Signal boost: Save the Drake

Here’s a random story and a call to arms for my 1,999th blog post.

Back at the end of the last century, I was running wild and free on a Usenet newsgroup called alt.fan.robert-jordan. I’ve talked about it a lot in the past, and some of you know me from there. It was where I met Mrs. Hatboy, and that’s where it all started.

At around the same time, I ran into this USian dude by the name of Shannon Drake. Since Shannon is totally a girl’s name, he dubbed himself He Who Is Shannon on the newsgroup. He still got cast as a girl in basically all our fanfic and was referred to using female pronouns in every conversation we had. It was a simpler time.

Shannon immediately endeared himself to me by being smart, funny, genuine, and relentlessly brutal. His mocking impersonations of assorted Usenet posters were second to none. He nailed it, every time – not only by hilarious exaggeration, but by the truths he so often distilled into caricature. He was also a pretty decent writer, which helped.

What I didn’t realise was that, while Shannon was of course sufficiently warped and cynical to fit right in on the ol’ Monkeyhouse group, he was actually staggeringly well-adjusted and balanced considering the assorted factors at work on him. Having dealt in some small measure with depression and stress and other shit like that myself recently, I can only shake my head in wonder when he talks about making it through his twenties without committing suicide.

Anyhoo.

Fast forward twenty-odd years and Shannon,  his lady friend, and his hysterical collection of cats (I believe non-breeders and irretrievable cat people sometimes refer to them as “fur babies”, but as permissive as I have become in my early middle age I can neither abide nor approve of such twattery) have been obligated to return home to his mother’s house for economic reasons. I think it’s something to do with Freedom. All that Freedom apparently makes it hard for a gainfully employed man pushing forty to … live, somehow? Anyway, Freedom. Yeah.

Also he and his partner are writers and we are fucking broke all the fucking time.

Long story short, my pal Shannon ran into some shit, and now he and his nearest and dearest are having just the most spectacular run of problems. Most of them are caused by the fact that he’s living with the woman who seems like the wellspring of most of his crazy. But I should probably let Shannon tell it.

Because he has.

Using his decades-honed writing skill and merciless ability to characterise toxic or otherwise disturbed people; using his gift for setting scenes and turning horrible situations into darkly hilarious stories; using all the lame-as-fuck superpowers bestowed upon him by his genes, environment, upbringing, culture, education and wise Australian Internet friends; Shannon has rendered his frankly unbelievable recent history down into a miniature biography.

This is Shannon Drake’s Arsebook, and it is well worth a read. All profits from this specially-crafted piece of dystopian family dramedy go towards moving Shannon and his girl and his cats the fuck out of Crazytown.

If you feel particularly generous or don’t think the book proceeds are enough, he also has a GoFundMe. Because, again, Freedom. This is how members of Generation X and later pay for shit while the Boomers still have all the money. I know it’s a culturally difficult thing to confront and of course there’s no obligation to any of you, but I think the bravery my friend has shown in “begging for help” far outstrips the difficulty I’ve had in boosting the signal.

So yeah. There it is. A fascinating read and a harrowing window into human psychology, set against the backdrop of helping a friend get back on his feet. I’m calling it worthy.

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while on the metro.

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Attention Snowflakes

offending

I’m still on hiatus. Feeling much better, but felt that this required a small post just to clarify my position. If you catch yourself bemoaning how over-sensitive and easily-offended people are these days, and how nobody got offended by politically incorrect harmless fun in the good old days, just remember:

The premise of Blazing Saddles was that ignorant racists were such utter snowflakes that they’d be offended enough at the idea of a black sheriff that they would move en masse out of town in response to his appointment.

If you rail against how some things are no longer accepted in civilised society when they were fine fifty or twenty or even ten years ago, you’re not the hero of this story. You’re railing against humanity getting better.

If you want to rail against how offensive and unacceptable Blazing Saddles is in terms of its treatment of minorities of all kinds, bless your heart. It is unacceptable now – almost unthinkable. Because we’re getting better. Or at least we’re trying. I think that’s probably okay. It’s not supposed to stand up to today’s sensibilities, because the whole point of the movie was to mock the bigots until our sensibilities evolved.

You really think people have gotten easier to offend? They haven’t. They’ve just stopped accepting the casual assumption that it’s okay to offend people who don’t have the power to slap back.

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.

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Stress, Melancholy, and the Deep Dark Hatboy

I’m sitting in a different carpark today, waiting in the warm until it’s time for pipe practice. I don’t want to be here.

I’m trying to tell myself that this chapter of my life – the pipe band, the practice, all of that – is over. I’m pretty sure it’s true. I don’t want to join another band now. I don’t want to go to practice every week or even every other week. I don’t want to have to learn new tunes and deal with the expectations set on me by agreeing to play turnouts and take band reeds and equipment. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m more than content being a noisy mediocre drunk pest at parties and pub crawls. I’m done. It’s too much and I have so many other things in my life now.

That brings me to stress.

At work a few weeks back, we were treated to stress meters to see how we were going. I have no idea what they measured. I took one, because although I was perfectly happy at work (an extra €200 a month would be great though), I was curious what sort of results I would get.

The results were not good.

I don’t know if I’m a naturally tense and stressed person who just bottles it up and denies it. I guess I probably am. I think everyone close to me, when I told them about this, tried as nicely as possible to tell me as much.

I work full-time in my (distant) second language. I live perpetually with a bag of shit that could peel off at any moment. Even when I sleep, I’m aware of that risk. I wake up to vent gas. I have two amazing kids, but kids are hard work. And I have a second job writing and publishing novels.

So yeah, my results were appalling. Like, if the average test result showed a balance of 50-50 on stress and recovery, my score was 98-2 on stress. Not at a single point – and this included two nights of 10+ hours of sleep – in the test period did I actually gain anything. I was in massive loss of reserves the entire time.

Of course the test results stressed me out even more. I’m sure they were skewed, but I’m also sure they were telling me something fairly accurate about the tension I live under.

This threw me into a downward spiral, but it only lasted a day or two. Most of my downward spirals do. And I have a lot of them. Today, sitting at work and thinking about how I had to go and practice with the band this evening, I almost shut down. I didn’t want to do anything. I just sat, locked, getting more and more miserable and unable to function.

In the end I snapped out of it, sort of, and here I am. But I don’t want to be.

And I’m so tired of this shit happening, whether it’s for a good reason or – which also seems to happen – for no reason. I don’t know. I’m just tired.

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Greyblade: Ready

So Greyblade finally came in at 715 pages, 205,282 words. Quite the monster.

greyblade13

The paperback is available on Amazon here.

The e-book is available here.

My hiatus continues, but here is my usual metrics graph for the three parts of Greyblade, and the writing of them. Interesting mix, since the first part benefited from some holiday-time fudging of numbers, and I got quite bogged down in the second and third parts before blasting into the final few chapters.

greyblade_metrics

All in all, despite my ~117 day official record, I’d say that along with The First Feast, this took me the better part of a year to actually get done. Which is slow, I know … but at the moment I have more people complaining that I write too much, too fast, than I have people complaining that I’m writing slowly and too little. So there you go.

Back to resting. I’m sorry. Feeling unfortunately busted at the moment.

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Lame Bonus Post: Going on another little hiatus

Until I get my editing done and Greyblade released, I’m going to take a break from blogging. I’m fine, just got a busy couple of weeks coming up and I have to let something go.

I’m not finished with the story of Skell and Lotus. Or at least, I’m finished with that story … but like Predericon’s little epic, this looks like one that will extend into a collection of serial tales. So I’ll come back to that soon.

Until then, I’ll post whenever anything Hatstand-shaking occurs.

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Black Lotus, Part 19

Lotus and Çrom didn’t resume at that time, however. Lotus seemed to recognise the distress Çrom was still feeling, even though by now he considered himself to be fairly adept at hiding it. In fact, he reflected sheepishly, if he’d put as much effort into honing his lovemaking as he had to keeping the horrors of undying from showing on his face, he might have been famous for more than just … walking across the urverse and getting killed every time he stopped for a sandwich, as Lotus had so succinctly put it.

“So,” he said, after they’d gotten dressed but settled down comfortably close to one another in Lotus’s little pile of mystic-looking mess. “You’re not just trying to get me on side so you can try for immortality. Your ultimate goal here is to get me to abandon my quest for death, at which point you’ll spring it on me.”

“At no point have I given up on my goal,” Lotus said. “But our goals are interwoven, Sorry Çrom Skelliglyph.”

Çrom had always disliked being addressed by his classical title. He was surprised to find that it didn’t hurt so much, coming from Lotus. Surprised, and a little worried. “As interwoven as our bodies in the throes of passion?” he suggested floridly.

“Even more so,” she replied with her usual merciless accuracy. “There is a risk, after all, that I may die before you achieve a state of acceptance. I would be unable to complete my commission.”

“I like to think your professional pride would force you to bend on that,” Çrom said, “if it looked like you were about to die.”

“I am mortal,” Lotus shrugged. “I could die today.”

“Only if you keep killing me and screwing me for the next eight or nine hours,” Çrom said lightly rather than think about that. “But as happy as I am to keep trying it this way, I did already admit to you that my immortality isn’t sexually transmissible.”

“Yes.”

“So did you have a plan for gaining immortality?” he asked. “A plan involving me, but preferably not involving trying to steal the Dark Queen’s Chalice, or freeing the dread Ghåålus so we can kick Him in the nads together as a couple?”

“As a matter of fact I do,” she said.

And then she told him her plan, involving him, for gaining immortality.

“Alright,” Çrom said after a long, awestruck pause.

“‘Alright’?” Lotus repeated in surprise.

Çrom drew in a deep breath. “The best sort of boots for kicking a Ghåålus in the crotch is a pair with good ankle support-”

Çrom.”

“That load of high-yield irredeemable twaddle you just told me,” Çrom declared, “is without a doubt the stupidest plan for gaining immortality I have ever heard. Why not just shoot straight at glorification? Cut out the middle steps. Which, just to reiterate, are stupid steps?” he added. “I can probably pull a few strings, get you a-”

“No,” Lotus said. “I am a murderer many times over,” she smiled sadly. “Those such as I do not become Angels, Çrom.”

“Get out,” Çrom scoffed. “I didn’t think there was any other way to become an Angel. They’d probably promote you straight to blackwing.”

“You are mistaken,” Lotus said. “And besides, a Demon has greater freedom, and greater power. Would you not consider a Demon to be a worthy companion, if it came to that? A lover that you would not have to lose?”

“Until some determined Demon-slayer … well, slew you.”

“There is another method we might try,” Lotus said, “for ending your life, once I am a Demon. I am not convinced it would work, but it might appeal to you.”

“Oh yes?”

“Were I to gain the power of a Demon,” Lotus said, “and should the information I have collected prove accurate, I could set you adrift in God-space.”

Çrom stared. “What good would that do?”

“As much as dropping you into the Liminal, in terms of robbing the dread Ghåålus of entertainment … except I understand you would not die of thirst or lose your mind,” Lotus said.

“That’s true,” Çrom replied. “Getting broken down and digested by God-space is much worse.”

“Have you tried being absorbed into the underdark?”

“No,” Çrom admitted grudgingly. “But I imagine I’d return to the nearest convenient point of reality, with a precious new death memory to enjoy,” he shuddered. “No. No. No underdark.”

Lotus shrugged. “As you wish. I did tell you I would not conduct any further experiments, after all. No more deaths until your final death,” she promised. “At least by my hand.”

Çrom looked at her in affectionate puzzlement. “You really think you have it,” he said. “Don’t you?”

“No, Sorry Çrom Skelliglyph,” the Black Lotus said firmly. “I know I have it.”

“But before you spring it on me,” he summarised, “we’re going to descend into Castle Void and steal the dark gift of diabolisation from the Adversary.”

“Yes.”

“And then use that power to leverage your promotion to the Earthly Heralds or the Archangelic court or – what exactly?”

“It hardly matters,” Lotus said. “By the time we are done, my past will be wiped clean by the service I have done. I will not even need to kill you to ensure my legacy,” she smiled. “But I will, nevertheless.”

Çrom shook his head. “Lotus,” he said, and touched her tangled coils of hair. “Nothing so gentle. You’re a thistle, a gympie gympie … no, a stinging nettle, I think.”

The Black Lotus grinned. “And I would have all of Castle Void feel my sting,” she whispered.

THE END

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while sitting in the carpark.

Posted in Astro Tramp 400, IACM, Oræl Rides To War, The Book of Pinian | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Black Lotus, Part 18

The smothering darkness drew back to reveal the Black Lotus sitting by his side, still naked except for the soulwatchers wrapped around her head. Her wild, knotted jumble of hair stuck out from the leather bindings every which way.

“Forty-seven seconds,” she said. “Counting the time it took for you to reignite,” she tapped the lenses. “Fifty-four seconds until you breathed, and opened your eyes again.”

“Aag,” Çrom said, raising shaking hands to his eyes.

“You were telling the truth,” Lotus congratulated him.

“Give me a second,” he pleaded, and lay back, closed his eyes, and shivered. It was so loud. How could silence be so loud? He opened his eyes quickly and looked at Lotus suspiciously. She raised her empty hands, looking as innocent as a filthy killer for hire wearing a pair of antique mystic goggles could look. This was not particularly innocent.

“I will not kill you again until the final time,” she said. “I have learned everything I can from this experiment.”

“So glad,” he said weakly. Had he thought he would be willing to let her do that to him? What sort of an idiot had he been? “What did you stick in my eyes?”

Lotus reached down – slowly, but the movement was still enough to make Çrom flinch – and picked up a pair of dull silvery spikes from the trash on the floor.

“Imperium,” she said. “Shaped by … well, there are a lot of stories and only the most laughable chain of provenance. But since only powerful Gods can even scratch Imperium, it’s safe to assume one of Them made these.”

Çrom whistled through dry lips. “That’s a lot of Imperium,” he said, admiring the pair of hand-length, finger-breadth spikes in spite of the creeping horror still filling him. “Darking Mags’s Coffin?”

Lotus lowered the spikes, turned her head and unwound the goggles, before giving him a stare that was only slightly marred by the amusing red marks left behind by straps and lenses. “How did you know that?” she demanded.

“There’s not much Imperium on the market,” Çrom replied, “and not much in handy weapon form. I’ve never been stabbed by a nail from Darking Mags’s Coffin, but I know they were meant to be about that size and shape, and there were … a hundred of them?”

“The story claimed there were ten by ten,” Lotus nodded, and rolled the soulwatchers back into their pouch. “Only thirty-seven have ever been accounted for. The rest are presumably somewhere down in the Castle.”

“Do these make thirty-nine?” Çrom gestured.

Lotus shook her head. “They are two of the thirty-seven,” she said. “They were part of my payment for a previous commission.”

“No wonder you were unimpressed by my princely offer of whatever I happened to have in my pockets when you killed me,” Çrom smiled. “I can’t offer Imperium. Although I should feel honoured to have been killed by such a valuable relic.”

“You have not been killed using Imperium before?”

“Oh, several times,” Çrom said, “along with each of the other so-called Inviolate Metals. Except my inner pedant always makes me add that none of them are technically metals and only a couple of them are even metallic…” he sat up and rubbed his face, trying not to let the darkness show. He forced a smile. “Never been stabbed with these, though,” he concluded. “It was … a little prolonged for my tastes.”

Lotus looked momentarily unhappy. “I held them in your eyes,” she said, her expression returning to its usual calm but intense inquisitiveness. “I was curious to see if your body would heal and push them free, or if the Imperium itself would dissolve, or if you would simply re-form slightly to one side…” she shifted a little uncomfortably. “It was only a matter of seconds. I am sorry.”

“I was actually wondering if you … dismounted before finishing me off,” Çrom said lightly. “Real good way to get sick, right there.”

“I dismounted,” Lotus smiled slightly. “You do not remember?”

“I was pretty numb,” he reminded her, “from the rape drug you surprised me with,” this time she definitely flinched, so he continued, “I’m teasing. For the record, I was perfectly fine with what you did. I could have told you that impaling doesn’t keep me dead any longer than anything else, though – if you’d asked.”

“You have tried?”

“Not by choice, but sure,” Çrom replied. “I usually just sort of wake up next to whatever impaled me. Once,” he reminisced, “I was crushed between two blocks of fusion glass three hundred metres on a side. Long story,” he added when Lotus looked curious, “suffice it to say you’re nowhere near the most creative murderer I’ve contracted, although sex more than makes up for any shortcomings in the props budget.”

“What happened?” Lotus asked.

“I came back to life,” Çrom answered. “What do you think happened?”

She rolled her eyes. “In between the blocks of glass, or outside them?”

“Up in the lifting mechanism,” Çrom said. “Almost got killed again right there. Some pretty big hydraulics needed to lift twenty-seven million cubic metres of fusion glass. So what happened with the spikes?”

“Nothing,” Lotus said, evidently dissatisfied. “I was kneeling with them held firmly in place, you bled and spasmed, and then I had the spikes in my hands and you were intact again.”

“Anticlimactic, isn’t it?”

“The goggles achieved nothing.”

“They rarely do,” Çrom said philosophically.

“You never really answered me,” Lotus said, “about whether or not you are fertile. You said you do not really pay much attention, since to know of your progeny would be to invite pain on yourself…”

“But I’ve had children,” Çrom said quietly. “Of course I have. And I’ve watched them – some of them – for as long as I could bear.”

“But they all died,” Lotus said calmly. Çrom nodded. “When?”

“A couple of hundred years after being born,” Çrom said roughly. “Just like everyone else. My curse, my brand of immortality, isn’t inheritable or sexually transmissible. Don’t ask me if it would be kinder or crueller if it was. I’m still trying to think around two Imperium-spike-sized holes in my head that don’t actually exist but my mind is trying to tell me do. What’s your point?”

“I was just wondering,” Lotus said. “If your dismembered body-parts vanish and reconstitute into you, and the hair and skin and other things you shed throughout your lifetime-”

“Are you wondering if my sperm relocates back into my testicles when I die?” Çrom asked wearily. Lotus shrugged. “Look, I can tell you that kids I’ve had don’t cease to ever have existed when I undie. The clones made from my genetic material didn’t vanish. I guess stuff like that is replenished by my body and so it gets to continue being part of the bioplane of wherever I shed it. They say every cell in our bodies is replaced over a pretty short period, so I’d expect the dread Ghååluss to have thought that through. My separated genetic material doesn’t take on any actual Çrom-Skelliglyph-like properties, though – with the possible exception of messy hair,” he eyed Lotus. “Our kids might be in trouble in that respect.”

“You need not concern yourself,” Lotus said. “I no longer have it in me to breed. Physiologically,” she added, delicately. “The Ice Wall’s Department of Immigration and Pest Control does not have the most proactive stance on preventing the spread of the human species that I have encountered.”

“I’m sorry,” Çrom said awkwardly, after a long pause.

The Black Lotus tilted her head. “Oh? Why?”

Çrom shrugged. “It felt like something I should say,” he said.

She leaned forward. “But the lovespike wore off,” she said, her tone changing abruptly.

“Yeah,” Çrom said, “anything in my system stays behind with my old body – you know, conceptually speaking. Certainly if it was a poison or whatever killed me. Don’t know if this applies.”

“So where is the lovespike residue now?”

“Beats me,” Çrom said, and shifted his legs experimentally. “It’s not smeared on my kungus anymore. I’d guess it’s either rubbed off onto the floor, or its molecules are floating around harmlessly in the air.”

“Alcohol?”

“Don’t mind if I do,” Çrom said, then acknowledged the weak line with an apologetic look. “If I die drunk, I wake up sober,” he said. “But I could very well have a hangover for all I notice at the time. I may still not be making it clear to you how-”

“-awful dying and then undying is,” Lotus said. “Yes.”

Çrom moved his fingers experimentally, then tilted his head back and forth. The darkness rolled queasily with him, and he smiled again to dispel it. At least outwardly. “I do usually wind up with a bit of lingering numbness or some aches and pains,” he said, “but mostly-”

“So … you are no longer spent?” Lotus asked, her eyes flicking downwards.

Çrom shuffled backwards a few theatrical centimetres. “If I answer that, are you going to make killing me a regular part of our … frolicking?”

Lotus laughed at what must have been an amusingly prim expression on his face. “I said I would not kill you again,” she replied, “and the sex was not quite good enough to make me break my word.”

“Ouch.”

She grinned, and advanced on him.

 


– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while walking to the bus.

Posted in Astro Tramp 400, IACM, Oræl Rides To War, The Book of Pinian | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments