And it’s time.
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Silence Killed the Dinosaurs started out as a whim. It continued as a way to help me cope through the worst of my chronic fatigue syndrome. Now I would like it to be a little more.
I have been thinking about how to write this for a few weeks, and I have made a couple of false starts. It’s all been wrong.
So I’ll start by telling you this:
I have set up a Patreon page to support my writing and illustrating for Silence Killed the Dinosaurs.
For those who don’t know, Patreon is a crowdfunding site designed specially for creators who have a constant output (i.e., writing, art, comics, music, podcasts, etc.). Instead of a big one-off fund-raising goal, patrons opt to pledge a smaller amount (as little as a $1) each month.
Don’t worry, Silence Killed the Dinosaurs will remain free to anyone who wishes to see it.
But if you like my work and think it’s worth a couple of dollars every now and then, please consider becoming my patron. There are some cool extras and rewards available for those of you who do.
If you don’t want to (or can’t afford to) support me that way but would still like to help out, please consider sharing my work around on social media and telling friends about it. I would really appreciate it.
If you don’t want to do that either, we’re still cool. But maybe leave a comment and tell me the picture I did for my Patreon banner is totally kick-arse. Because it is. Go look at it. That thing took me ages to get right.
And now that has been said, I’ll tell you some news:
My chronic fatigue syndrome has improved.
I’m not better, but I am better than I was six months ago. I might improve more over the next six months. I might not. I don’t know.
I am still not well enough to drive, catch a bus or find employment. But I have more energy and fewer migraines. I can help around the house. And, more relevant for you, I can concentrate better and for longer, meaning I can write and draw more.
Maybe I’ll never be well enough work as a librarian like I had planned and studied for before I got sick. But there’s more to me than my university degree and plenty of other things out there. Maybe I could be a professional writer/illustrator.
Which brings me to something else that I want to say but could never get the lead up right (and still can’t):
All this—Silence Killed the Dinosaurs, you guys—saved me.
Maybe that’s a soppy, silly thing to say on the internet, but I don’t care. It’s true. Probably you didn’t mean to. Probably you didn’t even notice. It’s still true. You saved me and it means everything.
I was so sick that I barely left the house. I ached all over all the time. I was too tired to think. On bad days I spent the entire day lying down. On really bad days I would not eat food or drink water until my partner returned from work in the evening because I was unable to stand and go to the kitchen.
But I wrote and I drew. Not always a lot. Not always well. Not at all on bad days. But I never stopped, even when it felt hopeless.
And you guys.
I little while back I wrote about the awkward conversations I have about not ‘doing’ anything. It was written to be entertaining, and I like to think it was, but it didn’t come from an entertaining place. Chronic fatigue syndrome had been getting me down. I felt like I was achieving nothing and that I was worthless.
But then I got heaps of comments from you guys telling me that of course I do something—I do this.
The idea needed some time to simmer. It didn’t just tip me into a new way of thinking and a new way of doing things, but I thought about it a lot over the last couple of months. And then when I visited New Zealand I filled out my occupation on those customs cards. You do two; one for the country you leave before you get on the plane and another for the country you are going to while you are on the plane. Somewhere in the air things clicked into place. I left Australia unemployed, but I arrived in New Zealand a writer.
Putting it down in words like that was weirdly hard to do—especially as there weren’t enough little boxes to fit /illustrator—but I was brave and I did it.
I consider my life saved.
And now I’m going to go do some scary things with it, like putting my work out there and finding new ways to challenge myself creatively. Please hang around while I do it. We’ll tell jokes and I’ll draw dinosaurs. It’ll be fun, I promise.
The last thing I wanted to say was just this:
Comic-me (awkward mid-sentence tangent that shouldn’t be happening two hyphenated words into the story: I have decided to refer to my drawn-self as ‘comic-me’ rather than ‘cartoon-me’ because it can be misread as I am comic, i.e. amusing, and I’m okay with that) is getting a makeover.
You know the classic high school movie makeover scene? That’s the scene where a designated cool-person exchanges a nerd-girl’s glasses for contacts (or just takes them away and leaves the poor nerd-girl to walk into things and get reading-headaches) magically transforming the nerd-girl into a cool-person worthy of having friends and being treated like a human being.
Well, I wear glasses now, so we’re about to do the reverse.
Reverse implies I start cool, put on glasses and get nerdy. In reality I start kind of nerdy, put on glasses and then I stay the same level of nerdy with the same personality and the same questionable social skills, but I feel a bit happier with how I look.
(Which is how successful makeovers work in the real world. I hope all you high-school-movie-screen-writers out there are paying attention.)
Here we go!
I need the glasses because I have moderate astigmatism. My left eye is almost okay, but my right eye isn’t. My right eye is that awful group-project partner you always end up with for university assignments who doesn’t do much, gets in the way, drags down your grade, ends up passing because of all your hard work and is the subject of your pencil-stabbing fantasies for the rest of the semester.
Annoyed is the wrong word.
Wearing my old glasses slots in on my list of everyday things I have an unreasonably intense dislike of just above the term ‘happy snaps’ and a little below folding fitted sheets. There must be some narrow-frame perks that I can’t see (/joke. Get it?) because some people seem to like them. But I would rather not wear glasses at all than wear my old glasses with the narrow frames.
And in fact this is what I did for years. I just didn’t wear them, except for reading. It was a surprisingly successful solution. It even saved me money on blu-rays and granted me immunity from getting carried away about otherwise mediocre video games with awesome graphics.
But sometimes you catch yourself wondering what pores look like.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise the answer was to just get different glasses. I worked it out a couple of months ago and immediately went out and picked out the biggest frames I could find in the shop.
And I thought it was time to make the relationship comic-official.
I’m glad that palaeontologists decided to go with Brontosaurus in 2015. Apatosaurus just isn’t long term relationship material.
P.S. When this hit the focus groups (i.e., when I came up with the idea at 2am and woke up my partner by giggling uncontrollably and generally making a lot of noise and fuss for 2am so that he would ask what I was doing) it became apparent that not everyone just casually knows that “Brontosaurus” means “Thunder Lizard”. It does.
P.P.S Apatosaurus means “Deceptive Lizard”. Just saying.
“Where have you been these last few months? We’ve been suffering without regular posts filled with your sparkling wit and hilarious cartoons!”
I know. I know, guys. I’m so sorry for abandoning you to several dull, me-less months. But I’ve had stuff on.
“What important stuff could someone who has chronic fatigue syndrome, who barely leaves the house, who doesn’t have a job and who continually tells us she’s terrified of her social life possibly have on?” I hear you say. “I mean, you’re actually inventing a conversation with imaginary fans you don’t really have. Surely, that’s rock bottom.”
… All true, but too harsh, guys.
“Oh … We’re sorry.”
Don’t worry about it. Let’s just say we’ve found the line and we’ll try not to cross it again.
What stuff have I had on? Well, a couple of weeks ago I proposed to my partner.
I wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure story about my partner arriving home to find me gone. The first page was clipped to the front door for him to find, and then he had to make choices which would lead him to other pages. I organised a number of perils for him to face, including dinosaurs, the Loch Ness Monster, a severed arm, a Furby* and a ballerina zombie. All pathways of the story converged on finding me and the last page, which had the final decision of the story: “Will you marry me?”
I know. SO ROMANTIC. Who wouldn’t want to marry me after having their hand imaginarily bitten off by the spinosaurus that was hiding in the fridge? I should write romance novels. He said yes. Everything was downright magical for about a day until people started asking what our wedding plans were, and then I came to an awful realisation.
I don’t like weddings.
Oh, marriage I’m ok with. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but I think it can nice if you and your partner have an equal, supportive relationship. (In fact, I like the idea so much that I think more people should be able to get married; can I get a hell yeah for achieving marriage equality in Australia by the end of 2015?)
There’s so much stuff in weddings that people think they need because that’s just how weddings are, but all you actually need to achieve with a wedding is a) get married, and optionally, b) celebrate with family and friends. Everything else is frosting. Which is fine if you like frosting (and are rich enough to pay for it), but we don’t (and aren’t).
We want cake and celebration. We don’t want fuss and glitz, and under no circumstances will I be put on speaker-phone. But ultimately as long we’re married by the end of it I think we’ll call it a win.
* If you don’t know what a Furby is, then you can read what Wikipedia has to say about them, but I find their account unsatisfactory as it completely ignores the saccharine, demonic horror of the toys. Think Funzo from the Simpsons.
Throughout my life I have been pretty good at scary things. I can watch horror suspense movies without wetting my pants. I don’t squeal at weeping angels. I think zombies are cool. But every now and again something scares the life out of me, and it’s always something pathetic.
When I was a small child it was the picture book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. I’ll write a brief synopsis of it, so you understand where I’m coming from.
The book begins by announcing that we are going on a bear hunt, we intend to find a bear of large proportions, the weather is lovely, and we are not afraid. This becomes a refrain, and it is always interrupted by “Uh oh!” and a problem. Problems include long grass, a river, mud and so on. The solution is always “we’ve got to go through it.” Eventually we find a bear in a cave and are so scared we run all the way back and hide in bed.
We run because a bear is chasing us. I repeat: a bear is chasing us. We can only move slowly through the mud and the river and the grass. And we forget to close the door of the house when we get home and have to run back and close it. To prevent the bear from killing us. Because it’s a bear and it wants to kill us. Seriously. This is what is going to happen if we get caught:
Someone wrote this book for small children.
It terrified me so much that every time the teacher read us this book in kindergarten I would hide at the back of the classroom behind a bookshelf. The teacher always saw me and made me come out again. I don’t think she linked these hiding incidents with the picture book. I think she just thought there was something a bit off about me.
But I got older and people no longer insisted on reading this picture book to me. I was fine until Jurassic Park III.
As a child I thought dinosaurs were awesome (and I still do). My favourite movie was Jurassic Park, despite the fact that I was approximately six years old. My favourite bit is when the power goes out and the T-rex gets out of its enclosure and starts wrecking cars and eating people. Closely followed by any scene with velociraptors.
Now, my parents thought it was important that their brood watch age appropriate materials. But we were three small children who loved dinosaurs and nothing on Earth was going to keep us away from a dinosaur movie. We weren’t happy until we had watched it. And rewound the cassette and watched it again. And rewound it and watched it again.
So my parents made the best of a bad situation by trying to get us to cover our eyes for the death scenes.
This was all fine until Jurassic Park III came along. That’s the one where the spinosaurus swallows the characters’ satellite phone and they keep hearing it ringing when the spinosaurus is about to jump out and eat them (I guess they thought they needed to update the T-rex’s-footfalls-makes-the-water-vibrate-in-a-glass-of-water-heralding-imminent-eating thing from the first movie).
One scene destroyed me. It was the scene where Dr Alan Grant falls asleep on the plane going to the Dinosaur Island and dreams that a velociraptor is on the plane talking to him.
It was the talking that did it. Dinosaurs, fine. Suspense, fine. Death, fine. Horrifying and traumatic death, fine. Talking velociraptors? Hell no.
My reaction made no sense. Before seeing the movie, a talking dinosaur would have been a dream come true. Afterward?
My parents were not impressed.
It took time, but I eventually stopped having dinosaur nightmares. I was free of crippling fictional-monster fear.
Until two years ago when I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
I can’t explain why I was afraid of Dracula when I had weathered far worse. It’s like the talking dinosaur thing. It just came out of nowhere.
After reading it, I was up all night with my fear while my boyfriend slept soundly. I couldn’t let myself fall asleep, because that’s when he gets you.
It was a long night.
At about 3:30 in the morning I had a dreadful realisation. I needed to go to the toilet. Badly. But I held it. I’m not a fool. Trips to the bathroom are prime opportunities for horror-monster ambushes. A bathroom trip would be more risky than falling asleep.
The situation became steadily more pressing, and when my bladder started hurting I was forced to reassess my options. I could only come up with one workable solution.
And he did.
He braved the house at night and stood guard outside the bathroom door while I peed.
Everyone needs someone like this in their lives. You need someone who does not judge or ask the wrong questions when something ridiculous happens. You need someone who just says “Ok.” This person can be a partner, family member or friend. Not everyone in your life needs to be like this, but you need someone. If you don’t have someone like this, you should consider engaging in a spot of friend shopping. Or maybe get a dog. Also, try and be this person for someone else (someone you trust not to take advantage).
I’m dead serious. It’s important. And I’ll explain why.
When the zombie apocalypse happens (and it will) I will go to my boyfriend and say: “The zombie apocalypse is happening! Pack all the tinned food you can find in the car. I’ll collect tools and cricket bats. We need to get out of the city before the roads are blocked with abandoned cars. Don’t forget the tin-opener!”
And he will say: “Ok.”
While we’re speeding out of town with a stash of food and weapons, all the people who went to the wrong friend with their evacuation plan will be on the receiving end of judgemental looks. They will be answering the question: “is this just some kind of silly joke?”
All the while, the roads will be getting more and more congested, and the zombie horde will be shuffling closer and closer.