Ropes of Lightning

NOTE: This post is inspired by This Reddit Post and as such, the idea is entirely credited to u/LeastCoordinatedJedi and his kid.

Captain’s Log of the Vessel Wayward Cloud. Date unknown.

Note about time and date: Date is unknown due to total lack of celestial objects. I do not know if the stars or sun and moon are even present, as candles don’t even shed light here – they are only a dim point in the shape of a flame – though the air itself seems to be giving off some unnatural light. It confuses me when I try to think about it, and gives me a headache. It has probably been about 3 weeks since our vessel was lifted off the waves.

Note about our ship: I would call our ship a Galleon, so we thought ourselves quite safe in these waters (what with a full compliment of crew to fight pirates or monsters). but we lost a mast, multiple spars, and many sails, so we are rigged almost like a schooner at this point. I do believe now that we will not be returning to port for repairs.

Enough about the ship. It’s no longer in the waves. This story is being entered in the ships logs and my personal diary in hopes that my logs will find their way back to civilized lands where monsters do not roam about uncontested. I hope that either a college of sorcery will be made aware that one of their member are attacking ships off the coast, or that the powers of the empire will be alerted and focused on those that have so treacherously preyed upon ships in the region.

We begin with the child that we found on flotsam – the partial wreckage of at least 2 ships. He had quite the story to tell, and I didn’t believe him, until I saw it for myself.

We found young J-dai (he insisted with the enthusiasm that only 5-year olds can generate that his name was spelled exactly this way) clinging to flotsam of a merchant ship that was obviously attacked by pirates. Pretty ballsy of the pirates – this was an important shipping corridor, so the imperial patrol and even privateers like us were often found in these waters, and no-one takes kindly to black flags. We found him among the wreckage of 2 other ships, and he claimed that a third had been lifted to the sky. At first, we thought that J-dai was only mistaken as not nearly enough wreckage was available to be from 3 different ships, but then we found separate main masts still connected to badly bent straps and bolts that could only have been ripped apart from below the deck of 3 different ships.

The crew felt that we should have left with haste, but I disregarded their protests as silly superstition and thought that staying would be a good way to increase the reputation of professional privateers on these waters. I decided to look for further survivors to return to their loved ones and perhaps cargo that I might return to their rightful companies (and of course, claim for myself if no company brand was found). To my great shame, I led my poor crew and my beloved ship to cursed clouds of demon light and no lands, and I fell in to this trap while selfishly trying to improve the lot of privateer captains. If only we could have sunken under the waves with the first blast.

We found scattered foodstuffs and a few bales of cotton (details in the clerks log). All the other cargo seems to have been sunk or taken by the attackers. We found no other survivors, and we found no dead bodies. It was almost as if someone had scoured the sea for men, living and dead, and plucked them up with no regard for the other valuables in the salt. This was odd, as almost anyone attacking a ship will take whatever food they can find to bolster their own stores, and we found many barrels of brandy, apples, wheat, and other food.

The boy told me a quick version of his story while recovering with some hot food and a little wine in the captain’s cabin, and told a long version of his story later to some sympathetic sailors before we were attacked. I was not present for the long version, but here is my best recollection of his short version:

First off, I can tell is that he has no idea why they were on a ship. I did my best not to allow him to think that I thought his story was preposterous – young minds are very imaginative, but they often have the seed of truth to their stories. I realized quickly that I would not know where he embellished his imagination, but it turns out to be far less than I initially thought.

In his abbreviated version, he tells me that his father was a merchant company’s ship captain and there being 2 other ships with him was quite notable – the little boy was very proud of his father for the promotion (his story kept changing the particular rank – captain, admiral, mate, etc.). It seems they had outrun a storm for nearly 2 days in the straights at the nearby islands and the crew was totally exhausted, so they dropped anchor to let the entire crew rest and eat well for a morning.

J-Dai says that when the sailors were getting ready to be under way, the cries went up that the storm had caught up to them again and the whole crew began desperately trying to get farther away from the rocky shore – the boy was very insistent that earlier there had been an argument between senior staff that they were too close to some rocks and “150 paces is too close after that storm” –  and there was great confusion about which way to go. The boy said that a great wind came up as a dark cloud overtook them, and “a huge red frog fell out of the sky – a frog sailor with black pants, standing on two legs.” When the frog-sailor fell on his ship, it cracked the planks near the main mast. He watched as this invader then tied “a piece of lightning” to the mast, which was suddenly met by the sky as well – with a “big giant noise” – lightning came down from the newly formed clouds to join the piece tied to the mast, and while he was watching this from the captain’s cabin, he heard more noises and saw the other ships suffer a similar fate.

After this, his story gets even more confused, as the melee was joined in full – with apparently more monsters coming down the lightning to join the red frog sailor. He doesn’t know when the masts were torn from their bolts, but his father threw him on a mast as it fell over, apparently to simply get his child off the doomed ship. The boy hid, terrified, under the sail on a spar and he heard a lot of things happening in the water, and then the sound like a waterfall – he peeked out at that point and saw the noise was from water falling off the hull of the last remaining ship being lifted by “ropes of lightning twisted into a braid” into a “great purple hole in the clouds” – and he saw a stone castle through the hole as well, swearing that a witch was watching the whole encounter while standing on the water. The witch apparently walked up in to the cloud as it was disappearing. He waited more than a day on the now-calm seas before we showed up.

Once his story was over, I let the senior crew know that we may have a pirate on our hands, and they may have a renegade sorcerer with them. I feel that I took warnings from young J-dai’s story, but while correct, they were insufficient. Looking back, I was very prideful in thinking that our ship was impervious to a sorcerer-pirate. Even with a battle-tested crew, I should have taken the warning an weighed anchor immediately.

The boy ate voraciously – I did not doubt the time frames that he told us. After a few more hours of scouring the wreckage for salvage (it helped that the sea was very calm – more like a fishing-pond) I began to get uneasy after finding the third ship’s mast – an experienced sailor could tell in only a few moments how many ships the discarded sails were from.

And then it happened. A shadow came over the waters, further out to sea than ourselves. Cast by a great purple cloud, it was boiling and moving and glowing with an energy that is foreign to my eyes. This witch-cloud was growing and moving quickly from the sea towards shore, but it never got to the shore – it found my ship and stayed over it, blocking the sun from our search – making it almost like twilight, it was so wide. Cast by a great roiling purple cloud, I began to give the boy’s story more credence – this must be the work of some powerful magic-user, as it could not be a typical storm. I immediately gave the order go regather the men from the boats in the water – we either needed them for the fight, or we needed the boats to flee upon.

As the first men got up from the sea to the main deck, I heard a sound that was loud like a clap of nearby cannon fire, but distant and rolling like thunder. The men were armed with saber, hook, and crossbow, and to their credit not a single one turned to give me shame for staying in those haunted waters – they each took up their battle positions and got the last of the men from the boats. We all stood ready, weapons in hand, for a few very long minutes.

Almost I ordered the anchor weighed or perhaps even the ship abandoned – but before the orders were given, the sound of some kind of foreign drum rolled over us. At the same moment, and the whole crew and I were enraptured as we saw a hole begin to open – a great circle whose edge was naught but roiling storm cloud and small splinters of lightning. The noise happened again and again, and I realized that the portal was opening ever-wider with each strike of the distant drumhead. And as we watched the spectacle, the true horror of what we were seeing came upon us. In the distance through that portal, we saw a great palace upon a hill of rock and boulders.

There was something not right about the way that we were looking at it. Almost like we were above it, but also like the front gates, all the pillars around the outside, and the roof were connected by a single acute angle instead of many obtuse ones. Perhaps it is best to describe it like we were within a trick mirror that was pointed at the fortress? Bah! I consider myself a man of letters but cannot fathom the words that should successfully describe how the hill and fortress were oriented to us.

The building glowed with sickly inner light and my mate held a spyglass and yelled that there were great crystals on all the ramparts, attended by some kind of monster, and that the sounds were made by these crystals.

As he watched, he reported with shock that creatures were climbing these magical devices by the dozen, and these stood waiting, looking to our ship, and then with a terrified scream he said that they were being launched off of the crystals toward us. I told the mate to keep his gaze upon the first ones that went in this way, and tell us when they would land on us. In a quick whisper he related “Only a few moments! At least a dozen in the first volley!” was his report, and then dropping the spyglass he roared “BLADES READY!”

Just as he said this, there were the sounds that no sailor ever wants to hear – the cracking and splintering of the planks of the deck. As the splinters settled, we were able to see it clearly – a monster that was in the general shape of a giant man – all the sailors were too stunned to rush initially, so it stood up from it’s landing crouch while we took in what we were seeing.

It’s stance was like that of a great bear on two legs, but even less clear delineation between the skull and the muscles of the broad back, and no fur. It stood taller than any man I have ever seen – with sloped shoulders and great long arms. It stood on two legs and wore black pants. It’s head was low to it’s shoulders and wide, with eyes more on top than in front, and a great mouth that almost seemed to reach to the back to it’s shoulders. It was colored a deep crimson, mottled with large brick-red spots on it’s head and back. It was indeed exactly the beast from J-dai’s story – somewhat frog-shaped in the face and wearing black pants. The invader was even holding a short length of chain that glowed bright like a blue sun. As we watched, it held one end of the chain in it’s fist up to the mast; the way you might knock on a door while holding a tool in the same hand.

As he did this, the rest of the monsters were landing, also cracking boards with the force of impact. The noise shook us out of our astonishment and some men charged. The frog-men (who were made in various colors) had already rushed to defensive postures around this one, apparently so that he could finish his work.

I stayed back for a moment longer, in order to perhaps find an opportunity to get past the monster’s companions and engage with it more fully. The chain which initially appeared very short suddenly wrapped itself around the mast and the crimson beast let go, just as a great bolt of lightning streaked out of the sky with a huge thunder clap and joined the chain. All the men disengaged and took a few steps back. Unlike lightning, this thing maintained its presence – as soon as it hit it fell slack like a great rope made of vibrant blue-white light.

As I stood back, the other sailors and I realized that we were bested physically – the monsters didn’t seem interested in a fight and kept simply catching our arms as we swung blades and maces, and pushing us back as their companions continued their work with the chains and lightning – some of the other monsters that landed also had the glowing chains. We got a few good hits, but none that were mortal.

It was in that moment of tense, industrious calm that I realized the true horror of what was happening. The ropes of lightning were losing their slack – whatever great wheel that had these devices mounted to it is turning and tightening the ropes. We were being lifted to that infernal castle. The weight was being put on the masts and anything that looked like it could bear the load. There were at least a dozen points the ropes of lightning were connected.

Some of the points began to buckle – some were attached to rails, to spars, and some just to planks. The first of these to buckle shocked us out of our horror and I cried “Kill the invaders! Your life is in your hands!” and to my great pride, every single sailor rushed as one and we slew several of the frog-men in the initial rush. The invaders then began to take us seriously and truly fought back.

The larger invaders would cleave off a limb with a single swipe of their falchions, but we could not kill them without the concerted effort of a dozen of us. We could overwhelm a few more, but they only fought us until we could feel the ship -the entire ship- lifted from the water. We all felt it begin to spin, and the invaders immediately ran to the points where the ropes of lightning were attached, and they began to scramble up the blue lines. We got a few more of them, but our doom was sealed.

One by one, my sailors – my friends – turned from the spectacle above us to look to me for direction. When I realized they expected an order, I gave it. “Abandon ship. She’s been captured, but we need not be captured as well.” Several men went to the life-boats, but then one man just dove off the side. He fell up into the purple hole in the clouds. His confused yell turning to terrified screaming will haunt the rest of my short days. We watched him float up through the purple air, and fell past the hill that the palace is on, and then we heard it – a great cackling.

There was laughter coming from the sea.

There was a woman. A woman standing on the sea, apparently still casting a spell in a circle of torches that floated about her.

She was in thick, black robes. Her auburn hair was flat around her shoulders – no wind seemed to touch her. She was standing in a circle of torches that were arranged on the water below us. I do not know what magic she used to stand there, but considering the sight above us, it did not seem unfeasible. She did not seem young or beautiful, but she also did not seem old or ugly. But as we caught sight of her, we felt the power of her.

As we breached the purple cloud, she seemed to be finished, and ascended past us by walking on the air. A few of my men fired crossbows at her, and one even hit. She did not seem to notice that a bolt was pinning her robe to her ribs. We lost all spirit of violence at that.

We suffered from extreme horror then. We were being pulled from our native waters to be prisoners in a world where frogs command high magic and even geometry did not seem to make sense. We thought initially that we would be pulled to the rocks and dashed before the palace. But his was not so. We were merely tethered. The men waited in silent anticipation for hours.

And the terror passed.

Terror turned to boredom.

Initially, I kept the crew busy doing normal maintenance of the ship, and rigging her up as if we expected to be plopped back in the water any minute.   There are a dozen or so other ships that we have been able to signal with flags and with oil lamps, but we cannot get close enough for real exchange of information. The crew is doing their best to stay entertained, but music doesn’t seem to sound right, and both dice and cards seem silly when you will likely never see the use of money again.

So now we are waiting for the end. Some of my crewmates have hastened that for themselves – jumping off always seems to have them fall forever past the palace and the rocks. We do not know if they ever find a sea or land. Others tried to climb the ropes of lightning – but it feels to the touch like a greased pole of hot brass. The only distance you can go is determined by your initial jump, and you can’t hold on for long, anyways.

We are beginning to come to the end of our food stores.

Some crew have suggested a feast of the last of the rations, since there is no hope of rescue. Force the sea witch to deal with us or let us die.

In the end, I do think something will happen. As I write this, I see that one of our fellow tethered ships is throwing all it’s cargo over the side, and I can see the palace responding – the frog-men are launching again to them. Whether to deal with them properly as prisoners and feed them, or simply to slaughter them for wasting wealth I do not know, but it would certainly be better than this incessant waiting in the purple air.

Let Me Tell You A Story – HFY Episode 5 The Unthinkable

This time the story is in three parts!

Written by u/necrontyr525, The Unthinkable is about a war journalist coming to grips with one of humanity’s greatest evils – unleashing nuclear weapons upon each other.

Just a quick warning – there is a part in the second section that doesn’t translate well to audio. I should have caught it earlier and asked for license to make a paragraph that explains why there is a ‘jump’ in the narrative. It’s when the son is explaining what happened on Mars (twice). In the text there is an ellipsis to indicate that he continues on with the story, just that the reader doesn’t get to hear it. It makes the audio pretty rough, but it’s not too bad if you’re ready for it.

Here is a link to part one of the story.

Here is a link to the direct download from libsyn.

Here is a link to the author page.

Thank you to everyone for all of your support. Thanks for putting up with me, thanks for giving me feedback, and most of all, thanks for listening.

If you have suggestions about the format, authors I should be begging for permission, or just that you generally hate me and what I’m doing, feel free to say so in the comments on the reddit post. Seriously, I appreciate feedback and I want to change this podcast to fit what you would listen to.


Let Me Tell You A Story – HFY Episode 4 Last Minutes Of Station 41267

Life is still going crazy, but HEY – I still made me release schedule!

Written by u/JackFragg, Last Minutes of Station 41267 is about how we humans can find something to celebrate no matter where we go – even simply having someone to enjoy a fiery end with.

Here is a Link to the original text of the story.

Here is a link to direct download from libsyn

Here is The Patreon for u/JackFragg

And here is the author page

Thank you to everyone for all of your support. Thanks for putting up with me, thanks for giving me feedback, and most of all, thanks for listening.

If you have suggestions about the format, authors I should be begging for permission, or just that you generally hate me and what I’m doing, feel free to say so in the comments on the reddit post. Seriously, I appreciate feedback and I want to change this podcast to fit what you would listen to.


Let Me Tell You A Story. HFY Episode 3 The Hollow One

Written by u/regallegaleagle , an author of many stories at r/HFY, The Hollow One is a story that captures the spirit of humanity with inspiration coming from a human spirit speaking to a downtrodden alien prisoner-of-war.

Here is a Link to the original text of the story.

Here is a link to direct download from libsyn

Here is The Patreon for u/RegalLegaleagle is here

And here is the author page

Thank you to everyone for all of your support, even though there were huge flaws with how it came out (that have been corrected). Thanks for putting up with me, thanks for giving me feedback, and most of all, thanks for listening.

If you have suggestions about the format, authors I should be begging for permission, or just that you generally hate me and what I’m doing, feel free to say so in the comments on the reddit post. Seriously, I appreciate feedback and I want to change this podcast to fit what you would listen to.


Let Me Tell You A Story. HFY Episode 2 Stolen By the Stars


EDIT: CORRECTED. I accidentally muted the introduction track when I was exporting this as an Mp3. It now contains the correct file. Also I’ve updated this post to include the original text of the relevant story.

So…Just today was the first time I looked at the previous post from a “not signed in” perspective, and apparently I have a broken widget, causing some raw HTML to exist on the same line as the first line of the post. I’ve added a period and an empty line here in this one so that, if it happens again, it will be a little more readable. I’ll fix it later this week.

The reason that this episode is a little late (and I’m not fixing the posts now) is that I have a hugely important test that has been occupying as much of my brain as possible. This test, if I fail it, will get me fired. Not immediately – I have one more chance. But if I fail it twice, I won’t have a job. So I’m especially glad that I’ve taken the time to record everything beforehand, because I definitely would have just abandoned this wholesale if I needed to record and edit these last few weeks. And honestly, I like my new job. I want to keep it. I would be very sad and very stressed if I lost it.

Here is the text: Stolen By The Stars, by SquiggleStoryStudios A.K.A. Michelle K. Hodgson

So I’m throwing this up here real quick and I’m promising another post about other things either tomorrow after I pass the test or this weekend after I pass the test.

Let Me Tell You A Story. HFY Episode 1: The Longest Game

This might be better done as two posts, but FUCK IT, my furnace just crapped out today and I am (once again) on a laptop in my in-laws dining room, under a blanket staying up and writing until well past when I should go to sleep.

First off, about this audio that you see up there:

That is episode 1 of my new podcast (I talk about the podcast more in-depth in the second section) that is all about the awesome Sci-Fi from the subreddit that calls itself “Humanity, FUCK YEAH!” (or HFY! for short).

This first episode is the story The Longest Game, written by reddit user Dachande663, also known in the ‘real’ world as Luke Lanchester. I wanted to use this particular story as an introduction for a few reasons: it is the right length – which means that it’s a really good one to set expectations with. It tells a story with all the trimmings of good Sci-Fi in the past-tense – which allow the story to take it’s time, from a storytelling perspective. It also addresses some of the hardest struggles that we deal with as a society today – getting over old bitterness in ways that are imperfect, bumpy, and frightening. One thing that I think is very important – the author isn’t a gigantic celebrity, even on the subreddit: he’s just an average joe with a techie background and a penchant for writing some stuff.

If you can’t tell, I recorded this when I was in the depths of a nasty cold. I can tell, *every single time I hear it*. But for the majority of people coming from the subreddit – it’s just a stranger’s voice that will change a little as more episodes come out.

I am just going to say: please listen to the episode, and thanks for visiting my site. Here are the links if you want to follow along or find some other writing or further information on the author, the subreddit, the genre, or the podcast. There should be another episode in 2 weeks. for more stories without audio. for more about the author.

You’re already on my website, or I would be linking you there, as well.


Here comes the second section…

And Here’s the second section, in defense of running a podcast full of amateur authors and sometimes-hokey Sci-Fi.

So, a little while back I had to dismantle my Nerd Fort, because bedbugs had chased me out of my home (see previous posts, starting around November 2016) . I no longer had a primary source of audio for my D&D actual-play podcast. That sucked.

I still didn’t (and still don’t) have time to maintain a consistent D&D group, but I still did (and still do) have a desire to maintain a tangible link to the nerd world and I absolutely love the podcast format.

I also maintain that storytelling is one of the oldest and most important technologies that humans have ever come up with – even rivaling fire for it’s early date of adoption, its usefulness, and its ability to warm people’s hearts. I want to learn it, I want to foster it in others, and I want it to be something that people value tremendously.

Put these things together – 1) the value of storytelling, 2) the desire to keep up a nerdy podcast, and 3) just enough time on my hands to run a podcast, and add one final element – I came across a community of people called Humanity, FUCK YEAH!

The idea is that there are many stories (especially within the sci-fi genre) that emphasize humans as being an immense thing as they start exploring the universe – at times an insatiable predator, a diamond-hard freedom fighter, or even just a species capable of compassion towards those we could easily kill in a short fight. In these stories, humans buck the trend that already exists among the interesting alien species. Humans show amazing levels of courage and compassion, frightening fury, or just simply an ability to shrug off wounds that mwouldight fell a great beast on our own planet – and we just keep walking around later missing an arm or a leg (that’s pretty fucking metal).

These stories showcase the amazing things that humanity is capable of (We have put humans in to space at all, for god’s sake! We have sent our machines to the void beyond our own solar system! Talk about accomplishments!), and sometimes they showcase the awful horrors that we try to rise above.

One of my favorite early examples of this kind of story is in Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Captain Jean-Luc Picard is encountering and dueling wits with the apparently-omnipotent being known as “Q”. Picard is for some reason chosen by Q to answer for the awful things that humanity has inflicted upon one another (and we all have to admit – we have done some really messed up stuff). Picard, when confronted with some of the horrors of the Star Trek past and told to explain himself, says: the fact that they still exist at all after such abominable actions against each other shows that, while we may have some deeply-wrought wrong capable of bubbling up within our hearts, we are also constantly aware that this dark streak lives within our being, seeking an escape. In the Star Trek universe Picard asserts that we have learned as a species how to curtail those things within us – to rise above them, and fight them, and beat them back time and time again. In addition, we keep finding the motivation to do fight it, time and time again – even in those awful times that we don’t have the strength to see our will through to the end.

Star Trek was written by Gene Roddenberry as a love letter to humanity. Praising all of it’s strengths and forgiving weaknesses of his love while we figured things out. Star Trek was Gene Roddenberry saying to 20th century humanity, “Goddamit, you have GREATNESS in you, if you would just let it out!”

I believe that the Humanity, FUCK YEAH! sub-sub-genre is a wonderful celebration of these things that people like Roddenberry saw in us.

Currently, HFY has a home on reddit – at This subreddit asks authors to post stories there that match the HFY genre, and quite importantly, this subreddit praises honest attempt as much as it praises technical writing skills. The subreddit is filled to the brim with amateur writers. Several stories are posted every day from people saying “please be gentle with your critique, this is the first time I’ve published anything.” And I think that is amazing, especially since people in the sub find things to praise in those works right alongside the authors that have made a vocation doing fiction writing – some even having gotten a start on the sub!

So, I am now running a podcast that specializes in this sort of story, and mostly sourced directly from the subreddit. This means that there is going to be bad writing, cheesy transitions, and all the things that make amateur writing a wonderful mess. It also includes well-polished stories that honestly belong in bigger venues and deserve to be paid. Some have a larger word count than many full-length novels, some are written by someone that writes professionally, as their full time job! It includes some stories that are no longer than a few paragraphs. It includes a few series that would be an entire serial podcast start to finish. There is a huge wealth of styles, lengths, and viewpoints, and I think that everyone would be better for spending some time there.

To that end, I’m running a podcast that is going to have severely amateur-level writing, and I’m going to have extremely well-crafted stories. I am going to have stories that take less than 10 minutes to tell, and I’m going to have stories that will take several episodes, 30 minutes a piece. I’m going to have stories that are all about how awesome humans are, and I’m gong to have stories about humans making up for their specie’s sins for the rest of eternity.

I hope you enjoy it.

I have no Idea what I am doing

I am apparently the owner of a website (that, uh… that I guess you are reading right now) – and I have no idea what I’m doing with it. I am a father since about 5 months ago (the adorable product is found here) – and I have no idea what I’m doing there, either. I have an entry level job (at a super-serious financial company that would love to make me wear a tie every day but I am actually a teenager trapped in the adult world so screw them!) – and they keep telling me to do the thing with the widget, but really I don’t know what I’m doing. I am a husband (as of roughly 4.5 years ago) – and I really don’t know what I’m doing there – I just show up every day and talk to this lady and I guess things are working out? Probably more to it than that.

So yeah. I have some pretty important things that I really don’t know why anyone would let me even act like I am properly trained to deal with them.


But I know a bit about a few things: Chainmail (there are pictures of it on my photography page). Role Playing Games (which I really have no time for, considering the whole ‘husband’ thing, and the whole ‘father’ thing). People (which motivated the pursuit of my Psychology degree). Podcasting (which has a really big time-hurdle to overcome) and a handful of other things.


But story is a thing that I have really taken an interest in. And I think I’ve always had this interest. Since I was very young. I loved books. I loved movies. I loved video games – and especially the video games that had really good story behind them. I would just sit and read all the little bits of the story that were scattered around whatever world I was exploring.

When I grew up and was dating, my girlfriend (now wife) and I had to figure out an issue that I was bringing to the table – that I had these stories saved up (which is good and useful), almost like files in a drawer, that I would repeat to anyone who would listen (which is bad, and drives people away). Considering she was my girlfriend, I had almost a captive audience and would just ramble on about whatever I was thinking about. Sometimes I would repeat my stories (which is worse). Sometimes I would repeat them on the same day (which is much worse). Sometimes I would repeat them verbatim, to the same person, in the same conversation (which is one of those things where I don’t even know why people in general put up with me). It really is a wonder that she kept dating me (seems like I’ve gotten the better end of the deal, honestly).

So there is this thing about storytelling. I’ve been thinking about it for a little while, and I think it holds up.

Storytelling is the oldest technology that we have. It predates the wheel – we were telling each other stories around the cook fire before the wheel rolled around. I’m pretty sure it even predates fire – can you imagine that story? The one where some otherwise uninteresting chick in the tribe comes back from an unexplained extended absence with a bit of fire under control on a stick and relates how she stole the secret of “taming the demon of light and heat” from some naive love-sick young man in the tribe 3 rivers over?

The ability to tell stories is also one of the few things that is universal to humans. Everyone does it. You cannot find a single person on the planet who is incapable of telling a story. Even if they say “oh I’m not a good storyteller,” they are lying. You just have to ask them about their day. About the best day that they’ve ever had. Or ever could have. Or how they met their girlfriend. Or where they got that scar. Or what they would do if they had a million dollars. Or what they would do if they could do one thing consequence-free.

Little kids are encouraged from the moment they can string a sentence together to tell people about their day – no adult is going to think they did anything notable that day (at least, not in the “capital -N-” notable way of saying), but here we are, training every little diaper-clad chaos engine to tell people about what has happened. And we make believe with them. From a very young age, we teach little kids that pretending to be someone else is a super cool thing to do. We’ve recently seen a social change that gives license to adults to pretend they are someone they’re not (comic-book movies, cosplaying, etc.), and then platforms on which to do it (facebook, twitter, tinder, etc.).

I forget entirely where I was going with this, but it’s been something that’s been in the back of my head for a good long while – it’s part of the reason my website has the word “story” in it in the first place.

I want to tell stories. I want to tell them with passion and I want to tell them to people who want to listen. I want to tell people stories that will leave them changed on a level so deep that they have to chew on a new truth for a month before they come back for another. I want the world to stop being okay with the same bullshit story every evening hour on the news, and to stop giving money to the people that will tell you the story you want to hear.

I want to empower others to tell the story of their own. I know people who are living a dream – and are left unsatisfied by it. I know people who have been kidnapped – and escaped by the good grace of a stranger. I know people who dropped out of college because something else was worth more – and they plan to go back. I know people who narrowly escaped death in the form of a flaming car wreck – and talk about it the way I would talk about a shitty concert I went to a long time ago. I know people who have gotten lost in thought just thinking about a leaf they hold in their hands. I know people with mental disorders that don’t have a name – but do have distinct symptoms that I’ve never seen elsewhere. I know people who take no joy in thinking of their abuser’s unfortunate circumstance – and I know people who revel in seeing them fall.

Each of these people have a story. I want them to tell it, and I want this website to be the very beginning of figuring out how to let them.

Verbal Fat





I like to talk a lot. If you know me, you probably know that I will just keep talking about stuff if I am excited about something.

I have noticed that the more I talk, and the more excited I am when I talk, this one thing starts to happen. All those noises I spelled out above start creeping in. I think that it has to do with my brain running much faster than my mouth, and the noises are my mouth trying to get my brain to slow down, perhaps send the information that the mouth was supposed to be conveying once more. I call this thing “Verbal Fat”, and everyone has a different expression this terrible habit.

I have seen massive verbal fat before. When I was in college I was required to take some sort of public speaking class – there were two or three options. I forget exactly the name of the one that I chose, but I remember two things from it. First, the entire text of The Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carol. Second, the amount of improvement that one of my classmates had with his stutter.

I don’t remember his name, and I don’t know the particular problem that made this classmate’s ability to speak so problematic. He had an extremely severe stutter that made it downright exhausting to speak with him. It may have been some form of Asperger’s Syndrome, or something else on the Autism spectrum. It may have been a severe anxiety disorder, perhaps a form of OCD. I am not sure. I think there was something about particular types of sounds that he just couldn’t get past.

I do remember that even reacting to his name when attendance was being called the first day, he stuttered. There is exactly one syllable in the word “here” – and he stuttered over that syllable. In a public speaking class. From day one – moment one – this guy was fighting to get his words out. I know that I was not excited to be in this class with him. I am not sure what he thought about his stutter, but he seemed determined to figure something out.

And he improved.

Considering his disability, he probably improved more than I did. I learned how to memorize a short speech, and how to present it decently well, with inflections and tone and all of that. By the end of the quarter, this guy went from a starting point of stuttering over problem sounds 5 times per sentence (and getting past these problems by repeating the sound 5 times or more) to being able to get through an entire speech only stuttering 2 or 3 times.

That is downright phenomenal! I got to watch him go from being totally burdened by his stutter to it shrinking into a relatively minor (albeit very noticeable) negative social habit. It is something that I would like to witness again. To see someone take their major issues and absolutely dominate them.

He learned how to trim down the verbal fat in his dialogue. This is something that I would love to learn how to do. At the time of writing, I have exactly one podcast episode up. Pretty much the only feedback that I have gotten from it is about how much I ramble. One of the first things that I say in the episode is that I had to edit out dozens and dozens of instances of verbal fat in the form of “um” and “uhh”.

All of that is verbal fat. Things that don’t help me. Things that annoy my wonderful listeners. Things that just generally aren’t pleasant to listen to, and everyone would be better off if I would just stop doing it.

It has been nearly 8 years since I was in the class with this guy, but I distinctly remember the particular way that he dealt with his own verbal fat. Whenever he would start stuttering, he would lift his right foot about 6 inches, bending at the knee. Then he would kick it down and drive his heel strongly to the floor. The strength of his kick was apparently expressive of how severe his problem with forming any particular word.

I am going to try something with my next recording, that I have heard other people have tried when in front of a microphone. I’ve printed out those words I typed out at the beginning of this post. I am going to be recording a discussion tomorrow with a friend and I am going to put my “umm” sign on the wall above her head so that I can just look at it instead of saying it. I’ve got a second one as well that I am going to offer to put over my own head so that she can do the same.