Being a Fantasy

This may be a strange post for me to write, considering that I’ve been posting images from the photoshoot I did down in Florida. Those images are explicitly fantastical. They’re meant to be.

They’re fantastical representations of a fantasy writer, and I had a lot of fun doing them.

But something happens when you’re a writer, and you write fantasy, and you have an online presence. In some ways, you start to become a fantasy. You’re no longer the person you actually are. People imagine you in different ways, often as slightly larger than life, more magical. And that can become difficult, when they realize that you’re only human after all.

A human being trying to do magical things, which takes work and time and effort.

The thing about being a writer, even a fantasy writer, is that you have to have a very firm grasp on reality. You have to understand how the world works, what motivates people, how they sometimes fool even themselves. You have to have the magic inside you, which is a kind of sensitivity to the world as well as to language. That’s how you make it happen.

Writers like to spend time together because they understand one another, in ways other people sometimes don’t understand them. They know that everything in their books was once inside them, and that it took tremendous effort to bring it out. That the magic happens inside and on the page. That when people expect them to be fantastical creatures, they’re locating the magic in the wrong place. When writers get together, what do they talk about? All the dull, technical things they would talk about if they were in any other profession. Who has a new agent. What’s up for an award. Advances.

When they get together, writers are as mundane as plumbers. The magic happens inside, and for the most part we don’t talk about it. Except as craft, in workshops. (But it’s magic nevertheless.)

We are human, so when people want us to be fantastical creatures, I think we try to look the part. Fantasy writers tend to be photographed in fantastical ways. Look at photographs of Catherynne Valente sometime, or China Miéville. At some level, we start to look like characters from our own stories. This could be an older version of Thea Graves, for example. (When I write about her going to the Shadowlands, she’s just out of college. She’s not quite this sophisticated yet.)

(This is of course a picture of me from the photoshoot.)

But of course we’re not characters, but the ones who create characters. The music makers and dreamers of dreams. And that means we get up in the morning, in our pajamas, and eat a bowl of oatmeal, and sit down in front of the computer, and check to see what we wrote the previous day, and how good (or bad) it is. And then we take a shower, thinking about the writing for that day. And then we sit down in front of the computer again. For hours and hours and hours.

The magic happens inside. And hopefully on the page.

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2 Responses to Being a Fantasy

  1. Nick Mamatas says:

    At some level, we start to look like characters from our own stories.

    Uh-oh.

  2. Be scared, Mamatas. Be very scared. 🙂

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