Dear 2010 Trevor Dodge

Dear July 26 2010 Trevor Dodge,

I’m writing this from a place you haven’t even the faintest clue exists, let alone think possible. This is a place where the life you know is unraveled all the way down to the thin cardboard tube where it has been spooled for years you can count but no longer can feel. You don’t know the specifics, but you know what I mean, so you are compelled to trust me and there’s just no getting around that. So please pay careful attention now and really read what I have to tell you.

I just came in from a long walk in the darkness out at your parents’ place, the one with the quarter-mile driveway, just walked it with nothing but starlight and a rusting sliver-moon. You have been walking this exact same stretch in the daylight while you are house-sitting for them. You walk it every morning to grab their newspaper and check their mail, before you water their plants and mow their big floods of lawn on a spritely John Deere riding mower. This has been your routine since they left, and also since your wife left before them, and also since your children left after them. You have spent immense and deafeningly quiet stretches of time by yourself here, time that has thickened and slowed not only because you are writing again, but because you are using that writing in part to try and explain to yourself why you think you are where you are and how you got there. More specifically: trying to come to an understanding of just who the fuck you think you are and what the fuck you think you are doing, thinking about thinking these things in the first place. Because the fact of the matter is that you have simply never done this kind of thinking. I don’t have to go into specifics. You know the thoughts you’re having. And let’s leave most of them at that. It won’t be as messy this way.

But let’s talk about something that does need a little specificity. In a little over 24 hours you will sit across from her for the first time in over 20 years. This is something you already know, because you know you are about to this. What you don’t know is you will leave this utterly and forever changed, and you will spend the next two years free-falling through/into possibility spaces that will smell and wrinkle like dreams when you first touch them.

That’s right. I said touch.

Touch dreams. Read extra careful here. Don’t mistake what I’m saying here as metaphor. I’m dead fucking serious.

It will happen instantly, by the way, when you see the years on her and reach for her hand anyway, in a kinetic moment that precludes any rationality whatsoever. You will be afraid of how she interprets this, and you will worry, and the two of you will talk through it, and there will be more moments that defy rationality, more moments than you can imagine, moments that build an entire castle upon an entire world that precludes the very act of thinking. Because the two of you will fall desperately in love. You will leverage everything; and in doing so you will lose everything, and in doing so you will also win everything. This will be the most exhilarating time of your life and it will also be the darkest. You will know beyond the shadows of doubt what true possibility really is; you will wonder about things you don’t want to wonder about; you will find you are largely alone and powerless; you will find you were never completely alone at all.

These aren’t promises or rewards enticing you, no more than they are predilections or warnings discouraging you. I’m talking about things that are. This is simply what is.

I’m going to explain myself more clearly now. Look carefully. This is a picture you haven’t seen for decades but can recall the tiny details of without prompt or prodding. This is her.

Image

Wait. Let me back up a step because I need to be careful here: this is your favorite image of her. I know this because I know your past as well as I do, but I also know your future. And the next two years of your future will involve knowing a great deal about her, yet knowing sometimes very little. You will learn about the twinned natures of fate and faith, at times spun together in threads fine as cotton candy, that taste just as sweet and evaporate just as quick. It is not right to say that you will have her, because you cannot truly possess another person, nor should you even want such a thing. But this image of her, you can have it. And you will. From my vantage point, it very really hangs on your wall. You in fact possess this image, the original printed saturation of inks onto big, thick paper that recorded the way she literally bent the light all around her on the day the shutter of the camera paused just long enough for the moment to crawl inside its machinery and live there forever.

Just like she did inside you so long ago. I’m talking about the crawling inside and living forever part. See, you don’t know this yet, but you can probably sense it, and I say that with such confidence because 24 hours from where I am, the three of us will join hands and bring a dream to full and real life. Crawling inside and living forever. Where the darkness meets the light, and the driveway recedes to a simple structure built of petals, wood, and hope.

Image

So go on now. Don’t be afraid of what you’re wishing for.

Image

Sincerely,

July 26 2012 Trevor Dodge


Architecting the Possibilities

I’m bummed I can’t be in Chicago right now for the AWP conference, but I’m beyond excited that my freshly-printed textbook collaboration with Lance Olsen, Architectures of Possibility: After Innovative Fiction, is making its debut there.

AoP is a re-versioning/visioning and rebirth of Lance’s 1998 Rebel Yell: A Short Guide to Fiction Writingmy involvement with the project was something of a Be Careful What You Ask For story, wherein I had taught Rebel Yell for many years in my fiction writing workshops. About five years ago I started badgering Lance to update the book every chance I got, and at &NOW Buffalo he finally got sick of me asking. “Okay, okay, okay already,” he relented. “But you are going to help me.”

We started strategizing the project in the summer of 2010. I began deliberately working on it in spring of 2011 as my sabbatical project and spent most of the summer conducting and polishing over 60 brand spankin new interviews and writing small sections on social networking and DIY publishing. It was such a pleasure to reconnect with old friends for this project and also to finally have a legitimate excuse to reach out to writers, artists and theorists I’ve always admired but was just a little too schoolboy shy to bother beforehand (for the record, yes: Katherine Dunn is the most generous, pleasant and insightful person alive today, if not pretty much ever; Stephen Graham Jones is capable of slamming out 1,500 words of razor-sharp prose in as much time as it takes to pop the top of a soda can;  Scott McCloud is just as brilliant talking into a cell phone as he is giving his sexy slide presentation). When it came time to edit the final draft of the manuscript, Lance and I found ourselves quite literally with an embarrassment of riches, wherein we simply didn’t have room in the print edition to include all of the amazing interviews we had conducted. We are delighted to collect all of the interviews that we couldn’t fit in the book on the AoP website, and to archive them alongside legacy interviews from Rebel Yell.

It goes without saying how inspirational and just downright fun it is to work with Lance in any capacity, but it definitely needs said again here how inspirational and just downright fun it is to work with Lance.  I was honored when he asked me to work on this with him and and truly blessed to have had the experience.

If you are on Facebook or Twitter, I hope you’ll check us out there. Also please check out our blog on the main AoP site.

But most of all, please accept my eternal gratitude for caring as much as you do, even if it’s just a little itty bitty bit. This project in no small measure kept me focused, inspired and motivated through some of the toughest and darkest times I’ve had professionally, personally and creatively. I know that I am a better writer, teacher, colleague and human being because of it.


Respect a Fucking Killer

David Foster Wallace would have been 50 years old today. When he was 33, he wrote this letter to Don Delillo, and inside that letter he wrote these two sentences that pretty much nail the whole writing/publication for validation thing:

I hope that in the course of your decades writing you’ve done and been subject to stuff that’s helped make you a more Respectful writer. I would like to be a Respectful writer, I believe…though I know I’d far prefer finding out some way to become that w/o time and pain and the war of LOOK AT ME v. RESPECT A FUCKING KILLER.

Dave: that you worried about the Look At Me part as much as you did even further underscores the Respect so many of us have for you, always had for you, always will.

Happy birthday, Killer.


Today Is Tomorrow

Hi. I don’t know who you are or why you are reading this but I want to tell you two things. First, I love you. Second, thank you. And actually I want to tell you a third thing, and I want to embarrass myself doing it. Completely and shamelessly embarrass myself. Here goes.

The past 16 months have been both the most painful and blessed in my life. It’s hard to describe how such deep despair and such high hope can coexist, and at some point I’ll be ready to try doing that; so much has happened since Oct 2010 that I know I’ll need to write a lot of it down in order to be able to fully understand it, and if you’re reading this and are in any way nodding your head, I want to repeat real quick here the first two things I told you: I love you, and thank you.

Over the past few weeks I’ve felt myself finally lifting away from much of the hurt, disappointment and fear that has been a pretty regular constant for me for about as long as I can remember. If you were just nodding your head a moment ago, there’s a really good chance you know enough of The Story because I shared pieces of it with you. You don’t know how much your listening and support has meant to me.

I’m typing this from my campus office on a Saturday night, by the way. Everything is cool-air quiet here. This morning I went to my youngest son’s basketball game and immediately after he was finished he ran straight over to me and gave me a big hug. I want to thank him here. On Thursday, my middle son jumped off the school bus to fetch his hamster from my little apartment because he’d let the little furry dude spend the night with me the evening before so I wouldn’t feel lonely. I want to thank him here as well. And last night my oldest son gently informed me that he was way ahead of me on the Epic Rap Battles meme but he appreciated my interest nonetheless. He needs thanked here, too. These three boys have been amazing throughout everything, and I am in awe of their fortitude. They are my heroes, all of them.

But so are you. I want you to know you are so very much appreciated, whomever you are. I am in the process of not only reclaiming my life because of you, but beginning a whole new chapter in a whole new book of it that I didn’t even know I would write. I had been emotionally bankrupt for the longest time, just barely floating through my professional life, and my creative production had totally bottomed out. All of that is different today; where I am now has a lot to do with you, whomever you are. So I’m very pleased to meet you. And I love you. And I thank you.

At the beginning of this new year, I finally made good on a promise I’d made to myself several years ago, when my middle son uttered a phrase out of confusion as to where he was on a school activity calendar. He repeated it two and three times and with more than a little indignance. I didn’t know why but I had to write it down because I knew at some point I would understand why he was so insistent that what he was saying was exactly what he meant. The promise I made back then was at some point in the future I would tattoo that phrase into my skin once I understood its profundity and began applying it to my worldview and daily routine. This is that promise:


The past 16 months have largely been about confronting and exorcising my yesterdays. But today is tomorrow. And today is full of love and promise and dreams coming true.  Thank you, whomever you are, for waiting for me to arrive here today. And for all future todays.


accept.


Where is Dystopia? Podcast/Presentation


Where is Dystopia? Feb 9 2012
Last week I had the pleasure of lecturing and leading a discussion on dystopic literature at the Oregon City Public Library. Several people in attendance came up to me afterwards and asked if I would be posting my presentation slides online, so here they are condensed as a single PDF (34.8 MB). I’ve also edited and uploaded an audio podcast of the event which includes both my talk and the short Q&A session afterwards (72 min, 66.5 MB). My lecture is part of a series of events organized by the fabulous Maureen Cole at the OCPL that will culminate on February 23 with a community reads event hosted by Daniel H. Wilson, author of the recent novel Robopocalypse.

Many thanks to everyone who attended, especially my boys Dmitri and Dante who tagged along and assisted, and also to Maureen and her amazing staff.


Everyone I Know Lives on Kindle

My last collection of short stories, Everyone I Know Lives on Roads, is now available for the Kindle for only 99 cents. You can afford that.


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