I was defibrillated yesterday.
I’ve had a chance to use practice AEDs on fake people as part of my first-aid certification. I’ve never had to use them in anger. This wasn’t like that, though. I knew they were going to do it, hell, I pushed for them to do it because it was so fucking cool.
Spoiler: It was kinda an anticlimax.
I should point out that I was conscious for the whole event, I chose to get zapped, it was pretty much guaranteed to work, and had no real chance of making things worse. I wasn’t in the kind of state where people would need to drag an AED over to me or anything — I still had a pulse, it was just really fucking fast and not regular. At no point was my life in danger or anything like that; I got a taxi to the hospital rather than an ambulance.
Get out of bed, unable to sleep. Have a glass of water. Stand up, stretch, click back, feel a weird heart rhythm start. Mutter “Oh, fuck, not again.” Control breathing. Drink some water. Start reading a book, as I’ll be awake until this shit’s finished.
Remember I have beta blockers in the flat. Take one. Wait twice the usual amount of time. It doesn’t work.
Realise that this is the longest-running instance. Panic a bit. Have another glass of water. Finish the book, and return to bed in the hopes of maybe sleeping through the last of it, instead feel like my heart’s bouncing around my chest.
Get up, go see GP. He sends me off to Leith to get an ECG. For the first time since I’ve had these abnormal rhythms, it’s lasted long enough that the ECG finds evidence. Yay atrial fibrillation, only without the yay.
Turns out the place in Leith has a cardiologist in to see out-patients one day a week. That one day is Monday. He very kindly has a look over the results (kindly as I’m not one of his patients) and explains what’s going on. In short: hie myself to the hospital, where they can either administer drugs to slow things down, or restart my heart with motherfucking electricity.
Accident and Emergency is quiet; I barely have time for a sip of water after signing in before the triage nurse takes a look. The fingertip pulse monitor says I’m at 63 BPM. Which is odd, because I can feel it faster than that in my wrist. She goes to get another EGC “just to check”.
The actual heart monitor shows that I’m pushing 214 beats per minute. Seeing the number spikes it above 220, which is the point that my vision goes blurry and kinda grey and I start breathing very deeply. Everything goes by rather quickly.
I’m on a bed in the resuscitation room of A&E. The doctor has tried a couple of mechanical means of fixing the atrial fibrillation (hey, anything with a 40% success rate and no side effects is worth a shot) to no avail. So now I have a full heart monitor hooked up with a screen that I can see as well as one for the medics. I can see that my average heart rate is 191 BPM.
Once again he explains the options. Once again, I beg for lightning.
Oxygen and something closer to morphine than I’ve had before. I get a bit sleepy. I recognise the pads they slap on, they’re the same style as the ones in our AEDs. Some white stuff, I don’t remember the name, then I have a little sleep.
It’s 2040. Our president is a plant.
My glasses aren’t on my face. Huh. When are they going to shock me?
They already have, you idiot. It worked. I feel so much better. My bed’s wheeled off to a corner for observation with a portable monitor, so nurses can hear and fix things if it turns out that the abnormal rhythm comes back. I have another little sleep; this time I can see my watch and know it’s only ten minutes.
I’m released, with some notes on what to do if it happens again.
The painkillers wear off. Jesus fuck this feels like I’ve been punched in the tits with a lightning bolt.
It’s later that I realise that I actively wanted people to turn my goddamn heart off and on again to fix it. I’ve been working in tech support for too long. Realising that there was a wee second there where my heart wasn’t actually doing anything is a bit freaky.
I’ve had maybe four instances of an irregular heart ryhthm over the past six years. This was the first one to last more than a couple of hours. It identified the issue as atrial fibrillation, which means I know what to do the next time it happens (wait for it to go away, take a beta blocker, try the 40% thing, then go get zapped).
I don’t know what hurt more: my chest after the painkillers wore off, or removing all the heart monitor pads.
Jo Cox was an activist for the campaign to keep the UK in the European Union. Prior to becoming an MP in 2015, she was head of policy for Oxfam, and an anti-slavery campaigner.
Britain First are a fascist/neo-Nazi group strongly opposed to EU membership, immigration, multiculturalism, and (in their own words) “the islamisation of the United Kingdom”.
While some people are at pains to point out that the assassin may not have had any direct ties with Britain First, evidence exists that he was a supporter of the Springbok Club, an organisation that defended and supported the white supremacist apartheid regime in South Africa.
The whole thing has left me feeling a weird mix of anger, outrage, and despair. What has happened is so utterly abhorrent that I can’t process it in real-time.
The UK is currently embroiled in a war for the Conservative party leadership, being played out via the proxy of our membership of the European Union. Funnily enough, the people who want out of the EU tend to be white billionaires who can buy the laws they want in the UK but not the EU, or racist idiots. Up until a few weeks ago, I could agree that there were intellectually-coherent reasons for people on the left to vote to leave the EU. The exit camp has gone out of their way to demolish all of those reasons. Leaving the EU could allow us to make a better UK, but that’d require us also dismantling our current system of government. As that’s not going to happen, if/when we leave things will get worse. Even the thinnest pretence has been swept away and subtext has been rendered into text. Anyone on the left who thinks exiting the EU is a good thing is putting ideological purity over the lives of vulnerable people, and can thus hurry up and fuck off.
Make no mistake: this is a vote for the flavour of Tories who are going to fuck us, and the exit camp are the greater evil.
Both sides of the official referendum campaigns are totally useless, mind. Both sides have played up the fear of “immigration”, but the leave camp has gone further, going on about “closing our doors” and “taking our country back” from said immigrants. For those reading along in foreign climes, it’s a barely more subtle class of racism than pronouncing ‘negro’ with two ‘g’s.
Here’s Nigel Farage, someone who really should have been just a stain in his dad’s sock, deciding that he’s quite happy taking PR lessons from Josef Goebbles:
The first picture is Nazi propaganda from the 1930s. The second is UKIP and Leave’s advert today, in 2016. pic.twitter.com/lMyKei3bzW— Benjamin Butterworth (@benjaminbutter) June 16, 2016
The campaigns to leave the EU, then, have used straight up racism and Nazi propaganda. They encouraged the mindset of the assassin and his allies — hell, they normalised it. But it’s not like this is a recent thing. The history of racism in the UK is tied in to immigration, after all — our black and Asian populations are almost all migrants. “Immigrants” has been the go-to dog-whistle for racists since the 1940s, soon joined by “Political Correctness gone mad!”
We’ve made a hell of a lot of progress as a society since then, but at the same time the Overton window has shifted right. This has mostly been driven by newspapers, with the Sun and the Daily Mail and the Daily Express blazing a trail of screaming about evil immigrants stealing jobs and getting unemployment benefits at the same time somehow don’t think just hate hate hate hate. That message sells newspapers, which puts advertisements in front of eyes and generates revenue, despite the message being total shit.
People — mostly white people in England over the age of 50 — say “you can’t talk an honest talk about immigration these days” before going off on exactly the racist tirade they’ve just informed you can’t be said. And you can try saying that to them, you can try saying “Dad, you just said we couldn’t have the conversation we just had, how’s that supposed to work?” but he’ll just repeat “You can’t talk about it.”
As a society, we made it taboo to be racist, and people like to challenge taboos. It makes them feel put upon, they’re the kind of person who claims that middle-class white English men are the last 'oppressed minority’. Because it’s taboo, people rise up to challenge those taboos at a larger level. They claim that they’ll say what nobody else will, ignoring that a whole fuckload of people are saying just that while claming they can’t say it. Which is almost as confused a sentence as it is an experience.
What we ended up with, in the UK, is a far-right party — UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party — who shot into the media spotlight. For the past six years they’ve had near constant coverage on political programming. The Green Party in England had an elected Member of Parliament in 2010. UKIP did not. Yet if you looked at political television, radio, and print media you’d think that UKIP were as important as the Conservative or Labour parties and the Greens didn’t exist.
The Overton window progressed right, and UKIP was there waiting. They didn’t just normalise racism, they legitimised it. It wasn’t just this thing that everyone thinks but nobody says. They had a political party! They had people on Question Time! Britain First and their ilk saw their views (albeit watered down for middle England) represented as a legitimate position in the mainstream.
Then, come the election last year, it got worse. The Tories did their own legitimising. They were bricking it about losing seats to UKIP, so they tacked right. Parts of the Conservative party — notably, many of proponents of leaving the EU — took up the same racist rhetoric in order to capture the votes of people who would have gone to UKIP. What do our neo-Nazi cunts think then? It’s not just a third party saying what they’ve been saying, it’s one of the big two!
A combination of the legitimisation of fascistic views and the frenzy of racism spewing from this idiotic referendum directly lead to the assassination of a sitting MP by someone claiming affiliation with a fascist group.
This whole thing scares the living shit out of me.
I’ve been reading books. Shocking, I know. While I could recommend SF/F, I’m going to assume that people reading this already know to read things like The Fifth Season and Ancillary Justice, so instead I’m going to focus on some other shit.
A Burglar’s Guide to the City
If there is a general law of urban criminality here, it’s that cities get the type of crime their design calls for
This is the thesis statement of A Burglar’s Guide to the City, a look at urban architecture through the eyes of burglars, herein treated as idiots-savants who make use of architecture to their own ends; people for whom a Dumpster against a thin wall is a better entrance than a locked and alarmed door, who can read a building’s layout from windows and fire escapes based on the city’s fire code. The author puts everything together using the stories of both burglars and the police, and he has a natural narrative voice that I found very readable indeed.
Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies and the Truth About Reality
Compassion is the ability to see what needs doing right now and the willingness to do it right now.
Brad Warner used to play in a punk band. Then he became a Buddhist and moved to Japan to be the man inside the rubber suits in kaiju movies. Part memoir, part an exploration of his particular branch of Buddhism, I’m very impressed by the degree to which he goes in to the why of Zen, and the importance of questioning everything — including his own words. It’s interesting in its frankness and openness about the practice of Buddhism and how that applies to the world as it stands.
If I can get you to make a commitment (that is, to take a stand, to go on record), I will have set the stage for your automatic and ill-considered consistency with that earlier commitment. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand.
I know, it’s badged as a “Collins Business Essentials” book, but it’s so much more than that. Influence lays bare the psychology of compliance — the techniques used by everyone from advertisers to interrogators to change people’s behaviour. It’s the science of making you want what I want you to want. It shows the most common tricks, but in doing so it also shows some of the methods of defending against them; often, being aware of what someone is trying to do (whether they know it or not) can help change the situation.
The Phoenix Project
If an organization doesn’t pay down its technical debt, every calorie in the organization can be spent just paying interest, in the form of unplanned work.
If you work in IT and have not read this book you are doing it wrong.
I might have mentioned it in the pub later. I might also have mentioned that I'd been idly thinking, and was up to "fetlocks" in the lyrics. And having tweeted this, feorag noticed.
( I'm sorry )
Now I just need to learn it to the tune. It's not perfect, and a couple of places have one too many syllables, but hey. It's good enough for a party piece.
I was also reminded about the playlist I created as I was writing the Werewolf: The Forsaken development blogs, which was three-quarters classic Werewolf music, one quarter shit I'd been listening to a lot at the time that was thematic with hindsight. Travis was good enough to compile them on Spotify, for anyone who wants a laugh at my terrible taste.
I said it then and I'll say it again: I'm in charge of two Werewolf game lines. One has Of Wolf and Man and Killing In the Name as it's signatures. This is the other one, running on Howl and Hungry Like the Wolf. Those are pretty much guaranteed to get you different experiences, even if that's the only point of dissonance you know.
With a couple of things on the back burner now, I need to feel out their musical landscape. Upon which I'm drawing a blank, as I've been listening to the general 300-some long "songs to distract you from your idiot coworker" playlist for too long. Three track character headspace, five for each arc should do. Another goal to work towards
This symbol has no meaning. It’s bashed together from a few ideas for vaguely occult-looking symbols that’ve been in my head for a while, but drawing on the clean lines aesthetic common to the design work of Jonathan Hickman. The “network angel” that he uses as a Twitter bio pic is emblematic of his style:
The thing I put together is busier, but it’s a mega-glyph for the god/demon/both worshipped by a group of mental alchemists in something that I’ve been writing in the background.
Keynote is a surprisingly good tool for this kind of drawing, as it happens. Even if I did break my brain figuring out layering for shape subtractions.
Got in and was hungry as balls. Had a rummage through the cupboards and found some random stuff. The umami paste and beef stock are the only things stopping it from being vegetarian. Maybe replace the beef stock with veg stock, the umami paste with miso paste, and double up the maggi.
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 45 mins
- 1 large white onion
- 2 stalks celery
- 4 tsp chopped garlic
- 1 tsp chopped chilli
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp hot chilli powder (more if you like to taste the heat)
- 200g puy lentils
- 400g can kidney beans
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 800ml beef stock
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tsp umami paste
- 2 tsp maggi sauce
- Fry onion/celery/garlic for 5-10 mins to soften.
- Add chilli and dry spices & stir to infuse.
- Add add all the other ingredients and stir through. Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for 20 mins.
- Uncover and give it another 15-20 mins at a fast simmer.
Serve with the usual chilli accoutrements — rice, tortilla, cheese, etc.
I started the year with four books on my slate. I've ended the year with four books on my slate; worse, three of them are the same books. The one that did get released was fucking fantastic, mind. My day-job has got significantly busier, but I'd like to spend more time working on some new technologies rather than doing what amounts to "normal" development work. On a personal level I've not been cooking so much and relying on takeaway more; I've also not been exercising out of fear of my bad ankle or bad knee packing up and fucking myself up worse.
All of that sounds bad, but it isn't. I've got back to writing after almost twelve months of not putting out words. I'm still doing things I enjoy in a good job that I like going to every day. And I may have a beer gut, but I'm still comfortable enough with how I am.
So yeah, filling time, waiting for the integers to roll over while things progress but slowly.
Looking ahead, I mostly just need to keep going. On both work fronts, I know that I can do what's on my stack, it's just a matter of time. And when that's done, I'll have a bit more freedom — on the freelance front, at least — to explore some of the things coming out of my cranial idea-generation device. I just have to keep chipping away, taking the long way round.
I don't make resolutions because I don't keep them. I do, however, know what I want to do; append "by the end of the year" to those without deadlines.
- Complete/release all the books currently on my slate.
- Write on at least two new books.
- Write/release one new thing for myself.
- Be under 18 stone.
- Be cycling to work at least three times a week by the end of May.
- Go on an actual holiday with J. somewhere outside the UK.
Back home from the yearly pilgrimage to my parents' place for χmas. This time it’s been a full year since we’ve seen them last — between them taking a trip to China and various issues with grandparents who are accellerating towards 90, we haven’t had chance to meet up between then and now.
The trains were, as can only be expected, total shit. Our train down was cancelled entirely, and we had to jump on to another company’s train to get into the correct county then begging a lift from my dad. Typical really. The only time I didn’t have trouble with the east coast main line was when it was in public hands. Now they’ve given it to Virgin Trains, a company well known for being unable to run a bath, let alone a functioning rail service. At least York station wasn’t actually underwater at any point…
Anyway. The one thing that I always think about when heading back to Hull is the yawning void outside the windows of the car or train. It’s the kind of deep black that goes on forever, fields with no houses and roads not busy enough for streetlights. If you’re lucky you might see the dots of individual houses or the thin orange of a lit-up road, small enough that they’re miles away, but all that gives is the occasional sense of scale. The East Riding is a flat part of the country, and when you can’t see any lights it’s easy to think of just how far that nothingness might spread, how many miles have no lights in them whatsoever.
You get that in all manner of places, it’s true, but it’s always the ones between York and Hull that I’ll remember, as they’re the ones I’ve spent the most time in. Having seen it in daylight, I know that the world hasn’t put any annoying hills or mountains in the way.
I used to use that dark, back in the day. Long-term readers will remember when I moved back in with my parents in 2003, how I basically spent a year and a half in a massive depressive episode. Across the main road from my grandmother’s house, barely five minutes' walk from my parents, was a big field. People kept horses there, and it had a stand of tress. I used to go to the trees — they blocked out the lights of the road — and use the dark as a place to hide, to smoke, to feel like I was somewhere else. Of course, now I look across the road from my grandmother’s and see a construction site, the field to be replaced by a bunch of new houses. That’s true of so much of the area, yet more faceless new-builds of identical floorplan. Bah.
Outside of that little diversion, it was a family visit like so many others. I finally saw my niece, and saw my nephew for only the second or third time. Took photos of the children, because that’s a form of social contact that doesn’t require actual interaction. Met up with my brother, who is finally about to complete his degree12. Met my grandmothers, one of whom we didn’t think would be here a month ago — Parkinsons can fuck right off — and generally saw people and made ourselves useful. We gave and received gifts because of the time of the year, and all is well with that side of our family.
Small blessings, etc.
He initially went straight into a job with a GNVQ while I was still at university; he got a job a couple of months after I started work at univesity. ↩
His dissertation involves making a basic ticketing system in fucking Microsoft Access. The only programming is a bit of Visual Basic. And he’s going to get a degree for this, in TYOOL 2016. ↩
The regular update thing is slipping, I know.
Thing is, while things have been happening I keep forgetting about it by the time I sit at a keyboard. That or I have other things on my mind so I don't say much. I'm also not much of one for talking about things that haven't happened just yet, as that's a guaranteed way of screwing them up. At least, every time I've talked about something that's going to happen it's gone wrong. Between that and some stuff that it is not my place to talk about, I've been in read-only mode for a while.
On Monday, I ended up reading back through some of the entries here. Initially tracking birthday posts, then the general stuff in May. Good grief. Unlike previous times, when it's been a symptom of melancholy, this time was an honest assessment, and a way to see how far age (and medication) has taken me from the complete arsehole that I was. I'm not the person I was, and thank fuck for that.
Anyway, have some photos.
Not quite traditional ramen, but when the weather turns against you, go with what you can. This recipe’s an expanded version of one by Jack Monroe. Spoon some whoa fuck dressing over the egg before serving for an extra flavour kick.
It takes 15 minutes and it is warming as hell.
Prep time 3 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
- 2 chicken stock cubes
- 3tbsp maggi liquid seasoning
- 3tbsp soy sauce
- 125g (1 pack) shiitake mushrooms
- 2 cooked chicken breasts (~250g)
- 2 scallions
- 2 eggs
- 200g (2 packs) instant ramen
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- Bring 120ml of water to a boil in a large pot, and add the stock pots, maggi, and soy. Keep it simmering.
- Bring another pan of water to a rolling boil, and add a tablespoon of the soy sauce.
- Clean the scallion and finely slice the whites. Set the greens aside. Slice the mushrooms, and cut the chicken into strips.
- Set a timer for seven minutes. Add the scallion whites, mushrooms, and chicken to the large pot. Gently add the eggs to the smaller pan and set the timer going.
- Slice the scallion greens on the diagonal. Peel and grate the carrot. Roughly chop the spinach.
- When the timer shows 4 minutes remaining, add the noodles to the large pot. Stir constantly, so that they cook through despite everything else in the pot.
- When the time’s up, remove the eggs and place in a bowl under running cold water.
- Divide the ramen and broth between two bowls. Top with the carrot, spinach, and scallion, leaving room for the egg.
- Remove the shell of the eggs and cut in half with a sharp knife. Arrange the eggs yolk-side up in the space.
I was already depressed. On the Monday beforehand, our bedroom ceiling had collapsed, scattering debris throughout the bedroom and leaving the air in the flat almost unbreathable. We were living in gominokouhai's hotel and desperately trying to arrange repairs and a way to make our flat liveable again. The defeat left me crushed. The scum still own us.
Naturally, the promises made about extra powers were lies. Who could have guessed that? A fucking two-year-old, that's who. And so Scotland has got a government it didn't vote for who are doing their level best to fuck us.
As I said at the time, the need for change hasn't gone away. If anything, it's stronger now than it was on the 19th September last year. Some form of independence will come, I believe that much, but how and why has to change. We can't have a re-run of last September. We need to make a better, stronger case.
Oddly1, I’ve been keeping an eye on the race for Labour leader. Mostly this is because I’m a bit of a political wonk, but also because it’s proving an interesting example of just how divided the UK’s main left-wing party2 has become.
On the one hand, an actual old-fashioned lefty has thrown his hat into the ring in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn. He enjoys massive support from the party’s membership base, but is under serious attack in the media. Oddly, a lot of what they’re running with has parallels with Project Fear, the sadly successful campaign of paranoia and shit-flinging that (along with good old-fashioned bigots) cost Scotland its independence last year. They’ve linked him to everything from 9/11 conspiracy theorisits to George Galloway.
On the other hand, you’ve got three cardboard-cut-out Blairites3. All of whom have pretty much nothing to distinguish themselves beyond being about as right-wing as our current Conservative government.
The thing is, a party leader can shape broad policy, with the support of the party, but they can’t shape policy at a personal level — unless they have a disturbing cult of personality based around a plastic smile and a sociopath’s dead eyes. For all the personal attacks on Corbyn, he’s not going to set the official Labour policy on a track of 9/11 conspiracy theorism. Even if he holds those beliefs dear to his heart he’s not an idiot. Attempting to make them policy would kill the party instantly.
Most senior figures in the Labour party are against Corbyn. Not just the three Blairites4 running against him but the party’s interim leader, and all candidates for leader of the Scottish Labour Party5. And yet, he’s got massive popular support.
The right-wing media establishment6 slings aspersions at the party itself. They can’t decide if Corbyn’s popularity comes from a bunch of their own readers joining the party to make sure the leader is an unelectable leftie or an actual surge of support for the only person in the Labour party to take a stand against the outright evil policies of our current Tory government. They often manage to advance both opinions in the same article, an act of cognitive dissonance that Orwell would have noted as a perfect example of doublethink.
All the forces against Corbyn claim that if he wins, it will tear the party apart. The level of infighting is bordering on all-out war already. Some commentators even predict a split in the Labour party.
As someone born and raised up during a time when the Labour party have been, in order: completely irrelevant, populists who (briefly) presented an actual alternative to a doddering Tory party7, cheerleaders of an illegal and immoral war, snoopers wanting to constantly monitor everyone’s thoughts in the name of “counter-terrorism”, victims of both parties' laissez-faire neoliberal economic policies that directly lead to irresponsible and borderline-illegal banking practices, demonisers of the poor, and an opposition-in-name-only, I can’t help but feel schadenfreude. Frankly, this current infighting is fucking hilarious because it lays bare the intelectual and political vacuum at the heart of the Labour party. On the one side, lifetime voters and members who actually want some level of left-wing policy. On the other, MPs and recent members who want Tory policies with a thin veneer of red paint to give the impression that they give a flaming bag of dogshite about people worse off than they are.
I think Corbyn would make an interesting leader. I’m not about to join Labour to vote for him; I’m a member of the Scottish Green Party because they have actual policies that I agree with. But another centre-left party that would go from being a de jure opposition happily doing nothing to counter Tory policy to joining with the current de facto opposition to actually do something about the Tories' disgusting attacks on everyone who doesn’t already own Hampshire would be nice8.
But yeah. Mostly it’s schadenfreude at members of a party finally waking up and seeing that over the past thirty years they’ve drifted so far to the right that they’re indistinguishable from the government. I’m under no illusions, a Corbyn leadership could only drag the party to the left at a pace that will look glacial to his supporters. But whatever happens, it’s nice to see a large part of the Labour party’s long-term supporter base finally notice just how far they’ve moved to the right. Took them long enough.
Not oddly at all. ↩
Not left-wing at all ↩
Pron. “Neo-liberal warmongering scum desperate to carry on the legacy of a failed leader who thought himself the Messiah” ↩
See previous footnote ↩
A mostly-forgotten group of spineless patsies whose right-wing slide and increasing irrelevance to both the rest of the Labour party and the people of Scotland mean their branch office is pretty much a broom cupboard. ↩
The Labour party currently talks a great deal about how they oppose what the Tories are doing, then does fuck-all to actually oppose them — abstaining on important votes, for example. Then they go on to say how they opposed the measures, even though to anyone with two brain cells to rub together abstaining is not voting against. ↩
If you think I’m missing one you’ve obviously not noticed the Grauniad’s ridiculous Shoreditch-Champagne-Socialist bias that has less relation to left-wing values than an editorial in the Daily Heil. ↩
Nobody could have forseen that the shift towards populism would lead to things like scrapping the student grant, introduction of tuition fees, and introduction of NHS privatisation under PFI. Still better than the Tories would have been. ↩
A friend described being an Edinburgh native during the Fringe thusly:
Your flatmate’s throwing a house party but you’ve got to be at work in the morning, it’s two a.m., and he refuses to keep the noise down.
I think he’s being far too charitable. Living in Edinburgh during the two major festivals (the Fringe and the International Festival) is like that for maybe the first week, though you might get to see some decent shows anyway. By the time you’ve had multiple weeks of not getting a seat in your local pub, of having the bus you’re on nearly side-swiped by one of the pack of idiot tourists who don’t understand red lights, of walking into people who take the pavement ten-abreast and stop at random with no thought for the people around them, of having your bus to and from work delayed by people who treat bus drivers as tourist-information points, of screaming mobs wandering the streets at all hours, of fearing for life and sanity every time you have to cross the Royal Mile, of having people demand directions to places that change names just for the Fringe… well, I’m a little less charitable than he is.
Your flatmate threw a house party on Friday night, and invited everyone on Earth. It was fun for the first couple of nights, but they finished off your guest-available booze on Saturday, and by Sunday had polished off your reserves of the good stuff. So many people attended that every room in the flat is heaving with people shouting and screaming at one another to be heard. It’s now Wednesday night into Thursday morning, you’ve had no sleep because to sleep is to have your face covered in crudely-drawn cocks, and you need to be suited-and-booted for a meeting with the CEO at 9a.m. sharp. You’re trying to sleep but can’t get anyone out of your room, let alone get them to shut the fuck up. And then, at three in the morning, someone vomits in your wardrobe all over your work clothes.
That’s the festival and the fringe. While it’s great that the city hosts them, nobody involved seems to remember that the city has residents who live and work here and want nothing to do with it.
RPG books are ridiculously fucking cheap compared to books of similar production values in other areas. The price of the book has not risen in any significant proportion to the increase in costs. Instead, the increase in production price has eaten in to the margins, the amount of money that the publisher gets and uses to pay for writers and artists and game designers.
This has two drivers:
- A lot of people who start gaming are in university or younger, and don’t have a significant amount of disposable income.
- Old gamers have ossified to the point that they refuse to believe that production costs have increased by anywhere near as much as they have, and believe that a 300-page full-colour glossy hardback rulebook should cost as much as the 200-page black and white softcover that they remember from when they got started.
The target market of trad RPGs thus can’t (point 1) or can but won’t (point 2) pay a reasonable price for the books that they’re getting.
In order to pay people fairly for their labour, publishers need more available cash. One of the ways to do this is to increase prices of the premium end. Full-colour glossy hardbacks should be priced as what they are. Not even commesurate with said books of equivalent publication values in other areas, just enough to reflect the actual cost of making such a book and paying a publisher enough that they can continue putting the books out without ridiculous financial pressure.
Another way is to present rulebooks as they used to be — black and white softcovers, shorter and with less art. These days the market will happily bear them at 6×9 rather than “full” size. Those can be priced at the entry level, giving people enough to play the game without being overwhelming.
Mirrored from ZeroPointInformation.
So let’s talk about an elephant in the room: if you want to get involved with new projects and new companies as a freelancer, you have to go to GenCon.
GenCon is the biggest tradgames convention. It is the only one, as far as most of the work goes. And if you don’t go, you don’t exist.
I am a professional writer and game designer. As I may have mentioned, I have eleven years' experience as a professional game designer. That doesn’t count the years I spent beforehand doing fan-work and building up my skills, just the amount of time I’ve been paid for doing the job. I have a million and a half words in print. I have done work for publishers set up by people I’ve worked with at White Wolf/Onyx Path because they know my output even if they’ve not met me in person.
Yet to the wider industry, I don’t exist.
Thing is, I pretty much can’t go to GenCon. Getting there costs more than I make in the industry. It is a financial drain, and no amount of extra work that I’d pick up from being there would push that into the positive. I have other things going on that mean even if I could fund it from gaming work, it probably still won’t happen.
I have tried to get freelance work with people & publishers I haven’t worked with at White Wolf/Onyx Path. I have pointed to my list of publications, I’ve provided references, and I’ve provided writing samples of both published and first-draft work. In return, I’ve been treated like I’m a total n00b, like I’m trying to break in to the industry and don’t know how things really work. Patronised, patted on the head, or just ignored. Because how could someone be in the industry if you haven’t met them at GenCon?
This isn’t just true of freelancers looking to work for other publishers. It’s sometimes true for people in the same company — no matter how many referrals you have from other folks, not having that in-person connection puts you at a significant disadvantage. It’s also true for indie designers and publishers. Not having a presence at GenCon means your game — hell, you as a writer/designer/publisher — don’t exist.
The unstated requirement of GenCon attendance is an issue because it acts as a barrier to the free movement of labour in the industry. Free movement is beneficial to creatives because they get more work, they get more experience with new systems, and they are better-known by people who buy games which in turn means that if they do want to go it alone they have a built-in fan base that people stuck working for one or two publishers don’t have. GenCon creates two classes of RPG pros. Those who have free movement, and those who don’t. In order to be a healthy place to work, the industry needs to do a hell of a lot better.
For people who can go, GenCon is great. For those of us who can’t, it poisons the industry and wider community against us.
Mirrored from ZeroPointInformation.