I have enjoyed reading Penelope Trunk’s blog over the past 6 months. I’ve linked to it dozens of time, and learned a great deal about how to think about myself as an employee and how to manage those I work for. But after a month of no meaningful updates from her blog, I’ve found myself feeling abandoned and in need of a new source of excellent non-fiction writing.
Enter io9. I heard about io9 years and years ago because it was a new project from Annalee Newitz, who invited me to submit my essay to her anthology on female geeks (it was accepted). But it took a serious void in my reading schedule, and the fecundity of its writers, to get me hooked (it doesn’t hurt that the have nearly daily updates on True Blood). Reading io9 is a little like reading Wired, with less crypto–geekiness and more literary/cultural/design geekiness.
Most importantly, io9 makes me feel in community. It is a community inhabited by intellectual eclectics. This is reassuring beause every mentor I have had in college has told me forcefully that I need to narrow my interests, present a clearer narrative about myself. They, men and women I respect and admire, say no one (read: no grant giver or law school admissions officer) understands why FanFiction and wrestling and Arabic and human rights and Opera and writing and escorting and public transit and feminism and intellectual property theory and karate and baking and teaching go well together, and I’m coming off as a dilettante at best and a flake at worst*. My response is always a polite: “But, it makes sense to me.”
Advisers who know me moderately well try to help me find a general theme which encompass my serial interests and tell me to go in that direction. Mentors who are now friends have stopped trying to make me pick a subset of interests and just help me select what interests I should tell a given grant-giver or admissions officer about. Last week, a final paper was an object lesson in the uselessness of forcing a square peg into a round hole. Tying all of my interests together to fit one narrative inhibits my fun and is simply exhausting.
I like my mess of interests, and I am happy with them. Some of my favorite writers see intellectual diversity as the compost necessary for the gardening of writing. Places like io9 provide oodles of avenues for exploration and give me hope that there is a place in the world for serial geeks.
In the spirit of this newly proud eclecticism, here is a glorious reading by Neil Gaiman of his poem, “Instructions”:
*The real world has yet to beat me up for being eclectic. I’ve gotten the grants I needed (this summer I have $2000 for housing/living expenses) and the internships I needed when I needed them (knock on wood: anyone want a fully funded, work-for-free intern in Washington DC this summer?).
“I would far prefer to have things happen as they naturally do, such as the mousse refusing to leave the mold, the potatoes sticking to the skillet, the apple charlotte slowly collapsing. One of the secrets of cooking is to learn to correct something if you can, and bear with it if you cannot.”–Julia Child