Fables, Wage Theft, and Asymmetrical Class Warfare

I feel like I should probably talk about media monopolies more. The way corporations have managed to gain control of ever-larger portions of our entertainment media has caused all manner of problems, most of them for the very people who create the products those same corporations sell. In many ways, that’s traditional, right? Every capitalist company is in the business of exploiting its workers – extracting as much work as possible, for as little pay as possible. Part of that process, in publication, is control over intellectual property, and the use and abuse of legal teams to get and maintain that control. I’m writing about this now, because a good example has come up, along with a solution that I absolutely love.

Fables is a comic series published by DC Comics, and written by one Bill Willingham. I have never read any of them, but they’re apparently very good, so maybe I’ll have to change that. Since the original run, which ended in 2015, DC has apparently been doing spinoffs and games, with no regard for Willingham’s ownership of the intellectual property. Willingham himself is not a fan of current intellectual property law, but that doesn’t mean just letting corporations have their way when they abuse said law. The problem is, as I mentioned above, those corporations tend to have legal teams for just this purpose, which makes fighting them a daunting task. How much of your money, and how many years of your life are you willing to sacrifice, to just to stop corporate abuse of your work? For a lot of people, a fight like that isn’t worth it, and corporations count on that, knowing that the personal cost of a legal battle would never affect them. So, what? Does that mean we just have to let the corporations win?

Well, no. The long term solution, I think, is for the people in these industries to continue the organizing work they’ve already been doing, but Willingham has found a much easier and more immediate solution. Fables is no longer his intellectual property, and it doesn’t belong to DC Comics (owned by Warner Bros. Discovery), either. As of today, Fables, in its entirety, belongs to all of us:

As of now, 15 September 2023, the comic book property called Fables, including all related Fables spin-offs and characters, is now in the public domain. What was once wholly owned by Bill Willingham is now owned by everyone, for all time. It’s done, and as most experts will tell you, once done it cannot be undone. Take-backs are neither contemplated nor possible.

Willingham cites the potential cost, in years of his life, of trying to force DC to live up to its legal obligations (he’s 67), and I really appreciate his reasoning for this tactic:

Since I can’t afford to sue DC, to force them to live up to the letter and the spirit of our long-time agreements; since even winning such a suit would take ridiculous amounts of money out of my pocket and years out of my life (I’m 67 years old, and don’t have the years to spare), I’ve decided to take a different approach, and fight them in a different arena, inspired by the principles of asymmetric warfare. The one thing in our contract the DC lawyers can’t contest, or reinterpret to their own benefit, is that I am the sole owner of the intellectual property. I can sell it or give it away to whomever I want.

I chose to give it away to everyone. If I couldn’t prevent Fables from falling into bad hands, at least this is a way I can arrange that it also falls into many good hands. Since I truly believe there are still more good people in the world than bad ones, I count it as a form of victory.

This won’t stop DC from making Fables comics, shows, or anything else, but it does mean that they will never have exclusive ownership of them again, because literally anyone has the exact same right. Did you read these, get inspired, and write fanfiction? It’s now just as canon as anything under the DC label. Congratulations! Willingham’s press release, linked above, goes into greater detail on his own opinions about intellectual property law as it is, and as it should be, but I want to focus on his “what did DC do to deserve this?” section:

Q: What Exactly Has DC Comics Done to Provoke This?

Too many things to list exhaustively, but here are some highlights: Throughout the years of my business relationship with DC, with Fables and with other intellectual properties, DC has always been in violation of their agreements with me. Usually it’s in smaller matters, like forgetting to seek my opinion on artists for new stories, or for covers, or formats of new collections and such. In those times, when called on it, they automatically said, “Sorry, we overlooked you again. It just fell through the cracks.” They use the “fell through the cracks” line so often, and so reflexively, that I eventually had to bar them from using it ever again. They are often late reporting royalties, and often under-report said royalties, forcing me to go after them to pay the rest of what’s owed.

You recognize what this is, right? It’s wage theft. This is part of the tens of billions of dollars stolen from workers, by capitalists. This is how that theft is most often committed. They use deliberate incompetence to hold on to the money for a little bit longer, and to make it hard to keep track of what’s owed. When I lived in Somerville, I saw my landlord do this to his workers constantly. He’d forget to pay them, and then plead poverty and delay the payment (he owned about 75 other people’s homes), and then underpay, and when the worker objected, he’d argue about how much was owed. This is the same damned thing, done by a massive corporation, and you’d better believe they do it at a massive scale. Hell, it’s the same as Trump’s reputation for never paying people – this is a big part of how capitalists get so rich, and prevent those below them from improving their own lot in life.

More than that, DC tried to trick Willingham into giving them ownership over Fables, and when he called them out on it, they claimed they hadn’t read the contract. More weaponized incompetence, to disguise attempted theft. Putting it squarely in the hands of the public was a brilliant move.

At the same time, I can see why it was less than ideal for for Willingham. First, because it doesn’t prevent DC from doing more with Fables, and second because much as I dislike the fact, we live in a capitalist world, and we all need money to survive. That means that while it would be nice to be able to just create art and share it with the world, those who like doing so are forced to consider the hours put into that work, which could have been spent working for a wage. The system sucks, but opting out of it isn’t really an option. Willingham no longer has exclusive ownership either, and that’s not without its costs. In this case, however, it may not have been that difficult of a decision. He himself is still bound by contract not to do anything with that property, except through DC. They own his ability to use the intellectual property he technically owned, they just haven’t been paying him for its use. Remember that Frank Wilhoit quote?

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

Capitalism has a very similar principle, where the “in-group” is the ruling class – capitalists – and the “out-group” is everyone else. It’s probably a big part of why conservatives like capitalism so much.

This isn’t a clear win for Willingham, but it is a strategic victory, and not just for him. His mention of asymmetrical warfare is one that I think we’d all do well to consider, because the class war is very far from symmetrical. The amount of power concentrated in the hands of the ruling class is probably greater than it ever has been, and failing to account for that would be, well, like negotiating your pay without the support of a union. Capitalists need workers, but the don’t need you, and one-on-one, they will destroy you.

So we don’t fight them one-on-one, and we don’t meet them on a battle field for “honorable combat”. This has never been a fair fight, and so we are under no obligation to fight fairly. Use the strengths we have, take advantage of opportunities as the arise, and if you can’t win a battle, maybe you can force a draw.

Motivational Monday: We Are One

This popped up in my Youtube recommendations, and I’m mostly working on the novel today, so I thought I’d share it. Depending on how the fiction writing goes, I might post something else today. We shall see. For context, this is a clip from Babylon 5, one of my favorite TV shows, which I highly recommend. It contains a few spoilers, but the show is almost 30 years old, and the message is one I like.

The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice.
The language is not Narn, or Human, or Centauri, or Gaim or Minbari

It speaks in the language of hope
It speaks in the language of trust
It speaks in the language of strength and the language of compassion
It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul.

But always it is the same voice
It is the voice of our ancestors, speaking through us,
And the voice of our inheritors, waiting to be born
It is the small, still voice that says
We are one

No matter the blood
No matter the skin
No matter the world
No matter the star:
We are one

No matter the pain
No matter the darkness
No matter the loss
No matter the fear
We are one

Here, gathered together in common cause, we agree to recognize the singular truth and this singular rule: That we must be kind to one another
Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us and each voice lost diminishes us.
We are the voice of the Universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light the way to a better future.
We are one.
We are one.

Video: What Does It Mean To Be Indigenous?

If you care about the environment, or justice for the ongoing crimes of colonialism, you probably hear about the various Indigenous groups around the world, and how they tend to be on the front lines of the fight to stop the greed-fueled destruction of the only planet we’ve got. At one point or another, it may have occurred to you what “Indigenous” actually means – who counts as “Indigenous”, and who doesn’t? As Andrew Sage points out in the video below, while we can define a plant or animal as “indigenous” based on whether it was introduced to its habitat by humans, how does that work for us? We “introduced” ourselves to every habitat on the planet, except a small part of Africa, and it’s commonly accepted that there are Indigenous people on every continent, so what “counts”? Is it a matter of heredity? Of culture? Of lifestyle?

I don’t think there’s a clear answer, and even if there was, I’m not the person to propose it. Andrew approaches as a theory question, examining relationships with land and between people, history, and more. Check it out, and if you like his work, consider supporting him on Patreon.

Lazy Sunday: Frostpunk game review

Frostpunk is a very dramatic city-building survival game. You lead the last survivors of humanity as they build a city based around a gigantic, coal-powered steam generator. Civilization was wiped out by a sudden ice age, and for some reason the only survivors are the ones who decided to live in a crater in the ice, somewhere north of London. I bought it for myself as a birthday present, and I lost track of time, which is why I’m writing this at 4am to make sure I get a post up “today”. The music is melancholy, and often has a relentless feel to it, which pairs well with weather that starts at -20°, and fairly quickly reaches the point where -40 feels like a summer day. It’s chilly in my home today, so I really felt the winter winds, and just seeing the glow from the generator felt a little warming.

I definitely recommend the game, and its expansions. All of them together cost me about $10-15 on Steam, which feels like a pretty good deal.

Edit: Adding in the Stupendium song, since Cubist was nice enough to make me aware of it.


Video: Rebecca Watson takes on Easter myths and misinformation

Most of my memories from Easter are pretty secular. It’s not because we weren’t a religious household, but more because Quakers don’t much much stock in “holy days”, and my family mostly saw it as an excuse to celebrate and see relatives. We did egg hunts, we got huge baskets of candy from my grandmother – all the usual stuff. I think that’s part of why the claims of a pagan origin for the holiday never really interested me all that much. I believed them, but it didn’t really change how I saw things. This also means that discovering that all the Ishtar/Ostara stuff seems to be bunk also doesn’t really ruffle my feathers. It certainly seemed plausible, but it’s just as plausible that another chain of events led to the odd mishmash that is the modern USian conception of Easter. In fact, it’s apparently more plausible:

I’ll admit that I fully bought into the Ostara story and I was honestly shocked to learn that this story has only one single source, and it’s NOT from anyone who worshiped her, and maybe not even someone who lived in a time when anyone worshiped her. We know of Ostara only because of an 8th century English Christian monk named Bede, who wrote that the local pagans used to hold festivals in Ostara’s honor each Spring, but that with the Christianization of the area, the practice died out before his time. That’s it! A THOUSAND YEARS LATER, Jacob Grimm (of the famous Brothers) took that description and ran with it, asserting with no evidence that Ostara’s festivals directly connect with Easter and are the reason why we do so much weird shit to celebrate Jesus dying, like how we all love to eat “pastry of heathenish form.” That’s a direct quote from Grimm’s Deutsche Mythologie, and FYI it is now a permanent part of my family’s Easter traditions.

“This binding on of the ‘Easter seax’, or sword-knife, leads us to infer that a sword of peculiar antique shape was retained; as the Easter scones, ôsterstuopha (RA. 298) and moonshaped ôstermâne (Brem. wtb.) indicate pastry of heathenish form.”

Note that in the late 19th century, 150 inscriptions were found in Germany that related to three goddesses that seem to have been known as the Matronae Austriahenae , which linguists say could be related to Ostara, but there’s no proof of it.

With that in mind, maybe this goddess DID exist as a thing that some pagans worshiped, and maybe Bede was right that they held festivals in the spring in her honor, but we have no evidence that any of that is at all connected to present day Easter traditions, especially considering that even Bede said it died out before even his time. It seems that the idea of Easter being based on ancient pagan rites started in the early 19th century with Grimm. If you’d like to know more, Stephen Winick at the Library of Congress went down the, er, rabbit hole on the history of this misconception.

So, why DO we eat eggs laid by bunnies to celebrate a demigod being tortured and killed every spring?  Well, it’s probably because all the things we associate with Easter are associated with spring in general, and with rebirth, which is the entire theme of the Christian holiday: eggs have been a symbol of rebirth for at least two thousand years, rabbits emerge into people’s gardens in the spring, lambs are born in the spring, and as for where the bunny laying the egg came from, nobody really knows! But English folklorist Richard Sermon came up with a guess that I quite like, which is that “a hare’s scratch or form and a lapwing’s nest look very similar, and both occur on grassland and are first seen in the spring.” Maybe it all started with one hilarious parent pulling a prank on their kids.

That’s actually pretty neat! It’s also a good reminder to be skeptical about stories that “feel right” to us, as well as those we’re already inclined to disbelieve. Anyway, happy Easter to those who celebrate, and I hope everyone has a good day.

Important Video: “Gender Criticals” & Autism

I’m not sure where I first encountered the despicable practice of using autistic people as a political weapon, but it was probably the anti-vax movement. Some time after that, I learned why so many autistic people hate the organization Autism Speaks, and not long after that, I started to become more aware of how our society systematically fails, abuses, and kills people with all sorts of disabilities and neurotypes. In recent years, the reactionary “Gender Critical” movement has been using the bigoted notion that autistic people don’t know themselves or their own experiences, to attack trans people. It’s something that requires dismissing what autistic trans people have to say, often while claiming that those same people “don’t have a voice”, and so need some Rowling-style “feminist” to speak for them.

Mica of the Youtube channel Ponderful does an excellent job dismantling this bullshit, and giving her perspective as an autistic cis woman of the sort that the transphobes claim to speak for. Fair warning, this video does get a bit dark, as it goes into topics such as the frequency with which disabled people are murdered by their parents and other caregivers, and abusive “treatments” for autism. It’s an informative video, and it closes out with comments from autistic trans people, because it turns out that they actually do know their own minds, and they have voices with which to speak for themselves.


Video: John Oliver on Psychedelics

Boy, that headline sounds a lot more entertaining than what this actually is. I do love the ambiguity of the English language sometimes.

When we talk about systems of power and domination like white supremacy or patriarchy, some people object by pointing to the ways in which those systems often hurt the people they supposedly privilege. This isn’t a bug, but rather a feature. White supremacy was developed not as a way to elevate the newly-invented “white race”, but as a way to control the majority of that race, to get their help in atrocious colonial projects, and to get them to defend a hierarchy that often hurts them more than it helps. To quote Lyndon Johnson:

If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.

This approach had many benefits for the white aristocracy – it got the consent of white people to murder and enslave countless Indigenous people in Africa and the Americas, and it often got those same white people to fight hard to defend the hierarchy because while they weren’t at the top, they could see every day that they weren’t at the bottom either. It created a pretty one-sided, cross-class solidarity based on sadism and bigotry, that continues to be central to maintaining capitalism to this day. While open hatred has gained popularity with the recent fascist backlash, there was a brief period in which the power of liberatory social movements made bigoted people look for ways to hide their bigotry, while still upholding systemic white supremacy. A good quote on this comes from Lee Atwater, another miserable bigot:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*****, n*****, n*****.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*****”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*****, n*****.”

Again, we have the same theme – from people in or close to the ruling class who support white supremacy – that while black people are hurt more by systemic racism, a lot of white people get hurt by it as well. There are pretty easy examples – police violence, while mainly aimed at black and brown people, it also hurts white people all the time. That fits pretty well, since both white supremacy and police are all about keeping normal folks in line, but the pattern echoes throughout society. When the law no longer allowed black people to be explicitly excluded from government assistance and other public services, white society decided that if it couldn’t be for whites alone, it couldn’t exist at all. They were so obsessed with keeping black people down that they were willing to hurt poor white folks along with them.

And a similar thing happened with the drug war. To quote another horrible person who worked to uphold capitalism and white supremacy:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Once again, I think it’s important to note that while these people were absolutely vicious bigots, they also used and perpetuated bigotry as a tool to attain, hold, or increase their power. And the harm? Well, the so-called War on Drugs has been almost universally regarded as a total failure, except with regard to its utility in justifying a massive expansion in the government’s power to destroy lives.

It goes beyond that, though. Most of the attention is quite rightly focused on the abuse, exploitation, and enslavement of black people in the U.S., but one of the ways in which it hurts everyone has been through a lack of access to, and understanding of a variety of drugs. It’s not just about fun, though I think we should have a right to that. Many of these are drugs that can measurably improve people’s wellbeing, and help us work through things ranging from trauma to the inevitable approach of death. I think I’ve mentioned in the past that during my last couple years in the U.S., I had a license to use medical cannabis to help manage stress and anxiety. I never touched the stuff until I was in my 30s, but for the couple years in which I had legal access, it made a huge difference in my life. I haven’t tried anything “stronger” though, partly because I haven’t felt a need, and partly because of criminalization.

I’d prefer not to get on the wrong side of the law, and when it comes to things that come in pill form, there seems to be an increasing problem with contamination (consider getting fentanyl test strips and narcan – they save lives). There may be inherent risks in the use of any given drug – just as there are with things like caffeine or alcohol – but the real danger comes from criminalization. The danger of violence comes from the police, and from the danger presented by the police. The danger of contamination comes, in most part, from the necessity of “underground” production. The danger of the drugs themselves comes from ignorance of the effects, and the danger (also from cops) inherent in seeking treatment or advice.

Decriminalizing makes it easier for researchers to study drugs and their effects, makes the trade safer, since there would be no need to hide from or defend against law enforcement, makes it easier to know what’s in a given drug, and makes it easier to get help if something goes wrong. In general, the standard should be informed consent – make sure people know the facts, and respect their right to make their own decisions.

Still, while we seem to be a ways off from me getting my way, there has been research into things like psychedelics over the years, and slow progress is being made on legalization for medicinal purposes, which is great. The more I hear, the more I want to have some of these things as an option when I reach my final days. Cannabis wasn’t a “gateway” that made me start using other drugs, but it did give me a little perspective on the lies told about them.

You know what does make me interested in other drugs? Videos like this, which break down the lies, and lay out what we know about how certain drugs have helped people:

Video: History of the Great Dismal Swamp

I’m feeling tired for reasons, so today I’m just sharing something I came across while working on my current novel. I think swamps are fascinating as ecosystems (I’m not sure there are any ecosystems that aren’t fascinating), but the Great Dismal Swamp is special for its role in American history. It was initially a stop on the Underground Railroad, where Black people escaping from slavery could use difficult, wet terrain to hide from their pursuers. Over time, some people decided that the difficulties of living in the swamp were preferable to the difficulties of living at the mercy of white society, and so they formed communities out there. There’s a lot that we still don’t know about them, but maybe we’ll learn more some day. As Eric Sheppard says in the video, while there aren’t written records of these communities, their descendants are still out there (Sheppard is one), and some of them may still have an oral history of their families. It’s easy to forget, with the internet at our fingertips, how much we still don’t know about even fairly recent human history.

Video: The history (and pre-history) of trans people

At the moment we are in the middle of an effort, by conservatives, to erase trans people from existence. Part of that effort, as with the Nazi book-burnings, is to erase any understanding of trans people, and part of that effort is pretending that they are some sort of new phenomenon. The are not. Gender has always been more complex than bigots are comfortable with, just like most other things about the world. Tristan from Step Back History does a good job of covering what we know about the history of the many examples through history of people who don’t conform to the artificial gender “binary”, from all over the world. It’s a fascinating part of who we are as a species that has been deliberately kept from most people, at least in the English-speaking world. The fascists don’t want you to know this stuff, so what are you waiting for?

Snoozy Cat to you all, and a happy New Year!

“The old year now away is fled, the New Year it is entered”.

In many ways, the turning of one year to the next doesn’t matter much. It’s a way to track time, but while that’s the axle on which the wheels of history turn, it’s not what determines where we go. The New Year is a social construct. The thing is, social constructs are real, material forces in the world, and like gods, flags, and philosophies, the New Year has meaning, at its root, because enough people want it to. At the end of the day, that kind of meaning may be the only kind we really have.

This has been an interesting year for me. Some combination of a supportive family, total control over my time, and a legal situation that convinced me writing was actually the most “productive” use of my time meant that I’ve been writing daily for a year, in a way I’m not sure I ever have. More than that, having this control over what I write, how I write it, and why I write it has made the work immeasurably more fulfilling. I don’t know why it took so long for all of this to click, but in some ways it’s been exhilarating, after so many years of trying to get my brain to cooperate. I still have problems, of course, and there’s the nagging dread that something small will change and I’ll sink back into the brain fog and dysfunction, but for now? Life feels strangely good, despite everything that’s going on in the world.

I think that’s a testament to the importance of ensuring that everyone has this freedom, and of staying connected to humanity as a whole, so as to avoid that trap of assuming one’s own experience is universal. I’m also somewhat grounded by the fact that my current situation has a time limit on it. It is, speaking of social constructs, a result of Tegan’s visa as a graduate student. It’s my hope that between this blog and the novel I’m working on, I can bring in enough money to make writing continue to be viable when our situation changes. It feels like the odds are against me on that, but in this moment, there’s nothing for it but to keep working.

This has also been an “interesting” year, for a certain definition of interesting, because I lost Raksha. She had been a huge part of my life starting the summer after I graduated from college in 2007, all the way until this past spring, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better dog. She was gentle, sociable, smart, and eager to please. She also rarely barked, which made her a surprisingly good apartment dog, for a Shepherd mix that weighed 50lbs. She was probably happiest during the couple years we were living at my parent’s place in the woods, where she’d hang out, chase squirrels, and bask in the sun.

It’s strange to have a creature be a constant presence for a decade and a half, and then just… be gone. It’s something you always know is coming, but there’s a limit to how much easier that makes it, when it’s clear that nobody really wants things to end. I’ll probably never stop missing her, but writing these two paragraphs is more than I was able to do a few months ago. One benefit of aging is that experience can remind us that while time may not remove the pain entirely, things do get easier.

The picture shows Raksha, lying under my desk. It’s an oak roll-top desk I got at a thrift store, so the space under it is pretty small. The dog’s head and shoulders are visible in the bottom center of the picture, with her white undercoat showing through the black fur of her shoulders. Her cheeks are white, fading to tan on the muzzle, with a black stripe down the center of her snout. She has brown eyes with a little dark fur around them, and off-white, expressive eyebrows. This was her safe spot, where she’d hide (if I was at the desk) when the fireworks started.

Thankfully, she wasn’t my only companion. I still have Tegan and His Holiness Saint Ray the Cat. Tegan shared my grief, of course, having lived with Raksha for almost nine of her fifteen years. His Holiness apparently didn’t care at all. He was there on the grass when the vet put her down, but he was far more interested in whether we were going to feed him. I think his main problem was that the landscape changed. Thankfully, as long as we keep feeding him and providing warmth and shelter, he will continue to be a loving stuffed animal of a housemate.

Honestly, I think the dog was more like a roommate that he had to put up with than someone he actually cared about. When Tegan’s gone for a long period of time, he gets fussy, and when she spends the day out of the house, he makes it his mission to prevent her from leaving again by sitting on her lap the second it becomes possible to do so. He’ll spend lots of time there when she’s home all day, too, but there’s less urgency to it. Tegan, you will be surprised to learn, is largely OK with this.

The other day, he took up residence while she watched a movie (I think it was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – I was working and didn’t feel like watching it), and he discovered that, when she wasn’t actively using it for work, her laptop made an excellent pillow!

His Holiness, a chunky British shorthair cat, is sleeping on Tegan’s lap, on top of a plaid comforter, using her laptop as a pillow. His fur looks golden-brown with black stripes, except for the plush, white fur on his muzzle, cheeks, neck, and paws. That particular spot on the laptop generates its own heat, and is therefor the cat’s One True Love.

Tegan sent me a couple pictures that seemed worth sharing with you all. He used to have a problem with comforters – the squishiness bothered him for some reason – but he has made his peace, and seems to appreciate them now, especially when they have the added benefit of being over a lap.

It’s true what you’ve heard – you really can have too much of a good thing! He got overheated, so he had to curl away from the laptop and plant his face in the comforter.

A few days before this, Tegan had been using her old sleeping bag to keep warm while she worked out in the living room, and His Holiness had apparently decided that that sleeping bag was the best thing ever created, and spent several entire days and nights mostly sleeping on it, regardless of where we were. He goes through phases like that with random spots in the house sometimes, like the box he was obsessed with a little while back.

Apparently he had reached the end of that phase, however, because when I came to bed, he decided to stick around, and found a little space above my pillow.

In this picture, you can see me using one side of the pillow, and His Holiness using the other. Neither of us appreciated the flash, but it does show how glossy the soft black fur on his head is.

I have never encountered a cat that was so fond of pillows – not as a thing to lie on but as, well, a social construct. It’s not always, but often he likes having his head propped up on something other than his sleeping surface. This means that he will often share a pillow with one of us, by curling up next to it, and putting his head on it. Maybe this is something they all do and I’m just noticing it with my cat, but it’s such a marked preference with him, it seems to stand out in a way that I feel I would have noticed.

Either way, it’s extremely cute, and I’m grateful to have him in my life.

2023 looks to be an interesting year, not just in the sense of the curse of “interesting times”, but also because it feels sort of like a next stage for my attempt to hold on to a lifestyle that I actually find fulfilling. As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m not going to be posing anything for the first week in January. It’s not exactly a week “off”, but my biggest upcoming goal is to get a solid draft of my current novel finished by the end of Spring. I’m aiming for April, but I’m unsure of my ability to get there. Fiction’s harder for me than nonfiction in many ways. I didn’t get as far as I wanted to in November, but I did make real progress, and I’ve made more over the past month. I think it’ll be a fun book, and a good, if somewhat sneaky beginning to what I hope will be a unique and captivating fantasy epic.

I’m still working on how I want to go about publishing it, but I’m leaning towards self-publication or something close to it. At some point this year, I’ll also start releasing bits and pieces as teasers, and probably a little more than that for my patrons (who have the option to name characters). It’s a sword-and-sorcery story that follows a young mage named Tad, who signs up to serve the empire in which he was born. In that regard, the setup is familiar, and in many ways this will be just another fantasy novel in a quasi-medieval setting. That said, I find I cannot be satisfied with a society that has rulers in fiction any more than in reality, and the ghosts of “past” injustice continue to haunt us in any world, until we do what is needed to appease them and mend the damage.

What potions require mushrooms, harvested from a swamp in the dark of the New Moon? What secrets are held within the red-streaked black marble of the Imperial palace? How much of the world around us is a lie? What waits at the bottom of a bottomless pit? How much can a friendship withstand?

In 2023, I mean to answer these questions and more. In time, of course, the answers will be available to all who buy my books, but readers of this blog may get early or inside information, and my patrons will play a role in shaping this world, should they want it.

And, of course, Oceanoxia will continue. Once my break is over, I plan on posting daily as I have been. Going forward, I’ll do my best do provide better written summaries and discussions of Youtube videos I post. I think it was The Great American Satan that pointed out that people likely to read a blog like this might be less interested in watching videos than in, well, reading. It’s a good point and one I’ll be trying to keep in mind. I had started using Youtube as a way to post content when I didn’t have anything better, and I’m sure I’ll still do that from time to time, but like I said – I’m trying to make a living out of this, and beyond periodically haranguing people for money, Oceanoxia needs to be something that people feel is worth supporting.

I’ve found it hard, recently, to feel hopeful about the start of a new year. There’s a lot of bad in the world right now, and a lot of power behind the effort to keep things that way. In terms of the world at large, well, it doesn’t feel like things are getting better soon. In terms of my own life? It’s hard to tell, but I have real hopes for my current projects, and for another year in which it feels like I’m actually making progress as a craftsman. In a lot of ways, that’s most of what I want out of my personal life, and I’m grateful for this opportunity, however long it lasts.

I hope you all have a good night, whatever your plans tonight, and I hope that 2023 is filled with pleasant surprises for all of us.