Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Taxonomy of my Insanity

I've heard it said that "insanity" is doing the same thing, over and over again, expecting the same results. 
OK.  I'm insane.  Not any great surprise there.  I've suspected it for a while now.  There are other metrics I could us to bring me to the same conclusion, but this one will work for me now.  
Every year I do the same thing: I decide what I want to see for myself in the coming year.  I set up a list of goals and resolutions to achieve them.  I write them down.  I tell people about them, to help encourage (force?) myself to follow through on them.  
The problem is that every year, it seems that I am writing down the same goals.  I am promising to follow through on the same resolutions: I want to write more stories.  I want to get more published.  I want to finish my novel.  I want to be a full time professional writer.  And I keep trying to come up with schedules, schemes, plans, etc., to make these things come true.    
I want to stop this repeating cycle.  I want to change things.  Doing the same thing as before isn't going to work.  Nor is it going to make me any more sane.  As I mentioned before there are other metrics beside this by which I can be counted amongst the "not so normal."  But in this area, at least, I will be... Well, if not more sane, then at least I'll be applying more method to my madness.  
To find the new direction, the new method that I seek, I have decided to get to the basics.  Why do I do the things I do?  Why do I NOT do the things I WANT To do?  If I am rationalizing my behavior to myself and others, I should at least know what is really going on.  At least that's what I think.  It's the difference between making love and masturbating.  Nothing with masturbation.  The distinction should always be clear though.  
To figure this out, I've decided to ask myself a series of "Why?" questions.  I hope the answers to these questions will show me the way I need to go.  I hope that someone's comment to my speculations may help me as well.  
Which brings me to the first question of this New Year:  
Why do I spend so much time and effort writing speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy)?  
A lot of quick answers come to mind right away.  Such as: 
Because it is what I like to read.  
Because I've been doing it for so long now, I don't think I can stop.
Because being a science fiction writer is how I identify myself to those around me.  And if I stop I'll lose that identity.  I'll lose the thing that makes me different, makes me special.  
OK.  That last one has something more to it that just a quick answer, I think.  Being different, being "special" is important to me.  I don't like "normal."  What's so special about normal?  There's some irony to that question I think.  But there's a hint there.  A clue.  A signpost...
Because I don't want to die, and writing about the future, about worlds I'll never really see, gives me the sense of living forever.  
That's a recent answer.  It popped into my head sometime during the last couple of weeks.  Like the identity issue, I've not explored it all that fully, but I put it out there.  
Because speculative fiction shows me where I ought to be.  
That's an answer thrown out there to see if it sticks to the wall.  It's a recollection of how I became a science fiction fan in the first place.  As a boy of about thirteen years or so, I was already following the path to nerd-dom.  I was studious.  I loved reading, histories and biographies.  I was a member of our school's chess club, never lower that third on the rankings list.  When uncles, aunts and grandparents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'd tell them I wanted to be a doctor.  I said it not because medicine interested me more than anything else, but because it was the smartest, most different occupation I could think of the first time I was asked.  When everyone seemed to approve of the answer as much as they did, I just kept repeating it.  
Then a classmate showed me a copy of a book he was writing by someone named "Heinlein."  He told me about something called "science fiction."  He intrigued me enough to go the library and check out a book by the same author called "Tunnels in the Sky."  
I sat up in bed all night reading that book from cover to cover.  It changed me (Warped?  Twisted?  Liberated?) in ways that, as this blog demonstrates, I'm still trying to fathom.  
It took me about four or five years to admit it, or even realize it, but reading that book made me want to write stories like that.  There were other signs (symptoms?).  I became an avid role-playing gamer, buying the first copies of Dungeon & Dragons, Traveller and any other role-playing game that came out.  I was the one in our group that game-mastered about eighty percent of the time, because I was the one writing up the adventures and scenarios that we played.  
I stopped telling my family I wanted to be a doctor.  When they reminded me of that previous declaration, their faces colored with the first blush of disappointment, and asked me why I was no longer pursuing that goal, I shrugged and said, "I dunno."  Maybe they put it down to me becoming a full-fledged teenager.  The truth was, which I didn't tell them at the time, I was trying to figure out how to be "there" all the time.  There in those worlds I imagined.  On spaceships.  In dark tunnels, lit only by the light of torches struggling to stay alive against drafts as cold as death.  Looking upon the face of gods.  Seeing the death of stars so distant their light would never reach Earth before the universe itself died.  
I remember asking one of my gaming friends if he thought there would be some way to make money playing those games.  He looked at me and shrugged.  "I dunno."  I wonder now if he was thinking the same thing I was, but was too afraid to admit it.  
But that is straying off into the realm of "why not?"  Plenty of time for that later.  The why of it, though...  I think I'm remembering something that I forgot.  
No...  Not forgot.  But was ignoring, maybe.  Yeah.  Even as I feel a sort of tingle going through me, a band of warmth like a tentacle pulling tight around me, I can feel myself squirming against it.  Just like those times, when I became a "big boy" and Mom hugged me in public.  "Mahaamm..."  Breaking free even though there was a part of me that didn't want to.  
It makes one vulnerable, doesn't it.  THIS is what I want.  THERE is where I want to go.  People looking at you askance.  Especially if you are in the throws of middle age, never married, still banging away at keyboards in the wee hours of the morning.  
But that is a consideration for another time.  Right now, I think I've recalled my answer.  In as succinct a way as I can put it: 
Why do I write speculative fiction?  Because my native dimension is "elsewhen" and I need to find a way back.  
Like I said, there's more than one metric to gauge insanity.  


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