Category Archives: musings

The Tenuous Serenity of Not-Knowing

As I start writing this, it’s the morning of November 4th. The day after the election. It’s an event I’m guessing folks will eventually refer to in historical if not straight-up superlative terms: The French Revolution. The The War of 1812, The Tungusta event, the Election of 2020.

(Actual Footage)

This is, as they say, a big one. It feels melodramatic to say, “This is the election that will define America,” but it’s probably true. More than that, I hope this *isn’t* the election that shows what America has become.

Despite the fact that the election was yesterday, I don’t know the results. I did what I could leading up to the event. Donated money to places that fight voter suppression. I helped make arrangements so everyone who works for me or Worldbuilders had the day off so that they could vote or support other people who wanted to vote. I’d made sure friends were voting. Years ago, I started a newsletter with the hope of urging people to political awareness/activism, and it’s been trundling along quietly ever since.

Of course, this morning all I can think about is that I could have done more. That I should have done more. I always feel like I should be doing more.

Nevertheless, I don’t know how the election turned out because last night I focused on spending time with my boys. After I finished my afternoon meetings, we went for a walk. Then we made dinner plans. Then I read them a chapter of Slow Regard. (Something I started a while back on a lark, I wondered if they would enjoy hearing me read, and was startled at how into it they were. I could write an entire *other* blog post about what that’s been like all by itself.)

We read together and we cuddled. We brought the empty garbage cans back to the house. Did some chores. Had a feelings talk. Made and ate dinner together. Cleaned up and did the dishes and had our evening treat:

(Tim-Tams sent to me by the lovely folks at Ludo Cherry.)

Then we did our fun thing for the evening. We were going to watch Kipo and some Adventure Time. But when the time came, our mood had shifted, and instead we watched some Youtube videos: one about a guy called Rollerman, and another about people who do that thing where they jump off mountains and glide like flying squirrels.

After each video, I told the boys that I loved them. I told them I would always support them in whatever they chose to do in their lives. I told them their bodies belonged to them, and they were the only ones who got to decide what happened to them.

I also told them that I admired these people in the videos. And that flying down a mountain looked really cool, and part of me wishes I could do it. And that I was glad that there were people in the world who were willing to pursue amazing feats like that.

BUT I also told them that they could never do either of those things. Ever. They agreed.

We then watched some Minecraft videos. (We’re partial to the flavor of brilliant madness produced by Dream and his friends.) After that, the boys told me that while my choices were my own, and I was an adult and free to do as I liked, that I should never *ever* mine straight down. Especially when I was in the Never and wearing all our best equipment. I agreed.

We have a good relationship.

Then it was washing face and hands. Brushing teeth. And, because we managed to hit our bedtime, we got to read, so I read them the final two chapters of Slow Regard, and we talked about it until they fell asleep.

That was my evening. At no point did I poke my nose onto the internet to find out what was happening with the Election. There was nothing I could do at this point but worry, so I avoided it. This is a skill I’ve been trying to develop this last year: The Life-Changing Magic of Sometimes Just Not Thinking About It. (TM)

Today, I still don’t know what’s up. It’s the boy’s busiest school day, they each have three zoom classes. Breakfast and lunch. Tidy the house. A little e-mail. Setting up a video play date. There’s a lot to keep busy with…

(One of the things I’m keeping busy with is this blog. Pecking away at it here or there. Right now Oot is having his virtual Spanish class while Cutie is listening to the audiobook version of Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess. (Yup, there are novel versions of the amazing comic. They’re both written by the Foglios, and if you buy it off that link you’re *also* supporting Worldbuilders.)

But here’s the thing, as the day progresses, I still don’t want to get into my e-mail or on social media for fear of seeing news about the election. Don’t want to message anyone for fear they’ll let something slip and shatter my fragile not-knowing.

Last night this was such a good strategy. I was proud of it. I was peaceful. I felt I’d made a healthy choice and enjoyed quality time with my boys rather than engage in pointless, self-destructive media engagement.

But today I’m walking on eggshells. The boys and I rake leaves and I think, “Surely if Trump was voted out, one of my friends would have pinged me with delighted crowing… so that must mean he’s still in.”

Then I think, “Surely if Trump was still in, one of my friends would have been unable to avoid howling in agony in my direction, so he must be out?” Plus I’m pretty sure it would be raining blood and the sky would be the color of burning tar.

But nothing is happening. It’s a really nice day out. We rake crispy bright-coloured leaves. We eat pickles and biscuits and soup for lunch. The boys practice their knitting.

I know something big must be happening, but right now it can’t touch me. I’m in an odd liminal state that reminds me nothing so much as when my mother died.

That’s a story I don’t know if I’ve ever told on the blog. Simply said: I got the call in the middle of the class I was teaching. I had a strict no-phone policy, but I’d told my students I had family stuff going on, and I might have to answer the phone if a doctor called. I stepped into the hallway, found out she was dead, then went back into the room and taught the rest of the class. Then I taught my next class too. Only they did I go home, get in my car, and head down to Madison to spend time with my Dad and Sister.

When I came back to Stevens Point two days later, I hung out with a friend. It’s so odd to think of now. I haven’t had local friends in ages, so the thought of just meeting someone casually for lunch seems so odd. Doubly odd now, as after the last 8 months, just the memory of eating in a restaurant feels surreal.

But back then it was odd for a different reason. This was back in 2007, two months before my book was published. Way back when I had local friends in town. All of them knew what was going on: that my mom had the sort of cancer you didn’t get better from.

I wasn’t on social media in a meaningful way. Social media didn’t really exist in the same way back then. The only reason I’d finally caved and bought a cell phone at all was because my mom was sick. As a result, my friend didn’t know my mom was dead.

When we got together to hang out, I didn’t tell them. Part of it was the fact that I couldn’t imagine how to bring it up. But the bigger part was that if I didn’t tell my friend the news, for the space of the meal I didn’t have to live in a place where my mom was gone. Down in Madison everyone knew. We were making funeral plans. Consoling each other. Offering support. I was soaked through with the incessant oppressive reality of her utter non-existence.

But my friend didn’t know. They weren’t sad about it. They didn’t mourn at me. Didn’t offer comfort. That meant that back in Point, for the space of a meal, things could just be normal a little while longer. Just for a while.

That’s what I feel like today.

As I finish writing this blog, it’s 3 AM on November 5th, two days after the election. I spent the day with my boys and despite my best efforts, I’ve become dimly, inexorably aware of the fact that it’s not just me that doesn’t know what’s up with the election. Apparently everyone’s in a liminal state. I still haven’t checked the news.

I’m not sure if I’ll post this. It certainly won’t be the first blog I’ve written and then left to lay fallow here.

If I do launch it. I hope y’all are doing as well as can be reasonably expected. I hope you’re experiencing a flavor of not-knowing you enjoy, or at least find pleasantly palliative. I hope for all of us, this isn’t merely the joyful bliss of an unseen iceberg. I hope for all of us, it’s more the tense uncertainty that comes before opening a gift you’ve been desperately desiring.

Or, if not that, a gift like the ones my grandfather gave me ages ago: a pair of soft pajama pants, wool socks, traction grips that fit my shoes for ease of winter walking….

Not gifts I wanted at that age. Gifts that were, quite frankly, annoying and irritating in the moment. But also the only gifts I used for decades afterwards. Gifts that improved my life in small, meaningful, persistent ways.

Here’s hoping,

pat

Also posted in a ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms, Cutie Snoo, ethical conundra, mom, Oot, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat116 Responses

Bracing for Impact…

Hey there everybody – long time no blog.

This year has been… a year. It feels like it has stretched on forever. Endless and interminable. Like I’ve been living Zeno’s year.

In other ways the time has blurred by. I feel like I’ve spent the whole year running from emergency to emergency, trying to put out fires.  And now, after all of it… the fires are kinda still there? They’re not worse for the most part, which is nice, I suppose. But it feels like I should have more to show for this than singed hands and a collection of not-as-bad-as-it-might-otherwise-be crises smouldering sullenly around me.

It’s kinda like treading water, except with all that burning talk in the previous paragraph that analogy doesn’t work, does it? I’m mixing a metaphor really badly. Maybe I’m treading fire instead.

Anyway. What I really mean to say here is that I feel bad that I’ve been… away. Absent for a longish while. I haven’t streamed as much on twitch. Haven’t gone to as many conventions or signings. Haven’t completed a lot of projects I was hoping to finish and share with y’all. Haven’t finished any of the blogs I’ve started. Hell, I haven’t hardly been tweeting this year.

But time and tide wait of no man. And whether I lost this year to fire or water, whether it was fast or slow – It’s November now, and that means Worldbuilders is nigh upon us.

I feel unprepared, and overwhelmed, and… oddly grateful.

Here’s the thing. There’s a lot of stuff in the world I can’t fix right now. A lot of stuff in my life I can’t make better, try as I might.

But I can do some charity. I can feed some hungry kids.

You guys want to come along with me and make the world a better place?

*     *     *

This year the Worldbuilders fundraiser will run from December 3rd to the 17th.

If you’ve been around for Worldbuilders before, there will be a lot familiar there. We have thousands of prizes, fabulous auctions, videos about goats… I’ll be livestreaming and hosting discussion panels with other cool geeks and luminaries. We will have surprises and spectacles galore…

Before the madness sets in, before it all starts, I want to make sure you know how much you all mean to me. So many of you show up for this every year, and that is one of the few constant and unswerving joys in my life. One of the few things that never fails to warm my bitter old heart.

You are my people. Cut from a similar cloth and yearning to do something good in the world. You don’t know how much that means to me.

(Just remembered this picture someone made for me, based off a blog I wrote.)

Now to be clear, this blog isn’t the announcement of the beginning of the fundraiser. It’s just a heads-up. I’m letting you know you should brace for impact.

The fundraiser is only two weeks long now where we used to run it for an entire MONTH. That means once it starts, it’s going to come on hard and fast. If you miss even a couple days, you’ll miss a lot.

If you’re excited about what’s coming up, and you’d like to lend a hand or to start preparing for the coming storm, we have a couple ideas:

  • Wanna help us spread the word?

This is always a challenge for us. How do we get more eyes on the coolness that is Worldbuilders?

We’ve got two ways you can help:

1. Bring a Friend.

This is the simplest thing we’re going to ask people to do. Not just bump things around on social media or share links. (Though that *is* a lovely help.)

This year, we’re asking those of you who already love Worldbuilders to recruit one person and bring them into the fold. Like a cult.

Nope. Wait. I’ve just been told we’re not going with that. Not like a cult. Our branding people are 100% not cool with me comparing our charity fundraiser to a cult.

Mabye we’re more like a secret new Hogwarts house? No… they’re saying no. Copyright issue there. Maybe a gang? They’re there scowling at me now. How about a club? A cool club that you love and you want to share with other large-hearted people who enjoy winning cool prizes and making the world a better place?

So yeah. I mention that we’d like to bring more people into the fold now, so you can start to think about who your best target might be. So you can study them. Track their movements. Make a list of their weaknes…

Nope. Wait. Again. They’re shaking their heads very firmly. Not that.

Just give it a bit of a think. Odds are, I’m guessing you know someone out there who would love the chance to do some good in the world while also having the chance to win cool books and games.

And if you happen to know a *bunch of people…

2. Plan your own page.

This year, we’re letting people create their own fundraiser pages as part of the main Worldbuilders Event.

This means you can create a place to rally a group of people around. You can make a page for your book club, your church, your local co-op or Comic Book store. You can make a page and tell your family that for Christmas, you’d like a donation there instead of a gift. You can make a page and tell your friends if they manage to raise $300 (enough for clean water for an entire village) you’ll *finally* run that Call of Cuthulu game they’ve been bugging you about for years.

You can do anything you want with your team page, really. We’ll be throwing the doors open for you to create them on the first day of the fundraiser.

But you can start your planning now….

  • Want to Leverage your donation?

Every year we get some folks who donate large chunks of money, but don’t care about winning prizes. Sometimes they’ve approached us directly and asked if we wanted to use their money for matching donations to encourage other people to donate.

It’s a great strategy. So this year we’re inviting people to do that if they’d like to. To effectively come in as sponsors to the charity in the same way a publisher or a game company would.

But before I give you the contact e-mail, I have to explain something.

Many of you may remember Thera from Last year’s fundraiser. She’s the one that rallied my own people against me and pushed for this abomination as a stretch goal:

See, Thera is a big fan of John Mulaney, which is right and good, as the man is brilliant.

Anyway, I mention all of this as context so you understand why she chose this particular e-mail as the way to contact us at our very professional charity if you’d like to offer up some matching money:

[email protected]

So… yeah. There you go.

  • Help us take some money off our corporate overlords?

Guess what? Turns out a lot of big businesses offer corporate matching money if their employees donate to official, federally recognized charities.

A charity like, just to pick a name off the top of my head, Worldbuilders.

Mastercard, for example. Offers a *double* match. So if one of their employees makes a $100 donation, Mastercard kicks in $200 of its own making it $300 total.

I’d like to compile a list of businesses that offer matching deals like that. I’m guessing a lot of you work for places that would gladly back your charity play and you don’t even know it.

So. If you work somewhere that offers something similar, and they recognize Worldbuilders as valid recipient, can you mention it in the comments below? We’ll dig through our records too, and start a compiling a running list here at the bottom of this blog?

What’s more, if you check and discover your company needs something from Worldbuilders to get officially recognized, ping us at the address above and we’ll jump whatever hoops they require so we can get hold of that sweet, sweet corporate honey.

That’s all for now. Thanks for sticking with me to the end of the blog, and until the end of the year.

I’m looking forward to surprising you over the next couple weeks.

pat

Also posted in How to be a Worthwhile Human Being, trepidation, Worldbuilders | By Pat57 Responses

A blog, if only barely.

Hey there everyone,

You know that thing that happens sometimes, when you slowly drift out of contact with a friend? Something changes in your life, or maybe a few things, and you slowly start to see them less often. Call them less often. Talk less often.

And before you know it, it’s been *ages* since you’ve talked. And it just feels weird reaching out for no reason? And it feels weird reaching out when you *do* have a reason too, because then you worry that it seems like you only give them a call when you need help moving a couch or digging up an old friend’s address.

I don’t know if that makes any sense to you. I kinda hope it doesn’t. It’s a lousy feeling. It sucks to drift away from friends.

For those of you who do know how it feels, or can imagine it…. well…. that’s how I’ve been feeling about the blog lately.

Except it’s not that simple. I still think of stories that it would be fun to tell…. but the thought of putting them up here? It wearies me. I feel so tired all the time lately. And it’s not just that I’m too busy, underslept, and behind on everything. It’s not just that the world is very heavy on me lately, and I’ve been having trouble finding joy. It’s not just that my dad passed away last year….

Did you know I’m the oldest person in my family now? I have no grandparents left. No parents. There are four of the Rothfuss name left in Wisconsin. One is my little sister, and the others are my boys. I love my sister, and the boys are a delight. But it is strange to be eldest. And it is strange to be so alone.

This is the other reason I don’t write much in the blog lately: A lot of my thoughts are not cheerful. I am not full of cute kid stories and musings on the nature of love. Lately I think about the fact that I need glasses to read. Which may seem like a small thing to you, especially if you’ve always worn glasses. But for me? I’ve read a book or two a day for my entire life. I’ve spent more time in my life reading than… probably any other activity. I’ve always been able to pick up a book and just… go. Just leave for somewhere else. I’ve lived so many other lives in so many other worlds.

And now I can’t do it any more unless I wear glasses. It’s like I’ve spent my whole life being able to travel to Narnia and now someone put a lock on the wardrobe door….

See? That’s some bummer shit right there. Who wants to read a blog about that? And I don’t know if it’s good for me to spend  hours of my life writing down my grim maunderings about the shape of the world and my own impending mortality. It would be like a shittier version of The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock where I replaced all the literary allusions with me shouting the word “fuck” all the time.

Anyway, I was just poking my head up on here to say… well… I guess I’m saying that I’m sorry we’ve been drifting apart, you and I. (And by you, I mean my blog, and the people who used to enjoy reading it.)

I hope we can figure out how to have fun together again at some point. I’m going to try posting up some little blogs soon. Just small things so that maybe  can remember what it was like when we just goofed off on here. I could show off presents people have sent me. Or talk about the time I got to hug Telly.

Poor telly. What a terrible expression of existential dread. I’m so sorry.

Anyway. That’s all I have for now, folks.

Take care of each other.

pat

 

P.S. Also, for those of you who are into games, stories, and/or The Name of the Wind, there’s a cool storytelling game happening on kickstarter right now. The folks from Brotherwise games reached out to me a while back, and I liked the game enough to let them develop a 75 card expansion for it based off my books.

There are only 3 days left in the kickstarter. So if you’re the sort of person who loves kickstarter exclusives, you might want to hop on over there and check it out. 

Sorry that I haven’t mentioned it before now, but like I said. The blogs… they haven’t been coming so easy lately.

Maybe I’ll try to do a little blog where I show off some off some of the cards they’re prototyping for the game tomorrow. That might be an easy one to do… Help me get back into the swing of talking about fun things.

Anyway. Yeah. If you’re curious, here’s your link.

Later Edit: I just left a comment on my blog for the first time in a while. That new Gapcha is…. interesting. I think it’s going to be irritating in the long run though. I’ll see if I can find something a little less time consuming….

Also posted in a ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms, emo bullshit, gaming, the man behind the curtain | By Pat427 Responses

Podcasts Galore….

Heya there everyone,

Things are busy but good here in Rothtopia. Emphasis on busy. I have writing to do, projects to manage, e-mail to ruthlessly prune back, a relationship to enjoy/maintain, kids to cuddle, charity coolness on the horizon, and secrets things to work on….

Not to brag or anything, but I would like to say that on any given day I consistently manage to do at least two of these things. Sometimes three.

Unfortunately, that leaves little time for blogging. Which is a shame, as I enjoy telling stories and sharing news with y’all.

Because I’ve been otherwise tied up, there’s a bunch of stuff I’ve done lately that you might not know I’ve done lately.

For example, here’s a few podcasts I’ve made little guest appearances on over the last couple months.

MBMBaM (My Brother My Brother and Me).

I know I’m late to the game, but I only came to know about the marvelous McElroy brothers over the last 8 months or so. Oddly enough, I discovered them through Griffin’s Amiibo Corner, which is a delicious slide into divine absurdity that I love with a fiery passion.

For those of you out there who live under a heavy rock similar to mine, and therefore don’t know about the McElroy brothers, they are a vast treasure trove of delightful things.

480x270_16669(They’re pretty easy on the eyes, too. Rawr.)

I had a great time answering questions, giving (mostly bad) advice, and talking about parenting stuff with them on their afore-linked podcast.

Magic tavern.

When I was out at Pax East earlier this year, I got a chance to sit in on a live recording of the Magic Tavern Podcast.

PAXEastTavern(Actual Footage)

For those of you who don’t know who don’t know the premise of the show: A guy fell through a portal behind a Burger King and ended up in a fantasy world, so he does what any red-blooded geek would do, and broadcasts a podcast from the tavern there with the help of a wizard and a talking badger.

IFkuVFM(Y’know, like you do.)

And if that doesn’t make you curious about the show, I don’t know what will.

Also, if you’re into this podcast stuff, I’m assuming most of you already know about the podcast that Max and I do roughly every week.

Max & Me Podcast.

But if you don’t know for some reason, there’s a link to it. So you can do what you want with that.

Also, since I’m giving y’all a heads-up of where you can find me doing things other than here on the blog. I occasionally do some live streaming over on my twitch channel. Sometimes I play a game, sometimes I give writing advice or answer questions. It kinda depends on what mood I’m in.

But if you go there and follow the channel, it will send you an alert when I do a livestream so you have a chance of catching me live, which is a big deal, since that means you’ll have the chance to say things in the chat that I don’t pay attention to because I’m too busy mining space ore or getting blown up by orcs.

Alternately, the videos are archived on the site as well.

That’s all I’ve got for today, but stay tuned. I’ll be sharing my schedule for PAX soon, as well as telling stories and sharing other news.

Be good to each other,

pat

Also posted in appearances, podcasts | By Pat5 Responses

Cutie, Crying, and the Weirding Way

I was just laying in bed with Sarah and our youngest child. He’s just a little bit over one year old.

little bug

Codename: Cutie Snoo. (Because I don’t like using my kid’s real names online.)

I don’t know how it works in other households, but in ours, a lot of the day-to-day kid activities end up happening on the bed. Sarah has a huge king-sized mattress that just rests on the floor. Partly because she likes it that way, and partly because low-to-the ground beds are easier and safer for kids.

Anyway, I’m laying in bed with Cutie. I’d come in to hang play with him when I heard him wake up from his nap.  A little later, mom joined us, because she has the boobs, and boobs make everything better.

Cutie was laying between us, nursing (on Sarah) while she and I were talking.

Then, unexpectedly, Cutie rolled over and pushed a little baby spoon he carries around with him at my mouth.

It surprised me. It bounced off my lip a little bit, and hit my teeth. It hurt just a little, about as much as it would if you poked me in the mouth with your fingernail. We’re talking… like… half a newton of force, tops.  Not enough to crack an egg.

Still, it surprised me. And it hurt just a little.

So I looked at him, and I said, “Ow.”

Didn’t shout it, didn’t bark it. Didn’t even do my disappointed dad voice.

I mention this because over the years I’ve learned my voice is a powerful thing. Where my kids are concerned, I’m one of the Bene Gesserit. I’m the Kwisatz Paterach. I’m Black Bolt.

I’m not sure why this is, exactly. I’ve got a pretty good baritone, but it’s not earthshaking by itself. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been a teacher. That I’ve been a singer. That I was a performer who never really liked using a mic until the crowds started topping 100 people and I was forced to go electric.

Maybe it’s all of those things together. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I discovered early on in my parenting career that if I wasn’t careful with my voice, I would terrify my children. Once, back when he was about 16 months old, I barked Oot’s name at him from the top of a stairway and he went into fetal crouch, trembling with animal fear.

I felt like king asshole of the universe at the time. I still do. As a parent, you slowly build a portfolio of memories. Things your children will never remember, things that you will never forget.

Standing at the top of the stairs, looking down at my terrified boy, I thought to myself, “You need to get this shit under control right now, Rothfuss…”

So I did. Slowly. Over many years.

All of this is to say that I’m very careful with my voice these days. I don’t bark. I rarely even snap or get a little sharp in my tone. There’s no need, just a little disapproval in my voice is like iron to these tiny little faen creatures I have flitting around in my life.

So. Remember where we were? Bed. Cutie. Spoon.

I looked at him and said, “Ow.” Not because he hurt me, but because I want him to know that he *can* hurt someone. He needs to learn to be careful.

“Ow,” I said. Softly.

Hearing me, Cutie turned away, facing back toward mom.

“He was trying to give you a bite,” she explained to me.

I nodded, only understanding then what he’d been trying to do with the spoon. It’s a game I’d seen Cutie play with her, but he’d never done it with me before.

Looking down at him, Sarah’s face goes concerned, then she looks up at me. “He feels bad,” she says.

Then Cutie gave a little sob. It was tiny, but it was one of those deep ones. One of the ones that comes out of you in a lump: “Uh-huh.”

When you’re a parent, you learn the different types of crying. You learn to recognize the panicked cry of a baby that’s hurt. There’s the “I can’t believe you took that away from me” cry. There’s the “I’m tired and can’t hold my shit together” cry. There’s the rare, furious red-faced rage rage rage cry. There’s the “Where’s Mom?” cry.

This wasn’t any of those. It went, “Ah-huh” and it was nothing but sadness. One sob. Pause. Then another. Then he was really crying.

He felt bad. He was sad that he’d hurt me.

I read something somewhere that said children start to develop empathy when they’re 3 years old.

I’d like to officially go on the record as saying that is bullshit.

Cutie is 13 months old. He can speak about 10 words, and those he speaks badly. He can’t run, or jump, or eat with a spoon.

But he feels bad when he hurts someone. This is something some adults have yet to learn.

He’s is my boy. My sweet boy. I am so proud of him.

pat

Also posted in babies, Cutie Snoo, How to be a Worthwhile Human Being, Oot | By Pat30 Responses

Thirty years of D&D

This may come as an absolute lack of shock to most of you, but growing up, I was not very cool.

As proof, allow me to present exhibit A.

Cool-Pat-with-Shades-786164

That’s me on my birthday. And if the Aerobie, sunglasses, and sleeveless shirt weren’t enough of a clue for you, I’ll just mention that this was somewhere in the early 80’s.

So. Me: Not particularly cool. Really rather impressively not cool.

Now don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t miserable. I wasn’t one of the popular kids, but then again most people aren’t. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had a few. Besides, I lived out in the country, so it wasn’t like the neighborhood kids pelted me with stones or anything. There were no neighborhood kids for the most part. No neighbors. Just me and lots of books.

What’s more, I had the best pair of parents imaginable. Parents who, when I asked for a bullwhip for my birthday, actually bought me one.

And, as you can see if you embiggen the above picture, they also bought me a copy of the green D&D box set.

*     *     *

I first found out about D&D in the fifth grade. I saw some kids playing at school one day when it was crappy out and we were having recess inside.

I’d never heard of it before. It looked like a lot of fun. I asked the kids if I could play with them.

“No,” they said.

It wasn’t a hesitant no, either. It was a genuine, “No, we are certain we do not want you to play with us.” Whether or not they intended to, I was left with the distinct impression that I wasn’t cool enough to play D&D with.

Keep in mind that this was in the early 1980’s. Geek wasn’t chic back then. There was no internet. There weren’t huge comic conventions. There was no PAX.

These days everyone plays WOW and reads Harry Potter and Watches X-Men movies. Geek is mainstream now.

Back then? Not so much. Back then, you were picked on for reading fantasy novels. Or reading comics. Or rolling dice and pretending to be a wizard. Geeks were really far down the social pecking order.

Those people, those geeks, were the folks that didn’t particularly want to hang out with me.

So I arranged to get the D&D red box. And I read it all. And I made a character. And I played D&D with myself.

(It occurs to me just now that this might have been one of the first steps toward being a writer. Being an author is kinda like playing D&D with yourself.)

Later I got the other boxes. Usually as Christmas presents….

BECMI_DnD_boxes2

(I never knew about the Immortal Rules until just now….)

My parents didn’t really know what it was all about. Despite that, they were understanding. My mom was a hippie, so when I asked her to make me a cloak, she didn’t think much of it. She’d made cloaks for people before. The main difference was that the people she made cloaks for back in the 60’s had at least a distant possibility of having sex.

Then I found this at the Madison public library.

DMG

It wasn’t this actual book. It didn’t have this cover, either. Because of damage, or perhaps as a nod to Christian sensibilities, the library had re-covered the book.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. This book was different. It was weighty. It was serious. It was full of  charts and tables. Let’s say you were adventuring in a swamp. And you wanted to know how likely you were to catch a disease. Well, there were rules for that.

I am all-the-way serious:

DMGDiseaseTable

There’s something to be learned from this table. Honestly, part of the reason I live in Wisconsin is because of the -1% modifier for cool weather.

Toward at the end of one of the books was Appendix N – Inspirational and Educational Reading. That was where Gygax listed books that had shaped his views on fantasy. Books he thought other people would benefit from reading.

I found a nice scan of it online:

Appendix-N

(Click to embiggen, if you’re curious.)

You’ve got some great names on there. Tolkien. Zelazny. Saberhagen. Norton. Looking it over now, I realize I still haven’t read half of these, and I feel like I should.

Back then, it was really interesting to see this list of books. But I was just a kid. I didn’t seek out books so much as I just devoured anything that was available at the library or the Waldenbooks at the mall.

Eventually I found some people to play D&D with. I played it all through high-school with several different people, most consistently with my two best friends, Steve and Ryan.

When I graduated from high-school, rather than have a graduation party, I asked my parents if I could go up to our cabin in the north woods with Steve and Ryan. They agreed, and for a week, we did very little but play D&D.

By that time, 2nd edition was out. That’s the edition I played the most of. The one I know inside and out.

I played in college too. That’s how I made my first friends here in Stevens Point. Most notably Endo, who introduced me to other friends. That was how I met my first girlfriend and other people I still know and love to this day. Though I don’t get to see them nearly as much as I’d like.

This year, as some of you might know, 5th edition came out.

PH

I got to know this edition pretty well because I had to make a new version of Viari that I could play with Acquisitions Incorporated.

The book is beautiful. The new system is flexible but easy to use. Elegant and smooth in a way I couldn’t have appreciated ten years ago. Using it, I was able to make a thief that could hold his own in combat and survive jumping off an airship onto a dragon.

But I’m not here to sing the praises of 5th edition. I’m here because of what shows up in the back of this 5th edition player’s handbook.

Appendix E: Inspirational Reading….

PHReadingPage

There’s more books than before, you’ll notice. That’s only appropriate. The genre’s grown a lot since Gygax wrote his list back in 1979.

There’s still some of the familiar names on here, as there should be. Zelazny is still brilliant. So is Tolkien. And what’s that? Oh my stars and garters, there’s more than one woman on the list! Which is good, because these days a list that misses LeGuin and McKillip isn’t worth shit in my opinion.

We’ve got some new folks on there too. My friends and colleagues. Jemisin and Sanderson. Lynch, and Bear and Saladin.

And this.

PHReadingPage 2

I’m there. I’m in the book. In a small way, I’m *part* of D&D.

It’s hard to get my head around that fact. Words fail me, and I honestly don’t know what to say. Except that it’s wonderful, and flattering and so, so strange. My life has become so strange these last few years.

I think this must be what it feels like to be cool.

DnD_recommended2Be good to each other everyone,

pat

Also posted in Achievement Unlocked!, gaming, My checkered past | By Pat85 Responses

Love Redux

So last year I made a post on Valentines day that happened to be about love.

I wasn’t happy about that, as I’ve got a strong iconoclastic element in my personality. And writing about love on Valentines day is just… it just feels so fucking Hallmark.

But something happened a couple days ago, and it’s been spinning in my head ever since. When that happens, I have to tell a story about it, because that’s just how I’m wired.

So. I’m writing about love again, not because it’s Valentines day, but despite that.

I just want to make it clear this isn’t going to be a yearly thing. Okay? Okay.

*     *     *

A couple days ago, my baby boy smiled at me. A little crooked smile, a smirk.

Cutie - 8 weeks

(The onesie was a gift from a fan. Honest.)

A few days before that, I got my first smile. Today I got several. He also said, “goo” a couple times. I’m not even kidding. It’s amazingly cute.

Here’s the thing. He also smiled at the ceiling fan. He *really* likes the ceiling fan. Given the choice between the ceiling fan and me, the fan will win 3 times out of 4.

But you know what’s strange? I don’t mind. I really don’t.

I don’t mind that he smiles and coos at his mom more than me. It doesn’t make me sad that the ceiling fan takes second place, and that almost any window with a sunlight behind it is a close third.

I’m fine being fourth in line for smiles. I’m just happy to be on the list.

Standing there, holding my new baby, I had a strange sort of revelation. I was feeling a type of love that was in no way jealous.

I think this might be the purest type of love.

*     *     *

Here’s the thing, I’m not a fan of LOVE as a singular concept. It’s a ridiculously broad term that can be applied to pets, sex partners, or Oreos. When a word accretes that many definitions, it becomes virtually nonsensical.

If you’re hunting for more specific words for love, Greek is a good language to start with. They have Eros, Philos, and Agape. Those three do a pretty good job of breaking the great multifarious monolith of LOVE into slightly more manageable pieces.

I’m assuming you know about them, but just for reference:

  • Philos is friend love. Family love.
  • Eros is “I want to bone you” love.
  • Agape is… tricky. Some people call it “unconditional love.” I’ve heard it referred to as “True love” “God Love” or “That love which instils worth.”

There’s also lesser-known storge: “Kindness love.” Which is the sort of love you feel for something that’s dependent on you. Like an infant or a dog.

So. I’m standing there, looking at my sweet baby, and he’s smiling at the ceiling fan. And I realize I don’t mind. I’m just happy that he’s happy. I’m just happy that sometimes he smiles at me. I’m just happy he’s around.

This is a strange and wonderful sensation. This is, I feel, a different type of love.

Now it might seem like I’m talking about agape-style love here. Or storge. But I’m not. This is something different.

What I’m talking about here is love-without-expectation.

*     *     *

We need to stop for a moment and make a word.

If I’m going to spend some time trying to describe a largely unfamiliar concept, I need a name for it. Love-without-expectation-or-desire isn’t going to work. It’s not elegant. A newish concept needs a newish name. It needs its own space to grow. You grok?

Plus I just like making words. It’s kind of a thing that I do.

From what I gather the Hebrew concept of “חסד” is pretty close to what I’m looking for here. And it’s one of the Sephira, which gives it extra gravitas. Unfortunately, it’s not going to work because when you transliterate it, it’s spelled “chesed” and that looks too much like “cheesed” to me.

Fuck it. I know it’s not linguistically sound, but I’m going to call it Eleutheria.

*     *     *

Remember where we were? Me. My baby. Ceiling fan.

20140214_122916

(In his defense, it’s a really nice fan.)

I simply love him, and I expect nothing in return. This is strangely, delightfully freeing. I don’t feel bad that if he pays more attention to his mom. I don’t mind that he smiles at the fan or his big brother.

I don’t mind if he falls asleep. I don’t mind if he throws up on me.

Elutheria – Love which demands nothing. The love that expects nothing.

This is an odd concept for me. Because I am a creature composed almost entirely of expectations.

This isn’t entirely a bad thing. The ability to anticipate, desire, and plan is important. It gives us control of our lives. It gives us the ability to see forward in time a little. It gives us the ability to steer our destiny a little so we can avoid wrecking our lives against the rocks.

Not always, of course, sometimes your ship is going to wreck no matter your best efforts. Shit happens. But if you’re able to anticipate the future, you can at least brace for impact. That’s better than nothing.

Without the ability to predict and therefore exert control on the future, we are helpless. Subject to the constant random battering of a largely entropic universe.

The ability to predict and anticipate isn’t bad. The desire for control isn’t bad. If you put those things together with a love for language and a vague compulsion for storytelling, you get The Name of the Wind.

If you combine these characteristics with a love of charity and a desire to make the world a better place, you get Worldbuilders.

If you combine them with a relationship… it’s not so good.

Because trying to control the people you love isn’t good.

For one thing, people don’t like it. (For the most part.) But also because controlling someone means hanging expectations on them. And if people don’t live up to your expectations, you’re disappointed. And disappointment leads to frustration and anger. This spiral continues down to the dark side of the force.

How much nicer would it be to simply love someone? If you expected nothing from your beloved, you could never be disappointed. Nothing could jeopardize that love. It would be unassailable.

This would be Elutheria, the love that expects nothing.

*     *     *

What I’m talking about here, is the diametrical opposite of selfish love.

Selfish love demands things. It demands attention. Most of all, selfish love demands love in return. Typically it usually demands ALL the love in return. It demands primacy. Exclusivity. Ownership. Control.

What I’m talking about here is what’s commonly called “Romantic Love.”

Romantic love is championed as being awesome in our culture. It’s the sort of love you’ve seen a thousand times in movies and literature. You’ve seen it the lives of your friends and family members. You’ve probably experienced some version of it yourselves.

It’s the sort of love where you where you fall for someone, and they don’t love you back, and then you kill yourself. (Actual results may vary.)

It’s the sort of love where you see you girl talking to another guy and you feel jealous.

It’s the sort of love where you see your guy looking at another girl and you feel angry.

It’s the sort of love that makes you think it’s okay to consider someone “your girl” or “your guy.” As if you owned them. As if they were under your control. As if your affection made them somehow beholden to you.

And as I stand there, smiling at my baby, (who is smiling at our ceiling fan) I am perfectly happy. And I wonder to my self, “At what point did loving someone become an excuse to be a greedy asshole?”

*     *     *

I bounced my idea off a couple people over the last week or so. Love without expectation. I explained about my baby and the ceiling fan. I talked about the chains of desire….

“Well,” someone said. “It sounds nice, but I don’t think that’s something that could exist in an adult relationship.”

Several people said this, or something very close to it. These comments came up almost compulsively, in a knee-jerk way.

I think people have this automatic response for two reasons.

First, I think they feel attacked. As if I’m telling them they’re loving wrong.

I’m not. That’s not what this is about. When I talk about how much I’d like a Tesla, it doesn’t mean I think you’re a dick for driving a Prius. I’m not trying to start a fight here. I’m looking to discuss an idea.

Second, I think people react badly because Elutheria a profoundly unfamiliar concept. We all grew up reading stories about Lancelot and Guenevere (or permutations thereof.)

The Arthurian legend is one of our mythic cornerstones. It echoes through the last 1000 years of our art and literature. Well… 800 years, if we’re talking about Lancelot. You see, he wasn’t in the original story. The French added him in the 1200’s.

dicksee-belle-dame

(Yeah. I know that’s not Lance and Gwen. I just really love Waterhouse.)

And you know what? It’s a better story with Lancelot in it. More drama. More tension. More universal appeal.

The downside? Lancelot and Guenevere are generally held up to be the villains of the whole Arthurian schtick. They ruined Camelot. Their dirty, dirty lust wrecked the golden age.

But the truth is, if Arthur hadn’t been such a douche about the whole thing, there wouldn’t have been any problem. If Arthur had just gotten over himself and admitted that Lance was pretty hunky, it could have been cool. If he’d just wanted Gwen to be happy, he should have just stepped aside. Or at least turned a blind eye.

Either that or jumped into the sack with both of them. Because… y’know… hunky.

Imagine the glorious world we’d be living in if *that* was one of our mythic cornerstones, folks. Imagine a world where slash fiction didn’t exist because we were, all of us, constantly living the dream.

Okay, back on track here.

Generally speaking, everyone agrees that Arthur overreacted. But Lance and Gwen? They’re traitors. It’s their *fault*. Traitors deserve the lowest, darkest circle of hell.

Arthur was a little hot headed, sure. But it was justified, right? Lance and Gwen, their actions were a betrayal.

What were they betraying?

Expectations.

*     *     *

Those of you who have studied any Buddhism are probably nodding along by this point. Believe me, I’m very aware that the more I roll the concept of Elutheria around, the more similar it seems to the four noble truths that lead to the eightfold path.

For those of you who haven’t studied Buddhism, here it is in a nutshell:

  1. There is suffering.
  2. Suffering comes from thwarted desire.
  3. Therefore, if you eliminate desire, you eliminate suffering.
  4. Profit. Moksha.

There is an unassailable simplicity here. There’s a reason I’m fond of Buddhism.

*     *     *

I wish I had a strong closer for you, but I’m not really making an argument here. I’m not heading for a conclusion. I’m merely working out my thoughts in text. Writing things down helps me understand them better. It helps me knock the rough corners off my new ideas. (It’s my attempt at “Right Understanding,” the first step of the eightfold path.)

But is Elutheria something a person can realistically achieve?

With my baby, the answer seems to be yes.

But then things become more complicated. You see, I have responsibilities.

My older son is four. And while it would be pleasant to simply love him and let the chips fall where they may, if I were to do that, I would be failing him as a parent. I need to provide guidance and discipline. I need to control his base monkey instincts with the hope that he may eventually rise above them and become a fully-formed human being.

There’s that word again: Control. It’s my job to control him. It’s my job to have expectations.

Still, I think discarding Elutheria entirely would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There are certain expectations that are essential. I expect him to be polite. I expect him to be honest. I expect him to be mindful and kind.

Those are the requirements for being a good human being. It’s my job to guide and coach him until he gets there.

Any expectations beyond that, I should be wary of. I shouldn’t expect him to be all those things *all* the time. I shouldn’t expect him to be tidy. Or quiet when I’m trying to work.

I shouldn’t expect him to be straight, or a democrat, or a painter. I shouldn’t expect him to love books.

Oot and book

Expectation is a trap, you see. There’s nothing to be gained from it. I don’t feel *more* joy seeing him read because I hoped for it. I only leave myself open to disappointment if he doesn’t.

Similarly, my relationship with Sarah consists of more than simple love. We are engaged in the partnership. We maintain a household and the purpose of that household is to raise children that are physically and emotionally healthy.

Her cooperation in these things is essential. I expect it.

But other things? Should I expect her never ogle the pretty college boys on the track team who jog around town every spring? No. Foolishness. Should I expect her to want to organize the kitchen the way I would? To want the same color paint in the dining room? To have dinner cooked and ready for me when I come home from work?

Should I expect her to always love me best, and most, and only?

No. I think not. I think that would be selfish and self-centered.

The more of these expectations I can let go of, the happier I will be.

But it’s hard. Oh it’s hard. It goes against a lifetime full of training. It goes against my obsessive desire to control. It goes against my meticulous nature. It goes against what so many stories told me was true.

Inconclusively yours,

pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, Cutie Snoo, love, naming, the longest fucking blog ever | By Pat97 Responses
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