Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Writing, the Learning, the Not-Believing

I wanted to formally announce this, even though I technically found out about this a little while ago. Surprisingly or not, I got regional (not national, sadly) placing in Scholastic's Alliance for Young Writers and Artists contest for submitting a short written work. My parents were really proud, as was the English teacher who gave me the award (delivered in Pre-Cal and all. She's also not my English teacher because the Dual Enrollment/Scholars kids don't have English anymore since we already got all the credits, but she was my homeroom teacher last year and she's the head of her department). I guess that means they like stories of two sociopaths standing around in a garden and talking about how cool it is to kill rich people?

"It's about a girl who gets murdered in a church."
"It's about the legend of some lady at sea who's not suppose to be there."
"It's about a prince who...fights witches...but then....he's...like...okay with them?"
"It's about this Artificial Intelligence that needs to be taken to a safe place by a scientist and a genetically engineered cyborg...but they really just talk a lot."
"It's about a serial killer--with tendencies of a spree killer--and a girl who wants to be a serial killer...talking."

Querying literary agents, you say? Pfft, I got this. Easy-peasy.

So yeah, they liked it. I was really, really happy (although also slightly disappointed, because I feel they would have liked it more if I hadn't hammered it out two days before the deadline). I was thinking about entering another contest, several at least, particularly for scholarship money. It gets me nervous, but I think I have a shot in winning some more.

The problem however is, I've been writing short stories that tie in to my larger working novels, and it's getting really, really difficult not to shoot a message.

This is going to be sound painful to any experienced writer, but I do like to genuinely write to tell messages. That is not how a work of art should be. If you ask a writer why they wrote something in particular, you shouldn't ever have to hear, "It's because I'm protesting the riaugwhpeurw because I believe in lfdghjkljroutyahehrwpuj."

(Odd, as I'm reading Uncle Tom's Cabin right now. I just grabbed it at my college's library and decided to read it. I can't believe people back then used the line "It's a free country!" and then talk about buying a slave. Ms. Stowe, writing that was genius back then, and it's damn hilarious now on a bitter hindsight kind of thing.)

Anyways, I think the reason most experienced writers don't wish to do that is because ultimately, a good story will have its own lessons, and you never want to write blatant propaganda. I guess what I want to do is reach a balance of Wall-E and not sink down to the level of that awful new adaptation of the Lorax (a book I thoroughly enjoyed when I was little).

As of lately, I've noticed that I'm actually really apprehensive in regards to discussing religion in real life. Or if not apprehensive, I'm overly nice. I don't deny anything, I don't point out contradictions. I sit and I listen and nod my head, and sometimes, I'm truly interested. I don't lie when asked about my religion, I just say, "No, I'm not religious." like using the word "atheist" is gonna start a massive battle (although to be fair it's gotten me insulted a few times.)

For some time, I couldn't understand why the mere mention of being an atheist made other people take it as a personal insult. I have a friend at school who is Muslim, but for a long time she didn't wear the hijab. Recently, she decided that, since she considers herself a good Muslim, she might as well wear it to show her respect for her own religion. That enacted a couple of curious and innocent questions from people, and since it's been ten years since 9/11, she doesn't really get that much shit thrown at her anymore. (Sometimes in Chemistry others joke about it. Like they dare her to go to an airport and yell "I'm the bomb!" but they don't really mean it and she's never offended by it). I've noticed that overall, people in America are very respective of other religions. Or at least, people around here. I'm hoping it's the same in other parts of the United States.

Yet when my friend affirms that she is not a Christian, those who are respectful of religion do no get defensive. (And I don't want to imply Muslims or non-Christian people have it better than atheists. They don't. I know they don't. This is just some really weird stuff I've noticed in my school). When I say I do not believe in anything, they get a little offended. Not entirely, but a little bit. Very rarely do I see a strong reaction, but more often than not, it's confusion plus a little bit of defensiveness. And I might have realized why, because out of all things to ask me, this conversation more often than not happens:

"You don't believe in anything?"
"No."
"So then, tell me this, what happens after we die?"
"Nothing."
"Nothing happens? Just nothing but emptiness?"
"Yup."
"That's kind of depressing."

And I never know how to explain why it's not depressing. Why I find it perfectly acceptable. But nevertheless, that's probably one of the Big Reasons religion even exists. As a living species, the last thing we want to do is die, and we have a natural fear to it, however, we can't just deny its existence. So to lessen the pain, we created a reality where death is just kind of The Next Step. That's gotta be one of the reasons people aren't insulted at other religions. Things might be different, but basic concepts remain, and almost all religions believe in afterlife. We all believe we are more than just this physical, sometimes fragile, sometimes strong, but always mortal body.

And truth be told, I feel that diminishes life a little if what happens next is awesome. Why not kill all the little babies in famines so they don't have to suffer any longer? Why are you sad if you're grandmother dies of cancer if she's off in heaven and you'll get to see her in a few years? No one lives forever, and there's no pain in paradise, right?

In the current story that I'm writing, a character hears about these creatures that are the only soulless beings in the world. Mermaids to be exact (yes I know. Stab me for the cliche). They had a soul many years ago, but when it was taken from them, they felt the emptiness inside of them and did despicable things to get it back. However, this particular character feels that maybe the existence of the soul mattered so much to them because it was all they were before, and now they are trapped in physical bodies. The body is not a vessel for them, but a prison, and so she decides to give up her own soul for the mermaids.

One of the other characters becomes angry at this, telling her that even a rotten soul is better than nothing, but the main girl says that unlike the mermaids, she doesn't need more. She has struggled and fought for survival her whole life, and her mind and her body are that which she values the most, not this unknowable, invisible thing that's inside of her. She's not educated enough to know just cells make up her body, but still she knows that her mind will not change, and her physical self is all she needs and wishes to protect.

In the end, this might offend some people, it might anger others if I sacrifice message for story, and it might be either too blatant or not blatant enough. I was often told that it's important to separate yourself from your characters, not make them total self-inserts, etc. But in the end, these are my stories, and if I don't speak through them, I'll have trouble finding another way to let my voice reach just the ears of a few.

Wow, getting carried away over here. Ahem.

So I started astronomy class last Monday and what we've mostly been doing is watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos. It's kind of really fascinating above all else. I absolutely adore this subject already.

As a last note, yesterday I got a new laptop @_@ After the last one was sent to the Evil Utilitarian World of Canada and never, ever came back, my parents decided it was okay to get a new one rather than keep struggling with my four year laptop while I hold dearly to the USB that held all my life (...or well...since I was 11) work. It's very tiny, it can't even run CDs or have a lot of programs in it, but it's perfect. We have a desktop and my brother's gaming laptop for everything else. So I was going to name her Isadora003, but instead went for Luna. I suppose Isadora will come back later. Hopefully in a few years.

But yeah, just a small update. Might post something else later on.
~Becky

P.S: I also saw the Avengers last weekend. I absolutely love Joss Whedon, but I guess I'll write a through review later xD
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.