When humanity inevitably dies off, kudzu will finally win its long-waged war against the southeastern United States. With no one to mow it, chop it, or burn it away, it will stretch its vines across yards and houses, crawling and climbing its way to the pinnacle of the tallest skyscraper. It will be a beautiful and slow march which few will witness. The last vestiges of humanity will revere the vine as both monster and food source, digging up its massive root to roast for a starchy feast for a dying village.
I love watching kudzu. Though it insists upon trying my watermelons and starving the wild raspberries at the edge of our small plot, its rapid pace and natural violence is a wonder to behold. Its broad leaves are a cruel weapon, designed to hide the plants below from their precious sunlight and slowly choke them so they enrich the soil below for the sprawling monster. As autumn comes, and the vine rests, the area it has consumed resembles a zombie movie set of brown and grey leaves.
It is a memento mori I don’t have to explain to the police. I know that when I meet my inevitable fate, the hungry vine will devour my place of rest. While I am above ground, however, I continue to fight the beast and let it inspire stories of the long-abandoned city of Atlanta in the far-flung future of Antitopia. I can’t wait for you to meet my characters among the vines of the ruined city. Like the vines, the story grows rapidly, changing its course as needed to thrive, and killing off that which struggles beneath it. The Deadlands await.
That’s it for this week. Thank you, as always, for being readers.
[Quick plug: If you have a moment, head over to my Campaigns page (https://www.antitopia.com/campaigns.html). I'm in dire need of a non-dying laptop and your support will help me get there. Thank you, and feel free to spread the links around!]
I am a “pantser”. This is one who writes “by the seat of their pants”, or without a specific plan. There are many methods for writing, and proponents of each, but I have found that there are none which meet my needs. This works well for me because I prefer the story be in control rather than me. I don’t trust myself with a plan. Others like the “plotter/planner” idea, which I can understand. It is alluring to know with precision where and what will happen, to whom, and why.
My experience with planning is that I get bored. For me, the story has already unveiled itself and there is no sense in putting it down. I do, however, use a few planning methods. I never plan to the end, and the amount of planning depends on the size of the story. The three main stories of the Antitopia universe would become overwhelming to track with no guidance. I am using the “world-building leviathan” which comprises 52 questions/steps to glue your world together. It brings things to mind which you might not consider, and those are the interesting parts for me to plan. They have little to do with the main story, but they give me resources to draw from when I get stuck on something.
I can only drive a quarter of the way through the process before boredom sets in. Who wants to write about how the direct predecessor of the Artificial Collective developed the credit system used by the AIDA units? I don’t, and I don’t want to read it, either. But having that information available has helped me form a better relationship with my characters, especially those within the Collective.
The larger problem with writing methods is they become fidget spinners. If I play with them too long, I get nothing done. With a universe as massive as Antitopia (it spans several billion years and uncalculated galaxies) I have to use some planning. I don’t want Brian Tate showing up next to an AIDA unit on the third earth or something silly. Knowing when to leave the details alone is a craft without which I would continue spinning and balancing until I lost interest.
I want to know how my stories end. Though I know how I would like them to resolve, I never know until the story is in your hands. And so, I write until the story tells me it is done. No matter the method or plan, the words flow. Thank you for being readers.
I have suffered from tinnitus for my entire adult life (a few years of my late teens as well). This interminable ringing makes concentration improbable and conversation a violence. It is a struggle to hear and comprehend, so there are a lot of “huh?” and “what?” tossed about. There is a cloud of self doubt that covers me, and I often feel dumb. This leads to depression and anger when I try to articulate myself. Because I don’t want others to feel like I do, I try to speak clearly and concisely, and to think about what I will say before I do so.
When people stumble over the middle of a sentence, mine or anyone else’s, it becomes impossibly frustrating. As I mentioned, concentration is improbable, so the sentence interrupted becomes a mangled thing. I struggle to find the point originally being made and follow the new focus of attention. All while being bombarded by a screech that originates in my head. It is less than ideal.
Mornings are the worst. I rise from dreams to the endless “EEEEEE” in my ear ten times louder than it will be the rest of the day. Every sound amplifies the ringing in ways that distort my perceptions, my vision twitches, scents once pleasant revile, my skin crawls at the contact of sheets and clothes. The last thing I want or need in that few minutes is human contact, and yet I crave it. To hear my toddler chirping in my ear without pain, to feel my wife‘s loving hand on mine without the confusion of senses, to smell my dog’s stinky popcorn feet without nausea, these things would be divine.
I will never know silence, though I remember it fondly. The best I can hope for is a few minutes of calm in which I can forget the screaming monster in my ear. I’m aware that won‘t happen often (if at all) and that I should somehow remain stoic, as I cannot change it. My failures at stone-faced glaring at the pain and noise make me feel more dumb and more muted than I should.
I’ll live, of course. There is nothing life-threatening about my condition. But that doesn‘t mean I have to be happy about it. I will miss the nuances of my daughters’ musical performances. When we were young (and I could hear), my wife had this soft lilt that coated the high range of her voice. I have no idea if it is still there. And I’m mad about it.
There are more pressing things going on in the world, and they are worthy of our attention. Sometimes, however, I just need to blow off the steam and focus on my griefs and gripes. Now that that‘s done, I’ll get back to bringing about the end of the universe. Thank you for reading!
Birthday Week has come and gone. I have a ritual each year which involves ignoring all creative endeavors for seven days and noting what I miss during that time. Last year the missing component was writing, the same as this year, but more on that later. Last year I slumped in crippling self-doubt: how could I write with all this chaos? I’ve written before but put nothing “out there”, what would be different this time?
I excused not working on the madness that is three kids on summer break, or the invaluable “I don’t know what to write” ploy. But in the madness, I found clarity. I read, a lot. Most of what I found fed my fears, perspective skewing being a talent nurtured by only the best procrastinators. Steven King’s two-thousand words per day was my biggest hump. I couldn’t imagine writing that much.
In late July of last year, however, someone reminded me of something I said to them about making music. “You don’t have to be the next Beethoven,” I’d said, “You have to be the first ‘you’.”
So it was that I set out to write. In August I wrote the first flash fiction story in what would become the Antitopia Universe: The Last Day. I submitted it to a contest and got my first rejection letter in September. That was the moment I knew I had to keep going. That rejection meant someone had read my work. They didn’t like it, but they read it!
I passed The Last Day to a friend with a taste for the dystopian to get a second set of eyes on it. One expects solid fluffing when they hand a story to friends and family. This friend is not fluffy. He pointed out good and bad with an even hand and suggested some changes that made it a better story. But he told me what I needed to hear: I want more.
Antitopia was born in that moment. Plots and plans erupted in my mind to lead the readers to Lena collapsing on a long-abandoned road to wait for the worms. It has become so much more since then and I can’t wait to share more with you.
That brings me to this year. This Birthday Week was like any other. I maintained the ritual and forewent all creative endeavors. Or did I? Most of my time I spent thinking about the Universe. I jotted notes, nothing formal, but it was there. I couldn’t put it down.
If my hands worked as fast as my brain, I would have several hundred books finished. They don’t, so I have to accept the limitations of the form. I remind myself, “This is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Pace yourself.”
I will continue my pace. Some days I will pluck five-hundred words carefully from the void. Others I will vomit thousands on the page. At the end, I will set them aside and let them age so I can view the results with fresh eyes full of cringes and guffaws. With any luck, the final product will be as fun a ride for you as it is me. Thanks for being readers, you make it worth the work.