The Cultural Exchange

My husband knows he married a Harry Potter enthusiast. And he, himself, long ago admitted that he once-upon-a-time had been something of a Star Trek fan. “When I was a kid,” he said with emphasis, as if awaiting judgment. But what judgment was I to pass? I was well into my twenties when I spent an entire semester solely on Harry Potter and class ideology. If the internet age has given anything to the western world, it’s the ability to admit to being a fan of Star Trek without fear of wedgies, swirlies or a state of general social outcast-ery.

Then it happened, by complete accident, that Husband had just begun reading the Harry Potter series when I noticed Star Trek: The Next Generation appeared on Netflix. Whether it was a new acquisition or whether it had been there all along, only to magically reveal itself when I truly needed it, I will never know. But alas: I started watching.

As we innocently and individually began our new pop culture treks journeys, we realized what was going on. Seven books = Seven seasons. We didn’t intend on this fortuitous exchange; it just happened. Surely something magical must be afoot? Because otherwise the only lesson to take from this is: if you’re not careful with your marriage, your individual subconsciousnesses grow together into one marital hive mind.

This all began a few weeks ago. Husband has since finished The Philosopher’s Stone, which means if we are going to keep pace, I should be done Season One. But, as he warned me, Season One is a bit of a slog. “Just wait for Riker’s beard to show up,” I was told. Yet, for someone who claimed Season One sucked, he sure can quote a lot of it. Not only that, he knows the name of every episode, all the characters’ names and histories, and fun trivia facts. He even admitted to have all the action figures as a child. The truth comes out.

But here’s the catch: I’m actually really liking it. Yes, even the routinely-mocked Season One. We bonded over laughing at Troi’s melodramatic outbursts. “This gets better?” I said with a grin on my face. I don’t mind camp and ridiculousness in my science fiction, as it turns out.

As we’ve pursued our new fictions, frequent questions have oft been asked of the other, more expert spouse. Our knowledge of the other’s fandom prior to the exchange has been patchy at best. By this, I mean we’ve both only seen the films. And those are NOT. THE. SAME. Husband’s seen the Harry Potter movies, and I’ve seen some of the Star Trek ones. Including the new ones. Ugh. Now I can understand Husband’s chagrin as he whined: “But they’re not Star Trek…”

I am also discovering that so much of ST: TNG is oddly familiar. Repressed memories are welling to the surface. My dad used to watch it occasionally, and I’m pretty sure now that I saw it a lot too. I have vague flashbacks of proclaiming Geordi LaForge my favourite character and sliding my plastic headband over my eyes. I’m sure my younger sister was unsuccessfully beamed up several times.

Our questions and predictions foisted upon the other have ranged from the bizarre and philosophical to the inanely naive. For instance, I pointed out that early in Season One, I totally got the vibe that we were leading up to a big Picard-is-Wesley’s-father reveal, for which I was sufficiently scoffed at. We’ve also discovered just how geeky the other spouse can be about their chosen fandom. We’ve been able to answer pretty much any question the other has thrown out, no matter how detailed. Fun Fact: Troi’s mother was played by Gene Roddenberry’s wife. (Go on, pretend you knew that. I’m sure you did. Honestly. No sarcasm here. I’m just new around these parts.)

Star Trek is something I’ve always suspected I would like, even as the adamant Star Wars fan I was a mere ten years ago. Bah, how foolish I seem now. Star Wars is over for me. I feel like I’ve aged out of Star Wars and into Star Trek. It’s a substance-over-style thing for me. These day, I actively look forward to roundtable discussions of geopolitics rather than shit blowing up. And the Prime Directive speaks strongly to the anthropology student in me. So why have I avoided Star Trek all these years? I can’t say with any certainty, but I feel a significant part of it is this feeling I have relating to genre. It’s not cognitive dissonance, but that’s the closest analogy I can think of.

I have always thought of myself a literary writer and reader. And I am. But there’s something I find so simply fascinating about science fiction. I read all genres really, but if I have to pick one: SF all the way. And more and more of the stories I want to tell are speculative fiction based: from space operas to dystopias to any number of magic realist spaces in between. Yet why does it feel like SF, or any genre really, is at odds with “proper literature”? It feels like I’ve spend so many years harbouring delusions of literary leanings, while consuming SF as a guilty pleasure, an indulgence, even. Like I’m on the Booker Prize diet and SF is my cheat day.

They’ve always felt at odds with each other, like there is a dreaded One Day looming when I will have to pick a side. I go to readings and art-related events and everyone talks about poetry and I feel like a fraud. Sure, I know of which they speak, and I can hold my own in literary discussions, but I can’t banish this dread in the back of my mind that Oh god, they’re going to discover I like genre fiction, and then I’ll be cast out on my ass!

It’s part of why I have two completed novels, one literary fiction, one science fiction, and I’ve been gripped by panic as to which one to try to publish first. Because whichever one it is: that will determine my career… forever.

I think now, at long last, that I know. Now, I could get into long explanations about the pretentiousness of much of the literary crowd, people believing their own hype, yada yada yada, but I think, at the end of it all, I can just stop taking myself so seriously. It’s science fiction for me all the way. Yes, I wrote a novel about pirates in space, and, you know what? It’s fucking awesome. I’ve even actually got an agent on the hook for it. (Truth.)

Thank you, Star Trek (and Husband). I might only be in the middle of your shitty first season, but I love you already.

to read or not to read: morrissey’s autobiography

One of the things I am going to miss about Britain (more on that later) is the fact that Morrissey releasing an autobiography warrants not just mentions on the news but also hardcore, “man-on-the-street” journalism. Truly, the public needed to know what the average Mancunian thought of Morrissey. We needed to know, I tell you!

I knew the autobiography existed beforehand, but never gave it that much thought. I like The Smiths, but I’m rather agnostic when it comes to Morrissey himself. It’s not that I don’t know whether he’s a genius or a douchebag, but I accept the fact that it is impossible for meagre human beings to actually know whether he’s a genius or a douchebag. (And most of what one considers post-punk proves the two are not mutually exclusive.)

However, watching the frontman for a Smiths cover band read excerpts, interspersed with what could have been the cast of Coronation Street singing the praises of praise-worthy singing, made me think I might actually want to pick up this tome. But on the other hand…. do I?

41hB6XoG4DL._Pro: Exciting revelations like he was targeted by the Special Branch and he never had a serious relationship until he was thirty-five.

Con: Give it a week and these revelations will be on his Wikipedia page.

Pro: He uses phrases like “Kafka-esque.”

Con: See above.

Pros: It’s been heralded in some reviews with such laudits as “the best written musical autobiography since Bob Dylan’s Chronicles.” (The Telegraph)

Cons: But The Independent called it “droning narcissism and the whine of self-pity.”

Pro: I really like The Smiths because I am a cliche apparently.

Con: It looked really long when they showed it on TV.

Pro: I really like the Penguin Classics cover.

Con: And the fact that it’s just called Autobiography.

Wait, but I said I liked that. But it is rather pretentious without much substance other than the pretension itself, which is really kind of the point… but… medium… message… art… music… brain… knot….

Oh crap. I will just have to wait until we get to the Manchester airport, where it will inevitably be on every wire rack in every W.H. Smith’s across that aerial sprawl, and decide then.

packing my library

After spending the majority of the years 2001 through to 2007 going to university and working in two different bookstores, I managed to accumulate several hundred books. I counted once mid-2005 and it was about 350. More gathered since, both before and after the Grand Library Merger with Husband’s collection in 2011. Even after the Moving House Purges of 2006, 2009, and 2012, I would reckon that we entered July 2013 with about 400-500 books.

Aviary Photo_130301644011113815The importance of a single book in your library is indescribable. Each book is like a photograph. I pick up a book and am transported to the time and place where I collected it. Was it for Engl 105, that fantastic introduction to Joan Didion? Was it the last copy of a bargain book I found during a shift at Chapters? Was it a gift from an ex-boyfriend who meant well (but probably not that well, since he should have known that I worked at a bookstore and must have known that Dover Classics are about two bucks apiece, so thanks-but-no-thanks for the six dollars well spent on Dante).

But like Frodo Baggins, we are going to a place where books cannot follow. The cost is too great to ship or store that many books and there is something liberating about casting off our libraries: literally getting rid of baggage; literally getting rid of dead weight (dead trees, that is); literally pawning the past.

At the end of all of that, the four books below were the four I simply could not bear to part with.* Four. Out of four hundred. What is it about those four? What power is it they hold over me? Do those four books hold the core of who I am? I can even recall the years I bought them all. Howl was 1998. Bethlehem was 2001 (for Engl 105). The Jungle was 2006. Lorca was just 2011.

That’s the narrative of my life.

All of this was quite unintentional.

___________

*Not counting obvious keepers like my grandmother’s old copy of Jane Eyre from 1918 and souvenirs like I Feel Relatively Neutral About New York.

new books

Because maybe it’s time I start learning something…


“Look at the longing, the anguish of a sad fossil world / that cannot find the accent of its first sob.” (Frederico Garcia Lorca)

your latest amazon shipment has arrived!

I love getting mail. Especially large packages; ones that don’t rattle, but shift slightly when shaken: shunk shunk shunk in the cardboard origami mailer. Yesterday, I received the results of my latest moment of online consumerist weakness:

Some new music:
1 – Dear Science – TV on the Radio
1 – Glasvegas – Glasvegas
1 – For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
1 – The Seldom Seen Kid – Elbow

Some old music:
1 – Raw Power – Iggy and the Stooges
1 – Horses – Patti Smith

One old graphic novel:
1 – Tank Girl 2

Two britcoms:
1 – Spaced
1 – Black Books

I shall get crackin’ on my pop culture catch up right now.