Yoharie: Existence (part one)
“It was like coming out, you know? We were a bunch of losers, and by ourselves, we were all passionate about this book. So, 1995, you’d get in a chat room and you’d say, okay, here’s what’s cool. And get like, a whole nerdvana discussion going. When I graduated from high school, my mom gave me money so I could do a road trip.”
“Nerdvana. I’m laughing. By yourself?”
“Why not? You’re an adult. Or I was, eighteen. My mom didn’t get Totem-World, but she didn’t care either. Once I was on my own, whatever I did. So I drove up, not by myself, six of us, one guy riding the bump in back. My mom’s Citation. She said if I didn’t kill it, I could keep it. The people are really nice, St John. They would kind of shrug and say, never heard of him, Southey. I don’t know that‘s a common name around here. Is it French, maybe? A couple bookstores we stopped at, the owners said they never heard of Totem, either.”
Val took Trevor to be conveying some sort of gag. Besides, “like coming out”. The thing you didn’t want, of all the things you didn’t want, was that bullshit. Like, for Dawn’s sake, he would put up with Tina, but Jesus! Let me grab a kleenex and weep. I never thought anyone could understand my struggles until you.
“So, you really make a living?” He said this instead.
“Not a huge living.”
“Why would you go stalking Southey?”
“Stupid kids.” Trevor shrugged. “But it’s always been questionable whether he/she really lives in St. John. Lips are zipped.”
Okay, the gag. Trevor and his friends getting their legs pulled.
“Still, we hold the annual gathering in St. John, and you know, it’s like Bigfoot.”
“Southey? No wonder you don’t know if it’s he or she.”
“Ha. What I mean is… I’ll paraphrase myself. This is from the other blog. Like say, a moose or a mountain lion left the place they normally live, and people here started seeing it. Reporting they had. In the real world, news stations…or just anyone with a phone…would be mapping these sightings. You’d be able to check their Twitter, see if the moose was close to your house. Someone from Wildlife might, if it was dangerous, get in the woods with tracking dogs, set up cameras… If you look at YouTube, there’s every kind of video with mountain lions and moose. And bears, and alligators, and so forth, getting onto porches, getting inside houses. Pretty much, they’re all clear, full-color. Easy to see what’s going on.”
“And the guy who spots Bigfoot always has shaky hands and a Kodak Instamatic from 1980. You’re saying Southey can’t be that much of a phantom.”
“Can’t by himself. Well…there’s a little interface between fantasy and conspiracy theorists. You might notice the people who don’t take you seriously are the same ones who attack on every stereotype for…I might as well say…the tin hat crowd. Which, you know, if I saw a floating light in the sky, I’d take a video. And someone on social would attach a link, to prove I’m a rube who got fooled by Chinese lanterns. But the thing is, people exist who want to get away with actual cover-ups. Our government, very truly, has done experiments on citizens who knew nothing about it. So it can’t be every conspiracy is always stupid, no more than that thing, fantasy can never be literature.
“I mean, there’s plenty almighty crap. But you measure, you use a system. Is the magic metaphor, is it just deus ex machina, are the language, custom, history, consistent, do you believe in them as much as if you were reading about a real place? Do the characters’ dramas have to do with human nature, fighting themselves, or just…they’re getting chased around by some warty, sub-human race you’re allowed to hate, because the Wart People are not really people? Is the whole thing just another missing-heir-to-the-throne-story, or nice-little-elfin-creature-finds-enchanted-doodad story?”
“But, isn’t that Lord of the Rings?”
“Lord of the Rings is the bible. But that’s the point. I admire something, it’s the kind of story I like to read. I set out to make it myself.”
There was a fair question in this you-get-me pause.
Val thought, I want to know how to talk to people. I want someone who’s my friend to go on being my friend. The sad truth…Sasha was a work friend, they were not friends. But they ought to be. No. So, the character is a kind of outcast, only powerful too, a kind of shaman. And it always says, I’m so humble. This was what Val wanted to dislike about Totem. But even that, false humility, the character had a line for. It was like Southey was the shaman, saying, “I know you, reader.”
The question. You want more from your shaman…you want more product. More answers, more comforts. So then you try to be the shaman…the Totem-Maker…and you fail. Not so badly, maybe, you can’t get published.
“And, I don’t know,” Trevor said. “My own taste is a little towards fantasy that almost isn’t. I’m probably a poor judge. That’s why I only talk about Totem.”
“Why are all those people talking about sleeves?”
“On Conspire Right. The sleeves. You have to buy them. You won’t get the vibrations, the sleeves protect your joints. You shouldn’t throw your money away on doctors. The sleeves and the bands. Someone says, you can cut up an old pair of Spanx. And someone says, at the fabric store you can get four-inch elastic. What is all that?”
“The microwaves, right.”
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(2019, Stephanie Foster)