This week here at the Collective we'll be interviewing some of our favorite people from around the blogosphere. Scott over at Caveat Emptor was nice enough to agree to let me interrogate him. He was, as usual, a delight.
So, Scott, did you know here at the Collective we think you're a genius? I'm serious. Here is an actual text messaged conversation between the four of us:
"On Scott's blog today he said 'concept palindrome' and I thought it was so clever."
"I think Scott is kind of a genius."
"You guys, I'm gonna get me a hedgehog. And maybe a baby bear. Polar."
"I want a giraffe!"
"Are we still playing Scrabulous?"
"It's Abigail's turn. She's procrastinating."
"Multi-tasking makes you dumber. Science says so."
So my question is: how do you feel about labels — specifically the label 'genius,' as applied to you?
I hate labels in T-Shirts. They bug my neck. Labels applied to people? Well, I guess the motive for labeling people is more important than the actual label. The label "Genius?" Hmmm... I think of myself as clever and talented. A genius, it seems to me, should have some accomplishment or contribution to society to which she or he can point. I'm just a little good at a handful of things, that's all. A lot of people are.
Also, how do you feel about multi-tasking?
I'm terrible with multi-tasking. I find it unfulfilling and fitful.
Additionally, how do you feel about science?
I'm not a fan of science. I feel as though science lacks a healthy skepticism about itself. Science is a pursuit for those who need to know, and those who need to know are easily tempted to believe. I'm perfectly comfortable with mystery.
How about science fiction?
I've read a lot of speculative fiction in my life, sci-fi and fantasy, though I've never been fannish about it. Speculative fiction is free to explore grand, sweeping ideas. More mundane fiction has to explain itself if it gets too lofty.
You really like Lord of the Rings, right?
Do you like the LOTR movies?
I loved the movies. Nevertheless, I felt they had one disappointing flaw. When Sam, Frodo and Gollum are at Mount Doom, the movie makers hacked up a bit of cheap heroism in place of the original story. In the book, Bilbo's compassion for Gollum many years earlier is justified by Gollum's accidental role in destroying the Ring after Frodo succumbs to it and fails to destroy it. It's a moment foreshadowed by Gandalf's words to Frodo in Moria when Frodo says, (this is from memory, not a quote) "It's a pity Bilbo didn't kill Gollum when he had the chance" and Gandalf replies, "Pity? It was pity stayed his hand. Before the end, the pity of Bilbo could be the salvation of us all." Or something like that.
Is it 'elvish' or 'elfish'? I can never remember.
Tolkien used "Elvish." Elfish is not unheard of in other works.
Now, I've been wanting to ask you this for a long time: If you like fantasy, how come you've never read Harry Potter?
First of all, I'm stodgy. I love Tolkien and Dostoevsky and Umberto Eco, ponderous writers. I cannot read C. S. Lewis because the pace is too swift for me. The story feels thin and, I don't know, shallow to me. I enjoy a dense, slow story. So, I usually avoid youth-targeted books, however popular. The popularity is another issue for me. I have issues with doing what everyone else is doing. I have issues.
You gave a really awesome definition of "writer" one time in the comments section of your blog. You said that it's not about getting paid or published or whatever. It's about if you write and you love it. (Of course, you said it more articulately and with a better vocabulary.) Do you remember what I am talking about?
Not per se, but I remember the thoughts and I have them still.
Why did you decide to be a writer?
I spend the majority of my time imagining things. The world in my head is great. Let me show you it.
When you went on hiatus from your blog it was sad. I'm glad you're back. Are you glad you're back?
I am glad to be back, and I did not enjoy the break at all. I love writing, however nonsensical and pointless the result.
Let's play desert island. If you were trapped on a desert island and could only have one of the following, which would you choose:
Ah. Gee. That's tough. I'm not much of a fan guy. I'm afraid no one book would satisfy me for long. It would have to be something relatively long and really, really hard to understand so I could enjoy it for a long, long time. Hmmm... Sartre's "Being and Nothingness" maybe?
Fruit? (Unlimited supply.)
Watermelon. It's just do damned refreshing.
Drink? (Unlimited supply. Water is provided on the island.)
CD? (CD player provided.)
Just one? You're killing me. Let's see. I guess it would have to be Paul Simon's "Graceland."
Comfort item? (Like a pillow or a fan.)
A good, dense, firm pillow.
Restaurant? (It's a posh desert island.)
None comes to mind. Some place I've never been. Some place with good, simple, real food. Food you could point to in nature. Not a lot of bread or pasta. Proteins, vegetables, fruits. Simple things.
Magazine? (New ones would come as published.)
And finally, if you were trapped on a desert island, and Harry Potters 1-7 floated ashore, would you then finally read them?
I can't imagine that I wouldn't.
Will you tell us one thing we don't know about you?
When I was about seventeen I went through a "monk" phase during which I got rid of everything I owned, books, music, writings, artwork, everything. It was a part of who I am, so I don't regret it, but I do wish I had some of those things back.
Do you have a dream vacation imagined? What's it like?
I never imagine things that could actually happen. I only imagine things that will never happen. My dream vacation, though, would be in a cabin - not too rustic, mind you - in a temperate, wooded place within walking distance of mountains, rivers and lakes. From the cabin you wouldn't see even a blip of any human life except for those staying with you.
You're a programmer, right? What does that mean?
It means I design and write software. Specifically I write software for emergency physicians and nurses to track patients and document patient care in emergency departments. I've been in the emergency medical software field for fifteen years or so.
Can you list your top 5 favorite books?
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco
The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
You've talked a little bit about being a Baptist minister when you were younger, which I completely identify with because I lived in a bunker in a Baptist church for a long, long time. Is there some good stuff you've taken away from that experience?
Actually, I was a minister with the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Assemblies of God University and part of a Master's of Divinity from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. I hardly think of it as an experience I had. I think if it as a person I was. I'm a very different person now. I'm not sure I even feel like I'm the person that experienced those things, but, of course, I am. Good stuff I've taken away from the experience? I've learned from it, or from coming out of it, that we can disagree about things - important things - and still both be good people. One of us might be right, and one wrong, but who cares? It's not a reflection of our value as people. Probably we're both wrong anyway.
You've been married to Susan for many a year, and she seems very awesome. Tell us, how cool is your wife?
Susan is amazing. She's beautiful and simple and smart and silly and sexy and innocent and kind and stubborn and severe and gentle and independent and dependent and naughty and nice and perfect. She is far more than I deserve and more than I expected to get from life and I spend much of my time lying low lest fate realize that I'm getting more than my fair share.
Which of your kids do you love the most?
The one at hand.
That was a joke, did you know?
Lastly, and bookend-ly, I am going to test the powers of your genius with words. I am going to give you six sets of three words. Make a six-sentence story out of them, using the three-word groupings (one grouping per sentence.) You can, of course, add other words to the three-word groupings. And you can order the sentences however you'd like. (Does that make sense?)
1) Tree, snatch, loudly.
2) Hobo, star, with.
3) Eiffel Tower, over, tiny.
4) Purpose, and, smart.
5) Lego, monster, have.
6) Bellow, because, hello.
Never mind smart, my newly grown son, and never mind higher purpose. Success is a fanciful monster, like those you have beneath your bed with your forgotten harmonica and your dusty Lego bins. Ambition for your future is like that tree, you remember, that cast shadows across your room and clawed loudly at your screen like evil come to snatch you away. You're blessed with everything it takes to be a hobo or a star. Scale the Eiffel Tower or trim the garden hedge or take over the big world or slip, tiny and quiet, away into the peaceful night. No need to join in the doom of those weep and bellow, "Goodbye to Yesterday!" because tomorrow is here to say, "Hello."