Categories: "In real life"


by Michael  

So, I've been smitten with the idea of vlogging for a while, and figured that now is as good a time as any to start. I've had a channel for a long while on which we had posted my interview with Jim Butcher a long, long time ago, so I figured, what the hell, let's give it a go. For this first one, I wanted to open a vlogging dialogue with my teenaged son. We already talk a lot, and we're very close, but more communication cant hurt. Hopefuly we'll get into this habitually and we can go from there.

Milestones; or Reflection On A Happy Birthday To Me

by Michael  




Thirty-five. There was a time when I seriously didn’t think I’d make it to this age. Some of that was just being young and unimaginative, but there was one time, the first time I failed out of college, that I gave myself the unimaginable goal of being “known” the world over by the time I was 25, or I promised I would kill myself. Of course, the internet happened, I made friends as far away as New Zealand, and I was spared coming up with a ridiculous excuse for why I wouldn’t take what I considered the coward’s way out. The truth is, it was little more than a sad, depressed note I’d left myself somewhere, and I never would have committed suicide, but there it was. I’m a little ashamed that I ever even put that thought into the world.


When I was in high school, I wrote a screed about how we had three options in life. We could join the mindless, mind-numbing zombies of the MTV generation. We could give up, admit defeat and take ourselves out. Or we could wear what Grant Morrison called “The Blank Badge” in The Invisibles. The idea was that we could choose, for ourselves, who we were, or we could be the failures of conformity society wanted us to be. I went off in that handwritten manifesto about how those who committed suicide were selfish and worthless, and deserved none of the sympathy some might give them. I said that suicide was still the failure of conformity, because it meant that you admitted that you had settled for someone else’s standards instead of your own. Essentially, if you took your own life, you won nothing and deserved nothing. There’s a lot of me that still believes that. I might add, now that I’m older, exceptions for the terminally ill, but then again, why not fight to the bitter end? I think about mortality a lot. I fear death in many ways, but I fear not satisfying myself more than I do death itself. But I digress.

I have had two people I cared about, though from a distance because I’ve slowly become more and more agoraphobic as I’ve aged, commit suicide in recent years. I miss them, but I am not sad for them. If anything, I’m angry at them. Even more angry when I consider them amongst those I looked up to when I was 19 and telling myself I only had until I was 25 to make it in the world. I wish they were still around. I wish they hadn’t been selfish. I sometimes start thinking about what might have been if I’d gotten over my self-imposed hermitage and reached out, but I stop myself. They never reached out to me either, so it’s not my cross to bear. Sorry, guys. I love you, but fuck you.


Here I am, ten years past one milestone, and now facing a new one. I’m the age required by law to run for the office of President of the United States. I won’t, mind you, because I curse too much, do not suffer fools, and I’m an atheist who likes porn, smoking, and English Football more than the NFL. Still, if I wanted to, I could. I was thinking about the idea of milestones tonight and I realized a few things. First, after 35, the age milestones are silly. At 16 you can drive. At 18 you can vote. Then at 21 you can drink, and 25 your insurance rates go down. The one at 35 is kind of deflating. Next is 65 and Social Security eligibility? Yuck. Second, milestones are what we make of them. It goes back to that Blank Badge idea, and something one of my former professors asked me once.


We were studying Virginia Woolf and I asked him why we studied her instead of someone more popular like Agatha Christie. I admit, my prejudice against suicides may have had something to do with my bias And besides, I told him, Agatha Christie was clearly the more successful of the two women. Dr. Russell asked me, “By what standard of success are you measuring?” Yeah, threw me for a loop. Sure, people still made movies out of Christie’s work, and her books have been read by more people, but have her books had an impact on anyone anywhere near the level of Woolf? Most people don’t know it, but when they get excited to get a glimpse inside the head of their favorite character, when the author gives them the ability to understand where a character is psychologically, it’s because the ghost of Virginia Woolf haunts all writers today. We explore epiphany and inner motivations because Woolf is our DNA. She changed the game. She forced writers and readers to do something new. Woolf is a weird case for me. She clearly embraced The Blank Badge, and for that, bravo. Yet, she was also a suicide, and for that choice I can’t help but feel animosity toward her. My thoughts on the issue are more complex than I feel I can deal with here. Woolf had a lot of milestones in her career, and while I’m tempted to compare myself to her and other writers, I know, deep down, that I cannot.


Chuck Wendig gave me some advice the other day. He said, “You’ll come back to it.” You see, I finished my novel a couple months back, and I want to do one more draft of the damn thing. I feel like I am afraid to start this last draft though, thus Chuck’s advice. I want this to be the first of many books I write, and so I want it to be as good as I can get it on my own before I start shopping it around. In my mind, finishing the book was a bigger milestone than any birthday has been. I do not have to bind myself to any age. I can and should set my own goals. If I don’t, I’m not embracing The Blank Badge. So, here’s to another year on the planet, but what I’m looking forward to this year isn’t some silly celebration with cake, but writing more, editing more, and hopefully selling my first YA novel. Cheers!




Steal This Blog Post!

by Michael  





Ask yourself this: Who is your favorite author and how did you first come to read their work?

Did you receive the book as a gift?
Did you check it out of the library?
Have you EVER checked a book out of the library?

Part of the problem with anti-piracy groups and laws is that they ignore the above example. I loved the original The Crow comic. I was loaned a copy in high school. We passed that book around until it was ragged. But then, when the film came out, we all went in droves. I saw the film four times in theaters, bought the soundtrack twice, and have owned several copies of the book. But that first taste? I didn't pay a dime. Someone SHARED it with me. Here's a few more things I tasted for free before spending a boatload of cash on them.




Neil Gaiman

I first read Mr. Gaiman while in high school. My friend Paul had just finished his JD and he and I worked at the same record store. He and I talked a bit about comics, and then he introduced me to Sandman: Seasons of Mist. Holy hell, I was hooked. I loved that comics could be more than capes and spandex. I stopped reading X-Men, boycotted Gen-13, and started reading Grant Morrison's Invisibles, Garth Ennis' Preacher, and eventually found great writers like Mike Carey, Brian Wood, and Brian K. Vaughn. I have paid tons of money to read most of Gaiman's body of work since then, and the work of many, many other similar writers, but that wouldn't have happened in a world where it was a crime to share what we've already paid for. How many readers would new authors lose in a SOPA/PIPA world?





Nine Inch Nails

I first heard of Nine Inch Nails thanks to MTV. They actually played videos back when I was a kid, and I immediately loved the thundering beat and crunchy guitars of Trent Reznor. That said, I had no clue who this band was or where to find their music. They didn't seem to sell it at K-Mart, and I was still too young to drive. Then a friend found out I liked the band, and he made me a copy of Broken. From there, I went to concerts, found record shops where I could buy the music myself, and most importantly, I copied that music on to tapes for anyone who asked or showed interest. Hell, I did the same with Dead Can Dance, Portishead, and a number of other bands. If I loved it, I wanted my friends to love it. Going to concerts is more fun with friends, right? These days, audio cassettes are dead, but the act of sharing isn't! Trent Reznor, for all the copying I did back before the internet, is filthy rich these days. He even won an Oscar last year, and you know what? He gives away a lot of his music. He's played with the record labels, anonymously issuing greatest hits albums and the DVD version of Closure on The Pirate Bay, and when he was free from the record labels entirely, he released The Slip absolutely for free. And you know what I did? I went out and still bought a physical copy. Piracy isn't killing the recording industry, but SOPA/PIPA certainly aims to kill the internet in the name of killing piracy. If the bill actually managed to work, it would likely do more harm than good when it came to the spread of new artists.






If you want to introduce people to animation as legitimate art for adults, look no further than Akira. Before I got old, we had these strange black rectangles called video tapes. My neighbor, a kid my age named Chris, copied Akira onto a tape and bugged the crap out of me to watch it. When I finally did, it opened a flood gate. I found Vampire Hunter D at a record store, and another friend became a huge Macross Plus fan. The thing is, these films weren't widely available here in the states. Much of Asian cinema still isn't. Hell, it's 2012 and Battle Royale is only now getting an official DVD release. I bought a copy from a bootlegger at a comic con somewhere. The fact is, marketing execs and movie studios control what we get to buy far too stringently. When the BBC finally started airing Doctor Who episodes the same day in the USA as they did in the UK, it was a sign that someone who worked there understood that fans who wanted to see the new episodes wouldn't patiently wait. The other day, Neil Gaiman himself tweeted about getting a bootleg copy of the latest episode of Sherlock. The BBC should know better by now, but until they do, even the people who stand to benefit from anti-piracy measures like SOPA/PIPA are circumventing the artificial system in place in order to acquire what they want.

Is this all starting to make sense? SOPA/PIPA, or really any other hard-line anti-piracy legislation is likely to do more harm than good. We all fall in love with various arts for various reasons, but more often than not, we do so without paying anyone a dime up front. Want my own work for free? Hit up and look for it there. I hope you dig it and share it with friends. That isn't going to stop me from trying to make money on what I do though. If anything, I'm encouraged by it. The fact is, no stupid law will be able to shut down piracy, any more than politicians could hope to kill libraries, art galleries, or outdoor concerts. They're in panic mode, these companies that support SOPA/PIPA, but for them, the sky has been falling since the days of the player piano. As it turns out, we all still buy music at least once in a while, so maybe that wasn't a threat either.