But when the blast of war blogs in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s raining here in south Florida; I got more soaking wet on the way to work today than I have at times when swimming in the ocean.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but at least when you’re swimming in the ocean, you plan on getting wet, you expect to get wet, and your clothes—such as they are—are made for getting wet and for drying off quickly.  This is not the case for work clothes, even when one works in a fairly casual office.  This weather almost makes me wish that there were a 24-hour curfew in place that restricted people even from going to work, but no such luck.  I was allowed to go to work even at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, which has apparently passed, and I’m certainly allowed to work now.

In America at least, news of the pandemic has been all but superseded by news of various protests, some of which have turned violent, over the murder of George Floyd.  Both topics seem particularly good at bringing out human stupidity, which is never a tall order, but there is more unified sentiment—where I work, anyway—about the latter story.  Everyone here thinks the cops involved need to go to prison, but that violent protests and especially looting are idiotic, counterproductive, and are probably (mostly) not being done by legitimate protestors.  As for me, I can at least sympathize with occasional, directed violence in such matters.  Peaceful protest is ideal when it works, when you’re dealing with people of conscience and appealing to their better natures, but it wouldn’t have worked against the Nazis, or against Genghis Khan, or against the Roman Empire, and it wouldn’t work in North Korea.  Random violence, however, that hurts one’s own neighbors or other innocent people, seems thoughtless and pointless at best, and looting seems simply opportunistic and despicable.

All right, enough politics, if that’s what that was.  On to more auspicious matters.

This week, I have finally begun the last edit, layout, preparation, etc. of Unanimity.  I expect that, with the finish line in sight, I’ll probably accelerate work on it somewhat, perhaps pushing back my music…though I did make a post on Iterations of Zero this week with embedded videos of my five original songs that are on YouTube, as well as a few comments about them. Check out that post if you’re interested; I’d love to know what people think of the songs.  I’ve also recorded another audio blog for IoZ, but that’s still being edited—those take longer to polish than do written blog entries, though they’re certainly easier to initiate.

As you may know, I’m chronically conflicted about the whole podcast/audio versus writing of thoughts and commentary.  Writing is more efficient for storage and dissemination of information—compare the size of a word-processor document with even a compressed audio file—but there is a certain nuance of expression as well as a greater spontaneity that can be achieved in audio.  As I admit right at the beginning of the new recording, this audio blog post is not intended to be uplifting.  Neither is it meant to be down-pushing (if that’s a term).  It’s instead meant to be a rebellion of sorts against the notion that we all must try always to be positive and optimistic and upbeat and inspirational.

If you need to be inspired—if you need to be “motivated”—to get your work done, I think you’ve already failed.  Motivation—in the modern, self-help sense, not in the basic, fundamental meaning of the word (which is fine)—is a bit like the notions of heroism and leadership.  These are concepts that come into play only when you’re already far from optimal circumstances.  We should all aspire to achieve a world in which there is no need for leaders or for heroes, and to strive to reach a state in our own character in which “motivation” is irrelevant.

No one feels “motivated” every day, but if you want to earn a living, you need to go to work whether you feel “motivated” or not.  The tiger that won’t hunt until and unless it’s “inspired” by something is a tiger that’s got a good chance of dying.  Or perhaps a better animal for that analogy would be the squirrel.  Squirrels keep gathering nuts (and maybe other foods, I’m no expert on squirrel diets) even when they have enough for their immediate needs—even when they don’t feel particularly hungry—because, as they apparently say in Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.”*

To quote Christian Mihai, “The work that you do when you don’t want to is the work that most defines you.” Maybe this is just a different kind of motivation, a more long-term motivation that evaluates the area under the curve of one’s success and happiness, and not merely its moment to moment y-value.  That kind of motivation—or drive, perhaps, would be the better term—seems perfectly fine to me.  But if you have to get jazzed up to get out of bed and get moving, then you’re careening toward failure, because no one can feel jazzed up every day, not even someone in the upside of a bipolar cycle.

I’m not sure how I got onto that subject, but anyway, I’m happy at least to know that my own personal commitment to working on my fiction five to six mornings every week continues to deliver results.  It’s a lesson I learned fromthe King himself, and it’s paid off already in all my published books and stories.  And soon, I’ll release my own megalithic horror novel that matches in size even Stephen King’s longest work.

I would be delighted if Unanimity is read and enjoyed by even a fraction of as many people as have enjoyed any of King’s works, of course.  But if even one person reads it and likes it, that’s a huge reward.  And even if no one does, well—I still know that I’ve written it, and I like it.  If I didn’t like it, it really wouldn’t matter all that much if everyone else in the world loved it.  I can only be inside my own head.


*I’ve neither watched nor read any of the GoT stories.  This fact surprises even me.  It’s not a matter of stubborn contrarianism or protest; I see nothing wrong with people loving the stories or the series.  I simply haven’t been interested.  These are the types of entertainment that I tend to want to enjoy with someone—not just anyone, to paraphrase John Lennon—and I simply have no one with whom I’m interested in sharing such entertainment.  More’s the pity, but there it is, and other such long-in-the-tooth clichés.

So in the world. ‘Tis furnished well with blogs


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.


*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.

This blog of darkness I acknowledge mine

Hello and good morning!  It’s yet another Thursday and, as will come as no surprise, it’s time for me to write my weekly blog post.

I must say that I’m deeply gratified by reader response to last week’s extemporaneous reflections on  how the ideal of perfection can often be the enemy of the good, analogous to falling into the mathematical trap of saying that, since every finite number is equally (and infinitely) far from infinity, there’s no point in trying to reach a greater number than where one is.

Something like that; I put it better last week.

The many “likes” received by last Thursday’s entry stand in stark contrast to my blog post from the previous week.  This is hardly surprising.  I was riding a downturn in my ongoing waveform of dysthymia and depression on the day in question, so I’m afraid it must have been grim reading.  There’s a semi-serious saying in the medical and mental health community that depression is contagious.  Though this is not literally true—one cannot become clinically depressed simply by contact with a sufferer unless one is predisposed—it is certainly the case that spending time with, or receiving communication from, a person with depression can make one feel seriously blue and gloomy.

Depression can be surprisingly convincing in the hands of one who knows it well, particularly if that person is someone whose strengths include the communication of ideas and emotions.  Most people, struggling mightily to hold onto as good an outlook as they can, tend not to rubberneck much at these sorts of mental roadside crashes, at least until they reach the level of true catastrophe.

This is a shame, though, because one of the worst parts of suffering from depression, at least from my point of view, is that it engenders a self-reinforcing cycle of alienation.  One hates oneself; one feels intellectually justified in this attitude; and one feels therefore quite clearly that others would be justified in sharing that hatred, if they were to get too close.  Indeed, one feels positively rude and uncomfortable, even guilty, about even the possibility of subjecting others to one’s presence in any way beyond the absolutely necessary.  Isolating oneself can become a matter of conscience, analogous to what one might do if one had a particularly deadly and highly contagious illness.  It feels natural to think that those who do want to spend time in one’s presence—this number tends to diminish with the passing years, ceteris paribus—are thoroughly misguided, and must be discouraged from their goal.

And of course, other people do tend to avert their eyes from depression and the depressed—even when those eyes otherwise seem irresistibly drawn to every roadside fender-bender and horrible news story.  At least, they avert them unless and until the problem reaches fully catastrophic levels, at which point it can be ignored no longer…and at which point, ironically, there is usually little that can be done.

Some artistic reflections of depression are more palatable than others, of course.  Songs are—in my experience—one of the most tolerable.  Indeed, many of the most beautiful songs are sad, a curious fact noted by minds as widely diverse as Elton John and J.R.R. Tolkien.  My own song, Breaking Me Down, of which I released my “rebuild” on  this site, on Iterations of Zero, and on YouTube last weekend, is about depression.  The fact that it was originally composed, almost in current form, thirty years ago, shows that depression is a gift that keeps on giving, and which can contribute to the spoilage and ruination of a promising life.  It’s not something to be taken lightly; it has a mortality rate as high as many cancers, and its morbidities are vaster and deeper and more insidious than we can readily enumerate.  When seriously contemplated, it is terrifying…not least because it often makes its sufferers literally envy the dead.

If I had the choice of submitting some evildoer to the horrors of the Inquisition or of enacting upon them a chronic, fairly severe depression, it’s hard for me to say which I think would be the worse crime against humanity.

And yet, Hamlet’s soliloquy, Kansas’s Dust in the Wind, Radiohead’s No Surprises, many of Edgar Allen Poe’s stories and poems, among innumerable other works, can be enjoyed thoroughly, their beauty embraced, even by those who don’t know the experience of major depression.  Visual depictions seem more problematic, at least in my experience.  Maybe, being primarily visual creatures as we are, the imagery that effectively represents depression strikes just too close to the bone.  It can be technically remarkable and sometimes quite powerful…but it’s hard to call it beautiful.  And it’s hard to look at for very long.


I drew this picture around the same time that I wrote Breaking Me Down

Maybe words and music are abstract enough and have enough of an “eye of the beholder” effect that they soften the blow, letting people avoid the deep implications of the work by not paying too close attention.  Depressed non-fiction prose on the other hand, like visual artwork, can be too stark and on the nose to be taken in with any enthusiasm.

This is a shame because, as I said before, when someone is suffering from depression, they can feel very much condemned to solitary confinement…and to feel that such is where they belong, by nature and by guilt.  On those rare occasions when they’re able to express themselves—to cry for help, as is said, though the depressed often feel they deserve no assistance—the very nature of their suffering can make them existentially threatening to others’ moods and even their worldviews.  Again, one of the problems with depression, and a source of quips about its contagiousness, is that it can be so horribly convincing.

It’s easy enough to sympathize with those who don’t want to deal with the depressed too directly, or too often.  No one, I think, would willingly, with foreknowledge, choose to endure serious depression for long…not even if the alternative was death.

But we at least have the poetry and the songs, and I encourage you to enjoy them at whatever level you can.  At the very least, it’s wonderful occasionally to “suffer just enough to sing the blues.”  And, of course, it can also be good fun to enjoy a good horror story in a similar vein.  Hopefully, Unanimity will be such a story when it’s finally done.

Darkness can be beautiful, in its own way, as long as one knows that one can turn on the light at any time.  If one cannot, and if no one else can offer, or is offering, illumination, then even an otherwise enticing darkness can become a true horror.


You blogs, you stones, you worse than senseless things

You blogs, you stones, you worse than senseless things



“And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?  Poor man!  I know he would not be a wolf but that he sees the Romans are but sheep.  He were no lion were not Romans hinds.  Those that with haste will make a mighty fire begin it with weak straws.”

Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III


Hello, good morning, happy Thursday, and for those in the United States, Happy Independence Day!

This is an important holiday which has lost some of its meaning over time.  In saying this, I might sound a little like those who bemoan the commercialization of Christmas, but I mean it quite seriously.  The date—the 4th of July, of course—is the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the more-or-less “official” birth of the United States of America…though I think it might more appropriately be called the conception of the USA.  The Constitution’s ratification thirteen years later was the true birth of the United States of America.

As the first truly secular Constitution in the world—it only mentions religion to state that no religious test shall ever be required for government office, and that there shall be no establishment of religion nor prohibition of its free exercise (the former in Article VI, clause 3, and the latter in the 1st Amendment)—it was groundbreaking.  At the time, this secularity was somewhat scandalous, but the founders of the United States were well aware—through personal experience and through the lessons of history—of the corruption, persecution, and violence that tend to arise when religion and government are entangled.  This is an important point, and it is not clearly understood by many modern Americans.**

In a broader sense, I think it’s worthwhile to remind modern Americans how revolutionary it was to institute a Constitutional Republic whose government’s power, as stated explicitly and implicitly in both the Declaration and the Constitution, derived solely from the consent of the governed, not from any other authority.  The idea was—and should still be—that our representatives, our senators, our presidents, etc., are our employees, our servants.  They are certainly not our “leaders”.  They, like our military and our police forces, exist in principle to serve our greater good, to the best of their ability and to the best of our ability to hold them true to their duties.  We would do well to emphasize this notion to ourselves on a regular basis, because it’s all too easy for humans to fall prey to authoritarianism, and for would-be authoritarians to take advantage of that tendency.

It’s worth remembering the historical (and literary) lesson of Julius Caesar, for it is all too easy for a popular strongman to turn a Republic into a totalitarian regime that can endure as such for centuries…even after the initial strongman is ousted or assassinated.

It’s said that the price of freedom is constant vigilance, and I agree, but I would go even further:  The price of survival is constant vigilance.  Quite apart from the need to sustain yourself physically in a rather heartless universe, if you give up your freedom then your very survival itself is no longer in your hands.  You live and die—and you thrive or suffer—at the whim of those you have allowed to have power over you.  And no one else can be ultimately responsible for your personal survival and freedom if you are not.

It’s for these among other reasons that I bemoan the fetishization of the American flag (on which topic I’ve written previously, here), and its glorification in our national anthem.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan of the flag.  And I understand that children find bright patterns in primary colors engaging.  But remember, the design of the flag was and is arbitrary.  It has no real, deep meaning.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, on the other hand, are neither arbitrary nor shallow.  They are expressions of great and important ideas and ideals.  They are the soul of the United States.  The flag is, if anything, just our hairstyle or our eye color (if you will)…and fireworks are, perhaps, just glints in that eye.***

It’s true that the founders of the USA fell well short of the noble ideals they expressed so well…and it’s pretty clear that they knew that.  That’s part of why they made the Constitution amendable and included the Bill of Rights as the first ten of those amendments.  We have far exceeded the founders in realizing some of the notions expressed in the Declaration of Independence, including a greater implementation of the notion that “all [people] are created equal.”  But we have fallen far behind them in other respects, and such backsliding is dangerous.

We’ve become more parochial and more provincial, ironically; we are undereducated in certain crucial areas (including the very recognition of how absolutely essential education is for the survival of a republic such as ours); we’ve fallen too far into the glorification of “leaders” and the worship of symbols rather than the exploration and elevation of ideas and ideals, which must be constantly submitted to testing, criticism, and exploration if they are to endure and improve.  And we must strive constantly to improve them—rigorously and meticulously, not haphazardly—in the spirit of the acquisition of scientific knowledge, with distrust of arguments from authority and with constant vigilance, especially against our own biases and failings.  For if things do not improve, then it’s more likely that they will deteriorate than that they will simply remain static.  After all, there’s only one zero point on the number line, but there’s an endless expanse of negatives.

So, that’s me on the soapbox for today.  By all means, of course, do enjoy the holiday for the fireworks, and for the cookouts, and for the time spent with friends and family.  But please, do also remember what it’s about, and how important it is always to be on guard—at least as much with respect to your own biases and errors as anything else—against the accidental or deliberate betrayal of the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

As part of doing this myself, I refer to the holiday only as Independence Day, not just as “the fourth of July.”  It’s a little thing, but it might be worth doing.


*The former in Article VI, clause 3, and the latter in the 1st Amendment.

**I highly recommend the recent book The Founding Myth by Andrew Seidel as an exploration of this topic.

***Apologies for the strained metaphor.

I am determined to prove a villain, and hate the idle pleasures of these blogs.

I am determined to prove a villain, and hate the idle pleasures of these blogs.


Hello and good morning!  It’s the last Thursday of the month, which implies that next Thursday will be the first Thursday of a new month.  Unfortunately, this no longer means that I’ll release a new episode of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains.”  More’s the pity, but they just didn’t seem to get many readers.  Perhaps people were put off by the title, or maybe people have a trained aversion to admitting that villains are not only necessary to good stories but are also, often, the most interesting and pro-active characters.  I’ve often noted that it is the villains in great stories who make things happen, who try to change the world (often in not-so-good ways, of course), whereas the heroes tend just to react to events.  In this sense, revered inventors, discoverers, and innovators have more in common, personality-wise, with the villains of our tales than with the heroes.

I don’t know what this says about human nature, but I do rue the fact that no one seems to quite get the notions that I try to express in “MHHABV.”  (I’ll rule out the possibility that I’m simply not good enough at conveying those notions.  Let’s not be ridiculous, here).  Thus, I find myself in the shoes of many a villain—the comic-book style ones, anyway—in bemoaning the fact that there seems to be no one else in all the world with the vision, the intellect, the greatness of spirit to recognize and embrace the grandeur of my design!

<<Sigh>>  It’s lonely being a supervillain.  Just ask Thanos, or Dr. Doom, or Hannibal Lecter (but I recommend asking politely).

Tangentially, it’s interesting to wonder if it’s possible to be truly happy and yet to move forward and make profound changes for the better in the world.  Buddhist monks rarely seem motivated to cure (or treat) terrible diseases,* or to invent new products or technologies, or to discover new sciences.  Not to say their activities aren’t worthwhile.  Some of them accomplish real insight into the nature of the human mind.  Still, it’s telling that the end goal of (at least some versions of) Buddhist practice is to achieve a state where you stop being reborn and can finally just frikking die and cease to exist when your time comes.  I can offer anyone with that goal a hugely step-saving strategy.

Of course, I’m caricaturing the teachings of Buddhism and Buddhist monks somewhat; I hardly think I have the final word on this subject.

Speaking of final words, just yesterday I finished the first edit of Unanimity.  Yes, that was just the first one.  Oy.  But still, it was a milestone.  I’ve already trimmed about eleven thousand words from the story, but there’s a long way to go before it’s in publishable form, with lots of little tweaks and corrections to be made.  It’s hard to write a half-a-million-word novel and keep everything perfectly consistent, especially with respect to trivia such as the receptionist’s name in a medical office, whom you forgot you’d introduced once before, and so when you introduce that person again, you use a completely different name, and perhaps even a different personality.  To take just one (purely hypothetical!) example.

Of course, to the surprise of no one who knows me at all, I haven’t come to any conclusion regarding the fate of “Iterations of Zero.”  I would be less conflicted about keeping it going if I could just find the time (and the will) to write in it, or to record “audio blogs”, as regularly as I write here.  But time and will are exquisitely finite resources, even for supervillains like me.  I have to earn a living, doing things that are not nearly so fulfilling, and which bring me into daily contact with…well, certainly with many interesting characters.  In this case, I use the word “interesting” as in the (supposed) Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”  Or, in a similar vein (har), as I’ve often said to patients, “You should try never to be interesting to your doctor.”

I would love to write, etc., full time, and to produce more material of more varied nature, but money’s tight.  Of course, if my books were to become international best-sellers and were made into blockbuster motion pictures, that would help matters tremendously, but that’s not entirely up to me.  I’m too self-effacing (and often self-loathing) to be very good at marketing myself aggressively.  This is in ironic contrast to certain people (some of them in high office) who seem uniquely skilled and talented at polishing the turds that they are and selling those shiny pieces of excrement to people who don’t appear to know better…or who don’t want to know better, which is worse.

Thinking about such things too much can arouse real sympathy for the great villains of literature.

If there’s anyone out there who wishes I had time to write more and who has a lot of money or is brilliant at marketing and has some spare time and wants a challenge, you’re certainly invited to help make my nefarious dreams a reality.  In the meantime, I hope you’re all enjoying the summer.  While you do, though, as I’ll make clear in my short story Free Range Meat, you must remember never to lock your dogs in vehicles, especially on hot, sunny days.  Conversely,** if you encounter a situation in which it seems someone else has done such a thing, you may want to think twice before intervening too aggressively.  Not all is as it seems, and the road to real Hell, as we know, can be paved with the best of intentions.


*Physical ones, anyway.  The argument can be made that meditational practices show real promise in treating some psychological maladies.

**Or is it inversely?  Or obversely?

For it will come to pass that every bloggart shall be found an ass.

Good day, everyone.  It’s that morning for which you all pine each week:  Thursday morning, the morning on which I (usually) release my weekly blog post.  Rejoice!  You can breathe again.

Okay, well, anyway…I hope everyone in America had a good Memorial Day on Monday.  I always try to avoid saying “a happy Memorial Day,” since the point behind the holiday is to remember with gratitude the many military personnel who’ve fought and died in wars, etc., especially in World War II, and that’s not really a happy thought.

Of course, in a certain sense, we should be happy that these people did what they did—it’s good that the Axis powers didn’t win World War II, even despite the many missteps and mistakes the Allies and former Allies have made in the years since.  On the other hand, though, we can surely all agree that it’s lamentable that such destruction and loss of life was ever necessary.  If you stop and think about it, we should all hope for (and whenever possible, strive toward) a world in which neither heroism nor leadership are necessary, since leadership and heroism are generally required only when things are not going well.  At least, it would be nice to work toward a world in which conflict, leadership, and heroism exist in sports, in books, in movies, and in video games, but not in day to day life.

Is such a world possible?  In principle, I think it is.  In practice, who knows if it will ever happen?  I wouldn’t lay heavy money on it, more’s the pity.

On to lighter, or at least more personal, matters.  I’ve been fiddling around with sound editing/recording/mixing software, and it has continued to distract me a bit from my writing tasks, but not completely.  Though I haven’t written any new pages of Neko/Neneko for over a week, I have been editing away at Unanimity, and I’ve been pleased to find that there are some moving moments in it.  One would hope this was the case in a long novel, of course, but I’ve read a few books in which there are no such experiences.  It’s nice that, at least for the author, the book has some poignant, and goose-bumpy, and thrilling passages.  Hopefully, future readers will agree with my assessment.

I continue to entertain the plan of releasing the three short stories from Welcome to Paradox City as individual Kindle editions, and—in sort of a parallel opposite act—of releasing a collection of my more recent short stories, and possibly doing all of these before Unanimity comes out.  And, of course, before any of that, I’m going to be releasing Free Range Meat, my latest short story.  That should happen fairly soon, as the editing on it is going well, even though it’s only one day a week.

Amidst all these processes, one thing that I’ve fallen off on a bit—and which I was never terribly good about in the first place—is promotion.  Though I’ve never found it natural to advertise myself, I at least periodically used to boost some Facebook ads and the like, and I haven’t done any of that in quite a while.  It’s just contrary to my nature, at least as I am now, to shout out for attention, even when it’s perfectly reasonable, and even necessary, to do so.  Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly be pompous and arrogant in my own right (no, really!), but I’m not very good at talking myself up.  I usually feel that it’s rude to try to push myself into other people’s awareness.  This is not good, of course, for someone who’s trying to get other people to notice and read his books (or listen to his songs, or whatever).  And I myself often lament how much it’s the case that the assholes of the world make far more noise than the benign and positive people.

Of course, one ongoing way in which I do promote myself is by writing this blog (and Iterations of Zero, though that’s more esoteric).  But doing more than that is rather awkward for me.

I often envy the attitude expressed by a moment in “The Simpsons” when Marge flashes back to a two-year-old Bart walking down the hall, banging on a kitchen pot with a spoon and singing, “I am so great!  I am so great!  Everybody loves me, I am so great!”  And, of course, I’m well aware that a key principle of advertising is repetition, even to the point of irritation.  After all, if people are thinking and talking about how much of a pain you are, they’re talking about you.  But it feels like it’s all in such poor taste.

Then again, I write fantasy/sci-fi/horror, and in the latter genre, many things happen which quite a few people would say are in poor taste, or they would be if they really occurred.  Certainly, the fate that befalls the very well-intentioned and positively behaved main character of Free Range Meat could hardly be called a Capra-esque outcome.  Maybe Kafka-esque, but definitely not Capra, and definitely not tasteful.

Tasty?  Maybe.

There, that’s a little teaser for you to whet your appetite.  I can do this promotion thing.  Sure, I can.

Well, I could ramble on and on for much longer than I have, but I’ll save that for another time.  Always leave them wanting more, they say.  I wish for each of you the best of all possible outcomes from your point of view, with only the proviso that it not interfere with the best of all possible outcomes for others from their points of view.

And isn’t that the big problem of crafting a society even of thoroughly well-meaning people?


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.


Depression Can Be Powerful

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

-Kris Kristofferson


There’s a curious phenomenon I’ve sometimes noticed, wherein I find myself not exactly welcoming bouts of depression, but feeling as if they are normal for me—more truly me than other states of being.  There’s a dark familiarity that’s difficult to explain, along with a sense that my mind is in some ways clearer, saner, when depressed than it is at other times.  Certainly, my concentration often improves when I’m depressed.  I’m less easily distracted, whether by good things or bad things; it’s a curious phenomenon. Continue reading

Liberty, Independence, Rights, and Patriotism

I’m not planning on writing a great deal today, because I’m going to let other writers, of whom many of you might have heard, take up most of the space of this entry.  But I do want to preface that writing with a few thoughts of my own, some of which I may have articulated previously.

Next Tuesday is the 4th of July, on which, in America, we celebrate Independence Day, with much eating, drinking, and firework firing.  It’s a wonderful holiday, an opportunity to enjoy family togetherness in the summertime, and to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the United States, a pivotal historical event.  However, it should also be, I think, a time for Americans to reflect upon the origins of our country, upon the ideas on which is was founded, and what we need to do to live up to the hopes of its founders, whose reach—as does our own—often exceeded their grasp. Continue reading

The good/evil number line

During the last presidential election (some of you may remember it) occasional memes floated through social media making pronouncements to the effect that choosing the lesser of two evils (e.g. Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump in these memes’ cases) is still choosing evil.  These memes seemed often to come from first hopeful, then frustrated, Bernie Sanders supporters, but it’s a notion that’s by no means confined to such groups.  Ideologues of all stripes, from the religious, to the political, to the social-scientific and beyond, fall prey to the classic mental fallacy of the false dichotomy—the notion that the world is divided into two absolute, opposite natures, and that if their own ideas are pure and good (and nearly everyone, on all sides, seems to believe this of themselves), then any choice other than the pure realization of their ideas in all forms is somehow a descent into evil.  Many people implicitly believe that even to choose the “lesser of two evils” is somehow to commit a moral betrayal that can be even worse than simply choosing evil for its own sake.

I hope to explode this notion as the destructive claptrap that it is. Continue reading