Athena Scalzi

My Experience With Getting a COVID Test

Athena ScalziI made it ten months into the pandemic without getting tested for COVID. Honestly, I think that’s a pretty good run.

I know several people that have to get tested frequently for work or school and whatnot, and I’m ridiculously glad that’s not been the case for me, because it was, shall we say, less than fun. In case you’re someone who has managed to avoid getting one so far, and want to know what it’s like (as I so desperately wanted to before I got mine), then read on!

Like many people, I have a handful of friends that I’ve hung out with regularly during the pandemic — little bubble that we’ve deemed “safe” (safe enough, anyway). However, unlike me, all my friends either go to school, or work outside their house, or live with roommates, or all of the above. So it probably wasn’t really that safe, even though I’ve cut down on hanging with even those I consider “safe” lately.

Still: one of these friends tested positive earlier this week. I figured I should get tested, too. My fear of getting tested, plus me not actually feeling sick at all, made me really hesitant to get tested. But I knew I had to do it. I couldn’t chicken out of something so important, even if I was terrified of it.

So I went to the urgent care two towns over and tried to walk in, but their door was locked. It was then that I noticed a sign on their front door that said their waiting room isn’t open. You had to scan a QR code, give them your information online, and wait for them to call you to come inside. I sat in my car and waited for a bit before they called me in.

I walked in, sat down, and was pretty much immediately asked to tip my head back. In every video I’ve seen of the test being administered, they always jammed the swab in really far back, but I’m pretty sure that in my case they didn’t really go that deep. Not that it didn’t feel like, really uncomfortable, but I’m pretty sure the videos make it look way worse than it normally is. And they also didn’t do it as roughly as what I’d seen in the videos.

It was definitely a little more than just uncomfortable, though: there’s no denying it hurt. I squeezed my eyes shut and literally groaned out loud from the feeling. The initial insertion was tolerable — it was more the ten seconds straight of twirling and swabbing the Q-tip around that burned and hurt. I immediately teared up when it was removed, but I wouldn’t say I cried. Much…

After I got tested, it hurt a little bit to breathe in through my nose. I think that’s probably just because it was like, irritated. It took a few hours before it stopped feeling funky. My friend that originally tested positive said it was uncomfortable and made her feel like she had to sneeze, but other than that wasn’t so bad. And my other friend that got one said the same, that it was just tickly for a second and didn’t hurt or feel bad afterwards. So I guess I’m just a huge baby or something.

So, yeah. Not the best experience I’ve ever had, but not bad enough to warrant not getting tested. If you think you have it, or have been exposed, get tested, even if it hurts a bit. It’s worth it.

If you’ve gotten tested, tell me about your experience! Am I really just a wimp or was it bad for you, too? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day.


Big Idea

The Big Idea: Matthew Castleman

A near-lifelong, almost forgotten about idea of author Matthew Castleman’s ended up turning into his newest novella, Privateers of Mars. Read on to learn how a child’s drawing transmuted itself into a published work.


Mars will be free. It’s a trope well-trodden into the red sand, and for good reason. The Free Mars story that I hold dearest is in Babylon 5, one of many smaller stories tucked into the bigger arc. I’m sure lots of you have a personal favorite Mars rebellion. But what then? Mars breaks its Earth shackles, and what happens next year? Or next decade? What’s the Solar System look like in, oh, 200 years?

That’s the question I ask myself at 11 years old, sitting at a study desk in my dad’s library, waiting for him to close up. It’s a peaceful place to sit and read and sometimes pretend to do homework. This question enters my mind, and I draw a map of the Solar System. Most of the sci fi I knew was about exploring the stars, and what I’d read that was confined to our humble system was about exploration and early settlements on Mars and asteroids and various moons. But unless we stumble on an FTL breakthrough real fast, there’s going to be a long period in between, a period with a full-fledged Solar civilization.

That’s what I drew on my map. Earth and its territories, Mars and its territories, an independent Republic of Mercury just for fun, some city-states on asteroids and moons. I thought about Earth and Mars, hundreds of years after Martian independence. The phrase ‘cold war’ popped into my head. I technically was around for the end of the Cold War, but it was basically done by the time I was eating solid food. So I studied up on some history and talked to my parents. The phrase “demilitarized zone” entered my vocabulary. I looked at Jupiter, which had gone unadorned so far. I drew a dotted circle around it and called it the Jovian DMZ. How’d that happen? I didn’t know, but I liked the idea.

Six years later I’m a high school senior feeling my eyes start to glaze as I type an essay, and I’ve just found an old piece of paper with a map I drew of the solar system. I haven’t really started ‘writing’ much at this point, but my worldbuilding habit’s in full flower, so I look at this map and create a timeline of events leading up to it, starting from barely-the-future all the way to somewhere in the 2600’s. In case you’re wondering how wild I was in high school.

Skip to senior year of college. I’m planning to run a game of Alternity, the old sci fi sister-game to D&D. I need a setting for my friends to adventure in, and so this world that’s only existed in my brain and a couple documents for a decade encounters some other minds. Based on their experiences and feedback, I start tweaking and editing it. Then other college concerns take over and it sits around a while more.

In 2010, I finally decide to write a story in this world. I still have the map. I think about Big Story Characters – admirals, ambassadors, prime ministers, folk heroes-to-be. After a few false starts, I think about the long journey this world’s taken, tucked away in my head. I think about all the real world events that happened in that time. And that nobody I knew had jack to do with any of them. I scrap my character sketches, and collect a little crew of wanderers doing their best to dodge the swings of interplanetary titans and make it back to port. I’ve always loved the ‘little band of space misfits’ style, but I come to better understand why as I write a story called ‘Ceres Lament.’

The at-all-eyed among you may’ve noticed that 2010 occurred 10 years ago. My story, like so many stories, went on a series of quests to first readers, and occasional senior editors, at a variety of science fictional publications. My life took me a whole lot of places and I did a whole lot of stuff, and in 2018 I got word that after its *cough*th submission, ‘Ceres Lament’ had been accepted for publication. As soon as I heard, I started writing a follow up. One thing led to another and those two things led to a third thing, and what was going to be a short story became a novella. 

Privateers of Mars has existed in some form for a long time, and my aim for the narrative was similar – the scope of history is massive, and every poor little collection of souls straggling their way through it has to contend with their slice as best they can. Just as I have through my brief time hunkering in the wings of the world stage as the stars enter and exit, doing whatever little bits I can to steer the performance in good directions. Jacob Rhys and his privateers embody the contradictions most of us live – they’re smart but struggle to comprehend the world, badass yet vulnerable, working together like a machine whose parts really like snarking and yelling at each other. As the great Deep Purple once said: Come on, let’s go space truckin’.


Privateers of Mars: Amazon

Read an excerpt here. Visit the author’s website. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.


Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2020, Day Four: Fan Favorites!

For the first three days of the Whatever Gift Guide 2020, I’ve let authors and creators tell you about their work. Today is different: Today is Fan Favorites day, in which fans, admirers and satisfied customers share with you a few of their favorite things — and you can share some of your favorite things as well. This is a way to discover some cool stuff from folks like you, and to spread the word about some of the things you love.

Fans: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Fans only: That means that authors and creators may not post about their own work in this thread (they may post about other people’s work, if they are fans). There are already existing threads for traditionally-published authors, non-traditionally published authors, and for other creators. Those are the places to post about your own work, not here.

2. Individually created and completed works only, please. Which is to say, don’t promote things like a piece of hardware you can find at Home Depot, shoes from Foot Locker, or a TV you got at Wal-Mart. Focus on things created by one person or a small group: Music, books, crafts and such. Things that you’ve discovered and think other people should know about, basically. Do not post about works in progress, even if they’re posted publicly elsewhere. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. So focus on things that are completed and able to be sold of shared.

3. One post per fan. In that post, you can list whatever creations you like, from more than one person if you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on newer stuff. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on things available in North America. If they are from or available in other countries, please note that!

4. Keep your description of the work brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the work and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a sales site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. Comment posts that are not about fans promoting work they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting gifts.

Got it? Excellent. Now: Geek out and tell us about cool stuff you love — and where we can get it too.

Exit mobile version