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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

Some people even go


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

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

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

These are blogged in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of pia mater.

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday and so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

It’s been a particularly auspicious week for me, as those of you who follow my blog regularly will know, for this last weekend I finally published The Vagabond, a book I first began when I was in college, more than thirty years ago.  It’s amazing for me to see it out there; I received my own copy yesterday afternoon, and I’m very happy with the way it turned out.  I’m always at least a bit nervous before I see the physical form of any book, and this one was more nerve-wracking than most, because it’s a book of such importance and provenance for me.  It’s only the second full novel I ever wrote—the first is truly lost in time, and I can’t imagine any way it could be found, since it was hand-written on notebook paper, and is gone with everything else I owned before 2013.  I wish I had protected it better, or done more with it, but I had no idea that my life could take the turn it did, and I can’t change the past in any case.

That book would have needed a lot of fixing up.  I wrote it in high school, and it was quite a mess, physically, and certainly it would have required extensive editing as well.  As I might have said before, I occasionally entertain the notion of someday recreating it—I certainly remember the story, and most of the names of the key characters.  But it would take a lot of work, and I’m just not sure I’m motivated to do it, or indeed that I’ll ever really have the opportunity to do so.

Speaking of things written in high school, though, I am happy also to tell you that my short story, House Guest, which contributed to me winning an NCTE award in 1986*, has now been retyped into the computer (saved and then backed up in two places!), and I’m beginning to edit it for eventual addition to my planned collection, Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I may also add to that collection a short story I started writing in about 2012 but didn’t finish, called In the Shade.  Of course, that would mean that I’ll have to finish it now, but that’s not a big problem.  It was most of the way done already, and I know how it will end.  With those two stories, there will be at least two “previously unpublished” tales in the collection, which seems only fair to those who will buy it.

House Guest is, possibly to the relief of some readers, much shorter than many of my more recent “short stories” which are not quite long enough to be novellas but often tend to be about sixty pages long.  I wonder what’s led to me writing such longer stories than I used to write.  Some of it is no doubt just age-increased patience and practice, but I also sometimes wonder if the fact that I can write so fast on a computer leads me to run off at the keyboard and get carried away.  I may have said it before, but I can type (with a word processor) almost as fast as I can speak, and more coherently.  On the other hand, I wrote Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and my “short story” Paradox City all by hand on notebook paper propped on a “photo album”, under less-than-ideal circumstances, and they aren’t especially short.

So perhaps it’s just me, or that I’ve grown to want more detail and conversation in my stories than others might even like.  I don’t know.  I have received at least one review of my short story Penal Colony that said that they thought the conversation between the two main characters dragged on too long.  It’s a reasonable criticism, and I appreciate it very much—though, to be fair, real conversations do tend to drag on.  And I tried to use the interaction to reveal the quite unusual background of one of the characters in a natural way.  But it’s possible that I got carried away with just pleasing myself.

Of course, if I can’t please myself, I don’t know that it matters if I please anyone else.  But that’s a philosophical question not worth addressing here.

Anyway, I have tentative plans to try an experiment.  Once I’ve finished the stories for the collection, and have then finished Outlaw’s Mind (which is already being written on the computer, and became too long to be any kind of short story but will probably end up as a novella or a short novel) I plan to write whatever I write next—assuming that I’m still around—by hand, on notebook paper, though I’ll use a clipboard this time instead of a photo album sold, for some reason, in the prison canteen**.  It’s not set in stone, but that’s my tentative plan.  At least paper on a clipboard isn’t subject to power outages.

As far as being still around, yesterday I took at least one step toward making that more likely:  I got my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.  It’s the Pfizer one, and I’ll go back for my second dose in three or so weeks.  Between the vaccine and having had the actual virus, I should be reasonably protected going forward, assuming the protection is shown to last for a decent time.  Since this deed protects me and, more to the point, those around me, it seemed like the thing to do.  No protection is perfect, of course, and no one is ever completely safe.  “No one here gets out alive,” after all.

That’s a sentiment that the title character of The Vagabond might celebrate, though he tends to think that ordinary death is too quick and easy, preferring to terrify and torment the poor mortals he encounters.  If you like stories about such beings, and about the attempts of accidental heroes to fight against them, then please do pick up (or download for Kindle), a copy; I think you’ll enjoy it.

And while you’re waiting for this or my next works to arrive and/or be available, do please take care of yourselves and each other—for instance, by getting vaccinated, if you’re able, an act which works toward both of these aims.  Stay healthy and safe as much as you can and do your best to be happy at least part of the time.

TTFN

Vagabond pose pic on highway 3 posterized


*So that story is thirty-five years old, but it has in a sense been “published” or at least evaluated before, unlike The Vagabond.

**I guess the idea was that prisoners might have family members sending them photos to remind them of home, which is nice, though it can also be tormenting.  I’d be mildly interested in what the thought processes were behind the choice to make that available.  I’m glad it was, though!

The Vagabond

Vagabond ppb cover

A young teacher named Martin Wallace picks up a strange hitchhiker in an overcoat and an old-fashioned hat on his way to his new job in the university town of Eddington.

A college student named Janice Lundgren starts to have vivid and terrifying nightmares featuring a figure in a hat and overcoat, his face always obscured.

A prostitute named Ami Forrester is horrifically murdered by a man in a gray overcoat and gray felt hat. The following night, her body disappears and the doctor who was to perform her autopsy is found dead. They are not the last to die unnaturally.

In the same week, Jake Schneider, another college student, is surprised by a visit from his cousin, Scott. Though Scott initially claims to have come for a self-reflective break from his own studies, it soon becomes clear that he knows or suspects something about the murders in Eddington.

When pressured by Jake, who himself has experienced uncanny visions and disturbing encounters, Scott reveals that he is not merely visiting to take a break from college. He is pursuing the man who brutally murdered his parents…a man who wore a gray overcoat and a gray, felt fedora.

But this killer is not merely a man. He has already survived Scott stabbing him through the heart. No one who sees him can ever remember his face. And what he does to his victims is worse than murder.

Jake, Scott, and Janice, with the help of Janice’s mother, a self-proclaimed psychic, learn that this entity has come to Eddington to perform a ritual that will lead to untold, eternal horror for the entire world. And Jake, it seems, is the only one who might be able to stop it.

But how can three college students and a Greenwich Village psychic possibly stand against an entity that has wandered the world for tens of thousands of years, that can warp the human mind, that can never be recognized for what it really is unless it allows itself to be seen…an entity whose power is growing as its goal comes closer…an entity that can consume the very souls of those who might stand in its way?

In delay there lies not plenty; Then, come blog me, sweet and twenty

Hello and good morning everyone.  It’s Thursday again, and of course, that means it’s time for my weekly blog post, which is obvious unless this is your first time reading it.  If it is your first time: Welcome!  It’s great to have you here.

It’s a rather auspicious week for me, in ways that I have difficulty even processing.  A few days ago, I finished the final editing run-through of The Vagabond.  It was Monday, in fact, the Ides of March (and my brother’s birthday).  Since then, I’ve been working on layout and adjusting chapter divisions, working on the cover design, as well as adjusting the pages for the size of book that it’s going to be.  Taking care of these nitty-gritty details is surprisingly satisfying, and they also take a lot less time than the actual writing of the novel…which is good, because this novel has been in the works for a very long time.

As I think I’ve discussed here before, I first started writing this story while I was an undergrad, way back in the very late eighties or, just possibly, in early 1990.  But I think it was the eighties.  This is, of course, why the story takes place in that era, at a university and in a city that is remarkably like the place in which I did my undergraduate degree.  Indeed, a few of the major characters are quite strongly based on friends of mine from the time—though not all of them.  None of them are really based on me, any more than is every character I’ve ever written, since they come from my head and my fingers.  Though, admittedly, the main character is a Physics Major because, at the time, I was a Physics Major, and his struggle to deal with the fact of the supernatural intrusion into his reality is rather like what I think mine would be if I were to encounter such things.

The prologue of the book was the first part that I wrote, unsurprisingly.  Though there have been some minor changes, it’s largely as I first created it, and so it’s been waiting for publication for more than thirty years.  The last part of the novel wasn’t drafted until quite some time after that…certainly well into the nineties, and probably closer to their end or even the beginning of the 2000s.  I had a lot going on at the time and wasn’t as committed to writing as I am now.  And, to be uncommonly generous to myself, I’ll admit that post-baccalaureate courses, medical school, residency, and so on took a lot of my time and more of my energy.  Then, of course, came the start of medical practice, and the incomparably wonderful birth of my children, and then later, the much less wonderful development of my severe back problem and chronic pain, with subsequent career derailment and other consequent collisions of various sorts*.  Good fun.  The Vagabond himself would no doubt laugh at me heartily, but then, he’s a particularly nasty sort.

Still, though in the course of those years many things have failed, and I have failed at many things, it’s nevertheless amazing for me to know that, soon—before the end of the month, and perhaps even by the end of this week—The Vagabond will be available for purchase by the general public, pretty much the whole world over thanks to Amazon and Kindle.

It’s rather funny to realize that, though it felt like a somewhat long book when I was writing it—and not merely because I took so long to do so—it now feels comparatively short.  This is, of course, mainly because I’m finishing it just after having finished and published Unanimity Book 1 and Book 2, which in first draft was literally a half-a-million-words long.  Geez Louise.  That felt like it took a long time, and I worked on it almost uninterrupted from start to finish.  And, indeed, it did take a long time.

But though both are horror stories, The Vagabond is a different kind of horror story than Unanimity**.  It’s flagrantly supernatural, inspired by my love of the works of Stephen King, and Peter Straub, and Shirley Jackson, and H. P. Lovecraft, and others like them.  There’s even a “haunted house” in it.  Though local in scale, it’s apocalyptic in its implications and the danger involved.  This is further subtly connected to my novel*** The Chasm and the Collision, which itself has connections to my long-lost work Ends of the Maelstrom, facts of which underlie much of the multiverse of my creations, though not in overt ways.  Even if Ends of the Maelstrom existed out in the world, and you had read it, you might not recognize the connections, but they are there, in my head, and they provide some of the architecture of good and evil in many of my stories.  I don’t think this matters much to anyone’s enjoyment of any of the stories, but in my mind, at least, it’s nice to have that connection and continuity.

Anyway, I’m rambling on, talking about things that may only be interesting to me, and which may bore the bejeezus out of nearly anyone else who might be reading.  But I am, in my quiet and peculiar way, excited.  Like the Vagabond himself, I’ve been waiting a long time for this, and I wasn’t at all sure it would happen.  And unlike the Vagabond, the end of my quest and journey is one that other people can enjoy, if they are so inclined.

I hope you’re looking forward to it, at least a tiny fraction of how much I am looking forward to it.  In the meantime, please take care of each other and yourselves, and stay safe and healthy, and try to be happy as often and as long as you can.

TTFN

highway 2


*Figuratively, not literally.

**Which is quasi-sci-fi, by which I mean that the events in it are nominally “natural” but are in fact impossible according to the laws of nature as we know them.  Thus, it is really a supernatural horror story, but with the supernatural well-disguised…though I throw a nod to it by giving a cameo to a location and entity from my short story, Hole for a Heart.

***Which is not a horror novel, any more than the Harry Potter books are horror novels.  Which, of course, means that there are definite elements of horror in it—as in all good fantasy adventures, in my opinion.

There is a kind of character in thy blog, that to the observer doth thy history fully unfold.

Hello, again, and good morning, again, and welcome once again to another Thursday edition of my weekly blog post.

It’s the second Thursday of the month, and at one time it would have been the occasion for an edition of “My heroes have always been villains,” but that’s long since been abandoned due to lack of reader interest.  Oh, well, I probably would quickly have run out of interesting villains to discuss.  There are plenty of fictional baddies out there, of course, but there aren’t all that many that really merit exploration and discussion.  Villains are a necessary part of nearly any fictional adventure, and often of other kinds of tales as well, but they frequently have little depth.

One villain, however, retains acute pertinence and interest for me, and that is the title character of The Vagabond.  I’m within fifty pages of finishing the final edit of the book, and then will come the remaining layout and finishing of the cover design before publication.  That should all happen by the end of March, so that’s something to look forward to, for those of you who like horror stories with well-fleshed-out supernatural villains.  For the Vagabond is no merely supernatural force, something elemental and impersonal, though those can be wonderful antagonists in horror stories.

Essentially all of H. P. Lovecraft’s dark entities (for instance) are not characters so much as ideas, physical representations of forces of nature (and unnature).  If they have character, it is beyond human comprehension.  This can make them exceptionally frightening.  It’s bad enough to face an entity that hates you and wants to hurt you, but at least you matter to such villains.  Hate is just the opposite side of the coin of love, after all, and is a form of attachment and connection, though it’s one that’s well worth avoiding.  But Lovecraft’s beings don’t really care or think much about humans, much like Terry Pratchett’s creatures from the “dungeon dimensions”.  To them, humans are not much more than ants or cockroaches…and they are decidedly not entomologist types, so they have no affection for humans, even as subjects of study.

But the Vagabond is a character.  In fact, he’s the second character we meet in the book.  I don’t think I’m giving away any spoilers by saying that.  It’s pretty obvious within seconds of encountering him that he’s not quite…right, as it were.  For him (he identifies as male, as they say), humans do very much matter, but only because he really, really dislikes us.  It would be far better for us if he didn’t care at all.

I’ve had no success in hunting down the scanned version of my old, favorite drawing of the Vagabond (which I know I scanned at some point, and which I could swear I’ve seen sometime in the last eight years, but for the life of me I don’t know where).  I’m very disappointed.  I wanted to at least base my cover on that drawing, though I would probably embellish and alter it in some ways.  I can see the picture clearly in my mind’s eye—I’m the one who drew it, after all.  But that doesn’t mean I could reproduce it.  I’m out of practice with drawing, and practice really does make a difference.  Also, that drawing captured something that I don’t think I could mimic readily.  I’ve tried sketching some version of it from time to time, but I haven’t liked any of the results.

So, I’m pursuing other means of making the imagery I want.  I’ve done a sort of “sketch” if you will (though it’s not a drawing) of the impression he gives, and I’ll include it in this post, below.  It’s not the final form of the cover by any means—there are ways it doesn’t quite match his overall look, though it’s very close.  Still, it gives something of a taste of what I recall capturing in the drawing, and the impression I have of him in my mind.

Take a look.  See if he’s someone you would want to pick up if you saw him hitchhiking along the interstate.  I’m guessing you wouldn’t—not that you would have any choice, if he decided he wanted a ride from you.

Vagabond cover prohect 3

So anyway, that’s fairly exciting, for me, and I hope that some of you are at least interested or intrigued.  It’s been more than thirty years since I first started this novel, and to see it finally published is something for which I had given up hope.  Thanks be to my ex-wife for discovering and sending it to me (and for many other things besides)!  It was dedicated to her from the start*, and so it shall stay, departing from my usual practice of dedicating my stories to my children.  I hope, quite fervently, that she will read it (again) when it’s published.  I know she liked it, once upon a time.

And with that ironic phrase, I’ll begin drawing this post to a close.  I’m still having trouble getting into fiction reading—or even watching—and frankly, even nonfiction is getting harder to find engaging.  But my passion for writing stories (and blog posts) remains, and I hope those of you not currently suffering from my peculiar literary ailment will enjoy reading them.  And, of course, I hope that you are and will remain well and happy.

TTFN


*This may seem a strange form of honor, but trust me, it was never meant or taken negatively.  Horror fiction was one of the things that brought us together, though it was not the primary one.  I even wrote my short story Solitaire while keeping her company as she worked on a project overnight for a summer job.  She read it soon after, but it was a bit dark even for her.  If I remember correctly, she said something along the lines of, “It’s a great story…but where the hell did that come from?”  I couldn’t say.  I was in quite a good mood, since I was spending time with the woman with whom I was very much in love.  I did tend to play a lot of solitaire at the time (with real cards), so obviously that was a trigger, but as for the substance of the admittedly quite horrific story…who knows?

So we profess ourselves to be the slaves of chance, and flies of every wind that blogs

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday—the first one in March of 2021—and so, of course, it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

As is often the case, I have no specific plan about what to write today; it’s very much going to be stream-of-consciousness.  I expect this post will be relatively short, therefore, but I’ve often been wrong in this expectation previously.  We shall see.  Indeed, you can probably already see, since you’re reading the completed product, while I—the writer—will only see it as it takes form, at least in the initial draft.

First, and most important to me, work on The Vagabond continues steadily, and I’m well over halfway through the final edit.  One of the great tragic moments in the book has just occurred, and things are looking very dark indeed for our heroes.  Hopefully, they will find a way to overcome this setback, or one will be provided for them.  You shall have to wait and see, though in a reversal of the situation mentioned above regarding the length of this blog post, I happen already to know the outcome, while the reader can only bite his or her nails* and read on anxiously (when they finally have the published book, that is).

Little new has happened in my personal life otherwise, which is pretty much the way my personal life goes…such as it is.  As usual, I find many of the various deeds of humanity, both globally and locally—down, even, to the people in the office with whom I work—to be often terribly disheartening and discouraging.

Not that things are all bad; obviously that’s not the case.  But the second law of thermodynamics seems always to insist upon making its presence known, and thus it is always easier for things to fall apart than for new things to be built or even for existing things to be maintained.  This is the condition of the universe itself, though ironically it is also the very force that allows life to exist, and which drives all positive process we see.

Were entropy a general constant—as the laws of physics seem strongly to imply that it eventually will be—there would be no change whatsoever, at least no change of any significance.  Life could not exist in a state of pure and total thermal equilibrium, even though its existence is entirely dependent upon the universal mathematical and physical tendency for things to move toward that equilibrium.  This is the curious irony—which might seem paradoxical, though it is not—of the existence of complexity and life.

I think I got the following descriptive and analogous image from Sean Carroll, of a coffee cup with milk being added; it is only during the mixing process when eddies and whirls, clouds and vortices, unpredictable chaotic forms can appear.  It’s only while the drink is mixing that anything interesting, in that sense, occurs.  Once the coffee is well stirred, nothing more of interest will happen**.

Of course, in principle, it is possible for a stirred cup of coffee to unmix spontaneously and separate again into milk and coffee, thence to remix once more.  However, even on so small a scale as a cup of coffee, given the number of molecules involved and the vastly greater number of possible mixed compared to unmixed states, it’s going to take a very long time for that to happen.  Don’t hold your breath.

In fact, though I haven’t worked the specific numbers, I nevertheless feel quite confident that for the coffee cup spontaneously to unmix would take a time vastly greater than the present age of our universe.  The Earth—and any coffee cups resting upon it—will long since have been incinerated by the swelling, dying sun before any such unmixing could happen.  Taking the cup away into interstellar space would only freeze it, significantly slowing any possible unmixing process.  And, of course, coffee left out in the open tends to dry up as the water in it evaporates, and on a far shorter time scale.

Anyway, who’s going to mix and stir a cup of coffee only to leave it sit and wait for the process to reverse itself by random chance?  I don’t know about you, but if I have a nice cup of newly poured and stirred coffee, I tend to start drinking it pretty quickly.

And, also anyway, on time scales such as those involved in local reversal of entropy by spontaneous molecular motion, an astonishing number of events will have happened on the human scale.  Measured in terms of information exchange, it may be that the process of human time is literally speeding up, as computers and the internet and other means of global communication and computation fundamentally accelerate the rate of what’s happening in civilization, though the pace and duration of biological human life does not change nearly as much.

Measured in “flop time”***, as it were, the pace of events really has been, and is, accelerating.  The rate of that acceleration seems unlikely to continue indefinitely, but even if the growth curve levels off somewhat, more “things” can happen in a current decade—let alone a century—than happened throughout most of the first hundred millennia of human existence, at least from the human point of view, which is the only one we have right now.

So, though things do fall apart, and the center indeed cannot hold, it is not merely anarchy that is loosed upon the world.  As Darwin put it, during the process of entropic mixing, when all the interesting stuff happens, and driven by that mixing and that tendency toward increasing entropy, “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.”  If only he knew how beautiful and how wonderful and how unpredictable those forms are and may someday be, I think he would have been even more awed than he was.

See, I’m not a complete downer.  At least not all the time.

Well, this post is not much shorter than usual, if at all, but I think I will call things to a close here.  I hope you are all as well as you can be, and are being careful of yourselves and each other, and staying as safe and as healthy as you can.

TTFN

Cloudy coffee


*Or someone else’s if they’re very close friends.

**I’m not counting the drinking part just now.  As far as I know, there’s no one waiting to drink the universe once it’s well mixed and cool enough not to burn the lips and tongue…though that’s an interesting notion.

***I recorded an audio blog about this concept but I haven’t yet posted it to Iterations of Zero.  My apologies.

Nor blog nor poison, malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing can touch him further.

Hello and good morning to everyone reading—and since this is written language, I’m only addressing anyone who happens to be reading it, wherever and whenever that might be.  It’s Thursday again here, as always seems to happen at this time of the week, so it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

There’s not much new going on with me.  Of course, I’m continuing to work on The Vagabond, and am well into the final run-through/edit of the book, which means that shortly I’ll be laying it out and preparing it for publication.  That’s exciting, at least for me, but I hope it might be to some other people out there.  It’s a more-or-less classical style horror story, a tale of what Stephen King might call “outside evil” threatening first the residents of a small university city, but ultimately threatening everything in the human world (and—it being “outside evil”—things beyond the human world).  In the process, it does some horrifying and, I hope, terrifying things.

As I think I’ve said before, it’s a bit shorter than some of my other novels, except possibly Son of Man*, and the story moves along quickly.  I suspect that’s partly because I wrote it over the course of a long period of time—ironically—and thus tended to get on with things in the story when I took it up.  Despite that, it hangs together very nicely in style and character development and all that high-falutin’ stuff, which is nice.  I’m reasonably proud of it, as far as that goes.  And I think that other people, people who enjoy horror and who enjoy dark adventure/fantasy in a so-called real-world setting will also enjoy it.

As for everything else, well, there’s not much to say.  “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps on in this petty pace from day to day,” as the man wrote.  I’m still having a great deal of trouble even finding the urge to read new fiction—or old fiction, for that matter—or to watch movies or TV shows, or anything of the sort.  I bought the new Stephen King novella collection If it Bleeds, but I couldn’t even get well into the first story before losing my ability to sustain interest.  I’m doing a bit better with science-related non-fiction, especially physics and math-oriented material, but I burn through the books too quickly, and I’m running out of ones that entice me.  I haven’t been able to muster the enthusiasm to re-read books of that type that I’ve read before (which is what I usually do), nor even to listen to the audiobooks during my commute.  Even my go-to YouTube channels like Numberphile and Sixty Symbols are coming up dry for me.  I haven’t even watched the most recent two or three videos of PBS Space Time!  It’s very troubling to me (intellectually, anyway…emotionally it’s just the background hiss of the universe) how even the things that usually command my interest without fail, without even trying, have become “weary, stale, and flat.”

Speaking of YouTube**, it’s a common theme amongst YouTubers and bloggers and other, similar creative people to ask their viewers/readers to “like” and to “subscribe” to their channels and, if they like what they’re doing, to consider supporting them through such things as Patreon or that “cup of coffee” thing, and whatnot.  I very much like these new ways of supporting creative work, which bypass the need for interceding corporations and marketing departments***.  I’ve occasionally toyed with the idea of participating in some such service.  But I think I’d prefer just to say that, if you like my blog(s) and want to support it/them…buy some of my books!  Even if you don’t tend to read novels or short stories, or if you don’t tend to read sci-fi/fantasy/horror and whatnot, it would still be a way to support me at more than one level.

My books are all available on Amazon in paperback and e-book form, and the latest is available through Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million, too.  It gives me a little boost when someone buys one—monetarily but also emotionally, which I think everyone can I agree I could use.  More importantly for me, if you have the book, there’s the possibility that you might read it sometime when you’re feeling desperate and have no other means of escape.  And if you do, I think you’ll probably enjoy it, at least if you like those types of stories.  I’ve been told that I tell a story very well****.

Of course, you can also support me by listening to my songs, on YouTube or Spotify (they’re also up on Pandora and iTunes and a bunch of other sites for which I don’t have links, but if you go there and search for “Robert Elessar” they should pop up).  I’m not as confident that these are very enjoyable, though I like them.  But even the very long song is only six and a half minutes long, and I make a few cents every time someone plays them.  If you can Like and Share them when you listen (oh, the irony!), that’s always a bonus.  I also have some other stuff on my own personal YouTube channel, but that’s not monetized.  Still, it’s got some of my stories read aloud by the author (me).  It also has my “bad covers” of some songs I like, and one song of my own that I haven’t released as an official “single”.

But, of course, just reading and liking, and if you feel like it “like”-ing this blog is also good.  I hate trying to persuade people to read my stuff or to listen to my music or otherwise tooting my own horn.  I just don’t like myself well enough to be able to recommend me in good conscience*****.  This is where those marketing people really come in handy.  I always just feel, “Well, I know that I like it, but I’m the one who made it, so you can’t judge by me.  I can’t in all honesty tell other people that it’s great or terrific, even if I feel like it is and am proud of it, because they might think its crap.”  For reasons that are far from clear to me, I feel terribly nervous about becoming a sort of poor man’s Kanye West.  Which highlights, I suppose, the one advantage (if that really is an appropriate term, which it’s not) that bipolar disorder has over unipolar depression and dysthmymia.  Rightly or wrongly, at least occasionally people afflicted with it feel really good about themselves.  Even Stephen Fry admitted that’s a comparative benefit.

Anyway, I’ve said far more than I had to say today, so I’ll bring it to an end, here.  I honestly hope that you’re all well, and that you try to be good, and that you do your best to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

Picture5


*Which had its origin as a book idea not too many years after I had first started what I then simply called Vagabond.

**I was, you can check.

***Don’t get me wrong, I have terrific respect for marketing departments.  Before the past few years, almost all music, books, plays, TV shows, and so on only came to people’s attention—including yours and mine—thanks to the often wonderfully creative work of marketing professionals. But I suspect that industry/profession is continuing to do quite well, so I don’t feel too bad about working around them.

****But then again, I do talk to myself too much.

*****Now there’s a serious understatement.

I could be bounded in a nutshell, and blog myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and thus another edition of my weekly blog.

If I ever become the absolute ruler of the entire human world, I think I might change the name of this day in the English-speaking world from Thursday to Blogsday.  After all, what does this day of the week have to do with the Norse god Thor?  Not much, as far as I can see.  It’s merely an artefact of the past, no more relevant for modern life than the human appendix, though less problematic.  This name change would, of course, be arbitrary in a sense—certainly it would be biased, and would mean little to any who did not write or at least read blogs on Thursdays—but it seems unlikely to cause anyone harm.

Arthur Dent, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, might even find “Blogsday” refreshing.  He never could get the hang of Thursdays.  Perhaps the name change would give him at least a psychological sense that things were better, and in his case, that could be quite potent.  After all, this is the man who learned how to fly by developing the knack for throwing himself at the ground and missing.  His mindset seems to have impressive consequences.

Of course, those in nations or cultures in which Thor matters could continue to call the day Thursday; I’m not a cruel tyrant, at least not in that way.  And if there are cultures where the days of the week are named sensibly (similar to the modern Japanese way of naming months, which translate roughly as “Month 1, Month 2, Month 3, etc.”), I would be more than delighted for them to continue to use those names.

And, as should go without saying, whatever people call the days of the week in the privacy of their own homes, as consenting adults, is entirely their business.

It seems unlikely, though, that I will ever become lord and master of all humanity, and this is probably a good thing—it certainly is for some humans, I can assure you of that.  But it’s amusing to think about, at least for me, and since I’m the one writing, I can do what I want.  Here in this blog, I am lord and master, at least as much as anyone is of anything, which is not much at all.  Even Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great were never really lords and masters of much.  As witness:  they are all dead, and they have been for quite some time.  We see no evidence that this is likely to change.

Of course, in a universe of infinite spatial expanse with a maximum number of possible quantum states in any given region, there are no doubt places where those three individuals are still* alive—if that’s possible in principle, anyway, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be—and where they are at least still relatively in charge of their local area.  But that mastery is at least spatially limited, for they are as subject to the laws of physics as everything else is.

Anyway, enough thought experiments for the moment.

It’s been a reasonably productive week, and I’m quite pleased to be able to tell you that I am now on the final run-through of The Vagabond.  I just began it yesterday, so it will be a bit of time before I’m done, and then will come layout and so forth.  I’m still hoping to be able to find that old drawing of mine that I want to use as the basis for the cover.  If I can’t find it, I’ll have to try to reconstruct it in one form or another.  In any case, it’s highly unlikely that the book will be out before the end of February.  It may well be available sometime in March, but I’m not certain.

I’ve been playing around some more with my new microphones, and I’ve recorded several versions of both the guitar parts and the vocals for my “bad covers” of Julia and Blackbird, but I’m not quite satisfied with them.  I think it may be that my voice still has a bit of raspiness left over from Covid.  That didn’t stop me from doing my “bad cover” of Nude, but that song involves a lot of reverb and keyboard sounds and so forth, so I wasn’t as bothered, though my falsetto at the beginning and the end was not as good as I could make it if I recorded it now.

Oh, well, somewhere off in the distant reaches of the universe—if space is infinite—there are an infinite number of versions of me who recorded it both later and better.  But they aren’t particularly useful to me, here.

I also played around this week just recording myself practicing and singing, including doing a quick “demo” of my long-neglected original song Mercury Lamp, hoping to use that process to light a fire** in me about that work.  I also recorded myself playing and singing Karma Police, Polyethylene Parts 1 and 2, Pigs on the Wing Parts 1 and 2, and even Street Spirit (Fade Out), of the guitar part for the latter of which I’m beginning to feel just slightly proud.  One thing I’ve learned through doing this is that, with a metronome going and with my awareness of being recorded, I get very self-conscious, and I don’t play or sing as well as I usually do.  I doubt that this is unusual, but it’s good to learn it about myself, and I plan to do my best to work past it.

I’m tempted to upload some of the audio from those recordings here to my blog, especially the ones for Street Spirit and for Mercury Lamp, but I will hold off for now.  The thought of other people hearing them is both amusing and mortifying, but it’s useful for me to listen, so I can hear all the things I’m screwing up and—hopefully—improve upon them.  I’m also learning the best software to use to record these sessions, given the limitations of my computers.  Audacity, it turns out, is prone to losing data when recording (on my machines, at least) because it’s a big program and records everything as stereo, even though there’s only one mic.  This apparently leads to it getting gummed up after its recorded for a bit, and it can be quite frustrating to have sung and played something only for it to tell you “data has been lost at the indicated locations”.  Of course, those are always the places where I sang and played everything perfectly.

Not really.  But I do get terribly frustrated.

Anyway, that’s just toys and games and self-indulgence.  Writing is what I’m really about, and writing is what I’m doing now.  I haven’t done any Iterations of Zero this week, though maybe—just maybe—I’ll end up posting some of my rough recordings there for fun.  In the meantime, look forward to The Vagabond, and then both to Outlaw’s Mind and to Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which will include my long-lost story House Guest.

I honestly feel that, once The Vagabond and House Guest are out there in the world, it will be fine if I die.  Sure, it would be nice to recreate Ends of the Maelstrom, and to do Dark Fairy and the Desperado, and Changeling in a Shadow World, and to write the two remaining books in the saga of Mark Red, in case anyone wants to know what becomes of him, and so on.  But all that is asking quite a lot from the universe, and the prospect of doing them doesn’t feel like adequate motivation, let alone justification, for continuing to bear fardels and to grunt and sweat under a very weary life.

In any case, as the song says, “the losing card I’ll someday lay”, no matter what, unless this is one of those rarefied regions of the multiverse in which I will happen to live forever***.  In this universe, my kids are alive and in reasonably good health, and they’re out there somewhere living promising lives—though I never get to see them—and I’ve written several books, and even learned some guitar and recorded some songs.  And my lost works The Vagabond and House Guest have been found and will almost certainly soon be published.  It seems churlish to consider asking for anything more.

Well…except that I do ask that all of you do your best to stay safe and healthy, and I hope you have as a good a week, and as good a life, as you can.

TTFN

Hat for Vagabond

This is the sort of hat the Vagabond wears; he does NOT wear it to look good.


*Ignoring the fact that, given Special and General Relativity, the notion of simultaneity across such distances is incoherent.

**Pun not originally intended but embraced when realized.

***Now that’s a horror story!

Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his blog.

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again—the last Thursday of January already, which means that 2021 is almost a twelfth of the way over—and therefore it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  For those who find such regularities in the world comforting, I’m only too happy to provide one such for you.

I’m back at work physically now, as well as just actively, and I can tell you, even though I’m past the acute phase of Covid, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.  I’m still pretty beat up just from the after-effects of the virus, getting tired in the middle of the day when I don’t normally have that problem, finding it hard to concentrate, and so on.  And I’m pretty durable with respect to illnesses in general, having been exposed to many of them professionally, and weathering most of them nicely.  I really feel badly for people who have chronic health difficulties who then get this illness, and I’m glad that vaccines are being distributed and used.

One good thing that came of my convalescence was that, as I started to feel a bit better and the weekend came around, I decided to take another look to try to find an old picture I’d drawn of the Vagabond, and which captured his essence very nicely.  I think I’ve mentioned here previously that I hoped to use that picture as the basis for the eventual cover of the novel.  Well, I went through all my email and social media accounts to find any occasion on which I’d uploaded or attached that drawing, but I had no luck, even on my old MySpace page.  So, I decided to dig methodically through some material my sister had sent me from when she was moving out of, and cleaning up, our parents’ former house.

Well, I didn’t find the drawing anywhere in there, unfortunately, and I didn’t really expect to find it.  But I did find two editions of the Acorn, which was a xeroxed compilation of writings that had won gold medals in what our school system called the Pop Olympics.  In the earlier one, there was an excerpt of a story I wrote in either ninth or tenth grade.  I knew all about that one, and I’ve never felt any urge to recreate the story.  It was just a cheesy little thing without much depth.  But then I found a copy of the Acorn from my junior year, and I discovered that it included the full text of my short story House Guest, which I’ve mentioned here before as being the story that won me the National Council of Teachers of English award in high school!

That was a story I’ve definitely wanted to recreate if I can, and of which I had previously only had the first page or two remaining.  Now, mirabile dictu, I have the whole thing again!  It will need sprucing up, of course; I was only 16 or 17 when I wrote it, and though it won an award (two awards, I guess), it’s still not as good as I would want it to be if I were writing it now.  Nevertheless, now I can include it in my eventual collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, as a “new” story, which is good, because I don’t think I’m going to be able to fit Outlaw’s Mind into that collection.  It’s just going to be too long and will probably need to be released as a stand-alone short novel.

I also found the handwritten beginning of a short story I might have mentioned before, called In the Shade.  It’s a pretty grim horror story—grim in the sense that it involves a supernatural force that, to begin the tale, has sort of bitten off the fingers of a nine-year-old boy.  I may try to finish that story and put it in the collection, since it was almost done when I stopped writing it initially, and it’s not bad.  It just feels particularly harsh because the first victim of the story is a kid.  I worried that maybe I was being a bit too brutal.  Still, the kid turns out…well, I won’t say “all right”, but he does survive the story.  The same can’t be said about everyone in it.

We’ll see.

Of course, being back in the office as I am, I’m back to work on editing/rewriting/laying out of The Vagabond, of which I’m on the penultimate run-through.  It’s going well, and I look forward to its publication, but I might be forced just to try to recreate my old picture for the cover.  Then, I think, once The Vagabond is done and I’ve finished Outlaw’s Mind and Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, I’m going to flip back over to broader fantasy/sci-fi rather than writing more horror.  Of course, nearly all of my writing ends of having dark/horror-esque aspects, since that just seems to be the way my mind works.  But something a bit more light-hearted and adventurish might be a welcome break.  Perhaps I’ll work on Dark Fairy and the Desperado or Changeling in a Shadow World after I’m through with these*, assuming nothing kills me first.

Of course, I always have lots of short story ideas jotted down, some of which have already come to fruition, and others of which might follow.  It would be nice, in the fullness of time, to recreate Ends of the Maelstrom**, the first novel I ever wrote, and some aspects of which underlie many of the cosmologies in others of my story universes, including The Chasm and the Collision.

So, there are many tales to tell still, and there probably always will be.  Sometimes that feels like a wondrous opportunity; at other times it feels like a broad, forbidding wilderness with an endlessly receding horizon.  Mostly, both aspects are true at once, and I guess that tension can be a useful thing.

TTFN

Book in the grass


*I think I’ll put off Neko/Neneko for the time being.  I’m no longer in contact with the artist I wanted to do the cover for it, anyway, and that was the strongest impetus for me to write that as my next project.

**I actually found a few printed-out pages which included about the first chapter of that story as I had typed it into a word processor…on old, perforated, continuous-feed printer paper, of all things!  So at least I have a starting point, and of course, I know how the story goes.

Cleanse the stuffed blog of that perilous stuff which weighs upon its heart

Okay.  Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and thus to another blog post.  It’s Thursday the 14th, which feels like it ought to be some inverted, retroactive, complex-time-based lucky or unlucky day, but as far as I know, no one takes it as such.  Of course, there’s no reason to think that the arbitrary dating system we humans use should have any effect on any given day’s intrinsic “luck”, but it can be fun to think about and play with such notions.  Now, at an individual level, there are indeed lucky and unlucky days, but these designations are applied after the fact, since luck is just a description of specific outcomes of events governed by probability and statistics.

I’m going to try to keep this relatively brief, today, which is unlikely to break anyone’s heart.  There’s not much going on in my personal life (though the world, as always, continues to produce new and exciting brands of chaos).  I haven’t even done an Iterations of Zero post this week, though there are plenty of older posts to read if you’re so inclined.  I continue to struggle to work regular IoZ entries into my schedule, even though my lack of “a life” would seem to imply that there would be ample space (or, rather, time) to do so.  There are, however, simply too many empty distractions, and the ever-present problem of “will” or “drive” to accomplish things.  Contrary to what may be popular belief, willpower is very much a neurological function (interacting with other bodily states), and it is subject both to exercise and to fatigue.  It is certainly not constant, any more than physical vigor is.

That being said, my will to work on The Vagabond has seen no significant faltering.  The editing process goes well; the book is subtly improving with each run-through, which is gratifying, at least for me.  It continues to be a good horror story, in my biased estimation, and I’m pleased with my past self for having written it.  I can’t go back and give him a pat on the back directly, but I can at least thank his memory, though most other things associated with that memory trigger sadness and regret.  I suppose that’s the nature of recollections of things past, whether they are triggered by the smell of madeleines or by editing a horror novel*.

As I’ve said before on more than one occasion, my mental health doesn’t tend to be very good, specifically with respect to dysthymia and depression, when I’m not writing new fiction, but I also know that I am too prone to diversion if I interrupt one writing project—such as editing The Vagabond—with another.  That was one factor that led the original writing of The Vagabond to take so long, and also ensured that I rarely completed any long projects prior to the period when I was an invited guest of the Florida DOC.  If I allow myself to be distracted by a new creative writing idea, I will continue to be distracted, and enterprises of great pith and moment will with this respect their courses run awry and lose the name of action.

Not that I never completed anything in the past; quite the contrary.  I wrote a longish fantasy/sci-fi novel** in high school called Ends of the Maelstrom, the cosmology of which lurks still in the background of many of my other universes, though that original novel is long since lost in time like Roy Baty’s tears in the rain.  One day, perhaps (it’s a very big perhaps) I might rewrite it.  But I’m not getting my hopes up.

I also wrote at least one complete screenplay in high school (a lot of it done in idle time at my after-school job at GM, where I usually finished my official work rather quickly).  It was a deliberately cheap horror movie, which I intended to produce, with my friends playing the parts.  Some of them were good actors.  Unfortunately, the technology available to me then made it unworkable, though if I had modern video technology, I probably could have pulled it off.  It’s just as well that I didn’t, I suspect, since even one of my best friends, who was to play a major part in the movie, said that the story was unworthy of the title (Night Vision).

Well, I said I’d keep things short this week, so that’s enough recherche du temps perdu for now.  Hopefully I’ll be able to work in an IoZ entry this week, on some random, walk-in science or other.  In the meantime, I’ll wish you all the best I can realistically wish you.  Try not to let the chaos get you down, and especially, try not to let the absurd, tragi-comic antics of many of your fellow humans make you demonize and revile them or consider them inherently your enemies or beyond redemption.

That’s my job.

TTFN

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*I’ve never read any Proust.  Most of what I know of his work is from other people’s descriptions, first and foremost from the Monty Python “All-England Summarize Proust Competition”.

**It was all hand-written on very narrow-ruled notebook paper, with many digressions into the margins throughout, and was over five hundred pages long.  It would have been much longer than The Vagabond, and if I were to rewrite it now, I’m sure that I would make it longer still, because there were interesting ideas that could have been explored further than I did at the time.