To say that I was exhausted Thursday evening would be an understatement.
This was publishing deadline week at work, and it’s easier — and more efficient — for me to work out of the office than from home during that week. The deadlines are tight; I don’t have time for laggy connections and connectivity issues, and I don’t trust the VPN for some of the more delicate procedures I have to run. So, since Diamond went to work-from-home in mid-March, I’ve made the trek into the Plague Lands on deadline weeks, a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the sake of the comics industry.
And, this month, for reasons beyond my understanding, Wednesday turned into a giant flaming ball of wreckage. Tasks that I had to do could not be done. They would have to be done on Thursday, and the publications affected had to go to press on Thursday, and I was going to have to do twelve hours of work spread across two days in eight in one.
Which I did, because I am good, and no one bothered me (because the office is effectively closed), and I left at a normal time.
But damn, was I drained.
I picked up Chipotle on the way home and inhaled it — I hadn’t eaten since breakfast — and collapsed into bed shortly thereafter.
Then I received an email.
This is damned peculiar, I thought.
My initial reaction was that it was spam. A common spam technique is to fake a reply, creating a message that looks like there’s an active conversation going, but why reply to an email message from himself that’s two and a half years old? If this were a spam, it was a very odd spam, to be sure; why be profane and belittling in an email where you’re hoping to get a mark to click on your link?
My doubts that this message was a spam message were growing. And when I did some basic forensics, all my doubts were confirmed.
The email was genuine.
Two and a half years ago, a stranger emailed me about Shakespearean authorship and I never replied. Two years later, for reasons known only to him, he emails me again and berates me.
I posted a few Tweets about it, and went to bed. I was, as I said, exhausted, and I had one more day of publishing deadlines to get through.
Friday morning, I got on my computer and, out of curiosity, decided to see if I could find his original email from 2018 in my email client. Had I kept it? Had I deleted it? If I thought it was spam in 2018, I probably deleted it.
No. I had kept it.
And I found that he had emailed me twice before — in 2013 and 2015 — about Shakespearean authorship. I hadn’t been ignoring his theory on Shakespearean authorship for two and a half years. I’d ignored it for seven.
Now, my thoughts on Shakespearean authorship are not complex. The actor from Stratford William Shakespeare wrote the plays credited to Shakespeare. The theories of alternative authorship all fail at Occam’s Razor and make absurd leaps to twist history to fit the theory. Yet, as batshit insane as it is, I really did enjoy Roland Emmerich’s film Anonymous, about Edward de Vere’s authorship of the plays.
It’s possible that my correspondent had emailed me more on the subject and I deleted his messages. I suppose I kept them to look at later, then never got around to it.
I mused on Twitter than this situation sounded like fodder for a Will Ferrell movie.
Writing about this on Twitter summoned my correspondent like a demon with an incantation because yesterday afternoon, after not hearing from him in two and a half years, he replied to me on Twitter (which Twitter hid from me) and then emailed me again:
He also harassed a friend of mine on Twitter, which pisses me off, but I also know she could rhetorically disembowel him in less than thirty seconds.
The irony of all this, of course, is that, had he continued to email me every few years, randomly and politely, at some point he might have found me receptive to reading his theory into Shakespearean authorship. The fact that I’d kept the emails from 2013, 2015, and 2018 suggests to me that I didn’t dismiss them out of hand. I probably set them aside, meaning to read them later, and never did. But someday! Someday! I might’ve had the time.
Now we’ll never know.
Like I said, this really does feel like the set-up for a Will Ferrell movie.
Ferrell, a self-professed expert on Shakespearean authorship, randomly emails strangers with his theories, grows increasingly frustrated at being ignored, reaches a breaking point, and kidnaps an English professor at Columbia (played by Paul Rudd), and then they go on some sort of wacky road trip, perhaps to a minor Shakespeare festival on the East Coast, because Ferrell’s character believes the performance of a rare play will prove his case to the academic.
That’s not a bad hook for a story.
In another reality, I would have followed yesterday and its weird correspondent with Shore Leave. Certainly, it was a lovely day for it.
But, thanks to COVID-19 and the president’s indifference and unwillingness to contain it, we’re not in that reality, and there’s a smaller, virtual convention going this weekend in its place. I watched the panel on the forthcoming CBS All Access series about Christopher Pike and his Enterprise, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, spinning off from Star Trek: Discovery, yesterday evening.
At least I have the weekend to unwind and write.
Stay safe, people. Get lost in the clouds.