Man in the Mirror

I’m not one for resolutions or revolutions or any plan of any sort. But this is a more perilous world we’re all living in and I think it behooves me to state with as much authority as I can muster what I have planned for 2017. I need to be more accountable, I need to fight with the weapons I have and learn more about the weapons I don’t. Also, maybe write a few less of these weird raps? You know, just talk about my problems – process things like an adult? (No promises on that one.)

So, here’s what is on the docket.

Political Thought/Fiction

  • City on Fire : I’m writing an allegory of sorts over on Medium, I’ll also be putting any political writing over there. I’m going to be putting up the next chapter of City on Fire in the next couple of days, it should be about 10 chapters total. In between chapters I also have some open letters to my Senators planned.

New Projects

  • Shadeaux Public Radio : I’ve been writing songs and making bizarre Christmas albums with my friend, Jonathan, for 8 years now. We decided to finally stop being babies and actually take a stab at a regular podcast. Weird songwriting, comedy, the dissolution of reality, and resistance against the Darkness. Here’s a taste of our science: https://soundcloud.com/g-derek-adams/sets/the-shadeaux-bros-vs-the-king

 

Writing

  • Finish Basilisk Gospel. (Yes, still.)
  • Start Rime Korvanus vs. the Council of Nine 
  • *PENDING* Asteroid Made of Dragons news, that I hope to share with you soon.

 

Theater

  • Directing Sarah Ruhl’s STAGE KISS, opens February. (Expect my brain to be a little overtaxed this next month.)

 

Resistance

  • Every day.
  • Even if it’s just a little.

 

I know many of you probably feel similar to me after this past year – weary. But I’ve also begun to feel different these past few weeks. Not better – but tempered, prepared. There’s work to be DONE. The battles are now. I don’t know if I’m the equal to it, but I believe that I must be. That we all must be. And there’s strength in that.

 

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Free Fall in 1000 Words

I have to start somewhere. Here is as good a place as any. This dot, this sentence, this word. What did Archimedes promise?

  • Give me a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth.

Yes, I know. Some versions of the quote he mentions the lever or the fulcrum too. And already the sand runs through my fingers.

I’m in free fall – I built myself specifically to ignore problems like these. I left the real world to its own devices. I have always believed, needed to believe, that we beat back the darkness with art. That making makes light, makes heat, makes a calm rhythm on the street. Everyone else can go to work, go to church, go to the store and buy milk. I do some of those things, but not really, not truly – I’m a phantom in this world, or I want to be. I make enough to live, I own very little. If my girlfriend threw me out I’d be gone without even a mattress to my name. I grew up in nowhere Georgia, which is to say a place dreaming itself. I grew up in books, flinging myself further and further away through any door, through every door. The most revolutionary act is Transformation – new eyes, new lives, new skin and bone. Every time I was ripped back here it was an insult, an umbrage, a soggy disappointment.

But I grew older. A four word opera. There were things I wanted here in this world, so I learned to Appear. To Seem. When you’re a ghost pulling levers it’s easy to pull together a pleasant machine. Take this laugh and that rhythm and those lines of words unspooling across his brow and cobble together an Almost Person. And I lumbered forward and I crammed a lot of this world into my gob. Take this part and that part and this smile and that heart and the machine is without chink.

Until one day. Three word tragedy. A bullet broke the machine, right over my heart, and I remembered I was a ghost after all. And I was here again and could feel again and I was falling. Like now. Like then I wanted out and the ghost that is me remembered the trick of opening the doors, always another door, always another Transformation. And I found, to my true surprise, that other people wanted to find the doors, needed help opening the doors, would follow me through if I sang just right.

This is it, I said. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m addicted to narrative, and we always want to find out we are the Hero that Hides. All the time in the mines, running through the shadow, all the time wandering on the edge of things, it was all for this. The real world has enough people watching it – I have my own worlds to tend.

But it’s not true. It wasn’t true. It was lucky and privileged and ignorant and vain. I’ve had time and peace and food and roof to scrawl dragons in the dirt. I have white skin and hazel eyes and can walk where I please in This world or That. I have lived idly on the edge of a great battle my entire life and have barely even offered to wear the colors of justice.

In my stories, though it may not always be clear, I’m trying to give something, say something – something useful. The power of the bonds of love. The nobility of the fight against the inevitable. But what good is it?

I’m a ghost and I’m falling. I can open door after door but I’m only bringing forth more phantoms. I can sing you a story about a city on fire but I can’t get more tax allocations for the fire department.

Because here. Now. I don’t know what to do. I called my Senators, I called my Congressman. It helped, it was worthwhile. But it’s not enough. The amount of my relief far outweighs the amount of good I did. I’m reading up on my entire state federal legislature, desperately trying to cram knowledge that I should have already mastered. I voted, I’ll vote every time, I’m ready to throw myself behind any true-heart champion on any level. I have some money I can donate to the right side of the important fights. It doesn’t feel like enough.

I’m not looking for absolution, I’m just stammering out a resolution. I’m a ghost and a broken machine and there are so many doors – but here is where the fight is. With people. With blood and bone and fire and stone. I’m falling like before, but this time I don’t have the lightning bolt in my belly. I don’t have the secret gift. I have no elixir and it’s getting dark.

I’m looking for that firm place to stand. The spot, even a dot where I can rally. There isn’t one, this isn’t a song or a fable or a run across the jazzman’s table. Just falling and air and fear. And this is where I was content to leave the rest of the worldNo door, no light, no dancing in the twilight. 

I can’t stop being a ghost or a broken machine or a sad little boy on the edge of a forest. But I can do more. I can do my best. I can keep making, I can keep opening doors, but I have to find my way into the fray. The most revolutionary act is that of Transformation – I’ve changed to suit my own purposes, I can change to better suit the times, to better suit the defense of my fellow humans.

And here we are at the end. This was mostly about me, I don’t know if I can shed that. Help me get in the fight. Instruct me. Inform me. I come from a people that love means duty. I have not done mine.

DragonCon Schedule (How to Find Me)

First, you must do this.

You must stand in the spire as the sun reaches its zenith. As the light falls on your eyes, close them tight.

A youth, dressed as a vaguely homoerotic Smash Brothers fighter will appear. You are not to speak to him, only nod in appreciation. He may nod back. He may not. That is not part of this. Or is it.

Second, you must do this.

On Friday, in the Hyatt Lobby, three women will appear. They are not cosplaying. They are actual elves. Do not speak to them, only nod in respect. They are wearing headphones. When they depart, turn quickly to your right. The first Deadpool you see is named Craig. That is not part of this, but a neat trick nonetheless.

Third, you must do this.

Climb the stairs to the hidden Con Suite. Eat and drink whatever is offered with effusive thanks. Walk to the westernmost corner that overlooks the lobby. Someone of no important gender will appear – as gender is performative anyway – and speak to you of echolocation. You are close on my trail. Go to bed immediately, you will need your strength.

Fourth, you must do this.

Find the Catan board with the triangular notch in one side. Steal the Thief piece, he knows one of my secrets. Interrogate him carefully in a manner of your own devising. He will not speak. Chaos does not break.

Fifth, you must do this.

Forget your name. Forget the weight that hangs on your heart. Run down the endless halls and sing the songs that you like best. Gaze with disbelief on the vague errata of a life you have left behind you and scoff at those who claim you must return.

Last, you must do this.

Remember that we are the Empty, but we shine all the brighter for the light we can carry in the vast hole some call Heart.

OR

You know, hit me up on Twitter – @gderekadams – or comment here. I’d love to meet up with anyone! And I’ll probably make time to go to The Dragon Award ceremony, Sunday – 2:30.

 

Attack – Magic – Item <

I don’t know if there’s a term for this, but it’s a sensation I’ve been keying on a lot lately, so I’ll try and describe it. It’s something that happens in JRPG’s – generally when you’re younger, playing for the first time – before you’ve mastered the mechanics, or have played enough of them to really GET the need for grinding or system mastery. You just get pulled forward by the story, by the colors, by the sense of momentum – until you find a point in the game, generally a boss battle – where you hit that first difficulty spike.

final-fantasy-VI-screenshot-1I’m thinking turn-based Final Fantasy style games here – so you know the sort of boss I’m talking about. Stratospheric HP. They attack three or four times as much as you can. They have special attacks that target the entire party and reduce your health by 60-70%. They cast DOOM too early in the game – long before you can easily heal that status. They take out Sabin in the first turn, then Terra – and you get trapped in the Phoenix Down Loop of trying to bring your characters back to life, but then the boss goes again and knocks them right back out. You finally wear the boss down to half and IT HEALS ITSELF.

Turn based games are all about developing patterns. Little algorithms. Little pathways of strategy and victory that carry you to the next turn of the page, the next point on the horizon, the next treasure chest gleaming in the dark. This boss battle EATS your algorithm, shatters your pattern. The plans you’ve laid, the habits you’ve developed – nothing works anymore. You’ve got to scramble, improvise, and —

Now, here’s the part I’m trying to describe.

All of your old patterns don’t work anymore. Most of your party is dead – the gambler, the rune knight, the ninja. You just have one random character left and they have no healing abilities – so you start digging around in your Item screen.

In games like this – you pick up all sorts of things. Potions, tonics, elixirs, shiny rocks, trinkets. And in these moments, you desperately start digging through your bag – hoping there’s something in there you’ve forgotten, some random bottle gathering dust that can save the day – or at the very least get you back on your feet to keep fighting. It’s a feeling ctbattle3of desperation. Your best characters – the best pieces of you- are toast and all you’ve got left is that final slot trying to play it cool while they are elbow deep in the item sack. Magus is casting Ice 2 every turn with grim patience and watching you falter.

And sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you find an Elixir  you forgot about. Or an X-Potion. But most of the time you’re just throwing whatever you have – Phoenix Downs and Tonics, the better characters breathe and then die again under the boss’ onslaught. Maybe you can hold out, but every time you reach into the bag you know there’s less and less to pull from – less and less of a chance of the perfect solution.

Then there comes the moment. The moment when you know.

You know you can’t win. You know that there’s only so many Hi-Potions left, only so many turns before you fall. The logical choice would be to quit. Reload from the last save and try again. But for some reason, I don’t. I keep throwing whatever is left in my bag – turnips, sacks of candy, broken nails, status effect causing items that never ever land on a boss. I think it feels like if I can buy more time, more moves, more turns – that the boss will falter. A new strategy could reveal itself, a chink in the armor of the world. I’m locked into a Hi-Potion Standoff – all I can do every turn is choke another one down. Heal up just enough to survive the next attack, then crack open another. Until they are gone.

Life is not Final Fantasy VI. It’s both way more complicated – and seriously moogle deprived. But I wanted to describe that feeling – that weird hopeful desperation. No moves left but this, hoping for a forgotten chance somewhere deep down in the bag. And the determination to make the boss earn it.

 

A Servant of What?

“What did it want?” Coracle asked.

“I’m still not sure,” the mage rubbed her tired eyes. “To destroy, clearly. But it seemed important that we destroy ourselves, that our own hands, our own works be our undoing. It claimed it was a servant.”

“A servant of what?” Sand asked quietly.
“The Dark.” Rime shrugged. “Whatever vague, nebulous thing that is.”

-excerpt from The Riddle Box

I haven’t felt moved to say much about Orlando. I’m not going to question that lack of impulse – better voices than mine have spoken and will speak.  And this is something I talk about a lot, whether I wish it or not. It’s not hard to squint when you’re reading The Riddle Box and figure out what I’m talking about.

So, I’ve said what I thought before – but today I don’t have anything to say. But, I also didn’t want to let it go unmarked. I may not speak, but I will listen. I will see and I will remember.

Hold On, I’m Getting At Something

The backer copies of Asteroid Made of Dragons have all shipped and the wave is crashing down on the East Coast. By tonight – tomorrow maybe – they will have all arrived. My Facebook profile is awash with pictures – pictures of my friends with their copy, the copy they bought a year ago because I asked them to. Some have one, some have three, or five, or more. A gesture of love, of confidence, of faith and it wrecks me.

Writing is lonely. Being a human is lonely.

I don’t do well with moments of connection. Socially, sure. Joking, sure. But a real moment? Something important and true? Not my scene. We’re so unstable, the most unsuitable of symbols. How can I know the things I say are being received in the moment, in the blur of memory and sense and thinking of the next thing to say while half-hearing what you are saying now while also feeling the echoes of other versions of this conversation from before and beyond  on TV, in dreams, from splinter-blinks of fragmented now? I mean, how? Maybe it’s just me.

Being lonely is writing. A human is.

Hold On, I’m Getting At Something. This should be my coat of arms. I’ve written three books now (THREE!), and thousands of other words off in the Grand Margins.  And all in the service of this dimly perceived quest of discovery of meaning – of this THING I’m trying to say, but cannot express. Only glimpse the edges of as I travel forward and back in time. It’s hard to connect with humans – but with words, you have a puncher’s chance. This word connects to that, shapes form. Things stay where you put them. Mostly. Rime is Rime and Jonas is Jonas and Xenon loves graham crackers and Linus snores just a little bit. Now, on my desk is a red ball, the color of summer sunset and it is red, red, red. And it will stay red as long as I believe that it is red.

A lonely human is writing. Being.

So now – I see these pictures, I see these signs of love and faith. And all I can say is – do you see the ball on my desk? Is it red? Is it summer sunset or is it more of a cranberry? Why are you listening? Why are you picking up the signal? Why are you dreaming with me of the three moons that have no name and the Lost and the stupid, stupid power of friendship that keeps the dark at bay?

Being human is writing lonely.

Ah, the simple words. I’ve already said them – but they don’t land right. Thank you. Thank you. You thank, you are thanks. Thanks You. A tic, a nod, a thing we say to strangers and waiters and cats when they heed. An empty thing, not enough, a hollow gourd. A blob of ink at the end of emails and yammering sales pitches. Useless, sere, not enough. I pick up the pieces and slam them together, that’s all that I am, all that I do – all that I can do. With whatever art I have I try to say the Thing.

Lonely is being. Human is writing.

Thank you. You thank. You are thanks. Thanks are you.

Lonely human thanks you. You are writing.

Writing is you.

You are thank.

The ball is red and it is not so lonely. Thank you for coming so far with me.

 

Asteroid Made of Dragons: First Read Impressions

Banana cover

I’m a little muddled honestly. I think it’s a stronger book than my last, but I don’t have the same feeling of certainty after the first read. Maybe because this book has a LOT more moving parts? I feel like it all works, the baseline mechanics of it all, and some scenes really shine, and the end really surprised me? It makes me deeply happy, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t what I expected it to be.

I think it may just be a matter of form. Riddle Box was a murder mystery and that structure is a joy to inhabit — AMOD follows a three-act structure with a meta-narrative frame and all sorts of weird  hyper-narrative threads that shoot off all sorts of places. I like them! I want them to be there! But I guess it’s hard to quite feel it all settle in my head quite yet. RB was a dark lance to the heart, AMOD is this strange spinning wind chime that looks different from every angle.

I’m also serving a lot of masters in this book – something that is giving me no undue amount of anxiety-knives in my spleen. As always, the book must deliver on its own merits – one episodic adventure served a la carte. But, I also want readers who’ve followed me from the first two books to find the threads and rewards there for them – BUT BUT this is a bigger debut for a larger audience with my new publisher, so I don’t want new readers to feel unwelcome or confused, I also need to introduce the world and my entire ethos in an exciting and palatable fashion, ALSO I need to set up some secrets and foreshadowing for things that will happen in later adventures ALSO ALSO AS WELL AS just frankly deliver on the fun of the premise.

I won’t say that this draft has succeeded on all of these fronts. I will say that it is in the process of getting there.

BULLETED LIST

  • The frame story really lands for me – not sure how betas and editor will feel, but I think it will be especially nice for readers of RB and still work thematically for new readers.
  • First act really cooks along – lots of fun, strong starts, distinct voice for each section. May also just be because it’s been the longest since I wrote this section, but I enjoyed first act the most.
  • Xenon is the best. Suck it, all you old characters. You bore me.
  • First Act feels a lot like Spell/Sword in the Jonas & Rime chapters – wacky battles and teen angst.
  • Second act feels lumpy. There’s a chapter that straight SUCKS. Just halting, charmless, and bad. All connective gristle. Lots of re-writing here and the whole second act – this is where the reader gets to spend time in Gilead, and I don’t want that to be wasted.
  • Third Act we’re back to ACTION, ticking clock, asteroid falling, all that – the mechanics and emotion all land fairly well, need to work through the rise and fall of some of the action sequences. There’s a sequence i’m calling ‘Rime Goes Boom’ that I need to muse over and play with, going to need feedback on that one to get it to sing properly.
  • Denouement makes me grin like a huge nerd, its the anime ending – I can already feel the wind of the next adventure blowing and it’s exciting and makes me happy, especially because the plan is to leave Aufero to its own devices for a while after AMOD.

So, a complicated reaction. Lots of work to be done. God I’m glad I’m not doing it alone.

If you aren’t already – follow the book’s progress on my Inkshares page – where you can BUY IT if you’d like, or just malinger in the shadows and watch it change and grow and get better and better until its too hot for you, just way the fuck out of your league.