The Beating Heart of Fandom

Today is T-14 days until my 40th birthday, and the Reconnection Project has empowered me more than I ever thought it would. Today, I start the process of moving beyond me… Let the games begin. Fandom is an action and a community. View fullsize The Last Air Bender from Shore Leave 32 When I sayContinue reading “The Beating Heart of Fandom”

Let your light Shine

Today is T-15 to my 40th Birthday and I feel like wrapping up in a blanket and ignoring everything because my allergies struck back. A trivial problem, but when you are trying to build up momentum any stumbling block can knock you back down. View fullsize One of the biggest problems we face is whenContinue reading “Let your light Shine”

There’s not enough Love and Understanding

View fullsize It is now T-16 to my 40th Birthday, and it happens to be Brian’s Birthday today.  As I write this, he is playing Civ VI, his present with the biggest smile on his face.  It is hard to express how much I love him. Love is such a strange thing.  I never thoughtContinue reading “There’s not enough Love and Understanding”

Book Bits and the Missing Dollars

I have been following the trend toward free books for a while, and I have gotten used to seeing the regular suspects talking about the loss of book sales and the rise of new ways to earn a living on your words. Imagine my surprise when I saw Paul Krugman add his voice to the chorus:

According to a report in The Times, the buzz at this year’s BookExpo America was all about electronic books. … we may finally have reached the point at which e-books are about to become a widely used alternative to paper and ink.

That’s certainly my impression after a couple of months’ experience with the device feeding the buzz, the Amazon Kindle. …

It’s a good enough package that my guess is that digital readers will soon become common, perhaps even the usual way we read books (NYTimes)

Wow, that’s going mainstream. Krugman points out that as content goes digital, the easier it is to pirate and the harder it is to monetize. Unfortunately, his op-ed ends with a bleak outlook for the future of the written word.

I don’t think it has to be that way. If creative souls (like myself) are going to try to make a living with out art (literary, audio, visual, or video), we are going to have to find a way be proactive, reaching out to find new fans, and doing our best to retain the ones we already have.

While we may be on the cusp of the end of the publishing house, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As the old industry dies, it is up to artist to create their own co-ops for sharing their wisdom with new artists, and helping their fans find those artists as well.

It is easy to get myopic and think only about our own careers, but we have to remember: A high tide raises all ships. Artists need to link to each other, and carry each others merchandise around with them on consignment. This will help each artist expose their works to more people, and help cultivate a vibrant community of fans that will support the artists.

This might be utopian of me, but if it is, that would be the first time I have ever been accused of that. So here’s to a future where the artist controls their own fate!

Romancing the Word: The Spirituality of Nonfiction

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There is something missing in the copious tomes of nonfiction that are coming out these days: the courting of the mind through conversation and dialogue.

Most nonfiction writers today either tell a creative nonfiction story giving the reader the experience of the events of history through story or they simply talk to their readers instead of inviting them into conversation.

Classical and even Medieval philosophy are written in a the form of dialogues and rarely in diatribes. When I read these texts, I am drawn into conversation with the author and their ideas. I join the conversation, adding my opinions to theirs. I have no doubt that they expected me to more often than not except what they wrote, but in the common dialectics and arguments they wrote, they challenge their own ideas and answer the objections in a way that eased their own doubts.

I am a voracious reader of nonfiction. I love to flirt with new ideas and challenge my own cherished beliefs. Many times I have changed my mind on some issues that I never thought were open for debate.

Lately, though, many of the books I picked up felt they had more to tell me than to share. I do not know if it is the narcissism of our age or of the writers, but they no longer present their ideas to me as a something I might want to take in and get to know, maybe even fall in love with. Their ideas are to be accepted and followed.

I have written about this many times and in many ways, but everything is a story. No idea, concept, or belief will ever reside comfortably in the hearts and minds of people unless they connect to the story of it, and long to add themselves to the line of those who have picked up the idea before them.

Nonfiction is the romancing of the mind through words, stories, metaphors, and connection.

Have you ever noticed the relationship people have with the theory of gravity? It is amazing how people connect to the apocryphal story of Newton and the apple. We feel like we understand the concept through these stories.

Or take the works of Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking, and Brian Greene. They connect some of the most abstract theories of physics to stories and metaphors that anyone can understand. They invite their readers into the conversation, and help them through the hard parts with grace and love filling their words.

Joseph Campbell writes as if he is sitting next to you telling a story. The ideas come alive. We are able to commune with them, flirt with them, even take some home with us.

That is the task of nonfiction. Screeds, polemics, and proclamations of any idea will only be accepted by those who have already accepted the idea. If you want someone to love an idea as much as you do, you have to show them the beauty of it.

Life as a Story

I went out to write at the San Francisco Bread Company today. The longer I write, the more I realize how important it is to get out of the house, even if it is only to sequester myself at a small table in a cafe with my headphones on listening to music, surfing the web, struggling with new concepts and editing a book I wrote that I actual enjoy reading.
It is odd how something as simple as a change of venue from my office to a cafe can change my mood and energy level, but I have read enough from other writers to know that I am not alone.

I have a theory about why something as simple as a change of venue can so profoundly effect a writer’s mood.

I started writing as a defense mechanism. As a child, I grew up on a farm miles from the closet kid my age. I spent most of my time either on the phone, outside with my dog Red, or in my room inventing new stories with my Voltron and He-man action figures. When this wasn’t enough, I started drawing crude comics and playing out a sort of paper theater with playing cards and my imagination. Through all this, my imagination was fueled by He-man, She-ra, Transformers, the books of Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain, and the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons. I didn’t have anyone to play with, so I spent my time making up stories about these fantastical creatures, demigods, and demons. The music of Kiss and Dolly Pardon filled my nights in my room watching “Too Close for Comfort” dreaming of the day I would write my own “Cosmic Cow” strip.

When we moved to Maryland, things got worse. I had a strong accent, which got me beaten up in school a lot, and I had not people skills so the few friends I did make really had to work hard to get past my clumsy social interactions. I didn’t know how to relate with these “people.” They were so different from me, and they expected me to know how to act with them. I just didn’t.

My salvation came through The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and my knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons. I played these games with them as a means of interacting. They gave a structure to our together time and gave me a common language to speak. In time, we added Marvel Superheroes, Robotech, Earthdawn, and the many classic White Wolf storyteller games- Vampire: The Masquerade, Were-wolf, Mage: The Ascension, Changeling: The Dreaming. In fact, I became friends with Brian through a Vampire Chronicle.

Through this role as the storyteller, Star Trek Fandom, and my near obsessive interest in music, I found my medium to talk to others.

Storytelling is who I am. It is how I comprehend the world and explains why I am so deeply involved with the works of Joseph Campbell. This is who I am for better or worse. From the many biographies about other writers I have read, I think we have all taken up the life of a storyteller as some sort of defense mechanism or way to make sense of the world. It is easier to lock yourself away from the world than to jump in and struggle within it.

When I force myself out of my cave, even if only to isolate myself from the settings I find myself in through headphones and work, it reminds me that the outside world is still there. It lets me see how people actually interact with each other, for better or worse, and on those rarest of occasions, allows me to have incredible conversations with people face to face.

It is hard to explain how isolating is can be at times to be a storyteller. The hours, days and weeks spent locked away from the world crafting a reality that I hope others will experience and enjoy with the same fervor that I do. The simple act of seeing other people and hearing other voices enlivens me.

Like other writers, I am an observer of life much more than I am a participant in it. These little glimpses of the world outside my friends and family and the characters I write about (feels more like with sometimes), grounds me and helps connect me with the bigger world that is so easy to let slip away.

I wish more people shared this experience. Looking out at this world of strangers that I may or may not ever see again, and watching the plots they have entwined themselves in. We all tell our own stories. That is the art of conversation, to weave an entertaining tale about ourselves and others. As these plot lines co-mingle and intertwine, the story of our family, friends, city, state and nation are told. These stories often matter more than the facts. (whether or not that should be true or not is a whole other discussion).

I recommend that you give this a try. Next time you are out with friends, watch the stories that you are telling each other closely and follow them out as if they are plot lines in a novel, movie, or television show. It is startling how often you can predict other peoples actions by listening to their backstory, current plot, and projecting that out as it would play out in the genre appropriate to the person. I am not saying that this is always the case, but more often than not you will be able to see what will happen before it does. This is also the best way to choose your course of action. How will your action effect the other all story. Try it out, I think you might be pleasantly surprised.