December 13, 2010

MEMORY LANE: SOPHIE B. HAWKINS


By now it should have become quite apparent that I am a big fan of those who can be called "them damn female singer-songwriters". When I was growing up, I found that there was damn nothing wrong with that. In the age before the MP3 player, you could just as well see me walking down the streets, happily singing songs like this one, "Damn, I wish I was your lover".

I only realised when I came to America that apparently singing quite happily something that was done by a woman makes you gay, if you are a guy. Never quite understood that, myself, but I was told that over and over again, always by women, which makes me think - today at least - that American women have issues. One woman in particular, but let us not go there.

Oh, what the hell, let's...

How I ever let somebody tell me what was right or wrong, knowing that she herself listened to ABBA, of all things, is something that will always elude my analytical thinking process.

Seriously. Listening to Bruce Springsteen made me uncool, and listening to Sophie B. Hawkins made me gay. Well, then I guess I must be the Snark of Cultural Misunderstandings, and very likely the most rare of the rare breed -

An uncool gay man.

Oh, this is something you should take away from this personal rant: if your girlfriend doesn't like the music you like, look at how tolerant she is. If she disrespects those choices, she will disrespect pretty much everything else about you, regardless of how smooth and delightful she otherwise may be.

For then you are not her boyfriend or even husband material, you are...

... a work in progress. And by that she means that she will change everything about you, she will dress you up like a Ken doll, and she will try to emaciate you in gradual, almost unnoticeable steps. In other words, if your girlfriend doesn't like your music, but isn't tolerant enough to give you that, she will not give you anything else in the end.

These women exist, these women are not a figment of your imagination, and if you meet one of them, run. Run like hell. In the opposite direction. Your nether regions might go, "but, hey, this isn't that bad, we can tolerate her trying to change me, after all, isn't a relationship a series of compromises?"

No. No, it isn't.

Women like that are like the Republican party. They talk compromise a lot, but what they mean is that you are the one to compromise, while they move ever to the right and then demand that you meet them in the middle... again....and again... and again... or there will be no nookie for you.

Okay?

Run. Run like the devil himself is behind you.

But back to Sohpie B. Hawkins.

Inded, Miss Sophie B. Hawkins made such a big impression on me that I named a character after her, Laura Hawkins, in my very first manuscript, a gigantic epic fantasy written in German called Im Schatten des Drachen (In The Dragon's Shadow). And no, you don't ever will get to read it. I wrote about 230,000 words of the first book (in five), before somebody gently pointed out to me that nobody reads book series this long. Now, this was before the fact that today you can abrely publish anything that doesn't run on and one forever, but back then? And back then means 1991? While I was just beginning my journalism studies in Germany?

Hell, I did what everybody with a vision would do.

I gave up.

Put the manuscript in a trunk, never to be seen again, only that bits and pieces were seen, one of them most recently on this blog as I showed you the Witch Hunters pages. Morrigan McGarry and her girlfriend Laura have been haunting me since I was a little kid. And they have been nearly published, in one form or another, almost four times now, always be thwarted at the very last moment.

But I carry them around with me. And even Jack Kelly of The Sky Boys has a counter-part in that very first manuscript, so to speak. And a character nobody has ever seen before is there as well, a boy named Thomas Finnegan.

In a way, all of this is due to Sophie B. Hawkins and this song. And perhaps Michael Moorcock. And maybe Stephen King, who was a supernaturally strong influence on me growing up, and it took me years to free myself of these shackles.

This, incidentally, is the most important thing for a writer, any writer, hell, any creative person.

(A) to accept that you have influences and not denying those, neither in private nor in public. My influences came from Dickens, from A.A. Milne, from Nesbitt, from Twain but also included Emdond Hamilton and his Captain Future, Michael Moorcock and his Eternal Champion.My brain doesn't make that distinction between high literature and low. Nor should you make that distinction. Know that there is a difference in writing styles, in the quality of the storytelling, but you must not be beholden to any notion of being socially or culturally relevant. These thoughts just stand in your way. Even if you decide to tackle such a dangerous concept as e.g. the rise of National Socialism, always think about the moment a reader sits down. And think whether it is also entertaining to read you story.

(B) once you have acknowledged your influences (overtly and covertly), tool them. They are your tools, you control them, not the other way around. Detach yourself. I will never write a Mark Twain book, nor should I. The attempt to copy your influences is what makes you a fan fiction writer. Now, most of today's published writers, especially in the comic book medium, especially in the United States, are exactly that. Fan fiction writer. Constantly updating that what has come before. That doesn't mean that what people like Kurt Busiek or Mark Waid or Grant Morrison are writing is bad. Quite the contrary. All three of those I have just named have a very good grasp of the craft that goes into writing. Guess what? So had John Byrne once, whose Superman revamp I adored to bits (and still own). But that doesn't make it particularly creative. As I pointed out in the post on the upcoming movie about Marvel's Thor, it is fucking easy to plot fan fiction.

Fan fiction, written in and for an already existing universe, comes with rules.

Some of them are good, some of them are bad

All of them are making writing easy.

And writing should never be easy.

Remember that.