I'm having my first baby boy with my wife (due date April 13). The only boy name I have found that we both like is "Andan", found on page 188 of The Name Of The Wind.
I just really wanted to know if you remember where or how you came up with that name, and what you had in mind using it. I mean, the story reads that his name meant anger, but if you had any more information it would without a doubt be the single kindest thing anyone has done for me for a long time (in other words much appreciation:)
Although I have searched endlessly, I just can't seem to find any good information on the name... which I really like for my baby... but am apprehensive using it as I really don''t know where it came from.
Anyway, if you got to read this I thank you so much for your valuable time. Here's to Kvothe and his story... let more people find his tale and experience wonder. Seriously, though -- Thank You.
-Jordan & Melissa
I was flattered, of course. And I dropped them the following note in return:
I wish I could help you more, but it's hard for me to remember with that particular name.
You see, sometimes I make up a name and say it means something. And other times I take an old word and twist it a little and turn it into a name. And sometimes I take an old name and use it...
Unfortunately, that part of the book was written so long ago that I can't rightly remember which it was. But I expect that I might have made the name up entirely....
Best of luck with the new baby, and if you do decide to name him Andan, drop me a picture of him. That'll be a first for me, someone named out of the book...
And that was that. I knew it wasn't really a satisfying answer, but it was the only one I had. I didn't hear anything back from them, which isn't particularly odd. And I assumed that using the name had pretty much been a passing fancy on their part.
Then, just a couple days ago, I got the following message:
(Slightly edited for privacy's sake)
I emailed you awhile back about the name Andan in your book. You were gracious enough to provide with a prompt response, and I feel horrible that it's taken so long to get back to you.... but we did have a BOY!
His name is Andan. I'm so glad that you wrote that name in your book one time b/c we simply love it for our boy, and it is just perfect.
Anyway, I wanted to get a few pictures of our son Andan to you as I said I would... and I'm a man of my word, pretty much, mostly, yeah... we'll go with man of my word.
So, with no further ado, I would like to introduce everyone to Andan.
You have to admit, this is one seriously cute baby. He looks like one of the podlings from the Dark Crystal. I mean that in the best possible way.
At this point I'm tempted to say something witty, or pithy, or glib. But honestly, I can't think of a thing. All I can do is think about how very strange my life has become in the last couple years.
My best to you, little Andan. Your face doesn't look like a mask with burning eyes at all. It's my sincerest wish that you someday meet a sweet girl named Ordal and form a good relationship built on the common experience of having some seriously cool geeky parents.
Jealous of little Andan? Wish your name was in one of my books? Well wish no longer...
You! That's right, YOU have a chance to donate to a great charity AND get your name in my next book. Wow. I know. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But remember, the raffle only lasts until November 15th.
Here's the truth. Sometimes I hate writing this fucking book.
I know this isn't something most of you want to hear. You want to hear that it's going well. (Which is it.) You also want to hear that I love every moment of writing it. It's my baby, right? You have to love your baby...
Well, yes. But technically I've been working on this trilogy since 1994. The book is more like a teenager in some ways. You love a teenager too, but you can also be angry with a teenager. And sick of its endless shit.
The problem is this. People want to believe that being a published writer is a beautiful, happily-ever-after, candy mountain place where all your dreams come true.
Unfortunately, that's bullshit.
This is a part of something I've come to think of as The Myth of the Author. I'm not going to get into the details right now. That's a blog for a whole different day. But the gist of my theory is that, in general, people think of writers as a different sort of person. And by extension, writing is a different sort of work. It's strange and wonderful. It's a mystic process. It can't be quantified. It's not chemistry, it's alchemy.
While some of that is true, this belief makes it really difficult for me to bitch about my job.
For example, if a doctor wrote a blog saying. "Fuck! sometimes I hate being a doctor…" People would read it and say, "Yeah man. I can see where you're coming from. Long hours. Tons of responsibility. People expect a lot out of you. That's a rough gig."
On the other hand, if I come on here and bitch about my job. People will be disappointed. Irritated even.
Why would people be irritated? For several reasons.
Reason #1: It's irritating when people complain about having a simple job.
Of course, writing a novel isn't simple. Anyone that's ever tried writing one knows this. The problem is, a lot of people haven't tried. They assume writing is easy because, technically, anyone can do it.
To illustrate my point: Just as I was getting published, I met one of the big, A-list fantasy authors. (Who will remain nameless here.)
He told me the story of the time he'd met a doctor at a party. When the author mentioned that he wrote for a living, the doctor said: "Yeah, I was going to write a novel. But I just don't seem to have the time."
The author got a irritated just telling me this story. "When you say something like that," he said. "It's like saying being a writer doesn't take any skill. It's something anyone can do. But only a very slim percentage of the population can write well enough to make a living at it. It's like going up to a doctor and saying, 'yeah. My appendix was inflamed. I was going to take it out myself, but I didn't really have the time.'"
Newbie writer that I was, I simply enjoyed the story, privately thinking that surely *my* readers would never be so foolish to assume that. And even if they did, I wouldn't mind that much…
Fast forward to earlier this year, when I got the following e-mail:
I'm a librarian, former teacher. I just read your book, very good. But, boy do you have a problem. Finishing tasks?? Why isn't your editor doing a better job of guiding you? Here's my quick recommendation: stop going to conventions. Your first book is a great hit, you don't need any more marketing there. Sit down and decide where to END the second part. You don't need to write any more. If book two is anything like book one, it is basically chronological. You're done with book two!! Stop in a logical place, smooth out the transitions, and begin obsessing about book three. Good luck.
For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, this is the letter I was thinking about mocking Waaaay back in May.
Re-reading it now, most of my irritation has faded. But my profound sensation of *What the Fuck* is still as strong as ever.
Let's not even deal with the first half of the letter. Let's ignore the fact that this woman isn't a publicist, an editor, or my personal life-coach. Let's jump straight to how she explains how I should write my book:
Oh. I need to sit down. I see. I need to know where to END it. I hadn't thought of that.
And chronological order? Brilliant! Up until this point I'd been arranging all the chapters by length.
I mean seriously. You people do know that I have to make the entire book up, right? I'm not just cribbing it out of Kvothe's biography, right?
And I lack the words to express my stupification at the offhand advice that I should just "smooth out the transitions."
That's not true. I do have the words. They go like this: "If this is the sort of advice you used to give your students when you were a teacher, thank you for not being a teacher any more."
I counted yesterday. Do you know book two has eighteen fucking plotlines? Six entirely distinct settings, each with their own casts of characters? How exactly to I smooth that out? Do you think I just go down to the writing store, buy some fucking transition putty, and slather it on?
Okay. I lied. I guess I'm still irritated.
Truth is, I know that this letter comes from a place of love. This person is genuinely trying to help me. Deep in her heart of hearts, this woman believes she knows how to write a novel. The answers are so obvious. It seems simple to her…
This is why some folks will get irritated if I complain about my job. Because they think writing is simple.
But it isn't. Nobody's job is as simple as it looks from the outside.
Reason #2: It's not cool to complain about your dream job.
I'm well aware of the fact that, I'm living the dream. A lot of people want to be published. They want it so bad they can taste it. They'd give anything…
I know this because that's how I used to feel.
I'm lucky: I got published. What's more, I'm one of the few writers that gets to write full time. Even better, I've gone international, and people all over the world are waiting for the next book.
But that doesn't mean I don't hate my job sometimes.
It doesn't matter what you do for a living. Ron Jeremy probably calls in sick some days because he just can't stand the thought of getting another blowjob. I don't doubt that Mike and Jerry over at Penny Arcade occasionally wake up in the morning and think, "Fuck, I've got to play more fucking video games today."
That's just the way of the world. Everyone hates their own job sometimes. It's an inalienable right, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.
Reason #3: The Myth of the Author.
People want to believe that the act of creation is a magical thing. When I write, I am like some beardy old-word god, hewing the book from some raw piece of literary firmament. When I write, the muse is like a lithe, naked woman, sitting on my lap with her tongue in my ear.
(This would make a great bookjacket photo.)
And you want to know the truth? Sometimes it's exactly like that. Sometimes when I write, I'm so full of adrenaline that I could lift up a truck. I can feel my my tripartite soul burning in my chest like molten gold.
But sometimes it sucks. Just like any job. I get bored revising the same chapters over and over. My back hurts from hunching over the keyboard. I am so tired of fucking spellcheck. Do you know how long it takes to run spellcheck on 350,000 words?
I'm tired of trying to juggle everything: the plotlines, the character arcs, the realistic depiction of a fantastic world, the pacing, the word choice, the tension, the tone, the stories-within-stories. Half of it would be easy, but getting everything right at once? It's like trying to play cat's cradle in n-dimensional space.
The truth is, sometimes I'm so sick of sitting in front of this computer I could shit bile.
There. That's all. I'm not quitting. I'm not even taking the night off. I just needed to vent.
Thanks for being here. Remember to tip your waitress. I'll be here all week.
I'm in Vancouver right now, working at a computer in the hotel lobby. I'm going to blame any sloppiness in this post on that. Fair?
As promised, here are a few quotes from fanmail that's been sent in over the last year. It's by no means comprehensive or scientific list. Just a random sampling of quotes that happened to strike me as funny, flattering, or odd.
As you'd probably suspect, a lot of these are good old fashioned compliments. How can I tell? Well, sometimes because they actually make a point of telling me:
Your book is gonna be bigger than any fantasy book that has ever been made. If I was Rowling I would kill you now. That is a compliment.
This is surprisingly helpful, because sometimes I can't tell the messages are supposed to be flattering or not....
If Noam Chomsky can provide his email address and invite questions on his website why can't you? After all, Prof. Chomsky probably receives more email than you do and obviously does more important work than you.
You're a good writer though.
Some people explain how the book has effected their lives:
I am a closet geek. I suspect no one would ever think of me as a fantasy reader. Yet I have recommended your books to colleagues, my wife and friends. Effectively, you outed my geekiness.
Some folks tell me about the nature of their obsessive relationship with my book:
We left the house the other day, and I made a mental note of the page I was on in your book. While we were out, we stopped at a book store for a couple of hours. So I found a copy of the book and read it until we left.
If Name of The wind was a woman, I'd find out her address and move next door to her with the hope of making her mine.
When my home was threatened by fire 2 weeks ago your book was one of the few things I packed in my handbag on my way out the door.
Here's one that struck me as being very sweet in its honesty:
I love "The Name of the Wind" like I love my picture in the mirror.
More than a few have contained various flavors of delicious blasphemy:
You are something very similar to God, with The Name Of The Wind being the Bible me and my close friend worship on a daily basis.
For the first time in a long time: a class Fantasy novel. Burn everything else you own, roll in the ashes, read this book and make it your new god.
Some have been.... surreal:
I'm almost done with your book. Its fantastic. I LOVE it.
I also like the cover. Its really fun to feel. When I touch it I get these weird spit thing in the back of my throat. But its a good spit thing. When I swallow it it makes this nice noise.
Some have been flabbergasting:
So, my daughter, who's twelve and has read NOTW twice now, lists you as one of her very favorite authors (she's got great taste--Buffy's her favorite show ever too.)
Anywho, she had an assignment in class--part of a "Who am I?" sort of assignment. One of the questions that she was asked to answer was, "If I had 24 hours to live, I would..."
Her answer: "I would donate all my saved money to Perfect Pals [a cat shelter hereabouts] and then read Name of the Wind one more time."
Wow. Warm Fuzzies don't get any warmer and fuzzier than that.....
Lastly, I seem to be showing up in people's dreams. A lot.
I dreamed that I was walking through a mall or whatever in Kansas City and I saw you working in a cell phone kiosk. I was like "Holy shit, you're Patrick Rothfuss! I loved The Name of the Wind!" to which you replied "Thanks man, always great to hear. So....you wanna buy a phone?" Then I woke up.
Very random, and a little strange. Not sure why you were trying to sell me a cell phone.
I had a dream last night that we watched TV together. No Joke. At one point I went to the fridge to find you a drink and found that everything was moldy and old. Then you told me we have to watch a certain movie next time we meet. Then you gave me your telephone number, but told me that it wouldn't work in a week or so because you had to keep on changing it since so many fans would find it out and call you.
So I just wanted to stop by and thank you for being so kind as to drink the crusty old Snapple I had lying around. Thanks for also not kicking my dog as some people tend to do in my dreams.
Pat, I dreamed about you last night. You came to Austin, I was so happy. Then you turned into a girl....
Please note that those final ellipses at the end are from the guy that wrote the e-mail, not me.
Personally, I'd like to know a few more details. Was I pretty? Did I still have my beard? How can I not be curious?
Soon we'll have part three of the fanmail series: Some gentle advice on what you might want to consider including (or avoiding) in your fanmail.
So while I wasn't paying attention, I apparently received my 1500th piece of fanmail.
Rather, I should probably say I recently received mail from my 1500th fan. There's been more mail than that, because sometimes I end up e-mailing back and forth with people who drop me a line. Interviews. Witty banter. Coy flirtation. Geek talk. That sort of thing.
But yeah. 1500, people have sent me messages. And that's just through the contact form on my webpage. That doesn't count the people who have dropped me a line through Myspace, or Facebook, or sent me a physical letter. I'm guessing that if I counted those, the number would rise up over two thousand.
It's a little stupefying now that I'm stopping to think of it.
I won't lie to you, fanmail is great. There have been occasional exceptions to this, like the guy who sent me a message saying that he hoped a dog would bite me on the nuts. But even that made me laugh.
I'll even go so far as to say that over the last year or so, fanmail has significantly improved the quality of my life. I've had some real emotional low points since the book came out. But many's the time when I'd get a little note from someone and it would salvage what was shaping up to be a real turd of a day.
Like today, for example. Today someone sent me a pair of fucking nunchucks. I'm not even kidding. Look:
Okay. This picture is crap. But the nunchucks are cool. They're heavy, solid. Not toys at all. And the only thing keeping me from swinging them around as an idiot is the thought of showing up as Guest of Honor at V-Con having broken my own nose.
They were sent to me as the "something cool" part of the package so I'd sign someone's book. I was understandably delighted.
Then, later, I was out running errands and found out my favorite restaurant had just shut down. This place made sandwiches so good that they were sexual. Not just regular sexual either. These sandwiches were transcendent. They were the sandwich equivalent of a three-way. It was like you, the sandwich, and a sexy god made entirely of bacon got together for a friendly yiff.
Anyway, my point is that my favorite restaurant closed. Depressing. I was ready to be really bummed out. Then I thought to myself, "Someone sent me nunchucks today. I have nunchucks at home right now that I can go and play with." And my day was saved.
Of course, not all fanmail is physical. But that doesn't mean that it isn't lovely. Take this excerpt, for example.
I want to thank you so very much. Your book brought me and my girlfriend closer together. Life is tough, my girlfriend and I have a 15 month old son (named after me!) and it seems all we do is work and work and occasionally work some more. Money is always tight and stress is always high, but your book brought a respite from our monotonous routine. J---- loved it (as I hope you guessed already). I had so much fun discussing the book with her I can not even put it to words.
Needless to say, reading something like that is every bit as good as getting nunchucks in the mail. What's more, that e-mail has the added bonus of having absolutely no chance of breaking my girlfriend's coffee mug. Which I just did.
In part two of this post, I'll share more of my favorite fanmail excerpts. Y'all have said some crazy stuff over the last year.
Since the Hugo nominations for this year were announced, I've received a surprising amount of mail on the subject. So far it has ranged from friendly consolation to frothy outrage over the fact that I'm not one of the contenders for the "best novel" category.
I won't lie. I was hoping for a nomination. It would have been extremely cool. What's more, it would have given me an excuse to wear a tuxedo at Worldcon. I like wearing a tux.
Alas, it was not meant to be. But I did want to thank everyone for their kind words, the messages y'all have sent have been very sweet, and they have eased the sting.
But what I realized just today is that each of these e-mails I've received shows people at different stages of the grieving process. Take a look. (All items in quotes are from actual letters or comments left on the blog.)
1. Denial. "I can't believe you weren't nominated."
I can. The truth is, I'm really, really new to the scene. I've been a published author for almost exactly one year. And while it's been a great year, most people don't even know I exist. That makes it hard to win an award that's based on a popular vote.
2. Anger. "That's bullshit that you're not on there...seriously." "Dude, you were totally fucking robbed on the Hugo nods." "I feel like punching someone in the neck about this!"
There were a lot of these. However, please do not punch anyone in the neck on my behalf. Remember: Anger, fear, aggression... the dark side of the Hugos are they.
3. Bargaining. "Is there a write-in option for the Hugos? I would have voted, but I was sur [sic] that you were a shoe in."
Thank you, but there's nothing to be done at this point. The nominations themselves are exclusively write-in, but voting for the the award itself is not. Even then, only people who are attending Worldcon get to vote in the Hugos.
4. Depression. "The more I learn how these things work, the more I realize I have no respect for awards that are given out by popular vote."
Well, you know what they say about Democracy. It's the worst form of government except for every other one that's been tried....
5. Acceptance. "Let's hope that The Wise Man's Fear will be of the same quality and that it'll receive the nomination TNOTW clearly deserved."
I hope so too.
For those of you who are still stuck in the anger or bargaining stages, you could burn off a little of that energy in a productive way if you want. Namely, by casting your ballot in the Locus awards over here.
The Locus awards are a little different in that anyone can vote, not just a specific group of people, like the Nebulas or the Hugos. Plus they've been around for over thirty years, and are fairly prestigious in their own right.
Just make sure you follow the directions on the page before you cast your ballot. Anyone can vote, but anonymous votes are tossed out. And while there are pull-down menus, you can also write in your own votes in each category.
My book is eligible for both the "Best Fantasy Novel" AND "Best First Novel." Just in case you're interested.
Edit 9:45 PM: I've noticed a pleasant, but slightly unnerving trend in the comments on this note. While I'm flattered that people would vote for my book, I really hope that people aren't just hopping over the Locus Ballot just to vote for me.
I tend to assume that the vast majority of the people that read this blog tend to enjoy a lot of fantasy and sci-fi. So what I'm really hoping is that you hop over to the Locus Ballot and vote for ALL your favorite books and stories of the last year. All of them. And if it turns out you like five other books better than mine... well... then tough shit for The Name of the Wind.
I know this probably goes without saying, and that most of you understood what I meant the first time around. But I'd rather make sure of it than come off as a dirty vote-grubbing whore.
In recent news, I got my first piece of hatemail the other day. The author, enraged by the fact that the second book wasn't going to be published on time, told me he wished a dog would bite me on the balls.
There was more to the letter, of course, but that was pretty much the gist of it.
For those of you looking to occupy yourselves in a more productive way while waiting for book two to come out, allow me to make a friendly suggestion: The Guild.
I stumbled onto the Guild about half a year ago and laughed my ass off. If you play computer games, or know anyone who does, odds say you'll laugh your ass off too...
Then, months later, one of my friends forwarded THIS LINK to me.
For those of you too lazy to click, it was a blog post someone made about my book. They liked the book, but they had some pointed comments about the sort of covers they put on fantasy novels these days....
Then I looked more closely, and I realized that the person writing the blog was actress Felicia Day. You've probably seen her in a bunch of things, but my personal geekery stems from the fact that she played Vi on season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I know I should be cooler than this, but the truth is, I was overwhelmed with geeky joy at the thought of her reading my book and liking it.
It was only after looking over Felicia's blog, that I realized she was in The Guild too. Not only does she play Codex, but she actually writes the script for it too....
Anyway, here's the first episode of the guild to get you started.
A couple weeks ago, I got the following piece of fanmail...
I've been reading your blog for a while now, and I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I really loved your book. I mean REALLY loved it. Probably the Best I've read in five years.
In fact, I loved it so much, I just nominated you for the Campbell award. I thing [sic] that there's going to be a bit of a showdown between you and Scott Lynch, but personally, I think you're a shoe-in.
Keep on Truckin,
I've removed his name for confidentiality reasons, so for simplicity's sake let's call him.... Susan.
Anyway, I replied to Susan and told him that while I was really flattered, I wasn't actually eligible for the Campbell Award.
For those of you who don't know. The Campbell Award is awarded at Worldcon. It's given out to the best new Sci-Fi/Fantasy author to appear on the scene. While it's not a Hugo itself, it *is* given out during the same award ceremony, and it's a pretty big deal. Honestly, I'd love to win it.
Unfortunately, I can't. You see, the Campbell is only awarded to new authors. You're only eligible for the first two years after your first publication, and "The Name of the Wind" wasn't the first thing I ever had in print. Back in 2002 I published my first and only short story, "The Road to Levinshir."
Very few people actually know about that story, but it still counts. That means my eligibility started in 2002, and ended in 2004. I was out of the running long before "The Name of the Wind" ever saw print.
I sent Susan an e-mail thanking him, explaining why I couldn't win, and letting him know that, generally speaking, calling me "Pat" is fine, as "Mr. Rothfuss" sounds oddly formal to me.
He e-mailed me back, saying:
Thank you for e-mailing me back. That was unexpected. I just wish that I would have known earlier, or I wouldn't have wasted my time voting for you for the Campbell, and would have gone straight to nominating you for the Hugo instead.
Unfortunately, I've already sent in my Hugo nominations for this year, so I'll have to settle for rooting for you from the sidelines. Rest assured that if you make it onto the final ballot 'Best Novel' you'll have my vote.
And that, I thought, was that. The thought that anyone would nominate me for the Campbell or the Hugo filled me with lovely warm feelings. I didn't give much thought to winning, because honestly, those awards get won by huge authors like Gaiman and Rowling and Susanna Clarke....
Then I got another e-mail that said pretty much the same thing as Susan's. They loved the book and nominated me for the Campbell. I e-mailed them back and told them the truth...
Then I got a third e-mail and realized I needed to put out an official statement of some kind....
So here's the official announcement:
If you're thinking of nominating me for the Campbell, thank you very much. I'm flattered.
But I'm not eligible. It makes me feel bad that people are wasting their votes on me when there are other cool new authors out there that would love your nominations. (Folks like Joe Abercrombie, the aforementioned Scott Lynch, Kat Richardson.... There's too many to mention, check out a full list over HERE.)
That said, if you're absolutely dying to nominate "The Name of the Wind" for something, feel free to mark me down on your Hugo nomination ballot for "Best Novel." I am eligible for that.
Truthfully, the odds are vastly against me winning the Hugo, but I'll admit that even the thought of making it onto the preliminary ballot makes me all tingly. I mean seriously, look at the award itself....
It's a frikkin rocket. How cool is that? All phallic jokes aside, I swear if I won that thing I'd carry it around with me for a solid year, making rocket noises and flying it through the air.
Then, when my arms got tired, I would affix it to a gold chain and wear it around my neck, not only would it be the most badass author bling imaginable, but it would protect me from accidentally dying before book two comes out by stopping bullets and deflecting laserbeams.
Okay.... At some point that stopped being an official announcement and turned into me being a total geek about something shaped like a toy. I think I'm going to stop blogging now and put this energy into revising The Wise Man's Fear....
Hello folks. I've been elsewhere lately. Things have been busy with writing and getting ready for my trip out to New York for the Quill Awards.
But just yesterday I got the following message from someone asking me to help her settle a debate between her and a friend:
[...] Anyway, her stance is that Literature (her cap) is about enlightenment and improving the human condition, while fantasy is just escapist crap. I know she's wrong, but I'm not a good debater. I'm not good with words. Can you help me out?
Sami, your question reminded me of a forum I got drawn into a while back. Normally I resist being pulled into online discussions, but this one struck home with me. The person who started the thread was asking, effectively, if fantasy really mattered in any sort of profound way.
This is the from-the-hip response I made on that forum a while back. If you're looking for some argumentative ammo, there might be a few things in here. At any rate, it does a pretty good job of summing up how I feel about the issue.
"Can a Fantasy book/author really change anything?" [First post: July 10th 5:15 AM]
Years ago I was watching a documentary on the Beatles. There was a video clip where a journalist was interviewing John Lennon. He was protesting the war, doing ridiculous things to get press attention so that he could spread the word about his message. He spent his honeymoon in bed with his wife and invited the press. When the press showed up hoping for something racy, John and Yoko used the opportunity to spread their message about peace.
One of the journalists got exasperated with him at one point and said, "You dear boy, you don't think that you've saved a single life with this nonsense, have you?"
I remember watching that and thinking that I couldn't decide which one of them was being foolish. Lennon for thinking he could change things, or the reporter for being so cynical.
Ultimately, I want to believe Lennon. I want to think that a person can make a change in the way people think.
I think that can be done with a protest. Or a song. Or an interview. Or a fantasy novel.
Hah! I actually found the video clip on youtube. If you watch it for about 40 seconds you'll get to the part where the reporter says her line....
However, I don't think that political activism is the only type of change a novel can create. I think a novel can change they way you think about the world. It can expose you to new thoughts or make you reconsider old ones.
Hell, a fantasy novel can teach you things. Any time you learn something it changes your life.
Lastly, but not leastly, we shouldn't overlook pure entertainment. Back when I was in Grad school my life was a hell. It sucked really, really bad and I was stressed out beyond belief. That's when I read the Harry Potter books. They were great. They helped me relax and not freak out. They didn't heal my crippled limbs or stop me from being racist or fix global warming, but they improved the quality of my life. In doing so they hey changed my life in a little way. A good way.
[Second post: July 12th 11:18 AM]
I like what you said about escapism being productive. I think Robert Frost made a point along those lines in Birches.
"It's when I'm weary of considerations, And life is too much like a pathless wood Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs Broken across it, and one eye is weeping From a twig's having lashed across it open. I'd like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over."
That is one of the things that fantasy does best.
And laughter is not to be underestimated either. I write a satirical humor column for the local school paper. I write it because I like to make people laugh and it gives me a vent for my humor when my other writing needs to be serious.
After the most recent presidential election I was... distraught. Profoundly distraught and depressed. But my deadline was still there. I had to go in and be funny when I was in no mood. So I wrote about the elections. I made fun of the American populace, and the president, and both parties and myself most of all.
And the column pissed people off. They started a media event about it, got people riled up, and in the end, I almost lost my job because of it.
I remember thinking to myself, "Why do I do this? Why do I work 4-6 hours every week to write a column I don't get paid for? A column that offends people (as all good satire must) and costs me what small shred of respect I have among the other faculty at the university. A column that at best, gives people a cheap laugh?"
Weeks later I was grousing about the whole experience to someone in the University Center. A student walking past overheard and stopped.
"You're that guy that writes the College Survival Guide?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. Inwardly I was cringing against another attack. The media coverage had not been kind to me, satirical humor quoted out of context looks really, really damning, and as a result I'd been having I got a lot of unpleasant attention. Everything pales in comparison to a death threat, or the promise of a beating, but even tongue-lashings get you down after a while.... "Yeah." I said. "That's me."
"I read it all the time," he said. "After the election I wanted to kill myself. But when I read your column I laughed. I really needed a laugh right then. A lot of us really needed a laugh right then."
It was like a great weight got lifted off me when I heard that. I remember thinking. Oh yeah. *this* is why I write. If we don't laugh sometimes we'll cry. I want to help out with that.
This conversation made me think of a piece of fan mail I got a couple days ago. I'm going to contact the person who wrote it and see if she's okay with me re-printing it here. If she agrees I think it will be a nice addition to this thread...
[The final post: July 12th 12:12 PM]
She said I could share her letter so long as I removed her full last name. I wanted to share this because when this e-mail came in just a couple nights ago, I thought about this thread.
Even if I never get another e-mail like this again I'll feel like I've done something worthwhile with my life....
I read a lot of books. That's not to brag, it's just a fact. I read a lot of books, sometimes once, sometimes twenty times, and I'm glad that there's a lot of books out there because I'm more a little afraid that I'm going to run out one day. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This is really a thank you letter, so I should start there.
I want to thank you for your book, but I want to do it right. I read a lot of books, and it's been a long, long time since I've felt as passionately about a book as I do about yours. I don't know how to describe this feeling, really - I hope you know what I mean so I don't sound like a complete babbling idiot. It's like what I felt when I finished the Tolkien trilogy for the first time. It's the same thing I felt when I read my first LeGuin, it's the first time I read Ender's Game. It's being eight and fascinated by orcs and elves, and fifteen and shocked by the names of shadows that move inside of you, even if the shadow's name is your own name. It's finding love and pain and hope and a piece of yourself in the words on a page that were written far away by someone you have never met.
For the first time in a long time, I had a book that I couldn't bear to leave: your book. I bought it on a whim at five minutes to closing in a bookstore that I had never been to before, on a street that I have been on a hundred times. I started it at 11:45 on Monday night with a cup of grapefruit juice and a little seed of hope. I think you may know this hope, I think everyone has had it in one form or another. It's more than the, "gee I hope this is going to be a good trip" kind of hope.
Let me elaborate. (This is, by the way, kind of a personal letter. I hope you don't mind. You don't have to write back, it's okay, since this is really just a thank you.) I'm 19, just finished my first year of college, and living alone for the first time. I'm scared out of my wits, but not about finding a job or making it through school. I'm afraid that now that I'm an adult, there's no such thing as magic anymore. I don't want to be jaded any cynical and worldly. I like the crisp newness that varnishes the world. If I have to start paying bills and finding an apartment and paying rent, will I lose that shock, that joy, that awe that I felt when I saw things for the first time? (I had my first snowfall this winter. My first winter up north. It was everything I had dreamed it would be and it was utterly miserable. Who knew cold could be so, well, cold?) I am arrogant, I know, but I have to say it: have I read every good book? I wish I hadn't squandered so many good first reads in my childhood, when everything was new, when I didn't know how precious that first read is. That first bite of a taut red apple.
I started reading your book at 11:45pm and stopped at 8:30am when I realized that I probably still needed to show up for work. The first thing I did when I came home was pick it up again, and when I stopped I sat and stared at the wall and cried. Just because some things are over doesn't mean everything is. There are still people out there who can make magic, who know magic, there is still magic, I can still see magic. Closing the back cover was defeating; everything ends, and really there's nothing you can do about it. But it was exciting too. I was excited for another read, excited for the sequels, excited for the future.
I am going to go read it again now, and even though it won't be the first time, it will still be exciting. Thank you for your book. It is beautiful, and bright, and full of magic. Thank you for letting me write you this letter, even if you never read it. Thank you for the hope.
Hope that answers your question Sami. Everyone else, hope you weren't bored by the horribly long post.