What is True About Me

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I am a storyteller.

My creative voice and vision are key to my identity, and they are the engine that drives my life.

For sixteen years, I’ve published my own creative work, mostly fantasy and science fiction, mostly novels but also short stories and novellas.

I’ve worked in others’ sandboxes and my own: five of my novels take place within an existing IP (the Forgotten Realms, owned by Wizards of the Coast), five are totally creator-owned (Eye for an Eye, Scourge of the Realm, and my World of Ruin series), and one was written originally in a shared IP but is now creator-owned (Blind Justice). I am adept with both sorts of writing.

I’m a known commodity in the tabletop gaming industry, and have an array of credits to my name on such games as Dungeons & Dragons, Iron Kingdoms, Red Aegis, and others.

I’m also a lifelong gamer, on the console or computer or tabletop. I’ve run games since 5th grade, and my first creative writing exercises drew directly from those experiences. Unsurprisingly, my favorite games tend to be RPGs and action-adventure games.

I’m not a coder or a programmer.

I’m a writer and an editor.

I’m an ideas person. I have built dozens of worlds myself for my own use, and I’ve worked closely with others to build worlds, flesh them out, describe them, and bring their stories to life.

Dialogue, description, characterization, plot—all of these things are the fundamental building blocks with which we convey dreams from one mind to another.

I’m a Human Being.

I care deeply about my fellow human beings and the environment we live in. I advocate strongly for social justice and a progressive direction to our culture and politics. I will stand up and defend those who are under assault as best I can.

I believe in good and justice and kindness.

My work is built on a foundation of respect, representation, and truth. I know the power of my voice, and I will not shirk the responsibility that comes with it.

Join me.

Let’s explore this world together.

Any Given Monday

Mondays suck, right?

I think human beings have a few all but irresistible drives, beyond their basic needs.

Food, shelter, health, love and connection, those are basic necessities for life.

Hose drives include but are not limited to:
1) being comfortable
2) being entertained
3) feeing superior to others

Now it’s that third one that really gets under my skin. I think it’s behind a large chunk of social media, where people are insatiably drawn to dunking on shitty people or condemning those who do wrong.

It’s the impulse to hate on vegans, for instance, because some vegans decide that their vegan status makes them better than other people, and so they make others miserable, and then people condemn them for being dicks, and it’s just a downward spiral of self-righteous condemnation that just makes everyone miserable.

And yeah, people who do wrong should be dunked upon and condemned for their misdeeds. 100%. The GOP, for instance. Fuck those assholes. They deserve our scorn and loathing and self-righteous anger.

But then there are people who we falsely believe are worthy of condemnation who are the victims of circumstance and the system, not bad in and of themselves.

Drug addicts. Homeless people. People trapped in abusive relationships. The list goes on.

Just this week, Seattle/King county public health posted information to help avoid a drug overdose, and my ostensibly liberal fellow residents went NUTS. “How dare you encourage drug abuse!” and “you’re perpetuating crime!” and “I will not have MY tax dollars go to support scum of the streets!”

No. Don’t be like that. There is nothing inherently separating you from those people you are roundly condemning, other than some luck, health crises, and maybe some money.

Any one of us could be there any given Monday.

It’s easy to feel as though people in difficult circumstances brought it on themselves, somehow. Maybe if they’d made “better choices” or “worked harder,” they could have avoided their disadvantageous position. Or maybe it’s some moral defect in them—a flaw in their character that leads them down a ruinous path.

That is some Victorian/Puritan bullshit right there, I tell you what.

And sure, perhaps some of them charted their own path to ruin, but that’s not the norm. Many of these people are from marginalized backgrounds and have had to deal with society’s loathing their entire lives. They do t have the privileged lives that others of us enjoy, because their skin color, gender, sexuality, and/or social status didn’t render them largely immune to the hate of half the country like it has us.

But people rush to condemn them and, most importantly, be seen condemning them. Make it clear that they are better than the people they’re condemning because they work harder, or save better, or have better teeth or whatever the fuck, even though a lot of that is luck and/or being born wealthy.

Any given Monday, that luck can change.

Here’s the thing. You want to feel morally superior?

Choose compassion.

When you see someone suffering, reach out to help them, rather than puff up your chest about how much better off you are.

And certainly don’t go over and kick them when they’re down. Don’t get in the way of others trying to help.

If it’s that or ignore them, I think we’d all prefer you cross by on the other side of the road, like a good self-righteous Pharisee or stuffy merchant.

Be the Good Samaritan whenever possible, and when you can’t, at least stand aside and let people who can help, help.

Mondays might suck, but I guarantee you, they suck worse for someone worse off, and there’s no reason to go out of your way to make it even worse for them.

Inspired by this:

Gaming Logic: Railroads and Sandboxes

Just my standard caveat that gaming is a big tent with lots of people of lots of different experiences huddled together against the rain and lightning storms of the outside world, so YMMV on any of this.

One issue that comes up frequently in GMing circles–by which I mean it’s a never-ending crusade with no clear winner, only a lot of destruction–is the debate between “sandbox” games and “railroad” games.

There is a clear difference, of course, but no game in the history of tabletop gaming has been entirely one or the other, and that’s what I’d like to discuss here.

All aboard the adventure train!

But first, some definitions.

When applied to a game, “railroad” and “sandbox” are pretty general terms, open to interpretation, but generally:

In its purest form, a sandbox has no set plot or goals—the players can have their characters go anywhere and do anything, and the DM is entirely reactive to the players while the players are the ones making things happen.

The principal strength of a sandbox game is giving the players a sense of agency and freedom, where they can explore whatever and wherever they want, but it frequently leads to two main problems: 1) there’s a lot of pressure on the GM to be able to react to anything at a moment’s notice, often requiring a vast knowledge of the setting, and 2) players can feel overwhelmed or lost in the face of so many options.

“Aw jeez, so many choices…”

By contrast, a railroad is entirely laid out and scripted for players—the plot, NPCs, threats, all of it is planned and executed exactly to plan, and the players are entirely reactive while the DM is the proactive motivating force.

The primary strengths of a railroad game are 1) its ability to give players a strong, cinematic experience, where focus allows you to convey something very specific, and 2) there’s less improvisation needed on the part of the GM, since you’ve got all the answers to the questions that could be asked.

On the other hand, these games have two major weaknesses, which are 1) if something unexpected happens, the game’s inflexibility can mean it’s harder to adapt on the fly, and 2) players can feel stifled, as though they have no real choice in how they proceed.

“What do you mean, what’s my favorite color?” ~ Mass Effect 3, BioWare/EA

Time for Examples

A railroad game might be something like Wolfenstein or Doom: you have a specific goal that requires you to achieve specific goals and milestones. How exactly you do that varies—which weapons you use, whether you’re a little more stealthy or just go guns blazing. And the more these games evolve, the more options they start having. Think of Assassin’s Creed or Tomb Raider, which allow a fairly wide range of experimentation and customization.

(In the video game industry, “open world” is sort of equivalent to the term “sandbox,” though of course no video game can achieve quite the same level of improvisation you can get at a tabletop game, where your experience is limited only by your imagination, rather than data storage.)

The next level is the Mass Effect series, which is widely seen as a sandbox sort of game. There are lots of things you can do, and your choices make big changes to the way the story unfolds. Though at the same time, there is a particular end goal, and you ARE moving along a path… it’s just how you go along that path that matters.

The most sandboxy game might be something like Minecraft, Animal Crossing, or Fortnite, where the game unfolds entirely without a specific plan, and is entirely up to the players to produce their own story. But those games don’t really have a strong story—as I said, their content is entirely up to the players.

The Spectrum of Gaming

Gaming is like gender–it’s real, but only because we make it real… wait, no, it’s like gender in that it’s on a spectrum.

Whew. Nailed it.

(Y’all knew it was going to come down to “it depends” and “it’s a spectrum,” right?)

As you can tell, “railroad” and “sandbox” are two points on a spectrum of playstyles. Every D&D game is somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes, and it typically has to do with player agency.

Consider: how much of the story is a result of the PCs’ actions as opposed to the GM’s plans?

This is why I say no tabletop game has ever been, nor will ever be, entirely a sandbox or a railroad.

No matter how railroady your game, you as the GM will never be able to plan out exactly what your players will say, do, or otherwise react in any given situation. You might be able to make good guesses, but unless you’re just telling a story without audience participation, the players are going to push on the narrative a bit.

By a similar token, no matter how sandboxy your game, there will always be some planning or at least concepts you’ll have to put in, otherwise odds are nothing will feel like it has any weight to it, and your players will feel as though there’s no real goal to organize the story around.

“Hold up… you do WHAT to the king?”

Wait a second–biased, much?

If you’ve detected a hint of bias, you’re absolutely correct. I tend to lean more sandbox with my games than railroad, and it obscures the drawbacks in my head.

I’m more adept at recognizing the signs of players feeling lost and craving direction in a sandbox game, and so I’ve developed ways to deal with it. I’m also quite happy to just have players vamp for a while, and have entire game sessions where they’re just snarking with each other. That can be real fun.

But eventually, they’re gonna need some goals, and that involves some planning and imposing structure. It might not be recognizably railroady, sure, but giving them a little nudge in the direction you want is something a GM just has to do sometimes.

So what’s the Ideal Balance?

There’s that dang “it depends” thing again. The best TTRPG campaigns find a balance between player action and GM plans that works for and serves the interests of everyone at the table.

I myself prefer my games to be about 70% sandbox, 30% railroad, where the rails are buried in the sand just enough that the players either don’t see them or sometimes catch a glimpse and say “ah, the DM was planning for this!”

Typically when I plan games, I do it week to week based on what the PCs do, but also have potential end goals and big scenes in mind that I’d like to hit as we go. I often play with players who are very sensitive to feeling railroaded, and their tendency is to rebel against the perceived plans, either because they want to preserve their agency or they just want to mess me up… and that can produce fun gaming experiences. It can also derail and mess up a campaign, so that’s a risk you’ve got to be aware of.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the kind of game you should play is the one that works for your table. That might not be clear at first, even if you have a session zero (and you definitely should) to discuss it, but will emerge over time.

And that’s ok. You don’t have to get it perfect straight out of the gate.

Embrace failure and learn from it to make your game better.

Solicit player feedback and incorporate it.

Don’t be afraid to take risks, and be happy if things don’t go quite right–failure is, after all, the best teacher.

You’ll find the balance that works for everyone. Just keep playing.

Happy gaming!

Extra Attack: how does it work? (D&D 5e)

“I’m an eldritch knight and I have extra attack; when I cast a cantrip like green flame blade, so I attack again, too?”

Powering up my sword with some fire! Get ready! (Artist unknown)

Honestly, I see this question come up weekly, and the answer is always the same:

No.*

There’s a difference between the Attack action, and an attack.

The Attack action is the most basic and obvious way you can attack on your turn. Anyone can do it, regardless of special abilities or class features. It’s just something you can do.

There are lots of situations where you might make an attack other than the Attack action. As part of an opportunity attack, for instance, or a bonus action off-hand attack because you’re fighting with two weapons, or because your battlemaster buddy used Commander’s Strike.

But if you’re casting a spell, such as Greenflame Blade, then you are taking the Cast a Spell action. This action may involve making an attack, it may not, but even if it does, it is not the Attack action.

What Extra Attack does is allow you to attack additional times (usually once, sometimes more) when you take the Attack action on your turn. It does not grant “extra attacks” in any other context or situation.

Possibly WotC could have come up with a different name for the Attack action, seeing as “attacks” are something you can do at other times, but alas, here we are.

* Note that eldritch knights of a certain level (specifically, 7th level or higher) have the War Magic class feature, which allows them to make a weapon attack as a bonus action after casting a cantrip, in a manner similar to two-weapon fighting. Which is to say, you can only do this when you cast a cantrip (presumably with the Cast a Spell action), and you can only do it afterward.

Review: the Happiest Season

What, a movie review? What?

(Before I get into this, I’m a middle class white cishet guy. And while I know and love a lot of LGBTQ people, I am not myself part of that community. I’m just an ally, one who wants to see more, good representation of my LGBTQ neighbors.)

That said, here we go.

The wife and I watched a Christmas movie this year, as is tradition, and it was Happiest Season, which was rarely happy but very seasonal!

Basically, it’s a slightly watchable Hallmark movie with gay people, and that’s fine.

Aren’t they cute? Oh, it’s gonna get rough from here, though

The first of two narrative problems is that it’s based on the whole “we don’t talk to each other and thus don’t find obvious solutions to our problems”—that’s a pretty common trope and how a lot of stories mine dramedy. It skirts the line of cringe humor, though it’s a lot less ridiculous than what you’d see in an Adam Sandler movie.

The queer content (mostly lesbians but some other representation as wel) is honestly the best part of the movie. It’s a relief from the stifling dysfunction based on heteronormative deception, and honestly, perhaps that’s the main redeeming factor of this film.

(Seriously, it borders on the edge of Get Out at times.)

LGBTQ people have struggles, and maybe seeing them on the screen will convince a few straight people who’ve never (knowingly) met a real-life LGBTQ person to give it some more thought. Which is good.

Also, Kristen Stewart does a great job with the material she’s given, as does Aubrey Plaza (of course), and they are just utterly adorable.

See what I mean? Also, how is anyone confused about Abby (right) is waaaay into ladies?

As for the movie itself, I want to say it was cute and inoffensive, but… well, there was plenty to object to there. Some of it is extremely silly and some of it might be quite traumatic. (Especially how cruel Harper is to Abby and to Riley, who really should have ditched her and got together, see the Den of Geek review, below.) Though some of it is indeed uplifting, and it ends on a high note.

Its high point—the sapphic perfection of Kristen Stewart, who is just amazing—is also key to the second main narrative problem, which is that she has much better chemistry with the inestimable Aubrey Plaza… but perhaps that’s part of the point. Her character has options that are easier and more comfortable, and it makes it clear that love and relationships are a lot of work. And this particular one exceeds her limits on more than one occasion.

Shoutouts to Victor Garber and Alison Brie, of course, who are both pretty solid in their supporting roles.

Ultimately, it’s a movie. If you like it, great. If not, that’s cool.

Two wreaths out of five.

A genuinely happy photo that the movie sort of earns

Further reading:

Den of Geek review

Roger Ebert review

Final Round(?): FIGHT

Today is the third round of my butt surgery. My abscess developed into a fistula, which had a 50/50 chance of happening, so now I’m going into surgery to get that dealt with.

It should be fine. My surgeon has that sort of god-like confidence you want in a surgeon, and I anticipate everything will be fine.

One thing I’d like to point out, however, is that I had basically a two-week waiting period between every step of this part of the process, and that seems, well, ridiculous.

We KNEW there was a good chance I’d need surgery after the colonoscopy back in October, but I still had to wait until early November to have a consult with a colorectal surgeon, and THEN it was three weeks until my actual surgery could be scheduled.

Why, you ask?

Because our health insurance system is crap.

They left me lingering in near-constant pain for almost exactly a month while “pre-authorizations” had to happen. I started a new job in the interim and couldn’t be at my best because of the pain and/or painkillers. Somehow I managed it, whilst also fulfilling my responsibilities, but this was an unnecessary amount of struggle.

Don’t get me wrong: health insurance is ESSENTIAL. My abscess surgery and hospital stay ran $75,000 or so, of which I’ll have to pay $4,600. (Still ridiculous, but at least I’m not financially ruined because my butt decided to implode.) And now, having met my annual maximum for out of pocket expenses, this surgery will be essentially free for me.

But here’s the thing: we pay these exorbitant premiums for healthcare that lets us scoot by without becoming homeless, and that’s essentially it. We’re still in pain, we still dread actually making a claim, and we still live in terror of needing the doctor.

There’s a better way than this. We have the money, we have the infrastructure. All that’s left now is the will to do it.

Wish me luck everyone, and moreover, wish our COUNTRY would get off its ass and, y’know, fix its ass.

Seriously. Let’s figure this out.

Keep Ruin Fiction

Over the next week, and probably on Election Day itself, I will finish the proofs for my fourth and final (for now) World of Ruin novel.

And that’s not a coincidence.

I started writing the novel that would become the World of Ruin series in the first year of Bush W’s presidency, at age 18. I was writing about our world—the World of Ruin is the world that conservatives want.

I was young and righteously angry and not all that great a writer—now, nearly 20 years later, I’m older, better as a writer, and still just as righteously angry. And I’m tired, but more on that later.

I still see it that way.

The post-apocalyptic fantasy setting of the World of Ruin is the dark, broken reflection of the world that came before—the World of Wonder. It was, if you listen to the tales in the dusky taverns of Tar Vangr, a utopia, where folk were happy and didn’t have to work and lived lives of equality and luxury.

And then it ended in a worldwide magical war that people could only survive by hiding underground for centuries while they awaited the day the broken environment would become livable again.

Some people misjudged this, listened to their bad leaders, and came out of isolation too early, and the magical radiation killed most of them and warped others into ravenous monsters.

Sound familiar?

If you said “Fallout” or “COVID-19”, you are correct either way. Twenty years ago, I couldn’t have predicted the pandemic, but neither should any of us be surprised that the least responsible president ever has overseen the downfall of our country and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

And of course, the current series is about the impending downfall of the last remnants of civilization, victims of both external threats and internal pressures, and offers a whole host of bad guys who are bad for the same reason they are in our world: they’re sexist, racist, homophobic, fascist pricks who get off on exploiting and harming others.

The World of Ruin series is about the cycle of apocalypse. Here’s the thing: the World of Wonder wasn’t great either. It faced escalating environmental havoc and the loss of resources, increasing economic disparity, and pointless international tension between ethnic groups. Toward the end, its governments rapidly gave way to fascism, as we humans tend to do when approaching an existential crisis. And instead of fixing its problems, they fell to infighting and dysfunction and finally global war. All that technology, privilege, and wisdom, and they couldn’t save themselves from xenophobic, power-hungry assholes who blew it all up.

And that’s the road we’ve been on as long as I’ve been alive. And I’m tired of it.

Book 4 is the culmination of that cycle repeating itself. Of evil people trying to fuck over everyone and gobble up power for themselves. And the resources to oppose them are becoming scant.

Next week’s election is one of our last chances, if not THE last chance, to save our country in specific and the human race in general. We are rapidly approaching the point of no return on the environment, 225,000 Americans are dead of a virus our government continues to dismiss as a hoax, and our economy is on the brink of yet another devastating collapse because of wealth inequality.

We are heading toward the World of Ruin, because that’s exactly what the powers that be want. God knows why—too many people are too tough to control, maybe? They don’t want to share their ill-gotten wealth so much they’d rather kill everyone? Or maybe they’re just too ignorant and driven to satisfy their own prurient needs to look even a LITTLE ahead.

Now is the time to stand up and fight.

Your world needs you.

Don’t let it fall to ruin.

Cover to book 4 forthcoming!

More Butt Stuff (SFW, I promise!)

So in the ongoing chronicles of my butt, I hopped on the colonoscopy train yesterday (I’m 37, so it’s a bit early) for diagnostic reasons and we found… nothing obviously causing my issues, no Crohn’s, no obvious pre-cancerous growths, etc. So that’s the good news!

The prep for the colonoscopy wasn’t so bad, btw. The meds they gave me tasted like really flat lemon La Croix, which, while not great, also isn’t too bad. The worst part was getting up at 4am to do my prep (which has to be finished at least two hours in advance), then driving to the hospital for my 8am procedure… only to realize, right then, that my appointment was actually at 12:30. Woo!

The less good news is that my abscess from September has developed into a fistula (we identified that on an MRI a couple weeks ago), so I get to get THAT resolved with another surgery. Yay…

Anyway, I’m optimistic that we’ll get this resolved and I’ll find some relief. I’ve basically been in varying levels of butt pain for the past few months, and it’s down to the 1-3 on a 10-point scale, but it’s still there and I’m hoping resolving the fistula will resolve the pain.

Right now, I can eat again, and I have a bunch of leftover pizza and video games. (It’s the little things.)

Anyway, thanks for listening, thanks to Chadwick Boseman, and here’s to a pain-free 2021!

The lighting makes it look like I have distinguished executive hair—in fact, I haven’t started to go gray yet, though 2020 *would be* the year…

Final (not female) Fantasy

Y’all know me. I’m a lifelong Final Fantasy fan.

But FFXVI?

Grimdark man is both grim and dark

From the reveal trailer, I’m not convinced, and I’ll tell you why.

Once upon a time, FF produced games of rich stories, genuine emotion, and—importantly—significant female characters.

Heroines you could play, who had a significant impact on the plot, and either WERE the main character or at least matched and even exceeded them at times. FF games were not just sausage-fest “boys’ adventure” games.

We can debate the quality of those characters, Whether they’re actually feminist, empowered, etc. Obviouslt, FF has had issues with specializing female characters in crass and/or ridiculous ways, but we can say this for sure: women existed in the games, women were important in the games, and women MATTERED in the games.

Can the same be said about FFXV, for instance?

Basically, it was an absent princess who gets fridged eventually and a cowgirl gas station attendant who hasn’t bought clothes since middle school and has grown mostly out of them.

Maybe “boys road trip” was great, maybe the lads had cool personalities (and I’m always down for good male relationships in media), and maybe that was what you wanted. And that’s fine. But it’s just not for me, nor does it honor the legacy of the series. And that game has given me series reservations about the future direction of the series.

It doesn’t look like FFXVI is honoring that legacy either.

In this sense, FFVII Remake is the most final fantasy thing Square Enix has made in years, and that’s mostly because it’s based heavily on a pre-existing, much beloved game. They had no choice, really, but to include these awesome female characters, and to their credit, they amped UP their internal lives and personalities. Which was great.

So we know they CAN write female heroes… the question now is WILL they?

I dunno, maybe I’m reading too much into it. But that trailer is NOT promising. I’m very wary.

Eliminate Excellently

So, I had emergency surgery this last weekend, and I’ve come away from it with a very important insight I wanted to share with everyone.

Based on my current experience, I’m gonna be really honest and tell you something that possibly no one told you, which you should apply to your own life and also teach your kids:

Don’t be ashamed of pooping.

Honestly. We all do it, it’s just waste product, maybe a little smelly. But it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I think a lot of us are in danger of developing shitty habits (pun intended) and they can cause us problems later in life, because there’s this overrriding cloud of shame and “ew, don’t talk about THAT” about pooping.

Heck, stereotypically, a lot of us dudes have terrible cleanliness habits because, well, it’s awkward to talk about so they never really learned any better. We’re just expected to figure it out ourselves.

And, of course, the media is all over us with jokes and routines and BS about how it’s funny and embarrassing and gross and all that has a silencing effect.

So here’s some guidance, based on my own experience:

Whenever possible, defecate naturally. Don’t strain.

Don’t hold it for ridiculously long periods. When you need to go, find an opportunity and go.

DON’T strain.

Don’t be a dick about other people’s butts either. We all fart and we all poop. Don’t shame anyone (including yourself) for being human.

AND DON’T STRAIN.

Straining, for point of reference, is how you develop hemorrhoids that complicate into perirectal abscesses, which is why I’m recovering after a stay in the goddamn hospital with a gauze-stuffed hole in my butt. (Go read about it if you want. It’s WILD.)

Yeah I’ll be fine, but it was a LOT of pain and discomfort that led me here. Oh, and during recovery we have to change my gauze plug periodically, and that is HORRIFIC. So.

TAKE THE BENEFIT OF MY EXPERIENCE.

As a kid, I was an anxious eliminator—a shy passer of the log, if you will.

I didn’t want to do it in public restrooms—I would only go in my home toilet, no matter how long I had to hold it or how hard I had to strain to get it out. I never talked about it with anyone because, well, movies told me it was gross and shameful, and I was embarrassed.

Over the years, I developed intestinal problems, irritable bowel syndrome, a requirement to read and eventually watch Youtube videos while on the John in order to actually go, and going number 2 became even more fraught until, well, I strained myself into the hospital.

Right now, I’d rather I was a little embarrassed than having to fix it with surgery.

(You wanna talk about embarrassing? Try learning to poop correctly after 37 years of developing bad habits. Oh, and having other people stick gauze up the extra hole in your butt. Which, did I mention, is also VERY painful.)

Don’t be a grumpy, gurgling doofus like me. Relax. Take it easy.

It’s ok to poop, and it’s best to poop naturally and without effort.

Other tips:

  1. Eat lots of fiber: the primary tool to fix your stool, including vegetables, oatmeal, etc.
  2. Hydrate: good for your health and good for your cycle of waste management.
  3. Talk with your family and doctor: don’t let this fester. Have an open, honest, awkward conversation now, and it’ll lead to much less suffering over the long term.

Good luck, and remember: Eliminate excellently, my friends.

Hey, at least it’s not a picture of my butt.

How Chadwick Boseman Saved My Ass

In the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s passing, I just want to share a personal story about it. I don’t want to center myself—if anything, this is to THANK Boseman for one last indirect act of heroism.

You see, Friday night when I saw the announcement, I had been in significant anal/rectal pain for around a month and a half. At first, back in July, my GI diagnosed an internal hemorrhoid, which I thought was fair enough. I’ve had a fraught relationship with my intestines for most of my life, and it’s only got tougher over the last decade.

I was diagnosed finally with IBS, I aim for a low FODMAP intake, and recently I’ve been having a good deal of trouble avoiding straining to eliminate. So hemorrhoids seemed like an embarrassing, self-inflicted condition that “might as well happen.” Even though I’m not yet 40, let along 50, we also scheduled a colonoscopy for September 10, just to see if there’s some underlying issue and to get to the bottom of my IBS stuff, see if I have Crohn’s, etc. Why the delay? Well, I’m doing some traveling to accommodate a bathroom reconstruction, and having a working toilet seems like a good thing for all this.

The thing is, even after the course of treatment, even after I drove the 12.5 hours down to California, they didn’t go away. Or, more accurately, the PAIN didn’t go away, and I (foolishly) thought “hey, it’s probably just the hemorrhoids—I can make it to my colonoscopy on September 10.”

Wow, was I wrong.

But hey, I was tough. Resilient. Stoic. I’m a guy, I can deal with my shit (no pun intended, but welcome). I try not to be toxic in my masculinity, but every guy out there will be able to relate: you want to maintain some control over your own body and your own choices. And I figured, “I got this.”

The pain, however, had other plans. It just got worse and worse, especially this last week. On Friday, I was in really bad shape, and that’s when I saw the news about Chadwick Boseman.

Boseman’s last tweet

Our King had been fighting an all but hopeless battle against Stage IV colon cancer for four agonizing years. And during that time, he produced such art of such beauty and power as to place him among the rising, shining stars of our era. He wasn’t that much older than me, and I was proud to have a role model like him. And colon cancer ultimately claimed him, long before his time. He should have had so many more years to develop his talent and climb to new heights. He has left a bright mark on history even as it is—imagine what might have been without that dragon, cancer.

Chadwick Boseman, role model of non-toxic masculinity. Absolute legend.

Anyway, the announcement did something particular to me. Made me sad and angry, yes, but it also reminded me of something. Something I had realized twenty years ago, but had apparently forgotten: sometimes, there are challenges in life we simply cannot defeat, and if we can defeat them, sometimes we can’t do it alone, no matter how tough or willful we think we are. We need to be able to ask for help.

And so on Saturday, when I woke up in more pain than ever, when I could barely stand or walk or sit, when I had to lean on things and my legs shook and I soaked in sweat from the pain, I did it. I asked for help. I asked my parents to take me to the hospital.

Where they discovered, though digital assessment and a cat scan, both good news and bad news: my hemorrhoids (assuming they were ever really there) had gone away, but I also had a perirectal abscess that would need surgery to resolve. No amount of warm baths and willpower would have fixed that. Also, if I’d waited just another day or two, that abscess could have burst—it was apparently already starting to open up when they got me in the stirrups at the surgery yesterday (Sunday).

(Hey, uh, maybe this is obvious, but don’t try to tough things out. Get checked and sorted early. It’s always the better call.)

Anyway, I’m on the mend. I have a new hole in my butt—well, a temporary one—stuffed with gauze that needs to be changed every day, and it’s gonna be painful and embarrassing to deal with. But I am alive, I am healing, and I can finally let go of all that pain.

Hand IVs are pretty cool, btw

So thank you, Chadwick Boseman. Thank you for your art, that inspired me and so many others. Thank you for your strength, to do what you loved despite impending doom. Thank you for being a light for so many in a world that seems to get darker by the day.

And thank you for saving my ass.

You’ll always be a hero to me.

Chadwick Boseman Forever