Never stop honking

You locked us in our homes for two years.
You let our loved ones die, then denied them the honor of a proper funeral.
You permanently scarred our children’s minds and bodies.
You destroyed our livelihoods.
You laughed as we descended into the depths of despair.
You silenced us when we tried to speak out about your lies and your schemes.

If you have to hear the trucks’ horns every day for the rest of your miserable lives, it will not count for a fraction of the pain and suffering you have inflicted upon us. The punishment must fit the crime, and your crimes are far worse.

Every trucker in Ottawa, in Amsterdam, in Prague, and soon to be in Washington is a hero the likes of which we in America have not seen since the Founding Fathers stood up to the largest and most powerful empire on the planet. Everyone who supports them supports not only freedom, but the most important right of all: to make ourselves heard. All those opposed are mere servants of the cruelest dictatorship this world has ever seen.

Trudeau must go. Biden must go. Merkel and Macron and anyone who has not only allowed this to happen, but encouraged it, must go. We deserve better leaders. We deserve liberty. Those who stand against that deserve all they will receive.

Sic semper tyrannis.

Electric boogaloo

I’m currently on the mend from a recurrence of the dreaded Commie Cough, this time the strain (possibly) designed to thwart existing natural immunity.

I don’t need a vaccine that changes my underlying genetic code. I don’t need a ventilator that doesn’t help. I don’t need a drug rushed to market that causes permanent damage to a third of the people who take it.

All I need to feel better is this:

It’s beautiful and brave, a true display of what the love of liberty is all about. What is happening in Canada right now is what needs to happen everywhere. Every country in the world needs to see the same show of unity against the tyranny that has controlled us for the past two years. End the mandates, end the masking, end the experiments, and end the Great Reset, or we will resist until you do.

May I be deserving

For me, one of the hardest parts of depression to recognize and combat is the feeling that I’m just not good enough. This isn’t quite the same as Impostor Syndrome, which is more the feeling that others think I’m not as good as I claim. No, in this case, I’m the one questioning my ability, my prowess, and my worth.

I have had a few good things happen to me. I can’t deny that. The problem is, I don’t believe I deserve them, so I can’t accept them for what they are. I assume there’s an ulterior motive at work, or that something will happen to knock me back down to where I feel I belong. And the inevitable stumbles only reinforce that belief, proving (in my mind) that I was right all along.

In reality, I’m the CTO of what is potentially a billion-dollar company. My mere presence, according to investors, is worth eight figures. Next week, I’m going to be interviewing someone who may become the newest member of our dev team. In other words, someone who will do nothing but take pressure off of me.

In my mind, I’m a mediocre programmer with no formal training and a wandering mind, whose biggest software release was a recipe book app that racked up 20 sales over three years. No matter what my boss says—or how much he would prefer I call him something other than that—I constantly feel as if I’m one mistake or one missed deadline away from being fired.

In reality, I love and am loved by a woman who has been blessed with seemingly infinite patience. She understands me better than I ever have. She brightens my world, even as she expands it. Just seeing a text from her lifts my spirits and sets me at ease.

In my mind, I wonder how anyone could ever love me, and why, after all I’ve put her through, she hasn’t kicked me to the curb yet. She tells me there’s no one better for her, while I think she could throw a rock from her front door and hit a better man.

At my darkest times, I simply feel that I don’t deserve any of it. The love, the trust, the patience…what have I done to deserve it? Certainly nothing material. My biggest accomplishments of the last ten years in that department are a few novels that almost nobody outside my little circle has ever read, much less enjoyed. Mentally, I know I’m very high on the intelligence scale, but when have I had the chance to use that?

With everything happening in the world and nothing happening in my life, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that my time isn’t running out. I’m 38 years old. Since my birthday three months ago, I’ve often wondered whether I would make it to 40. On the worst days, though, I started wondering whether I wanted to. Whether it was worth going on when I knew in my heart that things weren’t getting any better than they are now. And, even if it was, whether I deserved it.

Review: United States of Fear

Over the weekend, I was perusing a…well-known library site in search of inspiration or, failing that, simple distraction. Instead, I found United States of Fear, by Mark McDonald, M.D. And I’m glad I did.

This is a very short book, consisting of only four chapters and clocking in at (according to my reader app) a measly 178 pages. I’ve written that much in two weeks before, but that’s fiction. United States of Fear is very much nonfiction. It’s real, the real life we’re dealing with at this very moment.

Dr. McDonald is a psychiatrist working in Los Angeles. In itself, that wouldn’t be cause for celebration. “Nobody’s perfect,” I would say. What makes his perspective important is that he uses his practice and position to publicly call for a return to rationality, something sorely needed in the world today. As he bluntly puts it, America is in the grips of a mass delusional psychosis. This is very similar to Dr. Robert Malone’s diagnosis of mass formation psychosis; in both cases, the point is that most people in this country have fallen victim to a self-reinforcing, even contagious sort of fear.

We can’t blame that entirely on our elected leaders, so many of whom disregarded not only basic scientific facts and their oaths of office, but all common sense in their quest for medical tyranny. We can’t pin it all on mainstream media, which has displayed perverse pleasure in stoking the fears of its dwindling supply of viewers for two straight years. No, we all share in the blame.

The seeds were sown generations ago. As the author explains, the fear gripping our nation today has its roots in the Red Scare of the 1950s, the feminist movement of the 1970s, the political correctness craze of the 1990s, and this century’s obsession with terrorism. In every case, the dangers existed. Some Americans really were Soviet spies. Some men really were rapists and abusers. Some people really were harmed by callous use of language. And some people really were Islamic fundamentalists wanting to destroy the West. But not all of them, and not all the time.

So it is with the Wuhan virus. Dr. McDonald consistently uses that terminology, and I respect him for that. Call this thing what it is: a biological agent released from a lab in Wuhan, China. (In the short weeks since the book was published, we’ve discovered—confirmed, rather—that it was developed by the United States, but that wasn’t known at the time.) Words have power. Names have power. Refusing to use a name because it is taboo only gives that name power over you.

The virus itself, of course, has little power of its own. Yes, it is infectious, but no more than the seasonal flu we’ve all had at some point in our lives. The currently favored strain, dubbed “Omicron”, is even more contagious, and this follows the normal pattern for viruses: they mutate to become easier to spread, but lose their lethality in the process. “Omicron” case numbers bear this out, as the strain is more like a common cold, and the only people dying from it either already had something very wrong, or else they’ve suffered debilitating immunodeficiency effects from the experimental mRNA treatments we’ve all decided to call vaccines.

As the author explains, and as attentive researchers have known since March 2020, the Wuhan virus is essentially only deadly to those who are sick, morbidly obese, or elderly. The fear effects surrounding it, on the other hand, are well on their way to destroying an entire generation. Year-over-year IQ averages have dropped 20 points since 2020; this is more than a full standard deviation, meaning that the average child of 2021 would be in the bottom third of intelligence when compared to those only a year older. Social development is also being stunted, as these same children are having trouble forming friendships and interpersonal bonds simply because they aren’t allowed to. Even infants are suffering: lip-reading is an important part of acquiring speech, yet it’s impossible when everyone around you is wearing a mask. If all this weren’t bad enough, cases of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts in children are skyrocketing (no surprise, as they’ve done the same in this middle-aged man) and too many parents are too afraid to do anything about it.

Dr. McDonald specializes in child psychiatry, so it’s no wonder he spends a lot of time on that topic. Really, though, it’s a symptom of a bigger problem, which he discusses at length. Most of the fear comes from women, specifically educated, left-leaning women in urban areas. In other words, the same ones who have grown up hearing about “toxic masculinity” and “systemic racism” and other such nonsense. They are socially conditioned to look at the world from the perspective of a victim, and what does a victim want above all? Safety. The Franklin quote never enters their minds, except as an object of derision.

Men, he is quick to add, haven’t done their share. We have let ourselves become passive and weak. Although my experience is tainted by the same sort of depression, I can vouch for this personally. I recognize how much of it comes from social expectations. I was raised in a conservative, Christian environment with firm gender roles. The man, I was always told, is the breadwinner, the protector, the paterfamilias. The woman bears children, takes care of them, and serves in general to nurture. Men are strong in body, women in heart, and that’s the way of things.

Modern progressivism and feminism have turned that on its head, denying that this millennia-old way of looking at the world has any merit whatsoever. To this side of the political spectrum, women are supposed to be independent fighters, the center of a household, and men are relegated to a role one step above that of a sperm donor. We lose control, we lack agency, and the very real biological processes underlying the “traditional” family are completely ignored. Not surprisingly, it is this same segment of the population that expresses the most dissatisfaction with marriage, the least desire to reproduce, and the strongest urge to control others’ lives.

That’s the author’s thesis: America has become paralyzed by fear mostly because it has subverted the traditional social order. And I wholeheartedly agree. It’s what I’ve spent the past two years trying to find a way to say. Maybe I don’t always live up to my own expectations—believe me, I’m well aware—but I understand why I have them. Too many people don’t “get” those perfectly natural urges they feel. And we fear what we don’t comprehend.

Before I close out, I will say that Dr. McDonald also doesn’t have a full grasp on the complexities of the situation on the ground. First, he recommends Telegram and Signal as virtual meeting-places because they are “largely secure” and “inaccessible to the NSA.” This is patently false, and it hides a very important point. Telegram is a censorious platform that has suspended users for posting certain information. Signal’s claims of encryption cannot be verified at the protocol level. Both should be considered suspect at best, compromised at worst, and neither is the friend to privacy that we need. Instead, it would be better to promote truly free platforms such as Matrix and the fediverse, as well as applications like Element which make end-to-end encryption simple and safe.

Second, the doctor repeats the mistaken assumption that everyone in America who needs therapy can get it. Some of us can’t. That’s especially true of in-person visits, which are vital for improvement. Most psychiatrists and therapists in rural areas have switched to virtual-only appointments, have adopted anti-health policies of mandatory masks or vaccines, or have an unwritten rule that every mental problem can be solved by just prescribing more SSRIs and amphetamines. The truly good practitioners—what few there are—are booked for months, and some of us need help now. I know. I’ve been there.

Almost no one has the complete picture of just how much the fabric of our society is fraying. I don’t claim to. I only know what I’ve seen and felt. The America I grew up in began dying over 20 years ago, when so many people decided to throw away essential liberty over the fear that a one-in-a-million event would repeat. But it limped along for nearly two decades. The killing blow was in 2020, and it could have been prevented.

I’ll admit that I was afraid of the Wuhan virus at first. But I learned about it, and I realized it was nothing to be afraid of. Anyone who took twenty seconds to check the Diamond Princess figures could say the same thing: this is a bad flu at worst. Instead, they surrendered to fear, and they forced all the rest of us to go along. They brought us into their delusion, whether we liked it or not, and they have imprisoned us inside it with no clear escape.

Every time you see a person wearing a mask outside, you’re seeing a victim of this fear. Whenever you watch a woman—it’s always a woman, and there’s a good reason for that—taking a Clorox or Lysol wipe to her groceries, you’re watching the result of mass delusional psychosis. Overprotective mothers not letting their children play, or even locking them in their rooms, are but a symptom of a greater disease. The Wuhan virus has two safe, effective treatments: ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. Our social psychosis has no such easy cure. It will take a lot of work on everyone’s part. Men need to remember that they are men. Women need to be willing to let themselves be protected by those who have evolved to do exactly that. Parents must teach their children that safety is never assured.

“Fear is the mind-killer,” wrote Frank Herbert. A lot of minds have died these past two years, but maybe we can resurrect them.

The first work

As I wrote recently, 2022 is a year for creation. By the end of December, I want to have completed the four Great Works I described in the previous post, as I feel that they provide a test of my abilities, a wide range of intellectually stimulating activities, and my best chance for a legacy that outlives me.

First on the list is technetism. I’ve mentioned the word before, tossing it around here and there, but now it’s starting to come together as a coherent idea. It even has its own website, which I’m building out on the weekends and whenever I have spare time. Also, there’s the Weekly Technetic, a Substack newsletter-type thing where I go deeper into the idea and what it means.

For this post, I just want to talk about the broad outline of what technetism is, where in my strange thoughts it was born, and what I hope to make of it.

Humanism, but better

Despite everything that has happened these past two years, I still consider myself a humanist. I still believe that humans are the greatest thinkers and creators in the known universe, and that we as a race act as a positive force for this world and, eventually, all others out there. Yes, we have a lot of problems right now, but so many of those come from people whose stated goals are at odds with the survival of our species. I want to change that. I want to provide a better path.

Technetism isn’t a religion, because a religion intends to provide answers to questions that are beyond the bounds of science. Personally, I believe that we must all find our own answers in that sphere, that what works for me isn’t the same as what works for you. We have free will, and it’s up to us to make use of it. This requires us to ask those questions, to seek answers, but we should never force others to believe as we do in the spiritual sense.

Thus, technetism is a philosophy that complements religion rather than replacing it. It’s compatible with most faiths by design, and it takes a syncretic view of spirituality, a recognition that so many religions around the world, past and present, believe enough of the same things that there is a kind of universal truth lurking in there. Finding it is the individual’s job, not that of a church. Dogma is antithetical to the search for personal revelation. I take ideas from 20th-century humanism and utopian transhumanism, early Christianity, modern forms of Stoicism, and even more exotic sources like Buddhism (though without the navel-gazing and riddle-speak of Zen) to find simple, clear statements of intent and purpose.

I won’t say it’s working, but I feel I’m in a position where it might. The core tenets of technetism are sensible and memorable, without being too overbearing. They’re meant as guidelines, not commandments, after all.

For the most part, my goal is to build something positive, something focused on creation rather than destruction, and I believe I’ve achieved that. The next step is fleshing it out, filling in the gaps. I’m sure there are inconsistencies with what I’ve written so far, and I’d like to iron those out.


Of course, you may be wondering why I would go through all this trouble. Why not join some group that’s already doing most of what I’m talking about?

The truth is, I’ve never fit in anywhere, and I know I never will. In matters such as these, I’m aware that I just don’t think like other people. I learned that at a relatively early age, and my first instinct was to lash out, to be rebellious for no reason than rebelliousness. As I grew older, I saw the folly of youth for what it was.

Destruction is never a substitute for creation. I firmly believe that should apply in every aspect of life, whether social, artistic, political, or whatever. Tearing down your enemy doesn’t lift you up in return. And while there are plenty of institutions, organizations, and groups that probably deserve to be torn down, we must have something better to replace them if we’re ever to improve as a whole.

That’s the other focus I wanted for technetism, and it’s something that few existing religious or philosophical schools accept. We’re all human. Dividing us among lines of race or sex or creed only detracts from what we have in common: intelligence, creativity, imagination, and productivity that surpass any other species that has ever existed on earth. The “us versus them” mentality that pervades every part of society these days seems tailored to hold us back by keeping us focused on our differences; even those who profess tolerance only extend it to certain subsets of the population, as any victim of cancel culture can attest.

Thus, technetism is open and welcoming. Anyone can participate. All you have to be is human and proud of it. Willing to create and to teach, because those are our race’s biggest strengths. I want us to move beyond identity politics, because we’re better than that.

I’ve also used this opportunity to expand upon some of my other unorthodox beliefs, rationalizing them in light of this new conception of the world. Technetism is explicitly a natalist philosophy: creating the next generation is the most valued sort of creation possible, because you’re directly contributing to the growth of humanity. This stands in stark contrast to the numerous anti-natalist and eugenic movements popular today. Veganism (as opposed to vegetarianism) is not compatible with the technetic ideal, as it makes you weaker for the benefit of lower animals who couldn’t care less. Likewise for modern environmentalism, which often borders on eco-terrorism with its hatred of safe and cheap transportation and power generation. These and other destructive ideologies have no place in a society that wishes to advance.

In the end, that’s all I want. I want to be better. Failing that, I’d settle for making everyone around me better. I just believe that the best way to achieve that goal is by encouraging others to see themselves as individuals who are yet a part of something greater, by spurring them to create new things because they want to improve the lives of those around them in the same way I’m trying to do.

Pure humanism, especially the secular variety popular today, lacks the recognition of the human as a spiritual being. Organized religion, by contrast, ignores our very real biological existence in favor of a somewhat nebulous concept of salvation. I’d like technetism to be the middle path, the road you can walk that lets you visit the best of both sides while avoiding the worst.

If I can make something that does that, I’ll consider this Great Work complete.


I’m writing this from my new laptop.

That alone is something I haven’t said in a very long time. But time marches on, and so does technology. What once was more than enough power has since become anemic, to the point where even simple web browsing was mostly impossible on the old machine. For the last five years, I’d used it less and less, until it became nothing more than a second screen for taking notes. Even that was only for work and my Otherworld series, the only one whose vast body of notes I hadn’t moved.

But it was a good little machine. I’ll give it that. When I bought it in 2007, I didn’t expect it to still be kicking 15 years later. In fact, it almost didn’t. At the time, Ubuntu had a major bug in the way it handled laptop hard drives. Rather than bore you with technical details that are boring and completely pointless in this day of SSDs, I’ll just say this: it was killing them by default. Fortunately, I found out before too much damage had been done. The “load cycle count” rating on the drive capped at 200,000; at that point, it was even money whether it would fail. After 4 months, mine sat at almost 160,000. Today, it’s around 167,000, so maybe there’s a little life left.

The specs, on the other hand, mean that life wouldn’t be a good one. A 100 GB hard drive, “only” 1 GB of memory, and no actual video card to speak of? That’s not much to go on these days, especially when the new system is sitting at 1.7 GB used for just the desktop, a file manager, and a single browser window. I’m into retro, though, so maybe I’ll try to do something with it.

The only constant is change. I hate to see the old machine go, and I know upgrades aren’t always for the best, but I hope this one will allow me to become more mobile again.


Last year’s state law banning mask and vaccine mandates was a huge win for individual liberty in Tennessee. It put us on par with other free states like Florida and Texas, where people are allowed to live their lives without tyrannical interference and biosurveillance. Now, Waverly Crenshaw wants to take that away, regressing us to the dictatorships of California, et al.

Yes, you heard me right. Waverly Crenshaw, who swore an oath as a U.S. District Court judge to uphold the rights of Americans, wants to overturn one of the greatest victories for human rights in this state’s history and send us back to the dark ages of 2020.

This is a travesty in every sense. It is a blatant overreach by a federal government that anyone who believes in the founding principles of this nation must consider an enemy, indeed an invader. It is a violation of the 9th and 10th Amendments, which secure those rights not expressly defined in the Constitution, such as the right of informed consent stated in the Nuremberg Code. And it will kill Tennesseans, by encouraging the use of a deadly experimental treatment on our children and raising the risk of bacterial pneumonia and other potentially life-threatening conditions due to the constant use of masks that do nothing to protect against what everyone sane realizes is little more than a bad cold.

The justification is flimsy at best, a claim that this rejection of the death cult in Washington is somehow a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. How? In what way is the protection of Tennesseans hurting the disabled? By taking away requirements that they get a shot with a known risk of severe heart conditions, a shot that has already killed thousands of healthy children, teens, and young adults in America? By letting the deaf read lips again, instead of covering everyone’s mouths? By improving children’s mental health through letting them, I don’t know, interact?

As investigative reporters such as Alex Berenson have shown these past two years, the “deadly” virus is nothing to those who are under 50 and in relatively decent health. Even the rest of us can take cheap and safe medications to alleviate the worst symptoms. The only pandemic is stupidity, and it is running rampant in Nashville.

Tennessee has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, and that is a good thing. It should stay that way. We want to be like Florida, a model for the rest of the nation and the rest of the world. There’s a reason people are fleeing the totalitarian wastelands of California and New York to come here, and it’s not so an unelected bureaucrat can tell us we have to toe the line.

No, people like Waverly Crenshaw do not deserve positions of power, for they have shown that they abuse their power. They do even not deserve to be called Americans, as they have violated the most basic tenets of the American way. Voting will not solve this problem, because too many who hate our ideals cannot be held accountable through elections. We must find a different solution, one that will remove this kind of rot at its source.

Otherworld at 9

I first started writing my Otherworld series in 2013. Nine years is an awfully long time no matter how you look at it, and it’s the longest I’ve stuck with…well, pretty much anything in my life. Okay, my laptop dates to 2007, my tablet is from 2011, and I still play retro games from the 80s, but you get the idea. Otherworld is my longest-lived creative pursuit by far.

The setting still has a lot of life, even if I’m not sure I do. I’d originally planned four “seasons” of eight stories each, for a total of 32 “episodes” in the series. Later on, as I discovered that some stories needed to be told outside that fixed schedule, I added a kind of interstitial set, which I (quite naturally) called A Bridge Between Worlds. That six-part miniseries then became a blueprint: the time between Seasons 2 and 3 got its own bridge stories, Tales of Two Worlds, and I intended to write a third group, titled Best of Both Worlds, before tackling Season 4. Will that still happen? I don’t know. I’d like to keep it going, though.

Now, while I set out with the idea of writing eight short novels that functioned as individual parts making up a cohesive whole, Otherworld originally served two purposes that had nothing to do with creating a million-word magnum opus. First, it was a playground for worldbuilding, because that, to me, is one of the most enjoyable aspects of fiction creation. More specifically, this series was to be my experiment in creating languages as something more than a one-off, and with the intention of somehow using them.

That succeeded, in my opinion. In its 33 entries so far (20 episodes, 12 bridge stories, and a prequel/spinoff) I’ve managed to sneak in snippets from seven of the ten languages I sketched out for the setting. Most of the time, it’s a single word or phrase here and there—most of the characters in narration are people from Earth who have been transported to the Otherworld setting, and that’s one way I represent their lack of knowledge about that world. A couple of times, I’ve included longer stretches of alien speech, usually to indicate a change in style or formality, or to show that a piece of text is in a language nobody understands. It’s not perfect, but then Otherworld is a labor of love. I’ve never truly expected anyone to read it.

As I wrote, the languages and even the setting itself began to shift into the background. Somehow, despite all my intentions to the contrary, I began writing a character-based drama. Some episodes even end up as more “slice of life” than anything, and that’s a genre I never even wanted to enter.

But it worked out that way, and I feel that’s partially due to the characters I chose at the beginning. They numbered seven, all in their early 20s, all college students. Nothing like someone who had just turned 30 and never even set foot on a college campus as an adult, right?

Apart from that minor distinction, these seven were…parts of me. Through the nine years of Otherworld, I’ve come to understand that. They represent aspects of my personality, whether or not I realized it in the beginning. I grow, and so do they, but in different ways. And that’s what I want to look at today. Where were they at the start? Where are they now? And what does that say about me?

Obviously, this post is spoiler-heavy, and it even includes spoilers for stories that aren’t out yet. Then again, Otherworld isn’t the kind of story where knowing what happens next ruins the ending. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

We’ll start with Ryan. After all, he’s the leader. Initially, I saw him as just that, maybe with a little bit of jock mixed in. To put it bluntly, Ryan is the avatar of my masculinity. He’s a man, he knows it, and he knows what it means. So he has a chivalrous streak, not because he thinks women are weaker than men, but because he has the protective nature that I believe all men should strive for.

After two and a half years of story time, Ryan has become a CEO. I’m a CTO, so that’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. He’s still the protector, though, the man who places himself in charge to make sure nobody else gets hurt in his place. And he has been hurt: physically, by being on top of a collapsing wall in Situational Awareness, and the mental strain of dealing with a natural disaster in Waters Rising.

He hasn’t come out unscathed. Neither have I, even if most of my wounds are self-inflicted. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

Before I even typed the first word of what became Out of the Past, I knew Jenn would be the hardest to characterize. She’s so unlike me that I’ve written two posts complaining about the troubles I had finding her voice. I still haven’t fully grasped it after all these years, and I continue to find her chapters a chore, but I’m finally starting to come to terms with her.

Jenn is the explorer in me. That’s the best way I can describe it. She always wants to see what’s around the next bend or over the next hill, and she won’t stop until she finds a way to get there. But she has something I don’t, something I often wish I did. In The City and the Hill, she felt compelled to hide her faith. By Light to the Depths, she has embraced it, and found her calling as a kind of missionary.

I’ll never be one to spread Christianity to anyone, let alone a bunch of medieval-level demihumans living on another planet. Strange as it seems, though, I do see that same kind of zeal buried deep within myself. It’s one of the reasons I’m working on the technetism project, and I have to admit that Jenn earns some measure of credit for bringing that out.

Amy got the first chapter of Out of the Past and the last non-epilogue scene of Long Road’s End. There’s a good reason for that, and it’s the core of what makes her character. She is my hope, my optimism. She always has been. Since I wanted to start off on the right foot, the opening scenes of the series are from her point of view: a young woman seeing parts of the world for the first time and wondering what might be out there. By the end of Season 1—a mere four months, really—she has lived a life, and now she’s excited to come home and tell people all about it…but equally ready to go back.

More than any other character, Amy fell in love with the Otherworld, just as I did. She spent the entirety of The Control Variable thinking about what would happen the next time she had a chance to go there. When she finally did in The Second Crossing, she threw herself into it. Now, she’s happily married (beating me in both categories) and living the dream. But she still wants to make things better for herself and everyone around her. She has a love of the world around her, but also faith in humanity.

That’s me in a nutshell. Even underneath all the depression and anxiety that have troubled me for the past two years, I still retain both of those. Since I so rarely have the chance to let them out, Amy becomes my outlet. Through her words and actions, I can express my feelings.

That’s becoming increasingly true of Ashley, as well. At the start, she was even more the devil’s advocate character than Jenn. I detest identity politics and “wokeness” in all their myriad forms, and 2013 was around the time I started noticing such evils creeping into society. Since Otherworld was set a few years later, my thought was that the rot would only increase—I was right, but I’ll save the gloating for another post—and it just made sense that at least one of the characters would be all-in on the whole thing.

She’s grown a lot since then. In Situational Awareness, she came out as bisexual. (I’m certainly not doing that, so don’t get any ideas!) The stories of A Bridge Between Worlds introduced the character of Jeanette, who has since become somewhat more than a love interest; Light to the Depths involved the two of them dealing with a near-breakup, then committing to taking their relationship to the next level. I’d like nothing more than to have that chance.

While she still retains some of her former beliefs, they’ve been tempered by time in the Otherworld. She learned, which is something so many people her age just can’t do today. If Ashley represents any part of me, then, it’s the willingness to try something, to dive into a new hobby or job or, well, relationship. Yes, that can get me into trouble, but it’s fun while it lasts, right?

At first glance, Lee is even harder to pin down. I think that comes from being a little bit of a mixture. On one hand, he is my connection to history and heritage: he’s proud of his Navajo ancestry, just as I am of my descent from Cherokee and Choctaw ancestors. On the other hand, he also carries some of my sense of humor. He’s acerbic, sarcastic, often to the point of grating, and that makes him easy to write half the time.

His character growth has been the most obvious of all. Lee’s chapter in A Matter Settled was, at the time, the closest thing to a sex scene that I’d ever written. His scenes in Written in Black and White, where he became the first Earthling to marry a woman native to the Otherworld, were an adventure for me as much as him. The Code Breaker saw him become a father and invent a whole new trade, two items high on my own bucket list.

Lee’s history resembles mine in another way, however. His parents divorced when he was 11, and he grew very attached to his mother as a result. Not in any Oedipus kind of way, mind you, but the very natural clinging of a desperate, depressed child to the only anchor in his life. My own life, with a similar event at almost the same point, comes to mind when I read the family reunion in The Second Crossing, and it’s one of the few Otherworld scenes that brings me close to tears.

Jeff also stayed behind in Long Road’s End, choosing the relative unknown of the Otherworld over a return to everything he’d ever known on Earth. Like Lee, he did it because of a woman, even if he claimed otherwise.

But let’s back up for a moment, because Jeff has another purpose in the story. He was always the linguist, and thus the best way for me to introduce the language aspects of the setting. To do that, however, I had to make him knowledgable. Thus, Jeff is the avatar of knowledge, and he has stayed as such throughout the entire nine years of writing. His scenes are my window into the greater history of the Otherworld, which has even led to Seasons Change, the prequel set over four thousand years before the main story. Without Jeff, I never would’ve considered doing that.

On top of all that, he has to be the teacher within the setting, too. Part of that comes from my innate desire to teach, because what good is knowledge if you keep it all to yourself? His native wife is certainly very indulgent in many respects, but her occasional chapters have given me the chance to illustrate that from another point of view: one of the biggest reasons she loves Jeff is because of the way he opened her eyes to a whole new way of looking at the world. Almost nothing would make me happier than a woman saying the same about me.

Last, but certainly not least, is Alex. I saved him for the end because anyone who has read Otherworld (or even my earlier posts about it) knows that Alex is simply me. He’s a genius whose favorite subjects are math and astronomy. He’s an overweight loner with major depression and a serious lack of self-esteem. He’s a guy who’s terrible at relationships and somehow finds himself falling into one. He is the author insert, and I won’t deny that.

Yet Alex still shows character growth. In that, he has become a kind of yardstick. He does the things I want to do, and I measure my success against what I’ve written for him. Ever since Situational Awareness, so much of his character arc has been about his flailing about in matters of love; while I never expected I’d have the chance to experience that when I wrote the story in 2016, that’s pretty much what happened. I’m sad to report that Alex handled it much better than I could.

Over the course of 32 stories and a million-plus words, he has reinvented himself. Sure, he lapses into “loner geek” mode on occasion, but at least he can get out of it. Although he continues to worry about how others see him, judging himself as he believes they would, he understands that his life has become better. For me, that would be the marker of true success: not only improving my lot, but recognizing and accepting that it has improved. As this new year dawns, and the first decade of Otherworld is nearing its end, I still can’t do that, so Alex remains a vision of what my life could be, what I would like it to be.

These seven aren’t the only perspectives in Otherworld, but they are the ones who received the most time on screen and the most dedication in my writing. For one such as me, seemingly destined to be alone and childless, they are my friends, my children. Because they, more than any other characters I’ve written, are pieces of me. They always will be. As Otherworld enters its tenth year, I see that more clearly than ever.