Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Guest Post: Reality vs. Fantasy by Cornelia Grey
When I was a kid, my dad taught me to love motorcycles. I remember the day when, after much cajoling, I finally got on his white Honda and we took a painstakingly slow tour of the town. After that, I was sold. As soon as the weather got warm, we'd take the bike out of the garage and wander aimlessly around the hills. I remember all the ones he changed: the wine-red Guzzi Nevada, the black V11, the motocross bike he never managed to kickstart, the yellow Honda CBR. We fantasized about the endless roadtrips we saw in American movies; we watched Easy Rider and sang "Born to be Wild". We filled a sticker album of vintage motorcycles.
And then, one warm, late-May afternoon, he got out the bike for the first time that year and came to pick me up from high school. Then, he went for a ride alone, since I wanted to get ready for a concert instead, and was tragically killed by a careless driver.
One would imagine that, from then on, I was consumed by a burning hatred for bikes, but it is more complicated than that. My feelings toward motorbikes split into two very distinct branches. On the one hand, I am afraid of them. I haven't gotten on a bike since, I don't plan on doing it anytime soon, and I would have a panic attack if my boyfriend – who loves motorbikes, too, and used to ride a lot in his early twenties – ever got back on the saddle.
But, on the other hand, I still love them, and love all the happy flights of fancy that brought me and my dad close. I love the road trips, the hot, leather-clad lone bikers. I love the powerful, beautiful object that is a bike. I could, and surely will at some point, write a kinky story about a character who finds the powerful engine and sleek lines of a bike endlessly exciting – and proceeds to jump the bones of the hot biker. In short, I still love the idea of bikes, the fantasies connected to bikes; I still love loving them, because those fantasies made me happy, and I don't want to give them up. Even though I am painfully aware of the dangers bikes bring in reality and am utterly terrified of them.
This lengthy example is to try and explain how it's possible that, even though I am terrified of real guns, I can find fictional ones beautiful and exciting. It is quite strange, after all: I live in a country where, luckily, guns aren't popular, and I would hate to have guns around my house, or to know that most of my neighbors have one. It would make me feel like I was living in a violent reality, a dangerous, oppressive world. Far from finding it reassuring, I would be terrified. And yet, I am currently on my second gun-kink story, and chances are it won't be the last. What's the deal with that? Do I have a split personality? How can someone who hates violence find beauty in an instrument that's been built with the sole purpose of killing, and which makes it frighteningly easy for anyone to do so?
The point is still the same it was for the bike: that the fictional world is an intrinsically safe space. It's a space where I decide what happens, where there are no accidents and no risks. It's a space where my characters can be excited by the thrill of having a loaded gun aimed at them, because since I am shaping their reality as I write, I know there will be no accidents. I would never, in a million years, let anyone aim a loaded gun at me, and I sure as heck wouldn't be aroused by it: because reality is very much different. Unpredictable. Uncontrollable. And very, very dangerous. And while my characters can afford to be turned on by extreme, dangerous situations – hey, it's easy for them; nothing unexpected can happen in that fictional world! – I wouldn't even think of it.
Another instance. Benjamin Pepperwhistle and the Fantabulous Circus of Wonders, part of Storm Moon Press' Weight of a Gun II anthology, is set in a circus, and there are two animals there: Hugo the lion and Mr. Elephant. They are left free to roam and considered like any other sentient performer. They perform of their own free will, doing whatever they want. Hugo likes to sleep under the table when the troupe eats and Mr. Elephant collects top hats and monocles. That's simple, and easy, and lighthearted: it's a nice fantasy. But we all know that reality is much more grim and tragic, that animals are cruelly exploited and mistreated. In my country, politicians are legislating to ban circuses from exploiting animals in their shows, and I fully support them. Again – why the contradiction? Because the lighthearted fairytale crafted in the ring, the one about a circus being a place of effortless happiness and wonder, is one I can only believe in fiction: I'm aware that, in reality, it's a cruel lie.
But there is a clear, thick, red line dividing reality from fantasy. No, it's not a line; it's a crater, an ocean. The danger comes when people seem to lose sight of that line. We often hear of accidents that occurred because people seemed to believe they were living in a movie, and that they could act accordingly. Fiction grants us the possibility to create an alternative reality, where the rules are different. And while sometimes that change is for the worse, often things take an idealistic approach. Often, as writers and as readers, we just want to escape to a place where things are simpler than in reality; we want a world without complexities, a world that's simple and easy, a world where the good guys always win, and characters seem to have no inconvenient bodily functions, and motorbikes are fun and adventurous and never kill fathers, and guns are powerful and sexy and aren't killing anyone.
I know I am especially fond of that world: that's why I favor slightly surreal, humorous settings in lieu of a darker social realism: I need the relief. But the relief must always be temporary. We can't get lost in that imaginary world, as tempting as it might be. Because we must always get back to reality at some point, and never forget that reality is very, very different.
Cornelia Grey has interests varying from painting to photography, from sewing to acting. When writing, she favors curious, surreal poems and short stories involving handsome young men seducing each other. She loves collecting people's stories and re-discovering lost tales that deserve to be told. Her latest short story, "Benjamin Pepperwhistle and the Fantabulous Circus of Wonders" can be found in Storm Moon Press' Weight of a Gun II anthology. Cornelia can be found on Twitter @corneliagrey and on her blog.