I Started a Patreon!

I had some free time today, so I decided to finally get off my arse and set up a Patreon. If you enjoy any of my posts on this blog, or any of my poetry or fiction, then this is the best way to support me other than buying my books. Don’t feel pressured, I am going to keep writing no matter what happens, but it would be nice if I had more of a stable income, and this will hopefully be a step towards that.

For now, there are no special rewards because I am trying to focus on getting another book out. If the response to the Patreon is good, then I’ll have to think of something, probably a look at first drafts, or DRM-free copies of my books. If there’s anything you’d like, let me know.

This seems a good time to remind you that I am also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and probably some other stuff that I’ve forgotten. If you’d like to follow me somewhere and can’t find me, just ask 🙂

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Corbyn, Europe, and Da Yoof.

I’ve seen various takes regarding what’ll happen when the youth realise that their saviour “oh” Jeremy Corbyn is a hardcore Eurosceptic and is gonna endorse our exit from the single market. Considering the rebellion that’s just broken out, it’s as good a time as any to demonstrate why this is irrelevant.

I’m 26. I voted remain, and I voted for Corbyn’s Labour party. I am old enough to be a pragmatic voter, and young enough that I got shafted when I voted Lid Dem in my first ever general election.

I knew Corbyn campaigned for remain reluctantly. I also knew that my MP at the time (Stewart Jackson) was an incorrigible arsehole, and that the growing Labour minority in my city (Peterborough) was the only way to stop him.

I got to vote for the winner for once. It was marvellous.

Before this, I voted remain knowing that the EU had fucked people my age in Spain and Greece. I didn’t want to get fucked even harder by a Tory party that hates people under 40, hates the working class, and hates the idea of human rights legislation.

If Jeremy Corbyn was PM (he isn’t? Ed.), and had campaigned for us to leave Europe so we could begin a project of social reconstruction that we couldn’t otherwise, I would have voted leave.

A bit like the way you voted for ÂŁ350 mil for the NHS, eh?

It looks like we’re leaving the EU because the political class and the newspapers have the bit between their teeth. What can we do to persuade them? It is obviously the wrong choice. I can’t give you a reason not to cut your own nose off, other than that it generally seems a bad idea. If you persist in cutting your own nose off, what can I do?

At least we came out and voted. If we voted Lid Dem en masse you’d all be blaming us for a Tory majority and our lack of pragmatism. Many of us voted Labour because we’ve grown up with a Tory party in a blood frenzy and Labour (see: Peterborough) were the only chance of stopping them.

I’m not surprised, but if we have to leave the EU (we do, because the newspapers say so), then I’d rather do it under Corbyn. And anyway, it’s not my fucking fault in the first place, is it? I voted for Kodos.

Yet More Free Classics (This Time With Extra Shiny)

Free books are great, great books are… great, and Project Gutenberg is great, but you might have noticed that some of their offerings aren’t as great as I might have lead you to believe before. Or at least, not presented as greatly as a great book should be; typos in Pride and Prejudice, spelling errors in Great Expectations, no table of contents for Moby Dick. The errors aren’t common, and for the low low price of free, you can’t really complain (you can volunteer to help, though). The errors are, however, enough to make a serious reader wish for a copy that’s been properly proofed and edited to modern standards. But that will cost you money, won’t it? Or a trip to the library, and who wants to go outside when there’s reading to be done?

Here is your new best friend: Standard Ebooks.

They take public domain works and polish them, giving them the quality in presentation that the quality in their content deserves. They add things like cover images, contents tables, and modern typography. And they fix the typos and errors.

And then they give the fixed-up books to you for free.

Wonderful.

PS. If you want yet another source of free books, I suggest checking out Project Gutenberg Australia. Australia’s copyright law used to diverge* from that of the USA, and as such there are works that are considered public domain there that aren’t in the USA or the UK. But the internet’s a thing, so you, person from X country that isn’t Australia, can download them anyway.

Enjoy.

winslowhomerthenewnovel

The New Novel by Winslow Homer, 1877

* “Because of differences between Australian and United States (where Project Gutenberg is based) copyright law, Project Gutenberg Australia contains many works not available in Project Gutenberg, including works by Margaret Mitchell, George Orwell, Ayn Rand, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Wallace, S. S. Van Dine and Dylan Thomas.” – From the Wikipedia article on Project Gutenberg Australia.

The Sims: A Reading List

I have been watching lots of Lazy Game Reviews‘ videos lately, and was intrigued when he mentioned that the manual for The Sims had a reading list in it for people who wanted to further explore the themes of the game.

A quick Google didn’t find me a copy of the list, and a little further digging found me this tweet from @Ccollinsada1, who posted a picture of the reading list, to the joy of someone else who had been searching for it. For the convenience of anyone else looking for the reading list in The Sims’ manual, here is the text verbatim.

– – –

Recommended Reading

Here are some titles that might enhance your understanding of some of the background and social issues entertained in The Sims. Warning: all are filled with provocative ideas; Maxis disavows any responsibility for encouraging deep thought.

Home: A Short History of an Idea by Witold Rybczynski (July 1987)

Penguin USA; ISBN; 0140102310

Notes on the Synthesis of Form by Christopher W. Alexander (June 1970)

Harvard University Press; ISBN; 0674627512

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander; Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein (1977)

Oxford University Press (Trade); ISBN; 0195019199

Architecture: Form, Space, & Order by Frank D. K. Ching, Francis D. Ching (February 1996)

John Wiley & Sons; ISBN; 0471286168

Housing by Lifestyle: The Component Method of Residential Design by James W. Wenting (November 1994)

McGraw-Hill; ISBN; 0070692939

Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time by John P. Robinson, Geoffrey Godbey (Contributor), Robert Putnam (June 1997)

Pennsylvania State University Press (Trade); ISBN; 0271016523

Maps of the Mind by C. Hampden-Turner (March 1982)

MacMillan Publishing Company; ISBN; 0025477404

Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life by David D. Friedman (September 1997)

HarperCollins; ISBN; 0887308856

Making the Most of Your Llama by Linda C Beattie (Editor), Araneen Witmer (Illustrator), Kathryn Doll (Editor), Dr. Linda Beattie (September 1998)

Kopacetic Ink; ISBN; 0961963417

Finding Your Perfect Love by Arthur Clark, Cassandra Skouras (January 1998)

Rosebud Press; ISBN; 0965276902

The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size by Tor Norretranders, Jonathon Sydenham (Translator) (April 1998)

Viking Press; ISBN; 0670875791

I Know Who I Wanna Bartlebe

I’ve been meaning to write up a post about guilt and the feeling that you should (could) always be doing something, but I am getting around to it now because I read this article last night about people who try and turn every moment into a productive one by always having an audiobook, podcast, or some other edifying material on the go in their headphones. I was going to write it up last night, but I started playing Football Manager, and then I played some Hearthstone, and I didn’t get any writing done. Which, oddly enough, is the crux of this post.

I am very, very fond of doing nothing. However, I live in the 21st century, and that means that I could always be doing something, even when I should be doing nothing. I always have my phone on me, and at the very least, I could always be reading on my phone. I wrote about this, about using your phone as a way of taking a library of classics with you everywhere, and that’s perfectly valid, but I’ve come to the point where if I have a bus journey I spend quietly thinking to myself, I feel like it was time wasted. I could have been reading.

Or at home. I just quietly watch some YouTube videos. I listen to an album. I stare out the window. I could have been writing. And any time I am not writing, or not thinking about writing, I feel guilty.

This is partly a trap of my own making. I work for myself and I work from home. There is the odd external motivation, but largely my motivation has to come from myself, and I have to motivate myself to work within the same context that I relax. There is no work/life balance because there is no fulcrum. I could always be working.

It would be easy to fix, of course. Get off my arse and write, ideally early in the day. Not necessarily with a set target, but just motivate myself over that first hump, and get some work done. Then if I spend the rest of the day playing Football Manager, at least I got some work done.

But there are days I find that difficult, and it seeps into every activity. I can’t fully enjoy playing Football Manager, because I could be writing. If I do write, it wasn’t enough, or it was enough, but it wasn’t of sufficient quality.

Basically I’m saying that you should ideally think about having a real job.

It occurred to me a while ago that a solution to this problem might be to write about videogames. I do like to write about videogames sometimes, but it’s not the meat of my work. It’s a reasonable idea, it would allow my play to have some kind of productive outcome, but there are some problems with it.

The first problem is that it continues to mix work and fun. I’d start only playing games I wanted to write about. I’d continue to feel guilt if I didn’t balance it right.

The second problem is that my audience is largely uninterested in videogames.

The third problem is that I often write fiction, and apart from maybe Ender’s Game (which has its own problems) I can’t think of much good fiction about videogames.

I am reminded of something Picasso said, that painting and fucking do not go together.

To write well, you have to read. To read, you have to, first of all, not be playing videogames (unless it’s Planescape Torment). You also need quiet, contemplative time in which the more subconscious aspects of creativity can work. Videogames fill that quiet time with static.

Basically I advise you to get a real job and a primary hobby that isn’t videogames.

None of this is that big a problem. I am just good at overthinking and treating minor inconveniences as major problems. I still get work done. I still enjoy myself with my hobbies. There are no clear distinctions, but I know plenty of people with real jobs whose personal lives have been messily encroached upon. The 21st century is weird. And that’s not even taking into account that as someone working in a creative field, social media is both necessary and a huge fucking detriment to my work, but I’ll talk about that some other time.

It’s 2017 and I Just Played Mega Man for the First Time

I have never played the Mega Man games before. A gap in my knowledge. They just weren’t that popular in Europe, partly because the NES wasn’t I think. I certainly can’t recall ever coming across many copies of them. The first Mega Man game I remember seeing around a lot was the first Battle Network. The Mega Man Legacy Collection was on sale on Steam the other day so I figured I’d give it a go.

You see, I suck at videogames. I love them, I spend an inordinate amount of time playing them (Time you should spend writing – Ed.), and yet, I suck at them. I think the only game I was ever really good at was League of Legends, and at that briefly, because of the sheer amount of time I spent playing that game and playing solely Ezreal. I use guides, I use savestates, and I play on easy mode.

That first skeleton in Dark Souls that throws bombs at you fucked me right up.

So I started with the first Mega Man. I picked a stage at random, I think it was Gutsman’s stage? I lost half my health on the little helmet guys and then couldn’t get past the platforms. Gravity is fucked up in that game. As is inertia.

Ok, I decided to try Mega Man 2. That’s the best one, right?

I got past the first screen at least. I still really suck at it, but I’m gonna try (on normal mode). At least the soundtrack is excellent. And looking up the soundtrack, I came across this:

Man, it must be fucking awesome to say you’re in a rock band and get asked what you play.

“Oh, me? The NES.”

Some Notes on Quitting Smoking

As of this writing, I smoked my last cigarette 15 days, 3 hours, 46 minutes, and 22 seconds ago. I normally smoke rollies, but someone else who was quitting gave me most of a pack of Pall Mall and I determined that it would be my last pack, too.

 

– – –

 

Before I smoked my last cigarette, I ate a huge lump of beef that was difficult to cook reasonably. It was the bloodiest steak I’ve ever eaten, and the combination of burnt black/brown and the vivid red revealed by the knife had the same visual effect as the picture of lung surgery on the (hopefully) last pack of cigarettes I will ever smoke. The steak was delicious. It was a fitting dinner to have before very deliberately having my Last Ever Cigarette.

 

– – –

 

The first cigarette I ever smoked came from a pack that I’d found. I couldn’t have been older than twelve. I was out with a friend, which meant we were walking around South Bretton looking for something to do. There wasn’t anything to do. South Bretton is an area loaded with hedgerows and bushes that we explored through as kids. In a hedgerow on the edge of where South Bretton becomes Netherton, where the hospital is, we found a gold box. The gold box turned out to be a ten pack of Benson & Hedges Gold. We were excited. Both our parents smoked. We’d thought about trying it. You’ve seen the stats on the children of smokers. Where we found those cigarettes, there now stands an oncology unit. The hedgerow is still there, behind it. Go figure.

 

– – –

 

It’s now been about a month and a half. I could check exactly how long it’s been, but I’m not as bothered now. Every second meant something and I was looking for any excuse to have a cigarette. I had some good excuses but none of them were good enough.

 

– – –

 

My friend and I had found a lighter somewhere, too. We went in to the woods (it was always a hedgerow, or a bush, or the woods) and decided to share a cigarette. Neither of us knew how to smoke a cigarette, that is, how to first pull the smoke into your mouth and then inhale it with some air. It was bitter tasting smoke that had no effect. We couldn’t see why people did it.

 

– – –

 

I have always found the smell of cigarette smoke comforting. I still like the smell of cigarette smoke, six weeks on. I have always had an oral fixation. Put it down to not being breast fed. I still want a cigarette. Not as badly, not as often, but still, I would very much like a cigarette. I can feel the difference in my nose, throat, and chest though. If I had a cigarette now, I would probably cough up a storm.

 

– – –

 

I remember the first time I inhaled. I was leaning out of a ground floor window smoking a Djarum Black. I read about them on Everything2 (I was on Everything2 and Something Awful a lot before I discovered the *chans). I am glad it was a ground floor window because when I figured out I could get the smoke in to my lungs I nearly fell out of it in a rush of vertigo and nausea. And then a tingling and an intenseness of sight and touch. However do people get addicted to it, I wondered (and still do), when the first experience is that of intense nausea?

 

– – –

 

Horses for courses. I don’t understand how people enjoy whiskey. It is peaty water and it burns. But people do like it.

 

– – –

 

I got addicted to smoking. I didn’t think I would. It crept up on me. Well, I would have noticed but I was more preoccupied with my girlfriend breaking up with me. I spent the day playing No More Heroes, smoking Bensons & Hedges Gold, and feeling sullen. I was miserable and smoked a lot and that is how I got addicted. I came to associate those cigarettes with negative feelings, until I smoked them with someone else I was in a much more adult relationship with and the association changed. I say more adult, my part in that first relationship when I was seventeen certainly wasn’t, I can’t speak for her. I don’t blame her and I’m not proud.

 

– – –

 

I spent a lot of my teens playing videogames, smoking, and feeling sullen.

 

– – –

 

There was a brief period where I was old enough to buy cigarettes, because I was sixteen, and that was the legal age. Then they upped it to eighteen, and damnit, I turned seventeen, didn’t I? I had to try different places to see where I could still buy cigarettes. The local shops, no. WHSMith, no (yes, they sell cigarettes, I am as confused as you). The train station… yes? For a while it was the only place I didn’t get IDed. I smoked about a pack a week, going back to the train station on weekends to re-up. I remember those solitary expeditions being some of my happiest hours as a teenager. I have no idea why, but I think it’s that secret frisson you get when no one knows where you are, and no one knows what you’re doing.

 

– – –

 

Whenever I browse the smoking cessation aisle in the pharmacy, I am reminded of a Bill Hicks skit, the one that says “it’s you people dying of nothing that are screwed”. I first started listening to Bill Hicks around the time I started smoking. It was nice to have a fellow traveller.

 

– – –

 

Oral sprays, nasal sprays, lozenges, gum, mint strips, patches, inhalators, vaporisers. There’s a whole toybox waiting for you if you quit smoking.

 

– – –

 

There are drugs that are supposed to stop your cravings to but they’ve been linked to suicides so I shied away.

 

– – –

 

I quit smoking largely out of economic concern. The toys cost me about the same as my habit, but my habit (rolling tobacco pretty much exclusively) was cheap compared to people who smoke, say, Marlboro Reds, which I am pretty sure are a tenner a pack now.

 

– – –

 

I mostly just chew gum now. It’s cheaper than smoking and won’t kill me.

 

– – –

 

I will always be an addict. I will always be a smoker that doesn’t smoke anymore.

 

– – –

 

At first it wasn’t the same. Now I look forward to my first piece of gum after waking. The post-dinner gum.

 

– – –

 

Post-coital gum still isn’t the same but I’ll get there.

 

– – –

 

I wasn’t anticipating that I would so often dream about smoking cigarettes.

 

– – –

 

I also didn’t anticipate that the guilt upon waking would feel very real, like after a dream where you murder someone, or sleep with someone who isn’t your partner.

 

– – –

 

A great aunt of mine died recently. Smoker. She was 60. Another great aunt died a few years ago. Smoker.

 

– – –

 

I don’t smoke any more, and I know I will die too.

 

– – –

 

Non-smokers die, every day.

 

– – –

 

And I used to not particularly care how long I’d live, but I care now. And I’m poor.

 

– – –

 

So I don’t smoke anymore.

 

– – –

 

I still want a cigarette.