A conversation in the bar downstairs last night with my wingman was very much like an exchange between Lance and Vincent in Pulp Fiction:
“Still got your Malibu?”
“Aw, man. You know what some fucker did the other day?”
“Fucking keyed it.”
“Oh, man, that’s fucked up.”
“Tell me about it. I had it in storage for three years, it was out for five days and some dickless piece of shit fucked with it.”
“They should be fucking killed. No trial, no jury, straight to execution.”
“Boy, I wish I could’ve caught him doing it. I’d have given anything to catch that asshole doing it. It’d been worth him doing it just so I could’ve caught him doing it.”
“What a fucker!”
“What’s more chickenshit than fucking with a man’s automobile? I mean, don’t fuck with another man’s vehicle.”
“You don’t do it.”
“It’s just against the rules.”
What’s more, in the my world parallel, this wasn’t the first time.
It has been said by people besides myself that my writing is very skillful and that I can make fantastical situations real: That’s my job and it’s always nice to be told by others that I’m good at it. Even the greatest writers though would struggle with acts which in a factual sense, beggar belief.
Probably without exception, writers are intelligent people. I’m not conceited about my intelligence and consider myself incredibly fortunate to be more intelligent than 99.9% of the population: that’s not a boast; it’s a fact, soon to be proven and recognised. I certainly don’t expect to spend my leisure time in the company of the top 0.1% of the population who share my IQ level: there are too few of us. Instead, I don’t discriminate and enjoy the company of many people. Regardless of a number indicating one’s IQ, my close friends at least possess what I assumed to be the basest of human intelligence: common sense. Without that most basic thing, surely we would also lose our survival instinct and perish as humans? And yet there are people out there whose continued existence is a mystery.
Common sense and the application of just a little consideration by my friends meant that I was able to spend time and share drinks with them in the bar last night. It was really quite simple: they know that this is a difficult time of year for me and they know that I am mentally unwell. They know that I don’t like crowds, that I get paranoid and am prone to panic attacks. They also know that I cannot be told what to do, nor coerced into something. They know that if they ask me to join them and I say no, I have my reasons and however irrational I might be, they respect me. They know not to patronise me or pussy foot around me. Most importantly, they know me: their friend.
I really didn’t fancy going down to the bar last night to watch others get drunk. Seeing in the new year is just another change of date and I see most, as I’m usually writing well into the night. A couple of friends told me to join them because I’d have a good time: bad move. I won’t be told what to do: I choose what to do and I may accept an invitation if I am asked but not told. And I certainly can’t be told that I’ll have a good time. As it happened, I joined some friends who’d gathered at the end of the bar at the bottom of the stairs from the flat. We had some drinks, I was calm and therefore greeted others around the pub. Once I’d had enough, I retired upstairs. Without doing anything other than understand me and apply some common sense, my friends ensured that we all had a good night. It required next to no effort on their part: just some thought and consideration.
The antithesis of such pleasantness is the persistent stupidity of other people. If there’s one thing that’s going to ruin my day, it’s often something which could have been prevented with the application of just a tiny bit of thought. It seems that some people are incapable of even that: as if they’re brain dead. This is what challenges not just the writer but the rest of humanity which possesses common sense. A level of stupidity exhibited recently simply beggars belief and challenges the rational of thought.
The fact that I’m a writer is relevant because the latest episode affected my job. You merely need to be human though to still not be able to understand a certain lack of IQ. It’s also relevant and doesn’t even need to be spelled out that the most important thing in any kind of co-operation – business or friendship – is trust. To betray the trust of a friend is to deny one that friend: it’s the fundamental basis of any relationship.
I still stand by my belief that if we carry baggage, we should be allowed to leave it at the door. Everyone deserves another chance: I’ve certainly been given plenty and given many myself. We should not be judged on our past. When it comes to a fundamental betrayal of the simplest thing though and when you’ve given someone chances in the past, there comes a time where it seems reasonable to judge someone on their future. Sometimes it becomes clear that someone simply cannot or will not change their ways. They cannot be told nor helped. At that point, you have to judge them as being someone who – based on long experience and many chances – will always betray that foundation of friendship: trust. I don’t work on a lives, chances or strikes system: I simply have a lot of patience. It’s rare that it’s run out in the past.
I write of the latest episode, so that I can read back over it again to see if it’s really true. I write also because it is of importance to me in my job and in life.
Moving very quickly through what has prompted this, the headline is that as a writer, I have guidelines which I give to those who help me out as test readers. I shouldn’t really insult people’s intelligence by giving them what is essentially, a list of common sense rules to follow:
Do not share my work: often it’s an incomplete piece. I decide when I want it to be read other than by those I trust as test readers.
Do not share information which has been entrusted to you in confidence: surely this is a rule applicable to life in general?
Do not divulge passwords issued in confidence and trust: work is password-protected for many reasons. That’s obvious, no?
I welcome and encourage feedback on my stories and I value critiques. Please do not comment on any story with “spoilers”: it kind of gives the plot away; the plot I gave you and asked you to keep confidential. Spoilers are damaging, as they ruin an unseen story for others, when someone privy to them blabs: it’s a betrayal of trust, just like sharing a password. It’s a betrayal of friendship and a two-fingered gesture to me for placing that trust in you: how stupid does that make me look?
So it’s common sense but the rules are on this site and I went to the trouble of re-iterating them again not long ago, when a trusted beta reader had a lapse of reason and shared an unpublished story. I don’t expect everyone to understand copyright law but common sense? Apparently it’s not a given.
I suppose if I were to write about someone who has a tendency to act irrationally, I might use the example of sharing my password-protected, unpublished work (which is my job and which could make me money) as a basis: In my story, the protagonist would hand their cash card to a complete stranger and give them their PIN as well. Even a fiction writer as good as me couldn’t invent a character that stupid.
The copyright breach was a one-off and quickly contained. I explained to the absent-of-mind test reader why it’s important not to share passwords or post spoilers, in explicit detail. I shouldn’t have had to because it’s common sense but I felt there were special needs. I certainly didn’t expect it to happen again. Knowing the seriousness of the deed of betrayal, not just of copyright but of my personal trust, would surely mean the friendship would be enduring.
Alas, no. To save embarrassment, I have removed the posts from a test reader of my latest story, String theory. The first was fairly amusing, along the lines of, “I won’t post a review yet but I will later…” Why fucking say it then? Why post at all? It’s like phoning someone to let them know you’re not actually phoning them but that you will later. Then the same person posted the same fucking demonstration of IQ again. It’s like phoning the friend back and admitting that the last call was dumb, so you thought you’d make another.
Then a review of sorts was posted, which although positive, had to be removed because it was full of spoilers. The point of a comment on the blog, as in any forum is to be constructive. Deconstructive has a place, for those who know the meaning of the word. What it doesn’t mean is revealing all of the key plot moments: they’re called spoilers because they spoil the story for others who’ve not read it and affect me adversely. By all means tell me about feelings which I invoke and hint at the points which prompted you but do not give away the story. It’s like being given access to the premiere of a film, then blabbing to all who’ll listen what it’s about. Fortunately, there were few listening. I know I’m a good writer: I don’t need to be told that; I need to be told why. Apparently I achieved my aim though, of writing another affecting story.
In conclusion, I’m a writer and as such, I can write people out of my life. My pen is my weapon and my words, the ammunition. I may write a story populated by the brain dead: zombies. One particular zombie will be key because it is resilient and possesses something: it’s unthinking actions idiotic by nature but so repetitive as to suggest something approaching intelligence. The real life parallel would be someone who betrays you once and continues to do so. It’s beyond comprehension that someone could be so stupid, so you start to wonder if it’s perhaps a deliberate and sustained personal attack.
Before ascending to the den to write, I mentioned this story to my assembled friends: the ones who know me and who understand the concept of trust. Without mentioning names, I told them what I needed to get off my chest and they were universally and visibly incredulous that anyone could be so unthinking as to betray a friend’s trust in the first place, let alone do it repeatedly. Were it not for the trust between us, they wouldn’t have believed me. As it was, the reaction was mocking laughter from shaking heads. The irony was that the whole point of the latest story is quite simply “Think about it”. It’s cleverer than that but the irony was lost in the same place that common sense disappears.
I shall return to the bar presently, where there is a game of what my pub wingman and I refer to inappropriately as “Paralympic pool”. We’re the best two players in the pub and we give other players an advantage by adopting handicaps. This might be that we don’t take two shots after an opponent’s foul shot, we’ll pot the black off of a cushion, allow our opponent to swap ball colours when we’re ahead and so on. In our paralympic version of the game, one of us will use the butt end of a cue to pot balls and the other will use a rest: not as a rest but to hit balls with. One of my chess-playing friends is likely to join us, so we’ll have a nice game of global thermonuclear war together (Wargames reference). Later, it’s back upstairs for a game of live heads-up poker with a family friend staying with us. I know he’s a player as he immediately realised the significance of the .com after Poker Stars on my baseball cap.
Later still, I’ll be working again, because I love what I’m able to do. The book proofs of The Paradoxicon arrived but there were issues (hence the reason for having printed proofs) and the book has had to be revised. I’ll have First Edition copies next week. I’m also working on a “Director’s cut” edition, which will include some of my short stories, including my favourite: COGS.
Before all of that, I have to kill a zombie.