An open letter to the Premiseverse Community

AKA, why the Hack is not around much and why the story isn’t done

Fanfiction is a rather curious form of both hobby and entertainment venue, one that relies on the ability to imagine something – but only within guidelines. It is the difference from an artist and someone who does paint-by-numbers; the gleaning edge of ‘creative thinking’ but with a scaffold of ready made ideas, settings, characters, and of course, overall plots.

All the annoying things that in real writing tend to bite you in the ass. Most fanfiction, therefore, falls into the categories of wish fulfillment, or alternative takes, or a day in the life, or side characters, or inserting yourself or an OC into setting. Very few are set in a way where the entire setting and story is warped, and fewer still do active world-building.

This is not to knock other fanfiction authors. But there is not a real comparison in what the PV is and say something like your average SI fic where you are merely walking the stations of the canon with a different character. The PV has over a dozen specialists in everything from math and biology to education and psychology, over fifty side documents, and two Discord channels full of lore. Ironically, despite having more supporting material than the actual source setting, this does not help in writing fanfiction, because now everything has to be consistent.

In the beginning, my updates were very fast paced. I am a very fast typist and I had some kind of idea what I wanted, in some cases I put out over 80,000 words in less than a week. Despite being over 750k words, it two just two years to finalize. Other side work went quickly as well.

As time went by, though, there were challenges and difficulties. My writing quality was terrible – bad punctuation, misspellings, missing words entirely. Some entire paragraphs were butchered as I hastily cut and pasted ideas and didn’t quality check. Other story lines simply petered off into nothing as I forgot about them. The more I dug and expanded, in order to keep things the way I wanted, the more time I had to spend researching the whys.

My personal life also played a role. This entire project did not start because I wanted to write, or because I was a fan of Mass Effect, although both are true. I was trying to distract myself. My job (at the time) was boring and not consuming much time, and the death of my wife, brother and father in a short span of time had been devastating to me.

So I wrote to distract myself. To vent demons in my head, to get out vitriol before it poisoned me. I wrote to stave off boredom at work. At this project grew in size and in people interested in it, I met new people. I had people telling me my work made them feel better, or gave them something to focus on when their own life was bad.

Work shifted. I was promoted, and the increasing workload went from having 4 or 5 hours a day of doing nothing to overtime. My health faltered. I was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and with high blood pressure. My mother had ovarian and then small cell lung cancer, and leg and circulation issues. In a single year I went through over half a million dollars in medical bills and almost $300,000 in debt.

Writing grew sporadic. I created the Discord and that exploded beyond my wildest expectations, even as I quit managing but work got more and more difficult. My personal life was messy. I had issues with my sister, and other relatives, and my mother’s health grew worse.

The past two years have been harrowing. I’ve had to bury more friends in the past couple of years than in the decade before. A friend who was barely even forty died of a heart attack, several more by suicide. The world became more and more fucked up.

The more I wrote, expectations grew. I started resenting the writing. The details of what Sara and Liara went through had ugly jagged parallels to my own life. I started doing role-playing and video games on the Discord, and those consumed more time.

Even more recently, I’ve been involved in what can best be described as a messy relationship that I knew better than to start but did so anyway, which has caused both another time investment and friction between some of my friends.

Once upon a time, I had plenty of money in the bank. I could blow thousands on fan art and research. I was on salary but barely did 15 hours a week of real ‘work’ and things were calm.

Now, I am still over $100,000 in debt, with a sagging credit rating and unsure if I can even pay property taxes on my house. My salary decreased, but my work hours have not been less than fifty a week in years. My back and wrists are in bad shape. My energy levels are low. My mother is in constant pain, and several of my friends are in actual danger due to their lifestyles and living in Texas.

My weekend is taken up with my relationship and trying to keep things from falling apart in other areas, so there are times I simply vanish. I’ve been working on the next chapters of several fics – TWCD, the Lions stuff, the Naruto stuff – and more than once written 5k or so and deleted it all as it just…felt flat. There are days I get on and I haven’t got the mental energy to do RP or even chat or play a game.

And these days are happening more often.

My ‘goal’ is to hopefully spend most of my next PTO time focused on my relationship issues and putting out new fic chapters. There are people who have had their lives improved by this. There are people in the Discord I have helped, or connected to others, who were once in despair and are now thriving. There is a responsibility on my end to both my readers and my fans (my, that sounds so arrogant, doesn’t it) to ‘get the job done’.

I was born in 1977. I’m 47. Four of my friends have succumbed to the frailty of the human form – heart attack, stroke, cancer. I smoke too much, I drink too much, and I do not eat well. I don’t exercise. The discs in my spine are slowly collapsing, and my knee is degrading slowly but surely. It isn’t impossible than in five years I will be in a wheelchair.

My work is a chaotic pit, with poorly defined changes due to multiple cataclysmic shifts in the field of logistics. The company itself is great. The clients are shit that cause us no end of problems. I worry that if something happens to my job, I do not have the resources to…survive.

I will continue to try to write, to roleplay, to listen and counsel. I will continue to try to be there for people who need answers to questions, to try to have a little fun and enjoyment. But I am a pragmatic type of person, and I think that people are entitled to know and understand why things happen.

The fiction has not progressed because writing it, at times, is more of a chore than a joy. Because the hope I keep trying to put into the lines and words and people of the fic isn’t something that I adhere to myself. Because some of the people I based my characters off of died in ways that made me have to rethink if I really understood them at all. Because there are days I stare at the page after working from 7 AM to 6 PM and my brain refuses to produce anything.

My presence in the Discord is erratic because there are times I am angry, or … unhappy, and I don’t wish to drag that into the chat. And there are times that this…relationship I am in has distracted me. The other person is unstable and has even less support than I do, so despite what that means there are times I simply have to focus on her and not on relaxing and what not.

My writing itself feels darker, more bitter. I have to filter that from the fic, and increasingly, from the roleplay, but it still exists for a reason. There are days I am able to write and what I come up with is simply not what I want to say, even though it is exactly what I feel or think. An animal, gnawing its own limb to free itself from a bear trap.

And there is the ugly, plain truth that I am at long last realizing that my arrogant self-assured confidence blinds me to the ugly reality that I am possibly beyond what I am able to handle – financially, personally, mentally, psychologically. That I will continue to stutter-stop in writing and progress slowly and maybe one day Rob or Mike get onto the Discord and say “Henry had a heart attack”.

I don’t fear death. I stared at it in the face in the submarine service – trapped in a bunk room on fire, with no way out. I looked at from a hospital bed, when I drove off a cliff drunk and brokenhearted over a woman. I felt it intimately, sitting in medical waiting rooms, watching other people get news from a doctor and break down crying.

I don’t fear what our world is going through, either. I have no faith in people to do what is right…but I also think that applies to all sides. I can only do what I can, as small as it is, to help people and make things better. Obsessing over the state of the world solves nothing but gives you an excuse not to try.

No, I think what I fear is what happens after I’m gone to everyone else. To the people I’m holding together. To the son who still has so many questions. To the friends, online and offline, who need reassurance. I fear that what I was trying to scream into the void – that surrender and kneeling must never be embraced, that you keep trying until you cannot even crawl and that you never compromise who you are just because someone else disagrees – will falter and sputter out.

I think I fear surviving when all the things I value slowly fall and fail.

I think I fear looking at an empty white page and realizing I can’t really speak the hope I no longer know how to feel.

I think I fear waking up one morning to realize I will lose all I have with no way…out.

I don’t let fear rule me. I don’t let ‘maybe’ stop me. I don’t give up and just fall over. That isn’t me.

But there are days, when I wake up and I forget why the fuck I am waking up.

There are days, when I drink too much, and sit staring into the fireplace, thinking of what Used to Be.

So if the fic isn’t updating, or if I’m not on Discord some days, of if you wonder why there’s times I don’t answer the phone. It isn’t that I won’t finish, or that I can’t handle it.

But I am tired. And every day seems just a tiny bit darker. It only takes one spark to push it back, but getting that spark to catch to tinder seems more and more of an effort.

There are things on the horizon that fill me with a bleak and cold certainty, that all the things I hold as givens and take for granted will melt away. That climate change is about to be something that impacts us all, not something to fret about. That AI will shatter the conventionality of human effort, and that the people it leaves behind will have no way to recover. That no matter how hard I try to make things better, more and more people are giving up on it.

I do Meals on Wheels on Saturday. There’s an old lady on my route – she’s 92. She was married for seventy years, her husband died a couple of years back. She’s home bound – arthritis, in a wheelchair. A nurse has to help her out. I bring her a nice warm dinner and sit on the porch and listen to her talk about the days after World War Two, when the future was under threat but also full of promise. Her husband was part of the NASA team that sent men to the moon.

She wheels herself out to her porch, and talks about how the world has changed. I can see it myself, listening to her. How strange it is, if you were not born into this current age of 5G and social media and streaming entertainment. How despite all the new things and new ways of doing things and new methods of looking at things…

People still have the same problems.

I wish I could have something cheery to say. But I am saying all this so that no one misunderstands why things aren’t progressing as fast as they did in the past.

Fanfiction is a curious form of entertainment, a way to channel things into a given format with guidelines. But it is supposed to be… entertaining. When it becomes instead another weight to balance on the scale of ‘what I am doing with my life’, then it has to find a place alongside everything else.

Finding that place, mixed in with my issues, my problems, my situation, is no longer a simple factor. It is no longer, I fear, something I can spend fifty hours a week on, if sleep, and my relationship, and helping my mother, and work consume a hundred and twenty hours a week.

Nothing is stopping. The fic is still being written; RP is still planned, the asari thing will happen when it happens.

But there is now always the chance that things will get more convoluted and even that may slow further.

I am rambling. I’ve said what I needed to say, I think.

2 thoughts on “An open letter to the Premiseverse Community”

  1. I read your message with sadness, I also have the feeling that since at least 2020 many things are going for the worse. One can only hope that things will improve even a little.

  2. Please sir take care of yourself first, you are the top priority, forgot about us.

    sincerely, a long-time lurker/reader of your cool supplemental lore content for that crazy and gritty hardcore ME reboot project of yours.

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