My mother’s family, the Sweeneys, have been my “main” family for most of my life. Between being told that my grandmother on the Webb side disowned me and generally not feeling a part of any of my step-parents’ families, the Sweeneys have always been the family I’ve been around the most, the ones who helped me to accept my Irish heritage (even when I didn’t), and the family that frequently encouraged my creative side.
The Sweeneys are also riddled with chronic depression.
My mom, thank god, seems to have been largely untouched. My aunt ended up addicted to a variety of drugs and ran away from her husband and family. She and my uncles were also alcoholics. One of my uncles has tried repeatedly to commit suicide. The other one succeeded. I have heard legendary stories of my grandmother’s mood swings, even though she was always polite and tender toward me. One of my cousins has been in and out of jail a couple of times, and that’s only what I know from our childhood and young adult life. The “melancholic drunk Irish artist” stereotype isn’t so quaint or amusing when you’re looking at it over the course of your life.
Continue reading Yanking Out The Wires In The Time Bomb
I am a media omnivore.
When I read, I will read anything from trashy pulp novels to works of great literature with equal enjoyment. When I watch movies, I’m just as likely to watch mindless entertainment like “Jackass” as I will watch something intellectually engaging like “Inception.” Television ranges from historical drama to zany sitcoms, while my phone has everything from pop music to hardcore rap on it. A lot of times, people will introduce me to new stuff, which is awesome even if I’m not a fan of it.
Once in a while, someone will tell me that they’re surprised that I don’t like something or that I do like something. I’m never sure how to respond to that. Some of it is, I’m sure, the fallacy that “I like you and I like/hate this thing, ergo you should like/hate this thing.” Sometimes it seems to be more personal, as if me liking or not liking something is a personal insult to someone. Usually, though, I try to deflect it with some variation of “everyone has their own tastes,” and try to change the conversation.
But lately I’ve been thinking about this as many of my coworkers and friends have been recommending stuff to me, and some people have been pointing me to cool things as a result of my Tour de Holmes. I don’t have a single bucket of things I like and another one of things I don’t. There are things that I really like but will never watch or read again. There are things that I’m not sure I enjoy but I’ll watch or read over and over again. There are things that I enjoy because it deals with some parts of my brain, and not others. Things that I really, really enjoy engage me in multiple ways, but that doesn’t invalidate or diminish other things I like. I think this is why I get frustrated with the five-star system of ratings. On the surface, something I rate as three stars would appear to be inferior to something I rate as five stars. But I might go to the three-star book over the five-star one if I’m in a particular mood, because it more fully scratches a particular itch.
Maybe it’s because I don’t buy into the idea of “guilty” pleasures – I like what I like, and I don’t feel the need to be ashamed by them. Maybe I’m wired differently, and look for connections between disparate media. Or maybe I just have no taste, and don’t have enough sense to hide the fact that I think “Jackass” is funny while writing a critical analysis of Victorian literature.
But odds are pretty good that I like something you do, even if I don’t like something else you love.
As I dive more and more into transmedia and video game design, something has been bothering me. It started building my head when I was on the “Narrative Design” track at GDC Online, and has been growing ever since. In a nutshell, the problem is this:
“Writing” is only a small portion of what writers actually do these days.
Sure, I could get semantic on this point – technically what writers do nowadays is typing instead of writing manuscripts out by hand – but even the more liberal interpretation is becoming awkward. The idea of the professional who does nothing but sit at a typewriter or computer, churn out a manuscript or Word document, send it in, get paid, and move on to the next one is increasingly inaccurate. Now freelance writers need to know skills like blogging and marketing and networking, and that’s aside from other non-writing skills like research and editing that have been part of the craft for over a century now. It’s not uncommon for writers to have to learn things like HTML or audio recording or how to be interviewed in order to supplement their careers. But even then, while there might be a decreasing percentage of sitting at the computer and typing out stuff for people to read, it’s still a significant percentage for the purely prose writer.
Continue reading These Words Are Broken – We Need New Ones
These days I do most of my boring life updates on Twitter and Facebook. With the rise of microblogging, self-indulgent updates about my life and interests aren’t as necessary as they once were. But once in a while, it’s nice to take a longer moment and think about what’s going on, especially when you’re deep in the flow of life.
Since GenCon, I’ve been settling into my new work responsibilities. The first thing I’ve noticed is that my responsibilities are like quicksand: just when I think I can’t get pulled in more, I’m pulled in more. Mostly, I’m learning about moving from a workflow where I could do quite a lot of my job on my own to one where I need to coordinate with a team. It’s not a manager role so much as a team leadership role, but it’s a huge step for me. Throw into this mix the triple threat of going to the Grand Masquerade, coming back for two days of job training, and then back out to GDC Online for a week, and my free time is at a premium.
Part of this reduced free time means that I had to trim down my personal projects even more, causing me to bail on some freelance work I was excited about and calling a premature end to the ICONS game I was running. In fact, the only personal project I have on my plate is my collection of essays on the Sherlock Holmes stories, and even that’s coming along at a glacial pace (one of the advantages of being my own master, I suppose). It’s weird – usually I have a lot of different irons in a lot of different fires. Technically that’s still true, but right now my irons and fires are all in one office. That isn’t a bad thing at all, but it does take some getting used to – especially when I get so wrapped up in my own bullshit that I accidentally blow off my friends.
One upside to all of this is that I’ve been needing a hobby that I can do in very short bursts and at random moments, which means I’ve had a surprising amount of time to read. I’ve been working my way through Sherlock Holmes when I have a chance to sit down with the books and a notepad or even a laptop, but I’ve also been catching up on Raymond Chandler and some short story anthologies I’ve been sitting on. I’m also going to dive into some Doc Savage in the near future, Ethan suggested I get acquainted with Clark Ashton Smith, and Russell’s been getting me interested in Fritz Leiber. One of the downsides of working with my friends is that I end up getting way more awesome book recommendations than I could possibly have time to read.
Anyhow, I expect things will settle down. My life isn’t crazy, but it is fuller than it was before. I am learning a lot about myself as I muddle through it, though.
I never intended to become an alcohol snob.
Originally, I wasn’t very picky at all. In college, I would often drink whatever was handed to me. It was usually terrible, but I wasn’t drinking to enjoy myself – I was drinking with a goal in mind. Most of my early experiences with alcohol weren’t pleasurable, and I still get sick just smelling Southern Comfort.
But I knew that I didn’t like beer.
That started to change when I first went to England. My friend, Rik Sowden, made me realize that I actually really like beer – it was just American lagers that I didn’t like. I got introduced to beers of all kinds, and got a chance to find out what I like and what I don’t like. Over the years, as I got an appreciation for beer, I was able to become more experimental and branch out, but I really needed to understand what was good and what I liked first before I could really do that.
But I knew that I didn’t like wine.
Continue reading I Only Drink The Good Stuff
Let me start off with a confession. Well, not so much a confession as an explanation. See, because I write roleplaying games and work in video games, many people assume that I’m a huge fan of fantasy. Regularly I’ll get people telling me their impressions of this fantasy author or lamenting that book ninety-seven of that fantasy series still isn’t out yet or asking my opinion on the casting for this other fantasy series that’s been optioned.
The truth is, I don’t really dig fantasy all that much.
Now, I know I’m going to get called on this, so I need to explain. I don’t like 700-page novels where the plucky hero goes out to save yet another fantasy world that’s totally not ripped off from Tolkien and Gygax we swear honest. Odds are good there will be a love interest that may or may not be self-sufficient but will eventually need rescuing. There’s probably a sword somewhere that have a compound name and a destiny associated with it. Could be an evil race of beings that have no other purpose than to be evil. And there is always always always a shit-ton of words that I’ll pronounce wrong in conversation.
All that being said, I’m sure I can find examples of exactly those kinds of stories that I actually liked.
Continue reading I Read Fantasy. Just Not The Fantasy You Like.
With the rise of the Internet, there’s also a rise in what I’ve come to think of as “micro-celebrity” — something that looks and feels a little bit like celebrity, but only with a very small group of people. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that my own personal stock has risen from non-celebrity to micro-celebrity. And I’ve not always done well with it. For example, I posted this
in late 2008 in my LiveJournal:
I’ve never quite gotten used to people coming up to me who know who I am and what I do without me knowing them at all.
I then go on to say I’ve gotten better about it, and that’s true — I don’t think it’s some kind of elaborate put-on, nor do I feel that it’s somehow undeserved. But I still don’t think I’ve gotten used to it.