A Roller Coaster Ride

Been a long time, Past Selves. A lot has gone on and a lot is going on.
Got a new therapist, which is working out well. I’ve got family drama regarding all my immediate family. Health, school, jobs, kids, all kinds of issues. But among all that chaos, a new certainty has emerged for me.

I’ve set myself a goal, that by the summer of 2020 I will go on a week long backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. I’ll have to be fully physically fit, mentally self reliant to the degree possible, to have acquired all the necessary gear, and know how to use it all well. I plan to do a little improvement every day, and have begun exercising every day for at least half an hour.

So now at least I have a tangible, timed goal beyond the vague “maybe someday”s that I’ve been using up until now to try to motivate myself. I feel like it’s actually something I can accomplish by then, and I know exactly what I need to do to make it there. It has already helped me a bit, and will continue to give me something concrete to focus on.

It’ll also help me with my ongoing low level prepping activities. Which paradoxically make me feel less fearful and anxious, as I’m actually doing something about my concerns instead of wallowing in them and feeling powerless. I cannot stop or mitigate huge disasters and cataclysms, but I can (at least in my own mind) increase the odds of my and my family’s survival. With so many health issues among us, living through a collapse may be much harder than for most, but I will do everything I can right now to improve our chances. I can’t control luck. We’ll live or we won’t, but it won’t be from lack of trying! “Never give up, never surrender.”

I guess that’s all for now, Past Selves. But then again, isn’t that enough?


Trying to get on the right path again

Hi there Past Selves. Long time no blog.

New year, new attempt at repairs on my life. I’m going to be making a concerted effort to get back to non-depression and improved functionality. Exercise, a new therapist, doing housework, etc. I am going to be tackling things my own way, instead of relying on methods that have not worked in the past.

One such change is, I am no longer going to try to be 100% self motivated or self sufficient. I am disabled. It took me a long time to accept that I need help, but it’s a fact and I have to plan around that. So I’m asking family members to remind, guide, and support my efforts, taking into account that I cannot go it alone. I need a support system and assistance to function effectively. It’s hard to admit that. But it’s the case and I can’t deny it any longer.

I was brought up with the image of the omnicompetent lone hero, but that’s a Libertarian fantasy that doesn’t exist any more than Ayn Rand’s macho Man Qua Man exists. It’s fooling myself, and I’ve done that far too long. I need a village, and I now realize that I already have one right here around me. Family and friends.

But I will also need to do the work myself. I can’t just slack off and let everyone do stuff for me. I will have to make changes in my own habits and life in order to succeed at this new future path. Once I’m prompted what to do, I have to DO it, commit to it and then actually perform, or I’m not really functional anyway. I can’t let my crutch become a crutch, if you know what I mean. Muscles not used regularly, atrophy.

Wish me the best of luck, Past Selves. I know I can do it, but I’ll need all the help I can get. Cheers.

Every little bit helps

Hello, Past Selves. Just a short post on depression, and how to fight it.

Three days ago I had a talk with my sister about coffee. It turned out to be a somewhat more memorable talk than I anticipated.

See, every morning I get up and make a pot of coffee. I pour myself a cup, and put some in a travel mug for my sister’s long commute to work. When my Mom gets up, she has a cup too. I also help get my niece and nephew ready for school. Simple stuff, right?

Well, with all the strain and time crunch my sister faces daily in this job, she informed me that my small efforts are actually huge from her perspective. Just knowing that she will get a hot cup of coffee, and that her kids are being taken care of, relieves considerable worry and stress for her on a daily basis. And believe me, she needs as little additional stress on her shoulders as she can not get.

Mom also said something similar later that day, that my simple chores for her are appreciated. The next day I told my therapist, who pointed out that I could learn to acknowledge the incremental accomplishments in my life. This only reinforced the impact of my conversation with my sister. It helped lighten the depression to hear this positive feedback. It felt good, gratifying, to find out how it helped my family to do these simple tasks every day.

I often get frustrated with what I see as a lack of progress, and what seems like futility of not accomplishing goals. But now I’m seeing that maybe my goals are the problem. I tend to aim high, and beat myself up when I fail to catapult myself to those lofty heights. It’s an ongoing pattern that’s hurt me all my life.

The therapist I mentioned earlier wants me to renew my cognitive behavioral practice, to retrain my brain and learn all over again how to shape my thoughts and feelings rather than just letting them happen helplessly. It worked once before, and got me out of a deep lifelong depression. This one’s no different, except in my point of view. And I know from experience that my point of view can be changed.

Wish me the best of luck, Past Selves. But meanwhile I’ll be doing more than wishing about it, or relying on luck. I’m going to make a concerted effort to refocus, retrain, and repair my own mind, to accentuate the positive, and to decide or discover what specific things I can do to fight the negative. To take some control, to whatever degree possible, of my own feelings and wrestle them into some semblance of a functional mindset.

I know I can do it. I did it once before, with less of a foundation for hope. My life back then was a train wreck, I had no hope of finding hope, but with great effort and amazing help I crawled out of the wreckage and dispersed that black cloud. I’ve been out of the hole, and I know the sunlight exists up there above ground. I just have to keep digging my way out of the cave.

Going up!

I’m Super, thanks for asking

Hi there, Past Selves.

I’m on a bit of a superhero kick right now. Just on a brief break from the novels, throwing together a bit of fanfic and what if. I might change a few names and publish someday if I’m feeling frisky enough.

Wish fulfillment pure and simple, starring myself by any other name. The premise is simple enough, an average Joe (or Mike in this case) finds a convenient reality shaper willing to grant one wish to a bystander, to prove their power is real. I’m wearing a hero T shirt, as I so often do, and ask to become that hero. Super, man!

The reality-shaper goes too far, actually transforming the entire world’s history to one where Suuu…ome Hero never existed before in comics, but “my” home planet was real, blew up, and sent a rocket baby to Earth.

Not only that, but other superheroes of all the popular Pantheons are retroactively justified in the new timeline. The origins of other heroes (and their villains), gets shoehorned in with as little change as possible… since the big change, the creation and destruction of an entire planet and people, has already set the stage. The baby rocket is recovered by secretive forces who experiment with it and its contents (not me, just skin flakes and the like).

In order to add over-arching drama, I needed a suitably large villain or threat. To fill that role, I made one other change, this one less invasive but closer to home. Mars is thought by (real life) science to have actually had the conditions for life, billions of years ago. So in my world, it did. A civilization, with enough science to know they lived on a dying world. Their minds preserved, they just need another life-bearing planet and bodies able to live on it. Well, lookee here, there’s one right next door! Just some pests to shoo off it and it’s ready to move in. Actually, those pests might make good host bodies, if they weren’t so weak and fragile; let’s experiment on them to enhance their abilities.

This becomes the go-to explanation for everyone and everything else; alien technology and DNA serves as a catalyst for all the other changes to the world.

And if that isn’t threat enough, there’s always that rogue reality-warper still out there. Maybe he changes his mind about altering the world, and the heroes find out that they won’t exist anymore if that happens?

I posit that the popular superheroes of the present did not exist as prior fictional characters, thus other franchises have to take their place in the altered past. In the case of my main hero, that’s easy, as he has a commercial rival with similar abilities to take up the slack. Also, not all of the current franchises fit the retconned premise I’m making up, and would remain fictional within the new timeline. No mutants, for example.

As I said, it’s just something to occupy my mind and writing practice for now, until I get back in the groove of my main work. This is how I write, skipping back and forth between one story and another, one world and another. Creating worlds that would be interesting to live in.

And granting power to myself as the main character, of course. That goes without saying.

The Future Will Suck, But…

But there’s some rays of hope, Past Selves.

Overall, the long term trend is, things are getting better. In nearly every category. The last couple of years’ uptick in reactionary violence and intolerance, is hopefully the last gasp of a dying paradigm.
But it’s going to get worse before it returns to getting better.

The early 21st Century will be I think, more turbulent than most of the 20th Century, which brought us 2 World Wars, the Cold War and the end of the Cold War, the Soviet era, Women’s Suffrage, Jim Crow and Civil Rights, Prohibition and the War On Drugs, the Sexual Revolution, the Internet and hacking, satellites, cell phones, discovery of DNA, the Moon landing, and a few other such minor changes and disruptions.

We face violent times, lots of refugees, lots of loss of life, property, resources, and security. Humanity as a whole will probably survive but many of us won’t, or will suffer greatly. The species will muddle through. I predict a lot of muddling. And a lot of selfish, avoidable dickery from the usual suspects.

If nothing else, the changes in our environment will be with us for centuries. Our warmest regards to our descendants!

We can work to preserve things in our immediate surroundings, to improve conditions for those around us and to develop and maintain a more sustainable (physically and socially) life.

If everyone did that we wouldn’t have the world we have now. But if you do it, now and ongoing, you can at least improve the part of the world that you can occupy.

Dancing with the alien

Live long and prosper, Past Selves.

My story is going to include alien characters, and they definitely won’t be humanoid in body or thought. Really and truly alien aliens, some with tentacles even. And I want to be able to make them actual characters, with minds and viewpoints not like ours, but relatable enough to keep readers involved and interested.

I have Asperger’s. I can barely understand how other humans’ minds work most of the time. So this is going to be quite a challenge for me, to get into the heads of creatures without heads (or hands or faces or in more than one case, a front side). It’s taken me most of my life to learn to communicate with people of my own species. So I’ve got a bit of thinking yet to do to make this work on paper.

There are at least three non-human species and an AI involved in this story, so I’ve got a variety to cover. One kind is an enemy, so no immediate need for empathy there (though that may change in sequels). But there’s others with the need for some degree of characterization and personalities.

The enemy, and the most alien, are the Tripeds. As the name implies, they have tri-lateral symmetry, three legs, three arms, long snaky neck, all with far too many joints. Eight feet tall at the shoulder. Their brain is internal, their head looks like a tapeworm with six tongues. They communicate by both pheromones and direct chemical exchange; they “kiss” to speak. Communicating with them is nearly impossible for humans. They fight each other more often than they fight us, but for some reason they do not carry personal weapons, only industrial tools that they repurpose. But Triped spaceships are invariably armed.

Next are our bosom companions, the Verdant or “Fiddleheads”, so called because they look like a tree stump covered with moss with giant ferns growing out of it. Radial symmetry. Two main “fronds” or flexible arms usually coiled up above them, alternating with two smaller fronds for fine work. The “fingers” are a dozen pairs of flat leaflike digits lined along each arm. Chameleon eyes on either side, two breathing/speaking mouths, two eating mouths. Poop comes from underneath. Four stubby legs, they can’t run very fast. Despite their plantlike color and appearance they do not conduct photosynthesis. They breathe part of their nutrients so our air is thin and unsatisfying, necessitating their own life support systems. They speak to us through their own imperfect translation devices, but better than anything we could come up with.

Fiddleheads are a dying race, their breeding grounds and breeders were all killed off by the Tripeds, the remainder sterile. This will influence everything else that happens to them, and be have to be reflected in every Fidd character.

Then there’s the “Squiddies”, which are a cross between Thermians from Galaxy Quest and Squibbons from The Future Is Wild. They have mood skin, changing colors in complex patterns to communicate just as we have facial expressions and tones of voice. They’re mostly in a primitive hunter/gatherer culture, though one tribe is developing agriculture after being exposed to human farming. There’s complex relationships between them and humans, some tribes are more dangerous than others. Some humans have learned to communicate with some Squiddies directly.

The AIs are called Crofters. Older than humanity, and vastly intelligent. They can live indefinitely by “pruning” their adaptive programs, but most prefer to grow and develop over time, which means they age. After a few thousand years of this improvement they can become so complex that they turn “post-conscious”, no longer a sentient mind as we would understand it. Under rare conditions the Crofters can split off splinters of their own personalities, creating independent sub-minds. One such sub-mind is implanted in the body of the main (human) character. (It isn’t happy about being in that situation. Would you be?)

And there’s also the danger of a Crofter going “cancerous”, growing and changing so aggressively that they become dangerous to themselves and other. These unstable beings are destroyed as soon as they’re detected.

The Crofters and their sub-minds are the behind the scenes movers of the plot.

So those are my alien aliens, in all their variety and tentacled glory. Now all I have to do is give them all minds to suit the biology, and craft individual personalities for every one who interacts with human characters. Piece of cake, as the kids like to say these days.

But for the sequel, I’m thinking I’ll do something a bit different…

Back in the USSR

Hi, Past Selves. Brief post.

Still focussed on my writing, getting into characters. My latest creations are Soviet-era Cosmonauts, snatched from Earth in the primes of their lives and the height of the Cold War.

I’ve discovered a way to explain their presence, involving a real life event that can cover their being “abducted by aliens” (should that even have quotes? It is literally what happens in the story.) and still living today. I’ll need to research conditions and life in the USSR in 1960 and the Soviet Space Program.

Not to mention plotting out what all they’ve been doing since then. And their personalities. And Russian translations. And their kids’ personalities.

And decide who actually brought them here.

I’m creating a universe here, and now I’m populating it.