Confessions of my Past, Present and Future
As a sheltered kid with an overactive imagination, it didn’t take long to discover the allure of books. When I wasn’t allowed to watch the kind of movies I wanted to watch or play the video games I wanted to play, I could always read. And it was reading that first led me down some strange paths of the imagination, and became a lifelong obsession.
I began with fantasy, Roald Dahl and C. S. Lewis. Even though reading was difficult for me in grade school, I struggled my way through a lot of books. I remember forcing myself to read The Hobbit (a battered copy from the school library) and having a very hard time with the language, but I persevered and loved it by the end.
After that, I began to search my dad’s haphazard shelves of books. Most of the books he owned were technical, filled with dense text and nonsense equations and charts, but I was able to find a few works of fiction, mostly science fiction. That was how I discovered Ray Bradbury and Frank Herbert. I was in awe of the depths of imagination I found in The Martian Chronicles and in Dune. They changed me, my perceptions and how I viewed the world, and I went in search of more.
I began checking out Stephen King books from the library. And then I discovered Clive Barker. My tastes in fiction quickly strayed toward the dark.
In college I read and studied classical literary works. I read everything from Hemingway to Beckett. From Shakespeare to Burroughs. I also partied…A LOT.
I dropped out of school, came back, dropped out again, lived recklessly. I began calling myself a writer, getting high and staying up all night pounding away at the keyboard. I wrote fiction. I wrote poetry. I started novels and abandoned them to start others. I lived in my car for a while. I lived in a small closet in the hallway at a friend’s house. I read my way through countless hangovers.
Life became fuzzy and indistinct, and for years I struggled through waves of intense and overly-elated inspiration followed by plummets into dark and hopeless depression. I continued to read and write, but only sporadically, in between increasingly disturbing nods in and out of consciousness, a two minute DVD intro looping over and over again on the glowing TV screen, something melting and fast congealing leaking from the bowl forgotten in my lap, seeping into clothes and couch.
Yet, somehow, I found my way out of it. Somehow, I clawed into adulthood (I think), forever scarred, but intact. I took a deep breath, cleaned myself up, and now I’m a “real” writer, published and always working on something, although my writing is disturbed and my tastes in fiction remain dark.....
I do a lot of reading-as-a-writer these days, and it’s sometimes difficult to turn off that analytical side of my brain and just enjoy a good story. My favorites are dark literary works. I love horror and fantasy equally and am thrilled when they come together, but mostly I like good fiction.
Some of my favorites in more recent years, books that I often find myself studying and re-reading, are works like Clive Barker’s Imajica, Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. I’ve also been reading a lot of China Mieville and love M. John Harrison’s Viriconium books.
I went through a phase where I was reading a lot of postmodernist works like DeLillo’s Underworld, Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, and Wallace’s Infinite Jest. There’s a lot to be learned from these works, but they’re also headache-inducing intense and not always that much fun to read. So, I’ve since been looking for work that is both literary and casually entertaining.
Recently, I’ve been reading Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam books and they’re awesome. Excellent writing and storytelling. Atwood is an author I highly recommend male authors read to better understand how to write characters from a true female perspective (although she’s excellent with male characters as well).
So, now that I’m out of the inebriating fog, happily married and determined to give my daughter Violet (about 2 months old at the moment) the best life possible, I look forward to a future filled with books and imagination. I look forward to helping my daughter discover her passions, whatever they may be. And if those passions stray toward the dark and the weird? Then I look forward to teaching her that there is darkness and horror in this very strange world and that one of the healthiest ways to handle this fact is to embrace it with fiction. After all, that’s what I’ve done and I’m a better person for it.
2045? I’ll be in my 60s. Damn. What will I be reading then? I’m not sure. The first thing that comes to mind, for whatever reason, is Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney, but only because it’s been sitting on my shelf for years and I haven’t worked up the courage to tackle it yet. I’m sure I’ll get to it before then, right? Right?
I do think my tastes will evolve and mature as I grow older, but I doubt I’ll ever stop loving horror and fantasy. I’d like to think I’ll have the time and inclination to re-read and analyze some of my favorites from a new perspective, but I might slide in the other direction and be more interested in reading more for pure entertainment.
Whatever happens, I know I’ll still be writing. I like to think 60-year-old Keith has escaped the financial hamster wheel and is now able to take a more leisurely approach to his work, devising complex and epic storylines filled with insane characters. But, of course, that journey has already begun.
My review of The Godgame is coming this week.
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An award-winning writer of fantastic and disturbing fiction, Keith Deininger is the author of several novels and novellas, including THE NEW FLESH, WITHIN, MARROW'S PIT, and THE GODGAME series. He was raised in the American Southwest and currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, baby daughter Violet and four dogs.
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