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Notes on a Page

When it comes to writing fiction, one of my aims is for my prose to read like Will Sergeant’s guitar playing sounds in songs like “No Dark Things” (especially the break after Ian McCulloch sings “I fell oveeeerrrrrr…”):

I don’t know that I’ve ever achieved that, but I keep trying.

Seeds of Dreams

It was 1983 and I was 13 years old. I had recently fallen in love with Doctor Who and wanted to learn more about the show. I stumbled upon a magazine celebrating the 20th anniversary of the show, and while I didn’t appreciate the significance of a science fiction series running for 20 consecutive years, I saw my opportunity to dive into the show and bought it on the spot.

I learned more about the basics of the show, including exactly what the TARDIS was,¬†where the Doctor was from, and why there was more than one Doctor–in fact, the one I had gotten into was the fifth and there were three I hadn’t even known existed! And the show was originally in black-and-white! But the section of the magazine that made the biggest impression on me was the story guide, which gave a very short synopsis of every serial and a preview of the next season to come. I had already seen some paperback novelizations in the SF section of the bookstore with titles that sparked my imagination, like Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars and Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet, but this was a whole new game. Now I had a long list of imaginative and weird story titles, like “An Unearthly Child”, “The Web Planet”, “The Celestial Toymaker”, “The Tomb of the Cybermen”, “The Mind Robber”, “The Ambassadors of Death”, and “Carnival of Monsters.” The story synopses were short enough to let my imagination fill in a lot of blanks, helped along by the rest of the magazine, which gave just enough information about the series to give you the basics but still left a lot to be imagined.

I’d never thought of a series of stories–or even chapters within one story–broken up like that, with evocative titles and summaries that hinted at colorful, mind-blowing adventures, but after reading that magazine ragged, I started loosely planning out comic book series, prose serials, and even tabletop RPG campaigns by coming up with titles that sounded cool to me, and then brief, broad story ideas inspired by the titles. I’ve been doing it ever since. Now I have a Google doc with a long list of titles for stories that don’t yet exist, seeds waiting to be watered and grow into real stories, powered by the potential of the imagination.

Kinda Sorta Weird

I became a Doctor Who fan when I was 13. I wish I could say it was love at first sight, but it wasn’t. But when I fell for it, I fell hard.

This was back in the Before Times, when you couldn’t buy episodes of TV shows. You either caught them when they aired (or were lucky enough to own a VCR that you could program to record when it aired) or you missed it. This was also before many of the 1960s episodes of Doctor Who had been recovered and were aired in the US. Basically, if you came into the show, you were jumping onto the middle car of a passing train and relying on fellow passengers and your own sense of direction to find your way around.

My friend Marc was a big fan of the show and invited me over to his house to watch it. I don’t remember how much he explained about what the show was and I don’t remember much of what we watched. I remember it was a Tom Baker story (which was shown as one long episode, since many PBS stations that showed Doctor Who, including our station in Kansas City, had all of the individual episodes of a serial spliced into one “Doctor Who movie”) and I remember not really getting into it or following it. And then my mom and brother began taking karate lessons on Friday nights and I didn’t go along with them (which is weird in retrospect, since studying a martial art was something I’d been interested in, but who can figure out the brain of a 13-year-old?), so I settled in front of the television with a Swanson’s TV dinner in front of me on a TV tray and flipped through the channels to see what was on. I landed on our PBS station just as the announcer said, “Coming up, a new Doctor Who movie: ‘Kinda’!” (Pronounced “kin-da”, like “cin-da-rella.”) Because Marc loved the show, I figured I’d give it another shot and at least watch the beginning. A very different opening sequence from the one I’d seen before started, with a cool, synthy scream leading into a New Wave-ish theme while the starry vastness of space hurtled at me. I was mesmerized. (Continued)

Can’t Stand Still

this is not the good kind of lightning
the eureka of a magic spell
the charge of a dream made real

this is the bolt that sets fire to trees
it levels the forest
& blackens the earth

& all you can taste is aluminum & ash

bones warp & break
teeth grind up rust
tears stain the skull
oceans dry up

& all you can savor is ozone & dust

& every seat is the electric chair
but the execution is always flawed

Bookstacks

I read a lot of books at once. I mean, not all at the exact same time, I only have two eyes and one brain, it’s just…I skip around from book to book. Some books I zip through, others can take me months or years to finish as I leave them be for a bit and read something else. I used to reflect this with a list of anywhere from 5-10 or more books on my goodreads Currently Reading shelf, but I got tired of seeing the same titles on there for months at a time, feeling like there was pressure for me to finish them all, so I’ve mostly switched to just moving books from my To Read shelf to my Read shelf, from potential to finished.

Anyhoo, here are some of the books I’m currently making my way through:

More Tools of the Trade

I’ve talked about how I type most of what I write, but I still keep bound notebooks and make lots of notes (and write poetry) by hand. When it comes to typing, I’ve used the usual word processing programs for the most part (going all the way back to college, in the early days of Mac OS and Windows), until giving Scrivener a try a few years ago. I very much like how Scrivener works the way my mind works, nonlinear, in fragments, where you can collage together a story from bits and chunks, with folders for notes and inspirations. But despite that, I’ve never found Scrivener particularly intuitive and I’ve always felt like I needed to go through a number of tutorials and play around with it a lot to really get it to work the way I want it to–and when it comes to writing, I don’t want to have to learn how to use my tools, I just want to grab the tools that work and get to the actual writing.

For the past 10 years, my different library jobs have required me to work from at least two different computers, often in different buildings. I used to carry flash drives with documents I was working on so I could take work from one computer to another, which was kind of a pain…until Google Docs came along and I could simply sign into Google from whatever PC I was using and do my work. And that naturally translated to my personal writing as well. I’ve been using Google Docs for so long, I’m more comfortable using that than anything else. And now I use Google Drive for pretty much all of the creative work that I don’t do by hand. (Continued)