Philosophy

The Beating Heart of Fandom

Today is T-14 days until my 40th birthday, and the Reconnection Project has empowered me more than I ever thought it would. Today, I start the process of moving beyond me... Let the games begin.

Fandom is an action and a community.

The Last Air Bender from Shore Leave 32

When I say fandom is an action, it is a bunch of actions.

  • Reading and writing Fan fiction
  • Creating, sharing, and discussing Fan theories
  • Listening to, writing, and singing Filk
  • Sharing, making, and viewing Fan Art
  • Fan Vids
  • Fan films
  • Cosplay
  • Costuming
  • Roleplaying
  • Fan games
  • etc...

Every fan has their own way of participating in fandom. I used to participate a lot more than I do now. And that changes today.

When I stopped everything in the depths of my depression, I stopped playing in the fandoms I love.  I cut myself off from the fan communities I used to not only participate in, but I cut myself off from the people I used to interact with.

Community and fanac (fan activities) go hand in hand, especially now in this age of the internet.

We are defined by our actions

I cannot say that enough to myself or to you.

Ideas in your head stay in your head and if you aren't careful, they will cage you in there.

Life is action. If you want to live a life of compassion, you have to engage in acts of compassion or you are not compassionate. The same is true with everything.

If you want to define yourself by what you love, you have to engage in loving actions.

In fandom, that means, we have to share what we love and promote it. Don't let yourself be passive. Passivity is silence, and silence is nonexistence.

Take your voice back! Take your life back! Share your love with the world. 

Some people might think this is a silly or trivial thing, but it isn't.

My love for Yoda says something about me. He represents wisdom, inner strength, and the ability to find humor in any situation. These are all qualities I admire and desire in myself. When I see my Yodas around the house, it works as a symbol which draws up all these connections in my unconscious mind and strengthens those qualities within me.

Some people might think that is taking all this too seriously, but that is how mythology works.  It is a subtile effect on us, but it effects us all the same. By choosing to surround myself with these images, seeking them out, and sharing them, I am participating in the mythos. Ever time I quote Yoda, I am participate in the mythos and strengthen those qualities in me. 

Don't think that these are some kind of solemn acts. Solemnity isn't required for actions to have effects on our selves. Sometimes they are moments of catharsis, and sometimes they are pure frivolity.  

Today's Task: 

Find at least one thing you love and participate in it.  Share a picture, a video, read some fanfic, watch a fanfilm, or at the very least watch or listen to something you love.

Let me know how you are participating in the things you love.

Let your light Shine

Today is T-15 to my 40th Birthday and I feel like wrapping up in a blanket and ignoring everything because my allergies struck back. A trivial problem, but when you are trying to build up momentum any stumbling block can knock you back down.

One of the biggest problems we face is when we are judged for what we feel is a problem in our lives that when compared to other problems in the world seem trivial. Our problems are ours, and we have to deal with them as they face us.

Now, don't misunderstand me.  I am not saying it is ok to whine about our state in life or wallow in your own misery.  In fact, we have to do the exact opposite.

Obstacles

Whether big or small, obstacles will always crop up. Their severity is all too often dictated by our mood when we stumble upon them.  If we are at a particularly low point even the smallest thing can throw us completely off our game.

What is your light?

Our light is a combination of things.

Light Empowers

Whatever empowers you is part of your light.  Whether it is music, dancing, drawing, writing, cooking, baking, knitting, it is important for you to know it and have it at hand when the time comes.

One of my biggest recharging stations is music.  I love to listen to it, and even more to sing along. I don't have a good singing voice, but I don't care.  I love it. As I write this, I feel lucky by Mary Chapin Carpenter came on.  I am not a big Country music fan, but I love that song.  I had to stop typing and just sing along. Here's the video if you want to join in.

Now that feels a lot better.  I don't exclusively listen to happy go lucky music.  Right now, Reptile by Creaming Jesus is on and I am singing along to it too.

Both songs work for me, but I have always been a Goth at heart.  Neither of these may work for you, and that's fine.  Find what works for you, and embrace it.  We have to take moments to refuel or we can't complain when we inevitably run out of gas.

Light from Within

Light also comes from within us. This isn't where I tell you that you have an ineffable light deep down inside you and you have to let it shine.  You do, we all do, but that isn't what I am talking about right now.

There are things you do that are uniquely you that can fight back the darkness when it comes for you.

It might be your sense of humor, or wit, or a quirk in your perspective that comes from a very honest and vulnerable place.  This light can be the hardest to find and harness, but it is key to fighting off the darkness.

For me, this is my imagination. Whether I let myself day dream for a minute, rework a old myth into a new story, or just wander through some old memories, I find strength in the words and images arising from my unconscious mind.  That is why the first thing that I struggle with in dark times is my ability to imagine.

When you find that unique thing inside you, learn how to harness it to make yourself stronger.

Today's Task

Find one thing that refuels you and makes you feel alive and do it for no less than 15 minutes.

I am going to give a private concert to my dog and cat, and to his chagrin my husband who is working out of the house today.  What are you going to do?

There's not enough Love and Understanding

It is now T-16 to my 40th Birthday, and it happens to be Brian's Birthday today.  As I write this, he is playing Civ VI, his present with the biggest smile on his face.  It is hard to express how much I love him.

Love is such a strange thing.  I never thought this would be a part of my life, yet still here it is.  Our story is as strange and bizarre as it would have to be to get people like us together.  My life has taught me the most important thing anyone could ever know about love:

Love sneaks up on you

By that, I mean every kind of love. Romantic, friendly, familial, or just simple compassion, it just sneaks up on you. It doesn't come when you seek it out.  It seems to hide when you look for it, but when you least suspect it, there it is.  I was in a relationship when I met Brian.  I wasn't looking for anything else, but it happen anyway.

Friends from Shore Leave.

Romantic love isn't the only kind of love that sneaks up on you. Friends do as well. I never expected to make so many friends from New York, especially since I haven't been to the state since 1996, but now I have a circle of friends there that are as supportive, if not more, than any of the friends I have in the town where I live. How did that happen? 

Honestly Honesty

After an event I am not going to go into a lot of detail about took place in 1998-99, many people I thought were friends stole every THING that I had including my sense of self and how the world works. After that, I decided just be bluntly and blatantly who and what I am.

While I wouldn't recommend for everyone to be as open about their lives as I am, I will say that you have to be yourself.  

Stop caring about what others think about you

I am just me, and you should be you. If you spend any amount of time worrying about what other people think about you, that is just a waste of time.

The one thing most lacking in this world is honesty or integrity or however you want to name it.  Society will always pressure individuals to play a role, because it is a machine like everything else.  It packages, names, and grinds people down until they fit into the role it needs them to fill.

What is important to remember is that Society is made up of many subcultures, and those subcultures empower Society to behave the way it does.  If you are in a subculture that doesn't want you, find another that does.

I left the mainstream or popular subculture years ago because I am not the Cisgendered, Heteronormalized, Centrist demanded my the currant cadre of subcultures that make up the present coalition we call Pop Culture.  

I am not Cisgendered, so I identify as genderqueer, or more specifically as androgynous.  I planted a flag there, and made a home in a community that accepted me as I am.

I could never live a Heteronormalized life, so I found myself in the feminist and LGBT communities.

I am not a centrist, so I called myself out as a liberal.

So what subculture do I live in? Fandom. I love a subculture that defines itself by what it loves rather than what it hates (which is how fandom should be defined, even though sometimes people push the edges of that definition).

To me, that is the secret of life and how everyone should act.  When you focus on the things you love, you attract a loving community around you.  This is a how you attract love in every form.

Brian and I connected through fan activities, and we have now been together for almost 20 years.  All of the friends I have, I met through our mutual fandoms.  Love gives meaning to life.  Love gives us strength.  Love is all that matters.

Task for Today

Share something you love with a partner, friend, or a stranger.  Connect with those closest to you over your mutual love for something: music, shows, movies, games, etc.

Let me know what your results are.

Project: Shadow Manifesto

Project: Shadow Logo To mark the 10 year anniversary of the Project: Shadow Manifesto, we thought it was time to overhaul it again, but this time to open up the project to all of the like-minded fans out there who are tired of the status quo, and who are hungry for something new. Brian and I drafted the original Project: Shadow Manifesto in 1999 as an outline we saw in professional publishing.  The original draft was heavy on problems, light on vision, and even lighter on solutions.  We took years investigating the limited options available at the time, built the original Project: Shadow, and I started writing.

In 2004, we revised the manifesto, and re-launched Project: Shadow.  The new draft focused on the solutions possible through new technologies.  The world/culture presented us with newer challenges.


We are fans.

We love our music, stories, characters, and settings. We know about what we love. We participate in what we love. We support what we love. What we love supports us.

At heart, a fan is not someone who enjoys a movie, a song, a band, a book, or a show.  A fan feels an intense connection with the object of their love.  Fans decorate their homes, offices, and desktops with items that announce their allegiance with their favorite bands, movies, shows, and books.

The problem with our popular culture is that it doesn’t blink at a sports fan wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with their favorite team, or even a replica jersey, but wear a Star Wars shirt or dress like a goth and they think they have the right to mock you.

What is the difference between a fan wearing a jersey to a game or fan bringing a light saber to a movie?  Or for that matter, what is the difference between a sports fan painting themselves up to go tailgating or a fan dressing as their favorite character at a convention?

Perception.  Pop Culture has classified sports fans as acceptable and speculative fiction fans as geeky.  I have to say, it is just as geeky to now all of the stats for everyone who has ever played for a particular sports franchise as it is to know the stats for every creature in the Monster Manual.  The only real difference is one fan accepts they are a geek, and the other pretends their geekiness is proof they are a jock.

The disapproval is the least of the problems facing today’s fan.

From Storytellers to Copyright

Problem: People are natural storytellers.  We hear a story, embellish it, and pass it on.

Solution: We tell each other stories, sing songs, write books, make videos, and create art to share these stories with each other.

Every story we tell is not original.  We like to tell the same stories over and over.  We borrow stories from any where and retell them in our own vernacular.  It is intrinsic to who and what we are to share stories with each other.

Problem: The only constant in the world is change.

Solution: We ask ourselves the question, "What if," and share the answer with each other.

Problem: Artists and Writers need to make a living singing their songs, writing their books, making their videos, and creating their art.

Solution: We establish systems of Copyright.

The Cultural Cycle

Before the era of Copyright, stories, heroes, melodies, and lyrics belonged to the people.  Stories were told, and retold.  Numerous visions of each story competed against each other.  The best were remembered, collected, retold, embellished, and built upon.  The rest were forgotten.

Who told the first story about Hercules? Or Jason? or Troy?  Who started the legends of King Arthur? or Beowulf?  The first tales and their countless reiterations have been lost, but the best, most iconic stories survived.

Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, only a few comedies have no obvious sources, and even they rely upon well established patterns and archetypes.

This is the Cultural Cycle that keeps important stories alive.  Each generation must retell the tales of the preceding generations in their own context to keep them relevant.  This cycle has been broken.

  • Problem: Companies lobby to prevent Intellectual Property from reentering the commons of the culture.
  • Problem: Companies control the instruments of culture, making it harder to engage culture creatively.
  • Solution: Fans retell these stories as not for profit tales, films, and  songs.
  • Solution: Fans organize themselves into clubs and conventions.

These solutions are are not enough.  Fanfiction and film relies on the good will of the copyright holders and the fact that the fans do not make money from their works to slip through the thinnest of loop hole in copyright.  As a result, pop culture is unaware of the cultural developments and retelling of these new stories.  The subculture may be enriched by them, but the culture as a whole is not.

The Creative Commons and the Cult of the Dollar

Problem: Publishers and producers focus more on the commercial and popular value of a work, and the creative energy of the work suffers.  Readers/viewers will not become fans, and fans will not continue to accept passionless works of Speculative Fiction.

Solution: Placing honesty over consumerism, we fans must stake out our own home to create and share the works we love.  We must stand between the darkness and the light:  This is the purpose of Project: Shadow.

Problem: The Companies and Rights holders lashed out against the fair use of their properties.

Problem: Some Rights Holders have lulled fandom into a false sense of security by not suing and even encouraging those who produce fanworks

Creative Commons is one of many proposed solutions to this problem.  Others have lobbied for copyright reform.  Neither of these is a solution to the problems.

Copyright reform is a doomed enterprise while corporate lobbyists have the power they do over the congress.  While it is a goal to work for, it is just not realistic in the short term.

Creative Commons is closer to a solution, but the adoption rate has not been sufficient to even start chipping away at the problem.

The reason Creative Commons is an uphill battle is that it is a major evolution in the way rights holders handle permissions to use their work, and exists without an intermediary form.  Existing rights holders have not adopted it because they are unwilling to give up all the rights entailed under Creative Commons.

I approached the Creative Commons Foundation with a proposal for a Fan Works License:

Some of the rights holders I have talked to are reluctant to use the CC because they are concerned they are giving up too many rights to their works.  A Fan Works License would allow rights holders to clearly state what they will allow others to do with their characters, content, and settings.

It would be a bit more complicated than a standard CC, stating whether others may make original text, video, music, or art projects based on their works.  It would also allow them to set the content rating they would allow fan works to have.  This could be aligned with the MPAA ratings or the ESRB ratings system or an original system.  The reason for this is so a young adult novelist could set a max rating of PG-13, allowing others to know what standards they would apply to determine whether a fan work is legitimate or not.

The other terms would be the same as in the standard CC.

You may not think something like this is necessary, but the current state of fan works is hazy.  While few have been sued in the last couple years, at any time, rights holders could decide to start suing again.  By creating a license that covers works with the same characters and settings rather than a particular book or movie, I believe we could get more rights holders to use the license to allow for the creation of fan works, which is a step on the road to open up works to the commons.

They responded with a simple, “CC probably isn't going to be expanding the license offerings, and in fact, over the past few years CC has been reducing the number of licenses.”

I do not believe that a fanwork or Creative Commons license is the ultimate solution, but as a possible stepping stone toward an open culture.

Progressive Speculative Fiction

  • Problem: Modern and Post-modern fiction is antithetical to hope, imagination, and community
  • Problem: Success is easier through snark, hate, and discrimination.
  • Solution: We will promote, support and create Progressive Speculative Fiction.

What is Progressive Speculative Fiction?

Progressive Speculative Fiction is a story told in any medium which has a "What if" at its core and is filled with hope for the future and promotes a sense of community.

How can disaster fiction be progressive?

Watch a Godzilla movie or either The Day the Earth Stood Stills.  If there is nothing worth saving, then there is no tragedy.  The heroes must at least try to save someone or something worth saving.

How can horror be progressive?

Watch nearly any horror film made prior to 1990 or for the best example read The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker or anything by Anne Rice.  If life is not worth living or there is nothing worth defending, where is the horror.  If life is worthless, then death is merely a release from a nightmare.  There is nothing scary about it.  If there is no free will, nothing is lost by imprisonment or possession.  If sanity is not worth preserving, why bother.

What works are Progressive Speculative Fiction?

There are too many to mention all of them, but to offer a spectrum:

Just to name a few.

Mythos

  • Problem: The word "Myth" has become a marketing term.

Homogenized works are released more often by the industry every year.  Focus groups and market analysis have replaced quality work, but since the cultural cycle is broken, industry has no alternative.  It is safer to release works like the ones that sold last year than it is to seek out new talent/ideas that would be more of a risk.

They know what the fans want.  We want myths, stories that speak to us on a deep level while entertaining us.  Myths are hard to make.  It is easy to add in a wizard or a starship and call it mythology.  Fans see through it, but the masses are looking for little more than sex, violence, and humor.  Speculative Fiction has been watered down to little more than:

  • imitation space opera
  • knock-off cyberpunk
  • repackaging of the rings
  • martial arts boom-boom
  • torture porn

They, then, wrap it in a shiny box, slap the word myth, saga, legend, or reboot on it, and wait for the masses to spend their money on it... and they usually do.

We do not need another company driven by profit margins, or another author whose self-important propaganda obscures the art.

We need writers and artists that love what they are doing.

We need fans who are not afraid to speak their minds.

We need places in our towns/cities and online where we can meet and share the few gems that we find from the industry and from the independent artist, writers, and filmmakers who are still following their bliss rather than the dollar.

That is why we are here.  Project:  Shadow and dashPunk will provide a platform for writers, artists, filmmakers and fans to “follow their bliss.”  We are dedicated to finding and promoting the best Speculative Fiction out there: the little/well known writers, filmmakers, artists and works, fostering their talents, and helping them to not only follow their hearts, but to share that vision with others.

But we cannot do it alone!

Fandom Strikes Back

  • Solution:  We must seek out and support the writers, artists, and producers that encourage and support fan works.
  • Solution:  We must get writers, artists, and producers on the record about their position regarding fan works.
  • Solution: We must live according to our values of hope, imagination, and community.
  • Solution: We must build a community around hope, imagination, and community, and reject the rote cynicism that defines the faux-fandom that loves to tear things down rather than build things up.
  • Solution: We must spread the stories, videos, songs, and art that speak to us.

Together, We can make dashPunk and Project: Shadow more than an idea or a website, but a vibrant community of fans who share the things we love with each other.

Together, we can make it easier to find and share the things we love and find new things to love.

Together, we can build a community of fans who support and engage one another for our mutual benefit.

Alone, none of us can stand up to the corporate powers who control the music, video, text, and art that we love, but together, our voice will be heard.

Fandom is a vibrant culture with its own music (filk), events (conventions), games, and myths.  Until now, we have gathered periodically, or in disparate groups. 

Now is the time to bring the great multitude of fan bases together.

Now is your time!  Copy this Manifesto.  Print it, post it, email it, share it!  Tell a friend, and most importantly Make your voice heard.

Download

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Creative Commons License Project: Shadow Manifesto by Project: Shadow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at dashpunk.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://dashpunk.com/about/.

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Haloes and the Seven Demons

The air of mystery and the art of the dark romance have left the world. The grotesque has replaced horror, and the beauty of supernatural horror is rarely seen any more. Gone are the old masters, and few if any have risen up to walk in the footsteps of giants. Watching the haunting beauty of Cecil B. DeMille's Seven Deadly Sins set to the music of Christian Death reminds me of what could be. The simplicity of these images, made in the days before computer generated effects makes me wonder what could be made now with the ubiquitous camcorders and digital video.

It only takes a bit of imagination to use the simple tools that surround us to make great art... but who is striving to make a film that that captures the power of the image to transport us away into world that are beyond belief? Who is making movies that do more than just entertain or self-aggrandize?

Anyone can make a movie these days, and a lot of people are. YouTube is flooded with them, but like everything in our world these days, they are made for the moment and not to outlast their initial viewing.

I don't believe that just anyone can create a classic. It takes talent and genius. I do believe that another classic will never be made unless the creators take upon themselves the task of making something that will outlive them. Unless we strive for excellence, we will never achieve it.

Our culture celebrated mediocrity. It is important to make sure that everyone feels important and significant, because every life is precious, but it is vital that recognize and promote genius and talent when we see it. We each need to strive for excellence in everything that we do. Then and only then will we each come truly alive, and share that life with the world.

Book Bits and the Missing Dollars

I have been following the trend toward free books for a while, and I have gotten used to seeing the regular suspects talking about the loss of book sales and the rise of new ways to earn a living on your words. Imagine my surprise when I saw Paul Krugman add his voice to the chorus:

According to a report in The Times, the buzz at this year’s BookExpo America was all about electronic books. ... we may finally have reached the point at which e-books are about to become a widely used alternative to paper and ink.

That’s certainly my impression after a couple of months’ experience with the device feeding the buzz, the Amazon Kindle. ...

It’s a good enough package that my guess is that digital readers will soon become common, perhaps even the usual way we read books (NYTimes)

Wow, that's going mainstream. Krugman points out that as content goes digital, the easier it is to pirate and the harder it is to monetize. Unfortunately, his op-ed ends with a bleak outlook for the future of the written word.

I don't think it has to be that way. If creative souls (like myself) are going to try to make a living with out art (literary, audio, visual, or video), we are going to have to find a way be proactive, reaching out to find new fans, and doing our best to retain the ones we already have.

While we may be on the cusp of the end of the publishing house, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As the old industry dies, it is up to artist to create their own co-ops for sharing their wisdom with new artists, and helping their fans find those artists as well.

It is easy to get myopic and think only about our own careers, but we have to remember: A high tide raises all ships. Artists need to link to each other, and carry each others merchandise around with them on consignment. This will help each artist expose their works to more people, and help cultivate a vibrant community of fans that will support the artists.

This might be utopian of me, but if it is, that would be the first time I have ever been accused of that. So here's to a future where the artist controls their own fate!

Romancing the Word: The Spirituality of Nonfiction

Mythos-1 There is something missing in the copious tomes of nonfiction that are coming out these days: the courting of the mind through conversation and dialogue.

Most nonfiction writers today either tell a creative nonfiction story giving the reader the experience of the events of history through story or they simply talk to their readers instead of inviting them into conversation.

Classical and even Medieval philosophy are written in a the form of dialogues and rarely in diatribes. When I read these texts, I am drawn into conversation with the author and their ideas. I join the conversation, adding my opinions to theirs. I have no doubt that they expected me to more often than not except what they wrote, but in the common dialectics and arguments they wrote, they challenge their own ideas and answer the objections in a way that eased their own doubts.

I am a voracious reader of nonfiction. I love to flirt with new ideas and challenge my own cherished beliefs. Many times I have changed my mind on some issues that I never thought were open for debate.

Lately, though, many of the books I picked up felt they had more to tell me than to share. I do not know if it is the narcissism of our age or of the writers, but they no longer present their ideas to me as a something I might want to take in and get to know, maybe even fall in love with. Their ideas are to be accepted and followed.

I have written about this many times and in many ways, but everything is a story. No idea, concept, or belief will ever reside comfortably in the hearts and minds of people unless they connect to the story of it, and long to add themselves to the line of those who have picked up the idea before them.

Nonfiction is the romancing of the mind through words, stories, metaphors, and connection.

Have you ever noticed the relationship people have with the theory of gravity? It is amazing how people connect to the apocryphal story of Newton and the apple. We feel like we understand the concept through these stories.

Or take the works of Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking, and Brian Greene. They connect some of the most abstract theories of physics to stories and metaphors that anyone can understand. They invite their readers into the conversation, and help them through the hard parts with grace and love filling their words.

Joseph Campbell writes as if he is sitting next to you telling a story. The ideas come alive. We are able to commune with them, flirt with them, even take some home with us.

That is the task of nonfiction. Screeds, polemics, and proclamations of any idea will only be accepted by those who have already accepted the idea. If you want someone to love an idea as much as you do, you have to show them the beauty of it.

Life as a Story

I went out to write at the San Francisco Bread Company today. The longer I write, the more I realize how important it is to get out of the house, even if it is only to sequester myself at a small table in a cafe with my headphones on listening to music, surfing the web, struggling with new concepts and editing a book I wrote that I actual enjoy reading. It is odd how something as simple as a change of venue from my office to a cafe can change my mood and energy level, but I have read enough from other writers to know that I am not alone.

I have a theory about why something as simple as a change of venue can so profoundly effect a writer's mood.

I started writing as a defense mechanism. As a child, I grew up on a farm miles from the closet kid my age. I spent most of my time either on the phone, outside with my dog Red, or in my room inventing new stories with my Voltron and He-man action figures. When this wasn't enough, I started drawing crude comics and playing out a sort of paper theater with playing cards and my imagination. Through all this, my imagination was fueled by He-man, She-ra, Transformers, the books of Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain, and the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons. I didn't have anyone to play with, so I spent my time making up stories about these fantastical creatures, demigods, and demons. The music of Kiss and Dolly Pardon filled my nights in my room watching "Too Close for Comfort" dreaming of the day I would write my own "Cosmic Cow" strip.

When we moved to Maryland, things got worse. I had a strong accent, which got me beaten up in school a lot, and I had not people skills so the few friends I did make really had to work hard to get past my clumsy social interactions. I didn't know how to relate with these "people." They were so different from me, and they expected me to know how to act with them. I just didn't.

My salvation came through The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and my knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons. I played these games with them as a means of interacting. They gave a structure to our together time and gave me a common language to speak. In time, we added Marvel Superheroes, Robotech, Earthdawn, and the many classic White Wolf storyteller games- Vampire: The Masquerade, Were-wolf, Mage: The Ascension, Changeling: The Dreaming. In fact, I became friends with Brian through a Vampire Chronicle.

Through this role as the storyteller, Star Trek Fandom, and my near obsessive interest in music, I found my medium to talk to others.

Storytelling is who I am. It is how I comprehend the world and explains why I am so deeply involved with the works of Joseph Campbell. This is who I am for better or worse. From the many biographies about other writers I have read, I think we have all taken up the life of a storyteller as some sort of defense mechanism or way to make sense of the world. It is easier to lock yourself away from the world than to jump in and struggle within it.

When I force myself out of my cave, even if only to isolate myself from the settings I find myself in through headphones and work, it reminds me that the outside world is still there. It lets me see how people actually interact with each other, for better or worse, and on those rarest of occasions, allows me to have incredible conversations with people face to face.

It is hard to explain how isolating is can be at times to be a storyteller. The hours, days and weeks spent locked away from the world crafting a reality that I hope others will experience and enjoy with the same fervor that I do. The simple act of seeing other people and hearing other voices enlivens me.

Like other writers, I am an observer of life much more than I am a participant in it. These little glimpses of the world outside my friends and family and the characters I write about (feels more like with sometimes), grounds me and helps connect me with the bigger world that is so easy to let slip away.

I wish more people shared this experience. Looking out at this world of strangers that I may or may not ever see again, and watching the plots they have entwined themselves in. We all tell our own stories. That is the art of conversation, to weave an entertaining tale about ourselves and others. As these plot lines co-mingle and intertwine, the story of our family, friends, city, state and nation are told. These stories often matter more than the facts. (whether or not that should be true or not is a whole other discussion).

I recommend that you give this a try. Next time you are out with friends, watch the stories that you are telling each other closely and follow them out as if they are plot lines in a novel, movie, or television show. It is startling how often you can predict other peoples actions by listening to their backstory, current plot, and projecting that out as it would play out in the genre appropriate to the person. I am not saying that this is always the case, but more often than not you will be able to see what will happen before it does. This is also the best way to choose your course of action. How will your action effect the other all story. Try it out, I think you might be pleasantly surprised.