WRITER OR WRITING?
I’ve been inside for a long time and I have no wings and no safety harness, but life’s presented me with a window, just big enough for me to fit through, and I’ve decided to step out. Even if there is nothing to hold me up but the ledge, I know that I’ll see and experience things that playing it safe will never give me. I’d like to say it’s not the first time, but if I’m honest, it really is. I’ve poked my head out, here and there, to look around the place and I’ve stuck my hands out, once or twice, to feel new things, even while still bunkered inside my walled up home base. Yet, I have never taken any real – public – risks, never gone beyond the cozy and largely safe spaces of my own heart and mind, a tribe of close friends and colleagues, and the pseudo-anonymity of niche communities where no one asks you to exit your bunker. Hence, I have never really tried to be a writer.
No, that’s not exactly true by traditional definitions. I’ve written countless things, shared many of them, published some, and dealt with both praise and criticism, though I’d certainly like to do more and better with all of these things. In that sense, I’ve more than tried to be a writer, I am one. For me, though, that’s all about process, not identity. I write, therefore I am? Maybe. What I haven’t tried is being a writer, walking in the world as a writer, saying the word out loud to someone else as a way of referencing who I am and what I do – being, as it were, “out” as a writer. As someone who has never been “straight,” it’s a situation I know entirely too well and don’t like for many good reasons, but unlike the dance I did for years over what to say or not and to whom when the question of relationships came up, I didn’t realize that I was so closeted about my writing until two weeks ago.
Among the many classics of science fiction literature, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game has maintained a place far above even others that have been remembered for decades. When I was only a child in a family where scifi books were well-loved, Ender’s Game was the scifi book. I am unsure if it was my first introduction to the world of science fiction – I think not, there was an ancient paperback collection of short stories, as much pulp fiction as scifi, that I can recall thumbing through in various reading nooks – but it was one of my first exposures to the genre and it was one that stayed with me all my life. Having now re-read it, and having finished its sequel as well (with intentions to read the rest of the series), I can say that my memory of Ender’s Game had been both true and almost … mythologized over the years, faded in places, yes, but more than that. I had come to think about the book itself as somehow carrying, harboring, embodying not only all of the talk that scifi fans I knew had surrounded it with, but also all the talk and thought that I had come to craft for myself with reference to it. It is, I realize now, both the book I thought it was and, at the same time, perhaps no greater than many other works of science fiction. I say this not to diminish the wonder of Ender’s Game, because it is still among the shortstack of books I would hand to someone exploring scifi for the first time, but I say it because I now see the book as Card himself meant it to be: it is the prelude to the truly great work – Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
It’s a journey that you take along with the main character, as she grows and changes, struggles and learns, and as the people around her do the same. I love how poetic it is, how honest it is in its darkness without tending toward sensationalism. As a reader (especially with Lynne Thigpen’s fantastic audiobook performance), you become as horrified and as cynical as the primary characters at times, but you (like they) can never fully let go of that hope that there must be something more to find, to build, at the end of all that hardship and suffering, a way to survive, even thrive. And even through all the challenges and the loss, there are still those moments – of laughter, of beauty, of communion … of positive humanity, It is gorgeous, a masterfully written and authentic-to-humanity work and world.
It reminds me why I fell in love with Octavia Butler’s writing in the first place.