When shall we three blog again in thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Hello and good morning—so to speak—and welcome to another Thursday.  It’s time for my weekly blog post.  I suspect that this week’s writing will be affected by the fact that I got thoroughly soaked on my way into work today and am thus rather uncomfortable.  So much for weather reports of “light rain”.  I won’t be able to get a change of clothes until I go home this evening, so I’m likely to be damp and sticky for most of the day.  I guess it could be much worse.  I guess it could always be much worse.  That’s one of the wonderful things about reality; it has no bottom level—it’s basements all the way down.

As you may be aware, I finished my “bad cover” of the Beatles’ You Never Give Me Your Money and posted a link to it here and directly shared it on Iterations of Zero.  Have a listen if you’re at all interested.  I have to apologize for the opening piano part, which—despite recording and rerecording five times, and trying to adjust in many ways using the sound-editing software, I couldn’t get to sound quite right without either a real piano or a much more expensive electronic one than I have available.  I finally got frustrated and just gave up and left it with the best I had so far.  The rest of the song isn’t too bad, though, and the guitar parts were played on my very good Strat, which was built by my house-mate—who is a much better guitarist than I am—and is also very good at putting a guitar together and improving it.

I have now returned more or less fully to working on The Vagabond, the title of which contains a definite article that is still going to take me a long time to internalize.  I’m on the second run-through, and I’ve found that I need to alter or clarify a few things to get rid of some time-continuity issues that I never noticed when originally writing it.  This is pretty typical, though.  I’ve found it useful literally to keep a running tab of what the day and date is in my stories—at least the ones where such a thing is pertinent—to make sure I don’t create too many embarrassing accidental contradictions.

It’s peculiar that the time of year in this story is almost the same as that in Unanimity.  I guess I implicitly think that horror in a university setting should start in the fall, early in the academic year.  Those who have been to university might think it would be more appropriate to put the real horror at the time of final exams, but somehow, I have yet to do so.  Maybe I feel that it’s too unfair to interrupt students who are studying and cramming, since that can be stressful enough.

I have to say—referring to the above-mentioned soaking—I’m getting sick of the weather here in Florida.  It’s been raining almost nonstop for a period of, oh, let’s see…forever, I think.  This is not an unusual pattern.  This tendency, in addition to the fact that there are no changing leaves in autumn—which I miss sorely, as I even miss wintertime*— is something without which I could do.  The meteorological patterns aren’t the only things wonky about Florida, though.  The politics here is/are frankly idiotic, as anyone who has followed the news since at least the year 2000 should know.  I don’t think that I would have spent three years as an invited guest of the DOC in any other state in which I’ve lived**; perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, as well as being too generous with myself***.

The natural beauty in Florida is, of course, stunning and remarkable, with much wildlife one doesn’t tend to see anywhere else in the US—including introduced species like the Burmese python and some very large iguanas, as well as numerous more indigenous reptiles and oodles of beautiful and amazing birds, insects, and arachnids.  But these and other natural wonders are all but driven into unnoticeability by that most problematic of introduced species:  The Naked House Ape, which is a terrible pest here.

I’m not in the best of moods, even for me, I’m afraid.  Apologies.

I still enjoy writing, at least (and the editing/rewriting process as well, though not quite as much as the initial composition), and that’s a very good thing, since it’s pretty much all I have****.  I really need to get back to posting on Iterations of Zero, so I can keep the relatively dark stuff (other than dark fiction) out of this blog.

But, of course, as I’ve said many times in many ways, there is a reason that a lot of what I write is dark and that most of my short stories are horror stories.  Even The Chasm and the Collision has its quite dark moments, being a fantasy adventure.  And I just finished rereading Son of Man, my science fiction novel, which has as one of its central points the previous, deliberate destruction of most of the human race in an event of “biblical” proportions, called the Conflagration.  Weirdly enough, my demi-vampire story, Mark Red, may be less dark than most of my other writings.

Ah, well, it is what it is.  Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge likes it.  It must be cheap; ninety five percent of the universe is made up of “dark” matter and “dark” energy, after all.  The ironically-named “ordinary matter”, such as what comprises us and everything we can actually see in any wavelength of light, constitutes a mere rounding error among the matter and energy of the cosmos—a very brief candle indeed.

On that cheery note, I’ll call it done for today.  Despite my gloomy demeanor, I wish all of you the best of all possible days and weeks and months and years.  Try to stay safe and healthy, please.

TTFN


*I grew up in Michigan, then did my undergraduate work in upstate New York, then lived in Chicago for two years before going to New York City for medical school—it was the warmest place I’d lived up until that point.  I’m okay with winter, though of course, it has its own issues.

**There’s a local saying that goes, “Florida:  Come on vacation, stay on probation!”

***Those who know me are probably aware that such is not my general habit or character, however.  If anything, I tend to treat myself far more harshly than I do anyone else.

****Plus, some “music”, including my amateurish covers and a few mediocre original compositions that are at least temporarily distracting for me, though many people would probably be just as happy not ever to have anything to do with them.

O horror! Horror! Horror! Tongue nor blog cannot conceive nor name thee!

Good morning to you all.  It’s Thursday again, as tends to happen at this time of week, and I bid you therefore welcome to yet another of my weekly blog posts.

I don’t know that I have much new to report, but I do have continuations of previous matters.  For instance, I am now within the last hundred-ish pages of the final edit of Unanimity, after which will only follow the final layout and the cover art (which is still in an early stage).  It seems that my estimate of a possible August publication date should be accurate.  I’m very excited about this, of course, and I hope that you are excited as well, though it’s unlikely that you’re at my level of enthusiasm.

I’ll now repeat my “trigger warning” about the book, however, and I’m only being partly facetious*.  Unanimity is, of course, a horror novel, so no one should be surprised that it contains horrible and horrifying things.  That is, obviously, the point of the genre, and anyone who reads a horror novel and is shocked to find horrors within is surely being a bit dim.

Still, there are many different kinds of horror, and this novel—though definitely “supernatural” or at least “paranormal” in character, albeit in science fiction’s clothing—is not a Gothic style tale.  There are no obvious vampires or similar supernatural “outside” entities, preying on human souls or blood or whatever.  If there are zombies, they are most assuredly not of the George Romero, Night of the Living Dead type.  They are, if anything, more akin to the notion of the philosophical “zombie,” a being that behaves in every way like any other conscious creature, but which has no subjectivity.  Though, in this story’s case, they do have subjectivity, but it is not their own…their own subjectivity has been put on hold, and another has taken its place.  Unfortunately, this invading subjectivity is not benevolent.

In any case, to get to my point, I just warn potential readers that the horror in this story is a very human type of horror, so the bad things that happen might seem real and realistic, and this can—for some people at least, or so I imagine—make them more disturbing.  I don’t know for certain; I can only speculate about others’ reactions.  But if such human types of horror are difficult for you to stomach—if, for instance, you find the works of Thomas Harris** hard to endure—then you may want to consider carefully whether this will be the book for you.

I don’t know if this warning will serve as an impediment to readership or as an incentive; part of me feels that I’m being self-defeating, part of me feels that I’m being subtly (or not-so-subtly) self-promoting.  Unadulterated self-promotion has never been my strong point.  I am almost certainly my own worst enemy, but I am not solely my enemy.  If I were, things would surely be much simpler.  Or if I were an unrepentant narcissist, I suppose some things would be easier as well, though public figures who are narcissistic rarely come across as happy to me.  Perhaps that’s just me projecting misery onto them that I hope they experience, since most narcissists are pretty insufferable.  But who knows, maybe they really are as pleased with themselves as they claim to be.

If so, sign me up!

I doubt it, though.  Reality has a way of biting those who delude themselves in any direction, sooner or later…usually sooner, based on my observations, and often continuously.  I’ve made the point before that I think depression—or at least dysthymia—is a species of realism, a recognition of the fundamentally uncaring, though still often beautiful, nature of reality.  But I’m subject to cognitive biases as much as anyone, and more than many, so any conclusions are firmly provisional.

This train of thought leads me to a notion that’s been bouncing around my head a bit lately:  I’m thinking of semi-abandoning the practice of keeping a separate blog (Iterations of Zero) for my thoughts and writings that are about things other than my fiction and related creative works.  I find that there’s a kind of mental block that keeps me from writing on IoZ, because it feels too strongly like a division of resources and is separated by an activation energy barrier.  So, I may soon go back to using just this blog to post whatever thoughts and writings I may have, about whatever subject strikes my fancy (keeping the Thursday post as it is currently) and leaving IoZ fallow.

After all, this blog is the one that bears my name—probably the closest to narcissism I’ll come.  Also, to make that mental shift might let me reintroduce “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, but to have it as an orthogonal (or is it parallel?) process to my regular blog posts.  I could just do it when the mood strikes me, as I could do my writings on mood, on math, on medicine, on science, and even occasionally on politics***.  After all, Robert Elessar is not merely an author and sometimes a musician.  “I am large—I contain multitudes.”

We shall see.  In the meantime, though, the focus is on Unanimity, and I urge you not to be too put off by my self-conscious warning above.  I think it’s a good book, and I like the characters—even the “bad guy”—and I think it’s a pretty original story as far as it goes.  It has length, at least, and may even have breadth and depth.  That will be for you to decide.  I can tell you this much, as with nearly all horror novels:  in the end, the “good guys” do win…but not all of them survive, and none are unscathed.  And, of course, the “evil” may not be completely vanquished.

As Lord Foul would say, “Think on that, and be dismayed.”

TTFN


*How big a fraction that is seems to vary from moment to moment.

**How’s that for praising myself with faint damnations?

***Yuck.

And every tongue blogs in a several tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain.

Okay, well, welcome to another Thursday and to another edition of my weekly blog post.  This being the second Thursday in July, this would have been an edition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains”, which ran briefly, way back when, but which was stopped after not many people seemed to read it.  This surprised me, given the fact that so many people are so interested in the great villains of popular fiction:  Sauron, Hannibal Lecter, Thanos, Darth Vader, and so on, to say nothing of the quintessential dastard from whom I cribbed the title of this post.  I guess people often follow such characters on the DL, as a kind of guilty pleasure, and openly reading or talking about them is not as popular.

Oh, well.  I’ve been disappointed by the lack of popularity of that series, but the world is hard, and it’s under no obligation to conform to my expectations, let alone my hopes.

This fact was driven home yet again for me last week with the difficulty relating to my “single” Schrödinger’s Head, which had to be delayed because of restrictions on the word content of the cover art.  I quickly and easily (but not without grumbling) altered the cover to remove the warped opening lines of the song, and then adjusted the rest for better balance.  I also changed the official title of the song to include the umlaut.  This latter bit didn’t bother me nearly so much, especially since I’d already used an umlaut made from a tiny white cat’s head and a tiny black cat’s head above the “o” in the graphic (see below).  I’m not sure the umlaut in the official title was necessary—it’s hard for me to imagine that being something distributors and song sharing and selling sites would notice much—but it was satisfying, unlike the removal of my opening lyrics.

Bottom line, in short order, once my corrections were made, the song was distributed and has gone live and is now available for your listening pleasure on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube Music, and numerous other venues of which I know the names of only a few, such as TikTok.  If anyone listens on one of those other venues, please let me know; I’d love to share the link.

The song is a folk-rock style, lighthearted, silly thing in which the singer (me) asks various binary questions, mostly about what the titular physicist might be thinking, arriving at the lamentable conclusion that nobody knows.  There’s a little more to it than that, including some deliberately contradictory wordplay, but it’s not supposed to be deep or to carry any message (unlike my previous release, Like and Share, which involves heartfelt, sad commentary about one aspect of social media).  The main guitar sounds are mostly “clean”, since I was really just learning to use it, and that’s part of what gives it the folk-tune feel.  I think.

Anyway, have a listen if you’re so inclined (though you won’t actually know if you are or not until you listen, and then the wave function will have collapsed…Ha Ha Ha!).

In other news, of course, Unanimity continues to hurtle toward completion, though never quite as quickly as I hope.  I, however, am schooled not to rely on the specifics of my hopes too much.  The Tao te Ching counsels us to act without expectation, and I think that’s very good advice, though not as simple as it might seem at a superficial glance*.

Anyway, my novel moves ever nearer to release, and I at least am excited about it.  It’s not for the faint of heart, though.  If you’re the sort of person who requires trigger warnings for anything at all, they are all hereby given.  I am not trying to avoid traumatizing you with this book; quite the contrary.

Not that traumatizing you is the point—or at least not the main one.  The main point is to tell a story about what happens when an innocent college student—Charley Banks—takes part in a neuroscience experiment at his university, has a seizure in an MRI machine during the process, and in the aftermath develops a seemingly impossible, potentially limitless, paranormal power to take over other people’s bodies and minds with just a touch.  Unfortunately, in the process he also appears to have suffered damage to his moral compass**, and he begins to do truly terrible and horrifying things with his new ability—things no one else could ever recognize as his handiwork.

What could be the nature and source of this impossible ability?  How can Charley be cured and/or stopped?  Can he be cured and/or stopped?  Will anyone even figure out what’s happening in time to do anything at all about it, if anything can be done?  How could you even detect a danger that potentially comes from all the people you know and love?

And will Vanessa ever be able to get Brad to notice and return her feelings, or will her poor, lonely, yearning heart be broken***?

Some of these questions—and others not mentioned—will be answered in Unanimity.  Some will remain mysteries.  To find out more, you’ll have to read the book.

TTFN

transformed s head cover no words2


*I urge you to look into it.  It’s not religion, though a religion has been made from it; as I see it, it’s really a book of practical philosophy in the form of 81 very short, evocative poem-oids.

**Or it could just be power corrupting, and corrupting fast, or revealing and releasing a side to Charley that was always present, or perhaps some dark, supernatural force is at work.  Who can say which it is?  Well, I can, of course, but I’m not saying, at least not here.

***Okay, that last question has nothing at all to do with the novel.  I don’t know where that comes from.  There are no such characters in my book.

I have supped full with horrors. Direness, familiar to my slaughterous blogs, cannot once start me.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to Thursday and to my weekly blog post.  Also, welcome to July.  In the United States, it’s now two days before Independence Day (popularly and rather unimaginatively called “The Fourth of July” by many or perhaps most Americans, but I prefer “Independence Day” as it reminds us what the holiday is about).  One could, if one wished, call today “Independence Eve Eve,” but I doubt that’s going to catch on.

Not much new is going on this week, other than the fact that I am trying to release another single, Schrodinger’s Head.  I was hoping to be able to share links to it in today’s blog post.  However, there is apparently some issue of non-concordance between the cover art and the song name—though, as the one who made both, I’m not sure what the problem is.  Hopefully, it won’t entail any significant rearrangement of the cover I designed, because I quite like it as it is now (see below).  Among other things, I used a tiny black cat’s head (a picture—no real cats were harmed in the making of the graphic, anymore than any real cats are harmed in the canonical “Schrodinger’s cat” thought experiment) next to an otherwise identical white cat’s head to make the umlaut above the “o” in Schrodinger’s name.

It’s possible that this is the issue, and I need to use the umlaut in the official title, making it Schrödinger’s Head.  This wouldn’t be a bad thing, as I believe it is the more correct way to spell the great man’s name, but I wasn’t sure it would be usable in that form on all sites on which it would be available.  Perhaps I underestimate the breadth of available ASCII characters in modern sites, having been born into the computer world with an Apple II+ back in the early ‘80s.

I’m sure the problem is easily solvable, but my frustration tolerance has shrunk precipitously over the years—I think that’s supposed to trend in the opposite direction in most people; I’m not sure why it is as it is with me*—so I was positively fuming this morning when I found out.

Oh, well.

More importantly, Unanimity is proceeding swiftly.  I’m more than halfway through the final edit and a nearly equivalent amount of the layout.  I continue to enjoy the process, and in fact I chafed at the fact that I needed to write this blog post today instead of working on the novel.  Still, this weekly blog is a pattern long in the making, and I’m not going to let myself off it just because I’m impatient.  My frustration tolerance may have diminished, but I’m still fairly good at not indulging myself too much in momentary urges.  Hopefully, I won’t lose that strength as time goes by.

I think that Unanimity is a good book, and I think readers will enjoy it…though I expect it will horrify them at many points, and probably not always in ways that they might expect.  It’s certainly not a gothic style horror by any means, despite my previous jokes about it making a better Halloween than Christmas gift.

In a way, you could call it a pseudo-science-fiction horror story, as the causes of the terrible events in it are not overtly supernatural, but are the products of something having gone wrong in the course of normal scientific exploration.  In this, I suppose, it’s more of the Frankenstein family than the Dracula family, but with no anti-science cautionary intent**.  In fact, deep in the dungeons of my mind, as the author, I suspect there may be darker forces at work behind the seeming science-gone-wrong of the story.  I even threw in a brief cameo by a figure from one of my decidedly supernatural short stories, Hole for a Heart, to hint that all may not be quite as it seems.

Of course, I’ve long contended that the very term “supernatural” is superfluous, since anything that exists is, by definition***, part of nature.  So, anything that actually happens to characters and things in my stories is, in their universe, natural, however paranormal it may seem, and there is some underlying “science” to it, though it may be forever unknown.  There must be “laws of magic” just as there are laws of physics, or else no actual phenomena of any consistent kind would be produced.

In fact, one of my ongoing (and only) disappointments about the Harry Potter books is that there isn’t more exploration—perhaps via Dumbledore and/or Hermione—of what magic is and how it works in that world.  I don’t fault J. K. Rowling; that just wasn’t what her stories were about, and it probably would have been a distraction for most readers of what were, nominally, children’s books.

I’d love to know her thoughts on the matter, though.

With that, I think I’ve said and digressed enough.  Hopefully, before this time next week, Schrödinger’s Head will be available for your listening pleasure on many venues.  I’m afraid I took it off YouTube in anticipation of its release, so if you want to hear it, you’ll have to wait a bit.  My apologies.  Still, it’s useful, in these quite troubled times, to have something to which to look forward, and though they may be small consolations, I can at least offer you a song and a story to anticipate.

TTFN

what's going on bigger


*One might think that, having gone through quite a few severe and extreme frustrations and setbacks in life would make one more tolerant of minor impasses, but the process seems more like chronic pain—the nerves involved get potentiated by repetitive and persistent stimulation and so are more sensitive and harder to shut down.  At least, that’s my hypothesis.

**Newton forbid!

***By my definition, anyway.

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.

So in the world. ‘Tis furnished well with blogs

wow

Good morning!  Welcome to yet another blog post, since this is yet another Thursday.  They do seem to keep coming and coming, don’t they?  Thursdays, I mean.  Thursdays have been going on for a lot longer than blog posts have been, and they’re likely to continue long after my blog posts have stopped.

Of course, on a cosmic level, the very notion of dividing time into days, each representing roughly a revolution of the Earth on its axis, is highly local and arbitrary.  The naming of days—such as naming one of a continuously repeated seven after a Norse thunder god known to most people nowadays as a character played by Chris Hemsworth—is even more local and arbitrary.

One “day” on Jupiter is only ten hours long, despite the fact that Jupiter’s diameter is ten times as great as the Earth’s.  This rapid revolution contributes to some truly amazing weather patterns on that planet.  A “day” on the moon, on the other hand, is about twenty-eight Earth days long…and there’s no weather there at all.

A day on Mercury, named after the wing-footed messenger god of Greek mythology, is almost sixty Earth days long.  And all these variations are just a few of the ones represented within our solar system, itself a tiny, tiny pixel in our galaxy (a “day” of which is a quarter billion Earth years long), which is in turn just a tiny, tiny splotch among hundreds of billions to about a trillion galaxies in the observable universe.  And that, of course, is only a chunk—miniscule to infinitesimal—of a much larger region of spacetime that seems likely to be infinite.

But don’t worry.  Your personal, day-to-day concerns still really matter.  Sure, they do.

Okay, sorry about that bit of sarcasm.  I’m pretending to be more cynical than I really am.  Your individual, day-to-day concerns do matter, in the only way that anything can matter:  they matter to you.  Meaning, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  This is good, and can be highly life-affirming, unless you’re one of the unlucky people who feels that they themselves don’t matter, even to themselves.  For such people, the crushing weight of reality can feel at once both infinitely oppressive and at the same time very much worthy of a “meh.”  As a person who writes horror stories, among other things, I can honestly say that this is real horror.

Some horror fiction expresses a sense of being lost and trapped in a hostile and very large universe, which cares about us only as irritating insects, and seeks to crush us as such.  A similar notion is occasionally (metaphorically) invoked even by such science educators as Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has been heard to speak of “all the ways the universe wants to kill us,” or words to that effect.  But of course, this is a highly narcissistic misinterpretation of reality, used only as a figure of speech by Tyson (in order to emphasize certain points) and as a plot conceit for horror.  If the universe really “wanted” to kill us, we would be dead.  Instantly.

The real horror, from the reflexively hubristic, human point of view, is that the universe doesn’t give a tiny little rat’s ass about us.  As far as we know, the only place in the universe that’s even capable of caring about anything at all is in the minds of humans…and perhaps other sentient creatures.  As far as we know, only here on Earth (and in low Earth orbit) does caring exist at all.  Now, depending on the likelihood first of the origin of life, then of multicellular life, then of intelligent life, there may be many other such islands of caring in the universe, and if the universe is infinite in size, simple math reveals that there must be an infinite number of such islands.  But it’s equally simple to see that there is a proportionally larger infinity of places where there’s nothing that cares about anything.  This is far from the worst way things could be.  If there really were a Crimson King, or a Morgoth, or an Azathoth and Nyarlathotep and Cthulhu* out there, we would be in for a much rougher time than we actually experience.

Of course, as physicist and pioneer of quantum computation David Deutsch argues beautifully in his book The Beginning of Infinity, we humans—and our descendants, whether biological or technological or both—have the potential really to become significant on a cosmic scale.  As he also points out, there is no guarantee that we will do so, but there appears to be nothing in the laws of nature that prevents it.  It’s up to us** to decide.

That cosmic importance or lack thereof, however, does not and cannot change what is happening right here, right now, and which seems for the moment so inescapably important:  That it is Thursday, and that I am writing this blog post…and, of course, consequently, that you are reading it.  Nothing can ever actually be more important than “now,” because “now,” ultimately, is all we ever experience.

And now, I leave you with a brief update:  Unanimity proceeds well, shrinking as I edit it much more slowly than it grew as I wrote it, like a volcanic island having sprung forth to be subsequently eroded in the middle of a vast sea of strained and overused similes.  It’s got quite a ways to go before it’s a lush, tropical setting that you’d want to put on your vacation itinerary, but it’s getting there.  If you do visit, I won’t guarantee that it will be a uniformly happy trip—some very bad things indeed do lurk there—but at least it should be interesting.

TTFN


*A curious side-note:  of these three examples of entities from H. P. Lovecraft’s worlds, only Cthulhu appears well-known enough not to be marked for correction by Microsoft Word’s spell-checker.

**And of course, to our continued luck in avoiding cosmic catastrophes that are, for the moment, utterly beyond our power to prevent or avoid.

Free Range Meat

Free Range Meat cover

Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day?

Brian certainly would. As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can. So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.

But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV? Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside.

And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off? What breed of dog makes sounds like that?

These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blog…

Well, it feels like the end of an era, but I’m able finally to be able to say that I’ve completed the first draft of Unanimity.  I say, “the end of an era,” because it feels as if it’s the longest I’ve ever worked on anything in my life.  This is not literally true; my horror novel, Vagabond, which I wrote through college and med school, took longer, but that was because I wrote it so sporadically.  I foolishly worked on it only when “inspiration” struck, whatever that even means.  And the first full-length (hand-written) novel I ever wrote, Ends of the Maelstrom, probably took longer as well, for broadly similar reasons.

There’s no denying, however, that Unanimity is the biggest thing I’ve ever written.  At 530,549 words, its first draft is longer than the published version of either It or The Stand.  I don’t know how many days of writing it’s entailed.  I took at least one fairly long hiatus during the middle of the process, to complete various other authorial tasks, but even given that…well, in length, at least, it’s definitely my magnum opus.  So far.

I had no idea when I began it that it was going to be so long.  I don’t often really think in such terms, which is probably good, since I tend to run off at the keyboard.  I love words, I love written language, I love writing stories…and I’m self-indulgent when it comes to those loves.  I hope you’ll be patient with me, but I’ll understand if you’re not.

So, Tuesday I finished the rather melancholy final scene of my novel, and then Wednesday, as you may have noticed, I published Penal Colony, my latest short story (It’s available for purchase in Kindle format, for less than a buck, American).  Having both things happen more or less contemporaneously makes them feel more momentous than they probably are.

Now I must try very hard to take a break from Unanimity, and not to do any rewriting or editing on it for the month of February.  Fortunately, I have two short story ideas eagerly waiting to be written, and I really should finish up In the Shade as well, so I’ll try to get most, or all, of those works done this coming month.  They’re all horror stories—no big surprise—but at least one of them is a slightly jokey, cynical horror story, in which very honorable, morally upright, and laudable impulses and deeds are used against a well-meaning, if slightly self-righteous, person by dark forces.

Such—all too often, and regrettably—is life.

Hopefully, though, we won’t let that stop us.  Dark things and dark people are generally a lot noisier than good things and good people, so sometimes it feels as though they dominate the universe.  Yet the fact that civilization has survived at all, and continued to advance, seems to be mathematical proof that good and creativity are stronger than evil and destruction.  After all, it’s simpler by far to destroy than to create, and yet creation—in the human world—vastly predominates over destruction.  QED.

Sorry about that little digression into philosophy, but I thought it might be warranted.  It would be all too easy, I know, based on the types of things I write, for someone to imagine that I’m a pessimist about human nature, or the universe in general.  I’m not.  Though the second law of thermodynamics is as inescapable as any other mathematical principle, it’s also the source of life, and of our experience of time.  Life—certainly as we know it—can’t exist except where entropy is going from lower to higher.  I’m very much on board with the ideas David Deutsch describes in his wonderful book The Beginning of Infinity There is no guarantee that humanity and our descendants will go on to achieve a cosmic-level civilization, but there doesn’t appear to be any reason it’s not possible.  Whether or not it happens is entirely dependent upon our actions (and a lack of local astronomical catastrophes, of course).

And that’s about enough of all that for now.  I’ll leave you to the rest of your day.  It’s bitterly cold up north, I know, and it’s even relatively chilly down here in south Florida, so wrap up warm, all those who are affected.  Curl up by the fire in a blanket.  Drink a mug of tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate, and read a good book, if you get the chance.  Listen to that cold, bitter wind howling outside, with a chill that seems more than capable of freezing the very flesh from your bones.  It sounds almost alive, doesn’t it?

It sounds almost…hungry.

TTFN

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

Hello, good morning, and welcome to the last Thursday of 2018.

I had three consecutive days off work this week, the longest such stretch in quite some time that didn’t involve sad family events.  To the surprise of no one, I did not get any writing done over those three days—no new work on Unanimity, and no editing on Penal Colony.

Because of this, there’s not much for me to say today.  I have, except on the three aforementioned days off, continued to make good progress.  In Unanimity, I’ve reached the final confrontation that will resolve the outcome of the book, but its development involves some flashbacks, for reasons of dramatic tension.  I think this will work well, but in the end, readers must judge for themselves.  In any case, there’s a great deal of work to do before the book will be ready for anyone but me to read and judge.  Such is the way of things.

I hope you all have a wonderful time on New Year’s Eve and a relatively painless recovery on New Year’s Day.  When next we meet here, it will be 2019.  I have a silly, semi-fun dread of the coming year, since in much of the Stephen King multiverse, the number 19 is one of terrible omen.  Of course, I don’t actually subscribe to any form of numerology, unless one counts my true and deep love (occasionally unrequited) of mathematics itself.  It’s just fun to imagine what might happen if that number really were a harbinger of evil.

The fact that I find such thoughts fun is probably why I tend to sneak “horror” into most of what I write, intentionally or not.

I first clearly recognized this about myself in high school, when I wrote my first full-length novel, Ends of the Maelstrom.  This was a sort of cross-over fantasy/sci-fi adventure novel involving multiple universes, in which beings of godlike power used magic and/or ultra-high technology to battle for the fate of our universe and ultimately all the other realms of the multiverse.  The story’s ultimate villain, the Talberod, had obliterated whole galaxies to demonstrate his power, but he nevertheless had a code of honor and a strong moral sense.  In contrast, the hero was more than willing to lie and cheat to win.  These are far from new twists, of course, but I felt pretty proud of them as a high school student.  Alas, that novel is lost to time and bitter circumstance, though one day I may seek to recreate it.

In any case, during the larger course of that story, I inserted little interludes detailing smaller-scale levels of the invasion, including a series in which a demonic being called Chrayd, for personal enjoyment, preys on numerous random humans from our world (before finally being killed by a lucky and courageous one of those same humans, whom Chrayd “salutes” even as he dies).  These latter sequences amounted to mini horror stories in the middle of my larger epic, though I only recognized them as such after the fact.  They were also the parts of the novel that were the most fun to write and—I suspect—were the most gripping to read.

Similarly, on those rare occasions when I’ve written Harry Potter fanfics, they’ve tended to turn out in rather…well, let’s just say that Harry has done some very dark, bad things.

We use the tools that we are given.

And that’s about it for now.  As usual, it’s more than I expected to write.  This is another gift or tool given to me.  I can’t really claim any credit for it, and it’s occasionally frustrating (for readers even more than for me, I suspect), but whataya gonna do?

Again, I wish you the best of all possible new years.  19 may be a number of ill-omen in the Stephen King universe, and it is certainly a prime number…but 2019 is not prime.  Let us then therefore give honor to the beloved goddess of irony by turning 2019 into a prime year in every other sense.

TTFN