Posts from the ‘Books and Stories’ Category

Art and Bias

One of the major recent conflicts in artistic spaces has been this sense that liberals are taking over. It’s much of the motivation behind the attacks on Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, and Zoe Quinn. It’s also the main motivation behind the Sad Puppy slate that very nearly swept the Hugo nominations. I want to talk about the general idea BEHIND these conflicts (that of “the liberals are taking over and conservatives are getting unfairly ragged on”), as I feel like the specifics have been well covered by a lot of people much smarter and better informed than I am.

I’m a huge fan of entertainment media. Books. TV shows. Movies. Web series. Video games. I’m all for consumable art that both entertains and makes me think. It’s a thing that I like a lot. I spend most of my free time reading or watching TV shows while crafting. I find it mind- and world-expanding. I also accept that any art I consume is inherently biased. Entertainment does not exist in a vacuum and there is no way to strip the biases of the creators away from a piece of art, nor my biases from my experience while consuming. Bias is part and parcel of the entertainment package.

As a base line: I’m a liberal who was raised in a conservative household (and I actively maintain good relationships with my conservative family and friends). I am NB trans and pansexual. I am white and middle class and Christian, specifically Mormon. So, I have a few things going for me culturally and socially, and a few things not so much.

I grew up consuming mostly conservative art: movies that reflected strict gender roles, TV shows that idealistically claimed intelligence/hard work were all that mattered, books that portrayed heterosexual romances, media with almost no sex/swearing. The only exception was books I got from the library. My parents attempted to control that, too, but I was such a prolific reader that they couldn’t keep up and they were loathe to prevent me access to the library. I am lucky that, when faced with the choice of denying me access to books since they couldn’t supervise my reading or giving me some reign while trying to encourage me  to choose what they perceived to be “appropriate” reading material, my parents chose the latter. Some parents wouldn’t. They knew I read books they didn’t like and expressed disappointment when they felt it was appropriate, but mostly they let me read what I would read. Only occasionally, when they could directly connect mental distress/a bad behavior to a book, would they intervene. Sometimes that intervention was to take the book away, sometimes it was to put limits on when I could read the book (during the day, under supervision), and sometimes it was to read the book with me. It was always done with some discussion between us. This is, to this day, one of the best things my parents could have done for me. I was an active participant in my own entertainment choices, but I was also watched over and cared for. It was responsible parenting at its finest.

And, of course, this meant that I read a lot of books they didn’t like or that expressed ideas they found repugnant. Some of these ideas I ALSO found repugnant. Some of them, quite frankly, were saving graces amidst the wash of conservative entertainment that I found at home, at school, and – often – in the library. I was taught a different perspective that spent years maturing. That perspective eventually lead to semi-liberal political leanings and extremely liberal social leanings.

These days, several years into my (now not-so-semi) liberal politics and social leanings, I am seeing a lot of my conservative friends, families, and artists I respect say that there’s a liberal-positive/anti-conservative bias in [name art here]. For some, it’s TV shows and movies. For some, it’s the news. Others may see it in video games. Yet others, it’s infected their book world.

Art has always been a place of progression and experimentation and examining social issues. You can do that from a liberal lens and a conservative lens, but that is the whole point of the convention that is art. So, in the case of those who are complaining about ANY art being too much in that line, I fully and completely believe that they are mourning a social construct (“Art that is, simply, Art”) that never existed. Rather, I believe they are mourning a time period in their individual lives in which they were too inexperienced (due to youth, a sheltered life, a lack of education) to see what was already there. I have always loved art for these reasons of experimentation and social comment. It was there to be seen by child!me and has only become more apparent as teen!me and college!me and adult!me have gained more experiences and education.

Often, things under the microscope in that realm of experimentation and examination are long-established structures: governments, religion, the class system, the social heirarchies of race and gender, sexual dynamics, colonialism. Many of these things are examined for flaws. Often, the determination is that power systems that have long gone unexamined have a MYRIAD of flaws that need to be addressed, perhaps even dismantled. Often, the result of trying to dismantle the errors of long-held traditions is painful.

So this brings me to the perceived liberal-positive/anti-conservative bias: Yeah. It’s there. I think it’s great that people are examining things that seemed to be given not too long ago and are asking, “Must it needs be this way?” and, when they realized it mustn’t, dismantle and discard. A LOT of things that have been long-held and unexamined are actually REALLY screwed up or have distinct areas of screwed-uppage. I also think it’s great that there are areas people find worth conserving. An example: Personally, I think religion is one thing that SHOULD fall under both categories (in the sense of “faith, if you have it, is an excellent thing to keep, however the power structures built into organized religion need to be examined”), but is often tossed out in the “dismantle and discard” pile. I don’t like that. I don’t like that there will be many people who will look at my religious bent and/or my particular religion and discount my words. (“Political” could be inserted for “religious” in that sentence as well.) However, all I can do about that is to make sure that that is not what am doing. I try to give a multitude of opinions a change to impress me and react accordingly.

However, this leads to why I claim a liberal-positive bias: experience shows I can trust liberal creators more. I rarely know the politics/social inclinations of an artist before I consume the art. But, in my experience, I have rarely been surprised at the political/social inclinations of an artist when I discover them AFTER the fact. And, I am generally more pleased by the work of those creators with a liberal leaning to their social and political views. Why? Because there is room for me there. You see, as a non-binary, pansexual individual who is culturally perceived as female, I rarely find characters like me or stories like mine in art. I rarely find art that reflects the racially diverse world I live in. I rarely find dynamic, fully characterized women like the women I know. When I do find it, it is most often (though not always) in the art created by liberal people. I know, for a fact, that I am not alone in this experience. This is where the wider bias comes in: many people have felt unwelcome or marginalized, many creators have seen the loneliness and gate-keeping in their friends and fans, many have made art that is more expansive and inclusive in response (whether due to experience or witnessing the experiences of others). For all those who have spent so much time looking desperately for those inclusive spaces, this is something worth buzzing about. Loudly. In many ways, that loud buzzing has built into a prevailing wind. I can’t claim to be disappointed for myself, though I understand why the members of previous prevailing winds would be.

Be that as it may, when it comes to my continued consumption of entertainment, my philosophy is simple. I have no desire to limit my imagination to a world that is less than my own: less diverse, less complex, less welcoming. I get enough unwelcoming, simplistic interactions every day. Everyone I meet assumes I am female – including people with a liberal bias. In the main, it’s people with liberal leanings that try to correct the assumption in their own head. Everyone assumes I’m straight. In the main, it’s people with liberal leanings who apologize and move on when I tell them otherwise. A great deal of people assume that I am less capable/less interested in X because I present as female. Generally, it is people with liberal social bent that encourage me to break through those assumptions, rather than remind me of the difficulties that come from challenging those assumptions. There are people with conservative bias who have made great efforts to call me by my preferred pronouns, who have responded with kindness and compassion to my sexuality, and who have not taken the time to inform me how hard my life will be if I choose to run up against the barriers of assumption every day, but rather offered a shoulder to cry on when those barriers bruise me. But, again, in my experience, it has been the socially and politically liberal individuals who have done these things quicker, with less hesitation, and with fewer missteps. This is how my bias developed. It is also how it will continue to be guided. There may well be a day when the pendulum shifts.

For now, I tend to trust liberal creators more. I tend to put them on a higher priority on my list of art to consume. I tend to forgive their missteps more readily if they have a body of work that proves to me they continue to try to improve in the areas I feel they’ve failed. I tend to listen to their opinions on recommended works, until they consistently recommend outside my preferences. I tend give more weight to their opinions because they consistently give me reason to. Until they don’t – and then the trust and respect for their opinion is retracted. I give this same trust and respect to conservative creators who have been as consistent. Some have been around me since I was a child. Some are recent discoveries. But there are less of them.

And until there is room for me in their stories, in their created worlds, there always will be.*

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*To be clear: this is not me asking or demanding that any creator make room for me in their work. It’s saying that their work will be less appealing to me until that day comes that I am welcome there. And you can’t just say I’m welcome. You have to act like it. Forgive me if I don’t accept an invitation to watch a show or read a book or see a movie that I KNOW has sexism and racism in it. Your words may say, “Come in!” but your actions say – very clearly – “There is no room for you here.”

BLOOD KISS: Why *this* movie?

Never heard of BLOOD KISS?  Go here.  Don’t come back until you’re done.  I’ll wait.

Here’s a quote from the project’s Kickstarter page, for those of you who have no wish to click a link:

“Joe Belicek doesn’t believe in vampires – good thing they believe in him.” (Yeah, that’s about as much plot that’s written out.  Great tagline, huh?  If you want to learn more, you should probably click the link.)

Okay, now you’re back.  First and foremost: please, back the project.  Obviously, I’m partial to it or I wouldn’t have backed it myself.  But, ultimately, this is for awareness of a project that I think deserves notice.  For those of you uninterested in backing the project, I understand.  It’s not for everyone. But maybe, just maybe, you can do this pipe dream, one shared by so many, a favor by sharing it (via this blog or via the Kickstarter) with someone you know who WOULD back it.  The project itself is worth the backing, even if it doesn’t tickle your particular fancy.

Gorgeous poster art by Christopher D. Salmon (Image courtesy of BLOOD KISS Production Staff)

Gorgeous poster art by Christopher D. Salmon
(Image courtesy of BLOOD KISS Production Staff)

And now that you have brief (or not so brief) explanation of Michael Reaves’ latest project as well as my plea for support (whichever way you choose to give it), I can continue.  Forgive me for doing this to you, but I’m going to take you back to my high school days.  Hang on with me, it’s worth the trip.

Senior year, I was supposed to be on the Advanced Placement track in English.   And if not AP, Honors.

My reaction: Nope, not for me, sorry.

It wasn’t the work load or the teachers or scheduling conflicts or because I was a horrific slacker (although, I did have a healthy case of Senioritis) or any of the normal reasons an Honors student opts out of the program.  Nope.  It was because of the course material.

You see, the only Honors course was called “College Writing.”  It was less about reading, and far more about perfecting the college application essay.  I was uninterested in spending a whole year on perfecting the art of writing narcissistic celebrations of my talents and habits carefully crafted to look humble and self-effacing (I may have some objections to the whole college applications process).

The Advanced Placement course was good.  Stellar even.  But Advanced Placement was about a test.  All the readings and writings were focused on getting the magic five on the exam.  The course is as much about breadth as it is about depth, but it’s hard to go deep when your scope is so broad.

And then, there was British Literature.  It was the class that Seniors who didn’t want to do Honors or AP took.  It was the class for the kids who suffered through English courses, or the kids who felt a fondness, but not a passion.  It was not for the kid who loved and lived the book life.

And yet, there I was.  Opting into British Literature because I knew that I could expect certain texts I was desperate to read on the syllabus—that those stories and books wouldn’t be in College Writing at all and would be skimmed over in Advanced Placement.

One of the books in this course was Dracula by Bram Stoker.  It was up to the class to choose what Victorian Era novel we were going to read (the other option was Shelley’s Frankenstein), and I was thrilled beyond belief when my classmates voted in favor of Dracula.  I had been hoping to read it all year long.

You see, vampires fascinate me.

This was before Twilight was published, so it wasn’t a product of that craze.  It was just the romance of vampires that was this beautiful conundrum in my head.  I wanted to explore it.

Vampires are dead.  Furthermore, they feed off the death and/or illness of others.  And yet, they take that death and turn it into life!  It’s the ultimate human fantasy: to use the inevitability of death—that curse that afflicts everyone to ever walk the earth—and with it make an engine that engenders life.  This is what I mean by the romance of vampires.  Here are creatures that capture the essence of what it means to be human—a desire for life so strong it might transcend the tyrant of death itself.

Isn’t that beautiful?  And strange?  And baffling?

Well, I certainly thought it was.  So I read Dracula.  I read Twilight when it came out (and it takes the romance a bit too far, in my opinion).  I read some other materials.  I looked at movie after movie and watched one or two, but I just couldn’t make myself want to watch the vampire movies that were out there.  In college, my roommates introduced me to Buffy the Vampire Slayer!  I was entranced, but still ultimately displeased.  I came to the conclusion that I love vampires, but I really don’t like Hollywood vampires.  They may be romantic creatures in some ways, but they were one dimensional.  Transparently simple.  Not all that beautiful.  Disappointing.

So, fast-forwarding many years to the present day, when Neil Gaiman tweeted about a project he was going to act in (insert appropriate fangirling here) and I saw it was about vampires . . . let’s just say I was skeptical.

Really skeptical.  Maybe even a bit derisive.

But, Neil Gaiman is a powerful magnetic force for creativity, so I started doing research.  I looked up Michael Reaves’ past works and realized he wrote for many, if not most, of the iconic shows of my generation’s collective childhood. 

That's Neil Gaiman and Amber Benson as drawn so beautifully by Tom Mandrake. (Image courtesy of BLOOD KISS Production Staff)

That’s Neil Gaiman and Amber Benson as drawn so beautifully by Tom Mandrake.
(Image courtesy of BLOOD KISS Production Staff)

The man is absurdly prolific.  And even if these shows weren’t the ones I faithfully watched (forgive me), they were shows that still informed me.  I have distinct memories connected to Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles scattered across my conscious.  I read the description on Kickstarter and learned Amber Benson was going to be in BLOOD KISS.  My Buffy days came back and smacked me across my fangirly face.  My interest increased.  And then, further down in the description, I stumbled across something.

The vampires were going to be genetically formed via virus vampires?  Oooh!  That was new.  That was interesting.  That was . . . okay, time to back the project.  The first movie project I’ve ever backed.

Only after I pledged my money did I watch the video explaining the project.  It got me even more excited.  The presented aesthetic, combined with the distinction of the genetic vampires, combined with these super stars that I loved and adored was more than I could ask for.  I was FINALLY excited about a movie about vampires.  There were elements I had never seen in the vampire mythology and a writer I could trust implicitly.

Even more so, the romance, the conundrum, the desperation for life—things I had missed (or felt missed the mark) in modern interpretations—they’re all there.   In a three and a half minute short.  I’m partial to these aspects of vampires, and I’ll admit that personal preference colors my perception, but the actors, the writer, the graphic novel artist all come to this project with those things.  There’s a romance with the characters.  A conundrum in how this will get pulled off.  A desperation to bring great art to life.  All inspired by a man with a script.  I don’t doubt that these things are in the script he carries.  I support this because I see a reflection of what made me first fall in love with these creatures.  I see these vampires as dearly familiar, even though they are new and exciting, too.

It was the same instinct that told me to take BritLit when I would have had a stronger résumé if I had taken Honors or AP, as the instinct that told me to back this project.  Passion for a subject trumps merit.  The passionate can bring merit to a project, but merit cannot bring passion.  I guarantee you, I learned more in that year than if I had taken the harder, more rigorous classes.  I guarantee you, this will make a better movie with a tinier budget than any feature film with more studio-perceived merit (which equals funding) could.  It all comes down to a product that people can believe in.

Backing BLOOD KISS means I had the opportunity to contribute to the realization of this story, to believe in it.  Right now, that story lives inside the minds of so few.  From what little I know of it, this is a story that deserves to be let out, to capture more minds and more hearts.  My little donation, paltry really, was my way of helping free the story to be loved by one and all.  That, more than some new and interesting vampires, is a concept I can get behind: that stories are meant to be free and to be told and to be loved.  And that this story deserves its chance in the spotlight, its chance to steal our hearts—and maybe a bit of the blood pumping through them . . . always with a kiss.

This blog willingly written at the request of the BLOOD KISS team.  Thank you to a team that has decided to so fully put itself in the hands of their audience and allows us to show our love and devotion as we see fit.  And thank you to a team that has me excited about vampires again.  Please, if it’s something you think you’ll enjoy, back this very worthy project.

Digital Divide

Digital Divide

I do not usually shill for people.  I think it’s pretty skeezy.  But when you get passionate about something, you do something.

So here’s my two cents about Digital Divide, the companion novel to A Girl and Her Fedmy absolute favorite web-comic:

It’s amazing.  It’s funny.  It’s about political intrigue and cyborgs and how we see technology in an increasingly connected and disconnected society and has one (okay, a lot, but I am in love with Agent Netz) of the most amazing and wonderful characters I’ve come across in recent publications.  It’s well worth the $5 price tag.  I can only buy so many copies, however.  Now it’s time to encourage you to spend a small amount for some huge fun.  And no, you don’t need to be familiar with the web-comic to understand the novel.

Also, it’s a tiny way to help turn publishing on its ear.  DO IT!  This is DEFINITELY one worth doing it for.

Elevator + Book (Or, the perfect equation.)

About three years ago, I had the opportunity to present at the Sigma Tau Delta Annual Conference. Sigma Tau Delta is the international honors fraternity for English Majors. The 2010 conference just so happened to fall over Spring Break AND be in St. Louis (a mere three hours away), making it almost a crime to pass up the opportunity. I submitted my work, I was scheduled to present, and suddenly the other presenter from my school and I were on our way.  I don’t think the conference would have been half so fun without her.

However, my most distinct memory of that week was a night I spent alone, in an elevator. My fellow presenter was on the phone and I felt my friend deserved privacy. So I grabbed the book I was reading and headed to the nearest elevator, fully intending to go to the lounge area and read for a bit. As it happens, the elevator was empty. Now, I LOVE the feel of elevators.  The contrast between the mechanics being clearly translated through the chassis to the feet of the passenger and the floating feeling from acceleration and deceleration is fantastic. I also am a nester, especially when I read. I like my reading experience to be cozy, warm, and small. So, when no one joined me between my sixteenth floor start and ground floor finish (skipping, of course, the unlucky 13th floor), I merely let the doors close, curled up in the corner of the elevator, and enjoyed the ride. I reveled in the mechanical purr I felt into my bones and the lift my stomach experienced as the elevator slowed down to let on the first passenger I would encounter that night.

Over the course of the next hour, I rode up and down and up and down, in between floors and friendships. Some passengers responded to my greeting, then turned back toward the doors of the elevator, calmly ignoring me as I ignored them. Others clearly noted me as an attendee of the conference and asked which school I was from, or if I was presenting, or which workshops sounded interesting to me. Some people, looking for a friend’s room, talked to me two or three times that night as they investigated different floors, hoping to find the right room. Other people, who had no idea what a college student in her Dr. Seuss pajama pants was doing in a Hilton Hotel elevator, fumbled through a thirty-second conversation by asking me what I was reading. It was an Anne McCaffrey book. Some people knew her, others didn’t. I made a whole host of friends that night over a love of books and a love of elevator rides. I happily engaged in conversation and I read–maybe–three pages of my book.

If I learned anything from that night, it’s that the strange or unexpected doesn’t have to be revolting, it’s can be a relief to see it reflected in others.* Reading in an elevator was an unintentional, but beautiful, confirmation of this fact. By staking that small corner of the elevator as my reading spot for an hour in my xkcd sweatshirt and my One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish pajama pants, I claimed the right to just be me. As it turned out, a lot of people decided to join me. There was the frat boy who asked about my book, then stayed on an extra floor to talk about the missing 13th floor in his dorm, since it used to be a hotel. A supervisor who just needed a little space from his passel of kids and I reveled in the quiet of the elevator. A fellow conference attendee, who first noticed my book, saw my sweatshirt, which lead to a  great discussion about science and math at a convention full of English majors.  All I did was love books and elevators. Somehow, that turned into a night full of people and stories, a night I still treasure.

It’s three years later. I’ve been a graduate for nearly all that time. I’ve had fun collecting stories in other ways, but for some reason, perhaps no other reason than the fact that I’m wearing the same sweatshirt as I did that night, today I want to find an elevator. I want to grab a book. And more than anything, I want to ride up and down in between floors and friendships, inviting people to share what they will: stories, book recommendations, silence, or nothing. All are welcome.

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*Also: reading a book in a public space will always be an invitation to talk. Not that minded, but I find it funny that I never have people start conversations with me the way they do when I’m reading.

Calling all faerie tale fans:

Calling all faerie tale fans:.

For all my followers here that don’t follow my writing blog, I have a project I want to do, but need your help choosing the source material!

Thanks!

Arts major? Quit now.

Sorry, I’m not here to be cheery.  I’m here to give a reality check.

I don’t think I’ve ever explored the whys and wherefores of my decision to be an English major on this blog.  Don’t get me wrong, a lot of my reasons are evidenced in the individual posts, but I believe in being explicit.  So here goes:

First things first, before I even go into an enumerated list, let’s do an honesty binge.  The job market for English majors is, frankly, piss poor.  And not in the, “It’s hard to be a professional author, but I’ll make it someday,” way, but in the, “The skill set I developed in college has little to no effect on the reality of day to day living,” way.  This is why going on to a Masters and/or PHd is VITAL if you want any sort of semi-decent job.  Which, of course, still won’t pay for all those loans you took out to get the advanced degrees to get you the semi-decent job.  Also, that semi-decent job you slaved over degree after degree to get will most likely be thankless.  Being a teacher, a librarian, an editor, or a technical writer (to name a few of the more common paths of the English major) are jobs that you do because you love it and NO OTHER reason.  Editors are seen as the villains of the literary world (as you learn in your English major), teachers are used and abused with frequency, librarians are pushed to get more customers with less than adequate funding, and a technical writer is the poor sap that writes all those manuals that no one bothers to read.

Of course, the common outcry from this insular community (because every year the English major becomes more and more isolated from reality and entrenched in that illusory world of academia) is, “We don’t do it for the job, we do it because we love it!”  If that’s the only reason you’re pursuing an English degree, quit now.  I’m not saying love of literature, writing, or words is a bad reason.  It’s a bad SOLITARY reason.  Love sours when reality sets in.  It’s why so many marriages fall apart and it’s why so many English majors regret their decision.  If you’re one of those who pursue the English degree because it’s easy . . .  bwah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah.  Your life will be all the more miserable and HARD because you chose the  “easy route” in college.  Also, if you think satisfying the pedants that crawl out of the woodwork in every English department (for any of my former professors who may be reading this: you know who you are) will be easy, I wish I could be there for your first true reality check.  It’s going to be beautiful.

Now, why do I say this?  Because I chose the wrong reasons to go into an English degree, and I know it.  So, here’s the why, here are my regrets, and here are the reasons I’m glad I did it for the wrong reasons:

The Reasons Why I was an English Major:

  1. I loved it.  This being the main reason I did the English degree is how I know it’s a bad solitary, even primary, reason.  By the end of school, I hated it.  By the time I got my working life in order, I loathed it.  I couldn’t sneeze at Hamlet  for almost 18 months (Mark, you know what you did).
  2. I didn’t think I was capable of better. I sold myself short, thinking that just because my aptitude for the maths and sciences was lesser than my aptitude for language, I could do no better (not saying that maths and sciences are inherently better than arts, just that they would have been better for me).  I would have been much happier in a major I didn’t love and had to work hard at, because I would have felt like I accomplished so much more.  I should have switched my major to Chemistry my freshman year, and I know it.  And again, my junior year, I should have switched my major (and colleges) to Classics, since I declined to switch to Chemistry earlier on.  I now love these subjects both with a passion so much greater than English because I have to WORK at them.  I hate them with a greater passion, too, because I have to WORK at them.  But English was my first love (notice, not passion) and I was afraid of failure (and a lower GPA) in a different major.  I didn’t think I could do better and that stopped me from getting the major(s) I wanted.
  3. I value the arts and hate to see them devalued as they are.  What can I say to this one?  It’s a terrible reason to get an arts major of any kind.  I can value the arts in my home and personal life, I can even advocate for it in public, without screwing up my job prospects later on.  That’s why I declined to get a Theatre degree, why couldn’t I have been sensible and apply that same logic to an English degree?   Also, much as I value the arts, I value science as well.  In fact, what I so dislike is that the two are getting further and further apart on the educational spectrum.  Logic needs intuition, intuition demands logic.  Why do we insist on separating the two as if they aren’t compatible?

The Reasons I Regret It:

  1. My love for English has, indeed, soured.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bibliophile to the bone.  But I am not that into English academia, which is one of the few options of the Enligh major.  I also can’t imagine teaching children to love something that brought me so much misery in college.  Also, I realized how truly  inadequate English is as a communicative tool and I wish I could have not had that realization.  It kind of sucks that I spent my academic career studying something I have recognized to be effectively useless in not just financial but interpersonal areas as well.
  2. My choices are limited. Specifically when it comes to employment.  Thankfully, I have one of the coolest jobs in the world that didn’t require a degree of a specific kind.  But I am lucky in that sense.  In the other sense, should I ever want to pursue a career in any of the English related fields, I’m going to have to go to a lot more schooling to accomplish that.  Since I don’t particularly want to pursue English, I’m going to have to start pretty close to the beginning when I go back to school for museum studies.  But this limit of choices is also social–the English major is not looked on with great respect or dignity ever (MRS degree doesn’t always mean English major, but I know there are plenty of people who equate those two (I’ve met a few). Yeah, I totally didn’t start looking to date seriously until I graduated, pricks.).  Sometimes, I’m seen as stupid or lazy for my choice.  Sure, I didn’t love my English degree, but I made sure to take advantage of my education while I was there.  I may have made a bad choice, but I made the best of my bad choice and it’s annoying to have it belittled.  English is not a soft option, and I hope that I’m slowly changing that opinion by being an intelligent human being–in part due to my degree.
  3. I cannot enjoy books or blogs or conversations anymore! Oh, the complexes that come with being an English major.  We’re indoctrinated with the importance of grammar, spelling, and symbols/deeper meaning.  And it kills me.  Do I believe in the beauty and meaning of symbols in literature?  Yes!  But I did before my major and now I can’t read a book without dissecting it.  AUGH.  I also took a very long time to realize myself as a writer again.  I was so busy being a Writer of English and a Speaker of English that my casual communications, my creative endeavors, and every day conversations were stilted and horrible.  I’m doing better now, but I can’t really make any claims that this will continue to abate with time.  I leveled out awhile ago.  I am so screwed.

The Reasons I’m Glad, In Spite of Myself:

  1. I learned a lot about myself.  I love words.  I love books.  I love reading.  I love language.  I hate English.  I hate technical writing.  I hate pedantic academia.  I swear, if I have to get into one more connotative verses denotative debate I will punch someone in the face (preferably you, Groobs).  I am smarter than I give myself credit for, but not nearly as intelligent as I wish to be.  I don’t do well without intellectual stimulation, but I don’t really need a partner who is well-versed in literature.  I cannot handle “true literature” in large or medium doses.  I think Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare were hack jobs, but they’re still entertaining as ever (though I’ll admit to having a preference for the Bard ANY DAY).  I am spiritually uplifted by studying mythology.  Mostly, I learned that a lot of the ephemera that I identified myself by was just that.  I learned who I was when all that was stripped away by the misery of my major.  That self-knowledge would have been several years more in the making if I had done something else.
  2. I learned what I cannot be without. I learned, in the course of hating my major with a passion, that the BEST reason to do any major–but most especially an arts one–is because you cannot live without it.  This is why I made sure to take some college level Chemistry, pursued a minor in Classics (which I am far more proud of than my major), affiliated myself with the rodeo team, and accepted a membership in the theatre honors fraternity.  These were the things I discovered I cannot live without.  Science, logic, mythology, history, rodeo, and creativity are what I need.  The rest–including books, to a point–is really nice but not at all necessary.
  3. Sometimes, it comes in handy.  This mostly happens in random trivia games, but since that’s what my family mostly plays, it comes in handy at home.  Also, when I’m watching a movie with my roommate, and the hero boards a bus that has the destination as “Elysian Fields,” I get to tell her why that was AWESOME.  I get to have conversations discussing lexicons and grammar and language origins and I don’t get lost.  I have a better understanding of my religion thanks to all the religious symbolism in literature.  Related, I’m actually conversant in a lot of subjects that I wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t needed to do research to appropriately understand my readings.  Now, I’m by no means an expert, but I can follow most conversations, if not contribute.  Also, I occasionally edit a paper or two and make some money, though that is no where near as satisfying as the other stuff.
  4. I did get to spend four (ish) years immersed in an art.  Okay, I kind of took the coolest classes ever in my major (excepting my Classics classes–they rocked my world and were way cooler).  And I learned what true dedication to an art is.  I respect the heck out of those who can manage that level of passion and truth in their life.  But I learned I needed to quit now, as I didn’t have that passion.

So do I really think arts majors should quit now?  Not really.  I do believe that many of us do it for the wrong reasons.   I do encourage you to evaluate.  Ask yourself those all important questions like: Am I souring to my love?  Can I not live without it?  Is there something I can feel better about personally and professionally (because one does affect the other, never imagine that to be less than the truth)? Is there something I am passionate about?  Am I turning into the kind of person I hate because I’m studying this?

I quit now because there are better, healthier things for me in this world.  I quit now because I refuse to be miserable.  I quit now because I know that I’m doing a disservice to the passionate.  I quit now to better foster MY passions.

Arts majors who are doing what they do because they cannot live without it, I tip my hat to you.  You are the people who will make those piss poor job opportunities into something amazing.  You are the people who will inspire others to be creative.  You are the people who will bring arts back into our culture.  I am not that person.  I am grateful you are.

Sometimes I wonder where our money goes . . . and then I remember it’s best not to wonder.

The scientific community often astounds me.  This study is only an example of what ridiculousness they can get up to.

Seriously, Twilight is representative of the fantasy genre?

And people have to like Twilight to like fantasy?

Oi.  We have work to do.

For those of you who choose not to read the article, here is a short quote that sums the experiment and results:

So Webster designed some experiments to look at how people experienced fantasy, which he defined as a type of narrative — such as a book, film, piece of art — that included supernatural, unreal or impossible aspects. He distinguished fantasy from science fiction because, he says, science fiction tends to come with a logical explanation for the worlds it creates…

…[T]here was a clear difference between people who were prone to fantasizing and daydreaming and those who were not. People who were comfortable with fantasy tended to be more absorbed by what they read and saw. They also tended to have an emotional reaction. Many said they felt good after reading the narratives or looking at the paintings.

I realize that what I said above about Twilight is not what the study said.  It’s what the article intimated (and it’s still wrong).  But still, even the study was pretty . . . limited in its approach.  I love that reasonable=never will enjoy fantasy.  That in order to enjoy fantasy, it’s emotional.  One of the main points in this article was that subjects who enjoyed fantasy were willing to suspend disbelief and were comfortable with created worlds.

As a life-long fantasy and science fiction lover, let me clue you in:

I am SO not comfortable with created worlds.  That’s not why I love fantasy or science fiction.  Suspending disbelief is NOT my specialty.  I kibbutz.  A lot.  When I read, when I watch movies, when I go to plays.  I’ve perfected the under-the-breath mumble so that I am still invited to public outings.  I demand logic in my created worlds and EVEN THEN I have a hard time with it.

I love fantasy and science fiction for their human logic.  Put humans in a foreign situation and they react in totally predictable and beautiful ways.  I love seeing those puzzle pieces of human nature fall together and characters discover what it means to be human–or not so human, as the case may be.  Yes, my reaction is partially emotional, but it’s also very logical.  When a character reacts outside those bounds, I don’t like the story.  It doesn’t sit right with me.  This is how I approach fantasy and science fiction.

Then there’s my mother.  I love her so much, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand her.  She’s one of the most emotional people I know.  She makes no sense to me.  Words that have firm and concrete definitions, she decides have totally different meanings.  She uses emotional descriptors all the time, she plays games and strategizes in this totally heated and focused way that I cannot learn to save my life.  Then again, she was a Biology major in college and therefore obviously works on some logical level, though I have never been able to access it.  I don’t understand her and I don’t suppose I ever will, though I love her more than anything.  She hates science fiction AND fantasy.  Doesn’t matter how logical or emotional the piece is, she can’t stand the stuff.  She likes stories about real life, mostly emotional stories.  She kind of defies every conclusion that study came to.

And now we come to my father.  I love him to bits, and I’m pretty sure I understand him better than my mom.  Mostly because he’s more one thing than the other: he’s pretty logical.  If he were the other side of the spectrum, I’d understand that, too.  It’s the mix that gets me (which is rich, since that’s what I am–Mom and I are too similar).  But anyway, Dad’s all logic and what makes things work and what’s the math and the procedures and the pieces and parts and programming.  He is a huge science fiction and fantasy fan.  He’s who got me hooked when I was a kid.  He’s the one that I went to when I was having trouble believing a world–HOW did it WORK that way when it was so . . . improbable?!–and we’d talk about the procedures and the pieces and parts and programming.  We do that with this world.  He’s the one who taught me how to make connections and see behind the words.  He and I rarely talk about the emotions of a piece.  It’s all about the functions.

I think this scientist was a) WAY too limited in his scope and attitudes and b) downright foolhardy to try and figure out what one thing made people tick on fantasy.  It’s different for all of us.  It’s supposed to be!  Why would we want to define it?  It takes the community aspect out of reading.  All of a sudden, we’re all the same person reading for the same reason.  I happen to really like it when a book touches me differently than it touches my sister (who I tend to discuss the human logics with than the how things work logics) or my mother (though we rarely read the same stuff) or my father (who definitely is the one who taught me how to find the best books).

I like being part of that community–small family and random readers you meet in libraries and bookstores.  By all means, let the scientific community join in, but don’t you dare try to take that beautiful diversity away.