Art of the Storyteller – Lockdown Day 15

 

In these trying times, a little doubt and anxiety of only natural, as is fear. Your greatest asset, though, is your passion and your belief in the fact that you are writing the greatest story ever told….You will get through this, you are enough, you are going to do this; I believe in you.

We who Raced the Streetlights Home

I have been noticing, since the spread and fear over #Covid19 or #Coronavirus that there has been an interesting trend arising…
 
Now to put this into context, for quite some time now, there has been a somewhat artificially inflated conflict between the generations we know as the #Boomers and the #Millennials ; those born towards the end of the 21st century, and those born following World War II.
 
The now generic #OKBoomer memes seem to be the automatic response for many younger people when an older person says something they do not agree with, not always but, it seems, more often than it used to be.
 
How it All Began
 
In 2016, a divisive figure arose in the world of politics and he divided the two extremes on the generational scale. For those conisdred Boomers, he spoke sense and appealed to many of their values, he is of their generation after all. For Millennials, he was everything that was wrong with the world, embodying what they were sure was the cause for, at least, a great many of our world’s ills.
 
Millennials grew up a world where racism, bigotry, sexism, and any form of discrimination was simply unacceptable. Gender was a less simple concept and technology was an integral part of their lives.
 
For the Boomer generation, the world had changed spectaculary in their lifetime and they were, to put it simply, in unknown waters, adrift without points of reference. There was agreat deal of things they no longer understood. In typical human fashion, lashing out was much easier than communicating.
 
I can attest that, as one advances in years, that one is less inclined to change one’s ways of doing things, one has gotten used to doing them one way and is somewhat less flexible when it comes to dynamicity.
 
For Millennials, their world has been in a state of constant change for most of their lives. They have lived through what the proverb calls ‘interesting times’. The energy of the youth combined with an irrespressible appetite to know, to experience, and to share.
 
Let’s see how the ‘other side’ views their ‘adversary’;
 
Boomers; are the old, or at least elderly. They tend to be conservative in their views, inflexible in their opinions and not shy about vocally sharing them. They think Millennials need to do something with their lives and have no tolerance for protests of a changed world and difficult economic times. They think they know best and everyone must conform to what their idea of best is. They are either intentionally or inadertantly racist and do not like those they consider different. As people referred to as Boomers are usually white, they tolerate no equality for people of other enthnicities, women being considered equal or anyone getting a ‘free ride’. They proscribe to what are commonly known as ‘traditional views’.
 
Millennials; they are the lazy generation, always complaining about how life is not fair, sharing their feelings on their phones, to which they are glued 24 hours a day. They wouldn’t know what a good day’s work was if it slapped them about their whining mouth and expect everything to handed to them on a plate. Most of them don’t even know how to cook or look after a house and seem in no rush to make anything of themselves besides a mess, so they can complain about and blame the older generation for it afterwards. They didn’t have it like we did; we had it rough but we came through!
 
The conflict which the media has fomented, though, represents things usimg the now common “Two Tribes Strategy”. Either you’re an old Boomer without a clue or a Millennial, also without a clue, only about different things.
 
I, at the age of almost 45, born in 1975, have been “OK Boomer”ed on social media often. My parents are Boomers and proud of it, and we did learn quite a few things from them. OK we rebelled against it in our youth as children will, but, as we got older, we learned that maybe they had a point about more than a few things….
 
Generation X
 
Born between the 60’s and the 80’s, they tend to forget all about us, the original rebels, misfits, and troublemakers.
 
I will refer to my experiences in England here, I don’t have first hand knowledge of what GenX lived in America, having arrived there much later in life.
 
I grew up in what was known as Thatcher’s Britain (for my American readers, she and Reagan shared a love of Keynsian Economics, accumulation of wealth in the right places – their places – and a rather xenophobic worldview), a time of significant change and strong conservatism, ushered in by the country’s first female Prime Minister. It was a time when Britain’s traditional industries were eviscerated, unemployment was rife, disaffectation common, hope for a decent future dim. Our music reflects that, our movies reflect it, the books we wrote and the constant flux of our culture. A clear class structure was being pushed upon us. Big hair for both sexes, good clothes, influence and wealth were good, not having the right labels or logos on your clothes was bad. Only, if you were what was considered ‘working class’ obtaining these things was beyond your poor, put upon parents. I am sure we made their lives Hell.
 
Sound familiar?
 
Due to this imbalance between the level of earnings and the cost of living, both parents had jobs. We went to school and came back home without adult supervision. We learned to feed ourselves until Mum, Dad, or both got home. We had this sense of responsibility inculcated into us from an early age (Mum and Dad are working all day so why must they come home to do everything?). Life was a struggle just to get by, even with both parents working. We never knew how hard, of course, because children are, by nature, selfish little bastards. I was cooking my Mum’s tea (British slang for the evening meal) at the age of 11 or twelve. Nothing fancy, usually freezer to oven confections, but they thought was there. I came home from school, let myself in, vacuumed the house, washed any leftover breakfast dishes, let the dog in, cleaned the bounteous gifts the dog had left in the garden during the day, walked said dog, did my homework, watched cartoons for half an hour, and then put mum’s dinner in the oven (Dad was working long hours at this point) or made spaghetti of something else if I was feeling fancy. I walked three miles from school with as couple of friends in all weathers and learned to be streetwise because, contrary to popular belief, paedophiles are not a new phenomenon, the internet and 24 hour news just makes sure we hear about them more often.
 
At the weekends, I was free, unless Dad needed his car cleaned (plus the dog always needed his walks) or there were errands to be run. I played in the street with my friends almost all day long and chased the streetlights home. For those of you who don’t know what that means, your mother would tell you to be home until the streetlights came on (what time that was depended on the season) and woe betide any child who ignored said parental commandment. The monsters who hid behind the streetlights would eat them, I hear.
 
Scarcity taught us to appreciate what we had (even if we didn’t when we got it, especially if we’d wanted as bike, not a scooter), necessity made us creative and unable to remain bored for long, we invented games and the kids kept themselves occupied while Mother and Father “rested”. There were no computers, no cell phones; a football of discovered on the street equivalent made our games. We would play hide and seek with teams of ten or more to side, games which could last hours and occassionally result in a child being so good, only a shouted warning from a parent could smoke them out.
 
We got rough and tumble with our friends but always made up, we got patched up my a Mum, there was always one nurse per neighbourhood that specialised in ‘split heads’, ‘bust lips’, general scrapes and misadventures. He learned to roll with it and also to be rather independant because the adults were working all hours just to keep a roof over our head and food in our always hungry bellies. It wasn’t abuse that we saw more of our Nans and Grannies than we did our Mums and Dads, it was necessity. I remember a time when my Mum and Dad worked split shifts at the same factory, him arriving from the nightshift as she left for the dayshift. With what they earned and seemingly inherant ability to ‘stretch a pound’, we got by. They even saved up for treats for Christmas and Birthdays and we went wild for those. I had a pair of Nike Moonboots that, by the end of their life, had to be surgically removed from my feet and a dayglow orange Adidas jacket the theft of which broke my heart. Not just because I missed it and the status I felt it gave me, but because I would be Told Off.
 
They wasn’t beat or excessively punished (though I got a ‘good belt’ when I deserved it) and, as it turned out, was not punished for having my jacket stolen at school but my parents’ disappointment was a thing I worried about. I knew it had cost them a lot of sacrifice to afford that gift and it meant more to me because of that.
 
There was no credit (unless with the milkman, the ‘tick man’, or the local shop for a few quid), they scrimped, they saved, they went without that I might have something nice. I got my first computer at the age of 13 and it is still in a box somewhere, it probably might even still work. See, you didn’t throw it away, you got pass ons and cast offs or did the same thing. If something was broken, you fixed it because it was often cheaper than new. My computer broke once and, though I did complain often, we waited both until we could afford it (note the group noun), when Dad had time to drive to the shop, and finally for them to do the job. It never broke again….
 
We who chased the streetlights home did well when we moved from home to go to University. I thought my parents were strict and unfair until it came the moment for me to stand on my own two feet and adult without assistance. I admit, in the first night at my student lodgings, all alone (my housemates came the day after, I got there early), when I could not light the unfamiliar gas oven, I cried a little but in frustration rather than sadness.
 
Looking back now, I see how that prepared me for my globetrotting in later life. Leaving behind the familiar, starting with nothing and building a life from nothing. I’ve done it what must be seven times now and this is to be my last. Because no-one could help me (much), I learned to help myself. Because these were the days before intenet and free global communication, I could only rely on myself in emergencies so I adapted, I improvised, I learned.
 
We are often overlooked, us of the Generation X, because we are the bridge between Millennial and Boomer; we learned skills and values from our parents (thought we tossed aside those which would no longer fit in our multicultural world) and became the parents of the Millennials while we built the world they now value, but it’s not all good.
 
The Crimes of X
 
We are not innocent. In our drive to ensure that our children suffered not the world we grew up in, we created a monster or two. Mass media saturation, consumer society, throwaway society, rampany want want want. We created that.
 
We built the surveillance society, the cult of celebrity, the worship of the rich and the famous. We demanded more now and guess what? We got it and look at where it has brought us. We coddled our children and made sure they never went without, we gave them things instead of our time and affection because, in order to sustain the new lifestyes, we had to work longer hours away from home and were too tired when we got there.
 
In order to create our Brave New World, with our limited resources, we decided to, metaphorically at least, ask Mum & Dad to help. We sold our dreams cheaply thinking our vision was universal and anyone that saw it would be changed, the old habits would die.
 
They did not, of course. We gleefully handed our dreams to them and what did we get? A new form of slavery that looked an awful lot like freedom.
 
A Word to the Wise
 
“There is no growth without change, no change without loss or fear, no loss without pain. If you do not change the roots, the fruits can still wither…”
 
First you try to beat the system, then you start to realise all the benefits that the system might provide, and they become part of the system. Like the Biblical Devil tempting Jesus in the desert (I had to swing this back to the realm of The Chronicles again), no offer of riches ands influence comes without attendant strings. To those who might truly beat the system, the system will bend efforts to seduce.
 
Look at where my generation’s rebels are now, those we looked up to as the misfits and the challenges to authority. Those who remained true rebels are few and far between.
 
See, they divided us too, set us against an enemy who then extended us a seemingly contrite olive branch. See, age might not guarantee wisdom but it surely does distill cunning rather well.
 
Our generation wanted a future and a better world and we thought we could change it from within like a certain young Senator from Chicago thought he could. Like the rest of us, he forgot one important thing; if you don’t first change the system, the system will change you
 
Conclusion
 
My Millennial friends, though I use indirectly the saying “I’ve been your age but you’ve yet to be mine” and that some of what I described sounds condescending perhaps, I am merely drawing parallels to give you an idea of how this fight between you and Boomers is being manipulated.
 
There are two truths in this existence of ours;
 
You cannot tell a young person that you know better than them and had to struggle too (so what are they whining about). Especially if you claim your struggle was greater and theirs of no true importance. It’s all a matter of perspective. I know that, as a parent, I cannot prevent my child from making at least some of the same mistakes I did.
 
You cannot force the old to change by dismissing them as idiots. There is a saying I like that applies here “The old lion will fight harder because he has more to prove and much more to lose”.
 
We have forgotten, in today’s world, of dialogue. I hope I have shown you that, despite massive differences (apparently), we have much in common. Every younger generation rebels against the older and complains of their wrongdoings until they, themselves, become an older generation. It is at this point that they complain about “the youth of today” doing everything they did when they were the youth.
 
This generational conflict and angst, which is fed by the media, will fix nothing. Instead of letting ourselves be divided, we need to do something that will really scare them and find common ground. Ultimately, we all want the same thing at the end of the day, we just learned different ways to go about it.
 
For example, I had that ‘tough as nails’ upbringing and had no tolerance for complaining about something without trying to find a way to fix it. If I’m sick, I go to work (not now though, this is different), I don’t back down and will find solutions even in seemingly impossible situations (I’ll tell you about some of those, including how I got my family here one day). People that complain and need affirmation for their hardships and difficulties (unless someone is dying, has died or is really sick or similar) have always tended to annoy me because I’m very much the ‘grin and bear it type’ but I’m learning.
 
We can all learn if we want to. If we want to learn, maybe we can learn to get on?
 
Let’s not be like those that descriminate and descriminate against others just because of the year they were born in.

Researching On Such a Scale

The Chronicles of Enoch is going to be a true Epic. It will have a cast of at least fifty (if not more) and will cover a period of approximately eight thousand years. That, in itself, is quite the challenging proposition. When you add a conspiracy or several, complex plots involving the military, the police forces, several religions, experimental science, and secret government projects….well, we are not even sure if there is a Kansas to be in any more, although we are sort of familiar with Kansas as a concept…
 
Let me give you a list of some of the topics we have covered so far;
 
  1. The Hebrew Talmud
  2. Kabbalah
  3. Sumerian tablets and carvings
  4. Doggerland and other antedeluvian lands
  5. Every conspiracy theory on Atlantis and lost continents
  6. Fluid dynamics, thermal dynamics, and high pressure fluid dynamics inversions
  7. Astronomy, especially regarding the Moon and Mars
  8. Terraforming and how it could happen
  9. Micro-electronics and experimental electronic theory
  10. Every religion which has ever existed
  11. The titular Books of Enoch and other Apocrypha
  12. Jewish exorcism rites
  13. Aviation history, space flight, experimental space technology, and theoretical physics
  14. The Atlanta and Georgia State Police Force and SWAT Division
  15. Child psychology and criminal psychology
  16. ASD and Aspergers syndrome
  17. Eurasian and North American mythology
  18. Ballistics, sniper theory and practises, bullet manufacture
  19. Chemistry and materials science
  20. Esoteric lore from several sources
  21. Misha of Jewish scripture and questionable sources
  22. Almost every conspiracy theory I could find (except flat Earth because even the ancients weren’t stupid)
 
I actually stopped because I don’t want to overwhelm you. There is a lot more and I am only on the first book of a five-volume series.
 
On Appearing the Expert
 
If there is one person who does this well, it was Michael Crichton, he truly did an amazing job of appearing to be an overnight expert on his subject matter. Whether it was genetics and dinosaurs, aviation and accident investigation, law enforcement, or ancient arabian literature and viking migration and culture, Michael’s books communicated a confident knowledge on the subject. One could read his books and not only enjoy the story but actually learn something. That is a rare talent and he remains sorely missed.
 
He was a remarkably intelligent man but he did not become an actual expert on every topic he wrote so convincingly about, he researched and made use of actual experts instead, which proves just how intelligent he was.
 
I think it is important, when setting your writing in real places, referencing real groups of people, places, and lore, it is important to give a sense of authenticity, a flavour of truth to your work. This, I feel, is vital in drawing your reader into to your story. There is that famous saying about ‘the best lies/legends contain a grain of truth’ and your story needs, I feel, to contain at least enough grains to quarter fill a small salf shaker or enough rice to set a fried egg on.
 
What about science fiction, you may ask? Good question.
 
I refer you to the Illium/Olympus series by Dan Simmons. He had a curious idea; combine the Trojan War with the science fiction of a terraformed Mars, involve actual Greek gods who were in fact posthuman superbeings, genetically enhanced humans, killer robots, advanced benevolent robots, Shakespearean monsters, and Lovecraftian gods. He added real theoretical science as well as decent historical research into the books and made them rather interesting indeed, while still keeping the fantasy and sci-fi elements alive.
 
My point is, research is king (or queen, or elected official) of writing; you need to add elements of reality into your unreality in order to draw people in. Even if they are not experts in the field, it is going to draw them in if done well.
 
Doing It Well..
 
In today’s world, research is no longer as challenging as it once was. I remember the good old days of researching my now-abandoned first novel in my teens. You had to go to a library and first find the section of the library your book might be in, then you had to find one which suited your need, take it back because it was no good, come back overloaded with others, then spend hours leafing through them for the information you wanted before getting distracted by something interesting you found along the way. Do not get me started on microfiche archives either!
 
Today, you have Google. With the few strokes of the keys, you have access to everything, even Wikipedia…
 
There are a few problems with that. The old addage of “if it wasn’t true they wouldn’t let them put it on there” is not, necessarily, true. For some sites yet but Wikipedia is publically editable. of course, they curate it now, but we have seem a few worrying and a number of hilarious results of such editing. They catch it eventually, I should know, my backlinks lasted a week…
 
So; you have to be careful in what information you use, myou need trusted sources such as academic ones or verifiable sources of information when it comes to scientific or academic stuff, as well as historical events. Accuracy is key because trust me, you will encounter that one person who will pull you up on a fact and you can be sure that they will leave a review about it.
 
Spend the time, is my advice, check your facts and, check them again. You’ll be amazed by the results. I know it’s hard but, until we are famous, we can’t court experts to interview or hire researchers to do it for us. I keep telling you that this job is no even remotely easy, do I not…
 
Of The Dumping of Information
 
Don’t do it. That’s the best advice I can give for you to follow. Dumping information is never good and dropping a pile of facts and figures on the reader’s lap is going to make them feel like they are reading a text book. I know you spent a long time researching it, built some impressive knowledge and thorough notes on the subject and, if you follow my upcoming advice, may use a tiny fraction of it directly but it will matter when you retain rather than lose readers.
 
  1. Use natural-sounding dialogue. Think Star Trek without the eleven syllable words and pseudo-science speak. Two colleagues just chatting about things such colleagues would naturally discuss under the circumtances. Look it how it sounds, how it flows and if it feels natural. Practise it with a friend and see how it falls off the tongue.
  2. Short bits of internal dialogue. Again, watch the flow, fragment it with thoughts, feelings, or actions to break up what we call a WOT (wall of text). Think how you think and, if it’s nothing close to that, then change it. You might be surprised to discover that most people don’t think in paragraphs, some do but most think in short sentences. A whole page of thoughts is a definite no-no.
  3. Exposition in easy to digest pieces. Ideally mix with the above, by way of short and concise explanation. Think of PBS or BB2 (or your local equivalent channel) science programs. They keep their facts short and to the point and intersperse music and action pieces. I recommend you do the same. Attention spans these days really are not what they used to be. I had to figure out a similar balance when dealing with Dr. Webb’s pieces in the ACARI facility in New Mexico and Asmodeus’ musings on the ICARUS program in Darkness Within as well as Kalshodar phsysiology in the Hegemony drafts.
 
It is all about practise, I’m afraid. It doesn’t come completely naturally and we have all suffered the consequences. Use the comparison to science and nature programs, it really does work if you visualise David Attenborough, Neil Degrasse Tyson, or Morgan Freeman speaking out your chunks of dialogue among the whistful nature shots and fancy special effects. If it sounds boring in Mr. Freeman’s voice, then you must fix it because next to nothing sounds boring with that voice; he could (British reference) read the Saturday football (not soccer) results and you’d actually enjoy it (American readers, enjoy the video below, I give you two minutes before you scream and run out of the room….)
 
 
 
So, Why Research so Much?
 
I’ve used this one before and I use it again.
 
WETA Workshop, the special effects company behind such blockbusters as the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Bladerunner 2049, and District 9 are on record saying that there is a massive chunk of the props, details, and details they created in those movies that 90% of viewers will not even notice, consciously at least. Subconsciously though, it helps draw them into a fully realised world and immerse themselves in it because every item on every elf is a little different, because no orc’s armour is the same, or because Deckard sees adverts in the right kind of Japanese or Chinese everywhere.
 
It’s about the atmosphere it creates, how the nuggests you drop show that you know a lot more than that but chose, chose mark you, to keep them for another time. I work in Customer Service in a rather manic industry (online gambling) and have learned tone of voice and implied confidence go an aweful long way in inspiring confidence in the person on the other end of the phone. I am not a sports fan, I hate horses, and am blaise about football but I can make it sound like I know what I’m talking about because I’ve researched and trained myself to recognise key phrases in conversation. My customers think I’m just like them (I don’t gamble) and therefore trust my judgement and what I tell tell them. Remember popular business maxim?
 
“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”
 
To continue from my previous point, people will trust somebody who sounds like they know what they’re talking about before they will trust someone who sounds uncertain. You could be giving them completely accurate information but it you do not sound confident, they’ll listen to the tone not the words. They ask for a manager and you put them on, the manager says exactly what you did but because they said it confidently and identified as a manager, the customer accepts it, humans eh?
 
If you mention a few juicy facts, handle their delivery well, make your characters sound natural as they speak, think, or experience them, then your reader feels confident that you know your setting and your job. They enter your world willingly and relax into the story. Anything that jars against the expectations you gave them will shatter their confidence and ruin their experience.
 
If you research well, have digested it, and somewhat understood it, this will be obvious in your writing because you will drop the right fact or comment right where it belongs. I had a scientist character of mine deliver a brief keynote speech on a certain topic to see how it flowed. It didn’t appear in any of the books and it won’t. The speech is mentioned in passing here and there, and a brief excerpt or two show up but the entire 20-minute speech itself (together with a Q&A session at the end) is buried in the texture of the story.
 
Conclusion
 
If you do not know it, learn. If you find the facts, look again. if your facts clash, keep looking. You are building a world so contrary opinions are going to exist however, make your facts solid before you use them.
 
Do not infodump or include overy-lengthy expositions that stop the story dead and advance it not at all. Think of Morgan Freeman narrating and do not, just do not make Morgan say something boring. He fought hard for that reputation, try not to ruin it for him.
 
Use what you have learned, digest it, and (using a popular revision techmnique) rewrite it in your own words to show that you understood it. Do not paste directly from your source or repeat verbatim unless what you’re adding is an actual quote or there is a very valid reason to do so.
 
Use what you have learned and your ability to paraphrase it to sound confident and reassure your customer that not only have they chosen well and selected an author who did their research but one who knows their trade and can be trusted to deliver. Don’t be lazy, we readers can spot it in an instant.
 
Remember when we were readers before we were authors. Remember what you love and hate in books you have read and try not to repeat any of the things you, yourself, hate. Respect the reader enough to ensure that they will not part with their cash for anything less than your very best work.
 
Respect them and they will see it and they, in turn, will respect you.

Documenters of Insanity

“A writer is simply the documenter of his own insanity” Unknown
 
A fiction writer is many things, it would seem but what really?
 
I was reading this article today and I wondered….well now, maybe that explains a lot;
 
 
I have spent a significant portion of my life with several of my imaginary friends and, not only have I done this but I have documented it. Not only have I documented it but I am trying to present it in appealing fashion so that people will pay me for the pleasure of gawking at my insanity. I enjoy this activity and call myself writer, author, among other things.
 
“What do you do in your spare time?” People ask me
“I invent people and have conversations with them in my head and then I write it down” they usually start making excuses and backing away right about this time. This may be a not altogether conventional description of a writer’s trade but it is not inaccurate really.Think about it. At this moment in time I have…around 9 people in my head about whom I think regularly, whom I place in situations and generate dialogue for, with whom I, in fact, have conversations effectively. A lot  of the time we keep these conversations between ourselves and they never make it to the page; either because I forget about them, am distracted or, when I sit down at my keyboard with the complete intention of writing down that cracker of a dialogue from earlier down something strange happens…I start to write and it turns into something completely and utterly different. My neat little scene, my snappy chatty, my situationette turn into something completely different! I sit down wanting to write how x met z and talked about y but then w comes in and murders x and falls in love with z and y did this every happen????!!
 
I think Poe put it best “I am a writer therefore I am not sane.”
 
Therefore I ask you this question and, honest answers only please, on a stamped and self addressed postcard. Do we create our characters or were they always there, inside our heads? Do we create stories or are we the medium by which the story writes itself? Are we really crazy or are scientists just jealous b*st*ards because they don’t do anything original?
 
I open the floor to comments and questions!
 

Legends Made Truth

“At the heart of every legend there is a grain of truth”
– Michael Scott
 
In Frank Herbert’s Dune, the gifted hero of the tale used his military skills, natural leadership, and participated in the legends seeded by the order of manipulators to whom his mother belonged. He won and ousted the current Emperor of the Galaxy, marrying his daughter and ending all conflict…or so he thought. We later discover that the religiously inclined people he had helped achieve freedom decided to found a church upon his deeds, make him the living Messiah and launch a jihad throughout the galaxy in his name. In dispair, he walks out into the desert, apparently never to return.
 
Paul Atreides was fighting for revenge and recruited the Freman to his cause by listening to his mother’s advice to play along with the legend. As it happens, he exceeds the expectation but that is anothe matter. What is important is that the truth is soon overshadowed by the Legend and, once those directly involved in real events are gone, nobody is left to say “that did not happen” so people are free to believe the more exciting version.
 
This is a manifestation of the phenomena we like to call “Storyteller Syndrome” or, in simple terms, storyteller’s exaggerating or, more accurately outright lying in order to draw their audience in better.
 
Let’s compare the following two versions as an example;
 
 
  1. A large and violent man, while engaging in his normal activities of reaving and raiding, kidnaps a woman who was held prisoner by his latest ‘clients’. I turns out that she is the princess or somewhere or other and had, in fact been kidnapped by a rival of the king’s. The king is an old man and the princess his only heir so marrying her would grant her father’s rival the kingdom. Our hero realised that she is going to be worth a great deal of money so does not do anything that could reduce the reward as he normally would under such circumstances. Of course, our villian learns of this and makes numerous attempts to recapture his bride and murder our hero but, being a man of action and quite well versed in the art of murder, our hero prevails every time. Arriving at the king’s castle, our hero confronts the villain, who snuck in and tried to murder the king, but is stopped by the hero because that’d mean he could kiss his money goodbye. The king, though grateful, is quite old and rather crazy. The kindgom is also rather poor so he marries his daughter off to our hero and has the villain executed; killing two birds with one stone. Having heard that the king’s advisors are planning to do away with him after the wedding, our hero murders the king, seizes the throne and traumatises the princess. He goes on to lead a brutal campaign against the holdings of the rival. The princess dies less than a year later of a broken heart during childbirth.
  2. Son of the Gods of the mountains, a noble barbarian exile is sent by his father, the God Muklebuckle to save the princess from a terrible wizard who infiltrated the kingdom and enchanted Lord Flafflefarst of Overhereia. The noble hero defeats a band of evil monsters guarding the princess and rescues her, carrying her off into the forest for her safety. The wizard hears of this and sends beasts, monsters, and demons after the hero but he defeats them all, with a little bit of help from the gods, of course. During the journey, the princess falls in love with the hero’s noble spirit and rather rugged good looks. Upon arriving at the castle, the hero engages in terrible battle with the wizard who is actually O’Deer’Jhez’Uz the dragon demon whom he barely defeats and almost dies, but love saves him at the last minute as the princess swears to marry him if he lives. Her father, unfortunately, perishes in the melee. Our hero marries the princess and, in honour of his departed father, leads the army to cleanse the land of Overheria and Rhihttheretu of demons and magicians. Lots of people die but the end of the world is avoided and the gods are happy…probably…
 
Of course, history does either tend to be written by the victors or to flatter them and ensure the writer retains the ability to continue writing…and breathing, of course.
 
History and Myth
 
We are pretty much certain these days that a great many of the old stories are not accurate representations of events. We are less credulous as a society than people once were, blame it on knowledge. Back when many of the older stories were written, great swathes of the world were unexplored, unknown, and undocumented. Monsters could live there because nobody could say for sure that they did not.
 
People had few other forms of entertainment so liked to tell and be told stories on dark winter nights. Their lives were also quite short and brutal in earlier times; ordinary people had rather unfulfilling lives or constant work and few prospects. Hearing tales of a common man going on adventures and eventually becoming king was bound to go down well, give them something to dream about.
 
That’s the purpose of stories, really, isn’t it? To give people something to believe in outside of the humdrum of normal existence. That the good people will triumph over the evil, that common people can do uncommon things, that there is a sense of justice to the world. Each era has it’s fashions in stories; in medieval times, the common man getting one over on the aristocracy or the church was popular. In today’s time, the unregarded individual, who is often persecuted for being different is found to be different because of a previously undiscovered heritage which makes them uniquely suited to save the world and gain romantic affirmation.
 
Stories are a way of escaping our everyday lives; they always have been and they always will be; they are about finding sense and meaning in a world where such things are in short supply. We like to believe that these things can happen because if they can’t, then what’s the point?
 
The Persistence of Belief
 
Heroes of the Ancient Greek, Roman and similar eras were the action movie stars of their day. The gods were both the stars and vilains, depending on who the hero was. It was like a great series where you never know what’s going to happen next, who’ll form an alliance with whom, who’d get jealous of which other god, who’d father or mother a demi-god to commit heroic or villainous acts next. It was like that rather popular fictional series involving dragons everyone liked.
 
The grand an heroic heroes of the scrolls were the embodiments of justice, fairness, and nobility that everyone could aspire to and admire. The villains were everything the people disliked at the time or those on charge disapproved of. Often subtle stabs at those in power found their way into them. They had to be subtle in those days because the reaction from an those in charge rarely would be. Critics? Oh dear, I’d rather get figuratively stabbed in the heart than actually…
 
These days we look for more depth because ideals and paragons are no longer our thing. We still like the justice and reason behind everything parts. Our world, in spite of the vast increase in knowledge and education, still hasn’t found where Truth and Justice live. Governments are still filled with egotistical liars, the poor still suffer more than they should, life is much unfairer than it needs to be, the status quo see-saw tends to be much heavier at one end than it is on the other.
 
It is no coincidence that the majority of villains we see suffering a variety of dramatic deaths in movies are mega-rich people of highly questionable morals and an enjoyment for taking over the world by killing all the poor folks. The hero is usually a working – middleclass nobody who gets an unexpected chance to restore the balance and take out the rich guy that makes their life unfair and miserable.
 
Yet, as much as our fiction appears to be making the rich pay for their crimes and suchlike, we desperately want to join them also. Billionaires coming down from their high eeries to notice a much-ignored nobody and make them rich too is quite a common theme also. It seems like quite a lot of people are not happy with their position is society and are seeking all kinds of ways to get out.
 
Conclusion
 
The truth is not as important as the dream. Nobody feeling in need of a cheering up picks up a history book or looks for a documentary on famous dynasties, well some people might but fewer in number than those that won’t.
 
We all like to believe that the world can be fair, that a reward awaits those who live well and are good, that there are heroes out there somewhere, opposing the evil we see in everything. We like to think that people will get what they deserve, especially if it isn’t good. We like to believe that fairytale love exisits and will come to sweep us off of our feet. We like to believe we could be attractive, powerful, in control, and decisive.
 
We read about it because we can escape for a while from reality and dip our toes into the fantastical and truly believe that if it can happen to them, then maybe it can happen to us one day too.

A Long and Lonely Road…

“You can write. Good story well told. No idea where you go with it or if you really want to go down this road, it’s a long hard road being a writer….”
So said Matt, a very good friends of mine, taking time out of his very busy schedule as author, director, screenwriter and generally very interesting family man to review my short story Embodied.
Writing involves losing oneself in other places and times, other people’s lives, inside of the words themselves. We lose ourselves. The great philosopher M. Mathers made mention of this in his deep tract of the same name and, despite what some may think of Eminem’s value as a literary source, he has a point. Writing fiction is where we see this most, I believe. We invent lives, worlds and events and bury ourselves in them, to become them and inhabit them so we can write about them. Another friend of mine spoke about a “cult of multiple personality” in describing a group of fiction writers and he too, is right don’t you think? I mean we, in any given novel, inhabit the heads of 4 or 5 people we invented with the hopes of making them real and believable to other people. We become them, we live as them, we make them real. The late and great Sir Terry Pratchett perhaps put it best. “The better a writer is, the crazier they are..”. So we are here, every last one of us hoping, praying, putting in late nights and long sessions to be utterly, utterly insane because no-one does all that sacrifice and work to be mediorce now do they? We want to be the best there the craziest!
So we walk this long and lonely road collectively alone. Walking inside of our own heads we follow the pack, we set off down another track, we turn round and come back, we set off on our own path and truly go alone? We write, we invent, we create, we become!
Nothing is harder are more difficult than pouring your heart and soul, your everything into a novel, a story, a collection, a blog or any such thing for months, even years and then when the DAY comes, when you see the “published” come on and the excitement threatens to explode to wait….to wait…and then…well….dum de dum….well….nothing. one sale. Diddly squat, zippo, nada. Bummer! It is beyond aweful. You placed a gosh darned piece of your SOUL out there and bared it to the world and not even a solitary handclap?? Well damn. So now what?
I told Matt, in response to his questions at the beginning of this article the following, which i quote;
“you know this is in the blood and being a writer isn’t a concious decision…being brave enough to share it and strong enough to take the criticism; rough enough to dust off and improve…those’re the choices. For me writing is a pleasure, a release, an outlet….I even dare say stuff writes itself! That shorty started very differently and kind of morphed as i wrote it; make sense? You know i don’t know; I write because it is ME….there are so many times when I’m not sure I am writing about my characters or whether they are writing themelves and i am simply observing…the words, often it’s as if the words are in charge and I’m just the one giving them shape..”
So here’s my advice. Your write and self publish, like so many of us do, and it bombs. Find out why…be brave and publish bits of it on groups and blogs, have friends and family read it and listen to what they have to say! Alexandria wasn’t built in a day, the most perfect of paintings were done over the top of older paintings, the best of steel is made by failing over and over and over again! Brush it off, stand up, wipe your hands and carry on!!
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert Kennedy

You May well be Good Enough

‘Can it be possible for a thing to be too perfect?’ asked Fulgrim. ‘Surely everything that is beautiful and noble is the product of reason and calculation.’  ‘Great art isn’t about reason, it’s about what comes from the heart’ said Ostian. ‘You can work with all the technical perfection in the galaxy, but if there is no passion, then it is a wasted effort.’ ‘There is such a thing as perfection’, snapped Fulgrim, ‘and our purpose for living is to find that perfection and show it forth. Everything that limits us we have to put aside.’ Fulgrim, Graham NcNeill
There is a phrase I am seeing more and more often on social media today. It seems like a somewhat good phrase, it seems useful as perhaps a measure but a measure against whom?
“I am not good enough”, “I want to be good enough”, “you are good enough”; many variations thereof. It means you are either striving to, can easily arrive at, or have achieved some degree of minimum measure. Who is it though, that decides the measure? What is good enough?
I don’t want to be good enough, to me that sounds like admitting defeat…
The Pursuit of Perfection
It has often been said that the goal is everything is to achieve perfection, that one can do it. Our friend Fulgrim, in Graham’s excellent fall from grace biopic (or ‘Fulgrim goes down to Georgia’ as I’ve jokingly called it), devotes his life to achieving perfection in all things, he cannot accept the idea that he, with his mental, physical, and genetic advantages cannot achieve perfection.
We will stop there so that we don’t ruin a good story for one and because we have other points to make. We will come back to this one later, though.
Let us explore what ‘Good Enough’ means, shall we? The Oxford English Dictionary tells us;
ADJECTIVE
Satisfactory, adequate.
Adequate. Satisfactory. It feels like we have just passed a test and been awarded a gold star by some unseen authority. It feels like we received a participation trophy. It sounds like ‘Just OK’, think about that, do you want to produce an adequate, OK, mediocre piece of art or do you want to produce a great piece of art?
Now, the pursuit of perfection is all well and good but completely impossible to attain in a mortal lifetime. One can chase it, one can seek and fight for it but one must hold firm in one’s mind that to think one could ever actually be perfect in any way is inviting madness to settle themselves into the spare room and start going through the fridge.
Perfection is a moving target, the closer you get to it, the further away it moves. To think that you can catch it would be an exhausting and frustrating affair. It would also mean asking our friend insanity to sign a lease and start moving their stuff in permanently. Fulgrim fell because of this one of those famous – ah – fatal failures; pride.
In the Name of Love
What’s an obscure musical reference in the name of love? Our Irish friends had a rather valid point, though, in that excellent song. If you now have the guitar solo stuck in your head, you are very much welcome.
Pride is not, necessarily, a bad thing as long as you know when to let it go. This is either a skill you learn, or a quality you have; I haven’t decided what I think yet.
Pride, as regulars of my comments and blog know, is something I place great store in when it comes to our work. I have discussed with many of the ‘let the editors fix the bad grammar and spelling’ or the ‘language is constantly evolving so those old rules of grammar and spelling don’t necessarily apply because they’re changing’ brigade or similar groupings.
One must have pride in one’s work, pride to produce the very best that one is capable of. Equally, one would be, therefore, ashamed if people were to see my work as anything close to inferior. I pulled 9 books from Amazon and other outlets because they needed to be polished and they truly weren’t.
Let me use an example, for those of you who have children or intend to. Would you take your children outside in dirty clothes, dirty faces, and uncombed hair? Why not? You love your children unconditionally and, to you, they are beautiful even when covered with spew at 5am. Other people will just accept them as they are and anyone that judges you is a nasty individual who doesn’t understand.
There is a reason that we have whole websites dedicated to people who have a very ‘come as you are’ attitude to late night shopping at stores such as Walmart. I would at least make a half-hearted effort to look mid-way presentable under those circumstances even if I didn’t feel like it.
Some people might call that caving to social pressure but I call it pride. You see, those that know me are very much aware that I really have no interest in what other people think about me; I don’t follow the latest fashions, I wear clothes I’m comfortable in or that were thoughtful gifts. I style my hair as I like it, I go to work and do my job then go home. I owe nothing to nobody except my wife, family, and close friends.
My work does not follow trend or fashion either. I write what I want to write, in a style I’m good at writing in. I’m also going to make damn sure that my writing goes out into the world as well-presented – with its face washed and hair nicely combed – as I can make it.
The Quest For Excellence
It is said that, if you aim for perfection, you will at least reach excellence. Just because perfection is unachievable, there is no reason not to try, right? Now, many are confused by the dichotomy; why put all that effort into trying to achieve something you know you cannot ever hope to reach? While, you hasten to add, tempering your pride whilst also taking it in your work?
Well, nobody ever said that this was going to easy, did they? Let me try and explain how I see it;
  1. Take pride in the quality of your work. It’s your work and therefore your responsibility. You cannot count on other people to do your job for you.
  2. At the same time, do not let pride blind you; you might think your work is perfect or reaching perfection when it is actually a mess of clashing chaos Slaanesh would be proud of. Accept and listen to feedback because you’re too close to see flaws. Accept constructive criticism.
  3. It is a careful balancing act to be a writer; you do have to practise, we have to develop, and you have to make mistakes. You are learning not what is right in general but right for you as you develop your own style.
  4. Have the pride to know when your work is good and be able to tell the difference between constructive criticism and simple sabotage on your confidence. If you have sufficient pride in your work, you have the ability to recognise when it can be improved.
  5. If you aim for perfection, you will at least approach excellence. Know, however, when to stop; you can ruin a good scene or piece of art by over-improving or over-editing. I’ve ruined many portraits of Sable by trying to refine this feature or that. He ended up looking like an angry old man!
So; what does that mean? It means that this is a far from easy job that you learn as you go along. That is where ‘good enough’ comes from. If you focus on achieving perfection as your only goal, you will never finish because everything will have a flaw or two. I have re-read scenes I have written and gone on to self-publish the book they are in. I see flaws, better ways to say things, another way to take a thread, ways to make the jokes funnier but I have to leave them alone.
Remember every lesson you learn and apply it to your next book or piece of art. What I would call my first generation character portraits were, to me, quite good when I produced them. They were good enough for the purpose I had given them. They filled empty spaces on The Chronicles of Enoch generation one website. They gave people ideas of concepts.
But, I later decided, they could be better, they didn’t quite fulfil my vision. I could do better, and that’s the secret I’m leading you towards here.
You can be as Good as you Allow Yourself to Be.
Here it is, why “good enough” should never be; first or maybe second drafts might be good enough but you can do better.
Generation One of The Chronicles of Enoch Character Portraits were good enough but the current generation are much better. In some cases, the alterations were minor and nobody but me would notice them but they made the end result better. On other occasions, the old portrait was scrapped and a new one produced. The Stranger, oddly enough, had the most redesigns. The posture, attitude, background, and appearance of ‘him’ now perfectly represents ‘his’ character. The new Lucifer pleases me immensely, that expression and posture of barely suppressed rage and veiled threat sums him up rather well.
The hard part is learning when you can improve and when you need to start again as well as when you need to leave well alone. That is why most successful or famous writers recommend at least three full self-edits on a manuscript after first draft. I had a series of chats with Ian Irvine, a very successful sci-fi fantasy author and he does four or five quite often. His reasoning is this; yes, the publisher’s editors will fix things but he is obliged – by his own internal code – to send them the very best version of his work that he is capable of.
Editors are for fixing basic grammar and the odd spelling mistake or few that you missed. They are not for continuity errors, character flaws, plot holes, or for fixing a badly put together story. Your job as to give the editor as little work to do as possible. Might sound counter-productive if you’re paying them yourself and they charge by the page or by the word, right?
Wrong. If there is a lot to fix, then they might miss stuff because it gets lost in the mess. If you have fewer errors, they can pay those better attention and be more adequately focussed on how to fix them well. Also, said editor will like you and maybe start to offer you discounts as time goes by. Do not forget, many editors are readers, some of them are writers, and all of them have contacts they can put a good word to about you.
Also, be aware, there are agents on twitter and they watch…don’t you Jo?
Conclusion
Simply put, you need a combination of pride, humility, integrity, and grit to be a successful writer. You need to make sure that the world at large sees the very best version of everything you produce and you need to make sure you do everything in your power to make that so.
You might think that the “grammar police” on Facebook and Twitter are a pain but they are actually good practise. If you try to get out of the habit of allowing spelling and grammar mistakes unnecessary place in your ‘professional’ social media posts, you might allow them to wander innocently into your work.
You see, achieving excellence in anything is about discipline and, ask any former soldier, that discipline will, once you’ve got it, leak into every single aspect of your life. It won’t be something you can turn on and off on demand, it will become a part of your character.
Oddly enough, agents are not looking for the number of followers you have, the number of books you have self-published or the number of fans your work may have. They are looking for discipline. You see, when an agent offers you a contract, they are making an investment. An investment of money, of time, and of their reputation and they are making it in you.
They want to see that discipline I mentioned because, if they are to get long-term return on their investment, they need that, to be sure you’ll keep producing. The publishing houses, too, are looking for the same and want to hear the agent tell them about you in those terms. They are going to be giving you money based on future sales of your book, they would like to know they will recoup at least that much, that they can rely on you when necessary.
Take Neil Gaiman, for example, the man is rarely at home. He is always on the go, touring by himself or with Amanda and the kids, promoting, selling, show-running, getting involved. I can guarantee you that there are days that he doesn’t want to do it (and I think occasionally having a problem committing to my 1 blog post a day goal) but he has that pride and that disciple and he does it. Look how he almost died of flu in Australia but kept going. He is not alone.
Being a successful author of the kind you want to be does not mean having all the time in the world to relax and write, not always. Some successful writers are busier than you can imagine but, it will pay off. Look at Stephen King, he’s done all of that and now he’s relaxing, watching Netflix, and making snarky yet entertaining comments on Twitter (I love you really, Steve).
If you want to be Steve, you have to work like Neil and observe his work ethic. There’s a reason my emails to people like Anne Rice got the ‘too busy to answer you’ reply (though Miss Anne did it in such a lovely way and you can tell she wrote it herself which counts for something) when you send them an excerpt or hello request; they really are too busy! Their schedules would make a great many of you cry, believe me.
So; Integrity (be honest with yourself and as critical of your output as you need to be in order to assure your best possible work), Discipline (to make and stick to goals, to push yourself when you don’t feel like it or feel ‘writer’s block’ exculpating itself into either your mind or vocabulary), Focus (on what is important and on what to improve and when to stop), Honesty (with yourself and everyone you deal with), Excellence (never stop chasing it, not ever).
That is, indeed, it, although it is a process and that is why your will never achieve perfection. You can keeping improving and maybe catch a sight of it through the bushes and try to sneak up on it before it sees you but that time is much hard work away.

An Escape from Blame

As I mentioned in my previous article, passing on through it, humans don’t like to take blame. If something happened; either close by or far away, we let it happen one way or another. In fairness, before you all attack me, there are some things far away we can not really do anything about due to distance or circumstance but, in today’s Age of Information of everything is shareable, tweetable and so forth, as Obama started, we can continue in saying “Yes! We can!”.
 
Let us step backwards one moment though and come back from saving the world to beginning where what makes such a thing possible is begun. Let’s begin with this thought;
 
“Everything which ever happened to you is your fault”
 
Think about that for a moment, digest it, mull it over. Now argue with me! That’s right, you do not have control over what other people choose to do, how they are, the things they do. You are right but you can control how you react to those circumstances. I know ths is going to be a tough article because it is one which is most likely to upset a lot of people for a number of simple reasons. There are some things which we genuinely feel we cannot control but ask yourself to consider these scenarios first;
 
A friend of mine was brutally and horribly raped. I cannot even come close to imagining what that is like. Nothing I have lived can give me true understanding of what she went through. This same woman founded a local charity for helping other victims of rape move past the guilt, the suffering, the hate and rebuild their lives.
Another woman I know lost her husband of 40 years to cancer, she now fights for cancer research to be better funded and recognised.
A man who lost both of his legs climbs Mount Everest.
 
Alright; these are extremes but it does not change one simple fact; it is me who decides how I shape my future and how I look at myself. Look at this, I was in a long series of terrible, bad and downright awful relationships, ending with the one I left the US because of. She was controlling, abusive, nasty, hateful and all that stuff; mentally and physically abusive. I let her be. Here’s the thing, I read a while ago letters and emails and cards I had written to her, missives to myself as part of my therapy and my first thought was this “what a spineless little worm!” but this obvious invertibrate was me! I allowed her to control me and I allowed her to get away with all that I did. I did then and always do decide what happens to me and what I deserved. The day I decided that I deserved better was the day that I left No-one could make that decision for me but me.
 
So why, Alan the image from Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Museum clearly displaying the struggle for racial equality? Is this an article about personal struggle or a large struggle? Are they that different really? I experiecne what I allow, we experience what we allow. Surely you cannot say black people are responsibile for what white people did to them? In part yes they are. Why? Fear. Everyone fears to be the frst to stand up and go against the flow, the staus quo, the very tide itself. Ms. Rosa Parkes refused to move ona bus and they beat her. MLK refused to accept the status quo and they killed him. Various black and white people refused to accept division in the world and were harmed, beaten,. even killed for their refusal. Their resistance changed the world and, like that single stone they started the avalanche! By refusing to be beaten they gave courage to everyone else and the movement was begun! So, MLK, Rosa Parkes, Malcolm X and others decided to NOT let things just happen to them and look what they began! After they started others followed. Jim Crowe was destroyed, a black man became president, the N word is no longer acceptable. Why did no-one rise up before? They were surely afraid, they would be singled out and they and their family punished and even killed. It remained that way until along came someone for whom ideals, justice, RIGHT were more important than life itself. Such people are indeed rare and, while I say this I ask myself; would I be one to stand up in the face of tyranny knowing my life is forfeit no matter what I do? Knowing my wife and kids could be harmed because of what I say or do? I truly do not know there but I hope so.
 
But it boils down to this and I will ask you simply; what are you prepared to allow yourself to endure? What do you deserve to suffer? Can you end your suffering or make it matter?
 
Today’s society of share everything on Facebook or tweet it, compose a sad video on YouTube etc is all geared to denying responsibility for our circumstances;
 
My life sucks and and it awful, please pity me! What are YOU doing to make it better? WHAT is wrong with your life? WHY is it like that?
People don’t understand me and treat me awfully. HAVE you tried explaining yourself differently or better? have you tried asking people WHAT they don’t understand?
Everyone criticises me and is cruel. MAYBE criticism is good and your skin needs some thickening? WHAT are they criticising you for? HOW are they criticising you? WHAT are you doing about it?
 
You see maybe I’m weird, maybe I’m odd but I came out of that awful relationship I mentioned and, like I said she put me through the mill and I went through a significant degree of living Hell. When I got clear adn my family were talking to me they may well have noticed something strange; a reticence, an unwillingness to talk about it. Not due to PTSD, bad memories, denial or any of that. I was angry. I was incandescently enraged; not with her; she had behaved as she thought right but with me, myself, for allowing it to happen! I did not want sympathy, I did not want comfort, I did not want understanding. I caused that situation, I let it happen, I did not stop it earlier than I did.I had to make sure it would never happen again! It was me who drive my family sick with worry. Yes she did stuff to me but I allowed her to and I let me do it AFTER she had already shown me what she was; her nature. See look at this, if a dog bites me, I cannot truly be angry at the dog, it is his nature to bite when afraid. If I keep going to where he’s hiding knowing he’ll bite me, then I am to blame and, frankly quite stupid! You laugh but we have all been guilty. That job, those relationships, that family, those friends, that lifestyle, We’ve all been there, we’ve all done it. Until it became enough, right?
 
What made Rosa Parkes decide not to move back on the bus that day? What made Dr. King start preaching as he did? What made Ghandi refuse to back down? Why did Jesus start preaching, John the Baptist? We may never truly know why but we do know one thing for sure; they did. We know they did and we also know this; we can too, even if our Big Moment is smaller, more personal, it doesn’t change the most important part of what saying “this shall continue no more” involves. The bravery; the sheer undeniable unshakeable faith in doing what is Right! Not everyone is brave enough and to teach and every last one of you who won your struggle; whether you changed the world or your job; I here today salute you! I salute you all! Here is the secret I can now tell you;
 
“It doesn’t matter what others think, it matters what you think, period. Your struggle is yours alone, your victory, huge! Fight on and be proud you fought, but fight!”
 
Let’s be honest, everyone can post on Facebook and receive sympathy but very few can fight like lions to change their world and maybe other people’s. Very few, remember that.

Entitlement vs Resentment

“When they discover the centre of the universe, a lot of people will be very disappointed that they are not in it”
 
Well here’s a polemic one but one I think is important. I have actually been thinking of this one for a while but two factors brought out in the urge to write about it today;
 
Having recently re-read the pretty darn decent “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson (if you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so).
Watching mediocre writers get all hissy whenever someone tells them their work is not perfect.
 
So, Alan, is this a bad mood you are in today? No Sir/Ma’am/Other it is not, simply a realistic assessment of what I see around me but thank you for asking.
 
We live a world where everything comes easily; news, information, entertainment, fantasy, desire, products, movies, love, even groceries; they all come right to our device in the blink of an eye and the click of a mouse. Everything is easy and comes when we want it to, pretty much. I want a movie to watch? I go to website Z and stream it, watch it, my need is satisfied, one bunny is now happy! Is it a good thing, though, that everything is easy? Well…
 
I watch my Facebook feed, my Instagram feed (if it’s actually also called that, I don’t know) and I see it all the time..
 
  1. Oh! My x, y and z is doing this and I feel so, like oh about it, please pity me!
  2. Life is awful and we all need to commit suicide and write sad poems about it so people will like our pages and make us cool.
  3. My random musings about the nature of how important my suffering is are going to be the Unholy Grail of vampiric, suicidal,S&M, magical creatures with gender uncertainty issues!
 
The list goes on and on. There is a ready and immediate place for people to express themselves immediately and, to a degree, anonymously, and express themselves they do. The lonely and rejected can (and this is where it starts to get really ironic) meet lots of other lonely and rejected people so they can share their feelings of loneliness and rejection together. It’s becoming dangerous though, look at that whole “Blue Whale” game and “13 Reasons Whu-Ay-Uh-Aaaaay Did they make it??”.Ooooh let’s commit suicide and self harm the enthusiastic teenagers cry! What the sweet and holy f is going on??
 
Entitlement, that’s what. The world owes me something. I am important. My feelings are important. You must listen to me. You must allow me to express myself. You must accept me for what I am. You cannot judge me. You cannot criticise me.
 
Excuse me but why? If I must accept you in all your grey non-confOrmist conformity, then you had better accept me in mine and, in the words of the great Denis Leary;
 
I’m asshole and proud of it!
 
When it comes to being forced, pushed and obligated to accept someone because they feel that I should. No Sir/Ma’am/Other I am not obliged in any way.shape or form to do what you want me to. If your entitled right to do such things is to be accepted by me, my right to disagree with you in an asshole-like fashion is equally acceptable, correct?
 
Ok then, I am glad we agree, thank you.
 
Another field of entitlement has clearly affected us all and is right out there. I bet you most of us have used it. I know I have, our little dirty secret called “Self Publishing”…ooooh I said a dirty word! It used to be called, a long time ago, “Vanity publishing” but they realised that didn’t sell too well as people really do not like having the negative sides of themselves revealed do they? Unless they’re of that group of folks who talk about those kinds of feelings a lot, that is! It is what it is though, we are appealing to our own vanity are we not, somewhat? Think about it and drop me some ideas in the comments, ok? I’ll skip over that and press on.
 
We are certain, we are definite that we have produced a masterpiece and it should be made known to the world entire lest they wither and die in it’s absence. As many of you know, pre self publishing, getting your Magnum Opus into print was a Herculean effort very few achieved. We could spend our entire lives trying; canvassing agents, entering contests, submitting to circulars and journals or magazines. We could spent 5, 10, 15, 20 years or more getting rejection slip after rejection slip and that was if we were lucky! Most of the time we got nada, nothing, zipperoo! I’ve been there, many of us have. it was rough but, you know what? We kept at it and here we are today.
 
Now do you know what the opposite of entitled is? I believe it is this; knowing what you are, what your limitations are and just accepting them, being at home in your own skin. You need no validation from anyone and so do what you like because it’s pleasant. You expect nothing from anyone and so, when you fail to receive it, you’re not disappointed, you’re actually sort of relieved because that’s less hard work isn’t it?
 
In my opinion these entitled writers are never going to be successful, not in the long term. No more than these recycled pop groups, TV, books and movies will, they will rise, they will vanish, they will be forgotten. Why? There is so much information overload out there that lastest best thing will soon be replaced by next best thing before the former can even blink.
 
How can we be successful then? We have to learn how to grow, to not be entitled, to not be arrogant and think that we can do no wrong. We must be prepared to be a failure, to be discovered and exposed as failures and then have the wherewithal to stand up, dust off our pants and ask the most important question in the universe;
 
“What did we learn from that then?”
 
 

A Sublime Supremacy of Being

Religion is as necessary to reason as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other. A reasoning being would lose his reason, in attempting to account for the phenomena of Nature, had he not a supreme being to refer to; and well has it been said, thatt if there had been no god, mankind would have been obliged to invent one.” George Washington.
 
Since the dawn of recorded Time, or at least the parts that we know about, Man has encountered things they did not understand. Gifted with curiousity but not, unlike Mr. Stark, either blessed or curséd with knowledge.
 
A Natural Urge toward Following
 
As children expect their parents to have the answers for everything, so too do the led expect their leaders to have access to something similar. Afterall, why have a leader who is, when you get down to it, exactly like the rest of us?
 
See, it is human nature to follow around the biggest one or, at least, the person that has the most big ones in his employ, rather than decide things for themselves. Humans like to delegate responsibility for the big stuff and then complain about how they are doing it. It was eventually called politics.
 
The crops fail. The leader needs to fix that.
Terrible storms unexpectedly wash away Mister Uga’s House. Leader’s fault, right?
People from across the river stealing our sheep? Leader needs to do something about that.
 
Now, with the simple things such as executions and imprisonment, taxes, border security, etc. the Leader has it relatively easy. He collects taxes, he pays soldiers, job pretty much done. The more metaphysical stuff like weather and geographical phenomena though…no amount of soldiers can help there…
 
So, one day, the Leader of UgUgBurk sits down with a wizened old man who everyone has always considered so crazy he came through the other side and is actually considered stark, raving sane; there’s a certain wisdom can be obtained from someone like that. They don’t think in straight lines like other people; they get creative.
 
The leader needs creative because his tribe has been going through a lot and, of course, he’s to blame. He would like his future to continue containing him for as long as possible. The old man sucks his gums and wrinkles his face in concentration. He hums and mutters, rocks and moans. He holds up a finger.
 
“Ever’thin’ had to come from somewhere, right?” He finally states rather than asks, nodding to himself wisely; his face so wrinkled that, from this angle, it is impossible to know whether his eyes are open or not. “Man comes from mother, foal from mare, kid from nanny, always been that way.”
The leader pulls at his straggly beard in thought and, taking a slug of his fermented goat’s milk. He nods slowly.
“So ever’thin had to come from somethin’, right?” the old man continued, eying the drink jealously, he hadn’t even been offered any, shortages they said. “Yer don’ jus’ get eggs pop outta nowhere with chickens in ’em, right?”
This was indeed correct and realisation was starting to dawn on the leader’s face.
“So, there’s this big fella in the sky who makes ever’thin and makes sure it keeps happening. Made the first people coz we don’ fall in raindrops or nuffin, right?”
The hand grasping the horn beaker of fermented milk was shaking, knuckles whitening.
“So, like we’s responsible fer our own kiddos, and ye’s responsible fer all a’ them lot,” he jerked a ragged-nailed hand to the flap of the tent. “Him or her in’t sky be responsible fer us, right?”
“So it is his fault.” the leader finally spoke, his word coming out like two bolders grinding together.
The old man beamed, something the leader never wanted to see him do again. He drained his drink and slammed the cup down on the little table beside his chair. “You are the high priest, get started.”
 
And so it began…
 
The Supreme Being
 
Now, this is not to say that there is not some supreme being or beings out there. There is about as much evidence for the existence of God, or a god/goddess, as there is for their non-existence; something people call an impasse. I am agnostic in my opinions, more of a spiritual type, much to the suprise of many.
 
I think people can believe in whoever they like as long as it does no harm to others. Now, of course, those associated with certain religions have, indeed, been using their religion as an excuse to commit or cover for acts decent people consider reprehensible. They rely on the fact that most people like to be led and told what to do rather than think for themselves, and lead the most impressionable of these to their cults which, if one were to be honest, bear no more resemblence to the original message of their supposed prophet than a strawberry does to a banana.
 
Common sense and logic tells you this; the movement started by a humble Israelite who espoused selling one’s possessions to aid the poor, being nice to everyone, and free healthcare would not approve of gigantic churches, presided over by obnoxious bombasts who collect millions of dollars from their followers. He had simpler tastes and would probably do something drastic to such a church were he to personally enter one.
 
A reasoning being, one would think, would be able to work this out with no trouble but, here’s the clincher, it seems that reasoning beings are in rather short supply on this planet. People will believe anything a grinning rich person tells them to believe.
 
You see, human beings are essentially programmed to believe in something superior to themselves that is without mortal fault and of unimpeachable reputation. Be this being the King, the Queen, The Emperor/Empress, President, Grand Dictator/Benevolent People’s Happy Man, god, goddess, or combination of the previous. Be it the rich TV or movie star, the music sensation, the businessperson with more money than people can invent a real number for, it does not matter. What matters is that they’re better than you.
 
Here’s a test; British people, can you imagine Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, sitting on watching TV with ol’ Phil, leaning to one side of her armchair and unleashing a titanic fart? If you can, well done, for you have passed the test.
 
The point is, in these supposedly enlightened days, it is still the predominant belief in human societies across the world that there is a ‘Ruling Class’ of people that have the automatic Right to Rule and are, by dint of this, better and superior to everyone else.
 
Since the first big bloke with a the biggest stick belted the next biggest one into unconsiousness and looked over at the rest of the group to see if any of them wanted to be the next to develop a headache, this behaviour has been built into us. Since the first social ladder was built, there have always been people prepared to stab others in the feet to get a little higher up it.
 
When it will occur to people that nobody who cheats, lies, steals, brown-noses, or smarms their way to the top, they are not going to be a nice person. They are going to be a selfish and egocentrical individual, that is the only way they can achieve such heights as it were, in the certain knowledge that they deserve it and others do not.#
 
The New Gods
 
As Neil Gaiman so accurated represented in his book and TV series, American Gods, the human desire to create gods to believe in is unending. In today’s modern world, many have moved from worshipping what we might call the ‘Traditional’ or ancestral gods to adoring the new gods; the famous, the wealthy, the internet, the things they wish to possess and those that represent them, the glitzy versions of the old gods.
 
Even apparent atheists or wavering agnostics firmly and passionately believe in something even if that something is that this person in that television series is the sexiest being alive, that this TV show is the best in the existence of television, that this performing artist outperforms all others, that this vehicle is superior to all others, that this sports team embodies the sport like no other, or that this politician is the perfect person to fulfil this political role. They believe, they have faith, they reject dissenting opinion, they have a creed of sorts, they have multiple scripture relating to the subject of their adoration; that equals religion does it not? It fulfils all the criteria.
 
Create or Created
 
Of course there are many theories about belief. The previous section touched on an important one which I think Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have explained much better than I ever will.
 
The competing ideas are these;
 
Faith in something, belief in it causes it to come into being if there is enough and disappear if there is not.
 
The existence of something creates belief once it is revealed and any belief in it helps to sustain it.
 
To simplify that, our belief in concepts either creates personifications of it that we direct our worship towards or our worship of concepts sustains the real force behind everything.
 
That is why I am careful to avoid assigning a specific name to The Creator in The Chronicles of Enoch. I use this as an example because it is, as it turns out, a good one.
 
In the Chronicles we have;
 
  • Angels and demons as well as nephilim who know The Creator exists and have often met Him (the male pronoun is only used because ‘It’ is considered disrespectful and because of the force of habit. Also the reality is rather too complicated to translate well into English).
  • Various Christians, lapsed or otherwise, who worship various versions of God and Jesus.
  • Various Jewish denominations who worship and call Him ‘Hashem’.
  • Nature-worshippers who adore and serve The Mother or various representations of Her.
  • Cultists that worship Lucifer but acknowledge the existence of the Judeochristian God.
  • Muslims who worship Allah.
  • Hindus who worship their gods.
  • Buddhists and Taoists who worship a formless force.
  • Athiests who worship (though they don’t often realise that is what they are doing), many of the newer forces.
 
If a Creator Exists
 
This is, I feel, important to explore, for the sake of completeness and enquiry. Let us extend, at least, the theoretical possibility that a Creator does exist and is a living, eternal being; what would that being be like?
 
Let us be clear, were this being to exist, it would be responsible for the Big Bang and everything in existence. It did not just create life on Earth but everywhere else too (unless it has help now that it did the main part of creation and made the universe. Maybe each galaxy or solar system has its own Creator but for now let us assume there is only one for our Universe.
 
Such a being would, let us be honest, so far beyond our ability to comprehend as we are to the bacteria that living within and upon us do. We are their entire world, their life and their death. They have no idea that we are a living creature so vast from their perspective. Maybe they have theories or even a religion or two; intelligent ideas based on observation. Our opinions on intelligence are very much skewed by ours being the superior and only kind, afterall.
 
If this being exists, then our universe did not when it decided to create it. There was, so various beliefs claim, a formless void. We could never, being from a material universe and made of that universe, the idea of absolutely nothing in our terms, is impossible to imagine. Even a vacuum can have light in it or something. This would be the absence of Light, possibly of Time, and of any material or physical laws we are familiar with. That is where this being came from.
 
He, if such a limited idea of gender could be applied, is so alien that even aliens – all of them throughout the universe – would consider Him alien. It would be a being that created our natural laws but would not be, by definintion, subject to them (just like those that create religions appear exempt to the laws they give their followers).
 
If such a being is aware of us as individuals, it is unlikely that it would be concerned about our behaviour in anything approaching minute detail, I would think but, again, how could I know? We’re talking about an intelligence, here, that is beyond my ability to even start to define, from a ‘universe’ or multiverse I could not even begin to adequately make up in my writing.
 
Perhaps we have the over all Supreme Being and lesser, locally Transcendant beings that take care of the smaller details and paperwork?
 
Conclusion
In the Chronicles of Enoch, we have the existence of The Creator together with the main Judeochristian pantheon. We also have the gods of various faiths appear (though most of them were nephilim) as well as beings we cannot explain the existence of; beings which appear to predate the angels or were, at least, there on Earth before the angels arrived to Watch.
 
Religion does not answer all of humanity’s questions because religion was hijacked by Lucifer in his first major operation in undermining the human race, he went a long way to ensure that message was as fragmented and confusing as possible; to give humans a least a nugget of doubt, deep down in their souls, that they truly were all alone in the universe and that their faith would be, ultimately, all for nothing. That is where our friend, The Stranger comes in.
 
We, instead, float a spiritual idea or several and let people decide for themselves what they want to take from it all. The angels are real, there is a Creator, there is a devil, there are demons of all descriptions. Those stories are all real. We have the Apocalypse and the Horsemen thereof, so that story is also real but not completely, our version is missing quite a lot of important information. For example, this is not the first Apocalypse, something went wrong with the last one.
 
The Creator plays no active part in the series at all. He is present, He is mentioned (in a variety of guises), and is said to be behind it all but He never takes the stage as it were. I made no effort to explain something I could not possibly describe aside from other’s impressions of Him and their experiences.
 
I made a very deliberate point to keep most of the characters originating from the Biblical accounts to be familiar in many ways but have a few jarring or unusual details in order to communicate that the story had been corrupted.
 
Whether there is a Creator or not, or even a multitude of them, I cannot say, though it is my personal opinion that it is likely. I am just of the opinion that nobody really knows very much about them because, perhaps, thngs have been carefully arranged that way.
 
Perhaps if we took all the good belief in such a being brings out in people and forgot all of the very confused dogma humans with an agenda – humans who were after exercising power over others and taking the blame away from themselves – added on later, the world would be a better place.
 
Maybe, in it’s own small way, that is what The Chronicles hope to achieve.