Post-CVG and the Zero-Sum Fallacy

Well, I warned you I’d be gone for a while. I didn’t think it would be a whole month, but I also can’t say I’m totally surprised. CVG takes a lot out of me, and it took me about the first week or 10 days after we’d packed up the convention before I was really even comfortable using language again. After what should be 4 days but really ends up being 6 or 7 of intense interpersonal stuff, that part of me just needs time to recover.

It’s so worth it, though. It’s worth it for every single person who gets to come join our community and feel safe in their skin. It’s worth it for every single person who gets to put the world away and just exist in a bubble of nerd-dom. It’s worth it for every single person who had a bad experience and whom I can help so that their convention isn’t a total loss. It’s worth it for every single member of my team who are goddamn heroes night and day, giving up time, energy, sleep, and fun just to preserve the safety and fun and welcome of everyone else.

Also, our HarmCon set went great! A friend is pulling video together for us and she will break it up by song so it can all go on YouTube at some point. She also cut us a tiny documentary thing about who we are and what we do and why we sing. When that goes live, I’ll link to it as well.

Unfortunately, I once AGAIN failed to get pictures of me running around in my full gear, with dragons on my shoulder and hip, a beautiful bandolier with my hip pouches, etc. I stink at getting pictures of myself at CVG. Oh well.

The dragons were a hit, though.

Speaking of dragons, more generally, I’m trying hard to help with the editing of one of my current novels so it can go out for query. Honestly, not a clue how it will go. If nobody wants to rep the book, I haven’t decided if I want to self-publish as an ebook or just leave it in a drawer. I’ve got one in a drawer already, actually, and every now and again I look back at it and wonder. That one never got queried, however — I’m not sure there’s any way to sell it as is, and I’m not sure how to fix it. It’s okay, but it’s not what I wanted it to be.

Recent events outside of me have reminded me about writing and how some people view it as a zero-sum game. If Author A gets a book repped, or sold, or does well as a self-pub, then they think that takes something away from Author B. Wiser people than me have pointed out, repeatedly, that such is not the case. Just because someone gets a book sold, or gets a good review, or sells a bunch of copies, doesn’t mean anyone else trying to sell gets hurt. It doesn’t mean anyone else’s book is inherently better or worse.

And on a more micro scale, this is also true of any individual book. Right now, I’ve got lots and lots of novels posted as fanfic online, and 2 completed original novels. Neither of my original novels are any better or worse because I have published fanfic, and the fact that one of the novels exists in a currently-unpunishable state doesn’t mean the other one is doomed. And when I write the next one (and I have a KICKASS idea for a YA 3-book series in my head), its fate also won’t be defined by the fate of what came before.

A friend and I were talking last night about writing, and about how we’ve both moved from the idea of selling books as a sole source of income to selling books in order to share stories. We’d both be thrilled if we sold novels and could earn a living from that so we could focus on writing more of the time — but it’s not what drives us anymore. Some money from writing would be amazing, but it’s just no longer my goal. My goal is to make sure there are stories in the world for people who want them.

It’s like seeing a void in the world, a hole, a place where there is something missing, and filling it. That’s how I got started writing fanfic in the first place, actually. I wanted to read stories that didn’t exist, so I made them exist. Now I see stories I wish had existed when I needed them — so I’m writing them. It’s not about being famous or being a bestseller or making a million dollars and selling movie rights. All of that would be fine, but it isn’t the point.

The point is that stories need to exist for when others go searching for them, and I’m determined to make sure they’re out there.

Which is why writing and publishing can never be a zero-sum game. Because if someone writes a story and someone else needs that story and they come together — yay! Benefit for both. None of that hurts me. None of that impedes me.

And if one of my stories is not what anyone needs, but the next one is, then also yay.

Stories teach us about people we don’t know; the best stories also listen to what we need to understand about ourselves. I learned more about the human race from reading about aliens than I ever did from Dickens or Shakespeare. I learned more about myself by reading about characters who were both like me but also really, really not at all like me. If I had read nothing but white male protagonists, I wouldn’t have learned how to intersect my own perspective with a different one. If I had read nothing but science fiction, I wouldn’t have learned to see the themes of alienness and outsiderness in the regular world.

My favorite authors in the world all wrote books I never enjoyed. That’s to be expected. They wrote the story that needed writing, but it wasn’t one I personally needed. And that’s the way it should be — because someone else out there found that particular story to be life-changing.

So maybe I will figure out how to clean up that first novel of mine and put it out there. It might not go any farther than this blog, or AO3, but maybe that’s worth doing. It isn’t the story I need, and I’m not yet quite sure it’s the story I even wanted to tell. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right story for someone out there.

(Which would be a far more compelling argument if I had more than 4 people reading this blog, but oh well.)

But first I’m going to focus on the novel that has a shot at publication. Because then it has a better shot of reaching the people who might need a story about neuro-atpyical and otherwise-atypical heroes. Then it has a better shot of finding its way to the person who is looking for it without ever knowing it’s what they are missing.

And if someone else sells a million books in the meantime, then yay. Because that’s a million people better for having one more story in their lives.

Zero-sum should never be a part of the arts. Not when we can all thrive better and stronger when we make room for each other.

But then, that’s kinda how I think the world should work, too.

One thing at a time, I guess.

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HarmCon! And not quite a year late!

So, thanks to a friend with strong Google-fu, and some free software, I was actually able to get our video from HarmCon in 2017 into shape for YouTube! Truly, better late than never. Right?

Right?

We were joined on many of the songs by our friend and fellow nerd Dave Stagner, who always finds a way to make our music a hundred times better. The set list for this particular show turned out to be a mix of 3 covers, 2 of our original songs, and 8 parodies. We got a lot of laughs and commentary on the parodies, though you have to listen closely to get it all. I’m listing the songs for you here, in case you want to know:

Warrior (by the Wyrd Sisters, joined by Marina Krinsky)
Secure Yourself (by the Indigo Girls)
Phoenix Rise
Fearless (by Kat Perkins)
Sunfire/Breathless
Parody of Babylon 5 based on “Angles from Montgomery” = Aliens from Babylon
Parody of Stargate: SG1 based on: “Brown-Eyed Girl” = Brown-Eyed Goa’uld
Parody of ET based on “All By Myself” = All By My Kite
Parody of The Fifth Element based on “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” = Hit it With My Four Stones
Parody of Transformers based on “Hand in My Pocket” = Hand In Its Socket
Parody of Signs based on “The Water Is Wide” = Water, Water Everywhere and OMG It Burns
Parody of Star Trek based on “Take Me Home, Country Roads” = Insert Noun Here
Parody of Toy Story based on “Man of Constant Sorrow” = Toy of Constant Sorrow

We’re finalizing this year’s set now, to be performed a week from Friday. And now that I have new and exciting technology, I’m hoping it’s easier to get the video up sooner.

I was chatting back and forth with some of the CVG folks on Slack and a point came up about how hard it is to be creative with all the awful that’s going on in the world. What I said was this —

The shit part just leaks into everything though, doesn’t it? I’m working on my set for HarmCon and I keep looking at our songs and thinking “can we really laugh about gaming and Star Wars when insert-horrific-reality-here is going on?” And I have to keep telling myself that yes, we can and we must laugh. We can’t keep fighting for humanity, for dignity, for equality, for justice, for compassion, if we lose track of ourselves. You can’t beat back the dark without a light, and sometimes that light isn’t righteous anger, but the relief of taking one day off.

It was true last year in the summer of 2017 and it’s certainly true now. CONvergence in general has been something for me to look forward to, something for me to give time and energy and positivity when even the brightest day seemed dark. And it is silly to sing about gaming stories (we have some outrageous ones in the set and nerd jokes), but it’s also necessary. Just as it’s necessary to stop and breathe and rest between the waves of a struggle.

Not by accident, I think, this year’s set is more heavily weighted towards “our” stuff, and fewer parodies. At least for now. In a week, it might have grown a few more parodies. They’re sneaky like that.

Anyway.

Sarah and I named Candles Enough for the idea that between us, we have enough light to get us through dark times. Sometimes, that light is giggling. Sometimes it’s steady courage. Sometimes it’s just pure silliness. Sometimes it’s tried and tested in fire. But that’s who we are. That’s what we do. And this year, as much as we all need to laugh, we also need to be that boost of hope and truth. So “Jagged” is back this year, and so is “Trial by Fire” — along with new stuff written more recently.

If we can be that one candle in the dark for someone who needs it, then it’s all been worth it.

I think there’s only 4 or 5 people who ever consistently read this blog, and half of you will be at CVG this year. We can’t wait to show you what happens when you put out an open call for people’s ridiculous, silly stories. But for those of you who aren’t (yet) part of the CVG family, here’s a sample of what you’re missing.

It’s a MILLIONTH of what is good about CVG, of course. This is just our tiny, musical corner of it.

(P.S. You will NOT hear from me for at least 2 weeks. Next week and the week after will be my time to dive completely and totally, heart and soul and body and lack-of-sleep, into CONvergence. I’ll try to emerge with stories. Join us vicariously on Twitter, though. #CVG2018 is a good way to experience the fun from afar!)

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Rolling blackouts ahead, and wisdom from a Minnesotan native

So…yeah, things are really busy.  I have something like 5 evenings of meetings in a row this week, and more next week.  And then it will be CONvergence!

The blog might go a little fallow in the meantime.  Not that, you know, it makes a HUGE difference given my, uh, small but mighty readership.  I’m better about Twitter these days because I can put stuff on it from my phone.

But I’m here.  And I’ll be here afterwards, too.  Possibly with the whole story of why this year is trying so hard to break our community and how, exactly, we’re keeping that from happening.

If you do happen to be in the MN area the weekend after the 4th of July, come come hang out with us at HarmCon on Friday, 11am at CONvergence.  Hopefully we’ll record it this year, too, but no promises on when I put the stuff on YouTube. We do have several new songs, though. Including one crowd-sourced parody.

Not even kidding.

Also, crowd-sourcing is a FANTASTIC way to get hilarious gaming stories.  Just sayin’.

So if I drop off the map again, I’m sorry in advance.  I’ll be back, though. In my own time and my own way, probably, but without fail.

In the meantime, I hope your summer is treating you as well as can be expected.  The world is tough for a lot of us right now. For a lot of different reasons.

So take your lesson from this week’s viral adventure.

Make like the MPR Raccoon.

Keep climbing and never give up.  Rest when you have to, and know that it’s okay to be scared.  We’re all afraid of the fall.

But we were born for this climb.  Every one of us.

No matter what specifically your climb is, you can do this.

Climb on, my friends.  Climb on.

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Imani

I really, really, really should get the 2017 performance Sarah and I did at HarmCon at CONvergence onto YouTube before the 2018 HarmCon.  I SHOULD. But I might not.

Video editing is HARD, folks.

Anyway.

The closer we get to CONvergence, the more the FUCKERY going on this year makes it tough to keep my head up.  People all over are struggling, are stressed, are not at their best. And there’s really not a hell of a lot I can do for most of them.

But I can be myself.  I can be a fixed point, unwaveringly pushing forward.  I can believe in who we are, in what we do, in why it matters.  It’s not just a convention, not just a fun, meaningless exercise.  It’s a community, a place of safety. Maybe the only welcome some of our members receive in their lives from year to year.

And for that, I’ll never give up.

For every one of our members who comes looking to be themselves, to be respected, to be welcome, to be safe — for them I will never yield or bend or falter.

I’ve been recently accused of having a Pollyanna-ish sort of optimism.  I’m not going to go into that today, but I’ve been thinking about it. I think the sense in which it is said isn’t quite right, but there’s something which is.

The theme of Babylon 5 was, famously, “faith manages.”  They weren’t talking about a religious sort of faith, though.  Rather, it was the faith and trust in something worth doing. Not only within the plotlines of the show itself, but in the production to get the show made, and to keep it going, telling the stories it needed to tell.  But faith isn’t just something you have, something you blithely believe and nothing comes of it.

Faith is action.  Faith is planting yourself on a path and never giving way.  Faith is taking two steps and knowing that the next two will come.

Right now, that sort of faith is the gravity holding me together when it gets bad.  The forces in action threaten to pull us all apart, threaten to shatter us like asteroids smashing into one another.  Faith is my gravity which holds me steady.

Faith that what I am doing is right, that it is necessary, is for the benefit of the people who put their own trust in me.  Faith that I would rather die on this hill doing my best than crawl away never giving it my all.

If you know the CVG community, be kind.  We’re all walking through hell.

But we’re not alone in it.  We’ve all got each other.

And I have faith, I truly do, that nobody’s going to die on this hill at all.  Together, we’ll get through this storm and the next. That’s my faith. And I’m holding it in my heart with all my strength, just in case those around me lose their own.

I know which side of the river I’m on.  It’s the side of my people, my community, my team.  It’s not the easiest path, but it’s the right one.

Cross the bridge and join us.  Have faith.

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CONvergence 2016: Here’s to Us

Halestorm is an AMAZING band and I have all the envious feelings about Lzzy Hale’s voice.  Seriously.  She is a powerhouse of awesome and talent.

Especially the more Sarah and I have gotten into our volunteering with Operations at CONvergence, though, this song has a lot more meaning for us.  Because when it comes to amount of work people put in to make CVG go, the time and effort and stress being shared by a hundred leaders and a thousand volunteers — it is EPIC.  But it isn’t just the volunteers or leaders.  It’s all the geeks and nerds and dorks gathered together, having survived another year in a world of muggles where we are the outsiders and the outcasts and the strange ones.  It’s all of us who get to celebrate our oddities together at CONvergence and, for one weekend, get to be ourselves in a world where that isn’t always easy.  All of us deserve to be toasted, deserve to sing out together about all the mistakes and bad times and good times and awesome moments of triumph and just enjoy having gotten this far together.

Here’s to us, CONvergence.

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: CONvergence Races

Every year, CONvergence has a theme which gets worked into the art and panel discussions and such, and for 2016 it was “And how do we get there?”  So I decided to do an appropriate song.  Connie and Mark 2 are some of the mascots of CONvergence, and I thought as space-age robots themselves, they might enjoy a little competition amongst the best in the universe.  The poster Sarah and I created to advertise our show had a bunch of space-faring vessels racing, mostly because I wrote this song.

Here’s the poster:

Funny story about the poster — the person who helped me with it placed the ships randomly.  But she’d never seen Babylon 5, and didn’t know what the Minbari war cruiser was, nor how it worked (it’s the one in the bottom right of the image).  So, originally, she put it on there backwards, turned the other way.  This made me laugh SO HARD because it looked like the Minbari had taken one glance at this ridiculous space race and did the Minbari equivalent of “On second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.” and left.

Funny story about the song — yes, we reference the end of the movie Serenity.  SPOILER ALERT: WASH DIES.  It’s been 15 years, folks.  But we still got somebody in the back yelling “Too soon!” at that verse.  Oh well.  We also got some serious groaning for our crack at The Doctor’s nose.

I ALMOST put a joke on the end that the prize was “an extra hour in the ball pit.”  Points if you know the reference!

(But you’re here, reading my blog, so you probably do.  Or you’re a bot.  But not as cool as Connie or Mark 2.)

(All hail!)

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: Yoru no Uta

This is a song I stole from an anime I absolutely adore and I don’t give even one shit, let alone two, that it’s for little girls under the age of 12.  Nope.  Don’t care.  Just like I don’t care that I love ninja turtles or anything else.  Cardcaptor Sakura has a lot to offer in it, even to a grown up woman.  The characters are outstanding, the character development is superb and subtle and utterly charming, and the life lessons help when sometimes you need to be reminded that you can handle what life throws at you.

I sing a lot of Japanese songs from anime, actually.  Basically any anime that gives me music I like, I’ll eventually learn to sing in full.  And if there’s a dance involved, I learn that, too — notably, I’ve mastered the dance to “Seikan Hikou” from Macross Frontier.  Which I have NOT recorded, thank you very much, but I can dance it!

Part of the reason we programmed this song was that I wanted something gentle to follow “Jagged,” something soothing but that would also give people the chance to think and feel before I asked them to really listen again.  Singing in a foreign language is good for that sort of thing.  Sarah wasn’t overwhelmingly happy that I programmed it because the guitar part didn’t exist anywhere in any form she could use, so she had to make it up off the audio track directly.  But I love what she did with it.  I only wish it weren’t quite so weirdly complicated and she could sing the harmony with me!

This is the basic translation to the Japanese verses:

In the night sky, they twinkle
The far stars of gold
The same color as the small bird
That looked up in my dream last night

In the sleepless night,
I sing this song alone
Together with the blowing wind,
I fly riding on my thoughts

In the night sky, it sparkles
The distant moon of silver
The same color as the wild rose
That was blooming in my dream last night

In the gentle night,
I sing this song alone
Let me sing with you tomorrow
Riding the wings of our dreams

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: Jagged

Truthfully, I’m not sure I can talk about this song.  There’s too much in it.  Too much of me and my hurts and Sarah and hers.  Sarah wrote it for me in June 2002, and no matter what, it will always hold truth for both of us.  And I think it is possibly the finest thing she has ever written.  The lyrics still bite down into me and surprise me and I’ve been singing this song for 15 years.

This song is one we dedicate to friends and strangers, depending on the day.  Today, I’m dedicating it to you, if you need it.  I don’t know who you are or what you’re going through or how life has treated you.  I don’t know if these words are imprinted on your soul the way they were or are on mine.

And I’m not trying to be pithy and I’m not trying to be insincere.

But, honestly — if you need it, if you need someone who’s been there…

I give you my love
And hope that it will be enough.

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: Binary/Shenandoah

I don’t think I can overstate how meaningful this song is to Sarah and I.  Originally we wrote it for our wedding and just called it “Binary.”  Later, when we were gigging with Beth Kinderman, we wanted to do a cover of Shenandoah and realized they were in the same key and sort of slotted them together.  And that only gave the song more meaning.

There’s a lot in here that just IS my relationship with Sarah.  “The inevitable draw of gravity’s pull” sums things up fairly well.  We met one day and were friends soon after and became thereby inextricably bound.  Sarah is essential to me, to my life, and the pull that is between us is far stronger than any gravity you could name.  And I think we knew, even then at the start, that there was an inevitability to us, that whatever path we took in life or whatever happened, we were going to be there beside each other.

We really are a binary system, in orbit around one another, and the only end for us was to become one stable unit.  You can’t measure me without her, or her without me.  We can’t BE without the other.  And, in the end, if and when we go down, we’ll go down together.  Because I became who I am with her, and she became herself with me.  The me that exists now only exists because of her.

Also, yay for a song where I got to talk about quantum particles!

The line “It is said that we’re all a soul split in two and fallen from space” actually comes from an oversimplification of a story from Plato about the first humans.  The myth was that the first humans were created by splitting a prior being with a whole bunch of extra limbs and bits in half, and that those halves would search for each other in order to find true peace.  And there is something, well, not literal, but something to the idea that I, at least, spent all of my life before Sarah looking for Sarah.  Looking exactly for her, in every way.  She’s exactly 5 weeks and 12 hours older than me, and we joke that because I’m younger I was clearly born into the world already waiting for her to find me.

But it wasn’t always easy.  There were lots of things that made life difficult.  When not at college, we were physically divided by distance.  Either way, we were navigating being with a person of the same gender in a society that was not always friendly (and sometimes was downright hostile), and that was very painful for us.  And we both sometimes suffer with depression or anxiety, in different ways, and that made it feel like we were together, but separated by a great chasm or a pane of glass that kept us from being able to reach one another.

“Shenandoah” started as our song about being parted by the river, about not being together in the same state during school vacations.  But it became about all the things in the world that threatened what we had found.  It was about being pulled apart by forces not under our control, either internal or external.  About inevitably knowing that we would be separated again, that days would come when we couldn’t find one another through the haze of our brains being unkind.  That we would spend our lives sometimes right next to one another, and yet very alone.

But in the end, neither of us is going anywhere.  In the end, “I’ll take my love across your rolling waters.”  In the end, we’ll carry each other through those tough times.  In the end, whatever the future brings, we’ll walk into it together, side by side.

Wherever Sarah is for the rest of her days, I will be standing there.

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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CONvergence 2016: Love Shall Not Fail

This was a duet we wrote for a wedding back in 2007.  It was written for the same friend who wrote the lyrics for “The Nerd Song,” Steven Henry.  With the help of someone who knows Lord of the Rings WAY better than I ever could, we pinned down a few lines of dialogue between Eowyn and Faramir as the basis for the lyrics.

Of course, the effect IS somewhat ruined by opening with the word “Precious” but…uh…

Nope.  I’m still not sorry.  That was too good a fix for the gendered bit not to use.

Funnily enough, this is one song in my high register that I think DOES work over a microphone, but it’s because I’m not trying to sing folk or pop — I’m using my classical tone.

I think it’s weird that a lot of people really like this song and I find it kind of meh.  Maybe that’s just me not being overly happy with the girl’s part.  Eowyn is a great character, but the whole “now I’mma go be a healer when I used to be a badass” just isn’t a choice I could make for myself.  The womanly arts are boring.  Nobody wants to say it, but I’ll tell it like it is.  Being a champion is more fun.

I do like the musical lines of this one, though, and I LOVE Sarah’s part.

*Please note that this entry has been backdated.  Basically, the summer got completely away from me AND I lost access to posting on the site from the reliable computer I’d been using — and posting via smartphone is not as elegant as it sounds.  So, to make up for it, I’ve retroactively put this entry here.  Hopefully this won’t become an annual trend!

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