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20140117-waffle-pizza-01-smallIt wasn’t altogether anyone’s fault. It just happened to turn out that Jill loved John more than she loved Jack, so when push came to shove Jill went back to John and Jack was left all alone, angry and upset, but with nobody to really be upset with. At least nobody who really deserved it. Well, other than John who was – as Jack would shout to himself in the middle of the night: “A fucking bellend!” Even then though, John hadn’t really done anything. He was just a dick and, against all odds, the better man – apparently.

Still, Jack was upset, depressed and heartbroken and he had nothing to do.

So he sat and didn’t watch the TV.

He turned on a games console and blankly watched himself die over and over.

He ordered his favourite pizza, ate one bite and forgot all about it.

At night he stared at the ceiling and sometimes, if he could work up the effort to do so, he cried.

After about a week of ‘this bullshit’, there was a smart, neat and unnervingly precise set of knocks upon the door.

Jack hauled himself out of his seat, adjusted his stinking bathrobe to conceal his cock, dragged his finger through the knots in his hair and answered the door.

There was a thin looking man with pale skin against which his dark, dark eyes stood out. He wore a dark, dark suit and a dark, dark hat – which he tipped in greeting in an old-fashioned way.

“Jack,” he said, in bold italics. “I am Mister Fuller. My card.”

In long, thin fingers he held out a neatly printed card, which Jack took, but it didn’t really tell him much. It just said ‘Mister Fuller’ on the front in a typewriter font, and ‘Filler of emptiness’ on the back. Beneath that, in slightly smaller writing was ‘Available everywhere’ and beneath that ‘Call: Thrice’.

“I don’t really understand…” Jack began, but Mister Fuller shook his head and cut him off.

“Jack,” he smiled, revealing his dark, dark mouth. “I fill empty things and you are so very, very empty. Aren’t you? I can fix that. It’s…” he paused, ominously “…free?” it wasn’t quite a statement, it wasn’t quite a question but it was something.

Jack didn’t quite know what to do. He was still dazed, confused and stunned from everything and hadn’t slept properly in days so he found himself stepping aside from Mister Fuller with a half hearted offer of “Tea?”

“Just an empty mug. Thank you kindly.”

Jack dealt with that, handing Mister Fuller a chipped ‘World’s Best Boyfriend’ mug once he returned. In the meantime Mister Fuller had set a dark, dark bag on the sideboard and opened it up.

“Ah. Excellent,” Mister Fuller took a sup from the mug, inexplicably – now – full of steaming Assam tea. “There’s an examination before I fill you up. It’s purely a formality. If you’d just sit down and open your mouth?”

Again Jack found himself complying for some reason, though it was really beyond him as to why. Mister Fuller set the mug to one side and leaned over, gravity defying, as though his dark, dark shoes were bolted to the floor. He leaned so close it was almost as though he was leaning inside Jack – but that was impossible, wasn’t it?

Some long tool made of dark, dark metal scraped and scratched so deep inside Jack he felt like an empty barrel.

“Well, well Jack. Something has hollowed you out pretty well. Just some ashes here, ruined memories, a quick scrape and we should be good to… ah no, wait…”

He seemed to lean deeper, deeper, until Jack could almost taste his dusty shoe-leather.

“What’s this? No, this won’t do.”

Mister Fuller recoiled from Jack, the way a snail tugs back its eye-stalks. He rapidly put away his tools as Jack smacked his lips to get the strange taste of coal-dust off his lips. “Is there a problem?”

“You’re not really hollow Jack,” Mister fuller shrank back towards the door with a tip of his hat. “There’s hope in there, but don’t hesitate to call if you lose that as well.”

The door clicked shut and the room was silent, save for a slight gurgle as ‘World’s Best Boyfriend’ slowly drained until the mug was, once again, empty.

But the funny thing was, Mister Fuller had done exactly what he said he would do. Jack didn’t feel hollow any more – and there was cold pizza to eat. Things weren’t so bad.

Richard Mayhew walked down the underground platform. It was a District Line station: the sign said BLACKFRIARS. The platform was empty. Somewhere in the distance an Underground train roared and rattled, driving a ghost-wind along the platform, which scattered a copy of the tabloid Sun into its component pages, four-color breasts and black-and-white invective scurrying and tumbling off the platform and down onto the rails.

Richard walked the length of the platform. Then he sat down on a bench and waited for something to happen.

Nothing happened.

He rubbed his head and felt slightly sick. There were footsteps on the platform, near him, and he looked up to see a prim little girl walking past him, hand in hand with a woman who looked like a larger, older version of the girl. They glanced at him and then, rather obviously, looked away. “Don’t get too near to him, Melanie,” advised the woman, in a very audible whisper.

Melanie looked at Richard, staring in the way children stare, without embarrassment or self consciousness. Then she looked back at her mother. “Why do people like that stay alive?” she asked, curiously.

“Not enough guts to end it all,” explained her mother.

Melanie risked another glance at Richard. “Pathetic,” she said. Their feet pattered away down the platform, and soon they were gone. He wondered if he had imagined it. He tried to remember why he was standing on this platform. Was he waiting for a Tube train? Where was he going? He knew the answer was somewhere in his head, somewhere close at hand, but he could not touch it, could not bring it back from the lost places. He sat there, alone and wondering. Was he dreaming? With his hands he felt the hard red plastic seat beneath him, stamped the platform with mud-encrusted shoes (where had the mud come from?), touched his face . . . No. This was no dream. Wherever he was, was real. He felt odd: detached, and depressed, and horribly, strangely saddened. Someone sat down next to him. Richard did not look up, did not turn his head.

Lowest Ebb

596664298I’m at the lowest I have been in some time and while the stresses that got me here are long term it has been a rather rapid and sudden descent over the last few days.

As I’m sure you’re all extremely tired of hearing from me at this point, I suffer from severe and ongoing depression. I had been a lot better for quite some time, to the point where I no longer need the drugs and have been phasing out the therapy sessions – up to now.

That wasn’t my full diagnosis though, there was another aspect to it that I haven’t been quite so open about. I had a sub-diagnosis of Dependency Disorder which, though mild, is definitely present in me.

The long and the short of that is that I judge myself a great deal by how I am seen in the eyes of others. It means I need good, close, loyal friends. It means I need to feel appreciated, valued, useful. All hard things to be when you’re a depressed lump. This is part of why I’ve always taken criticism so badly and why, despite trying to be stoic, the attacks on my reputation and the horrific way in which I’ve been attacked and hounded for several years now have affected me so very badly.

I’ve lost a lot of my old support network. Some of that’s geography, some of that is family – people starting their own inevitably fall out of touch. Some of that is people listening to the rumourmongers or not having the common decency to talk to me or listen to me.

I guess they weren’t really my friends after all. Friends have your back and reciprocate, standing up for you in the way you do, or would, stand up for them. I’ve been let down a great deal and lost a lot of people I care about and it’s mostly for bullshit reasons.

This means the support network that I have left becomes increasingly important and integral. The people who still think well of me and say so occasionally. I have met some good people in the time I’ve been losing old friends, but I haven’t made close friends or the kinds of boosters that I guess I need. It doesn’t feel real or sincere, and the depression creates a compliment-resistant forcefield.

I’ve also felt less able to say on social media when I need help or feel down because there are people who’ve seemingly dedicated their lives since my ill-titled blog post to attacking and provoking me at every opportunity they can find. Most internet harassment isn’t worthy of the name, but I think, if anything, years of consistent abuse and attempts to trigger suicidal episodes counts. The other issue is that well-meaning and loving people – the ones that are left – overreact when I’m low, which leads me to keep it to myself to avoid upsetting or panicking them, and to avoid the stress that comes from well-meaning people hounding me about how I feel.

A lot has happened, and continues to happen, to grind me down, the background radiation of my life.

I have some personal issues I can’t go into here, but there’s other stuff that I can.

When my reputation was first attacked it had no real impact, it was positive if anything. My attackers have, however, been very persistent and much as it pains me to admit it they’ve done real damage. I can’t get my fiction published unless I use a pseudonym and even that’s touch and go. Freelancing has dried up. New work doesn’t do so well at the moment and there’s that constant threat of the banhammer of Damocles hanging over the main publication sites for PDF games. You don’t even have to be particularly controversial or graphic to be under threat.

Thing is, all these people know the accusations and reputational damage is bullshit. These are real-world friends, people I’ve met and hung out with at conventions, professionals I’ve worked with, and they’re all running scared or hostage to the false impressions of other people that I haven’t.

Doing the right thing is intensely costly.

Expressing opinions is intensely costly.

These things shouldn’t be, but that’s the world we live in. It’s not even as though the things I believe and fight for are awful anyway. A big part of me rails against all this in a righteous fury. Things would be so much easier if I were a meek little tag-along, if I let my principles go.

I run the Darkzel Scholarship every year, and this year it was like pulling teeth to find entries. Some of that was down to sabotage. Someone ‘warning’ people they didn’t want to be associated with it. Some of it down to communications channels not wanting to boost my signal. There I am, trying to commemorate a dead friend, help young artists and create a legacy and some people hate me so much they’d attack that.

Our friend Craig died recently, of natural causes. I’ve written about that already. It was a terrible shock and has made me reassess a lot of things in my life. Losing someone that way is very different to suicide, drugs or accidents – the other ways I’ve lost people. It makes me realise that I need to be happier. I need to look after myself. That always feels selfish though. I almost never put myself first and every time I do it feels like I’m compromising my morals and it usually ends badly. What makes it worse is that when I put myself out for others it rarely seems to be reciprocated to the same degree I would sacrifice for them. It’s an uneven relationship.

That’s not how it should be.

I have not been able to work properly for the time I’ve been ill and I can’t get financial aid. I have an invisible illness and the fact I can work at all seems to disqualify me, even though my capability is unreliable day to day and a a conventional job seems out of the question. In a time when people who are genuinely crippled are being allowed to starve to death or are driven to suicide, my ‘feels’ aren’t a priority – and fairly so.

The stalled Gor project hangs over me like a big black cloud but there’s nothing I can do to make it go faster and its not the artist’s fault its taking so long, but it’s my responsibility to get it done. A rock and a hard place, with the licensors, sponsors and crowdfunders getting increasingly – justifiably – impatient.

There’s the friends with babies. I wanted to start a family years ago but for various reasons we never did. Today I held a friend’s child in my arms and it was like shards of icy glass stabbing through me. I love them dearly and I love their child as a reflection of them, but it’s painful to me every single time and it’s the same with my nephew.

Roleplaying has been my life’s passion, as silly as I am sure that must seem to a lot of people, but the joy of it has been robbed from me the way my love of art was. Relentless, negative, boring interference and dissatisfaction with the end result.

And finally, in the last few days, I’ve lost one of the very few people who helped make all of this tolerable, survivable, liveable. Someone who was able to cut through all the bullshit and self-deprecation and make me feel like a worthwhile, good human being in spite of everything else going on. Worse than that, they’re in a bad, abusive situation – that they’ve chosen for themselves – and there’s nothing I can do to help. You have to let people live their own lives, but it is agony to see them hurt and worse when you can’t fix it. Even worse when they’re someone so valuable to you. Essential. When that’s all abruptly and capriciously taken away from you.

Sometimes there’s no good choice to make, no moral or right choice to make, no choice that doesn’t hurt anyone and my brain can’t handle those situations.

So that’s why I’m so very down. There’s all this long term shit going on. I feel betrayed and let down by a lot of people I consider – or considered, friends. I can barely work and I know that whatever I do I will be attacked and hated. I’ve lost people, to death, and to bullshit and I have nothing left, no reserve of ‘cope’ or ‘fucks’ with which to persevere and endure. I’ve lost hope.

My heart is broken. Everything I care about is taken from me in one way or another and I don’t see any way forward from that.

A lot of that is the fuck-brain talking, but there’s some truth behind all of it that will linger even when (Zarquon willing) I feel better.

I was so close to quitting therapy, we can’t really afford it any more either, and now I feel like I’m all the way back where I started. That’s so disheartening, even though it’s not quite suicidal (I have cut, but not severely, to make the pain more manageable).

You must all be so sick of me being a useless, miserable lump.

I’m sorry, but I can’t hold it in any more and I know there’s at least some use in me chronicling it so other people know they’re not alone. Still thinking of others I guess.

G

x

I don’t normally like live versions and covers, but I’ve filled out the videos with a lot of those because I’m trying to show the sheer breadth of influence and appeal Bowie had.

Space Oddity, Changes, Life on Mars, Star Man, Suffragette City, Panic in Detroit, The Jean Jeannie, Rebel Rebel, Young Americans, Fame, John, I’m Only Dancing, Heroes, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), Ashes to Ashes, Fashion, Modern Love, China Girl, Let’s Dance, As the World Falls Down, Absolute Beginners, Jump They Say, The Heart’s Filthy Lesson, I Have not been to Oxford Town, I’m Deranged, Dead Man Walking, I’m Afraid of Americans, Thursday’s Child, Cactus, Everyone Says Hi, Pablo Picasso, Lazarus.

DennettQuote

It has been a weird, difficult year. So was 2014, but 2015 has been a full year of many of the same issues and problems and has been a steep learning curve for an old dog who hit forty this year. Some things have changed, some things have to change and on the broader stage I finally see some positive change.

Hitting 40 wasn’t too much of a concern, weirdly. It was mostly a non-event, though a stark realisation of age has certainly exacerbated other problems, 40 itself doesn’t mean much to me, just like 16, 18, 21 and 30 didn’t really.

***

Depression (and related anxiety) has dogged another year and although I am a lot better than I was (off the dried frog pills and coping) it continues to have a savage impact on my ability to work. I had hoped that signing on with Chronicle City would enable me to step back and take more of a project management role but problems there – outside anyone’s control – have stalled that and forced me to go back to Postmortem to keep that going and to keep money coming in.

***

The ongoing difficulties with getting the Gor RPG to market have not helped matters either. The backers have been incredibly patient – thankfully – and it is only the art that is still being waited on, but its impossible to tell at this point when the last parts will come in and all I can tell anyone is that there’s good reason for the delay. Still, it’s a lot of pressure and a lot of money is tied up waiting for the printing and posting. That also severely limits my ability to commit to new projects and to work.

Despite all this, I did manage to release…

Which when you look back at it, isn’t so bad. It’s about a project a month.

***

I also self-published my first full length novel, Old, Fat Punks, which was a bit of a waste but agents and publishers weren’t biting and it was annoying the piss out of me having it just sat around. Fortunately the people who have read it seem to both ‘get it’, and love it. That may not pay the bills, but its artistically satisfying. I have two more full length book ideas in a position to write this year, but it’s hard to justify when there’s so little money in it, even compared to what you’d think would be a profitless niche – roleplaying games.

***

Honestly, it comes hard to write or create anything these days. Something that will doubtless give my tireless critics cause to celebrate and it is, indeed, because of them that it is difficult. The urge to self-censor in order to avoid yet another shitstorm is strong, to the point of creative paralysis often. Even if the conclusion is ‘fuck you’ and the urge is to take them ‘from hell’s heart I stab at thee’ approach to ‘criticism’, it is extremely wearing both to have the Sword of Twittercles hanging over your head, and to endure the thrashings of the hateful ‘SJW’ mob whenever you do anything.

This is different to trolling, though trolling comes with it too. Trolls lose interest over time, while some of these people are persistent enough to keep going for years and years. With that comes a volume of unfair and inaccurate material online which turns up when people search for you, which then turns up when new people look into your projects. How can you fix it? I don’t know that you can.

I don’t concur with people like Mike Cernovitch or Vox Day on… pretty much anything, other than their commitments to free speech, yet I get treated – on a smaller scale – with the same kind of scorn normally directed towards them. Both have written books on their approaches to the problem of social shaming but what they amount to is that they don’t give a shit.

I don’t have that luxury. Vox and Mike aren’t my kindred spirits when it comes to this because I do strive to be a good person and so end up nonplussed and genuinely hurt by being portrayed as some sort of avatar of evil, as this misogynist, racist horrorshow they’ve conjured. It bothers me because despite their protestations, I am not. It should be sufficient to know who and what I am and am not, but reputation matters and it takes a lot more effort to remove a stain than to make one – it’s a sort of Gish Gallop of slander.

Jon Ronson’s book and TED talk on this issue is perhaps more my speed. He shares my hand-wringing incredulity that people who are ostensibly on our side are acting so appallingly, being so intolerant and resorting so such tactics. That they are throwing basic liberal values under the bus towards some nebulous and opaque end, so unclear concept of the ‘greater good’ that tramples on individual liberties.

***

It’s also a time of hope, at least on the broader stage, as we seem to have reached the peak of this kind of stupidity that society as a whole is willing to tolerate. There are signs of hope from Spiked and FIRE to Ronson, Dave Ruben, Bill Maher and Sam Harris. ‘SJWs’ have burned their allies with a fanatical commitment to an orthodoxy most people – fortunately – don’t share. We also have language to describe things now, we are cultural libertarians, the censorious, authoritarian voices calling themselves liberal are the ‘regressive left’ (Maajid Nawaz).

The fuss on university campuses is a laughing stock and appears to be provoking a backlash, which may reinforce intellectual and free-speech spaces on and beyond campuses, rolling back the Tumblrisation of public discourse.

More and more it’s the people whose side I supposedly should be on (as a far-left anarchist) who are intolerably dickweasels, while the people whose political, economic and social views I am opposed to, who are polite, engaging and willing to talk. I’m far more likely to have a productive discussion or cooperation with a conservative libertarian or even an Objectivist, than I am a self-styled progressive, even though I would agree with the latter on so much more and the former only on one thing.

I don’t know what tactic to use to cope and to feel free again. It’s not so simple as trolling, which can simply be discounted, I don’t have the self-confidence to ignore it or self-assert though it, but I have to find a way to cope. There’s a toll to simply blocking people, each time I have to resort to it its a violation of my principles, but that’s something else that’s going to have to be got past. There’s simply no reaching some people and while wanting to debate, discuss and reach people is a noble goal, it can be unrealistic.

***

A bigger problem, and one other depression sufferers will empathise with I’m sure, is that pleasure and fun has become elusive – and this has been going on years now. Even as I’ve gotten better in so many other ways it has become much harder to derive pleasure and satisfaction from things. I’ve been a gamer over 30 years now, with a consuming passion for it that has taken me into it as a career, but I’m just not getting the joy and wonder I used to from it.

Every gaming session, whether I’m running it or not, leaves me dissatisfied, frustrated and even upset. Even when everyone else involved seems to think it has gone well. Somehow I need to recapture my love of gaming and find a way to do it more. Thing is, it’s not just gaming, it’s reading, it’s computer games, all of it is simply going through the motions on mental life-support, which is rather worrisome.

***

The quote at the beginning of this look-back is from a speech Dan Dennett made, he’s quoting a friend of his – partially, but he makes a good point (even though it is a bit of a downer). When you take a stand on things, it costs you. I’m an opinionated guy with a very strong moral and ethical sense – despite accusations to the contrary.

  • That’s why I took a stand on Gamergate – and lost friends over it, or rather the lies told about it.
  • That’s why I’ve taken a stand on censorship and free speech issues – and lost friends over it.
  • That’s why I’ve taken a stand on the toxicity and nonsense of religion and woo – and lost friends over it.
  • That’s why I’ve taken a stand on various men’s issues – and weathered accusations and lost friends over it.

This year has, perhaps, brought home that people who really are friends have tolerance of difference, are willing to talk about it and those that don’t, perhaps were never really your friends in the first place. It’s never me that cuts people off (who I consider friends) but the same concern and courtesy rarely seems to extend to me. You never aid, help or support your friends seeking reward, but there is an expectation of reciprocity which, sadly it seems this year – and for a long time – hasn’t been particularly forthcoming.

On the other hand, I’ve made many new friends and acquaintances, made of sterner stuff and with similar concerns, and whom I should make the effort to cement my friendships with. I’ve also strengthened existing acquaintances, and that’s definitely worth strengthening and renewing too. To have people you can trust to give you honest feedback, knowing where you’re actually coming from rather than projecting their own biases, is good too.

***

So looking forward then, but not resolutions, because resolutions are bullshit.

  • I need to try and be more positive. Fighting to protect and defend things is great, but it necessarily means you’re always coming across negative, reacting to shitty things that other people do. This is obviously a tall order for someone with severe depression, and has never come naturally to me (a pessimist can only ever have a nice surprise).
  • I need to cement, secure and strengthen the new friendships I have.
  • I need to stop self-censoring and find a way to work through the dread of genuine harassment.
  • I need to let things go more often. People, arguments, people who don’t deserve, or return, respect or who hurl accusations when they should know better. Some progress on that this year, but not enough.
  • I need to find my enjoyment of my life’s passion, again. Somehow. Playing more games, making time for it.
  • I need to somehow overcome this exhaustion and lack of confidence to work more again, and pick more of the projects I really want to do – and let that guide what I choose to work on.

Little changes, really, but they all add up.

Wish me luck!

tumblr_lxx7p6a9AX1qjjvnxo1_400Oh dear…

“The next one?”

Saul’s voice sounds strange, quiet almost strangled. I turn, noticing as I do that the knife is strangely clean. George is unsettled and moves away towards the door, Ana has already left, Ray chasing after her… but why?

Paul sits in the chair, unharmed. There’s a flicker around his throat like the way they blur a criminal’s face on the television. What do they call it? Pixelisation.

“I just cut your throat, you should be dead,” I stalk back to him, angry, confused.

“Gamers have many lives,” he says, smugly. He opens his mouth to say something else and I stab him again, punching my blade between his ribs, into his heart and watching the life leave his eyes.

“Now Saul, the next…” I’m interrupted. The air breaks into squares and reforms. Paul sits there again, looking at me, smugly.

“Many lives,” he repeats.

I stab him again. This time through the eye.

Again, he returns.

I cut his wrists, Saul shoots him – damn the sound I want this man dead – none of it works. I’m… afraid. I lash out and I stab him over and over again until the meat that was once a man slumps and almost pours out of the chair.

It doesn’t take.

“There’s also cheat codes,” he says, offhandedly.

“WHY WON’T YOU DIE?” I scream. I almost stab him again but what would be the point.

“Perhaps I was never alive to start with. Perhaps I’m a scarecrow, a strawman, a conjuring if your own delusion. Perhaps I had the mushroom starter.”

A sensitive spot, I drive the dagger up under his chin, between his jaw, up through his soft palette and into his brain. This time I leave it there, but when the squares engulf him the blade appears, back in my hand.

“I never raped anyone. Though that sort of accusation is something people like you like to throw around. I never stalked anyone or harassed anyone. I disagreed with some people, loudly, and you seem to regard that as some sort of cardinal sin. I think you’re looking for an excuse to play out some murder fantasies. Maybe it’s just your puppeteer.”

I raise the blade, but I can’t make it strike this time, it would be pointless, unsatisfying, horrifying.

“You can’t kill something that never existed. You can’t kill the truth. Especially if you’re a fiction yourself and you, Ella, are just a bad story. A murderous wank fantasy. A trope. You’re the traumatised avenger, just another Batman with tits, like Huntress, Batgirl, all the rest. You’re a rule 63 of Patrick Bateman. Even the cover of your book betrays your influences.”

“Book? I…”

There’s a flash of squares and now there’s two of him, neither of them in the chair, neither tied.

“You created a cartoon villain, a ‘bad man’ of the type the Amazon reviews say you like to kill. Except… we’re not bad men. Come to that, can you imagine the screams of protest if we wrote murderous revenge porn about those arrayed against us?”

A flash, there’s four of them now.

“Many of us aren’t men at all. We’re gay and straight, bi and trans. We’re men and women and all points in between. We’re people who want to defend art and free expression. We’re people who want to retain a free internet.”

A flash, then sixteen, then thirty-two, Saul disappears into the crowd. They’re all smiling at me as they close in, so many faces, so many different faces, and they’re laughing at me. Laughing at me, Ella, the murderess, the avenger. They’re not scared of me, they’re not taking me seriously. The blade falls from my hand and clatters to the ground.

“What do you want?”

“We just wanted to play video games. Now we have to save the world.”

Paul emerges from the crowd and crouches, at my feet, picking up the knife. “Milady,” he says, and tips a fedora I’m sure he wasn’t wearing a second again.

He leans in closer still. I recoil against the wall, my skin crawling. This is horrifying, unreal, unnatural.

“The sad part of this is that if the people we oppose had their way, you wouldn’t exist at all Ella. A sexualised woman, written by a man? Bloody violence? They’d 451 your arse in a second. We deal in truth Ella. The truth is you’re badly written revenge porn, written by a male-submissive hack who likely pays for his Amazon reviews. If you think that’s incorrect consider I’ve not bothered to research you very much. Before you open your mouth again, maybe put us to shame by bothering to research us. Take that message to your puppetmaster.”

And everything dissolves into little squares.

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