I Have a Hole and I’m Leaking

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Over the past year I’ve been extremely lucky. I’ve had 9 months off with my wonderful wife and the adorable baby Dragon. I’ve finished a book, started two, and finalized one that will be published in early September. A lot of other awesome things have happened.

Unfortunately, I’m currently struggling with some issues. Mostly anxiety and stress. I hurt my neck in June and even though I’m getting treated and it’s getting better, I’ve been in near constant pain for two and a half months. It’s made it hard to sleep and concentrate.

Work has been extra stressful. I was hoping that coming back in summer would mean a slow readjustment period. That wasn’t the case; there were some issues while I was gone and I’ve been thrown into some intense work. It’s work that I have little control over and that has to be done quick which makes me extremely uncomfortable.

So the combination of anxiety, stress, lack of sleep, pain, and work has caused a few issues (current events aren’t helping much). At the worst, I feel trapped that causes mini panic attacks; at best I’m completely wiped.

It feels like I am a cup and I hold all my creative energy and motivation inside, but lately I’ve felt like my cup has a hole and every time I try to tap into that energy and motivation, it drains away too fast. I fill it up by gaming, reading, watching TV, and dreaming but it still drains away faster than I’d like.

I’m dealing with it and doing my best to try and get stuff done despite the lack of motivation, but it’s not always easy. Wife and Dragon cuddles help a lot. Same with taking time to do things that I find fun.

Please be patient with me as I work this out. I might be a little bit hermit-like and grumpy.

Thank you for reading,

Éric

Dear Dragon – Monsters

Hi Dragon,

Watching the news today, I held you tight and warned you about the monsters. They don’t have bolts in their neck, and they don’t get burned by sunlight. They look like us and walk around in daylight, but they exist.

This will be history for you when you read this, but one of those monsters shot at innocent people in a place of worship yesterday. He killed six innocent people and hurt a lot of others. His actions are inexcusable and monstrous.

That’s the difference, my little Dragon, between fictional monsters and real ones. Fictional monsters do terrible things because it’s in their nature, or they were made that way; real monsters make themselves from their actions.

Of course, there are other factors that help create real monsters. Hate, fear, intolerance, and anger help feed them, but in the end, it’s their actions that make them monsters. This means we are all capable of being monsters.

There are ways to help prevent monsters and they are so simple they seem silly. These ways are simply to keep love in your heart and share it with others. Treat people with respect, even when they don’t deserve it, help your neighbour, and be the kind of person who helps others.

Help, not through grand gestures, but through small acts of kindness. The small acts add up to bigger ones. We are all capable of being monsters, but that means we are also capable of being the opposite; Helpers.

It may be optimistic and it may be naïve, but I believe we can all make the world a better place by helping more.

Be a Helper and, as always, have hope!

I love you so much my little Dragon,

Your Papa

A Letter to President Elect Donald Trump and His Followers

Congratulations on your win.

Now that you’ve managed to win the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Presidency, you have four years of power to shape your country into the place you’ve always wanted.

President Elect Trump said a lot of things on the campaign trail that were a little extreme. It’s an election, things happen, candidates get excited and things are said.

You now have a choice; you can double down on the hate or you can make America great again. You need to be an example, because whether you like it or not, you’re a beacon that all other countries look towards.

Make America great again, make it the land of the free, the land of opportunity, and the land of hope. Rebuild your crumbling infrastructure, your roads, dams, monuments, water systems; they all need desperate attention.

Don’t “Make” America great again, “Build” it back to greatness. That means more than just a frivolous wall. That means building your cities, your economy, and your people.

The LGBTQ+ community, the POC community, and the women are terrified that the hateful and downright monstrous things that were said during the campaign will lead to legislation, violence, and hate towards them. With good reason, as it’s already happened.

Change it Mr. Trump. You’re the President Elect now, it’s your responsibility to build up your people. ALL your people. The way you act over the next four years will decide if history call you a monster, a clown, or a decent President. It’s your choice.

To everyone who didn’t vote for Trump and who are terrified and/or angry; it’s okay to feel frustrated, it’s okay to be sad, those are natural reactions. Once you’re ready to come out of your grief, you’ll have the hardest job possible. You’ll have to show the other side that it’s possible to work with them despite disagreeing. It’s not fair, but you’ll have the be the ones to be better.

America and President Elect Trump, the world is watching. Be the best you possibly can and show us that there is more to your presidency than fear and hate.

Good luck!

Éric

Dear Dragon – The World Today

Hello Dragon,

I hope you’re afraid of monsters under your bed, boogeymen, or (like your grandmother) of Freddy Kruger. It’s not that I want you to be afraid but that I want you to only have fictional things to scare you.

I hope you never feel the fear of going out to a public place, or going to school.

I hope you never fear for your life walking down the street or traveling to other countries.

The world right now is on the cusp of something. I’m not sure what it is yet. Optimistically it’s the movement towards a united and peaceful world. Pessimistically it’s the movement towards another great terrible war or series of wars.

Weekly in the news, we hear about bombings. Sometimes more than one a week. In the UK they just voted to leave the European Union. Some for economic reasons but mostly for racist reasons; and hate crimes have risen to historic highs. In the US, the argument of politics seems to be more about skin colour and genitals than actual policies.

All over the world people are afraid. Afraid for their lives, afraid of others, afraid for our world.

The earth isn’t dying. People will tell you we’re destroying it. They’re wrong, we’re making it uninhabitable for ourselves. Just another thing to fear. Some people deal with that fear by trying to change things, others by ignoring it.

“I would never bring a child into this world, why would you?”

Someone asked me how I could think of bringing children into such a broken world. My answer to them was simply, “Hope.”

You, Baby Dragon, represent hope to me; a hope that you will have a wonderful life that you will see a world free from hate and fear, that you’ll help make that world.

And the truth is it’s not all doom and gloom. The Ozone Layer has started to heal, infant mortality is at its lowest in history, life spans are longer, more people can read, food production is more efficient than ever. Every day we as a species invent, discover, and create something amazing.

 

The world we’re bringing you into isn’t perfect, far from it, but it has hope and that’s worth a lot.

I love you, Baby Dragon!

Your Loving Papa

Blush: Respect

Last week, I received this anonymous question in Blush’s inbox:

Screen grab from Blush's email account blushcardgame@gmail.com
Screen grab from Blush’s email account blushcardgame@gmail.com

While this could have been funny if it was from a friend, the fact that it remains anonymous sets off a seriously creepy vibe. I also feel disrespected and upset.
One of the reasons I created the game Blush is to open the conversation about sex. Make it less taboo to talk about, and to normalize conversations about topics that may seem, to some people, awkward and uncomfortable. Topics like LGBT and transgender issues will be less mysterious.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”
H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature

Sex, gender, and all the other topics that are covered in Blush should not be unknown! Maybe I’m extrapolating, but I feel like if people understood and respected one another a little bit better, we won’t have to live through another massacre like that in Orlando on June 12, 2016.

“[…]We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside. […]”
Lin-Manuel Miranda at the 2016 Tony Awards

June 12 was our anniversary (seven years this year!), and I spent a lot of time on that day thinking about how privileged we are; to live in Canada, to be in a “socially accepted relationship”, to be alive, to be allowed to love. And yet, I receive messages like the one above. Granted, that message is TAME. I feel fortunate that whoever it was only went that far. But would they have said that over the phone? If I knew who they were? The internet allows a certain level of anonymity that makes people feel as though they can say whatever they want with no repercussions. Sure, this person won’t know how uncomfortable they made me feel (unless they read this), but that doesn’t mean that someone didn’t get hurt.

I hope that people treat each other with more respect soon. I hope that I’m bringing our daughter into a world that respects and loves and cares about all human life, no matter who they love, what they look like, or where they come from.

As for what I’m wearing right now? Clothing.


P.S. If one of my friends did send me that message as a joke, please let me know so that I can stop worrying about it! I won’t be mad at you.

Being Hateful

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Sometimes I forget my rule of not commenting on mean comments.

Someone commented on an ad for the Goat Story Mug on facebook and posted a video about how it was hipster crap.

I was mildly offended seeing as I’m really enjoying my mug. Yes, it’s a little hipster but it also really useful for a klutz like me. I’ve dropped more than my share of coffee cups with disastrous effects. I’ve dropped the Goat Mug several times now and it hasn’t even leaked. That’s pretty damn good for something that cost $25.

So of course the original poster’s reaction was to attack me and then his friend joined in. I think overall they called me fat, stupid, and compared me to a tv character I don’t know. It still hurt, despite being pretty lame. I was tempted to go all Cyrano on them but decided it was a bad idea.

If you really want to read it, it’s here. (Please don’t comment to defend me. They’re not worth it.)

Trolls
It’s brought two things to mind. I wish Facebook had a way to declare that someone stole a photo. But more importantly it reminded me that it’s easy to hate.

Hate is easy

I’m just as guilty as anyone else of making a comment about Nickleback or something else that’s easy to hate.

It’s fun to pick on something and feel superior. It’s an easy joke and an easy boost to our self-worth. It’s also hurtful and mean.

It’s a great way to cover insecurities or fear.

Orlando

I don’t think I can talk about hate or fear this week without mentioning the Orlando Massacre.

It happened because of hate and hatefulness. Some say it’s a hate crime against the LGBTQ community and others say it’s a Terrorist attack against the US. It’s both. It’s also the act of a deeply deranged person who was filled with hate.

See, here’s the problem with hate, it eats at you and makes you the worst version of yourself. You hate and that makes you angry. The anger makes you hateful which makes those around you angry with or against you; either way it fuels the anger.

It’s easy to be angry and hateful. Much easier than trying to understand the loss, hurt, or pain. It’s easier to be consumed by hate than to be destroyed by sorrow.

Events like this are an opportunity for us to go towards hate or towards understanding. The true antithesis of hate is knowledge. When you can understand someone, you can at the very least feel some compassion.

When someone is being hateful and mean, it’s important to understand that it has more to do with them then it does you. That means that a lot of the hate you need to ignore. Get a hug from a friend or talk it out with someone who cares about you. 90% of the hate you won’t be able to change.

If it’s something you feel is important, however, then you need to talk about it. Know who you’re talking to and remember that not everyone is worth your time. Sometimes it’s better to cut the hate out of your life.

 

Take care,

Éric

Concussion Fears

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

As I lay on the couch trying not to think of all things I should be doing. I kept coming back to scary thoughts of what this concussion could do to me. I wrote about what happened last week.

I was afraid I’d lose parts of myself. What if I didn’t enjoy reading anymore? What if I couldn’t write coherently? What if my personality had changed? What if my inability to find the right word didn’t go away? What if I had forgotten something important?

Between the stress of perceived deadlines and the above questions it’s no wonder I went against the doctor’s orders and started to read. I lost myself in a fun novel and it helped calm me down.

Those pesky questions were still there. I was reminded of a movie from the late nineties called Safe House. I haven’t seen it since 1999. I have no idea if it aged well over the past 17 years.

Safe house 1998

The movie, from what I remember, is about an ageing spy who was dealing with Alzheimer’s. The major tension came from trying to figure out if he was truly in danger or if it was all fueled by the disease. The concept of losing oneself terrifies me more than any horror movie ever could.

I had a few long and scary nights. Honestly I’m still worried about it. I’m writing this in advance to give myself ample convention recovery time. At the moment I’m still fighting with headaches and a little confusion.

I’m worried about what will happen if they never go away. What if this is me now. This is my life?

It absolutely could be worse. I can still read and after this post, and a few others, I’m fairly sure I’m still capable of writing. What really scares me isn’t what I know is wrong but what I don’t know that I’ve lost.

I guess philosophically it shouldn’t matter but is still scares me. I mean, if I don’t know, I can’t miss it… right?

 

Maybe I’ll get lucky and this will activate my X-Gene

 

Protect your heads!

Éric

Sexism in Gaming

Yesterday I read an Tumblr post that made me deeply uncomfortable. Go read the article but be warned it’s disturbing.

Ok if you don’t want to read it it’s an account of how abhorrently women are treated in the gaming community; specifically tabletop, Pen & Paper, and miniatures/strategy. Not just heckling or general sexism but multiple forms of assault.

It made me sick to my stomach and a little part of me was glad I’d never experienced it. (In case you’re just tuning in; I’m a thirty-something, white, cis, male.) As I sat there thinking how it might turn me off gaming completely, and how sad that would be, I remembered a game I ran once.

It was the mid-2000s and Lost was every geek’s favourite show. Narnia had burst onto the big screen and I was running a game for three other guys. They were my first gaming group and they had a strict no girls policy.

The game was set on an Island (of course) and had Halflings that rode polar bears into battle (what game doesn’t). The overall theme of the game was racism, I’d based the story vaguely on the real life story of boxer Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter. (I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan at the time.) Only he was a Halfling Colosseum fighter.

The group was ridiculously cautious. They’d spend 20-40 minutes per decision trying to plan for every contingency. (Probably my fault, a polar bear had killed their character in the jungle when they’d foolishly run ahead alone.)

After several sessions of them literally doing nothing and then getting pissed that I wasn’t moving the story along fast enough I introduced a new character; an impulsive human female Ninja, with shady motives. The idea was to have a character that could move the plot forward without a player fearing for their characters’ lives.

I’d done it early with an, “enemy of my enemy” style bad guy and they’d followed him straight into a trap. They still liked him afterwards.

They hated the Ninja from the start. At first I thought it was the impulsiveness (ten years later I think it was the gender). It wasn’t too bad at the beginning but when I started having her assert opinions like, “You’ve been arguing about going through this door for 30 minutes, I’m sure they’ve heard you.” Or “Shut up and stab something.” They started to verbally abuse her both in game and out of game and she was renamed, “The Bitch”.

At one point, in the middle of a puzzle, I tried to give them a hint through the Ninja. One of the players told her to shut up and let them work. I snapped and asked through the character, “What the hell is your problem? I’ve saved your life, fought monsters beside you but you still treat me like shit.”

The answer was, “You’re an NPC.” (Non-Player Character) Which I would believe if they hadn’t had the epic bromance with the last NPC. Then the player added, “Plus I just don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”

The rest of the group burst into laughter as if it was the cleverest joke they’d ever heard.

If it sounds familiar, it’s a quote from South Park that specifically makes fun of a character for being sexist.

The game fizzled out shortly afterwards. It had made me deeply uncomfortable. At the time I thought it was because I was doing something wrong in running the game. I thought the hate and vehemence was aimed at me.

I’m sure some of it was aimed at me but most was aimed at the character who dared to be female and not be a love interest, damsel, or incompetent.

It’s the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing the sexism women deal with every day and it sucked. It’s nothing like the stories in the article but my experience does illustrate how deep seeded the sexism in gaming is, that a fictional character played by a man was treated poorly just because I wrote down F instead of M on the character sheet.

Since then I’ve played with dozens of people and have had great experiences. I’ve built up my own community of players that aren’t jackasses and I’ll re-post what I said on my facebook yesterday:

Let me be completely clear: Books End, FADDS, and any game I run is a safe space. If you EVER feel uncomfortable you let me know and it will be dealt with.

This sort of behaviour is unacceptable, deplorable, and will result in being permanantly banned. I also have no qualms with calling the police if things are bad enough.

Gaming is about having fun and imagining other worlds. It’s not exclusive to one gender, sex, race, class, ethnicity, language, etc… It’s meant to be shared and enjoyed by everyone.

 

Be Excellent to each other!

Éric

The 16th of September, 2039

Hello,

I have skills, but sometimes I feel utterly useless when it comes to the working world. There aren’t a lot of full time jobs for Layout Artists, which means there’s little to no advancement. I have a good job and I’m good at it, but both the public service and private industry are moving away from print layouts and going straight to website. It’ll take a while before I’m completely obsolete, but it is inevitable.

I got my Pension Statement today. I can retire in 2039 with penalties or 2044 without penalties. I’m lucky that I was hired before they bumped the retirement age by 5 years. So in theory, I’ll be able to retire between 56-61 years of age. Those numbers are scary for me; both my parents died before 60. My plan is to live until 90 so I can yell at kids to get off my space lawn, see the 200th anniversary of confederation, and the 100th anniversary Doctor Who special.

My dream is to make enough money from writing and freelance work to never need to retire. I want to love my work so much that I’ll gladly keep going until I can’t anymore. I’ve been at this seriously for just over 5 years now. It’s a slow business but I’ve:

  • written 5.5 novels,  four of them that I’m proud of;
  • updated my blog regularly for 2 years.;
  • written dozens of stories;
  • designed two role playing games;
  • received rejections from 8 book agents, 3 book publishers, and a dozen magazines or anthologies
  • received one conditional acceptance from a book publisher;
  • made lots of friends that understand (and some that don’t);
  • and drank enough coffee to fill several Olympic pools.

I have a lot going for me, but sometimes it’s important to list the things I’ve done, if only to prove to myself that I haven’t been idle or wasteful.

One of the issues with writing, or any other creative calling, is the constant fear that you’re wasting your time. Even when you succeed it’s not perfect.

It’s not always easy to have faith, especially when the odds always seem against you. I know I’m a good writer and I know my stories are fun. All I can do it keep working and hope for the best.

I’ll get there! (Hopefully before 2039)

Thank you, my imaginary and not so imaginary friends, for everything, but mostly thank you for listening.

 

In what dramatic way would you quit your job if you could?

Éric

#PuppyGate or How the Hugos lost my Respect

Hello my Imaginary Friends,

I’ve talked about the Sad Puppies before but as it turns out they’ve escalated. I planned on writing a long essay about the subject but giants have started to enter the fray. I’ll leave a plethora of links at the bottom of this post for those that are interested.

What are Sad/Sick Puppies

The Sad Puppies and Sick Puppies are groups of Science Fiction and Fantasy fans that are sick of what they call “Social Justice Warriors” corrupting the pure essence of genre fiction. Or in some cases they say they are about promoting authors that would normally never get on the ballot on their own.

It almost sounds plausible. Almost until you hear that the second architect is Theodore Beale (AKA Vox Day). If you don’t recognize the name you might recognize the movement he founded called GamerGate. The association of Beale alone makes me not trust them.

Their members can’t seem to come up with a consistent explanation. Some range from, “I miss science-fiction that was just adventure and not social criticism” to “too much emphasis has been put on pushing agendas in science fiction when good books are being ignored”

What did they do? / #PuppyGate

They legally, if not ethically, created a slate of authors that they believed should be nominated and then voted as a group to make sure they made the ballot. Meaning that between 2 to 5 of each category in the Hugo’s are Sad Puppy candidates (That’s out of 5 by the way).

Read about both sides below.

How it makes me feel

This is the first time since I’ve decided to become an author that I’m glad I haven’t been published and that I’m not involved in this world. Had I heard about this kind of thing when I started I would have never tried to be published.

I try to include diverse characters in my books. It’s not always easy but it’s a reflection of our world and should be done. I want people to read my books and relate to some of the characters, not just white-straight-men but everyone.

I want politics in my science fiction and fantasy. I want social issues to be reflected in what I read and write. Anyone who tells you there weren’t social or political ideals in classic science fiction needs to go re-watch Star Trek, Re-Read Asimov, and get their heads out of their asses.

Are the awards broken? I have no clue but I think they might be. This may turn them into a political party style event, that would suck considering that tactic doesn’t work well for regular people even in politics.

What Now

I had dreams of maybe someday winning the “Triple Crown” of Science fiction (Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell Memorial Award). Now that I’ve read up on them and followed the politics, not to mention that a lot of the authors I greatly respect haven’t won all that many awards means I’m not sure how much I care anymore.

This whole debacle has soured me on these sorts of things.

I’ll settle for someday living off my writing. That’s all I really need. Anything more is bonus.

Further Research

Here are all the links I promised and some of the better explanations:

And in the spirit of showing both sides:

And finally if you’re willing to dedicate the time, here are George R.R. Martin’s thoughts on the whole thing:

 

To Borrow Ajay Fry’s tagline, “See you in the future”,

Éric