Kage Baker, like all writers, resented her occasional fits of writer’s block. Never mind that hers were inhumanly brief, especially compared with many other, famous, unfortunate writers.
There are some who spent more time blocked than they did writing, and still could not kick the irresistible urge to keep on trying to write anyway. Samuel Taylor Coleridge bemoaned spending an entire year without writing; Truman Capote spent the last several years of his life, according to one biographer, pretending to write a novel that wasn’t there. Even Stephen King complains of it from time to time. Every writer has their tried and true method of getting past it – and, just like all the cures for hiccoughs and insomnia, none of these methods ever works for anybody else.
You just have to plough through it, somehow. Or not. For every writer, there are dreadful times when every word must be dragged out of some interior morass of bad black mud – and yet, those times are preferable to times when nothing comes at all. At least you’re writing.
I have recently escaped a long horrible stretch of writer’s block. Now I am in the sunny tropical waters of “Oh my God, I must write!” and find myself unable to do much of anything else. I am endangering my computer by keeping a cup of coffee beside it all the time – but I’ve got to have my coffee! It actually seems to slow my racing mind down long enough to get a few thousand words on paper coherently.
Frankly, Dear Readers, I am placing my money on mania as the cause of my current happy state. I have depression; Bipolar Depression II, to be exact, which is normally kept in control by that wonder condiment, Prozac. The problem with the Type II of this disease is that you are far more likely to suffer from depression than from mania. When mania does raise its lovely tousled head from beside yours on the pillow, it is generally less intense than in Type I. It’s called “hypomania” instead of “hypermania”, though it must be watched to make sure it doesn’t slip over the boundary into faerieland and send you racing off with the Wild Hunt …
Which is an inordinate drag, Dear Readers, because you know what? Mania is fun. You get such a lot done! And you enjoy doing it, too. It sounds the way some chemically-incautious friends have described cocaine use to me, except that it’s not as dangerous and no one usually arrests you for doing it.
My mania is, inevitably, slowing down a little now – but definitely not going away completely. I am hoping that it only recedes to a state of calm water, where I can continue the good habits that have been so ridiculously easy to follow this last week or so. If I am lucky, it will not go back down all the way to the Maelstrom and the whirling black depths of despair: which are not fun, and also not productive.
Your kind attention, Dear Readers, is assisting me in keeping to the sweet, heady edge of whatever kind of mania I am presently enjoying. Also, one of the things that notoriously brings on mania is sleep deprivation: which is a fact of life in my household at the moment, so I have great expectations. Seems only just that I should get some good out if it all, you know?
Tonight, Dear Readers, I offer a small bit of the Zombie Story. It was a peculiarly quiet and sleepy day, and I was actually asleep for most of it. I am enjoying the results of sleep deprivation no end right now, but the sleep debt knocks on the door with a warrant when one least expects it, and it’s off to the sleep debtor’s prison one must go …
Anyway, here’s our heroine and the charming Murphy getting and giving some clues. Or are they?
Despite all the perfectly justified fears of global warming and water shortages, Middle and East Coast America had been suffering from two completely other weather curses for several years. Winters were ghastly, filled to overflowing with extreme winds, snow storms, and polar vortexes. And then Spring followed with excessive rain, hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding absolutely everywhere anywhere near a river. Whole states became lakes with tree tops and roofs sticking out. River boundaries became lines on maps, with no connection to geographic reality.
The CDC had been worried about all that rain: about malaria, Zika, West Nile and nasty things like typhoid fever and cholera. They had been worried for years about emerging diseases from jungles and wilderness, but it never occurred to them that some diseases do not flourish in places without people. Some diseases like cites; some even prefer developed countries to undeveloped ones …
I remember watching the first report speculating on that particular problem. (There were reports speculating on everything in the first few days, up to and including alien invasions of both terrestrial and bug-eyed monsters.) It was the morning of Stephanie Ruhle and the lady with the cat and one red shoe. Not that Stephanie had any theory about the cause of this – bad drugs, especially bath salts and meth, were still high on the list of causes.
But her team had gotten hold of the interesting factoid that Toxoplasma gondii is more prevalent in rich, developed areas than in poor, rural ones, and she was making a big joke about it.
It’s a vaguely funny name. And it can only breed inside a living cat’s gastrointestinal tract, which is also kind of funny. It causes behaviour changes in rodents when it infects them – makes them crave felines instead of fear them; so the rodents go out actually looking for cats, and get eaten, and that’s how T. gondii perpetuates itself. It doesn’t do anything to humans, though. It infects them, all right, with brief flu-like symptoms, but it doesn’t make them love cats. Nonetheless, it’s an amusing idea, and the stuff is sometimes called “Crazy Cat Lady Virus”.
It’s not a virus, though – it’s a protozoan. It lives in cats and dirt and water; and it has been found in clouds and storms. Probably half the people in developed countries like the US carry a form of T. gondii. And which form you carry turned out to effect whether or not you ate the neighbors.
It took a while to figure that out, though. I’m not sure we have it right, even now. We sure don’t have any vaccines or cures – just ways we’ve adapted to the fact that zombies are, yes, real; and that they are an urban problem like flash mobs and traffic jams.
The woman who left Murphy – thankfully alive and apparently uninfected – on my doorstep was not a Crazy Cat Lady. She meant to offer me the cat, I was sure. I was equally sure that – whatever a zombie turned out to be – she was a zombie. But that wasn’t something that Toxoplasma gondii did to people! It had never done anyone but a dazed rat any harm.
Guess what? Turns out I was only partially right about that. All of that.