A Symphony of Echoes (culture)

Hello there, Action Force. I know I haven’t posted much lately, but I’ve been busy finishing up my latest work in progress.  Deadlines, y’know. I really should be doing that now, but sometimes, a novelologist has something he needs to talk about with you, his adoring public. I know how you depend on me for thoughtful dissection on cultural issues. Where would this world be without me to come along and tell everyone how terrible Godzilla and Star Trek: Into Darkness are? It’d get along, but it’d be a much poorer place for it, I’m sure we can all agree.

So what’s the deal with not putting two spaces after a period anymore? It just doesn’t look right. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but still . . .

Not what I’m here to talk about today, but just something I wanted to get off my chest.

The truth about our world that few of us acknowledge is that we are constantly being shoved into easy-to-categorize boxes that diminish us, but whenever we try to get out of those boxes, we are berated for doing so. It stinks.

One of the boxes I’m stuck in is that of a Comedic writer. The catch is that as a Comedic writer, I am writing fluffy nonsense by default. Any time I write something that isn’t strictly funny though, the rebuttal is that the story is Too Serious. It’s a classic Catch-22, and it’s everywhere.

Women who are too sexy are diminished. Women who aren’t sexy enough are minimized.

We create an “urban” culture (i.e. black), and when people conform to those expectations, we use it as proof that they are thugs who deserve to be dismissed. But if they dare to step out of those expectations, then they are “forgetting who they are”.

We love everything in neat little categories, and we’re all poorer for it. The truth is that life isn’t neat. It’s messy and complicated, and we do a disservice to everyone (including ourselves) when we play to those desires for simplicity.

What’s even more frustrating to me is that we never actually wonder where all those boxes came from in the first place? We just take them for granted.  We assume they are true because we are reinforced over and over again that they are, and we’re usually so busy leading our lives that we don’t have time to fight against them. Easier to go with the flow. Easier to be a category than to step outside of those narrow parameters.

I like writing funny stuff, but I won’t pretend it hasn’t held me back because a lot of my stuff isn’t funny. No matter how ridiculous my stories might seem from the outside, I always take them seriously. I always want them to be amusing, but also endeavor to have something interesting to say. I never want to write something forgettable. But for many people, forgettable is the innate nature of what I write.

It’s tempting to blame one’s critics for that sort of thing, but it’s bigger than that. Far bigger. It’s built into the foundation of how we view the universe. Whether it’s something truly terrible like racial profiling and our relentless, oppressive desire for social norms OR little things like wanting every book to be defined by a simple category, we don’t decide these things. They were decided for us, long ago.  We carry them forward without a thought.

It’s a common refrain of mine at this point, but it’s worth repeating:

It’s all so much bullshit.

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for it. It’s the same phantom force that decides anything with a non-white, non-male protagonist belongs in a sub-category, no matter how mainstream it becomes. It excuses heinous acts by famous people, while simultaneously, harassing those same famous people for meaningless infractions like getting old or putting on weight. It has no respect for blockbusters films (often from neither the creators nor the audience) and yet says we should all flock to see them. It’s shocked (over and over again) that women play video games and then questions whether the games they play still count as video games because (eww) girls.  In short, it tells us not to question, but to live our lives by impossible standards, to miss out on what’s interesting in favor of what’s familiar, and to excuse our own inhumanity in favor of certainty.

The system (any system) seeks to maintain itself, and we seek to maintain it. Maybe because to step outside of our own boxes and biases means drawing attention to ourselves. It’s a hell of a lot of pressure. And there’s constant reinforcement. Everyone can tell you why Superman is boring because they’ve been told he’s boring a hundred thousand times. Everyone simply KNOWS that Godzilla movies are stupid. No need to argue the point.

But these are not their opinions. These are the opinions given to them by a world. The only way to counter it is to understand this. We are not parrots, screeching borrowed thoughts and shallow expectations. Or we need not be.

But what the hell do I know? I’m just a funny writer, right?

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. Greg
    Posted September 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink


  2. Posted September 18, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    You know what’s weird is the first thing I thought of when reading this was: John Hughes. Although some of his films truly grate upon me, (Breakfast Club), it is undeniable that he too was trying to take the stereotypes of those formative teenage years in the ’80’s and completely wreck them. I suspect he felt the same way, and his films are considered classics today. I’m guessing your books will age just as well. Rest well with that knowledge, and keep on writing! 🙂

  3. Shawn P. Bellamy
    Posted September 20, 2014 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    You find the funniest things to worry about…Do you hold your pinky out when you sup tea?

  4. Rod B
    Posted September 21, 2014 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    When I see your name on a novel I admit I usually think comedy-fantasy. You could though use an alias to avoid being pigeoned holed.

  5. Annamal
    Posted September 25, 2014 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I know you’ve said in the past that you tried some early Terry Pratchett and could not get into it, but personally I suspect that the two of you are a lot closer in writing style and philosophy than you realise (and that a lot of hi later work would resonate very strongly with you).


    Thank you so much for your work, I love your books.

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