Weekly(?) Creative Update 15-06-19

Here’s a quick update on my creative endeavours over the last week or two. I will try to make this a regular weekly update (even if it gets repetitive) just as a way to remind myself to blog more often too.

So, the big new thing I’m doing is creating video games using a tool called Stencyl, which is a slightly more advanced tool in the same vein as Scratch. It’s for making 2d games but I have some fun ideas, one of which is to get as close as possible to a first-person shooter without being able to move in a 3d environment!

Earlier this week, I got to show off my first attempt, which is a cute puzzler in which you play a pixie sprite of the forest, where some evil person has laid pitfall traps for the little furry creatures (they look like mice or rats or shrews or something). You have to find rocks to plug the pitfalls, while also making sure the creatures don’t fall in the holes.

I took my netbook to the local game creators’ social gathering and got some positive feedback. I also got some very positive reactions when my young niece and nephew tried it a couple of weeks ago, so I’m happy with it so far!

I’ve also been doing a self-build PC, although this has been one of those projects that spirals into something a lot bigger than it started out.

At first I just wanted to upgrade my CPU so I could stream some of my gameplay on Twitch, only it turned out that the CPUs I was looking at wouldn’t fit on my old PC’s motherboard, so I needed a new new motherboard – and I decided I might as well upgrade the graphics card (GPU) at the same time.

When I received the motherboard, I discovered it doesn’t fit in th old PC’s case so I ordered a new case too – at which point we moved from “upgrade” to “build a new PC with a couple of salvaged parts” – the only parts remaining being the power supply unit, the hard drive, and the RAM memory card…

A memory card, it turned out when I started putting the things together, that doesn’t fit the very similar-looking slots on the new motherboard. SO! I went on PC Part Picker and found out what really would fit, and ordered that.

The new memory card came yesterday and I started putting the PC together at last and, well, it’s almost done. There’s just one more part I need… the motherboard has not one but TWO external power sockets, and the second ocket doesn’t fit the plug from the power supply unit. Fortunately, adaptors do exist, but I won’t get mine until the middle of the week, so I won’t know if I’ve screwed up the motherboard or plugged things in wrongly or anything, until then.

And finally…

I have written another 2,000 words on my second novel (working title “Properties Of Pleasure”), which is an out-and-out erotica novel set in a near-future world where the government operates a system of consensual slave auctions and people volunteer to be sold for either one or two years (keeping 90% of the price when they emerge from their term). The novel follows one person with strong submissive and masochistic fantasies through the selection, training and slavehood process. I’ve just got to her first day in the training facility before the auction.

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Thoughts on Cambridge Pride

On Saturday, I went to the Cambridge Pride event, which was not really a parade, it had more of a village fete vibe to it when I was there. The weather was horrible and wet, but there were still plenty of people there. This was the first ever Cambridge Pride and I live close enough that I could make time to go along.

The first thing I had to do was decide how openly non-conforming I would be in my clothing choices. In the end, I decided if I didn’t wear my campest, tartiest miniskirt to Pride, then when would I ever wear it? It’s gorgeous, with a fluffy pink hem and feels deliciously naughty at home.

That meant I spent a long time on Friday evening making sure I had shaved as much of my body hair as I could reach, to have lovely smooth legs and arms and chest for the event. I added a black blouse with frilly bits down the front, and pinned a few kink/LGBT badges (and my favourite: “Bring weapons, gin and bog roll”) to the frills.

The weather was a problem, so I ended up putting a fleece on over the blouse, and then a big overcoat to keep warm and dry. This made me feel slightly safer catching the bus into Cambridge, since the coat almost covered up the miniskirt and I felt less conspicuously “other” to the cishets. I unbuttoned and unzipped once I reached the event, because otherwise, why bother wearing the clothes in the first place?

I debated what if any visible emblems of LGBT I would buy, opting for a little rainbow flag (not shown) and the rainbow top hat in the picture. What can I say? I like hats! The full-size flags were sadly too much for my budget.

Speaking of photos – I know of at least two people who took pictures of me. The first was actually a couple, and I just happened to see them pointing the camera. I gave a smile to show it was actually okay to do so. The second person asked first, and I was happy to pose. Then I asked them to take a picture for me, as well, using my camera (and that’s the shot used above). If part of my aim with going to Pride was to feel fab-u-lous about nonbinary presentation, well, the fact that people wanted my picture certainly helped achieve that!

I felt totally at home, and whatever the opposite of “out of place” is, as far as the wide variety of costumes, dress, everyday garb and so on was concerned. I even noticed three furries in full fursona costumes, and one puppy boi in a leather muzzle/snout mask as well.

While there were still the usual problems I have with any gathering of a large number of people where I don’t really know anybody (I did meet one or two familiar faces, but they obviously had their own things going on), at least my gender and sexuality could be on display. That’s a very rare feeling for me, and one reason why Pride events are still so important. I am “reluctantly Queer” in that my existence is certainly in the realm of queerness and queering or breaking down fixed ideas of gender and sexuality. Cambridge Pride was a place where that queered nature could be more clearly embraced.

There were several great musical acts on the main stage. I particularly enjoyed the set and on-stage banter from Dee Ajayi whose mix of classic covers and original songs, backed up by accompanist Ollie, caught the mood perfectly.

I stayed for about 2 hours – there wasn’t really enough to do to keep me interested for longer than that. Like I said, it felt more like a village fete than anything else, although a fabulous and queer LGBTQI fete of awesomeness (and sogginess).

I’ve talked about how it was a space to embrace queerness. The space was also unequivocally a “family-friendly” environment, in terms of children and young people being welcome there (as evidenced by scrolling through the Cambridge News photo gallery).

The article linked at the top of this post describes the event as “reconnected with what the roots of the celebration are.” –

Pride’s origins were in protest, using the parade as an opportunity for members of the community to present themselves to the world and passionately declare their need for love, acceptance and equal rights.

The organisers of Cambridge Pride have remembered this.

. . .

Large companies were nowhere to be seen on the River Cam parade, replaced by small community groups waving banners that urged bystanders to think about different subsections of the community, from the transgender people who put the “T” in LGBT, to the queer people of colour who can still face discrimination for more than just their sexuality.

Now, I agree that Pride originated as a protest, and all that. However, at least one person on the stage thanked the police for being there. That is NOT remembering the roots of Pride as a protest movement, and it doesn’t acknowledge that the police, as an arm of the Establishment, whose role is to enforce norms, are the natural enemy of any protest movement; and are an organisation with an appalling record when it comes to LGBT rights and their treatment of us. It is okay to be a police officer and gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer etc. It is not right for “the police” to wear the colours of Pride or to be welcomed in that way, if Pride is indeed “a protest” and to highlight the various oppressions faced by us.

I could really go off on one about the role of the police in society, but that is a topic for another essay, if I get around to writing it.

Suffice to say, as a protestor of many years, I did not feel that they were there to protect us, which made a “thank you” seem somewhat jarring.

I think this in many ways illustrates the contradiction underlying a lot of Pride these days: there are many in the LGBT community who see themselves as “respectable” in that middle-class way. For such people, Pride is a day out, a chance to meet others like themselves. For such people, the forces of law and order are presumed to be “on their side”. For a lot of the rest of us, the opposite is true. I think, too, of Cambridge’s historical division between “Town” and “Gown” – the academic role of the University and its complex, versus the working class employed in other industries, and of how that divide echoes the same sort of tension. In more recent history, students form a separate bloc of protest and experimentation, testing the system from a position inside it (Oxbridge candidates are still much more likely to be from well-off backgrounds…)

In that way, “Cambridge Pride” feels more to me like the “Parliamentary Road to Socialism” than a revolutionary force: it’s good, and will help people along the way, but it is never really going to be able to square the respectability with the need for change. Yes, it’s great that it isn’t allowing corporations to earn cheap and easy “inclusivity” points, then turn their backs on us once Pride is over. But it feels more like a hipster, artisanal vibe than a genuinely anti-Capitalist, anti-hegemony push for societal change.

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Dedication, Death Metal and My New Pedal

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I have recently bought myself a new distortion pedal for my guitar.

The pedal I have chosen is the TC Electronics “Eyemaster”, which has just two knobs – and really, you’re not supposed to move them from any position other than maximum. That’s because it is modelled on the Boss HM-2 pedal, which is notorious in extreme music as the sound of Swedish death metal, because one particular producer who did a lot of Swedish metal bands’ early albums had one and used it extensively. The HM-2 was an awful pedal, with only one setting that was usable: everything on full.

So TC Electronics set the tone knobs to maximum and then didn’t give you the option of changing it – those knobs don’t exist on the box.

The Eyemaster is a pedal that does one thing extremely well, and that thing is, well…

(I used my down-tuned Epiphone hollow-body to emphasise the grind!)

It’s the sound known as the Swedish chainsaw, and I, for one, love it. I mean, that’s why I would buy a pedal like the Eyemaster in the first place, duh!

You have got a volume and gain knob to play with, but if you’re buying this pedal, you’re not expecting subtlety and you’re not going to get it. So why muck about with anything less than extreme? (Don’t forget to add a noise gate into your signal chain though.)

It’s a great pedal, if this is the sound you’re after.

But what got me thinking was that ethos, “Do one thing extremely well”. The HM-2 did not do the thing it was supposed to do well, but guitarists found a way to get something great from it. The Eyemaster set out to do that one great thing to the best degree it could on a reasonable budget.

So many things these days are designed to do lots of things, and that is regarded as a Good Thing. Your phone is also a web browser, a camera, a dictaphone, a games console, a diary and whatever else they cram into them nowadays.

I also lack that focus: I am a writer, a musician, a game designer, and so on, for example. Except, when in a day job doing admin or whatever, that’s when I really want to be given the chance to focus on just one thing and do it excellently.

But I admire the approach that sets out to excel in one thing. It’s like athletes who focus on a single event and hone their skills and physique to be the best they can be at the specific challenge. I admire it best when it comes to making things. Making the very best thing at what it does, and saying, “This, and only this, is what we do.”

(Of course, TC Electronics make many different pedals for all sorts of different sounds, and many of them are designed to be exceptionally versatile. But the approach on designing the Eyemaster is what I’m thinking about here).

The world would probably not function if everyone just focussed on their one thing: we need people whose approach is to learn as many different things as they can (as noted, when it comes to creativity, that’s me). I admire those who can take the time to learn a new skill and then use it and retain that skill, just as much as I admire those who focus on one thing.

So this post is to celebrate my new death metal sound, and the single-mindedness that created it.

For more thoughts inspired by new musical gear, why not check out New gear, Self-doubt, Mid-life “crisis”, and Depression – or if you’d like more on doing things really well, related to music: 2 years’ work in 2 days: what talent shows hide

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Little things that made me happy today

Today is just a couple of little life things that, nevertheless, make me feel happy in a small way – and relate to my sense of my gender identity too. Which may seem odd in the first instance, but is a bit more obvious in the second.

The first thing which makes me happy is I got a new chair delivered today.

Specifically, a new gaming chair – although I may use it for more things than just gaming. It’s a chair for doing computer-y things in, basically. At the moment, I am set up with my older chair (which is slightly modified with bondage anchor points, but I digress) in front of my main writing computer, and the gaming PC gets the gaming chair.

That is not, in itself, the thing that makes me happy.

What makes me happy is that – of course – the chair came with “some self-assembly required” (meaning, I had to put it together myself). And by following the diagrams carefully, I did it in just about the amount of time I gave myself to do the job. I got sweaty, and occasionally aggravated with the slightly poorly-fitting pieces as I put them together, but I made a nice, sturdy chair that takes my impressive bulk without obvious complaint.

Gaming chair

“I am Valery, hear me run around Erangel for 20mins then get shot” (PUBG video game reference)

What was interesting is that, contrary to “normal” gender stereotypes, this didn’t make me feel “manly” as such. Instead, it keyed into my feminine-butch sense of my gender identity. Not exactly, “I am woman, hear me roar”, but still, a sense of taking on a challenge of a mechanical bent and making it happen. Why feminine-butch and not just “manly”? I think because men are stereotypically expected to be good at this sort of thing (and also, stereotypically, not to follow the instructions) – whereas to me it feels like something where I have to rise to meet the challenge. Like when I managed to install a new CPU fan on my gaming PC, or when I gave it a new graphics processor (neither of which, I seem to have written about at the time!)

I feel like I keyed into a cultural archetype or trope that resonated in that, and the one that fit best was one that presented a woman expressing a masculine side and succeeding in these tasks. That’s what I felt like, and it is kind of what I feel my “home gender” might be (being gender fluid makes it hard to find language for the different variations I have and how I relate to them. No idea if “home gender” makes sense? The one where I feel is the centre of the variation and tend to return to? Something along those lines as a concept).

And that made me happy in both an “I accomplished something” way and a “I feel in my right place” kind of way.

* * *

The second thing that happened was, I got a new Labour Party membership card today. Not a big thing, but I noticed with some pleasure that the honorific was “Mx”, not “Mr”. It seems like a very small thing in some ways, but it is nevertheless an official document that recognises my nonbinary identity on some level.

I have felt so often that I do not know how to begin changing things. So many official organisations look to each other for confirmation of a person being who they say they are, and when you need to have them communicate (for instance, getting Universal Credit paid to my current account) you need to make sure things match up. And some of them take longer or are more resistant to change, or need more “proof” so it feels bewildering and without a massive declaration that could cut me off from other realities of myself, I find it easier to accept the “wrong” honorific.

So to have one document that gets it right, is comforting. It roots my identity in this world, and not just in my head.

None of these things are “big”, but they are positive, in a world that has too few positive moments.

Gaming chair

“I am Valery, hear me run around Erangel for 20mins then get shot” (PUBG video game reference)

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Music Recommendation: The Trials Of Cato

Just a short post today as I’ve been pretty poorly all week and, being a temp, having to go to work anyway because money and stuff.

I’d like to use my blog today to give a shout-out to a great trio of musicians who perform under the name The Trials Of Cato. I do not know the origins of that name, but it sounds cool.

They’re a folk group who, according to their bio page, hail from North Wales and Yorkshire, via Beirut. I discovered them a couple of years back when they were busking in Cambridge city centre, picked up a copy of their self-titled EP and was quite impressed. They were busking again earlier this year and their sound was good the first time, but they were a couple of years’ worth of better, and sound absolutely amazing now – their dedication to live performance has clearly paid off. So I bought their album off them in person. There are social justice songs, and songs of traditional tales, and traditional instrumental music.

Were it not for feeling poorly, and worn out, and the rest of it, I would definitely have gone to see them at the Portland Arms tonight. And if they’re ever performing anywhere near you, and you like traditional music with twangy things (they have a variety of such!) you should make plans to go along.

One song off the album I would like to particularly mention is Gloria. It looks as though this is their own composition, and it caught my attention because listening to it I got the sense straight away that it was in some way talking about me. Not any of the particulars or details, but a sense of who the song is about.

I listened closer, and it dawned on me that it was a song of a trans woman or genderfluid person finding hir way to express hir gender more fully. I needed to check the written lyrics in the cover booklet to be sure, but the lyric I wasn’t sure about turned out to be what I hoped it was.

The lyric was, “And I forget that I was born a man” – a line that is not perfect in terms of the language preferred these days, but I am willing to give them a pass because it makes a great rhythm and scansion in context (I could probably write a song built around the line, “I forget I was assigned male at birth” and make it work, but maybe I’ll save that project for another day).

But it’s the point of forgetting and escaping that presumed maleness that resonates for me throughout the narrative of the song, even though I was never a miner and never performed my music in London (with the exception of a few auditions for TV talent shows). There is, nevertheless, a lot that speaks to the experience, if not the details, of my gender identity and making sense of it in a world. “There were those who said that it transgressed / and there were those who saw beyond the dress.”

It feels like a song written for me, not about me, and that’s what feels right about it – and I feel like there’s probably a lot of queer folk like me (or not like me) who will feel the same way.

And that is the real reason why I wanted to shout out this amazing band, from Wales and Yorkshire via Lebanon, and found (by me, anyway) in Cambridge.

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STORY: Helpless Forest

CONTENT NOTE: Mind control, bondage, “horror” theme

This is another “tag combination” writing prompt. The tags formed the phrase “Helpless Cop Forest” and I couldn’t resist coming up with a way to make that into a single thing, not just three themes to interlink.

Helpless Cop Forest SFW header

“Helpless Cop Forest”

Helpless Forest

Police Sergeant Pauline Perk put out her hand.

“Stop the car! I heard something.”

PC Connor Arnold slammed on the brakes. The tyres squealed on the deserted road. It was a mile or so through the forest back to town, and home base.

“You sure, Sarge?”

“I thought I heard a scream for help.”

“Foxes, most likely, Sarge. You’ll get used to them around here.”

“No, I heard the word, ‘Help’, I’m sure of it. Listen, you don’t mind staying here a few minutes while I check it out?”

“It’s your call, Sarge. I wouldn’t bother if I were you, but go ahead. Not like there’s any emergency back at the station.”

“If I do find something, I’ll radio, ‘kay?”

“You’re the boss, Sarge.” He was putting his feet up and reaching for the trashy thriller he always kept in the glove compartment for when patrol got boring, as it often did round here. Perk had admonished him about it a couple of times early on but she had to agree, there wasn’t much crime in this quiet backwater of rural England.

As she ducked into the undergrowth, she heard the cry for help again – more of a call, really. There wasn’t the sense of panic she’d initially sensed. Something seemed familiar about the voice, but she couldn’t place it. Instead, she turned to get her bearings on the direction it came from, and strode confidently over the ferns and fallen twigs.

The voice again. Clearly now, “Can anyone hear me?” Again, it sounded so familiar. Perk racked her brain for why. Who could it be? She plunged on, deeper into the forest, towards the sound. The surroundings seemed darker, the undergrowth thicker and more tangled, the trees more twisted and gnarled. And something was missing. It occurred to her that she’d been walking long enough now that she ought to have come to another road. There was no distant sound of traffic at all. Yes, the road she’d been on had been quiet, but the main road through town went fairly near here and that had regular traffic at all times of day.

She clicked her transmitter. “Connor, mate. How you doing?” She listened, but there was nothing. Not even static. She turned slowly on the spot, trying to work out which way to go. She aimed in what she thought was the direction she’d come from and set out again. The forest felt more dense, heavier, dulling even the sound of her footsteps. Doubt filled her mind. Maybe someone else was lost here. Somehow, she seemed to be lost, too.

“Can anyone hear me?”

A strange chill crept over her. The familiar voice. It was her own. The call she’d heard had been exactly the inflection, the rhythm, the sound, she’d just made. How was that possible? She spun on the spot. She started to run. It didn’t matter which direction – she just needed to find a road, and then she would know where she was, everything would be normal again.

Her foot caught on something – or rather, something caught her ankle. She sprawled on her face, arms flung out to catch the fall, sinking into soft dirt and mulch on the forest floor. She rolled onto her back and sat up to find what had caught her, but only more incredulity and confusion followed.

Ivy vines were actively coiling themselves around her legs, binding them together and dragging her deeper into the undergrowth towards a thicket of trees. Instinctively, she put her hands to the ground behind her to keep her balance, only to find more vines wrapped themselves around her wrists and bound them together.

The vines stopped so that Perk’s back was against a tree, the vines on her wrists pulling her close to it. She struggled, but couldn’t do anything.

“I need help! Can someone help, please?” Again, the exact words and tones of the second call for help she’d heard. It was impossible. She couldn’t have been answering her own cries for help. That had been in the past, and this was now. More struggling produced no useful outcome. Perk was helpless, tied in the forest by what seemed to be animated woodland plants with a sense of purpose.

She tried again, screaming at the top of her lungs: “HELP!” The feeling that this, too, was the cry that had first caught her attention in the car was an uncomfortable nagging suspicion in the back of her mind, while her rational brain tried to dismiss the possibility.

The sound of rustling undergrowth and footsteps growing nearer. Perk didn’t dare call out again, just in case it was somehow herself yet again. She told herself she was mad for even considering the idea, but still, her voice died in her throat when she opened her mouth.

It wasn’t Pauline Perk approaching. At first, she thought it was a woman but it moved swiftly between the trees until to her horror she could make out feline facial features on the bipedal figure. It was mottled, brown and green and black, almost like the forest itself had taken a form. And it sported a penis as well as prominent breasts. Before she could speak, the figure reached Pauline’s side and crouched down. She could smell its breath, earthy and floral at once. It seemed to fog Pauline’s mind.

Woodland scene, a feline hermaphrodite wood nymph kneels on one knee next to a seated police officer ensnared by ivy vines

“You should not have come here, warden of Order”

“You ssshould not have come herrre, warrrden of Orrrder,” the creature purred.

“Who are you?” Pauline somehow kept herself from stammering.

“I am the faerie spirit of these woods, of Chaos and Wildness. And you left the path and stumbled from your world to mine. Because you followed your desires.”

“I heard a call for help. It’s my duty to assist.”

“You wanted a call for help. And now you are helpless, by your own call.”

Pauline shook her head. “It’s impossible.”

The wood nymph nodded. “That is what makes it my realm. Only the mind of Order rejects what is true because it cannot be true. Chaos makes the impossible into truth.” Sie reached out and brushed Pauline’s cheek with hir paw.

Pauline squirmed. The heady scent of the creature, its brazen nakedness, the atmosphere itself in this forest, seemed to be dissolving her ability to think, leading her away from her mind and into a more primal state. The creature breathed and strange lichen spores seemed to start eating away Pauline’s uniform.

“No, no. That can’t happen, it can’t,” Pauline’s voice shook, seeing more and more of her bare skin exposed by the rank, verdant magic. But it happened anyway, every scrap of clothing falling away to be consumed by the forest floor, only smears of mulchy dirt streaking her body.

Pauline knew she should feel shame, but when she inhaled, she couldn’t remember how. The nymph straddled her hips and she knew she should resist, but she didn’t want to. The part of her that would always be a police officer told her this was wrong, but a deeper, unrestrained urgency refused to listen. She was helpless not only in the vines, but in her own mind, intoxicated and ensorcelled by the pheromones of a primeval spirit. Now when she squirmed, she knew it was not to escape but to lift her hips to that woody, juicy, lush cock between the nymph’s legs.

But she was as helpless to receive it as she had been to escape it. The nymph kissed her lips, feline tongue flicking over them as their faces met. Sie fondled Pauline’s breasts and Pauline wished for it to stop – but the stronger wish was so sie would do more, not that sie should free her.

“Please…” Pauline whimpered.

“Give up your doubts. Give up your love of Order. Become part of my forest, warrrden.”

She formed the thought. She clung to it. Helpless, she made it real. The thought, “I want this.” And as soon as she did so, she felt the nymph’s cock push into her. Less a thrust than a sway, like trees blowing in the wind might do, rocking back and forth with the same force, the same speed, but the heat of a bestial, lusty, wild fuck that left no room for the rational, for the ordered, for doubts. A fuck that made Pauline helpless with desire and need.

She felt her orgasm build like the low heat of a compost heap and deep throbbing of her own heart, something deep in the pit of her core. It swelled, bloomed, blossomed. She groaned like the sound of a tree toppling as she tumbled into ecstasy, her fingers clawing into the earth. So deep, so ecstatic, her fingers rooted to the earth, binding with it. The nymph seemed not to notice, riding Pauline on and on. The vines on Pauline’s legs fell away and she spread her knees wide, feet planted to the floor. Planted, literally, her toes forming roots just like her hands. And in that moment, the nymph cried out, like the bark of a vixen. Pauline felt its seed implanted in her.

She could hear new voices, now. Voices like her own but in other languages. The voices of the trees. Trees who had once been officers of the Law, across all centuries and lands, led into Faerie by a cry for help…

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STORY: Parking Lot Hierarchy

CONTENT NOTE: Dubcon, blackmail theme

One of the sites where I write for amusement has a tags system. It’s possible to generate tag clouds that often led to curious and intriguing juxtapositions. If I’m stuck for ideas, I load the cloud page and see if any combinations catch my eye, then make a note of them for later use. This story is inspired by a combination produced by that method: “Parking Lot” “Hierarchy”

Parking Lot Hierarchy

The deadline for my latest project was first thing Monday morning, and the presentation was barely half finished by 9pm on Friday night. There was nothing for it, I would have to work Saturday. I jacked it in and walked through the lonely parking lot out the back of the office building. It was such a trek each day, but there was a strict hierarchy in parking here, with seniority in the company bringing your assigned spot closer to the office. People were very protective of their status in the hierarchy, too. The easiest way to make enemies here was to park in someone else’s spot.

Saturday would be different, though. For most people, this was a quiet time of the year and I would have the office to myself, to organise everything I needed into a nice, neat, organised presentation that would show exactly what we’d done, how we’d done it, and what the benefits to the company were now it was done.

I didn’t quite dare to park in any of the senior management or board of directors spots, but I was still a lot closer than usual to the office. I dashed inside to get down to work. The sooner I got in, the sooner I could get finished and the sooner I would could go home and enjoy the weekend.

Nothing seemed to go my way. The computer took an hour to do some kind of software update, the spreadsheets wouldn’t output the charts in the correct format, the word processor crashed twice and wiped half an hour’s work each time (I started saving more frequently than that after the second time). In the end I had to go out to get lunch because I knew I would need most of the afternoon to get the job done.

When I got back, my heart skipped a beat. There was a car parked right next to mine, and the owner stood, arms folded and glowering, by my rear bumper. By sheer dumb luck, it was David, my line manager, too. The one person who had the most control over my fate at the company.

“This your car, Jonny?”

I swallowed hard, and nodded.

“You’re in my spot.”

“Sorry.”

“I’ll have to put it in your performance review…”

“Come on, David. You could park anywhere – we’re literally the only two here, and I didn’t know you’d be here, it’s not like I picked on you personally.”

“…Unless you can somehow convince me you understand your place in the hierarchy and make amends.”

I looked from side to side, not willing to meet his stern gaze. “What do you want?”

He smirked. “Like I said, you need to know your place in the hierarchy. Get on your knees, slut.”

My blood boiled, both at what he was suggesting, and what he called me. I’d never been part of the “locker room culture”, and would never dream of calling a woman that.

“Unless you want to be marked as not being a team player, a maverick and a bad influence in the department?” Three things that could easily lead to being suddenly found surplus to the company’s requirements. Slowly, reluctantly, I got down on my knees between the two cars. My eyes flicked to the CCTV cameras. David saw my glances.

“Don’t worry about them. Anyone who sees will agree you deserve this. And will make sure those who disagree never see it.” He unzipped his flies and pulled out his cock. It looked so much bigger than my own, but I really didn’t have any way to compare it generally. I’d always been a pretty straight guy, apart from some fumbling experimentatin at college, just mutual masturbation, that sort of thing.

“Suck it, Jonny. Be a good team player.”

What choice did I have? I couldn’t afford a black mark at this stage of my career, having to start over at a new business. I gave a soft whimper and opened my mouth, leaning towards his limp cock as he stepped closer to offer it to my lips. I closed my eyes, smelling the aroma of his crotch, tasting the slight sheen of sweat on his member. I caressed the head with my lips, teasing the tip of my tongue under his foreskin. I tried to remember what I liked when my girlfriend did it to me, how she would bob her head to provide more movement against my cock, and did the same. David seemed to like it, I could feel how much thicker and more rigid his penis felt in my mouth. His hands rested hot on the back of my head, my hair feeling stiff and crinkly against his fingers. He started to rock his hips and the loss of control made me panic, shuffling on my knees but suppressing the urge to pull away. I couldn’t afford to resist him or give him an excuse to write me up for parking in his spot.

I used my tongue more, for friction and trying to make it feel tighter for him, my lips farther down his shaft and I could feel his cockhead almost nudging the back of my throat each time he thrust forwards. It made me more nervous still, my gag reflex not quite triggered but it was as if I could feel it threatening. What hurt most was, I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks. That, more than anything else, filled me with shame and my cheeks burned from it. I wanted to be stronger, to show that I wasn’t that bothered at being made to suck off my boss in a car park, but the physical challenge was just too much.

David moved faster, making it harder for me to catch breaths in between. I felt his thumbs brush my tears away even as he fucked my face.

“Good boy, Jonny. That feels so good! I think I’m ready to come. Ready?”

Not in the slightest, but I knew I couldn’t say that. I nodded. He thrust a few more times while I choked and gasped. I thought he ws going to make me swallow, but it was worse: he pulled out just as I felt his cock start to twitch and pulse. I just had time to close my eyes before I felt his hot, sticky semen splat across my lips and chin. A second pulse landed under my nose, and I felt a third dribble and land under my chin and slowly slide down my shirt. It felt so unmanly but I let out a distressed sob.

David wiped his cock off on my tie. “Well done, Jonny. Polish up your presentation and I’m sure you’ll have a glowing performance review.” He offered his hand and helped me to my feet.

“Thank you, David,” I mumbled.

As I passed him on my way back to the office, he whispered in my ear, “You don’t want to know what I had to do to get this spot in the first place…”

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Trying To Ban Voices Of Pain

CONTENT NOTE: Suicide, suicidal ideation, self-harm mentions and brief discussion.

photo of woman wearing denim jacket

Photo by NastyaSensei Sens on Pexels.com

The news that the Tory Government wants to crack down on social media in all its forms and create a watchdog body to restrict “harmful” content is deeply worrying to me for many reasons.

The freedom of expression angle is, of course, a huge problem, but there’s a deep concern for me that grows out of the ostensive reasons for this plan. The “Won’t somebody think of the children?” angle.

The argument is that somehow, looking at websites about suicide is making young teens suicidal, and that looking at websites about self-harm is making them self harm. That the internet is making young people do these things OUT OF NOWHERE and they definitely wouldn’t even be thinking about them if it wasn’t for the Internet and Social Media being EVIL.

What I’m getting at is that the arguments being put forward have three unstated assumptions underlying them:

  1. Children and teenagers are completely blank canvasses that have no identity of their own until something is imposed upon them, and have no critical means to assess anything they see
  2. The internet is a thing that exists in itself, rather than being composed of the people communicating using it
  3. Everything is equally presented to everyone, rather than being a product of searches

The “moral panic” over teens looking at sites expressing suicidal ideation or self-harming strikes me as being the equivalent of the scene in the Doctor Who episode World Enough and Time in which the nurse simply turns down the voice of the suffering patients:

Teenagers aren’t finding these sites and communities by accident. They go looking for them. They feel deep pain and anxiety and suffering, and they go looking for others feeling the same thing, so that they know they aren’t alone. That is one of the great things about the internet: it allows us to find people and know we aren’t alone. I suffered horribly during my teen years and yes, I had suicidal ideation. Fuck knows how I pulled through but there’s a reason why I proudly state “Not Dead Yet” and view that as a serious accomplishment and a motivational slogan right up there with the best of them. I didn’t have the internet – I was 16 when the World Wide Web was even invented.

By shutting off the means to express their feelings, no one is ”protecting” teenagers: the suffering and anguish and anxiety will still be there, it will just be conveniently quietened so adults don’t have to hear it.

That is what scares me most about the moral panic over social media “harmful content”. The people who actually have a duty of care towards these children are using the internet as a convenient scapegoat yet again, and not for one second stopping to consider their own involvement.

The questions that the government, and the parents, and yes, the charities as well, should all be asking, are:

  • “How have we fucked up so badly that our young people are so desperate and depressed and in pain?”
  • ”What are we doing, saying and otherwise communicating that means our kids can’t express their truths to us and ask us for help?”
  • I’m going to flag up that a 14 year old today was 5 when the ConDem coalition took power and enacted austerity. That their entire school life and learning has been shaped by the actions and decisions made by the David Cameron coalition government and Theresa May’s government. This generation has seen the chaos of Brexit, the devastation of cuts to services, and the demonisation of minorities.

    On the other hand, teen suicides are nothing new and yet again, this is a long-term problem being used as an excuse to limit civil liberties and test-run totalitarian systems of control.

    I will certainly be expressing these concerns, and the freedom of expression issues, and any others that occur to me, when I respond to the White Paper consultation

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My Day Out At EGX Rezzed Video Games Fair

On Friday, I decided to bunk off work and go to London for a day out in the big city, at a video games fair.

(Actually, I’d booked my ticket to EGX Rezzed a couple of months ago, and in the interim, I got a temp job. I cleared it with my boss that I had the Friday as a booked holiday already. But it turned out I didn’t have enough hours clocked to earn a day of paid holiday, so it felt like I was bunking off – which made it an even sweeter day out!)

With a 1 day ticket, and a 3.5hr trek from home to get to the venue, there was never going to be enough time to do everything I wanted and try all the games that looked interesting. And because I still haven’t managed to quantum superposition myself and be in two places at once, there were plenty of things I couldn’t see that I wanted to, because they were on at the same time as each other.

There was an absolutely beautiful demo (and so far, the demo is all that exists of it) for a game called Meridian Line by Archway Interactive, set in a fictionalised version of the London Underground – which I’m guessing they aren’t allowed to call it since the linked page only describes what that is, it doesn’t use the official name… but the design is so clearly based on the r/l barriers, tunnels, etc. It looks like a fantastic game but the demo was labelled something like version 0.0.0.2, meaning it must be a long way from release. I really want to play the finished thing when it finally comes out though.

The concept of “We Were Here Together” – duo co-op play by voice chat to solve puzzles – struck me as bot very intriguing and also (as I said to the developer demo guy) “I play video games to NOT have to talk to people!” – only partly joking, but it could be fun with a good friend who’s as into games as me.

Several of the stands in the Indie areas were run by educational establishments displaying games created by their students studying game design, programming, and other aspects of creating games. Some of these games were amazingly creative or beautiful to look at! I was intrigued to discover that a college fairly local to me was there and had some very nice-looking games on display, making me wonder if it might be worth doing some kind of adult ed thing to study with them – but I feel like I should have a go at making sense of the software I already have (RPG Maker MV and AppGameKit 2) and see what I can do already before I worry about spending MORE money on chasing that creative dream.

On which topic, one of the fascinating things I went to was a talk by Chris Gardiner (Narrative Director at Failbetter Games) called “Making Games With Stories At Their Heart”. So much of my desire to make games comes out of my general need/urge/passion to tell or create stories, and express things in those terms. I write stories, have a self-published novel, create music and digital art, all with that same basic drive. It’s natural (to me) that I should also want to be able to turn that onto interactive media too. Gardiner covered some points I hadn’t considered and, as ever, I left feeling more inspired than ever, and with a better appreciation of how to harness that.

The main event, and really, the only reason I was willing to shell out the money for a ticket (and the travel, and forgo a day’s wages…) was the Outside Xbox “Oxventure” session that closed the day.

Outside Xbox and sister youtube channel Outside Xtra are video game vlog/magazine channels – in the classic mix of “news/listicles/Let’s Play” vids – but they happen to be one of the funniest and most engaging teams for me. A while back, as an anniversary special, they got a D&D player from friendly-rivalry other video game youtube channel Eurogamer, to play GM for a session of tabletop Dungeons & Dragons. After the first couple of tries were incredibly successful, they started doing these as live performances (still purely tabletop gaming – no LARPing! Although as things have gone on, they have added a bit of cosplay to their stage presence).

The Outside Xbox team on stage for Oxventure at EGX Rezzed. 6 people in costume.

From the left: Dob, Merilwen, GM “Everyone Else In The World”, Prudence, Corazon and Egbert

It may not be strictly speaking “proper” Dungeons & Dragons, as it was designed. But it is definitely D&D as it should be! At least, when you have an audience.

They have created a strange form of improv comedy/theatre out of the game, and it is a wild experience to be in the audience when it happens. Having tried to GM for the playtest of my own RPG system, I feel a certain pang of sympathy for the guy they roped in to try to cat-herd his way through an adventure for them. At least my players are trying to be helpful – the Oxbox/Oxtra crew are incredibly adept at leaping on some detail and spiralling off into all manner of chaos. Which, of course, makes for great hilarity and entertainment for us. My sympathy does not go too far, though. They’ve done a lot of these now and he knows what he’s getting into – he must like the pain.

* * *

The final thing to mention is that I checked out the tabletop games hall as well, and got to try a fascinating game called Magic Maze, in which each player has specific moves or actions they can perform, and no others – so players have to co-operate to guide the pieces around the board in real-time (i.e. not turn-based) to beat the sand timer and complete the task. But players are not allowed to speak or communicate, except in terms of taking the action that they are allowed to do, or using a sort of “gavel” to prompt a fellow player to “Do Something!”

It’s frenetic and frustrating, but the achievement of making it to the end is awesome, and spotting all the details is a challenge.

* * *

I’ve never really done an event like that before, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t again, unless I was actually there with something of my own to display (in which case, it wouldn’t be the same kind of event from my perspective). But it was fantastic. The thing that I came away with most was just the sense of the sheer joy and love for their products that the developers have: the excitement they felt was palpable, and so much more genuine than a salesperson’s patter (although of course, they were there to sell, and they did all have some patter because hundreds of similar interactions in a day will do that to you).

That excitement is what I feel about my ideas, too – my stories, my music, and yes, my ideas for video games, too. And I’ve come away energised again from seeing others with that excitement and talking to them.

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Steampunk, adventure, young adult fiction and more!

For the past year or so, I have been afflicted with sporadic episodes of Day Job. While this does have positive side effects in terms of money, it severely depletes the resource known as “time”, which I need for the writing projects I care about and want to see completed.

So instead, I have taken to using a notebook and pen in my lunch breaks to do longhand writing the old-fashioned way, and amusing myself with a young adult adventure story that I describe as about 75% Doctor Who, 15% Poirot and 10% Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones. It’s inspired by a family member and particularly, by a very dashing and debonair look she had in a photo I took. My incredible adventuress has many stories planned out for her in the future, but for now I am teaming her up with a 16 year old trans boy called Jate, who stumbled across a mysteriously dead person in a “haunted” manor house, after which things kind of escalate, he meets Elly Cope, who starts to investigate, and, well, I’m making it up as I go along, mostly.

I have over 13k words done, about 100 words a day on average while I’ve had Day Job. So I feel like it’s time now to start doing something with the material. I am not ready to type it up and edit things, but the first draft pages in photo form will now be uploaded 3 instalments a week on my Patreon. The first page is free!

I know photos are not an accessible media form for the visually impaired: I am very sorry, but it will take time to type up the story and I will do that when I can, when the hand-written draft is compete, so I can treat it as an editing process as well. My Patreon posts also make text comments about my “process” with this story, which is all about amusing myself and maintaining some level of writerliness even when I haven’t time for the main projects.

If you like what I do here on my blog, or the very occasional music stuff that I post, the best way to get me to do more is to give me money: sign up as a patron, or buy my book. If I ever end up pulling enough from this that I can be picky about Day Jobs, I’d have more time to make lovely stuff for you guys!

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