Weird Tales: Jonathan Wood on The Egomaniacal Act of Writing

Ann VanderMeer • December 29th, 2007 @ 9:07 am • Culture

Writer: Jonathan Wood
Weird Tales Story: The Blank Card (Issue #347, Nov/Dec 2007)
Writer Bio: Jonathan Wood is an Englishman in New York. He lives on Long Island with his family and keeps 80 monkeys chained to typewriters in his garage. He passes their work off as his own, selling it to places like Behind the Wainscot, Fantasy Magazine, Farrago’s Wainscot, and Electric Velocipede. Their less coherent meanderings can be found at The Rambles of My Headspace

***

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

The world is slipping away from us.

No… that’s not what I meant. Our idea that we ever had a grasp on the world is slipping away from us. Radio, television, mass media, internet, email, blogs … the myriad of individual points of view is multiplying.

No… that’s not what I meant. All of those individual points of view have always been there. We’re simply more aware of them. We are constantly being bombarded with them, with their interpretation of events, with perspectives at odds with our own. And as these shouting, conflicting visions of the world mount up and upon us, as each conviction we have is challenged it’s harder and harder to live life with the impression that our point of view is the one true reality. In fact it’s harder and harder to live with the belief that there is any one true reality.

 

“[W]hat is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. They are inclined to be fat in the stomach; they dress in bright colours (chiefly green and yellow); wear no shoes, because their feet grow natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair like the stuff on their heads (which is curly); have long clever brown fingers, good-natured faces, and laugh deep fruity laughs (especially after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it).”

*

Even the language of our debates is unstable. A word means one thing to one person, something else to another. We wrestle to express ourselves clearly but the meaning of our words changes on slips away from us. Our words are misinterpreted, mistranslated, misconstrued, simply missing. It becomes harder and harder to say anything as we become more and more aware that people aren’t listening/ reading things the way we’re articulating/writing.

*

Fantasy. n. fan•ta•sy \ˈfan-tə-sē, -zē\ plural fan•ta•sies
1obsolete : HALLUCINATION
2: FANCY; especially : the free play of creative imagination
3: a creation of the imaginative faculty whether expressed or merely conceived: as a: a fanciful design or invention b: a chimerical or fantastic notion c: FANTASIA d: imaginative fiction featuring especially strange settings and grotesque characters -called also fantasy fiction
4: CAPRICE
5: the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need ; also : a mental image or a series of mental images (as a daydream) so created
6: a coin usually not intended for circulation as currency and often issued by a dubious authority (as a government-in-exile)

*

We wrestle for meaning, for certainty, for a center to hold onto, but in this slip-sliding, crash and burn, freeway of meaning, of alternative perspectives, angles, viewpoints, glimpses-we can’t focus on anything long enough to grab it. We are in freefall.

We act and justify our actions after the event. God is dead and yet people to continue to kill in his name. The author is dead but he keeps on writing. No one can read a word, utterance, syllable, gasp, gabble… a word of it. Every word has myriad interpretations. Meaning ripples and washes as phonemes and syntax collide. History warps, ripples, ruptures in subjective headspace. Each individual, solo, specific, particular, person, entity, creature, being, thing, organism, orgasm, orgy, o, oh, o …

*

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

*

No… that’s not what I mean. Not quite. It’s only part of the picture. Because we do make sense of the world-not perfectly, not completely-but we make enough sense. We inhabit a space between Carroll’s absurdism and Tolkien’s attempt to crystallize meaning. We exist on a fluctuating scale of sense. We muddle on. We get by.

So hopefully you can get some sense from this. Hopefully you can get some from my stories. That sense may be fractured, it may be fragmentary, it almost certainly won’t be what I intended, but it will be something. And, hopefully, to some of you it will mean something.

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