17 June 2018

Fictional Fathers for Father's Day

Last month, for Mother's Day, I waxed poetic on the three kinds of mothers I happened to have in my fiction writing. Well, turnabout seems fair play, so let me ponder the types of fathers I find in fiction and their source.

So I'm sitting comfortably at my computer, writing my new work-in-progress (book 3 to conclude my medically-accurate vampire trilogy), passing the 30,000 word mark, and it hits me! I should be promoting my Father's Day novel, the one titled AIKO. It's a kind of Father's Day story, after all. And because Father's Day is here again, everyone is doing a grad and dad marketing blitz. 

Everyone knows that grads are tired of reading. Dads tend to be reading averse, too. So maybe books do not make the best gifts. Job search books for grads, perhaps. A book on dad's current hobby, maybe. But fiction too often falls to the dark, dusty shelf of well-intended gifts. Next to the neckties. My own father would rather read through a stack of history and politics books before he would ever crack the cover of a novel.

So how many books are there that feature Father's Day, anyway? Or about fathers in general? Mothers are easy. Brothers and sisters are common. The sweet aunt and the generous uncle are often seen in literature. In my vast reading, Fathers are generally the bad guys, villainous, cruel, authoritarian, mean, and uncaring. They are more often than not portrayed as abusers. Sometimes they only appear as the bad memory of a protagonist and we get a couple of graphic incidents to showcase dad's unpleasantness. (I had to do that in A BEAUTIFUL CHILL and A GIRL CALLED WOLF because they were based on real people and their lives; however, fathers in my other novels are thankfully less abusive.) It's almost a stereotype. Fathers get a bad rap, I think. We tend to only hear about the bad ones. Think of Darth Vader, a.k.a. "Dark Father", and others of his ilk.

I think about the fathers in my other books. My protagonists seem to relate to their fathers much as I relate to my own. Funny, that coincidence, right? Or am I drawing on the only role model I have? (Curiously, I'm an only child and my protagonists tend not to have siblings, also - or siblings that are throw-away characters, mentioned but not active in the story. In AFTER ILIUM, the young hero dislikes his dentist father's strictness and is glad to be on his own touring Greece and Turkey. In EPIC FANTASY *WITH DRAGONS, our dragonslayer hero's father was a military commander killed in battle, so our hero carries only the memory of a violent, frightening man. In A DRY PATCH OF SKIN, my medically-accurate vampire novel (book 1 of the trilogy), our poor hero is transforming into a vampire. He is angry at his father for not warning him and for sending him away to live with an aunt. Otherwise, that fictional dad sounds an awful lot like my own father: haughty, disinterested, aloof.

In AIKO, our hero discovers he is a father, then struggles to find his child. There is a brief mention of his own father being stationed in Japan after WWII - like my own father was. After the war, my father went to college on the G.I. Bill and became a social studies teacher, then later a librarian. Now he is deep into retirement, having put his books away for poor eyesight and sleepier days, not to mention the devastation of a hurricane.

When I think of my father, the image that comes most readily is of him sitting in his reading chair, reading: reading in such a focused, determined manner that I could get away with literally anything because nothing could disturb him. Thus, he was apart from my everyday activities, always there but on the sidelines, uninvolved in my youthful experiences. And that is what I learned of fatherhood: 1) provide the family income, 2) relax at home after the job, 3) fix things around the house and yard. Also, 4) be master of the castle, 5) enforce the rules, and when necessary (6) represent the family like a knight in shining armor when some authority or institution challenges us. He is the (7) champion, the protector, the lord of the manor. And that is, for better or worse, how I portray the fathers in my books: powerful yet distant. Art imitating life!

If you've been following this blog you probably know I'm a dad. It's a weird feeling knowing there is someone living in the world partly as a result of my actions. Sure, we can imagine clones, or cyborgs, but another human? That's crazy. Like us and yet not like us. And eventually they go their own ways and have their own lives and we scratch our heads and think What just happened? Now my offspring is in college, studying to be something in the medical field. This is after going through Army training to be a combat medic - a course I doubt I could've made it through if I were the same age.

As I think back on the past 22 years, I can pinpoint a few things I did that might have helped raise this baby to adulthood. But there are just as many other things I did about which I have no clue. Maybe they helped, maybe they hurt. Only my grown child can tell, but she calls less and less. But I'm still pleased, even proud, of how this googly little bundle of joy became this awesome adult who vaguely resembles me in appearance and words and behavior. 

So for now, I must pass the reins over to my protégé. No longer do I need to concern myself so much with me doing great things and achieving this and that and telling my child about, you know, the things I can boast about. Now it is time for me to boast about my grown child, to note what this new adult is doing, and praise the new things, the new deeds, of this adult - to praise and be proud of what my child has done more than being happy at what I have done. Oh, I'll still write books, of course. That will never change. I must or die trying. But now it's no longer all about me.

(C) Copyright 2010-2018 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

10 June 2018

The Great Depression

I go away for a week of errands and pleasures and nothing has changed when I return. I fully expected that everything amiss would right itself and welcome me back to enjoy a refreshed world of merriment and mirth. Because the world does not obey, will not follow my directives, and refuses to comply with my whims, I must create a world that does. That is the beauty of fiction.

Granted, plenty of folks will say, "That ain't real" as though it shouldn't count. But I beg to differ. The invented world, whether a science-fiction planetary system or a variation on the contemporary here and now of Main Street USA, is a refuge for the weak and weary. I do not mean to suggest we go quietly into that good night, hiding in a fantasy world and ignoring, forgetting the real world outside. What I mean is that the invented world is a safe space - even if it is found in a horror novel - a place we can rest and recover, take stock, make plans, and re-armor ourselves.

For the outside world is cruel, needlessly so perhaps, yet so vicious that few can affect their daily existence in any meaningful way without severe trials and tribulations. It's hard out there, out there in the jungle. It's a doggy dog world out there! A dog-eat-dog world would be worse. What we need is a bunny-infested world. People would be required to pet a bunny at least twice a day. Or a puppy. Or a kitty. Or a whatever.

Then there is the dulling determination of the drug industry with a pill for every condition, even the conditions that did not exist before a cure could be found. Somewhere there is an herb we could grow in a backyard and make a tea from it which would cure all our ills. Yet if we could monetize that herb, we could make a whole boatload of money - no matter if anyone finds their life path improved. The other escapes are liquid, with no better results.

Some people have complained about it being the times we live in. Yet each generation complains about the times we live in. New stresses, new obstacles - all the same just with different names. So why now? Why so many going away? An oft posted meme states something like this: We have no idea what each person is struggling with. Yet we do; we know it is the same pressures we all face. Some fight it, some negotiate, some give in. 

Or it's a chemical imbalance brought on by pollutants in our environment, our food, our medicine, everything we touch and what we breathe. In other words, our world is sick and little by little cleansing itself of the infection . . . which might be us. Might be. Seems reasonable to return to a less-industrialized means of food production - to save the children, you know. Yet who is telling us the truth about anything? 

Sometimes, when the evening is late, I feel a shadow in the room and it gradually comes up behind me and seems to sweep itself over me and everything changes. I hear the thumping of pistons at work in a galaxy far away, a cricket in the next yard warning me about tomorrow, a bit of paper blowing on the breeze in another town keeping my darkest secrets away from me and my attempts to destroy them, another cup of tea to calm a bitter soul - yet I sit back and realize it is all a ruse. It feels real, but it is not. Still, people die from dreams. And dreams unfulfilled.

Pick up a book and go to your safe place. And to everyone in every other moment, be kind, be supportive, lend a hand, say a compliment, let each other know we exist and we are valued. Pet a pet. Breathe the air and walk in the park. Don't think too much.

(C) Copyright 2010-2018 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

13 May 2018

Mothers . . . the good, the bad, and the ugly

Fictioneers tend to borrow from whole cloth the characters that inhabit their tales. At least, they are constructed from bits and pieces of real people who pass through our lives or perhaps stay for marked periods of significance. None more so than our mothers. 

I’ve taken a look at how I've depicted mothers in my own novels. While I usually strive to avoid stereotypes, the mothers have tended to be drawn as one of three types – all for the sake of the story, of course! For this momentous day, I’ve pulled out a few excerpts to illustrate these types. And no matter how you may feel about the mothers you find in any story you read, wish them all a Happy Mother’s Day.

In the real world, mothers can be cruel or nurturing...

Her eyes wander up to the windows high on the walls. They are painted over white—off-white: eggshell; cream, perhaps. She pretends drifts of snow cover them. A good blanket of snow can hide so much, she thinks. , like clothing. On the platform nothing is hidden. She holds her breath, counting heartbeats. Secrets, like scars, can be covered yet never erased. And every spring, when the snow melts, the scars remain—like wheel ruts cut into the soil, ruts that dry and harden during summer only to be covered again with the next season’s snow.
The Wheel Ruts of Summer—perhaps another painting she will do: two sienna lines cutting through the winter-gray grasses, a black storm on the horizon. She would stare down the storm—she with her pale, thin arms and legs, her body slender and white, without blemish. , like the pure snow covering the dirty road. There are no scars that are visible—
There was a day in school, back in Iceland where she was born, long before she and her widowed mother moved to Canada. Perhaps she was ten. She drew a picture of a mountain with snow on one slope, a forest on the other, and a fjord across the bottom. Her teacher praised it. At home, she proudly held up the picture for her mother. With only a glance, her mother dismissed it, suggesting she draw Jesus suffering on the Cross if she wanted to waste her time with colored pencils. And she never drew again—not until Toronto, when she would sit in the dressing room, waiting to go on stage and do her dance.


Whenever Eric paused to think, he could hear his mother bustling about the condo, preparing New Year’s dinner. The intoxicating scents of roast ham and candied yams was too distracting as he pounded the keys of his mother’s computer. He had to write while his blood was hot, while the muse favored him, deep into his Thorngren and Svana story.
The keys clicked like hard rain and he dared not stop to take a breath. Eric was the wizard, and Svana was the orange-haired woman named Íris. The rest was pure fiction. His stomach rumbled like the ominous thunder over that fjord, yet on he typed. The girl, Svana, cried out from the hilltop tree where she had been bound. The strongest men of the village lashed the wizard to the mast of their longboat at the command of Brendan, the Christian priest. Brendan cried his directives over the roar of a storm—
Eric stopped, fingers hovering over the keys, electricity sizzling through them. He realized there had been knocking on the door.
“He’s been in there typing for a good part of the day and night,” he heard his mother say. “He was up past three last night.”
“Let the boy be,” his father exhorted, resignation in his voice. “He’ll be out when he’s finished writing his damn stories.”
Meanwhile, the longboat set sail, was reaching the arctic wastes—the ice sheet, the glaring whiteness—the icy wind—the warriors numb with cold, sick with fear....
Eric sat back, pondering his story. When he finally cracked the door, the condo was dark and silent. His parents had gone to bed, the New Year’s dinner had been put away, and even the fireworks had subsided. In the refrigerator, he found a ham sandwich with a note from his mother taped to the cellophane: Happy New Year! He stared at the note as he ate the sandwich.

Even fantasy mothers have their quirks and ambitions...

The queen smiled, chubby cheeks flushing as they did whenever she was delighted.
“Let’s call her...Lumina. She is so bright. She lights up my life. How is that?”
“Lu-mi-na. Yes! I like it!” exclaimed the girl.
“So it is done. The naming. A lovely name for a queen. Almost as great as Adora. Now let the realm know my second daughter is to be called Lumina—Princess Lumina.”
The chief maid exited the slumber chamber to pass the news to the court crier who would make the official announcement.
“What will happen to the other babe?” asked Adora.
The nursing maids chuckled. Such a beautiful, naïve child, they seemed to suggest. Once she returns to her tutors, she will learn more of the customs of Sannan.
“It’s none of your concern. Go and make play for yourself.”
Adora turned to the basket on the floor beside the great slumber seat. In the basket the babe gurgled, threatening to cry, its tiny feet wriggling above the basket’s rim. She wanted to step closer and get a better look, to see if this one was as cute as the babe resting on her mother’s chest sucking the nipple.
“Sometimes the goddesses may bless us with extra measure,” the queen spoke in a soothing voice. “As always, we must dispense with males, all the sons and brothers, fathers and uncles, lest they return our great realm to ancient depravity and ring loud the bellicose bell. You must remember the history of wombkind.”
“I do,” said Adora. “I listen to my tutors always.”
“As you should.” The queen spoke to her maids a moment. When she turned to Adora, she said: “I pay much to hire only the best tutors for you, so you should trust what they tell you.” 
Adora stared at the babe in the basket. The queen saw her abject attention and waved at one of the nursing maids.
“Remove the waste,” commanded the queen.


When the pink smoke settled, Corlan dared open his eyes. In front was a large capsule, a bottle as tall as a man and twice as wide. All sides of the bottle were clear. Inside it was a pink liquid that was just thin enough to reveal the figure of a woman floating within. The woman was naked but her long, gray-streaked black hair covered most of her body. As she floated in the liquid, her eyes were closed.
At the final word from Hiro Ka, the eyes of the woman in the bottle popped opened. She immediately appeared angry.
“You!” came a voice.
“We meet again, Mother,” spoke Hiro Ka in a loud, steady tone.
“How long has it been?” the woman inside the bottle responded. The voice echoed around the room. Corlan ducked to avoid it, then stood up, feeling silly.
“Almost a year, I suppose. I have not been counting the days.”
“Have you birthed a child yet?”
“Oh, Mother, always the same demand!”
“You must birth children to continue our line.”
“I know, I know. It’s not that easy in a city with only wyma, you should know.”
“I see a man beside you. Is he real? Or illusion?”
Hiro Ka gave a laugh. “Oh, this one is real, I assure you. He is so wonderfully real. In fact, we come to you on this the third day of the protocol. I promised him I’d introduce you if he delighted me on the second day. And he most certainly did! My Mother, I can hardly walk!”
“You came all the way across the city and woke me from my sleep to tell me you finally got a man into your bed?”
“Well, yes, Mother. I thought that’s what you wanted.”
“It is.”
“I told this man you would tell him his future. Can you do that?”
“What do I gain from this act?”
She pursed her lips. “My undying love?”
“I had that already. For fifteen years. Then you went crazy.”
“I’m sorry, Mother. You know it wasn’t my fault.”


Corlan stepped forward, arms lowered to catch the queen, to help her. He glanced sideways at Tam, standing near the serving girls. The boy shook his head from side to side and Corlan stopped.
“I only know how to protect my wyma from harm,” moaned the queen. “They worship me as their Great Mother.” She lifted her head, tried to look at Naka Wu but the stretch of muscle and sinew was too painful.
“My mother felt your cruelty.” Naka Wu spit. “You fed her to drakes at the Eve of Eve celebration, as entertainment for your courtly sisters. Yet not before she endured the whipping. The lashes your jester snapped at her, flaming strands of coarse wire, were unspeakable cruelty!”
The queen wavered on her knees, struggling to breathe with the lance through her belly. “Your m-mother? I didn’t know...who she was—”
“Because I was taken from her years before your soldiers brought her to the prison for a mere accident. Her last cow kicked one of your soldiers and broke her leg. They took my mother to the prison for that. When she was old, sick, trying to escape—she became your holiday entertainment!”
“The punishment was...fair,” moaned the queen.
“I know more wyma who tell the same stories.” Naka Wu turned to the two guards behind her, then gestured at the guard standing by the serving girls. “Uki Ma lost her mother to your warriors. I will not describe how they tortured her. Giko Song lost all three of her sisters to the cruelty of your soldiers. And Yuka Hei was tortured for seventeen days just because she dared look at a man—some useless man!—that you had brought to your chamber for the protocol. You see now she survived and has returned to meet you, and send you into the Beyond. And me: sold by my mother because she could not pay your taxes. Now we take back this city!”

Mothers...they mean well. They have your best interests at heart. But sometimes...well, they just don’t get it...

“Well, you should write her back, Alex,” his mother went on. “Ask her what this is all about. You have a right to know. Tell her you demand to know why she—”
“I already wrote to her,” he murmured.
“You did? When?”
“More than a month ago.”
“And...? What did she say?”
He scooted up, perched on the edge, and dug into his back pocket. Retrieving a crumpled letter he had been carrying around for a couple of weeks, Alex held it up for her to see.
She pulled out her glasses from her apron pocket.
Returned: No Such Address,” she read solemnly.
“No such address,” he mumbled. “She made the whole thing up.”
“Well, we’ve got to find her, Alex.” His mother was adamant. “Your father’ll be home soon. Then we’ll figure out what to do. We’ll get a lawyer—”
“No, Mother. It’s over.”
“Over?” his mother almost shrieked. “How can you say that? This woman hurt you and she should at the very least apologize.”
She let the echo of her sharp words come back to her and heard them clearly. Alex gazed at her: the words did not sound like her words, but his. His mother seemed to realize that.
“Well, you know you should write a nice thank you note to that Doctor Johnson in Turkey. Also to that man on that island who helped you. You did get his address, didn’t you? And your Navy friend—Benson, is it? Poor fellow’s in jail while you’re home free with the stroke of a pen. You should write him. That would make him feel better. Maybe tell him how sorry you are...?”
She paused, awaiting his response, then glanced about the living room. She did not know what to do with her hands.
“I know they’d all like to hear from you, Alex. At least know you arrived home safely.” Her gaze landed on the writing desk in the corner of the living room. “I see you haven’t sent a reply to that Mister Carter’s get-well card, or have you? It’s been nearly two weeks, dear. I don’t see any letters to go out.” She sighed. “Alex, you don’t want to get a reputation. People notice the little things. Shall I get you some stationary?”
Alex got up slowly from the sofa without a word, reached for his cane, and hobbled out of the cool, dark living room.
“Young man, don’t you walk out on me,” his mother scolded, then stopped, apparently realizing, as her son did, just how hollow the words sounded now.

It is always good to remember that a mother is a boy's best friend. 

Happy Mother's Day!

(C) Copyright 2010-2018 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

04 May 2018

The 5th of the 5th of the 5th!

Sure, it's a made-up holiday, this May the 4th Be With You Day. It easily follows the laborious Labor Day otherwise known as May Day and its celebrations around the world. And which is followed in short order by the equally sanctimonious Revenge of the 5th Day (that is, "Revenge of the Sith" a Star Wars film phrase). And that coincides with the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, the celebration of an old battle victory over the French invaders. (You can google it: the French actually tried to conquer Mexico.)

Nevertheless, I shall celebrate my own day on May 5th (since I eat plenty of tacos throughout the year anyway). I shall call this day The 5th of the 5th of the 5th! On this day I shall reveal for public scrutiny the fifth paragraph of the fifth page of the fifth chapter of each of my completed novels...no matter what it may be, whether full of self-revelation or not. For your sake, I am willing to take that risk.

And so without further delay...here are the 5th paragraphs of the 5th pages of the 5th chapters:

1. The Last Song (not yet published; this book is divided into four "symphonic movements" so it does not have a 5th chapter; thus, I offer the fifth paragraph from the fifth chapter-like section):

“I learned the theory of the music of the gods, from the Discovery," the old music teacher grumbled. "The real music! And now...now they’ve gone so far astray. It’s pitiful, downright pitiful. I pity all of them, those greedy, lazy free composers.  Music destroyers is what I call them!”

2. Year of the Tiger, an adventure tale of an obsessed hunter's pursuit of a man-eater in India (coming soon)

Between the dull throbbing in his chest and the steady ache in his head, his vivid consciousness began to waver. He slipped back and forth from the soothing pastel walls of his room to a steamy, vegetated world of jungle bird calls and the incessant thumping of native drums. Sweating profoundly, he listened to the drums, then the birds, then the rustling of the leaves around him. A breeze wafted over him, humid and heavy, pressing him deeper into his mattress. The drums faded away, then the birds.

3. Aiko (mercilessly drummed out of Amazon's 2014 Breakthrough Novel Awards competition; published anyway!)

      It was the 80s, he considered, wondering where his youth had gone, already in his thirties and fearing he had missed something. Japan was opening up to internationalization, long past recovering from the ravages of war and hardships of reconstruction. Now Japan had stepped out as an equal among nations, pressing for leadership in the international community. Stereotypes were falling away. Slowly. No longer were images of geisha and samurai what people thought of; endless varieties of electronics and quirky pop singers with pink hair and thigh-high boots were the most noticeable imports. Ben had to smile: he had never had any interest in Asia—not the culture, not the food, not the people, their languages, their fashions, nor their ways of doing business. He had only limited experience, anyway. In college his girlfriend had roomed with an exchange student from Korea. And in high school there was a chubby girl by the name of Yoko, but he never considered she was half-Japanese; she was just another American to him. Then he’d arrived in Hawaii.

4. The Dream Land (a.k.a. "Long Distance Voyager" - Book I of The Dream Land Trilogy), steampunk interdimensional adventure!

“It’s...glorious,” she whispered, and he was surprised she could be so taken in by her own experiment. He had to agree, touching her hand and giving it a reassuring squeeze: it was beyond their expectations.

5. After Ilium, romantic adventure in Turkey

      Alex knew they were talking about him, even though the words were Turkish. They sounded strangely like the drunken mutterings of his fraternity buddies, and the shadows shifted to become his roommate, Nick, with a swarthy face and black, curled beard, like statues of the old Greek king, Agamemnon, that he’d seen in museums. Nick had been killed driving home from spring break six weeks before graduation, a trip Alex had reluctantly declined, citing an important paper that was due. The shadows shifted and Nick was replaced by the image of the doctor—the image of how he thought the doctor appeared.

6. A Beautiful Chill, a campus affair turned ugly...

“We are lovers,” she says, taking his arm so there will be no confusion.

7. The Dream Land (Book II "Dreams of Future's Past")

McElroy lowered his head, seething. He had never hit a woman before, though he had come close several times. He had always managed to hit a wall or a door. Once he hit himself—his head—against a door to release his anger. He did not carry his pistol tonight since they were going out to dinner in a nice restaurant. But he could never hit a woman. He had too much respect for—

8. The Dream Land (Book III "Diaspora")

“No, course not.” Tammy giggled. “They are on another planet. How’m I supposed to have contact with them?”

9. A Dry Patch of Skin, the only medically accurate vampire tale.

I resisted the easy double-entendre and responded thus: “My pleasure.” After all, I’ve learned over the years that the best way to assure anyone comes is to not make jokes until after it happens. (Oh, is that a dirty joke? I’m not sorry, nor am I offended that anyone might be offended. I did not come right out and say anything obscene. That is the beauty of the double-entendre: only those privy to the context find it clever. All others sit dumb-faced like wilted flowers. All right then, I apologize. Next time, bring your own jokes.)

10. A Girl Called Wolf, an arctic adventure tale based on a true life

       “Anna?” Somebody called my name, my Catholic name that the Lord of Denmark chose for me. I turned and there was a woman with red hair. She ran up to me and hugged me before I could move.

11. Epic Fantasy *With Dragons, an epic fantasy that has dragons, a dragonslayer, a boy from the palace kitchen, an old magus, a little princess, a valley of death, and a whole lot more!

    Corlan arose, weary and sore. He stumbled to the door, hung on the handle a few breaths, and realized as he opened the door that he was still naked. After the hours with Petula, he cared not. He simply wanted to keep that memory fixed in his mind, playing the afternoon tryst over and over.

12. SUNRISE, Book 2 in the Stefan Szekely Trilogy (otherwise known as the sequel to A DRY PATCH OF SKIN), in which the hero from Book I finds himself 13 years later in a changed world, trying to start living the vampire playboy lifestyle.

     Yet I retain the powers which my affliction has given me: first, the power to frighten. Dogs and children are easiest to disturb. Women are either seductively attracted or immediately flee in horror. Men stand their ground to fight me, especially if women and children are present. The weaker ones will likely flee. Second, within my thin, decrepit body I have strength no one would suspect. And surprising speed should I need to escape. And I cannot be killed. I do not feel pain—or much of any sensations, yet I can sense many things, like a clairvoyant. 

Thus is revealed the 5th of the 5th of the 5th!

I encourage you to enjoy your tacos, your light-sabers, and should the mood strike you, go ahead and get yourself five books. Share with five friends and your life shall be made five-fold better by your generous acts!

(C) Copyright 2010-2018 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

22 April 2018

Are You Addicted to Killing Time?

Strange sensation, the pull of words! The push of perusers! The tickle of the morning light full of the scent of java, and how it calls the fingers to the keyboard even before the mind has formed any thoughts, translated them into language, and sent them along the neural pathways down to the fingertips. And yet...I'm doing it. Like I have for countless millennia. So it seems. It is less than an addiction,yet more than OCD.

These days, it seems, especially now that my so-called day job has exploded into a full-time monstrosity, a certain portion of each day must be spent on connecting to one's myriad electronic venues. I speak of the ill-named social media. Perhaps Socialist media would be more apt, but I jest. The analogy cannot hold. Almost every day I can survey my classroom and find most students engaged with their little pocket pets. Go into a coffee shop and many are similarly engaged with the electronic genie. Everyone seeking engagement, stimulation, and yet they dare not raise their eyes to the next person. 

There has always been email to check (usually worth a moment's amusement), and the more accounts one has - each for its own nefarious purpose, I have no doubt - but now there is also Facebook and its multiple personas to monitor and manage, and the same perhaps for MySpace, Tumblr, and other similar "social networking" sites. (I wish I had coined that term; could be making billions of rubles off the rights by now!) Plus the noisy bird-filled tree branches Twitter - again with multiple accounts for slightly different agendas. And Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and the newer WeChat and Whatsapp! I find myself unable to not be a part of them. Even LinkedIn has captured my attention.

And the Google+ which I'm still not sure how to operate or for what unique intention it was created. And for writers and readers, there are plenty of sites online such as Goodreads, of which I have become a member in order to introduce my books to an unreading world. I have also joined a site for those interested in steampunk, a genre or sub-genre (no fights, please) of science-fiction or utopian/dystopian fiction. And don't get me started on all the blogs my friends and a few strangers have created, maintain, and add to often enough to occasionally intrigue or amuse or infuriate me.

I find myself getting up earlier now than I really need to just to get myself ready for a day's normal effort simply to be able to check everything. I need to be sure the world is safe for social networking. I need to be certain that my previous comment(s) have been commented on - or rejected - or, worse, ignored. I shun arguments on walls and feeds - unless I'm right and everyone knows it. I must check that things are happening, that political views are in balance, that social issues are being taken care of by someone, someone other than me. And, for good measure, I usually check them all again, in order or perhaps only the most critical ones, before eventually logging off and leaving for the day's Grand Illusion.

On good days, that could occupy two full hours. On bad days, only an hour. Weekends, I tend to languish over anything that might engage me, that could possibly stimulate the pleasure centers of my brain. In other words, I could remain plugged in the better part of a Saturday. I feel refreshed, confident, and ultimately relaxed, knowing that I have checked in, that my field of audiences have been informed that I still exist. Some may be surprised, but that is another blog post. 

Perhaps the fact of my existence itself is enough to compel some to socially dismiss the network in favor of the other, older networks: what used to be the visual arena of ideas and entertainment, expanded a thousandfold. Yes, I speak of television, that splintered soul now languishing in the wastelands of electronica, hanging on for dear life with dancers and singers and the scandalous Hollywood mavens of malevolence, or whatever else can be stood in front of a camera and later mocked. It's endless, of course.

And so there remains, for an escape, the ancient art of linguistic scribbles pressed into wood shavings. I refer to the ubiquitous book. Such pleasures I have known with a good book between my hands! Such adventures I have had once I've fled the world to enrapture myself in! And still, that paradise, that comfy bed of brain bliss, even that venue is changing! Yes, the sacred objet-d'art is joining the electronic universe! With a few tweaks and more than a few reconsiderations ("Do I really want to say that? Will anyone actually read this?"), any book written today may be sent through the vast airwaves to a handheld mechanical device, a mere tablet with screen projecting...wait for it...a page of text upon which one's eyes may focus for pleasure, perversion, or perhaps a person's private pontification. The possibilities are perfectly pointless.

However, this is not the place for a discussion of the nature of the newest Age of Books. 
It may seem to be, given this post, and being one of those electronic utopias about which I am ranting, yet it is not. As I have stated, it is necessary to engage, to feel connected, to matter to someone somewhere - even a Twitter poet in a city on the opposite side of the world whose 140 characters touch something you thought long hidden, long lost deep inside your head. And so you type back a complimentary remark to connect albeit only electronically. Can you feel the sizzle of satisfaction?

Ah! The good ol' days of pen to paper, the envelope, the postage, the weeks getting there and the weeks of return, to read a response to something you had forgotten you'd sent. Those good ol' days. I'll bet you've forgotten them.

I must now click the "post" button and make my words part of the universe - praying that someday, some far-away intellectual on a far-away world, in some random, slavish moment of silence comes to encounter these words, translate them into ideas, and thereby know that I existed, once upon a very long time ago, a time which was less fairy tale than instructional manual, and closes its eye(s) in delightful calm after a good night's fine contemplation. Soon the aliens will arrive and ponder over all of our magnetic ink.

(C) Copyright 2010-2018 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.