On All Hallow’s Eve’s Eve, 2020; Or, A Potential Infestation of Jesters

(Disclaimer: I’m currently in a noisy environment in which people insist on standing uncomfortably close to me, so my mind is a bit jarred. This may result in scrambled thoughts, including misperceptions and errors of phrasing. I can work quickly under this kind of pressure, but the end quality may be up for debate. Though this blog is not meant to be gospel–merely jottings of fleeting musings.)

My, my. What a year this has been so far. Leaving aside for now the overall state of the United States and Earth more broadly – I’d say that they’ve largely caught up to where I was psychologically in the aughts, at least on the surface – I’ve had some intriguing and baffling adventures confined largely to the obscurity of the personal, and I daresay I’ve even experienced a revelation or two.

A friend who’s been staying at the house for a few months by this point has been interested lately in the role of the jester, the fool, the clown–how they impact both human society and the universe at large. I’m reminded of a story project I set aside sometime in high school, which is enough back-burners away to be considered on indefinite hiatus but also not quite forgotten. Like the film adaptations of Dune, The Hobbit, and The Dark Tower, it will probably move forward at some point, and I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see where the quality levels are by then.

Clowns, according to this friend, flip things–one might be found on a sweltering summer day in Florida bent over in a parka and shivering, or mourning tearfully at a merry event. I suppose the clown’s individual behavior needn’t be the only thing flipped. A clown can flip joy into pain and vice versa, according to them: for what they fight is less important than rebelliousness itself.

I then proposed a “clown wheel”: one two-headed Cat-Dog clown, joined anywhere from the feet to the waist, with a head at each of two polar ends. This harlequin is either strapped to or is part of a large wooden wheel, not unlike those used on game shows. When the wheel is spun, each clown likely spends about an equal time on top and at the bottom. Perhaps one clown wears one half of the Greek sock-and-buskin duality. A comic age, clowned by Tragedy, followed by a tragic age, clowned by Comedy, and so on. These eras are obviously not entirely binary, any more than are the crests and troughs of liquid waves: we may feel the waxing and the waning of each respective dominant mode, and we can sometimes prepare for the advent of the next. To quote Mandalorian warriors, “This is the way.”

When I typed “clown wheel” into Google Images, I was somewhat unsurprised to find some tarot-related results.

Life has gotten surreal internally for both of us. We’re not entirely convinced that this unease didn’t cause the broader 2020 ills rather than be caused by it, or maybe a compounding feedback loop of both. But in any case, given that the general universe has felt so… intense to us of late, we feel that Halloween could get really weird. Possibly a clown purge–at least a psychological one, if not a violent one. I’d prefer the latter but cannot guarantee any particular outcome, as I am merely an individual with limited scope and influence.

Or it could be almost completely unremarkable, in which case the buildup itself will have clowned us. That might be the biggest caper yet.

Snowball Momentum and the Slow Trickle of Words

To say that I have been writing fiction slowly would be quite the understatement. (To put it less charitably, it’s like shitting glass: each shard to emerge has been exquisite, by all readers’ accounts, which flatters me, but the process has been so agonizing that I cannot say whether the words I have put out have been worth the effort thus far.)

I’ve found that traveling can help – I’m now at a Starbucks not far from the house, but recent excursions have included Silverthorne, Colorado and Key Largo, Florida – but I simply cannot afford to do that every week just yet.

Perhaps blogging about travel will bring in some potential readers? Possibly even a faucet’s sluggish drip of revenue, unless I can book any official (read: paid) gigs for travel blogging. I initially planned this blog to be either a slate for generalized musings or a hub for talking about fantasy books, so I might split another branch of ‘net to concentrate on stories from my meandering real-life adventures. If not another (linked) blog, than perhaps at least a separate tag under which to file those accounts.

As far as I am aware, I have maybe one or two readers on here as of this writing. On the way back from Key Largo (I think I had just passed through a place called Yulee and not quite reached Georgia’s southern border), I spoke over the phone with an old friend and writing mentor, and we speculated about an Alice in Wonderland-themed blog, that being my seemingly random wanderings from place to place and encountering oddly specific curiosities. (For instance, I was more or less attacked by enormous seagulls at a rest stop in Washington state earlier this year while trying to finish a burrito…. As far as I’m aware, this hasn’t befallen anyone else I know.)

I happen to love those sorts of things, the oddly specific. I recall Scalzi posting similar things, so perhaps this is a promising niche.

I suppose what I might require is increased diversity among my own creative endeavors. Additionally, I find that privately discussing my projects really does shine a fresh light on their flaws and on their potential. Aloud or textually, with others or even with myself, it truly helps. I actually seem to be making a bit more headway in my main current piece, even if my most recent writing session posted a scant twenty-three words (I usually get two or three hundred). I’m now holding myself to greater standards concerning the overall arc of the story, including digging deeper into plots and characters as well as keeping it all internally consistent. Trust me, it’s not easy, but it is quite rewarding once one does hammer it out the right way.

A Curious Selection

A couple days back, I was selling some old books at a local used bookshop. While I had initially intended to simply collect a bit of cash and be on my merry way, something caught my eye in the fantasy and science fiction hardcover section: a brown trade paperback called Storming the Reality Studio, edited by Larry McCaffery. I think perhaps I saw his surname and confused him for a McCaffrey (Anne, Todd, Georgeanne, and the like). Nevertheless, this 1992 anthology appears enriching, as its subtitle reads “A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Fiction.”

I recognized a number of contributors’ names: J.G. Ballard, William Gibson, Richard Kadrey, Jacques Derrida, Bruce Sterling, Marc Laidlaw, Thomas Pynchon, Rudy Rucker, Pat Cadigan, Samuel R. Delany, William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, and Don DeLillo. Many of them were unfamiliar to me: Misha, for instance, and Arthur Kroker are names I don’t seem to recall having come across up until now.

Needless to say, I used store credit to purchase this tome of wonders and am now in possession of hours of potential entertainment and wisdom. (Ursula K. Le Guin and David Brin get mentions in the bibliography, though I don’t believe either of them contributed directly; perhaps they are mentioned within?)

I had seven books out from the library at my last counting: two Elizabeth Bear novels, two Victoria/V.E. Schwab ones, a crisp-smelling hardback of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone, China Miéville’s Kraken, and an audiobook of Triss by Brian Jacques. Regarding the last one, I’ve had a bit of nostalgia lately for my sophomore year of high school, when I listened to the first four Redwall novels in publication order as well as Loamhedge. That coupled with my recent need to drive frequently across the western half of North Carolina, from near Raleigh to almost the Tennessean border, inspired me to embed myself in that series once again. Audiobooks are great for car trips–especially for those of us who drive a lot.

That said, I am trying to sit down in one place to read more often nowadays. I’m a flighty and antsy woman (walking stereotype of the absentminded creative!), and that aspect of my nature has helped me many times in the past. Still, there’s something about really getting into “the zone” and soaking up things like literature to let the stories and characters marinate for hours on end. Even after I emerge from holing up in the dark cave of whichever house or coffee shop I’ve been frequenting on a given day, these elements stay with me forever.

The other thing I’m trying to do more of nowadays is actually finish books. Even short stories. I have a careless habit of reading half or more of something before getting distracted by the shiny and the new. Not necessarily “new” as in just-published, as I read from various periods, but I have a trail of partially-read things strewn behind me, and I intend to rectify at least some of that. (Life is too short to spend too much time reading unappealing books, I might add. While I bear no ill will to most authors, I can’t read all of each one’s stuff, and simple time constraints force me to choose.)

I also need to finish writing more often. I’ve been toiling on what might be a short story – one that is probably going to remain as one of epic fantasy but might be reset in hidden corners of the “real” world – for at least a year now, and while I do love what I’ve gotten down, it’s been like pulling teeth. I’m trying to strike a balance between quality and efficiency, as I tend to be a perfectionist who spends forever tweaking the opening paragraph. I still don’t entirely know what the bulk of the narrative will contain, and the current ending might well change completely.

For today, I will crack Storming the Reality Studio to see how I like it. Perhaps I’ll also try and push forward a few sentences. No promises, but it doesn’t hurt to try!