Speaking in Tongues: A Fantisist’s Manifesto

Escape, whether through fiction, music, art, dance, theatre, sport, ritual or any other performance, is an attempt to find and reconnect with oneself, one’s purpose, one’s path.

 

This is true for the performer and, I believe, for the audience, the reader, the observer.

Observation is a profound and mysterious occupation. The artist in the role of performer seeks to stimulate, to engage, to connect with the observer. And because the observer is inherently mysterious, aloof and powerful, the act of creation, the ritual of performance, will always resemble that of sacrifice and  propitiation:

Here, take my child, my innocence. Do with it what you will!

Art is a form of prayer.

A way of connecting with divinity–yours, mine, ours. World-building is the highest form of praise. Such a statement could be regarded as self-congratulatory, so let me be quick to congratulate us all, since we are, each of us, at every waking or dreaming moment, engaged in acts of world-building. What I do, what any writer of fictions does, is to make the process of creating worlds a bit more explicit. The writer of other-world fantasies makes it perhaps most explicit of all.

I spring from a deeply joyous religious tradition that managed, nevertheless, to inhibit the full expression of my curiosity and creativity. When I say “spring” I mean both in the sense that fundamentalist Pentecostalism was the soil in which I sprouted and the prison from which I have eloped. Storytelling, myth-making, is my escape route. It brings me home again and again–home to reconnect with the divinity of my origins and home to the need–by means of careful observation, curiosity, and steadfast awe–to resist the calcifying effects of dogma.

I come home to wonder. I come home to create.

Art is a path I take, not the destination.

Not the scenery but the locomotion, the laying of the track both there and back around again. I create new worlds because I stand in awe of this one and because, being human and the offspring of the divine, it’s what I know. It runs in the family. Because the iron in my blood is the dust of ancient stars, I forge new heavens and new earths. Because I am in awe of human language–and rooted deeply, aggressively (I am an invasive species) in the English one–I speak in tongues that never were. Because, in order to survive with the gifts of curiosity and creativity intact, I’ve had to invent a new identity; I know how it’s done. I put that knowledge to use in the invention of new souls, who spring from the conflicting soils of their own beliefs, values and desires and set their feet on their own paths toward self-discovery and, every now and then, self-transformation.

I seek not to improve the world but to acquire it, to celebrate it.

You will probably not find in my stories a Good that “triumphs” often over Evil, or needs to. The universe doesn’t favor light over darkness; rather it is bathed in light that we, having dull eyes, do not see, in energies we do not understand. My interest in light derives from its power to reveal, not to overwhelm. My interest in darkness resides in the mysteries it conceals. Nor am I a fan of balance but of change, of motion and, yes, of magic. Because the universe is fundamentally a place of spells, prayers, propitiation, sacrifice and transformation, fantasy makes for a logical place to escape. A place to hide my soul. And to find it, hidden as it always was, in plain sight.