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Between the Move: The Long Solitary Roadtrip

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Something I wish someone told me about 13 hour drives is just how long it actually feels.

I mean yeah, already 13 hours doing anything seems like a monumental task, but we only know that because we relate it to things like Overtime at work or a long day of school. Even then they don’t come out to a full 13 hours.

A blockbuster film ranges anywhere between 1.5 to 2.5 hours at a given time. A football game, professional or not, can last anywhere between 2-4 hours. Reading a small paperback takes between 3-5 hours at most. Heck even the audiobook for Game of Thrones comes out to 8 hours. I would know. I listened to it during my first day of driving.

Granted I have been on many road trips before. My family would often travel to Mexico when i was younger, or go across the states for god knows whatever adventure we wanted. Not once did the length ever seem unmanageable, but then again, I always had a book or a gameboy, and lots of company.

This time, I was on my own. That means I had to take care of things on my own. No dad to pump gas. No mother to provide snacks. No older sister to pester for countless hours. Nope. If I wanted entertainment, I needed to do it myself. And believe me, for thirteen hours at the wheel, that is much harder than it sounds.

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Heart of the Mojave, Nevada

One thing I was thankful for, going from California to Grand Junction, CO. was a very pretty trip. During this particular leg I visited 5 states, and passed countless natural landmarks. You can always tells the deserts apart, for Arizona is always red, Nevada is always yellow, and Utah is a greedy and grandeoise mix of both.

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Outside Midvale, Utah

It was for this reason I was thankful my journey began this way. For one thing it provided many beautiful sights I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. It was also a fantastic distraction from the crushing reality of moving away from home.

Trust me, when you’re alone for that long, your mind has a way of letting these things creep up on you.

To combat this I made sure to keep my mind occupied. Playing mental games, listening to audiobooks, heck even putting your mp3 player on shuffle and letting it go is a great way to distract yourself. Thanks to that I rediscovered my love for certain bands I had long forgotten.

Here are a few songs I found in the depth of my playlist. Wherever you are they’re all worth a listen:

Another thing thing they don’t tell you about long solo road trips is how starved for conversation you become. Think about it, humans are typically social creatures. Even the most hardcore introvert loves a stirring discussion. Sadly, I learned I am very much an extroverted man, for I often made stops just to talk to people at convenient stores.

I must have looked pretty obvious to one particular teller in Utah:

“On a long trip?” he asked while stuffing my third pack of gum into a bag.

“Yeah, how could you tell?” I said, lifting my sunglasses to my uncombed hair.

“You’ve spent more time chatting with me than buying your things.”

I turned around and realized I was holding up a rather sizable line for a gas station. So, with a smile and a thanks, I took off.

Colorado

Colorado

All that being said, I did have a blast driving. What made it particularly memorable were the people I got to see and talk to. Many I saw in passing, able to exchange an all too brief hi-bye before my schedule tore me in another direction. Others I spoke through bluetooth (i’m not a reckless driver), and offered hours of much needed conversation.

Then, there were the ones I got to see in person. Again, when you’ve been in a car for far too long, human interaction seems like a blessing. I could spend an entire thousand more blog entries on these people, but by now y’all are probably tired of reading. I don’t blame you, but can you imagine you’ve likely been reading for five minutes?

Thhat would mean you’d probably have to read this blog entry at least 156 times to make 13 hours. Frankly I can think of many better things you could do with your time.

So, rather than fizzle out, i’ll show you what the rest of my trip looked like.

The still beautiful but abandoned Dana College

The still beautiful but abandoned Dana College

The cheapest gas i've seen this side of the Mississippi.

The cheapest gas i’ve seen this side of the Mississippi.

Beautiful Iowa

Beautiful Iowa

Rainbow in Decorah, Iowa.

Rainbow in Decorah, Iowa.

Summerfest in Milwaukee Iowa, with my friend Bret.

Summerfest in Milwaukee Iowa, with my friend Bret.

Switchfoot live. What a concert.

Switchfoot live. What a concert.

The Minneapolis Skyline

—–

Anyhow, that was a look into my journey. In the following weeks I should return to posting commentary on writing, reading, and overall geekery. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns post them in the section below.

Until next time

 

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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Genre Fiction Commentary – Originality in Fantasy

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Wanna hear a joke? Well since you’re here I guess you’re at least willing to humor me.

So a Fantasy author sits down to plan his first big novel. He smiles, pen in hand, and leans back in his chair.

“Man,” he says with an excited grin, “The best thing about fantasy is that I can make it anything I want. Could be based on any culture in any place from any time. Could be a mix of places and times, or something newly invented by me. Yup, there is literally nothing out of bounds here.”

He looks at his page for about ten seconds. As the pen hits the paper he says “Let’s go with Medieval England!

Now, back to the plot!

Fantasy is a fun genre. It allows us to explore countless worlds and go places only imagination can take us. It challenges us to take the first step into the unknown in the same way (insert protagonist here) does. It can be epic in scale, it can be personal. In this world of infinite possibilities the only thing it can’t be is predictable.

And yet it is.

Story time: When pitching my Senior Project to a friend I told her it was a Fantasy Drama. I was elated when she gasped, wide eyed, at the possibilities my story could bring. The she asked me, “Oh! Is the protagonist some hunky knight trying to save a princess from a dragon in a castle?” Whether she was condescending or not I’ll never know, but I do know that her question left a bad taste in my mouth.

More so than the sheer “wrongness” of her summary, what vexed me the most about our interaction was how quick she was to assume my story could be fit into such a cut-and-paste explanation. And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized her simple query was quite valid.

Fantasy, for all its possibilities, is in a ghetto as of late. When Fantasy enthusiasts are portrayed, they often are depicted as some variation of this:
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And while i’m all for people loving what they love, I can’t stand the notion that the things I love are so simply caricatured and defined. Like a bad joke, Fantasy gets stereotyped and often made as a joke for those who enjoy it. I mean, why else would they have to make “Adult Covers” of Harry Potter?

https://i2.wp.com/static1.businessinsider.com/image/4e1acf40cadcbb1751280000-400-300/separate-book-covers-were-created-to-get-more-adults-on-board-in-addition-to-children.jpg
See Subject A ^

And yet, I suppose it’s time to ask ourselves: are we, Fantasy fans, partially responsible for this stereotyping? Do we write and read only books in that familiar Medieval England setting, not deigning to step out into the world of more original works of fiction? I’ll admit I too stick to the conventions of fantasy more than I should, and for that I feel as though I am partially responsible for this mess.

So what is to be done? Well, that begins with originality.

Originality, as it’s appropriately named, can breathe new life into even the most dying of tropes. After Airplane came out, no one took Disaster Movies, but when Independence Day came out the genre suddenly became enjoyable once more. Soon afterward we had a flood of disaster movies like Dante’s Peak and Titanic, both of which were enjoyable additions to the genre.

Innovation can revive interest and understanding but that only comes when one has the guts to try something on their own. George R.R. Martin in particular uses the Medieval England setting for his Song of Ice and Fire series. However, rather than focus on the Dragons and Chivalry tropes that have been done to death he focuses on the politics and problems such a society brings. It’s his willingness to try something entirely of his own invention that made Game of Thrones such a hit, and is why Fantasy is seen in a much more appropriate light now than it was ten years ago.

As Winston Churchill once said “Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.” The same can be said of any genre, and while conventions exist for a reason, it is a major disservice to both the reader and the writer to stick to them in fear of the unknown.

Be like the protagonist of your story and dare to step into the unmarked territory, and be unafraid for the lessons that brought you to the Journey’s threshold will serve you well.

Sorry for the long post. I’ll be sure to keep my thoughts more concise next time.
Do you all have a favorite genre of your own? Do you ever feel like stories in said genre are stagnate? How would you overcome them? Any experiences in doing so?

If not, then farewell, until next time. Keep on trekking.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Fantasy, Uncategorized

 

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