- Something about me changed. Could be good, could be bad. Looking back, my LJ activity ran from early 2004 to early 2010. So, it was the tail end of my high school experience followed by the rest of the 00's. Those must have been some of my hardest years. Not that there is a definite boundary between that time and other times or that it was all bad. Far from it! But a lot of this was a trying time for me, with a sense of despondency and a bitter struggle against that. Much of the time I was out of work, or broke, or dissatisfied with school. I walked around at night talking to myself. Good times. Well, without getting into the details of what changed, how, and when, I could reason that perhaps I didn't need the outlet that LJ provided.
- When I became a UW student, it swallowed up my time and I never got back into the habit of journal-writing. Yeah, I moved away from LJ in early 2010, but I intended to use this very blog as a replacement. And at first, I did so. The content did shift, but not in a sharp, immediate way. I started at the University of Washington in 2011 and that really affected things, sharply and immediately.
- I started to make plans for grandiose projects and didn't follow through. Or at least, generally didn't follow through. I actually did a long, multi-post exploration on, of all things, the mechanics of the Necromancer character in Diablo II. Yikes. To be fair, I still sometimes play that game. Anyway, I distinctly remember planning to do big posts or series of posts on my experiences in Europe (seven years ago and didn't do it), as a UW student (four years ago and didn't do it), and working as a labpack "field chemist" (up until last year, and again, no post). I even explicitly mentioned my plans to do a big post of some sort on the subject of feminism, and of course that never happened either. But really, huge events have happened and I've been living my life, and there's very little hint of it here. Instead, I thought, "This deserves an extensive post." Only at least a short post would have been something instead of nothing.
- Livejournal was a kind of social site for me. I'd go there to read what my friends posted, and while I was there I'd write my own content. When I lost that, I lost my close attachment to the site where I'd post my own journal/blog. At the time, I didn't notice that my "friends page" had any connection to how often I wrote my own journal entries, but in retrospect I'm pretty sure that was how it worked. It seems like Facebook replaced LJ in some ways, but for me that never really worked.
Well, that preamble went off on a tangent. But my point was going to be that in my quest not to abandon this blog, one mode of content that I adopted was a kind of book blurb. Sometimes I binge-read and sometimes I only read for a few hours a week, but I'm almost always in the process of reading something. I used that as an anchor to bring me back to this blog. No matter how little I updated with real content, I'd always pop in to announce what I'd read. The problem with this approach was that I felt like I had to say something about my reading. Like a book review. And I don't like book reviews. Actually, I have nothing against book reviews, but I am crap at writing them and I know it, which makes me dislike the process. Worse still, there was that "grandiose" problem of wanting to write longer posts and then procrastinating. Some of the books that I focused on the most and thought a great deal about were the ones that I didn't bother to review in any capacity at all, like all of Terry Goodkind's books and a bunch of books by Frederik Pohl. Yeah, the "book review" idea for this blog wasn't working and I recognized that, so I just kind of went for brief updates, often covering multiple books at once, which meant even fewer visits to the blog.
Last year, the book posts pretty much dropped off entirely. But my reading didn't! And I'm belatedly announcing the replacement to my clumsy non-reviews. Primarily, this is of interest to me, as I'd like to have a record of what I read and approximately when I read it. And I have a solution: Goodreads! Someone, I believe that it was Nick, turned me on to this site. And I like it. So it's what I'm going with. You can view my bookshelf here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/59117582
Goodreads offers me the option to write book reviews, but I don't intend to ever take advantage of it. However, its star-based rating system is quick and easy, so I do plan to use that to roughly state whether I liked a book and about how much. It's not that I don't want to say anything. I love talking about books. If you want to talk to me about a book that I've read, absolutely feel free. Totally. That would be cool. I just don't like writing reviews. Feels different, you know?
The last book that I read was what really got me thinking and motivated me to write this post. Earlier this year, probably on the FOCL (Friends of the Covington Library) booksale shelf, I picked up an old used copy of a book called Gold: The Final Science Fiction Collection by Isaac Asimov. I immediately recognized it and knew that I had to buy it. That I recognized some book is not unusual. That I recognized a relatively obscure posthumous book of uncollected writings from decades ago is probably a bit odd (for me). But what is important is how and why I recognized it. You see, Gold is one volume of a posthumous collection of Asimov's work. It was published in 1995. He died in 1992. There was a companion volume, Magic: The Final Fantasy Collection published in 1996. I read it in 1997, about twenty years ago. And at that time, I had no idea who Isaac Asimov was. I can confidently say, with no exaggeration, that that book changed my life.
I wasn't especially interesting in science fiction. Didn't have anything against it, but I just didn't know anything about it or especially care. I liked books, though. I was always looking for new books to read. Somehow, while performing different searches on the KCLS catalog (it was computerized, even back then), I came across the title. It had both "Magic" and "Final Fantasy" in it. I hadn't heard of Isaac Asimov before in my life (although I'd later discover that his work had hugely influenced a whole lot of things that I did know about). But I had recently become enamored both with a card game, Magic: the Gathering (which I still play) and with a video game, Final Fantasy VII (which is probably a bit hamfisted in retrospect, but it impressed me at the time). So with nothing other than a title that piqued my curiosity, I checked it out. My eleven-year-old mind was thoroughly blown. It's not so much that Magic was Asimov's best work, but that it exposed me to a world I hadn't seen before. The fiction was fun, fascinating, and really hooked me in. But the nonfiction in the collection was something I'd never imagined, something so totally novel to me that it was, well, I can only describe it as formative. I had to have more! Magic led me to looking into Isaac Asimov, which led me to I, Robot, which I recognized as the title of an Alan Parsons Project album, so I checked that one out too. But the copy I checked out came bundled with Foundation, so I also read that, which subsequently transformed me into a science fiction nerd for life.
If I'd been pressed to cite the most important book I've read in terms of its influence on me or my appreciation for it, I'd probably start thinking of things like Alastor, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Death Gate Cycle, East of Eden, The Gods Themselves, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, or maybe even The Lord of the Rings. And then I met Gold. It's a fine read, don't misunderstand. But I am perhaps uniquely affected by it. The stories are interesting and the nonfiction is, for those with a specific interest in the world of science fiction publication in the late 20th century, enlightening. But for me, this book was heartwrenching. It was so evocative, so similar to Magic, a book that had been buried in the back of my mind. I'd forgotten how damn impressed I was by that book, how it had driven me in the sorts of books I sought out thereafter, how as a kid I'd gotten a kind of crash course of insight into topics I'd never even considered. The memories came flooding back. I'd seen that Gold was the other volume back then. But I didn't find it at the library back then and eventually I moved on. I came full-circle twenty years later, by sheer coincidence.
Asimov had been dead for five years before I ever ran into him. And it would be another twenty before I realized just how much he inspired me.