Monday, March 01, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

I have known for most of my life that a writer is what I wanted to be when I grew up. There are those who’d say that I’ve put that off (growing up, that is) longer than was necessary or even appropriate, but in response I would say that a writer takes more seasoning than the average person does. To produce a literary work of any depth and substance wants an understanding of life and the human condition much deeper than most callings require. Few are those who can produce great works before they’ve accumulated sufficient years and experience, as my own youthful experiments in the craft proved quite conclusively. But the aspiration was there, and remained, even while I needed to step back for a while until I had something to say.
It’s all my mother’s fault, really.
She hooked me on reading at a young age, and I took to it like the proverbial fish to water. I was and remain insatiable, the sort of fellow who will read the ingredients on a shampoo bottle to pass the time in the shower. And while Mom was always a thrillers and mysteries girl, it was science fiction and fantasy that captured my heart. At first it was merely escapism. The opening of new worlds, the thrill of adventures and quests, the stakes always high, the kingdom or planet in peril and only our hero and his ragtag band of misfits able to save the day.
But as I grew I began to realize that there was more to it than that. More to it than just escape and entertainment. Because behind the scenes there were other things going on: larger issues were lurking, big questions being asked and then answers attempted. And the question was always this: ‘What if..?’
As I got older, my tastes became more complicated. More literary, even. I began to hunger for bigger questions, deeper considerations, of history and the human condition and just where this whole thing might all be going. I delved into the great books, both past and present. I bled at the cutting edge. I read and reread and thought and discussed and got my mind blown open so many times that it hasn’t shut since.
But through it all, no matter how far out into the literary mainstream I’ve waded, my heart of hearts always did and always will belong to speculative fiction.
It’s not just sentimental, either, this attachment I have. Because even though it feels like coming home when I open that page to the first chapter and dive in to a new world, I’m also aware that this new world before me was imagined by someone in my world, in the world that I live in, and that the explorations this person is leading me on have to do with more than just faerie-folk or faster-than-light travel. They’re asking that question, ‘What if..?’ and then answering it as best they can, and the answers to that question resonate from the world inside the book to the world outside of it. It’s that right there, that bit of literary thaumaturgy, that’s always fascinated me, and that drives my desire to be a writer.
Because I’ve always known, for most of my life, that a writer was what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’ve always wanted to make that magic, to ask and then try and answer those questions. To lead others on such wondrous journeys as I have been on.

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