Thursday, December 29, 2011

Faith and Other Touchy Subjects

This entry is going to be long and extra-rambly. I apologize in advance.

In my experience, most children growing up in the United States have a consistent religious background. Either they were raised in a particular religious tradition, or they weren’t raised to believe at all. Mind you, I am fully aware this is a huge generalization. Just stick with me.

My point here is the consistency. And the fact that I didn’t really have that.

Another point I’d like to make: No one is more anti-smoking than an ex-smoker, and no one is more devout than a convert.

Take these two basic premises and blend them together, and you’ll get my childhood (in terms of religion, anyway) in a nutshell.

My family is very big on ancestry, and the roots of my religious ambivalence can be found in those huge rolls of paper that some member of my extended family bothered to compile.

It starts on the Mayflower. As most U.S. children learn quite young, the Pilgrims got on that rickety, scurvy-ridden boat to search for religious freedom. I know once they landed that they didn’t extend that freedom to anyone else, but it WAS the basic idea that motivated them to make such an insane voyage. At any rate, they were religious dissenters who wanted to be able to follow their own faith without having to worry about being beheaded/stoned/burned/imprisoned every other minute. 

John Alden and Priscilla Mullen married in this brave new world and (according to the huge scrolls I mentioned earlier) began to multiply like bunnies. Something like twelve generations later (no, I’m not going back to check), my grandmother was born into a strict, upright Christian home. Her own mother and father may have seemed like the epitome of conservativism, but only until one looks more closely. My great-grandfather was the SECOND husband to my great-grandmother. Her first husband had been a drunk, and she’d divorced him. I’m honestly not sure exactly when this divorce happened, but we’re probably talking around 1900, so you know old Flossie (yes, that really was her name) had some serious balls. It was a clear path to her – she had strong moral beliefs and was staunchly anti-alcohol. Her husband wasn’t on board with that, so out he went, even though she was uneducated and poor and had a small son to support. So Flossie remarried and along came my grandmother and various other children.

My grandmother married a Methodist minister, so there weren’t a lot of wild and crazy times going on in the household in which my father grew up. Dad’s family was not pleased when he let them know he was engaged to a Roman Catholic girl, and my grandmother wrote him a letter condemning his choice. He had a serious lapse in judgment and showed the letter to my mother, thereby ensuring that there would be uncomfortable family get-togethers for years to come. My father was a scientist, so it isn’t much of a shock that he would eventually declare himself an atheist, especially when one considers the rather heavy-handed religious upbringing of his childhood. To add insult to injury, his sister married an Episcopalian and converted, so I imagine my grandparents were a tad miffed. 

Anyway, the end result of all this was that there was no religion in the home when I entered the world beyond the standard Christmas and Easter “fun bits.”

Then around my seventh birthday, my father decided that my mother’s religion looked mighty nice, and so he converted with a vengeance. Before I knew what hit me, I found myself baptized Roman Catholic. They put me in a Catholic school and suddenly I had to get up on Sunday mornings. 

(I should also mention that my mother’s family was similarly waffle-y when it came to religion. Her own father converted to Catholicism when he was 90, so there’s no statute of limitations on our inability to commit.)

As I grew up listening to earnest priests and deacons standing by the altar proclaiming the tenets of the faith, I started to realize that 90% of the time, I thought they were wrong. I began to get frustrated, sometimes even angry, at the principles they laid out for the congregation. And whatever other questions I might have had, I was pretty sure that the purpose of attending church wasn’t to get yourself all pissed off.

So you see, religious dissent is a family tradition. I think it’s hardwired into my DNA.

But this is all rambling background. What I really want to address is the concept of faith.

My parents are now distressed at what they believe is my lack of faith. Their attachment to their own religion is making it hard for them to see that I do have faith – it’s just not their brand. Unlike them, I do not feel the need to label my moral code as one religion or another. Each formal religion offers words of wisdom that can be taken to heart, so why restrict oneself? I’m not fond of labels in general, anyway. I can respect all religions – I respect their beliefs, their traditions, and their ceremonies. They have value to those they speak to, and I don’t look down at those who follow them. Except those Westboro people. That’s not religion; it’s ignorance and hate.

On Christmas Eve, I got into a fairly bad car accident and my car was totaled. A teenager driving a Volvo just shot out right in front of me, and there was no way to stop in time. I ended up in the E.R., but my injuries were fairly minor. I pretty much missed Christmas thanks to the muscle relaxants the hospital gave me. We now have only one car, and the kids go back to school on Tuesday. Oh, and the insurance claim is on hold because the person in charge of the file is on vacation. Until Tuesday. 

So here I sit, bruised and sore with a boot thingy on my foot, not able to rent a car or shop for a replacement, and I’m actually fine with it.

See, here’s where faith comes in.

My car was originally my grandfather’s car. He paid cash for it not long before he died, and I wound up with it. I always felt his presence with me when I drove it. My faith tells me it was him who made me turn the steering wheel at the last second so that the impact was on an angle instead of head-on. My faith makes me believe that he helped to make sure that I got out of the car and walked away.

More than that, though.

My faith also tells me that, although I lost both my vehicle and a sentimental object, this is a message from the universe that I need to let go of material things that no longer serve me. Today I called a salvage company and watched them haul away the first car I ever bought new – the car that drove my babies home from the hospital – a car that hadn’t run in over a year. In one week, we went from three cars to one.

Because I have faith, I believe that the experience that young girl had that night may change the way she drives in the future, making her more careful and cautious and perhaps one day preventing a much worse accident. In that light, I can see how the accident may have been purposeful, and I can accept that.

Once the smoke cleared that night and I was tucked up in bed, feeling every single muscle in my body moan and protest, I was able to be thankful for more time with my children and husband. I was able to find joy in the knowledge that I still had time to finish my newest novel. I was grateful that I would be able to watch my children open their Christmas presents in the morning. And I also reflected on what the accident meant for me, and what message the universe might have wanted to give me with that very loud wake-up call. I listened for the message.

When people experience great loss or hardship, they often lose their faith. The most devout Christians I’ve met are also the richest – like the story of Job, it’s easy to be faithful when your life is perfect. But if we are to have true faith (in a purely non-denominational sense), we must on some level approach life with acceptance and surrender to the idea that we cannot understand now the purpose of these painful moments and lasting wounds. Faith allows us to have confidence that the universe is following a plan, even if we cannot see or understand it.

Did I second-guess and if-only every single action I took leading up to that accident? Oh, you betcha. That’s what we human beings do.

But if there’s one thing I’d like to share with you, it’s this: Look at the hardships in your life. Is there a pattern? A theme? What can you learn from these experiences? How did they lead you in a direction you wouldn’t have traveled otherwise? You may not see anything. You may even only see negative outcomes. But what did that negative outcome teach you about yourself?

My faith includes belief in the idea that we are each here to learn certain lessons, and that our souls chose to learn these lessons before we were even born. And if we don’t learn the lesson, the universe will turn up the volume and repeat it. 

My body hurts and my legs are black and blue, but the universe has definitely got my attention. Because as much as I accept that it happened, this is one lesson that I definitely don’t want to have to repeat.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Twelve Minutes of Christmas

Since I've been sick with the flu, I haven't been keeping up with my blog. To make up for it, a little snapshot of how Christmas morning usually goes in my house. Twelve Days of Christmas is for underachievers - we can knock that shit out in twelve MINUTES!!!

5:00 a.m.
          “Mommy! Mommy! Santa came! Santa came! Come on!!!!”

5:01 a.m.

5:02 a.m.
          “Mooooommmm!!! Hurry up!!!”

5:03 a.m.

5:04 a.m.
          “Where’s that damn camera?”

5:05 a.m.
          “Okay, okay. What did everyone get in their stockings?”

5:06 a.m.

5:07 a.m.
          “All right. Let's start with one present per person!”

5:08 a.m.

5:09 a.m.
          “Thank you, Santa!!!”

5:10 a.m.
          “Is that it?”

5:11 a.m.
          “Okay, let’s clean up the wrapping paper, kids!”

5:12 a.m.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gives Praise

This is a reprint of a journal entry I wrote back in December 2010, reflecting on one of the 13 Clan Mothers of the Native American spiritual teachings. "Gives Praise" is the name of the Clan Mother who governs the 12th moon cycle (December), and so it felt appropriate to share this now.


So I was thinking of writing some really moving, life-lesson type of story, but then I decided to just write the truth.

One year ago, I was able to buy Christmas presents. We had money for food and a weekly babysitter so that my husband and I could go on our Friday date nights. My children wore new clothes without any signs of wear. I wore coordinated outfits from Talbots, nylons, and heels five days a week. I had an office downtown and fresh-brewed gourmet coffee right at my desk. My job involved time-sensitive work for huge international corporations, and my parents could brag about their daughter.

It was exactly where I was supposed to be. The child of two corporate executives, I had been raised to move in exclusive social circles. I knew where all the bathrooms were in the theaters we attended as season ticket holders for the opera, ballet, and orchestra. I could mingle naturally at art gallery openings and corporate parties. “Appropriate behavior” was something I could assume as easily as slipping on a coat; it was an automatic, ingrained response to social situations. Prolonged exposure was more difficult, however. Over time, my mask would slip enough to allow my true personality to break through, and these glimpses mixed with the camouflage combined to create an off-putting impression of intelligence and instability. Because of this, I fought showing my true self like a warrior.

One year ago, I was a wreck. My older son had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and anxiety disorder, in addition to his previously-identified ADHD. He was in the public school’s sixth-grade gifted program and was crashing and burning with spectacular consistency. My younger son was adjusting to kindergarten at the same time, his own ADHD fairly controlled by medication but still allowing for some upsetting “bad days” when the drugs could not completely control his symptoms. I was receiving nearly daily emails and phone calls from one or both schools concerning my sons’ behavior, and it had already become clear that my older child’s situation had reached a critical point. Despite the glaring need for more direct supervision and intervention, my job was a demanding one, leaving me neither the energy nor mental capacity to grapple effectively with these issues at the end of the work day. Similarly, the stress of my child’s situation and the constant communications from the school began to make focusing on my job impossible.

Still, I clung to what I thought I was “supposed” to do with stubborn tenacity. We had bills to pay, and although I neither enjoyed nor felt fulfilled by my career, I lacked faith in our ability to survive if I were to relinquish the steady income it provided. I needed to provide for my family.

Then, in January, I hit bottom. A huge mistake had been made at work, one that was directly related to my increasing inability to balance the demands of my job with the needs of my family. Suddenly, the money did not matter anymore. I chose my family over my career, resigning my position the next day. I discovered quickly that I had been doing a terrible job at both, and the relief at no longer having to grapple with an employer’s needs and expectations was overwhelming.

Gradually, I began to piece a new life together. Some things worked, some did not. As I sifted through my options and ideas, I was aware that it was the first time I had ever been given the opportunity to do so without any reference to other people’s perceptions or expectations. It was freeing, but it was also intimidating. There is no rule book for this, and my upbringing had not prepared me for this future.

This year, there are fewer presents under the Christmas tree. This year, I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like it is my job. This year, I gratefully accept friends’ hand-me-downs for my rapidly growing boys and make sure to pass on ours to other friends. This year, I actually know what my children’s homework looks like and what they are studying in school. This year, putting food on the table often means feeding the boys while my husband and I do without. This year, buying a new book or downloading a new album means doing without a necessity. This year, little indulgences are out of reach.

I have never felt more blessed.

My children know their mother. They know I love them more than a paycheck, a nice office, or an impressive job title. They also watch as I show them that it is possible to be whatever you want to be, even if it does not fit the typical pattern of modern society. Most importantly, they have seen their mother overcome fear.

My husband and I actually interact. We feel like a team. I no longer let him down by being too tired or stressed to take care of household chores. He is no longer Mr. Mom with a full-time job. He has started playing his guitar again and experimenting with new recipes. He finally got to sit down.

I have found my own voice. I have said “no” to my parents and stuck to it. I have established my boundaries with the people in my life and have learned to speak my truth. I no longer apologize daily to the world for being the person I am.

I am grateful for my past. I know I was very privileged to grow up in a safe, secure environment, and I feel very fortunate for the opportunities and experiences that I was given. Likewise, I am grateful for the challenges that I have faced over the years, for each one taught me a lesson that I can draw from now. I am grateful for the people who have touched my life, for good or ill, because each one had a part in showing me the person I wanted to be.

Perhaps most surprising of all, I am – for the first time in my life – grateful that I got to be me. My life has had its share of pain, loss, and hardship, and I have often wondered “Why me?” Now that I can see where these challenges have led me, all I can think is “I’m so glad it’s me!”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cynics in Love

One of the questions I have heard the most over the years is: “How can someone so cynical and sarcastic who essentially hates the whole of humanity write and enjoy mushy romance novels?”

The tiny little voice of optimism in my head hopes that I can answer this once and for all.

Did you see Shrek? Remember his little spiel about ogres and onions?  Yeah, that’s me. I’m an onion. I have layers. As do very nearly all the people walking the earth at the moment. This is why expressions like, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” came to be. The cover of my book happens to be comprised almost entirely of snark. And there are reasons for that. Without turning this into the written version of an episode of Oprah, I will explain.

Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Or, in my case, which came first – the romance novelist or the sarcastic cynic?

When I was quite young – before I’d been made hip to the wonder of the alphabet – I made up long, involved, romantic stories. Owing to that pesky preschool illiteracy obstacle, I was forced to write these stories as pictures. Therefore, the argument could be made that I was writing romantic graphic novels before I even started reading (making that argument would be grossly overstating the skill involved, however, so I wouldn’t attempt it).

At any rate, the chicken (or romantic sensibilities) clearly came before the egg (people-hating) in this scenario.

I then went to school, where I was universally outcast. Everyone teased me for the strange stories I made up. I didn’t fight back, and I didn’t let it really change who I was… I just got a very negative impression of my peer group. And then high school happened. 

Ah, high school. What a clusterfuck that experience was. I went to an all-girls Catholic school, where I learned quickly that my place in the social pecking order was somewhere along the lines of Wal-Mart greeter. Not to mention that all the boys I did manage to meet were infatuated with my best friend. I was the Rosie O’Donnell to her Madonna. I couldn’t really blame them – she’s pretty damn awesome.

Anyway, the result was that all this peer-group rejection was beginning to make me a tad snarly. 

Also, as I was so often on the outside looking in that I became an observer rather than a participant. I learned tons about human nature, interaction, and the tells when someone is hiding their feelings. This taught me lots that would help write a romantic novel – but nothing that miraculously changed my jaded view of the species.

I went to college. From what I remember, more of the same. People giving me no reason to believe that they were capable of real altruism, selflessness, or just decent behavior. My best friend continuing to be way hotter than me. More Rosie O’Donnell. More people giving me that hated look that tells you immediately that the people around you all think you are completely off your nut.

By the time I left school, I was a hardened cynic – sarcastic and snarky and nicely barricaded behind my walls. I wore black on the outside because black was how I felt on the inside. No one understood my pain.

I also had a subscription to Harlequin books. They were delivered straight to my home, a handful at a time. I had romances coming out my ears. Piles of them. Hundreds. I still occasionally come across an unopened shipment. It’s a little scary.

You see, at the heart of every romance is the dream that someone will come along and actually be that person for you – someone who really does love you forever, who will only chuckle lovingly when you forget to do the laundry, who will battle for you and save you. You KNOW this is never going to happen in the real world. It’s escapism. It’s fantasy. (You also know you’re not that sexy/fascinating/wild or whatever the heroine du jour has going for her. But it’s nice to pretend.)

It’s the way relationships might be if the human race collectively stopped acting like sycophantic moronic douche bags for five minutes. (Maybe not the stories featuring pirates, but the general sentiment is what we’re going for here.)

See? Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

I like to think that this continued fascination with relationships and love and all that goes along with that is really a sign that my inner dreamer is still in there somewhere, believing that there is this potential for kindness and light and fluffy bunnies buried deep within the people of the world, just waiting for them to stop hating each other long enough to realize it.

So now I have people in my life who say, “Romances? Are you kidding? I don’t even KNOW you anymore!”

In that case, you clearly never did know me, sunshine.

Now fuck off. I have a romance to write.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why are Authors Misanthropic Assholes?

This is a tricky topic, because the answer is too simple.

People interrupt us just when we’ve figured out the perfect turn of phrase or the most amazing plot twist. They interrupt us, and the idea just shoots right out of our head, never to return.

So no, in general, we are not huge fans of people.

But of course, this is over-simplifying the truth. I can’t actually answer for every writer in the world since the dawn of time. All I can do is offer my opinion and experiences.

I’m sleep-deprived right now, so let’s bullet-point this, shall we? Great.

POINT: Children are cruel.
Our first experience of people in large doses tends to be children. Children do not tolerate anyone different. Writers have an overabundance of imaginary friends, which tends to make them different. ERGO, writers are often ostracized by their peers throughout childhood.

POINT: Being broke sucks.
It is really, really difficult to make any kind of real bank when you’re a professional writer. You generally have to find some way to take that talent and translate it into something that the business world is willing to pay for. The end result is either 1) being broke, 2) being stuck in a job you hate, or 3) a combination of 1 and 2.

POINT: Real life has crappy hours.
Inspiration does not strike at regularly scheduled times. When our imaginary friends show up at midnight, we want to be able to hang out with them. It’s really annoying that we have to ask them to wait because we have to get up in five hours.

POINT: Reality can’t measure up.
Seriously, we have whole imaginary worlds rattling around in our heads. Our characters think of comebacks right in the moment, instead of at 3 a.m., hours after the original confrontation. Physical attributes can be changed with the stroke of a pen (or keyboard). Basically, our world kicks the real world’s ass. So it’s a little hard to resist being a condescending jerk about it.

POINT: People are irritating.
We create the people we want to deal with. They are witty or slutty or vacuous or tender or erudite or funny as hell – and they are each exactly who we want them to be. We control who they are. We control their reactions, their responses, and their inner monologues. We can’t do that with real people, which is intensely frustrating.

So I totally made all this up over my second cup of coffee. It may be utter nonsense, but I promised I’d keep up with my blog, so this is what you get. The moral of the story is – reality sucks, and, for whatever reason, writers tend to get a little snarky about it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In Defense of Fan Fiction

This is for all you intellectual snobs out there…

I understand why you look down on writers and readers of fan fiction. I really do. Any hobby/enthusiasm/obsession (regardless of severity) looks kind of lame to an outsider who does not feel the same level of appreciation. For example, I cannot for the life of me understand why someone would voluntarily choose to crochet… for fun. To my non-crocheting ears, that just sounds like a cry for help.

And if you were to go to one of the sites that serve as free-for-all fan fiction “dumps,” odds are pretty good that any story you were to randomly select would be either trite, badly written, or both. To the uninitiated, the system of recommendations and reviews seems completely incomprehensible and overwhelming, but this system will lead you past the painful to the enjoyable once you have mastered it. Until you have, please do not attempt to judge the overall quality of these works.

The truth is, a lot of these stories are really good – like worthy of publication in their own right, good. But more about that later.

Now, I want to tell you why you should not mock the stuffing out of a friend/family member/coworker when they admit to writing fan fiction.

No. 1 – and this is the most important, in my opinion – Writers write because it makes them happy, satisfies their creative impulses, and generally makes the world a better place… for them. When we write, we do want others to read and enjoy our work, it is true. We want to not suck at it, the same way that you want that casserole you just made for your mother-in-law to be a miracle of tastiness. Should you be dissuaded from cooking altogether once your fifteenth casserole comes out of the oven looking like a mutant charcoal briquette? Heavens, no! And why not? Quite simply, if you enjoyed the process that led to the creation of that mutant casserole, you should be allowed to continue producing those charred lumps as long as doing so makes you happy. You know that you run the risk of having people criticize your cooking if you serve it to others. Similarly, the fan fiction writer knows that they are opening themselves up to criticism of their writing if they choose to post it.

No. 2 – There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing something frivolous. The U.S.A. is, in my opinion, a land of television-watching zombies. The popularity of reality shows alone proves that Americans will become obsessed with just about anything that is presented to them in an on-screen format. I really don’t see how a person taking that enthusiasm and channeling it into fan fiction is any worse than supposedly well-adjusted people routinely dropping everything because “their shows are on.” At least the writers of fan fiction are attempting to engage their higher thought processes in connection with those enthusiasms. They may even occasionally turn the T.V. off.

No. 3 – My favorite books are the ones in which you become so enamored of the characters and their world that you can’t stand to see “The End” printed on that last page. Fan fiction is a response to that heartbreak and frustration. Readers who reach the end and still want more are being proactive and creating that “more” for themselves. And as a public service, they are sharing the “more” they created with the rest of the “more-seekers” at no charge. They cannot profit from it; there is nothing to compel them to share it, and yet they do. That’s altruism right there, folks.

No. 4 – What we in this age of separation lack is a sense of community. Fan fiction brings people together in ways we never could have anticipated even twenty years ago. Real, meaningful, and often crucial friendships are being formed every day in the fan fiction communities. And these people really support each other. Nothing will make a group band together like being ostracized by everyone else. Fan fiction writers come from all walks of life – all social, economic, racial, and educational backgrounds imaginable. It may be the only place on earth where we have learned to see beyond our prejudices. That is no small accomplishment.

No. 5 – Good writing. As I mentioned earlier, some of these stories are amazingly well constructed and written. The characterizations are fresh and vibrant, and the plots are gripping. No, not every single one – but often enough that reading these stories is more like a treasure hunt than an exercise in futility. Many fan fiction writers are also published authors; for others, fan fiction is an avenue that leads to publication. It is totally unfair to mock a publication because of its roots in fan fiction; it would be like mocking a band whose beginnings were based on their love of, say, the Beatles. Fan-musicians often develop into notable musicians in their own right, drawing from the influences of earlier artists. Why can we not accept that fan-writers are also capable of taking their literary influences and using that inspiration to create great works themselves?

Lastly, I will say this – fan fiction is not encumbered by projected sales, genre classifications, or any of the rules of the publication game. And I can’t help but support any forum that allows you to incorporate talking ninja squirrels into a story whenever the mood strikes you.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Suddenly Oblivious

When I was a child, this wonderful company called Apple came out with this crazy object called a home computer. The monitor was black, and any characters appeared in glowing green neon. I had to use floppy disks the size of my head to play Frogger. I knew enough programming to make it spit out a little x-and-o riddled Christmas tree. I was on the cutting edge.

My teens and early 20s found me moseying along, not a care in the world. I was hip; I was young; the future was my plaything. Gravity could not take away my body’s natural perkiness, nor could the need for food or sleep prevent me from enjoying all-night entertainment. I was on top of all the new technology. I was part of the now. Hell, I was even part of the five-minutes-from-now.

Until I woke up one day and found that I was obsolete.

When did this happen?

I cannot figure out when this shift occurred. I’m not even entirely sure of the first moment when I looked at someone younger than me with that uncomprehending stare that I remember my own parents giving me. It may have been when ICQ was the big thing. Twitter definitely got the blank stare from me (and still does, occasionally).

I don’t even want to think about the moment when I realized I no longer knew who the hot new bands were. That is a whole separate level of shame.

Recently, I have taken pains to get back in the game. I am grappling with the new technologies, the new social media (now that I know what that term signifies), and the new expectations that all this places on writers. What I am still struggling with is exactly how much time is spent connecting with people electronically in this new world. We are, as people who must to some degree market ourselves, somewhat obliged to build up an online presence. It is a necessity these days if you want anyone at all to notice that you – or your books – exist. While it is a little frustrating how much time is now diverted away from actually writing so that I may babysit these various digital identities, it is also incredibly cool that all this can be accomplished while sitting in bed juggling a laptop and a bagel.

I am not completely helpless. I understand the draw of Facebook (waste time while building up an arbitrary feeling of popularity) and YouTube (waste time while building up an arbitrary feeling of… okay, I’m not entirely sure about that one). Twitter mystifies me, although I use it. Blogs… well, yeah, I can understand that there are some people who have something worthwhile to say on a regular enough basis that other people might want to get in on that action, but I sincerely doubt that they are in the majority. And yet everyone seems to have a blog now.

I don’t approach this new technology with disdain, nor do I look upon it with fear. I just hate the feeling of absolute obliviousness I get when listening to younger and hipper people talk about hootsuite and tweetdeck and tumblr and flickr and memes. I’m still completely confused by memes, despite having had them explained to me. More than once.

But I love my writer’s group on Skype. I enjoy the free-flowing information and silliness and blatant irrelevancy of Facebook. I am completely captivated by YouTube’s ability to spit out the most obscure 80’s music video without batting a proverbial digital eyelash. I particularly love that it is now a common thing for writers to self-publish their novels (although many of them should have resisted the urge). There is a freedom in all these new options.

Just the fact that eBooks can make finding a flat surface in my home possible again is utterly fascinating.

So I don’t have a true conclusion to reach from any of this, I suppose. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I guess I am a little leery of too much enthusiasm. Pop culture has a tendency to embrace things beyond the point of reason and sanity (hell, look at polyester), so I do wonder at times where this will all end. When I was little, “1984” was an absolutely terrifying book. Now, it seems… tame. Or to use the new parlance, “Meh.”