Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNoWriMo Eve

Two hours, 58 minutes, and change as of when I started writing this to the kick off of National Novel Writing Month*. With any luck I will be asleep and blissfully unaware when that happens. After that I don't really know what will happen. I've never really participated before, I tried once, but so much came up that I basically never got around to it.

What seems obvious is that if I'm doing that I probably won't be doing much of this. Just as I started to get a lot of traffic (well a lot for me at any rate) the blog will likely slow down quite a bit. On the other hand maybe I'll end up writing even more stuff for here. There are few things that make me more productive in random areas than something else I should be doing.

It's also possible that I wouldn't have enough to sustain traffic even if I didn't have a novel sized distraction, I'm pretty sure (or at least as sure as I can be given that blogger's stat counting broke down just as my traffic took off) that most of the traffic was going to my post on depression. That's based on a decade of ruminations on a single impossible to avoid topic, I can't produce something like that on a regular basis.

Anyway, I'm not sure what happens next.

If you want to know what I'll be doing, I'll be doing this.

-

Elsewhere on the internet:
A thread about NaNoWriMo at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings
Will Wildman's latest thread about his journey in the general direction og NaNoWriMo
Laiima's post about things that have inspired her NaNoWriMo project

And if I write that acronym many more times I'm going to give into the urge to just start typing random letters having concluded it's far too silly. So, off to NaNoWakLjfBhdaMo.**

It is now two hours and one minute away.

-

* For any who don't know, the goal is to write a novel in a month. A novel being defined quite loosely. If you write 50,000 words you're considered a winner. More or less.

** The j is pronounced as in Fjord. Just so you know.

Genre savy and the main character's new girlfriend.

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

I once thought of having a story centered around a sidekick who is convinced that they're all living in a work of fiction.

He kicks into frantic action when the obvious main character meets his perfect mate. His reasoning is basically that their life definitely seems to be episodic. In an episodic story like theirs if the main character meets someone who is a pretty good match there's some hope that they'll go their separate ways at the end, or they'll end the episode together and separate before the next episode, but when main character meets the perfect person she'll be dead before the episode ends. (Or possessed, or turned evil by unpleasant circumstances, but most likely dead.)

She's smart, funny, beautiful, she gets along with everyone, everything is idyllic when she's around, so sidekick is completely convinced that she's too good to live.

Took me forever to discover that there is a trope for that.

Anyway, the story would be the character focused not on saving the [whatever]/stopping the [whatever] (that's a foregone conclusion in his mind) but on identifying and preventing any potential threat to the main character's love interest.

In the end everyone else would conclude that his paranoia had managed to help her survive an unlikely series of should-have-been-fatal events. He would conclude that by defying narrative dictate he had successfully shifted her into the category of recurring character, possibly even main cast. And I'm thinking he and she end up as best friends.

Don't have anything else about the story figured out, though I do know that I want the supposed-to-be-temporary love interest to be extremely competent to the point that the only reason she needs saving is that the narrative is actively trying to kill her. Also I don't want it to be actually be saving so much as providing assistance. She wouldn't need saving so much as support.

-

Tea with Wile E.

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings, but be warned that the topic of conversation is emphatically not light.]

Posted in response to so very much, some of which was rot13ed for good reason, some of which involved talking coyotes and flying rattlesnakes, but what finally set it off was this revelation:
And he's the Protagonist's secret twin brother for NO DANG REASON.

How is it possible that this story wasn't a lighthearted comedy where self aware characters snarked about the absurdity of their circumstances and during cease fires the good children would have tea with Coyotes and remark, "So, winged snakes... did not see that coming." / "Neither did I and I'm a talking canid"?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Edith and Ben - Rainy Days and Sunshine

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings]

Ben: Well why not Hawaii? I heard that a town there gets even more rain than here.
Edith: It does. And that's why you can't just use the first hit you get on google. Yes, it rains more there. Yes, it has more rainy days there. But, it still averages almost five hours of sunshine a day which is significantly higher than Forks.
Ben: Still, it's Hawaii.
Edith: [Wistfully] Yes, it is.

-

Edith and Ben - Summers by the Sea

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[Even more of a work in progress than most stuff.]

When I was fourteen I demanded that things change. I was young, I was stupid, and I was hurtful. I didn't think about the fact that I was telling my mother I cared more about the climate than I did about seeing her. I didn't think about how much it costs to pick up everything and stay for two weeks in Califorina every year. I didn't think about the fact that I had effectively cut the time I spent with my mother in half while increasing her financial burdens by who knows how much.

No. I didn't think about any of that. I thought that I was being an adult. I knew what was best and I was putting my foot down.

And in response my mother did the most amazing thing. She did what I asked, that summer, and the next two summers we spent two weeks together on the California coast. She taught me how to surf. I still don't fully understand how she was able to pay for it, but she never complained.

-

Edith and Ben - Post Invitation Cooking

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[I actually stopped the scene before I got to the part that anchors it in time, so it really could fit anywhere, perhaps I'll move it to an earlier time he's cooking.]

I chopped the vegetation slowly, afraid that I'd get cut. I've never actually cut myself cooking. Never come close. Not so much a a nick. But for some reason whenever I chop I worry that I'll end up hurt. Not just a little hurt. I don't imagine getting some blood in the onions and being stuck sucking on my finger or thumb until I reach the nearest bandaid, no I imagine chopping a finger and being rushed off to the emergency room.

And once the thought is in my head, it's hard to get it out. I try, of course. I try.

Fun fact: it is impossible to shake a thought from your head. No matter how vigorously you shake your head, the thought never actually falls out.

And yet, I like cooking. Other than chopping it's great. I feel like I'm in my element, everything fits together, nothing goes wrong. I have never fallen while in the process of preparing food. Getting set up, yes. Cleaning up afterward, yes. Moving the food that I've prepared, yes. While actually cooking, no.

I can somehow navigate the kitchen flawlessly and quickly while I'm cooking. Of course don't rush around with sharp objects or boiling water. I'm graceful when I cook, not stupid. And I'm always afraid of chopping myself.

It seems like whenever I have to chop something I think of getting one of those thingys where you put it over the thing to be chopped and repeatedly hit the top driving down blades that then reset to a different angle so that they next time they'll cut it elsewhere. I'm not sure what they're called, those choppy things, but the ability to chop without risk of chopping yourself would make cooking perfect for me.

Unfortunately I never, ever, think of that while I'm actually in a store where a choppy thing can be purchased.

-

[For whatever it's worth, they're called food choppers. Sometimes names make sense.]

Edith and Ben - Gun Safety

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

Charlize checked that she had removed the clip from her gun and that the chamber was empty, knowing her this was the third time she'd done it since getting off duty. Once when she emptied it, once before getting the car to drive home, and now again to make sure she didn't leave a loaded gun lying around. When that was done she put the gun back into its holster and hung up the entire belt.

Then she turned to me, made introductions, “Ben, gun. Gun, Ben,” and finally asked, “Ben, rules?”

And I recited, “Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to kill. Do not use any gun unless you understand how to operate it. Always point the gun in a safe direction. Keep the gun unloaded when not in use. Treat the gun as if it is loaded unless the chamber is open and empty. Never pass the gun to someone unless the action is open and you can see it is empty. Do not put any body part anywhere near the trigger until you are ready to fire. The gun is our friend but it is an extremely dangerous and stupid friend. It will do whatever we tell it to do even if we don't really mean it. We must treat the gun with caution.”

Charlize smiled and said, “Do you have any problem with the gun being here?” I didn't so she told me, “The ammunition is in the drawer of little table in the hall. Remember that the werewolves are our friends.”

She sniffed a bit, "Do I smell food?" She seemed surprised.

I told her, "I like to cook."

[Note that she has no idea that werewolves are real, she's being silly. Neither she nor Ben particularly want to be talking about deadly serious things, so once the necessary stuff is over it's time for silly.]

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hidden in the FedEx logo

So yesterday I wrote something that was kind of heavy, and I figured it was worthwhile to try something lighter.

The FedEx logo contains within it hidden messages. If by “messages” I mean "message" singular, and by “hidden” I mean a matter of public knowledge and record. Specifically there is an arrow there in the white space. This was not an accident, the person who made the logo did it intentionally.


The idea of the arrow has become a metaphor for some very heady stuff, but I said I was going for light and I meant it. I want to talk about the logo itself. No metaphors. Here is the logo:

First off, the logo is done exactly the same way no matter which side of a FedEx truck you happen to be looking at. Which means that sometimes, as on the day when I started thinking about this most recently, the arrow is pointing backwards. Don't know what the symbolism of that is exactly. Also, if you happen to be looking at the front of the truck* then the arrow is pointing into oncoming traffic. Again, not quite sure of what the symbolism there is supposed to be.

Of course the reason for this isn't that they set out to have arrows pointing backwards and/or into oncoming traffic. Instead they had an arrow that, like the Republican party, always moves to the right. That means that if you put it on all sides of your truck sometimes it will seem to be indicating retrograde motion, or a head on collision, or a tailspin as the case may be. Only on one side can it be pointing forward.

That's actually not what I really want to talk about either. Instead I want to talk about one of the other arrows in the logo. No, not the leftward pointing one that looks like a ground down harpoon. The other right pointing one. You know the one (time for pretty pictures) it's formed by the f and the e:

The first thing that you see is that this is an incomplete arrow. We've basically only got the bottom half of the outline. If we flip it then we see the arrow in it's totality.


At this point some people will say that I cheated. I'm not sure if any of those people are here, but I have read people say that in the past. They didn't say it to me, I'm hardly the first person to bring up this particular arrow.

Anyway, the argument isn't without basis. If you look at the images above you'll see that the 'tail' of the arrow gets smaller when I convert to a complete arrow because I'm not flipping around the center of the tail. Does that make it cheating? Who cares?

The important question is what happens if we flip around the center of the tail. This does:

As certain individuals point out. The arrow isn't closed. This is because it isn't an arrow. So what is it? To answer that question we have to flip again:

Now the figure is completely defined, but there's a lot of junk surrounding it, so I'll simplify to this:

And that's a shape that's clear as day. It's the five fingered hand of Eris. Like the arrow into oncoming traffic and the backward facing arrow, I have no idea what the significance of this is meant to be, but there it is, unmissable, the mark of the goddess, hidden in the Fed Ex logo.

Like I said, something lighter for today.

-

* Somebody somewhere is going to have to explain to me the wisdom of putting a logo on the front of your truck. I'm not sure I'd want oncoming drivers to be trying to read writing on my hood.

[Note well that I do not own the FedEx logo.]

Nicolae's Invisible Staff

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 5).]

Nicolae has a very competent staff somewhere. The problem is that that staff, like the congregation at New Hope, is never described directly. Like narrative dark matter we know them only from their influence on other things. We cannot see them, but we can see their effect on the visible universe.

Somebody had to figure out how to convert to a one world currency without the transition being bumpy. That's a pretty amazing feat. Somebody had to dissolve all governments in a way that didn't result in chaos. Somebody had to work out how you destroy 90% of the world's weapons while shipping the other 10% to a city that has yet to be built without either a) having the entire process end in abject failure or b) allowing the stress and absurdity to make you unhinged. Somebody had to make that city. Somebody had to figure out how to implement a one world language (LB has one of those, right?). I feel like there is something vitally important that I'm leaving out, but someone had to do that too. Which is to say nothing about getting everyone back to work after all the children disappeared. Someone had to do that.

I don't know whether this dark matter staff is composed of demons or humans, but they're frighteningly competent. Presumably all Nicolae would have to do would be to say to them, "Be evil for a while," and he could out evil all previous regimes.

On the other hand, most of their effort thus far has been spent avoiding calamity. How do we do X impossible and/or silly thing without crashing civilization? So maybe the dark matter staff isn't evil.

-

Superpowers, Diagnosis, and Treatment

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

It seems to me that being able to control emotions is an incredibly potent power which could be used for good or ill. (The same can probably be said for mind reading. It doesn't have to be evil, it just can be.)

Both would be very useful in diagnosing mental difficulties. Imagine Jasper's power used thus:

"Here, let me try something."
"Oh my god, that's amazing. What are you doing to me?"
"I'm just-"
"Am I high? Is this what being high feels like?"
"No. This is normal. I'm hitting you with my strongest dose of normal."
"This can't be-"
"It is. This should be your baseline."
"There's no way..."
"Sometimes you should feel worse than this, sometimes you should feel better-"
"It's possible to feel better than this?"
"Yes. Much, much better. But the important thing for now-"
"I don't believe you." [Pulls away] "You're trying to trick me."
"No I'm-"
"I won't be manipulated!" [Runs away.]
"Damn it. Maybe I should have started with slightly less depressed."

-

And then comes the difficult process of convincing the person, "No, I wasn't trying to trick you, it's actually healthy to feel like that, you might want to look into seeking treatment."

Some Time Travel Backstory

If you leave the present to see what your future was like you'll find out that you disappeared from the timeline the moment you started traveling, and the world went on without you.

Which is how the predecessor culture found itself mostly wiped out. They discovered time travel, went to both ends of the universe, decided heat death sucked, waged a war on the laws of thermodynamics, won, and went to a place where their culture could live forever, that being outside of the normal timeline. They didn't stop to think about who might end up ruling the world they left behind, it turned out that a world without them in it would result in a very strong, very populous, very warlike people becoming the next civilization to learn how to step outside of time.

All of the groundwork already laid (hey, there's air and energy here) they were able to quickly start to do what they did best: wipe out the local population. The predecessors had better technology, but they lacked numbers. The war wiped out most of both sides (and changed the main timeline beyond recognition*), leaving the space ripe for the current breeds of time travelers to settle.

I haven't quite figured out what happens if you insert yourself back into the main timeline so that you can talk to yourself before you left it, which is somewhat problematic because that's where causality can really get confusing. The simplest solution leads to some truly annoying questions.

*The predecessors were from the fourth great Carthaginian empire. Hannibal won in the original timeline.

On weapons not to be used

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

In a story I have yet to write in which time is a spacial dimension allowing those who are freed from the flow of it to walk it as easily as we can walk left, right, forward and back but, human beings being ill adapted to four spacial dimensions, nearly impossible to navigate or understand without the bunches of technology travelers use to make sense of what's before them, the veteran traveler gives his apprentice a weapon he tells him never to use. I think it may have been one of the scenes that I thought out first:

"This is an EMP grenade. Never use it."

"Why give it to me if I'm not supposed to use it?"

"There may come a time when things get so bad that you decide to ignore everything I ever said to you. It is possible that one day things will be so hopeless that you'll be ready to break every rule I ever gave you for even the smallest chance of survival. Hopefully that won't happen, but if that day should come ... well ... don't use it."

Snarky Twilight - Eric, Tyler, and the dance

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

Bella: Hey Eric
Eric: Hey Bella. *pause* Listen, before I go on with this, do you know anything about the setting?
Bella: [Starts to unlock her truck] How so?
Eric: Well is it light or dark? Is the lot crowded or full? That sort of thing.
Bella: All I know is that I saw you being all tall and dark. Beyond that I've got nothing.
Eric: I'm tall? I thought I was short.
Bella: So did I. *pause* I suppose if you need to know we could do some checking.
[Bella and Eric pull out their cellphones to do research]
Bella: It says here that this school gets out at 3:15 at the absolute latest. So if we just figure out what time of year it is...
Eric: It says here that the dates in these books are literally impossible-
Bella: No surprise.
Eric: but you started school on January 18th.
Bella: I've been here for a few short weeks so it must be around
Eric: Midwinter.
Bella: Exactly. [Looks at phone] So sunset is sometime between 5 and 6 PM. [shows Eric smart phone]
Eric: Which means that it's … uh
Bella: Anywhere from two hours and 13 minutes to two hours and twenty four minutes until sunset. But that still doesn't tell us whether it's dark. With thick enough clouds midday can be pretty dark. [shrugs and returns attention to unlocking truck] Why did you want to know?
Eric: I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be a creepy stalker or if I'm supposed to be a reasonable human being. I was hoping context would help.
Bella: I might be able to help you there. It says that I stopped being afraid when I realized it was you, and I'm not really paying attention to you now.
Eric: So I'm not a stalker?
Bella: I wouldn't go that far. I'm just not threatened.
Eric: What's a non-threatening stalker? Is that even possible?
Bella: No idea, but if you don't get on with it I'm going to unlock this door, get in my truck, and drive off. In fact, I'm paying more attention to the lock than I am to you.
Eric: Ok. Here goes: I was just wondering … if you would go to the spring dance with me.
Bella: [turning away from the lock] Hold it. We just established that only a few short, emphasis on SHORT, weeks had passed since January 18th, right?
Eric: Yeah.
Bella: And the dance coming up in two weeks is the spring dance.
Eric: Yup.
Bella: And spring, as it is defined in the United States, doesn't even start until more than eight, almost nine, weeks after January 18th.
Eric: That's about the size of it.
Bella: In what world is a few weeks plus two almost nine weeks? That's not short. That's two thirds of a season.
Eric: I think you're counting the two weeks in your-
Bella: Ok, more than half a season. Point remains: it's not short. I could memorize someone's voice in that time, there's no reason to think it too short for familiarity. It can't have been almost seven weeks. So that means that either the spring dance is in winter or ... or the seasons are shorter than they should be. In what world does this make sense?
Eric: I didn't make the rules.
Bella: Speaking of the rules: the dance.
Eric: What about the dance?
Bella: It's the girl's choice dance?
Eric: It is.
Bella: Aren't you breaking the rules by asking me?
Eric: Are you saying that I'm not a girl?
Bella: I believe that I am.
Eric: Then yes, I'm breaking the rules.
Bella: Well it doesn't matter. I'll be in Seattle.
Eric: Maybe next time.
Bella: Sure. *pause* But please be aware that when I say, “Sure,” it is not intended to be a factual statement.
Eric: Ok. I have to go slouching now. See you later.
Bella: Later.

[Eric leaves, Bella gets into her truck and tries to leave, Edward cuts her off and then stops, creating a traffic jam. Tyler, in his new car, is stuck behind Bella's truck.]

Bella: Thank you so much, jerkface.
Tyler: Who are you talking to?
Bella: Edward [points], why are you not in your car?
Tyler: Edward isn't going to move until the plot progresses. *pause* So, you remember how I said I looked it up online and found out I was going to become a controlling jerk?
Bella: Yeah, I remember.
Tyler: Well that starts now. I'm here to get you to ask me to the spring dance.
Bella: Are you a girl?
Tyler: Not that I know of.
Bella: Then that's cheating.
Tyler: Yes, but it's cheating with the veneer of not cheating on it. I'm not asking you to the dance directly, I'm phrasing it around the idea that you're the one to ask. 'Will you ask me to the spring dance?' It's both cheating and dishonest about being cheating.
Bella: I'm going to be out of town.
Tyler: I know. Mike told me.
Bella: Then what the fuck?
Tyler: My only purpose in this novel is to be a jerk who thinks he means well. I wish it were not so, but it is. Sorry.
Bella: Being a jerk is one thing, but why would you ... I mean ... I don't even. What?
Tyler: I was thinking that you told Mike you'd be out of town to let him down easy but you were somehow so scatterbrained as not to realize that going with someone else would sort of defeat the purpose because then he'd see you at the dance and realize you just lied to him breeding a level of conflict and discomfort in your circle of friends that you have not known previously which is saying something given that most of your friends are guys who hate each other on account of only being there in hopes of getting you. I was likewise assuming that, no matter who else you might reject, you'd obviously go with me because ... clearly. Like I said, I only exist to be a jerk.
Bella: Done yet?
Tyler: Unfortunately no. There's one more thing I have to do, but before I do [points to Edward] jerkface, as you call him, is listening in on my point of view right now, possibly with popcorn, so if you'd like to say something to him about trapping you here, if you say it to me he'll hear it.

[very long angry rant]

Tyler: A railroad spike?
Bella: I don't care what the author says, there has to be something humans can do to kill those things. There has to be.
Tyler: I don't know, the author controls reality.
Bella: Then why are they in hiding?
Tyler: Good point. Anyway, I have to go. Are you ready for my closing bit of jerkness?
Bella: Shoot.
Tyler: That's cool. We still have prom.

[Tyler walks away]

Bella: [looking at Edward] Do I detect a hint of nervousness in your present laughing? Good.

-

Edith and Ben - Erica, Tricia and the Dance

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[Things that I probably should say before writing this:

Ben's truck got crunched. It was hit by a van, after all. And yet here it stands. My take on this is that Edith fixed it. She was around when the truck was new, I see no reason for her not to be interested in automotive things, so I figure that she offered to fix the the truck for free. Ben was very much in favor of not paying for repairs, and so it was.

I can't get into too much detail because I know nothing about how one goes about repairing a crunched truck from the 50s, but I will say that I am convinced that Edith enjoys any chance to use her welding equipment. Also, working on any vehicle from more than 50 years ago would be like returning to an old friend.

The other thing is that after spending a while trying to figure out what would ever possess Ben to assume someone was in the chess club, I decided that Erica uses a chess piece as jewelry. It's a just plastic pawn on a string that hangs around her neck. I bring this up here because Ben wouldn't see any reason to describe it at this stage, he'd just call it, “the pawn.”

Also, I think Ben is left handed.]

-

The problem with gym was that Shell was in that class with me. She didn't say anything to me but the fact that she was there kept the uncomfortable confrontation from biology class in my mind which was distracting. The ground came up and hit me more than once. Mostly on the right side for some reason. Right knee. Right hip. Unspeakable pain in the right elbow.

You'd think that by now I'd have some understanding of how these things work, but I've never been able to figure out why sometimes when you hit something you can shake it off and other times, even though you don't seem to hit it any harder, the pain is indescribable.

The really annoying thing is that basketball is something I'm actually not completely incompetent in. I can't dribble, I can't run, but given an opening shooting is something I'm not half bad at. Basketball should have been one of the few times I could be marginally useful in gym. Not very useful, outside of foul shots there are very few times someone can stand still and make a shot without someone else getting in the way to block, but at least a little bit useful.

It should have been my first chance to not suck in gym instead it just pain. Well, pain and humiliation. Which was my point.

I left as fast as I thought I could without risking a fall. I wanted to leave, I especially wanted to be gone before Michelle could have another chance to talk to me. It didn't think she was going to, but I didn't want to risk it. What I didn't want to do was get carried away and end up falling. I did that enough in gym, and at least in gym I didn't risk getting gravel or asphalt in me.

So I walked as fast as I thought I could without putting myself in danger, and pretty soon my truck was in sight. I could see that someone was at it, and I slowed down, suspicious. It was a small figure, but that meant nothing. Size doesn't really matter when you're utterly incapable of defending yourself. The posture was casual, leaning back against the hood, which might mean friendly intentions or might mean dangerous arrogance.

I looked around, walking fast meant that I was one of the first people in the lot. There were maybe -maybe- four or five other people in the lot, none of them near enough to be helpful if the person at my truck was unfriendly.

I tried to figure out if I'd annoyed anyone lately. I didn't think I had, but it could be so difficult to be sure.

And then I realized it was Erica. Erica would not be hurting me, she was my first friend here. I picked up my pace and returned to plan A: get the Hell away from school. I hoped Erica didn't want something that would take a while, because I wanted to be gone.

When I got to the truck I said hi to Erica and started to unlock the door, she said, “Hi, Ben,” in a way that was clearly nervous.

“What's up?” I asked.

She rubbed the pawn with her right hand, looked at the ground, and said, “I was wondering if... if you'd go to the dance with me.” She quickly looked back up.

I didn't want to tell her no. The look in her eyes was so ... it was a mixture of hope and fear that I knew well myself. I knew how much a rejection could hurt, and I didn't want to inflict that on her.

The problem was that, though I didn't want to turn her down, I definitely didn't want to go to a dance. I'd already made up my mind to be out of town, so I told her, “I'm going to be in Seattle that day, sorry.”

Her entire posture changed, she seemed to deflate, she nodded, and said, “Maybe another time.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

She walked, slouching, back to school. I'd meant the maybe. I had no desire to go to a dance, ever, but if I did I'd much rather go with Erica than Shell. Maybe another time, maybe something other than dancing.

It took me a minute to remember that my keys were already in the truck's door. I got in, started up, and I pulled out of my parking space only to be stuck in a small traffic jam. I was between Edith and Tricia. Tricia had a new car, well new to her at any rate. I know people who wouldn't be satisfied when they hear someone has a new car unless they're told the exact make and model of the car. People like that don't like me very much. Her car was a blue car. A darker blue than her van had been. I'm sure it was a nice car.

I didn't have a good look at the beginning of the jam, but based on Edith miming what seemed to be an introduction to how to use a standard shift and finally, in frustration, dropping her forehead to her wheel in defeat, I was guessing that someone somewhere stalled their car and was taking far too long to get it restarted. I don't think the person in front noticed her, I'm pretty sure he or she didn't, I guessed that just Edith's means of dealing with the unexpected wait.

“Hey,” I was startled. Tricia had appeared at my window. I looked in my rear view, I'm not sure why. Maybe to reassure myself that I'd been right when I thought I saw her behind me. Her car was still there, door left open. “I was wondering if I could ask you-”

I considered doing an Edith impression: forehead meet steering wheel, steering wheel meet forehead. It must have shown because Tricia stopped. Then she said, “Sorry, I didn't realize it was a bad time,” and walked back to her car.

-

[At a later time:]

“Michelle told me you'd out of town on the day of the spring dance.”

“Yeah. I'll be in Seattle.”

“The way she... the thing is... um...” Tricia squirmed a bit. Then she quickly said, “Michelle can be a bit much.” She paused for a beat, then said, “I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to get away from her, but Seattle is a long way to go and-”

“I want to go to Seattle,” I told her, but it wasn't at all convincing. I did want to go to Seattle, and I fully intended to enjoy it, but Tricia was completely right about trying to get away from Michelle and I couldn't really hide that.

“I know you don't think I owe you anything-”

“You don't.”

“But I'd like to help if I can and this is something I can help with.”

“How?” I asked.

“I've lived here my whole life, I know plenty of places to be alone that are a lot closer than Seattle. I can show them to you. I can run interference if you want to keep away from Michelle. I can try to talk to her, but I wouldn't count on that working. I can stand next to you and growl at her if you think it'll help.” I tried not to smile, but I must have failed because she smiled back. Then she continued, “I'm serious, if you ever think having a fake date would get someone off your back, feel free to use me as an excuse. Just give me a heads up so I don't blow the story.

“I'm also convinced I could do creepy stalker. Watch this,” she changed her posture, hunched forward elbows squeezed into her sides, clasped her hands together turned slightly away from me and pointer her head somewhat down so that she was looking at me askew, then said with a truly bizarre pace and tone, “So, Shell, I heard you're going to ask Ben out, I hope you don't plan on using your,” she broke completely out of character, “I'd check to see what kind of a car she drives first, so that I could give disturbingly detailed technical specifications,” she returned to character, “The break lines are so easy to cut, and it would be a shame if something happened to Ben. Or you, I suppose.”

And she broke out of character again, “And after that she'd probably leave you alone.”

“And you'd be in jail,” I said. She shrugged. I continued, “That was truly disturbing, by the way.”

Her face lit up, “Thank you!” I really don't think someone should be that happy about being told they were disturbing. I suppose if you want to be an actor it makes sense. Maybe.

I told her, “I don't need any help.”

“I can still show you around. Places I've found no one knows but me, and I can only ever be in one of them at once, so if you want to be alone they're a pretty safe bet.”

“I'll think about it.”

“Ok,” she said. It looked like she considered leaving it at that, but then she said, “Please don't tell Michelle we've been talking about her. I like her but she can be ... um ... Michelle. She can be herself a little too much at times.”

-

Four Weddings of Appropriate Length

[Originally posted at Slacktivist (page 5).]
[The thing was to write a wedding in 43 words but for some reason I misread that as 47 originally. These ones should be the right length.]

Thing one:

"Do you?"
"I do."
"You?"
"Of course."
"I now pronounce you man and wife, may Cthulhu eat you last of all."

Madness spread throughout the land and masses huddled in fear of monsters beyond imagination. But for one moment the cultists knew joy.


Thing two:

"Are you sure about this?" the pastor asked.
"Yes," Megan said.
"It's just-"
"We want to spend the rest of our lives together, even if Jesus sends us to Hell for it," Ziva said.
"Ok," he said. "I'm convinced." So he married them.


Thing three:

Words cannot adequately describe what happened that day, and so I will not try. It is enough to know that they loved each other and that on that day, in front of their friends and families, they were married. And it was perfect.

Thing four:

The author shows a complete lack of priorities. While travel plans are formed off screen without a hint of description the wedding is described for seemingly interminable pages. Paragraphs spent on feelings, love, and other meaningless triva. "Where are the logistics?" I ask.

-

[Original Work Index]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

But I got so damned depressed

The title is from Sister Golden Hair:

Well I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damn depressed
That I set my sights on Monday and I got myself undressed

The only part of that that is unfamiliar is, “I got myself undressed.” I have a feeling it might be giving up and going to bed. That's not unfamiliar it's just that I happen to sleep with my clothes on. The only exception being if it is absurdly hot.

The rest of it seems just about right, You have a goal, your mental state prevents you from completing that goal, you set a new goal. The new goal will fail to be met just as the old goal did, but if you didn't have hope that at some point you'll succeed at something I don't know what you'd have left.

That might not be entirely true, I've had times without hope, but that lack of hope wasn't so much based on a belief that things would never be better as it was based on an inability to look beyond the present. It wasn't because the future seemed endlessly bleak, it was that the future was outside the realm of contemplation. There's nothing good about that, but in such a situation the lack of hope really isn't really that much of a problem. Hopelessness is only problematic in those situations where hope matters, after all.

Hopelessness coupled with foresight is something I've never really had to face, a fact for which I am grateful.

Mostly I have trouble feeling for the future. Dread I can do. If something bad is coming I can muster dread, no matter how much I might wish I couldn't. Dread doesn't come up that often though. I live in a relatively safe place in a relatively safe state in a relatively safe country in a relatively safe time to be alive. Dread is not a frequent feeling.

Most of the time I feel nothing of the future. I have no sense of expectation. I've heard people talk about this as a horizon effect. Even if you know that something will make you happy it's over the horizon and you can't feel it. It's dead to you. It works in reverse too, say something good happened and I was happy, really truly happy. There's never an afterglow for me. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of negative feelings.

I remember when my mother and I got tickets to see Obama speak. She was happy as can for days in advance of the event. I felt nothing. I felt bad for what seemed like forever afterward when it turned out they gave more tickets than they should have and we couldn't get in (and rather than tell us that they just left us standing in line unaware that this pause in the lines movement was any different from the other ones, still thinking we'd get in because we were within sight of the damned entrance and look at all of the people behind us who also have tickets, they couldn't have overbooked it by that much, could they? All it would have taken was a simple, “We're sorry, but there's no more room,” but no, that was too much for the bastards. Sorry. Where was I?) That pretty much sums up how I feel about things with respect to time: I don't have any feelings in the lead up, I experience it in the moment, bad feelings stick with me, good ones do not.

The hope aspect of setting sights on Monday isn't really about Monday, if I stopped to rationally consider Monday then I'd probably conclude that on Monday I'll set my sights on Tuesday and so forth and the end result will be that nothing good will happen ever. Instead it's about dealing with the now of Sunday. Now I simply don't have it in me to do it, but I'm trying to comfort myself with idea that I'm not giving in completely. It's a delay, not a cancellation.

Anyway, that horizon thingy has very strong effects on motivation. It may be possible to mechanically motivate yourself to do something with no feeling whatsoever, but I've never found out how. If you don't feel then you don't care, and -speaking for myself and no one else- if I don't care then I find it nearly impossible to make myself do something.

Usually, thankfully, that doesn't result in me spending all my time staring blankly into space. More likely it will result in me doing something I don't care about very much which has instantaneous results. Say watching the same movie over and over again. I haven't done that lately. Lately it's been more of a reading on the internet sort of thing. There's always an unending glut of news stories. (Did you know that China may have a giant housing bubble on the verge of catastrophic collapse? No it doesn't! Yes it does! And so on for hours.) It requires the investment of almost no emotional or intellectual energy, and it occupies you for hours and through it all the gratification is pretty nearly instant, you don't need to feel for anything more than a few seconds in advance.

There are almost certainly many other things I'd be happier if I were doing, but I can't feel anything about those because they're too far away whereas an article on the fact that even millionaires want millionaires to pay more taxes, that I can actually do something with because it's close, it's seconds away. It takes many times longer than that for me to get a glass of water.

The immediacy allows me to feel something where when it comes to something more complex, something like setting up a meeting with friends or applying for a job, it's simply not there, I feel absolutely nothing. Apathy is very hard to deal with, but it may very well be more difficult to describe to someone who isn't experiencing it. I've certainly tried, but I don't think I've ever succeeded. If you can't point to a something that's stopping you from doing something that's easy for them, most people don't get it.

I've never tried this before, but here's my latest attempt:

Try to imagine something that you couldn't care less about. It doesn't need to be something that you actively dislike, it just has to be something that doesn't interest you in the least. Say you don't have any affection for mountain climbing at all. Then your thing could be climbing Kilimanjaro barefoot. (This will not work for anyone who finds that idea the least bit interesting.)

Think about everything that would go into doing that. You'd have to learn to climb mountains, you'd have to toughen up your feet to build up callouses, you'd have to figure out some way to deal with the fact that I'm told it's damned cold at the top and you don't want to lose your feet to hypothermia. Perhaps designing an entirely novel foot heating system and learning the techniques from that guy who made it on TV for becoming as close to immune to hypothermia as a human being can be. Once you've worked out all of that, you'd still have to get to Tanzania and climb the damn thing. That means funding a trip, making whatever arrangements will be necessary given that you won't be at work or at your home during it, so on, so forth.

Ok. Have you thought of all of that? Good. Now do it.*

If I've successfully communicated the feeling then you should have absolutely no interest in doing even the preliminary steps in this process. You should not be looking into whether or not it is viable to climb that mountain barefoot (nor should you be checking to see if anyone has ever tried) you should not be making travel plans to Tanzania. If anything you should find the entire exercise pointless. You're not interested in doing that, you don't care about doing that, what would possibly make you spend your time preparing to be doing that?

If I offered some reward then that might give you some kind of motivation, but for this to work as an analogy you need to assume that either there is no reward or you have exactly zero interest in it. You're not in it for the fame or for the barefoot hypothermia avoidance patents. There is absolutely no result of taking on this project that interests you in the least at this time.

Would you do it?

If I've done the analogy right then the answer is no. It is my understanding that most of the time when people do something the don't want to do it is either to get something they do want (I don't want to study, but I do want to learn Latin) or to avoid something they don't want (I don't want to go to work today, but I really don't want to lose my job) the motivations I have heard of always have their roots in not-apathy. You do a thing because there is something somewhere you care about in some way related to doing that thing. Take away all incentives to do X and people don't do X, they find something else to do.

That's where I'm at with most things. Applying for work, setting up time with friends, doing almost anything with less immediacy than my internet connection. It feels like climbing Kilimanjaro barefoot. I can't make myself want to do that. I cannot work towards that goal. I wish I could find a way to push myself to get a job, but I can't. I haven't found a way. I've been looking for at least a decade now, close to half my life. I haven't found it yet.

That's not the only concern I have about finding a job. At some point, last week or the week before I guess, it took me an hour to brush my teeth. Not an hour of actual brushing. I use an electric toothbrush and it has a built in timer so the actual brushing takes a couple of minutes. No. The hour was like this:

Look at my watch. I meant to be in bed by now. I've got to stop sitting here and just get up and brush my teeth.
Time passes.
I manage to get up and walk to the room with the toothbrush. Now I have to put together the two parts of the toothbrush (the electric part is the expensive part, the part that goes in your mouth less so. Thus by having two parts that go in your mouth you can have two people using the same expensive electric part. The only down side is that every time you brush your teeth you have to assemble your tooth brush. As downsides go it is a very small one.)
Time passes while I stare into space.
Tooth brush is assembled, now I need to put toothpaste on it.
Time passes while I stare off into the mirror.
Toothpaste is on, now I just need to pick it up.
Time passes while I stare off god knows where.
I brush my teeth.
I look at my watch. Fuck! It's been an hour since I last looked at my watch.

That's brushing my teeth, a simple task I have a lot of practice doing. I shudder to think what I might be like in a workplace.

I get by mostly on inertia these days. Habit can make me do things where otherwise I would not. So I go to school. I attend classes for Latin and Ancient Greek and I struggle to keep my head above water in them. I mentioned elsewhere that I've been feeling under the weather since September. Less energy than usual by a wide margin, sometimes too tired to concentrate. As if I hadn't slept in days even after a full night's sleep. No insomnia, no missing sleep, just tiredness. I think I'm coming out of that but now, before I could fully finish with that, I've come down with something else: coughing, sneezing, runny nose, my voice is at half strength and I'm generally not good. I think the headaches came before the new thing.

Halfway through a semester and I haven't been healthy for any of it. I go into school, try to concentrate enough to prepare for the class that day, fail for four hours, go to class, and then do my damnedest not to show that I'm totally unprepared. Walk home. Find I don't have the energy to make myself ready for the next class be it the next day or the next week. Repeat. Over and over again.

There's a fair degree of shame there.

Someone else who is in both classes is pregnant. It's a tough pregnancy. It gave her diabetes, something I might have known was possible before but it never really registered. It has also meant she's been otherwise sick (vomiting and the like) for much of the pregnancy. She's keeping up in classes. I'm not. And she's raising her first child at the same time.

By now I've known my teachers for years. They put in the work to teach the class, I feel like I owe it to them to be a good student (especially since one of them isn't being paid for her work since that class is classified as an independent study, stupid penny pinching university don't you realize what these people are worth?) but I'm not doing that. At this point I'm not being a classicist so much as trying to fake being one to avoid shame and avoid disappointing those who deserve a better student.

Even so, it's a good thing I'm there because if I weren't I'd have no in person human contact outside of my family at all.

This is my life.

I wish I could close on something hopeful. Unfortunately there isn't an obvious solution in sight. Long ago, back when I had insurance the first time, we tried treatment. We tried everything short of electroconvulsive therapy. None of it worked. I suppose I could hang all of my hopes on ECT, except that I have no way to pay for further attempts at treatment. (And I find the prospect of memory loss deeply disturbing, but that's a concern for when it's actually an option.)

It was recently suggested to me that a state run medical insurance thing in my state might cover me even though I previously looked into it and, as near as I could tell, it wouldn't. So I'll be looking into that. My hopes are not high but it will be looked into.

Still, “Maybe if I'm lucky I'll find a way to get someone to pass electricity through my brain,” does not sound like a positive note to end on.

-

One of the things that spurred me into writing this is to say something for any reader here who might know someone who is dealing with depression. That is this:

Don't make it sound easy.

If you're ever tempted to say, for example, “This is why you need to get a job, then you'll have health insurance,” don't. Just don't.

I can't speak for anyone else, but for myself if it were that easy I would have done it.

I've been hearing from my family for years, “You really need to get a job,” and while they're generally pretty understanding, and certainly their generosity is the reason that I'm not living from soup kitchen to homeless shelter, the implication that turning my life around is simply something I can just decide to do with a simple, “Yes, you're right, I'll do that right now,” is painful. It hurts.

I don't mean emotionally.

The body is an interesting thing and it's possible for it to produce a feeling very much like physical pain in response to certain stimuli. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that all of my muscles tense up and my joints don't know what to do when being pulled both ways. There are various possibilities.

If it were as easy for me to do things as some make it sound I would have done them. Years ago.** When I'm told that I need to get a job my response isn't, “Oh, new information, I should make use of that.” It's a strong desire to scream, “DON'T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT?”

Of course I don't. I couldn't handle the conflict it would produce, and at the moment I doubt I could produce a scream anyway. My voice is unhappy and the loudest sound I seem to be able to produce is a fairly pathetic sounding cough.

So wash your hands after reading this, you don't want to get sick.

-

* Except don't, because then you'll never finish reading my post. Besides, if you're on the way to Tanzania at this point my analogy has failed anyway so there's no point in actually going on my account.

** It's been a while since I've mentioned how my brain works in ways not related to depression and headaches. Everything is connected to something else.

This idea is not new. Whether you think of it as Platonian forms or the fact that a Tabula Rasa can contain nothing not connected to a previous external stimuli there's a long history of us thinking of things in terms of connections. Language requires it; TV Tropes revels in it.

For whatever reason my mind seems to do it more than most. Intertextuality is something that just happens for me. Everywhere. It isn't just when I read an ancient Roman poem and realize that it says they beat their plowshares into swords (don't they know it's supposed to be the other war around?) right after hitting us with fair is foul and foul is fair. It is also when I speak

Often times I'll say something and realize as or immediate after I say it that it's calling back to something else. Sometimes what makes me realize it is that the inflection isn't mine. In this case it's calling back to, “If Victor were so easy to dispatch you'd have done it yourself. Centuries ago,” spoken by Lucian to Kraven in Underworld, the film from 2003.

Almost always I let such things pass without note, but for some reason when I finished writing this long, long post, I guess I felt the need to tack something more on to the end.

Occupy the Interwebs: Terminology

Someone came to this blog via a search for occupy augusta maine. Whoever it was was probably disappointed because I haven't said much about the occupy movement here.

Since I wrote my other post on the matter, Occupy Maine: Portland has been bombed. No one was hurt as the bombing took place early in the morning at a time when many were sleeping and none were cooking. The bomb landed in the area being used as their kitchen.

Also since I wrote my other post the Occupy movement as a whole has been much more in the news.

A big part of the reason that I haven't said much about the movement is that I'm not a part of it. I've been feeling under the weather since early September and have been doing very little besides attending school and sitting at the computer. Punching keys is a pretty easy thing to do when you're low on energy, though sometimes the thinking side of things can be more difficulty, especially when the headaches set in as one currently is.

Anyway even those who are actively participating can't really speak for the movement as a whole because it's big and diverse and, at this point in time, multinational. People drawn together by a common set of grievances are hard to stick in a pigeonhole beyond: they have a common set of grievances. As a non-participant (or, if I want to be charitable, a single meeting participant) I certainly am not qualified to speak for them. So I haven't.

Today something came up that I think I am qualified to respond to, provided it is with the disclaimer that this does not apply to every occupier, some restrictions may apply, void where ... and so on. So, now that I've made my disclaimer, on to the actual topic of this post:

Terminology

I saw a mayor on TV talking about dealing with occupiers. Some of what he said about the process stood out to me, for example he seemed absurdly proud that he ordered that female protesters should be dragged away by female cops and male protestors be dragged away by male cops because Heaven forfend that a picture of a male cop dragging away a female protester should be captured. I admit that I don't know what it's like to be a mayor, but that his primary concern was about a hypothetical photograph seemed odd. He didn't seem to care what happened, only what was photographed.

So there were some things like that, but the big thing for me was when he talked about the need to strike a balance, on the one hand he argued it's important to recognize the frustration-

And that's where I want to stop. That word. Frustration.

See the disclaimer above about the difficulty of speaking for the diverse and multifaceted occupy movement, but then come back here and let me say this: It is not frustration.

Frustration is when you have to spend 15 minutes on the phone with someone who seems incapable of understanding basic English sentences* because the bank screwed up some paperwork.

It is emphatically not frustration when you lose your home because the bank screwed up some paperwork.

When you have to put in extra hours at work with no pay because the people at the top have no idea what it really takes to complete the tasks they assign, that's frustration.

When the CEO says, "I can't afford to pay all the workers and give myself a multimillion dollar raise, so I'm laying you off," that goes beyond frustration.

When you have to work three crap jobs just to keep your head above water and there's no hope of improvement in sight because of an economic collapse you had no part in, that is something more than frustration, especially when all the while you have to watch the ones responsible for the mess be rewarded for their incompetence.

When your credit was ruined because the student loan company screwed up it's internal communications on your loan three times in a row while you did everything right (and all the while their errors never inconvenience them) that's something more than mere frustration.

When you see your pension fund raided to pay for executive bonuses, that's not frustration.

And this could go on. For ages.

Their grievances, which are many, are not the kinds of things that result in frustration.

I'm sure there are all kinds of emotions on display at the various occupy protests, but if we're going to talk about that thing various politicians are calling frustration then I can say this: I'm pretty sure it's anger. Some people may very well merely be frustrated. Maybe it is the case that for some of these people what has driven them to this really is that feeling one gets when stuck in traffic while in a hurry. But I think it's safe to say that for most of them it's anger.

Try a simple thought experiment. Imagine someone stole your house. They took your house, they kicked you out, they kept you out, and they got away with it. How would you feel? I'm guessing that most people would be more likely to feel anger than frustration because that's the kind of thing that would get most reasonable people angry. If you merely feel frustration then that is a truly impressive level of emotional control.

And that's what happened. It is undeniably the case that illegal foreclosures occurred. Illegal foreclosure is house theft. It is taking someone's property via extralegal means, which is pretty much the definition of robbery.

People had their houses stolen. That is only one of the grievances of the people at Occupy [Whatever]. One amoung many. The people in the occupy movement aren't frustrated. They're angry. With good reason.

If you talk about needing to "recognize the frustration" then you've already failed to recognize what is in front of you.

I don't think that that's all they feel. I think there has to be a certain level of hope otherwise they'd fall into despair and simply stop. I think there must be a sense of belonging being united in common cause with so many. I think that there must be times of joy. I think that there must be fear, as when a bomb wakes you from your sleep. I think there must be all kinds of feelings. But I think those who speak of frustration are largely wrong.

The things that brought these people into the streets are not things that make people frustrated, they are things that make people angry.

-

* It is possible that one might misread this as a swipe at foreign customer support call centers. That's not what I'm talking about at all.

I'm not talking about people who can't understand basic English because English is not their first language. I'm talking about people, many of them native speakers, whose job description seems to include the inability to comprehend such simple things as:
I didn't sign up for that.
I did not do that.
I said NOT to do that. I said it in writing.
I never gave you permission to do that.
I said, "No."
I never did that.
No.
And so on.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tell me your thoughts, that I might steal them (NaNoWriMo)

[Previously discussed at some length, with entirely different words, at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings. Also contains how it is and isn't like Megamind]

I'm going to try to do the whole write a novel in a month thing this year. My last two attempts to do something similar ended in abject failure and given that I've been somewhat out of it lately I probably shouldn't have very high hopes for this time.

Anyway, I have an idea, I'd like thoughts, so I am calling on you my eight[1] commenters, to tell me what you think so that I might steal your ideas for a hastily written book that I will then publish and make millions.

Which is a completely reasonable plan in all possible ways.

The only possible problem with the plan is that I meant to post something like this late last month, and here I am doing it late this month. Other than that it is completely and utterly reasonable. Private island here I come, I just need to steal your ideas.

-

Ok, so the idea is perhaps less worked out than it should be. There's a city. And there's a hero with a fairly generic Supermanesque power set. He's not the protagonist. There's a villain who has no powers and mostly gets by on technology and explosives. He'd be the protagonist.

The villain, who I haven't thought up a name for yet. How about Ryan? Does Ryan sound good? I think it came from, “'I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts,' he said. 'My name is Ryan.'” Anyway, Ryan here is all in favor of taking boatloads of money he didn't earn, but his conscience is an ongoing hindrance.

He has no problem blowing up buildings left and right, but he doesn't want to kill or maim anyone. He has no problem stealing, but he doesn't want it to mean little Suzy won't be able to go to college when she gets older or that little Michael can't get the dental work he needs.

He's greedy, he wants things he never bothered to earn, but he wants to be able to sleep at night as well. Which he considers an appropriately selfish goal. He wants to lie and cheat and steal, but he doesn't want to feel bad about it afterward.

To this end he has created the world's first 100% reliable non-lethal weapon[2], he's installed thermal sensors in every building in the city so he can tell whether or not they're vacant[3], he has detailed information on the materials used in the creation of every building so that he knows about the potential health threats should he blow them up, he has detailed information on the financial connections of anyone or anything he tries to steal from so he can track the potential fallout, he never bankrupts an insurance company he isn't convinced deserves it, and so on.

Probably the bulk of the work he does is not put into the crimes or getting away with the crimes, but instead figuring out how to prevent collateral damage.

That this point I should probably point out, if it isn't already clear, that I'm not going for realistic so much as vaguely plausible if you're willing to suspend your disbelief. It's not really plausible that you can have supervillain vs. superhero and have it be safe for people of the city, even if the villain does refuse to go into the bunkers[4] and everyone has memorized the run for cover plans. But if I offer seven handwaves and implore you not to examine things too closely, maybe it can work.

Ok, so that's the protagavillain[5]. At some point Erin is going to show up here. Erin being the female lead. The whole idea for this basically sprang from Erin and protagavillain saving each other.

Protagavillain, being not an alien from another world, has an actual life that he actually lives when not out menacing the people of [as yet unnamed city] at some point somehow in the course of being himself he meets Erin who was originally going to be a reporter but is now tending towards a civil engineer. They date. The fall in love.

And then protagavillain decides that he can't in good conscience continue the relationship without telling her that he's a supervillain, but he's convinced that she'll leave him if he does, and so (after what should be an incredibly awkward and unpleasant scene that completely fails to go as he expected) she learns he is the resident supervillain and they break up.

At this point I think I'm going to be drawing on experiences with depression to characterize protagavillain because I sort of see him as always on the edge of depression anyway and it makes sense that the breakup could push him into it.

Anyway, at some point something happens, I'm thinking he robs a bank and then runs like hell, that puts him in a position to somehow show that he cares about her in a way the superhero can see. After he gets away the superhero has the brilliant plan to kidnap Erin to draw out protagavillain. The antagahero has no problem with this because unlike the villain he has no struggles with his conscience, he knows that he is good and therefore everything he does must likewise be good. Law and order are good, thus things done to maintain them must be good.

Plus Erin has been cavorting with the villain, he's (correctly) sure of it.

At this point protagavillain is left to try to figure out a way to save her which eventually ends up being, “I'll just give her a raygun, she's probably got a better plan than I do by now.” He gets her loose, gives her a raygun, and gets beat up in the process, she rescues him.

And at this point things get significantly less clear, because that was basically where I originally planned to have things end. They get back together after she suggests it and he makes a joke about not being the sort of guy who starts dating someone just because she saved him. Or something like that.

The trouble is I realized I was thinking of things that could only happen afterward. For example the thing about failing to make a cent off his non-lethal weapon (which is two months away from its debut on the global market, where someone else will get full credit for its invention) is a conversation that occurs in the villain's secret bunker[6]. Also Benjamin, the rat, lives in the secret bunker and it would be a shame if Erin never got a chance to meet him. He's protagavillain's best friend.

So I'm thinking that maybe the story doesn't end with Erin saving protagavillain who just sort of but not quite saved her. (Untie a civil engineer and you've saved her for one day, give her a raygun and she'll never be kidnapped again? Probably not accurate. Also lacks the humor of the “Set a man on fire” version.)

Maybe instead of that being the end that's them getting into hiding where they can work together to form a plan. But the problem is that I haven't figured out exactly what would be going on while this is happening. What does antagahero do if he is still active but robbed of his prize? Part of me wants to say that he starts demolishing buildings systematically to see if Erin or maybe-Ryan are hiding in them, starting with Erin's apartment building and extending outwards to those of everyone she's ever interacted with.

But then he's leaning more towards the straightforward villain part of the spectrum, and I'm not sure if that's where he should go. No matter how far overboard he goes he's doing it in the name of protecting the city and it's laws and while kidnapping might be justified in his mind, demolishing the city probably wouldn't be. Though it might.

Another reason that I'm not sure I want to go there is that I don't see the protagavillain ever becoming a hero. He wants break laws and manipulate stocks (when the stupid hero is always getting back whatever you stole, you need to find other means of financing your SCIENCE!.) He may save people, and probably has to do it more often than you'd expect from a villain given that resident hero doesn't get too concerned about collateral damage, but he's not looking at that for a full time job.

Though he might be willing to consider going in a more Leverage direction with his criminality. That's about as far towards hero as he'd be willing to go.

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Ok, so, problems:

1 As of the moment before I wrote “As” there were 1901 words, including footnotes, here. They cover pretty much everything I've managed to come up with for this thinking about it for a little bit less than a month. I need to write 26.3 times that much over the course of a month.

2 Romance. Totally unqualified to write that, but the whole idea sort of revolves around the his-name-might-be-Ryan/Erin relationship. He's been actively trying to avoid attachment to people because even without knowing their names he's worried about the possibility he might harm random kid's college fund. He'd like to care less about people rather than more, yet the opposite happens and thus: plot.

A possible solution might be to grab a book[7] and look to it for inspiration, but November is coming quickly so that's unlikely to happen.

3 Erin herself. The story is going to be first person from the protagavillain's perspective so to a certain extent I don't need to know exactly why Erin is doing what she does, I just need to know what she does. The problem is that the why is pretty important for the story even if it need not be called out explicitly on the page.

The big thing is, Erin starts off opposed to the villain. He's good for business but you can't just go around blowing up buildings (he would beg to differ) and the knowledge that a given building will likely be blown up well before it reaches its intended lifespan has led to increasingly lax building standards. She's in the stop the madness camp.

When they break up she's sufficiently conflicted to not immediately call the cops and tell them villain's real name and where he's living, but there's a sizable gap between that and deciding that 1) she's on his side and 2) she wants to be dating him again.

Other than antagahero shifting frame of reference in the direction of her being an outlaw by default I'm not totally sure what's going on in her head to make that work. Part of it might be simply reevaluating her position in light of getting to know protagavillain's character in a way that was previously impossible.

That's one side of the problem of Erin being not developed enough. This is the other: I'm not sure if she has a life.

I can write characters who have no life, it's probably what I'm best at because write what you know and all that. But if she has no life then there's a question of why. And if she's closed off to the world enough to have no life, and protagavillain is too, how the hell did they end up together? Neither of them would be likely to strike up a conversation. Did their subway stall and they have to work together to get everyone out before random bad thing happened? What?

If she does have a life, then I don't know what that life is. Does she have friends? No idea. Does she have family in the city? No idea. Does she own an iguana? No idea. Protagavillain has Benjamin the rat, who does Erin have? I really don't know.

4 I am casting random explody thief in the role of protagonist. There's not a redemption arc here, if anything there's a realizing that maybe being criminal who blows up empty buildings and steals from well insured banks isn't all that bad arc. If there's any message to be taken from the story it's a distinctly not-good one.

5 Remember what I said about being written in first person? I've figured out the protagavillain enough to know that he starts his story with a lengthy rant about how hard it is to be evil. That might not be the best beginning, but it's absolutely how the character would begin his book.

In fact, he might very well be a character prone to getting ranty, which could mean that fidelity to the character would require massively screwing up pacing, whereas trying to keep the plot on track would require silencing the character.

6 New thing that only just occurs to me. Originally I wasn't thinking of writing the protagavillain as depressed, which meant that this wasn't a problem. Now that I am it could be. If he is coping with depression, and he meets a girl and gets a happy ending then I could be pulling a Twilight: all you need to do to treat depression is to date the right person. That would be bad.

7 Civil Engineering. I know nothing of it. I like the idea that she's a civil engineer, that's why I intend to go with it, but I think it would have been much easier to bullshit her job when I was seeing her as a reporter. I can imagine, perhaps not correctly, what goes into being a reporter. I can't really say the same for being a civil engineer. As far as I know they do some sort of magic and then a building is made as a result. I presume math and computers are involved, but math is a mystery religion (don't believe me? Read about Pythagoras) and computers are modeled off of sand divination (I'm not making this up [8]), so we're back to some form of magic.

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[1] I'm almost into double digits. If I count myself then it's at nine, which means that I'm very close.

[2]And got screwed out of his cut when he tried to bring it to market. Which he uses as his justification for why he never tries to make a legitimate living off of anything else he makes. The real reason is that from his point of view doing things legitimately is a lot more difficult and that if he didn't have the frenetic activity of breaking this law or that and then running away he doesn't know what he'd do with himself.

If he stops moving he risks a breakdown because outside of villainy he really doesn't have anything else, and outside of running for his life or planning his next crime he doesn't really feel alive.

[3] The privacy invasion doesn't bother him for two reasons. The first is that he's perfectly happy to think of himself as the bad guy. The second is that he only turns the sensors on when checking to see if it's safe to blow up the building and he tells himself that people would rather have their privacy invaded than be killed.

[4] Superhero vs. Supervillain fights are dangerous and scary. Collapsing buildings present a real threat to the safety of the population. As such it was decided to build a complex of underground bunkers. These bunkers are easily accessible from many, many access points on every single street as well as stairwells and elevator shafts that extend into every building above them. They are not designed for permanent residence but instead intended to be used for shorter periods of time (long enough that they include restrooms, not so long as to require cots.)

While the quality of the frequently collapsed building above ground has gone down as people assumed their work wouldn't need to last, the workmanship in the bunkers is superb. Lives depend on them, after all.

[5] Why “protaga” when it should be “protago”? The o just doesn't look or feel right to me in improperly created compounds. For whatever reason protagovillain feels wrong in a way that protagavillain does not. The same for antagohero as opposed to antagahero.

[6] Created via a complex con that involved convincing those in charge of bunker construction to order that a secret command bunker be built for the city leaders, then shuffling orders and invoices such that they ended up creating three, making every reference to his point back to one of those two, and then quietly installing his own elevator to access the now forgotten bunker.

When your every heist is foiled by a damned superhero, you have to get creative in order to actually live in the lap of underground luxury.

[7] For some reason my strong temptation is to add the words, “by Izzy,” here, but I'm not totally sure why my brain would be so adamant that what I need for a point of reference is something set in a boarding school. Maybe it's just the assumption that whatever Izzy writes must be a good point of reference period.

[Added]Oh, ok, there we go. I was sure there was another book. Terminator meets My Fair Lady. I think that's probably where my brain was going.[/Added]

[8] TED is awesome, by the way. As is math.