I'm not sure if it's rereading Grant Morrison's Animal Man run or some other nostalgia inducing activity, but I've been thinking a bit lately on my history as a writer and how it's changed. I first began to conceive of the term "writer" as an occupation on a summer trip I took with my uncle up to the upper peninsula of Michigan. I read the first trade of Animal Man issues late at night supported by the northern late setting sun overlooking Lake Superior over the pages of the book as I flipped them. I'm sure that's more idyllic than I really should be. Take my memories with a grain of salt. Or sand. The Storyteller reflects on memory a bit in a very interesting self-aware way that I don't think I even mentioned in my remembrance of the book. Any self-respecting writer would have remembered to mention that.
So why have I decided to let you, the invisible (unreal?) reader, in on my recent private musings? Maybe it's simply a lack of true creative output that has caused me to become interested in what I've written in the past. One could easily make the argument that blogging is generally creative nonfiction, but I'm not up for arguments right now. Creatively, I'm still in amassing mode but it's really taking too long. I feel the need to write again, somewhat, but also fear an inability to create something I can tolerate. So at least for the near future we are left with a lot of remembering what I used to write, while little whispers in my brain turn this way and that, eventually, one hopes, forming themselves into ideas for the page.
To illustrate what is the most interesting change in my writing since I began to see myself as actually writing as being the one writing, the writer, I plan now to dig up a bit of a treat for you, the loyal and not altogether real reader. I had written what I guess was fan fiction before and some "stories," mainly the output I had from class assignments in that realm, and I could trace what I think my first story was way back to the fifth grade, a nice pulpy romp through a world where sardines did their own version of Planet of the Apes, sparked by, if I remember write (heh heh), a photo of a family being sealed in a sardine can, but the following is what I consider to be my first story. As the me who is writing this, anyway. As Pandrio Androtti? I do think the pen name was soon to originate around the time of the writing as well, the last name anyway. I had stolen the first name from my father who took is from his father...
Here's "It's a small world after all."
It seems fitting now to have the opening the way I had it. The paragraph leading up to the story above was, I think, the closest I've really come to writing a little bit on the work the way we hear a tidbit from Matt or Dave before each episode. I've marked this post "autopsy" although it's out of sequence and doesn't quite fit the bill in the first place, because I think someone (probably only a future me) would like to have these old stories on the web in one place or at least one tab group.Conrad was late. It was very much like him. His friends would say that he’d be late to his own funeral if possible, but that was not where he was going today. It was not his own funeral that Conrad needed to be at ten minutes ago. It was his father’s.Conrad had many memories of his father. Stories that Dad told when he had grown old and couldn’t do much but reminisce about the good ole days. The good ole days with all of Dad’s friends and acquaintances and all of their adventures.Funny they all died before he started telling those blasted tales thought Conrad, no one left to shoot down the exaggerations and falsifications. Conrad didn’t believe most of his father’s tall tales.A story for every day of the week. Conrad’s father never drew short of them and would sputtle off one to anyone who was willing to listen. Old man Jenkins who lost his head in a graveyard and stalked the cemetery ever since trying to find some sort of exit. Or young boy Bill who never seemed to grow all that much older and must have lived for a hundred years. Never the same stories, Conrad thought, he probably made them up as he was going along.But what of the only things that would show up in more than one of father’s stories? He paused for a moment pondering what Dad had called them, but realized he was late again and sped off down a short cut to get to the funeral.It started to eat away at Conrad that he couldn’t think of his father’s word for them but he still recalled the description. Big ones, they would guard the land in the days of Dad’s youth—supposedly—these great giants were one of Conrad’s doubts in his father’s stories. Especially his last ones.Shortly before his father died he told the family the story of the giants and what happened to them. The dark morning of the loud sound, the dawn and the explosions and then, nothing, “the earth stood still,” his father spoke fluently, deeply engrossed in his tale.Let the rubbish die with that damned old fool, thought Conrad as he continued on his trek, half an hour behind and not making the greatest time. He should stop thinking and concentrate on getting to the funeral. But what were the blasted names of those big creatures? He thought and thought but the word would not come.He remembered the closing house that they used to kill his uncle, or so his father said, and the terrible winds that took his grandparents, in the stories that is. What did he call them? They killed quite a bit of Dad’s old friends and family and gave him great stories of his bravery in escaping them, but what on earth was the word he used?“Aah, humans!” the word suddenly came to his mind. Those were the brutal, barbaric beasts of father’s tall tales. I have to admit, thought Conrad; the old man had to be bright to make that one up.The cockroach scuttled off quickly into the darkness, up ahead squeezing through a hole the width of a quarter. It was late.
If you compare the fantasy...I guess it's a fantasy story?...story above and compare it to anyone of the excerpts from FOUND or really any of stories I've written here before. You can really see a change happening. Of course a few of those links could be seen as fantasy writing (I changed "fantastic" because it would sound like a compliment), but I do believe that they chart a shifting of focus in my writing. And in linking to them all I've stolen an idea from another source, Ron Silliman, who often does multiple links to the same story giving (I think) a few different approaches. I've turned it into a narcissistic thing, imagining a bored out of his (or her) fucking mind reader actually clicking through individual links on this site. Or rather I'm interested in hyper-linking, I think it's fun to have all these fingers off the page that go into others. (Yeah that, let's go with that.) It's something I always thought was cool but underdeveloped and too expensive in comics--the links to other storylines and the little editor's note saying: "Go check Insane Man #3 to see what really happened to the Crazy Clown and why he's lying about it to Hussein Bolt!" (Um not to insult Usain Bolt, or Barack Hussein Obama, or for that matter Saddam himself...I just liked the sound of the name...) I just looked forever on warrenellis.com to find where he talks about the editor's notes and the linking of comics (explicitly early Marvel, something I have from my dad about his own youth and reading Marvel only to be displeased by nothing ending in an issue...nothing ever ending...), hopefully I find it sometime and edit it in here. If I do I'll capitalize the "edit" and you'll see the link on "here."
When Borders first hit the hurdle of bankruptcy and vomited up a few stores to hell I found myself holding both Freedom, my first Jonathan Franzen book and perhaps my first book that Bret Easton Ellis really couldn't say enough good things about even far after the fact (I think he only did make the one mention of Netherland), and Zero History my first William Gibson before the "genre switch" if you want to call it that. In reading Zero History I really felt possessive of Gibson or akin to him, in that I saw myself in a lot of what he was doing. Not to say I could do it nearly as well, even the hard skiffy or the oddly hard science reality fiction, but that his shift in writing really reflected with me. I remembered a quote that didn't really strike me when I first read it but was something I did hold onto and grew to relate with. (Whole article here.)
Amazon.com : Now that you're writing about the present, do you consider yourself a science fiction writer these days? Because the marketplace still does.Talking about Amazon as if it were the fabled place of judgment that many writers of talked about: the dream that bookstores might simply place every book alphabetical by author on the shelves and leave it to the audience, not stereotyped by the idea that only one section of books can be "literature." (I might add that I think this belief has both its advantages and disadvantages and I think at least Neil Gaiman, when he was talking about it, mentioned how this was only the way he thought sometimes. Or something like that.)
Gibson: I never really believed in the separation. But science fiction is definitely where I'm from. Science fiction is my native literary culture. It's what I started reading, and I think the thing that actually makes me a bit different than some of the science fiction writers I've met who are my own age is that I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs and William Burroughs in the same week. And I started reading Beat poets a year later, and got that in the mix. That really changed the direction. But it seems like such an old-fashioned way of looking at things. And it's better not to be pinned down. It's a matter of where you're allowed to park. If you can park in the science fiction bookstore, that's good. If you can park in the other bookstore, that's really good. If people come and buy it at Amazon, that's really good.
I began writing as a comic reader, in all seriousness. My favorite writer at the time was probably Grant Morrison. I wrote a lot of fiction that would be pigeonholed as bad fantasy or bad soft science fiction. I find it odd now to consider how much science fiction my dad has read. Probably hundreds of times as much as me. Perhaps thousands. And I think...I think the genre appeals to me, mildly. Warren Ellis, William Gibson, Cory Doctorow, I've read some PKD...but the hard stuff actually scares me. It scares the writer in me. And that's what's probably different for me and allows him to read so much of it. His favorite writer is Heinlein. And he can read a Heinlein book and not have to consider what it is like writing a book. It's the same kind of heeby-geebies I get when I read mystery novels. I write in a nondescript toned down style. I tend to think I only write about what I think the story needs. My characters are (at least I like to think of them as) without appearance. I dislike reading stuff like "he had a full head of brown hair." It doesn't interest me. But science fiction or mystery both have not so much rules as tools that I do not know how to operate. So I can write a story about a cockroach (above), but I can't imagine writing a locked-room-murder-mystery (a phrase I think I have in rough in the first draft of a poem in my notebook), and I'm simply not smart enough to write good hard science fiction. I think I can write a bad version of Kurt Vonnegut's kind of it, but I've read more Vonnegut than my father (I think).
So my own interaction with science fiction has been very odd. The main thing I can think to speak about is a story I've just dug up in an old notebook. It's called "Olympus Mons." I think the eponymous character was a space pirate. Very odd to read through snatches of it. At one point I think I really thought I would be a genre writer. Even a science fiction writer. Nowadays that seems to me not only absurd but presumptuous. If I could only...
(It occurs to me now, or rather it occurred to me far enough back in time that I've gone and dug the book out of my room, that a lot of this post could be inspired by Chabon's Maps & Legends which I've already devoted a serious amount of wordspace here. I think I misprinted the name as Maps and Legends a few times in that post. My apologies, Ron Silliman would not be proud. I could possibly conclude that it was the bits on comics in Chabon's nonfiction collection that got me back thinking about rereading Grant Morrison's early stuff which I learned one marvelous day my father had runs full of issues of in boxes in the garage back I don't know, five years? I could also blame the Grant Morrison documentary I watched a few months back. I've been looking now for a specific reference in the Chabon book, he talks about thinking he wanted to write science fiction and then talking to an actual science fiction writer at his university...yes okay in "Imaginary Homelands," Chabon reflects on meeting Gregory Benford, "a fine writer of extremely 'hard' science fiction" who showed "polite and kindly bafflement" at what Chabon's own dreams in science fiction looked like. So, one could easily state that everything I've written here has been written better by a published author in a book that I've read and stole it all from to make a blog post, but at least I enjoyed writing it, so it doesn't need to say anything new. So there!)
It's just something to think about. I wonder sometimes why I enjoy writing and what it does to make me different from other people. The way I experience narrative or art is different, I think, not better (or worse), but different. You are not a character when you get into the work but rather a creator, and seeing how damn good all these other people are...it's down right reading-'Salem's-Lot-at-too-late-o'clock-with-bizarre-new-age-music-and-children-proclaiming-"we-are-the-lost" scary. Just a thought.