Category Archives: musings

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 Pat86 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 Pat98 Responses

Concerning Cake, Bilbo Baggins, and Charity

So a couple days ago I did an AMA on Reddit.

It was fun. I enjoy goofing off, interacting with my readers, and answering questions. So this sort of thing is a good fit for me.

Kvothe pants

The day after the AMA, I went back in to see if I’d missed any particularly important/interesting/clever questions.

And I found one. A really good question.

I started to answer it. Then I kept answering it. Then I realized I’d written about 400 words and stopped myself from going any further.…

So rather than post my answer there, buried deep in a thread at the bottom of a dead AMA. I’m answering it here with the author’s permission.

*     *     *

This is going to sound pretty awful, but why all the charity work?

I’ve always been… well, financially challenged (at young Kvothe-like levels at times), and from what I’ve read, you were in a similar state for a long time. I can’t imagine doing so much for strangers even if that changed, and sometimes…

Well, it kind of bugs me. There are loads of things that you do that I would love to give you money for, but when you do them for charity, I feel like I wouldn’t be supporting you, my favorite writer, by supporting those charities.

This sounds intensely selfish, I know, but it comes from ignorance, not malice.

Thanks for being honest here Jason. This is an interesting question for me to see. And I think it’s an important question to answer.

The simple truth is, Jason, at this point in my life, I have enough money to live comfortably. And in my opinion, if you have enough money to live comfortably and you keep trying to get more and more and more money… well… it’s kind of an asshole thing to do.

It’s like this: if you have one piece of cake, and you eat it, that’s fine.

If you have two pieces of cake, you should probably share some with a friend. But maybe not. Occasionally we could all use two pieces of cake.

But if you have a whole cake, and you eat *all* of it, that’s not very cool. It’s not just selfish, it’s kinda sick and unhealthy.

portal(No lie.)

And if you have *two* cakes, and you keep trying to get more cakes so you can eat ALL the cake? Well… that’s really fucking mental. And awful. And about as close to real evil as actually exists in the world.

Right now, I have… well… probably somewhere between 2-4 cakes, financially speaking.

But some people out there don’t have any cake at all. Some people don’t even have dinner, let alone desert.

That’s why I run Worldbuilders. Because some people out there have no cake at all. There are kids out there that are hungry all the time. There are kids out there with no books at all to read. There are kids out there with no beds to sleep in. No homes to come home to. No safe places. No sweet dreams.

That’s why I do all the charity work. Because the world isn’t as good as I want it to be.

We all feel this way sometimes. Because honestly, the world is a fucking mess. It’s full of dragons, and none of us are as powerful or cool as we’d like to be. And that sucks.

But when you’re confronted with that fact, you can either crawl into a hole and quit, or you can get out there, take off your shoes, and Bilbo it up.

Rankin and Bass Bilbo it up(So What’s It Going to Be?)

The work I do with various charities is my attempt to Bilbo the fuck up.

Now it’s true that I could just devote myself to making a ton of money, then donate however much I liked to charity. A lot of people have suggested this to me. Smart people. People who care about me.

And y’know. It’s not terrible advice. That’s what Carnegie did…

But honestly, that’s not for me. I don’t like the thought of spending my whole life being utterly rapacious, getting *all* the cake it is humanly possible to acquire. And then, ten years before I die, giving a chunk of it back to the world.

One reason I don’t like this philosophy is that it means you have an excuse to act like a total bastard until you’re 60 years old. And y’know, Carnegie did a lot of ethically dubious things back in the day. There’s a reason they called him a robber baron.

My other problem with this is that after 60 years of being a bastard, most people aren’t going to make a sudden transformation into being kind-hearted humanitarians.

But the main reason I don’t like this way of thinking is that it’s predicated on the thought that you, my readers, are selfish, self-centered individuals. Carnegie’s philosophy implies that I should take as much money off you as I possibly can. Then, eventually, I should do something good with it, preferably getting my name on a building the the process. Because *obviously* the lot of you are not smart enough to make the world a better place on your own.

I don’t believe that. My philosophy is that people are inherently good. I believe when given the chance, people will happily line up to make the world a better place.

I think this is doubly true of fantasy readers, and trebly true of my readers in particular.

As evidence, I give you Worldbuilders. Over the last five years the geek community has given over two million dollars to Heifer International.

This year, I hope to raise another half-million. (Though I wouldn’t cry if we managed more.)

The truth is, you don’t have to be a billionaire to change the world. You don’t have to build a library. The truth is, if you donate 30 bucks to Worldbuilders, it will change someone’s life. Forever.

chicken 2

And sure, when you donate you get the chance to win a bunch of cool books, too. But that’s just a perk.

I know the truth. I know why you’re all *really* here. I know why you’ve read all the way to the bottom of this post. It’s because you’re good. It’s because you want to make the world a better place.

The truth is, Jason. I don’t think you’re selfish. You want to support an author whose work you enjoy. That’s not a selfish thing.

But here’s the thing. I don’t need twenty bucks from you. That’s not the support I want. That’s not the support I need.

I need you to help me make the world a better place.

You can do that by donating to Heifer International over on the Worldbuilders team page.

If you can’t because you’re broke, that’s fine. Believe me, I’ve been there. But you could still lend your support by spreading the word about Worldbuilders on facebook or twitter. You could write a blog. You could make a video. You could tell a friend.

Thanks for helping everyone,

pat

  • 12:30 – Since posting three hours ago, we’ve raised $3,000.

That’s enough to provide 150 families with flocks of chickens.

Chickens require little space and can thrive on readily available scraps; this allows families to make money from the birds without spending much. A good hen can lay up to 200 eggs a year, so a flock of chickens provides a steady source of nutrition and income.

  • 2:30 pm – Five hours after posting, we’ve raised $6,000.

That’s enough to purchase biogas stoves for 6 villages.

“For most families in the places where Heifer International works, cooking usually means gathering firewood by hand, which often depletes the soil and robs the environment of its trees. In addition, smoke inhalation in poorly ventilated homes often leads to chronic lung and eye diseases.

A biogas stove is a better option. It runs off methane gas captured from animal waste, and burns cleanly, reliably and efficiently. This is not only better for the environment, it is more sustainable and healthier for families feeding their children.”

  • 7:30 pm – $10,000. 

That’s enough to train and equip 50 Community Animal Health Workers.

In many countries, access to veterinary care is limited. So Heifer International trains Animal Health Workers. Participants receive training in animal health, husbandry, breeding, and nutrition as well as tools such as thermometers, stethoscopes, hoof trimmers, gloves, disinfectants, medicine for animals, and more.

This training and equipment gives someone the ability to support themselves in a lifelong career. What’s more, the presence of an animal health worker improves an entire community with healthier animals, more successful farms, and better education about sanitation and disease.

  • 6:30 am – $15,000. 

That’s enough to supply clean water to 50 communities.

In many communities where Heifer works, most homes lack running water, and some families do not even have a well nearby. Instead, they spend a huge portion of each day fetching water. This is often a chore left to children — especially girls — leaving them no time for school. Without a good education, those children have little hope for good jobs in the future.

Heifer helps families and communities install irrigation pumps, usually muscle-powered treadle pumps that are easy to maintain and repair. Heifer also provides education in terms of water conservation and sanitation, improving community health and making local farms and gardens more productive.

  • 24 hours after making this post… 

…lovely people have donated an additional 18K to Worldbuilders, bringing our total at this moment to more than 317,000 dollars.

That’s enough to start 850 small businesses.

Enough for 2600 goats and the training to care for them.

Enough for 10,000 hives of honeybees that will improve crop yields.

Enough for 17,000 trees that give fruit, provide income, and prevent soil erosion.

I won’t be updating our total on this blog any more. Instead I’m going to put in our donation thermometer so you can watch it climb yourself.

If you want to be a part of this, it’s easy. Click here to make it happen.

(P.S. For every $10 you kick in, you get a chance to win books.)

ShelfJanuary

 (A LOT of books.)

Also posted in calling on the legions, FAQ, Worldbuilders | By Pat141 Responses

A Strange Encounter With Social Media….

Tonight I was planning on writing a blog about my recent trip to England and Spain. But something odd has happened and disrupted my plans.

You see, earlier today, I ran into an interesting article, which I posted up on facebook, because I like sharing stories about people being awesome.

The article is worth a read, but I’ll summarize: There was a guy who ran a website for  something called “Revenge Porn.” (Which I’d happily never heard of before this.) Apparently he posted naked pictures of women online and encouraged his followers to harass them, call their employers, and generally make their lives hell. Most of the pictures he used were stolen, faked, or handed over by disgruntled ex-boyfriends.

The article explains how a woman found her daughter’s picture on his website, and after finding out what an asshole he was, engineered his downfall in a serious old testament way. It was some lovely not-one-stone-left-upon-another shit.

Anyway, I posted up the link and wandered away. Not thinking much else about it.

An hour or so later I came back and took at peek at the post. I don’t read my facebook comment threads, but I do occasionally look in on them to make sure nothing is on fire.

And, as chance would have it, things *were* slightly on fire. It wasn’t to the point where people were talking about Hitler yet, but a few folks had made comments along the lines of, “She took nude pictures of herself, but didn’t want anyone to see them? I don’t buy it….”

Then some people were kinda pissed about those comments, and made comments to that effect.

Then other people got defensive, and posted some comments to that effect.

We all know where this ends. It’s a spiral into madness. The dirigible ends up in flames, everyone’s dead, and I’ve lost my hat.

Since any plan where I lose my hat is a bad plan, I sighed and sat down to write a quick post asking people to play nice and behave themselves.

Except… well… my quick post ended up being about 750 words long. Surprising nobody but me.

Once I’d finished writing it I just sat there, disgusted with myself. I knew better than to waste my time with this. Trying to have a productive discussion about a complex social issue on facebook is like trying to build a bridge by throwing rocks into a well.

What’s more, this shit is *dangerous.* People get pissed off when you talk about sexism. And not just the people that think you’re wrong, either. Sometimes the people that agree with 95% of what you say are the ones that go positively incarnadine with rage.

Simply said, writing a post on sexism was not on my agenda for the day. And I knew that in terms of bad ideas, posting it on Facebook ranked somewhere between putting my hand in a fire, and willfully slamming my own dick in a car door.

But I’d already written it. And I hate throwing away something I’ve already written. And it was something that really should be said….

So I posted it. Then I shut down my computer and left for dinner.

Hours later I came home and reluctantly looked online. No one was howling for my blood. I peeked on facebook and saw that in the last 5 hours more people had liked and shared that post than anything else I’d ever written.

And the comments were… well… they were delightful. I read about 150 of them and was not once enraged or disappointed in humanity. The posts were kind and honest and funny and endlessly grateful. People shared their own stories. People were occasionally politely disagreeing.

I stopped reading after 150 comments. I didn’t want to spoil it. It was like a beautiful dream.

Thanks for that, everybody.

If you’d like to read the facebook post, here’s a link.

pat

Also posted in holding forth, How to be a Worthwhile Human Being | By Pat30 Responses

Me me me memes…..

The title of this blog makes more sense if you pretend you’re singing it….

Today we’ve got some Link Salad and an interview.

So apparently, (he said without preamble) folks have been making Kvothe memes.

Like this:

In a similar vein, someone sent me a link to a blog appropriately titled “My God What Horrors have I wrought?” A blog in which they take several pictures of me and… well… lolcat them.

I really don’t have anything to say about either of these things. I find myself ambivalent, but strongly ambivalent.  It’s like feeling extra-medium about something.

It’s like yesterday. I was digging in the garden with Sarah, and I found a rock that was kinda cool, so I wanted to show it to her.

“Look at this cool rock,” I said.

She looked at it. “Cool,” she said.

“It’s flint,” I said.

Then I just stood there holding it. Kinda at a loss.

What are you going to do with it?” She asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

And that’s where I kinda stalled out. The main thing I wanted was for other people to acknowledge that it was interesting. It wasn’t purposeful. It wasn’t useful. It was just….

There should be a word for that. I think we have a hole in the language. We need a word for something that feels more significant that it actually is. Or perhaps something which is only significant in that it possesses a feeling of significance beyond any practical value or purpose.

I think the word should be…. hygapean. Maybe just ‘agapean?’ Can you adjectiveize “agape?”

Is adjectiveize even a word? It should be. Adjectiveate?

Either way, I’m pretty sure I’ve just invented at least one word up there. So I can cross that off my list for the day.

I think ‘hygapean’ is the right way to go though.

Pronunciation: Huh Gape Ian. Emphasis on the first syllable.

Proper usage: “I used to have a crush on her, but it turns out my attraction was primarily hygapean.”

“Look at this hygapean rock I found.”

There. Now each of you has to use it at least once today and we’re all set.

Okay. Moving on.

In other news, here’s a photographer that makes me feel like I really should step up my game when it comes to taking pictures of my kid.

And lastly, here’s an interview I did over at Toonari.

Share and Enjoy,

pat

Also posted in Interviews, Link salad, Surreal enthusiasm, The difference between 'slim' and 'slender' | By Pat76 Responses

New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not the sort of person who makes new year’s resolutions.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever made any new year’s resolutions. Ever.

But yesterday, I wandered onto goodreads and fired up this little “reading challenge” widget they have. There’s not much to it. You set a goal for how many books you want to read over the course of the year, then this thing tracks your progress.

Last year I tried it on a whim and made my goal of 150 books even though I was sloppy about keeping track. This year I decided to shoot for 250, which is probably closer to what I actually read in a year.

Ever since I fired up that silly little widget, I’ve been thinking about new year’s resolutions. Which is odd, because, like I said, I don’t typically go in for that sort of thing.

Philosophically, the concept of making a resolution has never made much sense to me. It seems to me that if you really want to do something, you should just fucking do it. Resolving to do it is sort of a bullshit intermediary step. If I’m hungry, I don’t *resolve* to go eat lunch. I just find food and put it in my mouth. Simple. Problem solved.

So why am I thinking about New Year’s Resolutions?

I think the main reason is that I had a really great New Years. Some friends came to visit. We played board games, did some tabletop role-playing, and just hung out.

It was the most fun I’ve had in ages. And after everyone went home, I felt good. Not just happy, but physically and emotionally healthy. I felt like a million dollars.

No. I felt better than that. I felt like a second season of Firefly.

Seriously. A full 22 episode season. I felt that good.

Ever since then, I’ve been rolling it around in my head. 2011 was a pretty good year for me. Book two was finally published. The Wise Man’s Fear hit #1 on the New York Times. I met Terry Pratchett, got to perform at Wootstock, and attended some very cool conventions.

(Speaking of conventions. I’m Guest of Honor at Confusion later this month. You should swing on by if you can. Jim Hines is going to be there, as is Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett, Brent Weeks….

Holy shit. Robin Hobb is going to be there too. I didn’t know that until I just checked their website. How awesome is that?)

But anyway, yeah. 2011 was my first official signing tour. I met thousands of my readers all over the country. (Though I realize now, as I go looking for a link, that I never got around to blogging about that. I probably should at some point.)

For now, a picture will suffice. Here’s a shot I took from the podium at my first signing of the tour in Seattle.

(They were a great crowd.)

If you look at the highlight reel of 2011, it looks like I’m living the dream.

I’ve actually had people say that to me over this last year: “Congratulations! You’re living the dream!”

I know they’re just excited for me. But whenever I hear that, I think, “Whose dream? I don’t ever remember dreaming this….”

Now don’t get be wrong. Parts of this year have been profoundly cool. I love conventions. I love talking about writing and hanging out with readers. I love getting to meet authors that I’ve been reading my whole life.

But the fact remains that a lot of times, after going to a convention I feel exhausted and hammered flat on both sides.

On the other hand, after hanging out with my friends on New Years, I feel like I could lift a truck over my head with one hand, then go write for ten hours straight.

Looking back over these last couple years, I realize that most of my close friends left town back in 2007, just as my first book was getting published. They were getting jobs in other parts of the country, going to grad school, joining Americorp….

I missed them, of course, but I was plenty busy getting used to the whole published-author life. I started writing this blog. I signed up for Facebook. I did some signings, started attending conventions….

At the same time, I quit teaching at the University. Quit coaching fencing. Quit acting as advisor to the College Feminists.

When I look at things with the clarity of hindsight, it’s blindingly obvious what the end result of all this is: I’m suffering from a rather specialized sort of social isolation. The sort of isolation where I can go online at any point and interact with 10,000 people.

I never thought of it like this before, but hanging out with friends is psychologically healthy. Facebook and blogging and going to conventions is the social equivalent of eating Pringles. It’s fun. It’s tasty. It’s relatively harmless in moderation. But if you eat nothing *but* Pringles, you die.

Similarly, lack of genuine hanging out with real friends must lead to a sort of psychological scurvy.

This is the situation I’ve accidentally backed into.It wasn’t until I hung out with my old friends again that I realized how much I missed that. How much some part of me was starving.

So. Over these last couple days I’ve been thinking about my life. I’ve been thinking about the difference between things I do that are fun, and things I do that actually make me happy.

For example, playing some stupid flash game on my computer might be fun, but playing board games with my friends makes me happy.

Or, for another example, it might be fun to do a reading at a convention, but hanging out with little Oot makes me happy.

The difference seems to be this. If something is merely fun, it’s mostly enjoyable while you’re doing it. Something that makes you happy is different. It’s enjoyable afterwards, too. Minesweeper and cocaine are fun (reportingly.) But talking with Oot about ducks or watching Buffy with friends make me happy.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that fun doesn’t have its place. I plan on playing the hell out of Skyrim when I have the chance.

What I’m saying is that my priorities have gotten seriously out of alignment. These days, flying to San Diego for a convention don’t just feel easy, it seems like a  professionally responsible for me to do. At the same time, driving down to Madison to hang out with friends, have dinner, and watch Avenue Q seems like an extravigant and impractical use of my time.

That’s some fucked up mental arithmetic.

So, in an effort to de-kink my thinkings, I’ve decided to make some changes to my life.

In fact, I’ve done more than merely *decide* to do these things. I’ve built up bad habits in these last years, and it’s going to take some effort to break them. So I’m going to *resolve* to do them.

Here they are:

1. I’m going to hang out with Oot at least two hours every day. I’m going to make it a priority, rather than something I try to fit in around the edges of the other stuff I have going on in my life.

2. I’m going to do my damnedest to hang out with my friends at least twice a month for the express purpose of playing games, hanging out, watching movies, and just generally dicking around.

3. I’m going to start exercising at least three times a week. Because, y’know, I don’t really want to die from author-related sitting-on-my-ass-ness.

At this point, the righteous self-improvement impulse starts to gather steam and I’m tempted to continue adding things. Turning this into a laundry list of me-betterment that include things like, “pet more fluffy kittens,” “smell even better,” and “floss regularly.”

But no. I’d rather pick three important things and actually do them, rather than list 50 things then get frustrated and quit after a month.

Why am I posting these things here on the blog?

The simple answer is because… well… writing things out helps me figure out where exactly my head is on a particular subject.

In fact, I just now realize that’s a lot of the reason I bother with the blog. If my friends still lived in town, I’d hang out with them and chat about this stuff in my living room, using them as a sort of sounding board. But since they don’t, I kinda hang out in my head with y’all and write blogs.

Which, now that I’m thinking about it, might be kinda crazy behavior.

The other reason I’m posting this up here is because I know myself pretty well. I’m prideful. If I make a public declaration like this, I’m much more likely to follow through with it.

Lastly, I figured I might as well post my musings up here with the hope they might be interesting/helpful to anyone else who is having trouble adjusting to this whole living life as a grown-up thing. I was really good at being a broke, mouthy, irreverent college student. But this being-an-adult shit can be really hard sometimes….

Feel free to post up your own resolutions in the comments. Especially if you’re like me, and think that going public might help you keep them.

Keep on tranglin,

pat

Also posted in meeting famous people, social networking, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat96 Responses

Vision and Revision: Geek Redux.

So yesterday I read Just a Geek.

I found the book strangely moving, so when I finished writing it, I hopped online to write a review on Goodreads. When I enjoy a book, I like to spread the word about it.

I started to write the review, but it kept getting longer and longer. So I figured I should probably write it as a blog, instead.

So I wrote a blog, and it went terribly, terribly wrong. It was a complete trainwreck.

I considered not posting it. But when you spend two hours writing something at four in the morning, it’s hard to just erase it. So I shrugged and posted it up, figuring that while the blog itself was an embarrassing mess, the underlying theme was pretty clear: I liked the book.

But today I woke up and thought that I’d go onto Goodreads and actually write the review I meant to do last night. More to prove to myself that I could than for any other reason.

This time it came out fine. Easy as anything.

As a writer, this is extremely interesting to me. It’s important. If one day I try to write something and it sucks, then the next day I try to write and it works, something big is happening. There’s a secret here, something that’s close to the heart of my magic.

It took me a while to figure it out, but here’s what I think happened:

Generally speaking, I don’t worry too much about ripping off other authors’ styles when I write. It’s a common fear of newer writers, and I spent a couple years anxious about it, just like everyone else.

But eventually I got over that particular fear for the simple reason that I never found any real evidence that it was happening. At least no more than is strictly necessary and/or polite.

There was one exception to this. Back in 1997 I read every Sherlock Homes story Doyle ever wrote in about five days.

On the sixth day, I wrote a chapter in my book. And what do you know? Kvothe turned into Sherlock Holmes. He was deducing shit all over the place. Bast fell into an odd Watson role, too.

It took me years to get all the Holmes out of that chapter. Many revisions.

The point is, I’d soaked up so much Holmes in those five days, that I couldn’t properly assimilate it. So when I tried to write, it spilled into my book.

After a couple of days my brain managed to digest all the Holmes and get itself back into its baseline state. But I’d learned my limit. A thousand pages of compelling, distinctive prose in a week’s time is bound to influence my writing for a day or two.

(This is part of the reason I haven’t tackled Martin’s series yet.)

I suspect the same thing happened to me after reading about 150 pages of Wheaton’s strangely compelling anecdotal bloginess. I doubt very much it would have thrown a monkey wrench into my novel writing. But it sure as hell confused my blogging. What I wrote yesterday was probably some bastard hybridization of my style and his.

Why do I mention this? Partly because it’s interesting to me, and writing about things helps organize and clarify things in my own head. But I also mention it because I know a lot of you are writers, or are at least curious about the writing process.

Anyway, here’s the better write-up of Wheaton’s book.

*     *    *

I’ve always known Wil Wheaton as one of the greater internet Powers.

That’s how I think of people like Wheaton, Doctorow, Scalzi, and Jerry over at Penny Arcade. They are people who occupy the internet community on an almost deific level. They’re actively engaged in discussions about things like creative commons, and web freedom, and other bigthink information-age issues. When they speak on a subject, the air shakes, people tweet and link and perform other media-appropriate types of adulation.

These people are their own Metatrons. They’re like the totem spirits of the internet.

That said, I don’t tend to read their blogs with any sort of regularity. I poke around Jerry’s blog every week or so. I read Scalzi a couple times a month, or if someone sends me a link. Same with Gaiman. It’s odd. I find their blogs interesting and well-written, but I’m just not drawn to follow them in my regular compulsive way.

That means that when I picked up Wheaton’s book, I wasn’t wearing fan-colored glasses.

Don’t get me wrong, I know who he is. I liked Wheaton in Stand By Me and Next Generation. I loved to hate him in The Guild. I even wrote an epic poem about him, once upon a time. A poem I dream of reading in public one day, as he, Scalzi, and Felica Day perform an elaborate dumbshow, acting it out while dressed in period costume appropriate for a 9th century mead-hall.

During this reading, I would like to be wearing a fur cloak of some sort. And perhaps a crown. In this little mental fantasy, I look rather like a cross between Brian Blessed and an angry bear. I also imagine myself as being profoundly drunk on mead.

My point is, when I started reading Just a Geek, I didn’t know what to expect.

Quite to my amazement, I was sucked into the story. It’s autobiographical, and covers a time in Wheaton’s life when he was going through a bit of a rough patch, trying to come to grips with his life, his acting career, his fluctuating celebrity, and his feelings about Star Trek.

Simply said, I enjoyed this book to a startling degree.

It was funny, touching, snarky, and remarkably sweet. I didn’t start the book as a Wheaton fan, but now that I’ve finished it, it’s safe to say I’ve swung over to that side of the fence.

In my opinion, you really don’t need to be a fan of Star Trek to enjoy it. (Though it probably wouldn’t hurt.)

But this isn’t a book about a guy that used to be on Star Trek. It’s not a book about being a celebrity. Or being an actor.

Ultimately, it’s a book about a guy dealing with being human. That makes it interesting to everyone.

It’s worth your time. Check it out.

*     *     *

There. That’s a good write-up.That’s what I meant to do the first time around.

Goes to show that if you write something that’s a shitty mess, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes all it takes to fix it is a night’s sleep and a willingness to get back on the horse that threw you the first time around.

Later space cowboys,

pat

Also posted in recommendations, Revision, the craft of writing, Wil Wheaton | By Pat68 Responses
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