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A thought about our current predicament

Thinking about the coronavirus and the way we’re practically shutting down the whole of society for it, I realized something:

It’s commendable that we as a society are so willing to disrupt our entire lives and endure hardship in order to protect our most vulnerable members. Most of us could probably weather the disease, but we’re not willing to sacrifice the old and weak for the convenience of the majority. It’s not even a question. So maybe there’s more hope for us as a civilization than it’s often seemed these past few years.

Categories: Uncategorized

HIGHER FRONTIER annotations are up!

It’s been over a week since The Higher Frontier came out, so I figured I might as well go ahead and post the annotations (beware of spoilers):ST Higher Frontier cover

https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/home-page/star-trek-fiction/tos-ex-machina/tos-the-higher-frontier-annotations/

Also, just a reminder that I’ve started a Patreon page where I’ll be posting reviews and original short fiction:

https://www.patreon.com/christopherlbennett

I hope those of you who enjoy The Higher Frontier will consider signing up for at least the $1/month “tip” level. If enough of you did so, it would help me a lot while costing you very little. Although if you sign up for the higher levels, you’ll get original content in return.

Also, please remember to rate or review the book on Amazon, Goodreads, and the like, no matter where you bought it. The more reviews a book gets, the more it’s boosted in Amazon’s search algorithms.

My Patreon site is up!

Here we go, folks… I finally managed to get a Patreon page up and running:

https://www.patreon.com/christopherlbennett

I’ve decided to start with four membership tiers:

$1/month: The Tip Jar: Help me pay for food, rent, etc. so I can keep writing. In return, you get access to public posts, plus my gratitude and the satisfaction of being a patron of the arts!

$5/month: Reviews: Reviews of classic or recent TV, movies, books, etc. about once a week, plus access to public posts.

$10/month: Original Fiction: Fiction in my original universes, including some previously unpublished stories from my files, reprints of published but uncollected short fiction, original vignettes or bonus scenes featuring characters from novels such as Only Superhuman and Arachne’s Crime, and whatever else I can come up with, roughly once a month. Plus access to all the content from the Tip and Review tiers.

$12/month: Behind the Scenes: Annotations for my Patreon-first stories, as well as various behind-the-scenes content such as worldbuilding notes and articles for my original universes, deleted scenes, concept art, or whatever else seems to fit. Plus access to everything from the Tip, Reviews, and Original Fiction tiers.

 

For the launch, I’ve put up one post in each of the three main categories. For Reviews, I begin a rewatch of the 1990 CBS The Flash TV series starring John Wesley Shipp, commemorating that series’s retroactive addition to the Arrowverse as Earth-90 and its lead character’s pivotal role in the recent Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. For Original Fiction, I’ve posted the first story I ever attempted to sell, “The Cat Who Chased Her Tail Through Time” from 1991, which was largely a celebration of my new kittens at the time, way too self-indulgent for publication in a pro magazine, but fun as a reward for my Patreon donors. Plus it comes with a few vintage kitten pictures, since cat photos are always a good draw. And Behind the Scenes offers annotations on that story.

Feel free to check it out, and let me know what you think. This is a new experiment for me, and there’s no doubt room for improvement.

The upside of introversion

I don’t tend to follow the news as much as I should (since it tends to be depressing, especially under the current administration), but it’s been hard to miss the building crisis with the COVID-19 coronavirus and the impact it’s having on society. The thing is, all the stuff that’s being advised for how to minimize the risk — social distancing, washing hands frequently, staying home, avoiding crowds — is pretty much stuff I already did anyway. As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, I’ve let myself become rather socially isolated in recent years, especially with my money problems lately. I’d just been on the verge of trying to change that, to get out into the world more, but now it seems I’m better off sticking with my current way of living for a while longer.

As far as my money situation goes, it’s showing signs of improvement. I’ve gotten a number of donations from my very generous fans, and I’ve finally gotten some writing work lined up, hopefully just in the nick of time. I’m still kind of worried about whether I’ll have enough to pay taxes when the time comes, especially since there’s no telling if the tax preparer appointment I made for two weeks from now will have to be postponed due to the virus. But I’m still planning to start that Patreon page soon, which hopefully will help. I could still use some other kind of work in the near future, but the pandemic situation has made me think I should refocus on prospects for online work I can do from home, which was something I was already considering anyway.

So far, the only way the burgeoning emergency has really affected my life is that the library closed for at least 3 weeks as of tonight, which is delaying me from finishing the first set of reviews I’m planning for the Patreon page. See, I picked something I own as a DVD box set, but it turns out the discs are defective and have deteriorated over the years — for some reason, every one (correction: every damaged one, since the first two worked okay) only plays the first two episodes normally and freezes up on the last two. So I’ve had to request additional copies from the library (and interestingly the DVD player remembered my place even when I switched to a different copy of the same disc), and the last two discs were still en route to my local branch when they closed for the duration. Well, I’ve still got enough reviews to last a while, and if it comes to that, I suppose I can pay to stream the episodes online, out of whatever profits I hopefully make from the earlier reviews.

My other library news is good, though. By coincidence, I’ve just recently gotten around at long last to exploring the options for borrowing e-books from the library. I signed up for the Hoopla service, which can be used by anyone with a library card from a participating library, and I’ve discovered it has a ton of digital comics available, which has let me catch up with a lot of things I’ve had trouble finding in print form. You can borrow them for 3 weeks, but the downside is that they only let you borrow 10 items a month for some reason, and I’ve exhausted that quite quickly both this month and last. Hoopla also has movies, TV shows, music, and audiobooks (including my own Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder), though I haven’t borrowed any of those yet.

I also looked into the Overdrive lending service which partners with schools and libraries and lets you borrow e-books and audiobooks — including quite a few Star Trek novels, mine and others’. You can borrow 20 per month, though only for 2 weeks, at least for the ones I’ve borrowed. You can even borrow them in Kindle format, or for other e-readers, which has proven quite handy. What’s more, when I decided a couple of days ago to look into the possibility of installing a Kindle app on my phone so I could read e-books away from my computer, I found I already had one that had come pre-installed with the phone (along with a bunch of other apps I never use). I just had to sign in, and there all my books were! What’s more, the two Kindles communicate and keep track of how far I’ve advanced in a book. So far I’m finding that I quite like reading books on my phone, even though it’s a pretty small phone. I’m used to reading websites or playing games on my phone, so reading books on it feels quite comfortable. If anything, I think my eyes are getting close to the point that it’s easier to read on a screen where I can adjust the font size than from a printed page. I have a feeling I’m going to do a lot more reading now that it’s suddenly become so easy to get a library book delivered in seconds. I’m finding it quite enjoyable.

Between that and the new writing gig (which I’ve gotten a great idea for that I’m pretty excited by), plus my readers’ generosity, I’m feeling much better than I was a couple of weeks ago. I was so panicked before that when I finally got this job offer, I ended up just lying on the floor for a few minutes, overcome with relief. But it wasn’t until the past couple of days, with this neat new idea falling into place and with the discovery of the wonders of library e-books, that I’m finally starting to smile again and actually be in a good mood. My work situation is still not fully stabilized, and at best it’s no better than the tenuous state it’s been in for the past three years, but this renewed optimism may be what I need to take things further. Hopefully this time I can finally make progress beyond that status quo, what with Patreon and the upcoming release of Arachne’s Crime and maybe some payoff for one or two other job feelers I’ve set in motion.

Of course, I’m having this burst of optimism just as our nation descends into a state of emergency, and there’s no telling what the next few weeks will bring. But I guess that’s better than facing such a crisis from a state of deep depression. And it kind of helps that all I really have to do to cope with the crisis is keep doing what I was already doing anyway. It makes me feel somewhat better about my introverted tendencies.

Categories: My Fiction Tags: , , ,

STAR TREK: TOS — THE HIGHER FRONTIER is out!

I’m a couple of days late to announce it, but Star Trek: The Original Series — The Higher Frontier is now on sale!

ST Higher Frontier coverStar Trek: The Original Series — The Higher Frontier

An all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure featuring James T. Kirk!

Investigating the massacre of a telepathic minority, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise confront a terrifying new threat: faceless, armored hunters whose extradimensional technology makes them seemingly unstoppable. Kirk must team with the powerful telepath Miranda Jones and the enigmatic Medusans to take on these merciless killers in an epic battle that will reveal the true faces of both enemy and ally!

Available at:

 

This is the first time I’ve gotten to work in the post-TMP setting in nearly eight years since DTI: Forgotten History, and the first time since Ex Machina 15 years ago that I’ve been able to do an entire novel in that setting, rather than sneaking in continuations within other projects. To commemorate this, I’ve reworked my Ex Machina page into an overall post-TMP page putting all the relevant discussions together in one place for convenience, aside from DTI:FH, which is technically in a different series and whose dedicated page has several comments, so I figured it was better to leave it separate. You can find it here:

TOS: Motion Picture Era

Scroll down to the bottom to find discussion on The Higher Frontier, since it’s chronological. (One thing I miss about my old HTML web page is that you could link to different anchor points within a single page for quick navigation. I’ve never figured out how to do that in WordPress.)

As usual, spoiler annotations should follow before too long.

 

Reaching a crisis point

February 29, 2020 5 comments

For the past few years, I’ve been caught in a pattern I don’t know how to get out of.

Before then, for more than a decade, I managed to get by modestly on my income from Star Trek novels and occasional original fiction. So I settled for being a full-time writer and didn’t try very hard to pursue alternatives. Then Pocket Books’s Trek license came up for renewal and was badly delayed, so for more than a year I wasn’t getting Trek work. I kept being told it would resolve fairly soon, and I was expecting income from several other sources that I was told would pay off fairly soon, so I just waited for those payoffs, and they all improbably got delayed at once, so I ended up very nearly broke, coming close to the brink of not being able to pay my rent or my bills anymore.

Eventually, I got help from family and from reader donations, and then Trek contracts started to come through again, but even those advances were not frequent or large enough to do more than let me ease away from the brink for a few months and then wind up back on the edge before I could find other work. Because I’ve been a full-time writer so long, I never developed the skill of looking for other kinds of work. I’ve gotten a few interviews here and there, but none have led to a job.

All of this, I realize, has left me suffering from depression, something I’ve been wrestling with on and off all my life. The closer I get to the brink, the worse my depression and anxiety become, which makes it harder to look for work or find solutions. I keep hoping a new Star Trek contract will come through in time and give me enough of  a financial cushion to find a more lasting solution. But depression doesn’t go away that easily. Every time I do get a novel advance or a loan, I try to take some time to recover emotionally and work on my writing for a while, thinking “It’s okay, I have some time before I have to start seriously looking for other kinds of work.” But because depression makes it harder to work, I always take longer than I expected and lose track of time. And I always underestimate how quickly I’m losing money, because I keep forgetting to account for the massive credit card fees that effectively cancel out my efforts to pay down my debt. And once I notice that I’m too close to the brink again, I start panicking again, and the cycle continues.

I’ve known for a while now that I had to stop depending on Star Trek alone as my lifeline. I needed to reorient my life and find some stability, and just get out of this rut I’ve been in for years. But I was slow to act on that, clinging to the hope that rescue would come in the nick of time as it has so many times before. (Being depressed is weird. I keep bouncing back and forth between “I hate being trapped in this rut and need to make a change!” and “I’m afraid to change anything, I just want to stay in my rut where it’s safe.”)

Now, though, I know that’s not going to happen. I assume that, with fewer Trek novels per year these days, and with the uncertainty resulting from the new Trek shows and the re-merger of CBS and Viacom, I can’t rely on Trek offers coming my way like clockwork, and can’t pin my hopes on something materializing just in time. It’s already too late for that now, with tax time looming. I’ve feared this for years, but have still clung to the old way and just hoped things would go back to the way they were somehow. And as a result, I now find myself at a crisis point where I have to change.

Even before I recognized this, I’d begun making some efforts to look for work. I’ve continued to submit game outlines to Star Trek Adventures and I’ve been working on those, but they pay a lot less than a novel and I have to wait for approval. I’ve made a connection that could potentially lead to other tie-in work, but I’m still waiting for an opening to emerge. I have my Kickstarter coming up for Arachne’s Crime sometime soon, but I don’t expect the royalties from the novel or its sequel to be anywhere near the size of a tie-in advance. I’ve joined an online audio transcription service, though it’s turned out to pay hardly anything. I’ve applied to work for the 2020 Census — no reply yet. This past week I found a temp agency that specializes in creative work and signed up for it, hoping that its agents would help me find work since I’m so bad at looking for it myself; but it turned out that it’s more just an online job alert service that informs me of opportunities to apply for, and I’m still waiting for results. Last night I thought I’d found a good option in a freelancer service called Upwork, but on further examination, it seems I’d have to pay to make bids for work with no guarantee of a return on my investment.

It’s not all bad news. I’ve actually made a few hundred bucks this past week or so, helping to stem my losses slightly. I got paid for a bit of Star Trek Adventures writing that I did last year but can’t announce yet. I got a refund on the last monthly bill I paid after I cancelled my cable, which I was apparently charged in error. And I finally got some overdue Only Superhuman royalties that had fallen through the cracks. But it’s not nearly enough, especially with tax time looming in six weeks or so.

The realization that this time I’m definitely not getting a new Trek contract in the nick of time has been terrifying. When it finally hit me, my depression and anxiety reached levels I don’t think I’ve felt since an epic bout of unrequited love back in college 30 years ago. I’ve been going through ups and downs since then, and I’m hampered by the fact that every time I try to confront the situation to look for a solution, it just brings back my anxiety and makes it harder. (I got maybe 3 hours of sleep last night, tops.)

I know this is a very personal thing to broadcast to my fans, but I realized I need to talk about this for my own mental health. I need to share it with someone, and because of my (inherited) proclivities toward depression and self-isolation, I don’t really have any family or good friends close at hand to unload my burdens on, and haven’t done enough to cultivate what local friendships I do have. I’m not always comfortable talking on the phone, I never got the hang of texting, and I’m too broke to go out much, so my online life is really the only way I have of reaching out to friends and family. And my fans have been a great comfort to me these past few years, through your generosity and patience. You’ve been part of my support structure too, and I’m very grateful. (But I’d be glad to hear from any family and friends who wanted to reach out more privately.)

I’ve been giving serious thought to starting a Patreon page. That way, instead of periodically and haphazardly begging for donations all at once, I could offer my fans regular new material in exchange for small, regular monthly donations. It seems a natural thing to migrate my movie and TV reviews there and start monetizing them. (There is a way to add a Patreon plug-in to an existing WordPress blog like this one, but I’d have to upgrade and pay a fee, and I don’t know if I’d make enough profit to offset that.) I’d also try to offer original fiction content alongside the reviews. I have a few unpublished stories I could premiere there, along with my three published but uncollected stories, and maybe some deleted scenes from Only Superhuman, worldbuilding notes, behind-the-scenes stuff like that. I think I might have enough to provide fairly regular content for several months, and if that were profitable, it would hopefully give me time and incentive to create new reviews and original fiction for the platform on an ongoing basis. My fans have been so generous with your donations that I hope a lot of you would be willing to invest a few dollars per month to read my reviews, original fiction, essays, and the like.

But again, getting a Patreon page up and running and earning a profit would take time, and wouldn’t help enough in the immediate term to get me through tax time. It’s the same boat I’ve been in for years — none of the plans I’ve already made or can make going forward will pay off soon enough.

In the meantime, I’m always open for reader donations, and my book sale and naming rights bonus offer are still on. I hate having to keep pleading to my fans and offering so little in return, which is why I’m hoping to make the jump to Patreon. But I’m hopeful that by now I’ve planted enough seeds that something will start paying off soon and finally help me get out of this rut over the months ahead. It’s just that, one more time (and hopefully for the last time), I need some extra help staying afloat until they can.

Interesting casting news for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 7 & 8 (spoilers)

I came across an announcement today with some casting news for the next couple of Mission: Impossible movies being directed by Christopher McQuarrie:

New Character Details For Mission Impossible 7 & 8: EXCLUSIVE

According to the article, the film features a former IMF agent being referred to as Rollin Hand, with a pair of younger associates called Lambert and Paris. These, of course, are the names of the Mission: Impossible TV series regulars played by Martin Landau, Lesley Anne Warren (as Dana Lambert), and Leonard Nimoy, respectively. There hasn’t been an M:I movie character with the same name as an M:I television character since Jon Voight’s “Jim Phelps” in the original film, though Paula Patton’s Jane Carter had the same surname as Barbara Bain’s Cinnamon Carter.

Now, as I see it, there are two possibilities. One is that these are just placeholder names in the casting sides, meant to conceal the characters’ real names. Movies often do this to avoid spoiling too much. But then, why use the names of familiar characters to conceal the identities of new, unfamiliar characters? Usually it’s done the other way around.

The other possibility is quite interesting. If these upcoming characters really are named Hand, Lambert, and Paris, then it will finally answer a question that’s been unresolved for 24 years: Is the movie series a sequel to the TV series or a reboot of it? Was Voight’s traitorous Phelps the same person that Peter Graves played or merely a namesake in a different reality?

Up to now, the only thing that’s hinted at an answer was Hunley’s statement in Rogue Nation that the IMF had been operating for 40 years, i.e. since 1975, nearly a decade too late to be consistent with the show. But that could’ve been a script error, so it wasn’t conclusive. If these reported character names are real, then it would seem to confirm that the M:I film series has been a reboot all along. Which will certainly be a load off the minds of those of us who hated seeing Jim Phelps turned into a traitor. He never really had anything in common with Graves’s Jim anyway (I felt he acted more like Jim’s predecessor Dan Briggs), so it makes a lot more sense if he was a reinvention. (Although there goes my theory that Voight-Phelps was an impostor and the mission Ethan was sent on at the end of the first film was the rescue of the real Jim.)

Of course, I could be jumping the gun by reporting on an Internet rumor. I generally prefer to wait for hard facts. But this particular rumor struck my fancy because of the unexpected connection to the original series and the possibility of finally being able to define the relationship (or lack thereof) between the TV and film incarnations. We’ll see how it pans out. If any of your IM Force are recast or rebooted, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of their original versions.