Bad Does Not Spoil The Good

scotch“The way I see it, life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” ~ Doctor Who

As an unapologetic, unsuccessful fiction writer I’m proud to say that I often rub shoulders with the people who rub shoulders with the people who rub shoulders with the writers who write in the tradition of  Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce.  Down through the years I’ve been drawn to the hauntingly compelling fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, Ray Bradbury and Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King.  So when my family sat down to watch the award-winning episode “The Doctor’s Wife” — and the opening credits popped up on our barn-size television set — I yelled out like the damn food I am: “Neil Gaiman!  Neil Gaiman!  It was written by Neil Gaiman!”

My wife and kids stared at me like I was speaking Serbo-Croatian.

But then I remembered the good Doctor’s quote, that bad things don’t spoil the good.  So instead of simply leaving it at that, and enjoying a stunning piece of drama — wherein Doctor Who melds science fiction, fantasy and horror with the aplomb of a good bartender mixing a mojito — I paused TiVo to explain that Neil is one of the über-talented writers who’ve inherited the mantle of Lovecraft and Poe, who’ve become the newest generation of fantasists.  And their blank stares reminded me of Christmas dinner twenty-years-ago, when a friend of the family asked what kind of fiction I wrote.  When I allowed that I was a fantasy writer, he said he loved — just loved — a book with good, steamy sex.  So do I, for what it’s worth, but that’s not the point.

When I say fantasy, I don’t mean Fifty Shades of Gray or late-night Cinemax.  I’m not a prude; it’s just not my genre.  In fact, I am not even referring to The Lord of the Rings or A Game of Thrones.  Again, not my thing.  You see, my foot is firmly planted in that land of shadow and substance, of things and ideas, and so when people ask what I write, I simply smile and say that I write Twilight Zone stories.  At which point some teen or tween will say, “Ooh, I just love Stephenie Meyers.”

And that’s when I go to the bar and order another scotch.

Years truly,

Keith

Copyright © 2013

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8 thoughts on “Bad Does Not Spoil The Good

  1. Gaiman’s work is rather like the darkness before the dawn (no cheesy quote intended). A dark, silent, murky brooding that you just hope will eventually have that touch of orange/pink on the horizon, signalling you may survive another day.

    And yes, I’d join you for that scotch – just about any single malt from Islay, or a Forty Creek rye, no ice, please.

    1. No ice. Noted.

      I became a Gaiman fan when I read a story of his that appeared in “Shadows over Baker Street,” which is an excellent Sherlock-Holmes-meets-Lovecraft anthology. Highly recommended!

  2. David Appenzellar

    Even though sometimes I haven’t a clue what you are talking about I still take something away from reading it that I didn’t know. The shows you mention I know some about. I still need to see if this Dr. Who is on Netflix and check it out. I’m always thinking about the James Bond movie with the same name but can see they are quite different. My brother always liked Dark Shadows but with our 7 year difference never watched it enough to like. I watched the soap operas with mom and it seemed to be a scary soap opera so I passed. Later he loved Night Stalker and I’ve watched episodes of it. Scares the hell out of you but you go back next week to do it all over again. He did question one episode that he was sketching an egyptian necklace with a cat in the middle and as he finished he said he saw the shadow of a large black cat outside his window and started to growl and howl so he tore the drawing in two and the cat was gone. Later in the show the exact replica of the necklace was shown as part of egyptian mythology. And as we got older loved the HBO Tales from the Crypt. The all take you to another time and place. And hang in there for success is never easy but keep the passion of what you like and inside your head and you will find your voice that the masses will want to read and who knows see your name on the credit of a Dr. Who.

    1. Doctor Who is on Netflix (both instant and DVD). It’s really easy to get started watching. Just begin with the first season of the 2005 re-boot of the series. The premise is simple and will become quite evident after you watch a few. It really is a very entertaining program that mixes science fiction with the exact kind of horror elements that you mention (Tales from the Crypt, Dark Shadows, etc).

      I thank you for your kind words. While I’d love to see my name in the credits of a famous TV show, at this point I’m quite content to wax philosophic about all things time-travel. It’s fun!

  3. This is terrible to admit, because I’m also a budding (er, struggling?) fiction writer, but I have not been paying enough attention to the writers of my favorite TV shows! I mean, I pay (obsessive) attention to novelists and video game writers I love, but for some reason my knowledge just tapers off when it comes to TV writing. BUT I am changing that! What began as diligently looking up the writers of my favorite episodes has turned into squealing when I recognize a writer’s name in the opening credits of a show… maybe a bit like you did. =)

    Anyway, I wish you all the best with your writing! Love the “Twilight Zone stories” description, sounds really interesting.

    1. I don’t pay as much attention to credits as I should, either. I think if I did I could glean a lot more from episodes of DW that I really enjoyed (and conversely, the writing/directing might help me understand why I didn’t like others).

      It’s curious, too, how the director takes center stage, as it were, in TV and movies. Everybody knows that they re-released Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” in 3D. But does “everybody” know who actually wrote the novel and screenplay? Food for thought :)

  4. Ah, and that problem is exactly why I don’t tell random strangers/acquaintances/coworkers that I write, or what I write unless they indicate an interest in reading the type of material I like to write. There’s nothing wrong with sex (dragons, etc.) in a book, if the purpose is sex in a book, or the sex furthers the book in a way, but it’s disturbing that telling someone I write fantasy somehow equates to only erotic fiction in their mind, or dragons, or elves, or whatever limited box they put it in. It can include those things, or it cannot. What is so hard to understand about the definition of the word fantasy, I wonder?

    I didn’t mind educating people at first, but since most people looked either bored, or continued to be clueless (perhaps my communication needs work?) it became tiresome quickly, and I don’t open up the opportunity for the conversation unless I really care about having that conversation with that person.

    My new pet peeve regarding people who sniff at fantasy or sci-fi lately is that people who don’t like stuff other people like instantly relegate it to dumb, or make up some cheesy excuse like “I’m too creative to pay any attention to other peoples, you know, creativity”. Yeah…okay. Great that those people think they can think of or imagine every twist or new idea, or bent rule, that could ever be conceived on their very own, but some of us like discovering that other people have cool ideas, be it as simple as a new sentence or metaphor or as complex as a full fledged universe, or anywhere in between. Isn’t the whole point of fantasy to imagine something different, even if it seems real and relatable?

    I, too, was overwhelmed with joy by the Neil Gaiman/Doctor Who collaboration. No one else gets it. Except the people who LOVE Neil Gaiman, who I can then convince to give Doctor Who at least a try.

    1. I have the same experiences with people’s reactions (boredom, etc). But I’ve noticed a difference: If I tell folks at the office that I write a blog about science fiction it actually piques their interest. If I tell them I write a blog about time travel folks are actually intrigued.

      If I say that my blog’s foundation is “Doctor Who” I will probably be met with a lot of blank stares, and if that’s the case I just cycle back to the time travel theme.

      What I’m wondering is if a fantasy topic, like time travel, helps people relate to the genre, and also wondering if the medium matters, e.g., blogs seem more interesting (newer?) than traditional fiction.

      You’ve given me some good food for thought. Thanks for replying.

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