I’ve been too tired to make a proper go of blogging for a long time, but here’s a shot: It was my birthday three days ago. Normally I post some kind of annual recap, but this year I don’t want to go into excruciating detail. I’ve spent six years recapping, ever since I came down with a life-ruining case of Fail and everything I thought I was going to do and be became unattainable.
Everything except writing, that unloved and unappreciated second fiddle to the 9,000 Nobel Prizes I was going to win as a physicist-astronaut-rockstar-who knows what.
Last year I said everything was looking up, that changes were coming, that life was finally turning around. This was entirely true. A few weeks after my recap post I published my second professional story ever. A little later I learned I’d gotten into the Clarion Workshop. A few weeks after that, I got married. It was a trip.
This summer I spent six weeks in paradise with a bunch of people who need to stay in my life forever, and the most direct consequence of that was that I finally gained the courage to talk seriously about quitting my job if I couldn’t find something that better accommodated my frailties. None of this could have been possible if Arthur hadn’t also been desperate for a job other than his awful sales position. It came about that someone my dad knew in Cleveland was creating an entry-level position in his company’s HQ office, and then the interview went very well, and long story short, we’re 9/10ths of the way moved to Cleveland, currently squatting in my childhood bedroom. Mycroft the cat is adjusting well.
I don’t have a job lined up here. I might not for a while. I am focusing, for the first time since I got sick, entirely on feeling better. We’re five days into the experiment and I felt well enough to exercise for a whole half hour this afternoon. I am sleeping enormously. I’m looking into petsitting for someone who lives down the road. I am taking it easy. It is glorious.
And, of course, there’s this novel. (There’s always a novel.)
I am calling it, provisionally, The Book of Dog and Dragon. It involves a lot of research into the bleeding edge of recorded human history in Mesopotamia, and I don’t know that I’m ever going really get it right to a scholar’s satisfaction, but that’s the great thing about fiction: You can make up whatever the fuck you want.
There are dogs. There is, in fact, a dragon. There are humans, too, with their own important part to play. There are meddling carrion gods and conquering invaders and blood oaths and lost kingdoms and improbable but unbreakable friendships and unexpected parenthood and the complex relationship of two sisters with very different ambitions. There is the exploration of how legends are made and how stories retold change over time. It draws juuuuust a little on the story of Gilgamesh, half-divine demigod-king of legend, and his even more interesting and lesser-known dad, Lugulbanda, who was originally just a guy. (I love legends about people who were just, y’know, people to start with, without the crutch of god-powers or obvious divine destiny. We know almost jack shit about Lugulbanda today but he sounds a bit like Odysseus eventually crossed with The Flash.)
It isn’t exactly the crunchy science fiction epic that I expected would be my eventual first novel, but a tiny seed of an idea that I’d had on the backburner for literally years suddenly blossomed in the extremely welcoming environment that Clarion provided, and I may never have a better confluence of circumstances, support and desperate need to prove to myself that there is one thing in the world that I can still do, that crushing chronic pain and fatigue didn’t take away.
I am twenty-eight and three days old. I am writing a novel. I am married to a total mensch who is willing to support this ridiculous endeavor (for now). I am going against every piece of realist advice I’ve ever listened to and everything I’ve ever thought about The Kind of Person Who Quits Their Job to Write a Novel. Every piece except Ray Bradbury’s, of course. Bradbury was a big fan of just jumping off that cliff and figuring everything else out later. He said you have to build your wings on the way down.
Last night I had a really complicated dream that, in part, involved a Magical Entity willing to grant me a boon. (I remember no details about the entity except that we met in an expensive restaurant. White tablecloths, convenient dim lighting.) I said I was going to fight a giant powerful monster with huge horns – I envisioned it as a kind of rhinoceros crossed with one of those colossal extinct elk that could easily have flipped a car with their heads. (Maybe its name was Humbaba.) I asked the Entity for the strength and stamina to, like Gilgamesh, stand up to the creature’s might, and hit it back blow for blow.
Instead, the M.E. gave me a pair of black wings, broad and sturdy. It didn’t say much, but the general intimation, as I understood it, was that I was asking for the wrong thing. Strength and stamina are something I am always going to want and never going to get. That’s just life. You accept it and move on, and if an M.E. you meet in a dream chooses to highlight your existing strengths via a thematically appropriate present to drive the point home, you don’t argue.
In the restaurant I paid the bill (nobody remarked upon my wings), stepped out the back door into a filthy parking lot, and leapt up, flapping hard, until I found an updraft. I spiraled higher and higher, and all the world was laid out below me, and I could see the big picture at last, how sometimes life-ruining events are really life-beginning events, and for the disintegrating dregs of the dream I could see the road I would to follow all the way to the end.