Knowing something and knowing something can be two different things. Most of the time, we know a thing intellectually, like global warming is changing the face of our planet, or that our partner loves us. We accept those things as facts, but it isn’t until we have a sort of emotional awakening to go with that knowledge, that we fully comprehend it.
We see a picture of how a glacier is now 50 percent of what it was a decade ago, or we have a narrow escape and see our partner completely distraught because of it, and we suddenly have a more complete picture of the fact we merely accepted before.
I had one of those recently: I’m approaching elderly.
It’s not as though I wasn’t aware; of course I was. I can count the candles on my cake. I make jokes to the supermarket checkers about being able to remember when an avocado cost a lot less than a buck.
Lately, I’ve been annoyed by a spate of articles blaming everything that’s wrong with modern life on Baby Boomers (and no – realizing we did the exact same thing to our own parents and grandparents and they to theirs doesn’t make it any more palatable). I knew intellectually that I’m considered old by a good sized segment of the population. It’s irritating to have people discount you because you’ve lived longer than them, but it happens. Still, both the number of cake candles and casual ageism were just facts that I accepted as evidence that I’m older. Not the same as knowing it.
Lots of people mark their aging firsts – first grey hair, first noticeable web of wrinkles, first chronic ache or pain. But age can still sneak up on you; you might not really notice even when your social chatter has gone from who’s doing whom, then right past investments and baby sitters, to what the doctor said the last time you had an office visit. Because you never actually feel old. No one does until they can’t help it any more.
And eventually you can’t help it because some thing, a fact, conjoins with experience, causes an emotion, and all of a sudden you realize.
I’ve got some medical issues – most of them related to genetic predisposition (thanks, family), but nothing that can’t be regulated by some medication and a little more attention to self-care. Except for the tendinitis from decades of keyboarding lots and lots of words, I haven’t noticed much difference in my physical life. Then last month, my doctor took me off one medication and moved me to another because she was worried that the previous meds were interfering with my kidney function. Just an adjustment. A minor adjustment. And yet…
All of a sudden, I saw myself at the beginning of the end of the road. I didn’t have a panic attack about it, but I admit to being unsettled. This type of thing is the point where you start looking for mitigation – people in my family tend to live long lives without much frailty and I clutched that observation to me as though it was a life ring. But even as I tried to minimize the effects aging has had on me so far, I truly understood for the first time that, from now on, my life may become more and more circumscribed by a process over which I have limited control.
Someone once said that from the moment we are born, we move towards death. I could have as many as four decades left or as little as one day or even one hour. No one knows when their existence will end, and I’m fine with that.
What gets me is how I went from knowing this thing to knowing this thing.
I attended a block printing workshop a month or so ago and had prepared by drawing what I wanted to print, only to discover my drawing was slightly too large for the block provided. It would have taken a while and materials I didn’t have to reduce the size, so I opted to improvise by drawing something new: A wide-eyed cat with little fish raining down around her.
When I started writing this post, that block print came to mind. We all indulge in fishful thinking – it’s our capacity to imagine, to daydream and turn those dreams into something concrete and touchable that makes for some of our most worthwhile creations. But we’re also the kind of creatures to let facts lay shallow in our minds – to understand them on a thin level, not touching us in any other way until something happens that changes that, which is usually an experience.
So we might say we understand that saying “one day at a time”, but it takes on a deeper, richer meaning when you have to struggle hard to maintain your equilibrium because of addiction or illness, whether yours or someone else’s.
Accepting the facts of your life is something many religions and philosophies strive to teach, but they also teach that we should work for a deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. Deeper understanding can be hard to achieve, despite putting in a lot of work. So it almost seems a wonder – those moments when a fact comes together with experience and emotion to create that deeper understanding. Like an unexpected and unusual rain.
Because we only have the one (physical) life on this planet, living it is the most important thing. But living it with the most understanding of what it truly is – connecting what we know to what we have experienced and what it makes us feel can challenge us and result in a richer understanding and appreciation of our lives, no matter how long they may be.
In terms of theme, the book is pretty simple: racism and hate make people into monsters.
The strength of this graphic novel lies in the relationships of the family members. Even though we are all acquainted with the drama and angst that familial issues cause, it doesn’t alter the fact that we are drawn to them, even for the same reason.
In this novel, the Sangeryes family has had its share of tragedy, even for a family whose business is to capture and purify (not kill) people who have been made into monsters by their hatred. Decreased in numbers, they are in the middle of dealing with an explosion of new cases when they’re confronted by a couple of new problems – portals from another dimension letting in more powerful true demonoid monsters and a transformed doctor (Sylvester) who, because of his own pain and loss, is trying to eliminate pain by eliminating the ones who cause it.
Set in Harlem a few years before the Renaissance flourished, the book jumps into action right away without time spent on the cultural and intellectual growth of that time and how it might be impacted by the racial hate that caused the killings of the Red Summer of 1919 in Harlem and the massacre that was the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. But those events are mentioned: the Sangeryes lost family during the Red Summer and the doctor-turned-monster lost his family to white vigilantes in Tulsa.
There’s much push and pull related to the characters trying to find their balance in such an environment. The Sangeryes continue to help others regardless of race, even as they argue about it amongst themselves. Doctor Sylvester starts out as somewhat admiring of the Sangeryes, but then becomes dismissive as his own hate grows to eclipse his desire to cure the new infection from the demons coming through from another dimension and causes him to decide to use it, instead.
There is despair as white policemen who know the true story, avoid speaking up out of fear, but there is also hope in a young white member of a KKK group becoming a follower of one of the Sangeryes.
The artwork is so good and the pacing is very quick, moving from one member of the family to another until the point where all of them converge in the streets of Harlem to find both a daunting challenge in Doctor Sylvester and the new – intelligent – demons, and renewed strength through family reunion.
I don’t know that I will continue with the series – I found the story to be less challenging than I like – but I enjoyed this book and consider the time on it spent well, if only for the reminders of our bloody history of racial hate and the ways people have of surmounting it and still flourishing.
I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts about writing advice the authors wished they’d gotten. Generally, it’s about the realities related to writing: that it can take a lot longer to get established than you think, that grammar is important, that having a writing schedule is important, etc.
Thing is, how many of us would really have listened to that advice and employed it?
We all have our own biases and when we’re very young, we all think we’re exceptional. It won’t take that long for me. I won’t have to work as hard as others because I’m naturally talented. While we can recognize good advice a lot of the time, getting ourselves to take it is generally another, ahem, story.
When I was a teen, I questioned my mother about decisions she had made in her life and why she had made them. One of her favourite answers to me was, “there are just some things you won’t understand until you’re older.” Naturally, she was talking about life experiences, but this advice applies equally well to any artistic endeavour. It’s not until you’ve tried and failed a few times at putting a story together, gotten experience in creating your own process, that any good advice you’ve received about writing can be taken to heart.
Seeing yourself in the less than idealized way of your youth is probably a rite of passage. But it’s where a lot of artists give up on their art. And if you’re writing for fame and fortune, it’s probably just as well you do give up at this point, since you are very unlikely, statistically, to hit the Stephen King or J.K. Rowling jackpot.
But for others, this point is the perfect time to reflect on the writing advice you’ve been given and start applying it seriously. For me, the advice, write for yourself, publish for others has become significant. Because I’ve stopped thinking ahead to how publishable my draft might be, I’ve regained my ability to enjoy the process of writing – to give myself over to writing what pleases me, what feels right and good to me – and to come away from the day’s writing session feeling content instead of conflicted is something I never could have anticipated would mean so much.
If I were asked for writing advice, it would be to learn to accept that you will screw up; that you will get lost in the twisty mazes, despair, feel overwhelmed, doubt both your ability and your sanity. But if you love the work, don’t give up. Slowly the chaos will re-form into a sort of order and you will see more than you have before and know what to do with what you see. Because there are just some things you will understand better when you are older in the craft.
We had 2 hours of fun building a world for an anthology with the working title “Crab Max”.
Here’s the run-down as summarized by @DavidRozansky:
In CrabMax, a mutant coral has evolved that thrives on pollution that the Landlubbers are now trying to curtail. The Coral is intelligent hivemind that telepathically controls sea creatures and Lundlubbers in/near the water, through control of mesmerization fantasies.
The Sky Belters have taken to the aether of outer space, to escape the polluted world. They mine the asteroids in their steam-driven sky ships, and use the Earth as a dumping ground and to steal oxygen and water, exasperating Landlubber efforts to clean their world up.
For Coral Hivemind to thrive, it must force Landlubbers to pollute , building up a toxic atmosphere (for the Landlubbers). The Coral is winning the war, as it has the science of atomic energy and information technology on its side. Landlubbers live in age of steam.
The Sky Belters dumping pollution on the planet helps the Coral, but the Belters are also stealing vast amounts of water, which is of course bad for the Coral and the Landlubbers. It’s 3-way conflict
Interesting characters in this shared world idea: Land-ambulating octupi and squid who act as minions and spies for the Coral. Captain Nemo type traitors under Coral mind control. The Belters have gene-engineered roaming pterosaurs.
And the Coral Hivemind has gene-engineered a wide variety of sharks and cephalopods and other creepy terrors of the deep. The Landlubbers have been breeding dolphins in return, but that’s a paltry effort against the underwater terror, and worthless against Belters.
Pertinent to the stories of CrabMax are “star-crossed lovers” whose affections may or may not be the result of Coral mind control. Yes, there’s room for inter-species “Shape of Water” type love affairs. Oh the horror, the horror.
If you feel like participating by writing something using this world, go right ahead. Then drop the link by at #SciFiChat. We’d love to see what you come up with.