It’s Okay If You Have PCSD

It's Okay If You Have PCSD

Here’s a quick public service announcement. As a person diagnosed with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) I’m starting to notice certain patterns with people as we exit the worst parts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals seem to be more irritable, avoid on guard for danger, self-destructive. Irrational, angry outbursts are very common. Have you noticed that, too? I’m no doctor, and if you think you need help, definitely get checked out. What I want to suggest considering is that these symptoms may be a clue that you have PCSD, and it’s okay if you have it.

What’s PCSD? Post-Corona Stress Disorder. It’s the mental, emotional, physical response to surviving a worldwide pandemic. COVID-19 has ravaged our concept of what civilization is, what society is supposed to do for us. It’s traumatic to realize how long many of us have been walking without a safety net, and how much longer many of us will be. It’s affected us individually, collectively. Empty wallets, and empty spaces at the dinner table. It will take us a long time to understand the true cultural impact of COVID-19.

Let’s be clear, I’m not a doctor. I’m not speaking as a medical professional, I’m just a guy who sees things. When the world’s actions scream ‘I’m in pain!’ it’s hard not to overhear. I could be wrong about all of this; actually, I hope I am. PTSD isn’t fun to live with, and I would imagine something like PCSD would be, too. Thing is, we don’t get to pick our life. As John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.’ If you feel like you’ve experienced some trauma because of what’s happened in the past fourteen months, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned along my healing journey.

It's Okay If You Have PCSD

Be Kind to Yourself

It’s okay if you have PCSD. No, seriously. That first little rule is often the most difficult to accept. We don’t want to see ourselves as damaged, that’s understandable. In fact, you shouldn’t see yourself as damaged at all, but rather battle-tested. You’ve made it, you’ve survived! That’s a reason to celebrate, not condemn! Some PTSD survivors report a level of denial on their condition, but if you’ve got PCSD, there’s nothing to deny. We’ve all been through a terrible test, and we made it out the other side. Be kind to yourself, don’t expect perfection. This wasn’t a game to win, this was a war to survive, and you did: Go, you!

One other important thing to remember: one of the reasons COVID happened was because people were looking for a quick fix, rather than the right move. In your healing journey, you’ll meet many well-intentioned people telling you to buy a book, attend a seminar, take non-medical drugs. I view all of these people as a cultural hangover from our pre-COVID era. The global pandemic taught us again and again: Quick fixes lead to slow-motion disaster. My hope is that our culture will experience a shift away from Band-Aid, ‘all you have to do is …’-type fixes.

In the meantime, be aware that these people exist and do your best not to be one, yourself. Don’t worry if being kind isn’t a natural instinct or it doesn’t happen right away. I’m still learning how to do it, myself.

Talk With Others

I’m not going to suggest something dumb and oversimplified like: ‘get help.’ What I will say is that by talking with others, knowing that others relate to your experience, can be very healing. While PCSD is just a word I made up, PTSD is not. There are many, MANY, free resources out there and you may find some of them valuable. Don’t worry, no one’s asking for you to stand up and talk. DailyStrength has an online support group you can lurk in, read about others’ experiences with PTSD. There are others, too.

Learn and Practice Healthy Habits

I had a lot of trouble with this one; learning and practicing healthy habits. My background was about ‘never let them see you sweat,’ ‘man up,’ and other abuse-promoting mindsets. Being kind to yourself isn’t just about accepting that you’ve been through trauma, it’s also about accepting that you deserve good things. Years ago, I’d see people who ate healthy, worked out but weren’t body builders and mentally check out. At the same time, I secretly admired them. What gave them the peace and motivation to just be healthy because they wanted to be, not because they wanted to prove a point to someone? The answer, simplified, is that they learned and practiced healthy habits. Small ideas, with universe-changing consequences.

How do you learn and practice healthy habits? It’s easy, just do it. As they say in the gym, the hardest lift is lifting your butt off the couch. Just try something today! Go outside, breathe some fresh air. Walk for five minutes, organize your sock drawer, lay out your workout clothes tonight for your first early-morning workout tomorrow. Read and experiment with lifehacks – make your world more organized, calm, and fun!

Some people use mindfulness, deep breathing, or meditation. I’m not suggesting anything in particular, just like I wouldn’t suggest a single cardio exercise for everyone. You have to find what works for you. Try one or two, see if they work. Give yourself a week for the effects (if any) to kick in. If they do, great! If they don’t, pick one or two and move on.

Wrapping Up

I’m not here to give you a new life, or a new mindset, in a single blog post (See ‘Band-Aid fixes,’ above). But living with anxiety is something I know something about, so I wanted to share with you on this beautiful Wednesday morning. As long as you’re breathing, you have a shot at making things better.

If you found what I write valuable, you may find my other stories valuable, too!

Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash

Sci-Friday #109 – Quick Fun Story – Cool Scifi Stuff

Quick Fun Story Cool Scifi Stuff

Hooray, happy Friday! No videos or pictures today, this Sci-Friday is a quick fun story, some cool scifi stuff I started in response to a Writing Prompt on Reddit this week. Here’s the prompt: “You’re not here to invade us or do horrible experiments on us, are you?” Asked the human. “What? No, of course not.” Replied the alien. “We’re here on vacation and could really use a local tour guide.”

Say no more! I started work on a new story, and here’s part of the first part for your Sci-Friday joy!

“Oh, okay.” I looked at my new captor / hosts. Green, gelatinous beings the size of a refrigerator with clawed tentacles. One of them is translating, while the others stared at me through single eyeballs. Not the kind of people, if you could call them people, you want to disappoint. “What would you like to see first?”

“Well start us off with a general overview. What do humans enjoy doing most? Where could we see them in their natural habitat?”

“Good question. Do you know what Wal-Mart is?”

“A Wall … Marht?” The head honcho spoke briefly in Alienese to his companions. I caught the word ‘Wal-Mart’ in all of its gobbledygook. “We’re interested in this Wal-Mart. Please take us there.”

“Well first, you couldn’t go inside. People would freak out. Some of them have guns.”

“Guns? Pellet cannons? Fah!” The alien hoisted a small device from an unseen hiding spot in a fold of skin. “No match for our defense technology.”

“Looks like a credit card,” I said. “That’s not very dangerous.”

“No, but this is,” the alien pressed a button and a large, quadruped robot leaped from the ceiling.

“Oh God, please!” I screamed as the robot slammed me into the ship’s deck. Sharp fans and laser cannon all pointed at me, ready to blast me into cinders.

“Down, Rusty!” the alien commanded the robot, which instantly sank into a rest posture. “You see? We’re completely safe anywhere we travel on your primitive world.”

“They’d still freak out. I thought you wanted to see humans in their natural habitat.”

“Already taken care of.” Another press of the tiny device and a screen of nanotech holographs swept around the individual alien beings. In seconds, the insect-sized devices created a visual screen of human camouflage. “You see? They’ll never know we were there. Quickly, to this Wall-Marht! I can’t wait to get some pictures to show our friends back home.”

Hope you enjoy the ‘Alien Tour Guide’ story. I might finish developing it into a follow-up for ‘Planet Ugh.’

Continue reading in my Reddit posts here …

Happy Friday –

Photo by Brooke Denevan on Unsplash

Our Cyberpunk Era: The Attention Age

Our Cyberpunk Era: The Attention Age

Like you, I’m paying attention to current events and trying to extract some kind of context and meaning. One thing is for certain, we’re drifting closer to the dystopian and depressing aspects of cyberpunk that William Gibson described close to forty years ago. One aspect of cyberpunk is something called out on Reddit last week, ‘the Attention age.’ Beyond the Information Age, the currency of our time is the public’s attention. Getting people’s attention has become a profession (Looking at you, influencers) and that’s contributing to social decline.

But what is ‘the Attention Age,’ and where does it come from? I found this discussion on Reddit and am passing it along. See what you think:

I think the first portion is why we’re seeing such a commodification of outrage.

People want to feel like they have a voice, that their opinion matters. They go on a platform that allows them to preach their opinions to the world, but are by-and-by ignored. They realize in reality that their opinions dont matter. They are one of thousands, one of millions. All braying for attention.

Disappointed then that, they focus on making their opinions so strongly expressed and central to their identity that they cant possibly be ignored. Outrage is a very self-righteous and self-affirming emotion. It places your point of view on a pedestal of unassailability.

Its saying, “this topic is so important to me it OUTRAGES me, and you need to pay attention because it should outrage you, too. And if it doesnt, then theres something wrong with YOU.” Nothing gets people attention better than them being challenged as deficient. Which is what each “outrage” type post/emotion does. What alot of those types of outrage posts seek more than anything else is reaffirmation that their opinion matters, that anyone else cares like they do. Or cares that they care.

Corporations are ran by people too, and those people have realized that those emotions can be commodified and profitized. Hence, outrage porn reporting, from either side. Intended less to educate or inform, but moreso to harness peoples preconceptions.

Our Cyberpunk Era - The Attention Age

Below that, Mccoyed sums it all up in two sentences:

“This is why we need to move past understanding the current era as the ‘information age’ and understand it as an ‘attention age.’ Information isn’t the currency anymore, attention is.”

This terrifying, simple conclusion brings me back to what I was saying a few moments ago – our cyberpunk era, the Attention Age – is here now. All the pieces are coming together to create a world of ‘high tech – low life,’ with all that this implies. The overall construct of Cyberpunk was a neo-noir consideration of what life was like on the mean streets of the 21st Century. Little people trying to survive in the shadow of faceless, giant institutions. Unless we get our act together, this is exactly where we’re going as a society.

The future need not be so dim. We’ve still got the chance to build a beautiful future together. Some try to envision that with Solarpunk and I’m trying to find a careful middle ground with Mesh by talking about a Cyberpunk future where you CAN actually choose your own destiny.

But we aren’t there yet. We must reckon with our cyberpunk era, the Attention age, and give careful thought to where we are, where we’re going, and if we want to go somewhere better, how we’ll get there.

Think about it.

 

Sci-Friday #108 – The Martian Outtakes Fun Scifi Stuff

Happy Friday! Here are ‘The Martian’ outtakes, fun scifi stuff for your pre-weekend consumption. ‘The Martian’ was directed by Ridley Scott and features Matt Damon and a ton of other great people. I had forgotten how many awesome actors were in ‘The Martian,’ so this gag reel is a happy walk down memory lane featuring Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Peña. There’s nothing quite like being on set with a bunch of talented professionals who love their work and love their material.

I love the Martian for a bunch of different reasons: A, it proved you can be successful at telling a hard scifi story, something people often say is impossible. B, Andy Weir is a decent guy and has been very gracious and helpful on the couple of times I’ve reached out to him. In fact, some of its hard scifi greatness comes through in the IMDB trivia page:

  • NASA was consulted in order to get aspects of space and space travel, specifically in relation to Mars, with the most accuracy. NASA is federally funded, yet charges no one, including private for-profit organizations, any fees for use of and access to its archives and consultancy.
  • In the beginning, it is mentioned that a compromised space suit would cause decompression, giving someone about a minute to live. This is scientifically correct; contrary to popular belief, acute decompression in space or a planet with very low pressure like Mars does not cause the body to immediately explode or expand. Major effects include confusion, loss of consciousness and some subdermal bleeding, but it is generally agreed that a healthy human body can survive one minute in vacuum without life-threatening consequences.

So yeah, you’ll love ‘The Martian’ outtakes – fun scifi like this is what I enjoy sharing every Friday. Go down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years. Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!

ICYMI: Scifi Community Help – Toxic Fan Resources

My ‘Toxic Fan’ quiz got some love yesterday, making me realize something: the scifi community is looking for help, toxic fan resources. The reason they were talking about toxic fans yesterday (Revan … like, whatever) is just like the reason I originally posted the toxic fan quiz (James Gunn). The reasons for toxicity come and go, but the poison remains. It’s real, it’s dangerous, and it will kill us if we don’t kill it first. More than ever, scifi must defeat the tribalism, gatekeeping, and racism eating away at our foundations like mad termites.

Scifi Community Help Toxic Fan Resources

But where do you start? I’ve been writing about this piecemeal, but now I think it’s time to give the science fiction community help by creating a single page of toxic fan resources. I’m no authority on the subject, but I’ve been watching this phenomena for over twenty years. The experience has taught me one thing: we don’t stop toxicity by ‘destroying’ toxic fans. Rather, we should work to identify them, reach out, and heal them. My hope is that this virtual toolbox can be of help to you.

So let’s break it down. Below are a group of posts / resources I’ve found on the topic of toxic fans. Feel free to browse and use what works for you.

What Is a Toxic Fan / Why Does It Matter?

The basis for toxic fans comes from a bad social habit we started many years ago – being professional consumers instead of creators. Yes, of course we need consumers of science fiction (I’m a writer, after all) but the act of consuming slowly became a sort of creativity unto itself. As a result, people who didn’t feel confident in being the next George Lucas started trying to be the next Comic Book Guy, and it’s turned them into dark caricatures of themselves. You know who they are, and so do I (Looking at you, Harry Knowles and other neckbeards). The problem isn’t whether those people exist, the problem is: what is the scifi community going to do about it?

If people can ignore things like climate change, they can ignore me, too. But make no mistake: Refusing to answer that question has serious consequences. As I pointed out in this blog post, toxic fans and other bad actors can take out entire franchises if left to their own devices. What’s the point of contributing if it means some dork in another part of the world can waltz in and use IP laws to steal what you tried to give away for free? What recourse do we have when one person, anywhere in the world, can end your life’s work with the touch of a button?

So yes, toxic fans exist and yes, they matter. If the scifi community wants to continue to have new scifi coming in, it will have to reckon with this problem. So how can we identify toxic fans, and what do we do about it?

How Do I Know If I’m a Toxic Fan / What Do I Do About It?

Sooner or later, history will allow us to look back on our time now with some candor and insight. Who do we want to be when we get there? How do we want to remember ourselves? How do we want the elder generation who entrusted this community and genre to us to feel? How do we want the younger generation to see us? To help answer those important questions, I decided to start by answering:

How do I know if I’m a toxic fan?

This ten question quiz can help you find out, and at the bottom are some resources to help you do some work if you’ve identified opportunities to improve. Here are a few of them:

 

But assuming that you’re like Play-Doh, 100% non-toxic, what do we do about the toxic fans around us? Must we band together to destroy them, murder them with words? The answer is, no.

How Do We Get Rid of Toxic Fans?

The answer to toxic fans is really quite simple, and it comes from Abraham Lincoln: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” No one is suggesting that we banish toxic fans to the Phantom Zone; only Superman could do that! Rather, the scifi community should come together to reach out, check in, and approach with kindness. In fact, approaching with kindness is one of the six ways we can defeat scifi’s toxic tribalism.

So don’t be afraid to speak up, and reach out. Our goal is not to reject those who may have spent a lifetime being rejected elsewhere. We want our friends and fans back, happy and healthy! Once our friends are feeling better, we can take that energy back into scifi to make it even better. Were they angry about a character? Their points can make that character better! Did they have valid concerns about a specific fandom or franchise? Those concerns can and should be addressed!

The point at the end of the day is that energy cannot be destroyed, but it can be redirected. My goal is a world where there no toxic fans, just fans. That’s a dream we can call get behind.

Wrapping Up

So as I’ve said in the past, my hope is for the scifi community to get to a period of greater understanding, creativity, and connection. As the pandemic proved, we need each other now. Please join us, on the Light Side of the Force. We’re weird, we’re damaged, but like a single broken egg, we can be delicious when we’re mixed together! Like you, everyone wants the best for themselves – let’s combine our forces to become the Voltron-like power we all want to be.

The future can be a beautiful place. Let’s build it together.

Photo by Danilo Alvesd on Unsplash

Published: New Scifi Short Story – Call of the Void

Proud to say that I’ve published a new scifi short story, ‘Call of the Void’ to my book platforms on Amazon, B&N, and Apple books. What is ‘Call of the Void’ about? Read the description below the cover:

Published: New Scifi Short Story - Call of the Void

“I picked up his trail at the edge of a crater.

Over my shoulder, three moons dangled in the reddish-purple sky. Faint starlight outlined the junky little craft I use for rescue trips. My spacecraft has no frills, no creature comforts: just two seats and basic life support. With luck, that’s all I’ll need to save this kid’s life.

The control surfaces on this spacesuit sucked. I could feel worn plastic and clunky attenuators when I put it on. The third-class air filtration smelled like farts and dirty sweat socks. If I had time, I’d trade with the locals to buy better gear, but I don’t. We’re on the clock. The kid’s been here for weeks. If I don’t get him out in the next few hours, he’s not coming back at all.”

Ryan is a kid with a past. In order to find his future, he has to help someone else find theirs. What will he find out there on an uncharted moon: ruin, remorse, or … redemption? He better find out fast, because time is running out.

There’s more to this story, too. I started working on a version of this short story a few years ago and I kept coming back to it because I wanted to make sure I was telling the right story in the right way. Ryan, the protagonist, has a lot of guilt over his attempted suicide. How does he get past that? The answer for him is easy, but also hard. Ryan helps other lost kids, but he has to go out there to get them. That search, feeling the call of the void and choosing to come home, brings Ryan closer to finding himself.

So this short story is both a lot of fun, and very persona. I think you’ll enjoy it and I can’t wait to see what you think of it! Click the links below to pick up Call of the Void from your favorite bookstore.

Believing In Yourself: Call of the Void - Free Scifi eBook Apple  Barnes & Noble  Kobo  Thalia  Bol.de  Angus & Robertson

Or, if you’re looking for a free way to get it, click here.

On to the next project – more releases coming soon!

Inkican Tribe Swag – Helping Cool People Find Each Other

Happy Monday! 🙂 Doing some thinking over the weekend about Inkican Tribe and decided to start work on some Inkican Tribe Swag. Here are some ideas that I threw together – see what you think:

Inkican Tribe Swag Inkican Tribe Swag

Why am I doing this? Authors do lots of buttons and that’s cool but me? I’m an old school music nerd. You covered your binders, your headboard, your garbage can in weird, obscure decals to show who you listened to. Who you listened to became who you are. Saying who you are helped you find other people like you. As the guy who writes the stories you like, I want you to have something that helps them find other cool people like you.

Vinyl decals have a rich history. For instance, they got their start in “17th century France where there was an engraver by the name of Simon François Ravenet he studied engraving in France but later Custom Decalsmoved to Britain. In Britain Mr. Ravenet was an assistant to William Hogarth an English print maker. Mr. Ravenet was credited for reviving engraving in England and also for inventing the technique (still in use today) used in making vinyl decals.”

So these decals are the start of whatever Inkican Tribe Swag we do together. Love them? Hate them? Tell me on Twitter.

 

Here’s Why Andrew Cuomo Got a $4 Million Book Deal

Why Andrew Cuomo Got a $4 Million Book Deal

Hard at work this week with Mesh, which is why you didn’t see any updates from me. Taking a moment to re-post something I said on Reddit, in answer to the question: Why Would Anyone Pay Andrew Cuomo $4 Million for a Book? It’s not hard to understand why someone would ask this question. After all, Cuomo is a controversial figure, and $4M book deals aren’t exactly falling off trees these days. Nonetheless, the answer is pretty simple: Here’s why Andrew Cuomo got a $4 Million book deal:

He got $4M because publishers know they’ll make it back and more. Publishing advances are an investment, think of publishers like VCs who know when a product is going to sell big and are therefore willing to risk more money on the front end. A book written by a famous person is generally considered a goldmine since that person has a built-in fan base to market to. Need proof? [Look at the buzz generated by Kylie and Kendall Jenner when they “wrote” Rebels: City of Indra](https://www.eonline.com/news/512230/kendall-and-kylie-jenner-s-book-cover-revealed-get-the-first-look-at-rebels-city-of-indra?cmpid=tweol-manual). The book wasn’t great, people took turns dunking on it online, but Simon & Schuster were willing to buy it. Why? *Because they knew it would sell.*

So politics, ethics, and morals aside – what you’re looking at is a very simple transaction for mainstream publishers. This book will sell, right or wrong. They’ve done their due diligence and come up with a negotiated number for advance against royalties. That number may have certain performance KPIs built in, we’ll never know. The main thing for any author is to write something people will pay to read, and that’s why the Cuomos, the Bill O’Reilly’s, the Larry Kings, the Dave Berry’s, the Erma Bombeck’s of the world will always score a big payday when their new book comes out. It’s also why, as an author, I’m looking for ways to build an audience that will buy my book while I’m writing my book. Both tracks take time and effort, but since I want to do this for a living, I know I have to be about that business within my life’s circumstances.

So there you have it. This is why why Andrew Cuomo got a $4 Million book deal. His book is a bankable commodity, the publisher is prepared to support something they know will sell well.

Think of your writing projects as individual business startups, and you’ve taken your first step toward writing something that’s worth a $4M advance of its own.

Sci-Friday #107 – Beyond the Mind’s Eye – Fun Sci-Fi Stuff

For this Sci-Friday, take a step into early CGI with ‘Beyond the Mind’s Eye,’ which was part of the larger ‘Mind’s Eye’ series produced in the early 90s as a sort of ‘film festival in a box.’ You could buy the videos at different places, I usually saw them at Sharper Image at the mall during that time. For most of us, this was our pre-‘Toy Story’ exposure to CGI storytelling.

Jan ‘The guy who did the Miami Vice theme’ Hammer scored ‘Beyond the Mind’s Eye,’ giving us a double-helping of fun sci-fi stuff: conceptual sound and visual art. Kick back, grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy! If you like Sci-Friday, you can go down the rabbit hole of every other Sci-Friday I’ve published in the past couple years. Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!

Greta Thunberg and Thoughtful Scifi for Kids

Greta Thunberg and Thoughtful Scifi for Kids

Jotting some quick notes to follow up on my ‘thoughtful scifi for kids’ post last week. One thing I didn’t mention in the power of accountability is our current example, Greta Thunberg. Ms. Thunberg demonstrates what happens when you arm young people with knowledge. They can be a powerful voice for positive change.

Is Thunberg ‘powerful and influential?‘ Of course she is, but why? Where some explain it academically, Greta’s power comes from something deeper, and more emotional. Smart enough to know that climate change is real, man-made, and fixable if enough people want to fix it. Intelligent enough to explain, in no uncertain terms, how she feels about the adults who could have made better choices but followed their craven impulses instead. In that way, Greta Thunberg embodies the collective disgust that all young people should have over the world they are inheriting.

So who cares? Everybody. People forget sometimes, what a powerful motivating force children have on adults. Everybody remembers their childhood, and the one adult who disappointed them, let them down. Nobody wants to be that adult. But the complicated world of adulthood makes you forget that truth, and creates mental loopholes to justify bad choices.

Kids have a way of cutting through all that noise, and reducing the problem to very simple choices. They can remind us, without a word, of who we once were, once thought we could be. For some people, those kids have a way of saying: “When you were young, you wanted to be someone who made the world a better place. You are failing the person you once were.”

We see examples of this all the time. You hear someone say “I got healthy for my kids,” or “I got sober for my kids.” We can harness this powerful motivator to make other changes, too. I admire what Greta Thunberg is doing, it makes me think of how ‘thoughtful scifi for kids’ can be a force for good in the world.

Let’s remember though, thoughtful scifi requires precision, and care. You can’t crank out life-altering stories in a first draft. That’s why Mesh is taking the time it’s taking. Twenty drafts … a full re-write. I want this story to hit the marks it needs to hit to help make the world a better place.

Sometimes I get frustrated, but I still keep going. Adults can and should be making the world a better place. After all: we have to live here, too.