“Reality: What a Concept”

…One of my favorite quotes from Robin Williams.  In which I talk about the complexity of human personality and pay my own small tribute to the man.

I have always wanted to be one of those big personality people. You know the kind–the ones whom people gravitate toward at parties, at gatherings, even in the parking lots of schools and grocery stores. They can schmooze, talk, tell a story and entertain. Put them on a panel (like at Bubonicon) and they make every minute educational and exciting and filled with laughter.

I’ve tried to cultivate and work on having such a personality. I can succeed on occasion (rare occasions and usually when I’m on stage, literally or metaphorically, somewhere), but usually I just withdraw into myself, even if I have some modicum of knowledge about the topic at hand. I can write a mean essay, but simply having a conversation frightens me.  I am terrified of making a mistake because when I do, people point it out (Look, Gabi made a mistake!–seriously, this has happened more than once), which just makes me even more afraid to make a mistake and I withdraw further into myself. I love giving presentations or appearing on panels, but a private conversation…>shudder<.

That duality in personality–the outer appearance vs the inner perception–is part of the reason Robin Williams’s death struck me so hard. I thoroughly enjoyed his work and considered him an absolute genius (in every sense of the word), but no one really knew what went on in his head. I can completely relate to it. I know I can project an image of confidence and expertise, but inside, I’m a jellied mass of insecurities. We all wear masks of sorts. We have our parent masks, our work masks, our public masks, our friend masks. You can’t know what going on behind that mask. You can guess, but unless the wearer reveals himself, you can never be sure. So never assume a smile means happiness or that silence means stupidity. Reality is a deceptive term because those masks are a part of reality. They are real, just one aspect of the complex beings we humans are. Just be careful not to look at one and think you’re seeing the whole picture.

So when I lose myself in fiction , whether I am writing it, reading it, or watching it, it’s not because I don’t like my reality. I do happen to like my life, but I make room for the dreams. I like my fiction as big as the personality I described above. I don’t enjoy small, intimate stories as much because I do enough analysis of myself to satisfy my need to explore others. I want the big stories, the ones that couldn’t happen in reality, but when I experience them, they are real to me in that moment and magic exists, as do superheroes and sweeping romance.  And laughter; much much laughter.

RIP Robin Williams


Books I’m reading now:

The Cowboy and the Princess by Lori Wilde

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


Tastes and Age

Lately I find myself engrossed in a couple of television shows. I was a firm fan of How I Met Your Mother, but it’s over now. I watch The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, but I’m absolutely hooked on Grimm, Once Upon a Time, and Agents of Shield. I’ve glommed a few series on Netflix: Dr. Who, Eureka, Warehouse 13, Primeval, The Dresden Files, Firefly; and I’ve caught a few episodes of Torchwood and Farscape (not glomming those, though). Most of my friends who are not in the writing world don’t watch any of these. They don’t read the same books as I either. They’ve all seen Breaking Bad, which I am currently watching, but more out of a sense of “need to” rather than “want to.” I recognize the superior story crafting, the superb acting, but it’s just not my thing. I’ve been pleading with them to watch Game of Thrones with little success. We own the discs and the books.

It’s left me wondering about tastes and age. I suppose most people believe that as one ages, one’s tastes become more serious. I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’m gravitating even more toward the paranormal (to use a generic term for sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction). I recently visited my daughter in Boston, and I think I shocked her roommates when I not only understood their references, but added my own insights to their conversations. We watched Pacific Rim together and had a great time.

So am I just more youthful in my tastes? I don’t think so. I believe that all entertainment, whether it’s books, movies or television, is about the characters. It’s the great characters that keep us glued to a show or a book. It’s just the delivery method that changes. A character gives us someone to recognize and cheer for. When they change, we grow. When they hurt, we ache. We feel with them and experience universal truths through them (This ties into Theme, which proves that you can’t isolate one element of a story with any kind of success). Tyrion Lannister is a fair, loyal, and just character with great flaws who happens to be a member of a ruthless family from whom he’s learned some of his behavior. Does that sound like Hamlet to you? (Okay, not exactly, but you get the picture.) And when [SPOILER–skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know even this non-event specific fact] they push him too far, he finally rejects them. He is honorable in his own way. We root for him even more than the outrightly noble character of Ned Stark, because liking Ned is too easy (Not that his death wasn’t heart-breaking, but, really, he was too good.)

Perhaps I like my characters in settings that aren’t of this world because I am so aware of the realities of this world. I’m highly political (which I try to keep from these pages), aware of current events, scientifically minded, and have my own personal demons I battle. In my entertainment, I don’t want to face those realities in a realistic setting. I would argue those same realities are in the paranormal, but in a background where they are easier to handle and comprehend and still be entertained. I would also argue that historical fiction is also not of this world. Must be why I like it too.

So don’t expect me to write or read the next great American novel. Give me magic, fairies, spaceships, and time travel. I’ll take my characters and morality from real fiction instead of reality fiction. Disagree with me? That’s fine. I’m not asking you to change your mind. But don’t judge my tastes either.

Meanwhile I’m waiting for a friend of mine to return from her European trip and bring me the Harry Potter series in German. Can’t wait to re-read them.


Books I’m reading now:

A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin (re-read)