Written by Col Buchanan
Like many lunatics, I enjoy time in the wilderness both physically and metaphorically. Without crowds of people around me I can relax and go at my own pace. By myself, I can appreciate what I’m doing and take things in fully, without that scratchy self-consciousness that follows the formerly shy for the rest of their lives. Alone, I can really be there and be me.
I guess the hard truth is that I enjoy my own company more than I do that of others. That may sound harsh to some, and in case as a fellow human being you’re somehow offended by that statement, or if you’re a friend who has just stumbled across it (though I’m sure you must be well aware of my condition by now) – I do love good company, I do love your good company, I just seem to need a whole lot less of it than most other people do. Enough to keep myself away from that great hairy madness sometimes glimpsed when pseudo-solitary living is taken too far – madman in the hills time – but that’s about all. A dose of sociality here and there. For the rest of the time I have my wife and my writing to keep me balanced, the great spirit-levels of my life.
Writers of course have always tended to be people who enjoy their own company. For these types, writing is nowhere near the lonely occupation that others might imagine it to be. The writer who sweats it out alone for hours and days and months on end – that person is committed to a solo adventure indeed, a very real one, with no help to be had and everything to be gained. In the worst of times they’re drowning in the struggle of it all, and in the best of times they’re flying and in love with every moment. Yet either way loneliness never comes into it.
Reverse the perspective. You are hardly lonely when you sit by yourself reading a book, at least not a good book. With a good book, particularly a good SF or fantasy book, you wholly lose yourself in that world and that story and the lives of the characters, and when you set it down you have a strong sense that you were transported somewhere else, somewhere other. You feel that you have left people behind whom you have grown to know, even though they are only the imaginings of the author, who has largely slipped from your mind. Maybe your blood has been stirred a little. Thoughts sparkle. Certainly you were not lonely.
This is the flipside, the one that I aim for when I write. The experience of the story, not just the black and white reflection of the words. A world of people that breathes when engaged with. It’s what I aimed for with Farlander and the sequel Stands A Shadow. If you happen to pick either one of those books to read, I hope you will find that I succeeded.
From the Tor/Forge August newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
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