On Nanowrimo, Sentience, and the Nature of Man. A Ramble.

THE CHEERING. Oh the obnoxious CHEERING.

I know it’s been awhile, but a man needs time to work. Last I left you, I was doing some exercises for #Nanowrimo. Well, I’m happy to say both me and my significant other have won, and the congratulatory cheer video is hella awesome. BTW the shirts together with shipping and donation cost an even 42$. Douglas, I know what you’re trying to tell me from beyond the grave: Writing is the Meaning of Life.

A brief account of my battle with 50k: Between foraging for the makings of our first NYC apartment-hosted Thanksgiving, making the food and being a host (it turned out to be more impressive than I planned, woot), I was also juggling work, my cat, and my better half. Needless to say, it was a close shave- I  dipped up and down over the Nano line like a drunk flying a small and very temperamental aircraft, teasing spare moments of commute, evading cleaning by brilliant use of the strategic incompetence technique, trying not to get caught up in Twitter withdrawal even as the dirty witticisms approached critical mass. The story gained and lost steam seemingly on its own volition (appropriately, given the theme was my published genre, #steampunk). And no, the irony has not escaped me, I’m making sense of a writing marathon by doing more writing.

But, in the end, it wrapped up in a perfect ending, so the damn thing is definitely winding up in my companion short story collection to Future that Never Was. After a severe editing that will be like unto a beating, that is. That book needed more vignettes anyway. A preview blurb:

Set in the steampunk world of Captain Albion Clemens and the Future that Never Was, rum runner and freedom fighter Alice Hanson is beset with an unenviable position: cursed by her Nana to desire every man that walks under the sun! Now she has a fortnight to retrieve a certain barrel of rum, containing the antidote- all while juggling a cargo of incredibly muscular refugees, religious zealots and a matched set of lovers in bronze and ginger. Can Alice brave through and win her wings, or will she writhe under this wicked curse forever?

That said, as I was working out the plot, I realized the answer to a question that had been burning in the back of my mind for years, ever since I was little. It was actually the amalgam of two very distinct questions, which turned out to have the same answer.

1: Where do plots come from?

2: What is sentience?

To which my stressed-out, sleep-deprived, overly caffeinated brain suddenly screamed out into the void:

Hey. What if, man, you were like, a turtle, or a dolphin, man? Like, the whole point of your life is just, like, eat and crap and have sex, go have little turtles and dolphins and penguins?

And it was like my whole world turned upside down, because hidden in all that craziness is, in fact, the answer. Human beings only have the luxury of asking those two questions  because we are free from all that survival crap. Through knowledge and cooperation we have largely set as a given the rights to food, to shelter, to attractive mates, and because of that, we have lost what little purpose we had in the first place. Freeing us up to come up with stuff like Star Wars, and Fight Club, and freaking Hamlet, stuff that ought not to occur to any properly happy penguin just living his life. We love stories, we love to narrate because, damn it, our lives are not properly narrated in the first place! And from there, we question: what the hell does it take to narrate it properly then? Oh sure, most people will say the ability to make a decision is what defines sentience, but for that to happen there has to be a conflict. It’s got to be epic, you know? Like continents shifting because of which color Pocky you decide to eat. That conflict between knowing there ought to be a purpose and lacking in purpose, I think, is the very soul of sentience.

To reiterate:

Plots and sentience both come to us because we actually have no idea what the hell we are living for. And that’s awesome- because now we get to DECIDE what we want to live for.

 

I seriously hope that makes sense.

 

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