Thursday, February 16, 2012

Impossible Shapes Drawn by Impossible Boys

I am pretty sure that A Wrinkle In Time was the first F/SF book I ever read. I read the book until it wore grooves in my brain and the cover fell off – which was lovingly taped back on with packing tape when I was ten. There were plenty of other books that followed, but none of them stuck with me quite as strongly as Wrinkle.

When I re-read the book as an adult, the end disappointed me. I’ve grown older and more cynical since the first time I read it at age six. Still, the end was never the point when I read it as a kid – I was reading for the experience of reading it, to revisit the ideas that I liked to take and run.

Tesseracts, for one thing. I was fascinated by them. I remember lying on the floor of my bedroom with a no. 2 pencil and some wide-ruled notebook paper, trying to draw tesseracts. Square the square to get a cube, square the cube… Maybe, if I managed to draw an impossible 2-dimensional version of a four-or-five dimensional figure, I would open some sort of portal and go on my own adventure.

No such luck.

Incidentally, the books also introduced me to dystopian fiction with the depiction of poor Camazotz. I suspect that my deep love of dystopia comes from Camazotz and having been born in 1984.

Wrinkle wasn’t the only book with fantastic elements that I was exposed to as a child. I read The Hobbit when I was eight or nine. I devoured every Bruce Coville and Roald Dahl book I could get my hands on, and I read the first three C.S. Lewis books (before getting somewhat bored in the middle of The Silver Chair and moving on).

I’m a transsexual man. Although I was never really comfortable with hetero/cis-normative female expectations placed on me, I didn’t know that transition was possible (and when I was a teenager, the lack of media about it at all lead me to believe that such things only went one way, so I was SOL then, too). I do remember being horribly disappointed when I was told that I was “definitely not” a tomboy, since I thought that was the closest possible thing I could be to a boy.

When I was a girl, some part of me was very Meg-like. I got her. Sure, the Little House books were full of girls (as were the piles of horse books that people bought me despite my lack of interest in horses), but Meg was the character who embodied my nerdy smart-but-strangely-immature awkwardness. I was a weirdo, and Meg was a weirdo with me.

My trans-related dysphoria at the early onset of puberty (nine) was subsumed into the acceptably female dysphoria of feeling too ugly and too fat. I don’t remember if Meg ever thought of herself as being fat, but her general body dissatisfaction from page one resonated with me. And it meant something that despite all that, despite her fears that her brother was smarter than she, despite feeling off-kilter and immature for her age, and despite being a weirdo, Meg got to go on an adventure and defeat the creepy brain monster.

Most of these elements are present in other books, but Wrinkle is where I first experienced them and it’s the book that stuck.

*****
Keffy R. M. Kehrli attended Clarion UCSD in 2008. Since then, he's sold short stories to magazines such as Fantasy Magazine, Apex Online, and Escape Pod. His website is at http://www.keffy.com and he regularly tweets as @keffy.

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