And Miles to Go Before I Sleep…

The Earthsea struggles are real.

Forgive the cliche title.

Or don’t.  Up to you.

I’m still working my way through A Wizard of Earthsea.  I am rather enjoying it…but I have stumbled upon something that might turn into a blockade (if we’re to continue on this journey metaphor) only 9 days into this excursion.

I would be the first to admit that it’s been a good, long while since I’ve picked up and enjoyed a book.  I’d even go so far as to tell you exactly which book it was; Dan Brown’s most recent novel, “Inferno”.  Sure, since then I’ve read The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) and several memoirs (Grace, Gold & Glory by Gabrielle Douglas, Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu) but the last sit-down, don’t get up till you’re done, all-absorbed book I read was probably Inferno.  And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t read it.  I listened to it in my car whilst driving from Miami to Nashville.

Perfect time for a side story.  I actually got my first (and only) ticket during this car ride.  I blame it solely on Dan Brown.  It was a high-tension moment in the book and I was so enthralled as I listened that I didn’t realize how fast I was going.  When I got pulled over and the cop asked why I was speeding, I just had to start laughing.  She laughed as well and managed to save me a solid $200+ by saying I wasn’t speeding as much as I was.  How kind.

Since then, I have been thoroughly enraptured by the wonderful world hidden (not-so-well) in the bowels of the internet.  Specifically, fanfiction.  As it’s defined by Wikipedia: Fanfiction (also abbreviated to fanfic) is fiction about characters or settings from an existing work of fiction, created by fans of that work.  – Pretty self-explanatory when you get right down to it.

I am not new to the fanfiction world.  I’ve been reading fanfiction since I was 12 when I stumbled upon a Harry Potter specialized site.  I’ve been writing it since I was about 18.  And it’s all been downhill from there.  Fanfiction really and truly sucks you in.  Oh, you like this story, do you?  Here are 43 other stories by the same author.  And here are 250 recommendations for fanfictions that this author liked.  Oh, you like this fandom?  Here are the 100 best stories in the fandom, as “liked” by your reading and writing peers.

It’s a rabbit hole, my friends.  A DEEP, DEEP rabbit hole.

So sure, I started with Harry Potter and then shifted into Alex Rider, Percy Jackson, Ranger’s Apprentice, Marvel’s Captain America, James Bond, BBC’s Sherlock, and the list goes on and on.  (No really.  It’s a list 14 years in the making.  Just ask me about it some time.  I’ll give you the hook up…)

The thing is…well, I’ll let a Tumblr-user sum up my dilemma quite succinctly.

“The thing about reading fanfic […] is that you get used to that particular writing/reading culture after a while. You get used to the frank discussions of sexuality and kink, the close attention to diversity and social justice issues in the text, the unrestrained creativity when it comes to plot. The most amazing, creative, engaging stories I’ve ever read have almost all been fanfiction, and I think part of that is because there’s no limitations placed on the authors. They’re writing purely out of joy and love for the world and its characters, with no concerns about selling the finished product. The only limit is their imagination.

Next to that, most mainstream fiction starts tasting like Wonder Bread, you know?”  – ckingsbridge

When I read this quote, roughly 37 hours ago, it stuck with me.  I had been trying to figure out why I was struggling to get through this book.  It’s a fascinating idea — this book.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin inherently developed one of my favorite fiction tropes; that of a young boy discovering that he has a gift and going to a school to learn how to handle that gift.  This trope paved the way for the likes of Harry Potter, The Dark is Rising Sequence, Eragon, Star Wars, and several others.  I was delighted to go back to the roots of the trope and get THE original perspective.

And here we are 9 days later and I’m only 102 pages in.  I’m so un-enthused about finishing, that I actually started composing this blog post while I was reading and then had the gall to put the book down to come and do so.  …But it’s a good book!

Am I just bored?  Has fanfic ruined me for mainstream literature?  Has my stint as a teacher ruined reading for pleasure?  Warning!!!  Stream of conscience ahead.  Be wary of hazardous conditions.  (Because that’s an entirely different line of thinking.  As I sit here and read about Ged’s trials and tribulations, I’m wondering if his “Shadow” is an allusion to depression that follows you and looms no matter where you are or what you’re doing.  I’ve started noticing the themes within the trope….and identifying them enough to actually recognize that they are themes…which I’ve never done before.  Can’t a guy just make a mistake and learn from it?  Must there always be some underlying message of pride and humility getting in the way?  Can’t someone just stay healthy?  Why do they have to injure themselves to learn their lesson?  But then, as I sit here and criticize the author’s choices, I have to remind myself that she was the original!  I can’t use the word always…because Ursula wrote it first and everyone else came after.)

There was really no overlying message to this post, other than to say that the struggle is real, guys.  I’m hoping that the rest of my books aren’t this much of a fight to get through.  Maybe after I finish this trilogy, I’ll pick something a wee more realistic…so as to not run into the overused tropes and constant comparisons to fanfiction.

Have any of my fandom friends run into this problem before?  (AJ, Amber, Junie, Michal, I’m looking at you.)

Or am I alone in my thinking on this matter?

Until next time,

Author: alisonlcohn

Graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Communications Advertising. Traveled a bit. Taught for two years. Administered aptitude tests for a while. Worked as a Training Associate for Guardian Mortgage and a Quiz Master for Geeks Who Drink. Obtained my Master's in Film, Television and Screen Media in London, England. Now working as a small-group travel coordinator. Nice to meet you!

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