Generic salutations, and welcome once again to another Thursday. I’m not sure what to write today, having no specific agenda such as I had in the past two weeks. I guess I’ll just start writing—indeed, I’ve already started—and I’ll see what comes out.
First, an update: I’ve been working steadily on the editing of Unanimity, and I’m pleased still to find it engaging and fun. I worried, when writing it, that it wasn’t going to be as good as the other books I’ve written, if only because it’s so long. If brevity is the soul of wit (an unproven assertion), then its lower quality would seem to be implied. However, I think it’s turned out better in some ways, or at the very least as good, as my other works so far. It’s certainly my most “real-world” novel so far. Though Mark Red does take place in what is nominally our own world, it quickly becomes clear that it’s a world in which vampires and other forms of “magic” exist behind the scenes. Son of Man nominally takes place in the “real world,” and is science fiction rather than fantasy, but its setting, being in the future, is quite different from that of our modern lives.
Unanimity, on the other hand, is set in what is more or less clearly the modern world, and though the main action of the story revolves around something inexplicable that could certainly be called “supernatural,” this occurs as a singular outlier in what is otherwise a completely normal, real, human world.* I won’t say that the setting is “typical” of most people’s ordinary lives; it takes place on the campus of a prestigious, research-oriented university, which is not where everyday life occurs for most of us—even those of us who have attended university. But the people in the story are normal, ordinary people, with no experience of or belief in anything overtly supernatural. There are no ray guns or vampires, no time travel let alone travel between parallel universes (as in The Chasm and the Collision).
It’s interesting to think, as I just now did, that almost none of my stories take place in “the real world.” Of course, they tend to happen in universes that look and feel at first glance very much like ours, but there are fundamental departures, often forming the trigger points of the stories. Even I for one welcome our new computer overlords, set in what should be our real world, contains elements of speculative science fiction.** Weirdly and disturbingly enough, my most fundamentally realistic story is Solitaire, and it is also my darkest and most horrifying story (in my opinion, anyway).
I’m not sure what that says about my take on reality.
I took last Friday off editing Free Range Meat, another story where the supernatural intrudes upon what should be ordinary life, because I’ve been working on a new song. Those of you who follow my other blog, Iterations of Zero, may know that I’ve been intermittently distracted by such things since I started to play guitar somewhat more seriously and had also learned that I could use readily available audio mixing and editing software to produce songs all by my lonesome, sometimes recording my versions of other people’s songs, but on two occasions so far producing original works. I can’t make any claims as to the quality or the listenability of the songs, but I had (obsessive) fun doing them, and the same thing is happening again.
Like my second song, Breaking Me Down, this new song (called Catechism), is one for which I wrote the tune and most of the words way back when I was in college. It’s an involuntary fact of my brain’s function that such things don’t tend to go away but continue to rattle and bounce around my head for decades. I didn’t have to find any old papers with the words scribbled down (and the tunes were never previously recorded anywhere but in my mind), I simply had to transcribe them…though I changed a few of the lyrics of both songs, since their earlier versions included some rather embarrassing choices. Of course, anyone listening to the songs as they are now may be justified in exclaiming, “These are the words he left in? What the heck did he take out?”
Writing and producing these songs is a sort of catharsis, a way to get them out of my head and into the world. Of course, that doesn’t actually work, since the brain is not some kind of hydraulic system where pressure can be released and drained. Still, at least now the songs rattling about up there are—or will be—reflections of shapes in the external world, rather than merely virtual music played for an audience of one. I can’t make any guarantees about the quality of the songs—music is if anything even more difficult to judge objectively than fiction is—but I kind of like them. They also give me at least two or three pieces I know that I can play on the guitar better than anybody else can, since I’m the one who wrote them. I am in all other respects a very amateur guitar player.
Once I finish Catechism, I think I’ll publish it here as well as on IoZ, and of course I’ll make “videos” of the songs and put them on my YouTube channel. At the very least, I know that there will be no copyright claims against the videos ever in the future, since the songs are written, performed, and produced entirely by me, rather like my books. It’s a freeing thought.
Wow, for someone who didn’t have much to say, I’ve said a lot today, haven’t I? I think it’s probably more than enough. I’ll just close with a sentiment of encouragement, which I hope doesn’t come across as condescending: If you have any songs or stories (or paintings, or sculptures, or whatever) bouncing around in your head, I hope you’ll try to get them out and make them actual rather than virtual. Somewhere out there, there’s someone who might want to experience them. Even if you’re the only one who ever does, it can be worth it. I think so, anyway.
*Though I do throw in a passing reference to the setting of my short story Hole for a Heart, which is certainly a supernatural horror story.
**These may not in fact be what they seem…and if they are not, then Ifowonco would be almost a fully realistic story.