The State of Me: Infinite Loops

This is my ten year old canine BFF, Bramble. She gives the best kind of unconditional love and is the kindest dog you’d ever meet. I am also one of her Favourite People which means I get extra dog hugs.

Seeing her lifts my mood but at the same time reminds me that I am dogless. Showing you her wasn’t actually about reminding myself that I’m still waiting for New Dog, it was rather to show you part of my support network of people, cats and dogs, who keep me safe during times when I’m not actually sure what planet I’m on.

The heat has thrown me out. Summer and I don’t really get on; extremes in weather tend to make my need to hoard things worse as (due to the fluctuations in temperature) it’s not always as easy to get things as it is at other times in the year. Especially as the garage, my local bastion of essentials is dealing with broken fridges which means, unless you want alcohol or snacks, they’re essentially out of everything.

Oh and to add insult to injury: the coffee machine’s also broken.

Ironically the only thing I buy from the garage is snacks, mochas and skimmed milk.

The heat makes everything worse: guide dog paws burn and so sensible owners are staying in. Even I’m walking around with a parasol (quetiapine makes my eyes sensitive as well as my skin burn like kindling). I’m my own worse enemy as well which means sitting at home with just a computer for company is a recipe for cabin fever and Amazon purchases.

Or, worse, stationary.

The big problem is I’m putting added stress on myself. Knowing I’m doing it doesn’t actually mean I can stop the cycle. I just get stuck.

My PTSD has some interesting triggers and right now those seem to just come under the broad heading of ‘life’. Some of them are usual, like screaming or physical violence. It’s why I usually Wikipedia things so there are no uncomfortable surprises. Fantasy violence is perfectly okay.

The others are very me:

  • Running out of x item.

Partially solved by apps on my phone which tells me what I have, how much of it and when they expire. Also being able to buy milk on the fly from said currently-broken garage.

  • Criticism.

Slowly being worked on with the kind help of my crit group, who do it gently and understand I have a serious emotional aversion. Because, growing up, criticism was always judgment.

  • Time-limits.

Those emails you get which say ‘spend x and get y’ as a reward or ‘join now for a limited time reward’.) It’s why, aside from places I do actually use that I’ve unsubscribed from a shedload of mailing lists and feel so much the better for it.

  • Broken things.

Specifically, things I’ve broken, either accidentally or because I didn’t do a thing. The Amazon account debacle, for example, where a mistake was made that confused an entire datebase. Weirdly though, when a white good dies, I just find my credit card and replace it. No problems.

  • Failure complex.

This is a huge one for me. I’ve been told I’ve failed or wasted opportunities by various family members over the years. I pushed myself to be a strong woman in a male industry for nearly a decade and I hated myself for it. I hated that I had to be bitchy and pushy. These weren’t the traits I was taught as a child, because I was only instructed in subservience. My lesson in life was, literally, burn yourself alive to keep others warm. Do it without being asked because it’s expected. Suffer so others don’t have too, your own feelings don’t matter.

Having a spine goes against my core programming but the more I shine mine now, the more I realise that I was just doing my job. My job actually forced me to grow a backbone, it was only later I realised you could transfer the skill set over to your personal life as well.

  • Being an author

Because of one thing the Parental Unit said to me several times. I hate being an author. I love writing, I love creating. I just hate everything from editing to publication. Like trigger level of hate.

I hate editing because criticism.

I hate publishing because there are always errors and it feels like my fault.

I feel like using the blind card is a cop out. Except, between my mental illness and my actually visual impairment, I do need someone to proof the proofs. I just can’t do it.

I need a PA because I cannot deal with KDP, with W-2s and all the other stuff involved with promotion. I suck at my own promotion because, while I believe in the story, I don’t believe in me.

Ksenia Anske is being awesome and trying to help me with my really soft relaunch. Because I’m living on benefits, I can’t earn more than a pittance (which is basically what I do earn, or did until I took all my books off Amazon). I got in touch with her because she gives her books away for free, as well as offering print versions on Amazon.

I like the idea as it suits my situation. And this is the important thing. My situation is no one elses. I don’t have the money to just buy covers or the concentration to work a project from once upon a time through to publication. I can’t afford it, fianancially, and I can’t do it because of my mental fragility.

Most of my author friends have jobs. I don’t.

Many of them have two-person households. I don’t.

Most of them have networks. Yeah, I do but I’ve always been the one promoting others’ work but no one ever returning the favour (see the implosion of Wonderment Media and the shitestorm which preceded it). When publishing, no one ever sees the work gone into it, the street teams and the friends boosting friends. You just see the best-seller lists and the news stories. There were better networks but half the time I’m afraid to reach out and talk to folks like Susan Kaye Quinn.

I need a mentor of my own, I think, specific to publishing and how to survive pushing a book out into the world and keeping it there.

If I could find a way to publish where all I do is write, where I have a close relationship with an editor who understand me and my … well, shall we call them quirks? Then I’d be okay. I’ve never had a problem, for example, with short stories. Rejections for those roll off my back like water and even when I have published stories, the edits have never been an issue.

So yeah, I’ve been planning a relaunch with all my titles under Asha Bardon. Except I hate KDP, it freaks me out. I can’t afford Squarespace and I have no idea how to get WooCommerce working on WordPress. Bradley Beaulieu’s the only one I’ve even seen who made it work.

  • The other thing. The important thing: None of this is a problem for today. For now. These are issues for next year.

Why the fuck am I so worried about stuff that won’t happen for at least twelve months. Because I have to have something to worry about. It’s another part of my shitty programming. I need to have a reason to worry because it takes my mind of whatever is my current problem.

Most of the time I’m caught up in my own infinite loops of stupidity that they become a kind of safety net in their own right. Right now I’m fluctuating mood-wise, the heat is making everything worse, I’m still waiting for Letters of Doom from the DWP and I want to write an epic fantasy series but am too scatty to do more than world-build. Actually starting this thing, actually focusing, is too much.

So I feel like a failure. Like I’m just wasting time. I remember being ten and having this exact same feeling: that I’d just wasted six weeks of summer holiday doing what kids do when I could have written or done constructive things. Instead, I tried to be a child. Well, okay, I read books. Lots of them.

I’ve never been a child.

Maybe that’s half the problem right there.

The rest of it is going to take the rest of my life to work on. I just feel like I need to be more selfish, for my own sake. I just feel guilty about everything: spending money, buying lunch, sitting in a coffee shop blogging. I feel like my existence, thanks to said childhood programming, has been wasted. I’m just kindling for the fire of civilisation.

But I’m also a person. I have rights, I have wants and needs (Maslow’s plus WiFi at the bottom) but that doesn’t stop me wanting to people please or give into every wild instinct. This week it’s food, a Hobonichi Cousin for 2018 (I want to start a gratitude journal and document the good things as they happen because I need to learn to be proud of myself). Oh and a dozen other things like a new vacuum cleaner and a post box.

Rambling probably isn’t helping but it’s all I can do until the quetiapine stabilises my mood. That and hug Bramble whenever possible.

The State of Me: Prepping for the Worst

Quetiapine and I have an interesting relationship. Technically I’m good with quetiapine, it’s when you add in diazepam and Ambien when things get fun.

This is said with as much sarcasm as I can muster. Seriously.

The problem is I have brain damage, specifically periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). This was basically a side-effect of oxygen toxicity from being premature (and it’s why I have retinopathy of prematurity as well). Now in a normal brain, you might stand a chance but as mine has severe rewiring issues caused by hypoxia, the ASD and bipolar angles as well. All this is on top of long-term benzodiazepine use. I’m screwed.

I’m screwed.

Last time I got so scatty I literally couldn’t do anything as I’d forget it ten minutes later. This time I’m aware and trying to prep for the worst. This means I’m on low-dose diazepam (for anxiety) and avoiding taking anything to help me sleep. This isn’t an issue right now as the 300mg of quetiapine is basically knocking me senseless. It lasts about a week but this has been extended because I had a party (and thus skipped a couple of doses) due to alcohol consumption and a general desire to be, you know, conscious.

I’ve already noticed a lapse in my cognitive functions; I put things down and forget them. I’m a natural multi-tasker but this has meant not even going near the kitchen, let alone leaving anything on a stove. If I do cook, I prefer the boiled egg method where you put potatoes or eggs in a pot of boiling water/slow cooker and then just let them cook. No gas involved. I forgot my potatoes for thirty minutes tonight. This is why I eat out.

In some ways, I’m in a better place to do this than I was. I write down stuff religiously as well as keeping a diary of where I was/who I was with and what I’ve done during the day. I also spent the afternoon documenting the contents of my fridge/freezer/cupboards to help me manage my shopping (lists and visits to supermarkets) more effectively. Fridgely lets me take photos of the stuff I have, note expiry dates (milk is a big issue for me, ditto eggs) and also compile a shopping list when things get low. Even better, when I restock and scan the barcode, it remembers the item so within a few weeks I should have this down pat.

But I’ve noticed my concentration is fleeting. I’m leaving tasks half-finished, unable to concentrate on anything more complicated than Futurama. I tried a couple of hours of ARIA the Animation (one of my favourite chill out anime series) but couldn’t focus on translating the dialogue on the fly and write at the same time. Thing is, I can’t sit and focus and watch something either. I need to do more than one thing because it’s how I function. I want to world build for a new fantasy series but I’m finding the ideas evaporating like smoke. Even this blog post took twice as long to write because of subtle distractions.

I want to world build for a new fantasy series but I’m finding the ideas evaporating like smoke. Even this blog post took twice as long to write because of subtle distractions. My Midori helps in a lot of ways, not only am I tracking spending and have a diary plus braindump journal in there, the very act of writing helps hammer things home in my brain. Typing can’t hold a candle to this.

That and awesome friends who were there the last time this happened and have seen me at my flakiest.

But it’s tiring. The memory issues make me anxious about safety. Cooking is right out. At the same time I really want a drink and, as I’ve been spending a lot of time in the courtyard of a very nice inn, I’m keenly aware everyone else is drinking and I … can’t. I got my story into crit this week but that’s about it and I’m frustrated that words just aren’t coming. The pressure leads to anxiety which leads to stress which just makes things worse.

At the same time, one thing I do want to do is start some kind of gratitude journal. I picked up an A5 Hobonichi Cousin Avec (which runs July to December) as I wanted to try one out as well as the Tomoegawa paper. I’ll prob pick up an A6 version in September (along with the cover etc) in order to document the coming year. I just can’t do anything until I hear about my PIP and that, too, is stressing me out. But I have started doing things and one of the bits I’ve enjoyed about having a paper diary is being able to stash tickets or postcards in it, things which were tangible proof of events.

This week, for example, I went to a book signing by M.R. Carey at my local Waterstones. I love The Girl With All the Gifts, especially the movie version, and it was so nice to get out after hours, as it were, and not have to worry about getting home. The bus stop is 3 mins from where they were having the talk and my favourite driver, Tony, tends to be doing that shift. I also had a bottle of wine which led to a fun 45 minutes of him remaking on my bladder. Git. The point is, I feel able to do things because I want to. I was going to go home at one point and I’m so glad I didn’t.

I’m not normally an evening person but, right now, that’s when I’m the most conscious.

I’m having to slow down a lot but I’m still here. I have to remind myself to do things, to take my medication with regularity but it’s baby steps until I figure out how my brain wants to play, nicely or not.

The State of Me: June 2018

This is my new friend Henry.

Another quick one because: a) the election and b) medication.

So bullet points:

  • Latest New Dog update suggests that IF they find one for me, next class starts in September so I should hear something next month. I’m not banking on anything. 2018 is much more likely.
  • It’s bipolar redux month: I’ve just gone back on quetiapine. My mood’s been plummeting and my anxiety’s sky-rocketed. Some of it was personal but getting a rent notice three months early and paperwork from the DWP a year early (to add insult, on a Saturday) did not help.
  • I’m taking enough that I feel stoned until around 2:30pm each day. Coffee helps but only a little. Oh and I slept for 14 hours last night, right through until mid-afternoon.
  • And I missed most of the election, which turns out to be a good thing. Urgh.
  • I’ve moved into Nero’s permanently now and am accruing a lot of free coffees by being savvy (you get a bonus stamp for bringing your own mug which allows me to spend a lot less on coffee, as well as making sure it doesn’t cool).
  • When not in Nero’s, I seem to be in the Lamb. It’s a little pub with a courtyard in spitting distance of my bus stop and they even have their own cat: Henry, Lover of Dreamies. We’ve bonded and it’s not in the least bit creepy that I now carry Dreamies in my bag.
  • Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Great Name Change. I bought myself a throw in celebration.
  • Speaking of the Great Name Change, I’m still encountering issues. Like the DWP deciding to ignore the loss of a middle name in my paperwork. It’s taken me a year to notice as they seldom any middle name unless it’s renewal paperwork and they don’t usually send me large print. I’m hoping this has now been fixed. The Deed Poll was pretty clear about my old name and my new one.
  • Wonder Woman was amazing, BTW. I’ve seen it twice and, oh, the arse-kickery.
  • American Gods is, similarly, one of the few TV shows to really get my attention.
  • People have started calling me Ash in earnest now. I like it. I’ve never had a contraction of a name I’ve loved before.
  • The cats love me; D is still a bitey little shit.
  • I’m still writing but my process has slowed. I broke my Amazon account so don’t really want to go anywhere near KDP for a while, even though I spent a week dealing with Amazon and the angelic CSR who eventually helped me fix everything. Triggers are a bitch.
  • I’m writing a proof of concept story called “Proof of Concept”. I’m hoping it’ll be ready for crit next week. That aside, anything more complicated is on hold. Though I do have an idea for a fantasy series connected to this particular short.
  • It’s sorta, kinda summer. Yay!

@FitBit We Need to Talk About Your Watches: I’m on my Third and it’s Dying … Again

First off, I love FitBit. I love the ethos, I love the little display on my Charge HR. I especially love the ability to have a sharp screen and the ability to have my wrist buzz when someone is calling me. As a blind person this last bit is a godsend. I love for texts but that’s another story.

The point is I’m invested in your platform, I’m invested in tracking my sleep and my steps; I feel naked without my FitBit and it’s the one

What I don’t love is that every single year, like clockwork, I need to get my switched out for a new one because of issues with the device.

Year one: A software update bricked my device and when it did work, it began running at the wrong time. It drove me nuts but you replaced it. I was thankful and loved your customer service.

Year two: A crack developed at the bottom of the screen, which eventually began to spill the device’s guts everywhere. Just as I got the replacement, it snapped completely. I had an interesting lesson in electronics that day.

Year three (aka this morning): I realised something felt odd and, yep, to my horror, the device has once again begun to crack. This time down the right side. It’s not going to die tomorrow but the death knell has sounded. That crack is only going to get bigger with use.

Eventually the screen and the band will detach completely.

And, yes, it’s time to contact Customer Support. Hence this blog and this is half the problem.

I wear my FitBit daily, like it’s supposed to be worn. I take it off to shower and to give it a good clean (though the plastic still smells funky :() I sleep in it, I even have a little plastic screen protector to stop the inevitable scratches.

I’ve been a good owner, I’m recommended it to all my friends. I’m a loyal fan.

Once again, basic design flaws in the product mean I have to constantly return to you to sort this out. I actually kept my receipt (which I’d be happy to email over to you) with the reference number on it because I knew this would happen.

Now sell the Charge HR 2 and it looks lovely but I worry the flaws will still be there. Worse I’m concerned, though you’ve never charged me for a replacement in the past, if getting this sorted will mean expenditure. I’m broke and I’m, as already mentioned, very reliant on my Charge HR.

In a world where I have money, I’d like an Apple Watch, if only so I can do all the things FitBit doesn’t but I’m not keen on the tracking. Or the price. Or that fact the new one isn’t out until September. I love the FitBit for its simplicity, for being able to set alarms, tell the time and get my calls. I really do like being able to record my sleep patterns and precisely when the Mighty D, my Bengal, decides it’s time to disturb my slumber.

I love the FitBit for its simplicity, for being able to set alarms, tell the time and get my calls. I really do like being able to record my sleep patterns and precisely when the Mighty D, my Bengal, decides it’s time to disturb my slumber.

It does what I need it to do. Mostly anyway.

But two years of breaking devices (I’ll let you off year one as it was a software issue) and this is getting ridiculous. I’m seriously looking at your biggest competitor just because I know the build quality is better, even if it’s stupidly more expensive.

So, please, tweet me. Let’s talk. I want to stay with you guys but I’m tired of having to do this every ten-twelve months without fail.

Thanks, folks.

Asha

 

The State of Me: Anxiety Issues

It’s hard to say I’m anxious when this lovely—but bitey—little monster is curled up on my lap every morning. But I am and it’s crippling.

I have medication—personally reserved for the biggest shitstorms or when I’m triggered—to take but most of the time it’s a constant stream of noise in the background which breaks my brain.

To give you an idea of just this morning:

  • It’s sunny, should I go into the city?
  • I don’t wanna go into the city but, equally, I need to leave the house to keep my sanity intact. Will a walk to the garage sort that?
  • My friend is calling, do I make myself available even though I hate the city/going in late on a Saturday.
  • Will they take this personally? I just don’t want to go in.
  • Do I get up or stay in bed?
  • Do I nip to the garage and get a (free!) coffee?
  • Do I ‘stay local’?
  • I don’t need to go to the supermarket, do I? Oh, gods please no.
  • I need to do at least two loads of washing, including stripping my bed (which I hate).
  • Do I want that coffee? I have no chocolate in the house …
  • Fuck, I just looked at my credit card. I’m a failure.
  • Is D going to hate me if I move and disturb him?

Today wasn’t even a bad morning. It was just normal. Some of this is my actual anxiety, the rest my PTSD and autism. It’s not a nice mix, as mental illness cocktails go.

Fortunately, I was on the phone with one of my BBFs who quickly reminded me most of my credit card (well 1/3) was the shopping I needed from Sainsbury’s. Because if I don’t feed the cats, they will eat me, and I have MySupermarket set up to email me whenever their chow of choice is on offer. Plus I needed a bulk buy of other household stuff like bog roll, kitchen towel, bleach and heavy things I can’t carry.

I get stuck in a recrimination loop most days. Usually, due to being starved as a child, it’s food related and panicking about not having a specific item in the house. Today it was chocolate. Because female and PMS is near constant for me. The point re the food (plus any obsession) thing is that I’m literally unable to function until I’m reassured I have whatever it is in the house, the good thing is the garage has a much bigger selection now than it did pre-makeover.

Another example:

Last night I couldn’t find my emergency roller tip for my cane. I have a sneaking suspicion I bought three, changed two out and had the last one lurking somewhere. Except my memory’s so damaged I can’t remember half of the last two years from the medication. I had a flash of the tip in its little bag but it was in none of the places I normally put these things. I only started thinking about it because I’m helping New Friend who needs a new cane and wanted to give her one of my older, larger roller balls as a stopgap until we can get her a long cane she’ll actually use.

It doesn’t matter, not really. I have a spare cane but I need to order new balls, I just can’t afford to do it right now (they’re nearly £6 each from the RNIB). I was trying to work out, when we get New Friend a couple of special-order long canes from Canada, if it would be cheaper to add in some balls with the order for me and her. Sadly the exchange rate is in US$ not CAN which sucks so not really. I could get them locally but Sensory Support is a pain to visit and last time I was told to just order them from the RNIB instead of getting them for free. Double sigh.

Oh, and I’m still refusing to patronise NNAB, which was the last place I got the balls, because they cancelled archery on us. I’ll visit if I have to but I really don’t want to. Plus there’s no guarantee their equipment centre will a) have them and b) give them to me for free.

Stuff used to be free. It was a heck of a lot easier. I suppose at least I know where to get stuff. That’s not disabled entitlement talking, BTW, it’s a literal case of all mobility aids used to be free. You’d ring a number, give your registration details, and whatever you needed would be sent out by second class post. It was awesome. Except for that one time where they put two folded canes through my letter box and said canes unfolded.

My hallway is only about a metre square between door and steps. If that. That was a fucking nightmare.

That was a fucking nightmare.

I have what I call anxiety twitches. They’re random ripples that just set me off. Yesterday it was because I stayed home, because I lounged in bed. I have issues lounging because, in my head (not the best place, obviously), lounging means laziness which is the stereotype of the benefit scrounger. Again this bounces directly back to my disabled imposter syndrome and the non-disabled concept of what how a disabled person should behave. This is a lot harder for me and New Friend because both of us have more sight than most people put together. But we’re both still blind. Technically and literally.

And I am missing not having a dog which isn’t helped by my Husky fixation or BFF’s love of German Shepherds, though I do appreciate having daily lab/retrievers posted on my Facebook page. The lack of my own guide dog, however, it’s getting really bad now. I cried last night because I was on the phone to BFF and could hear Gismo in the background, chasing dream bunnies. He doesn’t yip, more grumble, but that noise, it still reminded me of Uni. Who used to gallop across the carpet and make tiny yip-barks of joy.

I’m still stuck on a waiting list and it’s been nearly eight months (unofficially). I know I need to wait, that compromising will just bite me in the arse for the next decade of my life. But I need a dog, Bramble hugs only go so far and I want my own. I have my friends and their dogs, but I’m not as fast as them, I’m constantly having to focus on where I’m stepping which means I feel slow which my anxiety translates to ‘I’m overweight ergo lazy’ as opposed to ‘I can’t see and have to slow down’. Friends are awesome but they have dogs so don’t have to worry about that. I also have to watch my cane in case I clip one of their dogs’ back legs.

I’ve always had anxiety, except it never bothered me because I was either busy or I could step around it: I had to go to London, because of work. Work was my shield. I could ring people because it was work-related because that was how stuff was done. Now I have a phone phobia and just seeing unknown numbers triggers me. I can make phone calls but it has to either be for someone else and in a capacity where my flowchat of answers is active (like ringing the DWP but always, in that context, for someone else) or it has to be a last ditch/no other option thing.

Oddly I’m perfectly fine ringing my power company …

Weird.

I prefer email/twitter/IMing because it gives me a minute to think before I reply. Ask me on the phone and I’ll capitulate and instantly guilt will set in because I’ve not had time to plan something out. I like planning. It keeps me sane. But, at the same time, my default is that while I have a plan, I don’t take precedence. All my friends know that if I’m not in the city, they need to factor in an hour for me to get to them. That alone stresses me because, in my head, I’m supposed to be psychically aware of everyone else’s plans, even though they’ve not told me. I’m supposed to spend my days sitting in cafes waiting for them to ask if I’m in for coffee.

And if I’m not, I feel guilty, because of my lack of foresight.

A couple of days last week I found myself with time and no one else in it. So I took myself to a boardgame night. I went in late, had coffee, did some writing, and then had fun. I got one of the last buses back, timing it with perfect precision. I was so proud of myself (especially as I’m never usually out past four pm). But then, a few days before that, I went to the movies on a Bank Holiday and, knowing the buses were on Sunday service, left the movie thirty minutes early so I wouldn’t have to wander Riverside or spend money in a bar while I waited for the next bus. Missing buses, even when I know there’s another one in x minutes, really stresses me out.

But then, a few days before that, I went to the movies on a Bank Holiday and, knowing the buses were on Sunday service, left the movie thirty minutes early so I wouldn’t have to wander Riverside or spend money in a bar while I waited for the next bus. Missing buses, even when I know there’s another one in x minutes, really stresses me out.

The point is, my anxiety is logical but still stupid.

Also, it doesn’t come with an off switch, not unless I take myself off the rails. Most of the time, unless it’s a calmly prepared but last minute thing I don’t have time to panic about, I just can’t. Not unless I’m very medicated and a Valium addiction is just not on the cards right now. I try to rationalise it, taking myself out of the picture or asking ‘What would Mhairi do?’ and then tone the answer down just a little. Sometimes it works but the contriction, it’s never going to leave me.

It is me.

The Liner Notes: “Bindings, Seen and Not”

First off, a note on my year out (as we’re into May and well into the mid-year), this doesn’t mean I’m not writing. Far from it. It just means I’m not publishing, mainly because I just can’t financially or psychologically do it right now. I also have nothing I’m ready to let go yet, much less get professionally edited. I’ve not even sent out a short story yet, despite writing quite a few. This is basically just me being a little fragile at the moment so I’m focusing my sights on what I feel like writing, as opposed to a schedule which will just put pressure and stress on me.

Remember: stress + pressure = mania.

Oh and I’m horrible to myself as well, in terms of the pressure I put on myself, the limits I aim for. So I need the time.

So far, so good.

You’re probably wondering: Asha, why is there a pic of Moleskines on your post header? I found the shop in Covent Garden and was very good but stationary is my thing, my one joy. But, they’re actually here to segue nicely into the Liner Notes for my current WiP which is all about a bookbinder living in a segregated and very technologically focused society.

Currently called “Bindings, Seen and Not” it refers both to the bindings in books, artfully hidden by endpapers, skill and straight lines, but also the state of things in Taborin, the city where this story is set. Ironically, due to the fact Maxov is biologically an intersex/third gender Ubani, a progenitor, he’s effectively a member of an enslaved minority. Society uses ‘it’, the Ubani use ‘they but some, like Maxov, actually identify as one gender or another, hence his pronouns. Anyway, as he notes in the text, he can see his bindings the Directorate has placed on his people which gives him infinitely more power than most would think:

Technology could change words on the page, you could with print as well, it was just a lot more obvious and harder to ignore. Even the Ubani pretended to be blind, sometimes, to keep themselves and their culture’s existence, safe.

They were all bound in knots, except the Ubani—chattel to sterile families, passed like pieces in a game—who saw and felt theirs every day. Rough against their skin, too tight. He pitted the others, the remnants of old Atridia, because their bindings were ribbons so fine, so soft, they didn’t notice the hangman’s noose around their throats.

I do actually know how to book bind, I learnt the basics a few years ago and, thanks to YouTube, have been learning more advanced techniques. This is mainly due to my stationary fetish and my on-going love of Midori (most notebooks are staddle-stitched and easy enough to make). The story itself is triggered when Maxov’s days running a ramshackle emporium of old and mostly illegal books is interrupted.

 The story itself is triggered when Maxov’s (who’s in his late seventies at this point and very gruff expect for those he likes) ‘adopted’ daughter, Usaki, comes in and asks him to spirit away some incriminating letters and journals left to her son by his mother (Juran and Reshi Elaspe of The Fractured Era) by sending them on the Ghost Road, the progenitor-only escape route off-world and seeing them placed within the Ubani Archives. He accepts because the letters, from Juran’s biological male and female grandparents, are pre-Singularity, but also because Usaki asks and offers to pay the toll herself: by writing down her life story for preservation in the Archives. Eventually, someone else will add in the rest, how she lived, how she died, who will remember her.

So he makes her a book in which to record her story and, as he does, finds himself remembering his own past as well. He was born before the Singularity and given male gender after the pogroms and the nationalisation of Ubani and the introduction of a licensed lottery that saw the Ubani become surrogates to fertile, well-adjusted and connected, families. Good genes were welcomed, undesirables denied children and so weeded out. The Ubani themselves, referred to as ‘progenitors’ by the state, are forced into rotation, have their first child (always a progenitor) stolen from them as a life lesson and are moved from family to family, birthing sons and daughters before being dragged to another posting. Eventually, they just end up on the societal scrap heap. Just as Maxov found himself and decided to look opportunity in the face and rely on his community and himself.

Right now the story is a combination of a historical worldbuilding info dump and bookbinding porn (as in writing very descriptively about how to make a book, not literal porn). From endpapers, bone folders and signatures to binding and materials. I’m trying to evoke the emotion of a different kind of creation and it’s refreshing, actually, to focus on the enduring quality of a well made book, not just the words inside it.

As a bonus, this is the video which inspired the story:

Crafting While Blind: Passport-sized Notebooks

This was a thing I wanted to do because creative stuff focuses my mind: it’s meditation for me. Plus I really love specific colours and wanted to make cheap inserts for brain dumping in my wallet. Shopping lists and FYIs, that sort of thing. It was actually the cardstock which sold it for me, especially when I realised it was double sided on certain sheets.

As this one was a prototype, I learned lots of things:

  • Binder clips are a godsend.
  • Ditto my cutting mat.
  • Measure twice, cut once. At least in theory. In reality, measure lots of times.
  • I also learned how to saddle-stitch AND that you can make your own waxed thread using embroidery thread and beeswax. I love that I’ll be able to choose not only the cover, the paper but also the thread, all to compliment each other. That said white makes a lot of mistakes bearable.
  • The stitching needs work but it’s basically pretty secure.
  • My collection of hardback gaming books makes an excellent DIY book press.
  • The book is a little narrower as I didn’t measure everything while it was binder clipped together, so there was a bit of an overhang. I can take this into account in the next version.
  • A rotary cutter should make cutting everything down a lot safer.
  • Thread is so much fucking easier than a stapler. An awl makes the process a dream.
  • I can, apparently, sew. Who knew?
  • You can see all the dot makes, those are from the sodding staple gun. I’ll be a lot more careful on the next one.

Right now, getting all the stuff was a bit of a money sink but there’s a break-even point somewhere. The notebook I made has a cover and nine sheets (so 36 pages in all, 150gsm, I think). All the bits can be used for others things, as well, and—frankly—I want to get more crafty, more able to make mistakes and create things.

The point is: I made a shiny. I made it without slicing my fingers off or poking my remaining eye out.

Woot.