Did We Win

This is a post of my rant that was originally published in Watch The Skies. I have edited it for print version references from the original. IF you’d like to see it in the Fanzine, check it out over at Watch The Skies!

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about how geek chic and other indicators show how “we’ve won” from the “nerd” point of view. “There’s all those comic book movies and that TV show with those funny nerds and just look how important computers are!”


What we have is the opposite of winning in the worst ways. It’s loss of identity combined with the strip mining of things once proudly known, only to feed the masses entertainment that makes them all believe they’re one of the “neglected” or “unpopular” side of society. I hate that I feel that way, but this feeling is deep inside me and it won’t let go.

A few weeks back I read a story about a convention that was attacked. There’s no other way to put it. If the same thing happened at a hotel where a political event were happening the entire place would have been crawling with very serious looking talking heads wondering if it was another example of domestic terrorism and likely trying to tie it to the middle east somehow. If it was your local high school football game it would probably have been handled better. Instead, what we got was a supposed news person that fails to maintain professional composure and what amounts to a “human interest” story mentioned only in passing. I’m not going to revisit all the details as it really is old news. You can read some really good takes on the story here and here. This is just the latest on a long list of things that concern me about the fan community. It might seem a little crazy or perhaps over-reactive.

At one of our recent meetings I was talking about that attack among other things and the starting point, the basis, of why I feel this way. I realized a huge segment of the population doesn’t understand because they weren’t there. I mentioned something about “The Satanic Panic” and got a questioning look. No idea what I was talking about. No idea why I was upset or what in the world I was blathering on about. It stopped me short.

That moment made me think about my reaction. Is it really just me? After a great deal of introspection I thought, maybe, but it will take me a long, long time before I’m willing to speak with abandon. I keep my passion close to me and let very few others in. Deep down inside I’m still worried about reactions the way I was when I was 12. How many people will turn and walk away because I’m associated with that “devil game”? Maybe they’ll hand me a pamphlet on how to save myself. How many people who might have still been my friends were denied that because their parents bought into the hysteria of the day? How many people won’t take me seriously because my art or my writing “look like that nerdy stuff”? How many times was “that dummies game where nobody wins” talked down or belittled even though it would become a life long attachment for me? Perhaps there will be a couple more books or movies that claim a position of “factual relevance” while disparaging music and games. Forgive me if I’m hesitant to put myself out there.

Clearly it’s not that I won’t talk about my hobbies. It’s not that I will deny loving science fiction or fantasy. I spend a great deal of time reading, writing, gaming and all other manner of fan based things. I help run conventions now. I write in fanzines.

But I know my audience when I’m doing those things. I’m still in the relatively sheltered alcove where others like me hang out. It’s mostly safe. I still don’t trust people outside of fields related directly to these pursuits. The news person from the convention attack is just the highest profile, most recent version of that.

I hope that I can use this small essay as a starting point. I want to avoid my knee jerk reaction. I’d like to be positive and sharing of the things I’m most passionate about. I want to avoid becoming the stereotypical anti-social curmudgeon warding off people with random expressions of anger. I’ve tried to look for the bright side. There are positive articles out there. Stories that talk about “lifestyle” or show the “benefits” of playing like I always have. There is so much good and fun it needs to be shared.

Have we won? No, we haven’t but our hobbies and passions have never really been about winning, have they?


My friends have all asked me about my new job. I’ve been able to answer them but it’s been bothering me that I hadn’t written anything down about the whole experience. There’s this nagging feeling that while I was laid off I should have been writing fifty thousand words a day, painting a new masterpiece while still tracking down work. I don’t know why I feel this, but it’s there floating around in the back of my mind, lurking, waiting for something to pop up and say “told you so”.

It doesn’t work that way.

So, here are some of the things that have been rolling around in my mind with regards to my time off from work and my time since returning to work.

A friend of mine said that losing a job was the most emasculating thing that could happen. I thought about it for a long time after that statement. When I was laid off it was out of the blue. There were no indicators. My direct supervisor didn’t know how it was going to happen. As I look back at the way he stated things when he called the following week to apologize to me I suspect he may have known more than he let on. I was in shock really. I had no time to consider it – I just had to turn in all my stuff and go. I didn’t have to go home, but I couldn’t stay there as the old saying goes. I would get one more paycheck and that was that.

Emasculating? I don’t think it’s the right term. It’s not the right way to state it if that’s the intent. I do know there are ways to handle it, and there are ways to handle it. I didn’t rage or scream or cry or whatever. I drove to the house trying to figure out what to do next. When I got home there were guests over and lots of activity. I bypassed all that to see my wife first. Just as I walked into our room she kicked off a shoe and it thumped against the closet door really loudly.

“What the hell was that?” I asked.

She swiveled her head toward me and said, “The body in my closet. What the hell do you think it was?”

“Well, does the body in your closet have a damn job?” I asked.

“No. Do you?” came her immediate reply.

“UH… no I don’t.”

Pause. Pause. “Oh shit… you’re serious.”

So – like I said, there are ways and there are ways. Sometimes you need to laugh – even when it’s got that slightly hysterical edge to it. So we laughed a little and then spent some time talking about what our next steps were. It’s all we could do.

I don’t wish for the time to work on things anymore. Careful what you wish for – you might get it.

I scoured the paper, job sites, Craigslist, whatever I could find looking for a job to jump up and present itself. I had 3 folks ask me to send a resume the day after I was laid off. I was really hopeful. I had an interview just a couple of weeks later. Not so bad I was thinking. I’ll get this all wrapped up and we won’t need to cancel Christmas.

Then I didn’t get that job. Or the next one. Or the next one. I sent at least 3 resumes out every week looking for anything related to my field. It was emotionally draining, that’s for sure. I don’t think I realized that’s what it was until just now. Emotionally drained. I would work on projects, but my heart wasn’t in it. I got a lot of stuff done around the house. We didn’t have dirty dishes or un-swept floors or much in the way of dirty laundry – but all that felt like busy work. I was treading water and still not making any progress on my creative work.

I had “all the time in the world” and didn’t finish a damn thing. Not one creative project got done.

Maybe that’s what my friend meant by emasculating? Not sure. It certainly took the wind out of my sails, no doubt about that. We have always lived, financially speaking, below our means. We’re not in any way rich but we actually create for ourselves something I call “artificial poverty”. We plan our budget based on what if only one of us has a job? or how do we figure it out with less money? One of the most important things we did a long time ago was decide what the few things are that we won’t compromise on. We stuck to those things and started trimming down all the other stuff we were willing to compromise on. Our diet went out the window. The least expensive foods out there are not the healthy ones. We cut our grocery bill in half almost immediately though.

We tried to keep things as normal as possible for our daughter. We kept the special program at the school running for her as long as we could. We wanted her to know that this would mean a change but that we would all be OK no matter what happened. She shrugged and said, “OK” and that was that. I love her to pieces. Totally unflappable. Right up until we had to tell her we had to cancel the special trip we had planned for Christmas. That sucked a lot.

I had, insanely perhaps, clung to the notion that I’d not miss a beat and bounce right back into my specialized kind of position and no worries. Not so much. Christmas was very Whoville for us. It was still wonderful, but it came without the same level of boxes and bows.

Three and a half months. Not the worst amount of time off I’ve heard or the worst even of folks I know. Still not a fantastic amount of time to be out of work. Particularly not right through the holiday season. Then I had an interview that was not only encouraging, but downright hopeful. It sounded like one of those “too good to be true” situations. Turns out – it was just true.

I got picked up at a firm about 3 ½ miles from my house. When the weather clears up a little bit I could probably walk to work without a problem. It’s exactly the kind of mix that works best for what I like to do. I get a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing.

My first week back was exhausting. Despite keeping to a strict time schedule and continuing to get up early every day the change of going back on the job was a big one. No more 2 hour movie lunches. No more naps when you might need them. All the cleaning that was handled so easily before got bumped right back to the old way of getting to it. I was happy to be exhausted.

The new place is quirky and weird, but is growing on me. I’m hoping I’ll be there for quite a long while. Six weeks now and things don’t show any signs of slowing down.

Did I learn anything? I think I did. I remembered that when things go wrong the people closest to you pull together and help you get through. I learned a number of techniques for slimming down the amount of money spent each month. I learned that a lot of places not only understand, but have plans in place for when people lose their jobs. I learned that some places don’t understand – or if they do, they don’t care. Most of all, I learned that the right mind set will carry you a long way. It was very easy to become deeply depressed over all the things that were “wrong” while I was out of work. It wasn’t as easy, but it was much more rewarding to stay positive and work toward getting back to work.

I also learned that I really do value the things I do outside of “the day job”. I like writing here. I like getting my stories out there for consideration by publishers. I like working on my artwork. Working on these things isn’t really work at all – it’s just a question of finding the time now that I’m back on a full and busy schedule 😉


One of my closest friends, the man who introduced me to my wife was stunned when I told him that Wednesday is the 20th anniversary of my wedding.

I am more happy and more in love now than I ever imagined I could be. Twenty years is not enough. I need forever.


The Return of Addiction (Television)

Today is the day of “The Big Game”. I still don’t understand why I’m not allowed to call it what it actually is – but that’s a different topic. I’ll be watching this evening and I won’t be too worried about atmospheric interference. We have television again – and not just the intermittent broadcast signal. We’ve “spliced” the cut cable.

I know it’s not some great big announcement or anything beyond average really, but to me it IS a big deal. This month (February) would be the three year anniversary of cutting cable and essentially shutting off television. I had thought I’d never turn it back on and I was convinced enough to put it in writing when I missed the not-so-super bowl last year (Oscar Who?). That box in the corner really is an addiction and it was very, very easy to slip back into dangerous habits.

Why? That’s a good question.

At the end of last year I was laid off. Three and a half months (particularly through the holidays) is enough time to convince anyone that more dramatic cost cutting measures than those you already took need to be looked into. Just as these thoughts were crossing my mind I got a notice from the cable company that my rates would be going up again for my internet connection. I gave up TV, but I need the internet to hunt for work. Pay more for it while not having a job? Yeah, awesome… or NOT. I started to take notice of the competition that was constantly “knocking at my door” and wondering if I was interested in taking a look at what they had to offer. Well, if I could save money I was interested for sure.

Turns out the competition was willing to bend over backwards to get me on board. I got better net connection speed for just a little less each month PLUS they’d throw in two years of their television service including a year of premium channels, a year of Netflix service and a free tablet. It wasn’t really much of a choice. The old provider didn’t have a chance against that. They tried when I called them to shut things off, but it was a half hearted attempt. They knew they couldn’t compete.

The competition was also fast. They wanted me on their team ASAP. Just a few days after saying I’d make the deal they had a guy at the house hooking everything up the way I wanted it and making certain he did neat, clear, professional work. It was probably the smoothest transition I’ve had between companies for just about anything I’ve done.

And then, there it was. The remote control was just sitting there waiting for me to figure out where all my old channels were. If I couldn’t see what I wanted just then, there was ON DEMAND that allowed me to pick up a show whenever I wanted. It was easy. I just needed to sit down and fiddle with the buttons for a few minutes. Simple.

So, after almost three years away I’m connected again. I’m really not sure I feel good about it. I’ve certainly not been shy about watching things – but I think that’s part of the issue. There have already been a handful of times when I knew I should be working on something when I decided I would just take a spin through the on screen guide to see if there was anything on. I’d take a few minutes doing that, reading show notes and looking ahead in the schedule to see if I needed to be sure to be back in my seat for anything coming up. Then I’d see a re-run of a film I really liked or a show I’d heard about but not seen and I’d settle back and see what the hype was all about. Some hours later I’d realize I’d missed my chance to actually work on whatever project was now cold and without inspiration in the other room. I really can’t imagine how hard this is for a physical addiction. It certainly gives a certain amount of perspective.

Even as I sit here typing I can feel the siren call from the other room. Creating things is hard to do well and it takes all that time and practice and typing hurts your wrist and wouldn’t it be easier to just come to the couch and sit here? There’s not really anything on, but you never know you might find something, right? There are commercials for the upcoming commercials that should run in the big game and 86 and a half hours of pregame show and so many other things you need just the same way you need your net connection…

I’m hoping as the new-ness factor wears off that I’ll have better impulse control when it comes to watching things and how much time I allot for that. The combination of going back to work (the tired that goes with that) and the availability of ‘entertainment’ that asks nothing in return has been rough on my creativity. It’s not all bad. I have shared some shows with the family that were fun to watch. I’ve caught up on some genre movies I’d been meaning to watch. The key here is the perspective my time away has given me. The television isn’t that important. I can walk away any time (and likely will once the 2 free years are up). Until I walk away, I’ll just have to be sure my projects are getting top billing and avoid the ease of sitting on the couch and staring at nothing for hours on end.

I’ll let you know how all that works out… but probably not until after the game is over.

Spliced Cable