Because it’s not a challenge if nobody knows about it

So hey, it’s October! And because I like to write, I am setting myself a new writing challenge this month: To write a short piece of fiction every day, throughout the month of October.

I was inspired by a recent post on Tumblr where the OP had written a story every day for 30 days. I don’t think I can do that, for a variety of reasons; I do, however, think I can write a part of a story, a scene from a short story or novel, every day for 31 days. I have a lot of unwritten stories in my head, a lot of unfinished drafts in my Google Docs; I’ve already proven I can produce something daily when I did the 31 Hymns to Antinous back in May.

So, fiction every day for October! Some of it will be fanfic and might get posted on my Tumblr; some of it will be fanfic of myths and might get posted on my blog; some of it, gods willing, will be original fiction and might or might not be shared anywhere. At the end of the month I will report on my success.


I have a confession to make

I don’t meditate.

There. I said it.

I don’t meditate. I fear that in some people’s eyes, this makes me either an unspiritual person, or a poor magic-worker, or both. Please believe me when I say that I have tried. I have sat down on a cushion and crossed my fat legs in front of me and tried to keep my cranky back straight. I have counted breaths. I have sat as upright as I could on chairs. I have tried to watch my thoughts.

And eventually, after suffering through a sore back, sore hips, sore feet, involuntary twitches and spasms, and persistent frustration, I gave up. I don’t meditate.

I write. At least 750 words, and often more than that, every day. I process things through my fingers, through my words, through writing. I watch my mind by watching what it pours onto the page. I write essays, poetry, and fiction.

Words are important to me. They are my prayer and my meditation, my holy writ and my sacred magic. The most nearly meditative practice I have ever had success with has been the use of prayer beads. I used to say the Rosary occasionally, but more often I would repeat other prayers or phrases from spiritual writing on the beads, over and over. I worked my way through the whole of Julian of Norwich’s Showings like, ruminating on the sayings that struck home for me. I did this not while sitting in a quiet, private space, but while walking to work, while waiting for and riding on buses. I would like to find some way to use that practice in relation to Antinous, but my attempts at making a set of prayer beads literally would not stay in one piece. The string kept coming untied; the beads scattered in my pocket when I reached for them.

In the shower I muse over the last story I read, the last television episode I watched. I rehearse the plots of movies and novels. If I have more than three or four blocks to walk, I often muse on things I want to write. I pray aloud under my breath. At home in bed, sometimes in the bathtub, I read poetry aloud. I have listened to an abridgment of the Iliad as an audiobook, read by Derek Jacobi, and next up is the Odyssey read by Ian McKellen.

I love to sing, also, and I love to dance, and I don’t do either of those things often enough. But I cannot take words out of my religious life, out of my mind. Maybe I am meditating after all. In any case, I offer these words to my gods and to you, my readers.

A war on the imagination

I’m forty-eight, and my joints frequently hurt. I hate crowds, and I am pretty much useless if I get fewer than eight hours of sleep. And I feel vaguely guilty, in a useless sort of way, that for those and other reasons I will not be on the streets by night, protesting the police brutality, the routine and indeed almost systematic destruction of black lives by white cops.

It disturbs me that no one around me is talking about Ferguson. My co-workers, whether black or white, are not talking about it. Baltimore’s population is a little over sixty percent black, thirty percent white, with ten percent Asian and others. I’ve never not lived, worked, gone to school, taken the bus with black people. And Baltimore’s cops, forty-percent of them black, are as trigger-happy as any police force nowadays, even though you don’t have the Ferguson situation of a mostly white, highly militarized police department vs. a mostly black populace.

My co-workers aren’t talking about it. I sensed that my family wasn’t talking about it, on Thanksgiving Day, mostly because it’s unpleasant, and we were all very pleasant and having a good time. People on Facebook aren’t talking about it, except for my pagan and polytheist friends. My folks on Tumblr *are* talking about it, linking to Twitter and news articles and blog essays in between posts on magic and the occult, or Chris Evans and Benedict Cumberbatch, or birds, butterflies, mushrooms.

A lot of pagans aren’t talking about it. There may be a perfunctory mention, like the old public service announcements on broadcast tv (I hope at least some of my readers remember those), and then it’s back to our regularly scheduled self-promotion. A lot of pagan blogging right now seems to me like just advertising a blogger’s product, no more no less. It’s reminiscent of the really early days of live television where one program had a single sponsor and every commercial break, performed live, featured General Electric or Proctor and Gamble.

I am a writer, and my words are my product. My words are what I have to offer. Specifically, I am a poet and a storyteller; I have always seen my writing as a form of service to the Divine, whatever my current understanding of divinity, and my job as imagining how things could be different. I write poetry, blog essays, and erotica with a science fiction or fantasy bent, sometimes fanfic, sometimes original (insofar as any fiction is “original”). I look at people like Ursula K. LeGuin, who recently won the National Book Award, to remind myself why the kind of writing I do is important. I look at Cecilia Tan, who also writes and publishes erotic speculative fiction, as an example of the writing I want to do; I look at Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, as examples of the influence that science fiction stories can have. Every time I write a story in which two men, perhaps characters who are presumed to be heterosexual, have loving and emotionally meaningful sex, I am striking a blow against sexism, against homophobia, against narratives that privilege violence. Every time I write a story that helps someone feel sexual pleasure, I am striking a blow against capitalism, the Protestant work ethic, the condemnation of the body and its pleasures.

I don’t know much of the work of poet Diane Di Prima, but I do know this poem, which I first came across many years ago:











There is no way out of a spiritual battle

There is no way you can avoid taking sides

There is no way you can not have a poetics

no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher


you do it in the consciousness of making

or not making yr world

you have a poetics: you step into the world

like a suit of readymade clothes


or you etch in light

your firmament spills into the shape of your room

the shape of the poem, of yr body, of yr loves

In the war against the imagination, I am on the side of life, peace, equality, eros, friendship, creativity. I am on the side of the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and their fellow protesters in other cities. I am on the side of socialists and anarchists like Rhyd Wildermuth, people who smash gender binaries like P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, people who embrace all of life’s buried chaos like Sannion. And before I give you my hand, much less buy what you’re trying to sell me, I want to know which side of the war you’re on.

No, I haven’t died

Shortly after I started this blog, Antinous gifted me with the opportunity to make some additional money through a part-time job. I help supervise kids at a small private school between three-thirty and five-thirty, giving their parents the opportunity to pick them up after their own workday is complete. It’s been fun so far, but it does make a difference to work ten more hours in a week, and to get up at five in order to work my full-time job and then get to the school on time! So I’ve just been a bit short on time and energy to write anything, or even to repost stuff from my old blog.

Today I began writing a pagan-related piece of fiction, about which I’ll say no more lest I jinx it. It’s a pleasure to be writing fiction again, and I feel like the energy is flowing back, levelling out, so I’ll be able to get back to writing regularly again.

I have always felt, since I was a child, that writing was the thing I was put here to do. Whether I call it vocation or talent or my True Will, it is the thing I am good at, the task by which I can best serve my fellow beings and the Powers That Be, and the thing which gives me a soul-deep pleasure and satisfaction. If I am not writing, if I feel unable to write, something is wrong in my life. If I am writing, all is well. All my writing is an offering; this blog in particular is an offering to Antinous. May he be pleased by it.