Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s February?

No one was seriously expecting the world to go back to “normal” on Jan 1st 2022, but I have to admit, I’m a little rattled to arrive in February with everything almost as crappy as it was last year. FanExpo Vancouver is coming up fast, and while I would love to go and show off Derek the Dalek one more time, I don’t feel safe AT ALL with the idea of pushing through crowds of folks. Besides, Derek still needs a lot of work, and I don’t have time.

Which is another weird thing, because I have NOT written a ton of plays in this last month. Sure, I’ve added a couple of scenes to the latest TLC project, and I have an outline of the first act of a new play, but I haven’t actually completed anything. And I haven’t finished any cosplay projects, or DIY either. Yes, I taught my God-daughter to snowboard, but that didn’t take a whole month…

We have bold plans afoot, trying to cash in on the value of our house (alright, the land it’s on, not the house) to give the weasels a head-start on the property ladder and replace the aging, polluting cars we pootle about in. We’re saying farewell to our lovely fireplace, because wood-burning fires are going to be outlawed in a couple of years, so we should make the jump now before electric fireplaces become, aha, HOT property.

Anyway, February is here, and I’d better get used to it. And maybe spend my lunchtimes writing pays instead of blog posts?

Resolve afterwards…

Take counsel in wine, but resolve afterwards in water.

Benjamin Franklin

New Year’s resolutions are for suckers. Well, ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh: There’s a certain logic to trying to turn over a new leaf at the start of a new year, and it’s an easy way to track progress, because you always remember when you started.

But there’s another famous (although apocryphal) quote that applies, which is “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” For years, I would start the year with my journal pages marked “Upcoming projects” and a list of plays that I would have completed by the end of that year – 3 one acts, two full lengths, a pantomime and ten, no, fifteen sketches! The thing is, I didn’t have any more time available for writing in the new year than I had in the old, and I didn’t have any fewer commitments. All these wonderful plays were going to be written in the time that I would otherwise be “wasting”, watching tv, or playing games, reading books.

After all, other people get writing done, and they must have jobs and children and houses. And it’s not that I don’t get time at the keyboard, it’s just that it’s easier to open Twitter and complain about people not buying my existing plays than it is to get down to writing a new one. You can’t use the excuse of “not having anything to write”, because the experienced writer doesn’t wait for the muse to arrive, they sit themselves down at the keyboard and write regardless, because rewriting is easier if you have words on the page. A rubbish draft of a mediocre story is still better than a blank page. And yet…

So, this year, no resolutions to write a certain number of plays, because I know I won’t hit the quota. But what I have done is get a meeting with my writing partners.

We looked through the list of projects that we had started but not finished and found the two best prospects. We put them in order and agreed another meeting date to talk about progress. So, the chances that we will have done something to add to the first project by the next meeting are pretty good. That first project is at least half-finished, and we’re all reasonably enthusiastic about it. Fairly confident it’ll get done.

Writing isn’t my entire life, so I’m not making resolutions about other things too.

Since I haven’t been juggling for a couple of years, cosplay has become my main hobby. Mrs Dim is constantly baffled by the notion of a hobby that actually makes you miserable, instead of cheering you up and refreshing you. I try to explain that it’s not the hobby that makes me miserable, but my own hamfisted incompetence, which is compounded by the fact that I only grab five minutes here and there to try and do things that should be done carefully and with the proper tools over the course of several hours.

I have my own workshop, which is a privilege I should be more grateful for, and I certainly should keep it tidier, which would make it easier to do the work when I have five minutes, since I don’t have to spend four of those minutes sweeping enough of the bench clear to place the actual piece down.

The last serious cleanup in the workshop was June 2020. Doesn’t look like this anymore.

I explained (as much as I could) to Mrs Dim that I do enjoy the hobby, most of the time, but it’s not always easy to find the joy. She suggested that I take one project, plan it out properly, buy the actual materials I need (rather than grabbing cheap maybe-this-will-be-ok substitutes). Then I should take the appropriate amount of time to work on each stage of the project. That all sounds very sensible and proper, but I don’t think it will actually happen. Aside from the guilt about spending money on a hobby that doesn’t benefit anyone, the time to do this work isn’t going to materialise any easier than the time to write all those plays did in previous years.

So, those are the resolutions that I am not making, and I’m definitely making them in water – last year I had six beers altogether, and I don’t plan to drink any this year. More of this thing, less of that, here’s to success through being vague in 2022!

Rounding up 2021

Today is the Winter Solstice, so last night we watched the Matt Smith “Doctor Who Christmas Carol” episode. You don’t need to know a lot about it, just that one of the first lines in the show talks about this time of year, and how humans celebrate being “halfway out of the dark”. It’s an optimistic sentiment I’ve always been fond of, but coming at the end of 2021, it makes me wonder. We don’t know how far out of the dark we are, right now. We don’t even know if we ARE on the way out yet.

A lot of people post significant lists around this time – their top-played songs, their favourite books or movies of the year. The powerhouse writers can post their published books (plural!), but it’s been nice to see the number of people repeating the message that, in these extraordinary times, just keeping your sanity and health is achievement enough. I started the year with a vague ambition to write a sequel to Eddie and the Kingdom, using the micro-effort method of 150 words a day. I wrote about my failure back in March, as things ground to a halt, and though I managed to figure out the section that had me blocked, I’ve only managed a total of 15,000 words, the equivalent of a third of a year’s writing at 150 a day. I would be disappointed, but this year has been harder than 2020. Back then I was one of the lucky few who could keep working in a relatively normal way – indeed, my job got slightly easier. Going to work every day keeps the shape of the week straight, when the family working from home were struggling to make one day different to the next. I enjoyed my weekends at home, when everyone else was going stir-crazy.

But I’ve seen the effect of long-term worry on my friends and co-workers. More and more people calling in sick, which adds to the pressure on those remaining. My small department has been lucky, but with only three of us, any sick-leave is hard on the others. Then Mrs Dim had her stroke in May, and to the uncertainty of the Covid world was added the uncertainty of her brain injury. How severe was it? Would it heal? Would it happen again? Could she go back to work? The insurance company governing her long-term disability snapped into action and lost her first set of forms, queried the second, held a phone interview to ask a lot of the questions already answered in those forms, then went radio silent for months. The salary they were supposed to be replacing stopped in mid-November.

But I’m sure that’s all going to be sorted out soon, right?

Anyway, I had my breakdown, so I feel much better now. Mrs Dim has made good progress, but the hardest part is learning to stick within her limits, instead of pushing them, like she’s always done before. We’ve had six months of caution, of drawing down, of “what if we don’t?”

So looking forward to 2022 seems… if not pointless, then hopelessly naive.

If you have plans, I wish you success of them. If you only plan to hang on until the world steadies, then I wish you joy of that too. Life is hard for so many people, I don’t think there’s a failure state right now. If you need to cry about the way of things, then it’s not wrong to do that.

I tell you what, regardless of what 2022 brings or takes away, let’s meet back here and share stories and sweets (yes, they’re bad for your teeth, but good for your spirits. Unless you’re diabetic.) I won’t hold any of you accountable for what you do or don’t do in the year to come, ok? Ok.

Writing plays and writing Great Art

For Sale: Baby Shoes, never worn” as performed by Kilmuckridge Drama Group

I’ve been writing play scripts for more than twenty years now, and I still can’t shake one stupid idea: Plays ought to be Great Art. Plays are SUPPOSED to be something cerebral, majestic, inspiring (and, if at all possible, inaccessible by ordinary, dull people.)

We all know what I mean. We read Shakespeare at school, and if you’re old enough, they didn’t bother trying to make it relevant, or understandable. They harped on the structure of the lines, the bloody iambic pentameter, the alliteration, the symbolism, the classical references (and I still can’t remember who Phoebus was, or why he had a car in Shakespeare’s day, let alone Tarquin and his ravishing strides.) The implication always was “Of course you don’t understand this, you mewling, puking toads, this is ART! It was penned by a genius, who wrote all of this in a few weeks, even though it will take us a term to tear down one or two scenes.”

And then we get to more recent playwrights, like Pinter or Beckett. Again, the majority of the time we are pressed to believe that this is not meant to be fun, not meant to be accessible. If it’s on the stage, it should be ART and that’s all there is to it.

Except.

Except when I was young, I went to pantomimes. Huge, bright, explosions of slapstick. Verbal somersaults, jokes fired off at machine gun pace, raucous musical numbers and the audience positively begged to throw their hearts and souls into taking part. This was clearly not ART because I was crying with laughter and thrilled to my very centre.

SMP Dramatics performs “Watch this space”.

When I sat down to write a play script of my own, I couldn’t shake the need for it to be ART. Though I based it on my own experiences, I threw in great and dramatic speeches about the nature of life, of creation, of the uncertainties of self-determination. I blurred the lines between imagination and reality and got thoroughly invested in my own bullshit. I still like that play, by the way, but part of me will always run and hide when I read or see it.

“Work in Progress” by the RAF St Athan Theatre Club

It took a long time for me to accept that what I really enjoyed was writing silly comedy stuff. I mean, I knew I enjoyed it, but I didn’t think I was really allowed to put it out there as publishable. It’s not Great Art. I still wanted to write a play that would make the critics search their souls for the perfect review, wanted one that would stun audiences into silence, awed, reverent silence. But why? Is it better to have a stunned audience, or one that’s helpless with laughter, and will think of the show in days to come because their ribs are still aching? I’ve made it to forty nine, and I don’t think I have discovered any shocking fundamental truths about the universe that need writing down, other than “If everybody was nicer, the world wouldn’t be such a bad place”, although the cynic in me wants to write “If everyone was nicer, some bastard would take advantage of them.”

It seems a bit rich to be pontificating on what’s the right thing to write when I haven’t completed a writing project in two years, but then again Shakespeare hasn’t produced anything new in the last four hundred, and he’s bound to have a bunch of stuff performed next year. I think my point, if I had one, was that I’ll probably write more comedy when the muse strikes, and give up forever on the idea of the Great Work. Because, really, what’s so Great about it if it doesn’t make someone smile?

I’m not a cabinet maker

A Mason Bee hatching box I made for my wife.

The illustration above shows that I’m no cabinet maker. I’m slapdash at measuring, hopeless with mitre joints, mortice and tenon, or even worse, bloody dovetail joints. I am not skilled, despite a desperate desire to do a good job, and many years of sawing, planing, gluing, and drilling. It’s not that I haven’t put in time and effort, it’s that I haven’t LEARNED anything.

But you know what? That’s ok, because the stuff I am making is not for sale. It’s not going to be gracing anyone’s dining room, holding their precious heirloom china. When I make a box, it’s because we need a box to put something in, like hatching bees, or nesting birds or juggling equipment. Because I’m aware of my shortcomings in this area, I don’t expect much of my woodwork. If someone points to the barbeque box and says “Hey, this thing isn’t quite straight, and the door doesn’t close!” I’d be all “Yeah, you got that right. And look, it’s not properly weatherproof either.”

Why am I telling you about my inadequacies as a woodworker? Well, it’s an analogy (as well as being true). I spend a lot of time being a proofreader, and that’s something I’ve had to learn to switch off when reading social media. People post on social media (mostly) to get a thought or two off their brains. Pointing at flawed spelling or punctuation is meaningless point-scoring. I know I’m often fumble-fingered when trying to type on a stupid tiny phone keyboard. So, yeah, social media gets a pass. Like my barbeque box, right? It’s not for sale, it’s not polished, it’s not FOR anything, except holding my gas cylinder and supporting the barbeque.

But say you want to be a published writer. Say that’s your aim, your ambition. THEN, I think it’s reasonable for you to take the trouble over your work. Learn how to make dovetails, as it were. Because you ARE selling your work. You are standing up and saying “This is good, this is worth your time.” And if you want me to invest my time, then I think I’m worth proper punctuation, thanks.

Yes, you can point to a dozen or more award-winning novels who play fast and loose with rules of punctuation and grammar and maybe even spelling. And maybe you can find more than a dozen people who say they actually enjoyed reading those novels, and maybe some of them are telling the truth. If those authors are honest (and I don’t know which ones you’re thinking of, by the way), then they have chosen to discard those rules for a reason, for a specific effect. (In the novels I’m thinking of, the effect was to make the whole experience of reading more unpleasant, but that was ok because the stories were rubbish, the characters unlikeable, and the resolutions deeply unsatisfying.)

Let me be specific, and give you an example that turns up quite frequently in the works I proofread:

“Yeah.”

We all read that the same, didn’t we? It’s the word the Beatles sang in “She loves you”. It’s a lazy agreement, lacking formality. It’s an exhalation, or a shout of joy. Now look at this:

“Yea.”

Language is flexible, so you could make that three-letter word rhyme with “pea” and “sea”, or with “hay” and “day”. It’s the second one that I default to, reading it as a medieval agreement:

“Yea, verily my Lord, ’tis true.”

Why does this matter? Isn’t language evolving? That’s certainly what people say over and over when challenged over mistakes in grammar or spelling. And maybe it is, but “yea” is ALREADY A WORD. So when I read this:

Pete slumped back, defeated. “Yea.” he whispered.

Pete is saying a medieval word, which doesn’t match his character or his attitude. It’s wrong, it doesn’t fit, it throws the reader out of the moment into a little heap of “huh?”

If you want to be a writer, make an effort to learn the nuts and bolts (or tools and joints) of your chosen craft. Make sure that, if you’re leaving the nails exposed on your cabinet, it’s because you intended to.

Watching “In the Heights”

My kids have some weird pipeline into YouTube that connects them to the world of stage musicals. I don’t mind, because it seems to permanently block the pipeline that would lead to idiotic fundamentalism, Neo-Nazi madness and all the other evils that the algorithm seems to hand out to sad, lonely white boys with gun fetishes. Anyway, my kids are strong for LGBTQ+ visibility and rights, and that seems to tie in well with stage musicals for whatever reason.

The point is, they were Lin Manuel Miranda fans long before Mrs Dim or myself could remember all three names, let alone the order they came in. I do remember getting the original cast recording of In The Heights from the library, but it meant little to me, having not watched the show it came from. This week we finally got a chance to watch the movie version on Crave, and yes, I know there were representation issues even then, with LMM having to apologise for some decisions made about some characters, but it certainly wasn’t a whitewash. ScarJo wasn’t even any of the trees in the background.

In publishing (which I spy on through Twitter association with Real Authors), there’s a lot of discussion about representation. People with marginalised voices or experiences have historically been told that their stories have to conform to the (white) expected audience, or they won’t sell. the proof of this is usually the lack of books by those kinds of authors. but that is obviously a self-fulfilling prophecy – We can’t take you on because your book won’t sell, and your books don’t sell because authors like you don’t get taken on.

So here’s “In The Heights”, a story about a group of immigrants (1st and second and third generation) in an area of New York that is slowly pushing them out. They’re worried about their community, their livelihoods, their futures, and in some cases, their chances of staying in the country. None of this, to be clear, meshes with any of my life experience. I don’t even like New York. (I went once. It was ok, but I’ve been to better cities.) This being the case, I should NOT be the target audience for this adaptation. But I felt for the characters. I could understand their anger at their treatment because of the colour of their skin, or the country of origin, even if it has never happened to me. I could understand the anger of the daughter whose father was desperate for her to go to an Ivy League College, for her to do so much better than he had, whether or not it was what SHE wanted. I could understand the man looking to revive his father’s business, even though it meant leaving the community where he’d grown up. These were not things I had experienced, but they were things I could understand. And you know what? I didn’t need an explanation, or dictionary, or even subtitles for most of it. Just empathy.

Someone talking about film once said “I’d rather be confused for ten minutes than bored for ten seconds”, but I think the mega-studio system has lowered the bar on both those timings. In the search for ever bigger hits, movies are being reduced to reach the lowest common denominator. Don’t make me think, don’t make me work, explain it all, lay it out, and don’t ask me to read subtitles. Watching “In The Heights”, or reading “Binti” or “Mexican Gothic” doesn’t require a study of other languages or cultures. It just needs an open mind, an empathy for the feelings of another human being. Our ceremonies, habits and customs might vary, but love is love, hate is hate, fear is fear. People are people, to paraphrase a Muppet Movie.

As a white Cis/het male, I have no problem with watching movies where the lead is female, of another race, of another sexuality. Why would I? Story is story. If it’s a love story, I’d like a happy ever after, whether it’s for him and her, for her and her, or for them. “In the Heights” made me laugh and cry because the stories were good, and so it didn’t matter that I don’t like New York, or that (despite my best efforts and fervent desire) I still can’t speak Spanish. But the important thing about it is how many people out there will see THEIR story on the screen. they’ll see people who look like them finally stepping out of the shadows of some other lead actor. Because of this, they’ll feel that what they do in life matters. They can tell their stories, or launch their business, or go to college, because they’re not just background extras in life, they are the stars of their own story.

I’m not myself today.

We have a program at work called “Not myself today” that is intended to help people spot signs of mental illness or dysfunction – anything from work-related stress, to more major issues of depression or things like that. Jaunty posters in the elevator encourage us to take time out during the day to step away from screens, to go for a walk, to listen to music, meditate or talk to a friend. We have testimonials on the Staff Web from NMT representatives (Ambassadors) who talk frankly about their own experiences, and encourage us to share ours. The whole point is to show that everyone is suffering to some degree, thanks to Covid, to staff shortages, to the pressure of the modern world. Ignoring that fact, just putting on a brave face and soldiering on doesn’t solve the problem.

So I shouldn’t have a problem with telling my co-workers that I’m on the edge of a breakdown myself, right? I shouldn’t have to remind myself that it’s been almost six months since Mrs Dim had her stroke, that I’ve spent that long worrying about her health, her future, our finances, the mortgage, the kids’ education, the car… I shouldn’t have a problem with telling them that I need some time off, but I do. Because I don’t get paid for time off. Because I only work four days a week anyway, so why would I need more time off? Because my job isn’t hard, it’s not physically demanding, or mentally draining, and I don’t have to bring it home with me. And besides, there’s only three of us to do the job, one of whom is still learning the ropes, and the other ALSO only works a four day week, so if I don’t go in on Friday, there’s only one person to do everything…

There’s always a reason, isn’t there? But last night I was looking at the upcoming days and feeling dread. Every morning was going to start early and there would be things to do immediately, even on the weekend. I would be getting up with the alarm and starting off at once all the way through to next Friday. Then I could have a lie in, if no one arranged anything else for me to do in the meantime. But you know what? We have to get the tires changed on the Mini, and I should have booked a dentist appointment, and I need to see the Chiro again… The thought of having to wait so long for just the possibility of a bit of a break was too much.

So I had a little bit of a breakdown.

Mrs Dim called work this morning and told them I wasn’t going to be in for a couple of days. Of course, she only spoke to the answering machine, so I don’t know what’s actually going on there today, but Mrs Dim keeps telling me that’s not my responsibility. I’m not the boss.

But I still feel terrible for putting the burden on someone else. Yes, I feel better for staying home, and it’s true that my responsibilities for the home mean I have to prioritize my mental health – I’m no good to anyone if I have a full breakdown, after all – but feeling better just means I feel I should be going in to work.

The point is not so much the stigma about mental health preventing me for asking for time off, it’s me being in a precarious work position at 49. My job doesn’t have paid vacation, so time off means less money. The library as a whole is struggling to fill positions, so the auxiliaries who would usually cover vacant positions in my department are already fully employed in other positions for weeks ahead. I can believe in the validity of my need to give myself a break, but there aren’t mechanisms in place to support my department if I do. Again, that’s not supposed to be my problem, but letting go of the idea of my responsibility to the patrons is hard. It’s one more source of stress.

Here I am, collecting my scattered wits at home, trying to find a balance between caring for my wife and letting her care for me. Wondering what’s happening at work, if my absence will actually push anyone to make changes.

Book Review : The Past is Red

Given the two years of Covid, and the trailing toxic cloud of the Trump administration (which, like it or not, affects the whole world, despite America’s insular cluture), you’d think we’d want to avoid the climate catastrophe in fiction. Certainly, reading apocalyptic visions of the near future was not on my to-do list, since it feels like I could look out the window for that.

But I trust Catherynne Valente. I’ve read “The Girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a boat of her own design” and liked it. She’s well-respected by authors whom I respect. And also, that cover was a real draw.

It’s a short book, narrated by the main character, Tetley, who lives on what was the great Garbage Patch in the middle of the ocean. The survivors of the rising waters landed on the garbage patch and sorted the garbage into different lands, then made homes there.

Tetley is an unreliable narrator, but always sets the record straight eventually. As the cover reveals, her voice is remarkably upbeat, given her situation as a hated outcast among her own people.

I’m not going to go into detail about the plot, because it’s twisty, and told non-chronologically, and I don’t want to inadvertantly give away important points. But it’s a gripping story – not in a run-for-your-life-there-are-wolves way (though there IS a tiger), but in a turn-the-page-I-have-to-know-what’s-next way.

I think what really got me was one character expressing my own fears about the future. He bewails the loss of ease. When I think about the problems we have all perpetuated, I worry that my children’s children won’t live a life where water comes from a tap, or electricity is easily accessible. I know that’s not the case for everyone right now, and that inequality is just as unforgivable as the inaction to prevent the catastrophe that we can see approaching. But, like that character says, it’s “soon, but not yet”, and so we have not acted, because to act would cost us some of the ease and convenience we have become accustomed to. We won’t risk that, despite the certainty that it will cost us the earth.

Read the book, folks, it’s really, really good.

Inspiration

Writer's Block, Flow, and Some Views on 'the Muse' – Jennysoft.com

Inspiration is not the problem.

Inspiration is BLOODY EVERYWHERE. All the time.

It’s in the song you hear over breakfast. In the conversation of strangers on the SkyTrain. It’s in the summary of the movie on tv later tonight, a paragraph of someone else’s invention that sparks a thought about something almost, but not quite, completely different.

Every day, there’s something that makes me stop and look at a picture only I can see. Perhaps it’s a whole scene, perhaps just a vignette. Sometimes it’s a story thread, winding away through the air like a piano playing in the room next door.

Inspiration is the brain’s cold-caller, ringing me up when I have my hands full, finding their way around the blocks on their numbers to offer the best deal on anything I could ever want, but I have to answer RIGHT NOW, hand over my credit card details without delay or this offer will expire…

And it’s impossible to silence this clarion call, there’s no escaping it in my everyday life. Driving the work van, choosing the books for today’s patrons, walking from the SkyTrain station to the library, there are mountains of potential unfolding in my brain, crowds of characters parading through my head, their arcs intersecting in moments of blinding drama that would shake the foundations of the literary world if only –

I…could…just…get…to…somewhere..that..I…could…write…them..down.

And the grim truth is that I can escape. If the noise of Calliope’s musings gets too loud, I can bring down the curtain with a single, simple act.

I sit at my keyboard.

Terry Pratchett was not just good and funny, he was right.

No one argues the fact that the loss of Terry Pratchett was a tragedy. The televised version of “Good Omens” brought a new wave of readers to his books, and there are millions like me who have never left the Discworld, coming back again and again to walk the streets of Ankh Morpork with Vimes and Carrot, or run across the Chalk with Tiffany Aching, or run away from everything with Rincewind the wizzard*.

Terry’s words have appeared on my social media timeline again and again in the past few years. People pick the Vimes “boots theory” of socio-economic unfairness, or Vimes’ musings on how the police should be the servants of the law, not the government. They pick Granny Weatherwax’s words on Headology, or her disections of psychology.

One of my favourite quotes is this exchange between Miss Tick, the Witch Finder, and Tiffany Aching:

Miss Tick sniffed. ‘You could say this advice is priceless,’ she said. ‘Are you listening?’
‘Yes,’ said Tiffany.
‘Good. Now … if you trust in yourself …’
‘Yes?’
‘… and believe in your dreams …’
‘Yes?’
‘… and follow your star …’ Miss Tick went on.
‘Yes?’
‘… you’ll still get beaten by people who spent THEIR time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.

But to me, Terry’s works seem even more prescient now, or at least written by someone who really saw people as they are. We’ve all seen people saying they finally understand the trope in zombie movies where people who have been bitten conceal the bite, putting their friends and families at risk. We’ve watched the people marching for their “right” to become infected, to pass that infection along to the vulnerable.

Last night I started re-reading “The Bromeliad”, Terry’s trilogy about the Nomes. It has a lot to say about people as a group, and how good ideas can be hard to get into heads that are, apparently, completely empty. It also shows that the best leaders are the ones who don’t want to be leaders, but want to make life better for others. I feel that too many of the people at the top of our political trees are the ones who wanted to be important, wanted power, wanted influence, and don’t care what they have to do to get it.

Of course, the Nomes don’t have social media. They listen to the people in charge, and then they argue amongst themselves about it, but they don’t have these outlets constantly promoting voices that may or may not have good standing. Outlets that are, let’s not forget, built and run by individuals and companies that are aiming to make money, regardless of what they said when they set up the app,or site, or whatever. (Most of these social media sites we cling to start with a fanfare about connection, or sharing, or communicating, but they all come down to money in the end. If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold. Because, yes, we gave them our email address, our phone number, our likes and preferences, and not one of us read the EULA before we clicked the “accept” button. We gave them permission, and we don’t know what for.)

So, as I did in my lonely year in Portsmouth, sharing a two-bedroom flat with a man whose entire diet consisted of Frosties, I have retreated to the comforting world of the Nomes. Where life is hard, and difficult, and getting anything done requires explanation, repetition and shouting. But they do it. They go from Outside to the safety of The Store, then almost immediately have to persuade everyone to leave The Store, even though most of them don’t believe there’s anywhere else to go. They have to figure out how to take enough with them to survive, and to do that they have to persuade the others that they are capable of doing it.

Terry saw the world very clearly, and he put so much of what he saw into his books so we could see it the same way. I’m sure he’d be horrified by the behavior on display today, and I would dearly love to see what he would say in response. We can’t claim things on his behalf, of course, but we can read what he wrote and allow that to influence how we behave, in this world that’s sometimes more unbelievable than one carried on the back of a giant turtle.

*Rincewind’s spelling is as good as his…er…spelling?