Friday, 5 April 2013

Too Legit not to Quit

I haven't been blogged for a while and I'm starting to feel it like an itch at the back of my mind. It's not so bad, because I have still been writing and one of the original reasons I started blogging was as a way of keeping a forum open for me to write even when I didn't have the time or energy to do anything long-form. I used to write all the time, working on comics or novels, but when I started doing an accountancy qualification on top of working full time I found I just didn't have the mental space to do the world-building required for long-form fiction. (And that's not just because I was writing secondary world fantasy - drawing maps is the easy part, it's keeping the characters alive that takes up space.) On top of that, a massive over-ambitious superhero project I was working on with Underfire Comics collapsed under its own weight, which left me rather disheartened with the whole concept of trying.

So, what has stayed my blogger's hand recently? Well, despite the self-indulgence inherent in my take on the form anyway, everything I've had to say recently has seemed crashingly obvious. Tomb Raider is an incredible game which, despite some reservations, absolutely raises the bar for womens' representation in triple-A titles; Elementary is a grand series; I've finally worked out how to win games with my Eldar army in Warhammer 40k, despite having been playing with them for something like 15 years on and off*.

I have also found myself back writing outside of a blog context again, which has been taking up all of the time that I would otherwise have written posts. I have a comic coming out soon, The Goose, which rose from the ashes of the giant superhero book that I mentioned earlier. I actually wrote it about a year and a half ago, but I always tend to do a re-write when I'm lettering as sometimes things that look good on a script just don't read well on a page of art. Additionally, and quite apart from that, I have been working on something, which I have mentioned before, which is almost certainly going to be a book
Initially I was thinking of maybe writing a series of extended blog posts, but decided against it primarily for format reasons - while you can do longform blogs and you can do arguments extended over multiple posts the way in which they are read and collated tends towards a dissipation of logical thread. Basically, I think blogs are great for the repetition and revisiting of a core theme or themes, but not so great if you need to make points that build on previously argued tenets in a sequential fashion. So, write a book instead - that's no different to any kind of other writing that you might decide to do.

It is different though, I've found, and I'm not talking about the technical points of construction - although they do exist. What I'm talking about is a central question of legitimacy, which strikes fundamentally into the sort of iconic status that books have always held for me. I use 'iconic' very seriously here, in that books, specifically bound, printed matter, have always seemed to stand for more than just themselves - more than just the instanced thing, but for the concept of knowledge and authority.
It starts maybe with the special quality prescribed to knowledge contained in school text books but continues beyond even the realisation of the inaccuracies, fudges and occasional untruths that comprise a great many of these. books are authoritative because they are books, because the action of binding feels like a statement about the contents bound; a bid for their permanence, and their entitlement to permanence. While pamphlets and leaflets contain opinion, books contained fact. Someone, a publisher no less, vets the contents - and they would not allow something through that did not pass muster.

Of course I now know that this isn't true. I know that people publish books full of wilful distortions, as attempts to re-write reality to their own narrative. I know that people publish books that are just plain wrong, because they don't really know what they are talking about. And I know that people publish books that don't make a claim at unequivocal truth, but instead present an argument open to interpretation and rebuttal, but ultimately hoping to persuade. None of this actually helps with my problem, because they all show even further how much and how complicated is the power of books.

My problem is one of legitimacy. As I write and research and make notes every now and then it just hits me - how can I justify even attempting to put this out? This has never bothered me when writing fiction, because it is necessarily about making things up and interpreting the world subjectively. It has never bothered me about blogging because the format clearly denotes that the content is opinion. But how can I justify writing a book - regardless of if I find a publisher or end up doing it myself? I am writing about mental health and gaming, but I am not a specialist in either area and this seems important. I lack the authority to speak for either community, except as a member of each. I have no specialist knowledge, only my experience and research, which even there I feel like it might not be enough - that I'm not enough of a gamer, that my mental health problems are not severe enough to really understand what its like. I am not qualified, either colloquially or on paper.

The thing is, I'm still going to write it, even though I don't quite feel like I am entitled too, but I do wonder if other people suffer a similar lack of legitimacy, and how they go about combating it? But then again, as my mind constantly delights in asking me, how do you justify anything?

*The secret is Jetbikes. Unfortunately when I was a teenager I couldn't afford any. Also, I played mainly against Space Wolves, who in the 2nd Ed. rules were so unbalanced it wasn't even funny. I could probably write a whole Things I Failed to Do post about that list.

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