13 October 2014

I cannot count it as coincidence that the years I was the most lost are the years I wasn't reading.

12 October 2014

In Which I Defy Neil Gaiman

I don't know what this is going to be about. But I do know that it is intended to be a blog post. Whether it actually ends up there is open for debate. With myself. (Here's the debate: "Yes it will!" "No, it won't!" The end.)

I have actual topics I'd like to write about. But they require thought. And effort. And doing. Whereas this, THIS, is just a stream of consciousness blog. But that's cool right? Like, let me just show you what's going on in my life, because that's SO important.

Hm. Why do I want a blog, if I am so fundamentally convinced that anything I write in it is piffle? Or codswallop, even? Why do I want to write blogs when I am sure no one would want to read them? Is it simple self doubt? Or do I have legitimate concerns about the medium? Does it even really matter? Because whatever I post is going to basically vanish into the ether of the internet.  Its true that everything on the internet never really goes away, but it also doesn't really go anywhere specific either. Its like slipping one handwritten page into one random library book. Its there. And totally save from ever being discovered. Except by robots. Wow, I got a lot more mileage out of that metaphor than I planned.

I remember reading somewhere that aspiring bloggers should avoid "meta" posts. Posts about posting. Blogs about blogging. No, "sorry I haven't updated this in a while," or, "Here's what I'm going to write about."  But I've also heard that the only way to learn anything, to practice anything, is to DO the thing. And if I mess around here in my text editor and write some half-assed thing that I know will never go anywhere, I won't save it, and it just disappears.  Maybe that is helpful, maybe that is practice.  But it doesn't feel like that.

In that video I linked to above, Neil Gaiman says that one very freeing thing about writing is that no one will ever see your first draft. You are totally free to write anything, to fail and suck and crash and burn, and I think that has a lot of merit. But, I also think that if no one is going to see it, why do it? Did it even happen? Maybe he feels this way because he knows, from experience, that first drafts written in secret become subsequent drafts written for the public. Well, I rarely get that far, so I don't have that assurance. I need to create a habit of writing ANYTHING. Literally anything. Just words. That are in some sort of order.  Trying to write words that tell a story is actually too advanced for me at this point. I'm not even joking. I need to start at the beginning. Before the beginning, even.   Words. Sentences. Fingers moving over keys. Training my hand to hold a pen.  I'm not (that) embarrassed by this. Marathon runners once didn't know how to tie their shoes.  This is me tying my shoes.  Or trying.

(FUN FACT: I am 31, and I don't tie my shoes like a normal human.  I had so much trouble learning that "normal" way of tying shoes, that some random adult in my life (a teacher, probably?) showed me the 'two bunny ear way'. I was able to handle that, and tie my shoes that way to this day. I can do it the "real" way, but I really do have to think about it.)

Anyway, I know that if I babbled along in this text editor for a while, and just filed it away, or threw it away, it wouldn't feel real.  It wouldn't feel like I did anything. There would be no stakes, and little reason for me to try again tomorrow. Neil Gaiman's advice is, perhaps, for when the stakes feel too high. But right now, for me at least, they feel too low.  Posting this to a blog that no one even knows exists isn't that much of a step up from burying it on my hard drive (or recycle bin) but its just enough to make me feel like I did something. And that I should do something again.

02 October 2014

Review: Maplecroft

Cherie Priest's Maplecroft does a fine job of adding depth and narrative to the world of Lovecraftian horror. The characters are well developed and interesting, if not always likable. You are not reading this kind of story, however, for likable characters. These stories take seemingly normal people to the brink of madness, and then give them a nudge. Maplecroft is no different, slowly fracturing not only the characters themselves, but their relationships as well. The journey is deeper and a little more complex than Lovecraft's stories, but let's not kid ourselves, it doesn't take a lot to have a stronger plot than Lovecraft, much of the time. The allure of Lovecraft has always been the atmosphere, the world creation, and the descriptions of indescribable horror. Thankfully, the way the horror, the Weird (as well as an actual plot) are handled here proves that Priest is a worthy addition to world of Eldritch fiction. There are plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle call outs to Lovecraft's writings in Maplecroft, little in-jokes and references next to looming plot devices and famous settings. In fact, if you have not read and enjoyed Lovecraft's stories, then this book is not likely to capture your attention. It depends so much on the shared language of Lovecraft's style, tropes, and creations, that there's really no reason to read this if you aren't already involved with the Cthulhu franchise. Unanswered questions of plot and character don't really need to be answered if you are familiar with Lovecraft's mythos. This is clearly the start of a series, and it seems some things are left open to facilitate more books. I hope that Priest resists the urge to explain everything as the inevitable series unfolds. There were hints of that already, as actual science started to creep into this story as a way of explaining the unexplainable. Please keep your midichlorians to yourself, Ms. Priest.

Will this be the book to convert Lovecraft skeptics, or bring the uninitiated into the fold? Honestly, probably not. And there's really not enough "alternative history" provided by the Lizzie Borden angle to draw people in that way. But if you're a fan of stories about unimaginable horrors from the deep, Maplecroft is an intriguing, engaging and wonderfully creepy book.

(Also, while I am a huge fan of Lovecraft's creation, it is deeply disturbing what a bigot he was. So it gave me no small pleasure to have a well written, queer relationship at the heart of the book - as much as a romance has any place in Lovecraftian stories.)