“Where is the Power that protects beauty from the decay of life?”

It’s Friday, now, something which many people in our culture celebrate, since they’re about to enter the weekend, in which they can spend time with family and/or friends, and at least not have to work.

I’m not sure whether I’ll have to work tomorrow or not; my coworker is supposedly coming to the office today for the first time after his surgery, but it may be too much to ask of him to work on Saturday as well.  In any case, I think tomorrow would have been one of my scheduled days, but I could easily be wrong about that, and it’s not worth my trouble to try to figure it out.  I haven’t been trying to keep track.  I honestly hoped for it to be a moot point by now.

As you might have noticed, I’m still here and writing my blog today, the day after September 22nd.  It’s disappointing, I know.  I’m disappointed, myself.  But I did at least do some walking yesterday; more than usual, I mean.  I walked a total of about six miles, which is a halfway decent amount, though nothing like my target.

After writing about and thinking about the books I had read when I was younger, focusing yesterday specifically on Tolkien’s work, I nevertheless decided to go and start rereading Stephen R. Donaldson’s works, the ones I had read even more often than The Lord of the Rings by the time I had gone to college.  Somehow, I identified with Donaldson’s books much more than I did with Tolkien’s, though I think it’s clear that I love Tolkien’s work more.

But Thomas Covenant is definitely an anti-hero.  He’s no Frodo or Sam or Aragorn.  He defines himself by his disease (leprosy) because it is what he must keep in the forefront of his mind in order to prevent its progression.  Also, it’s what cost him his wife and child.  Then he gets brought to the Land, and he’s sure that he’s going insane, and that he can’t afford to let himself believe what’s happening, or he’s going to lose control of his life and his disease and truly go mad.

He does terrible things in the course of all this, but finally learns to find the center of the paradox of thinking that he’s dreaming and still believing in the Land, and ends up defeating Lord Foul.  I guess you would say, on the balance, he did much more good than evil.  But if you still hated him, I don’t think even he would have felt you were unjustified or wrong in it.  He doesn’t think of himself as any kind of hero, that’s for sure, and he doesn’t want other people to think that way, not least because it’s an overwhelming amount of pressure for any person but a narcissist to experience, which I suppose makes sense.

Anyway, when I first started reading Donaldson’s work, I remember feeling a weird kind of rebelliousness against the popularity of the first chronicles, and since the second chronicles had just started coming out, I began reading The Wounded Land, the first book of the second chronicles, before I had read the first.  It was an odd decision, and even I can’t quite recreate the mental state that led to it.  I don’t know if I wanted to get a head start or what exactly it was.  My friend Cindy had read, or was reading, the first chronicles and recommended them, if I recall, and maybe I wanted to get a head start on her?

That doesn’t feel quite right.

In any case, it wasn’t a terrible choice, because it gave me a sympathetic point of view with Linden Avery, the new co-hero of the second chronicles, who is a doctor who finds herself brought to the Land with Thomas Covenant this second time around, and she has no prior experience with it.  Also, The Wounded Land is one of the two best books in the whole series, from my point of view (the other one being The Power That Preserves, the last book of the first chronicles).

So, yesterday, I decided to start reading it again, and I got pretty far.  It’s as good, and as dark, as I remembered.  I have more awareness and familiarity with some of the things in it, like the fact that Linden is a doctor, but also with bitterness and loss and the like.  Somehow, though, I already felt connected with those parts of the books even when I was younger.  I don’t know why for sure.  Maybe it’s because I always felt like I was weird, even when I was exceptionally “successful”, in school and so on.

I certainly didn’t feel that I was like the other people around me; I’ve always felt like I was crazy in some way or other, and maybe that’s part of why I always was drawn to villains.  They were different, but they were powerful; people were afraid of them and didn’t want to mess with them if they could help it.  They were outsiders who worked to change the world to fit them, instead of having to change themselves to fit into it.

And Lord Foul was also the most eloquent villain I’d ever read, which appealed to my love of words.  He had curious turns of speech, though, saying things like, “Do you mislike the title I have given you?” to Thomas Covenant.  It’s almost as though English was not his first language, and he was putting words together in ways that made sense to him because they conveyed his ideas the way he wanted to convey them.  But he was also an actual character, unlike Sauron in LOTR, though he was only personally in the books for a few scenes, at the very beginning and the very end of both chronicles.

He’s also, as I mentioned yesterday, the purest villain, in that he simply hates all life and love, as it is put in the books.  It’s the core of his being, it’s the sum of his character.  It’s hard, at first, to understand how this might be so, how anything or person could simply be defined by hate that way.

Unlike with Tolkien, who has Morgoth and Sauron falling into evil and becoming hateful, it seems that Lord Foul was, in fact, fundamentally the dark side, or the dark counterpart, of the Creator of the Land.  He was cast into the Land when the Creator became enraged upon realizing that his “brother” or counterpart or dark side had tampered with the creation.  So Lord Foul is trapped in the Land, imprisoned with all the Creator’s stuff, unable to die, unable to escape except by destroying the “arch of time”, and so he hates everything about the Land and its world and everyone in it.  If he can’t get out, then he’s going to make the Creator suffer by hurting his creations, and ultimately by destroying them and escaping if he can.

I can sympathize more with that plight as time goes by.  I’ve certainly had many moments in which I feel that I literally hate everything and everyone in the world, the universe, and wish I could destroy all of it.  But, unlike Lord Foul, I don’t feel like I should do such a thing, that I have anything like the right to do such a thing, even though I tend toward nihilism.

But, of course, I can escape, unlike Lord Foul, if it comes to it, and it seems unfair to punish everything else just because I’m unhappy.  It might occasionally seem like it would be satisfying, but ultimately I’d feel it was unimpressive.  It would display a lack of self-control.  It would, in a way, be embarrassing, but I’d be embarrassed with myself more than in the eyes of anyone else.

It’s a weird state of mind (what a surprise).  But it’s one of the reasons I have no patience or sympathy with people who commit mass violence and the like, because—though I can certainly get inside the mindset that must have led them to want to destroy these people by whom they feel they can never feel accepted—I see it as a childish urge, the indulgence of a tantrum.  I have no respect for such lack of self-control, in others or in myself.  I find it more disgusting than I do the various other things that make me feel so outside and alien.  There is no excuse for it.

But Lord Foul’s situation is different, and anyway, he’s a fictional character.  Most of all, any good epic adventure needs a bad guy, the worse the better (so to speak) and he’s as bad as any I’ve read, while still being a real person in the books.  And I can sympathize with the Creator, too, who is clearly not some perfect, all-seeing, all-knowing being, but just an artist of sorts, who made something beautiful, and was frustrated that he couldn’t do so without there being evil within it.

Of course, there is also now a “last” Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and I have read only a part of the first book of those, while I was away in Raiford, when only one or two of them had come out.  I think.  But now they’re all out, and I may, just possibly, skip back ahead to those to find out what happens.  I think, from hints I’ve gathered, that we get more understanding of the nature of Lord Foul, and the Creator, and all that in these books, which would be interesting.

Further bulletins as events warrant.  Assuming the Arch of Time doesn’t get broken in the meantime.  If it does, though, at least you’ll know that I was able to escape, and so it won’t be entirely sad.

[By the way, the title of this post is the first line of a song the Lords sing in the second book of the original Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.]

Pursuing it with weary feet

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday morning, and this is not a pre-written post; this is one that I am writing now, on Thursday morning.

It’s September 22nd, 2022, and it’s the first day of Autumn.  It’s presumably the equinox, and—more importantly—it’s Bilbo’s and Frodo’s birthday.  This is the first time since I’ve been writing this blog that September 22nd has fallen on a Thursday, which isn’t too surprising.  After all, on average that should happen only once every seven years, and leap years might, depending on the year, increase that gap, though they could also decrease it.

Obviously, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are very important to me, so I’ve varied slightly from my usual Thursday title format of using a slightly altered quote from Shakespeare.

By the way, when I speak of the importance to me of those works, I mean the books.  If anyone out there has only seen the movies, you cannot know what I’m talking about.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Peter Jackson did an awe-inspiring job on The Lord of the Rings movies.  And The Hobbit movies were tolerably okay.  But they were nothing like as good as the books.  I haven’t even watched any of the new Amazon series yet.  I’m not sure if I will.

My first exposure to Tolkien’s work was in the form of a record (vinyl, that is) with excerpted audio from the Rankin-Bass cartoon of The Hobbit (which was in many ways superior to Peter Jackson’s bloated trilogy* of movies made from that one book).  My brother and I used to listen to such records sometimes when we were going to bed for the night—we shared a room—and I can still remember the beginning of the theme song written for that cartoon:

“The greatest adventure is what lies ahead

Today and tomorrow are yet to be said

The chances, the changes, are all yours to make

The mold of your life is in your hands to break.”

I feel that’s rather appropriate to me right now, frankly, but it was evocative even for a little kid.  We also had a big, illustrated version of The Hobbit, filled with stills from the animation and pre-production artwork and concept artwork from the development of the cartoon, though I didn’t really know what they were at the time.  I just knew they were beautiful to me, and I enjoyed them before I ever actually read the story.

Of course, once I had read The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings, I was hooked.  By the time I was twenty, I had read The Lord of the Rings at least 21 times, and The Hobbit more than that.  I had also read The Silmarillion at least seven times.  These were not the books I had read most often, mind you.  That record goes to The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, which I had read, I think, 29 times by the time I was halfway through college.  I had meant to write a segment of my short-lived “series” My Heroes Have Always Been Villains on the antagonist from those books, Lord Foul, who is, I think, the purest villain in all the literature I’ve read in my entire life, at least among those who are actually characters with personalities.  If there were enough demand, I might write a post in MHHABV about him.

But Tolkien’s work is dearer to my heart, and so the fact that this day is the 22nd of September, and a Thursday, feels portentous to me.  It’s the sort of day one might sell or give away all one’s former worldly good and heads off on an epic journey, from which he may never return, and if he does, which will leave him profoundly changed.  I want to do that.  I want to escape.  At the very least, today I am going to begin working toward that escape, to begin to prepare the way home from Mordor.

I’m two years older than Bilbo and Frodo Baggins were at the start of their journeys, but then again, I’ve already been on my own horrible “adventure” for a long time now.  The sliver of the Witch King’s blade has been working its way toward my heart for ages, and it may already have pierced it.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I often—maybe most of the time—feel as though I’m a wraith like a Nazgul, like a mortal who keeps a great ring:  not dying, but not growing or obtaining new life, either, just continuing, though every minute is a weariness, untouched by the world of light except as a source of pain.

Anyway, I can’t continue like that, or rather, I don’t want to.  I suppose I could, if there were any good reason.  I’ve continued this far, and apart from the date and my own associations, there’s nothing actually different about today compared to any other day.  It’s just another rotation of a little, rocky planet orbiting a run-of-the-mill star in an outer spiral arm of a mid-sized galaxy, in what may be, for all we know for certain, just one of an infinite number of “universes”.

But for me, the date is significant, and so is the day, and maybe I can use that as an impetus to try to do something epic, at least from my own point of view.  I hope so.  Because I can’t stand things as they are, not much longer, no matter what.  I don’t want to stand them.  I don’t see any good reason to do so other than inertia.  Mind you, inertia is a strong thing, but entropy is stronger.  Entropy is inevitable, at least as far as anyone can tell, and we have good physical and mathematical reasons for coming to that conclusion.

In the meantime, though, I’ll end this blog post not with my usual Thursday sign-off, but with Bilbo’s words in Lake Town, when he didn’t even realize it was his birthday, combined with his jokey comment from a much later birthday, but switched in order.

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I would like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.

Thag you very buch.”

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R rune


*I also much preferred the Rankin-Bass tune for the dwarves’ song in Bilbo’s house to the one in the Peter Jackson version, and partly because of their tune I can always remember pretty much that entire song/poem.  My favorite verse is:

“The bells were ringing in the Dale

And Men looked up with faces pale.

The dragon’s ire, more fierce than fire

Laid low their towers and houses frail.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is Lucy. In the sky. With diamonds.

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

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

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

TTFN

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This is the original drawing of the Dark Fairy


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

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

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

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.

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

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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.

My heroes have always been villains, Episode V: Tom Marvolo Riddle

I first read the Harry Potter books as an adult—I began them when book four was still only available in hardback—so my reaction to them and their characters might be expected to differ from how I responded to those tales that had first begun to grip me when I was younger, such as The Lord of the RingsYet, like so many millions of others, I was enthralled by Rowling’s work.  When the new volumes were published, I was one of the midnight-pickup pre-buyers, waiting in the bookstores in the wee hours for my copies the day they came out.

Unlike many of my earlier reactions to such sagas of good versus evil, I was not—at first—particularly interested in the bad guy, Lord Voldemort.  Based on the first three books, which only showed us Voldemort in fragmented or highly reduced form, he seemed a petty villain to me.  Racist and otherwise bigoted, he—if his followers were any indication—was simply a spoiled bully, a reflexive defender of ancient and unearned privilege raging against a more modern, rationalist, and egalitarian way of life, embodied most fully in Dumbledore.  I did enjoy the plays on words Rowling made with his name, but he himself didn’t seem very interesting.  He didn’t elicit a feeling of overwhelming threat and natural force like Sauron does, and I thought it a bit cheeky for anyone to call him “The Dark Lord,” a title I scarcely felt he merited.  He didn’t have the tragic sense of twisted, broken, could-have-been greatness embodied in the likes of Darth Vader and Doctor Doom.  And he certainly didn’t have the cool, detached intellect, that sense of an almost alien intelligence, that Hannibal Lecter possesses. Continue reading

‘Tis now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood and blog such bitter business as the bitter day would quake to look on.

I started this morning with no idea what I was going to write.  There isn’t much new to report with respect to my stories.  Progress on Unanimity and on Penal Colony goes on at a steady pace.  I haven’t started any new projects, and I don’t mean to do so until at least Penal Colony and In the Shade are both finished.

On the other hand, today is the last Thursday before Halloween, which is my favorite holiday.  Last October, as a celebration of the season, I wrote the first draft of Hole for a Heart, a quite Halloween-ey tale.  The story actually takes place in late spring, but its atmosphere is decidedly redolent of Halloween, and I pay lip-service to that fact during the story.

I’m not entirely sure why Halloween has always appealed to me so much.  Part of it probably has to do with its arrival shortly after my birthday, but that annual milestone hasn’t pleased me for quite some time, and I still like Halloween just as much.  Similarly, when I was younger, there’s little doubt that the acquisition of candy had no small influence on my holiday joy, but I’m not that big a candy person anymore, yet I’m still very much a Halloween person.*

Part of the attraction is that this is the most quintessentially autumnal of the holidays, and autumn has always been my favorite season, entirely unrelated to candy, to birthdays, and to any other more parochial concerns.  I simply love the feel of this time of year, especially as it is up north.  The changing of the colors of the leaves in southeastern Michigan, where I grew up, remains one of the most magical spectacles of nature.  Also, I was one of those supposedly rare kids who really liked going back to school after summer vacation (I think there are more of us than we’ve been led to believe).

Autumn has also almost always been the time of year when I restart the Tolkien cycle, beginning sometimes with The Silmarillion but often with The Hobbit, and always proceeding to The Lord of the Rings.  The fact that Frodo begins his adventure in the autumn surely contributes to my associational joy with the time of year.  That happy connection has only been bolstered by the fact that the Harry Potter books begin on Halloween (albeit on a tragic note).

Deeper than this, though, is that I’ve always felt an affinity for dark stories (in case you couldn’t tell) and Halloween is the holiday of the shadowy tale; I don’t think I’m anything like alone in this.  It’s not a coincidence that Stephen King is one of the most enduringly successful authors the world has yet seen.  Halloween is a time when huge numbers of people, at least in America, indulge their inner King, and embrace stories of the dark, the supernatural, the otherworldly.  For some people, it seems to be the only time when they use their imaginations at all.

Oddly enough, I’ve never really found Halloween scary, not even when I was a young child (no, not even the movie).  It’s just too much fun, frankly, and that’s true even of most scary movies and stories.  Weirdly, although I love most of Stephen King’s work, only two of his novels have ever frightened me (The Shining, and, more prominently, Pet Sematary).  It’s odd, but horror stories in general seem to affect me much the way Halloween does:  I feel them deeply, when they’re good, and I enjoy them; they resonate powerfully with me; but I don’t usually find them frightening.

The exceptions to this rule are interesting, and probably instructive.  Only a rare few books have literally made me feel afraid for any noticeable period of time, including the two listed above, as well as Floating Dragon by Peter Straub, and—the long-reigning champion—The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which has perhaps the best opening and closing paragraphs of any spooky story ever.  A few Lovecraft short stories, and more Stephen King short stories—as well as some Orson Scott Card stories, surprisingly enough—succeed in this area, as do intermittent others (most notably, the bone-chilling story Nadelman’s God by T.E.D. Klein).

In movies, the phenomenon is rarer still, with crowning glory going to the original Alien (Event Horizon was pretty darn spooky, too; also—though lamentably stupid as a science fiction story—as a horror movie, Signs really and majorly creeped me out…possibly because I first watched it in a hotel room, alone, at night, far from home).

Obviously, I like writing stories that might make other people frightened, but I don’t approach the writing with the idea of doing anything calculated to build a scary atmosphere, to make people feel uncomfortable, to surprise them, to worry them, etc.  At least, I don’t do it consciously.  It’s the darkness, rather than the scariness, that seems pivotal to me, both in my writing and my reading.  The same holds for my enjoyment of other literary forms, from plays, to movies, to video games, to TV shows.

And, of course, autumn is that time when darkness is gaining ground, with Halloween its most prominent celebration.  After Frodo’s and Bilbo’s birthday, which is roughly at the equinox, the days in the northern hemisphere grow ever shorter, and darkness is ascendant.  In the shadows, where there is less blinding, glaring, external input entering the mind, the imagination can be brought more readily into play.  The mind’s eye sees most clearly in the dark.

Well, it seems I did have a fair amount to write today, after all.  I could probably go on and on about this topic, but that might be truly horrifying, and not in a fun way; the “Chinese water torture” isn’t very dramatic as torments go, but it does sound maddening.  I’ll spare you such erosion and hold off further discussions of darkness and stories for later times.  In the meanwhile, please enjoy your Halloween (those of you who observe it).  If you get a chance, dress up for it.  Have some candy.  Laugh at and about scary things.

But you might want to avoid going out by yourself too long after night falls.  Even the darkest of entities like to give themselves treats from time to time, and a solitary human is a juicy morsel indeed.

TTFN


*This isn’t quite the same—nor is it as bad—as being one of the Autumn People, à la Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, but it’s not entirely orthogonal, either.

The Chasm and the Collision, Chapter 4: “Dinosaur Dogs and the Dining Room” – the audio

Okay, well, here it is, slightly earlier than I had expected:  The audio for Chapter 4 of The Chasm and the Collision.

As always, the usual disclaimers and restrictions and permissions apply:  Feel free to listen, to download, and to share ad libitum, but you are not authorized to make any money by doing so.

I’ll be putting this audio up on YouTube either this weekend or early next week, but in the meantime, feel free to listen to it in this post.

For links to earlier chapters and other audio stories, you can go to my earlier post, here.

 

The Chasm and the Collision, Chapter 3, “The Waves in the Wall” – the audio

Well, here it is, the audio for the third chapter of The Chasm and the Collision, read by me.  It will be posted on YouTube sometime early next week, but for the moment, feel free to listen to it here.  As always, feel free to download it, share it, etc., but you’re not authorized to make any money off of it…

…even if you could.

By the way, for ease of use, here are links to the entries on my blog where you can listen to earlier chapters:

The Chasm and the Collision Chapter 1:  A Fruitful Day and a Frightful Night

The Chasm and the Collision Chapter 2:  Shared Visions

Also, here are the links to the audio for my thee short stories, so you can easily navigate to them:

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords”

Prometheus and Chiron

Hole for a Heart

 

I hope you enjoy.  Remember, if you like them, you can find them all (in written form) at Amazon.  You can find my author’s page here.

TTFN!

My heroes have always been villains, Episode II: Sauron, lord of Mordor

It’s the second Thursday of the month and, as promised, this is the second installment of “My heroes have always been villains.”  Today, I discuss one of the greatest villains in modern fantasy literature:  Sauron of Mordor, the title character of The Lord of the Rings.

Peter Jackson’s amazing LotR movies (and the slightly less amazing The Hobbit movies) have brought Sauron to the attention of the population at large to a greater degree than ever before, but he was hardly a shrinking violet to begin with.  Millions upon millions of us met him in the books, after getting teased by him as the Necromancer in The Hobbit. Continue reading