The first man that blogged, cried, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”

avatarofdeath2

Hello, good morning, and Happy Halloween to you all!  I hope all of you who celebrate the holiday enjoy yourselves, either by dressing up* and having sweets and treats, or by giving out such sweets and treats to the young’uns who come around trick-or-treating (perhaps dressing up to do so).  If you choose not to celebrate the holiday merely because of some religious misgivings that make you worry that to do so would somehow be pagan…well, all I can say is, those concerns are no more realistic than are all the ghosts, goblins, zombies and vampires, and they’re usually not as much fun.  But that’s your business, and as long as you don’t interfere with anyone else, you can do what you want.  Or not do what you don’t want.

Some of my readers will have already seen an article I posted on Iterations of Zero this week, stating my intention to use spare time during my work days to write and post there at least once a week.  There’s much more breadth of subject matter available to be pursued on IoZ, because it’s very much in the spirit of “Seinfeld”, being a blog about nothing…at least nothing in particular.  As I think I wrote when I introduced that blog’s title, it’s possible that the whole universe has a net energy of zero (balancing all the positive energy and matter with the negative energy of gravity), in which case we all—everything—are just iterations of zero.  It’s sort of like the credit economy.  When you only have iterations of zero, everything is far game.

Anyway, I plan for that to be an ongoing process.  And though we all know with what substance the road to Hell is paved, I hope that by declaring my intentions here and in IoZ, I at least put the pressure of avoiding embarrassment upon myself to keep me going.**

On to other matters.  Unanimity proceeds at a steady pace.  I’d say I’m almost halfway through the editing/rewriting process, which may not seem like a lot to those who’ve been paying attention, but when you’re dealing with a novel whose first draft was over half a million words long, you need to be patient.  In any case, it’s a Halloween-worthy effort, being a horror novel, though it’s only vaguely supernatural.  I do throw into it a passing reference to another of my stories, one that I’m tempted to explicate here…but I think I’ll leave it at just saying that the story referenced is one that is truly worthy of Halloween.

Unanimity is definitely a horrifying story, of course—hopefully only in the narrative sense, not in quality—and I’ve again reached a point in the book where more and more terrible things are happening.  I can only console the characters affected by saying that they can be born again anytime someone starts the book over.  This is probably little consolation, since the same dark things will happen to them every time the story unfolds.

Such is the fate of characters in novels.

It may be that such is the fate of us all, come to think of it.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere (in a blog about “playing with space-time blocks”), it’s possible, according to some interpretations of General Relativity, that all of time may pre-exist, so to speak.  This is the origin of Einstein’s attributed statement that, to the convinced physicist, time is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.  If that’s the case, we may end our lives only to restart them, as if we were but characters in a novel or a movie.  Still, we do know that GR can’t be quite right as it is, because it doesn’t properly integrate the uncertainty principle and other aspects of quantum mechanics which appear to be inescapable.  If we throw in the Everettian possibilities of many worlds, diverging at every occurrence of quantum decoherence (not at every place a human is faced with a choice, contrary to popular belief and popular fiction), there may be many possible fixed versions of ourselves.  This can be both a comfort and a nightmare, because as Carl Sagan once pointed out, while we can certainly imagine other versions of our lives that could be much better than they are, we can also—and perhaps more readily—imagine versions in which things are much, much worse.  Such is the nature of reality; there is no obvious bottom level to it.

Oh, well, c’est la vie.  As Camus tells us (if memory serves), there can be meaning, honor, and satisfaction even in the endless, repetitive task of rolling a boulder to the top of a hill only to have it roll down again each time, if that’s the existence to which you are fated.  I suspect that Marcus Aurelius would agree with him.  At least, the version of the Emperor that lives in my mind would agree with the version of Camus who lives there as well.  It’s an interesting forum up there in my cerebrum, though it does get tedious and pretentious at times.

Which is one reason why it’s good to indulge in silly frivolities like Halloween, in which we make light of things that might otherwise terrify us, and by embracing them divest them of their power.  Most importantly, it can be a lot of fun.  Life is short, and, as Weird Al Yankovic pointed out, “You’re dead for a real long time.”  You might as well try to have at least a little fun here and there as long as you’re not.

Again, Happy Halloween!

TTFN

 

*I’m dressed up at the office in an all-in-black version of the character in the picture above.  I’m sort of an amalgam of The Gunslinger and The Man in Black.  I don’t think that’s too presumptuous; after all, my father’s name was Roland.

**Though my regular readers may have their doubts about whether avoiding embarrassment is something that ever concerns me at all.

Give me your hands if we be friends, and Robert shall restore amends

wine glass shatter

 

Buenos días, ohaiyou gozaimasu, and good morning!  Welcome to another jueves, Mokuyoubi, and Thursday.  It’s that day of the week, by any other name, on which I write my blog posts, and that’s just what I’m going to do.

I must warn you, however, that I’m currently suffering from the viral respiratory infection that’s going around the office.  More specifically, I’m in about the second full day of the thing, which is often among the worst, when all the cytokines and other inflammatory and immune mediators are floating around the body, triggering low-grade fevers, chills, aches and pains, as well as poor sleep (something to which I’m at least reasonably accustomed).  In other words, I may be at less than my optimal writing state, and I may further be in less than an ideal state for evaluating the quality of my writing.  So, if you find that this blog post is irritating or incoherent or simply stupid, I ask you please to cut me some slack.

Basically, I’m giving myself excuses for not doing as good a job as I—and presumably you—might like me to do.  Perhaps the fickle Spirit of Human Charity will even work to my advantage in this, and this blog post will be popular even if it’s not great.  How cool would that be?  If only I always had such excuses*.

Okay, sorry about that bit of auto-derision.  I’m currently reading a light novel series in which the main character/narrator is a cynical loner who ends up doing good things for other people more or less against his will, despite being a natural outsider.  That thought style resonates with me perhaps a bit too strongly…though I’ve come to my personal attitude thanks to fifty years (minus three days) of experience, whereas Hikigaya Hachiman reached that stage of enlightenment** by the time he was in high school.  I suppose there are prodigies in any area of expertise.  Also, he’s fictional; as far as I know, I’m not.

It’s good to be reading fiction again, though I think “Oregairu” is about the only one for which I’d have any stomach right now.  It’s a unique story with a unique protagonist—almost an anti-hero, but not quite—and it’s been made into a two-season anime, which I’ve already watched more than once.  It was very well done, and very true to the books, so I already know what’s going to happen, but that’s never been a problem for me.  God knows how often I’ve read The Lord of the Rings and enjoyed it every time.  Ditto for many other high-quality tales.

I’ve heard of a study that claimed to find that audiences and readers enjoy a story more when they already know the outcome (more or less).  I’m not sure how robust or convincing this study was, but there’s little doubt that audiences of almost all movies, books, shows, etc. have a good idea going in how most stories will end.  “The rest is commentary,” as they say.  Though, of course, they also say the devil is in the details…which is particularly true in most of my writing, though perhaps not in the sense usually intended.

Speaking of my writing, I’ve almost completed the third editing run-through of Unanimity.  Indeed, I just finished the main arc of the story yesterday, and only the denouement remains.  I feel a little silly relating this, but the climax of the story literally brought tears to my eyes.  Mainly this is because the characters involved were crying, and when I write and edit, I try to sort of act out the scenes in my head, and I often speak the dialogue aloud; it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m great at writing heart-wrenching fiction.  I’ll sometimes tear up when singing songs from The Phantom of the Opera or The Long and Winding Road or Empty Garden and similar, just because that’s the mood of the songs***.  Also, being prone as I am to depression, the resonant frequencies of my brain simply respond to minor keys—literally and figuratively—most powerfully.

Perhaps that’s why some people are prone to depression:  their mental circuitry is arranged such that it “vibrates” most energetically in response to dark inputs.  And, unfortunately, as when a crystal wine glass resonates with an opera singer’s voice, sometimes these harmonics can cause a thing to shatter.

I’m probably pushing the analogy too far.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the editing of Unanimity is coming along well, though I still have a long way to go.  I think it’s getting better with each round of the process, so it’s pretty satisfying.  It’s quite nice to enjoy one’s own stories, after all…and I can pretty much say that I enjoy all of mine.  I think some of my earlier works really needed a bit more fine-tuning than they received, but I guess I can still go back and improve them in the fullness of time.  Life is always a work in progress.  As they say, it’s all about the journey, not the destination…which is pretty much trivially obvious, when you think about it, since the destination is always the same no matter what.

And even dark and forbidding scenery can sometimes still be cool to look at along the way, if you can just catch it from the right angle.

TTFN


*I can’t really count depression as an ongoing excuse, since it’s more or less my baseline, and might even bring a kind of Goth/Punk/Horror coolness to my general attitude.  Okay, probably not, but it would be nice to think so.

**Endarkenment?

***Though, to be fair, these examples are truly exceptional works, whereas my own writing is evocative to me mainly because it’s my writing.  If it doesn’t resonate with me, then there’s something deeply wrong.

The man that hath no music in himself…is fit for treasons, stratagems and blogs

galileo math

some of Galileo’s figuring

Good morning, all.  It’s Thursday, so—as per usual—it’s time for another weekly blog post.  Here we go!

I’ve had a mildly underproductive editing week, because last Friday, Saturday, and then this Monday, I got wrapped up in completing my latest song, Come Back Again.  If you’re interested, you can listen to it on YouTube, here on my website, or on my Facebook page.  It’s also posted in audio-only format on Iterations of Zero.  If anyone wants, I could send you an mp3 copy; that seems vanishingly unlikely, though.  The only people who seem to listen to my songs are immediate family members and similarly unfortunate, obligated people.  I do think the song is surprisingly decent, considering I did it using only two electric guitars (not at the same time), two smartphone rhythm apps (sampled and altered in various ways), a very cheap desktop keyboard, an actual desktop with smartphone for some of the percussion, and the amazing free audio editing software Audacity.  Oh, and of course, a microphone and voice recording program for the singing.  I suppose you could add pens and paper for writing the words and music.  All in all, not much was needed.

It’s curious that, in order to publish my songs effectively, I need to make “videos” of them, even though the visuals only consist of the icon from my Iterations of Zero website.  I don’t even use the icon from this site, because that’s just my face, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to look at my face long enough to listen to a song.

It’s interesting, though, that one can readily upload videos to Facebook (and Twitter, I think), but they don’t easily let you share simple audio files.  As a stereotypical standup comedian might say, “What’s that all about?”  It’s a little odd that everyone wants to upload videos and pictures ad infinitum to sites like Facebook and Instagram—as they presume, without any discernable justification, that other people want to look at them—but not audio.  Yet the latter can be appreciated even while commuting, even while driving, as the wonder of audiobooks and podcasts (and radio) demonstrates.

Perhaps I’m just a curmudgeon*, but I feel that most videos shared by ordinary people, and often even by professionals, are just talking faces with nonspecific backgrounds relating matters that could be communicated purely by voice (or—God forbid—the written word!).

Anyway, my song is out there.  As I’ve said before, making and releasing these songs really is a vanity project for me, not just in the egotistical sense of the word, but also in the sense of it being in vain…pointless.  The latter sense of the term applies to me far more often than does the former.  Though I have a reasonably good opinion of my ability to perform tasks of various kinds, and to master subjects with a fair amount of depth, I am not vain in the narcissistic sense about much.  I have no illusions about the importance of anything I do or make or its value to anyone else.  Mostly, I’m just a proverbial Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness ™**.  Or, to be a little less pretentious, I’m a case of “I am, I said,” with not even furniture taking note of the declaration.

Nevertheless, since Tuesday I have returned to my usual schedule of working on Unanimity.  I’ve encountered an interesting place where the way I wrote the book has shifted character times slightly…meaning I had to go back in time from events of an immediately preceding section to catch up with what was happening to other characters.  This is common, of course, since we can’t skip back and forth sentence by sentence to see that one character is doing in “real time” while something is happening to another.

But I think I’m going to have to adjust it.  I think the story will flow better if I take the section in question and transplant it to just before the immediately preceding section.  This is a minor enough change, and I think most authors probably do it often, but it’s interesting to me because I don’t think I’ve ever needed to do it before.  Usually when I write something, it comes out pretty much as the story is “meant” to flow.  Unfortunately, Unanimity is just such a long novel, with so much going on, often to characters in separate locations, that it wasn’t all going to come out quite in optimal order on the first draft.  Not to say it wouldn’t be tolerable in its current form—it would be—but it wouldn’t be ideal, from my point of view.

That’s all probably not interesting to anyone else but me.

Meanwhile, speaking of audio (I was, you can go back and check), I’m “currently” listening to a wonderful book called Infinite Powers:  How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe.  I highly recommend it.  Seriously.  Even if you’re not a math type person (though I have to admit that I am one, a bit), I think it will give you easy-to-understand but clear and real insights into not just why calculus—and mathematics in general—is so useful to nearly everything of substance in science and technology*** but also why it’s so breathtakingly beautiful that some people are utterly captivated by it and pursue it hour after hour, year after year, even in their spare time.

Galileo famously said that the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics.  And someone else said (I can’t find the credit for the quote), “Physicists defer only to mathematicians, and mathematicians defer only to God.”  We can imagine universes where the charge and mass of an electron are different than they are here, or where coupling constants and the cosmological constant and the ratio of the strength of the gravitational to the electromagnetic force are different—and we can readily imagine life forms whose genetic data isn’t encoded in DNA…but it’s impossible to conceive of a logically consistent universe in which the square root of two is the ratio of two integers, or in which there is a largest prime number.

Maybe God defers to mathematicians.  Or maybe He just is one.

And with that bit of casual blasphemy, I think I’ve done enough damage for this week.  I hope you’re all well, and that you’re enjoying listening to, reading, watching, and doing whatever it is that—when integrated under the curve of your lifespan—makes your existence as joyful and fulfilling as possible.

TTFN


*There’s no “perhaps” about me being a curmudgeon; the “perhaps” refers to whether I’m merely a curmudgeon, or if there’s more to me than that.  The jury is still out.

**Actually, I’m quite sure that’s not from the book of Proverbs; I think it’s from Isaiah or Ezekiel.  Let me check…
…yes, it’s from Isaiah.

***Which, in the modern world, means pretty much everything, full stop.

You blog an infinite deal of nothing

Hollywood_Amtrak_Tri-Rail

Hello, good morning, and welcome, as always, to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I’m riding the train today—as I have all this week and from the end of last week—because my poor vehicle is in the shop.  It’s a bit frustrating, but also weirdly nostalgic, and the extra walking I must do has forced me to realize just how little walking I’ve been doing lately.  I’ve gotten terribly out of shape.  As testament to that fact, though I can’t be certain it’s related, at the beginning of this week, I slipped while getting out of the shower—nothing severe, don’t worry; I didn’t fall down or even have to grab anything to right myself—and my back has consequently suffered a severe exacerbation of its already chronic “failed back surgery syndrome” pain.  This makes riding the train more of an adventure than it might be otherwise, to say nothing of simply going to work, but such is the way of things.  In the words of the Dread Pirate Roberts, “Like is pain…anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Speaking of pain, I was very disappointed by the reception to my blog post last week.  This is really a euphemistic way of saying I’m disappointed in the post itself, since there’s surely no one to blame but me if it didn’t do well.  For the first time in a very long while, my Thursday blog post didn’t get even one single “like”.  And I’m just not capable of “liking” my own post.

I’m honestly not sure what it was about that post that was so unappealing.  I didn’t feel that the writing was particularly bad, but maybe it was.  I had, just a few days earlier and after a four month “course”, come off Saint John’s Wort, and maybe that affected my writing style or quality.  Maybe it was just that I used a bad collection of “tags” to highlight the post.*  If there’s anyone out there who had the courage to force their way through it and has an objective (or not) assessment to give me, I’d appreciate it.

As I said, it’s a bit nostalgic for me to be riding the train again, not least because it was at the train station in Hollywood, Florida that I received the inspiration for my story Prometheus and Chiron, which I like a lot, even if no one else does.  (I have no reason to think that no one else likes it, but I similarly have no way to know if anyone does…there are no reviews on Amazon for it, though maybe there’s something on “Goodreads”, and I just didn’t look closely enough.)  It is, however, just a bit frustrating to ride the train when one’s back pain makes one feel, and move, as though one were ninety years old…and not a particularly healthy ninety, at that.

Still, I’ve done some good, or at least extensive, writing on trains and/or buses throughout the years.  Thanks to the existence of very small laptop computers (and even smartphones!), I can write on the train without subsequently having to decipher and transcribe my own atrocious handwriting afterwards**.  I’ve had to do such transcription before, with both Mark Red and with The Chasm and the Collision (neither of which was written on a train or bus, however; they were written at Florida State Prison, which is less bumpy but which has its own drawbacks), and I can assure you, as a fun thing to do to pass the time, it’s highly overrated.

Speaking of such things, the editing and rewriting of Unanimity continues as always; and it does feel like forever, sometimes. It’s still enjoyable to read as I edit, which I guess is a good thing.  I always aspire to the mental state of being someone who generally likes the story, but who is fed up with it just enough to be critical about its flaws so that I can correct them with a ruthless but well-meaning attitude.  That’s the ideal, but as Run DMC said, it’s tricky.  Anyway, it’s coming along, slowly but surely, and hopefully it will be finished sometime before I die, or before the world ends, whichever comes first***.

In other news…well, there’s not much other news, come to think of it.  Of course, I’m sure there’s “news” out there in the world; there always is, if you’re looking.  Some of it might even just possibly be relatively important, even on a long-term scale (though the majority, I’d guess, is indistinguishable from random gossip around a water cooler—and though biologists and anthropologists say that gossip served and continues to serve important social functions regarding reputation and trustworthiness, etc., I can’t help but find it appalling, embarrassing, and worthy of contempt; say of me what you will).  My own life, however, tends to be repetitive and tedious, and would make very poor viewing, even ignoring the deeply unattractive protagonist.

My imagination, however, is thankfully and sometimes joyfully fertile.  Einstein is quoted as having said that imagination is more important than knowledge.  I’m very fond of both, but I do think that without imagination it’s hard even to arrive at knowledge of any but the simplest of subjects.  How, after all, are you to construct a mental model of a concept if you can’t imagine such a model?

Well, to quote the immortal (and, perforce, imaginary) Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”  This is not quite true, of course.  I could probably go on and on ad infinitum, and I’m sure some of you feel that I already have.  But, anyway, I’ll hold off any further mental meanderings until next week, and simply wish you all the very best of all that is possible, both individually and collectively.

TTFN


*I decided to use the tags “sex”, “drugs”, and “rock ‘n’ roll” for this post to see if it makes a difference.

**Handwriting made all the worse by the bumping and jostling of a moving train or bus.  Those who know how bad my script is, in and of itself, can only imagine with dread the nightmare of such Lovecraftian output.  The horror…the horror…

***Of course, from my point of view, the two events are equivalent.

I once did hold it, as our statists do, a baseness to blog fair

gibbon

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  As is often the case when I start writing a blog entry, I really don’t know what I’m going to “talk” about.  Fortunately (or not, depending on your point of view) that rarely stops me from putting a great many words down in short order.

This seems a common tendency in both writing and speaking.  In fact, it seems to be more common in speaking than in writing, though I myself (you know:  me…the guy writing this blog) tend to be a bit reticent in social settings, unless ethanol-containing beverages have been consumed.  I was raised on the aphorism, attributed to Mark Twain, that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.  I’m sure that there are many who would wish that I had followed this idea more assiduously.

The fear of being thought a fool does bring one to an interesting converse, or corollary, to the above-noted garrulousness of those who have nothing of substance to convey, and that is the human tendency to find it difficult to speak (or to write) when it’s important.  This isn’t universal, perhaps, but who among you cannot recall a time when you really liked some member of the appropriate gender and wanted to express that feeling (and perhaps ask said person out on a date) but found it impossible to say anything that was discernible from the babbling of an epileptic gibbon?  Many a comedy, both real and fictional, has highlighted such situations; alas, so have quite a few tragedies.

I suspect that this is born of the inherent perfectionism we all tend to embrace when trying to communicate something that’s important to us.  When what we say really matters, when we feel that it is crucial, we want our communication to be absolutely perfect…or we feel that it ought to be, anyway.  Those of you who have ever written term papers in school or university can surely appreciate that horrible sense that if it’s not perfect, or nearly so, then it’s simply horrible.

But of course, such perfection seems impossible to define, let alone to achieve, even by the greatest among us.  Upon occasion—Blasphemy Alert!—I’ve even read Shakespeare and had the sneaking thought that he could have written some particular line better than he did.  I might even, when feeling particularly cheeky, imagine that I’ve seen such a better way.  I hastily defend my humility in such instances by declaring that the line’s imperfection must have been the fault of the transcribing player who recorded it, not Shakespeare himself, hallowed be his name.

Actually, I don’t do that.  Nor do I imagine that everyone would agree with my suggested improvement, nor on which lines could be improved.  It’s simply the case that even Shakespeare was not perfect—whatever that means.

There are even people—yes, people of intelligence and good taste—who don’t much like Shakespeare.  Really.  It’s true.  I’ve met them.  They’re not monsters, nor are they insane (if you can believe it).  They’re ordinary, decent people.

My point is, perfection in communication isn’t even definable let alone achievable, so it’s curious that we get so hung up on stumbling over our words when we try to convey something important.  When we’re less wound up about it, we seem instinctively to recognize that conversation is like a sketch.  It doesn’t matter if a particular stroke of the pencil isn’t exactly right, because you’re just going to modify it with the next stroke anyway, and gradually you’re going to add and adjust until you get your point across…or until you fail to do so.  Even the overuse of metaphor and simile can still achieve some kind of communication.

That’s why I don’t subscribe to the nonsensical goal of sitting down and writing the “best sentence,” the “truest sentence”* you can write.  When I’m writing (be it a blog post, or a short story, or a novel, or a poem, or a song), I take the approach just to fucking write something.  Get something out onto the page, or the LCD screen.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It won’t be perfect.  In fact, no matter how much you edit it or improve it, it won’t ever be perfect…but it can get better.  You’re not stuck with what you first get out, you can fix and tweak and adjust it as often as you want…sometimes until you’re so bored with it that you don’t give a shit whether it’s good, let alone whether it’s perfect or not.

I sometimes think that this is the ultimate state of most shared works of art.  The artists finally get sick of working on them and just throw up their hands and say, “Okay, fine, that’s good enough.  Or not.  I don’t care, I’m done with it.  Get it out of my sight!”

Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but I think that’s a good attitude to cultivate, at least if you’re a member of the legion of creative people with performance anxiety born of an innate (or learned) perfectionism.  Nothing is going to be expressed perfectly.

When you go up and talk to the girl (for instance) that you like, you may stumble over your words—indeed, you may literally stumble—your voice may crack, and you may say something utterly inane.  You probably will.  But that’s okay.  That’s just the first stroke of the pencil; the full work of art is just getting started.  The target of your affection might even find your incoherence charming**.  She might even like the way you mix and overuse metaphors!  But if you don’t say anything, then nothing at all will happen (except personal regret and self-loathing, which are overrated).

I don’t know where to go next with this, and I suspect that I’ve said all that’s useful to say about it for now…except, perhaps, to add my own correction to the irritating, related notion that “practice makes perfect.”  It doesn’t.  But it does make you better.  Indeed, the very fact that improvement is open-ended, with no practical limits, is more exciting than the notion of becoming perfect at something.  If perfection were attainable, there would be nowhere to go but down from there.  But as it stands, we can always get better and better, without limit, for as long as we’re able to do anything at all, if we keep trying.  But we do have to try; we have to say or do something.  And we’re not going to do that if we wait until we have something “perfect” to say.

TTFN


*I don’t even remember who said or wrote words to that effect.  That’s how anti-important I found the idea.

**And she might not.  This is the real world, after all, and sometimes the person you like just doesn’t reciprocate.  Likewise, not everyone will like every story, or article, or painting, or song, or sculpture, or whatever.  Universal popularity is at least as great a phantasm as perfection.

Free Range Meat

Free Range Meat cover

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.

The art of our necessities is strange that can make vile blogs precious.

Resized_20190620_162430

 

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.

TTFN


*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.