I’ll read enough, when I do see the very blog indeed where all my sins are writ, and that’s myself.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another edition of my weekly blog post.  It’s hard to know what to write that I haven’t already written—much of it repeatedly—in previous blog posts, though the details no doubt change from week to week.  But, then again, that’s always an issue with writing, as with storytelling in general, and so on.  Is it ever possible really to write (or otherwise create) anything new?

Well, the “Latin” alphabet alone (adding in the “Arabic” digits from zero to nine) iterated out in any reasonable length produces a trans-astronomical number of possibilities.  Even if we leave out punctuation and spaces and other “special characters”, the number of different things that can be written in just ten spaces is 36 to the tenth power, which is a little more than 3.6 times ten to the fifteenth power*.  To get some sense of the scale of that number, consider that the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy is on the order of ten to the eleventh power, so the number above is a good ten thousand times larger.  The number of cells in a typical human body is on the order of ten to the thirteenth power, still only a hundredth as large as the number I mentioned.

Mind you, the vast majority of those combinations of characters are going to comprise a real tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.  But, of course, ten spaces is next to nothing.  So far in this blog post I’ve already used more than 1500 spaces or characters.  Still not counting punctuation et al, taking thirty-six to the 1500th power gives us a truly staggering number:  2.8 times ten to the 2334th power.  To get a scintilla of the idea of the scale of that number, consider that the estimated combined number of protons, neutrons, electrons, and neutrinos in the “visible” universe is only on the order of ten to the 80th or so.  Of course, if you throw photons and gravitons and gluons and W and Z bosons, and whatever comprises “dark matter” and “dark energy” into the mix, that number will surely go up by quite a bit, but not by anything close to two thousand orders of magnitude.  Remember, ten to the 2334th is a one followed by 2334 zeroes (in base ten).  You’d have to multiply ten to the 80th by itself about twenty-nine times (i.e., take it to the 29th power) to reach 10 to the 2334th.

Of course, the vast majority of such combinations will produce nothing even close to coherent writing—or even to the quality of writing I’ve produced here so far (which as of this point has over 2300 characters).  But so what?  It’s a bit like considering all the possibilities of DNA.  Even though the vast majority of possible DNA sequences would not be transcribable into anything like a viable living organism if injected into a typical cell, the subset of potential viable organisms is still staggeringly larger than the number that have ever lived.

Thinking along similar lines, consider the Library of Babel, a notion introduced in a story by Jorge Luis Borges, (and instantiated, more or less, in a brilliant website).  It contains all possible books of, I think, 400-ish pages, using certain layout characteristics, and thus would contain, in principle, everything anyone has ever written or could write (of that size or smaller).  The possibilities are so large as to seem infinite.

“And yet, oh and yet, we all of us spend all our days saying to each other the same things time after weary time:  ‘I love you,’ ‘don’t go in there,’ ‘get out,’ ‘you have no right to say that,’ ‘stop it,’ ‘why should I?’ ‘that hurt,’ ‘help,’ ‘Marjorie is dead.’”**

It’s been said by some that all stories (of relevance to humans) have already been told.  I don’t think that’s quite true, for as we learn and explore and develop new understandings of the universe and new technologies, new stories will become possible that never would have been before.  Nevertheless, most types of stories that would be of interest to humans have probably already been written (or otherwise told) in various forms by numerous authors.  And yet we*** still enjoy both creating and partaking of them.  Indeed, the reading of a new story of a given type—of which one may have read dozens or hundreds of others—can still be one of the greatest pleasures in life (though I’m having a hard time with that lately, to my significant distress, as I’ve mentioned previously).  It’s a bit like all those possible humans, I guess.  They all are much more alike than unalike, as Maya Angelou said, but we can nevertheless tell each one from nearly all the others, usually at a glance, and certainly within a moment.

So it is with stories.  Even within the genre of heroic fantasy, it’s trivial to differentiate Harry Potter from The Lord of the Rings from The Belgariad from The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.  I love them each and all, and I wouldn’t willingly have any of them expunged from reality or memory.  It is, no doubt, likewise with horror, with science fiction, with thrillers, with mysteries, with romantic comedies, and every other genre of story.  Though all have similarities, they are nevertheless distinct, and the possibilities are so immense that they give a better impression of infinity than actual infinity does, though they are, probably, not literally infinite****.

With that in mind, I’ll keep working on The Vagabond, as I have this week, as usual.  I’m about halfway through the last edit; then comes layout and cover design and all that jazz, and then publication.  And thence, on to whatever comes next, such as Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which will include House Guest and many other stories.  The possibilities are not easily limited, and so this idiot, at least, will for now keep telling his tales.


Alike unlike

*If, as the fictional (often mad) scientists always say, my calculations are correct.

**This long quote is taken from ‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’, I think it was the very first episode, but I’m not sure.  You can go and watch it here.

***Humans, for want of a better term.

****During the writing and editing of Unanimity I might have disagreed with this last point.  And, by the way, I took the notion—that the immense-but-finite can give a better impression of infinity than the truly infinite does—from Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

My native English, now I must forgo; and now my blog’s use is to me no more than an unstringed viol…


Guten morgen, buenos días, ohaiyou gozaimasu, and good morning!  It’s another Thursday (or Donnerstag, Jueves, or Mokuyoubi, if you prefer), and time for my weekly blog post.  There’s not much new going on, really…which is partly why I decided to write my greeting in four languages instead of the customary one.  You’ve gotta pad these things out sometimes.

I received an interesting and amusing email from Amazon yesterday, telling me that certain authors whom I follow have released “new” books.  I use scare quotes because the second of that brace of notices was just about the release of a new version of a work by that great writer of graphic novels, Alan Moore, whose numerous works include Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and my favorite, Batman: The Killing Joke.

The first notice, though, was of a new story released by that obscure (but also great?) author, Robert Elessar.  Apparently, at some point in the past, I decided to follow myself as an author on Amazon.  This is unsurprising; I suppose all authors are narcissistic to some degree.  The very notion of writing a story and offering it to other people to read must entail a certain (benign) kind of hubris.  But it is amusing that Amazon doesn’t recognize—or doesn’t bother trying to recognize, more likely—that the person to whom they sent this notice is the author himself.

I suppose names like Alan Moore and Stephen King might be relatively common, when you think about it, and it certainly seems plausible that a person who shared a name with such a noted author might enjoy following their new works.  But there are plain few Robert Elessars out there.  I know.  I’ve checked.  Furthermore, Amazon could easily recognize that the email to which they sent the notice is also associated with my account as an author who publishes through their platform.

Again, I suspect that they don’t bother worrying about such trivialities.  Why should they?  They have a great many, very big fish to fry, after all.

On other matters:  I’ve been pleased with the feedback I received (on Facebook, mainly) for my song, Catechism.  Of course, that’s only made me itch to fix my earlier musical experiments to make them more presentable, as well as to continue working on the new song I have,* but I continue not to want such work to interfere too much with my writing and, more specifically, with my editing.  It would be soooooo lovely if I could release Unanimity before the end of the year, perhaps in time for the Yuletide holiday season.  Halloween would be better, of course—this is hardly a Christmassy story—but that’s almost certainly a pipe dream, unless some benefactor out there is so excited to read it that she or he decides to sponsor my full-time work on the project.

Alas, I have yet to hear from such a person.

I’ve received no feedback, one way or the other, on Free Range Meat.  That’s not unusual, of course.  Even among people who read a particular story and enjoy (or hate) it, very few will write a review, and even fewer will post comments on social media or on blogs.  It’s hard for me to feel justified in grumbling too much about this.  Even I, a firm believer in the value of rating and reviewing products, and especially books, only do it a relative minority of the time.  Modern life is just too busy.

It was easier when we were all hunter-gatherers, wasn’t it?  Sometimes I regret giving up that lifestyle.  Then I remember that no hunter-gatherer culture invented or used written language—and also that none of them invented cardio-thoracic surgery, without which I’d have been unlikely to survive past my early thirties—and I’m more conflicted.  The loss of written language, and all the stories and nonfiction books I’d thus have to give up, would be intolerable.  As for living past my thirties…well, that’s more debatable.  From a certain point of view, once my children were born—and certainly by the time I was forty—I was pretty much dispensable, even to myself.

Oh, well.  John Mellencamp was right about life, wasn’t he?

And on that cheery note, I’ll call it quits for this week.  I hope you’re all well, and that all manner of things are well for you in this most possible of all possible worlds.


*The words, melody, and chord structure are basically done—that’s the easy part

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are blog’d of in your philosophy.

Hello and welcome!

For those of you in the United States, I hope you had an excellent Independence Day yesterday.  Earlier in the week, I wrote a blog post on Iterations of Zero encouraging Americans to remember the meaning behind the holiday; you can read it here if you so desire.

My fiction writing (and my reading/promoting of already existing fiction) goes well.  I’m almost done recording chapter 5 of The Chasm and the Collision.  It’s slightly longer than the previous chapters, so editing it may take more time, but I still expect it to be available for your listening pleasure* by the end of next week, or perhaps by the middle of the following week.  Reading for audio seems to take much less time than editing; this is in contrast to the process of writing a story, where the composition takes far longer than the editing process, even when that editing is thoroughly draconian. Continue reading

They have been at a great feast of languages, and blog’d the scraps

Hello and good day!

It’s Thursday again, and time again for you to endure the ordeal of slogging through my blogging.  I could say that it’s also time for me to slog through the process of writing another blog post, but I rarely think of writing as an ordeal (though sometimes the process of forcing myself to get started can be a minor challenge).

One crucial aspect of writing, of course—if you want to be a good writer, anyway—is that you need to read a lot.  Most of the writers whose work I admire are or have been avid readers.  This makes sense.  One could probably say something analogous about musicians, or about other types of artists:  it’s difficult to know what’s possible, to have a deep grasp of the intricacies of one’s subject, if one doesn’t expose oneself to what other artists have done.  Of course, each person’s bandwidth is limited, as is each person’s interest and exposure, but that’s part of what makes art interesting, and fundamentally stochastic.  Mozart, unfortunately, could never be influenced by the music of the band Yes, but the converse is true, through the accident of historical placement.  I sometimes wonder what Mozart might have done with modern musical instruments and precedents at his disposal, just as I wonder what Shakespeare or Dickens might have written after extensive exposure to the modern world.  We can, unfortunately, only imagine the wonders to be found in “Electric Guitar Concerto No. 4,” or “The Tragedy of Richard Nixon,” or “A Tale of Two Social Media.” Continue reading

But thy eternal summer shall not fade, Nor lose possession of that blog thou ow’st.

Welcome, welcome to another blog post Thursday.  I didn’t write anything for Iterations of Zero this week, and for that I apologize; I’ve been feeling somewhat under the weather over the past several days (which, I guess, can literally be said of everyone who isn’t an astronaut living on the space station or currently on some other mission).

Work proceeds well on Unanimity, but as I’ve said before, it’s becoming a longer book than I ever expected it to become.  It’s curious how that happens; I honestly didn’t expect it to be as long as The Chasm and the Collision, though I knew it would be longer than Son of Man.  It is, however, going to be my longest book so far, unless I do some truly astonishing trimming in the editorial process…which is, I suppose, possible.  I’m enjoying writing it, as far as that goes, though yesterday (being, as I was, home sick, not to be confused with “homesick”) I didn’t write anything at all. Continue reading

My mistress’ blog posts are nothing like the sun

Hello, good morning, and Happy Thursday!  It’s May 31st, 2018.  Within the next 24 hours or so, this month will disappear over the temporal horizon, never to be encountered again.


As those of you who follow this blog will know, the audio of the first chapter of The Chasm and the Collision is now available, both on my blog (here) and via YouTube (here).  I think it’s turning out well, and the relative speed with which I can come out with the chapter-length audios, compared with my far-from-very-short short stories, appeals to my sense of immediate gratification.  It’s also fun to go back into and engage with my novel in a deep, intimate way.  I certainly recommend to all authors out there that you take the time, at some point, to read your works aloud.  At the very least, this will call your attention to awkward phrasing and word choice; you will learn from the experience.

Many people say of good writing that it comes across as if the writer were speaking.  What I think we usually mean when we say this is that the work comes across as we wish people would when speaking, or when speaking at an idealized best—that it combines, you might say, the best aspects of the written and the spoken.  As a lover of the written language, and of language in general, I think that’s tremendous praise.

Of course, as always—sometimes it feels as though it’s literally always—Unanimity is coming along steadily.  I’ve felt weary on many a recent morning, having problems as I do with chronic insomnia, and have often needed to trick myself into writing my daily quota.  You know that trick, if you’ve been following this blog:  telling myself that I’m going to write at least one page, good or bad, something I can usually do in short order.  I almost always end up writing about three pages instead.

I shudder to think of the volume I’d be able to write if I were to do so full time, given how much I’m able to do in my spare time.  Of course, I’m sure there would be diminishing marginal returns if I wrote too much on any given day, and there might even be a tendency to procrastination, but I think I could work around those issues.  It would, at the very least, be worth doing the experiment.  For that to happen, I need enough of you to buy my stories and spread the word about them for me to be able to quite my day job.  Hint, hint.

This provides a rather brutal segue into a preaching topic, and that is the subject of reviews, ratings, and likes.  I encourage all of you—most of whom, I assume, are writers and/or readers—to take the time to give feedback on works that you read and otherwise consume.  This is particularly valuable for those who are struggling to make a name or have an impact, but even at higher levels it’s useful.  It’s useful for the creator, and it’s also useful for those who are considering exploring the creator’s work.  If you read a book that you bought from Amazon, for instance—or even if you’re perusing a book that you’ve already read elsewhere—take a moment to rate it.  I’m not saying you have to write a review, if you’re not so inclined, though those are certainly useful.  But at least give a star rating.  It takes about a second, maybe, and gives feedback for established works and valuable credibility to newcomers.  Similarly, if you see a video on YouTube that you like, “like” it.  Or if you see something shared on social media—Facebook, Twitter, whatever—please take a moment to give it some feedback.  It costs mere instants of your time, but it is of tremendous use and value to those who create and to your fellow consumers.

Also, if you feel so inclined, take a moment to “like” someone’s blog post.

This all can’t help but come across as self-serving…and I won’t lie, it is self-serving as far as that goes.  But it’s not merely self-serving.  If everyone who reads this post were to commit to giving at least brief feedback to other blogs, to videos, to books, etc., but in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, they were to decide never to rate any of my work…well, I’d be disappointed, but I’d still feel that I’d achieved something of value.

Silence is worse than derogation.  The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.  Or, to put it another way, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

That last sentence is clearly an exaggeration, but it makes a valid point.  I know that Thumper’s mom counseled him that, if you can’t say nothin’ nice, you shouldn’t say nothin’ at all, but in many cases, even a “thumbs-down” can be better than no reaction.  Of course, I do beseech you, in general, to keep feedback civil even when not complimentary, for like Hannibal Lecter, I find discourtesy unspeakably ugly.  But, given that minor caveat, I sincerely ask you all, please, to give feedback and/or reviews on those media of which you partake.

Especially mine.

Well, as Forrest Gump might say, that’s all I have to say about that.  I wish you all well.  In two weeks, I shall post my second installment in the “My heroes have always been villains” series, and before that time I shall no doubt release the audio for chapter 2 of CatC.  In the meantime, I will also continue to write on random subjects on my other blog, Iterations of Zero, so feel free to check that out.

I bid you well, and hope for the best for you all.


Thou art a boil, a plague sore, an embossed carbuncle in my corrupted blog.

Well, it’s that day of the week again (Thursday), when I write yet another blog post for the entertainment, and occasionally the edification, of those who want to read it.  As I did two weeks ago, I’m breaking up my author’s notes, interspersing them with less specific ramblings on my current, past, and planned writings.  Next week, I’ll continue my author’s note series, with a note on Son of Man.  Once I’ve caught up with the notes up to and including my latest published story, I plan to start periodically posting sample first chapters of my published works, as teasers to get readers interested—or, alternatively, to let them know for certain that they are uninterested—in the books and stories from which they’ll be excerpted.  This should be fun, I think, and will certainly be less work for me on those weeks when I post them.

Right now—so to speak—I’m near the completion of preparing to publish Hole for a Heart.  We at Chronic Publications are still struggling over the final form of the cover design for the story, though the basic design is already confirmed.  As those of you who have read it when it was available here know, it’s a dark story (how atypical for me, right?), but I like it a lot.  Thankfully, that’s more or less universal about my stories, and I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for the fact.  Of course, there are flaws in all of my works, and my earlier ones are less polished than those that follow, but I still enjoy thinking about them, and occasionally rereading them.  This almost always leads me to find errors that were missed in the editing process, as well as stylistic issues that I would now have changed…hopefully to improve upon them.  In the long run, I may create second editions of some books, especially the earlier ones, but that process requires time, of which commodity I am in short supply.  As is often the case (and as I think I’ve mentioned before) I frequently find myself quoting Andrew Marvell to myself: “If we had world enough, and time…”


As is the usual case lately, I’ve been having difficulty finding new fiction that grips me enough to read, and I find this terribly depressing (it’s not the fault of the books).  Likewise, because I lost essentially everything I owned seven years ago tomorrow, I don’t have physical copies of all the hundreds of books that I’ve read and reread over the course of my life hitherto—for entertainment, inspiration, and edification.  Over time, I’m gradually trying to re-accumulate at least some of them, mainly in Kindle format, because that way I can carry my library with me wherever I go.  But even with e-book versions, to reproduce my previous library would cost a great deal of money, so it’s a piecemeal process at best.  I’m also always looking for new recommendations, and the other day on his Facebook page, Stephen King gave one for a book called The Chalk Man, by C. J. Tudor.  I looked up the book on Amazon—it’s available on Kindle—and it does look good.  I also like the author’s name, not that such a thing is of great importance.  Still, I can’t help playing word games, and inevitably thought of the fact that if you combined the surnames of the recommendee and the recommender, you’d get the phrase “Tudor King.”

Such are the processes that take place in my mind.

In any case, that book will likely be the next fiction book I purchase, and I’ll try to remember to let you all know how it is, once I’ve read it.

I do find myself able to read nonfiction, and I also use Audible, listening to a great deal of nonfiction on my commute to and from work.  Lately, I’ve been in Steven Pinker mode, a fact at least partially triggered by the recent release of his newest book, Enlightenment Now.  I’m currently visually reading one of his earlier works, The Stuff of Thought, about language and the human mind, and listening to his second most recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature.  Once that’s done, Enlightenment Now already awaits on my Audible app, and I look forward to it eagerly.

I couldn’t easily exaggerate Pinker’s value as a thinker and writer.  His books are not short, and neither are they diffuse.  He packs a great deal of information and ideas into them, but his writing style and style of thought are exceptional and engaging.  If you want a taste of the enthusiasm and fun he brings to his work, and engenders in those who come to it, watch the following video of his presentation on The Stuff of Thought at Google.  His discussion on the nature of swearing—with numerous examples explained and explored—is both hilarious and thought provoking.


As I think I’ve said before, reading about ideas and concepts, even rather difficult ones, isn’t merely a way for me to pass my time between reading and writing fiction.  Even if it didn’t have any other value (it does), such exploration strengthens the mind’s muscles and makes it more fit and able to perform every task to which one puts it, including the writing of fiction.  Also, I think it improves one’s skill at narrative.  When an author can take a dense and complex subject and write about it in prose that’s both gripping and clear, that style of writing is surely one from which a writer of fiction can learn many lessons.  Some stories are good enough that they can be carried along simply by the power of the plot, even if the prose is awkward, but when one can add to such stories a structure made of language both beautiful and elegant, well…that’s a spicy meatball!

I’m about a hundred years too young to consider comparing myself to someone like Pinker, or to other great writers of fiction and nonfiction alike, but that just means that I can learn a great deal from them in the meantime.  In fact, a writer/reader’s marginal rate of return is probably greatest long before he or she begins to be in the same league as the one who wrote what he or she is reading.  So, I can heartily recommend that writers read books by those who are far better writers than themselves, and as often as possible.

But, also, do read some of my books in between.  I’ll do my best to keep raising my standards.


This is the blog post that I have given you.

To any who’ve been paying attention, it’s no doubt obvious that I have not yet edited my reading of “Prometheus and Chiron.”  For anyone who has been awaiting that release with bated breath, I do apologize (and encourage you to breathe normally).

Similarly, it’s obvious that I haven’t yet made any new videos to post since my introductory effort.

One reason for the latter fact is that I simply don’t like how I look right now.  I’m not exactly hideous, perhaps (though opinions surely vary), but I am heavier than I like to be, and I would really like to lose a little weight before making any more videos; there are also other cosmetic issues that I find unsatisfying.  This reticence is despite the fact that there are specific matters on which I would love to make commentary (such as my irritation about people failing to signal when turning or changing lanes), and which I’d like to address videographically because, as I think I’ve said before, video lends itself particularly well to rants.  Tone of voice, as well as facial expression, can help convey certain passionate arguments in a much more potent way than can words alone—though I am a devotee of the written word, and likely always will be.  Video also tends to reach more people, for better or for worse, than the written word often does. Continue reading

Don’t Try to Make Pronouns Number-Fluid

I want to begin with a very clear and definitive statement:  I firmly support LGBT rights, which are logically implicit in the very notion of human rights.  The right to pursue happiness is enshrined in the founding document of this country.  I have beloved family, friends, and personal heroes (living and dead) who are (or were) members of the LGBT community.  If a person is attracted to others of the same gender, or identifies with a gender other than the one with which they appear to have been born, then that person should be, and feel, free to pursue whatever individual truth is available and inherent to that nature, as with every other person in the world.  This is, of course, followed by the inescapable caveat, “as long as you don’t harm anyone else.”*  Since I have yet to hear of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person seeking the right to harm other people, I need not belabor that caveat.

But I will NOT refer to an individual, no matter what that person’s sexuality or identity, with a plural pronoun! Continue reading