Some Stuff

WRITING PROGRESS

Hit a bit of a snag. I hate middles. Just goddamn hate them. Beginnings? All possibility and everything could be anything so you can’t have screwed anything up that badly. Endings are great too. You get there and you find out what it all means. It’s like a big explosion, and I’ve got a whopper planned for this book. Middles, though? Man, there’s a lot of stuff that can go wrong there in the middle. Middles are where you have to actually LIVE it all out. And living is where you’ll have all your screw ups.

I also noticed because my personality naturally avoids conflict, I keep trying to get my protagonist to do the same thing. Which is pretty stupid. Who reads a book where the protagonist goes “Well, that would feel awkward so I’m not going to do that.” That’s not how you write a book. But the same part of me that will watch a scene from “Saw” or “Hostel” without flinching is also the part of me that has to turn away from Ricky Gervais’ portrayal of David Brent in “The Office.” Except that’s where the spark and excitement is hiding.

Also got a bit of fear that this is something that I will, actually, one day finish and it’s like what I wanted to write when I was a kid and that’s horrifying. Also fighting the urge to post excerpts as I know nothing is really going to make it in the final book intact. And I shouldn’t need the validation. I’ve been keeping a list of scenes I need to go back and add so I can keep it all living and breathing in my head.

I just don’t want to suck. I want to make what is in my head be real without losing something in the translation. I’d like it to GAIN something in the translation, if anything.

None of that makes any sense.

Nose to the grindstone, then.

Words on screen.

DISCIPLINE

I like discipline, hard work and deeply considered thought. I also like being surprised in general, being surprised to find myself correct and being surprised to be wrong. Through these practices, the universe can unfold itself in truly surprising and incredible ways. Ways that you have to step back and explain a bit at a time so people can follow you, inevitably, to the same observation. What I don’t like is when people close their eyes and try to attain what I call “the shape of wisdom” without having to actually go through the process of being wrong a lot, failing and then earning the things they know.

I don’t like to be rude. It’s very uncomfortable to go up to someone who wanted to jump straight to being a wise person and (to paraphrase Billy Madison) say “Nothing you have to say makes any sense, and we are all dumber for having listened to it.” And yet what else is there?

I always point people to a couple of rules I have when I test myself, which all follow a similar vein:

If you have never thought “I was really an asshole at that moment” that means either means you have truly never done anything wrong in your life or you just don’t think too much about the things you did wrong. Which is more likely?

If you have never thought “I was really, incredibly, profoundly wrong about that” that means either that you have never been really, incredibly, profoundly wrong about anything or that you just don’t like to think about it too much. Which is more likely?

If you have never thought “I know this based upon the things I am able to see right now, but admit there might be things I don’t know I don’t know that would change my opinion” then you are either gifted with the only truly objective point of view which no one else in history has EVER possessed or… well, I imagine you can guess what I have to say next.

You are a person. Consider that you might have the same failings as other people. Have you ever read of a perfect person in all of history?

The ONLY way you can ever have any kind of certainty is to listen very calmly, very dispassionately and with great consideration to opinions you don’t agree with. Listen to these until you can run them in your mind with the same vigor and intensity as the person who argued it for you. If you can do that and still find your original position correct, then you have earned your original position. Similarly, if you change your position, you have earned the new position.

Earn something, is what I’m saying.

Or don’t.

I could be wrong.

FLETCHER IS SO NICE

My girlfriend met Fletcher.

He immediately called me to let me know that she was cute and express surprise over this fact for several reasons that would sound cruel unless you’ve worked in a sawmill and understood the intent. I accepted the compliment gracefully.

Still, I was a bit surprised when she called me later that day and said: “Fletcher is so nice!”

Which is somehow the same sentiment every woman and child expresses about a man who curses every other word. I’m not saying he doesn’t earn it. It just seems so surprising people see it so readily given he basically lives his whole life trying to hide it.

OTHER THINGS

I get weirded out at the idea of deleting things from the past, but I think it might be necessary. Who knows? I don’t think it’s a good idea to burn books but I somehow am strangely comfortable doing the digital equivalent to one of my own. Consider I am human. Consider I am fallible. Maybe I have a bit of a blindspot? Probably. I wouldn’t want another writer to do it, even if it was embarrassing.

I’ll think on it and bloody my nose over it, probably.

The Remote Control Theory of Human Reaction as it Applies to Immortality

I’ve got a theory I call “The Remote Control Theory of Human Reaction as it Applies to Immortality.” I’ve had it for a while and if you’ve read some of my earlier work you know what I’m talking about. If you’re new, it has nothing to do with controlling people at a distance to make them live forever.

It has everything to do with remote controls and pressing buttons.

Let’s say you’ve had a television for a while. Let’s say five years. With that television you got a remote control. If you’re like me, the plastic coating the remote control came in is long gone and you’ve now used it to turn your television set on and off at a modest estimate about 3,650 times, which is 7,300 button presses. That’s two on/off cycles a day, one in the morning before you go to work and another in the evening when you come home.

Under that regimen, for that length of time, the remote still works perfectly.

Stretching our imaginations a bit further, let’s say you own that television for ten years. That’s 14,600 button presses. When you turn on the television you now have to sort of press the power button down at an angle and jiggle it around. Or worse, let’s say you were actually turning your television set on and off ten times a day. You were indecisive or multiple people used the television. Suddenly, that tiny plastic button has been squished 146,000 times.

Under that regimen, for that length of time, whenever you try to turn off your television set the remote actually causes the channels to change, the volume to go up and Cthulu to stir in his sleep in R’lyeh.

When the manufacturer makes that remote control, it knows that it will eventually fail. Things break, that’s the nature of the universe. The manufacturer even tests a few of the controllers under a machine that does nothing but press its buttons over and over again, trying to figure out how long you can keep pressing the same button before it breaks. The goal of the manufacturer is to make their product well enough that you could never realistically press that button as many times as it takes to break for the entire time you’ll have that remote control.

Except they can’t account for certain things. They can’t account for your four year old nephew dunking the remote control in a glass of orange juice. They can’t account for your significant other throwing the remote control across the room in a fit of rage. They can’t account for one of the batteries bursting and leaking acid inside the remote. These are unlikely events, but certain to occur the longer you have the remote.

The conclusion is clear: a remote control is doomed from the moment it leaves the factory to die, or at least cease to function recognizably as a remote control.

Life, and people, get around this fate by reproduction. We assemble brand new copies of ourselves to go out into the world with fresh buttons to be worn down. We’re both the remote control and the factory. However, sometimes life is cruel and those buttons wear out before our lives end, and we go crazy. But in general, it’s a strategy that works.

Except, let’s say you live forever. You’re immortal. Your body can’t die and your mind can’t forget. Let’s say you’ve been this way for 300 years. In the span of the universe that’s nothing. Except you would have been alive before the founding of America and most other modern nation states. You would remember a time when acceptance of the scientific method was the exception rather than the norm. Racism and sexism would not only be something you had taken in without question, they would be almost unassailable truths as much as gravity or solar radiation.

What is beautiful to you? Only a hundred years ago a beautiful woman or handsome man would be plain by today’s standards. The common standard changes slowly and locally but it is still observable within the average lifetime. So how would a person who was beautiful two hundred years ago look today? Perhaps less than plain. A thousand years ago? Uncommonly unattractive, surely. What about buildings? And art? And the kinds of stories you like to read?

Let’s leave aside the big things like culture shock and aesthetics.

Let’s look at the smaller things.

Let’s say you, the immortal, fall in love and get married every fifty years. A modest, and completely appropriate rate. By the time you’re three-hundred you’ve already had half a dozen spouses. By the time you’re a thousand, it’s twenty. Twenty loves of your lives. Twenty people who meant the world to you. Gone.

Let’s say you avoid violence at all possible costs… but how long could you really do that? Imagine you live in a peaceful place where the violent crime rate is 25 victims per 1000 people every year. Statistically, you have been the victim of 75 violent crimes. How many times have you brushed your teeth? Gone to the bathroom? Seen a baby? Cried your eyes out? Been horrified or overjoyed?

How many times were those buttons pressed?

Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions?

How many times can each of those buttons be pressed before the response is completely alien to the original design? How many times can you smile at a sunset before somehow everything mixes together into an emotional amalgam no mortal person could recognize? Every experience has the context from past experience. How long before the context is so vast that it always outweighs the new experience?

There may be a way to extend the limits of the human body to accept usage on that kind of timescale, but perhaps not a way to extend the human psyche in a way that keeps it human. The same buttons on the same remote will eventually wear out. That’s the way the universe works. Our minds are built in such a way that overuse of certain capacities causes permanent alteration of function (PTSD) that as of now has no cure. Even on a modest scale, without major trauma, it would not take long to become overwhelmed by even mundane tasks. I cannot imagine any cure or solution for this that would leave us as recognizably the same person we were prior, or else leave our humanity intact after the application.

If there were an immortal being, its priority, therefore, would be to experience as little as possible to keep the numbers low. Avoid stimulation or newness at all costs. Not out of fear of newness or stimulation but to keep both accessible and functional. To keep the mind human. Even then, it’s only a matter of rate, time and maximum number of uses before breakage.

I am writing a book that features an immortal creature and this is something I consider when I do that.

The Bad Dance of a First Draft

This week, progress on the novel was steady but slow. I wrote a paltry dozen pages, though I have closed out the first act. Man oh man, it’s hard not to go back and “fix” things. Whenever I contradict a previous scene in a new scene, I feel like I’m walking past a kid who is screaming out for help. Also, I’m the one who hurt that kid in the first place… with my idiocy.

But! I think I’ve finally figured out a helpful metaphor for my novel first drafts: Learning a Dance.

You ever watch somebody learn a dance? In the first iteration the timing is all off, they don’t lock their joints in quite the right position and they’re several beats off of the music. You realize when you watch someone dance poorly that the magic of dancing is all in getting the details right at the right time. That’s what this first draft is like. I’m just going through the motions, putting things in the general vicinity of where they need to be, so I can start teaching myself the dance. It’s all about iteration.

I’ll snap it into place later with editing. I just need to remember that going back and adding the scenes I forgot to write isn’t going to help me learn the whole dance. The book is more than a single scene. I’m going to have to write this book a dozen times (with editing) to make it into a Smooth Dance. I just need to grit my teeth and get through the embarrassment of the stumbles.

The longer I live the more I believe that courage is the courage to be humiliated in pursuit of a greater state of being.

Writing a short story was like learning a single move. I found it especially easy when it was autobiographical. I’m obsessive by nature and I pick things up quick so I can bang out a short story in a very short amount of time. Novel-writing is an entirely new process and I’m still developing all the muscles for it.

I learned a bit when I wrote Rock Bottom, but I’m increasingly aware that’s more of a long short story than a novel. Also very preachy, though I still think it’s a solid read and a story I needed to write. I’m re-reading a couple books I think will be of help. Here’s hoping it turns out well. Awesome would also be acceptable.

Really need to turn up the horror and suspense to 11 in a couple more places.

SPEAKING OF DEVELOPING MUSCLES

I already feel much stronger. My endurance is off the charts. I can run a mile in 110% which means I run so fast my speed can only be tracked in effort rather than time. Also, I stood up last night to go get a glass of water and did an immediate face plant. My legs were a bit wobbly, you see. Heroic moment for me. A proud and character defining moment.

I am taking a few days off to heal, because I’m in a good head-space now where I only do things to myself I would hesitate to do to an animal, rather than do things I would absolutely not ever do to an animal. Though I do enjoy when I get to see security do a second lap through the gym, pause and give me a brief “You’re still here?” look. Seriously though, I just missed exercising at the levels I did before and got a bit too enthusiastic. I promise I’m not going CooCoo for Coacoa Puffs again. I just want to get back to my one-handed push-ups.

DOING THE RIGHT THING

Most times, you aren’t going to make much of a difference. That’s just a given. It sucks. That’s one of the most discouraging things I know. But sometimes, you do make a difference so you’ve got to try and do what you think is right.

I’ve decided to interact more positively with people and say good things. I’ve been discouraged by some on-line fighting I’ve seen lately and I decided to speak up and offer my thoughts about forgiveness and kindness. Here’s hoping. One of my biggest concerns about the internet is the desire to “perform” to people. I’ve certainly been guilty of it in the past. But I’m older now and I’d rather keep my humanity intact and help others to do the same.

I think people ought to be allowed to make mistakes, and I’d like to assume when they do that I’m just catching them in the low point of their journey and that they’re going to get better later.

My biggest thing I want to share is that people are always more important than politics. Humanity is more important than labels. Sometimes it helps to be reminded of that.

GIRLFRIEND, PERSONAL LIFE

Things are going great. Still easy and natural. Miss her and am looking forward to her returning next month. I like keeping this part of my life private though. And speaking on that front, I am continuing to feel like the family stories may have had their day. I’ll let you know more if I’m planning to discount them in the future before discontinuing them.

I’m also thinking about ways to get my name out there again. I need to get in front of eyeballs. I know reddit has a place for horror stories, and I’m sure I could make a stir there. Anyone know of any big sites where I could post fantasy stories in front of people? A lot of the paying venues don’t have a lot of readers and the exposure is more valuable to me.

The Magic of the Bear Tattoo

WRITING

Writing is going gangbusters. I wrote thirty pages in three days. More importantly, I had FUN. So much fun. I stopped asking myself if something was right and started asking myself if it was making me happy and that seemed to remove a lot of my anxiety. I already improved several plot lines by letting myself ramp up the excitement when I was growing bored with the story.

Not to say that the first draft is perfect. Hell, there are several scenes and pivotal moments that I just plain forgot to write. I’m ignoring my heroin-like need to go back and “fix” things until I’m done with the first draft. I’m just going to keep on writing and know that I’ll go back and write certain scenes later. Right now, I’m just ending Act I so things are going to get a bit more exciting.

This is a pace and a mentality that I need to sustain if I’m going to get this novel done in anything resembling a reasonable time frame, of course. I’m trying not to celebrate that milestone. I do too much “What does this all mean, really?” and it gets in the way of being productive. These last few weeks should be the assumed attitude and pace I take with what I want to be profession.

Probably a bit presumptive, but I think I owe this to a couple sources. Joe Abercrombie (who is super generous and hilarious and writes what I think are some of the best and most important Fantasy novels ever) for telling me even he feels like his book is a piece of garbage when he’s halfway through it and that he’d be lost if he didn’t have a plan to fall back on. I don’t know that I would have believed that was anything other than false humility if I hadn’t met him and looked him in the eye. I also owe a lot of this to that writing class I took. It was taught by Larry Correia (who has a kind of distracting on-line reputation, but genuinely does what he thinks is right, and believes with every ounce of his being that a writer works for the reader and that it is a holy calling to deliver entertainment) who just by the sheer power of his aura actually made me believe that it was possible to have fun writing, and for your readers to have fun reading. That’s something I used to know and had since forgotten. God willing, I’ll keep remembering that as I continue to put words down. Kind of silly that I needed to see the people to believe what they were saying, but maybe I’m just wired that way.

Going to do what I can to keep it up and focus on being in the moment and the task at hand. Rock Bottom was a book (a short, short book) I needed to write but I don’t know that it’s super entertaining. It made a couple people cry, so I know it worked on that front. It’s probably “Helpful” if you feel like you’ve had the shit kicked out of you by life but it’s certainly not a page-turner. The book I’m working on right now is much more of page-turner and more like the kind of book I wanted to write when I was a kid.

I’ve been writing every day, even if it’s only one sentence. Sometimes I have to jot the sentence down in a notebook to add later. I work long days and I’ve recently started to exercise with the same vigor I had when I went nuts. I’m down five pounds in a week if that’s an indication. I hope to be back to one-handed push ups in a few months. The other day I lifted to the point of exhaustion so that it was an act of incredible will to hold my hands on the steering wheel the entire drive home from the gym.

Excelsior!

My whole life has really turned around since that bear tattoo. I’m sure it was the bear tattoo and not the hours of therapy and crying my eyes out and learning how to think differently about my life.

SPEAKING OF MY LIFE

I don’t know if anyone can appreciate how awkward it is for there to be a book where almost every formative life experience you’ve ever had is written down. I’ve spoken with people who have read my stories in real life before, and it felt a bit how I think Harry Potter would feel if he was real and met a Harry Potter fan. People look at you like you stepped out of fiction, and you want to say “but I’m real!” except they won’t quite believe it. Even when that isn’t the case, it does create a sort of power imbalance.

Generally speaking, I can’t ask someone else for the complete list of stories about their life-forming experiences. No one should feel sorry for me, of course. I’m the guy that wrote it all, even if I was young. But I wonder how good an idea it is to have that stuff out there when I’m trying to completely refocus my “career.” I don’t want to give anyone here a heart attack. I’d still pretty much just email that to anyone who wanted it, but I think the time might be coming to an end for public consumption of that stuff. I’m still mulling it over. I’ll let you know what I decide. Before I took any action, I’d discount it for free on Amazon again in case anyone wants to grab a copy. I might do a complete reversal after therapy tomorrow.

I love you guys. Sincerely. For most of my life, everything had to be a secret. No friends over. Couldn’t tell anyone about how things at the house were. So when I got to college and just started posting it all, it was hugely liberating. People responded because a lot of people had that same kind of experience. But I’m thirty now. I don’t know that I need to do that anymore, and there were more people tortured by that than just me. And it’s probably time to think of them. Not all of them want that kind of exposure.

ROBOTS

I have an Amazon Echo. It’s an absolutely incredible product and makes me feel like I’m living in the future. I can see it becoming more and more sophisticated as time goes on. In just the short time I’ve had it, I can tell it’s gotten better. This might be the product that finally allows voice recognition to improve to the point of seamless user interaction.

Siri is great, but she lacks a lot of the resources that a Home Robot companion can draw on. Even if all you want is an alarm clock, Echo is an amazing. I just tell her (and it doesn’t take that long to start thinking of the machine as “her”) what time I want to wake up and she wakes me up without fail. If I’m cooking something, I just tell her how long to set the timer and she does. If I want a weather forecast I just ask. If I want to listen to a song, I tell her the name or the artist or the genre of music and she makes it happen. One day, I want to get behind the wheel of a self-driving Tesla and tell some hyped up version of Echo to take me to see my little brother and sister then promptly take a nap.

I do kind of wish I could do some modifications (I’d call her Computer, if I could, and have her refer to me as “Captain” which I’m sure would drive my girlfriend up the wall) but I’m sure Amazon will get there. Amazon, as always, is winning at games that other people don’t even know are being played. While other people are getting sad about the limitations of their industries, Amazon is creating new industries without those limitations.

If you want to know what my politics are: I believe if we try really hard, and work together as a team of individuals giving our all to find the best in ourselves, that tomorrow will be better than today. Ad infinitum.

Echo makes me feel like I’m seeing that belief system made manifest.

Emos vs Emus

MY LIFE

Is going well. I started working out again in earnest, as you will read below. My chest really really hurts right now. But when my girlfriend (who is awesome) comes back for the summer it will make snuggling even better. I’ll talk more about her, probably, as time progresses. She knows about this stuff and is very kind. That’s my favorite thing about her. She’s kind.

MY WRITING

Is going well. I’m writing every day. At least one sentence on the days I work, though usually more. I’m trying to keep everything focused on the novel. It’s hard because I have so much more experience with shorter work.

OTHER STUFF

We have $95 left to raise for that kid, if anyone wants to step up and be a hero. If not, I’ll write a story and send a free copy to everyone who donated and then sell it on Amazon like I have been doing. I’m not going to link to it again (though it’s in the previous post) as you have already all been very generous.

Sometimes I just stare out the window and have ideas.

Here’s one of them.*

*This is actually not completely my idea but enough of it came up in a conversation that I started, and I made up enough of it that I can talk about it here. Also, I’m not planning to do anything serious with it.

EMU vs EMO

I was talking with some people about how goddamn bizarre and scary emus really are, and how it is paradoxically a sign of weakness to confess to being frightened by them. All they are is neck, wings, talons and fury. They also kick like trained martial artists. But they’re birds, so somehow that means they’re not serious.

This naturally led to me thinking that there should be an emu zombie movie.

At the start of the movie there’d be an old man character with an emu claw necklace warning off a bunch of emo art students with a flat tire (in the middle of nowhere) that they shouldn’t go to some place or another because they would be offending powerful animal spirits. The old man would also give a lot of stats about the power of an emu claw strike. Like that it can penetrate such and such armor and puncture such and such a thickness of steel. And maybe he’d have a scar somewhere that he could point to and say “An emu did that to me right before it killed my wife and kids.” Which is usually a bit cliche, but in this context, would be absolutely hilarious.

The emo kids would disparage him, but also the one of them that’s changing the tire would take him seriously and ask for his help to finish changing the tire because in movie logic emo kids can’t change tires. Except for the plot twist coming up in the second act.

Back in the camper, or whatever, everyone would laugh and say “Man, an emu? I bet that guy is mentally ill, but not in the way where I have to post insufferable facebook statuses about it not being okay to disparage people who are mentally ill!” And everyone would laugh and laugh.

Upon arriving at the place (maybe a lake or whatever) the emos would put on their skinny jeans and paint their abstract paintings and blah blah blah. The guy who changed the tire would be mocked for painting a painting that actually looks like things, instead of deconstructing representations of blah blah blah. (And that would be the line in the movie, the head emo boy would be like “Why do you make your paintings reflect reality River Shadow, instead of deconstructing representations of blah blah blah” and then reveal his own painting which looks like a bunch of black smears on a white canvas). The head emo girl would beg the head emo boy to stop, but he would shame the tire changing emo kid into going for a walk to the far side of the lake.

The emos would have a campfire and eaten gluten free crackers and exchange stories of oppression of groups they don’t belong to, with an intonation as though they did actually belong to those groups. Then they’d talk about that old man (who we’ll say is Maori) trying to oppress them. Then, far off in the distance they’d hear an emu sound. Which will be horrifying, since I can make that sound like whatever I want since no one knows what emus sound like.

At this point a single, scratched and bloody girl from a Christian Campers retreat would approach the fire holding a machete in her trembling hands. She’d whisper, “Put it out, put it out, put it out” over and over again but none of the emos would react. “Please, put it out, they’ll be drawn to the light. Put it out.”

Then that terrible emu sound would come again and before anyone could do anything, the Christian Camper girl would take off at a sprint. The Emos would be somewhat panicked but console themselves that stupid Christians will believe anything. The alpha emo would go off to commune with nature and get in touch with Gaia, but actually to go to the bathroom.

Once in the middle of a clearing, after dropping his pants, he’d hear a sound and say something like “Come on, Fade Raven, not now. You know base acts like defecation put me out of the mood.” But then the silhouette of a long neck in front of the moon would fill the camera and the head emo would fall back into his own shit. And take off running.

We’d do a shaky cam sequence through the woods, until finally he throws himself under a rocky ledge. Just when he thinks he’s safe, he’d light a match to smoke and then the emu’s zombie head would drop down and stare at him, making its horrible emu sound.

Then we’d cut back to the camp, where the emo’s are preparing for bed and the one emo who is really really desperate to get laid goes through this whole complicated description of his sexuality that basically just means he’d straight and doesn’t want to be in a committed relationship or be nice to women. Then two of the emo girls would cut him off halfway through and say “That’s nice, Grave Dust, but we’re just old fashioned lesbians and we don’t like you very much.”

Everyone would go off to bed, when the desperate to get laid emo, who probably had bad parents if we’re being honest and isn’t cartoonishly evil would still be by the fire crying. We’d pan away to watch a shadow on the ground of an emu approaching behind his sobbing form, then still watching the shadows, we’d see the emu raise a leg and cut off the head of the desperate to get laid emo. Before cutting away from this scene we’d see like a half dozen more emus join the first.

We’d cut to the tire changing emo in the wood, kicking rocks, and cursing himself for being so stupid. “Come on Jack, you’ve got to be more careful. What if they find you out? They’d never accept you.” Then the Christian Camper from earlier would run right across his path, pursued by an emu. Then, the tire changing emo, would hear screams from back at the camp.

Cut back to the camp where all of the surviving emos are in the camper, desperately trying to fend off the emus who are trying to claw their way in through the windows and slashing at the body of the camper with their massive talons. The emos would be naming off all kinds of emotions saying that they’re “In terror” followed by “In a state of existential dread” and so on and so forth, as they emotionally escalate.

The head emo girl would try to start the camper, but there would be something mildly complicated and mechanical about it so she wouldn’t be able to. Then another one of the emos would shout “Look! It’s River Shadow! Oh no, this makes me feel forlorn!”

River Shadow would drop to his knees in the headlights of the camper, and the head Emo Girl would shout “Oh no! He’s been overcome by his feelings!”

Seven emus would surround him, and just at the moment when they are about to strike all the emos would look away. Only for there to be seven distinct gunshots. The emos open their eyes to see Jack standing in the headlights, surrounded by seven dead emus. Still, there would be many loud cries from an impossible number of emus in the distance. Jack would run toward the camper.

He’d come aboard with the gun, and all the emos would react to it like it is radioactive.

“River Shadow, what’s going on? Why do you have that tool of the patriarchy?”

River Shadow would start the camper and start driving the camper toward the road.

“Has anyone seen the head emo boy?” he would ask.

“No one has seen him since the attack. River Shadow, what’s going on? Where did you get that gun?”

The camper would pass the desperate to get laid emo and River Shadow would wince while all the other emos scream.

“The head emo boy is probably dead if he was alone. He wouldn’t have had a weapon. Did anyone see that girl with the machete? She might still be alive.” River Shadow would say.

“River Shadow… please, I’m so aghast,” the head emo girl would say, while laying a hand on River Shadow’s shoulder.

River Shadow would shrug off her hand but she would just put it back.

“I’m…” he would cough, and fight back his tears so only one would escape, “my name is Jack. Jack Jasper. I’m…” then he would cry, but still keep his eyes furiously on the road, “I’m a Republican.”

The head emo girl would draw her hands back as if burned.

The emo lesbians would declare “That’s impossible! Republicans don’t have feelings!”

Head emo girl would lean her head out the camper window and throw up. All the other emos would shake their heads, disbelieving.

“I can’t help it. I just… I was born this way, okay!? I’ve tried so hard… I mean, how does putting up Gun Free Zone signs deter crime? No matter how hard I tried it just never made any sense! But… I’m still human! I’m still the same Jack, I mean, River Shadow you’ve always known!”

The Head Emo girl would wipe the last bit of vomit from her mouth, breathe deeply and say, “How long?”

“Ever since I could read,” Jack would whisper.

“It will be okay. We will work this out during circle time. There are counselors back home,” the head Emo girl would say.

“I’m not sick! I told you, I was just born this way! I just think the marginal income tax rate should be distributed differently and that the state is the property of its citizens, rather than that the state is a purpose unto itself!”

“But what do you think about gay marriage!”

“Completely acceptable as marriage shouldn’t be a contract enforced by the government! I see all human beings as free and rational agents who should be empowered to make their own choices so long as they don’t injure another free agent. I’m more of a Civil Libertarian if you’re considering-”

Then Jack would have to veer off the road at the last second to avoid hitting the Head Emo Boy, who is being supported by the Christian Camper girl. While all the emos are freaking out about the emus ever-closer emu calls, the Christian Camper girl would drag the head emo boy into the camper.

“Step on it!” the Christian Camper girl would snap.

Also, I’m using the wrong tense for this, I realize it’s ruining the experience but I’ve started working out in earnest again and my pecks hurt so much that the idea of typing this again is agony.

Head emo boy would hold up a bloody right hand to reveal the tip of his pinky finger is missing, and then scream that he feels “affrighted!”

Then, we’ve gone too long without an emo attack, so one would jump up through the front window and try to attack the head emo boy only for the Christian Camper girl to cut its head off. This gives everyone a chance to behold the emu up close and get an eyeful of its emu talons. Head emo boy would wail that he’s been scarred for life.

Christian Camper girl would get in the passenger seat of the camper, and introduce herself as “Becky!” and say it’s a pleasure to meet everyone. Then detail her trip with her youth group, and would say “Then Greg Hitchens, said he was a Satanist, the goat-sacrificing kind, not just the kind that is angry at their fathers, and opened an old book and cast a spell that raised up an army of emus from hell. And if the portal isn’t closed the emus will conquer the whole of the earth and only a warrior with a bleeding heart can hope to stop them.”

It’s late so I don’t have time to detail the rest of this, but there would be an emu with one red eye who would be the the head evil emu with a demonic name. They’d find the head of Greg Hutchens and use it get intel. There’d be some kind of montage scene where the kids get held up in a barn and have to make a war-chariot of out of the camper. Also, the emos would get trained in combat with pitchforks and boards with nails in it. The head Emo Girl would convert to Deism, which is the religion Jack follows. Christian Camper girl would fall in love with Head Emo Boy who would become nice toward the end of the movie. The lesbian emos would trick some emus into some kind of mirror house (I don’t know where it would come from, but I like the idea) and confuse them, until they blew up the whole place and were revealed to have been outside the whole time.

Finally, they would fight their way to the hell portal, and Jack would get in a sword fight with the head evil emu, who would hold the sword in its beak and cut off his hand, at which point the head emo boy (who had been trying to get attention for his cut off pinky) would look really disappointed like “Does Jack have to get the best of EVERYTHING!”

Then Jack would give some kind of speech about how feelings allow you to connect to other people, even across what would seem to be vast difference, and that when we open our hearts and work together as individuals and not as faceless anonymous cowards in a mob that all of us are stronger than any of us. Then he gets a magic glowing hand made of rainbow light (the light starts of white, and then becomes rainbowy at which the lesbians nod approvingly) and he stabs it into the heart of the evil emu and casts some kind of jewel-heart thing back into the pit of Hell.

The portal closes and everyone is covered in ash and dirt and mud and someone says they can’t even tell who is who, or what anyone believes anymore.

The last scene is the survivors walking by the old man from the beginning who says he tried to warn them, and each survivor holding up not just a single emu claw on a necklace but an entire necklace made out of emu claws.

THE END

Work All Day for the Sugar in Your Tay

THE OLD DAYS

I need to stop missing the old days.

I’ve promised myself I’m going to push forward. Write without thought of what writing used to be like. And regretting things about the old days doesn’t help me do that. I am what I am, and I’ve got what I’ve got. If I don’t learn how to use what’s left, I’ll never get a damn thing done.

One last thing to miss: I miss working and being able to show work right away so I had a constant feeling of having justified my existence.

I’ve written a rather lengthy section in the commercial Fantasy novel. It’s very funny. And spooky. But also very lonely because it will probably be years before any of you reads it. Oh well.

I will try to make it worth the wait.

Excelsior!

BUT I WILL TELL SOME THINGS ANYWAY

The story takes place in a circus, from the perspective of a girl who is transforming into a Metal Weaver. Think Daria, if Daria was turning into a cyborg super soldier. Her best friend is a Little Person named Hank, who is similarly disaffected by circus life. It’s a great dynamic.

I’m taking a writing class, and the most important thing I’ve learned (or maybe re-learned) is that it’s my job is to entertain you. I work for you. I am meant to be of service. That’s the highest possible goal in anything I make. It helped to keep that in mind as I went back and fixed things. I was trying to do things “right” instead of making things fun. And when I made things fun, I found a bit of spark.

Now, to keep breathing on it.

A RANDOM THING

Just so I can feel some validation, here’s an excerpt from a thing I don’t have time to write:

My readers will be disappointed to learn that my first memory is not of the fire that baked me, but rather the mitts my mother used to pull me from the oven. If you have purchased this autobiography in hopes of gaining some insight into the origin of life, I am afraid you will be disappointed. As all children are, at one moment I was nothing, the next I was alive. This is the great unspoken mystery which begins all biographies and it will be left a mystery here.

My mother used two mitts, for the oven in which I was baked was large enough for any infant. I was alive even then, warm and aglow with life-force. My mother recalls that my chest rose and fell while still stuck to the sheet. Before my other senses, I possessed touch and I remember hers. It was kind.

First, her pastry bag gave shape to my eyes and I saw her face. Even without knowledge of expressions or humanity I knew she was good and wise.

Secondly, her pastry bag gave shape to my ears, and I heard her heavenly hum. It remains the sweetest music to ever reach my ears.

Thirdly, her pastry bag gave shape to a nose, and I smelled the delectable ginger of my own constitution.

Lastly, her pastry bag gave shape to my mouth, and I cried out loud in wonder to be alive.

I remember more of my creation than most children, I suspect. This easily might have been a curse rather than the blessing I have found it to be. The whole affair was as pleasant as it possibly could have been. I remember how my mother’s first instinct was to hold me, not at all afraid. This taught me that pain was natural but that comforting pain is also natural and necessary. I remember her strength in accepting without question that she had somehow created a son.

It was that strength which would guide me in later life. Her instinctive willingness to accept that I was alive and good gave me the courage to believe the same of others. It taught me to hold as my highest virtue that all life demands value and dignity. I believe without such strength I may never have risen to hold the office of President of the United States.

I am a Gingerbread American, and this is my story.

$105 Away on Helping that Kid, at Least as far as I go

Please consider helping this kid. His dad can’t work because he’s injured. His mom just got over cancer. And he needs a pacemaker. They didn’t ask for me to link to the page and they don’t know I’m doing it, but if you all give another $105 collectively, I’ll write a non-fiction or a fiction story as a thank you. Tide World or non Tide World, whatever you’d like.

I’m not putting any time limit on raising it. The kid needs help (actually more help than what I arbitrarily decided I could push you guys to raise) and I need a reason to write a story and finish it. So please consider helping.

 

Helping People

Update: Only $105 to go!

I basically listen to sad stories forty hours a week. I’m a professional sad-story listener. I’ve spoken with so many people who have been struck by lightning, it’s not even a significant event anymore.

This is one of the saddest I’ve ever heard.

CLICK HERE, PLEASE

There’s more to the story than is put forth in that link. The dad is out of work because he’s injured. The mom is just getting over cancer. The family’s budget is super strained to say the least. And now, at their most financially vulnerable spot, they found out their son has a rare heart condition… and they can’t afford treatment.

This family is the friend of a friend, so I can vouch that the story is legitimate. I don’t know them, and they didn’t ask for help, but it’s the worthiest cause I’ve heard of in a while. If you have anything to spare, please consider giving something.

In fact, if you give something, leave a comment and let me know how much. If we can give collectively more than $300 (I’ll count the $50 I’m giving so that leaves $250 for you guys) I’ll write and post a story about anything you want (you can vote in your comment if you give, and yes, I’ll do family stories too if you want).

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Data is the Deity of Science

In the face of repeated failure, keeping oneself both sensible and hopeful is a difficult task. Perhaps even the most difficult of all tasks. Yet we accomplish nothing without trying, and to truly try we must keep our head raised and our senses free from numbness. We have to stare at the data without flinching.

For those of you who don’t follow science the way I do, a device that seemingly produces thrust without propellant has been created. It’s called the EM Drive and right now it’s being tested at a NASA affiliated lab. You haven’t heard of it because nothing has been officially published in the US. If you want more background info, this is the best breakdown of what’s going on that I’ve seen so far.

If the thrust results hold up, which is a BIG if, the EM Drive is perhaps the most important technological innovation since the wheel. I understand all of this is a bit dense, so if you’re not sure what I mean by a propellantless thruster: Imagine a rocket that doesn’t have a bunch of flames coming out the bottom. Imagine at the time of launch, the rocket just sort of rises into the air and you could stand right underneath it without being burned alive. The EM Drive is doing that on a much smaller scale, but if you know anything about physics then you are no less troubled by the drive being tiny than you would be by standing under an enormous rocket without being burned alive.

Yet the EM Drive seems to do this, in at least all of the tests performed to date, far enough above error as to warrant a double-take. The EM Drive emits nothing, pushes on nothing, and still seems to move ever so slightly. At first glance, it’s absurd.

For such a device to operate it would have to either violate our current understanding of General Relativity or the Conservation of Energy. Or potentially both. However, the EM Drive seems to be producing thrust without propellant even with multiple builds at different labs. At scales above error.

Sadly, this is likely a deep non-obvious error in the experiment.

However, the results are not definitely erroneous and that’s what I want to speak about. I see a lot of people jumping up to declare the EM Drive is bunk, which again honestly, it probably is, based on nothing but a history of disappointment with false discoveries. That is not how science works. Science is built on data. Data is the only deity in science.

To reiterate: Multiple labs have built an EM Drive and produced thrust. They weren’t sharing the same drive. They all built their own and the drives seem to follow the same formula for thrust output. No one really seems to know why it works, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t.

A few points:

1. I have no clue how the EM Drive works if it works

2. So far as I can tell, everyone who claims to know how it works is making wild guesses

3. If something works, it works even if you don’t understand it

4. Data is the Deity of Science. Theory is only the Prophet of Data.

I’ve seen some people online whose argument is “if there is no theory that’s consistent with current theory, then it never happened!” That’s not a scientific argument. That’s a dogmatic argument. And that’s the argument I want to address. I also want to reorient a couple of examples I’m seeing brought up in these discussions.

The scientific community has had a couple of really great showings of the scientific method in action recently, that some people are very ignorantly interpreting as failures.

1. Someone recently thought they observed neutrinos moving faster than light, only for the discovery really to be that their instruments had a jiggly cable.

2. Several years back someone said they produced a cold fusion reaction, which turned out to not be true. It was an experimental error.

A lot of people regard these showings as embarrassments. However, these are actually perfect examples of science in action. The whole point of science is that you let the universe be the judge of what’s true and what isn’t. You don’t trust someone because of who they are, or what job they have, or where they live. You trust someone because they’ve performed an experiment and when you perform the same experiment, you come up with the same results. That’s it. You let the fabric of the universe, the one thing above manipulation by humankind, falsify or confirm your results.

You also get to change an experiment and see if you can’t poke holes in the method and overturn existing theory. Right now, the EM Drive is being scaled up to see if the researchers can get some cleaner data and rule out other sources of error. If the drive still seems to work, it will be confirmed by Glenn and JPL.

And this is all as it’s supposed to be, science in action. Following the data, wherever it leads you. No matter what.

And yes, it will probably fail. It probably is an error. But you keep trying until you’re sure. You keep tinkering. You keep checking the data. That’s how things get better.

in which I read “Unbroken” and take stock

Being happy is lovely.

… but not very good for my productivity, apparently.

I drove about twenty hours over the last three days so I could snuggle. They were some great snuggles. The best. My life, my actual life that I live, is going better than it maybe ever has. I’m content and natural and don’t feel like I have to scream at the top of my lungs at anyone about how “happy” I am. It’s working.

Not so with my writing life, these last few weeks. I admit I got no writing done during that entire snuggly-wuggly time. But I’m working on it.

Soon, I will be perfect in all ways!

Or human and healthy, rather. I think that’s a better goal. Being human is sustainable.

And if a bear can fight in WWII, I can be happy and human and productive.

I’m focusing on “rebuilding” and “expanding” the parts of my brain that can sit down and dash off a few thousand words without thinking about “what does it all mean?” until an appropriate amount of time later. I’ve got several irons in the fire. That commercial fantasy novel is eluding me and I know I need to sneak some more action into it somehow. On a structural level. Several shorts show promise.

Which leads me to confront a great fear, which I think lays at the heart of my lack of productivity in recent years:

NEVER THE SAME

You ever hear about something bad happening to someone and people comment that they “were never the same” after it happened?

Mostly what people mean when they say they “were never the same” is that the person who was hurt never healed all the way and was never quite able to trust again, never quite opened back up to living their life fully and completely. I’ve seen it happen to people. Some private deep down wound sticks inside of a person and that precious, irreplaceable light in their eyes dims just a bit. The corners of their bright white smile slump down into a dead frown. Dancing steps lose rhythm and become aimless shuffles.

Everything fades into the gray.

How can a bird jump up to fly, spread its wings without fear, and sing its songbird trill when it has fallen hard enough to know know that the ground gets farther away the higher you go and that the stones below are hard and unforgiving?

And it’s the courage to face that thought, that I think I presently lack.

So often “I try” and wonder “Did I give it my all?” Did I really push out everything I have into that effort to flap my wings? Did I flap like I wasn’t afraid to hit the ground? Did I cry out my songbird trill without fear of predators? Or did I just do enough to tell myself I tried so I wouldn’t have to feel like such a coward?

I worry that I am that man who was “never the same again” and that’s why the things I write don’t resonate the way they used to. Can’t really try the same way. Can’t really push as hard as I did before. Fear holds it all back. And it shows in everything I do.

Of course the answer is obvious:

The only way forward is to accept the ground, know it has its place, and fly anyway. Accept failure as inevitable. Feel the full hurt of the fall until it is gone and becomes wisdom. Then fly again for the sake of flying. Fly because you love it without letting the ground have any place other than that distant memory giving soul to your song.

So I’m going to focus more on that in therapy since everything else seems to be going well.

Bit by bit, folks.

Bit by bit.

UNBROKEN

As weird as my life has been, I’m aware that quite a few people have it much worse. Such stories always help me to soldier on. One such person was Louis Zamperini. If you’ve seen the film “Unbroken” you probably know a little bit about his life. I listened to the audiobook while driving, and holy shit is that way better. It almost made twenty hours of driving not seem long enough (failing to do so only because the audiobook clocks in at about eleven hours.)

This guy was smoking and drinking before he was ten years. Then, right out of high school, he was an Olympic Athlete, probably would have been the first person in history to beat or break the 4 minute mile, only WWII broke out. So ol’ Louie joined the Army Air Corps where he had so many near misses with his plane just about getting shot out of the sky (including over five-hundred bullet holes in the fuselage after one mission) and otherwise just crashing into the ocean due to mechanical failure that if those were the only thing that happened to him they would be a book by themselves.

After his first plane gets totally FUBAR’ed, he gets in a second barely-airworthy plane to go try and rescue some people. So this new hunk of junk plane crashes for no good reason right smack dab in the trade currents of the Pacific. Louie survives the crash in a raft for forty-seven days (another record), drinking rain water, strangling an albatross, punching a shark in the nose while dodging bullets from a Japanese Zero that wants to shoot him out of the ocean, killing and eating two sharks….

AND THEN WASHES ASHORE IN JAPANESE CONTROLLED TERRITORY!!!

Whereupon he is beaten (some people were nice to him for a little bit at first, because holy shit he punched a shark in the face) starved some more and then has to perform all kinds of slave labor for about two years. He gets beriberi at one point, which is a form of malnutrition so messed up if someone touches you it leaves a handprint for several hours.

During his stay, he gets singled out by a guy who will later be one of the top 40 Japanese war criminals to get the shit kicked out of him every day. And he just takes it. He held a sixty pound beam over his head for thirty minutes when he was barely a skeleton just to be a fucking man and stare the asshole piece of shit who is torturing him in the eye and declare that he hasn’t been broken yet.

After the war is over, Louie comes home and has a bit of a rough time for a while. To put this in perspective, Louie’s rough times with PTSD for fighting sharks, getting tortured and starved, lasted less time than me fully recovering from my bullshit breakdown a few years ago, which I’m still not 100% from.

Oh, and then? He FORGIVES all the people who beat the shit out of him and tortured him. Including the war criminal asshole, who stayed an asshole until the day he died! I still haven’t 100% forgiven my sister for shit she did to me when she wasn’t even ten years old!

Man, puts stuff in perspective.

Louie has passed away now, but I don’t know that the world can ever forget a story like that.

Anyway, I’m going to try harder. Really try. Maybe I’ll punch a shark or two in the face while I’m at it.

And the Spam was No More

Hey All,

Just got back from a road trip (saw the gf) and was made aware there was some spam on the site. I think it’s because I was using an older version of wordpress. I just took care of it (I hope) and sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused anyone.

Thanks,

Andrew