The Perfect Dream

I’m going to break the Primary Unspoken Rule of Writing right now. Why? Because I had this dream last night that woke me up. Instead of it being one of those cold sweat, terror induced exercises in heart stopping I was in fact awoken by self-induced paroxysms of joy. Seriously!

Retro Futuristic City by HTECORE

The dream, as best as I can recall, centered around the idea that I had started a gym. People would come to my gym to swing around like Tarzan or Spiderman. Sort of a city sized exercise in parkour in which no one ever missed a leap or came down hard in a fall. And I was the *best* at it.

The setting was rich, luxurious.  Somewhere between the vast darkness of Los Angles in Blade Runner and the vertical richness of The Fifth Element, and the whole time I was flipping around this place like a trapeze artist operating outside gravity.

Like I said, I awoke from this dream, and a huge grin was plastered on my mug. I felt elated and I spent the next hour or so contemplating all the “whys.” “Why was that dream so good?” “Why did I wake up from feeling so satisfied?” “Why can’t I do this on command in my waking life?” “Why don’t I have the words to describe this amazing experience inside my dumb skull on the page?”

 

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Back On the Rails

Derailing

So, if I’m honest with myself, I derailed last January. ConFusion 2017 was a great big ball of fun, and I came home inspired by all the excellent people I got to hang out with for three whole days of Sci-Fi enriched shenanigans, but I also came home with a raging case of pneumonia. By early February it had consolidated in my right lung to such an extent that the doctor I ended up seeing seriously tried to get me to go to a hospital.

I didn’t go to the hospital. Instead, I completed the prescribed levofloxacin followed by self-congratulations because of “how great I felt” in the aftermath of my affliction with the reduced price tag for the cure. “Yeah me!”

The March rolled over me with a second bought of walking-pneumonia.

#Derp

So yeah, I lost my writing discipline. Round about April I found myself doing anything but writing. Instead of getting up in the morning and laying down words, I did the dishes I should have done the night before.

And so it went, me letting crappy little things get in the way of my desires. For a while there I even considered the possibility that rejection (and there has been plenty of it since January) was a sign that perhaps Sci-Fi really wasn’t my calling.

I derped once and then couldn’t help but derp again.

Derp.

Derp.

Derp.

This morning I woke up, compelled to evaluate my current situation and my future prospects. An existential crisis fueled by OCD. While standing on the ledge just outside the window of my metaphorical 13th-floor apartment, I was lucky enough to have an interested friend to talk me back inside to chair in front of my writing desk. Also, “Yeah me!”

Re-Railing

My writing group continues to send me reminders that they’re meeting every Sunday. Writing friends have asked if I’d like to get together or why I’m almost never seen at the coffee shop banging out words. I’ve even gotten polite queries about when the next episode in a space opera series might be released. Ok, so there are people out there who a) like what I write and b) want me to write more of it.

There’s even this overlooked gem of a review for The Big Red Buckle which has me thinking I should engage Melanie S. as a blurb writer for future projects. 

Much of my distress and worry regarding my writing of late is tied to the notion that I’m not actually making anything close to a living from it. Classic cart-before-the-horse thinking I know, but still, there it is. Add to this that I’ve sent out a literal butt load of submissions since the start of the year and all of them have come back negative for a variety of reasons.

I expressed this to another friend recently at a chance island encounter, and his response was both pragmatic and worthy of my attention. “If you find someone to work with, do it on your own.” He’s entirely correct, but again that damnable compulsive voice in my head, there are days when I can’t stop obsessing about the rejection.

So, the outstanding question right now is “How?” How do I get myself back on the rails, headed down the tracks toward some yet-undefined-life-goal? Make some money from my words? Write the best novel ever written? Write a story I’m happy with?

How about, “Just continue to write?”

Summer

Summer is *not* the best time of the year for a stay-at-home Dad and writer to reinvent himself, this is a fact of my life of which I am critically aware. That said, I know that I can write 300 words a day without taking much time or it devouring much effort.

So we’re back to this simple goal and will build from there. Three-hundred words a day and down the tracks.

Wishing I Had a Button


The days are short and usually damp and cold. A social current of unrelenting cheer is washing over me, eroding the foundations of sanity. It’s fake. A put-on job meant to fool the fools. Then there are the long nights.

I wish I had an off button. A severe and merciless depression is banging on my doors. My hinges are worried and cracked. “Excuse me while I disappear.”

Things That Interest Me

These are things that have gotten my attention lately, listed in no particular order. For the most part, they are people, ideas or technologies that are influencing what I write.

  • Bajau: This is a culture of marine nomads that mostly hang out in the tropical waters around the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. Some of them live in pole houses off the coastlines of land masses, but many live on houseboats or other vessels.I love seeing and reading about these people because they’re giving me insights into how some cultures will adapt to sea level rise in a climate changed world.
  • Bamboo Railroad: I first learned of these abandoned rail lines running through the hinterlands of Cambodia when I randomly found the video below. Seems the rails are a relic of French colonialism that the indigenous people have turned around for their own benefit.Apparently, the rail cars are mostly constructed from bamboo. The wheels and axles are often scavenged from tanks left over from Cambodia’s eight-year-long civil war. The complexity of the social system that allows operation of these simple carts has to be amazing to witness. How you flag a cart down? How do carts pass one another on the same line? Who manages line maintenance? What happens in the event of a washout or flood?Technological primacy in a post-climate-change world is what I getting from here. Imagine what we’ll scavenge and convert when the power of our government is severely limited by its current ineptitudes.
  • Mycotecture: The material science of growing things out of mushroom mycelium. There’s so much potential for sustainable and even innovative goods being quietly developed these days. Other than the sterility requirements, accomplishing this on your own appears to be completely within reach which means that open sourced techniques for developing your own material — say, interlocking bricks for building or “leather” for clothing — are right around the corner.
  • States’ Rights: By concentrating power at the state level, proponents of “states’ rights” believe that policy can be more accurately tailored towards the needs of that locality’s citizens. But the concept of States’ Rights was incubated in a world that was not simultaneously host to multi-national corporations or the influences of fast and ubiquitous global trade. When considered from the vantage point of the general welfare of a country it’s easy to see that this ideology is both self-concerned and short sighted.The problem is that this ideology has become the dominant paradigm in American government. Hell, we just elected the Oompa-Loompa and Chief and he’s seen fit to use what little mandate is in his possession to fill each of his cabinet posts with an antithetical choice of what that post requires. In other words, Donald Trump is very much like Casey Jones except that he intends the wreck.

    The power will, then necessarily reside at lower levels of government. Whatever will we do?

    As I’ve said previously, I think the thing to do, given the situation, is to adapt. So I’m exploring ways in which people, and by consequence, myself can adapt to a major shift in government. Places with long traditions of bigotry, authoritarianism, and ignorance will likely become more like those places. But that social geography doesn’t prevail throughout the land, does it?

    I also imagine “Cascadia” rising from the trees and frankly, I think that this is where people should be building coalitions and doing their best work. Working this into fiction is more or less my full-time job.

What the What

It’s bath time and I was using this parental free time to check up on what’s going in with our new Ompahloompah and Chief. Just and observation, but apparently I’m not allowed to customize my news feed ‘s range of input.

Breitbart is to news as drain field effluent is to a healthy, nutritious snake. Like so many others, I too would very much appreciate the ability to exclude fake, biased, and bigoted sources from my feed.

Google, just so you understand, this is the kind of bullshit design that quickly runs toward deal breaker in my book. Fix it, fix it fast, because normalizing racist, misogynistic crap like this has already done incalculable damage.

Writing Dystopian While Living In One

Admittedly we’re not there yet, but given the US’s recent Presidential and Congressional results a dystopian future may very well be in our future. I’d point to prescient articles like this one in The Guardian.

“There are plenty who believe that if Trump went ahead and actually implemented his programme, he would create a different country: closed, xenophobic and at odds with some of the founding principles – religious equality or freedom of speech – that have defined the United States since its founding. The country would still exist – but it would no longer be America.”Yesterday I wasted nearly 4,000 words writing a detailed critique of the Trump Inaugural Rush. His 100 days plan is littered with self-contradiction, mutually exclusive steps, and pie-in-the-sky notions of what he’ll be able to achieve. It looks like half of these he made up on the spot. These conclusions should have been obvious to anyone who bothered to read what he said back in October.

Yesterday I wasted nearly 4,000 words writing a detailed critique of the Trump Inaugural Rush. His 100 days plan is littered with self-contradiction, mutually exclusive steps, and pie-in-the-sky notions of what he’ll be able to achieve. It looks like half of these he made up on the spot. These conclusions should have been obvious to anyone who bothered to read what he said back in October.

Right now, I’m nearly 30,000 words into a dystopian thriller, a project that I’m working on for NaNoWriMo. I stepped back from another dystopian storyline I outlined in October because I wanted to let it settle a bit before I started writing. And there’s yet a third outline plus partially finished manuscript cooling its heals while I search for ways to increase its impact. All of this writing is gritty, is intended to make the reader think, and will hopefully sweep you into the narrative.

Now, I’m looking down the barrel several potential catastrophes. Trumps trade policies, as outlined, have the potential to destroy American jobs and plunge our economy into never ending trade wars. His foreign policy will likely plunge us into more wars. His domestic and security policies are little more than rewritten McCarthyism. On immigration, energy, manufacturing and anything else you can write a policy for he’ll be trying to reclaim the prosperity of the post-WWII liberalism by instituting failed 19th-century industrialist dogma.

Okay, so what does that mean for me, a guy who, ultimately, likes to tell stories about catastrophe?
My knee jerk reaction was “Holy shit! No one is going to want to buy or read dystopian fiction in the middle of a crisis.” Fiction is, at its heart, an escapist activity. For those of us who regularly partake, we’re trying to get away from all of our problems, anxieties, and sorrows. When zombies are roaming the land, when they just ate your grandmother, you’re not going to be interested in reading about roaming zombie hoards.

Here’s the thing, dystopias aren’t actually about all the trouble. They’re more about people, our heroes overcoming those challenges. In fact, that’s exactly why I love to write stories just like this. My protagonists often face what seem to be insurmountable odds with little more than their ingenuity and luck to carry them through. They MacGyver the shit out of those problems (which I really enjoy writing).

So my first reaction, “Oh no, more wasted words!” may not have been my most thoughtful. Dystopias can serve as a medium of inspiration on so many levels. Hang on, expect a wild ride.
I am a writer. My essential tool in this life is the written word. And history shows us that words can be the most powerful tools at our disposal. I intend to write stories of hope, in which ordinary people overcome significant resistance and enormous power. I mean to tell stories that will leave this man impotent and lost to time. Dystopia corrected, dominance destroyed.

When it’s done, when these four years are over, we can get back to putting America together again. We can get back to the hard work of making the world more just and welcoming.

I hope that this will serve as a reminder, as the last days of our brief golden age expire, we can all look forward to that next ballot. We can have those conversations that we were afraid to have before the election, we can confront bigotry, and motivate the lazy. We are the government we deserve, make this your story arc.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and right now I’m feeling raw. Six years of service to my country as a soldier, six more before that working the front lines of public lands and somehow its become pointless. All that sacrifice. While the rest of you were out there getting college degrees, I was up reading over radio intercepts from DPRK, trying to puzzle together what the fuck those assholes might be about.

I gave my oath to defend the Constitution and this land ultimately because I grew up with a strong land ethic. I read Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac while huddled against a rock for shelter in Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness. My radio had died two days before, a storm had moved in, and all I could do at the point was wait it out. Several months later, with my new wife, I found myself back in Florida searching for work with health insurance. My youngest brother had signed up, and damn they made it sound like all you’d have to do was work hard. I’d done that, months wondering the wilderness picking up hunting trash and endless summer days swinging a Pulaski. So I took my work ethic, my young wife and, my land ethic and I signed up expecting that someday I’d return to the wilderness.

My relationship with that woman, my foot, my time, and so much more of was burnt in the tabernacle of service to my country. Until now, I’ve been at peace with this.

I’ve recently been told “Wait and see. Everything is bound to work out for the best.”

Veteran’s Day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans are thanked for their services to the United States on Veterans Day. Veterans Day honors those who served the United States in all conflicts, especially veterans.

How can this be so? Where is the honor in this?  A man who lied and manipulated his way into office. The Electoral College intends to install a man into office who doesn’t understand the concept of sacrifice. Who, unmindfully, has the land ethic of the Once-ler. A man pathologically unwilling to share. A person with whom I have no common values. Someone as to be so unlike me that our only commonality is the shared genetic heritage of our species and the randomness of the geographical land of birth.

Typically, I’d be writing to ask that people hold their thanks. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable because it feels like a request. Maybe you want to know what I did, where I’ve been, who I saw die; I don’t know, but the request is made when you say “thank you for your service.” I hear the anticipation in your voices. It’s not a movie, it doesn’t work that way. When I left the service of my country, I left a broken and desperately screwed up person. Not the same guy that gave his oath six years before.

It’s taken me sixteen years and a lot of hard work to feel “normal” around the majority of you. I find grace only far beyond the things of man. In the wilderness. And for a man who holds this as his essential ethic how could I want the esteem of a people that would elect a man with no respect?