"Battle for Maidan (18-19 Feb)" by Dymmar
Translator’s note: I realise that online accounts, particularly ones from unfamiliar cultures, can be hard to identify with. So as you read this, please remember that the author of this essay is a friend of my youth who is dear to me: a writer, LARPer, geek, and husband to another dear friend. Here is the original. FWIW, Dymmar speaks perfect English; mostly I asked him for permission to translate this so that my friends understand why I’ve been crying so much.


During the day I was in the country, at my aunt’s, so I only made it to Maidan by eight at night (the traffic in the city was choked up because of the Metro closures).

By this time the Berkuters had already pushed us back beyond the Instytutska barricade, that is, they had pretty much taken the barricade. I couldn’t figure out how, but soon realised that as they’d taken Hrushevskoho, they were able to place themselves at a strategic height above Maidan, and from there shower the defenders of the barricade with various grenades, bullets and other fun stuff. And besides, they had brought in water cannon and used them to clear the way - so a water cannon moved forward and sprayed/pushed back our shield wall with threats of crushing, a jet of water and, I think, gas grenades + firefighting gas. Then fighters with shields moved up and just placed themselves in the surrendered space.

(Fake cut leading to Tumblr)

Bugger the bland
My dear bluedevi has come home to a package of clothes from Hexagon: a top and a dress with gothy slashed backs and swirly patterns, and she inhabits these clothes with cheer and aplomb. They're not complicated fashion pieces, but they're cute and they look like somebody put some thought in designing them to be like so.

I would very much like to be in the position to wear clothes into which somebody put some thought and love. Wearing bland clothes has recently become as unpleasant and insulting to me as reading bland books. I end up spending months without buying anything new, but that's OK. I've spent years trying to pretend that I didn't care what I put on my body, and that I could be perfectly content with 7 identical t-shirts in jewel tones. No. No. Bugger this.

Bugger, in particular, Marks & Spencer, the alleged destiny of any British ladyperson starting from her lower middle age. Seriously, fuck Marks & Spencer jointly and severally. Those clothes aren't even cheap, so I can't pretend to be economically virtuous by condemning myself to death by drowning in emotional beige. They're just safe choices, safe clothes, the Facebook of dress. Fuck them.

I'm not sure what I can wear instead, being both peculiarly shaped and, for the moment, broke. Whatever it is, somebody will have loved it before it became a piece of clothing. Threadless t-shirts may be a good start.

Delicious bribes
Here's a game I'm going to play. I'm going to play it for a month, and if by the end I haven't expired of fatigue, I may have another round.

My writing goal is 250 words of the same fiction project a day, every day. "Every day" is the key, because a 5K word binge with nothing else for weeks has rarely done me any good.

For every day that I manage my 250, I will reward myself with points, the number of which will grow in an arithmetic progression for as long as I don't break the chain.

So: 1 on day one, 2 on day two, 3 on day three, etc. However, if on day four I write nothing, I start again on day five with 1 point.

I didn't make this system up, I heard about it on "I Should Be Writing."

However, I'm not much of a gamer, so you can't impress me with points. As far as I'm concerned, each point is worth 10 pence. Theoretically, if I don't falter, at the end of the month I'll be able to get myself a guilt-free treat in the £45 bracket.

I'm *all* about treats.

So yes, today is day two. I've just earned my 20p.

Words today: 308. Total words so far: 628.

Writing words

So I've got Scrivener open, and I'm writing words - good words, they are coming easily, my people are sounding true. It's tiring, because I've got the tail end of the flu, and damn near everything is tiring, but the writing is going well.

I take a tea break, come back to the story - and a fist of panic punches me in the throat; I feel sick and tearful, and I can't, can't, won't, can't touch this story again. It takes me a a good half an hour to return to my senses. Nothing like this has happened to me before, but I know why it has today.

It feels like this story matters. To me, obviously - it's a story I want to tell well, and I'm not sure I have the skill. It feels like I've wobbled into the ice rink and, instead of staying by the barrier, I've pushed off towards the middle.

Now, you who know me may remark that a person who has been finishing short stories for over ten years, and having them published and enjoyed for as long, might possibly have more confidence in her skating. To this I say... wouldn't that be nice.

I write really good erotica/erotic romance. I'm not going to do a dance of modesty about this, because I've worked at it, and became good. I have this story in my in my head right now about this girl in a faux-Regency town, she has her hair cropped short, and dresses as a boy, and earns her bread by writing out letters for farmers who come to the Saturday market, and then she meets this - anyway. I'll write this story some time, and I don't feel at all anxious about it. I know I can make the story on paper be as good as the picture in my head.

And it doesn't Matter. Somehow my jerk-brain has decided that none of my skill, none of my successes in erotica matter. They are canceled, they don't count. The story I'm working on today is near-future SF, and if I submit it, it will be under my own name (my maiden name in all likelihood), and as far as my jerk-brain is concerned, this one follows straight from my previous straight-SF story, which I wrote a good three years ago, and which is so flawed I can't to this day work out how to fix it.

Jerk-brain thinks I can write only stories that don't matter.

The thing that helped me get over this fugue today was stopping to ask myself this: why does erotica not matter to my jerk-brain? Because, it said, there's very little competition. To which I say, bullshit, there's more bad pr0n than there is SF, I mean, have you *been* on the Internet? OK, it says. OK. It's because writing a good piece of erotica is easier, because come what may (hur-hur), some people are going to be doing sexual things, so some of your scenes are predetermined. To which I say, hello, you think that makes things EASIER?

Well, you find it easy, says the jerk-brain.

And here it hits me. I've convinced myself that, because I feel comfortable and confident when doing a thing well, it must be an easy thing to do. If I'm good at something, it must be easy, it must not MATTER. A thing I'm good at can't matter, I mean, god, seriously, *that fluff*.

When I hit this bit, I had a giggle, and gave myself a pat on the head for a stellar display of self-knowledge. I can see right back to when I started writing as a wee kid, and how my jerk-brain managed to turn every success into an accident or make it otherwise insignificant.

I got accepted into a writing workshop, but it didn't matter, because not many people got turned down. I had a couple of stories published, but it didn't matter, because it was only in shitty Porog, anybody could get published there. (This may have been true.) I got an award, but it didn't count, because it was only from an editor of this one magazine, and anyway, I didn't write anything else for years.

Then I moved to the UK, and started writing in English, and some people liked it, but it didn't matter, because I wasn't getting published. Then I did get published, but that didn't matter, because the story wasn't actually that good. Then I wrote some good stories, and they got published, and I started getting letters from actual fans, and invitations to exciting anthologies, but it didn't matter, because these weren't novels, and anyway it wasn't proper writing, it was porn, OK?

Well played, jerk-brain, well played. You can go to your cave now.

I guess there should be some sort of moral here, but I didn't mean this to be an essay, more of a record of how I set off to write a near-future mundane SF story, and got a bucket of enlightenment and self-knowledge.

That said, a moral: the jerk-brain lies. Yours does too.


...in which I don't get "Watchmen"
I tried watching "Watchmen" last night. The keyword, obviously, being "tried", because I got about half-way only by a feat of willpower, and then I ran out even of that, and gave the hell up.

I've heard so much good stuff about the film, that I'm still feeling like I must be missing an Experience that better people can all share, but mugs like me will never get.

I like that the "costumed heroes" fail at superhero powers and have names. I liked big, blue, naked Billy Crudup.

I completely failed to care that the people who were killed, were killed. By extension, I didn't care who was doing the killing. Nor did I care whether the others would survive. You see how the film may not have worked for me? It was basically such a blank experience, I might have got more out of reading the synopsis on IMDB.

That said, I can't get rid of the feeling that not liking it was My Fault. For being Not Cool Enough.

Ah, well.

Hard work
So yes, we've finally got our act together and joined the gym in the new place. (New place? We've been living here for a year! It doesn't feel that long. Anyway.)

It's in a new municipal sports centre, so the swimming pool is often closed for schools and such, and is a screaming, splashing nightmare in the school holidays. But that doesn't bother me that much, because I'm not really a swimming sort of person, except on holiday somewhere sunny. The gym itself is new and shiny, which is cool. Crucially, it has all the machines I like to use, so I don't feel like my work-outs are missing something.

What it doesn't have is free parking after 8am, so I either have to be there by 6.30 to get out before parking wardens come swooping in, or I have to walk.

I like walking, and don't mind walking *there*, but after a good work-out my bones turn to liquid, and the only way I can make it back up the hill is by stopping in town for coffee and a muffin. Do you see how this may be a flaw in the exercise plan?

Post-scriptum to the previous
I'm surprised by how much I care about this election. Maybe it's knowing that, for the first time ever, my vote counted, and was counted: unequivocally and honestly.

My feelings about this aren't changed even by the huge majority the Tories have in my constituency. I like looking at the result on the BBC website, at its coloured ribbons and numbers. I like saying hello to my vote, right there, sitting among the others.

Unexpectedly political
I find myself spending several hours a day glued to the BBC News channel. Watching the news happen.

What do I understand of politics? As in art, I know what I like and what I don't, though not necessarily why. LibDems: like. Tories: do not like. LibDem/Tory love-in... is better than being shafted with a cactus, or than having an outright Tory majority, but not by much. At least, being shafted with a cactus is unlikely to last for five years.

Clegg: like. Cameron: creepy. Proportional representation: like. Alternative vote: meh. Vince Cable: like. George Osborne: heaven help us.

Clegg's tie at the press conference: like, like.

This is encouraging...
The first verdict has come in on "Open". P. reckons it's a story, not a sequence of scenes, though he feels the character's change is expressed too subtly. That's OK, I can work with that.

However, he's worried that the story may not make as much sense to somebody who doesn't know me inside and out, like he does. I see his point. But where, if you please, am I supposed to find a beta-reader who doesn't know me inside and out?

I say, does anybody fancy critting a 3K-word piece of sci-fi?

(Comments screened.)

Right, that was weird
"Consent" is now called "Open", and has an ending. I think. Anyway, it's off to the first readers.

I'm not sure it's even a short story. It could be just a series of scenes. It makes perfect sense to me, but I don't know if it will to anyone else. It almost certainly won't make any sense to A., who never ever reads sci-fi; she struggled with "Riding Unicorns", which is as straightforward as it gets. But she's an awesome proof-reader.

I so want this story to work; it Means Things to me.


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