Today I am thankful for all you wonderful people who support me making weird things by buying or reading or commenting or just hanging around and enjoying! Thank you! You let me be me by being you, and that’s a great thing.
This week’s Summer in Orcus!
I am also grateful that Hound has someone to play Chew Your Face Off with, which they are currently playing with great enthusiasm as I try to type.
Apologies for delay–lost track of what day of the week it was.
Hey, listen. I know the world’s on fire. But listen.
I’ll tell you a thing.
On the day after the election, when everything was worst and all I could do was go numb or cry hysterically, do you know what gave me the most comfort?
It wasn’t the words of Lincoln or Gandhi or Maya Angelou, it wasn’t Psalms or poetry, it wasn’t my grandmother, it wasn’t contemplating the long arc of history. It wasn’t even hugging the dog.
It was the Twitter account @ConanSalaryman.
This is a joke account. It’s somebody who narrates as if Conan was working in an office. Tweets usually sound like “By Crom!” roared Conan. “You jackals cannot schedule a mere interview without gathering in a pack and cackling?!” or “Conan slammed his sword through his desk. Papers and blood rained through the office. Monday was slain.”
I followed it awhile back and have found it funny. (I’m not a huge Robert Howard fan inherently, but whoever is writing these does the schtick well.) But if it had not posted once that day, no one would have noticed at all.
Instead, Conan the Salaryman posted something inspirational. And then replied to dozens of people replying to him, for hours, in character, telling them that by Crom! it was only defeat if we did not stand up again, that the greatest act of strength was to keep walking in the face of hopelessness, that the gods have given the smallest of us strength to enact change, that we must all keep going as long as Crom gave us breath, and tyrants frightened Conan not, but we must look to those unable to fend for themselves. (“Though by Crom! We must hammer ourselves into a support network, not an army!”)
I have no idea who is behind that account. But it was the most bizarrely comforting thing I saw all day, in a day that had very little comfort in it. There was this weight of story behind it. It helped me. I think it helped a lot of people. If only a tiny bit–well, tiny bits help.
I have been thinking a lot lately about Bluebell from Watership Down.
There’s absolutely no reason you should remember Bluebell, unless, to take an example completely and totally at random, you read it eleven thousand times until your copy fell apart because you were sort of a weird little proto-furry kid who loved talking animals more than breath and wrote fan fic and there weren’t any other talking animal books and you now have large swaths memorized as a result. Ahem.
Bluebell is a minor character. He’s Captain Holly’s friend and jester. When the old warren is destroyed, Captain Holly and Bluebell are the last two standing and they stagger across the fields after the main characters. By the end, Holly is raving, hallucinating, and screaming “O zorn!” meaning “all is destroyed” and about to bring predators down on them. And Bluebell is telling stupid jokes.
And they make it the whole way because of Bluebell’s jokes. “Jokes one end, hraka the other,” he says. “I’d roll a joke along the ground and we’d both follow it.” When Holly can’t move, Bluebell tells him jokes that would make Dad jokes look brilliant and Holly is able to move again. When Hazel, the protagonist, tries to shush him, Holly says no, that “we wouldn’t be here without his blue-tit’s chatter.”
I tell you, the last few days, thinking of this, I really start to identify with Bluebell.
I am not a fighter, not an organizer, certainly not a prophet. Throw something at me and I squawk and cover my head. I write very small stories with wombats and hamsters and a cast of single digits. I am not the sort of comforting soul who sits and listens and offers you tea. (What seems like a thousand years ago, when I had the Great Nervous Breakdown of ‘07, I remember saying something to the effect that I had realized that if I had myself as a friend, I would have been screwed, because I was useless at that kind of thing. And a buddy of mine from my college days, who was often depressed, wrote me to say that no, I wasn’t that kind of person, but when we were together I always made her laugh hysterically and that was worth a lot too. I treasured that comment more than I am entirely comfortable admitting.)
But I can roll a joke along the ground until the end of the world if I have to. And increasingly, I think that’s what I’m for in this life. Things are bad and people have died already and I am heartsick and tired and the news is a gibbering horror–but I actually do know why a raven is like a writing desk.
So. First Church of Bluebell. Patron Saint.
Keep holding the line.
I am tired, friends, and completely out of…everything. But let me give you what I have. I’ve posted three new chapters of Summer in Orcus, because we need comfort right now. It’s not much, but it’s a few thousand words you can spend among friends, and hopefully give your heart a brief respite.
So we recorded KUEC last night, and made, on air, salmari, from a recipe and candy sent to us by our Finnish Correspondent. This is salted black licorice hard candy. You simmer it in vodka in a jar for two hours.
I do not know what is in that candy, but if you have a shot (only a shot! the bit that wouldn’t fit back in the bottle!) of the resulting infusion, while you have been drinking “sipping tequila” (courtesy of Friend Of The Show Petrov) you will have the sort of dreams that religions are based on. (I am told, by our Finnish Correspondent, that this is a known side-effect. Also, the hangover that would kill a demigod.)
I distinctly remember getting up at least five times in the night to drink water and visit the bathroom and I would then fall asleep back into the same dream.
Parts of it were complex and nonsensical and there was a long stretch where I was trying to identify birds in a strange dystopian South Africa with ruined monorail lines hanging over these odd little neighborhoods, while visiting my friend Foxfeather (who actually lives in Minnesota, which may not be the farthest point on the globe from South Africa but is arguably in the running) and fighting off a groups of possessed MRAs who were dressing up as my books to attack the house, and also a woman’s bathroom that included an X-ray machine. This sort of thing is normal in my dreams and not particularly significant. It was when I was driving to the airport (which was in Mumbai, also not terribly close to South Africa) that I stopped at a temple, and things got…odd.
Stylistically, this temple was all over the place–Chinese historical drama architecture with Sri Lankan gold details; statue of Buddha-only-more-like-Shiva-only-hey-have-some-Assyrian-winged-bull-in-there-too-too; held up by Greek columns; with a tiny museum in the front that very strongly resembled the Butter Museum in Cork; and an entryway that was the classic circular driveway, glass & brass luxury hotel affair. Plus when I was upstairs taking photos, I think I was in the Guggenheim. My brain was clearly just throwing every damn thing it had at me to Be Impressed By This.
The temple was 30,000 years old, I was told, and when I said that was a lot older than Jericho, the person at the little museum out front said “It’s been here for awhile.” (I have absolutely no idea where my brain was placing this temple–along the road from Johannesburg to Mumbai, which apparently ran through Ireland, so take your pick.) I wandered around taking pictures. (There followed a sequence where I couldn’t get my phone to take high-resolution photos and much flailing until Kevin fixed it. Sometimes my dreams are tediously realistic.) Then I went into the sanctuary and accidentally stepped into an offering bowl lurking in the shadow of a pillar.
At that point, I realized that the temple was full of people praying and I had just committed a dreadful faux pas. I picked up the bowl, which was full of some kind of shredded fruit and rice, and went to apologize to a priest for having been clumsy. The priest, somewhat annoyed, told me that if I’d touched the offering, I had to eat it–but apparently the head priest wanted to eat with me. So I sat down for a meal with the head priest, during which I apologized a great deal and ate slightly squashed fruit salad, and the head priest told me to come with him. We passed under transparent red silk hangings and into a huge warehouse-like room with branching paths laid out of the floor. He told me to pick one and I wound up at a door with a pale green circle on it.
He opened the door and I was in a long hallway full of wood-carving equipment–work tables covered in wooden blanks and chisels and sawdust. There was a shelf running along both sides of the top of the hallway and it was covered in carved kingfishers, all sorts–I remember half-finished ones with red heads, like a red-crested cardinal. I was completely flabbergasted, and went down the hallway, looking at all these carvings, and then got to a door at the end. It had circles on it like an elevator, only with no floor numbers, and when I touched it, one of the circles turned pale green again, with the number 1 on it.
“The Garden of the Harsh Voice,” said the head priest, and opened the door. It led to this garden full of low bushes, with a huge fish pond, very naturalistic, like a marsh, and the head priest roared and this gigantic pike came out of the pond and roared back. And kingfishers descended into the bushes, all chattering–mostly European kingfishers, I think, maybe a few malachites in there–and I burst into tears and tried to explain to the priest what kingfishers meant to me and showed him my tattoo. And then he ushered me out the temple, and said “Of course I knew that would happen, why else would I leave an offering bowl on the ground like that where someone would step in it?”
And then, because it was a dream and dreams are like that, I discovered that during this incredible experience, I had missed my flight and ended up calling my publicist because my subconscious apparently believes that my publicist is capable of ending all my travel related woes, (which she does when I’m on tour and sends me hour-by-hour itineraries of where I am supposed to be and what happens next and who is taking me there, and I am pathetically grateful for this because by the third day of school visits my brain is a gentle mush congealing at the bottom of my skull) and the rest was spent wandering through a strange city trying to find the airport by following the logo, which was a dancing blue goat with a little arrow on it, and my publicist saying that there was no problem, she had booked me on a direct from Mumbai to Spokane.
I am quite certain there is not actually a direct flight from Mumbai to Spokane.
Anyway, I woke up quite early for me, feeling peaceful and euphoric and lovely except for the bit where I was godawful hangover. I do not know how the Finns drink this stuff regularly and survive.
Hey, guys! Arisia is doing a special hardcover version of my annotated fairy tales (well, the ones that we can obtain copyright on, which, fortunately, is most of them) AND the Toad Words anthology, together in one volume!
Grub dropped down to a crouch. Perhaps he meant it to be friendly, but Reginald took another two hops backward. “And you haven’t seen a human girl on this road? Smells of shapeshifters and crone magic?”
Ernie’s in pretty good shape, just has some neurological issues as a result of…whatever happened. He turned up in a rural shelter with no information, had heartworm, pretty much as sad a case as you can imagine. Farm Friends Rescue, who are a wonderful local group, took him in, patched him up, and describe him as “velcro dog”–he just gloms onto a person and wants to be near them. He is not very bright, but his issues seem to be mostly balance-related–he tips sideways then rights himself. (He’s listed once or twice while I’ve watched, but it doesn’t seem to be severe at the moment.) We are told he is great with small children and would follow the foster’s toddler around happily while she stuck post-it notes to him.
Everybody in the house gets along really, really well at the moment, so adding another animal is a tricky business–we are a very laid-back, low-energy household for the most part, which is surprising granted how many personalities are at work here–but Ernie so far seems to be very quiet and friendly. So here’s hoping!