Zero, Acceleration

Super Chonk Squirl

It’s a lovely grey morning. I took yesterday off and watched some movies; I had never seen Kobayashi’s Kwaidan before, but I read Hearn’s book earlier this year (at least, I think it was earlier this year; time is doing strange things) and decided why not? It, along with a book on the mystical tradition of a certain bodhisattva, was a good break from everything else, and now with Max Richter on the playlist and my running togs all clean and folded (because yesterday was also laundry day) I am somewhat ready for more of the damn epic fantasy.

I did get the barbarians to invest the capital city. Now it’s a siege, and I have the armies marching both north and south. The big problem will be showing the Emperor going quite mad in the little time I have left, but I have faith that can be accomplished–if not here, then in revision.

I just want this damn zero draft done. I might have to get the lady in waiting (who is now a princess in her own right) dragged to the dungeons; that’s a sticky problem that needs to be solved rather soon.

Both dogs are extremely active this morning. Miss B in particular wants her walk, and wants it now. Boxnoggin, of course, feeds on her excitement and has refused to eat his brekkie, so I’m sure there will be many pinecones menaced while we ramble.

At least with them egging each other on I managed to get my shoes tied without help this morning. It’s the little things. I’m also super hopeful that the beehive I saw a few weeks ago is still functioning, being left alone by humans to Do Its Thing.

The squirrels are getting fat for winter, though none have been able to surmount the YANKEE SQUIRREL FLIPPER DEATHRIDE 5000. It’s kind of like having a mechanical bull in the backyard. Many are called, few are chosen, and even fewer manage to hold on for two seconds, let alone eight.

…there are all sorts of jokes I could make, right? I’m twelve inside, and snickering wildly.

So now I ramble the canines, run my own poor body ragged, and come back to a city under siege. It’ll be a good day, especially if I can drive the Emperor mad in due time. I mean, he was already halfway there when he–but that’s a spoiler, isn’t it. I should be careful with those.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. Keep those machetes handy. It certainly seems like the year’s accelerating, lunging for some utterly insane finish line.

Over and out.

Art, Transmute, Possibility

I have often thought–and remarked–that the creative process is one of transmuting. An original alchemy, absorbing the pain (or joy) of being alive and transforming it into a piece that not only mitigates the burden of experience but also invites others inside as well.

You are what you consume, what you transform, in creative terms as well as physical or emotional. Which is a maxim of greater or lesser degree–one’s body turns everything to energy, heat, and shit no matter the nutritive “value” of what’s consumed, and one’s emotions have deep internal as well as external wellsprings.

…I’m even qualifying my metaphors today. Let me try again.

I have to confess I have often prided myself on the amount of punishment I can take and turn into art. But even my ability to transmute pain is being severely taxed right now. The constant retraumatization is fucking awful–and I’m in a relatively privileged position so far. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who don’t share my immunity, and the added load of guilt for being relatively safe while others suffer is crushing.

I have no great shining theme or call to hope today. All I’m after is the ability to get through until I can retreat to bed and escape the burden of consciousness for a few hours, probably assisted by some antihistamines since alcohol gives me hives anymore.

The next stage after hives is anaphylactic shock, but even that isn’t proving the deterrent it could be.

I thought once I’d finished with the recent mini-breakdown it would be easier to get back to work; I thought it was a gauntlet I had to run through and I could skid past the finish line, bloody and battered but still whole. But the hits just keep coming, and even retracting into my shell doesn’t work the way it used to.

One of the few things stopping me from plunging over the railing into the abyss is the fact that I have three paying projects unfinished. People are depending on me, so I have to buckle down and at least turn them in. Then there are the kids, and the dogs. All these considerations are getting thinner and thinner as I stare at the catastrophe unfolding, and that worries me.

It worries me a lot.

Like I said, I have no ringing call to hope today. All I have is brute endurance, which I happen to be kind of good at but which does have its limits. This morass was completely avoidable, but nobody cared enough to listen to the people shouting caution while the ship headed for the rocks.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. We might get through this. I don’t see how, but I admit the possibility–which is another function of art. To be able to admit possibilities one doesn’t believe in is a form of alchemy all its own. It’s not quite a superpower, but every time I sit down to write, it lingers behind every word.

The possibility is slim, fragile, and ghostly, but it will have to be enough.

Without Hyperbole

Afterwar

I’m tired.

I can’t imagine how much more exhausted protestors are. In two weeks, between COVID-19 and the police brutality deployed every evening, there might not be anyone left to challenge the ongoing fascist coup.

Let me be absolutely clear. I do not use the term “fascist coup” lightly, or with any hyperbole. I am a mistress of well-deployed hyperbole when it comes to squirrel stories and urban fantasy; I am in this case laying it aside and speaking simple, honest truth.

A wannabe dictator stood in the Rose Garden of the White House while the screams of the protestors he had ordered tear-gassed and shot still lingered in the air, and he threatened martial law. This is an indisputable fact.

Then he, flanked by oodles of security, walked across the street and stood before a church his thugs had just violently cleared clergy and medical staff from, stepping over scattered, ravaged supplies. The wannabe dictator held a Bible upside-down and stared into the cameras. Later that night, high-ranking military were seen in fatigues touring various parts of the nation’s capital, “just looking at things.”

Martial law. Peaceful protestors tear-gassed and skull-cracked. Clergy, medics, and journalists targeted. A US Senator allowed to put fascist “we must call in the military to restore order” propaganda in what we’ve often referred to as “the paper of record.”

Pravda was a “paper of record”, too.

And all of this because Black Americans do not want to be killed at random by uniformed white supremacist thugs, and are tired of being held in bondage. Slavery was never really abolished; its methods simply hid behind euphemisms. The Southern Strategy was outright profitable for regressives, too, who have been working towards this moment–theocratic, oligarchic, racist, fascist rule–for decades.

Rich regressives have their propaganda outlet (Faux News) prepared. They have a grip on the levers of power–while American cities already in the grip of a pandemic convulsed with protest against murder and inequality, Mitch McConnell was busy in an air-conditioned chamber, ramming through lifetime appointments of loyal apparatchiks to federal judgehood.

Clearly he thinks the coup is accomplished. And the Joint Chiefs chose to send out a wishy-washy “statement” that functions only as a piece of paper to cover their asses if the coup by some miracle does not succeed.

How hard is it to say, “You will not fire on American civilians, and you are under no obligation to obey anyone who tells you to do so”? But after a Sunkist Stalin browbeating, a man in uniform countermanded orders to let the troops–the troops, let’s not forget, mobilized to be deployed against American citizens–go home.

Don’t believe me. If you’re reading this, you have the internet. Go look it up.

When I say, “A coup has happened, it is ongoing, and I don’t know whether it can be halted,” I am uttering strict, bare, honest truth. I saw a wannabe dictator attempt to declare martial law on June 1 after tear-gassing peaceful protestors in front of the White House, and that same wannabe dictator is still in power. His criminal cabal has closed ranks around him. He is still eating food paid for by our tax dollars, he is still being “guarded” by security forces paid for by our tax dollars, he is still handing out keys to the public treasury–our treasury, our tax dollars–to his friends, his family, and his fellow criminals.

The police are still on our streets, still beating and killing indiscriminately. Still kettling, shooting, and gassing protestors, bystanders, and anyone else they decide to, during a pandemic. Closing centers for COVID-19 testing in order to use them to hold prisoners, and using tanks by any other name against their own neighbors. An alphabet soup of federal forces, many of them not in standard uniform, has flooded our nation’s capital in order to confuse and use maximum violence against protestors. While we were struggling with a pandemic last month and the month before, the wannabe dictator was using federal medical aid and relief as patronage to extort promises of personal fealty from red-state governors, and now it’s paying off. Not only that, but this wannabe dictator is putting up his campaign-promised wall–around the White House, since I guess you can’t be a petty Hitler without a Berghof.

I cannot even imagine how tired the protestors are right now. I can’t even imagine the burden Black people and other PoC or marginalized groups are carrying. All I can do is use my privilege and platform to say what needs saying, and what needs saying is this:

A fascist coup has been attempted, and the wannabe dictator is still in power. The military is watching to see which way this is going to fall, and any “opposition” leaders in Congress are still vainly trying “bipartisanship” with the Republicans who plotted and are facilitating the downfall of any democracy in our republic. Thinking we can “vote them out in November” is a total abdication of responsibility–certainly, if we’re still allowed to vote in November, of course we should vote them out.

But in two weeks the pandemic spike from the opening of the beaches two weeks ago will be ongoing, and the spike from forcing people to choose between accepting a violent, random suffocation-death at the hands of police or choking to death as the coronavirus fills their lungs with liquid will be cresting. In two weeks many of the most active resistors will be dead of police brutality or sick with the plague.

What are we going to do then?

I did a lot of research on fascists, authoritarians, and coups for That Particular Book I Wrote Back In 2015. Every single bit of that research is screaming at me now. My commitment to my art and my profession requires me to tell the truth about this and not look away, that I use whatever privilege and platform I have to speak and to boost the voices crying out for justice, crying out a warning.

I do not say this lightly: A fascist coup has been attempted, and the wannabe dictator is still in power.

This is where we are now.

What are we going to do? I’m speaking directly to my white friends and readers, those who share my privileged skin color. What are you prepared to do? Don’t attempt to answer me in the comments. Just go do it, whatever it is. Make a decision. If you ever told yourself, “I wouldn’t have collaborated with Nazis, no sir,” now is your golden chance to prove it. The moment is nigh. Find a resistance lane and get going. Get your go-bag and make your decision not just about what you’ll do in the short term, but also what you’ll do if this ongoing coup succeeds and the security forces being tested and battle-hardened right now in our streets come knocking in the dead of night to disappear your neighbors–or even your own sweet self.

What are you prepared to do?

Don’t try to tell me. Just do it.

History, Reverberate

I didn’t feel fully awake until about 3km into this morning’s run. Now I’m not entirely awake, but close enough. I could do with a spot more tea, but that will have to wait until after I’m done writing this.

The last Haggard Feathers post goes up tomorrow. I’m sad to bring the experiment to an end, but on the other hand, it will be a relief to stop the time drain so I have some internal resources to deal with the ongoing flood of bad news.

It’s Memorial Day. I spent yesterday afternoon reading Osinga on John Boyd, and once I finished that I moved to Orlando Figes on the Crimean War. I haven’t read about the latter except in fiction; the first time I can remember hearing that particular conflict referred to was a short story featuring Florence Nightingale, which I read when I was about twelve, I think? Or maybe a little younger.

The more I study history, the more I think humans don’t ever really learn. Things just… reverberate. One can trace a certain strain of European conflict from the Roman Empire to the Crimean to World War I to World War II and up to the present day; it’s sobering to sit with the fact that people are killing each other over thousand-year-old grudges. Genocide and war don’t ever really stop, they just mutate, particularly virulent species going quasi-dormant and waiting for the next instance of fortuitous conditions.

It makes me wonder if we’d get further treating violence as a virus.

Anyway, I am not particularly cheerful this morning, though I suspect a cuppa will fix that. I have far too much work to let myself sit in the doldrums for long, thankfully. And a touch more caffeine might make my fingers stop stuttering on the keyboard. It’s taken a ridiculous amount of time just to type these few paragraphs, having to stop for typos and errors every few words. Some days are just like that.

At least it’s raining, the dogs have been walks, and I have some lovely piano music on tap. I’m definitely not in the mood for lyrics today. I woke up with Satie’s Je te veux in my head this morning, which I used to play along with ACDC to get Graves from Strange Angels to start talking.

He was an interesting fellow. And now it’s time for me to make that cuppa.

Over and out.

Staying Calm, Carrying On

I dropped the Princess off at work this morning (of course, since she works for a large service corporation, sick leave isn’t an option, GO ‘MURICA) and decided to do the usual weekly grocery shopping. It wasn’t until I actually got to the store that I realized…

…well, I’m beginning to think we’re doomed. At least, a certain slice of America is.

I did my best to stay six feet away from everyone else. The store was doing its best by allowing people through the door in five-person groups. Unfortunately the herd was fear-crazed and rampaging. Elderly white people were doing their level best to run me over and breathe in my face. The younger people I saw were all attempting, like me, to allow everyone space and wait turns.

Every single person who cut in line, attempted to breathe on me, hip-checked and barged past me, or who was being nasty to a grocery worker was white and over 60. I am absolutely not joking. It was horrifying to see, and I hope I never witness anything like it ever again.

Unfortunately, I suspect that hope is vain indeed. It was like those videos of young people determined to Spring Break on Florida beaches yesterday, a display of selfishness almost unequalled in my experience.

Almost.

I did my best to slow everything around me down, and moved at a snail’s pace. And of course the writer in me was taking notes; all things serve the work. I’m shaking now that I’m safely home, but I wonder how many of the people absolutely determined to be assholes this morning were already carrying COVID-19 and spreading it with abandon in order to get their aloe vera juice and complain at top, spittle-laced volume about the store being out of flour.

Normally we’re pretty well stocked here at the Chez, so I might have skipped the regular weekly trip to the grocers if I’d known it was going to be like this. But once I was there, I figured going through was better than leaving, and since my online groups and IRL neighbors have all been so amazing I trusted naively that everyone involved would be a reasonable adult.

I’ve been wrong before in my life, though seldom to this degree. May the gods have mercy upon us, because white Americans (of any age) seemingly won’t.

Now I’ve got to take the dogs for a walk and do my best to avoid other people during that, too. I knocked off 200 pages’ worth of revisions yesterday; there’s another 280 left in this epic fantasy. Either I’m going down, or this book is.

At least I can work at home. Silver linings, and all that.

Please be kind to each other out there, folks. I’m sorry this is happening; hopefully we can all work together to at least not make it worse.

Weary or Wicked

Finishing a complex, hard-fought revision leaves me feeling like I’ve been punched in the head–dazed, pained, and wondering where all the red stuff is coming from. Recovery always takes twice as long as I think it will, but I don’t have time to really let the dust settle. HOOD needs Season Three started and Season Two compiled chapter by chapter for serial subscribers, not to mention revising, editing, proofing, and formatting for release probably in March.

It’s gotten to the point where I’m listening to Wagner again. I just loaded up my Spotify queue with the Ring cycle; that’s a few days of lugubrious listening. The motifs, heavy and somewhat graceless as they are, are familiar enough that I don’t have to spend any time thinking about or untangling them.

It’s strange, I’ve never had the urge to see a Wagner opera, though I’ve listened to the Ring cycle more than I’d care to admit. Not as much as I’ve listened to Mahler’s Fourth or Debussy’s La mer, both old friends from back in my insomnia days. Then I found the Goldberg variations, which worked about 50% of the time–way more than anything else, so I used them until Calm Therapist talked me into going on meds.

Anyway, it’s calming to have Siegfried bellowing in the background. I should, one of these days, watch the operas, but there’s so much else to get through before then.

I did take yesterday off and read Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair, which was quite pleasing. I’m willing to be convinced of Bossy’s theory, and while some of the reviews took exception with his writing (too recondite, too learned, too complex in the sentence) I really didn’t have a problem with that. As a matter of fact, I found the book lucid-clear, and it was a relief to have an author talk to me as if he respected both my intelligence and my historical knowledge. (However small either may be, indeed.)

I’ve moved on to some Peter Grey; his Apocalyptic Witchcraft bored me to tears but so far, Lucifer: Princeps is extremely interesting. I did fall asleep in it face-first last night, always a good sign. If the book hits me on the nose (being dropped while I’m reading on my back) or I wake up on my stomach with said nasal promontory mashed in it, it’s more a function of the interestingness of the text than my level of exhaustion.

Though there was that one time a dictator’s biography kept hitting me in the face; I think I was passing out from sheer distaste. Anyway.

The dogs need walking and there’s a Tuesday writing post to put the finishing touches on. The monthly newsletter needs to go out soon, too, so that means I’ll be looking at my finances and seeing if I can afford to run a giveaway this month.

Rest? Who needs that? Supposedly, I’ll sleep after I’ve expired. (Or once I’ve achieved my final fighting form, if anime is any indication.) No rest for the weary or the wicked, and I intend to be both all the way down to the ground.

Not-Sleeping with Segur

Desires, Known

Not a single flicker of sleep last night, and my head is as tender as an overripe pumpkin. To think I used to endure insomnia three days out of five–well, I was younger then, and most assuredly am not at the moment. I’m fast losing my ability to string words together, and coffee is losing its utility to boot.

I used to think of nighttime as both a balm and a personal enemy. On the one hand, once I left my childhood home the darkness held very little in the way of terrors. It became a vast aquarium I could hide in, a small quick fish just out of reach.

Plenty of my best work has happened in those long dead times when the rest of the world is deep in slumber. The staticky feedback of so many conscious minds nibbling like mice at a gingerbread wall ceases, and one can think. Plus, what else was I going to do while I was up?

Well, other than read and listen obsessively to Mahler’s Fourth. Everyone’s got their own little quirks.

Even the sleep deprivation of having babies barely made a dent. I was so used to functioning under extreme exhaustion; it was probably easier on me than on many new parents. (Not to mention I’d been caring for small humans since I was eight.) I didn’t consider the insomnia as anything out of the ordinary, but maybe that’s why postpartum depression almost killed me. I was literally too tired to care about my own personal survival.

When I went on meds, the most marvelous revelation was being able to consistently pass out on a nightly basis. I’m sure it added years onto my life, and nowadays I sleep more often than not without chemical enhancement.

But not last night. No, last night was tossing and turning, my heartrate suddenly deciding to rocket into the stratosphere, wild What-Ifs crawling into my ears, and just generally a bad scene. At least I had Ségur to keep me company.1 I read Caulaincourt on the same events some while ago, and it’s interesting to see the overlap.

It’s not so bad, except I’m running out of words. Even writing this has taken far longer than it should; I stop and stare between sentences or even between syllables. Coffee is nice and the night is beautiful… but I think I prefer sleep.

I’ll rest well tonight. At least, so I hope.