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!

Thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind, for thee, and for my blog no quiet find.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday.  It’s time for my weekly blog post.  I’m still comparatively “out of it”, so I had to double-check that, yes, today really is Thursday.  I woke up yesterday feeling that it was Friday, though that might have been wishful thinking; I thought not only that it was Friday, but that I didn’t need to work on Saturday.  Both of these turn out to be wrong.  (Sigh.  Life is so tiring.)

Despite still obviously being reduced from my peak abilities by the aftereffects of Covid, I’ve had a relatively productive week.  First, I recorded and posted an “audio blog” which I guess counts as a sort of mini podcast, on Iterations of Zero.  It was triggered—weirdly enough—when I woke up the other day with the old Genesis song Land of Confusion going through my head, particularly the line about how “my generation will get it right, we’re not just making promises that we know we’ll never keep”.  I find such utterances terribly irritating, even in what could be considered poetry, and I replied in my head that, well, you might not be making promises that you know you’ll never keep, but you are making promises that you’ll never keep.  And indeed, they have not kept them.

Promising, after all, is easy.  Actually doing something takes work, usually a lot of it.

And of course, the remarks in the song about superman, men of steel, men of power, always set me off; there are no supermen, there are no “men of steel”, there are no “men of power”, and there never have been.  There are just other flesh and blood humans, just other bees in the hive or ants in the hill.

Anyway, I went off on those ideas for about seventeen minutes, since I was still fuming when I arrived at the office, and I then edited it (a bit) and posted it.

I did something a little more upbeat also, finally releasing my cover of the Radiohead song Nude, which is on IoZ and on YouTube:

I really like that song, but the process of having to correct for recording issues in the edit and mixing process finally drove me to buy a somewhat better microphone (closing the proverbial barn door after the equine had exited).  Just in playing with that microphone, I realized how much easier it makes things to have a good USB condenser mic.  I was able to record a draft of a cover of the Beatles song Julia in just one morning, which I embed here in present form.

Of course, I mixed it and did some reverb after the recording and whatnot, and it is a simpler song, but still, that’s a total of maybe an hour’s work or so (not counting learning and practicing the guitar part, of course).  And the microphone I used only cost about thirty-five dollars, so it’s definitely not a big expense.  I probably spend more than that every week on bubbly water.

Of course, I’ve continued to work on The Vagabond, but there’s not much new to say other than that I’m one week closer to being finished.  I still enjoy the story, and I look forward to seeing it published and then going on to finish Outlaw’s Mind and then putting together Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities and all that stuff.  After all that, I’m not sure what exactly I’m going to write next.  I’m going to write something, though, since it turns out the novel coronavirus hasn’t killed me*, and as long as I’m alive, I mean to keep writing.  I’ll also probably (to a lesser extent) keep doing music—especially now that I have my new microphone(s)—and I’ll probably keep doing little mini-podcasts that I’ll upload, though I don’t know if anyone likes them or wants to listen to them.  I’d actually appreciate feedback on that question, but I don’t think I’ve ever received any despite asking for it, so I’m not going to hold my breath.

With that, I guess I’m done with my weekly summary of events and thoughts, though I’m sure I could have written more**.  I hope you’re all as well as you can possibly be, and that you stay well and, if you can, even get weller.

TTFN

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*I have mixed and varying feelings about this.  In all honesty, life often does not seem worth the effort to me, which is probably part of why I love Hamlet so much.  And yet, even though people throughout the ages have noted that life is often not a net gain, particularly after a certain point, our culture allows, and even encourages, other people to hold us accountable for staying alive so that they don’t have to feel the pain of our death…even if they are not putting any effort into helping make our life worth living.  I’m not saying that other people should be responsible for making my (or anyone else’s) life pleasant or positive or whatever, but if they aren’t, they sure as fuck shouldn’t then arrogate to themselves the right to try to manipulate and coerce someone into enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune just because their deaths would cause that other person pain.  It’s logically inconsistent if nothing else.  It’s also selfishness and cruelty masquerading as humanitarianism.

Anyway, just to conclude this footnote with a request: if you are worried about someone who’s depressed or has some other disorder and you don’t want them to die, don’t wheedle or berate or manipulate or cajole them not to die just because it would make you upset if they did.  What right do you have to insist upon their continued suffering just so you don’t have to deal with their death?  If you really want them to stay alive, then make it your business to help them have good reasons to want to stay alive.  Otherwise, shut the fuck up!

**I can almost always write more.  In fact, an early pseudonym suggestion for me by my father was “Franklin L. Ritemoore”.  It took me about five minutes to get the joke, but I was only in junior high at the time, so I was less advanced at wordplay than I am now.

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.

It warms the very sickness in my heart that I shall live and blog him to his teeth “Thus didst thou.”

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Hello and good morning!  It’s Thursday, and that means that it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  I’m afraid I’m a bit behind schedule today, but then again, I’m behind on quite a number of things this week because I have been, as Disturbed might say, “down with the sickness.”

Yes, that sickness—the dread Covid-19 sickness.

A fairly goofy (but loveable) coworker came in last Wednesday feeling ill, without telling anyone, and he is not very careful with his mask protocol so to speak.  We basically ran him out of the office once we found out that he was ill (especially when he told us he had lost his sense of taste and smell!), and he got tested and was positive for Covid.  He too is currently down with the sickness, of course.

Well, I tend to be the leader-by-example at the office when it comes to mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing, but that protects others from me more than the converse*.  And thus, last Thursday early afternoon, I started to feel headachey and achey in general, and when I took my temperature, it had already risen to 100.2 F.  I immediately took myself home and have been here almost ever since.  Of course, I got tested, and it came back positive.

It’s good to be positive about something.

I tell you, this Covid is no joke.  I won’t say it’s the sickest I’ve ever been, but it’s the sickest I’ve been in quite a while.  And it definitely has a flavor all its own, if you don’t mind me putting it that way.  For instance, I’ve had very little congestion, but my nasal passages, my throat, and my chest have been tight and burning a bit ever since last week.  I stopped spiking fevers after about the 4th day, but my energy has been very slow to return.  In fact, going to get tested was one of the most exhausting things that I remember ever doing, and afterward I had a fever spike to 102 just from the minor exertion of driving to the testing center and back.  And the body aches have been at least as bad as any flu I can recall, and worse than most.

I’m steadily improving, as you can probably tell, but the DOH advised me to quarantine through the 24th, and I will follow that recommendation.  I’ve been trying to do at least some work from home, since I don’t deal with idleness very well, and there are only so many videos on YouTube in which I’m interested.  Ditto for Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and even Crunchyroll.  Frankly, none of them are terribly exciting.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much more energy to read than I have had to write.

I’m sorry to say that I have not worked at all on The Vagabond this week, nor have I written any kind of new fiction.  I have, only in the last 2 days, practiced guitar a little (about ½ hour each), which is probably a good sign.  I feel bad about not doing more, but unfortunately, I really do feel like crap, or at least, at peak illness I did.  I’m gradually improving now, but man, it’s a corker.  I can only imagine how hard this would hit someone who is a bit older and/or a bit less inherently healthy than I…though I don’t have to imagine, frankly, since we know how hard millions of people are hit by it, including 400,000+ deaths in the US and a couple million deaths worldwide (so far).

To those who say that they have a right to go out in public without masks and without social distancing because…I don’t know, because of some imagined Constitutional right claimed by people who have probably never read the Constitution all the way through nor indeed read anything not written in bold on some fly-by-night website, I say this:  You have no more right to expose other people to even a tiny increased risk of infection for the sake of your minor convenience and your spoiled, bratty tantrums than you have the right to drive drunk on public motorways.  If you don’t mind risking death for yourself, that’s fine with me; I’m here to help.  But you’re not just risking yourself.  You’re risking random fellow humans’ lives and health, and you have no right to do that.  If you insist on doing it, others would be morally** justified in killing you in self-defense.

Such people are not taking a stand to protect individual liberty and the American Way.  They are spoiled, bratty shitheads who whine and stamp their feet and deliberately spill their diced carrots whenever anyone tries to suggest that they ought to do anything out of social concern.  They are not adults engaged in a reasoned philosophical defense of freedom; they are intellectually and morally lazy cowards, and frankly, the world would probably be better off without them.

Maybe we should introduce a blanket ban on free-solo rock climbing for such people, with especially harsh restrictions against doing so in rain and snow.  We could get AOC to sponsor the bill just to give it that little extra likelihood of being rebelled against.

Anyway, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a bit miffed, at a personal and social level, by people being assholes about infection control.  I’m not as personally angry with the guy from work, because he’s mainly just terrible at taking care of himself, and he is strongly in favor of infection control, but his self-discipline is…underdeveloped.  He deserves better, but no one in his life ever trained him in such things.  I honestly hope he’s feeling okay, because he’s less healthy than I am at baseline.

And that’s about all I have to say about that for now.  I hope you all do your best to stay safe and healthy and not to unnecessarily endanger those around you.  And if you aren’t willing to take minor personal precautions to slow the spread of a deadly pandemic a bit and not to endanger your fellow humans, then I’ll just say, I hear that the Half Dome at Yosemite is really great climbing at this time of year, especially without ropes and harnesses.

TTFN

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*In that, at least, I have been successful.  Though I came to work last Thursday morning before I started feeling ill, no one else in the office has gotten sick.

**This would not be legal, obviously.  We cannot encourage or allow people to take such matters into their own hands; that’s a recipe for disaster.  But we do incarcerate people who insist on driving drunk, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to throw a little jail time at people who insist on becoming potential disease vectors during a pandemic.  Typhoid Mary was forced to spend the last decades of her life in quarantine because she simply would not refuse to work as a cook (!) and thus exposed numerous people to disease and death.  Of course, it would probably be only fair to put such reckless individuals in isolation cells, at least until testing showed them to be negative for Covid…

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.

For here, I hope, begins our lasting blog.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, the first Thursday of an already rather tumultuous 2021, and thus—“Sound drums and trumpets!  Farewell sour annoy!”—it’s time for my weekly blog post.  We thus continue the regular pattern from yesteryear.  Hopefully, some other patterns will be less persistent.

At the beginning of last year, I posted (on Facebook, I think) that I hoped that 2020 would be “the year of seeing clearly,” since it sounded like the usual pronunciation of the (American at least) description of normal vision.  Alas, as is often the case when I attempt to be optimistic, I was disappointed.  I’m also likely to be disappointed in my less serious wish that the year following 2021 should be 2223, but at least that’s just silliness, while the former was a legitimate hope.  Maybe I should stick with silliness.

I’ve been doing my best to continue with my usual processes over the course of the dismal holiday season, and thus I can happily report that The Vagabond has now entered its penultimate editorial run-through, and I’ve even begun formatting it for eventual publication.

I think horror aficionados will appreciate it, as will even some who may not be true horror fans, but who enjoy fantastic adventures interposed into seemingly ordinary reality.  Based on my own experience of popular fiction in one form or another, I suspect that a great many people do enjoy such stories.  It’s just kind of fun to think about the usual, mundane* rules of ordinary life being suspended or infringed upon by epic, paranormal events.

Yesterday I posted a new “audio blog” on Iterations of Zero.  It’s a meandering soliloquy about, among other things, the biological source of the human tendency not to appreciate what we have but only to bemoan its loss or impairment.  I did an audio blog because I had trouble writing another post using my smartphone, partly because of the continuing musculotendinous pain in my left hand and forearm.  Also, I just felt too glum to summon the will to do it.  It can be hard to find the motivation to put one’s words out into the aether.  If a voice cries out in the wilderness and no one hears it**, did it really say anything?

I gave myself the freedom not to edit out background sounds and whatnot too much for that post, to make it easier and more likely that I really would upload the recording—which I did, so I guess that worked.  I don’t know whether the audio has so many such artifacts as to be irritating, but at least I put it out there.  If anyone listens and has comments, feel free to leave them in the appropriate section on IoZ or here.

I continue to have trouble getting interested in new fiction (new to me, anyway) of any kind, whether movie, TV show, book, or even comic or manga.  This distresses me greatly, because fiction, especially novels and short stories, but also movies and TV shows, has always been one of my greatest joys.  That’s one of the main reasons I write fiction.  I bought a new tablet, of decent size, so that I could read manga and some of my old favorite comic books from my youth on it.  That pursuit ran out of steam after about one and a half days.

I still do enjoy some nonfiction—science, particularly—but I’m running out of new material that interests me even there.  I’ve read so many of the science books that interest me, and I’ve watched most of the hundreds of YouTube videos on science-based channels that I like, such as PBS Spacetime, Sixty Symbols, Numberphile, Veritasium, and so on.  I even have (in the office at work, where I’m given a fair amount of leeway, which is nice) a collection of harder science books, like Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, Thorne el al’s Gravitation, Sean Carrol’s Spacetime and Geometry, and Hawking and Gibbons’ Euclidean Quantum Gravity, but it’s hard to be surreptitious when perusing a big-ass textbook during moments of downtime, and let’s face it, those books require some real attention.  I’m interested in the last one because I was quite taken with Stephen Hawking’s notion of complex time as eliminating the singularity problem of black holes and the Big Bang, making the nature of such boundaries no more unreasonable than the fact that one can’t go further north than the north pole while on the surface of the Earth***.  But this material is…well, it’s complex, obviously, and to understand it deeply would take some real concentration.

That’s what I seem to have trouble with, perhaps.  Real enjoyment, I think, requires concentration, and that requires the will and discipline to concentrate.  I’m not the sort of person who can come and go while a movie is playing, for instance, and I get irritated when other people do it.  But it’s getting harder and harder to be interested in anything enough even to care to watch or listen to or read it, and I certainly have no one with whom I’m able to share or interested in sharing any of these experiences…not anyone who wants to share them with me, anyway.  (Can you blame them?)

Sorry, I don’t know why I got off on that tangent so much, but it is bothering me tremendously, and it makes everything else in the world seem progressively, increasingly gray, muddy, and faintly noxious.  Maybe I’m hoping that someone reading this will recognize the issue and know of some hitherto unimagined solution.  But I don’t think that will happen.  As with Moriarty and Holmes, I suspect that everything people might have to say has already gone through my mind and has been found insufficient.

I could be wrong, though.  I’d be quite satisfied to be wrong on this matter.  I don’t mind being proven wrong, myself, because what I really want it to become more right as time goes by, if that’s possible.  Maybe that goal simply isn’t conducive to satisfaction and enjoyment; I don’t know.  But if ignorance is necessary for bliss, then I guess I’d rather be uncomfortable.

Anyway, that’s enough of that.  Welcome to the new year.  I’d like to be optimistic about it, but at least if I’m not, I will only tend to be pleasantly surprised.  Stay well, and stay reasonably safe, and do your best to stay (or become) sane.

TTFN

eye testing


*Of course, they’re only mundane because we’ve become inured to their familiarity.  If you stop and read (or watch or listen to) some works on cosmology and physics or on natural history, biology, ecology, or similar things, you will encounter forces interacting at scales both vast and minute with character that the greatest mythologizers of the past could never have imagined—or would never have had the audacity to share.

**Not even the chair.

***I even used some highly bastardized related notions in Son of Man to describe the workings of the “Assembly Chamber”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN

fireworks


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

At Christmas I no more desire a rose than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled blog

Hello, good morning, and Merry Christmas (Eve) to everyone who celebrates the holiday, directly or indirectly.  Considering how pervasive it’s become, and how pervasive Christendom was and is, I imagine there aren’t too many places—in the western world, at least—that don’t have at least some peripheral awareness of Christmas.  Though it is interesting how the celebration has evolved in places that don’t have historical religious associations with it.  Based on my consumption of manga and anime, I get the impression that, in Japan, Christmas is more of a romantic, couple’s holiday than anything else*.  I have to say, I can understand that interpretation; some of my most vivid Christmas memories from my teenage years carry that feeling.  The lights and the snow and the music, as well as the associations with huddling together against the cold are all quite evocative.

Though, of course, living in south Florida as I do, snow is no longer relevant to this time of year.  I even wrote and posted parody lyrics of “White Christmas” on this blog before, focused on that fact.  Here’s the link, so I don’t need to include a copy of the words.  There’s nothing particularly clever about them, they’re just sort of ironic but celebratory about warm weather.  It’s refreshing, at least at first, to have warm weather in the wintertime, especially after having grown up in Michigan (and then living in upstate New York and Chicago and then New York City).

Of course, in Judea of two-thousand years ago I doubt they had snow around this time of year.

There are those who (as I have below), in the spirit of “The Big Bang Theory”**, spread memes of Merry Newtonmas at this time of year, since Isaac Newton was born on December 25th, while Jesus almost certainly was not***.  But Isaac Newton’s birthday was measured on the then-ascendant Julian calendar, so it wouldn’t have coincided with what we now call December 25th using the updated Gregorian calendar.  I could look up what his birthday would have been had the Gregorian calendar already been in use, but I can’t be arsed to do it.  Anyway, Newton probably was born closer to the time of the Solstice than was Yehoshua ben Yosef****.

All these things are trivia, admittedly.  But, after all, in the spirit of Ecclesiastes, “all is vanity,” which could be rendered as “all is trivial”.  And I like trivia, so…I guess it’s okay for me just to go with it.

Less trivial to me by far is the fact that the editing of The Vagabond is proceeding well.  It’s quite rewarding and satisfying to be able to make such rapid progress on it after having done Unanimity.  I love Unanimity, of course, and I’m very proud of it.  But, my oh, it was an immense labor.  In contrast, The Vagabond, while not to be released this year, will likely be available for publication in the earlyish part of 2021.  Perhaps you’ll be able to read it while you wait in line to get your Covid vaccination!

I’ve done a few posts recently on Iterations of Zero, which is a welcome change.  I decided to go with the idea of writing them on my smartphone, and so far, I think it’s working pretty well.  I did, after all, write a significant part of Son of Man on the smartphone I had at the time, and it was a much smaller, and thus less wieldy, device to use.

I have also released the “commercial” version of my song Breaking Me Down, which I embedded on my last IoZ post.  By “commercial” I mean that, if you listen to the song (or watch the “video” on YouTube), I make a tiny bit of money from it.  It’s also on Spotify and on iTunes (though I do not yet have the links) and supposedly on a whole slew of other social media and music sites, most of which I hadn’t even heard of let alone seen.  If you’re on any of those, and you’re interested, just search for the title, and my name, and it should come up.  It’s not a Christmas song, of course, and it’s not exactly a happy song, but it has a good beat, and I’m told the melody is good (I’m too biased to be able to judge), and it even includes some borderline decent guitar playing.  I like/am proud of the lyrics, but they are rather gloomy, I’ll admit.  They’re cleverer than my “Green Christmas” parody, at least.

And with that, I think I’ll wrap it up for this week.  I wish you all the very best of the holiday season, no matter what holidays you may or may not celebrate.  As Bill and Ted said, “Be excellent to each other.”  As simple advice goes, that’s hard to beat.  I suspect that Jesus would agree.

TTFN

Newtonmas (2)


*And people there apparently like to eat KFC(!) for Christmas dinner (thanks to some very impressive marketing).

**The show, not the actual cosmology theory.

***It’s my understanding that the early Christian church appropriated the date from the festival of Saturnalia and similar related and pervasive solstice celebrations.  Of course, given the current “conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, and some of the amazing photos circulating online of it, it’s not inappropriate to think of Saturn now.

****Of course, if you believe in the literal truth of the story, then a more appropriate Hebrew-ish version of his name would have been Yehoshua ben YHWH.  But that’s hard to say.

All my books and stories are available and would make excellent Christmas gifts for book lovers!

Hello and good morning.  It’s not Thursday today, of course, but I just thought of something that I wish I had thought of and posted yesterday instead of the rather rambling and negative post that I did create.

Although it’s probably too late for Hanukkah*, it should not be too late, if you have avid readers on your list of Christmas gift recipients, to order them a copy of one of my books, if you think they would be interested.  I have six titles available in paperback through Amazon, which I’ll summarize here:

Welcome to Paradox City IconWelcome to Paradox City:  A collection of three dark “short”** stories, one of which is a light-hearted near-comedy and the other two of which are darker.  The first, The Death Sentence, is about a man who finds a previously unnoticed room in his public library, and in it discovers a bizarre but intriguing book containing illustrations and writing in languages he doesn’t know…but which also contains one particular line that can be at least pronounced, as it is written in Latin characters.  He only slowly discovers the secret of that sentence…and of the rest of the book itself.  The second story, If the Spirit Moves You, is about a man who suddenly discovers that he can see ghosts—or “the unquiet dead” as they prefer to be called—and that he may well be the only one who can, and who can help them make contact with the modern world.  The third story, Paradox City, involves a man who enters a popular but rather peculiar nightclub, which bears the name of the story’s title.  Though the entertainment is good, and the service is excellent, and he meets and falls for a charming young woman who is equally taken with him, this is a club in which peculiar, impossible, sometimes paradoxical, and ultimately horrifying things can happen…and if you make the wrong decision, you might get stuck there forever.

Mark Red Cover

Mark Red:  Mark Reed, the title character (obviously), is a teenager who spots an attempted mugging and rape.  He tries to intercede to help the woman, but her assailant stabs him, giving him a mortal wound.  However, it turns out that the mugger’s target was a vampire, who deliberately put herself in the situation to prey on the criminal.  She makes short work of her assailant, but then has only one way to save Mark, which she feels compelled to do because he got hurt trying to help her.  She gives him some of her blood to replace what he’s lost, turning him into a demi-vampire—with a combination of the aspects of humans and vampires, the nature of which state he learns over time.  The vampire, Morgan, determines to stay with and protect Mark from his own urges for blood until such time as she can find out how to cure him, for as she explains, contrary to popular folklore, a full vampire can never die at all, even if they wish to.  And if Mark ever kills a human by drinking their blood, he will become a full, uncurable vampire, cursed with immortality.

41lnfutijalSon of Man:  David McCarthy, a college student in Chicago, is going to the university library one morning when, without transition, he finds himself in a featureless cylindrical room.  The wall of the room opens, and two men—Anderson and Greer—eventually explain to him that he is now more than two hundred years in the future.  They tell him that only a few decades after the time from which he was taken, an apparent global thermonuclear war, now call the Conflagration, destroyed civilization and most of the people, but that the human race was saved by a “man” now known simply as The Father, who united humanity, willing or not, under his control and guidance, and rebuilt civilization, with his astonishingly advanced technology and inexplicable genius.  He also initiated the “domestication” of the human race, killing any person who initiates violence against others, and sterilizing their first-degree relatives.  Though grateful for the Father’s rescue of civilization, the two men, their friend Michael, and some others think that he has gone too far, and they enlist David to help them either convince the Father to abdicate or to find a way to remove him…choosing David for reasons that he at first cannot believe.  The Father has an enemy within his own mind—a mind that now spans the entire world—and that enemy wants to help them overthrow the Father.  He alters David in an inexplicable way and assist the group in their quest to achieve their goals.  But his motives are not certain, and he also reveals to them some secrets of the Father’s past and nature that horrify them, especially David.

CatC cover paperbackThe Chasm and the Collision:  Alex Hinton and his friend Simon come home from middle-school one day and find that Alex’s mother has, apparently, left a newly purchased and unrecognized—but delightful-smelling—bunch of berries in the fruit bowl in the house.  Alex tries the fruit and discovers that it tastes even better than it smells, and he shares it with Simon and with a girl name Meghan, on whom Alex has a crush.  Soon, Alex and the other two begin seeing and hearing seemingly impossible and sometimes terrifying things, which no one else perceives, and they begin developing new, amazing abilities.  They also find a strange apparent “space warp” in the wall of the dining room of Alex’s house.  Eventually, they are accosted, captured, and brought back to what turns out to be a piece of another world—Osmeer—which is the counterpart to Earth, but in a universe that lies adjacent to ours in higher-dimensional space.  They learn that some process has set the universes on a collision course, and that if they collide, the impact will wipe out everything in both universes in a new Big Bang.  A great genius of Osmeer has created what is called The Chasm—a way of taking part of Osmeer out of its world and positioning it between the two universes to hold them apart, at least temporarily.  Within the Chasm, that part of Osmeer has permanently sunset-colored skies, and time flows there roughly thirty times faster than in the original universes.  The pre-teens learn that in the other universe, not only are there intelligent “dinosaur dogs” called tixuns with advanced sense of smell, who work with humans, but also intelligent, furry “mole-weasel” creatures called orcterlolets, that can tunnel and build by manipulating the fabric of space itself.  Most amazingly, they learn that all the plants of that world are conscious, and can communicate with each other telepathically, as well as with gifted humans and tixuns called Gardeners.  The man who created the Chasm has also helped breed and create a special tree, called Wynestrith, whose purpose is to save both universes by returning them to their proper places.  Alex, Meghan, and Simon have unwittingly become embroiled in that quest, and they learn that there is a cult, and a Prophet, and a much darker and more terrible Other, an Ill Will, that wants the collision to happen, and that only the three friends, working with Wynestrith, will be able to prevent the collision, and the destruction of two universes.  But they will have to survive to do so, and also—hopefully—they will be able to succeed without their parents and teachers finding out they were ever gone.***

Unanimity Book 1 simple Cover ProjectUnanimity Book 2 simple Cover ProjectUnanimity Book 1 and Unanimity Book 2:  Charley Banks is a pleasant young university student, majoring in English, with a long-term girlfriend he loves very much, nice parents, and a positive outlook on life.  He takes part in a seemingly harmless neuroscience experiment, testing a new form of external magnetic cortical stimulator, innovated by one of the school’s professors.  After the test, though, in the follow-up MRI, he has a severe grand mal seizure.  When he wakes up in the hospital, he discovers, to his amazement and delight, that when he touches other people, if he focuses on the curious sensation that now happens at the point of contact, he can merge with their minds, taking over their nervous systems, replacing their consciousness with his own, but with access to all they know and are.  At first the union only lasts while he’s touching them, but soon this ability grows, and he is able to maintain his presence in others even after separating.  He then becomes able to control more than one person at a time, and then becomes able to extend himself further using bodies he already controls, all while still controlling his normal, original body.  He keeps this gift secret even from his girlfriend (at first), and as the power grows, he decides to use it to correct some perceived and real injustices done to people he cares about.  But his methods are extreme and horrifying, and it becomes clear over time that his mind has been altered in other ways than simply giving him his new abilities.  This becomes still more dangerous when he discovers the astonishing effects of having a person die while he’s controlling them.  His power, and his willingness to use it, seems to grow without obvious limit, and even after a few other people, including his girlfriend, learn of his ability, and of his altered character, its unclear what, if anything, can be done to prevent Charley from someday encompassing the entire human race.

All of these titles are also available in Kindle format, including Son of Man, for which I somehow failed to link the paperback and the Kindle versions.

I also have several “short” stories that are only available in Kindle format for now, though I plan to collect them into a paperback edition along with a new novella soon.  Most of them are available through Kindle Unlimited if you’re a member, and anyway, they’re less than a buck apiece if you buy them.  I won’t go into too much detail; instead, I’ll copy the blurb from each listing on Amazon.  My short stories tend to be rather dark, and most of them would count as horror (not “Ifowonco” or Penal Colony, though).  They include:

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords”:  Peter Lunsford, a lonely, book-loving, self-educated and self-destructive salesman, has an abrupt and radical change of fortune.  His subsequent actions lead a genius named Darrell White, enabled and inspired by Peter’s choices, to create the world’s first artificial intelligence.  Unfortunately, this happens at a time when humanity has devastated itself with global war and is unprepared to accept the existence of these new and superior minds.  These facts will combine to create a future that Peter would not have had the courage to expect, and the implications of which are impossible to foresee.

Prometheus and Chiron:  Tommy—a former Marine, a part-time construction worker, dependent on opiates for the treatment of chronic pain—is waiting for the train home one evening, when he sees a strange, shivering, ill-appearing woman seated on a bench across the track from him.  Her presence fills him with dread and revulsion, for no reason he can understand.  Even after a month passes, she remains seated in the same place, always visibly suffering.  No one else at the station ever seems to see her at all.  But Tommy sees her, and even dreams about her.  And she sees him.

Hole for a Heart:  While driving through central Pennsylvania on a road trip from New Jersey to Chicago, Jonathan Lama spies a peculiar pairing on top of an approaching hill:  A huge pecan tree, next to which lurks an out-of-place scarecrow.  Intrigued, and craving a break in his long drive, he pulls off the highway and goes into the nearby gas station.  There, he hears the story of a man named Joshua Caesar, a person of possibly supernatural evil, who terrorized the region almost seventy years before, and was finally brought to rough justice by his neighbors in retaliation for his crimes.  Local legend holds that the figure of the scarecrow is Joshua Caesar’s body—not changing, not decaying, staked out next to the highway for nearly seventy years.  Jon is entertained but of course does not believe the tale.  Then his car suddenly refuses to start, and while he waits for a tow-truck to arrive, stranger things begin to happen…things which lead him to doubt his sanity, and to wonder if, just maybe, the legends of Joshua Caesar’s unchanging scarecrow corpse are actually real.

Solitaire:  (This is my oldest—and darkest—published short story.  It’s not for the faint of heart.)  It’s the early nineteen-nineties, and Jerry, a successful advertising executive, is having a breakdown.  He’s done too much shading of the truth, and he’s watched too much Headline News, and he can no longer make sense of the world.  Now, sitting at the breakfast table, he contemplates the possible future for himself and his family while dealing out a hand of solitaire…

Penal Colony:  While heading for his car after a night out celebrating the closing of a big deal at work, Paul Taylor meets a strange, despondent man, poorly dressed for the cold, who seems horribly depressed by some personal setback.  Still slightly drunk on both alcohol and success, Paul invites the man for a cup of coffee and some food at a nearby all-night diner.  There, this peculiar man tells Paul of a conspiracy begun by the creators of various social and virtual media companies…and of technology that allowed these conspirators to control the minds of the people of the world for their own personal enrichment.  He tells of the overthrow of that conspiracy by a group of which he had been part…a group which had then turned on and “exiled” him.  Though the man’s story is engaging, and the man himself is personally convincing, Paul is forced to admit that he has heard of no such conspiracy or overthrow.  The man finally explains to Paul why he hasn’t heard of it.  It’s an answer that Paul cannot believe…until the man proves it.

Free Range Meat:  Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day?  Brian certainly would.  As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can.  So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.  But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV?  Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside.  And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off?  What breed of dog makes sounds like that?  These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.

That’s everything (so far).  None of it is, perhaps, traditional Christmas fare, though CatC is a fantasy/sci-fi adventure whose heroes are middle-schoolers, so its arguably a holiday-worthy story.  But a book, like a puppy****, is not just for Christmas.  Most people can’t read one of my books in one day, in any case.  And to a book lover, there is rarely any better gift that can be given than a new book.

(I would advertise my songs here as well, but they definitely aren’t holiday-type ditties.)

Happy Holidays!


*Except for Kindle books, of course.

**I use scare quotes because though not truly novellas, they are quite long for short stories, especially Paradox City, which gives the book its title.

***This is my most “family-friendly” book.

****Which is also very good cold on Boxing Day.

The beauty of the world! The paragon of blogs! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s Thursday again, and thus it’s time for my weekly blog post.  I have no idea what I’m going to write about today—I have no agenda in mind other than to carry out the weekly ritual, which is a good thing in and of itself, I guess—so I’m just going to start writing and see what happens.

I suppose this is what we all do whenever we’re in a situation in which we converse with other people; we just say whatever we say, without thinking very much about it ahead of time.  Indeed, it may be that most of our real thinking, most of our logical, linear, rational thought, happens in the form of conversation, either between people or in our heads.  We often don’t seem to know what’s going to come out of our own mouths—or out of our minds, so to speak—until it comes out.  Of course, we could probably make some broad predictions about what sorts of things are likely to come out, based on our own experience with ourselves.  I, for instance, am unlikely to start discussing the latest events in the lives of the hottest new pop stars, or the surprising happenings on some reality TV show.  But what exactly is going to come out, I discover in much the same way that someone reading my writing or hearing my speech will.  I just may be less surprised.

It’s not too difficult to predict, of course, that I’m going to write about how The Vagabond is going.  It’s going well.  I’m almost halfway through my latest iteration of editing/rewriting, and I’m happy to say that—in my opinion, at least—it’s improving as I go along, and I still like the story, and very much like the characters.

These latter facts are more reassuring to me than might be obvious because it means that I can enjoy at least some fiction still—at least my own, up to a point.  I emphasize this because of an ongoing problem that I think I’ve mentioned before.  For some time, now, I’ve had increasing trouble getting interested in any new fiction of any kind, even in rereading (or rewatching) stories and authors (or directors or actors or subjects) to which I’ve always been able to turn in the past.  I’m even getting lassitudinous* about much of the music that I usually enjoy, including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and so on.  If I go to my Spotify “Main Playlist”, into which I’ve stuffed almost all the songs I can find that I would have been happy to hear if they came on the radio (back in the old days), and I hit “shuffle play”, I can skip through entry after entry that comes up, saying, “Nah.  Nah.  Not right now.  Nah.  Meh.  Never mind.”  Off goes Spotify.

Hitherto, I’ve been able to maintain interest in the various nonfiction books (and YouTube channels) that engage me, often ones about science or math, but even that is beginning to peter out.  I have to scroll madly through my Kindle library to find a book that will catch my slightest interest**, and even the various science books mostly seem banal.  Yes, even Brian Greene and David Deutsch, Sean Carroll and Max Tegmark, even Richard Dawkins and Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan for crying out loud can’t draw my attention.  Jonathan Haidt has at least been able to provide some engagement for the moment, but his stuff is pretty quick reading.  This is a compliment to him, but unfortunately, I’ve only got three books of his, and am on the second reading of the second of the three already.

Despite the oodles of quality shows being made by the likes of Netflix and Disney and Amazon and the various more traditional sources, I can’t seem to find any will to watch any of them.  I ought to be thrilled by the prospect of watching The Mandalorian, but I haven’t even started the first episode.  I cannot conjure any desire to do so.  Ditto for various animes and dark sci-fi programs that have come out, as well as movies, and so on.

It feels as if I’ve somehow been stranded in the south Pacific, where I’m just treading water in the middle of a very large expanse of ocean.  The water’s warm enough, so I’m not in danger of hypothermia, and there don’t seem to be any sharks about to add a bit of excitement.  The weather is basically calm.  And I know that I can keep treading water indefinitely, and I even seem to have enough food and water with me, somehow, to last a lifetime if need be***.  But man, it’s so boring.  The biological organism, the deeper, older parts of my behaviors and drives—what Haidt would call the elephant—is built to keep treading water, and it seems to want to keep doing that, whether or not there’s any good reason, so I have to keep doing it.  But even it seems to be getting bored.  There’s no land in sight, and in fact, I know there’s none for hundreds or thousands of miles.  And the only ships known to frequent these waters are pirate vessels and smugglers.

Okay, I’m getting carried away with the metaphor.  Sorry about that.  But I did say that I didn’t know what I was going to write about, so whatever came out came out.

I hope you all have a wonderful week, anyway.  Seriously, I do.  And I hope you stay healthy and safe, and that you enjoy the various holidays as best you can.

TTFN

Ocean


*Is that a word?  It should be.  If not, I’ll make it up.

**Not pausing even for a moment on The Lord of the Rings, or anything by Terry Pratchett, or the Harry Potter books, or the works of David Eddings, or Isaac Asimov, or Orson Scott Card, or any others of their previously ever-thrilling ilk.

***It’s an analogy, so I guess I don’t have to be too particular about such things, but darn it, I can’t help thinking to myself, “How would that even work?  Where would I keep such food and water?  Is it in some floating pack of some kind?  Do I have a distillation apparatus in the pack, or a reverse osmosis system?  If the pack floats, why am I treading water?  Wouldn’t it make more sense just to hold onto the pack, or to ride on top of it?”