Not Quite a Poem

For your consideration, this not-quite-a-poem:

She tells me stories–
Of life and laughter.
She tells me stories–
Of laughter and love
She tells me stories–
Of love and heartache.
She tells me stories–
Of heartache and pain.
She tells me stories–
Of how it’s for my own good.
She tells me stories–
As she leaves bruises on my feelings.
She tells me stories–
Of how I will never love anyone again.
She tells me stories.

…So, what did you think? I’m not sure I consider it a poem, since it doesn’t rhyme or anything, though it’s certainly interesting and it definitely has structure of a sort. Thoughts?

(You’re more likely to get poems than short stories from me in this space– it’s much harder to sell poetry to people, and there are fewer venues in which to do it.)

Selling Stories

It’s very exciting to sell your first short story. Particularly when you were sure you were never going to get published anywhere and this writing thing was all just a hopeless endeavor that no one was ever going to read. Honestly, submitting it at all was a huge nerve-wracking thing. But I submitted it, and then they purchased it.

I’m writer! I have published a story! And there was much squeeing! (Well, at the moment “will have published”– the contract’s signed and all that, but the anthology has not actually come out yet.) It’s like I’m a Real Writer or something.

How did that happen?

The Romance of Mental Illness

We, as a society, romanticize mental illness to a truly ridiculous degree. We focus on the “mad artist” stereotype– or the “mad genius”. That in and of itself is evidence of something else at work, because when you just look at the creative fields as a whole, you do run across a few more crazy people than in other fields, but the plethora of people who succeed creatively without being crazy suggests it’s not a requirement. If you actually look at the people who are currently top writers, many have had hardships of one sort or another, or drug addictions, but they’re not mentally ill, and the ones like Stephen King who’ve had drug addictions have said that it’s not a way of blotting out their oversensitivity the way we assume. (I defy anyone to read “On Writing” and still call King “sensitive”.)

If you look at the mad genius stereotype by looking at the top people across several fields, you get even fewer crazy people. There are some outliers who are difficult to work with (Steve Jobs, anyone?), but it’s realistically caused those people difficulty in their fields to be that way, and usually they’re still in some form of creative field, or a field like computers where you can again get by while being a little bit separate from the norm. This also offers an explanation for why there are a few more people with mental illness in the creative fields than in others. You can succeed in the arts while being a bit out there. Not to a truly extreme degree, even in the arts, but the people who are still halfway functional can succeed in the arts where they’re not functional enough to succeed in a 9-5 job. It’s entirely possible that there are some people who would be brilliant at corporate takeovers or setting up a plastics factory, but they’re never managed to raise themselves high enough in those fields because we don’t fetishize craziness in those fields. You’re expected to be normal if you work there.

There are several problems with looking at things this way. The most obvious is that this particular stereotype tends to be kind of a prettified version of things. People looking at this see the incredible works of art produced this way– and I don’t deny that there are some incredible works of art produced by troubled or mentally ill people– but they don’t see the burdens that one lives with when one has a mental illness. Being an artist doesn’t get you a pass when you’re in the grocery store trying to deal with how utterly overwhelmed you are by the lights and the people, or when you want to slice your skin open, or any of a host of other ways the problems interact with daily life. And art is already a difficult way to make a living; it’s even harder when you can’t cope with normal life and thus have even less safety net than people who could theoretically survive in an office job.

Would I trade mine? No, not if it meant losing the way I see the world. But mine is mild enough that despite being largely untreated (I eventually got diagnosed, and I’ve had straight-up therapy, but never any form of specialized treatment), I’m in graduate school now. Getting through school, or even just daily life, is a monumental effort for me, and even my relatively mild form causes me problems in the workplace. If it were worse than it is right now? If I were even less in touch with the plane everyone else lives on? I might change that answer.

On Fandom Wars

I have been reading Camille Bacon-Smith’s Science Fiction Culture, which is a little old at this point (it was published in 2000), but a lot of the norms still hold true, so you can expect some discussion of it for a while.

Today I’m looking at fandom wars. She describes fandom wars as being something that arises when the fandom isn’t large enough to support entirely separate subsets for every schism in the fandom. If the sides of a schism can go off and have their own communities, they will do so, but the ones that can’t have the most intense fandom wars, because the survival of the fandom as a community means that they have to stay in close proximity to each other, and therefore they keep arguing.

There’s a thing that puzzles me about this idea, though, and that’s Harry Potter. Admittedly this book was published before Pottermania hit its peak, but the concepts of fandom should still be the same. However, the Harry Potter shipping wars were extraordinarily intense fandom conflicts which didn’t simply separate into new schisms, but kept arguing with each other and having flamewars, often very violently. At the peak of online fan participation, there were enough people actively participating in every major ship that they could have *easily* ignored all ones that didn’t fit with their preferred ships and still had a good-sized subcommunity. And while you will find fanfiction archives dedicated to particular pairings, the wars that large portions of the fandom kept having are legendary.

So what happened with the Harry Potter fandom to make it different from the patterns in the rest of sci-fi and fantasy fandom? Possibly it was the fact that many Harry Potter fans hadn’t previously been a part of the greater orchestration of Fandom. Harry Potter had a much broader appeal, and so there were suddenly many more people coming in at once than the existing fandom could enculturate through the usual ways of integrating new people. It also had broader appeal– there are people who read Harry Potter and partake of the online communities who get involved in no other aspect of Fandom, something that’s very unusual and suggests that something like Harry Potter which has broader appeal also takes in people who are fundamentally different kinds of people from the usual assortment of people who join Fandom.

That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing, by the way; it’s just a thing. I’m making an observation. I don’t understand what would drive someone to partake in a flamewar at all, but then there’s a reason I’m posting on a blog under a pseudonym rather than in a community somewhere.