And why it's okay to be pluripotent.
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Today is the ninth of January 2016. David Bowie will die in less than 24 hours, and in a month or so some fool will remark that ‘he was just a rock star’. Not wanting to cause a fight, I will wait until we are alone together to tell him just how little he knows about Bowie, and indeed about a lot of other things.
One sunset away, Bowie’s death will be announced to the world. I will watch the news on the big composite television in the hub of Edge Hill university, twenty five regular TV’s combined into one. A triangular-shaped sports student (pointy end at the feet) will ask “Who is David BOW-WEE” and I will stand behind him silently. He will smell very strongly of Lynx Africa, which will make it harder for me to read the headlines on the TV (years later I will realise this was due to synaesthesia). A lot of people will text and call me. Friends will be concerned, as if Bowie’s death was somehow quantum entangled with a very important part of my brain. My girlfriend will have woken me up that morning to tell me her mum called her on the phone so she could tell me that Bowie had died whilst I was trying to dream. I didn’t see the point. I would have rather seen it first on that big TV, The Man Who Fell to Earth style. But it didn’t matter. How you obtain information is not nearly as important as the information itself.
Further back, in November 2014, I was half way through a poem containing the line ‘your mad hands’ when I discovered that Bowie had already written it. Artistically I always felt entwined with his work in some way, but this was starting to get weird.
Zipping back to January 9th 2016 now. I’m looking through my poetry collection at all the Bowie references. I am sure I’ll get shit for it in class now (I didn’t) but I leave them in anyway. That night I play Girl Loves Me about eight times in the shower.
But that isn’t today at all. Today is the ninth of January 2023. We are seven years hence. I got up early this morning and fixed up some Lego Minecraft sets I had previously tried to combine together. I made noodles and I briefly considered a fashion rebrand thanks to a new friend who is helping me market both myself, and those books you sometimes hear about. Ultimately, I think I’ll stick with the floral jackets and the bright brogues, but I wouldn’t mind relearning eyeliner and getting back into my old trousers. Some glitter would be nice too, I think it’s the closest thing we have to putting a night sky on an outfit, so naturally I want to gather as much of it as possible. A glittery cape might be nice for a book signing.
Small social conflicts it seems are almost always engineered for the sake of conflict.
I think I get it now. Bowie fascinate[d/s] me because I identified with the performance and how he was many things at once. I played a Best of Bowie CD my parents got from Asda to death as a kid, and I wanted to meet Jareth the Goblin king long before I even knew he was Bowie in disguise. I first put the pieces together when I was around eight years old. Bowie was in various parts of my house, waiting to be discovered. He was in the Labyrinth VHS which I barely recall having. He was in the record collection. He was there before I was and I thought he would probably be around after too. In all these incarnations he had a different style, like a timelord, but cooler. When I eventually decided to plan how I would look at 27 when I was 17, I remembered how much Bowie could transform and I had the amazing, groundbreaking idea that maybe I would have a beard or something.
Growing up I was told I had to ‘pick a path’ by teachers and told to ‘pick a side’ by narcissists in my family. Small social conflicts it seems are almost always engineered for the sake of conflict. People want the fight because they like to feel as if they’ve won one.
A small fight is easy to work with if you’re an authority figure: Tell a kid to do something and then tell them they’ve done it wrong even when they’ve done it right. Instant validation. You’re right, they’re wrong. It’s not like it will affect them for the next few years, is it?
This works for both parents and teachers.
But I wasn’t wrong. I wasn’t in any way broken for wanting to be multiple things, just as I’m not broken now for refusing to add pronouns to my twitter bio. I don’t like boxes (unless they have Lego in them). I don’t like playing along with groups in order to fit in with them. Trends make me itch, crowds frighten me if I am a part of them. Life’s a weird gift and I think just being one shape the whole time is a tragic waste of that gift.
So be a shapeshifter.
I personally will be shapeshifting into a Lego robot within the next five business days.
It’s okay to be different things.
You don’t need to nail yourself to a label. That’s the main message here.
Bowie was a very important figure to me for that reason, as was Gary Numan. Both of them changed a lot in their careers as performers, and that inspired me. I saw people who managed to survive and thrive whilst being weird and new and exciting. Bowie could star in movies, paint, write songs, do some light comedy in talk shows. He could get an audience laughing and he could captivate them with his lyrics and performance and philosophy. Numan can effortlessly shift genre and tone, and is not afraid of writing about hard subjects. I wanted to do all of the above.
And for whatever reason, it is what I didn’t do for a long time.
Writing is a quiet hobby, one which doesn’t cost much and can be hidden from the people you live with. I was a private kid, still am in some ways, and writing in a notebook or on my computer was a cheap and quiet way to be creative. Lego also worked, and still does. In fact the first time I realised my creative work was any good was when Channel 4 decided to have me and my sister as contestants on the original Lego Masters.
Ultimately we didn’t cause enough trouble to feature in the final cut, but you can see us in the credits. If I had another chance, I think I’d be in the top 3.
So what am I saying?
That I am at my happiest when I am allowed to be multiple things. Looking back, most of my earlier poems are songs and most of my earlier comedy stories would be better on stage than on paper. The serious sci-fi stuff reads like a movie script half the time, and I know at least one book I started when I was a teenager was abandoned purely because it wasn’t actually a book at all, but a description of an imagined art installation.
Does anyone have a spare giant chrome skull?
So I’ve evolved. I like being an author, but I also like being a talk show host and a comedy poet. I like being on radio and making people laugh, and sometimes I am good at it. I like being a Lego person too.
The point of this post was for me to maybe reach one or two aspiring writers and artists and to say it’s okay to be weird. It’s fine to be multiple things. It’s hard, sure, not everyone is going to get it, it’s hard to find an audience that sticks around, but it’s worth doing. I might do some painting today, it doesn’t make me any less of an author.
That’s it really.
The bit after the end.
Right now, I actually feel as if I have completed a lot of what I wanted to get out of being an author. I’ve had fan-art, which you can see below, and I’ve had nice reviews and messages and I invented my own book signing table at ComicCon and sold books in person to people, and those people came back the next day to tell me they loved it. My honest goal as an author, back when I wrote my first full novel at 16 (back in 2008) was for someone to enjoy it. I wanted to entertain people. I think I’ve done that.
I’m going to keep going though. There are more stories to tell, and I think you’re all enjoying them. At least I tell myself you are.
Now my goals are higher. I want to get WBTH1 or/and WBTH2 turned into a Netflix series. I want Earthloop to relaunch through crowdfundr one book at a time, meaning each book has its own launch and deadline date. I want Synaesthesioid to come out by December 2023 and I want to pitch The Stephanie Glitch to traditional publishers. I want my talk show to reach 1000 subscribers and I want to record at least one episode in front of a live studio audience, preferably at a ComicCon. I want to visit America (I’ve not yet had the chance to go abroad) and I want to visit Roswell, where I intend to write the final chapters of Earthloop. I’d like to be on TV talking about Synaesthesioid so that any synaesthetes watching know that they’re not alone. I want to get better at performing on stage.
Anyway, fan art showcase!
This is the Intersect ship from the Furukawa Universe (and Earthloop)
This is Lucy contemplating her purpose.