Poll of a Billion Monkeys

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Exchange - Dreams and Revulsions

The Exchange - Dreams and Revulsions

The other day I went to the library and picked up a book by Neil Gaiman called, Adventures in the Dream Trade.

I've read a few things by Gaiman including a Batman novel he wrote, some comics, some short stories, Sandman, etc. So I think he's an okay writer. This book is about, well, it's sort of a writing journal and that's why I picked it up.

For a long time when I was younger I would tell stories about my personal adventures for which my friends would usually say, "Damn, that's a good story." Then we'd talk about it or maybe recall different aspects of the story from different points of view because often they were along with me when such and such happened. Then later some would say, "Write that down man, you could sell that easily," or "People would love that man." Most of my stories, even my fictional ones were or are based on real life experiences of things I had done or gone through or had seen happen to others, and I think that's why most people liked them. I've been told I have a good imagination but I've never had to rely on it or even gave it much importance. Observation was always my game, watching what happened, and recording it in my head till I could retell it. Even the stuff inside my own head was more observation than creation, I would just retell visions or dreams I had, rather than trying to invent.

But I started writing stuff down to pass around to my friends and others and so forth and so I've been writing fiction like that for well over twenty years. But unlike my non-fiction I've never had a desire to sell it or distribute it widely, and have even been repulsed by the idea to some extent. Occasionally I would get an idea to sell something but always pull back before trying. I've just never considered fiction nearly as important as real life (even when I really liked fiction), so even when I modify a real-life tale it has for a long time, to me, become diluted and weak and artificial. Sort of juvenile and not nearly as important as the real events. Nor as fascinating. (I've rarely ever read any fiction of any kind which is even fractionally as interesting as some of the things I've seen really happen, and usually when I read fiction I can tell when an author is creating in his head versus modifying something he has really experienced or seen. I do that kind of instinctively when reading fiction, I say to myself, "something like that really happened, that's too good to have been imagined," or, "that's such a piece of crap it must have come straight out of his imagination.")

Anyway, recently my family and other people I know including friends and church members and old work associates have said to me, "Sell your fiction. It would sell well." So I've been working hard to overcome my prejudices about fiction writing and I have to a very large extent over come these personal psychological inhibitions. One obstacle remains however and Gaiman's book reminded me of it. He spoke in several places about "the Fans." God Almighty this very idea disgusts me and makes me want to wretch.

In the past, not often but once or twice I've been to book signings, once for myself and once for somebody else. Also two or three times I've been to comic book conventions and gotten a few autographs. I however cannot stand and it almost makes me sick to my stomach to think of me signing some book or graphic novel or something else I've produced and some overwrought fan gushing on and on about what a genius I am and whatnot. I've seen this kind of embarrassing shit go on before, once at a book-signing, and once at a comics convention. It ain't pretty, not in any rendition.

I think this is what ought to occur. The fan walks up and says something to the effect of; "I really like your work, thank you for your autograph." Then move the hell along, other people are waiting. I don't want to hear, and could not long stomach, "Oh, you're such a genius, I have all of your works, blah, blah, blah..."

Thirty seconds of that and I'd feel compelled, and those of you who know me also know I would to stand up and say, "Damn-it!! It's just words cupcake! I wrote a freaking book. Jesus in Bethlehem, go do something with your damned life, instead of blowing your time wallowing and whining about my supposed genius near me, I can't stand to hear it. I didn't cure cancer, I don't fly, I wrote a freakin piece of fiction. Do you understand what that means? It's fiction!! I don't care what you think of me, I've never cared what anyone thinks of me. It's a story. What, do you worship actors too?"

It churns my stomach right now at my desk just thinking about getting invited to some seminar or some book signing or some convention (and believe me I'm not at all sure I'd go) and listening to some twit prattle on and on about some piece of fiction. I still have a long way to go in my own mind before I could keep my lunch down if I came within three hundred yards of that kind of crap. I don't see how fictional writers stand that kinda shit. I guess either, 1) they have gotten used to it over time and they don't even bother to hear it anymore, 2) they are made out of tougher stuff than I am and have the patience to suffer through that, or 3) they have egos so brittle and fragile that they actually want or need to hear that crap.

Look, if I'm ever successful at something involving fiction then give me an audience base who can appreciate my stuff, and the profits that come with it. God in Heaven preserve me from the "modern fan" and his disgusting sycophantic droolings. Rich, okay. Recognized and fawned over in public, no thanks. That kind of thing can go straight to hell. I got no interest in "fictional fame." And I feel sorry for famous people who have to endure that kind of thing. I don't want to lose my essential invisibility, and have no plans to do so.

As for getting back to Gaiman's book, after having read several parts of it I found it very good. I agreed with much of it. Not all (I never agree with anybody about everything, not even God), but enough that I felt a sort of kinship with what he was saying about several subjects. I liked the section on the Screwtape Letters, a Writer's Prayer was very interesting, and good, It said a lot of truth in contrasting ways. His little piece on the Swords of Lankhmar is terrific and his observations excellent. In that piece he said something that although, I've never really thought of it like that, in this context, was a near perfect insight. He wrote,

"Now an admission: I find it harder and harder to read fiction for pleasure. I
have spent too long wandering around behind the scenes where fictions
are created. Like a stage magician at a magic show, I may appreciate the
skill with which the trick is done...I find it hard to be a member of the

And that is the way I feel about a great many things in life, writing included. Like a magician at a show who already knows the tricks.
Most of the time that makes me internally and secretly happy, even I have to admit, smug. Sometimes though it's just a shame to know the trick before it's even attempted.
It's a sort of tragedy at times to know too often what is gonna happen before it actually does.

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