Taking a Break

In late 2019, I made a fateful decision, albeit one that didn’t seem particularly important at the time. I decided to take several months away from work to write my first novel, a stoner comedy called Once Upon a Time in Tittybong. I had no particular plan or prospects for the book and figured that I would self-publish it. It was one of those ideas that seemed right at the time and for which the stars aligned as several unrelated events led me down that pathway. So, I quit my job and made the other necessary arrangements before getting down to writing.

I’d all but finished the book when Corona kicked off. Even if I had wanted to go back to work, the lockdowns removed any chance of finding a new job. Given that the lockdowns here in Melbourne lasted most of the rest of 2020, I found myself with plenty of time on my hands, during which I wrote two more comedic novels, both published in 2020. If I ever have grandchildren and they ask me the cliched question, “grandpa, what did you do during the corona pandemic?” I guess I’ll have to answer that I spent the whole time writing comedy.

Of course, alongside writing comedy I also had the time and space to try and figure out what the hell was going on in the world. That’s when I started writing my Coronapocalypse series of posts to try and make sense of the “pandemic”. Prior to that, I had blogged very infrequently, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a single comment on any of my posts prior to 2020. I had never intended to write regular blog. The whole point of having this website was as a vehicle for my fiction writing. To this day, the home page has the short author bio that I wrote back in late 2019. It’s now out of date and in need of an edit.

The Coronapocalypse posts gave me the material for my first two non-fiction books, The Plague Story and The Devouring Mother, and both of these formed the foundation for my latest The Universal State of America. It’s too early to say what will happen with the latest book, but the first two continue to sell the occasional copy, although I certainly won’t be quitting my day job any time soon. Putting it all together, my personal story arc for the last four years has been that I set out to write a comedy novel and ended up writing an “archetypal history” of western civilisation. That’s almost the premise for a comedy in itself. If I was Frederico Fellini or Charlie Kaufmann, I’d turn it into a movie.

In relation to stories, there has been a crucial meta-lesson for me over the last four years. While in the middle of writing fictional stories, I came to realise how important stories are in “the real world”. The story of “covid-19” has actually turned out exactly as the dissenting epidemiologists said it would way back in early 2020. The case fatality rate of the virus is now indistinguishable from the flu, having dropped an order magnitude from the early days. Even Fauci had predicted this outcome in a co-authored paper in the New England Journal of Medicine in early 2020.

Of course, it was not this story which “won” in the public imagination. The story we chose was what I call the Plague Story – more specifically, the modern version of the Plague Story told by Hollywood, where scientists and experts save us all from Armageddon. For a seeming majority of the public, that story will be the one that they tell their grandkids when the subject of covid-19 comes up and no doubt some variation of that will go down in the official history. As the saying goes: if the news is fake, imagine how fake history is.

For myself, and I’m assuming for most readers of this blog, our story of the “pandemic” will be very different. For me, it has involved a re-evaluation of the society I thought I lived in. The funny thing is that the lessons have all been pointed out by some of my favourite writers from the past. Kierkegaard comes to mind. Society is always insane, he said, the trick is to find your own happiness. Or Nietzsche: insanity in the individual is rare; in society it is the norm. It’s one thing to read that in the abstract and another thing to realise its truth in a tangible sense.

While society may be irrational at base, most of the time we are able to create a pretense of reason and logic. That’s actually the basis of all comedy: to poke holes in the flimsy narratives of rationality created to keep up appearances. What distinguishes the time in which we live is that our society can no longer even create a pretense of rationality. Corona seemed to open the floodgates in that respect and it’s hard to see when or how “reason” and “logic” will be re-established. It’s for this reason that even many erstwhile rational people are looking elsewhere for meaning.

Putting it all together, 2020 was quite literally the worst time to start writing comedy, since comedy requires the veneer of reason and logic in order to work. In that respect, my efforts at writing fiction turned out to be misguided. Nevertheless, it’s also true that knowing how stories work at a technical level has proven to be crucial to my non-fiction books and, in fact, a great deal of my most recent book is based on literary analysis. Although society may be mad (irrational), there is a method to the madness. That’s the whole point of the Hero’s Journey: learning to navigate the Unconscious/irrational parts of reality without allowing them to destroy you.

From a personal point of view, the completion of The Universal State of America feels like the ending of the Hero’s Journey that began in early 2020. The descent into the Unconscious is over and the treasure brought back from the belly of the beast. For that reason, and also because I’d like to take some time away from the keyboard after what’s been an intense period of concentrated effort over the last year, it’s a good time for me to take a break. Thus, I won’t be writing any posts for rest of April.

I will be checking comments, however, and would be especially delighted to hear feedback from those who have read the Universal State of America.

Otherwise, see you in May.

(P.S. for reasons that I don’t understand, most Australian online book websites add at least 25% and sometimes up to 75% mark up on paperback books. Amazon is currently selling the Universal State of America for $55 which is ridiculous given that it’s selling in the US for $19. By my calculations, I can send the book via AusPost for $25. If there’s anybody in Australia wanting a paperback copy for that price, get in touch and we might be able to work something out.)

22 thoughts on “Taking a Break”

  1. Hi Simon,

    Enjoy your well deserved break, and please do count me in for a copy.

    Have events descended from comedy into farce? Sometimes I feel that events have become ludicrously improbable. Always exciting!

    I’m slowly coming around to your perspective on the arc of the heroes journey. It does get reflected a lot in all sorts of ways in life.

    And the self-hatred concept has blown my mind, you could be right there. I’m going to have to seriously cogitate upon that observation. The old hippies used to say: ‘Tis an ill wind that blows no minds… 🙂



  2. Chris – actually, that wasn’t my idea about the Hero’s Journey but Joseph Campbell’s who based it on a cross cultural survey of stories told from around the world. Of course, you can get Hero’s Journeys within Hero’s Journeys. One of the main ones we are currently in began, in my opinion, with the neoliberal agenda of the early 90s and we really are in unknown territory since even the technocrats running the show admit it’s a big experiment. Thus, it’s no surprising that nothing makes sense.

  3. Hi Simon,

    Hmm. I’m playing around with reframing my worldview to consider that the neoliberal agenda was in fact a heroes journey. It’s an astounding thought. But then in the past I have casually remarked that given all of the concurrent problems, it’s amazing that the outcomes have been as good as they have been. Such talk generally elicits a surprised response.

    But far out, so are you more or less suggesting that policy is now being made up on the fly reacting to whatever problem/s are next in line (in reference to the ‘nothing makes sense’ observation)?

    Dude, how does the heroes journey usually end?



  4. Chris – yes, we could capture same idea but in more boring language by calling it a “process”. The reason why the Hero’s Journey works, though, is because it includes a explicit psychological element and, following Jung, we know that psychology can be collective. So, a society-wide Hero’s Journey is a collective confrontation with the Unconscious. The Hero’s Journey ends when we have integrated the Unconscious into consciousness, which is a fancy way of saying that we learned something 😉

  5. Hi Simon,

    Fascinating. So would it be too far from the mark to suggest that, and taking into account your discussion of archetypes, arcs and narratives, that society itself is nearing a point where collectively it must face itself?



  6. Chris – depends what sort of Hero’s Journey it is. If it’s a tragedy, then yes a self-confrontation would be in order. Could history be a comedy? Actually, there’s good grounds for that. We humans are neotenous chimps descended from rodents descended from pond slime. Life just keeps on winning 🙂

  7. Hi Simon,

    Trust me, I intend to ask you about the comedic side of history, but for now you chucked out the concept of neoteny, which is a word the spell checker knows not, and I knew about as much as the browser software. No longer. What about those of us with a bit more caveman in them? Where does neoteny leave them? 🙂 Probably on the evolutionary scrap heap… But yeah, life keeps on keeping on.



  8. Chris – yes, there’s the rub. Life can keep on “winning” while individual species “lose”. I guess it’s a tragi-comedy.

  9. ICYMI–a post from James Howard Kunstler–https://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/batshit-crazy-america/

    He’s an angry blogger, probably becoming more isolated, but he does stick to his guns vis a vis archetypes. His latest:

    “It is the way of Homo sapiens that moral codes derive generally from the supervision of fathers in the upbringing of human young and, later on, as children develop into adults, these codes are archetypally re-enacted and enforced by men in the greater social matrix. Why? Because it requires a strong sense of boundaries. Boundaries are the essence of the “patriarchy.” Remove men from the scene, or castrate them politically, and you are sure to end up with a problem knowing right from wrong. We’re apparently subject now to the misrule of women with boundary problems who, for one reason or another, rebelled against Daddy and never got over it. It’s a peculiar irony — so far unexplicated by the hierophants of social theory — that the more affluent and successful Daddy was, the more he was hated for it by his female offspring.

    The result of all that is the Democratic Party of our time as run by the batshit crazy women, fearful of sex and its consequence (babies), paradoxically subject to biological promptings and unable to find suitable mates among the men they’ve turned into eunuchs of one sort or another; resentful of the dull managerial jobs that have replaced the anathematized “jobs” of motherhood; filled with rage and revenge fantasies which, because of their boundary problems, have now extended to willing the destruction of our country. It’s an uninviting view of what’s happened to us, but there it is, like so much meat on the table.”

  10. George – thanks for that. Kunstler is an entertaining writer. Obviously, I agree with the general gist of what he’s saying, although I would add that the founding sons of the US had already rebelled against Daddy (George III) and so maybe the daughters are only now catching up!

  11. Simon, the esafety commissioner in Aus could be the most devouring mother thing I’ve ever seen. The board is almost entirely made up of women, but the idea and role could not fit the archetype more perfectly. At this point it’s just funny.

  12. Skip – yep, and headed up by an American, too. But the kicker is that the whole thing began as the “children’s eSaftey commissioner”. So, I guess we’re all children now, being kept safe by mummy.

  13. The referendum exposed it, but Australia is getting ridiculous at this point. There is the majority of the country, which is still quite socially and economically conservative yet generally collectivist in the classic unfussy Aussie way, and then an abstraction heavy, globalist ran borderline totalitarian inner metro bizzaro world which unfortunately seems to set policy for everyone else. I suppose it’s always been this way, Anglo American elites watching over us, but now they aren’t even trying to hide who runs the show.

  14. Well, nobody wants to talk about it but we signed away most of our economic sovereignty to the US with the neoliberal agenda of the 90s. That’s why it’s so perfect that the “eSafety” woman is an American or that Shaquille O’Neil was wheeled out to speak in favour of The Voice. So, we get screwed by US commercial interests and then lectured to on moral and political issues. Ironically, we really could use some protection: protection from the US!

  15. dear Simon,
    i’m fighting for my life over here but during my break last night before bed i was catching up on Papa G’s Ecosophia Main and saw your book is ready so i HAD to write that i ordered it right away and am sooo happy it’s 300 something pages! hurray!

    your cover sucks, though. what happened? you were on a ROLL! it’s so boring and flat, i wonder WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???


    i cannot lie i must tell the truth. maybe you had no time. figured you put enough into the words.

    i guess you’re in disguise. okay. fair enough. i’m using a cane right now and ball all my wild hair upon my head. you did the same thing.

    but i cannot wait to read it. your template makes a lot of sense and is why i’m fighting for my life over here. i’m in Mordor, Devouring Mother Central.


    p.s. i hope you come to your senses in future editions and put a proper Simon Sheridan Cover on it. you’ve got the best covers around these days.

  16. Erika – actually, i had a cover concept that you would have liked but it corresponded to what I thought was the original theme of the book “The Age of the Orphan”. The new cover is more symbolic. It should make more sense once you’ve read the book. At least, I hope so!

    As for Devouring Mother central, I think Australia wins that award. We’ve given a Karen a cushy government job at the “eSaftey” office with a half-million dollar salary and she’s now trying to censor the entire internet 😛

  17. “The new cover is more symbolic. It should make more sense once you’ve read the book.”

    My dear man, a good cover works in reverse.
    It seduces.


  18. Erika – “Hey, baby, wanna come back to my house for some archetypal calculus?” 😛

    (But seriously, point taken).

  19. (smile)

    i’m soooo excited about your new book like i used to be when a new movie would come out and i CARED. it’s on its way…


  20. I’m excited to see if it resonates with people. I think this is easily my best work so far.

  21. It took longer to write than all the other ones put together so it better be 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *