Remember when I was Funny?

THE WORLD, HUH?

Yesterday, I went to the coffee shop to sit in the corner for reasons of getting used to being in public, but mostly to feel different from everyone else and reinforce my arrogant and pompous sense of self-loathing. And then work myself up to a full fit of hating myself for hating myself, which I consider to be the most philosophically pure form of hating myself. And then to ponder how ridiculous that is, and why can’t I just stop doing it?

I ordered a caramel slushie (which is called a blended latte, but I’m white trash enough that I don’t stand on ceremony) and forgot to get a straw. So, as I was drinking my caramel slushie, thinking how deep and dark and profound I am, all of it came rushing toward my face in an avalanche and got all over my nose and eyes.

I had to do one of those super undignified snort-blinks like a horse does when it’s trying to clear its nostrils after dipping into a trough.

For a moment, it was like I was standing outside myself watching it all happen. Big Shrek-looking guy in a corner with caramel slushie all over his face. I couldn’t help but giggle uncontrollably for a bit as I wiped it off my face. I think that’s my favorite thing about the world. The little reminders that I’m just human and the world isn’t there to reinforce an internal narrative I have about what a melancholy misanthrope I am.

The world, huh?

I’ve had some pretty good laughs lately at my own expense. Seems likely to continue into the future. Feels good in a good way. The Wojtek tattoo seems to be doing a pretty good job of reminding me not to be so damn sullen.

YOGA NIDRA

I’m always kind of embarrassed when something new-agey works on me. But I have trouble staying asleep. Left to my own devices, I just get up after about three or four hours and stare at the ceiling for a bit. I also, generally, don’t dream. If I do, it tends to be a fucked up night terror dream.

Until I discovered the magic of Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra is basically an app you can download (or find on youtube) where someone speaks to you in a super soothing voice like they’re trying to calm down a startled horse (lots of horse analogies today) and guides you through a “Sleep Meditation.”

They basically get you into a position where no part of your body is making contact with another part, have you shift your focus around to different parts of your body as you relax each bit and usually I fall asleep about six minutes in and stay asleep for a good seven hours. I also have crazy, erratic normal person dreams that I can never remember upon waking.

Almost as though I am a regular human being who is subject to the exact same rules as other human beings.

Anyhow, if you  have trouble falling asleep and getting good sleep, and don’t want to screw around with medication, I highly recommended Yoga Nidra.

I’M SEEING SOMEONE, ISN’T THAT WEIRD?

It is. But also normal. I also feel normal about it. Which is the weirdest thing.

The world, huh?

TIDE WORLD SHORT STORY SNEAK PEEK

Still a first draft. Working on this one and two others slowly. Going to focus on quality. Hope you enjoy the preview.

It was the work of Sue’s life keeping her boys from getting kilt.

This work began, most mornings, with breakfast. As her pack of varmits would sooner pull ore from the mountain till they dropped dead than think to pull food from the supply wagon, it was up to Sue to feed ‘em and keep ‘em alive. That morning, she poured out seven flapjacks on a giant iron skillet next to seven thick slices of bacon, one for each of her sons.

With just her and so many mouths to feed you couldn’t make too much at once. Skillets only got so big. As it was, they’d get two more of each after the morning chastisements and prayers, but they always needed some incentive to wake up first. Especially this morning.

Sue snorted and used her spatula to flip the flapjacks. Little varmits had been giving her nothing but sass since bringing back victuals from the Barony Mining Town the other day. She shook her head and muttered to herself. Put a man in a Barony Mining Town and he got all kinds of hog wild ideas on how to get hisself kilt.

In nothing but a pair of long red underwear, Sue turned one way, then the other, cracking her back and watching the sun rise over distant purple peaks. Lit the sky on fire with all sorts of oranges and reds and golds. The world hadn’t been so kind to Sue as to leave much poetry in her, but there weren’t many sights more pretty than the Haredo Mountains at Sunrise. Gave herself a minute to stare and smile but no longer than that. Couldn’t let flapjacks burn on account of being slack-jawed and sentimental. Not when there was work to be done.

Pursing her lips, Sue let loose a whistle loud enough to call down an avalanche in winter. This done, she hit the inside of a triangle with the spatula. Lastly, she coughed and spit her morning tobacco into her cuspadora with a loud metallic ting.

“Come on boys, up and to it! Spun Fire ain’t gonna dig itself!”

Silence answered from their tents.

“Consarn it! I told you Grag, I don’t mind if you been at the drink. You’re grown, but when you drag all your brothers into it, that’s when you raise my ire.”

There was no answer, not even the usual half a cuss from Grag.

Muttering under her breath, Sue put three more thick cuts of bacon on the skillet. There’d been near two hours of chastisement last night. Then an hour of prayers. Varmits had probably been up half the night gossiping. Some damn fool sailors from Omverness had found their way out to her mountain and filled her varmits’ heads full of all kinds of nonsense about revolution.

Well, spit on that and she did. There was another loud metallic ting. She had too many years keeping her boys alive to see them kilt in some war.

“All right boys, that’s enough. Come on out. We’ll talk peace over breakfast.”

They’d all gone to bed angry. Sue had never seen her Grag so furious, what with saying he was over forty years old and a widower and could make choices for himself as if he had the sense the Fathers gave a pig. But still… the way he’d looked at her, he might as well have buried a pick in her old heart. All of them had looked at her that same way, staring at her like it was her fault they couldn’t get on a crew anywhere else. Like it was her fault she was Handsome Sue Stover and her name was known all over the mountains for putting an end fourteen men in mining duels. As if she hadn’t given all that up. As if she hadn’t spent her whole life regretting it, and had fourteen children to replace every man kilt.

Times past, Sue wouldn’t have slept a wink so she could keep an eye on them. But she’d been tired. So very tired. Thinking of all those dead men always made her tired and it seemed mining was getting harder every year. But they’d promised her. She’d made all of them promise they’d tell her if they got any damn fool notion to leave. So she’d felt safe to sleep. Safe to run away from the eyes of all those dead men she’d kilt.

And when you got to be Sue’s age, life couldn’t change that much in one night… could it?

Sue frowned and watched the bacon sizzle. Much longer and it would burn. The boys never came for the first whistle or the first triangle but usually the smell of bacon got them up and moving by now.

As though in a dream, Sue hit the triangle with the spatula again. Loud. Thunderous loud. Loud enough to wake the dead.

“Boys?” she hollered.

Any minute now they’d come growling and cussing out of their tents. She fanned the air over the skillet toward the tents and waited. She waited. And waited.

There was no answer save the soft bray of Temptation, her mule and confidant, as he rose from his sleeping place at the entrance of the mine shaft and sauntered over to her. Numbly, Sue shoved a plate of bacon and flapjacks in front of the hungry animal. The only sound in the camp was the donkey jawing on bacon.

A dread rose up in Sue’s belly, like the touch of firedamp on her stomach way down in the deeps of the earth. Like the premonition of an explosion or a cave-in. Like the knockers knocking out a warning of dead miners on the mountain.

She shot a panicked look far off into the distance to the Barony Mining Town down the the mountain. She thought of the sailors come from Omverness. Thought of their talk of war.

They’d never. Not her varmits. Not to their old mam.

“Grag? Lil’ Joad? Clem? Rumber? Nedbert? Big Upple? Gregorianus?”

The names rose in volume as Sue went from tent to tent, throwing the flaps open and tossing blankets. There wasn’t a child to be found. Every tent was as empty of life as the deepest mine seam.

At last, in Grag’s tent, she found what she’d feared. A crumpled little note written on the back of a Pillar Company Catalog: “Mam- Went Ofta Joyn the Wor! Luv, thu boyz”

It had finally happened.

Her boys had run off to get kilt.

Larry Correia and the Ecosystem of Ideas

sullivan

image from Hard Magic (The Grimnoir Chronicles)
*
Ideas are funny. They’re also weird and serious and by definition anything else that a person can imagine. But perhaps the funniest thing about ideas is how they jumble together in our brains so that we’ve got Sports and Dinosaurs and Outer Space all sitting there next to each other.

Doesn’t seem to be possible, does it?

Yet right behind our eyes we have mathematics and art, reason and insanity, rapt attention and insufferable boredom. Now consider this: As human brains are the only place where ideas are known to live, and the very largest human heads only have a circumference of about three feet, the two most diametrically opposed thoughts you can conceive have never physically been more than about a foot apart.

Ideas are “just there” without any concern for the appropriateness of their juxtaposition with other ideas. Go generate two random Wikipedia articles and marvel that the same type of creature wrote both of them. While this is mysterious and wonderful and poetic it also causes most of the friction in the world.

That’s part of why I’m writing this. Perhaps the biggest part. We’ll get to the rest in a bit, but we’ve got some more work to do first. Right now, we’re going to get through one of the most abstract but on-point segues ever made.

In some way that no one really understands, ideas all connect to and imply the existence of each other. Ideas even lead us to discover other ideas that no one ever had before we decided to follow the first idea. What this means is that even though no one understands why, parallel lines and transversals imply geometry. Geometry implies architecture which implies buildings which implies both people without buildings as well as universities. In turn, this implies some of the people without buildings will eventually show up at the university.

This leads me to a story, its moral, and a review of several books.

Like most colleges, mine had its fair share of indigent individuals adding flavor to society. Several of them frequented the campus itself. As a group, they could best be described as “professorial.” Their clothes tended to not be very nice, while also having once been very nice. This was because, in their own way, I believe they were showing deep respect for the university. And though their jackets and slacks had fallen into a state disrepair this is also true of most professors. Most importantly, they carried themselves with the worldly air that only comes from long and considered thought.

For whatever reason they were exclusively male and tended to arrive, as a department, a little before noon. Once in position, they would set up stalls made of shopping carts covered in:

-Nevada and Oklahoma shaped pieces of cardboard, painstakingly filled-in with illegible squiggles from mostly dried-up markers. I believe these were meant to be proofs.

-Magazine clippings that seemed to have gone through a development process of being dunked in a mud puddle and left for several years to dry in the sun. The remaining image was, at best, subliminal.

-A few photos so unrelated to one another I believe they must have been taken out of a dozen different family vacation albums that had been thrown in the garbage.

Thus styled, the department engaged in their unpaid occupation which was to educate the students of my college about things which didn’t exist.

Chiefly:

-Hillary Clinton is a 7th level Illuminatus Warlock

Which in turn implies:

-Hillary Clinton

-The Illuminatus

-The Existence of Magic

-The Existence of a Magical Rank System with at least Seven Levels

-That Women can be Warlocks Too

There were other areas of study. I believe Lizard Men at the Center of the Earth may have been discussed for a quarter. Numerous Shadow Governments were examined and discussed. Numerous Cryptozoids were ruminated upon and theorized. The Federal Reserve being well… the Federal Reserve was a yearly and particularly troubling favorite because of how little needed to be embellished.

If I’d stayed longer than I did, I’d no doubt have a doctorate in dozens of conspiracy theories.

Point is, if you shove enough ideas into a person’s head the ideas start to crystallize into a miniature model of the universe. Like a snowflake, no two quite the same. That’s what makes us people. It’s what separates us from the animals. And that universe of connections can look like almost anything. Anything at all. The same ideas can connect in infinite ways.

Now, a moral and then we’ll get to the book review.

One of the more mathematically inclined of the indigent professors displayed his research on a bright orange flagger jacket and yelled with his abdomen, that if you:

Take the square root of STD’s, raise this to the power of the FBI, then divide the result by the CIA and perform several other operations with other government acronyms that it all meant “Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior Get Saved Now Factorial Factorial Factorial.”

Most people walked by and chuckled.

But if you looked very closely at the back of the flagger-jacket you could make out a spot where, quite separate from everything else, had been written that “2+2=4″ inside a protective black box.

The moral being, there’s always some sense in everyone no matter how opaque their worldview might seem and that “2+2=4″ is true no matter how many times you’ve tried to find the factorial of a messiah.

*****

My favorite thing in life is reading. I like to look into other people’s heads and see how their ideas are crystallized. I like to feel things I’ve never felt, think things I never would have thought, and mostly I like to know that the world is bigger than me and there’s more of it than I can ever see or understand.

The more I know I don’t know, the more I know is left to discover.

I also like reading because we’re all a mosaic of ideas and books capture that mosaic better than just about anything else. Books even let you take some of those ideas and patterns for yourself. After all, ideas are the one thing you can take from someone else that they’ll still have after you’ve gone. When someone writes a book, what they’re really welcoming you to do is ingest their ideas. They’re offering, freely, a bite of their imagination. What fools we would be not to partake.

Which brings me, finally, to author and internet lightning-rod Larry Correia.

If this has seemed random, meandering or unfocused it’s because I wanted to say only what I mean to say and as little else as possible. That requires context and apparently about a thousand words of anecdote and musing on epistemology. But I’ve found I can’t discuss Larry Correia without discussing Larry Correia’s ideas and by extension my ideas about ideas.

I’ll bring it all together, I promise.

Larry is a science-fiction and fantasy writer. He writes what I can only describe as “fun Fun Books.” Meaning fun books which are also in some kind of Fun subgenre that hasn’t yet been fully explored or defined. Every word Larry Correia puts down is done in service of a mission, executed with military precision, to give his readers as much fun as humanly possible. Every writer has a primary gift and Correia’s is to make you feel what it was like to be an invincible teenager again.

Right out of the gate, if you pick up a Larry Correia novel it’s like someone unscrewed the top of your skull and dunked your brain in Joy Juice. He takes everything from 80’s Horror Movies to Noir Detective Novels and supercharges them with excitement, youth and vitality. His novels in the The Monster Hunter and Grimnoir universes read like ace novelizations of big budget Hollywood Summer Blockbusters you saw when you were young and the world was new and shiny. The stories set entertainment as the highest value and deliver it consistently.

Larry has a new fantasy book out in e-ARC that’s sort of Middle-East/Asian/Indian setting with a story that feels like 70’s and 80’s sword and sorcery. I read it within two days of its release and enjoyed it immensely. As it’s an ARC it’s probably not the best place for a new reader to start, but it’s Correia having fun in a whole new genre. I look forward to its continuation.

Why does the hero have to fight a creature that gets more skilled every time he beats it? Because it’s awesome. Why is the magical heart that endows everyone with super powers running out of magic? Because it gives the hero something to think about. That’s all the explanation that’s needed or asked for. Larry reveals exactly as much as he needs to and no more. The consistency of tone, the movement of focus as well as the button-tight plotting transforms these unexplained events into virtues for Correia rather than leaving them as lazy omissions. A writer comes into their own when the things they’re not doing work for them as well as the things they are doing and Correia has had that from page one.

Correia is a modern Robert E Howard, churning out pulp at a prolific rate with skill and care and concerned chiefly, in all ways, and I can’t stress this enough, with the enjoyment of his readers. Correia does this with a masterful skill and ingenuity. If you’re looking for a page-turner, you’d be well-served by starting with Hard Magic: The Grimnoir Chronicles.

I had never heard of Larry Correia when I picked up his book. I just needed a distraction and I’ll read the Dictionary if it’s handy. I picked up Larry’s work with the understanding that it had a lot of “guns” in it, which I don’t know much about, although the “gun” thing sounded like a thing people say when they can’t think up something more meaningful. In any case, I bought it and I found a lot more than just talk about guns. I found adventure and stoic heroes and, well, everything I said up above. I read the first three Monster Hunter novels in as many days.

I set the books down and thought “This is going to be like where I read Fantasy novels in high school in my small town and thought I was the only person who had ever read the Wheel of Time.” I figured there’d be several thousand reviews. When I looked on-line to find more of Correia’s works, I did find some talk of how good Larry’s books were, and he is doing really well financially, but what I mostly found on blogs was talk about Larry Correia… being Larry Correia.

Which brings me back to ideas, and tying this all together.

We’re almost done. I promise. There’s just this last bit.

The community of science-fiction and fantasy writers is going through something of an ideological revolution. Although, from what I gather, this revolution has been going on in different forms for about the last seventy years, since the founding of the community. Whatever the cause, political ideas are everywhere in science fiction and fantasy.

Honestly? I find it all a bit tiresome.

Not because I don’t think those kinds of ideas are important, but just because authors tend to be very good at authoring and less good at talking about politics. Also, as someone who has seen his fair share of human horror I get somewhat annoyed when people run up to me in assumed postures of indignance and/or excited tones and say what basically amounts to “It’s so easy for you to stand there when XYZ hasn’t happened to you!” about things which have actually happened to me.

Not that I then use this as a reason to take away another person’s context, as I think we can all agree that would also be really annoying. It just makes me sigh and rub my eyes a bit and count to a number until I can remember to ask “What’s going on now?”

That’s probably indicative of my annoyance with United States politics in general, of which the SFF upheaval is in many ways but a microcosm, but I find it no less frustrating for being smaller in scale.

I feel like a person who likes coffee in a world where every coffee shop is a Starbucks running a year round #RaceTogether campaign. Except in this case everyone wants to yell at me about rape and make lots of insulting assumptions about my own personal history with sexual abuse. Just because I want to follow their twitter and know when their next book is out. It’s gotten to the point where I only follow about three authors on twitter, just so I can avoid getting bummed out eternally.

But ideas are important. Not every cause can have a Nelson Mandela. Ideas are the most important part about being human. And I’m not saying people should shut up just because I find them to be tiresome.

In the world we live in, Activism is the engine that drives improvement for social institutions. Activism is everywhere in science fiction and fantasy. And, again, that’s fine. I can’t say that enough because even though I’ve never been to a con, I guess there are a lot of really creepy dudes that show up there. And I guess there are also a lot of dudes who are really angry at someone they never had a chance to work things out with, and they take it out on women in the field online as well as in person. And that’s wrong.

No one should have to put up with creepy dudes. And I guess these creepy dudes need to be taken into a corner and chewed out and they’re not getting taken into a corner and chewed out. Or, I guess, bounced from wherever they’re being creepy at, or put in the back of a police car if they’re getting illegally super creepy.

That sounds like something that really important that needs to get done.

I’m pretty sure everyone agrees with that.

Larry Correia tends to pop up in the middle of these things, either dissenting with whatever happens to be the topic of the week even if he largely agrees with it, or getting selected as the face of evil. Except Larry Correia isn’t an evil person. What he is, is a dissenting loud person, like the proverbial bull in a china shop, or a WWE Wrestler giving the Pre-Match Smack Talk except on C-Span. But so far as I know, he’s never killed anybody, beaten anybody and all he’s hurt are feelings. While hurting feelings isn’t necessarily polite, it’s also not criminal or unforgivable.

It took me several months to figure out what I want to say here, because I found I can’t talk about Larry Correia and how good his books are without talking about his ideas. I also feel like I have to dance though a field of protective museum lasers to get at what I mean. Politics are Correia’s second career and difficult to overlook. Not talking about it felt false. Whether by choice or necessity, he’s pretty much the only sizable voice within the SFF community who openly has a different mosaic of idea-crystals than the other big players.

A lot of people don’t like Larry Correia because of his ideas.

Which is fine.

I don’t imagine Larry Correia particularly cares whether or not he’s liked by everyone. He’s got a mansion and a family. I’m not asking anyone to betray their beliefs. What I want to say about Larry Correia is that he’s necessary. He’s absolutely essential.

Ideas are meant to be an ecosystem. They’re meant to compete inside of our heads so we can find the best one. At its highest state, which it so rarely achieves, that’s what politics is for. And that means, even when it’s hurtful or perhaps especially then, there’s supposed to be somebody standing up in the middle of a group and saying “Nuh-uh!” to every idea presented, no matter how reasonable.

Larry Correia is the “Nuh-uh-er!” for the community of science fiction and fantasy.

That’s not meant to be dismissive. Nor was my story about the indigent professors meant as a direct analogy. Having someone there to say “Nuh-uh!” so you can feel properly challenged and check a box isn’t what I’m talking about. “Nuh-uh!” is your chance to take a gut-check and see if you’re right. “Nuh-uh!” is your chance to see if you’ve got it all wrong somehow. “Nuh-uh!” is there to keep you honest.

So far as I know, there has never been a political party which in hindsight had it all correct. There’s never been an individual politician who has not committed some transgression worthy of reprimand. We’re all human and we’re all flawed. As long as you’re not killing anybody or hurting anybody, there’s room for talk. So, I don’t know why the world always gets itself so hung up on “sides” especially “my side and “the other side” when it comes to ideas. The only side you should ever be on is the side of the idea that you personally think is right after you’ve had a chance to mull things over.

I don’t agree with a lot of what Larry has to say politically, but he is a fantastic author. He just is. He puts in the work and it shows in his books. Isn’t that amazing? Even if you disagree with him, or even especially then? Isn’t it awesome that a guy who says all these things you don’t agree with also has a square box on the back of his flagger jacket where he’s written “2+2=4?”

A while back, I did something I usually don’t do, because I consider it to be one of the most undignified things a person can do, which is I wrote a blog comment that wasn’t entirely 100% supportive. I know. I’m ashamed of myself too. I had a point though. A very important one about ideological purity tests and people turning a blind eye to things about their own “side” that they’d rather not have to see.

In retrospect, I could have written the same comment without naming the names I named. Except I got pissed and I put what was personal above what was important. I’m sorry for that. But I had a point. I did. I promise.

I don’t want to get too detailed because that’s not what this is about. I also don’t want to even risk starting an internet mob, as mobs are one thing I find truly disgusting about politics. The only ideas mobs have ever been about is feeling anonymous, mean and wrathful. And I know, deep at the center of my thought crystal, that people are meant to be seen, kind and merciful as they possibly can be.

Larry Correia amplified my comment. He made my “Nuh-uh!” matter. He helped me to be heard. In the Ecosystem of Ideas, he served his function.

If you’re reading this and you’ve ever run into Larry is a context where he’s been a dick to you, hey, I get it. He’s said a few things that have made me groan, though most people in SFF have. I’m not expecting you to love the guy. Just to know that he has a place. He’s supposed to exist. And I’m sure if you got him in a quiet human moment he probably doesn’t have fangs. That is something that tends to get lost in these idea revolutions. When you start putting people in a context and look at their entire shape pretty much everyone is human. We’re just meant to yell at each other sometimes. It makes me groan a lot, but I guess it’s the way the world works since it’s never been any different.

We’re done now. Thanks for sticking through that. I know it was a lot.

To be or not? To be. That is the question.

A VARIETY OF VALOR

Suppose there was some kind of mountain lion outside of my home. Imagine that this mountain lion has killed several of my neighbors in a graphic horror-movie fashion.* Worse, imagine that this mountain lion has slain all who stand up to it, is rumored to be magical and old men whisper that if you ever hear its disembodied purr you are fated to die within the day.

For further evidence of this mountain lion’s evil: Sulfur and ash have been found in pentagram patterns at its kill sites, it has been seen both teleporting and transforming into a cloud of bats. Needless to say, the “authorities” can take no action other than to advise people to stay indoors.

In this world, I leave the comfort of my home at my own peril.

If the existence of such a mountain lion were communicated to me I would, immediately and without hesitation, work to obtain some kind of weapon/lure/understanding and prepare myself to “deal with it.”

The idea of staying indoors for the rest of my life or waiting for someone else to help wouldn’t even occur to me.

I reflected on this the other day as I was preparing myself for a walk. The walks are part of my “don’t be so damned awkward in public” training. I promised my therapist I would say hello to a stranger every day for three weeks, which means going out in public. I’m a big man with giant ham hands so me being awkward in public has connotations of “So, are you a serial killer or something?” which is not something that bodes well for any kind of future that involves other people. If I ever finish a damn book, it would probably be better if I can sell it without people being afraid of me murdering them.

So, I prepared myself to go on a walk.

Just a simple walk outside.

One foot in front of the other.

I could strangle a mountain lion if necessary. I could unravel the arcane secrets of its power and use its own magic against it. I am, apparently, boundless in my ability to abuse magical animals without hesitation. So what danger could a walk present? I’m a big guy. I can throw a mean right hook. I’ve broken numerous punching bags in my life….

Yet I was seriously inhibited in leaving my home by the fact that my neighbor was trimming a tree in his backyard. He was positioned right at the start of my route. There would be no avoiding him. Putting one foot in front of the other would take me right by him.

The possibilities exploded in my mind.

At the very least, I would be obliged to nod at him. I could tolerate that. I might even be able to manage the word “hello.” But God forbid we make small talk. He might ask me about my yard. He might want to know if I was thinking of building a patio. He might want to know why I don’t have a wife.

Then, of course as is perfectly reasonable, the president might suddenly appear with the White House Press Corps in tow. The president might get weirdly accusatory and ask me about my job and education. I would have to stammer and stutter my way through the truth, which is that I hate myself so much trying to be successful at anything feels sinful.

He might ask me what I was planning to do with my life if I was so smart. Didn’t I have an obligation? Didn’t I owe something to the world? Wasn’t I confusing existing with living? Worse, the president might ask if I am pompous and arrogant for supposing to have a high intellect without having to manifest it in some endeavor?

Then, I’d look over at the White House Press Corps and realize everything is being nationally televised.

Naturally, my childhood heroes would then appear and ask me if I am really happy with my life. MacGyver and Doctor Samuel Beckett (with his holographic guide Al) would try to give me stern tough-love and put their hands on my shoulders. I’d barely be able to wheeze out I don’t like to be touched before starting to almost-not-quite-cry. They’d be confused then angry that I had ever dared imagined them as my role-models. My dead grandfather would turn out to be alive and shake his head in shame that I had failed to live up to my potential, let alone being reduced to a mumbling idiot embarrassing himself in front of the world.

I’d try to run. It would be the only option left. The one gap in the crowd would close when my ex-romantic partners showed up to shout detailed accounts of my personal failings. In front of the people who look up to me and depend on me to be strong. My clothes would catch on fire spontaneously, and I would still be standing there naked and badly burned in front of the president, my whole family, my childhood heroes and my ex-romantic partners.

MacGyver would sigh and shake his head in exasperation.

The clouds would part and God would appear in the sky. He would descend and say that He truly believed He could forgive everyone in the world, no matter what they had done, until He saw me. God would decree that while He could stand aside and do nothing in the face of disease, murder and environmental catastrophe that He could not leave the world alone with me.

The world would disappear around me, then. Existence would wink out. I would be left floating in space. Endlessly falling through the black with nothing to do but examine my every inadequacy.

All because I went outside and nodded at my neighbor.

How could I face that?

So I got very frustrated with myself and did some push ups and planks inside of my home and was very angry that there wasn’t just a stupid magical murderous mountain lion outside. Fighting a mountain lion outside is easy. It’s the mountain lions inside your head that are damn impossible to beat.

There are flavors of courage. A whole variety of valor. I have many in abundance. Others, I lack almost entirely. That bothers me.

I’m writing this in a coffee shop, by the way. I can do okay most places if nobody know who I am or what I’m doing. A small thing I know, but it’s a step in the right direction.

MORE TERRY PRATCHETT THOUGHTS

 

One of the hardest things in life is internalizing that other people are every bit as human and important as yourself. Feeling the full truth of that simple fact is overwhelming and hard to do on a moment by moment basis. It’s even harder when you have to think about another person’s every day courage. I’ll explain.

I had a good grandma and a bad grandma.

Everyone cried when my good grandma died. I had to get up and read the part of the Bible about ashes to ashes and dust to dust and so forth. It was damned hard to get through, even though I don’t really believe in God. My jaw quivered at every word. I loved that tiny precious little woman.

She was the sort of person that hesitated to cheat at solitaire. Always showed up with a meal when someone was hungry. Her gossip consisted of caring about people who weren’t there. When she started to lose her memory, she subscribed to a mail service that would remind her of everyone’s birthdays so she could still get a card out on time.

I also had a grandma where the only people crying at her funeral were people who felt ashamed they didn’t feel like crying. I’m certain a large number of the people there only showed up to make sure she was actually dead. When we were offered a chance to share uplifting stories about her life, everyone just looked at one other. Finally, my father offered a story ostensibly about his mother standing up for him by beating up the editor of the local newspaper until he gave my father a paper route… but which was actually a story about her running a protection racket for paper boys.

I say all of this to illustrate the point that, even though all people are equal, the kinder someone is the harder it is when they die. Not that it’s easy when someone truly horrible dies, it just feels like someone flipped the light switch in a room where the bulb had already burned out. Still dark, yes, but no light was lost.

Terry Pratchett made a sword out of a meteor rock, advocated for Alzheimer’s research and stood to be counted when the time came to avenge a local flock of geese. And that’s just the stuff I know about that made it onto the internet. I can’t imagine all the tiny moments of consideration and warmth he gave to those who knew him in real life.

So when Neil Gaiman got up on a stage and talked about his friend the same day he found out his friend died, I have nothing but respect. He just went out and did his job to entertain the people who had showed up. Very hard and very respectable.

I always feel a bit of a fraud when I get sad about the death of a celebrity. I get what I can’t help but think of as a very appropriate sense that I’m infringing on the legitimate feelings of others. But Neil Gaiman was incredibly generous in recounting stories about his friend, who was surely a light who left behind a noticeable absence, and sharing himself with others. Not something I could have done, and I find I very much respect it.

While I loved all the pictures of Terry and Death, I couldn’t help but imagine his family might not be as thrilled. Must be hard to lose a public figure like that when other people are intruding, however politely, on your grief. I try to ground my care in actual people as much as I can. That took away a lot of my enjoyment. I did however love XKCD’s tribute, which is as fitting as any I could imagine.

MY OWN WRITING, OTHER THINGS I HAVE READ

I’m poking at a couple of things but over the last week I keep thinking “Well, this isn’t as good as Terry Pratchett” then sighing for a long while. I wonder if I’ve ever really said something that needs to be said before. I want to say something that’s needful. So I’m ruminating on that and chugging along.

I’m working on several reviews because I seem to have become better at those as of late. I like the format of the “Pretzel Lasagna” review where I start with an idea and then explore its application. I feel the most important thing to do as a reviewer is to let someone else see how I perceive beauty. That makes the world bigger and better and I want to press forward on that front.

I read Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Glamourist Histories” and found them to be extremely delightful. Put me in mind of the time I drank watermelon juice after a long hot day of helping my brother roof his house. Just wonderful in a way I wasn’t expecting and hadn’t had experience with prior. The work put into them really shows in a “I personally could never have done this, and therefore respect it” kind of way. I could sense the dedication put into them and I got the sense they worked exactly as they were meant to work. Also very much appreciated the gender commentary in the books in a way I’m still trying to fully articulate. I read all the books in a few days. Still organizing all of my thoughts on that. I recognize not every thought I have is useful to other people so I’m trying to suss out my “useful” thoughts.

Also working on a review of Joe Abercrombie’s latest, which I keep at poking at trying to find the right things to say. It’s about how it’s right to make violence ugly. I keep subtracting my personal context from it, which I can’t insert like I did in the old days without feeling like “This is going to scare  and alienate people.” The review is about how it’s right to make wrong things feel wrong. Also about how just because you need to do something that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Feel a bit inhibited because I like Joe as a person and have now met him in real life (and have the deep understanding of his soul that only a few hours over coffee gives) so saying something positive just feels like brown-nosing. Which makes me wonder what it is about my psychological make-up that makes me seek out angst and conflict and feel that liking something by someone I like is wrong.

Still poking at a review of Larry Correia’s stuff in a way that I hope will not be like kicking a hornet’s nest but also not ignoring the hornets. I don’t really want to become a lightning rod of controversy for the obvious agoraphobic reasons stated above. I’m trying to find the words for a context that illuminates and humanizes and also helps explain that having people who strongly disagree with you about fundamental things is healthy and important even when (perhaps especially) what they have to say really deeply hurts. It’s also about things being what they’re supposed to be and how something being “fun” isn’t less valuable because it’s “fun.” Sometimes you need “fun.” I’ve been poking at the review for several months trying to say what I mean to say and nothing else. Not saying something else that you didn’t mean to say is always the hard part. I’ll continue to ruminate and focus on finding needful words and just wait until I can say something needful.

*I don’t know how it got into popular culture that a mountain lion will not kill you if you leave it alone. While this seems to be correct on first examination, it is not the whole truth. The only reason a mountain lion won’t kill you is if it thinks that it won’t “get away with it” which is not quite the same thing.

Sir Terry Pratchett

Terry_Pratchett_2005

Today, I am sitting in my Barndis (a shed in my backyard which is painted to look like the Tardis) and missing a man I have never met. That is a strange thing, I suppose. Not just the Tardis shed, but the presumption that by enjoying someone’s art that I dare presume to miss them. But I do, I just can’t help it. This morning, when I found that Sir Terry Pratchett had passed, the pain in my chest was no less real for having never laid eyes on him.

I miss him, terribly.

I learned of his passing a few hours ago. I am now wondering what I have to say as well as what I have the right to say. Mostly, I wonder what needs to be said. Terry Pratchett wrote needful words. He wrote things that you didn’t always want to read, but things you needed to read. Things that made you stronger. He wrote books where magic was practicality and good sense and caring about people. He wrote books where incantations were saying true things to make people better. I’ll do my best to find such words, but I am out of practice and only hope that what words I find will do justice to the man.

Terry Pratchett wrote seventy books. Enough of them were perfect that you can safely conjecture they were made so by intention rather than by accident. Listing their titles and describing them would be longer than this tribute and could take an afternoon. Nor would I want to take your delight at discovering them yourselves. Not one title was a wasted effort. Even his earliest works showed breath-taking promise and insight. With few exceptions (barring only those that I have squirreled away until I reach the winter of my life) I have read them all.

I know nothing of fine wines, fine food or fine clothes but I know fine books and his were the best. Read those books, please. Read all of them. You owe it to yourself.

There will no doubt be a thousand tributes written in his honor. Not one of them will be enough. They will say things like “master fantasist” and “one of the best of the modern age.” They will declare that he was popular and critically-acclaimed and well-loved. They will all be wrong, if only by omission. Never has a man been so simultaneously praised and underrated as Sir Terry Pratchett.

Sir Terry was not simply a master fantasist, though he wrote fantasy. Nor was he just one of the best writers of the modern age, though he wrote in the modern age. All of those appellations fall short. Only the following statement can be stated honestly, and then only as fact: He was one of the greatest story-tellers in the history of humankind.

I do not imagine he thought of himself that way. Not after reading his books. They show too much focus on the work. Too much craft and care and mastery. I doubt he spared much focus to think of his legacy beyond the practical matters at the very end. From my study of such things, I find that authors who believe themselves to be the best and fret over their legacy never quite reach the level of Sir Terry. He was, quite simply, a man who could sit down in a chair every day and write two thousand words without seeming to worry about anything other than doing his job as perfectly as possible.

People said he was funny. He was. Very much so. But more than that, he was human. Our language fails to convey a great depth of meaning when using that word as an adjective. But when I say that he was human, it is the highest compliment I know to pay. In his works, there is more of what it means to be human than I have read, seen or heard elsewhere. There is more of true dignity, wisdom and grace than I have elsewhere imagined between the pages of his novels.

That is why words fail.

Imagine you knew of a man who knew more about what it is to be alive than almost any person now living and then imagine all anyone could say about him was that he made them laugh? Imagine you knew of a man who knew that strength comes from inside and from being afraid and working against it and people could reference only his jokes? Imagine a man who knew sense and kindness and justice and then try to describe him as “popular” or “charming” or whatever else.

Such poor compliments leave a bad taste in my mouth.

I cannot compliment him enough. I cannot praise him too thoroughly. I can only say the best things of him that I know to say of anyone.

He was a human light. He was brave. His anger was not ugly but righteous. He was all that I aspire to be and more. Please read him if you haven’t. Give him three books, enough so you see the book between the books, and you’ll be his forever.

I have most of his books and am forever giving them to people. I’d give them to you if you were nearby. It is strange that the finest books cost the same as the most bland, but they do. They’re well worth it. Barring that, you can also get them for free in libraries. However you get them, please do.

To start, I recommend: Small Gods, The Wee Free Men and Nation.

Farewell sir.

You Are All Champions Made from Smaller Robot Voltron Champions

Howdy All!

See how I used a folksy greeting, an all encompassing general address and then wrapped it all up with an exclamation mark? And then did that rhetorical question thing to invoke conversational flow? That’s right: I’m being professional. Like when I used that colon right there.

Thanks for downloading and spreading the words to your friends for the ebook promotion. We downloaded just shy of 100 ebooks. Still no new reviews but I know it takes some time to digest stuff (and also that I personally dislike reviewing things on Amazon so I can’t really expect you to either) so no worries.

I just really like to be read.

I didn’t push this as hard as I did the last time, but I still saw some people reaching out to others on facebook and twitter. Since I’m at literally about 1/1000 of my former traffic, it’s nice to know that all of you that are left are staunch soldiers who will destroy relationships and your own credibility in the interests of advancing my “career.”

I only hope I can be worthy of your continued loyalty.

I had to sacrifice pretty much the entire months of January and February to working overtime but I’ve got some serious vacation coming up this month and April. I’m planning to spend a great deal of that locked up in my shed trying to finish up the first draft of that novel I outlined that I’m semi-terrified of actually finishing. No promises. I am committed to making it good not just readable.

I took down Nikola Tesla’s Unicorn Pigeon, by the way. I’ll have to get around to removing mentions of it as well. I read it again and it just didn’t hold up very well. Not a terrible story, just not good enough to ask people to pay for.

I’m going to try to pump out something shorter in the interim. Thank you all for being awesome!

And for a pic, here is my kitchen shelf which features several of my major life heroes: Theodore Roosevelt, Doctor Who, Mark Twain, Xena Warrior Princess, and a Tiki statue which I worship for smiting the Brady Bunch at the height of their popularity.

Also, three bottles of wine, a mason jar with a photovoltaic cell that makes it glow in the dark, a brass grasshopper, a coin I got at the Worldbuilders store, a humidor full of cigars, a silver butter dish I gave to and then sadly inherited from my grandmother,  a purple cave my little sister made in her art class, a tea-service-thing I inherited from my grandmother, some jars I liked, and two pig chip-clips.

Oh, and the wooden spoon my grandpa carved.

myshelf

 

Progress

Thanks to everyone downloading things! The eBook promotion seems to be going well. Let’s keep up the awesome sauce and keep on downloading! Tell your family! Tell your friends! Grab strangers on the street by their lapels and shout it in their faces!

Here’s where I’m at for the moment in the rankings for things like “Best Books by Guys with Initials for First Name in Alphabetical Order”:

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Making Deals with Devils is sitting at #7 for First Nations fiction and #29 overall for Literature & Fiction Short Stories. What does that mean? Probably that someone at Amazon has studied psychology and math and figured that by making lots of sub categories it will simultaneously make people feel important and give a sense of prominent shelf-space to lower volume books.

But keep clicking!

It’s free!

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Dunce Upon A Time: The Complete BC Woods Fiction is sitting at #81 in Science Fiction & Fantasy (and then Fantasy again for some reason?) Anthologies & Short Stories! Behold the fruits of my inability to stay present in reality for any length of time! If you like the Tide World or Making Deals with Devils this will have tons of stuff for your perusal.

Notice how I just said perusal. I’m not going to make lots of promises. It’s free!

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Rock Bottom: A Novel in 12 Steps seems to be performing the best and this pleases me. It’s #3 for Literature and Fiction, Literary Fiction, Psychological Fiction? AND also #22 in Mystery Thriller and Suspense and then even more Suspense! I don’t know what that means, but I guess it’s awesome in a suspenseful way? I have therapy tomorrow so it should be a nice thing to talk about.

I am doing this because it just feels good to be read, and also please review? The reviews are nice. AND if you don’t like it and want to leave a bad review that’s cool too. Or if you just want to read and don’t want to be bothered that’s completely fine. I personally fall in the “don’t want to be bothered camp.”

I promise I’m okay with three or even one star reviews, though.

Only happiness makes me cry.

 

So… I forgot I did this…

Legitimately.

It completely slipped my mind, but I made pretty much all of my ebooks free. Except for the family stories which it wouldn’t let me do for some reason. I figured there’s no reason for people to believe in me until I show I’ve still got some chops. So here’s some chops.

Anyhow, I didn’t remember I did this until I checked my kindle sales tonight so I could figure how good I deserved to feel about myself before going to bed and saw I’d moved about 25 books without trying. Then I remembered: I made it all free.

I’m pretty sure it will let me discount the family stuff in the future, but in the mean time enjoy all of these. Rock Bottom should be entirely new to almost all of you. I liked it and it did make a few people cry, so there is that.

My Bear Arm

wojtek

As promised, I have a tattoo. I am now insufferable both for having a tattoo as well as for talking about it on the internet. I add these to a list of innumerable insufferabilities I have committed in the name of seeking human connection. As to the plaid, this is just something I wear and not an effort to appear more masculine.

The Bear Icon is Wojtek, the soldier bear. The icon was inspired by an actual Syrian Brown Bear who held the rank of corporal during WWII, served in live combat and saluted his fellow soldiers. He also smoked cigarettes and drank vodka. I chose his emblem because it simultaneously reminds me that anyone can do anything and also demands that if a bear can carry artillery boxes during the battle of Monte Cassino, I can damn well write something even if I feel depressed.

If there is some other historical bear who worked in a hospital, healed the sick and peacefully fought prejudice I will happily get a tattoo of that bear as well. For now, the warrior bear will have to suffice. So it goes.

The Latin is from a poem I wrote. It’s private for now. It translates roughly to: “Light requires nothing but the fact of its own existence” or perhaps “Light needs only to exist.”

If you have read Making Deals with Devils you might understand the reference.

THE GETTING OF THE TATTOO

Long story short:

I went to a place.

They had people who could make tattoos there.

I got one.

Short story long:

There was a baby wandering around this particular parlor when I arrived, who looked not unlike an adorable turtle. I wasn’t quite sure why he was there but I knew it wasn’t to get a tattoo. I did not judge him for this as he seemed a decent fellow. I said hello to him and he jumped up and down and made a series of motions and sounds which basically meant “the world, huh?” to which I replied “Crazy, isn’t it?” He made sounds to indicate his agreement and we shared a laugh.

I like kids.

Then his mother concluded her business and it was time for him to go. Our brief conversation reached its end. The turtle-baby waved goodbye to me and I to him. We will probably never see each other again, but I suppose in our unspoken way we both wished one another well.

The tattoo artist came back and made sure I just wanted a simple black emblem.

I was still sure.

I told the story about the bear to about six people while I was there. Not because I went up to six people and asked to tell them, as I didn’t want to be the insufferable jerk who thinks the meaning of their tattoo is deeply important to everyone else, but because my tattoo artist asked me out of politeness and then was like “No fucking way! Dude, come over here! You’ve got to hear about this bear!”

It took about an hour to get the tattoo. It wasn’t painful. I was expecting to deal with serious discomfort. Thankfully that was not the case. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate it a 3. The tattoo artist said most people rate a tattoo in that location as a 7-8 on that scale. I don’t know if this is a standard line that tattoo artists have to flatter clients. Probably. I do know that I have an extremely high pain threshold (wow, that was insufferable) so stuff like that tends not to bother me.

I’m sorry.

I just need to look at the ceiling for a bit and think about how insufferable that was.

Okay.

I’m good now.

All I’m saying is that my dad had involuntary pain tears when he got a tattoo of a shark (with his ex-wife’s name under it) on his bicep. Maybe he was sad. Maybe we’re all just wired differently.

The world, huh?

I’m kind of annoyed about the aftercare that comes with getting a tattoo. I didn’t realize there would be so much cleaning and rinsing and ointment-applying. Alas, there is. For almost a month. Let’s see how I follow through with it.

IN THERAPY NEWS

You shouldn’t read this if you don’t have a really offbeat sense of humor. Also it involves sex.

I had one of the best laughs of my life.

So I’m in therapy and we’re talking about my general lack of caring about things, my dislike of personal joy and my general “I’ve given up” attitude toward life. My therapist says she wants to process my earliest non-abusive sexual experiences. I put my face in my hands and say “I guess we should because I really don’t want to do that.”

It’s just a weird thing to be doing is all.

It just is.

I blush.

We start processing.

She’s tapping my legs for bicameral processing and what have you. I talk about ejaculating when I was thirteen and having no idea what it was, other than that it was shameful and I had failed the world somehow because it happened. It is an embarrassing awkward and humiliating experience.

I relate that I felt like I’d let down God, my family and the universe.

Then I realize that having a beautiful woman tap my knees while I relate my first shameful awkward humiliating sexual experience is also a shameful awkward humiliating sexual experience.

Then I imagined relating this concept to myself at thirteen years old.

I would barge into my room and say “Hey, kid! You just ejaculated and that means one day when you’re almost thirty and you don’t like sex that you’re going to have to let a beautiful woman touch your kneecaps in a rhythmic fashion!” and then just disappearing and giving no context.

Then I imagine telling a thirteen year old version of my therapist “One day it will be your job to rhythmically tap the legs of a giant man who looks like a buffalo turned into a human by magic and talk to him about ejaculating when he was the age you are right now and he will pay you $100 a week to do things like this” and I just couldn’t stop laughing.

The world, huh?

I know it was funny because even my therapist cracked a smile and took a second to collect herself back into “I’m a professional therapist” mode.

One of the top laughs of my life. Easy.

 

Man of the People

I took my car in for an emissions test. The lady working the station got out, walked around my car and said: “It’s a hybrid.”

I said: “Yeah.”

Then she said: “Idaho has got to be the dumbest goddamn state in the goddamn Union.”

I said: “Yeah.”

I had actually been wondering how the emissions test would work, given that my engine doesn’t run when I’m parked. The attendant crawled back into her station for a bit and came back out with a piece of paper. Lastly, she said:

“You’re exempt. Put this in your glove compartment, they’ll never bother you again.”

I decided I really liked this lady. Especially the cowboy way she declared “they’ll never bother you again” while giving a sun squint stare into the distance. The only thing that was missing was a blade of straw dangling from her mouth and her tipping a cowboy hat to see me on my way.

I liked the cut of her jib.

I don’t know why that made me so happy, but it did.

BEST BORING BAD MOVIE EVER

VioletSleepsonNickCage

Nicolas Cage, genius or hack? I have no idea and don’t think it’s a question with an answer. There’s a movie called “Joe” on Netflix that brings that contrast to a point. It’s about a rundown place full of a lot of rundown people struggling to get by.

I hated this movie. A lot. Yet I couldn’t look away because it was so brilliant.

It reminded me of my hometown of Aberdeen. A lot of people have never seen extreme poverty in America. Or believe that American poverty is somehow a nobler or better form of poverty than in other countries. Poverty is probably more widespread and endemic in other countries, but I don’t like to play what I call “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Pain.”

I’ve seen some slums in Mexico and poverty seemed to be more openly terrible there, but I think that’s just because people are okay with it being out in the streets for whatever reason. I knew a lot of sick people in America who sat inside on broken down recliners and let themselves rot.

I’ve had a weird life compared to most people who spend a lot of time on the internet, but I was never ever at the bottom of the pyramid. People at the bottom don’t hang out on facebook a lot. I could see the bottom, though. I could see it quite clearly. There’s some fucked up shit down there. So while I know people with no teeth who claim to have been molested by ghosts, I’ve never been a person with no teeth who thought they were molested by a ghost.

A producer for Jenny Jones used to hang out around my middle school looking for fucked up kids to bring on the show. Aberdeen is like a wildlife preserve for downtrodden white people. I think there were about four or five kids from my middle school who were “mined” to appease the moral outrage of America.

There’s what I call “the Medieval timescale” for growing up. If you were responsible for kids when you were still a kid, you grew up on “the Medieval timescale.” People in poverty grow up on a Medieval timescale, as does the boy in this film.

This movie reminded me of that in a weird and unsettling way.

I hated it, but you should probably watch it.

Violet crawled on the tv to try and shield me from watching it.

STUFF I’M WORKING ON

I’m getting that terrible “I don’t deserve to live because I haven’t written anything” feeling. I think I’ll just pump out a single Tide World story instead of waiting to collect three of them. I can’t stand to feel like I’m wasting my life.

So look forward to that.

I did a free write for something I don’t have time to finish, but since you’re all so awesome, here it is. It’s tentatively titled “Escape from YA” about a group of YA characters stuck inside an imaginary high school and trying to escape into the rest of what I am now calling “Imagination Land” (that would change) so that their ideals can have more impact on the “Real World.”

They killed the girl with the bow and arrows.

I found out when I was walking around the perimeter of the high school, staring out into the Void beyond the fence. I thought only of escape and freedom. I was smiling. She taught me to smile. To hope. Then the crackling, tinny voice of the C’s announced over the intercom that she’d been “expelled.”

I haven’t smiled since.

No one said a thing about the expulsion. Not the Backgrounds, the Supporters, or the Sides. Not even a single Main. The rebellion just up and died. All of us who might have said anything are dead now, or too scared to speak up.

We all know what “expelled” means.

The first thing I did after the announcement was run over to the courtyard. It’s where we dropped messages between dormitories. The courtyard had been the hub of the entire rebellion for the last six months. I must have passed a few hundred silent characters. I knew if she’d really been expelled, that’s where the C’s would have done it. When I arrived and I saw arrows stuck in the ground at odd angles. I saw broken statues. I saw the aftermath of a fight.

The Janitor Archetype hadn’t been by yet so the fountain was still recycling red, rust-scented water.

She was the strongest of us. The most substantial. Almost real. Now she’s gone.

I don’t remember much of the night after that.

They used to just go after characters with magic. The characters from the least real cosmologies. She was good with that bow of hers, but she wasn’t a witch or anything. She was created destitute, lived a life of pain and her epilogue was bittersweet. There wasn’t a drop of magic in her.

And now she’s gone.

I walked a dozen sleepless miles, trying to come to terms with her absence.

I couldn’t make sense of it. It didn’t fit with the C’s usually way of doing things. She wasn’t like that kid with the scar on his forehead. He had it rough too, from what I hear, but at least he had power. He had spells and incantations. He was a threat to them.

I wasn’t around back when they snapped his wand and expelled him, but I hear it was bad. Maybe as bad as when they expelled her.

Maybe.

Some of the last Sides from the wizard boy’s story still raise their wands in memory when they think no one is looking. I wonder if I’ll ever make such a tribute to her. No one disturbed me as I walked. I think we all went Gray that night, at least for a bit. Our sparks sputtered and faded as another dream died.

She’s dead now.

Our last hope.

I’m all alone.

I feel so empty.

The last few days all I can do is walk around the campus perimeter, kicking rocks and watching them disappear into the Void. The Void that holds us all prisoner. Touch that for a second and you won’t be even be imaginary anymore. Touch that and you’ll disappear forever. Even a child’s dream can die in that Void.

Together, we might have had a chance.

Together, we might have been able to break out of this goddamn high school.

*****

My name is Aliss Felicity. I’m a child-detective written by a lesbian cop. You’ve never heard of her. Or me. I was never published.

I’m also the leader of the resistance, what’s left of it.

I don’t know why I’ve got more spark than almost everyone else here, but I do. I think it’s because my writer hung herself after she wrote me. Everyone’s got a bit of a spark after their origin story gets written. Well, my writer only ever got a chance to get to my origin put down and then she hung herself. I’ve got the same spark as characters read by hundreds of thousands.

I’ll also never have an ending, and that makes me less vulnerable.

Guess that makes me special.

All the other unpublished characters lack spark. Their life-force is barely a candle flicker. Their faces sort of blur together and they keep doing and saying the same things over and over again. I think the only reason they wound up here is that their authors obsessed over them long enough that they wound up with more spark than they were due. I think if they’d ever been read, most of them would be Mains. As it is, a lot of them wander around thinking they’re somewhere they’re not. They’re brittle and faded. Put them somewhere they don’t belong and they’d snap right in half. They never lived inside of the imagination of any person other than their writer. They’re inflexible caricatures of unrealized dreams.

The night my author hung herself, I woke up here.

Usually a characters comes here as a sort of insubstantial wraith. Then, as they gather readers and spark they start to become more real. Their features become more distinct, their minds more flexible, until they might as well be real. That’s not how it happened for me. When my writer closed her eyes and died, my eyes snapped open here, fully fleshed-out and aware.

Hell, when I first got here they couldn’t figure out whether or not to house with the Chosen Ones. Then when the C’s snatched my story, they bickered whether or not to argue me with the Literaries. I was never published, so I got bunked with the Child Detectives. We’re right next to the Child Inventors who are always making such a racket that it’s impossible to get any sleep.

The C’s: Compromise, Compliance, Control, Consistency, Convenience, Complacency