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…
- Fistful of Modern/Horror adventure seed booklets.
- PROJECT and some character class supplements.
- Fatal Highway (road warrior rules for FATE Core)
- FLiCKPIG (an old-school dungeonbash, for pigs)
- Kagai! (Japanese schoolgirls in the future fighting monsters)
- And my friend Bradley released a bunch of stock art through Postmortem.
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!