We had the kids at Chuck E Cheese today. The food was expensive and not very tasty (hello, cooks, where’s the pizza sauce?), but despite all that, well worth the cost and the time. The boys had a blast running from game to game, shoving their tokens in, and playing without a care. It’s my hope that they remember that carefree feeling more than the games themselves.
A lot of writers talk about finding inspiration or harnessing inspiration or losing inspiration. I kind of touched on that subject in my blog post Inspiration and if you haven’t read that post, that’s fine. You can, of course, and I’d appreciate it, but the gist of it was inspiration is bullshit. We get ideas, we have days where the words just write themselves, but that’s not inspiration. That’s just hard work, man, and having a fucked up brain that never turns itself off. Inspiration is too short lived to be credited with anything we do. Anyway, I’m digressing a bit.
I want my kids to remember feeling carefree because it occurred to me that what many writers really mistake inspiration for is influence. McCammon, King, Wilson, Sanders, Koontz… these writers didn’t inspire me to do what I do, they influenced me with subtle touches over many years of exposure, kind of the same way just growing up did. Of course I learned style and nuance from the writers I read and admired (as well as teachers), and eventually what I learned combined with what I remember from growing up to form my own unique (I hope) writing style.
But that’s why I want my kids to remember the feeling more than anything. My world and my life (and not really the particular things I’ve done) influence me more than anything else.
I don’t remember having cable until I was a teenager. Not because it wasn’t available, but rather my dad wouldn’t pay for it. While I certainly didn’t want for anything, I also didn’t have everything. I remember the not having because most of my friends did. That feeling influences me to spoil my kids way more than I should and is probably good for them.
The video game revolution happened, man. Fucking Pong, to Atari 2600, Intellivision, Colecovision, Sega, Nintendo, TurboGrafx, Super Nintendo, and then the PlayStation and Xbox, along with all their generations. I can add in that Nintendo is still developing, too, albeit slower than the others. And yes, at some point in my life, I owned them all, including several standup arcade games like Battle Zone.
Somewhere in the timeline the PC blew up, the Internet came along and exploded. I joined AOL to play D&D and paid hundreds of dollars a month for the fucking privilege. It was on AOL where I met my lovely wife and a few others who I’m friends with on Facebook and still talk to. All because of an online game. For the last 20 years or so, I’ve had the exact same @aol.com email address. Not sure how many people can say that today.
But not only did the gaming industry change, with consoles fighting and clawing for a top dog (Xbox FTW), but so did the home movie and music industries. I watched Betamax and VHS fight like bitches. VHS won, only to be eyefucked by DVDs. Then Bluray and HD-DVD had their little pissing contest and Bluray video is the thing. Now we watch movies on our desktops, laptops, 101 mobile devices, and those movies are streamed straight from what? Oh, the fucking internet! Yeah, and somewhere in there, the Laserdisc tried to kick it, too.
Music is pretty much the same story. Eight tracks and records, to cassettes to CDs to MP3 and MP4s. We no longer walk around with boom boxes (yeah, we all did it) or Walkmans, but iPods and Zunes and iPhones and Galaxies or the Walmart brand machine. We have a thousand songs on a device that’s essentially an electronic Wheat Thin (I’m looking at you, iPod Nano).
I can’t even tell you how many books I have on my Kindle. I can damn near carry a full library with me everywhere I go. How fucking cool is that?
We’ve had the same leaps in automotive technology, military technology, and medical technology. All these advances to better our daily lives, make things a little easier, a bit more accessible.
So yeah, while I didn’t grow up during any great revolutionary social change (civil rights, women’s rights) and while I think I’ll live to see the next great social change where our gay, lesbian, and transgendered friends and family have a fair and equitable shake, it’s really my kids who will undoubtedly be the most affected by that change. And I think it will mold them in the subtle ways different things have molded me.
Want more? Not one, but two space shuttle disasters. I remember watching the Challenger explode on television while in grade school. That was back in 1986 and we were watching, like so many others, to see the teacher Christa McAuliffe make it into space. I never watched another launch again. To this day, I haven’t seen footage of Columbia from 2003. I probably won’t ever watch it. We had the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and September 11, 2001 is another day where I watched extreme tragedy on live television. I won’t get into the stuff I’ve watched online, but the internet is awash with tragedy. It’s literally at your Googletips. And more is happening each and every day.
So technologically, man, my life has been astounding, and despite the social changes that came before me and those that I hope come soon, we still, by and large, treat each other like shit. And that’s what influences me, more than anything else, as a writer. Living in such a world that’s so easy and connect yet we still treat people unfairly in regards to looks and race, in regards to sexual orientation and religion, in regards to intelligence and income.
This is why I am a speculative writer with slants towards sci-fi, horror, and politics. Because these things have influenced me over the years.
What’s influenced you?