The Scalp Says: This is Not Normal

Photo on 11-19-16 at 2.18 PM

So, hi again. How are we all doing on this far side of reality?

I haven’t blogged about the United States of America’s recent Presidential election; I haven’t been able to find the words for it. I’ve been throwing myself into activism and self-care and partner care in equal measure, trying my damnedest to find some magical balance that will fix this world — if not mystically undo the election results, then make them safer, make them make sense. So I haven’t been writing in this space, preferring places where I write about comics and geeky stuff, or my own fiction where I control all the tuning knobs on reality. Until today, when I accidentally shaved my head.

That’s incongruous on purpose; bear with me here.

So, no big shame or secret: I’ve got male pattern baldness. The hair on the top of my head is very thin, with a noticeable “bald spot” taking up, oh, most of my skull. So my “haircut” is really more of an every-month-or-so going over with a hair and beard trimmer, trying to make sure the whole thing looks somewhat serviceable. Well, today was the day, I decided, as I woke up and felt that “standing straight up on end” was synonymous with “too long.” So I confirmed S. could help me clean it up when I was done trimming, got the trimmer ready, and started in — and forgot to put on the guard before I started. You know, the guard that lets you set how short you want to trim your hair? Yeah, that one.

I shaved a portion of the hair on my right temple down to stubble before I realized what I had done. I put the guard on, set it a bit lower than my normal setting, and went over the rest of my dome, seeing if maybe it wouldn’t stand out. But, no such luck; even that low setting still looked like a lush carpet of head-covering compared to the site of the incident. So I explained what happened to S., and after she tried a still-lower setting, we agreed there were no two ways about it, the best option was to buzz the whole mess down with no guard and let it grow back while we’re on Thanksgiving vacation next week.

“No problem,” I said, “I’ll just wear a hat for a week. You know, so people don’t think I’m a neo-Nazi.” That’s when this blog post hit.

Looking like I wear the trappings of racism is something I worry about a lot when it comes to my haircuts and clothing choices. I’m blonde and blue-eyed, and on top of it I’m tall and (these days) fairly well-toned, and so inherently might come off as threatening from that. I worry about days when my hair is freshly trimmed and how I might present. But today, the reality of what I might be projecting with this too-close shave really smacked me in the face: I might not just be mistaken for a racist. I might be mistaken for someone who voted for the new President of the United States.

Not because everyone who voted for him is a neo-Nazi. But we know the neo-Nazi “alt” “right” definitely went in big for him, and we know that hate crimes are on the rise, and we know that both of these things are because of the horrific things he said on the campaign trail. Whatever is lurking in his policy that got him the necessary votes (sorta…), we know that a tide of hate was a major factor. We don’t know exactly what to expect, but in the communities I am a part of, we are expecting — and speaking out against — the worst. It looks bleak out there right now, like we’re in for a four-year marathon against a Hydra that wants to put the rights of people and the planet where they live on a political chopping block, and I don’t know if my legs can carry me that far without stumbling. Self-care leaves me feeling numb a lot of the time — sometimes I manage to truly distract myself, but then all of a sudden I’ll plummet back down into the horror of what might be coming in 2017, 2018, 2019…

And I’m relatively insulated. If it is just about me, I’ll more or less be fine — I’m white, I’m male, I’m heterosexual, and I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. My wife, the most important person in my life, is in a similar spot, though as a woman there’s a lot to worry about there. But this is not true of all my friends, not by a long shot, and even if it were, I would still fear for the millions of Americans who the extreme policy proposals of this administration would affect, even if I never met them one on one. And even if the policies never pass, the normalization of disgusting, racist behavior is a wound that will take a long time to heal and may never properly scar over. But somehow — and this is such a White Dude thing for me to say — sitting here and realizing what I am worried my hair says to people I pass on the street has made it all real for me in a way it hasn’t been before.

I plan to resist. I plan to dissent, as is my Constitutional right. I’m calling my elected officials to voice my stances, I’m making sure we do not normalize the troubling and outright disturbing things we are hearing in the news, I’m donating to civil rights and poverty outreach groups, and I am doing everything I can to help others feel safe and like we’re here for them. And I’m making art. Inclusive art. Kind art. Art that brings hope and shines a light in the darkness. Art that I hope will prop up someone besides me as we move forward. I’m sure I’ll find more I can do, for them and for myself.

But in the meantime, I am wearing the cap my wife knit me while my hair grows out, and I am trying to figure out what I’ll do for the 200+ weeks we’re going to have to walk down this path, and hoping that the worries I have on a day like today do not have to get too much more real. This is not normal, and I never want it to be.

 

 

 

Gaming for Charity (Yes, Really)

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Hey everybody,

I am emerging from the word-mines with some news: Next month, November the 5th, I will be joining the Ace of Geeks team for the Extra Life charity gaming marathon!

For the detailed low-down on Extra Life, you can check out their website, but the tl;dr version is this: Every year, Extra Life gets together gamers like myself to participate in a worldwide gaming marathon. We all pick a day (official day is November 5th, but you are not held to the larger group’s schedule) and attempt to game for 24 hours straight. Games can be of any sort, from board games to video games to tabletop RPGs. 100% of the money raised by Extra Life goes to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

The Ace of Geeks will be gaming from November 5th to November 6th, 2016; exact schedule and details will go on our Extra Life team page when we have them.

I’ll be putting the donation link on the WordPress main page until the day has come and gone, but for now, if you want to donate, you can find my personal donation page here; if you want to sign up, click the “Join” button on their main page. Thank you in advance!

How Night Vale Made Me Less Scared

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(I’m abandoning the “On [TOPIC]” format for my titles…it’s a little too precious for me.)

CN: Anxiety, violence, profanity, mention of electoral politics

This past Monday night, I had the privilege to accompany Sonya to an author appearance by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, best known as the creators of Welcome to Night Vale; they were in conversation with Mallory Ortberg as part of a publicity and speaking tour for the new collections of WTNV scripts, Mostly Void, Partially Stars and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe. The conversation was funny, insightful, incisive, and full of very deep thoughts about the life of a writer; all three participants were charming, and I highly recommend you see any of them any time you get a chance to do so.

What this post is really about, though, is the big inflection point I experienced early in the talk. The exact quote escapes me, as does who said which part, but it should surprise no-one that with these three on stage, they started talking about anxiety, and this brought Ortberg around to the topic of Welcome to Night Vale‘s overall theme: the weird, scary, dangerous nature of this little desert town, and the way its inhabitants think of it as normal. The creators of the show agreed, and said that they felt this was a reflection of real life: That the world is full of some really scary shit you can’t control, and you have to just find a way to live your life. Specifically, that you have to say “OK, I can’t do anything about Donald Trump’s Twitter account…[or] about stomach cancer…” This would have been mind-blowing, but this year of all years it was really important for me to hear that.

(Begin election stuff) Look, I have made no secret of the fact that I am terrified of this year’s Presidential election in America. I’m not here to claim Hilary Clinton is any particular thing (I am in favor of her but recognize she is not perfect), but her opponent absolutely horrifies me. I believe that electing him will do genuine harm to the people of my country, especially people of color and LGBT people, and will set us back decades of progress toward equality of any kind, not to mention possibly kill a lot of people. I, personally, may not be seriously affected, living in California and being an able-bodied white man, but that doesn’t mean I am not scared, because there is no telling what a loose cannon with well-documented racist, sexist, and fascist ideologies will do with the power of the White House (especially if he also maintains a cooperative Congress).

(End election stuff) . I have not even been sure how to keep breathing day-to-day while waiting for this to be over, and I’m not sure if it will even be over in November. And that is on top of my normal everyday anxieties: My worry about police shootings and how they seem to keep getting worse. My worry that my diabetes is going to go back out of control. My worry that I might get cancer. My worry that tomorrow my wife and favorite person in the whole world could get clipped making the left turn she makes after dropping me off at the train. My worry that I’m going to be fired. And on, and on, and on. I get told not to worry about these things, and I get help calming down, and then I get right back on the big, fire-breathing horse. But somehow, hearing it from these two — from these two great creators — made dealing with it feel real and possible. Not because I needed to not be scared, but because I needed to learn how to live my life despite that fear.

There is a movement toward empathy in art over the past couple of years; toward the idea that it’s OK to feel things, that emotion, even negative emotion, is alright and that you don’t need to stop feeling it. You see it in Steven Universe teaching us it’s OK to feel. You see it in Jessica Jones‘ titular character being the second character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to wrestle with anxiety attacks. You see it in the heroes of Stranger Things being scared, confused, and angry, but still coming back together and being friends not despite it, but with it. It’s in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it’s in The Mighty Thor, and it’s in Welcome to Night Vale…and those words coming from that stage are what made two things crystallize for me:

1. We all have to decide to live our lives, despite how scary and overwhelming the world can be.

2. You can measure your privilege by what events are easy for you to decide to live your life through.

I am very lucky with the privileges I have been handed, and I owe it to the world to use my own ability to live through fear to help others to do the same, whether it’s people who need help coping with their anxiety, people who need shielding from the excesses of a certain spray-tanned politician, or people who just need someone to say “it’s OK to be scared of that.” And I owe it to myself to look fear in the face and accept it as a part of me, and figure out how to find the blooming flowers in the middle of the war zone that is life. Thanks to this weird podcast from the East Coast, I feel like I’m not alone in that mission.

So, that was my Monday.

On Convolution 2016

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I mentioned this on Twitter, but now I’m making it official: I am once again a guest at Con-Volution! I’m very pleased to be joining the convention again. My panel schedule is as follows:

Friday, 5:00pm – 6:30pm: Classic Scary Stories: Shelley, Poe, and Others

Looking back on some of the classics of literary monster-makers and scary storytellers

Saturday, 12:0opm – 1:30pm: BOF: Marvel Universe

There’s SO much to love about the Marvel Universe, both in Comics, and in Cinematics — so come join other fans to chat about what you think has been done well, could have been done differently — and even better — what’s next! (I’ll be moderating this birds of a feather meetup; I’ll be the one in the Avengers t-shirt. You know, the one.)

Saturday, 5:00pm – 6:30pm: Building a Better Monster: The Nuts and Bolts of Monster Physiology

It may seem like the more tentacles and claws, the scarier the monster, but when it comes to writing a monster worth its scales, sometimes less is more. Or is it? We’ll discuss!

Sunday, 12:00pm – 1:30pm: How Far is Too Far? Introducing Change to Established Characters

Just three words: Captain. America. Hydra. When does an evolving, long-time character get driven too far off its original basis, and is that a good thing, or ultimately bad, no matter what?

Sunday, 2:00pm – 3:30pm: We Love the Scare

Discussing the need for horror in pop culture, modern media, and fiction. Why it works for us, and why we need to keep it working.

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In and around all that, I’ll be attending some of the other programming (I’m not only a panelist at Con-Volution, I’m also a member!), and I’ll be around and available to chat as much as anxiety allows. I’ll probably also camp out in the gaming room for some Sentinels of the Multiverse at some juncture, though I’m going to have to schedule that on the fly. If you’re looking to see me, I’m going to be most available on Saturday; I am commuting to and from the con this year, so it’s very likely that on Friday and Sunday I will be leaving soon after my panels, probably after having dinner with friends and performing some of the (pleasant) duties that come with being a convention guest.

Also, my now-usual disclaimer: I suffer from society anxiety. I’m medicated for it, but it does mean that sometimes, talking to people is very difficult for me, and it is likely to be even harder after a day of public speaking and answering questions. I won’t blow anyone off, and I encourage people to talk to me, but if I need to make a hasty exit, I am not being trite when I say it’s me, not you.

I hope to see you there!

On New Ventures

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This post will be brief; all I’m doing is announcing the new place you can go to see my words.

I am proud to announce that as of today, I am officially a contributor to The Ace of Geeks. Every week I’ll be writing The Pull List, a review column focused on the comics I read this week, as well as new trade collections I recommend. I’ll be contributing other articles on a more ad hoc basis, but The Pull List is the guaranteed place to see me.

I’m pleased as punch to be joining the Ace of Geeks staff; I’ve loved them since I first got introduced to their podcast via mutual friends, and I was absolutely delighted and flattered when Mike asked me to start writing for them. This feels like a big step for me and I’ve been very excited ever since he pinged me; it’s nice to finally get a column out so I can say something about it!

Currently, the Pull List will publish every Thursday; if that changes I’ll make sure to let you know. I’ll post links in my Twitter feed rather than spam them at you both there and here (SHAMELESS PLUG FOR MORE TWITTER FOLLOWERS), but for now, the first one is here.

I hope those of you who aren’t already Ace of Geeks fans join us on the regular, and I’ll look forward to seeing you in our comments sections!

On Structure

I write a lot about structure. Here is where I write about it more. CN: anxiety, emotional abuse, self-abusive thoughts, blood, needles, food/eating.

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In case my many mentions of it are lost to the mists of the Internet, I thrive on structure and ritual, as a creator, a gamer, and a person. Some of that is my anxiety disorder; some of that is a result of emotional abuse at various hands, which often comes with a difficulty with spontaneity; some of that is probably just who I am. It’s not like it’s easy to separate those three things, anyway.

That love for structure is fine with me; I need what I need, even if that need changes, and it is not “wrong” or “broken” of me to structure my life, as long as I am not edging out others’ needs. But sometimes life necessitates me abandoning that structure, and yesterday the damage that can do came due in a big way.

This week is my yearly physical, which as anyone who has been following me for the past year knows is an anxious time, given that last year’s physical turned up Type 2 diabetes (and we then had to check on subsequent diabetic check-ups for kidney damage and cancer — neither of which were positive, thank goodness). So yesterday was blood draw time, which is its own microcosm of anxiety, and to do that I had to fast for twelve hours. No biggie; I packed a snack, ate it and drank some water once the draw was over and done, and got ready for brunch with a relative and a game of T.I.M.E. Stories. Things were looking up!

Except then my meal schedule was totally thrown off. I need to keep an eye on my carbs, and I need regular intake at set times (relative to each other, anyway). I got breakfast/brunch and a mid-day snack, but then didn’t really eat again until dinner, partially because nobody else seemed to want food and so I did not discuss the idea  until T.I.M.E. Stories was over (at around 7pm). By then, my blood sugar was so low (we think — I left my testing kit at home) that I could not rationally figure out what I even wanted for dinner; I felt like any choice I made was going to make others mad, and besides, if I made the wrong choice and the food I picked wasn’t satisfying, I’d be more upset because then I had to wait a couple hours to eat something that was satisfying, and Oh God maybe I just won’t eat ever again. That will be easier, right? At least if I lapse into a coma from malnutrition or something I don’t have to make decisions?

We wound up having sushi, sashimi, and tempura, which was about the right amount of carbs, with some protein and fat to help my system normalize. I felt better the instant I ate my complementary salad and miso soup. I was able to admit I was on emotional overload, and why. My food schedule was thrown by the fasting, and with it the entire axis of my day was out of alignment and what mental defenses I had for the buzz of life with anxiety were out of joint with it.

It did not help that T.I.M.E. Stories can be complicated to track in a way that find highly satisfying, but can be annoying for others (and possibly also easier for them to track mentally), so there was some negotiation between my need to obey game structure as rigidly as possible and others’ need to skip over things they saw as unnecessary — negotiation that did not happen, because when I am feeling anxious I instinctively assume my needs will not be met, and so just don’t say anything and get resentful instead. So I ended a session of one of my favorite games entirely focused on my personal statistical failures and how it could have gone better and just feeling like my day was wasted, even though realistically I actually had fun and the parts that were not fun were a matter of needing to make needs known, not anyone doing anything to me. And I thought I had handled that, so I let myself relax and sleep in, and I figured the next day I would wake up and…

…have the exact same mental collapse about breakfast that I had about the previous night’s dinner. Seriously, I stared into the fridge, my head hanging bonelessly off my neck, and almost stomped out of the house to the garage to go write until I passed out. Thank goodness I do not live alone or that might have happened (or I might have eaten an entire dozen donuts and a whole pot of coffee and done damage the other direction). Sonya made me a toaster waffle and some yogurt, and I was able to get my head screwed back on straight and start back down the road to recovery.There was no self-harm, no yelling, and the one outburst I started to have I caught myself, admitted I was melting down, and calmed back down. (The Superman wristband I wear really does help me refocus when I start the gesticulations that preface a meltdown; I highly recommend you do whatever works for you, no matter how weird.)

My takeaway here was difficult to find: how do you figure out how to make your needs known when half the problem is that you feel you’re a bad person for making your needs known? But, find it I did. In numbered list format, in the name of my own love of structure:

1. From now on, if a game has bookkeeping that needs doing, I will make sure it happens. If that means I am doing all the bookkeeping, that’s OK with me. I can even sit and get all the bookkeeping done while other people make dinner or take a smoke break or whatever they need; I can eat with one hand and roll dice with the other if I have to. But it’s happening. I have less fun if it doesn’t.

2. I will not book myself for any plans that occur within 2-4 hours of a medical test that requires fasting, unless those plans expressly involve a meal and occur in a location that I know I can get to in time to eat brunch and still have a reasonably timed snack, lunch, dinner, etc.

3. I will also preface any plan that occurs on those testing days with a statement that I have to get tests done, and that may mean I am too anxious/depressed afterwards to be around people. That may mean people, for the sake of their own time or stress management, need me to say No to plans, because I cannot be sure of a Yes. I am OK with that, because being sad about missing out is better than feeling the way I did going into dinner yesterday.

Anxiety is a maze it can be extremely difficult to find your way out of; some days, it can be tempting to end things like the final scene of The Descent, just wrapping yourself in your damage and letting the light flicker out. But thanks to my friends, my wife, and my own hard work, I think I have a map.

So yeah. How was your weekend?

On Deadlines

I’m not shy about being a creature of ritual, but it’s really coming home to roost this week.

I’ve been working overtime a lot lately — not as much as some co-workers (my work-life balance is fairly inflexible), but a lot. I came back from vacation into a maelstrom of overtime that is just now letting up (and possibly only temporarily, based on how my next project is looking). The worst part is, with system delays and impromptu meetings and the ensuing long periods where work can’t actually get done, it has thrown my schedule into utter disarray. My coffee break isn’t happening at the right times; my lunch is often off-set from its usual flow; I don’t always go home at the same time; it’s not great. I’ve been made of anxiety for a week now.

Two good things have come of the darkness, though. One: I now know I have mastered my worse anxiety impulses. I have not had the kinds of meltdowns I used to have before I recommitted myself to mindfulness and self-care; there have been periods of neat-freakishness, of stuttering, of grumpiness, but nothing explosive like there used to be. So, while I don’t like testing the strength of steel by running over it with a car, it’s nice to see that the material is resistant. (That metaphor needs some work…)

Two: I know, for sure, that it feels good to be writing on a deadline. I mentioned that, post-New Novel, I found a superhero-related open call that is due mid-September? I’ve been routinely getting 1000+ words down on that every day this week, even skipping one of my two writing days off to keep working on it. I was worried, as the overtime came rolling in at the Day Job, that I would burn myself out both doing that and trying to make a writing deadline, but the truth is, it’s helped. I’m more energetic, more creative, and more focused with a deadline staring me down, and I’m outputting higher-quality material than I might have were I just noodling. Not that there’s anything wrong with noodling — I plan to do some after I’ve submitted to Behind the Mask and before New Novel comes back to me — but after months of editing, to reach into my creativity and pull out some gems, even uncut ones, is a really good feeling.

Besides giving me a highly productive avenue for self-care, this has also taught me a lot about how to judge freelance creative work moving forward. There are times when creating is hard — I have no doubt that “Good Fences” and I will see those dark days soon, possibly during first-round edits — but there is a difference between “hard” and “actually a bad idea.” That’s where things re changing.

See, the concept of “bad idea” can be extremely difficult for me to pin down; an idea can be bad in multiple ways, not always obvious. Sometimes, a project is a bad idea for logistical reasons: the deadline is too soon for the work required, or the material too far outside my area of expertise (to the point where I will be faking my way through the content). Sometimes something about the environment or the conditions rubs me the wrong way: the market/client is squirrelly about pay rates, or the contract is oddly worded, or they have expectations  that seem odd in one way or another.  And of course, sometimes, the story idea is bad on my end: it hinges on a contrivance, or it’s problematic when examined for subtext, or it is simply something that I am not currently capable of executing with the skill and care required to stick the landing. Seeing the way I am reacting to a tight deadline but a good story concept is helping me do some emotional echolocation. I’ve already had an idea for a story that I looked at and said “OK, so this isn’t a story yet. That’s fine. I can work on this later after I’ve done some research!” Five years ago, I’d have swan-dived into the story, floundered around for a week or so, and then declared myself the Worst Writer Ever and cried myself to sleep. (You may think I exaggerate, but…)

So, bottom line here is, it’s been a rocky August, but for the improvements to myself I’m seeing, it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Man, two blog posts in one week? I’m a rock star!

On Focus

One of the few rules I’ve been taught about blogging — besides “avoid religion and politics” — is “don’t call attention to the fact you haven’t been blogging for a while.” So yeah, I just broke that rule, because this post is about why. Don’t worry, it’s all good news.

I recently took a one-week vacation from my day job; my vacation time was in serious danger of maxing out, and I was kind of crispy anyway, so I figured, why not? The vacation started with two family plans: a board game day with my parents, and a day at the beach in Santa Cruz with Sonya’s family.

Zoom in. At the beach day, I wind up spending a lot of time with my niece and nephew(-in-law). One of them is hitting the early teenage years, and is experiencing the horror that is middle school, and in discussing Pokemon Go and anime with them, they confide in me that they sometimes feel weird about admitting to the things they like, because they feel like it’s “silly” or “too young” for them.

Being me, you can imagine I didn’t take this comment lying down. I told them: “As long as you aren’t hurting anybody, you can like whatever you like.”

I can now say I both stunned a teenager into contemplative silence, and was told that I said something inspiring. That’s a nice way to start my free time.

Zoom back out. This is where that conversation becomes an ironic echo.

In the process of this vacation, I realized three things: I actually like being a house-spouse, a lot; I am capable of a truly monstrous amount of creative productivity if that is my only “job,” even if I am also being a house-spouse; and I have been badly oversocializing myself.

I used to think I was an extrovert, and in many ways, I am, but lately I’ve become more introverted. Some of that is me embracing the fact I have a social anxiety disorder and socialization costs me mental energy; some is me getting treatment for said disorder, and realizing how much of my socializing was a need to feel included and accepted; and some is just me getting older and being a busy adult with many important things to do. At the start of my vacation, a friend messaged me about doing something over the vacation, and I locked up and realized that doing something social — with anybody, not just them — sounded like the worst thing in the world.

So I spent my vacation alone, except for some IM conversations and the company of my wife (and one Pokemon Go hunt, because heck yeah Pokemon Go). Every morning, I drank my caffeine (sometimes with a walk to the local coffee shop first), read part of Marvel’s Annihilation Omnibus, and got down to creating and cleaning. I played video games and board games when I was done. And I came back to my day job the next week, feeling more refreshed than I have in months.

I altered a teenager’s worldview by saying that liking whatever they want is not wrong, but I didn’t apply the same idea to myself until I really listened to what my brain was telling me. Games and wrestling help me look at different ways of telling stories while also relaxing me, and let me see the problems of a creator from a new viewpoint. Cleaning and cooking make me feel productive, and quiet the capitalism-fueled anxieties that both insist leisure is a societal ill and that art is not a worthwhile pursuit. Comics are not only a great way to experience stories, but are also easy for me to focus on and digest in large amounts, which is perfect for days where my anxiety is bad enough that I do not have any attention span. Being alone whenever I need to be alone is a valid way to spend my time, and I actually don’t like having too many plans. And whatever people tell me about developing my platform, it’s OK if I don’t blog for a while.

And I have not been blogging lately, it’s true, but that’s because I’ve been working on fiction instead. Since I last put text to WordPress:

  • I have finished both pre-alpha-reader edit passes on my current novel project (the unnamed “New Novel” that I have been hiding the title of out of nothing but anxiety*).
  • While amidships on the edit passes, I also sent a writing sample to Onyx Path Publishing to be considered for inclusion in a collection of Changeling: the Dreaming fiction.
  • The day after finishing the second edit pass, I hit Duotrope looking for open submission calls, and found a call from Meerkat Press due on September 15th that is right up my alley (I mean, superhero stories? Yeesh, twist my arm…). I despaired of the total lack of possibility that I might make that deadline, right before churning out a story idea and an outline over the next two days. I’m now about 2000 words into my rough draft of “Good Fences,” and am really liking where this is going, though I recognize that the Editing Saw will need to be deployed without mercy to make word count.
  • And…I have preliminary ideas penned down for a sequel to New Novel; the kernel of another short story that is for no anthology or open call in particular; and the very rawest, freshest seeds of another possible novel series that needs some research and development before I start outlining anything.

(I also still kick the tires on comic scripts here and there, though I need to start out with something less sweeping than my The Shoulders of Giants concept. I’m waiting for a short work to appear in my head that would work well in comics instead of prose so I can focus on short, “single-issue” works and perfecting the scripting form before I attempt to do something longer. (I had an idea last night, but I want to let it germinate for a bit.) It’s a whole different way of writing than I’m used to, and taking baby steps is perfectly valid (topical!).

I still have Twitter and Facebook to keep my name out there and boost the signal as necessary — arguably, those are more effective for me than WordPress, judging by the response I got for the No Sh*t, There I Was Kickstarter. If I make myself blog, I’m going to wind up writing endless columns of writing advice someone already covered, or glom onto controversies about which others have already spoken expertly. I might start curating links to those sorts of reports, actually — it’s worth boosting the signal, especially when the voices involved are typically marginalized — but in the meantime, if I don’t have an idea for what to post here, that’s OK. Lessons in self-marketing may teach me that not blogging is dangerous for my brand, but but if I want to talk about fiction writing, it’s probably best if I do some of it..And if that’s what I like, and I’m hurting nobody…that’s OK.

*I’ll reveal the title once I’m shopping it to agents and publishers. Promise.

On Horror and Recovery

CN: sexual assault, victim-blaming, enabling of abuse

This is not my story: three different people in my extended social circle have been revealed to be sexual predators. They have been banned from those spaces they could be banned from, and their victims have safe spaces and support networks available to them. I will not say any more here, lest I accidentally divulge more than the victims want divulged.

This is not my story. It’s easy for me to make it my story: to center it on me and my experience, to make it about how a white man feels about the situation. I will not co-opt the horror, the pain, the bravery, or what I hope was the relief of the victims at seeing that if nothing else, they are believed.

This is my story: I’ve been depressed and exhausted. Because of the above. Because I felt betrayed by a person who claimed to have learned from youthful indiscretions while misrepresenting to me what those “indiscretions” were; because I felt dismayed at knowing that circles I run in include people who did not believe victims when they reported, or who even shunned them or outright protected their attackers; because I was so desperate to help the victims and those who stood with them, to try to fix a situation that by its nature does not fix quickly if ever, and I overextended myself and burnt myself out.

This is not a sob-story, nor a cry for help nor pity; this is just me telling you where my energy has been going.

I’ve been writing. I’ve been writing a lot, actually. Also playing a lot of games, and spending time with Sonya, and wearing my favorite t-shirts and my favorite cologne, and everything else I can think of that falls under self-care. Sonya and the writing are tops there, especially; I’m so very lucky to have her, and I’m so very lucky my creativity is flourishing right now. But it’s been a time of processing and recharging, and that’s meant that non-vital systems — like my blog, and social media in general, and, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, my day job — have sometimes fallen by the wayside while I ration out my energy.

I should be more active again in the next couple of weeks, but I also need some time to get my own head together and to make sure that if there is spare energy, it’s set aside for the fallout of the above, because I want to be a resource for victims and those who act on their behalf, and I also want to make sure I don’t harm myself in the process of helping others. If that means less social media from me, the choice is obvious.

Please be patient; we’re trying to build a better world, and that takes up a lot of time.

On Hearts

Externalization, Internalization, and the Problems of the Rudo Brain

Hi, I’m Tyler, and I currently cannot focus on writing because my sports team just lost.

The team in question is the San Jose Sharks, and after a beautiful, heartwarming run to the Stanley Cup Finals, they are now down 2-0 against a Pittsburgh Penguins team that just seems to have their number right now. The Finals are new territory, but the way I feel isn’t. Not because the Sharks are perennial disappointments or whatever tired narrative the sportswriters have manufactured for my team, but because I have always been this way for as long as I can remember, and I still can’t figure out how to stop.

I have always taken personally things that have nothing to do with me. I come to identify with the media I consume and love to a degree that makes it hard for me to have a critical discussion of it, at least not until I have fully internalized my opinion of it (which takes a pretty long time, because I am so susceptible to others’ opinions — it comes of self-esteem issues), and not only does criticism of that thing come to bother me, anything that could invite criticism of that thing bothers me preemptively, like I feel the haters grinning in the shadows and sharpening their knives. Sports is where this problem is the most obvious, because sports performance can be so random and hard to repeat, and losing and having bad nights is undeniably a part of it — when my sports team loses a big game, I often wind up in physical and emotional pain for hours afterwards. But it happens other places, too. When WWE fans started booing Roman Reigns, a wrestler I like alright but not extensively, I ached for the poor guy. When Joss Whedon’s latter-day works proved increasingly (or at least more visibly) problematic, I went through a period of being ashamed to admit I ever liked Buffy. And I felt betrayed and angry and sick on a deep level when Captain America revealed his allegiance to HYDRA and threw open the flood gates of the Internet (though God, am I with that crowd of critics, like whoa).

It’s not even wearing my heart on my sleeve; it’s straight up internalizing the things I love until they become me on some proto-cellular level and I wind up reacting emotionally to the simple fact that other people have different tastes than me, or indeed, that sometimes other people are jerks. That’s a poor fit for the toxic narrative that surrounds the Sharks, but also for just being a human being. People are going to like different things than me, and have insights into things I do not have, and in general be people who are not me, and that is factually OK and needs to be OK with me if I am going to function. The thing is, I have no idea how to change this about myself. I’ve been trying consciously for going on a decade now, and wishing I knew how for about twice that. I’ve improved my own toxicity in terms of how I react — there was a bit of rage-posting about Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons that still embarrasses me when I think about it — but that doesn’t change that tonight’s overtime loss wrecked my mood in a way that is just not tenable long-term.

I’m not writing about this to ask for solutions, or to elicit sympathy, but just to try to figure out what the tape in my head is actually saying, and to hope that in playing it to a larger audience I begin to see how ridiculous it is. Is it that I have trouble sorting out enthusiasm from total obsession, and that I am unhealthily incapable of anything but cellular-level fusion with the objects of my interest? Is it my vaunted dislike of cynicism that has me flinching at giving the cynics more fuel for their arguments? Is this just a casualty of anxiety disorder? Is it maybe all of these things at once?

I’m honestly not sure. But it’s an ongoing struggle among many (though not that many in the grand scheme of things), and for right now, it just feels good to be able to take my brain out, turn it around, and say “OK, so why are you so sad the Sharks lost, really?” And to be able to answer back “Because I hate giving anyone an excuse to call them chokers” helps, even if I don’t have an answer to the next question: “What are you gonna do about it?”

Well, I do sort of have an answer. I’m going to publish this, and go write, and then go inside and see my wife for a little while before I fall asleep. Those are things I have control over, and those are things I am grateful for. And I am going to hope that posting this helps someone else who sees themselves reflected in this mess that is my ongoing battle with my Brain Rudos, and finds themselves slightly better equipped to wage their own fight. That’s a kind of entanglement with others I can get behind.