Saturday, June 11, 2022

A Journal of the Pandemic #32

Such are the times we live in (and maybe they all are, and sometimes it's just easier to tell) where the way we interpret those times ends up inherently polarized.  We're in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a little earlier in the year it seemed as if we had finally begun to emerge from it, at least in some sense, drifting back into previous versions of "normal."  The pandemic itself isn't over, and whatever progress we make back to "normal" can always suffer setbacks.

Which is to say, at work the pandemic has certainly been reasserting itself.

My job has been one of the rare experiences in this thing where "normal" was all but mandated to reassert itself as early as two years ago, which is also to say, the first year of the pandemic, 2020.  To quickly recap, I experienced the initial quarantine phase in the month of April that year, but as of May I was headed back to work, and while it was a slow restart, it was otherwise work as usual.  There's no such thing as teleworking my job, I assure you.  So for the past two years I have very much been existing in a weird world of knowing things are different but also a certain amount of extreme continuity with as they were before the pandemic.

When the virus strikes we shut directly affected rooms down.  For two years I was never actively in a room that faced this.  That streak ended on Wednesday.  I tested that same day, as I was admittedly sick, but the results came back negative; the same ol' sinus infection I always battle.

So I continued working.

A couple of weeks ago I was traveling for the first time during the pandemic.  I headed to Alabama to attend my nephew's high school graduation.  I will spare the details for those who feel particularly polarized, but suffice to say there were kids who were obviously sick I encountered along the way, and that's only what was obvious.  If I held my head because a situation was frustrating, people immediately suspected it was for some other reason (you can guess).

Among the books I packed for the trip, which I didn't end up reading during it but soon after, was the first one I've read to be written during and thus reflective of pandemic life.  As I've been saying, I fully expect this to be a regular feature of cultural life for many years to come.  It will be inescapable, and I actually look forward to it; out of the news, into the literature.  We've grown a little too comfortable looking at symptoms rather than the disease, as it were, so it'll be nice to see life reflected a little more directly, so in that way I'm actually thankful for getting to experience all of this.

Aronnax released


I know a guy named Herb who liked this when it was serialized on Kindle Vella, so that's at least one satisfied reader.

Which is to say, I have released Aronnax as a paperback book.  

For those who might be reading this but are unfamiliar with the story, this is, as the subtitle suggests, "a tale of twenty thousand leagues," the twenty thousand leagues, as in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne, also known as the Captain Nemo story.

Although my version doesn't lean on Nemo so much as the French biologist Pierre Aronnax, whose discovery of Nemo is the impetus for the original story.  In the present, Pierre's descendants Sylvio and his son Julian embark on an improbable journey of resubmerging Nemo's ship, the Nautilus, which in recent decades has become a forgotten neighborhood landmark, the "yellow submarine" (several chapter titles are indeed drawn from the Beatles song), a journey of discovery and self-discovery.

It's another novella, but it was a project that started out much differently and ended up becoming a personal favorite, not the least because it drew on my own family ancestry, and family in general.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

A Journal of the Pandemic #31

I originally began composing this back in February.  Part of why I paused it was because I've been getting back into the swing of things, going out a lot more, and that's in large part because the pandemic is receding ever more gradually into the past.  I think there's little doubt about that at this point.  There are new surges happening, of course, and time will only tell how those develop, but the pandemic as it was for its first two years is effectively over.


At work, as of a few weeks ago, masks are no longer mandatory.  When the pandemic began I ended up working at a new building with a lot of new people who didn't know what my face looked like under the mask (I had a bunch I cycled through, although I had a whole set of ones with various fancy mustaches on them; I don't remember if I mentioned them here previously), and so it has been a different kind of introduction.  As it turns out, it's not easy to interpret what people actually look like just by their eyes!  I think all those superheroes have it backwards.  Keep the eyes!  Hide the mouth!  And I think everyone is getting used to this now.  Probably! 

I'm booking trips!  I've already booked one to attend my oldest nephew's high school graduation.  His birth back in 2004 was kind of the beginning of a whole journey for me, the first major event to occur post-college graduation for me, the first time I flew on a plane, the first time I visited the South (the first time I had Krispy Kreme! White Castle!), sort of the beginning of an extended new association with my other sister.  Whom I intend to visit a little later, after she's given birth to her third child.  And I will get to meet her second one, in person, for the first time!  And reunite with the Burrito. Just waiting for approval of the days off, then book the flights...

It's still astonishing that the pandemic swallowed two whole years.  Two years!  And of course there are people who will continue to argue that we shouldn't believe it's over, and it's not, but it is.  I'm plotting out what will probably be the last of the pandemic money, in conjunction with these trips.  Some people have talked about money for the high gas prices, but that's not gonna happen.  Yeah, Russia is busy trying desperately to start another world war, just as everyone else is trying desperately to avoid it, and that's caused gas prices to soar.  When I began this in February the invasion of Ukraine had just begun, and I worried about how it would proceed, and of course that's yet another thing to monitor, and nobody can really guess about that.

Two years ago I had a month off of work, was greatly irritated that my previous plans to visit family had been cancelled, and here on the other side, during two years of watching other people continue to travel, and enduring a previous surge at the end of 2021 that made it look like 2022 would be exactly like the previous two years, and now this, booking trips, and these are definitely going to happen, I really believe that.  I mean, Spider-Man: No Way Home made crazy money at the box office.  It's still making money, and here it's April, and movies are being blockbusters again, not just in China, but around the world, and right here in the US.  Those pesky gas prices have been making packages take longer than usual, but on the whole, things're lookin' pretty gooood.

I want to believe this is the last time I write about the pandemic while it's an active thing here.  Is that reasonable?  I think it's reasonable.  I hope things are looking good for you, too.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Nine Panel Grid, World Famous released, Event Fatigue

 I've added Event Fatigue to the list of my Kindle Vella projects on the right.  Apparently I skipped a month between chapters, but will be digging back in.  Two additional will be populating today, and, well, there are plenty more to come. 

Happily I can announce the release of a book from the second Kindle Vella project, Nine Panel Grid!

Keeping my present preferences, there is only a paperback release, which you can find here.  This is something of a metafiction, a story about a comic book that doesn't exist, detailing what happens in its final issue, including descriptions of art that does not exist, and a history that is equally fictional.  It involves characters I began working on nearly two decades ago, including one I created nearly three decades ago.  So it's got a lot of real history behind it, too, plus a bonus comic book script that's a version of Batman relevant to the story.  It's very much a project that's very interesting to me, and I will be peddling copies to a comic book shop that recently opened down the road from me, and I will keep you informed about that as things develope.

A few weeks before this one I also released World Famous, a story I worked on occasionally throughout 2021 (and finished earlier this year).
Likewise this is only a paperback release, which you can find here.  As the cover heavily implies, this one is about professional wrestling, and draws on stuff I've been dabbling with for the same general three decade period, so this has certainly been a good time to be writing stories on old material for me.  

Later I will be releasing my first Kindle Vella project, Aronnax, when I decide what (if anything) to add in order to bulk up the page count a little.  I have a timeline I put together for the abortive project that led to Aronnax, and I could certainly include the associated essay as well.  Who knows what else.  

Saturday, January 8, 2022

A Journal of the Pandemic #30

We are now in the third year of the pandemic.  I say this at the start of 2022, since we are in an apparent surge as the Omicron variant has once again forced the conversation back into the forefront.  I say this as my dad has recovered from his own bout with COVID-19, and in acknowledgment at the loss of Gene Pelletier, a close family friend who with his wife suffered through it at the same time.  I say this as my place of work has elevated its response level back to where it was, nominally, at the pandemic's peak.  I say this knowing that vaccines and boosters and masks remain sources of deep contention.  I say this knowing I had plans to travel this year.  I say this knowing, even though I've known many people who have traveled, as far back as 2020 (which indeed seems like a long time ago, somehow), that one of the clearest ways to combat the spread, as far I'm concerned, is not to travel.  I say this as someone who wants to travel, who wants to see family, in person, again...

Gene and his wife were key figures in my mom's battle with cancer.  When she died in 2015, they were certain sources of support.  When I spent my year with my niece, they were again pillars of my life.  Gene was the kind of person who I didn't know very well, but for whom it didn't matter.  He was my kind of guy.  He knew his way around a joke.  I'd known him, tangentially, before ending up living in the same park, when he was not only friend but neighbor.  

His memorial service was yesterday.  I wish I could have been there.  If I owe anyone that it would be Gene and his wife.  

I'm kind of sick of the pandemic.  I don't honestly know how anyone wouldn't be.  I'm sick of it.  I think even those morbidly fascinated with being "right about it" have lost steam.  They want to move on, too.  Obviously the American/global box office somehow managed to find enough people to make history with Spider-Man: No Way Home, so there may yet be an end in sight.  Hopefully.  

Hopefully.  And, again, we're nowhere close to a true reckoning with the experience.  It's barely begun.  There will be pandemic stories for the rest of our lives.  Fifty years from now there will be generations for whom it's only a matter of history, something they're forced to learn in school, and for most of whom it will barely register as real.  But for us, it's an everyday fact that will remain fact, something we are going to have to deal with, long after we've sorted out all the immediate fallout, the ramifications, and yeah, the virus itself.  Probably it's a shot we're going to get annually.  Probably?  Definitely.  It's the next flu shot.  Of course it is.  

In my blogging community, everyone seems to have remained pretty steadfastly silent on the subject.  I guarantee, in a few years even these bloggers will be talking endlessly about it.  In fifty years it might be the only thing anyone knows about this era.  Except those pesky students.  Doing whatever delinquent things kids will do in the (20)70s...

To get there, to see that, I would have to live into my nineties.  This is hardly impossible.  I've known a few people who did.  

I've already taken a stab at writing pandemic fiction.  I imagine I probably will again in the future.  But perhaps once life has decided normal looks like normal used to.  If that's even possible anymore...

Monday, January 3, 2022

Updates on Current Doings (or, 2022 Begins to Take Shape)

I sketched up the major projects I'll be tackling this year, Event Fatigue (the third Kindle Vella; previously reported as Ex-Ray: Event Fatigue) and Death Is Wearing Me Out (the once-monthly project succeeding World Famous; a ghost story, since it's apparently the thing that attracts me at the moment).  Both should be very, very interesting, and more accessible than their predecessors (World Famous, being about wrestling, and Nine Panel Grid, which is probably quite impenetrable).

But let's talk about those a little more, shall we?  Technically I should've finished World Famous by the end of last year.  Didn't really turn out that way.  I have two chapters yet to write, but they'll be easy enough to finish, and would've been done this morning if the very computer I'm using at the moment had cooperated (clever companies think they improve everything when they sometimes make them needlessly complicated).  In hindsight I'm all the happier I chose to do this a year ago, and that I plugged away at it dutifully (sometimes with a little catching up).  

Even Nine Panel Grid, since it handles a story I intended to write nearly two decades earlier (alas, a comics contest I probably hilariously fell far short of even coming close to winning).  I'm now six chapters away from finishing, about a month and a half, since it's mostly a once-a-week project, having started at the beginning of October.

Event Fatigue will be forty-four chapters, the longest by far (double the length of Nine Panel) I've tackled for Kindle Vella.  I still need to flesh out the story, but it's going to be pretty straight-forward, and also involve superheroes.  I picked out a cover image that hopefully at least stands out a little better than my last two.  It also picks up characters originally derived from an older project, which only occurred to me when I finally sat down to begin an outline.  This one should be fun.

I'm still writing up material for Substack, in the meantime.  I have no idea if I have a chance at developing an actual following there, but it's worth an effort.  I plan to devote one installment to Nine Panel Grid, perhaps write an actual story (you'd understand if you had a look at Nine Panel exactly what I'm talking about) and the journey to working on it.  I did write a story in the Space Corps saga, and probably will do more in the future.

I know I was just talking about Space Colony Bactria, and obviously Collider, and I really need to get on Montague, but as a writer doing it on the side, I have to decide the projects that can work around the schedule.  

As always, we'll see.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

A Journal of the Pandemic #29

Here we are at the end of 2021, and only a few months away from a full two years of the pandemic, and it's very, very safe to say that this is going to be a defining moment of recent history.

I'm not sure we've really gotten around to appreciating this fact.  I mean, yes, everyone knows it's happening.  Most of the discussion, though, long ago settled on the response, and not to the effect.  Nearly two years in, I just thought it would again be worth considering the latter.  In the run-up to Christmas a lot of chatter has been about the supply chain and how all those cargo ships bottlenecked out to sea.  That's just the tip of the iceberg!  We haven't even begun to appreciate what's happened during all of this, let alone what's going to continue happening as a result.  I do my shopping online every year because everyone on my list lives elsewhere.  It's just easier than buying it here and shipping it myself.  I've done that on occasion, sure.  I'm not averse to doing that.  But on the simple premise of online shopping, it was certainly recommended, if doing so, to do it early.  My older sister thought she had to do it so early I got her gifts...right after Thanksgiving.  I did my shopping at the end of last month.  That resulted in everything arriving well before Christmas, this year.  Last year there were a lot of real delays even with the same ordering pattern.  The difference, this time, was that I probably ordered a lot of things that were never going to be in those marooned containers.  I feel bad for those people.  

Companies are beginning to change the way they do business, what they're willing to spend money on versus the return they get from shoppers.  People like me, for instance, who are still buying physical media like DVDs/Blu-rays were in for a rude awakening this past Black Friday, since unlike all recent preceding years sales at traditional venues did not really feature those.  WWE just announced it's ceasing releasing material that way.  I know, I know, streaming is the thing.  I watch things on streaming.  I would not want to watch all the things on streaming.  I never even had cable.  I lived with cable, but never had it myself.  I certainly never had premium cable, and that's basically what everyone wants to provide, now, just so everyone can watch one service for one show.  I don't get that.  I mean, at the moment these services have crazy money to provide crazy material.  I mean, that's how we got the Snyder Cut, right?  It probably would never have happened otherwise.

One of the crazier things you may have noticed is the excuses people make because of the pandemic.  "Pandemic weight gain," for instance.  

Me, I can't believe it's still happening.  We got Omicron, now.  Omicron seems to have turned into a neutered version of COVID-19.  It's sort of the selling point for the booster shot, but even the booster shot isn't really selling very well, and no one is pushing it very hard, unlike the vaccines themselves.  At work the rash of illnesses have been traditional illnesses, lately.  And at work, because of the pandemic, what have traditionally been low attendance periods aren't looking that way in the two holiday weeks.  It looks like people are just trying to catch up with work.  That's what's going to be happening, and it's not going to look very pretty, in the months ahead.  

Me, at work I still have to wear a mask, but when I go out in public, even when it isn't called for, even though I'm vaccinated, I still wear a mask.  I'm really, really used to it at this point, and this seems especially weird, knowing I've been wearing a mask for so long.  I even reached the point, this week, of realizing that my mask was being mashed up with how long I'd let my beard grow, without me realizing it was the beard causing it, until I shaved it back down.  

I've been making tentative plans to visit family next year.  I really want to actually follow through, too, because I haven't seen family since 2019, and 2022 seems like it's going to finally be safe to do so without seeming selfish.  I mean, I know plenty of people who have been traveling since a long time ago in the pandemic era.  Across state lines, across the country.  

In the meantime, I'll just have to make do with what I've been doing.  I finally realized, this year, that even the pandemic funny money finally runs out, and I need to start being responsible again.  I was privileged to be in that position.  I say that again.  Now I just want money to be able to do the big things, like travel plans, even to be able to make a big move, like moving.  If I can figure out how to do that.  If there are other possibilities out there for me.  My job is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done for work, and yet it's an incredibly hard one to do with the certain knowledge that, like every other job I have ever had, there are others working alongside me who don't understand its responsibilities.  And that's every job.  That's people.  People, on the whole, are selfish.  You have to understand that. 

That's life.

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