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Let's see, business first.

1) Hope you enjoyed "Ballgame," that short SF piece I had up here. It's gone though I'm sure it exists on some wayback type machine. It'll exist in an anthology that I'm planning on doing sometime next year, but I gotta figure all that out. With HAZELAND on what I hope to be a regular schedule, I want to plan around that. And I still have BLACK TRACE to run out there.

2) BLACK TRACE is likely going to be early next year. I know what I said about it being this year, but I want to do some kind of promotional push and that needs lead time. I know you're all disappointed in me, but no more so than I am in myself.

3) There is an old project now stirring, likely on a greatly reduced scale, but shambling towards the sunlight on my part. I need to rewrite a bunch of stuff though.

4) I'm sheparding my mother's science fiction reissues into some kind of being, starting with the November 10th release of FIRE DANCER in ebook (the first time it's been available legitimately in this form.) That's taking some time.

5) ASPHALT TONGUES rolls along. Still can't say as to where that fits into the HAZELAND release schedule (see 1 above.) I at least know what all the stories are going to look like, but not sure of the texture each one will take. That only happens when I start writing and stuff starts deviating from whatever plan I thought I had. Believe me, that's a good thing. Me planning out every single thing meticulously is a recipe for something pretty dull.

6) I keep thinking about kicking AUTODRIVE back into play, but a number of factors make me rethink that one pretty hard. The Current Situation is not good at all for comics makers just bringing out their own material and not doing the FRANCHISE IS thing. If you can do that and you're getting paid well, congratulations. I hear that's what's selling and anything that isn't that is not. Besides indie projects like that live and die on word of mouth at shows and, well, no shows until next spring at the stone-cold-earliest.

7) MY DROWNING CHORUS is slated for spring. I haven't started on revisions of it yet. I'm kinda afraid as to what those are going to look like, honestly.

Business concluded.

Let's talk a little about being an older human online now. I meant to get this a little earlier, but last week was pretty draining for a variety of reasons (namely the goddamn heat and smoke, now it's just smoke).

So I read a piece written by S. Qiouyi Lu, who I'd met and been on a panel with last year at World Fantasy (and who pointed out that the Cantonese phrase for television or film was "electric shadows" and I really need to read more translated works, but I need time to read more anything, honestly.)

You can read the piece here, and I recommend you do.

I'm not going to do a refutation or point by point commentary. Just going to use it as a kicking off point. Though I'll note that S is younger than myself and operates in spheres that I overlap in but am not within. (And S, if I get absolutely anything wrong in here, please get in touch with me so that I may address any issues.)

As noted, I'm older than S (probably older than most folks reading this, honestly.) I was using email and USEnet and desktop publishing setups while I was in college, which is anywhere from thirty to thirty-five years ago. I had a post-adolescence online, which was certainly aided by having a backbone connection on my desktop computer when I went to work after college. There was a time that you could conceivably know a lot of what was going on on the internet at any given time. It was a strange world with ad-hoc social conventions and rules that you could even wander into and not be ridiculed for missing (if you like the analogy of early punk and people pulling one another up out of the slam pit should someone fall down -- a lovely thought, but I can't say whether or not this was true.)

This is not possible any longer. It's barely possible even within whatever cohorts spring up around, say, the writing of any particular genre of fiction. Or lovers of a particular genre of music or video game or any way that we choose to bifurcate and isolate or identity-generate via cohort. And, truth be told, it was even difficult to keep this going in the Olden Days up until AOL started carrying USEnet in what, 1994 or 1996, whenever the Long September was. And then there were public message boards (themselves just a more user-friendly version of BBS services, but able to form around a tiny nucleus of interest and go over that territory over and over, or to argue that XXX isn't really something we should talk about here, you should go somewhere else.)

So this series of social fora, USEnet and discussion forums, and email lists (which I didn't get to, but I ran several of them through the mid to second half of the nineties, mostly music-focused) made for a long series of stumbling grounds in identity formation or just accumulation of folks to talk with or get mad at or *plonk* as necessary. This is something I got to experience mostly by dint of my age and boredom at work, so I was Extremely Online early, and I didn't think too much about the social construction of these parades of shared realities aside from sort of big macro-level "Yeah, that person has really wrapped themselves up in whatever and there's no getting them out" observations of identity-creation or cohort adoption. So yeah, I've seen love-bombing, and I understand the impulse (though, luckily, I've never been on the receiving end because that would probably just make me look for the exit and never to return.)

About that, yeah, I've joked about being feral in nearly any cohort (internally or externally-generated) unless it's down to good friends, and those I can count on two or three sets of hands. The rest of the time, I'm probably more hyperaware than I should be which generally leads to the defense mechanism of finding the door. Particularly in a setting where there's layered expectations at play (yes, I'm an older white cis male-identifying human.) But that's just the start. Given the power of the mighty verb "am" in English, I'm (see?) introduced as a writer or comics person or expected to be a voracious reader because I'm among voracious readers (I can bore you with my reading habits another time) or that I spend my time following every wrinkle of genre (again, since this is a huge self-selector in the spheres/layers I find myself in.)

There are things that I have some interest in and spend some time doing. But I don't identify myself by these (exclusively or as even a fragment of the whole.) So friendship by Twitter, for instance, as this was a subject of S's essay, though really it runs to much more than that in terms of digital social construction, (hey we're back to the clause) is kind of a dodgy thing. And honestly, I'm probably allowed to slide on that since I am an older, white, male-cis-identified human. Theoretically I don't have to be as on and as sparkling and have to tone down any deviating-from-perceived-norm (as opposed to 'deviant': not the same thing at all) behavior.

Though there are folks who've said, for instance, that my absolutel and utter inability to do bar-con have put obstacles in front of my "career" that didn't need to be there. Likely true. Bar-con is far too powerful a thing, or at least perceptively was. That may be changing. But I'm not plugged-in enough to know whether it is or not. I could tell you that (barring a few dear exceptions) bar-con is a harrowing ordeal for me precisely because of what S was describing in terms of what appear to be permeable categories/relationships, but are absolutely not. Not easily, anyways. Not in the space of a bar conversation or hurried introduction in the hallways or even sharing a panel space. Granted, sometimes it's easy to tell where these relationships settle to, whether you can say "Oh, hey, hi there" or Just Keep Walking in the halls.

And even if you're at the greeting phase, where else are you? Now what if that hallway is Twitter? Where you may not even look like you but a rubber-suited monster with a cosmically dubious expression? Particularly when Twitter strips (as does nearly any other text-based communication *even between intimates*) so much emotional/tonal nuance out of things, not to mention context? Yeah. It's tough.

Then add in layers of expectation. "Oh, you must know and or love [beloved genre thing]." I'll be honest, I probably don't love what you love. That's okay. "Oh you must know or want to write for [beloved outlet]" or "You must hold this [opinion]" and again, you'd be surprised how much I am deviant from any perceived norm. This is where I am asked if I love horror, for instance, and sure, I do. But only what I figure has fit inside my conception of it and really that puts me more as liking dark fantasy than savoring that final note of helplessness and bleakness that marks the True Horror Fan, or so it seems.

But even the mantle of "Oh you're a writer" is one that is laden with expectation and judgment. Again, I try not to *be* a thing, but to *do* things, and be mindful of what I do and how it can affect other folks, other humans I happen to be sharing the room or situation or social construct with. (For instance, aside from anything that I do, I happen to on the tall side and while not impressively built, my physicality is something that carries with it all manner of judgment and psychic baggage -- so that's something I have to try and control. I doubt I'm successful at all times.)

Hmm. I've wandered far afield of the thing that originally kicked this off. I doubt I've even touched on it significantly. But I'll pull back to say that S's essay was strong enough that I'm still considering it even after a week of churn in 2020 (and since we're all here in 2020, we know how mighty those forces are.) It's something that demands thought even more so now as we're forced into virtual/digital spaces to address the vacuums left by isolation via pandemic or economics or self-selection.

I've half-joked that the Internet's primary product is isolation, which it then serves itself as a solution to. I try not to be cynical about it (though the behavior of the big tech companies makes that sort of thing increasingly difficult, given their drive to boost engagement and become a replacement for reaching out to actual people.) But reaching out to people who may be in a position to grant approval for your work? To even get you further work or publication? Yeah, talk about fraught. (And this isn't to address even base physicalities, such as touched on above. Fraught, fraught, fraught.)

I don't know, honestly. I try to be genuine out in that weird endless scroll of public space called Twitter (about all I post to other than graphics to tumblr and this blog here, which is its own different thing.) But how much of that is construct? Hell, how much of the real life fiction-suit in construct? I know. I'm not trying to get all PKD or reality mechanic on you. That's just where my mind immediately goes.

Is Twitter your friend? No. Do I have friends who I've only met on Twitter? Sure, you bet. Do I have friends who Twitter is my primary contact point for? Sure, but most of them were my friends before I followed them or mutualized them. Go ahead, use 'mutualized,' it's fun. Are there people I've followed by way of my line of work? Absolutely. Are they my friends? Nope, but I could probably say "hello, I'm Matt Maxwell, but I go by Critical Nostalgia on Twitter and look like a Godzilla" and they'd know who I was, or at least who I presented myself as being on that public space. But probably still not friends, though maybe some kind words could be exchanged.

I should wrap this up, having managed to say a lot of not much. Just make sure you read over S's essay and consider the construction of these relationships and be honest about how they play out for the time when we get back to having in-person shows and I'll work on rehabilitating my feral behaviors.

Until next time.

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