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.

Remember thee! Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat in this distracted blog.

 

pumpkin demon cropped

Hello and good morning!  It’s Thursday, so it’s blog day, as is probably unnecessary to point out, since you’re reading this.  Still, you might be reading it at some later date, and not have realized on which day of the week it was written.  So, perhaps it’s okay that I start most of my blogs with the usual repetitive reminder.

Be that as it may, this Thursday is special, because it’s one week until Halloween, my favorite holiday—for what are probably obvious reasons if you’ve read my stories.  Given the time of year, I thought to myself yesterday that I’d read something good and seasonal, i.e. a horror story…one of my own.  I started with Prometheus and Chiron, but I realized soon that it was simply too dark and terrible for me right now*.  Instead, I went to Welcome to Paradox City and started to read its the second entry:  If the Spirit Moves You, which is set the day before Halloween.  Though the story begins with the protagonist seeing a ghost, it’s not dark or scary at all.

I’m a little sad not to be publishing any horror stories this year around Halloween.  It would be a nice pseudo-tradition to carry forward, but I just really don’t want to get distracted from editing Unanimity, which is coming along nicely, but which is soooooo lengthy a process.  If I were to write something new while working on it, it would slow everything down, and that’s just too discouraging to allow.

It’s a particular shame, though, because over the years I’ve learned that writing new stories is a good way to mitigate my dysthymia/depression, which otherwise makes me almost as unbearable to others as it makes me to me.  This is especially true in the morning; often by mid-afternoon my mood and temper begin to swing upward and I’m actually capable not just of facial expressions, but even the occasional tiny smile.  Until that time of day, my face feels not so much paralyzed as embalmed.

Thankfully, depression isn’t truly contagious…though those who suffer from it are well-advised not to come to me for cheering up early in the day.  I’m as likely to talk them further down into the pit as to lift their spirits.  This wouldn’t be out of cruelty or malice; it would just be me expressing my honest thoughts and feelings at the time.

Anyway, enough of such dark things, we were talking about Halloween and scary stories.  Once I’d started re-reading If the Spirit Moves You, I was inspired to listen to the YouTube upload of another Halloweeney story this morning on my commute.  That is, of course, Hole for a Heart, which—though certainly dark—is not as bad as Prometheus and Chiron (also available to listen to on YouTube).  I’m enjoying it, even despite listening to my voice reading it, which as anyone who’s listened to recordings of themselves would predict, never sounds quite like how I hear my voice in my head**.

I’m truly blessed to be an author who enjoys reading—and listening to—his own stories.  This may seem narcissistic, but it’s not merely egotistical.  I really do, honestly like my stories.  And, of course, at this time of year, I’d love very much to share them with as many people as I can.  So, please, if you have a spare bit of time, give a listen to one of my short stories on YouTube.  These include I for one welcome our new computer overlords, Prometheus and Chiron, and Hole for a Heart.  I haven’t done audio of Penal Colony (which isn’t really Halloweeney, anyway), or Free Range Meat (which definitely suits the holiday).  Perhaps I’ll do those sometime soon.  Reading a short story aloud is much less daunting than is reading a novel; I stopped after nine chapters of The Chasm and the Collision, because I wasn’t getting enough feedback to justify the ongoing effort.  But, if those of you interested in some spooky stories give some of these a listen (and, if interested, if you buy an e-book version, each of which is less than a buck on Amazon), and especially if you tell me you enjoy them, I’d probably be inspired to do some more, and maybe even to finish up CatC.  Who knows what might come after that?

So, I not only invite, but I attempt to cajole, you to give the stories a whirl.

Next week’s blog will come on Halloween proper, so I’m likely to go on even a bit more about scary tales and related phenomena.  I hope you all have a fun time in the week leading up to it.  Attend some work-based (or school-based) Halloween parties, eat some sweet treats, dress up as your favorite Halloween-themed character***, and enjoy yourself!  By celebrating the dark, the supernatural, and the death-related, we really are celebrating life, it seems to me, and more so on Halloween than on any other holiday.  It’s only when you really feel you have a handle on something that you’ll willfully expose yourself to a source of fear just for fun.

Maybe that’s why Prometheus and Chiron is harder for me to reread.  Maybe I don’t have as good a handle on the stuff in there as I’d like to have.

Well, you can judge for yourself.  In the meantime, have a wonderful, spooky, and candy-filled week!

TTFN

headless horseman cropped


*I’m not just saying that to hype my own work.  It’s simply that the fate of the main character, and the cause of that fate, are too dreadful, given my own history and tendency toward gloom.  Of course, I have only myself to blame, since I wrote the story.

**This is especially true of people like me who have conductive hearing loss.  My own voice sounds much louder and clearer to me than other people’s voices do, and also much louder and clearer than it does to them.  Individuals with conductive hearing loss tend to speak softly, while those with sensorineural hearing loss tend to speak more loudly.  This has been your Medical Moment™.

***And don’t worry too much about political correctness when you do.

Since brevity is the soul of wit and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will blog brief

Good morning, all!  It’s the first day of November, and the day after Halloween (funny how often it seems to work out like that).  I hope those of you who celebrated had an enjoyable time yesterday making light of the dark things by pretending to be them, and laughing, and having some candy and other treats.  Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I dressed up for work (as a dark cowboy…sort of an amalgam of the Man in Black and the Gunslinger from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower), but I really didn’t do anything else to celebrate.  I got home too late—and was too darn tired—to participate in giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, so I basically just laid around in the evening, trying and failing to get a good night’s sleep.

My writing goes well, though more slowly than I would prefer.  Unanimity approaches one of its most terrible moments, after which events will come truly to a head, and the conclusion will be rendered.  It won’t be a happy ending, I’m afraid, but the “bad guy” will be defeated, and the surviving good people will do their best to get on with their lives.  This is often the best for which we can hope, whether in real life or in stories.  Very few characters—real or imaginary—have the option of sailing into the West, into the Undying Lands, to find healing.

I’ve thrown a little reference, or whatever one might call it, to my story Hole for a Heart into Unanimity, since some of the characters in the novel happen to pass by the site where that short story took place.  It seems that these tales take place in the same world, or at least very similar ones, and the presence of the malefactor from the short story is felt by, and may even have a slight influence on, those characters in Unanimity who come near it.

Penal Colony is now very nearly finished.  Once it is, I’ll complete In the Shade before going back to rewrite and edit either short story.  And of course, most importantly, Unanimity will continue to its conclusion.  All this is, of course, assuming nothing bad happens to me in the meantime.  We do live, in some senses, in a horror story—potentially, at least—and though for the most part we exist in the times of respite, the shadow still always takes on new forms and grows again.  The trouble with real life is that the horrors are often less easily spotted and recognized for what they are than in books, plays, movies, and the like.  They are often within us more than they are outside, and we become our own Great Old Ones, our own Crawling Chaos.

Maybe that’s part of why we enjoy dressing up on Halloween so much.

While we’re on the subject of darkness and horror, next week is the second Thursday of the new month, and I’m overdue to write a new episode of “My heroes have always been villains.”  I look forward to it, really, and I think I know which villain I’m going to choose, though I may change my mind.  In any case, those of you who are interested—if such people exist—can also look forward to it.  This is, again, all and always assuming that some dark force or entity hasn’t swallowed me up whole between now and then.  We can only wait and see.

With that, short though it’s been, the time is gone, and the song is over…though in my case, today, I didn’t honestly think I had more to say.  I offer you all my condolences in facing the inevitable and abrupt onslaught of Christmas carols, decorations, shopping, and the like which will begin to rear their heads by today, if they haven’t so reared already.  Don’t get me wrong, Christmas, Hanukkah, Saturnalia, the Winter Solstice…these things are fine and fun, but the concept creep, and the time creep, of the promotional lead-in has gotten slightly out of hand.  I hope you find joy in it, no matter how overpowering or overdone it gets.

TTFN

‘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.