Moore’s Law, it could still be growing exponentially, just with a longer doubling time.  Or it could be growing linearly, or staying constant, or decreasing linearly, or even falling off exponentially, though the latter seems unlikely.

And thus the native blog of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought

Hello and good morning.  Welcome to another Thursday, and—as I always point out, rather unnecessarily—to another edition of my weekly blog.

For those of you living in countries that celebrate some equivalent or descendant of Armistice Day (in the US, it’s Veteran’s Day), I hope you had a pleasant yesterday, enjoying a holiday that was originally intended to commemorate the final resolution of World War I and a return to relative peace.  Though I have great respect for all those who have fought to protect freedom, as is sometimes ruefully necessary, and I certainly think they deserve to be treated far better than they are—at least in the US—it’s good that we celebrate the fact that these brave ones, at least, the living veterans, were able to come out of the other end of their wars alive and somewhat intact.

The weather in south Florida has continued to be abysmal, what with the recent, slow-moving tropical storm.  Unfortunately, even without such cyclonic phenomena, south Florida can be so damp and rainy that it’s almost unbearable.  I’m also suffering from the clock change that happened just a bit more than a week ago, which brings aggressively forward the months of seemingly endless night, with the sun setting yet another hour earlier in the already nocturnally dominated Fall and Winter.  I don’t look forward to the latter part of December, as I’m prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Of course, those who know me might well wonder in what way my seasonally affected affect effect is in any way different from my usual personality.  It’s a valid question, and I can only reply that it makes my underlying dysthymic and depressive tendencies more difficult to ignore and resist.  I try.  But often I fail.

Anyway, enough of that for the moment.  Work on The Vagabond continues and is productive.  I think it’s already a better book than it was before, stylistically.  I haven’t changed the story at all, and I don’t intend to alter it in any noticeable way.  This is not to say that it’s a perfect story; I’m not even sure what would constitute such a thing.  Still, I think it’s a good supernatural horror novel.  It has action, suspense, danger, a good number of scary parts, a bit of romance, and some fun characters, including a truly malevolent villain.  This is all, of course, my own judgment, and I am inescapably biased, but I still think I’m correct.  I hope you’ll all take a chance and decide for yourselves, when the time comes.  I think it is something to which you can honestly look forward, if horror novels are your cup of tea.

I’m still running up against internal and external metaphorical walls with respect to making content for Iterations of Zero.  I’m not giving up on it, but it’s frustrating, because I don’t want to take time away from fiction to do it.  Writing fiction is something I do by simply starting every day with the work—though currently that’s editing, not primary writing—as soon as I get to the office.  Coming up with a story idea is fairly easy.  I accomplish the rest by committing to write at least a page every day, when I’m not editing, and then go from there.  Almost inevitably, once I get started, I end up writing quite a lot more, and usually it’s time itself that calls a halt to the work.

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish,” as Sam Gamgee’s old Gaffer always said; the converse is that, once you begin a job, it can sometimes be hard to stop.  There appears to be a kind of metaphorical inertia, which is why it’s such a good thing simply to set the schedule and commit to writing whether one happens to “feel like it” or not.  When I think of what I could have accomplished if I had taken that approach when I wrote The Vagabond, I sometimes want to weep.  That novel is only about 160,000 words long, but it took me more than ten years to finish it*.  In comparison, I completed two longer novels and a short story that was almost a novella** over the course of just under three years by working every day during the hour or so after the lights came on at FSP West.  While I don’t recommend that location and environment to anyone, it still just goes to show what you can do by saying to yourself, “To hell with inspiration, just work.”  Trust me, FSP was (and still is, I presume) not a place of inspiration, though tragically, it is sometimes a place of forced expiration.  (It could also, during “lockdowns”, sometimes be a place of barely contained urination, when we were forced to stay on our cots face-down for hours on end at times.)

On that pleasant note, I think I’ll call it good for today.  As usual, I wrote more than I thought I would—again, all it took was forcing myself to get started, and just to do it, and then matters moved forward almost on their own.

I hope you all have a good week, and month, and year, and so on.  Please stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

Do it


*To be fair to myself, I was doing other things—college, post-bacc courses, teaching, medical school, residency, etc.—during that time.  Nevertheless, I could have written so much more had I just committed to doing it.  A big part of my problem was procrastination born of neurotic perfectionism, in which the perfect becomes the arch-enemy of the good, or even of the “good enough”, in a way that is far more horrible than any fictional villain ever could be.  I’m sure many of you can relate.

By way of advice, with respect to this, all I can say is that the best thing you can do is to give up completely on the idea of “perfection”, or even “greatness”.  The terms aren’t even well defined; you’ll always be able to poke holes in yourself and your work, no matter how much effort you put into it.  I feel confident that no work of fiction or nonfiction has ever been perfect.  Some have been and are considered “great”, but that judgment is reserved for their posterity, and as far as I know, it is never universally agreed upon.  Just do it, as Nike and Palpatine counsel, trying to keep improving incrementally as you go along.  Practice will tend to make you better—that’s just how nervous systems seem to work—though it will never make you “perfect”.  If you just keep growing a tiny bit all the time, and keep doing what you’re doing, before you even realize it, you can become and accomplish amazing things.

You will never be “perfect”, but in many ways that’s a blessing.  After all, if there is no highest point to reach, there’s nothing to stop you from continuing to climb higher and higher without limit.  Surely that’s preferable to perfection.  It’s certainly more interesting.

**Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and Paradox City.

Let us be Diana’s foresters, bloggers of the shade, minions of the moon

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and another weekly edition of my blog.  Also, welcome to November of 2020, which—like other Novembers in leap years—is a time of some turbulence in the US.  I will make no further comment here about the specifics of that, however; enough, and probably far too much, has been said and is being said about it by others.

I don’t have much new to report today, so this posting may be brief…though, I often say this at the start and end up running off at the word processor nevertheless, whether or not I really have anything of substance to say.  This seems to be a common human tendency, and I am not immune to it.

Yesterday, I recorded one of my “audio blogs”, which I guess could be called a podcast of sorts*, as a follow-up to the post I wrote in Iterations of Zero a little over a week ago.  However, when I started to edit it, I soon lost interest.  It meandered too much, and there was too much required editing of breath sounds, of “ums”, of coughs, and especially of “but…”s, which I appear to use far too often to preface a new thought or tangent.

Maybe I was just not in a sound-editing mood, and if I come back to it, I’ll feel more sanguine.  I also am not sure whether anyone even listens to such things, anyway, even if I keep them short.  (Any feedback from my readers, or listeners, or whatever, would be helpful in guiding my future decisions about such things.)  For now, though, I think I’m going to put that on hold.  Unfortunately, writing new, additional posts is hard to work into my schedule, though writing is more natural to me than speaking.  I’m just pretty exhausted most days, as it is, and adding new things to my schedule feels like a herculean undertaking.

Sorry to be a downer.  I’m sure it’s a blog truism that more people will read posts that are upbeat and cheerful-seeming than otherwise, just as in real life people gravitate more to those who seem to be positive and enthusiastic.  This doesn’t of course mean that “those” people really are positive or cheerful.  Often, we force ourselves to behave (or to write) as if we were feeling positive, for the very purpose of trying to gather a surrounding batch of friends, or readers, or what-have-yous.  We’re not “allowed” to show our sadness or depression; it’s a huge taboo.  Depression is contagious, after all, and the world is already a hard-enough place without someone bringing you down.

On the other hand, pretending everything is great isn’t necessarily advisable, because the world doesn’t take your expectations or attitude into account in that vector space of forces which determine events, contrary to much popular delusion.  Not that optimism is always delusional—rational optimism and belief in possibility is fine as long as it doesn’t stray into overconfidence and unwarranted certainty.  As Daniel Kahneman has pointed out, confidence and accuracy do not correlate well.

Is my confidence in that fact a self-contradiction?  Have I caught myself by the tail?  I don’t think so**.  My confidence is provisional, my attitude deliberately modeled on the scientific method.  Let your conclusions and convictions be based as much as you can on evidence and reason, and always leave them, at least in principle, open to revision.  And, if you have the stomach for it, always try to poke holes in your own conclusions.  Ideas that survive constant criticism and prodding are more likely to be closer to truth than those that are never subject to criticism.  This is the root not merely of the scientific method, but also of the defense of freedom of speech as argued in John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, and in many other places.   I’ve encountered no arguments that have even slightly swayed me away from it.

I’m pretty good at self-criticism, of course.  It seems built into me at a more basic level than even my operating system; in the hardware, not the software.  I take after Hamlet more and more as time goes by, it seems, wearing dark clothing and reflecting on how stale, flat, and unprofitable are pretty much all the uses of the world (largely because I’m in it).  He was a bit of a downer, too, I guess.

My writing, though—albeit often dark—is not necessarily a downer.  For instance, I just finished the second run-through of The Vagabond, adding, adjusting, and hopefully improving it as I went along, and I think it’s a good story that ends on a positive note.  One thing I tend to do, despite my tongue-in-cheek “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, is to recognize that evil characters and things, the villains of my stories and of many others, are the most tragically self-deluded, fearful, and deeply unhappy people.  This doesn’t stop them from being dangerous.  I think that “evil” people—and certainly evil characters—tend to be the among the most alone, the most lost, the most despairing, the most deeply suffering in many ways, of all characters, and perhaps of all people.

One of the things I love about the anime Sailor Moon*** is that Usagi tends to win her battles, even against the Big Bad Guys, not by destroying her opponents—not if she can help it—but by redeeming them, and showing them that they are not alone.  Me, I’d tend more along the Sailor Saturn lines and be prone to wipe everything out and start over (I’ve even done that in some of my stories).  When Sailor Moon can’t avoid destroying someone, it breaks her heart.  But then, of course, “Our princess is such a crybaby,” as Sailor Uranus says, with affection and admiration.

That was a weird tangent, wasn’t it?  I did end up writing more than I expected (as I expected, ironically), but I’m not sure it really was about much or if it was expressed well.  ごめん ね すなお じゃなくて、 ゆめ の なか なら いえる****

I hope you’re all as well as can be, and that things go as best as possible for you, in the best of all possible lives you can lead.  Please try to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

Sailors Saturn and Moon


*Google seems to list such things as podcasts, if you do a search for my name, which is interesting.  I’ve never even owned an iPod, and I only briefly used an MP3 player before it was superseded by smartphones.

**But then, I wouldn’t, would I?

***I love it.  I, a fifty-one-year-old, American male, ex-convict, M.D., love Sailor Moon.  Sue me.

**** “Gomen ne sunao janakute, yume no naka nara ieru.”  Roughly translated, it says, “I’m sorry I can’t be clear/candid; I can say it in my dreams.”  It’s the opening line to “Moonlight Densetsu”, the Sailor Moon opening song (at least for the first four seasons).

For a blog of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Good morning, all.  It’s Thursday again, as so often seems to happen right after Wednesday, and so—whether you would wish it or not—it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.

Before I say anything else, I want to let you know that I have finally written a new post for Iterations of Zero, which I titled “Some Universes Even Go Both Ways”.  It’s a slightly fanciful, broad, and quite non-rigorous “thought experiment” about whether there’s any reason the Big Bang (specifically involving inflationary cosmology in my ponderings, though that’s not a requirement for the point I made) wouldn’t happen in both directions in time.  If you like that kind of thing, please feel free to read it.  It was fun to write, though I don’t know how well that predicts how much fun it will be to read.

I’m currently enjoying a book called The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) by Katie Mack*, and just this morning, while reading along, I learned that there’s a relatively new version of the “ekpyrotic universe” proposal that has some things in common with the ideas from my blog post, including universes that face toward or away from each other in time.  Mack doesn’t go into much detail about the hypothesis, but it comes from real, serious, working physicists, so it’s sure to be much more well-thought-out than my little indulgence.  Such coincidences do, at least, make one feel moderately clever, since serious people are exploring ideas that are not entirely unlike something one thought of on one’s own.  Don’t go looking for me on the short list for the Nobel Prize in Physics anytime soon, though**.

Of course, I’ve dealt with other fairly high-level physics concepts in a couple of my novels, including The Chasm and the Collision—which imports crude concepts from M Theory—and Son of Man in which I introduce the idea of using particles that travel through complex time as a way of precisely scanning events that happened in the past without upsetting those particles (I first encountered the notion of complex time in A Brief History of Time, which is still a great book, even if some of its speculations have been ruled out).  I also threw in a bit of repulsive gravity, engineered through the creation of a highly uniform quantum field to create negative pressure (I used it to make floating buses, of all things) in Son of Man.  But of course, these ideas are just plot devices for me, and neither book could honestly be considered “hard” science fiction.  Still, neither one involves anything technically supernatural, even though I call CatC a fantasy adventure story.

The Vagabond, on the other hand, does involve the supernatural, it being a supernatural horror story, and the process of editing it is going along pretty well, especially now that I’m done with my latest “bad cover”.  I’m almost finished with my second run-through of the book; I’ve continued to need to tweak things to adjust for contradictions in the flow of the original story as written.  These mostly deal with times and days of the week, which I evidently didn’t give much attention when I was writing the novel (probably because I wrote it over such a long and intermittent period of time, myself).  I certainly didn’t give them the attention I should have.  It’s still a fun story, though, and I’m smoothing out the rough edges as I go along.

Speaking of the “supernatural”, as in contrast to science fiction, I may have said before that I think all so-called supernatural notions in any story’s universe must, in fact, entail a kind of science.  If what we call the supernatural actually exists in some fictional universe, then it is a part of that universe’s nature, and so is not supernatural at all.  It must follow rules and have consistent, non-contradictory characteristics.  If magic followed no rules, then no character would ever be able to use it.  I’d love to be able to talk to Albus Dumbledore about “magic theory” in the Harry Potter universe, since I’m quite sure that he understands as much of it as anyone does.  I’ve always felt a bit disappointed that there weren’t any magic-theory classes at Hogwarts.  Maybe even NEWT students just aren’t ready for it, and they only begin such studies in university.

Are there universities of magic in the Harry Potter universe, as there are regular schools of magic such as Hogwarts?  I imagine there would have to be.  I guess only J. K. Rowling knows for sure…or perhaps even she knows not.  We certainly never read about anyone’s post-graduation education in the books; no one talks about having advanced degrees in Potions or the like.  Maybe I’m asking too much from what were, after all, meant to be kids’ books***.

Anyway, with that rather incoherent bunch of random thoughts, I think I’m nearly done.  Halloween is coming up this Saturday, but it’s going to be a disappointing one, I fear, despite the full moon.  I haven’t written any new stories for the holiday, but I think Prometheus and Chiron, Free Range Meat, and especially Hole for a Heart would make appropriate short stories for your Samhain celebrations, as would the stories in Welcome to Paradox City.  Of course, Unanimity Book 1 and Book 2 are appropriate reading for Halloween at some level, though it’s not really a typical Halloweeny horror story.  Maybe Mark Red, being about a vampire and a demi-vampire, would fit the holiday better.

For me, though, there’s too much real horror—though it’s more depressing than frightening—at the political, cultural, epidemiological, and intellectual level to be able to enjoy celebrating imaginary ghosts and goblins much.  Also, there’s just no one with whom I could really celebrate it.  Maybe I’ll watch a horror movie to take my mind off the much greater, and yet drearier, horror that is reality, from the human to the cosmic to the quantum scale.

Unfortunately, I’m trying to avoid candy.  Sigh.

Well, that’s okay.  I hope any and all of you who are going to be celebrating enjoy yourselves to fullest extent allowed by human and physical law.  At least it’ll be a good day for wearing masks.  Please stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*This was probably the trigger for the thoughts that led me to write the blog post.

**Or for Literature, frankly, which is arguably my central area of focus.  And my ideas relating to Peace, unfortunately, tend to involve the severe reduction of the number of humans in the world, occasionally flirting with a target of zero.  Given the state of human affairs—especially politics—I don’t feel too bad about entertaining such thoughts.  I have a notion that a curve describing the average IQ of the human race might steadily rise as the population lowers, until, just below zero, it reaches some maximum, or perhaps even shoots toward a limit of infinity.  But then, of course, we hit a singularity at zero.  Actually, well before that, the curve becomes nonsensical, since you can’t have fractions of people (as far as I can tell).

***I don’t think I am, nor do I think Rowling would disagree with me—kids can handle far more than “adults” think they can, and often more than “adults” themselves can handle, since they tend not yet to have stifled their creative imaginations.  I suspect that magic theory and university-level education for witches and wizards just didn’t really have anything to do with the story Rowling was telling, so she never brought them up.

When shall we three blog again in thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Hello and good morning—so to speak—and welcome to another Thursday.  It’s time for my weekly blog post.  I suspect that this week’s writing will be affected by the fact that I got thoroughly soaked on my way into work today and am thus rather uncomfortable.  So much for weather reports of “light rain”.  I won’t be able to get a change of clothes until I go home this evening, so I’m likely to be damp and sticky for most of the day.  I guess it could be much worse.  I guess it could always be much worse.  That’s one of the wonderful things about reality; it has no bottom level—it’s basements all the way down.

As you may be aware, I finished my “bad cover” of the Beatles’ You Never Give Me Your Money and posted a link to it here and directly shared it on Iterations of Zero.  Have a listen if you’re at all interested.  I have to apologize for the opening piano part, which—despite recording and rerecording five times, and trying to adjust in many ways using the sound-editing software, I couldn’t get to sound quite right without either a real piano or a much more expensive electronic one than I have available.  I finally got frustrated and just gave up and left it with the best I had so far.  The rest of the song isn’t too bad, though, and the guitar parts were played on my very good Strat, which was built by my house-mate—who is a much better guitarist than I am—and is also very good at putting a guitar together and improving it.

I have now returned more or less fully to working on The Vagabond, the title of which contains a definite article that is still going to take me a long time to internalize.  I’m on the second run-through, and I’ve found that I need to alter or clarify a few things to get rid of some time-continuity issues that I never noticed when originally writing it.  This is pretty typical, though.  I’ve found it useful literally to keep a running tab of what the day and date is in my stories—at least the ones where such a thing is pertinent—to make sure I don’t create too many embarrassing accidental contradictions.

It’s peculiar that the time of year in this story is almost the same as that in Unanimity.  I guess I implicitly think that horror in a university setting should start in the fall, early in the academic year.  Those who have been to university might think it would be more appropriate to put the real horror at the time of final exams, but somehow, I have yet to do so.  Maybe I feel that it’s too unfair to interrupt students who are studying and cramming, since that can be stressful enough.

I have to say—referring to the above-mentioned soaking—I’m getting sick of the weather here in Florida.  It’s been raining almost nonstop for a period of, oh, let’s see…forever, I think.  This is not an unusual pattern.  This tendency, in addition to the fact that there are no changing leaves in autumn—which I miss sorely, as I even miss wintertime*— is something without which I could do.  The meteorological patterns aren’t the only things wonky about Florida, though.  The politics here is/are frankly idiotic, as anyone who has followed the news since at least the year 2000 should know.  I don’t think that I would have spent three years as an invited guest of the DOC in any other state in which I’ve lived**; perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, as well as being too generous with myself***.

The natural beauty in Florida is, of course, stunning and remarkable, with much wildlife one doesn’t tend to see anywhere else in the US—including introduced species like the Burmese python and some very large iguanas, as well as numerous more indigenous reptiles and oodles of beautiful and amazing birds, insects, and arachnids.  But these and other natural wonders are all but driven into unnoticeability by that most problematic of introduced species:  The Naked House Ape, which is a terrible pest here.

I’m not in the best of moods, even for me, I’m afraid.  Apologies.

I still enjoy writing, at least (and the editing/rewriting process as well, though not quite as much as the initial composition), and that’s a very good thing, since it’s pretty much all I have****.  I really need to get back to posting on Iterations of Zero, so I can keep the relatively dark stuff (other than dark fiction) out of this blog.

But, of course, as I’ve said many times in many ways, there is a reason that a lot of what I write is dark and that most of my short stories are horror stories.  Even The Chasm and the Collision has its quite dark moments, being a fantasy adventure.  And I just finished rereading Son of Man, my science fiction novel, which has as one of its central points the previous, deliberate destruction of most of the human race in an event of “biblical” proportions, called the Conflagration.  Weirdly enough, my demi-vampire story, Mark Red, may be less dark than most of my other writings.

Ah, well, it is what it is.  Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge likes it.  It must be cheap; ninety five percent of the universe is made up of “dark” matter and “dark” energy, after all.  The ironically-named “ordinary matter”, such as what comprises us and everything we can actually see in any wavelength of light, constitutes a mere rounding error among the matter and energy of the cosmos—a very brief candle indeed.

On that cheery note, I’ll call it done for today.  Despite my gloomy demeanor, I wish all of you the best of all possible days and weeks and months and years.  Try to stay safe and healthy, please.

TTFN


*I grew up in Michigan, then did my undergraduate work in upstate New York, then lived in Chicago for two years before going to New York City for medical school—it was the warmest place I’d lived up until that point.  I’m okay with winter, though of course, it has its own issues.

**There’s a local saying that goes, “Florida:  Come on vacation, stay on probation!”

***Those who know me are probably aware that such is not my general habit or character, however.  If anything, I tend to treat myself far more harshly than I do anyone else.

****Plus, some “music”, including my amateurish covers and a few mediocre original compositions that are at least temporarily distracting for me, though many people would probably be just as happy not ever to have anything to do with them.

Bad Cover – You Never Give Me Your Money

Okay, here it is at last*, my bad cover of “You Never Give Me Your Money”, which is probably my favorite Beatles song**.

I apologize for the opening keyboards; they would have sounded better with a real piano (I did them over and over again trying to get a better sound), but I no longer have or have access to one of those, and I certainly can’t afford a really good simulated one.

I had to fudge on the percussion, using an automatic drum part, since I simply don’t have any drums of my own, nor am I at all trained in drumming such as would be necessary to play Ringo’s sophisticated part.

Everything else, though, is me:  Guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals.  Obviously, it was done, as Khan says, “Not all at once, and not instantly, to be sure.”  Putting it all together is in many ways the hardest part (other than practicing the parts, etc., but that’s fun to do).  I used Audacity, which is a free sound editing/mixing program, and it is amazing.  If you get the chance to throw them some money, please do so.

Of course, as should be obvious, I own none of this, and I am making no money from it, nor should I.  It’s just my labor of love/homage.  Words and music officially are by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, though the latter was the main composer of this song, and of course, the whole group and George Martin, etc. gave their creative bits to it, as with most of the Beatles works.

*It feels like it took a very long time to me, anyway, though I guess it’s only been about two weeks, not counting practice.

*I can’t quite explain why.  Maybe it’s because it opens up the long medley on the second side of Abbey Road, my favorite Beatles album, and is even reprised with a third verse in “Carry That Weight”, but that’s just speculation.  And at any given moment, of course, I may want to hear some other Beatles song more, since there are so many great and good ones, but this one always holds a special place in my faux-heart.

Travellers ne’er did lie, though blogs at home condemn ’em.

Hello and good morning!  It’s Thursday again—just another Thursday, there’s nothing particular about this one for me to mention, except of course for the fact that it is merely a common, ordinary Thursday such as Dentarthurdent never could get the hang of—and so it’s time for me to write my weekly blog post.

I intend to make this relatively brief today, because I’m working on a project that I want to put some time into before work.  I’m also riding the train this morning—for several reasons, not least of which is to try to force myself to get at least a bit more exercise by walking from the station to the office (and back) which is slightly less than a mile each way.  It’s good to be able to write and ride at the same time, but it is irritating when the train runs behind schedule and there’s not even any announcement about it at the station or on the website (this happened today, in case you couldn’t guess).

I haven’t gotten as much done on The Vagabond this week as I did last week, because I got sidetracked by the project I mentioned above, namely:  I’m doing another of my “bad covers”.  This time I’m doing one of one of my favorite (possibly my very favorite) Beatles songs.  I doubt you could guess what it is—it’s certainly not one of the first ones to come to most people’s minds when they think of the Beatles—but I’ve always loved it.  Even I don’t know quite why it stands out for me, but it does.

Anyway, I already had the score (I have all the Beatles scores, in a lovely, hardcover book full of them), and I’ve been practicing and learning the guitar and bass parts for the song for quite a while.  There’s some piano in it as well, but that’s easier; I’ve been playing piano since I was nine.  Not that I play it that well, mind you, but it’s not particularly challenging to learn short accompaniment piano parts for songs in which piano isn’t the main instrument.  There are mostly lots of chords, etc., though there’s a really rocking left hand part that I really love that doubles a slightly simpler bass part in the second section of the song.  I’ve only really been playing guitar for about two or three years, if that, learning by doing as it were, and these “bad covers” are one of the ways I do that.  So, that’s been taking a bit of my time this week.

Don’t worry, though.  The Vagabond is coming, I’ve just slowed down a bit this week due to distraction.  Have no fear.  Or, well, don’t have that kind of fear.  You really should fear the Vagabond; he’s not a nice guy.  He’s cruel, but at least he’s unfair.

In other news, I finished rereading The Chasm and the Collision yesterday morning, after re-starting it because my coworker’s son is reading it.  I bounced back and forth between it and a nonfiction book I’m currently enjoying.

It’s a little sappy, and it may be a little pathetic, but I was actually fighting tears when I got to the end of The Chasm and the Collision.  They were happy tears, however; it doesn’t have a sad ending (though there are some losses and tragedies along the way).  I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if I do say so myself.  Of course, you can’t judge by me.  I wrote it, after all.  But I can at least recommend it without reservation and without feeling disingenuously self-interested.  I really think it’s a good book.

I enjoyed CatC so much that I decided I’d reread another one of my “earlier” books, and I started rereading Son of Man yesterday.  This isn’t a book for young kids—it does have a few curse words in it and so on, and the ideas get a little high-falutin’—but it’s certainly not an “adult” novel either.  There’s nothing I’d feel embarrassed for my kids to read, or for my grandmothers to read (if either of my grandmothers were alive), even in my presence.  It’s a science fiction story, and as the title suggests, it plays around a little with some religious ideas.  Don’t worry, it’s nothing literal; there’s no mysticism, and certainly no spirituality in it (God forbid!).  I just enjoyed making a “real” story with parallels of religious notions, using (fictional) science instead of the supernatural.  I know, that’s vague and unclear.  I apologize.  But you can read the book if you’d like to know more.  I have no reservations about suggesting that.  It’s even on “Kindle Unlimited”, so if you’re a member, you can read it for free.  Enjoy!

And with that, my short-ish and fairly disjointed blog post is about finished for this week.  I hope you’re all doing as well as you can possibly be doing, and indeed, that you’re doing better than any mere mortals could deserve.  I still haven’t posted anything new on Iterations of Zero, but you can join me here each week for this, at least.  It’s better than being on Gilligan’s Island.

TTFN

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I blog of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing but vain fantasy

Good morning and hello everyone.  I hope you’re all doing well.  It’s Thursday, as you know, and so it’s time for another weekly edition of my blog.  This being the second Thursday of the month, it would have been an edition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains,” had I been able to keep that feature going*.

Work has continued on The Vagabond quite nicely; I finished the first run-through early this week, which served to familiarize me once again with my book that I wrote so long ago.  It sometimes feels like a very long time ago, and I guess it was…between twenty and thirty years, or more than half my life.  Weirdly, though—since it has been quite a while, and in some ways, it seems like ages—when reading it, I have to admit that it also seems quite fresh and recent.  I feel very much just the same person as I was when I wrote the novel, which is almost ridiculous considering how many things have happened to me since then**.  I suppose this is just one of the peculiarities of human consciousness…or at least of my own consciousness, which may or may not be considered human, depending upon whom you ask.

I think I wrote last time about how a woman in my office asked about my books for her son.  Well, as promised, I got the boy a copy of The Chasm and the Collision, and I got a copy of Unanimity Book 1 for her (definitely not for him).  She told me a few days ago that her son had been reading CatC and enjoying it and had reached chapter 4 already.  Because of that, I decided I’d read that chapter myself again, just to know exactly where he was.  It’s okay for me to skip ahead; I already know what happened.

Well, I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed it, and on and off I’ve been reading further***.  As I’ve said before, it’s my most family-friendly book, having been written about three middle-school students, and being therefore written for middle school students, as well as for “children of all ages” as they say.  That’s not to say it’s a childish or light-hearted book; there are some rather scary and dark portions, and it’s not short, except when compared to Unanimity.  It’s nominally a fantasy adventure, and without dark and dangerous forces, such stories don’t work at all.  My sister, who is older than I am and reads even more, says it’s her favorite of my books, and that the main character, Alex, is her favorite of my characters.  I might have mentioned that last week.  Apologies for redundancy.

I say it’s “nominally” a fantasy adventure because it could be more literally described as a science fiction story.  There’s nothing “magical” in it, and even the “travel to other worlds” aspect uses concepts that I cobbled from M Theory, as I understand it from my layperson’s perspective, drawn from the popular works of Brian Greene, Lisa Randall, Stephen Hawking, and the like.  Don’t worry, I don’t get much into that—I don’t know enough of it to do so even if I wanted to—but it does give me an arguably plausible way to bring in other universes and the spaces between them, and the possibility that the Big Bang was caused by two “branes” colliding with each other…and that such a collision might happen again.  (The word “brane” never appears in the story, however.)

Anyway, don’t worry about all that.  It’s a highly speculative science fiction story that really has the character of a youth fantasy adventure.  It even contains some environmentalist ideas, though they are by no means in your face.  I know, right?  A book by me, displaying any kind of conscience?  What’s the world coming to?  But again, you don’t have to worry about all that.  It’s a fantasy adventure about three middle-school students who get caught up in an inter-universal crisis and must do their best to help avert cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for missing school.  I’m proud of it, and I can pretty much recommend it to anyone without reservation.  It doesn’t contain even a single instance of profanity!  I do encourage you to read it if you like that sort of thing.

Speaking of that, I would like humbly to request that, for those of you who have read my stories and books, could you perhaps take a moment to go to Amazon and rate and/or review them?  I considered doing it myself, as a kind of joke—making it clear that I was the author writing the review—but that seemed just too cheesy, and I don’t think Amazon lets authors do that, anyway.  I’m fairly sure they block reviews from people who have a financial interest in a book, which seems impressively and surprisingly ethical of them.  I can’t help but approve.

Finally, I’m thinking about releasing another of my songs as an official “single” to be put up on Spotify, YouTube Music, iTunes, Pandora, etc., like Like and Share, Schrödinger’s Head, and Catechism, but I only have two more original songs so far that could be so released:  Breaking Me Down and Come Back Again.  I’ve linked to their “videos”, so if any of you want to have a listen and give me your recommendations—even if that includes a recommendation never to allow human ears to hear the songs again for the sake of all that’s good and pure—I’ll gladly take your input.  I won’t necessarily follow it, but I would love to have it.

With that, I’ll leave you again for this week.  I’ve still not been able to kick-start myself into doing more with Iterations of Zero, though I have drafts of a few things.  Keep your eyes open, if you’re interested.  And, honestly, do consider reading The Chasm and the Collision.  Heck, if you can figure out how to work it out, I’ll gladly autograph a copy for you, for what that’s worth.  Most importantly, continue to take good care of yourselves and your family, friends, and neighbors, and stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

CatC cover paperback


*No, I haven’t gotten over it yet.  Maybe I’ll try to do one of them a year or something, perhaps around Halloween.

**Including, but not limited to, medical school, residency, moving to Florida, having kids, acquiring a severe back injury and chronic nerve pain, getting divorced, spending time as an involuntary guest of the Florida DOC and as a consequence being unable to practice medicine or vote among them…all sorts of interesting things that make for a most stormy life so far.

***Interspersed with reading Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, PhD.  This is a very good and, I think, very important book.  I encourage you to read it.