I'm back from the World Fantasy Convention, which was very, very good.
I'm just beginning to recover from a very nasty chest cold, which was bad.
I was asked by attendees to make my lecture available in print somewhere. I told them I'd put it here. This is sort of an abridged version, as you know I tend to take small side trips in all directions when I'm on a topic. But the gist of it is intact. It's a lot of material, so I decided to divide it into the segments, as in the program.
Know the Soup You’re In.
Of course it’s a metaphor.
And here’s my disclaimer:
Everything said from here on is based on observation and not research (unless otherwise stated.) I’m not advising. I'm no expert. You go on and do whatever the hell you want to do. You’re going to anyway. Or possibly you ‘re way ahead of me. Possibly you already know everything I have to say. In that case, bask in the affirmation and enjoy the pretty pictures. That’s what they’re here for.
In December I’ll have been a professional artist for 20 years. I’m a self-taught artist. If someone asked me to sum up what the experience has taught me (and occasionally people do), I’d say something like the following:
Part the One. Advice:
I would’ve saved myself a lot of time and aggravation had I followed advice offered by those more experienced than myself. Possibly not following advice is human nature . I watch my offspring, intelligent as they are, making some of the same dumb choices I did, even after being advised against them. Even after being advised loudly. Even after begging.
Some things have to be experienced first- hand to be learned.
I’ve begun to suspect that all humans have to complete a common curriculum.
You buy a media cabinet from Ikea. You’re faced with a decision . At what point do you deviate from those utterly annoying pictogram instructions, or ignore them completely? After all, the pieces are there, and it’s all SO OBVIOUS.
I believe everyone in this room has done some form of the above. I don’t know how your gig worked out for you, but I can tell you that I’ve had some spectacular failures, with parts left over and lots of words that would get my kids in big trouble.
So why would I ignore good advice from good sources? Well, because I’m a human being. I think I’m special. I’ll get different results for me than for those other schmucks.
Wrong-O. Because I’m not special. I’m full of shit, and so was Walt Disney.
I’ve leaned that it comes back, the advice. It rings like a bell when you’re stranded, the dog got loose, the cake fell, your hair is green, your fish are dead and your butt is sunburned,. It comes back when the contractor vanished along with your roof, your marriage imploded ,you gained forty pounds and your stocks are worth nothing, the river turned red and the locusts ate EVERYTHING.
I’ve been advised by the likes of Michael Whelan, Gene Wolfe, Ray Bradbury. Even from brilliant sources, it’s a while before I began to get it. I had to live it. I had to do some things well and some things poorly in order to figure out the difference. I had to make some art that didn’t work. I had to make some that did. I had to embarrass myself. I had to want to get it right.
Sometimes I hear the things they told me then, now.
It comes back.
It’s like time travel.
Imagine with me, if you will, humanity evolved. Already some lives are extended with the help of modern medicine. Imagine knowing what you might know at 50, and having a hundred productive years to go. Imagine time to work out all that human stupidity before your knees start to go.
Of course, if human beings live that long, adjustments will have to be made. On the average a human life is about 3 billion heartbeats.
We either have to live longer or get smarter, quick-like.
Thanks to everyone at the convention. How marvelous you all were. Will be sending proper correspondence soon. For now though, vitamins and rest.