O heaven! that one might read the blog of fate, and see the revolution of the times.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so—as inevitable as death or at least as inevitable as taxes—it’s time for my weekly blog post.  This will be the last blog post of 2021 AD, a year many of us will not be sad to see the back of.  Indeed, you can see that I feel so strongly about this that I’m even willing to end a sentence with a preposition.

New Year happy

It’s New Year’s Eve eve today, if you will, though there is no such official holiday.  It’s not even an informal one like Devil’s Night, the night before Halloween*, itself an “Eve” holiday, though that’s often forgotten—and rightly so in my opinion, since Halloween is much more fun than most other holidays and certainly far more widely celebrated than All Hallows Day.

There’s nothing inherently special about New Year’s Day (or Eve).  It’s an arbitrarily chosen time for us to restart our calendar year because we have to do it some time.  It’s not like the solstice- and equinox-based celebrations I’ve discussed before, which have legitimate, astronomical bases and are objectively interesting moments in the Earth’s orbit.

New Year doesn’t even always happen at the same place in the planet’s orbit.  It can’t.  For one thing, it’s celebrated hourly for 24 hours over the course of that day, depending upon when midnight arrives in a given time zone.  This is a perfectly reasonable way to do things, of course, but it means that the holiday itself is smeared out along the planet’s orbital path even on a given year.  And, of course, since the orbital length is not an integer number of days**, the celebration of New Years smears out in another way over the course of time, to jump back a day every fourth year, but not on years that are multiples of a hundred, except YES on years that are multiples of four hundred (I think that was it), and so on with all the corrections used by the modernized Gregorian Calendar to try to keep the year reasonably aligned with the seasons and with the solstices and equinoxes mentioned above.

All of which is, of course, quite fascinating from a scientific and cultural point of view, but really, the holiday is about a chance for renewal, a symbolic rebirth or at least a new beginning, like starting a new iteration of a game, with the scoreboard is set back to zero, so it’s possible for anyone to win by the end.

I don’t know where people get these ideas.

Of course, we cannot literally start over, nor would most of us want to if we could, since almost everyone has made at least some progress that they wouldn’t care just to throw away.  Much of our identity in any given moment is dependent upon our memory of the past.  But it can be useful, and sometimes heartening, to embrace the notion of a restart point for at least some things in our lives, such as diet and exercise and other difficult habit-based situations.

I have been embracing something like that notion in that I’ve been rereading what I’d written so far of Outlaw’s Mind, to try to get back into the flow of the story.  The process has been slow, since I haven’t been reading very much every day—I’ve been very tired mentally and emotionally, and even physically, and just in general very discouraged.  I’ve not really been looking forward to even seeing the new year arrive, to be honest.  I have no good reason to think that it will entail anything other than continuing mental, social, physical, and emotional disintegration, which have been the hallmarks of my last nine or ten years at least, and have accelerated recently.

Still, I have been reading the story, without doing any editing, and I do enjoy it.  I usually enjoy reading my stories.  That makes one person.  So, I think it will be a useful exercise and will help me then to move forward with the story thereafter.  I’m feeling tempted again to try to write it out longhand when the time comes.  I have some lovely high-quality notebook paper to use for that now if I have the nerve.

I haven’t been thinking much about Changeling in a Shadow World this week, but that’s fine.  There’s only so much one can do prior to starting to write the thing, and I’m not going to start that before Outlaw’s Mind is done.  I had a couple of fun and rather silly ideas for short stories in the last week, which I jotted into the notebook app on my phone.  They are technically horror story ideas, but one at least is a sort of crude, dark-comedy type horror story idea.  I don’t know if I’ll ever write it, but it’s a fun notion, and involves a mutated and/or genetically engineered form of gonorrhea, among other things.  The other is a bit less sophomoric in character, but it’s quite a bit darker, too, at least in philosophical implications.  If those ever happen, you’ll be welcome to read them.

In the meantime, despite my apparent cynicism, I do in fact wish you all a very Happy New Year, both in terms of your celebration thereof, which I hope you’ll share with your beloved families and friends to the degree that you can do so safely, as well as in terms of the upcoming year.  I won’t quote John Lennon*** and say, “It can’t get no worse”, since it can always get worse, but I will say that, given human drive and persistence, and the fact that, contrary to some appearances, a great many very smart and disciplined and optimistic people are working to improve things at all levels, there are at least good odds that a lot of things are going to improve in the upcoming year.

It’s not something to take for granted, since it will always be easier to destroy than to create, but those smart, creative optimists are pretty frikking impressive sometimes.  The James Webb telescope is out there now, in its position in the Lagrange point, and it’s steadily working toward eventually giving us the deepest, most amazing views of the cosmos we’ve yet had.  And there’s nothing arbitrary about that.

TTFN

New Year


*Celebrated by some people in the region in which I grew up by setting random fires.

**Not a whole number of days, I guess, would be more precise.  An integer number might imply that it would be possible for an orbit to last a negative number of days, there being as many negative integers as positive ones, and it’s hard to see how that would make any sense at all.  I suppose one might imagine a science fiction story—perhaps involving The Doctor—in which a planet’s orbit around its sun carries its inhabitants backward in time instead of forward.  For them, the End of the World would indeed be predictable—the birth of their solar system and ultimately of the universe itself.

***In his backup lyric from the song It’s Getting Better All the Time.

Heaven give you many, many merry blogs.

tardis with wreathHello, good morning, and welcome to Thursday, and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  It seems I’m still here so far, for better or for worse, and I’m writing a blog post this week.  I expect it to be relatively short, at least for me, though I’ve been wrong in that expectation before.

I haven’t written anything new still this week on Outlaw’s Mind, but I thought I would try to get myself more inspired to write it by rereading what I’ve written it so far, which I hadn’t done before restarting it after finishing Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  So, I saved it as a PDF file* and sent it to myself both at home and at work.  I’ve begun rereading it, and I think this will help, because I’m enjoying the story so far and kind of refamiliarizing myself with the events therein.  Hopefully it will make a difference.  If it doesn’t, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.  I’m really having difficulty summoning the will to do much, and I don’t know how to counter it—I’m already taking the best dose of the combination of depression treatments that’s worked best for me in the past, and I’ve tried most at one time or another.

I did write a little impromptu blog post on Iterations of Zero about the Solstice, which you can read if you’re interested, though it will be a few days late.

It’s a tad late for them to arrive before Christmas, I suppose—except for Kindle editions—but if there are any avid readers in your list of present-recipients, I’d like to offer or suggest that you might want to give or send them a copy of one or more of my books.  If they like fantasy/sci-fi/horror, they might enjoy at least some of my stuff.  Here’s my blog page, “My Books”, and here’s the blog search of My Books, if you’d rather look at something like that.  And below is a screenshot, with link, to my Amazon author’s page, if you’d rather just look there.

authors page capture

The picture of me associated with that page is basically the same photo that’s here on this blog.  It’s ten years old, roughly, but I don’t think I’m going to update it.  I’ve “aged” (in appearance, anyway) far more than ten years’ worth in the interregnum.

I guess that shouldn’t be surprising.  In that time, I spent a few years in Florida State Prison, and this is a place that even Stephen King has referenced in at least one of his stories**.  That’s not the only thing that’s worn me down, obviously, but it was not minor, nor have been the consequences on my subsequent life of having been there, and of the fact of having been sent there.  I don’t recommend it.  The Florida DOC prides itself on not being any kinder than they are required to be by law; they boast*** on their website about their lack of air conditioning, for instance.  Their philosophy, and the entire attitude of Florida criminal law, is explicitly not about rehabilitation but about retribution.

This is not to indict every person who works in the organization.  There are many whose motivations are honorable, who want to do the best they can both for society and for those in the system, and this includes administrators, correction officers, educators, healthcare personnel, and so on.  Of course, there are also plenty of assholes, but that probably is no surprise.

Enough of that subject.  It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow and Christmas on Saturday.  I hope all of you who celebrate, either directly or indirectly, have a wonderful time.  If you’re able, spend time with the people you love the most, and with those who love you.  Be forgiving, and patient, and give them all the benefit of every doubt, even if they don’t return the favor.  Don’t take them for granted.  Remember, “Every Christmas is the last Christmas for somebody.”  Why be anything but kind in the meantime?

That’s a rhetorical question; I’m not inviting any suggested reasons.  I have a hard enough time being positive as it is.

Anyway, again, have fun, eat well, laugh hard, play games, sing songs, watch TV and movies, love your friends and family****, and above all, be kind.

TTFN

santa who


*To avoid the urge to edit it while I reread it.

**The one that comes to mind is in his excellent, chilling, pseudo-sci-fi short story The Jaunt, which I first read in the collection Skeleton Crew.  I recommend both the story and the collection.  Actually, it’s hard to go too wrong with any of King’s short story collections!

***They used to, anyway.  I haven’t checked lately.

****“Because love, it’s not an emotion; love is a promise.”

And meteors fright the fixèd stars of heaven. The pale-faced moon looks bloggy on the earth

Konnichiwa and ohaiyou gozaimasu.  It’s Thursday again, and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I don’t really have much to report this week.  Of course, Hanukkah is over, and I hope those of you who observed it had a nice time and got to spend a few celebratory moments with family and/or friends.  Now we have a bit of a watchful peace, so to speak, before the arrival of Christmas and New Year.  I think there are other holidays in there as well, but I don’t know nearly as much about them as the others, and I’m not going to try to pretend that I do.

It all really centers around the coming Winter Solstice*, which even people a long time ago realized was the turning point of the year, when days started getting longer again after shortening for the previous six months.  This seemed like a sensible cause to celebrate.  Also, it was probably good just to try to keep everyone’s spirits up as much as possible, especially for those who lived relatively far north, where many Christmas decorations and customs take origin.

And, of course, for anyone who is seasonally affected, the knowledge that daylight will soon start increasing might provide some modest comfort, though given the lag time in both the onset and the regression of seasonal mood disorders, the turnaround for such people** probably won’t be noticeable for quite a while, assuming they survive.

I wonder if anyone has done a statistical study charting the average mood course of such people across the months.  Presumably, it would be in a sinusoidal pattern, but offset from the sinusoidal pattern of the changing of the length of days.  For someone who is in the throes of the worst of seasonal affective disorder—perhaps complicating other mood disorders—it might be at least some comfort to know that the fact that their mood doesn’t turn around right when the day changes is normal, and to have at least an estimate or a forecast for when the average sufferer tends to notice improvement.  Or maybe that’s just my kind of mindset, and most people wouldn’t really care.

My work on Outlaw’s Mind has been proceeding decently this week—about five thousand words in the last four writing days, though I did not write on Saturday or Sunday.  I just finished a horrifying and possibly frightening dream sequence which presages more momentous things to come.  These will start, perhaps, to make the main character wonder if the matters that trouble him really are merely in his mind, or if they have some reality of their own.  Whether he’ll ever know the truth is not yet clear.  At least my enthusiasm for the story has mostly recovered, and I look forward to its development.

I haven’t done any handwritten work on anything, though my clipboard with notebook paper sits always nearby during the workday.  That’s okay.  I don’t really want to get sidetracked from my main project, not unless I feel the strong urge to write more than one piece.  If I didn’t have a day job, maybe I would do that, but such a job I have and need, so that’s a moot point.  Of course, the argument could be quite convincingly made that all points are moot points.  But there can be interest and intellectual engagement even in moot points, after all.

While walking into a convenience store early this morning, I saw an unusually prominent meteor streak down the sky, much brighter and longer than most that I’ve seen, with a flame trail that also seemed to last longer than the vast majority do.  It was quite striking*** and remarkable.  Despite its relative duration, though, it came and went in a second only, perhaps only a pebble or smaller, burning up upon entering the atmosphere, such as has been used by songwriters and other artists, quite aptly, as a metaphor for any individual life.

But on the Planck scale, of course, the process of a meteor entering and burning up in the atmosphere contains a ridiculous number of moments, and an indescribable number of interactions between uncountably many elementary particles.  A human life is vastly greater still, astonishingly and mind-bogglingly complex and intricate.  And on a logarithmic scale, from the Planck time on up, a typical human lifespan is nearly as long as the life of our universe so far.

Of course, on the scale of the expected “lifespan” of a supermassive black hole****, the duration of time since the Big Bang is as vanishingly evanescent as the light of any meteor…or the light of, say, a spark rising from a burning log in a fireplace around which a family might sit, sipping warm beverages and warding off the winter cold.  It’s all a matter of scale and perspective.  Compared to eternity, any finite length of time is unreasonably close to and all but indistinguishable from zero.

I hope you’re all making the most of it, as best you can.

TTFN

meteor


*In the northern hemisphere, of course.  In the southern hemisphere, the Summer Solstice approaches, and if most civilizations had taken root in that southern realm, I suppose we might have most of our big deal holidays around the end of June and might even start our new year around that time.  And indeed, what is now south might be our “north”.

**He says this as though it is merely theoretical, or as though it’s a clinical assessment of other people, having no personal bearing on him.  He also refers to himself in third person.

***Though it almost certainly did not strike the ground.

****For instance.

He capers, he dances, he has eyes of youth, he writes blogs, he speaks holiday

Hello, good morning, and welcome.  I’m back to my usual schedule at last, so once again it is Thursday, and it is time for the next edition of my weekly blog post.  Huzzah!

I’ve been under the weather this week, fighting a reasonably severe cold (which is still better than a relatively mild case of Covid-19 or a mild flu).  It really took the wind out of my sails.  I think I’m finally at the tail end of the thing, so I feel a surge of physical energy, and that’s always nice.  It helps counteract the melancholy of a holiday season in which long, dark nights exacerbate underlying mood disorders and when merry gatherings among others highlight the fact that one cannot spend any time with one’s loved ones, for about the dozenth year in a row.  Hypothetically.

Speaking of holidays, Happy Hanukkah to those of you who celebrate it!  It snuck up on me this year, since it came right on the heels of Thanksgiving, and in fact began before the end of November.  Such are the joys of holidays based upon an ancient, lunar calendar in a society that uses the much more sensible modern update of the Gregorian calendar.  At least it keeps things from being too dull and repetitive.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve had some difficulty writing recently; I worried that I’d gotten too tired of Outlaw’s Mind thanks to numerous interruptions.  Last week my work on it was sparse indeed, and this Monday morning, still reeling from the worst of my upper respiratory infection, I didn’t write anything at all.  In desperation, I decided to try again to revert to handwriting, and I bought some nice quality, loose-leaf notebook paper, with the thought that I would either continue Outlaw’s Mind on it or switch over to Changeling in a Shadow World.  I entertained visions of myself reclining in my narrow bed with clipboard on lap, pen in hand, making real progress on either story.  It was a pleasant notion and helped lift my spirits when I was under the weather.

Then, Tuesday morning, I took a direction that surprised me by working quite well—I switched back over from writing on my desktop, “work” computer* to using my little, portable laptop, originally purchased to use while commuting.  It, or its predecessor, is what I’ve used to write almost all of my recent work, and I was quite surprised to learn that this change made a real difference.  Writing on the little laptop has been so much smoother, so much more natural, that I would not have credited the difference before.

Other factors could be involved.  I’ve been steadily trying to get back into the story fully, and perhaps I simply finally crossed some mental threshold.  I’ve gotten past at least one major, depressing, (formerly) family holiday, and that’s a relief.  I’ve begun to recover from my recent virus, and that can’t hurt.  Also, I’ve been counting my calories rather severely and successfully since last Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and have succeeded so far in keeping to my draconian limitation, which certainly improves my sense of power over myself.  Any or all of these things could contribute to improved outcomes, and most or all of them probably do.  I’m not that interested in knowing the relative contributions of each factor, certainly not enough to try to vary only one thing at a time, to see which is really dispositive.  I just want to be able to write.

And I’ve been so able.  Tuesday and Wednesday mornings combined, in less than 45 minutes each morning**, I’ve written about three thousand words.  That’s not a record for me for two days’ work, probably not even close, but it’s a significant improvement over recent output.  I’ve also been more excited about both Outlaw’s Mind and Changeling in a Shadow World*** than I’ve been for a long time, thinking about things that will happen in both stories, going through dialogue in my mind, or out loud to myself while commuting, and so on.  I’ll finish Outlaw’s Mind first, but as a bit of a bone thrown to myself, I put my new notebook paper on my clipboard and at the top of the first page wrote:  “Changeling in a Shadow World by Robert Elessar”.  It’s readily available and visible in the office, so if I get some down time during the day, and feel so motivated, I can grab it and start writing.

Other than all that, there’s not much worth talking about.  I won’t comment here on new Covid-19 variants, though I made a video more generally about viruses, bacteria, etc.  I might have mentioned that last week; I can’t be bothered to check, nor have I really begun editing it yet.  Ironically, I’ve been too much suffering from the effects of a virus myself.

In any case, welcome to December, welcome back to Thursday, Happy Hanukkah and a happy holiday season in general.  Whether you’re generally a “Joy to the World” type or, like me, an “Oy! to the World” type, I hope you’re doing well, and that you have a wonderful week, month, and remainder of the year.

TTFN

Hanukkah 2


*That’s the desktop computer associated with my “day job”; I’ve been writing on it recently since I use it every day anyway, saving my daily work on a thumb drive.  I figured, why not?  It’s all the same program.  But it seems my psychology is quirkier than I would have predicted, at least in this realm.

**I’ve had to nap a bit before working each time after getting to the office.  I am still technically sick.

***I’ve pretty much decided that will be the next book I write.  It was the only one for which I got any real requests, and the fact that my sister was the source didn’t hurt, either.

You great benefactors, sprinkle our society with thankfulness. For your own blogs, make yourselves praised.

Hello and good morning.  Once again, it’s not Thursday but Friday, this time the 26th of November in 2021.  I intended to write a blog post yesterday, though it was Thanksgiving here in the US.  However, I’ve come down with a moderate cold this week—nothing horrific, not Covid-19 or the flu, but an irritating and enervating process that includes sneezing, coughing, runny nose, some laryngitis, a bit of achiness, and just generally feeling blah.  So, I decided that I’d take the whole day off yesterday and sleep in, then sleep quite a bit off and on throughout the day.  I have done so, and now here I am, in the office on so-called Black Friday*, writing this week’s blog post.

I did try to make the fact of being sick productive—I recorded a roughly twenty or so minute video reviewing the differences between viruses and bacteria, the different types of illnesses they cause, and the differences in treatment for which they call.  It’s the sort of thing that I would have thought was common knowledge that most people learned and pretty well mastered by the time they were in middle school, at least on a broad level, but this is plainly not the case.  I haven’t edited and posted that video yet, but I will, probably this weekend, unless I’m too under the weather still.

Being sick and so on has seriously diverted me from my work on Outlaw’s Mind.  Between Monday and Tuesday, I only wrote 2450 words, and I wrote nothing at all on Wednesday (nor yesterday).  Part of this is due to the respiratory infection, but another portion is due to the ennui I continue to feel regarding writing any story.  I’m far more stubborn than the day is long, but even I can have difficulty staying motivated.  It’s not that I don’t like the story.  I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite ever story idea, but it’s also far from my least favorite, and no other story that I have waiting in the wings seems eager to push it aside.

Some of my apathy is probably due to the diminishing day length, which leads to worsening of my dysthymia—which has itself been persistent, more or less, in this iteration, for at least a dozen years and probably more.  In fact, the last time I can remember being truly free from it must be from roughly 1996 or 1997 through sometime in 2002 or 2003.  I was well-nigh unstoppable then, though I was in late med school then residency then the beginning of medical practice, and moved states, and became a father to two children.

After that time, especially after my back injury, I’ve been under the pall of depression/dysthymia, overlaid with personal catastrophes of several kinds.  The external stuff is comparably tolerable, however, though that might be hard to believe, since it includes injury, chronic pain, illness, loss of career, imprisonment, loss of family, isolation, etc.  But it’s true.

I liken it very much and quite seriously to being undead, and not in a cool, darkly sexy, Anne Rice vampire chronicles way.  One of the best literary quotes that describes, for me, what dysthymia is like is when Gandalf speaks of the Rings of Power to Frodo, describing what happens to someone (such as Bilbo or the Nazgul) who keeps one of the Great Rings:

“A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness.”

I’m pretty sure Tolkien didn’t intend this to be a metaphor for dysthymia, but it really resonates with me.  Interestingly, as I looked up the specific quote above, I realized that I had subtly altered it in my head to read:  “A mortal, Frodo, who keeps a Great Ring does not die, but neither does he grow or obtain new life.  He merely continues, until at last each breath is a weariness.”  The gist is the same, and I don’t know how to account for the differences.  Do those two wordings strike any of you differently, or are they basically indistinguishable?  I would honestly be fascinated to know.

Writing new stories has often been a source of some relief from depression; I’m not the only author to have noted this fact.  But rather like the notion that exercise is good for depression, it doesn’t do you much good if your depression keeps you from doing the thing that helps.  I’ve often wondered whether the causality was misconstrued in the studies of exercise and depression; perhaps the people who were able to do the exercising were already experiencing improvement in their depression, and so they were able to participate fully.  I’m pretty sure that the various study designers thought of that issue, and randomized as best they could to counter it, but it’s not always completely doable.

Anyway, that’s a summary of my status.  Maybe I’ll review all my old story ideas and see if any of them really grabs me and makes me want to write more than Outlaw’s Mind does.  I have this weekend off (after having worked the last two Saturdays), so perhaps the extra rest will help.

I hope all of you in the US had a lovely Thanksgiving, and that everyone else just had a lovely week and a nice Thursday.  Christmas approaches for those who celebrate it, and even those who don’t can’t avoid its presence in the West.  Best wishes of the solstice season to all of you out there, no matter which one you’re approaching.

TTFN

Thankschristmassy


*Though they’ve started with “Black Friday” sales right after Halloween, frankly, so they’ve rather spoiled the whole mystique of the Day After Thanksgiving being the biggest Christmas shopping day.  There’s no good and interesting phenomenon that we in America—and probably the rest of the world—can’t squeeze and overuse until it’s lost all sense of fun and use that it previously had.

Give me to drink mandragora…that I might sleep out this great blog of time

Goodo and hell morning.  It’s not Thursday—it’s Friday, November 19th, 2021—but this is an edition of my weekly blog post.  I did not write anything at all yesterday, neither blog post nor new fiction nor letters nor emails nor notes to self nor any other kind of writing.  I was lying in bed pretty much all day (getting up to obtain meals and to use the bathroom—which, interestingly, doesn’t have a bathtub, just a shower, a sink, and a euphemism, yet we call it a bathroom).  Despite having gotten nicely into a walking routine over the last several weeks—which seemed to be doing good for my back and other joints—somehow, at the beginning of this week, or the end of the last, something triggered a significant exacerbation.  I’ve had pain and stiffness not just in my back but markedly so in my hips and shoulders, wrists and hands, ankles, knees, and so on.  I wondered if I’d started to develop polymyalgia rheumatica, frankly, given the symptoms.

It’s interesting to note that something called polymyalgia* entails such prominent arthralgia**.  But nomenclature isn’t always accurate, even in medicine; it’s often riddled with historical artifacts.  Take the source of the word “vaccination”, for instance.  How many people know that its origin comes from exposing people to Vaccinia (related to smallpox and formerly thought to be cowpox but apparently more like horsepox***) to engender immunologic protection against Variola, aka Smallpox?

So, anyway, I didn’t write my usual weekly blog post on Thursday this week, and I suppose I could’ve just given the whole thing a miss, but I figured I’d try to be better late than never if I could.  I’m more motivated to write this blog than I am to write my new fiction, anyway, which is a bit sad to me, though I doubt I shall hear any wailing and gnashing of teeth from the general public.  Also, it’s just barely possible that I won’t be writing a blog post next week (though I think I usually do) on Thanksgiving.  It will probably be shorter than usual, anyway.  So, it would be a shame to leave this space blank, intentionally or otherwise.

This is not to say that I haven’t been working on Outlaw’s Mind.  I have.  Even when I’ve had trouble getting going in the morning, and I putter around rereading and—this week at least—spending about twenty minutes each morning lying on the floor to try to ease my back a bit, I still have written eight hundred to fourteen hundred words each on the days I’ve written, which is to say Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I’m just not feeling the same drive and motivation for writing that I normally feel.

I wonder if that ambivalence is because this story has been interrupted more than once.  Part of me wants to put it back on the back burner and just start to write something new that I haven’t started before.  But then, of course, that would mean that there would be yet another interruption in Outlaw’s Mind, and it might never get written.  This is not exactly an epic tragedy, obviously—there are many stories waiting in my head that have not yet been, and may never be, written.  But it would be a minor shame.  Had I but world enough and time—or particularly, had I but a time unmarred by chronic pain with exacerbations and free from chronic depression, or at least with all those things under reasonable control—I could write more and faster even than I already do.

And if wishes were horses, we’d all be neck deep in horseshit.

Anyway, that’s nearly it for this week, I’m afraid.  I apologize for the lateness and for the less-than-optimal post that this is.  It’s a day late and, though not a dollar short, I feel it’s not up to my usual standards.  I’m back at the office, but I am still far from physically comfortable, and that takes its toll.  I hope you’ll all understand.

In the meantime, though, in America we have Thanksgiving coming up next week, and I hope most of you are looking forward to a nice meal with family if you’re able.  Though, of course, be careful if you travel, and do your best not to contribute to a new wave of Covid-19, as well as flu and other respiratory viruses—they all tend to have significant upticks here in the US after Thanksgiving, since it’s the biggest travel holiday of the year.

Please, everyone, have a good time with those you love.  And do something, if you’re able, for people who are alone.  Even if it seems that’s the way they want to be, it’s worth checking if they need anything.

But for goodness’ sake, don’t tell them that they ought to be thankful and appreciative and not feel too bad, perhaps because other people have it “worse”.  That doesn’t help anybody; it’s just self-serving crap designed to absolve the speaker of any need to be compassionate.  There’s presumably only one person on Earth at any given time about whom it couldn’t be said that there are those who have it worse****.  What good does it do anyone to be told that, at this moment, they aren’t that person, by someone else who also isn’t that person and isn’t doing anything to make a difference for that person or for anyone else?  If you can’t say anything useful and/or nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.  Silence is preferable to insulting, counterproductive stupidity.

TTFN

desert


*Which refers to muscle pain.

**Which refers to joint pain.

***So many farm animal poxes!  Chicken pox, by the way, is Varicella.  Imagine if our inoculation process had started with chicken pox.  We might refer to the process as varicellation.

****I think we can safely assume that the title changes hands rapidly and often, since such a person probably has a foreshortened lifespan.

Have you not love enough to blog with me, when that rash humor which my mother gave me makes me forgetful?

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, November 4th*, the first Thursday of the new month, and—of course—it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.

Halloween has passed, alas, and now we enter the weird time wherein Thanksgiving symbols—at least in the US—struggle to hold onto at least a brief period of prominence before they are overtaken, no later than November 25th this year, by Christmas decorations**.

I’m slightly sorry to have to admit that yesterday I flipped back to writing Outlaw’s Mind on computer.  I’ve been getting quite a bit of minor but irritating arthrotic*** pain at the base of my thumb, and where the metacarpal meets the wrist.  I’d forgotten this.  It probably feels worse than it really is, since it’s been a while; also, the last time I experienced much of it, I was in wretched circumstances.  But I’ve felt it plenty of times before, even going back to my teenage years.  I think I tend just to get really focused when I’m writing and use those joints to a greater than ideal degree, causing wear and tear.  That damage no doubt accumulates, since healing is rarely complete in any region of the body, unless you’re a spiny mouse, so the discomfort starts earlier each time.  But it’s not primarily inflammatory, because there’s never even a hint of heat, redness, or noticeable swelling, and it only flares up with use, so arthrosis it is.

Because of that, and the minor inconvenience of storing my writing when not in use, and of flipping back to reread what I’d written yesterday instead of merely scrolling up, and, of course, because computer writing is easier to read, even for me, I’ve switched back.  I’m occasionally troubled by the spirit of the great Harlan Ellison, who (so I’ve read) thought that one can’t write decently or effectively on a word processor/computer because it’s too easy.  He supposedly disdained anything beyond the typewriter.  Ellison-sensei could be an opinionated curmudgeon by all accounts, but such an argument clearly doesn’t stand up on its face****, or Ellison should have committed to writing every one of his first drafts on stone with a chisel.

I can’t say I would completely have put it past him.

But I don’t think writing with a modern computer is necessarily worse, or that it changes anything all that much in any given writer’s style.  I wrote a good deal of the first draft of Son of Man on a very small smartphone using its note-taking app.  That wasn’t easy on my thumbs, but at the time I didn’t have a portable computer, and I was riding busses about three hours a day, so I was able to do a lot of writing that way.  I don’t think it was any easier than writing by hand at a desk would have been, and I don’t think my writing suffered or improved noticeably for it.

If you’d like to check, you can read Son of Man and compare it with Mark Red or The Chasm and the Collision or the short stories Paradox City and Solitaire, the first and often second drafts of all of which were written with pen on paper, and you can compare it also with Unanimity or any of my short stories starting with “I for one welcome our new computer overlords”, which are straight computer-written.  You can also compare it with The Vagabond, which was originally written partly as pen on paper but mostly on a Mac SE using WriteNow.  Or you can read all the tales in Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which begins with a story part of the first draft of which was typed, if memory serves, and ends with a story that was written partly by hand and partly (first draft and all) in Microsoft Word™.  Unfortunately, now that I’ve told you the difference, your experiment will be hopelessly confounded by bias.

Oh, well.  Read them all anyway, what the heck.  You can buy extra copies for friends and ask them what they think without revealing the above information.  If you want to make things double blind, you can ask a third party to ask your friends what they think.  Or you can just read the stories.  I know that a lot of them are horror of one sort or another, but remember, just as a puppy isn’t only for Christmas*****, a horror story isn’t just for Halloween.  The darkness of night continues to grow, at least here in the northern hemisphere.  The time of daylight is in full retreat, and it will be weeks and weeks before it even begins to take back ground, let alone before it comes to dominate again, revealing all the stark unpleasantness of the world in its cold, bitter glare.  In the dark, it is easier to pretend.  And sometimes, if you’re lucky, your imagination can run away with you.

Which brings me back to Outlaw’s Mind, for which I’m gradually regaining my momentum, which was no small task since it’s been interrupted more than once.  Maybe the handwriting thing was just a way to trick myself around my resistance to getting going on the story again.  If so, it seems to have worked reasonably well, and Outlaw’s Mind will perhaps be all the better for its disjointed history.  I’ll do my best to make it so.

In the meantime, Happy November to you all.  It’s generally a month I like, even though it exists in the lee of my favorite holiday.  It evokes memories of still-falling autumn leaves blowing about in briskly cold (but not yet bitter) winds, and the anticipation of two big family holidays, each associated with feasts and TV specials and games and long weekends and so on and on.  And though many of those things are no longer mine to enjoy, alone here in south Florida, I can at least say that it’s a time of year where one can enjoy walks outside without obscene layers of sunscreen and emergency water rations to replace all the bodily fluids that have soaked one’s clothes.

I don’t know what it’s all like in the southern hemisphere but considering that summer’s on its way for them, it’s probably great.

TTFN

Happy Birthday


*It’s my mother’s birthday.  She would be turning eighty, if my memory is correct.  Happy Birthday, Mom, wherever you are!  Knowing her, if she’s anywhere, it’s someplace good.  She certainly would deserve it.  As would my father, of course, who would have turned eighty-two precisely a month ago.  He was a bit of a curmudgeon—I take after him in many ways—but a good person.  So, belated Happy Birthday, Dad.

**And to a far lesser extent, Hanukkah and other solstice-related holiday decorations.  You rarely see any Saturnalia symbols, though.  I’m not even sure what those would look like.  Oh, well.  We get plenty of the Norse decorations.

***The auto-correct thingy tried to change this word to “arthritic”, without even asking me, but that was an incorrect correction.  The suffix “-itis” indicates inflammation, usually as a primary component of a given disorder.  Though there may well be secondary inflammation in the root structures of my thumb, this is clearly a wear-and-tear phenomenon, and so is an “-osis”, not an “-itis”…the latter suffix which the program keeps changing to “it is”, which is again wrong, and again, it’s not asking me.  I wouldn’t mind a little red wavy underline to bring it to my attention—asking me if I was sure about writing that—but especially if I enclose something in quotes, the program should not presume to correct what I write.

****Which sounds both difficult and painful.

*****It’s also delicious in a sandwich on Boxing Day.

For thy part, I do wish thou wert a blog, that I might love thee something.

[Just a quick reminder:  Anyone who wants to leave me a comment—I know, it’s not likely to be many people—should not waste time doing so on Facebook or Twitter.  I check Twitter intermittently at best, to try to minimize unnecessary despair, and though I share many things to Facebook, I rarely go there directly, as being there is far too prone to stress me out at an even more extreme level and make me even more depressed than usual (if that’s possible).  Comment here, on my blog, or on Iterations of Zero if you read that.  I’m on WordPress all the time, since I follow quite a few other people’s blogs, and I get frequent notifications about “likes” and comments.  This is probably an exercise in futility, since I doubt anyone really wants to communicate with me more than is absolutely necessary—goodness knows I don’t want to communicate with me—but just in case.)

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, the last Thursday in October of 2021, and so it’s time for the ordeal* known as my weekly blog post.  In three days, it will be Halloween, my favorite holiday, though I suspect that many if not most will be celebrating it on Friday or Saturday night rather than Sunday.  I have a costume to wear, which I’ll probably only put on at work; it’s a sort of steam-punk version of The Master from Doctor Who (it’s my own original interpretation of the character, but Doctor Who does have a sort of steam-punk quality to it), complete with chameleon arch fob watch, Harold Saxon’s signet ring, and The Master’s laser screwdriver**.  I also have a cool cane with an extendable telescope that really works (though it’s not terribly powerful).  Other than the hardware, it’s all black, of course.

Beyond that, not much new is happening.  I’ve been writing the first draft of Outlaw’s Mind by hand, and that seems to be going nicely.  I don’t know whether the story will be better for it, but I don’t think it will be worse, and anyway, it feels a bit like going back to basics, which is nice.  It also feels like it will help avoid me getting too carried away and writing more than I should.  As you all may have noticed, when I have a keyboard, the words come very quickly, and I often go off on tangents.

I’ve been getting in some regular walking recently, as much as six miles a day, both to get a bit healthier and, if possible, to lose some weight (the less of me there is, the better, I say).  It also ties in nicely with a recent impromptu post I did for Iterations of Zero, which I think about three or four people may have read—probably not all the way through.  One of the nice things about walking is, it lets me think about the notion or idea or whatever you want to call it that I discuss in that blog post, particularly in the penultimate paragraph (really, the last full paragraph), which involves going for a very long walk.

It really is a pleasing and beguiling course of action to contemplate, and it’s particularly useful in that it minimizes inconvenience for most other people.  Also, there’s frankly nothing anyone can do to stop it, legally, since it doesn’t involve doing anything that is definitively a danger to oneself or to others.  It’s really diabolically simple.  It just requires commitment***, and that’s something with which I tend to be overflowing.

In addition to that encouraging consideration, the other day, while taking a slightly new route, I thought of a story idea related to walking, which I immediately “wrote” down—actually, I used voice to text because I was still walking—in my “story ideas” entry in my note taking smartphone app.  It’s always fun when ideas like that come, even if the story never gets written.

Speaking of stories, here’s a reminder to you all that Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats, and many of the tales in it might make for excellent Halloween reading.  While you’re at it, The Vagabond is certainly, without doubt, an excellent Halloween story.  And, technically, Unanimity Book 1 and Book 2 are pretty good for Halloween, and the three stories in Welcome to Paradox City are quite strongly so.  Of course, one could hardly say that a teenage demi-vampire was entirely out of place on Halloween, so Mark Red is also good reading for this holiday.

I do tend to lean in that direction when I write, don’t I?

With that, rather unusually, I think I’ll call this blog post to a close after only a relatively short amount of writing.  I do hope you all enjoy the holiday.  Spend some time, if you can, having fun with family and friends (as long as you take appropriate precautions regarding infectious diseases), eat some candy, watch some scary movies, read some scary stories, maybe dress up in fun outfits, and generally have a laugh at the darkness of the world.

You might as well; it certainly laughs at us.

TTFN

The_Doctor_Falls_Master_Kill_it bigger


*At least, I assume it is for all of you—some form of penance, perhaps, through which you wash away sins with a relatively minor bit of suffering.  It’s the only plausible explanation I can think of for the fact that you’re reading it.

**Who’d have sonic?

***So to speak.

O God, your only blog-maker. What should a man do but be merry?

Okay, well…hello and good morning and welcome to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.  I don’t have anything quite as momentous as last week to talk about today, but I’m making progress on good things, nevertheless.

For instance, I’m almost done editing my short story House Guest, which is even older than The Vagabond…I wrote it when I was in high school; I think I was sixteen at the time.  Editing this story is a much faster process than editing The Vagabond was, and it’s about eighty times faster than editing Unanimity was.  House Guest is a true short story, only about six thousand words long; even going through it repeatedly doesn’t take much time.  I haven’t needed to change much, except to update some of the medical trivia based on my far more advanced present knowledge.  There’s only a little bit of it; it’s not crucial to the story, but it does enhance it a bit.

It’s nice to be able to go back and see that I didn’t write much worse then than I do now.  I might have written better occasionally.  Certainly, I didn’t tend to write as long a story.  Or, well, maybe that might not actually be true, now that I think about it.  House Guest is just a short story, after all, and is simply no longer than it needs to be.  My hand-written Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel Ends of the Maelstrom from around the same time was well over five hundred hand-written, single-spaced pages long, on very narrow-ruled paper*, and was almost certainly longer than The VagabondMaybe I worry about story length too much.

Oh, by the way, happy April Fool’s Day!  I only realized the auspicious date—if that’s really the best term—when I saved this file just now.  Despite the usual form of celebration—again, if that’s the right term—associated with this day, I’m pulling no pranks and telling no lies in the writing of this post, unless my forced cheerfulness counts as a lie.  But if that’s a lie, it’s one that I, and I think most other people, tell frequently, probably many times a day.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I encounter a lot of upbeat, “power of positive thinking” type statements and quotes and tweets and posts and whatnot all around cyberspace, but they often give me the sense conveyed by Queen Gertrude when she says, “The lady doth protest too much methinks.”  It’s a rather desperate, almost panicky, quasi-hysterical positivity and cheerfulness…because, after all, no one will like you if you’re not cheerful, right?

And if you do admit to feeling poorly, especially emotionally, then you’ll often get responses full of platitudes and homilies and you-think-you’ve-got-it-bads, sometimes verging toward the tone of a slap in the face from Cher and a shout of, “Snap out of it!”

Of course, to be fair, you also tend to find sincere sympathy and concern.  Even the other stuff often plainly comes from a well-meaning place, so to speak.  I don’t want to impugn the motivations of those responding to things for which our culture gives us very few tools.  I think almost all such people really do mean well.

But our society is drenched in the myths of the rugged individualist and The Secret, and the power of positive thinking and “Think and Grow Rich”, and “quantum healing” nonsense.  If you find yourself tempted by the sugary, empty-calorie bait in those intellectual traps, remember, you only ever hear about the good outcomes, the lucky ones…the failures don’t publish their tales, and the marketing people certainly don’t promote them.  If ever there was an inbuilt and all-but-inescapable confirmation bias, it’s in attitudes about the power of positive thinking.

Not that being reasonably, cautiously optimistic and positive is a bad thing—it’s not, if you can do it, and if you are so constituted that it doesn’t require you to browbeat yourself when you feel down, as you will sometimes, no matter who you are.  Even the Donald gets down in the doldrums de vez en cuando, I’d stake my left kidney on it.  But there’s no evidence whatsoever that the state of the present or future universe is affected by human thoughts and attitudes other than by dint of prosaic methods:  hard work, discipline, planning, thought, careful evaluation and analysis, proverbial blood, sweat, and tears, and—almost always—many failures along the way.

I wish some people would positively think themselves able to defy gravity by the power of their minds and would hurl themselves from the nearest equivalent of the observation deck of the Empire State Building to prove it.  That would be putting their money where they mouths are.  When Deepak Chopra talks about the power of the mind to heal and to resist aging (and the like) through some kind of pseudo-quantum nonsense, make sure to compare photos of him now with photos taken twenty or thirty years ago (they are, unfortunately, readily available).  He’s aged conspicuously.  Also, remember that people like Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Dirac, Feynman, Bohr, Einstein, Wheeler, and the like—all of whom understood quantum mechanics far better than your favorite local or international or celebrity purveyor of quantum woo, to say the least—are currently and conspicuously dead.  At least in this branch of the Everettian** multiverse.

Wow.  That was a hell of a tangent, wasn’t it?  No April Fools, though.  I was speaking from the heart—which is to say, conveying my honest thoughts and feelings by means of a computer keyboard.  Nevertheless, the good things I shared at the beginning of this post are true and unsullied, and The Vagabond is out there to be read by any who enjoy horror novels.  I’m getting good feedback on it, as well as on Son of Man, which a coworker of mine recently finished.  She said she loved the twists and surprises, and really enjoyed the book, which can’t help but make even a curmudgeon like me feel happy.  Also, I recently reread The Chasm and the Collision, and the ending of my own book brought minor tears of joy to my eyes.  That’s pretty cheesy, I guess, but I’ll take my little bits of satisfaction where I can get them, and I’ll try not to be too embarrassed.

And though you might not think it, I would take great and honest satisfaction in knowing that all of those who read this, and their loved ones—and everyone else for that matter—were healthy, and comfortable, and as safe as they can be, and as happy as often and for as long as they can be without using inappropriate and/or detrimental substances***.  So, if you could do me a favor, please see if you can achieve those results.

TTFN

Some people even go


*I haven’t been able to find such narrow-ruled paper again since that time, though I’ve often looked for it.  Apparently, that super-tight ruling of notebook paper has fallen out of fashion.  It’s too bad, really, because I loved the convenience of having to use fewer pages, though it made editing a bit of a mess.  There were added sentences running into the tattered margins on almost every page, and even I had trouble reading what I had written.  Maybe there’s a good reason that paper fell out of fashion…but it did look beautiful when blank.  So many lines available to fill!

**Hugh Everett is also, lamentably, dead.  He died at age fifty-one, my current age, after having left physics at least partly because of the animosity he experienced against his “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics, which may nevertheless be correct.

***I might think otherwise if such substances were reliable, or if they didn’t tend to end up causing a subsequent rapid, severe, and painfully ironic downturn in the happiness curve of life, but that’s just not the way things are.

I’ll have my blogs ta’en out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a New Year’s gift

date yearHello, good morning, and welcome to the last day of 2020 A.D. (or C.E. if you prefer).  It happens to be a Thursday, and so of course it’s a day for this, my weekly blog post.

I don’t think anyone is going to be heartbroken to see the end of 2020; at least the majority of people in the world will probably not be sad to wave it goodbye.  I’m sure that there are many individuals who have had good years overall—there are people who have fallen in love, have gotten married, had children, received hard-earned degrees, gotten good new jobs, started exciting careers, and so on.  There are, no doubt, some lottery winners out there, as well.  But even they cannot have been utterly shielded from the vicissitudes of a year that has included political chaos of higher-than-usual degree in the United States, in the UK, in the rest of Europe, and to some degree in China as well, to say nothing of the more numerous, smaller economies of the world that have likely suffered more than the larger ones in the face of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.  It’s been a tough, and weird, year for a lot of people and, as I said, many will be happy to see it go.

Of course, there’s nothing magical about January 1st, 2021.  The annual January restart is a purely human marking point, rather arbitrarily chosen.  The laws of physics—and of biology in general and virology in particular—know nothing of human dating systems.  But the psychological impact on humans can nevertheless have value, and may actually, truly, cause changes in human civilization, and hopefully those changes will be at least slightly for the better*.  Optimism is not my strong point, but I’m hopeful that the world will move in a net positive direction this year through the phase space of civilizational states.

As for me, I continue to move forward in my little, local fashion.  Specifically, my editing of The Vagabond is going well and at a good pace.  I’m near the end of another run-though already, with only a few more to go after that.  I’m very eager to see The Vagabond finished and published—it’s been more than thirty years since I first started writing it.  Then, of course, I hope to finish Outlaw’s Mind and get it ready to include (I hope) in my collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I’m eager to get back to new fiction; my mental health seems to deteriorate when I’m not writing new stories.  Stephen King has famously said that he finds writing to be the greatest therapy he’s ever known, and though I can’t say for certain that it’s the very greatest therapy for me—my personal history with such things has been complicated—it does seem to help.

As far as other creative matters go, I think I mentioned that I was having some trouble with my left hand and forearm due to apparent overuse in working on learning the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia among other songs.  Well, it’s not fully recovered, but it seems to be getting stronger, and I haven’t been able to avoid practicing every day despite the pain.  In fact, my housemate, who built two of my guitars, just two days ago changed the strings and reconditioned the fretboard on the Les Paul copy he’d made for me.  I’ve already said that it is the most beautiful sounding instrument (of any kind) that I’ve ever had the privilege to play.  Well, I tried it out last night, and its sound is even more lovely than it was before.  I think I described it as “entrancing” to him.  When suffering from my usual insomnia last night, I couldn’t help but get up and play it a little more in the dark.  It was quite a nice way to pass the time, but it’s probably best that I not overdo things too much with respect to my left hand and arm.

Given the newly enhanced guitar, I think I’m soon going to record and then share on YouTube (and here) my own piddling little versions of Julia and of Blackbird, both of which songs are comprised of finger-picked guitar and solo voice.  This makes them comparatively simple to perform, though not simple to get sounding good.  And, of course, when you’ve just got the one guitar playing, if you screw up, it’s pretty obvious.  But it’s a good challenge, and I’m reasonably pleased with myself to have come as far as I have in the short time I’ve been playing.  I’m also working on learning/getting better at playing the Radiohead song Street Spirit (Fade Out), which is a darkly beautiful song over arpeggiated chords.  I’m also having fun with the simple guitar part for their song Talk Show Host, which sounds great even though it’s simple, as well as Polyethylene, Parts 1 and 2.  The latter was one of the bonus tracks on their rerelease of OK Computer, subtitled OK/Not OK, to note the inclusion of several such songs that had not been included in the original album.

But all that’s just hobby stuff, really, even the writing and producing of my own original songs.  I love playing and singing music, but writing is my true calling, if there is such a thing.  As evidence of that fact, I am writing this here, today, as I do every week.

And with that, I’ll draw this last blog post of a tumultuous year to a close, and wish all of you a very happy, and especially a healthy, New Year.  Hopefully, we can all do our parts in this vast, spontaneously self-organizing system that is human civilization to make things head in an ever-positive direction, keeping and strengthening what’s good and improving what’s not so good.

TTFN

fireworks


*There are always those who sardonically say that things could not get much worse, but of course, this is never really true.  As Calvin (the comic strip character, not the religious philosopher) noted, life is almost never so bad that it cannot, in principle, get worse.  But we can hope at the very least for regression to the mean.  Unless that’s what’s already happening.