Reading right along. (And Brust/Firefly bright point.)

It’s really sad, and in a way is reflective of how my life has been going.

I used to be a voracious reader. I was introduced to the works of Poe, Bradbury, and Lovecraft around the 3rd grade. I was hooked on scifi and horror ever since.

In jr. and high school I read a novel just about every other day. As an undergrad, it slowed because I actually had school work and theatre to do, but I still constantly read for pleasure. Then, nearly as soon as I graduated and I entered the work-a-day world, that came to a sudden stop. I might have read maybe maybe two fiction novels a year. From no less than one a week to one a year is an astronomical change. And my life was kind of in auto-pilot.

I suppose it’s more complex than that, to be honest. I blame the Internet. 🙂 It was about that time that we (the wife and I) got hooked on Internet chatting, Web browsing, Minesweeper (well, for her. For me it was the latest 1st-person shooter game). As I think about this now that I type (which is often the case–I rarely think about things before I spew the results) it wasn’t an entirely bad thing. The Internet chatting ended up leading toward socializing in real life with more people as well (something which also stopped after I graduated). And socializing is good! For my fiction, there’s a little bit to be had in some computer games, superficially.

Well, then came a couple of years ago. (Too bad I never edit my spewing. I don’t want to reread that last sentence, but I know it was atrocious!) Things started moving and shaking. I came to certain “spiritual” realities which “fit” with what and who I am like a tailored glove. Where before, for years, I was an existential wreck, constantly worrying about the Nature of God and sin and afterlife and trying to make sense of revealed “Truths” of religion with the revealed truths of all other religions–and eventually found what I believe is to be truth that makes complete and utter, perfect sense! And that realization (revelation? *eg*) made it feel like I had a bunch of jumbled pieces inside me that had been rattling around and grinding on each other for years, and then they all suddenly clicked snuggly in place. And I felt internally whole and alive and awake. (To borrow a phrase, but it works.)

Then I realized that I needed to get my education and career back on track. Got into grad school, and immediately, in that first semester, came upon some socio-political concepts that were troubling and weird and disturbing–much like the concepts which lead me to “religious understanding,” It took me a while to play with them and research them and start to understand them, but they eventually brought me to understanding certain socio-political “truths” that I’ve come to embrace as “right.” (The religious understandings took me about…seventeen years to come to where I am, and once the click happened, I knew it was right. These socio-political beliefs are more slippery. There’s a LOT more room for subjectivity and opinion–after all, religious “truths” are or they aren’t. Socio-political “truths” are human-created ideas and so can have all kinds of spectrum of right/wrong, works/fails, etc. I know I will always be a secular-humanist because there’s objective truth in it, but I may not always be an anarcho-socialist as I am now. And even what that means is subject to change.)

And then I also learned in the process what my career goals are right for me. It used to be amorphous and uncertain, based first on just continuing my undergrad studies (which granted, I was interested in! But I kind of fell into it based on what department was willing to give me the most funding). Then I went into grad school this last time with a plan closer to what I felt I wanted–which it was and I did. Literary studies. But then I learned that it was indeed possible to focus on scifi/fantasy (speculative fiction) as a subject, and I gained a HUGE interest in cultural studies that I had no idea that I had a passion for before.

My daughter is now at that wonderful age where she’s bright and creative and full of hope and joy, and not yet hating her parents and hanging out with “wrong” people and doing things to rebel. The wifey-poo and I doing well and unless I decide I have to get my doctorate in Canada (which is increasingly likely), we’ll only get better. So, things are good right now.

Which means I’m reading again! Actually, I have no idea how the two topics relate. That’s the problem with stream-of-consciousness writing. I’m reading more again because of grad school, I would say, except even last year I didn’t read as much for pleasure. Sure, I read non-fiction here and there, and a TON for class work, but I still didn’t read novels except for class. This year: so far in about six weeks, I’ve read:

Cory Doctorow’s Eastern Standard Tribe
Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War
Steven Brust’s My Own Kind of Freedom
halfway through Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End
started David Marusek’s Counting Heads
read some stories out of Rewired

I suppose I’m being a little disingenuous–I’m reading/have read most of the above partly for research on my work in posthumanism–but sort of. If I wanted to, I could skim them, find what I need, read others’ research on them. But I actually primarily read for pleasure, and I’ve missed doing so. I’m also reading again because I’m writing fiction again–something I haven’t done in quite some time. And to be able write colorfully and interestingly, one needs to be reading, especially various genre and styles. And already I can tell getting back into the world of playing with words is improving my own work.

Ah, speaking of Brust’s “Firefly” novel: Remember back in my post Thoughts on this year’s ICFA where I discuss my trepidation about fanfic and fiction written in a pre-existing world developed and made “living” by actors? Well, Brust’s My Own Kind of Freedom continues the method of pulling direct quotes and actions from the show/film to create archtype representations of the characters. Except in, I believe it was chapter 11. Brust suddenly has a burst (heh) of inspiration, and his characters came alive for most of a chapter, without the need of copy-and-pasted lines and actions. Captain Mal was Mal, his dialog fit the character created by Joss Whedon and Nathon Filion without being a copy of the character. It suddenly became like I was watching (reading) a lost episode as opposed to someone trying to create an episode out of bits and pieces. I got excited reading that chapter: “Yes! Here we go. Now we’re cookin’!”

Sadly, the inspiration left, and the rest of the novel lapsed back into auto-pilot. Interesting plot, but utterly 2-dimensional characters.

Which is sad, for me, because one of the reasons Brust is one of my all-time favorite authors is because of his characters. In the early Vlad Taltos books, I completely believed Vlad. When he left his love (or she left him…can’t remember now which), I literally cried. When in book six he switched from 1st-person narration to 3rd and focused on a different set of characters, I literally threw the book across the room because I was so involved with the characters he’d created in 1 through 5, getting rid of them felt the same as their dying. So, it kind of saddens me.

Well, this post was an explosion of pointless drivel. I’m sorry for you having read it. Please email me and I will see if I have some “few minutes out of my life” I can try to give back to you. No promises, however.