HELLO INTERNET BOY #43:Chat-shaming

Re-joining Aelyria for this blog project hasn’t felt as nostalgic as I thought it would. A lot of that is because I’m keeping myself reined in fairly tightly, and not doing more than one thread, staying firmly anchored in the storyline of Patrick Lenton and his weird gnome + dog person journey. This is mostly because I really don’t have time for more, and as I’ve mentioned before, the danger of Aelyria is when you spiral out of control and suddenly have a seven short story equivalents to write every morning. The other is that I don’t understand some of the new game mechanics, and have no real desire to learn how time works.

But I think the real reason it’s not feeling like the grand old days is that I haven’t engaged socially. This shouldn’t be a surprise – this entire project is literally about engaging with the social aspect of the game, so without it, it’s vaguely hollow. Why haven’t I engaged socially? Once again – time, mostly. I also don’t know any current players, except for the people who I road tripped with. I also don’t know if they’re even playing anymore.

And I just don’t have the kind of life that’s conducive to sitting in a chat room or playing around on the OOC (out of character) forums. Back when I was younger, it was very much a community thing, about finding my people, especially outside of high school. I’ve written about this before. I’ve been writing an article about how important it was for me to find my community online, especially in regards to the protest against the Safe School’s initiative in Australia. My high school life went from barbaric to below tolerable, and homophobic assholes in Australia want to reject a program designed to specifically stop that from happening.

Although while I was writing this, I also thought about the downside of this kind of community. It was great for me when I needed it, and then when I didn’t, I pretty much fucked off without even a ‘LOL bye’. But for people more involved in the online community than me, there has to be a tension between wanting the social aspect and playing the game. Is your social life and friendships based on your actual engagement with the game? Are you allowed to come and hang in the chatroom if you’ve no longer the time/ inclination to write? Or does the social aspect simply mutate beyond the constraints of the game? Regardless of these questions, there’s also a lot of infighting and gossip, and I’ve seen what happens when a dominant clique makes the chat and forums become unwelcome for a person. All that safe harbour, all that feeling of belonging dissipates. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen in real life too – but perhaps there is something more vicious or subtle online. I don’t know. I feel like the rose tinted article about the joy of online communities has been written a few times – maybe I should write one about hate and bullying on fantasy game boards?



HELLO INTERNET BOY #42: Meeting your heroes

I have a general rule of never meeting my heroes. This isn’t because I’m worried they will disappoint me, but rather because I’ll say something stupid or dumb or offensive or creepy. Why ruin a perfectly good one sided relationship by making them aware of my existence? Why?

This whole HELLO INTERNET BOY project is based around the conceit of meeting people, of forcing a real life relationship. I think in this case it’s been overwhelmingly successful, but I feel like meeting people or celebrities or artists that you admire has so much more that can go wrong. I think because it’s inherently awkward, and there’s so much pressure on the more famouser person to do something, to perform or be witty or at least say something, while the other person waits with hungry, expectant eyes. At least that’s how I always imagine it – I think the reality is that far more gregarious people than me are easily able to carry out conversations with people they like and not make it weird. Bully for them.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mallory Ortberg, writer, creator of The Toast and just one of my absolute favourite writers in the world. She is so incredibly absurd and hilarious and talented, that when I got the chance to meet her, and it wasn’t a surprise thing where I jump out, slavering and with things for her to sign, but that she was actually prepared and keen to briefly say hi to me, I realised I had to take the chance. It’s all because of my excellent sister, by the way, nothing that I did. A day or two before, we were discussing Gilmore Girls via text message through the intermediary of my sister, and male/male erotica books, and when I got to the Opera House, she’d signed a copy of her books, with an inspiring message to my dogs.


And it was lovely – we saw her excellent talk at the All About Women Festival, and then we waited backstage and drank champagne and ate free food, and then she came back, we showed her lots of pictures of our dogs, discussed her starting a Dear Prudence only for pet issues, and then I think I explained what Wollongong is, and then it was over. I wasn’t funny or witty, but really, who is compared to Mallory? So that’s fine. I didn’t make an enemy, so I’ll chalk this up as a win. Not making enemies is a big concern in my life these days.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.



HELLO INTERNET BOY #41: Say no to bunnies

Last night at my improv class, we were talking about bad behaviour on stage. From something so dumb, the ‘prov as it’s known, sure looks like it has a lot of rules. Although, it’s actually kind of a myth. Improv is kind of like painstakingly breaking down the process of communication, and building it back up again using idiots. Every “rule” is just another layer of basic process. The classic rules that people know about improv is the whole ‘say yes’ thing. It starts off being prescriptive, but after a while it’s not so much a rule as a layer. It’s about being open and receptive to what the other person on stage is trying to do, and not shutting them down. When you start off, you’re encouraged to literally never say no, in order to try and drum this into your head. Saying no is actually quite instinctual in improv, because we have this idea that drama and interesting things come from opposition, although it tends to actually just stall things, or spin a scene into a stalemate of bickering. After a while you’re actually allowed to say ‘no’ as long as that ‘no’ is in some way saying yes to the situation proposed. There’s something known as the ‘game’ of the scene, which is both the technical structure, and also somehow the soul of the whole thing. Saying yes to the game, can sometimes look like saying no to something a character is proposing. This is confusing, maybe I’ll go read my UCB handbook and explain this better.

Anyway, breaking down improv rules and talking about bad behaviour made me think about roleplaying, especially on Aelyria. It’s interesting, because the two mediums are so incredibly different, yet at their heart, they are exactly the same. There’s a lot of rules on Aelyria too. If you ask me, there’s way too many at the moment, and a lot of them involve complicated time-measuring systems. I have a lot of trouble telling the time in reality, let along in magic world. But the main, overarching rule of playing Aelyria used to be known as ‘no bunnying’. I don’t know if they use bunnying as a term anymore, but it basically means being true to the reality of Aelyria, and not overstepping your bounds. Bunnying can include giving your character knowledge that they couldn’t possibly know, like if there are assassins breaking into the castle in the night, just coincidentally waking up and putting plate armour on for no reason. Bunnying can also be affecting the world around you – like walking up to a tree and finding a deus ex machina apple in it, when your character is starving. In essence, bunnying is saying no to the reality of Aelyria. It’s literally rejecting the ‘game’. Everyone is helping construct a fantasy world, and to reject even a part of it, weakens the shared communication, the shared goal.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.


In Aelyria, the action has finally begun. After a nice little monologue from the gruff dog-man, Patrick finds out that he’s been thinking bad, possibly mildly racist things, about a guy who used to be a thug, and now tries to help people. Patrick loves a redemption arc, so for the first time he begins to feel comfortable. I really do love a redemption arc, by the way. It’s one of the few tropes that basically always appeals to me. I have no idea why – I’ve never been a particularly bad guy, and I’m far too law-abiding to ever get really tempted by the dark side, but I suppose that’s what makes it exotic. It’s interesting to think of the circumstances that could turn you evil, and then good again. Not that I’m particularly good. For me it would be evil and then kinda OK again.

After Patrick relaxes, that is of course when the bad stuff happens. Suddenly Ruffus is barking orders at us (and for the first time, barking orders is actually a literal description) and there’s some kind of … stampede heading our way. But Ruffus is telling us to run, while holding his weapon, so I don’t think it’s animals. It might be orcs or boar things or something. Anyway, it’s exciting. At the moment I’m just running – I think I’d definitely run from a stampede thing in real life. That’s probably instinct.

Our pet behaviouralist has been educating us about our dogs anxiety disorders, and has been talking about they are triggered into fight or flight from weird shit. It’s a difficult thing to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it, and a difficult thing to write about in general. We tend to identify our selves via our working brain, as a kind of cohesive psyche – but it’s a bit of a myth. There’s all sorts of triggers and modes in our brain that kind of bypass our full personalities and go deeper and more primal. When we’re in fight or flight, it’s literally those two things. It’s impossible to think about complex morality or pacifism or fear of the law. I wonder if this sort of thing is ever covered in criminal cases, especially in terms of self defence. If I woke up and someone was threatening me with a knife, I know from prior experiences that there’s an equal chance that I’d bludgeon him with the deer antler on my dressing table as run away. I hope I wouldn’t be penalised for that – it’s not a choice I’d consciously make.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.


It’s almost looped around to the time when I first started writing this series, and it’s so weird to think that a year has passed. I’m bad at memory, and very bad at cutting at time into easily digested periods, but it’s amazing how easy it is to follow the course of a year when you’re working on a blog project for the entire time. It’s probably helps that I’m aware that I need to finish all fifty posts by the end of March, and that shit is coming up!

A lot has happened in that year, but it also kind of feels like nothing has happened at all. I don’t feel different, and a lot of the same thoughts and frustrations and anxiety loops that I was going through a year ago are still grinding on. It’s depressing to think that I might be endlessly chewing on the same problems until I die, at the age of 183 from being way too good looking.

But then again, a lot of THINGS have happened, including the entire trip that this series is based on. I’ve met some amazing people, I’ve seen some amazing things. It’s difficult to quantify how that changes you, because I think experiences seep unnoticed into your identity, and become part of the structure that makes up who you are. Unless it’s a horrible experience, and then you generally know the ways in which you’ve changed.

A year ago I was taking my first ever annual leave, going on a trip in which I still got paid, and I felt old and proud, but also a bit sad. I wondered if this was the pattern I would be set into for the rest of my life, the old 9-5 grind and then taking a holiday thing. But, turns out I worried too much, because now I’ve been made redundant! That’s a goddamn change. I have to say that a year ago, as much as I loved my job, I worried that it might be holding me back from my ambition to be an author. Not anymore! Woo! Every cloud has a silver linings playbook.

Being so aware of the past year, and the frustrations and worries I’ve held close to me has really forced me to take this redundancy as an opportunity, as a chance to do something else. What that exactly means remains to be seen, but in a years time, it will all seem hazy and difficult to un-imagine, if that makes any sense.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.

HELLO INTERNET BOY #38: A community of fuckheads

In Aelyria, ‘Patrick Lenton’ has been tasked with the awkward process of being forced to  read another writers work, while they sit there and watch. This has happened to me a few times, outside of a workshop scenario and it’s always been excruciating. Especially because I’ve been trained in a certain style of criticism – you don’t bother pussyfooting around with empty compliments and platitudes, you just go straight into the meat and gristle of what’s not working, and provide solutions. When you’re sitting at a bar, and someone has pulled out seven loose-leaf sheafs of their new novel, you don’t really have the ability to do that. You’re left awkwardly talking about how good it is, desperately trying to seem engaged, but not too engaged.

That said, I love spending time with other writers. I love it when writers form communities, because they tend to be really weird and excellent people. I love talking about writing and books and just stupid stuff. When I was younger, I used to think that I only wanted to be friends with writers, which was helped along by the fact that I was studying creative writing and everyone around me was part of that world. But over the last few years, as much as I still value my writing community and my word friends, i’ve found an unexpected pleasure in getting to know people who have absolutely no tie with my insular little book bubble. This is for obvious reasons – being a writer doesn’t make you a good or a bad person (although will often tip you into being a crap person to be around), so obviously hanging around with non-writers means you get literally an entire spectrum of new cool people. BUT, the bonus is being exposed to people who are doing amazing or interesting or just different stuff. Having that exposure is so important, is a way to be inspired in all the thousands of ways that writers need to be. Getting stuck in the bubble is bad, because you stagnate in there.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.

HELLO INTERNET BOY # 37: I am a writer

One of the things that I like about Patrick Lenton from the fantasy world of Aelyria is that he introduces himself as a writer. No vacillating, no ‘I’m a digital marketer but also an author’ no ‘oh you know… trying to be an author’. I suppose it would be weird claiming to be a digital marketer. What would be the Aelyrian parallel? Town crier of the… astral plane?

In my current storyline, I’m being asked by a gnome and a dog man what my occupation is, and that world’s Patrick Lenton is like ‘writer’. He is off to do some writing. And of course, I haven’t given that Patrick a day job. In Aelyria, he earns all his money from writing. This is a fantasy world, after all.

It was fun when I was travelling to experiment with saying ‘I’m an author’. I’d just had my book of short stories released, so it felt the truest it ever has. I managed to do it a couple of times without slipping up, but often I’d follow up with ‘not that it makes me any money’ or ‘you know, I work too.’

There’s a lot of well meaning and aspirational articles and memes aimed at writers that basically says ‘you ARE a writer, if you write, you are a writer, identify as a writer, asshole!’ and I agree to a certain extent. I do. I am a writer. But am I an author? Someone asked me the other day if my ultimate goal was to be a full time writer, and I paused. That’s the dream, I suppose. But I’ve worked in trade publishing for years – I know how difficult it is to make a living. Almost impossible, really. There’s no middle ground anymore, no mid-list. You have to be J.K. Rowling or nothing. So I’m ready to support myself to pursue my writing, that’s a reality I’m comfortable with.

I’m currently not comfortable with the amount I’m writing, the demands of a full-time job that I love meaning that my writing output is much less than I hope. I would like to solve this somehow, but that’s a different issue for a different day. Would upping the percentage of time I spend writing make me more comfortable in saying I was an author? How much? 60%? 80%? Or is it always going to be about how I make my living. I don’t know yet.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.



HELLO INTERNET BOY #36: Ye olde taxi

In my last post, I was heading out on the road with Oswald and Ruffus, a potentially sinister duo of hobbit style man and dog man. And in what I remember as being extremely typical, I’m still waiting – there’s been no word from the moderator who’s writing the other half of the thread. I completely understand this of course – people have lives beyond their weird fake internet lives. The classic trick that Aelyrian’s get drawn into is feeling too impatient to wait for just one or two threads, so you start up another one, and then another one, which all works fine on that day – and then a week later, you suddenly have seven people to reply to, all at once, which is basically the equivalent of writing seven short stories a night, and then you way too stressed and quit. Or at least that’s what I did.


Anyway, this waiting has actually been a fairly successful narrative device, it’s drawing out the suspense, making me wonder what’s going to happen. I’m 100% convinced they’re going to pull me into a copse of trees and stab me and steal my identity.

It reminds me of when me and my partner went to Vietnam a while ago. Everyone gave me the same tip – when you get off the plane, make sure you go to the correct taxi rank, because there’s a lot of dodgy taxis out there. So when we get off the plane, all bleary and tired and young, what did we do? We let ourselves get drawn away and shoved into a random car, and as we drove off, another dude just jumped into the front seat. It took me a while to realise it, but we’d done exactly the wrong thing.

It all seemed to go fine for about fifteen minutes, until suddenly we pulled off from the road, into what can best be described as a shanty town. Then, the guy in the passenger seat turned around and began yelling at us to give them ‘bridge tax’. Luckily, I’d been expecting this, and had shoved the couple of hundred US dollars I had in my wallet into my shoe, and just played really clueless and dumb, which I was, until they were happy with a few twenties. The guy then got out of the car, and the original driver drove us to our hostel, which was the weirdest part of our taxi heist.

I was mostly just glad that we hadn’t been stabbed and left in a gutter, but I was also a bit sore about paying around fifty US dollars more than we should have. I felt like I’d failed the ONLY thing about travelling that I was actually prepared for. This was mollified, however, when I discovered a big burly US college student in our hostel had paid FIVE HUNDRED US DOLLARS to his taxi.

And, I must have learnt my lesson, because in New York a guy came up to me and said ‘taxi? and then started leading me into an underground carpark’ and suddenly I thought ‘wait a moment, this is that thing I don’t want to happen’ and I said ‘oh wait, I forgot, my mum is picking me up’ and I ran off and caught a real taxi.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.



HELLO INTERNET BOY #35: Wizards… on the road

So, the adventures of “Patrick Lenton” the Aelyrian character have kicked off, in a suitably modest way – more in the style of Lord of the Rings, when Frodo is having breakfast for about 700 pages, but it’s a start. He’s on the road and he’s met a fast-talking Cether (Halfling or Hobbit analogue)named Oswald and his friend Ruffus, a tough-looking Dorin (dog person). Patrick does love dogs. The Cether has basically invited Patrick to travel with them the majority of the way to Port Alyx, and against his (my) better judgement, he has accepted.

You can read it here as it goes on, if you want.

I thought hard about this – I’ve been taking a lot of my narrative cues from longform improv rules lately, and I know the fastest way to stall this story would be to say ‘nope – not travelling with you’. I know that this kind of narrative is different, and there could be different consequences from saying no, but it feels like the very kind moderator who I’m writing this thread with has very clearly offered me a cue, and I have to say yes. I also think that in real life, there’s also a chance I would say yes. In the post, I am both suspicious of their motives, and also ill-at-ease with the idea of spending that much time with strangers – but I am also nervous about travelling in general, and I don’t believe in turning down help.

I wrote about it back at the beginning of my RL trip, but at LA airport, a guy who was on my plane, a kind of tall thin shabby guy, was standing at exactly the same junction as me, with the same confused, over-tired look on his face. We were trying to work out which branch of the confusing customs lanes we had to go down. He asked me if I knew which one, and together we (correctly) guessed and went down one. For the next couple of hours as we wandered around the labyrinth that is LAx, I already regretted being saddled with him. I was tired, so tired. I was starting to suspect he was racist and homophobic. But that said – I felt more secure. At one point I definitely would have had a small anxiety attack when collecting my luggage, because I was sure I’d made a wrong turn. He was able to point out a small sign that showed we were on the right track. I did basically the same thing for him in New York, and waited half an hour with him for his bags, and ended up finding them for him on a different carousel. We helped each other out. It was probably better than not.

That said, in New York, he told me that he was staying in Times Square, and that we should hang out. I didn’t want to do that. He kept pointing out black people, and trying to work out which of our fellow passengers were homos. So I gave him a wrong number.

So yeah – unless I get stabbed, I’m pretty sure Oswald and Ruffus are going to get hard-dropped somewhere around an old-timey ferry.