Tag Archives: fantasy

Existential Crises, Games Wizards Play, and When You Await Yourself Inside a Book

5 Feb

games wizards play

Books do not face many temporal restrictions. The words within them may change with spelling conventions, or the print might shift across font type fads, and the phrasing may even slouch around or slick up a bit with the passing decades, but what the books really say, what their stories are, what worlds they contain within those pages and convey across years and years of minds – those are things that time doesn’t really touch. They’re always hanging around, somewhere. Tucked between a dust jacket. Hidden under the covers of someone’s slumbering subconscious. Murmured in the soft sktch of your footfalls. The stories never really go away. They’re there, behind a wardrobe door, or a carefully tapped pattern on a pub’s back brick wall, or an amulet whispering around the neck. All those worlds, in all those books – they wait.

Games Wizards Play, the tenth book in Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series, released a few days ago. It’s been waiting a long time.

Six years. Six long years. A Wizard of Mars, the predecessor to Games Wizards Play, came out in 2010. Wizards at War, the book before that, came out in 2005, which is nearly equally long in time lapsed, but who I was in 2005 and who I was in 2010 were highly congruent. 2005-me and 2010-me almost form the lower and upper bounds of a set of my existence, since they were both broken in remarkably similar ways, and believed pretty much the same things – about themselves, about life, about love and religion and the universe at large.

But 2010-me was not so static a figure as 2005-me. 2010-me read A Wizard of Mars sitting on the couch of her first apartment, shared with four other classmates the summer after freshman year. I moved into the apartment later than those other four, having spent a little over a third of the summer in treatment for anorexia. It was my first stint in that long progression of treatments that eventually carved out my recovery, and I’d been left red and raw and ready for the changing, though I didn’t know that yet. Change would be a long time coming.

But I remember sitting on that couch, holding the book in my hands, fresh out of treatment, wondering who I was going to be now, thrilling at all the possibilities but thinking (erringly) that I knew pretty well which one I was going to wind up with. I opened up to the first page of A Wizard of Mars, looking for (and finding) reaffirmation in that world that had built me as a middle and high schooler, that I trusted to carry me forward through the rest of college, unaware of just how much of a mental precipice I was really standing on.

2016-me is no longer standing on that mental precipice. She’s standing on a different one. On what I’m pretty sure is also an entirely different planet. The shape of the world around me and the horizon before me, it’s all so different from what 2010-me thought she was looking at. And the way my shadow stretches away, telling of my form in the light – it, too, has changed. Which is a good thing, mostly. But which is also terrifying.

I am better – but I am less good. I know more, but I believe less. My understanding has grown, but my hope has so diminished.

Within me is so much of the same fire that kept the midnight oil of 2005 and 2010 aflame, but while it still burns, I can sometimes see it flicker.

Like 2010-me, 2016-me has some decisions to make about who she wants to be. 2010-me decided that she wanted to be a wildlife vet, and 2016-me has finally gotten into vet school. In the US, and the UK. Whether I choose to stay or choose to go, there are pro’s and con’s. Risks and benefits. Uncertain futures rolling out before me like the fever dream of a hallucinating D20.

And I have to pick a starting point for it all.

Life, like YW-style wizardry, is all about choices. And I am terrified I am going to pick wrong.

So. My life has become a choose-your-own-adventure story, except I can’t flip through all the pathways to find out how they all turn out. I just get one. One character archetype. One plot arc. One final destination, out there in the future.

All of it starting with a choice made because of who I think I am, right now.

…And reading Games Wizards Play will directly confront that.

2016-me has a pretty different world view from 2010-me, and I am afraid of what that will mean for how the YW world will be able to fill that space within me where it used to resonate so well. So unquestioningly. I am afraid that because of whom I have become, where once there were echoes and vibrations will instead be dead, mute space. I am so scared that because of how I have changed as a person, I might not relate as well to what I’m going to find once I go back into the YW world in Games Wizards Play, that I have been afraid to so much as open the front cover.

Or I might just relate to it differently, but that kind of scares me, too. To be clear, I trust the books. I trust Diane Duane and her writing, the Young Wizards universe with its depth and complexity, the characters of Nita and Kit and Tom and Carl with their ability to face ethical conundrum and moral grey area. The more I’ve sat down and really thought about those nine preceding books, thought about what the adults in the books said and did as well as the kids, the more I’ve realized that the world of YW is much bigger than I’d realized at fourteen, or nineteen. I trust that the story can hold up against my doubts and uncertainties and questions. I trust that the story can handle who I am, now.

I am less sure that I can.

I have grown up. Not entirely, but more than I ever wished to. And that is a good thing, but it also a very painful thing.

And so, as I said, I have found myself shaking, whenever I try to open that front cover and turn to page one.

Because once I do, my past self and my future forms and the existence I am, truly, right now, will be left to stare at each other from within the lines on a page, and I don’t know what’s going to happen once one of them blinks.

Guess there’s only one way to find out, though.

I was warned, I suppose. All those years, all those pages ago, Nita Callahan did say that life, at least, would never be boring

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Adventure In The Great Wide Somewhere

7 Mar

I have always wanted a Tardis. I have not always known the name for it as such. But to see all of time and space – and, if Dr. Who is any precedent, to have uncountable many adventures while doing so – is what I have, and will always, desperately want. I want it so badly it hurts.

But I was not always a Whovian. The seat of my yearning was not always a mad man with his box. No, my wanderlust came with other names – a wardrobe, a letter upon my eleventh year, a snag on my finger in the bookstore with an oath to follow, unicorns with amulets, wrinkles and tesseracts. My mind has always been an amalgam of Ella’s who have more adventures than their Char’s, Wilma’s who make incredible wishes, Sara’s who create kingdoms out of attics and words and poverty, Mary’s who find gardens tucked away in, well, space and time.

It’s always been books, of course.

Sometimes people seem to think that books make people sedentary dreamers. Perhaps this is true, for some. But for me, all it did was make me yearn for adventure in the great, wide somewhere.

I’m going there on Sunday.

There have been so many, many times in my life when I’ve had the thought, “I wish I could do [something].” But there’s always a barrier. Time. Money. Health. Sanity. Money. Energy. Money. It’s hard to make our own adventures in a world where experience belongs to the old and expediency to the wealthy. It grinds a bit, settling for the smaller scope and pretending you feel like you’re doing something more. There’s always that answer to keep us in our place, “Now’s just not the best time.”

I’ll just wait until things in my life become more certain. Then I’ll know better what I’m dealing with. Then I’ll be able to better move around the pieces.

This is reasonable. This is good. This is clear, logical, totally appropriate thinking.

But I personally realized that unless I was suddenly very, very lucky, I was never going to go anywhere. There was never going to be a “best time.” There was probably never even going to be a good time. I wasn’t ever going to be able to have it all. I was going to have to risk something. I just needed to figure out what I was willing for that to be. Money. Job security. Time. Not feeling alone. Absolute certainty that everything would work out.

Adventure means risk. You’re going to have to be willing to lose something. That’s what all those books I read growing up had shown me, right? You want the world. What are you willing to give it in return?

Sure, adventures aren’t inherently about taking stupid risks. I mean, we’re talking about my wanting to go exploring, not saving the world from the forces of evil. I can at least make the risks I take calculated.

And so I am. Five months ago, I saw something that I wanted. A bookstore. Of course, a bookstore.

In Portugal.

But… it was the bookstore, in a way. We’re not talking corporate white walls with B&N logo slathered everywhere (though B&N is lovely and I buy books there and that’s all well and good). We’re talking… well, we’re talking about that library that Belle found in the Great Wide Somewhere. Bookshelves on the scale of glory. Red carpet and graceful bannisters and dust hanging like history in the light shafts, giving the place an irrefutable air of magic and tales as old as time.

It’s called Livraria Lello, by the way.

I found the place while doing random internet browsing. I wasn’t searching for anything in particular. I was just flick flick flicking, procrastinating my time away while breathing between grad school apps.

And then there it was. The most beautiful, magical bookstore I had ever seen. Because it looked like the one I had grown up dreaming about. The one that I had always, always wanted to be real.

It was a bit like finding a wardrobe.

But… Portugal. That was so far away from ocean-locked United States. It would be soooo expensive to get there.

Sigh. Put it on the mental docket. “Places I desperately want to go before I die.”

*PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC*

YOU DON’T KNOW WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO DIE! YOU CAN’T JUST DO THAT AND EXPECT TO ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO EVER GO THERE!

Holy moly, Anxiety Man! You’re right!

Sometimes my mental demons have a point. Knew there had to be some kind of reason I keep them around.

So. I sat there, staring at my screen. Doing some calculations in my brain. Thinking about time and energy and money and certainty and dreams.

And I’m going to Portugal tomorrow. And then France a few days after that. And then a few days more and I’ll be in Ireland, where I’ll be volunteering with that project I’d wanted to be part of since something like a month after I left Burning Man. The one about art and community and fire and redemption.

You know, things that sound like magic.

I am going adventuring, tomorrow.

Sneaky things, Tardises, when they go looking like plane tickets.

Parents

27 Jun

I don’t write normal parents. Not that I write parental figures with seven limbs, or serial killer tendencies. I just don’t write “traditional,” functional relationships between parental figures.

Yeah, hi there Freud. I see you smirking over there in a corner.

The more I’ve written, the more I’ve come to notice about my abnormal parent figures. The fathers, for example – most of the time, they just don’t exist. My earliest stories, written in the big, round handwriting of an eight or nine year old, they just didn’t have father figures in them. The absence wasn’t a key component; it just was. Without explanation or ado. It was just the norm for my characters, something they didn’t think twice about.

Makes sense, seeing how for a very long stretch of my life, it was something I didn’t think twice about either. Business trips, golf trips, hunting trips, gambling trips, affair trips. My father’s presence was an anomaly, not a rule. I simply didn’t know how to write about present fathers. I had no material.

Mothers, however… Even before I hit puberty, they got a broader ranger of characterization. They were present, for one thing. Sometimes, they were caring. Or neutral, at the very least. NPC’s there for the main character to interact with, if not exactly salient actors in and of themselves. Other times, though…

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three pieces of writing with abusive mother figures in them. Around thirteen or so, I spent my nights angrily scratching out a story of a nineteenth-century, Sarah-the-little-princess-esque near-orphan girl whose central conflict was with a physically abusive mother. The narrative was basically F. H. Burnett’s novel boiled down to a purely familial relationship. The horrid school teacher became a sort of evil stepmother figure – minus the “step.”

Abusive mother figures have shown up again and again in my writing. Left alone to parent because of an inexplicably absent husband, they take out their anger of what life has dealt them on the children life has dealt them as well. They cause silence in their daughters. They cause their girls to withdraw and go insane. They yell. They hit. They degrade.

They are not my mother.

My mother has always been more of a passive victim, or inactive co-conspirator at worst, in my eyes. My worries around her have been of the protective sort. When it came to the battles between her and my father, my mother is always the one I have sided with. I have been frustrated with my mother, yes, but more for her inactivity. She has accepted my father’s maelstrom. She has not fought back. Even when I needed her to.

And yet she, in her many literary representations, is the one that I have made the abuser.

Perhaps it’s because in some way, I do hold her responsible. She didn’t stop my father. She taught me to shut up and keep quiet about it. She passed on a sense that I must just deal with whatever shit I’m served. That having someone and taking their blows, emotional or otherwise, is better than having no one.

Over the course of my childhood, I asked her again and again to do something about this father of mine. Tried to make it clear how it was hurting me. Hurting my younger sister. Hurting her.

Her response was largely to shove her head in the sand.

With the life experience and therapy and psychology education that I now have at 23, I can rationalize her actions. I understand victimization. I understand co-dependency. I understand the fear that leaving something bad will only result in something worse. I understand. I do.

But I think that growing up, and perhaps even now, some part of me still holds her responsible.

Why not write father figures that are abusive? Why not assign the blame where blame is more truthfully do? The defensive answer is that it’s my writing, and I’ll do whatever I damn well please, thank you very much.

The more truthful answer is that I’m not sure I could handle it. Not sure I want to have to handle it. I already dealt with one abusive father, thank you very much. Why would I create even more, in my writing? I have a mother that I love. That I want in my life. Even with all of her fretting. So even if I write a culpable mother figure in my stories, I still have a less culpable one to return to.

I cannot say the same of my father.

So much of writing is a sort of authorial wish-fulfillment. While 99% of my narratives barely involve a father figure at all, the 1% that do feature fathers that look nothing like my own. In a YA manuscript I begun writing at the the age of 14 and have been editing ever since, there is a father figure that I am fairly shocked by. He is calm and gentle. Scholarly and patient. Quiet and fiercely caring. He cares for both his daughter and his wife. He might disagree with his well-meaning but overly-fretful wife sometimes (the fictional mother who comes closest to my own), but he does not belittle her.

Ah, hello there, fairy tale father.

I find it somewhat comforting to know that in the narrative that contains the most real version of my own mother, I would assign her a partner much better than the one she’s got. Even with all of the frustration I channel at her through those other less-realistic mother figures, when it comes down to the “real” her, I would wish her more happiness than what she has, rather than punishment. I want better for her.

I want better for myself.

You are a ghost, you see.

31 May

 

You Are A Ghost, You See

You are a ghost, you see.

You haunt me not so much

in the traces of your life littered

among the foundation of mine,

the trinkets and bestowals of a love

I once thought was true.

No; your memory is nothing so easy

as those leftover tangibles I can hide in a box.

It is the phantom of you, that I cannot abide;

the ephemera of your mannerisms

that now color mine;

the cadence of your voice that carries on in my conversation,

because the pattern of my words had learned to follow along.

It is the beating and the rhythm,

the hand gestures,

the faces,

the little movements of my existence that had come to keep pace

with yours.

You haunt me in my very viscera,

the way that my tendons line together

and the circles my joints make when they move.

People, we come to mirror the thing that’s most before our eyes.

And even though you are now gone

I cannot rid myself of your reflection.

You are a ghost, you see,

and I am your phantom.

Fantasy

23 Feb

A poem for Fantasy.

Fantasy

I would like a Tardis to fly away

or perhaps a Wardrobe to crawl through.

Some pixie dust or powdered Floo

might do in case of a pinch,

or perhaps a heated air balloon

might be just the cinch.

I’d like to jump a rattling train

to cross the city bounds,

or follow up a couple clues

chased down by the Hounds.

I’d take a sequence of bricks to tap

or an amulet that listens to runes,

the kind of ring that knows a place

hummed in fireside tunes.

And perhaps a ship or craft would do

to bring me Somewhere Else –

just put me anywhere, anywhere

they say exists in those dreams upon the shelf.