Saturday, February 04, 2006


I've been cleaning up my office all day, in preparation for taking stuff over to our storage unit. I'm a pack rat and I've got stuff from when I was five years old still in my office.

It's just kind of odd. Suddenly, you wake up one day and you're 37 not 7 or 17 and maybe you're not quite sure how you got there. I don't know about you, but memories of high school can be so vivid that there are days when you look in the mirror and you see the wrinkles and worry lines and you wonder if you just forgot the time in between. I'm still a kid, you say, but your face doesn't reflect that. And with that thought comes the other thought: I'm going to die someday.

And it doesn't bother you quite yet, but it bothers you just a niggling bit, because it's true you could get hit by a bus tomorrow and all the stories you want to tell and all the people you want to meet and all the people you've met and love, all that's just history. And you begin to wonder about why you write, and you realize once again that your writing is like your children and your legacy interwoven. And it sounds pretentious because it is, but death's a serious subject, so you're entitled.

How did I get from Clarion in 1992, sitting with Kristine Kathryn Rusch, telling us "sometimes puppies get stuck" with a smile, to having books out all over the fucking world.

In 2001, I had two books to my name, both with print runs under 1,000 a piece. in 2005, I've got books out in nine different countries and I'm gearing up for a European book tour. How does that happen? How surreal is that?

One thing is for sure, while I'm savoring it, I don't take it for granted. How can I? How could anyone?

City of Saints comes out from Bantam the end of this month. How cool is that?, the fan boy in me says.

Just yesterday it seems, I was waiting in line to talk to Harlan Ellison at a Dragon Con, shaking in my freakin' boots.

So, yes, it seems some perspective is in order as I look at all of these old, old photographs from an older, more innocent time.

There could have been nothing better than growing up in Fiji, in a tropical paradise. There could have been nothing better for a writer.

Looking at a report card now. "Confident when he knows the subject. Works well with others. But needs to be kept away from disturbing influences." Or another bit of school work: a report on the Etruscans from fifth grade. I'd apparently embossed the folder with golden letters. How the hell did I have the time?

You look at yourself as a child and you think: How did I get here? Will I look back at photos of myself at 37 when I'm 60 and again wonder: Where did the time go?

The fact of things is, we're all going to die, and it's how we all come to terms with that that defines who we are and how we're remembered. Some turn to religion, and that's all right. Me, I know we're going to all be returned to the earth, and that's all right, too.

In the meantime, you have to live life like you mean it.

And so it goes...



At 8:16 PM, Blogger Dancewriter said...

I've been having a lot of these sorts of thoughts lately and the theme has made it into many of my blog entries, the most recent being Where Have All the Flowers Gone?.

At 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems you reach a certain age, and it's what comes to mind. If not mid-life crisis, then mid-life thought process.


At 9:48 PM, Blogger Tessa said...

It happens at quarter life as well.

At 11:17 PM, Blogger sara said...

That's a wonderful post. And even through the blogosphere, I can almost taste how -just- amazing it must be to emjoy such success as a writer. On my behalf, try to soak it up..

At 1:07 AM, Anonymous Divers Hands said...

I wish I could still pull that kind of optimism... and hell, I'm more than ten years younger than you. Sitting here now, seeing the crippled, shedding thing in the mirror, I wonder where all the energy I had went. But worse, I try to wonder where all the hope I had went.

I'm probably going to go to jail on Monday for little more than being caught speeding... because Ohio State drunk driving laws are draconian now, and because we all just don't want to think about the fact that people over the age of fifty-five account for more than forty percent of all traffic accidents, but also happen to be the largest voting block in the country.

So many stories to tell, agreed, but is anyone who hasn't already seen it or gotten it listening. I remember having dreams of the flesh cathedral in "Veniss Underground" for weeks after I first read it: this haunting beautiful image that plagued and astounded my dreams. A whole dreamscape that just caught me up like nothing since I was ten years old and could see Porthos holding up the collapsing cavern in Dumas' "The Man in the Iron Mask". It was transcendental, and set me on a path of hunting down both you and your work for consideration...

Hell, it's your fault I'm writing my entrance thesis for grad school on Michael Cisco's "The Divinity Student", a work I would never have known about if not for your recommendation of it, and more importantly, your efforts to publish it in the first place.

BUT... I talk to everyone in my English department, at the second largest public university in this country (Ohio State), about all the interesting works I have discovered... and still, for every contemporary studies, or even twentieth century lit, major, there are twenty pre Victorian focused students. For every person I get to borrow my dog-eared copy of "City of Saints and Madmen", there are two who make it through the first thirty pages and just ask me what the hell I am doing. No matter how many people I hand my copy of Chapman's "The Troika" to, and tell them to read, there are are the greater part who bring it back and ask me why I bother reading such things.

And it hurts every time.

So, congratulations on your success, and thank you far more than you can ever know for how much you have given me to read and ponder and enjoy... but, how you keep at it? I guess I'll never really get to know that.

Thank you so much for what I've gotten though.

At 2:51 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Jeff, I am sorry, mate, but it is time to reveal that your memories are all false, merely implants. You are actually a Replicant with memories desinged by Philip K Dick and Borges after they smoked some incredibly good weed. Of course, this may mean that Ann is Daryl Hannah's character. If she does the black bar of eyeliner thing then you'll know. And watch out for a man who looks like Edward James Olmos making little origami animals near your house.

Apparently the whole Replicant Writer programme is funded by the Freshwater Squid in conjunction with Ken MacLeod's super-intelligent, star-travelling Kraken. Still, its better than me - I recently entertained several similar thoughts myself but my musing was ended by my cats telling me I was a figment of their imaginations.

At 1:53 AM, Blogger JP said...

Were the influences disturbing to you, or to your teacher?


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