Puddles

Well, I step away from science fiction and fantasy fandom for a year while I have a baby and come back to a disaster.

I’m not going to rehash the mess, since I’m a latecomer and I’m just piecing it together for myself. But somebody’s pissed the rug, so to speak, and made things awful for everyone.

I won’t say I didn’t see Big Nasty Things coming, since I’ve said it publicly before and publicly lamented the state of the genre. I didn’t see THIS particular mess coming, but it’s hardly surprising that it happened. The genre is one of those squishy places where people who are NOT necessarily like-minded come to meet in the middle, and squishy places like that have bad footing. You say the wrong thing to the wrong person and suddenly it’s a free-for-all in the mud puddles.

It doesn’t usually happen, though, because skiffy people are usually fairly tolerant of people whose belief systems are different than theirs. I mean, I’m a conservative Catholic mother of seven . . . and some of my best friends in that world are pagans, Wiccans, atheists, gays of one sex or another, and geeky men who have opinions that are like acetone– spend too long around them and you can feel the paint peeling on the walls from the force of their beliefs.

And I got along pretty darn well with them all for years. Some of my happier memories of internet chat involve a bunch of science fiction writers and fans just shooting the shit in an IRC client on Thursday nights.

But things have gotten uglier, in the world and in the genre. Things in publishing have taken a weird turn since those long-ago chats. Fantasy went from swords-and-sorcery cornball (which we roundly decried) to hard-bitten epics (which grew to monumental proportions thanks to GRRM, but nobody really has done anything comparable in sales yet) to . . . a whole freakin lot of fantasy novels that are barely-disguised erotica. I mean, seriously, it’s awful these days. 90% of the stuff published in fantasy seems to be vampire/werewolf/wizard porn. I dunno what happened.

I mean, I know what happened. We all chased the sales. That’s what writers mostly do– we write what sells. And that leads me even deeper down the rabbit hole of should-I-shouldn’t-I start writing again.

I’ve already started playing with ideas in my head. I have two main characters who, I believe, I could write about with passion and honesty and a ruthless sort of love. I even have a title which I think is pretty great and a basic conceit that could play out in a series of books without being too tired and lame.

Because, let’s be honest here, writers write. And as much as I hate the things that have happened to science fiction and fantasy, I’m still a fan and I’m still a writer. Not a successful one, no, but I’ve gone through a lot of things that most people don’t ever have to deal with. If GRRM has ever changed a diaper, I would be shocked. My daughter will be 20 soon and she’s still in diapers. It’s a whole different type of life.

And I miss writing. Not the grind so much as the way it feels when it’s going well and you’re in the groove and the characters take life and do things you don’t expect them to.

So, yeah, going to write.

Whether or not it will be fantasy is an entirely different question. I tend to think “yes” because I’m not ceding my interest in the genre to ANY side. I’m my own side, so to speak, the side of the independent reader and writer who just watches it all go down . . . and gets back to work.

Discoveries

So, lately I’ve been taken down a long tour of my own life and subconscious by forces as yet unknown (I lean toward blaming the Holy Spirit, because it has His fingerprints all over it.) This has been fairly distressing– who, honestly, would feel comfortable looking back at their life and every crappy thing they’d ever said and done? It’s productive, I’m certain, but it’s harrowing. No, sir, I did not want to remember my junior high years in detail, nor did I wish to see myself in the cold clear light of honesty. It’s much easier to tell one’s self pretty lies about how they’re basically nice, decent, honorable folks.

Those lies, though, have been denied to me of late. It’s like being trapped in a reverse “It’s a Wonderful Life” where the horrible reality is that I’ve made a lot of things worse through my own flaws and failings. Or maybe it’s more like “Groundhog Day” without the possibility of redemption. Anyway, I’ve been asking for clarification and help and strength and all these goodies for myself for so long that I didn’t really expect an answer to my pleas.

And I didn’t really enjoy the answer once I got it. Suffice it to say that the answer I got (from whatever source) was essentially the truth about life itself: spending too much time navel-gazing is not only unproductive but also somewhat ridiculous.

So, the year that I turned 40 was all about survival. Would I live to be 40? Would I survive childbirth at 40? Would the baby survive his infancy? All of those questions ate up all of my attention, time, and nerve for that year.

The theme of my 41st year, so far, seems to be discovery. Who am I? What is my purpose? Where am I going and where have I been?

Like I said, it’s been rough. I prefer life through rose-colored glasses, and this light’s more of the searing-your-eyeballs sort.

Today, I finally figured out what novel I am supposed to write.

I don’t know if I actually have the strength to write it, though.

I’ve been looking and looking for a way to tell my own truths to the world. And I figured out how . . . but it will hurt. It will really hurt to do it well. I’m not sure I can deal with that kind of ongoing agony.

Anyway, that’s the discovery of the day: the nature of the novel I am supposed to write and how to make it palatable to people who will definitely be uncomfortable with the protagonist.

Now if I can just make myself write it.