HELLO INTERNET BOY #6: A box of warm beer

After driving her through an hour of dark, twisting bushland, where possums shrieked from the trees and green-eyed deers bound in front of the car like long-legged flashlights, we took this girl we’d never met before to the local bottleshop and bought her a case of warm VB. There are two reasons for this: Bundeena bottle-o wasn’t exactly festooned with craft beers and rare liqueurs, and more importantly, Bob and I were only recently eighteen-years-old, and eighteen-year-old’s don’t know crap about crap.

At Ironfest I couldn’t drink beer because of my stupid prissy unicorn of a stomach, and it made me sad beyond the obvious, because beer had always been a staple of what Bob and I do. I suppose that’s probably true for about 97% of all Australians, but that doesn’t stop it from being untrue for us. There was a time during uni where a good Friday night was trying to polish off a case of BOAGS and playing Singstar until we couldn’t speak anymore.

I asked Bob if he still kept in touch with Lana, the girl we’d picked up from the airport that fateful night, and he admitted that she was no longer on his Facebook. She wasn’t on mine either. I had to wonder what we’d done, but I also didn’t want to wonder too much. But we discovered that she’s still on Danielle’s Facebook, which makes sense, because Danielle is nicer than both of us.

I lived in a caravan out the back of my parents house at this point, because my bedroom was so small and I was so long that my feet would end up in the potatoes, because my bedroom was also a pantry. My caravan had a floral blue lounge and green astroturf carpet, and we sat Lana down and cracked open a fizzy bottle of bitter, warm beer and awkwardly chatted about something. I don’t remember what, it was too long ago, but I remember afterwards Bob saying ‘I didn’t even want to drink the beer because it was so awful, but she was smashing them, so I guess I had to as well.’ Lana played Alleria too, although I don’t remember ever actually roleplaying with her – I don’t remember her character or anything. When we met her, she’d recently been working on a horse farm or something. I remember that Lana was awesome, and called us ‘fucking idiots’ almost immediately, which was true. We watched the Karate Kid movies that night, but not the third one. That’s the last time I watched them, I think they still hold up.

That night at dinner at Ironfest I asked Danielle what Lana’s name was on Facebook, and we wondered if she’d gotten married or if we’d just never known her actual name, and I sent a friend request through, which hasn’t been answered. There are several more times that we hung out IRL, but they are all blurry and I don’t think anything awful happened. I think that maybe it’s not just eighteen-year-olds who know crap about crap, it’s me, I know crap about crap, especially when it comes to maintaining friendships and should probably wear a t-shirt that says ‘Not Very Good At This’. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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.
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HELLO INTERNET BOY #5: People like this

There was some medium-quality banter occurring as the jousting set up at Ironfest, the MC smoothly entertaining the crowd with historical facts and medieval jokes, while two crowd rousers in motley bounced around and shouted the kind of zingers usually reserved for pantomimes or for when your less funny friends are playing Halo. After a particular clunker, Bob turned to me and said ‘where do they find these people?’ He paused, and then gestured to the entire crowd surrounding the jousting pit and said ‘I always want to know who the fuck are these people? Where do they come from? Why are there so many people at this thing?’ I nodded my head, but didn’t point out the obvious – he was one of these people. He and his family had been coming for the last three years. He was the them.

Bob and Danielle don’t really seem to be the type to go to Ironfest, and I suppose the ‘type’ would be the kind of person who owns a WW2 era tank and drives it around at festivals and tells new people that they meet ‘I own a WW2 era tank’. But their son Jack loves Ironfest with the giddy passion of a hyperactive four-year-old boy who likes swords and things, so he’s the easy one to explain.

Bob has been my friend for my entire life, and Danielle since high school. They are excellent people, but provide a project like this a delightfully stark juxtaposition between when Bob and I were teenagers playing Alleria together. Bob and Danielle own a house, have a son and have another child on the way and are able to talk about grown-up things with casual ease. I know that I am probably unrecognisable to my teenage self, but sometimes it feels like I am the same person but with added dogs.

Bob didn’t seem like the kind of person to play Alleria either – he didn’t do any other form of creative writing, he hadn’t read any books apart from Ice Station by Matthew Reilly – but for a fairly short period he played in this fantasy world as a normal human man named Alpha Numeric who liked stabbing things.  I’m pretty sure I forced him to play at first, because when I’m obsessed with something everyone around me has to join in, but Bob became obsessed with it too. I remember one summer holidays we’d schedule our days – meet up for a swim in the bay, go to someone’s house for lunch, post on Alleria, get dragged behind a boat, go to the other person’s house, check Alleria. I remember Bob enthusing wildly during one giant siege plotline, where both our characters were surrounded by swarms of skeletons and we threw molotov cocktails into the throng, and Bob maniacally clicked the refresh button and said ‘why can’t everyone just fucking hurry up and post immediately!’

Probably because it was 4am in America where the majority of players lived.

Bob’s Allerian days ended when the site crashed and migrated to a new sturdier server, an event that lasted for around six months. I asked him about it at Ironfest, and he said ‘yeah, it’s the kind of thing where you’re utterly obsessed but then when it gets taken away, you don’t care at all, it just switches off’. I don’t think my mentality is like that, I nurture my obsessions, probably to my own detriment, but it made me realise that the passion, the overwhelming nerdery for something is what I value in life. I like to be enthused about shit, I like to be in a hot-sweat of massively interested in whatever stupid thing I am doing. For me it’s mostly been various writing things, and the things I read, and stupid games. I like that Bob was obsessed with this stupid game that I love, I like that he is obsessed with photographing glow worms, and before that he was super into looking at the moon. I love the people at Ironfest, who are obsessed with dressing up as things and going to the Blue Mountains and remembering really small details about big things. Yeah, I like it all.

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.

*Ironfest photos taken by Robert Beazley*

HELLO INTERNET BOY #4: Hitting the Winnebago

My friend Bob and I are at an archery range at Ironfest, a giant medieval/ WW2 tank/ cosplaying affair and I have just discovered I have forgotten my wallet at my home, three hours away in Sydney. This seems fitting, another element of chaos in the bewildering kaleidoscope of random crap that seemed to characterise my life at the moment. As a man dressed as a very pert-nippled bare-chested Roman legionnaire made entirely out of Carlton Draught boxes chatted to an elaborate fairy queen, I kinda roll my eyes and look in my wallet-less bag and thought ‘oh brother, this figures’.

My partner and I have moved house only the day before, and our new house was a tightly-massed squeeze of boxes. I was trying not to think about it, but I knew I would never be able to relax until everything was unpacked and the floor was swept and all my things go in their prescribed places, ok? My health has also taken another turn for the worse, and I am now enjoying the thrills of a FODMAP exclusionary diet – basically I can only eat a limited amount of strange bland foods for a month, and then slowly, week by week, introduce new things into the diet to find out what triggers me into debilitating stomach cramps and bile vomiting and gut-crying. I am not enjoying the idea of taking this diet with me to the US. All I want is a moment of calm, a time to say ‘NOW THE PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED, NOW YOU CAN HAVE A LITTLE REST AND EAT GRAPES LIKE A LAZY ANCIENT SENATOR’. All I want is to stop chafing at my problems with my mind. I know they’re not even big problems, they’re just irritants, but it makes me more enthusiastic to eliminate them, like when you spend all night stalking an annoying mosquito around your room, because it’s better to know you’ve dealt with the problem than lie awake and worry about it buzzing next to your ear again, and no Bridget, I can’t turn the light off, I’m hunting!

But there’s something about Ironfest which makes me feel like all these worries, even this new lack of wallet, is somehow irrelevant. And it’s not as if this weird thing puts everything into perspective, it’s more like it’s just the wrong place to get stuck racing around the worn track of your mind. Who can worry about medicare when you’ve just watched a grown man charge his horse at another grown man on a horse, and then that man gets knocked entirely off his horse by a stick? And this is all voluntary, this is a choice these people made. Who can feel trapped by their circumstances when suddenly it’s a fake battle happening with incredibly loud cannons and muskets firing giant plumes of smoke in the air and babies are wailing in horror and your ear-drums feel like they’re going to explode and the fat red man says ‘remember folks, while this isn’t the Battle of Waterloo, it was a few months before it!’ and you nod your head as if that’s a thing that makes sense. The French army sure is padded out with a lot of children or Tyrions!

Back at the archery range and I’m doing my best to do a great shot, with methods learnt from a million fantasy books. Straight back, tight core, draw flush to the jawbone, envision the flame and the void – and boom, my shots are going fast and deliberate, hitting the target, hitting a statue of a turkey. I turn to Bob and he’s looking at a Winnebago on the far ridge and he makes a face like ‘fuck, I think my arrow went up there!’ and this girl standing behind us starts laughing and says ‘Dude, I saw that! I saw that!’ and one of the guys running the range comes over and says ‘what’s going on?’ and sees what we are laughing at and says ‘haha! Oh well! Haha!’ and I feel like sometimes you just have to let yourself shoot the Winnebago.

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 #3: Somewhat like God

Matt remembers the first time encountering me in any fashion, which was a wildly enthused post on the Sara Douglass Bulletin Boards. Sara Douglass was an Australian fantasy author who I loved and I posted on the site telling everyone how excited I was that I’d met her at a book signing. I must have been around fifteen. Apparently after the post, he added me on MSN Messenger or maybe ICQ and we chatted.  After chatting about Sara Douglass and fantasy books for a while, I told him about a roleplaying game called Alleria which I’d recently started playing. There was some weird roleplaying fanfiction element on the Sara Douglass BB boards, so it made sense to get him involved. He went over to Alleria, started playing an Elf named Aderyn and now he basically runs the place. Matt told me all this at the cafe in a very definite manner, because as per usual, I can’t remember anything about the past at all. He seems to remember things clearly and with great clarity. He seems to know a lot of secrets. Sometimes he would tell a story, and then look at the recorder and end it with ‘oh, I know some things.’ In vampire terminology, I am Matt’s Allerian sire. I created him, in much the same way I was turned by a super motivated girl on AOL Instant Messenger a year or so earlier. I feel both pride and responsibility about this position. I feel somewhat like God. I am being entirely facetious. I asked Matt a lot of questions about the state of Alleria now – or Aelyria as it’s now known for undefined reasons. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was pushing towards something with my questions – I asked him about how it compared to the game I knew, how it had changed, for the worse or for better. It’s been so long since I’d played that I was clearly trying to find out if the game I played even still existed outside of our shared memory. I also asked him about how it all fit into his life. He had done it all, played a long-running character with a rich and varied history, been all the different forms of Games Master and was now a Director, basically the top job. I’d briefly taken a stint as a Game Master and wrote a very sporadic drunk gay elf named Mesildur who basically crashed parties as a hobby. I asked him how he fit it all in as Director, how he dealt with the stress of all the drama, all the intrigue, how he managed to write so much every day. Had he ever taken time off? Had he ever gotten burnt out? He told me that he found it easy, that it was relaxing, that it was fun. Which, I suppose is exactly the kind of buzzwords you want to hear in relation to a game. Matt ordered a second Chai Latte and I gave a polite yet entirely incoherent homeless man some money, and I realised why I was asking all these questions – I had quitters guilt. Sometime around 2005 I’d left the game, citing other writing priorities, working a bunch of stupid jobs and uni, having RL friends. All things which other players in the game managed to juggle while still playing. It seemed that I subconsciously wanted validation for leaving – I wanted to hear him say that it was a major responsibility, that it took up his entire life, that he’d sacrificed his friends and family and career in his mad quest for internet roleplaying power! But it hadn’t. I am someone who suffers massive FOMO, and I don’t like quitting. I like sticking things out. I’m sad that my connection to this game exists almost entirely in the past, but I suppose that this project is about exploring that? And if all else fails, I can just take credit for everything Matt does because I am his sire and am somewhat like a god I suppose.

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 #2: Super chill

Our table was rickety and despite no longer being able to drink coffee myself, I felt a huge amount of responsibility for the quality of the coffee he was drinking. I’m still at the stage where I need to justify my lack of coffee drinking, as if people would judge me for drinking tea. I delight in telling people about my ulcer. The first thing I said to him after saying hello was to tell him about my ulcer. I assume people judge me for drinking tea, because I used to be that person who judges people for drinking tea. Anyway, I have no idea if his coffee was any good, but he drank it down within the first five minutes of us sitting down. My tea was tea. His name is Matt, and he had the dubious honour of being the official start to my project, being the first to leave the sweaty anonymity of the internet’s cocoon and explode into becoming a real person. Or more specifically, catching the train up from Shellharbour and meeting me out the front of Kinokuniya bookstore in Sydney.

Matt was polite and friendly and said about two words for every ten of mine. I think this is because as we sat down, I pulled out notepads and pens, and the notepad had lists of questions and a checklist for me to tick off and he looked at them and laughed a bit, and I told him that I tend to over-prepare. He said ‘at least you’re not recording me!’ and I answered with ‘actually, could I?’ and attached a special microphone to my iPhone when he agreed. I don’t know why, but I’d set this out like it was an interview, like I was wearing my best shoulderpads and I was trying to find out the scoop. “Hey Jimmy, what’s the skinny with being a dude from the internet, c’mon, give me a ‘sclusie, I love ‘sclusie, what’s the 411, the lowdown.” I realise now that I was not putting him at ease.

When someone is ill-at-ease, the best thing to do is to talk really fast and animatedly, in the manner of a person trying to convince themselves that they are not covered in bees by repeating the line ‘I am not covered in bees’ a thousand times. I asked questions that had fifteen minute setups, and I would then answer them myself. I asked him a lot of facts. I don’t know why I asked him a lot of facts. I didn’t realise that I was being a weird list-freak until the end, but you know, there’s a fucking reason I have this goddamn ulcer, you know?

(I am going to write more about meeting Matt, btw, I just had to get this off my chest)

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.

I won the Thiel Grant for Online Writing!

Well, in stupidly exciting news I’m overwhelmed to announce that I’ve won the Thiel Grant for Online Writing! I’m very thankful and grateful to Mr Thiel and the judges who chose my proposal. And congratulations to all the amazing people also shortlisted.

star-trek-for-car-partyAs some of you may know, this will allow me to go forward with a project I’ve been working on for a LONG time. I’ll be tracking down and visiting people I played an online roleplaying game with when I was a teenager/early twenties jerkhole, and finding out what happens when internet friends become IRL friends. Magic, I assume. I’ll be writing a series of linked micro-nonfics for my blog during the experience and sharing them all over the goddamn place.

The grant will allow me to actually travel overseas and visit these people, something I would not be able to afford on my own. The next step for me will be getting a schedule in order, but I’ve already got a bunch of plans in place, including a roadtrip in June in the US with two of my roleplayer chums who I will be meeting for the first time, which is gonna be amazing.

I’m excited to explore the idea of truth and trust and online versus IRL personas, but also how funny it is when people meet? I love the idea that I know these people more commonly by the name of the orc politician that they roleplay than their actual name. I love the fact that they know me as a drunk elven lord named Mesildur, as well as Patrick the drunk jerk. I love that pretending as hard as we can to be elves is what will bring us together.

If you want to follow along with this project while I do it, I’ll be posting them on this blog and they’ll all be nice and tagged, and you can follow The Spontaneity Review on Facebook too.

I am very, very, very excited about all this! Big happy dance.
Http://teacherintherye.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/thiel-grant-winner/

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Thiel Online Writing Grant shortlist!

I am very very excited to announce that I’ve been shortlisted for the inaugural Thiel Grant for Online Writing! It’s super exciting and I’m amongst some really fantastic writers.

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If I win, I’ll be doing a massive blogging project where I visit people all around the world who I used to play an online roleplaying game with as a teenager, and discovering what happens when you take a relationship from online to IRL. Is there a massive difference? Is there some kind of inherent truth to meeting someone in person that you mightn’t get in a chat room? Or does the internet maybe free you to forge a different kind of relationship? But mostly it’s about how funny and awkward it is to go on a road trip with people you technically haven’t met before.

Some of you may remember this as the project I pitched to the 2013 SOYA awards, in which I was a finalist – it’s been a project I’ve been working towards for a long time. You can also read a kind of prequel to the project over at Seizure’s Alt-Txt called ‘People I’ve Never Met from Places that Don’t Exist’.

CROSS MY FINGERS!

But it’s a huge honour, and I think it’s amazing that Philip Thiel created this grant for a medium of writing that still isn’t entirely understood or taken seriously by a lot of people.