Social Network

There are other social networks now. I keep up with at least two myself - Facebook and Twitter, although the latter is a highly specific effort that the vast majority of people on the former don't know about. On top of that are emails, some vague forum-like activities, even a half-hearted podcast.

Let me tell you why I'm here now though.

I remembered this place some time in the past week. Recently I've written something I'm quite proud of - a short story about a cocky starfighter pilot with the callsign Calliope (it's possible someone reading this could remember the genesis of this from this very journal, several years ago). A friend of mine launched a project in reaction to the (at least initially) dismal amounts of women cast in the new Star Wars movies; an effort called "Women We Want To See", with the goal of coming up with exciting role model characters (or even just interesting characters) for women. I offered up Calliope, expanded to about a 6,000 word space adventure/buddy story. I quite liked it, and while it is theoretically going to be published in that (amateur and nonprofit) collection, I figured I might put it up here too. But first, I thought I'd poke about the place. It's been a while, after all.

There wasn't much here, but that wasn't really the point. The point was my realisation that, well, I've visited most of the people on my friends list. I know the names. And, after all, there are other social networks now. Which is how I found myself staring at a picture of someone I knew well about 7 years ago, reflecting on how amazingly different they seemed to look now. Having 7 years pass like that in one go will do that, I suppose.

I visit different people now. It's a habit I can't seem to shake, forming these close bonds with people vastly geographically separate, and then having to make such big elaborate plans in order to go hang out with them. I'm better about it now, at least. I'm very practiced at being a good guest, because I've been one a hell of a lot. But still, even though much of my new social circle shares similarities with my old one, the people in it are different (bar one, of course, I do live in the UK now after all).

Seeing this person, who I got on well with (on the whole), and enjoyed hanging out with, this older, and, from the looks of the picture, cooler version of them, gave me real pause. They were right there. They were always right there. I could reach out and make contact if I wanted. There are, after all, other social networks now.

I didn't. It didn't feel right. Rediscovering them felt like bringing them out of my past, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was still just in theirs. It's been 7 years, with perhaps roughly one email per year since. Could I really knock on their door after all this time, some ghost of their conquered past, and try to reconnect based on shared experiences we used to have, and the quite probably nothing we have in common now? Would I even want to? Could I not just leave well enough alone, or do I have to pretend like every meaningful friendship I've ever had has a potential to carry on to infinity, rather than being satisfied with the fact that some times, you just move on?

There are other social networks now. We were friends on this one, but as dumb and trivial as a friends request seems, it felt too weird to suddenly ask to be friends on the other.

Creativity Sunday - the god of tiny, insignificant things

The mantra, repeated endlessly, brought stability. It was simple, almost meaningless - "breathe in, breathe out, and place the next piece". He'd started it when he was building his tower of blocks, and somehow it had just kept going, flowing out into the rest of his day. It kept his hand steady and his mind occupied, even if on nothing in particular. "Breathe in", he mumbled to himself, "breathe out, and place the next piece."

The vacuum cleaner wouldn't work. He'd done the rest of the cleaning unthinkingly, but when he tried to do this the vacuum just wouldn't turn on. He hissed the words under his breath as he jabbed the button again and again, eventually closing his eyes and working to let that anger go. "Breathe in, breathe out." He raised his head back up and opened his eyes. "And place the next piece." Putting the vacuum cleaner away, he fetched a broom instead.

Everything was done before he'd gotten tired of saying it. His throat was a little sore, but by now the sound of it was like a pleasant hum, a soothing background noise that was more noticeable in its absence. He sat back down; done, complete - the unchallenged emperor of this incredibly finite area. He could control this, just like he could control his breathing, and the perfect precision placing of the next piece.

He sat, looking around calmly for his next move. "Breathe in, breathe out", he whispered, "and place the next piece."

Creativity Sunday - How To Embrace A Hedgehog

They call it the Hedgehog's Dilemma. They might not, actually. Perhaps the psychiatric community has moved on. You do, anyway, and that's the important part.

Step 1: Exhale

There's only so much you can do, and the first step is to realise that. You have to consider every thing you want from this, every thing you could possibly hope to get out it, and let it go. Exhale slowly, and let your frustrated hopes escape on the wind. Want nothing.

Step 2: Lean in

You can be close, only by accepting the transitory nature of such closeness. It means nothing, gains nothing. There is no give and take, only give. Know this if you still choose to give. The quills are there, you can't make them go away. You'll feel them every moment you're there. Accept that.

Step 3: Let go

You can't push without hurting the both of you. The pain stops when you do. It's not a hard leap to make. The barbs get everywhere; in songs, TV shows, games, simple key phrases. You can pull them out, or you can avoid them. The choice is yours, but sooner or later you just can't hurt any more. Close your eyes, dull your mind, and try to walk away. Feel the pull. Deny it.

Creativity Sunday - Pro Patria Mori

Out in the dark depths of space, one star and ten billion lives ended. The sky flashed impossibly bright, and then that was that. In one great onrushing moment, four point seven seconds after the initial detonation, everything was obliterated.

"Casualties" felt like the wrong word. If they were casualties then they were people, and you couldn't erase people by the star system like that. They were numbers; as inextricably linked to the button on the dashboard as the ones and zeros that informed the heads up display. Calliope had pressed the button here, and her computer had provided her the readout there, and then ten billion ones outside transitioned into zeroes. There was no other way to think of it. It was self defence.

It hadn't had to be her. She was good, but she wasn't the best. What she was was the perfect mix of competent and expendable; good enough to sweep her tiny little dagger craft through the Net and launch her ugly little payload, but valueless enough that should things go wrong she could be detonated remotely by the next person up the chain sitting behind a big red button. So she flew, and she fired, and she tried to feel proud when that angry red glare welled up behind her. They had utterly, utterly won. Humanity would never again be threatened with invasion. Just this vision, always, quietly floating across the inside of her eyeballs. A tiny little shape flitting against the vastness of the sun, the briefest of flashes, and then an endless outpouring of brilliant nothingness.

Creativity Sunday - Radioactive

She ties her heart to you; thick red veins tangling out involuntarily to wrap each of you in this nested embrace. It's not intentional - if she had a choice she probably wouldn't, on balance - but she simply radiates. Her heart beats so fiercely and so freely, and then before you know it you look down and find her blood pouring through you in turn. She cares so much that she wraps you up accidentally, wanting everything that's best for you, everything that would make you and her and everyone happy; until eventually you're tied so tightly into her forest that there isn't any way to get free without burning everything to the ground.

Some people build bridges; she builds great, wonderful, loving chains. It's her greatest strength and her greatest weakness both; this inexhaustible, incurable and indestructible source of love and energy. Seen from the outside, it's impressive and intimidating in almost equal measure.

There was an energy to him. He lived. He lived stupidly, and he lived poorly; but he lived. Through some specious command of the gifts given him and reflexive ignorance of his disadvantages he kept on going; dead straight at life and through far more issues than could reasonably be expected of him. He knew, of course - deep down he knew every single thing he'd done wrong and exactly what he should be worried about - but all he could do was keep going; keep straight on with what was directly ahead of him in the hope that the blackness around the edges of his vision wouldn't catch up and overwhelm him. It wasn't a good plan, but it was HIS plan, and if nothing else nobody could ever take that away from him. Win or lose, he had his own agency now, he was making his own decisions - even if just within an increasingly limited set of options. And he was doing it with so much of his trademark wit and easy grin that the world outside could never know just how desperately terrified he was.

Together the two of them; immovable object and unstoppable force both. They melted into each other slowly, while around them the whole world burned.

Creativity Sunday - Failure To Launch

"You want to write? You want to be a writer?"

She fairly spat the word, throwing it on the floor in front of me in disgust. She hadn't been this dismissive of anything since I'd told her I'd wanted to start a swingers club for comedians called 'Take My Wife, Please'. At least that had been shouted down without resistance on account of simply being based on a good name and entirely no knowledge of the practicalities.

"I just; sometimes I have thoughts that seem poetic and well-measured and pretty cool, and so maybe people would like them I guess?"

She snorted. "You have the sort of thoughts that farts dream of being when they grow up." I looked on blankly. "Your thoughts are farts. And your brain is a butt", she added.

"Be that as it may" I continued delicately, "I wanted to ask for you help."

She turned to look at me again, treating me to a stare that made me want to vanish in a cloud of mumbled apologies for having bothered her. "Why, exactly?"

"Because that." I answered with my head firmly downwards, but my script was strong enough that I could at least manage to answer. "Because you can say things people don't want to hear, and maybe sometimes that could involve talking about why I'm worth reading or hiring or representing or whatever."

"But - I don't wan't you to do this." She spoke with a surprising softness, so much so that it caught me entirely off-guard. "You know I'd be willing to help you do something worthwhile, but this isn't that. It's a meaningless, worthless non-job; and even with my help you'd just wind up dying in a slightly better class of ditch."

I genuinely hadn't expected that. "Oh", I mumbled. "Sorry, no worries" I added automatically.

She leaned in for a hug; deploying her methodically calculated portion of human contact in order to underline her message. "That's okay. Let's just put this out of your mind, and focus on worthier things, okay? Like... literally anything else."

She laughed, her cue to treat that as a joke. I laughed too, and looked back down at the menu.


Quick entry: currently I am in Toronto. I arrived right in the middle of the Big Ol' Storm, although the bus must have driven right through the eye of it because I only ever encountered annoying levels of rain, as opposed to the apocalyptic levels people went through elsewhere. But while delays meant I didn't get to my destination until about midnight, they weather dried up admirably immediately afterwards, and I haven't had any problems since.

I'm staying with a girl who by day works as a manager in an adult store, and by night is apparently lightly internet famous for some million-hits gif of her winking while dressed up as a character from Homestuck. I met her through her boyfriend and a mutual friend of theirs, and all four of us are kicking about for the next week, and have been for the past week. It's nice - you can pretty much always find a place to buy a sundae here. I can certainly appreciate that.

Anyway, just FYI that I've temporarily flipped hemispheres again. After September 20th I'll be leaving North America to go back to the UK, where I'm penciled in to stay for the following year. No details are worked out yet - I'm figuring around London - but we'll see how that shakes out when it comes up. For now, it's time to walk out of what for the next week is my home and find the pizza place I've heard tell of.

Creativity Sunday - The Lonesome Road

There was nothing out in front of him, just that big black sky. His headlights ate up the road ahead, pulling him onwards as he drove into the night. It was large, it was straight, and it was his. There was a lot of things behind him; a lot of complicated twists and turns, but out here in front there was nothing but this one straight line. He liked that.

[Haha, oh man, I sure am subtle aren't I? For the record, that came from looking at a picture of a desert in Utah on the cover of my newly-purchased Lonely Planet USA guide]

It's not that the world wouldn't stop. The world stops just fine. When you're sitting on the bonnet of your rented car, staring out at the setting sun with absolutely nothing in the distance, you can hardly claim to be caught up in a relentlessly rushing world. It's just that getting to that point requires such an active committment, such a determined counter-clockwise step (and, it must be said, an incredibly hefty dose of luck and priviledge to even have the option of that choice) that it's easier to keep going instead. But it's only when you take that step, make that decision, and come that far out that you can really just stop and let yourself think.

Specifically I find I tend to think "fuck I wish I'd managed to actually book a room for this evening", but your own mileage may vary.

[I think I'm unlikely to get anything other than 7 different shades of this for this evening. Well, it's something, at least!]


In about a week and a half I leave the country for... a year, I guess? It's all shockingly open-ended - I have a ticket that goes from here to the UK, then on to the US, then back to the UK three months later. And then that's where my tickets stop, and I have to decide what to do then.

I'm trying very hard not to think about it too much, on the whole.

I guess I'm not really very good at changes, so about the only way I can seem to manage one is to make some big vague plan for the future and then just sort of roll with it at the point where it becomes inevitable. Although, in all honesty, I can't really credit this as too big a thing - I've got enough money saved up that if things go pear-shaped I can simply quit on it and head back here earlier than my currently stated goal of a year hence (it also helps that I get on well with my folks, so I could stay with them until I find a new place/job/etc).

In the meantime I've been writing, but just not really for here, and not as much as I'd have liked given I finished work a week ago. It's amazing how quickly you can fall into wasting entire days, especially when you're putting a lot of effort into not thinking about something.