Turning 44, and the State Of Various Things

Submitted by C B Wright on

Usually when I have a birthday I do something silly like post my age in binary, or hexadecimal, or occasionally I post a link to a cause I'd like people to support. Once I asked people to review my books as a birthday present. I'm not doing any of that today, though I will note that 44 doesn't actually feel like 44. It doesn't feel like 34, either. It certainly doesn't feel like 24. I don't know specifically what it feels like, it just doesn't feel like the vague idea I had of 44 when I was every other age leading up to 44.

...coffee, I guess. It feels like coffee.

That out of the way, it's been a while since I've actually given you all a status report. Since I am now officially older and wiser (and, unofficially and more accurately, every bit as silly and windmill-tilty as I've always been) I thought it would be appropriate to update you all on a) where I am with things right now, b) what those things are, and c) what you can expect with said things going forward.

So, in no particular order, those things:

  • The website
  • Curveball
  • A Rake by Starlight
  • The Points Between
  • Self-Publishing in general
  • Help Desk
  • Kernel Panic
  • Old Skool Webcomic
  • PCtown

Coming clean

OK, I know I said “no particular order,” but if you look at that order you will notice something particular: all my fiction was placed higher on the list than my comics. This is not insignificant—I'm a lot more invested in writing fiction right now than I am doing webcomics. I mean, this probably isn't a surprise to anyone, since I haven't updated a single webcomic in at least six months, and I've been making a concerted effort to get Curveball out on time (a concerted effort but NOT A SUCCESSFUL ONE ISSUE 24 ARRRRGH).

I'll talk more specifically about individual comics later, but for those who want to skip to the summary: I'm not quitting my comics—I have plans to publish more very soon—but they are definitely taking a solid back seat. For those of you who are only interested in my comics, that means maybe subscribe to the RSS feeds or, you know, you can do what at least one former reader did, which was give up in disgust. I don't expect people who are interested in one thing I do to be interested in every thing I do, and if I'm not meeting your expectations in that one thing then I have to accept the consequences.

OK, now on to specifics.

The website

2014 was a very happy year for me website-wise, because I finally figured out how to make the damn thing mobile-friendly. I managed to convert Eviscerati.Org over to a mobile-friendly Drupal theme, and modify that theme to support the various Things I Do. It mostly works, there are a few quirks, and I need to completely redo the Fiction landing page and most of the individual novel splash pages. But if you spend most of your time on your smartphone or tablet you should, in theory, have a reasonably painless experience viewing content on my site.

It only took me two or three years to figure out how to do it.

The thing about me and the website, though—and this is something my readers have pretty much always had to roll their eyes, grit their teeth, and deal with, even when I was on Keenspot—is that I'm always trying to figure out how to make it work “better.” So while I look at the site and I think “yeah, this does pretty much everything I need it to do right now” that doesn't mean that tomorrow I won't think “OMG I HAD THIS IDEA IT'S GREAT HERE'S A PLUGIN UPLOADING NOW WHEEEEEEE” and suddenly DNS isn't resolving and your passwords are gone and I'm restoring a previous database backup.

(Fun fact: I now backup my database immediately before I install or update ANYTHING NEW ON MY SITE. Five times bitten…)

So I apologize in advance for whatever it is I do in the coming year that breaks the site.

Curveball

It's weird that writing Curveball has become The Thing I Spend Most My Time On These Days. I started it because I thought it would be a nice break from writing The Points Between (more on that later). At first I thought it was just going to be something I'd do on the side. Then when I settled on the publication model I thought “well, this is mechanically very interesting.” But when I committed to writing in present tense (something I hated reading before I started doing it, for the record) I found that writing Curveball was really making me examine how I wrote and it was changing the way I approached writing in general. I've grown considerably as a writer since I started Curveball—I won't say I've grown better, because I can't be objective about that, but I can say that it has changed the way I approach writing fiction, and given me the confidence to try things I wouldn't otherwise have considered. So… grown considerably.

Also, I really like telling the story, which is the most important part.

Of course at the moment I'm (still) trying to finish (still) issue 24 (still) which has, for the moment, become an albatross hanging about my neck. Unfortunately the albatross isn't dead—I say unfortunately because it turns out a live albatross hanging about ones neck is considerably more distracting than a dead one, mostly because it's desperately trying to fly away, which means feathers, wings and little sharp foot-claws are getting in my face pretty much 24/7.

So far I have finished Parts One through Eight of Issue 24. I'm working Part Nine and hope to have it finished today. Ten and (possibly) Eleven are to follow. Then the cycle resets but I'll have already taken a few precious days of July away and my brain will be liquefied goo that has probably been pooped on by an irate albatross. All of which is to say “I'm really looking forward to starting the Year Three run.”

The cover for Year Three looks fabulous, though.

A Rake By Starlight

For those of you who are more invested in the continuing adventures of Grif Vindh, Amys Sif, Ktk, Cyrus, and The Fool's Errand… well, I am actually working on it, and have actually made progress, but not nearly as much as I'd like. I have another quarter of the story ready to put up on my site except for a chapter or two that needs to tie the first part to the next. I'm making progress, but progress is slow. But it has not been abandoned or discarded, and eventually it will start updating again, at least until it reaches the end of THAT part.

The Points Between

Over on the Web Fiction Guide website, The Points Between is officially listed as an “abandoned novel.” I can't blame them for labeling it that because it hasn't updated in a loooooong time. That said, it isn't abandoned. It's something I'm still working on, but I'm at kind of a crossroads with it and I haven't been able to choose a direction. Actually I'm at two crossroads, one is in-story and one is kind of meta-story, and I'm not sure how to handle either.

But it isn't dead. It's just pining for the fjords. It has lovely plumage.

Self-Publishing in general

If we count the webcomics, which we should, I've been self-publishing my work for a very long time. I like it. I plan to keep doing it. I think it's worthwhile, and to be honest it is the only way something like Curveball could ever be published in its current form at this point in time, so there you have it, I'd be stuck with it whether I liked it or not.

But I'm glad I like it, because it's tough to handle sometimes.

When I was 24 and just about to start Help Desk, I really didn't care if it “made it” or not. It seemed like a fun way to say something about the computer industry so I figured “eh, what the hell?” and jumped in even though I didn't know how to draw my way out of a paper bag. At the time it was just me and my new wife, and I what did it really matter? I was only 24. In theory, self-publishing fiction is exactly the same thing, only with more letters and less of a color palette to work with.

But people fail at this, and I could be one of those people. You hear it all the time: for every x successful artists, there are y who never make it. Whether the artists are actors, painters, singers, writers, whatever, it's irrelevant—the equation is the same, and y is always considerably larger than x. I could be in the y group. I might wind up looking back on my life and think “you know, that never did work out.” That possibility just didn't bother me when I was 24. It bothers me now, a lot more than I'd like. Now I'm 44, and I have a six year old daughter, and I sit down to do this stuff and an insidious voice in the back of my head whispers “this is not going to get her through college and also when you get too old to work you're probably going to starve” and that makes everything harder to do.

There are people who get past this by simply learning to be satisfied with whatever their accomplishments are. I don't do that—mostly I fight past it through sheer force of will, declaring that I will fight to the bitter end, but I'm a little leery of the word bitter because it's very, very easy for that to become the literal truth. I suppose this will be my existential battle in the years to come.

I doubt I'll wind up writing a book about it, though. To be honest it sounds kinda awful.

Help Desk

Help Desk turned 19 this year. I didn't say anything about it at the time because what was there really to say? There's still some life left in this comic—some stories I want to tell, some gags I want to do—but I think I have to acknowledge it's reaching the end. There are two problems with Help Desk. The first is that I enjoy writing more than I enjoy cartooning. It's not that I don't enjoy creating the comic, but the primary joy was coming up with the jokes. The art has always been something I suffered through (and, you know, you suffered through) just to get to the punchline.

The other problem is that satire is a very tricky balancing act. Making a situation funny and commenting on it at the same requires a certain amount of love for the subject matter, and certain parts of the computer industry has been doing its level best to kill all the love I have for the subject matter, kill it dead. It feels like more and more of my Help Desk scripts involve the courtroom. Think about that: a comic strip that was originally created due to my experiences with lousy technical support has morphed into a comic strip that deals with computer companies suing each other when they don't get their way. And what depresses me is that it's a very logical progression when you think about where the industry has gone.

Computers used to be really fun and exciting, and the companies that sold them were clueless and greedy and stupid. But those same companies are trying to make computers just as clueless and greedy and stupid as the CEOs who run the companies.

Basically it's getting harder to find a punchline, and I'm getting tired of trying to find it.

Like I said, it's not dead yet. It's just stunned. Pining for the fijords. I actually plan to start updating it again in a few (I JUST NEED TO FINISH ISSUE 24, ARRRGH). But while I think it'll probably make it to 20 years, I don't see it lasting 25.

Maybe that'll change, though. The comic has surprised me before. I almost walked away at the 10 year mark, and 2005 wound up having one of my favorite storylines ever in it.

Kernel Panic

KP has the same problem HD has. But has a few advantages as well—it's a different view of the same universe, which is fun, and the characters are all newer to me. There may be more meat on those bones, and I did just start the Alaska storyline.

Old Skool Webcomic

OSW is two circles talking. I update it when I want to. It's fine.

PCtown

I've touched on this before, but here's the problem with Pctown: I have a lot more story than I have art, and it's the art that's killing me here. See when I first started this as part of a Help Desk storyline, I wanted to see how far I could push myself with the drawing, and while the art I produced wasn't on the scale of… well, anyone, really, it was still kind of bad, it did work really well for the story, had a nice feel to it, and it took INSANELY LONG TO DRAW. It was chewing up waaaaay too much of my time, so I decided I'd spin it off so I could work on the art and update it slower.

And… obviously that hasn't happened yet. Which frustrates me intensely. At some point I'm just going to have to buckle down, suck it up, and start drawing the damn pictures. I'm just not there yet.

And Here We Are

So that's where everything is right now. There's a lot to do, there are challenges to doing it, and at the end of my life I may raise my fist to the sky and shout “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY” but meanwhile there's a windmill out there and I just found another horse.

Comments

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Just wanted to wish you a

Just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday! And thanks for the update re: State of the Web Site/Comic/Book/etc

happy birthday!

happy birthday!

For me helpdesk has always been tied to OS/2 and eComStation, and it has a very similar life story I think.

Well, at least Chris isn't

Well, at least Chris isn't surreptitiously trying to kill Help Desk from within, unlike IBM and OS/2!

(Personally, I would think that the recent Apple Music debacle would have given The Cartoonist some cannon fodder. But really, the fact that most of the energy in computing is in mobile rather than desktop hurts the story model.

I just had a thought: maybe The Cartoonist could do something where the characters become Windows 8 big goofy icons? I gift that idea to him freely, no rights reserved on my part.)

My apologies for the myriad changes of person and sense in this post. Thanks for the update!