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

babel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TTFN


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

Thou know’st we blog by wit, and not by witchcraft; And wit depends on dilatory time.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 75

Okay, so…

It’s another Thursday, and I again don’t have any goal or point in mind as I begin writing this weekly blog post.  There’s not much new to communicate, except to say that certain previously mentioned things are now more imminent…as, I suppose, should always be the case if any progress is being made at all.

Specifically, I’ve almost finished my design for the cover picture for Free Range Meat,* and plan to have that story out and available for purchase on Amazon (Kindle format only) before August arrives.  It will be available on Kindle Unlimited, like all my short stories, so those of you who subscribe to that will be able to read it for free.  This may or may not be the case with Unanimity when it becomes ready for publication.  The paperback version of that book is going to be sizable, and it’s probably going to be in “trade paperback” format, since in smaller form it would be quite a fat book and/or have quite small print.  I’m not sure how I’ll settle that issue.  Of course, Unanimity will also be available for Kindle.

On other fronts, I’ve been semi-obsessively laboring over the mixing and production of my latest song, Catechism, as I think I mentioned last week.  I’ve learned some new things about the process since I made Schrodinger’s Head and Breaking Me Down, and part of me aches to go back and completely redo them, but that impulse isn’t strong enough—for now—to engender action.  It’s just such a time-consuming process, and when I’m doing it, other things get pushed relatively to the side, including actual, regular practicing of the guitar and even my editing and writing time.

As I’ve said before, this would all be easier and happen faster if I were able to write full time, but since rent must be paid and food must be eaten if I’m to continue writing at all (at least, for more than a month or so), I’m afraid I have to pay those opportunity costs.  Oh, well.  I’m hardly alone in this.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make before I interrupted myself is that, because I’m learning as I go, Catechism is almost certainly going to be better produced and mixed than were my earlier efforts.  Whether or not it’s a good song is a judgement from which I have to recuse myself, being biased as I am.**  It’s peppy, certainly, and nothing like as dark as Breaking Me Down…though not as light-hearted as Schrodinger’s Head either, I have to admit.  I think my composition skills are improving along with my mixing and production skills, and hopefully that means the music is better.  In any case, I kind of like it; I guess that’s got to be worth something.

One of the slightly annoying facts about getting close to putting something out that’s not my main art form is that, as I finish, I get these gnawing and nagging ideas of more songs to do, and I have to resist jumping immediately into such pursuits.  Though editing and all related business is going fairly well, there’s no doubt that it’s been at least mildly slowed by my other activities.  And I have so many more stories to write once this one is done and published.  I have a novella to finish, tentatively titled Escape Valve, and ideas for many other short stories that would be fun.  I also have Neko/Neneko to write, and Dark Fairy and the Desperado, and Changeling in a Shadow World, and more beyond that.  I want to write the sequels to Mark Red, probably after doing a second edition of that novel.  Also, I plan to publish a hard copy collection of my short stories, tentatively titled Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which I may have mentioned before.

I really need to win the lottery (which is vanishingly unlikely, especially since I don’t play it), or to find some rich benefactor somewhere.  If anyone knows such a person, I’d be deeply grateful if you’d send them my way.

And with that thought, I’ll call the blog post good for today, and get back to those other things that won’t let me go.  I hope you’re all enjoying the summer, if you’re in the northern hemisphere (and that you’re having a decent winter if you’re in the southern).  As is always implicit, I’d welcome your comments and feedback about anything you feel like commenting on, as long as it’s in good taste…or in bad taste that I happen to share.

TTFN


*A copy of the draft of the central image is at the head of this blog post.  Yes, it’s supposed to be blurry.

**This does not always take the form of bias in my favor, by the way; I think I’m not alone in being especially harsh in judging my own works, which makes it difficult to promote them enthusiastically.  I occasionally long for the unbridled narcissism of a Kanye West or a Donald Trump.  Well…not really.  But something at least a little closer to such a state would probably serve me better than my frequent and sometimes vicious self-condemnation, overlaid upon a baseline of irritating—and rather ironic—pomposity.  Que lástima.

The art of our necessities is strange that can make vile blogs precious.

Resized_20190620_162430

 

Generic salutations, and welcome once again to another Thursday.  I’m not sure what to write today, having no specific agenda such as I had in the past two weeks.  I guess I’ll just start writing—indeed, I’ve already started—and I’ll see what comes out.

First, an update:  I’ve been working steadily on the editing of Unanimity, and I’m pleased still to find it engaging and fun.  I worried, when writing it, that it wasn’t going to be as good as the other books I’ve written, if only because it’s so long.  If brevity is the soul of wit (an unproven assertion), then its lower quality would seem to be implied.  However, I think it’s turned out better in some ways, or at the very least as good, as my other works so far.  It’s certainly my most “real-world” novel so far.  Though Mark Red does take place in what is nominally our own world, it quickly becomes clear that it’s a world in which vampires and other forms of “magic” exist behind the scenes.  Son of Man nominally takes place in the “real world,” and is science fiction rather than fantasy, but its setting, being in the future, is quite different from that of our modern lives.

Unanimity, on the other hand, is set in what is more or less clearly the modern world, and though the main action of the story revolves around something inexplicable that could certainly be called “supernatural,” this occurs as a singular outlier in what is otherwise a completely normal, real, human world.*  I won’t say that the setting is “typical” of most people’s ordinary lives; it takes place on the campus of a prestigious, research-oriented university, which is not where everyday life occurs for most of us—even those of us who have attended university.  But the people in the story are normal, ordinary people, with no experience of or belief in anything overtly supernatural.  There are no ray guns or vampires, no time travel let alone travel between parallel universes (as in The Chasm and the Collision).

It’s interesting to think, as I just now did, that almost none of my stories take place in “the real world.”  Of course, they tend to happen in universes that look and feel at first glance very much like ours, but there are fundamental departures, often forming the trigger points of the stories.  Even I for one welcome our new computer overlords, set in what should be our real world, contains elements of speculative science fiction.**  Weirdly and disturbingly enough, my most fundamentally realistic story is Solitaire, and it is also my darkest and most horrifying story (in my opinion, anyway).

I’m not sure what that says about my take on reality.

I took last Friday off editing Free Range Meat, another story where the supernatural intrudes upon what should be ordinary life, because I’ve been working on a new song.  Those of you who follow my other blog, Iterations of Zero, may know that I’ve been intermittently distracted by such things since I started to play guitar somewhat more seriously and had also learned that I could use readily available audio mixing and editing software to produce songs all by my lonesome, sometimes recording my versions of other people’s songs, but on two occasions so far producing original works.  I can’t make any claims as to the quality or the listenability of the songs, but I had (obsessive) fun doing them, and the same thing is happening again.

Like my second song, Breaking Me Down, this new song (called Catechism), is one for which I wrote the tune and most of the words way back when I was in college.  It’s an involuntary fact of my brain’s function that such things don’t tend to go away but continue to rattle and bounce around my head for decades.  I didn’t have to find any old papers with the words scribbled down (and the tunes were never previously recorded anywhere but in my mind), I simply had to transcribe them…though I changed a few of the lyrics of both songs, since their earlier versions included some rather embarrassing choices.  Of course, anyone listening to the songs as they are now may be justified in exclaiming, “These are the words he left in?  What the heck did he take out?”

Writing and producing these songs is a sort of catharsis, a way to get them out of my head and into the world.  Of course, that doesn’t actually work, since the brain is not some kind of hydraulic system where pressure can be released and drained.  Still, at least now the songs rattling about up there are—or will be—reflections of shapes in the external world, rather than merely virtual music played for an audience of one.  I can’t make any guarantees about the quality of the songs—music is if anything even more difficult to judge objectively than fiction is—but I kind of like them.  They also give me at least two or three pieces I know that I can play on the guitar better than anybody else can, since I’m the one who wrote them.  I am in all other respects a very amateur guitar player.

Once I finish Catechism, I think I’ll publish it here as well as on IoZ, and of course I’ll make “videos” of the songs and put them on my YouTube channel.  At the very least, I know that there will be no copyright claims against the videos ever in the future, since the songs are written, performed, and produced entirely by me, rather like my books.  It’s a freeing thought.

Wow, for someone who didn’t have much to say, I’ve said a lot today, haven’t I?  I think it’s probably more than enough.  I’ll just close with a sentiment of encouragement, which I hope doesn’t come across as condescending:  If you have any songs or stories (or paintings, or sculptures, or whatever) bouncing around in your head, I hope you’ll try to get them out and make them actual rather than virtual.  Somewhere out there, there’s someone who might want to experience them.  Even if you’re the only one who ever does, it can be worth it.  I think so, anyway.

TTFN


*Though I do throw in a passing reference to the setting of my short story Hole for a Heart, which is certainly a supernatural horror story.

**These may not in fact be what they seem…and if they are not, then Ifowonco would be almost a fully realistic story.

O true apothecary, thy blogs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

O true apothecary, thy blogs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

Just John

Hello again, good morning again, and welcome to next Thursday.  I promised last week that this week I would discuss the thoughts that popped into my head while listening to the second of the two songs I named last time, so without further ado, let’s jump right into Girl…so to speak.

The notion that this song relates to the experience of addiction is probably pretty obvious, and hopefully I won’t get too ham-fisted about it.  Also, I doubt that John Lennon was thinking about addiction when he wrote it, though he was to become personally all too familiar with the subject in later years.  The type of pining, obsessive love expressed in this song as very much a mixed blessing and curse, is frequent in music* and in poetry, and probably highlights a similar psychology—and even neurology—involved in the two subjects of addiction and “love”.

Of course, the opening lines of the song are nonspecific and literally introductory.  But the second couplet already has sinister undertones: “She’s the kind of girl you want so much, it makes you sorry; still, you don’t regret a single day.”  This is definitely an expression of mixed feelings; the first line frankly contradicts the second.  He wants her so much that it makes him sorry, but he doesn’t regret a single day?  How does that work?  Maybe he’s saying that, while he’s with her, he doesn’t regret it, but when he’s away he wants her so much that it distracts him and gets in his way—it interrupts his focus on other things?  We’ve probably all had something of this experience with a lover or a crush, and of course, some have this experience with other things entirely.  But I suspect that the process is similar in all of them, with the mind’s dopaminergic and serotoninergic, motivational/reward systems being keyed into a particular target, giving us the urge to seek it when we don’t have it, and an increasingly transient satisfaction when we achieve it.

Romantic, no?

Of course, the next verse becomes more sinister, with its solemn and mournful reflections:  “When I think of all the times I tried so hard to leave her…she will turn to me and start to cry.  And she promises the earth to me, and I believe her.  After all this time, I don’t know why.”

This certainly doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship, either with a person or with a substance, but it’s surely familiar to anyone who’s been in “that” kind of relationship, and to anyone who’s been addicted to anything.  You try to leave, but either literally or figuratively, that object of obsession cries out, if only in your head, and in its crying makes implicit or explicit promises that, if only you come back, you will be joyful, you will be complete, you will surely never be unhappy again.  And of course, this isn’t true.  Maybe just the very first time, a person can be excused—by others and themselves—for falling for the siren song, but after that, even they themselves, some part of them, must know that such promises are broken even in the act of succumbing to them.  But we do so want to believe those promises, don’t we?

Then, of course, we come to the song’s interlude, which is a little vaguer.  But if we’re pushing (and why not?), we can certainly say that an addiction does tend to “put you down when friends are there,” and there are surely many times when, if you can bear to look at yourself, “you feel a fool.”  The next line is perhaps straining the metaphor even further (and again, why not?), but almost all objects of obsessive affection, whether human or chemical or even purely behavioral**, surely do seem to “look good” from the outside to anyone who’s involved with them.  And, of course, they seem quite assured of their beauty, their coolness, their power, if you will.  From the outside.

And, of course, the song’s last verse more obliquely points out the contradictory notions that the pain inevitably caused by abusive/manipulative/codependent people or by the substance of addiction can seem almost as if it/they think that the pain is a favor in and of itself.  In any case, it’s all they really, finally have to offer…evanescent pleasure that’s inextricably tied up with (far more enduring) pain.  And, of course, there’s the hopeless final bit, the notion that by breaking his back—by suffering in any or all of countless ways—a person might somehow come through to the other side and achieve a “day of leisure.”

Maybe this should be likened to the treacherous notion that a person has to “hit rock bottom” before they can ever truly climb out of an addiction.  I say “treacherous” because, first, I don’t think it’s necessarily true, but thinking that it is might discourage some people from otherwise cutting their losses as early as they could, so to speak; and second, because for a large (and growing) number of people, hitting rock bottom (in addiction and even in love) means dying.  There’s no leisure after that, unless you count “resting in peace” as leisure, and I don’t think most people do, enticing though it can sometimes be.  Thus, the final line, “Will she still believe it when he’s dead?”

Anyway, again, I’m not saying that John had any comparison between love and addiction in mind when he wrote the song, but it’s pretty clear that he saw how powerful and dangerous even love itself can be, especially when the object of one’s affections is less than stable and kind.  And it’s just this kind of love that is both celebrated and lamented in so many popular songs and in poetry and in romantic stories throughout the ages.  Thankfully, it’s not the only kind of love.

It’s surely good to be “obsessed” with one’s beloved in a certain sense, to hold them as a centrally important part of one’s life, and to be devoted to them (assuming the feeling is mutual).  But, of course, if one gives one’s devotion to a person who doesn’t share or return it, and who might even hold one in contempt, then pain is likely to far outweigh any pleasure, at least when integrated over time.

Okay, enough sexy talk.

In other news, Unanimity is coming along, and I’m within distant sight of the end of my first rewrite of my half-a-million-word novel.  Cheese and crackers!  I’ve got a long way to go.  At least I’m finding the story enjoyable, especially as it gets nearer the end.  The earlier bits need a bit more tweaking than the later, but that’s the job, after all.

I still haven’t come to a final decision about consolidating my blogs.  I’m torn; I love the title “Iterations of Zero,” and I really like the image symbol I made for the site, but that may not be reason enough to keep it around.  It costs me at least a bit of money to maintain it in full function, and I’m certainly not making any money from it.  We’ll see.

I hope you’ve enjoyed, at least a little, my rather heavy-handed reaction/thoughts about Girl, and last week’s discursion on one line from People Are Strange.  Such explorations probably won’t happen too often, but for me, at least, it’s nice to have a change of pace.

I wish you all a Happy Solstice tomorrow, and in the northern hemisphere, a happy summer to follow.

TTFN


*For instance, You’ve Really Got A Hold on Me, which the Beatles covered.

**Such as gambling addiction, for instance.