Loitering or hanging around where one is unwanted is my point of departure for this post. As my crazy, flipper fingers go clickety-clack across my keyboard, I wonder whether the thoughts careening through my mind are vagrants or not. Can ideas be accused of loitering and be punished for vagrancy? If so, what would be the appropriate punishment for these transgressions?
It snowed yesterday. Winter seems to be hanging on against the wishes of all those who want Spring to arrive. Mister Groundhog insisted it didn't see its shadow, so an early Spring is supposed to be in the cards. Looking out the windows of my smoking lounge, you could've fooled me. Winter seems to be digging in for the foreseeable future. Personally, winter is my favorite time of year and because the cold numbs my relentless pain, I consider it to be an ally of mine, not an enemy.
My daughter has a theory. She feels the furry critter just didn't want to be murdered, so it lied about not seeing its shadow. If she is correct, and my daughter does have a Doctor Doolittle type of relationship with The Animal Kingdom, Mister Groundhog is more afraid of its human handlers than its own shadow.
Loathing is another piece of this post. Most people detest the idea of Winter lingering on and on. They just want Spring to march onto the scene with the usual pomp and circumstance such an arrival entails. They've had enough of snow and cold and desire the pageantry of warmth and blossoming life. Simply put, bleak is out and green is the new white. The new snow on the ground tells a wholly different story.
The snow that descended upon us yesterday reminded us that what we want is irrelevant to what Mother Nature has in store for us. We can try to hurry Spring along all we want by setting our clocks ahead and all but putting a gun to Mister Groundhog's head to force the little guy not to see his shadow, but the seasons move at their own pace. If my daughter's theory is correct, the groundhog is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, the furry weatherman doesn't want to infuriate its human handlers, but nevertheless has to answer to its true mistress, Mother Nature. Not an enviable position within which any rational being would wish to be trapped!
Changing seasons is part of the deal and happens each year at its own pace. It should be so familiar to us. Then why all the fuss each year?
Life would so boring without change. Humans talk themselves into thinking they want a sameness or homogeneity, but that isn't the case. It just can't be. If it was so, it wouldn't be good for us. Mother Nature is much wiser than we give her credit for being. She has a way of mixing things up to prevent us from becoming complacent and thus, less interesting. Let's give her a well-deserved, big, round of applause!
Getting to the third component of the title of this post, Familiar Town, for you see there is a method to the madness I use for labeling these posts, my next story, Twin Commissions, is nearing completion. I've been living with this story in my head for so damn long, it seems weird to be on the cusp of releasing it to my editors for judgment and alteration through the editing process. You see, change isn't so easy for me either, and I don't relish modifications of my version of Familiar Town any more than anyone else beckons for their variants of that notion. My editors serve the same function for me as Mother Nature does for all of us. They keep me from falling prey to complacency and staying within the confines of Familiar Town.
On one hand, I want my babies, my books, to be as perfect as is feasibly possible. On the other hand, something inside of me reels at the thought of anyone tampering with my works of art. I suppose every artist struggles with this push and pull, so intrinsic to the creation process.
Like our children, we want our works to be accepted for what they are. Like people, art needs to be loved and honed. It takes time to do that and make it seem effortless. Of course, every artist knows fully well the creation process is anything but effortless. To maximize the pleasure of the audience, this illusion must be maintained. There is nothing worse than being subjected to a forced work of art. It takes integrity and a bit of pride swallowing to keep this in mind and give it the attention it deserves.
This latest story of mine has been with me through three changes of seasons. I've seen the work mature, and probably have matured as a writer along with it. With every story I write, I get that much better at my art form. At least, that's what I think is occurring, but my readers would be the best judge of that proposition.
Well, other tasks are chafing at the bit. I'd like to talk some more with all of you, but I think I've come to a logical stopping point. Until next time, expect the unexpected from the fantasy with which you surround yourselves, and don't be afraid to leave Familiar Town on a regular basis. You just might rekindle the wonder within yourselves that brought you to fantasy in the first place!
March is already upon us. My, how time marches on. If you can forgive the pun, all I can say is, I am thankful the train keeps on rolling!
Last Sunday, my wife finally got me to take down our Christmas tree. I turned the lights off for the last time, undecorated it, said farewell to the intrepid symbol of life, and dragged it out of the house. What a mess it made. Pine needles were everywhere. Needles came off in clumps as I took the lights and decorations off of it. The worse of it was when I dragged the little sucker from our living room to the outside. My wife said it smelled and looked like some monster puked pine all over the house!
As usual, my wife was right. The tree was well past its prime, but I hate to say goodbye to Christmas. I'm a clinger in that way because Christmas is such a jolly time of the year, where everyone is in a good mood. As with all good things, it can't go on forever, but that doesn't stop me from hoping that the jolly feeling couldn't and wouldn't be everlasting. I guess that's the optimist in me talking.
On another note, over the past day or so, I had quite the adventure with The Cold. Friday around eleven or twelve, the furnace in my house decided to take a break. I discovered the occurrence around 1:00 A.M. Saturday morning, when for some reason, my house was cold. Now, I live in an old house that was built in the late 1800's, so it has lots of drafts, but what I felt was more than those usual drafts. Upon inspection, I discovered the radiators were all stone cold to the touch, and the inside temperature was fifty-nine degrees, although the thermostat was set at sixty-five.
I turned up the thermostat and went into the basement to check on the furnace. Going into the bowels of my home by the light of a flashlight, I felt like Sherlock Holmes, conducting an investigation into some devious scheme. My basement has a dirt floor and looks like it could be the lair of some arch villain, or at least a serial killer's dumping ground. Alas, after winding my way to the back of the basement, all I found was a water heater and the object of my search, the beast of a furnace. I refer to the hot box in that way because it sounds like a beast roaring, especially when you're up close and personal to it in the dark of night.
Sure enough, the beast was running, but the pressure gauge on it read zero. Without pressure, water cannot course through the pipes to the radiators. That explained my problem, the beast's arteries were empty. I called the property manager, who said someone would be out as soon as possible to fix the problem. Obviously I had awoken the man from a deep slumber, and he sounded groggy on the phone, but I had hoped he would've called someone to come fix the problem sooner than later.
You might have thought someone would've come out first thing in the morning, but you would've been wrong. The property manager called me around 8:00 A.M. to see if someone had come to fix the beast. I told him, "No such luck."
The man apologized, told me he'd get someone right on it, and hung up. Noon was when the repairman finally arrived to do his magic. The only saving grace was the fact it didn't get any colder outside than the low twenties, and it appeared the new day would fall in line with that.
By the time the repairman had arrived, the temperature in the house had dropped to fifty degrees. It got so cold, my wife and I joked about warming the house up by opening the refrigerator. By mid-afternoon, the heat was pumping again. Good thing it wasn't in the single digits outside, or we would've really gotten cold. Thank you, Jack Frost, for keeping it relatively balmy for us!
Events like this serve to remind us not to take what we have for granted. It is The Cosmos's way of forcing us not to let our humility go by the wayside. I look at it this way: You can either be angry at what isn't anybody's fault, or laugh and learn what you can from incidents like this. I choose the latter because the former is far too negative an outlook on life for my liking.
Well, I guess that's all the news that's fit to print. Until next time, I'll keep the train rolling at the speed of thought, and hope you keep the fires of your imaginations ignited!
Recently, I have read much about rules of fantasy from authors and fans of the genre. To me, that is all much ado about nothing. Isn't fantasy supposed to be about stretching the bounds of the imagination? Don't you read fantasy to explore what can't be sensed, felt, and understood in the real world that surrounds you with every breath you take?
Once you buy into the idea you're engrossed in a world that isn't real, then why confine yourself to what has already been written? Do you really want to read another Tolkien, Stephen King, or Anne Rice ripoff? Why is there a need to confine your imagination to arbitrary boundaries of fantasy, science fiction, and horror?
I say free our beloved fantasy from the bars and shackles that authors who came before have placed upon this genre we all love and adore! We should expect newly written fantasy to be different than what we have read before. After all, isn't that all part of the exploration? Aren't we exhilarated when we don't know what will happen next when we turn the page, or is the comfort of knowing what will come next more important?
It would seem the supposed rules of fantasy came from the stories we all love. Before Bram Stoker wrote "Dracula" in 1897, there were no rules for vampires and how to write about these creatures of the night. That's what makes this story a classic. Bram Stoker created the rules, and others followed in his wake. He had to because until he wrote his famous story not much had been written about vampires. Before Stoker, vampires were mostly the monsters told in stories around the hearth, used to explain strange occurrences the eighteenth and nineteenth century mind couldn't explain.
Bram Stoker brought the vampire into prominence, and many others followed in his wake. These subsequent authors elaborated upon what Stoker started, probably seeing no need to reinvent the wheel. Anne Rice with her famous story, "Interview With The Vampire," relied upon what readers knew about vampires from "Dracula" and charged forward, creating a whole subculture of vampires. Her vampire stories had their unique qualities. Had she worried about sticking to the rules created by Bram Stoker, her stories wouldn't have been as rich and flavorful. She didn't change the rules as much as adding to them and giving vampires her unique twist.
Before reading Anne Rice's stories, readers had an idea of what vampires were. After reading her work, readers came to a new understanding of what vampires could be. Anne Rice changed the face of vampires forevermore. Did she worry about breaking the established rules? I would guess not, or her stories would've been different and thus, less interesting.
The best authors charge forward without worrying about what rules to stick with or to break. They just write a story worth reading. That takes guts. It also takes a readership willing to explore something different. All I know is: The most memorable stories are written about something different by authors who don't fear rejection, and these stories linger within us long after we've turned the last page. Don't we wish every book had that affect on us? Getting to the "yes" answer to that question relies on a willingness to follow authors into uncharted waters.
My next pet peeve about fantasy is the categorization of genres. I don't like them, and that's all there is to it. I feel fantasy is about expanding the mind. Isolating high fantasy, science fiction, and horror into separate jail cells, preventing all interaction between them, is the opposite of expanding the mind. In fact, this notion confines the mind. These arbitrary classifications may be of comfort, but they limit our understanding and enjoyment of what we love; fantasy.
Imagine a fantasy universe where some worlds or star systems are primitive, some have magic and dragons, others are technologically advanced beyond our understanding of technology, and still others have ghosts, vampires, and other terrifying elements that go bump in the night. Now, imagine all of these worlds exist within one fantastical universe. If they do, then we have the three main genres of fantasy existing within the same fantasy framework. What happens when these worlds or star systems of high fantasy, science fiction, and horror interact with one another?
Now, the author of this scenario could keep these situations separated from one another. He or she could write stand alone novels or three separate series of books, or the author could write one epic, kick-ass anthology. This epic work could integrate the high fantasy, science fiction, and horror elements in a never-seen-before tapestry of inspired fantasy. Such a work would break the known rules of fantasy, but wouldn't such an anthology be richer, more interesting, and just set your mind on fire?
If you're curious about how such a fantastical tapestry would look and feel, you need look no further than my work in process I call, "Dances Of Deliverance." I am in the process of creating such an epic anthology. So far, I have five stories finished and available on Amazon. My quest to liberate fantasy from the shackles placed upon it requires readers to expect something more and exciting from fantasy.
Although you may love the work of Tolkien, Azimov, Stephen King, and Anne Rice, delving into something different doesn't change or denigrate the quality of any of their work. It opens your heart and mind to the possibility of feeling what you felt when you first read any of their stories. You should expect authors to deliver that feeling to you, not some semblance of a fantastical experience. Remember that fantasy is all about freeing our minds from the confines and rules of our mundane reality by vicariously experiencing something we can't within our everyday lives. Whatever you read, expect the author to deliver you that feeling you felt when you read your first fantasy novel. Otherwise, you're just reliving past glories, rather than experiencing new ones.
With that all said, I bid you all farewell for the moment. Until we meet again, keep it dark and fantastical!