So hey, you might've heard I like writing stories about superheroes. Been doing it for four years, which is a distressingly long time to work on a single story, and since I'm only about halfway through my Metro City characters, it means I'll be working on them for a depressingly long time to come. But what really makes me depressed is that I'm actually considering doing it some more.

A decade or more ago, I'd worked on my own comic book script, never planning on seeing it produced, mostly because it was so stupidly colossal. There were forty main characters, and each of the 12+ issues I wrote usually ran for at least a hundred pages. I don't remember why I stopped working on it -- perhaps I just got tired of all the typing I was doing on it. But I did stop working on it, stuck the notebooks in a box, saved my files to my hard drive, and forgot about it.

And then during the last couple of months, I found the old notebooks, started re-reading them, and remembered how much fun I had writing some of the characters. Which isn't to say that all the characters were very good at all, because when I looked back at them, a lot of them were just not all that interesting. Still, there were plenty of them I liked, and I started toying with the idea of working on a new series starring a vastly trimmed-down cast of only my favorite characters.

It was really fairly easy to reduce the size of the cast. So many of them were, once you got down to it, just a few cool powers with a little characterization to keep them from all blending together. I cut them without very much regret. There were others I excised with a bit more hesitation. I got rid of the granola girl who was also a skilled auto mechanic -- partly to keep me from having to write a lot about car repair. I got rid of the mostly personality-free spellcaster, but regretted losing her familiar, a talking iguana with a funny apathetic/sarcastic personality. I tossed the blind guy with the superhuman sense of smell because I knew I'd have too much trouble writing anything from his point-of-view. I discarded the college-age psi whose constantly shifting attitudes about crimefighting and her own powers were, entirely by accident, a perfect example of a young person wrestling with moral and ethical codes; in her case, I couldn't imagine how I'd convey all of that within her own storyarc. I got rid of the feral rage-monster, the super-agile acrobat, the scientific genius, the immensely powerful brick, because I'd already used variations of those characters in Metro City.

And unfortunately, after I'd finished the cut-down list of favorites, there were still way too many of them. There were 15 of them, which is almost as many as the entire Metro City cast. And all of them were female. Now I'm a colossal fan of female superheroes, but honestly, trying to write a bunch of stories starring only superheroines stretches the credibility allowed even to dorks who write superhero fiction, you know? So I figured I'd raid my stash of old City of Heroes characters and my list of possible Metro City supporting characters to see if I could even those numbers out. I ended up adding just six male characters... and an additional four female characters. (insert aggrieved sigh) So 25 characters, with the overwhelming majority of them female. It'll probably end up taking a solid decade before I finish Metro City, and I'm considering starting a new one with even more characters? In a modern American city with an even larger population of metahumans, with an absurdly imbalanced female-to-male ratio? Even for a guy writing about people with impossible powers and impossible costumes, that goes beyond my ability to suspend disbelief.

And in fact, there's a diversity problem in general. I really don't like comics that are full of nothing but white people, with maybe one or two token minorities. And once I had trimmed out the weak characters, I'd cut a lot more minority heroes than I'd planned. I made a couple of race lifts, but that's actually harder to do than you'd expect, especially with a character that's already firmly established in your mind. It's not just a matter of changing someone's skin color -- racial identity makes a big difference in the makeup of our personalities, and changing a character's race can end up altering the personality drastically.

So what are my options? I really do enjoy getting to write about superheroes, and doing it here with my own characters means I don't have to jump through the hoops of writing-for-hire for established comic publishers. Besides, I really don't think the established publishers like Marvel and DC are much of an option -- they're extremely hard to break into, their business models are declining fast, and they don't generally care about good stories anymore. On the other paw, do I really want to spend the rest of my life writing about spandex jockeys? It's not like superhero prose fiction sells very well, right? Not that I've got plans to break into literary fiction, but still, that's a heck of a shallow niche.

And beyond these pointless philosophical conundrums, there are the practical matters of getting the stories down on paper. I think the Metro City stories have a good formula -- interconnected stories sharing a cast of characters but with a different narrator for each new storyarc. I like getting a bunch of characters together and letting them interact -- it's an easy way to replicate comic continuity and to synthesize the interactions that work well in team-based comics. And again, getting all these people into a single setting might push the boundaries of disbelief too far. Modest superteams of 5-7 people (the Avengers movie or most Justice League comics) work pretty well -- much, much larger teams (most Legion of Super-Heroes comics or the 2000-era Justice Society) are simply too unwieldy.

I could split all of them up into two or more teams, but then we run into the gender problem again -- still a lot of female characters with very few males. (The exact opposite of most mainstream comics, actually, but the skewed ratio still bugs me.) Could I shoehorn one or two into the Metro City stories? Maybe, but I've already added too many new characters to that story since I started it. You just can't keep doing that. It starts looking silly after a while.

How to work it out so it all makes good sense and is still fun to write? Heck, I don't know. But I really do want to write about my reluctant cyborg, my abrasive but hyper-competent flamethrower, my twin crimefighters, my four wildly different unpowered vigilantes, my reforming supervillain. I'll have to figure something out somehow...

Monday: Was awesome. I hadn't seen my NP in a while. During my appointment, I started crying. She put her arms across my shoulders, gave me a hug, and told me that we would get to the bottom of whatever it was that I have right now.  The woman who drew my blood was very kind. I ended up being very late to pick up the girls because a test I had to take required drinking a sweet solution, waiting, and then breathing into a bag. That test is for intestinal bacteria in case I have some sort of infection that might explain my symptoms. I left with a renewed sense of hope, and more optimism than I've had about my physical health and well being in quite some time.

Tuesday: Was awesome. I love my new therapist. She's an older woman with two poodles that kept us company while we talked. I was upset because I had forgotten my intake paperwork at home, but the receptionist, who has known me for years gave me the essentials to fill out while I waited. My therapist recently returned from a nutrition conference in Minnesota. She was very excited to hear that I have been gluten free for years, and eat mostly whole organic foods. She told me I am doing some of the best things I can for my mental wellness, and has some suggestions to help me cope with the loneliness, depression, and alienation at home. She encouraged me to keep feeding the girls the way that I am, and told me I should write a cookbook after I showed her some pictures of meals I had prepared.

My Twitter friends were so encouraging when I told them about my therapist. A while ago, some friends of mine said we should get together. We talked about a hypothetical trip, and it might never happen, but it might, and these people reminded me that I have people who love and care about me which is one of the most healing and therapeutic things a woman like me can have. I told them I wanted to open a restaurant, and  friend of mine retweeted it so now I have to according to him. I love meeting people with interesting new ideas, who share bits and pieces of their lives with me, and I love how 140 characters can build incredibly strong relationships with people I've never met.

My haircut is not awesome, but we had to undo damage from the last cut I had, so it's a growing out process again. My hairdresser said she thinks it will grow out well, I have another cut scheduled in eight weeks, and I'm hoping that by summer, my hair will be the length and style I want, without the streaks of color I used to have. She's been cutting my hair since before either of us had children. She has four, I have two plus my step-daughter, and I love that I can be myself, sit in her kitchen, and relax while we work through our individual issues. She has two pot smoking renters with small children living upstairs from her. She and her husband had to serve them an eviction notice, and she's hoping that won't create problems further down the line.

Dave Ramsey: was awesome last night. I used to sell insurance, I know, it's not a bright spot in my past, but I was young, and believed that I could change people's lives for the better with tools like budgeting, and refinancing. I didn't last because I wanted to help people save money. Had I stayed in finance, I probably would have more money than I do now, but compromising what I believed was best for my clients wouldn't have helped me sleep well at night. I met some neat people, and I'm glad that they had me to talk them out of what I was selling because most of them couldn't afford what I was shilling. If you think finance or nutrition are complicated, they can be, but they don't have to be. Learn the basics, and don't be afraid to do your own research while following experts who are independently wealthy, and have learned from their mistakes.

Today: Was not exactly awesome, but I'm proud of the way I handled several situations. I'm still nervous about meeting with my daughter's therapist tomorrow, but much less so after meeting my therapist this past Tuesday. She helped me see that my parents are the way that they are, and they aren't going to apologize for being abusive. They're stuck in their ways, and content with the bitter and infrequent times they see their children. I want something better, so even though it's extremely painful for me to admit that I haven't been the parent I should have been, or wanted to be, there is power in admitting failure, and strength in opening yourself up to new options.

I rent parenting CD's at the reasonable cost of $2/week, and those things have helped me so much. I'm still trying to internalize what I'm hearing, but I believe that my listening skills have improved, and I have a much better relationship with my oldest, although there are still times when we talk past each other. The girls are learning about the consequences of their behavior. They were mad at me, so they locked me out of the house. I didn't knock or ring the doorbell, instead I went to the bank, and stopped at the local grocery store I patronize. I met a fascinating woman there who shared her journey with celiac disease, and I might complain about things I've been through, but I haven't been diagnozed as schizophrenic, having MS, or admitted to a psychiatric facility, nor have I ever had any seizures.

We had a long talk, and when I got home, my daughter apologized for locking me out of the house. I could have gotten in through the garage, but I smiled at her, told her I wasn't upset, and I had a wonderful time sharing nutrition information with my new friend. When my daughter wanted a snack, I reminded her that I threw two breakfasts away this morning. She started crying when she told me that she hadn't had any supper. I told her that I was so sorry, and I had wanted to make spaghetti, but since I couldn't get into the house, I wasn't able to give her a hot meal. There's plenty of food in my house, I saw the jelly jar out on the counter, but I think that hearing that her actions prevented her from getting supper was a lesson she needed to learn.

The polish from my manicure started chipping off, I removed it, and now I'm left with nails that don't seem like my own. My NP told me that I looked much better than I have in the past. My coloring is good, I seemed more bubbly according to her, and my tongue had improved since my last visit. She's running some tests to see how much I'm absorbing from what I eat, and I'm praying so hard that I'll get some answers when I return to her in two weeks. I like my job, I just cashed my first paycheck, dealing with these health, parenting, fitness, money, and wellness issues are not easy, but I'm learning, I'm growing, and I'm doing something about my problems instead of just ignoring them. Would love to write more, but need to get to bed.

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day


"Hey man, how's it going?" was the question.

And the answer I wanted to give ("Not a lot man, just another 24 hours of howling existential terror.") was inappropriate to say the least. So, I put on my best carefree grin and jazzed with him like we were just a couple of dudes walking opposite directions on a San Diego boardwalk.

"Chillin man, just chillin."

Flipflops to ward off trench foot, and sand in every crevice, and I was so sincere for that brief moment that I'd almost convinced myself.

Here it is, Valentine's Day, and I just can't bring myself to bitch about it. No, I don't feel lonely, so I won't bitch about that. And I won't bitch about bitching about being lonely. And I won't bitch about bitching about bitching about - - - - - and so on and so on, down the Valentine's Angst rabbithole.

No, in fact it registered as a kind of dull surprise when I was reminded this morning that today was, in fact, Valentine's Day. A guy I work with, polite and humble, whose only references to American culture are what he gets from us and from pirated Indian television, asked whether or not it would be appropriate for him to wish me a happy one. After I explained to him which kind of love Valentine's Day is supposed to be about, he looked upset for a moment and then relieved.

"It's a good thing I forgot the chocolate bar that I was going to give you, then."

No, what's been clubbing me into submission lately is the particular feeling that one gets when dealing with a young person who refuses to reach their full potential - times an entire nation.

My job is essentially to blow on the few bright sparks that I can gather in the hopes that they can sustain themselves when the USA finally gets tired of maintaining their current thin veneer of shit-givings in central Asia.

I learned long ago that being polite and politically correct just don't make for a realistic picture of the world. And furthermore, without a realistic picture to start from, your plans end up being complete shit.

So let's be real: The culture here is one of soul crushing laziness, un-tameable atavism, and a hyperfocus on short term benefit to the exclusion of all else.

I've seen buildings torn down piece by piece over the course of a winter, for firewood, because the almost-completed building was closer than the woodpile. And then come spring when the generator was due to be installed, there was nowhere to put it.

I've taught electrical safety classes and had students pass with flying colors, demonstrating not just rote memorization but a grasp of the concepts on a theoretical level, able to complete hands-on exercises with zero corrections; and two days later when I visit a worksite, we're back to bare leads and splayed cable and split lamp wire tied with square knots into circuit boxes jumped open with scrap metal replacement fuses.

My job is essentially to turn perpetual teenagers with the literal education level of Neanderthals into technologically self sufficient, strategically planning, modern governance-minded human beings.

Do you want to hear something funny?

The "engineer" in charge of siting a prototype sewage treatment facility here wipes his ass with his hands and thinks soap will make him sick if he uses it to wash with.

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