Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My Home in Space, Through Time, In the Future, and Within Alternate Histories

I've been thinking about the meaning of home for a few months, ever since moving again. There are parts of Ventura that feel home-like to me, but at this point in my life, I don't think I'll find an overall home I can become attached to. Not that I want to move again, but I don't have the expectations anymore that I used to whenever we moved. I've learned. I'll take whatever comes here. So far it's good. It'll be better when I'm hired somewhere.

However, within that thought process, about places I've been to, places I've lived in, favorite things in my life, I think I hit on something.

The second movie I ever saw, when I was 5, was Jetsons: The Movie.

My favorite childhood movie was Flight of the Navigator.

I am hopelessly devoted to Blade Runner, Tron: Legacy, and Oblivion.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow occupies an important place in my permanent book collection.

Every time my family and I went to Walt Disney World, to the Magic Kingdom, I always spent the day in Tomorrowland, circulating among Space Mountain, the then-Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress, as well as the arcade adjacent to the exit of Space Mountain (from the inside) and the entrance (from the outside).

I own nearly the entire run of Red Dwarf on DVD.

There are other examples, like the Nerd Trivia page-a-day calendar I recently mentioned, especially seeking its sci-fi bent. I also realized, paging through one of my DVD binders, that I have the complete series of the cult hit The Middleman, which I loved when it aired on then-ABC Family, and practically wailed over its cancellation.

But the earlier ones, those above, that's what factors into this: Science fiction, even in what some might consider some of these imperfect forms, has always been a beacon in my life, beckoning to me. But I've never really paid attention to it.

Until now.

In seeking a stable home for myself, I know now that it'll be science fiction. Specifically science fiction novels and short stories. My New Year's resolution is to immerse myself completely in them, not only to find my world(s) within them, but also find inspiration in the universes they conjure, hope for me that my own, comparatively earthbound writing, can be as good, as all-encompassing as these works are.

As my past experience with science fiction indicates, I'm a geek nomad. I've never taken sides between the Jedi and Trekkies (or Trekkers, whatever you prefer). I do lean more toward Star Trek than Star Wars, but I will eventually see the new movie. I like going from, say, an issue of Asimov's Science Fiction to Firefly, and then from Firefly to whatever Kim Stanley Robinson has going on lately. To quote from my previous post about the Nerd Trivia calendar:

I think if I was to appear in space-based science fiction, I would be the cargo captain with the rundown, yet still reliable ship who's always ready to be sent anywhere in exchange for a sizable donation to the Help Keep Me Alive Fund. I wouldn't race headlong into danger, or seek out some potentially risky adventure. Just let me drift among the stars, taking in the universe at my own pace (save for when there's cargo to transport).

I don't think it's only the sheer scope of science fiction which seizes me, though. It's not only the wonders that can emerge from thousands of words, making me wonder how someone did all this, made this world simply through words (it's never simple, of course). I realized that it's also the architecture in science fiction that I want to study closely.

When I was a tyke, my parents and I (and then my sister) lived in Casselberry, Florida, so close to Orlando that we went to Walt Disney World every weekend. I was in a stroller and I guess then the castle itself and the buildings made to look like different lands made a deep impression on me, though I didn't know it then.

While five years of living in Las Vegas was hard, there were those days when we went to The Cosmopolitan, the Wynn, the Mirage, the Bellagio, and other hotels, and I loved that elegant interior design and was curious about who had done it, how they planned it, what they enjoyed in their lives that inspired them to decorate as they did. Obviously under the edict of a Steve Wynn, of course, or even someone with lesser power than that, but it was still them. They were the ones who made it happen.

For me, in science fiction, it would be the size of staterooms in starships, how various captains decorate their own quarters, how much room there is for an overcrowded population to live in, say, a futuristic Los Angeles. How are such cities powered? What thought goes into what a starship will contain? Such questions as that will undoubtedly poke at me while I read.

I don't think I'll write about science fiction novels and short stories extensively here. I already write reviews for BookBrowse, and I don't want to do it that way. It'll probably be when the mood strikes me, when I spot a building or transport or some neon-filtered way of life in the far-off future that I want to write about, to wonder about it further.

Whether this portends me one day writing science fiction, I don't know. I have two ideas for short stories, one which involves holograms in a supermarket, and the other an earthbound non-futuristic short story collection set in the outskirts of Las Vegas, in a rundown former motel-turned apartment complex that faces the back end of the McCarran International parking garage, which has got to be the biggest parking garage in Las Vegas. The rest of what I want to write, my ideas list, is not only resolutely earthbound, but doesn't involve science fiction at all. I think for the most part, I just want to absorb everything it offers and apply it to my own work. Just something for me, not always to try to push out to the world. I'll wander and then come in with what I've found that interests me. This blog won't be overtaken by such an adventure. It'll still be different things.

(Postscript at 5:10 p.m.: This whole thing makes more sense now. I just remembered that when I was growing up, I always told my mom that I would build a time machine. In trying moments over the years, she's always asked me, "Where's your time machine?" No wonder the Back to the Future movies are among my favorites, the third one my favorite of the trilogy.)

The Physical Manifestation of Days

Sitting on the second shelf of my smaller bookcase on the left side, the first of three bookcases side-by-side (the biggest one is in the middle and the one on the right is the same size as that smaller bookcase) is the 2018 Zen Page-a-Day Calendar that I've had for three or four years in a row. I believe in everything that Zen represents, though my kind of meditation is reading. There's also a great deal of philosophy in it, which I've begun studying, but a more accessible philosophy that doesn't make you tear your hair out over how dense it is, and even when you try to chip away at it, it doesn't yield. Not the kind of philosophical thought that others write only to show how much they believe they've learned and how smart they think they look. I've also discovered many writers through it that have made it into my infinite reading list. Sometimes I pick them up right then and there and seek out their books, especially those from the Zen masters. Others I look up every once in a while and pick them up from there.

Also, from this past December until just after Christmas, I was thinking about a second page-a-day calendar for my bookcases, namely the 365 Things to Love About Being Southern Page-a-Day Calendar. I'm a Florida native, and I'm always interested in Southern culture, so I thought this would work for me. I remembered that it was at the Go! Calendars store at the Pacific View Mall, and the last time I went, when they were having a 50%-off-everything sale (it was a pop-up store, unfortunately, although with how many storefronts are empty on the second floor, they could use a permanent Go! Calendars store), there were still two calendars available.

But I looked through it again that last time and there wasn't much there that I didn't already know. I appreciated their filmographies of Southern actors, particularly Renee Zellweger, but I already know all her movies. And what I didn't know, such as the famed restaurants in every state, didn't offer anything beyond the names of the restaurants. Not about what they served, not about the barbecue culture within each of those that are barbecue joints, just lists. I don't want just lists. I want to know what those places are like. And I know there's Yelp for that, but I'm not on a computer all the time, though I'm usually on one too much, to write, to look for work right now, to research, and to write. In that calendar, I would want to have the details of a place right in front of me, but on one square page, there's probably not much room for what compilers of that calendar could hope to achieve further.

I wanted a calendar that would either give me something new every day or give me another angle to something I already knew. I needed a calendar that's close to me the way the Zen calendar is. And browsing those shelves of page-a-day calendars yet again in that store, I found one:

A Year of Nerd Trivia, newly published. 2018 is the first year of it.

I pulled it out of the box and randomly flipped through some of the pages. The back of the box had already intrigued me, what with a Doctor Who quiz and a quote from Neil DeGrasse Tyson about his 14-year-old daughter's emergent geekiness. In the calendar, I had flipped to a "Nerd Lit" page (book recommendations all) for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I'd heard about in passing, but never looked into it. The description didn't interest me a great deal, but times may change.

I decided that this was the calendar for me. I'm more of a geek nomad. I wander between worlds, from Firefly to the Star Trek universe, tiptoeing through Doctor Who and nursing my obsessions with Blade Runner, Tron: Legacy, and Oblivion. I'm not a Jedi nor a Trekkie (or Trekker; whichever one you want). I think if I was to appear in space-based science fiction, I would be the cargo captain with the rundown, yet still reliable ship who's always ready to be sent anywhere in exchange for a sizable donation to the Help Keep Me Alive Fund. I wouldn't race headlong into danger, or seek out some potentially risky adventure. Just let me drift among the stars, taking in the universe at my own pace (save for when there's cargo to transport).

So the Nerd Trivia calendar became my second one at the start of the New Year. The first day had a Lord of the Rings quiz, which I had to look at the answers that at the bottom, upside-down. I didn't know any of them. I'm not against fantasy works; I just have to find room for them. I not only once bought a copy of Game of Thrones from Walmart (giving it up when we moved from Las Vegas back to Southern California), and borrowed a paperback copy from the Ojai Library, but I still haven't read it. I guess maybe I wanted to see, based on the TV series (which I also haven't seen), what all the hype has been about. But that's probably not the best way to approach such a series. There has to be something within it that intrigues you enough to venture forth. I'll look into it again, of course. As to Lord of the Rings, the Goodwill in downtown Ventura had a 50%-off-everything sale two days after Christmas, and I found a shrink-wrapped, unopened set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on DVD (the theatrical cuts) for $4.00. What better time to give it another try? It's not that I didn't like it the first time (I saw the The Fellowship of the Ring in theaters, and was impressed), but I still haven't seen The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

The next day, January 2nd, was a Nerd Lit page for I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Dystopian worldwide epidemics don't interest me, nor do vampires, so I could skip that. But today had trivia about Star Trek: Generations, that the budget for the movie was so tight, the Next Generation crew had to wear the Deep Space Nine uniforms. Jonathan Frakes was wearing Avery Brooks' uniform, and it was too big for him, which is why whenever Frakes is on camera, his sleeves are rolled up.

So even if there's a day that doesn't interest me, like I Am Legend, I know that there'll be something coming up that will. To me, these calendars are the physical manifestation of days. The day ends, I tear off that day, crumple it up and throw it out. But before I do, I hope that I've spent that day well enough, accomplishing at least some of whatever I'm looking to do, be it writing or the currently ever-present job search, or like on New Year's Day night, watching The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin on PBS, the documentary I waited months to see, ever since I heard about it when it was making the film festival circuit.

One day gone, crumpled up. The next day here. I always hope that the Zen calendar will live up to my expectations of it each day, and it usually does. I can be casual with the Nerd Trivia calendar. I'm sure that something interesting will pop up. I'm just hoping that there'll be a Nerd Lit page every week. Only 52, then, sure (51 now), but I'm sure some of these recommendations will lead me to still other books, just by looking them up. Not that I need a calendar for book recommendations, with how much I read as it is, but there's always something I haven't noticed, even as I explore widely.