Status report: I’ve heard from my second reader about the introduction. A lot of praise and not a lot to change, so it’s looking good. I’m still waiting to hear from my first reader, who will be the one with more elaborate comments, not only on the introduction but on the chapters as well. But I’m grateful for this respite.
In the meantime, I’ve finished my Folkroots column. I’ll be proofreading it tonight and then sending it to Doug. I’ve already sent him the images. This column will be called “Planting a Magical Garden.” Remember that if you want to read my column “A Brief History of Monsters,” it’s in the August issue, and the October issue will include “The Myth and Magic of Narnia.”
So here is my schedule for the next week or so. I have to finish revising a story I promised to a magazine, due September 1st. I also need to prepare to start teaching on the 6th. Other than that, it’s just the dissertation. Once I get all the comments, I’ll revise it one final time and then submit it to the committee.
It’s been an exhausting month.
But there was something specific I wanted to write about today. A friend of mine, also a writer, and I agreed recently that we both felt like aliens, as though we were somehow on the wrong planet. We though about building a rocket ship to get off-world, or alternatively hitching a ride with a Vogon megafreighter. We though, if caught and tortured, we could bear the poetry.
I think that’s a common feeling among writers and creative people in general: feeling as though you don’t really belong here. After all, there are so many things here that don’t make sense (the current political and economic situation, to start). So I started thinking, what do you do when you feel like an alien who has somehow, for some reason, been stranded on this planet?
And I went back to all the science fiction movies made for kids in the 70s and 80s. Here’s what you do: you find your family. When you crashed on this planet, or were left on this planet, or however you got here, you lost your family. Your family became separated, and different members grew up in different places. You didn’t even know you were aliens, although you always felt different, didn’t you? But one day, probably around adolescence, you noticed the lizard skin underneath the human surface. And you realized that you were an alien and started wondering, were there others like you? So you set out to find those others. That’s what always happens in the movies.
So you had to start out, probably in an old car, probably across a landscape that looked surprisingly like central California, to find the aliens like you.
That’s what we have to do.
My biological family is made of up doctors. I look like them, so they think I am like them – they haven’t seen the lizard skin underneath. But I also have an alien family. I recognize my family members at once (doesn’t that always happen in the movies)? As soon as I see them and speak with them, I know they’re like me. (I meet a lot of them at writing workshops or science fiction conventions. Funny how that works, isn’t it?)
I made a decision recently. I decided that I was going to gather my family around me, if not physically then virtually. I was going to make a concerted effort to keep in touch with the other aliens. After all, we speak the same language. We understand each other when the rest of the world looks at us as though we’re – well, speaking an alien language. And I was not going to let them go.
My life started with so much loss. (I lost a whole country. Family, friends, over and over again.) I’ve come to an age when I’m determined not to lose any more – particularly not the people who speak my language. I want to gather them around me so we can agree that this place is nuts, build a spaceship, and decide where we want to go. Or, as they do in the movies, build a place right here on earth where the aliens can live, looking human but being lizard-beings all the while.
And no more losing anyone, ever.