Maybe it was always thus and I’m just aware of it because I am ill and cranky. But man. It’s much more fun to like stuff than to hate stuff.
— John Green (@realjohngreen) March 3, 2014
There’s a lot of lousy crap out there. And a lot of people unfortunately preoccupied with keeping it around instead of jettisoning that ballast and moving on with our lives (here, also kind of here). I’m going to try to put all that aside and luxuriate in reflection on some nice things.
So I finally got my own Surly. It was inspired by Theodore Sturgeon, or, as my fellow (less genre savvy) lit enthusiast friend Scott calls him, “that guy who wrote E Pluribus Unicorn”. The book I’m holding in the above selfie is his possible magnum opus More Than Human, which is the best sci-fi novel containing a commentary on race and transhumanism not written by Samuel R. Delany (see Dhalgren, Trouble on Triton, and basically everything else). Sturgeon was the inspiration for at least the name of Kurt Vonnegut’s self-insert character Kilgore Trout. He wrote two episodes of Star Trek the original series, including Amok Time. The guy was prolific, fantastic, and remains under-recognized.
He wore a necklace with a capital letter Q with an arrow through it that he also incorporated into his signature. His explanation for it was “Ask the next question.” Which I think is a great sentiment to keep close in mind. So I decided that in pursuit of my goal of accessorizing for spring I’d get a Sturgeon-inspired necklace and a Stetson hat. Which reminds me, how we choose our attire and how we wear it is weird, and that’s going to be my next blog post when I get the time and energy to write it.
Briefly back to Sturgeon before I sign off, though. I’m not a horror fan. I fail to be surprised, disconcerted, or otherwise perturbed by the vast majority of horror tropes. There is a short story included in some editions of Some of Your Blood by Sturgeon the name of which I don’t remember, but it is the only example of horror fiction I can think of that actually made me acutely uncomfortable in a way I suspect horror is intended. So I recommend checking that out if it’s your thing.
Sturgeon also had what I think is the best comeback to criticism of genre literature not written by Ursula K. Le Guin, that “90% of everything is crap.” Which sounds pretty negative, but I’m going to try to defend. No matter what category you pick, most things in it probably won’t speak to you. I love sci-fi as a genre, but I personally just don’t like Ken MacLeod. I love progressive rock as a genre, but I just don’t like Radiohead. And those things don’t poison my ability to full on John-Green-nerd-love that arbitrary 10%.
Also, I think it serves as a helpful reminder that it’s okay to take some of a thing without taking all of it. Recently with the premier of the new Cosmos series with Neil deGrasse Tyson there’s been a lot of reminiscing over the original Carl Sagan show. Some people love it, some people don’t. But no one’s obligated to love everything about it. I think time loops are the most awful plot trope in fiction, but those episodes of Farscape and The X-Files don’t take away from my enthusiasm for the series.
So go read a book, make an art, do a thing you love. Self indulge in that 10%.