Monthly Archives: January 2019

Find the Good Stories

So I gather there’s been another fuss where someone in the media has fired off their opinion that certain kinds of entertainment are not ‘adult’ and therefore people who enjoy them are contributing to the downfall of society. This argument seems to bubble up fairly regularly, although the frequency also seems to be ticking up a bit lately, perhaps because of the perception that certain kinds of stories have been growing in popularity in recent years, and that this is somehow indicative of the world’s onrushing demise.

There have already been a lot of good responses to this, but heck, I don’t have a better topic for the blog this week. I also do read a fair bit, and much of what I enjoy falls into the categories that tend to attract criticism. Many of the movies and TV shows I watch are similarly positioned. And then, of course, there’s what I write. So sure, it feels like a shot across the bows a little bit, as well as (I’m pretty sure) just driving me slightly insane on general principles.

I do think that you should probably try a bunch of different types of book (likewise for movies, music, whatever) to expose your mind to a wide range of experiences, challenge yourself and also because you might discover new stuff that you hadn’t known you like before. Like, you can’t possibly know that you like Ethiopian food until you try some. (Which I did, and it’s delicious) You absolutely should read more than one thing, but I would give that advice to someone who only reads cap-L literature just the same as I would to someone who only reads four-colour comic books.

But then, having done so, there’s nothing at all the matter with focusing on what you love. If your absolute favourite thing in the world is to curl up with a hardboiled detective story, then enjoy (schweetheart). Life is too short, and the world too full of stories, to waste your time on ones you don’t enjoy.

Presumably the people bellowing about the need for people to read ‘more challenging’ work are also out there on the weekend screaming at people out for a stroll about how they should be running a marathon. Look, anyone can. Not everyone wants to, and who the fuck are you to dictate what people ‘should’ be doing? I can read Middle English, but I don’t do it when I sit down to unwind the day. Most times, I want a book I can lazily settle into like a nice warm bath. There’s also the argument, which I have a good deal of sympathy for, that if you tell your story such that it’s hard for your reader to understand, maybe what you’ve done is written a terrible goddamn story? Or at least, it’s not better for having been made a chore for your audience.

It’s also true that this whole thing about absolute levels of quality always existing between different types of story (or music, or, or) is bullshit as well. To paraphrase Pat Rothfuss (and tip o’ the hat to Brandon Crilly for pointing this quote my way), there is some terrible SFF out there. But there is also SFF that I will put up against anything written by anyone, anytime, ever. Similarly, the stuff that gets published as cap-L literature includes some fantastic writing. It also includes some hideous drek. Repeat for every genre out there.

If someone asks you to recommend something to read, then whole different ballgame. Give that person your best advice. But if no-one’s asking? Stop trying to fluff up your ego and reputation preening about the perceived value of whatever it is you read. In general, I try to keep my advice to myself (honest), because ultimately giving advice when it isn’t wanted is a) annoying and b) really about ego. I sure have ideas about what I think people should be reading. I surely know most people don’t care what those ideas are just the same.

Ok, that got at least rant adjacent. Thanks for reading, and go find the good stories.

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Deep Snow

If you follow me on Twitter (first of all: my condolences) you’ll have seen that I’ve been feeling a little less than my best self the past few days. I don’t want to make this into a Therapy Blog but, whatever, there might be something worthwhile here.

Part of the issue is likely to do with the time of year; apparently late January is one of the points of the year when lots of people feel a bit down. I’m sure I’m not immune to that, and I had kind of a rough day following the news over the weekend. Basically I read what felt like an unending succession of different stories that made the world feel like a pretty rotten place, both in the sense of ‘unpleasant’ and ‘ruined beyond saving’.

(Yes, I know that on the most important level this is a very special kind of whine. I know that if the problem I have is reading about bad things happening to other people I’m doing all right. At the same time, pointing to someone else who has it worse than you doesn’t instantly invalidate whatever difficulties you’re experiencing yourself. Things can be hard without being the hardest.)

(That was a very long paranthetical.)

I’ve also just been a bit tired and having to adjust my routine to fit a changing schedule, and and and. All of which to say, I have been feeling fatigued, and discouraged, and kind of down on my ability to accomplish the things I want to. The temptation to say ‘ahhh, fuck it’ and just … stop can get very real, sometimes. We’re in the deep part of winter, where I am, and it’s very easy to get stuck in deep snow, literally and otherwise.

Perhaps fortunately, I have some kind friends, one of which took some time out of their day to give me a bit of a boost. Also fortunately, this is a person who I find genuinely inspirational, basically because they never stop. They’re always plugging away at something, usually a bunch of things, and the (seemingly) tireless effort is at least as impressive as the results. The one thing I guarantee this person will never be doing is nothing, and that’s a pretty good model to have.

Anyway. I have long known that I am very fortunate in my friends, and this was Exhibit 726, or something. The people who will take some time out of their own busy goddamn lives to give you a hand up when you need it – those are your real friends, and you hang on to those.

Also a good reminder. We can always do something. Maybe it doesn’t seem like what we can do will be enough (in whatever sense), but it’s always better than not doing anything at all. It’s the one thing that we’ve always got – we can do our thing. Whatever that is. Whatever that does. Literally no-one else can, and by whatever degree, the world is different because we did it.

So, I’m both allowing myself a little time to be a bit in my blues (which I think is also important; pretending that we’re Fine 100% of the time is not helpful) but then also to make sure that I write, talk about what I want to talk about, and spend some time with people who lift me up when I need it. Hopefully I return the favour, at least some of the time.

Thanks for reading.

Keep doing your thing.

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Also, Play

Last week I wrote about getting back to work (which I am!) but this week I’m going to talk about making sure I have time to goof off. Consistent, that’s me.

There is a reason. I’ve mentioned a couple times that I play in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and after our last session one of the other players mentioned how important the game has been in helping them handle some stressful stuff in their life. We got to talking about it. One by one, we all came out with different ways that our D&D game has had very tangible, real world benefits on our lives.

In my case, the D&D game has been invaluable in getting me into a social situation on a regular basis and in forming closer relationships with some very good people. I tend to be shy and somewhat socially averse, so I also tend to isolate myself a little. As much as I value my alone time, I also know that it isn’t good in excess. Our D&D game has been great for getting me out of my hermitage.

Now, this isn’t a commercial for Dungeons and Dragons. Obviously there are lots of ways that I could be socializing, and probably lots of things that would have been helpful to my fellow players as well. What’s important is that we all found something that was useful in the way that we needed it to be.

We are surrounded by messaging of various kinds telling us how important it is that we work hard. I seem to get reminded at least once a week about how early some people start their day, the implication being that if you’re not at a desk somewhere by 4am, you might not be doing enough.

And obviously, dedication and sheer labour are essential if we’re going to achieve whatever goals we happen to have. My next book will only get written if I sit myself down and bang out the words. Heretic Blood will only find a home if I get out on the (virtual) pavement and knock on some (electronic) doors. Work is essential.

It’s also important to take time to deliberately not work, though, and do other stuff that helps get or keep us in the frame of mind to work effectively. Especially when we get busy, it can seem like an automatic thing to do to throw all the play overboard.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s a very good idea.

Go play.

Thanks for reading.

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Back At It

Not too sure what to write about, this week … my holiday break is winding down (I have various disadvantages coming from the work I do, but the amount of time off I get in December is an undoubted plus) and I am gradually getting back to things. I’m preparing for a new term of teaching new groups of students. I saw my first class Monday and it seemed to go pretty well. Things start in earnest next week.

Having taken some time to rest and recharge, I’m also looking to get back to work on the writing stuff, as well. As usual, I had grand ideas about how much I was going to accomplish with my time off, and, well, it didn’t work out like that. Sometimes it really is important to just pause for a while, let yourself have some space and time where you’re not trying to accomplish anything.

This afternoon I took a long walk in the woodlot near where I live. I watched the birds, fed a riotous mob of chickadees, and enjoyed the peace of a snowy forest. I came out feeling quieter inside than I have for a little while. In terms of stuff that Got Done today, the list is not impressive. However, that time to pause has its own kind of value.

Now, I may have somewhat over-indulged over the past few weeks, but I may also have done just what I needed to do. Now, it’s time to get back to work. I want to continue my progress with the new WIP, and I need to finally write that query letter for Heretic Blood, so I can start looking for a home for it seriously. And I need to do the work that more directly pays the bills.

I genuinely believe that I will do all of these things at least a little better because of my quiet time, though. The chickadees are likely to agree.

Thanks for reading.

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2019

So 2019 is here; another year has passed. I’m not the right person to comment meaningfully on all that happened in our world in 2018, except to say that we made it through some heavy weather and have some daunting challenges ahead of us. We persevere.

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I think that more often than not they become sticks we use to beat ourselves with and a means of amplifying our self doubts. If making a resolution works for you, then do it, obviously, but while I am trying to achieve things, for me there hasn’t been a lot of value in making ritual declarations out of them. There is still a certain inevitability to reflecting a little over the year that has just ended, though.

2018 was a reasonably good year for me in a lot of ways: I finished (well, more or less) writing Heretic Blood, which I think is the most challenging writing project that I’ve ever taken on. Can*Con, which I help organize, was a great success. I made some new connections that I hope will be both professionally valuable and new friendships. I went to places that I had never been, and spent time with dear friends who I hadn’t seen in far too long. I read wonderful new stories.

Certainly there were challenges and setbacks, but overall I must consider myself extremely fortunate for the year I have just had. There’s lots to do in the year ahead: a new project I’m just getting started with, finding a home for Heretic Blood, and a new Secret Project that I should be able to tell you more about shortly. I hope I’m continuing to grow as a writer and stretch myself professionally.

Thanks for being a part of it all by reading this blog. I hope you’ll stick around and discover what 2019 has coming with me.

Happy New Year.

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