The Writing

15 May, 2011

wait, what?

So I'm puzzled about a few things. Well, really one thing in particular, but I'm being distracted.

Distraction Puzzling Thing is... how the hell can our grad-student neighbors, who live in a complex in which there are No Dogs Allowed(tm), expect that their Yorkshire terrier puppy will remain unnoticed when they a) walk him openly between the buildings and b) let him stand on their balcony and be a puppy--which is to say, bark at every damn thing that moves. Now, I think the no dogs rule is stupid, and I don't find a puppy's puppy-ness any more loud or invasive than the toddlers and preschoolers in the area, who also run about making noise for its own sake and chasing the rabbits and birds, but still. This seems like a fast way to get thrown out of the apartment.

Unless, of course, the rules have changed and dogs are allowed now, in which case... in which case Nous will have to put his husbandly foot down and forbid us from adding to the family. Not that it would be wise to add a puppy to a house with three cats, two of whom are elderly, one of whom is flat-out chemically imbalanced and still hisses at Other Elder Cat, with whom she has lived for 10 years now. But hey! Going to grad school wasn't a wise choice, either, and here we are!

But that's a little puzzlement, and since the puppy has stopped barking, I can think more clearly about the other, greater puzzlement, which is--that I was asked yesterday, in my writer's group, "where I get my imagination from."

It's not that I have not been asked that question before, but always, before, it's come from non-artist-types who seem baffled at this whole making-things-up/creating stuff business. I learned, as a child, that most people did not make up worlds in their heads, or draw pictures of dragons or unicorns or write stories about telepathic cats (I was TEN, people. Leave me alone) or weird aliens or even horses, because most people did not imagine things that were not there. Which, okay, fine. I felt sorry for those people, but my parents (neither of whom are artists) encouraged my creativity, so it was all good. Then I found the Rat in high school and realized there were other people out there who made up stories in their heads, too, and even better! Her stories looked a lot like mine. Space. Aliens. Energy weapons. Dragons. Goblins. Cyborgs.

Anyway, my standard answer, when I was a kid, was, "I don't know." Because I didn't. It was like breathing. I just imagined stuff. I liked the worlds in my own head better than the one I lived in (dogs and cats are great, but dragons!? COME ON. Way better.). There, I could be the hero, the main character, the one who Did Things, rather than the one who had things done to and around her by other people. I guess I could blame the patriarchy, and a lack of women characters, but that's too simple. I hated Nancy Drew. She was boring. No dragons. No normal animals, even. Ugh.

But I'd gotten out of the habit of answering that question, or even thinking about it. Where do I get my ideas. I still don't know. I just get them. (Well. Sometimes I know. Finnish mythology. Norse mythology. Roman history. Racism. Classism. Sexism. Science. A chance comment from a stranger on an autumn morning.)

I never expected to hear that out other writers. Sure, no one there writes SFF, and only one of them reads it much, but still! They imagine drug addicts and detectives and sad old men and Native American grandmothers. I imagine airless environments and hardsuits and soldiers and cyborgs. What's the difference? That their imaginings could happen, and mine won't?  The woman asking--a sweet woman, I know she didn't mean it like that, but she was so sincere in her inquiry. I tell you. I felt like a total freak. I mean--this was the reason I didn't go after an MFA back in the day. So-called genre writing isn't real.  I was reminded in that moment that I am the late-comer, the youngest, the weird one who wears black skull sweaters with safety pins in the sleeves and has 9 earrings and two tattooed half-sleeves. And I said the ancestors-honest truth, "I don't know. I guess I'm not too fond of this world that I live in. I like the ones in my head better."

Then the moment passed, and I got some great advice about the story that had something wrong with it, which I have proceeded to mend insofar as I am able. I take it as a good sign that nonreaders of SF got and liked the story (although one woman was continually thrown by the terms used; but they were science lingo and slang so I wasn't too bothered; I won't spell EM or HUD out) and believed the world. I wonder if part of my problem is that I am too literary-fiction for the genre crowd, and too genre for the lit-fic crowd, and too mainstream in my plots for the slipstream and avant-garde. Or maybe my problem is chronically underwriting my stories and leaving key bits out, and once those bits are back in, the damn thing will find a home.

I think, next meeting, I will bring part of the novel with the Marine who sees ghosts and and the war goddess who is also a lion.