From early adolescence onward, I’ve been haunted, conflicted, attracted into near identity with yet simultaneously repulsed by the wizard archetype, particularly as embodied by “Raistlin Majere,” a character introduced to me through the fantasy novels of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance series. Raistlin has become synonymous in my imagination with the Lucifer character in Milton — though I encountered Raistlin first. I often hear myself wondering in a ponderous, psychoanalytic way, “Why did these books grasp hold of me? What was the nature of their appeal? What was it that I heard calling to me? How did these books reconstitute and reshape me? I found in them an entire cosmology, did I not? Was it my first, my original — or was there another, one prior? Did I ever reflect self-consciously about Christianity, accept it or choose it as my mythos, know myself to believe in it — or was it only ever a series of meaningless, inexplicable rituals imposed upon me by alien authority structures: family, church, community?” Part of me has come to view Weis and Hickman as corporate corruptors of the fantastic imagination. These were books that fed and perhaps irritated, worsened, fed and prolonged my sensitivity to the violence of being labelled a “nerd” by my classmates at school. That’s a powerful memory: one’s slightly larger male classmates narrowing their eyes, clenching their fists and snarling disgustedly, “Nerd!” I remember resolving to read the Bible in its entirety and getting distracted, setting it aside, reading Tolkein, Weis and Hickman’s Dragonlance and Darksword trilogies, Marvel superhero comics, horror novelists like Clive Barker and Stephen King. From their cover art onward, the Dragonlance books are all about a universe become filled with pubescent menace: men with swords, dragon-riding women. A world ensorcelled by hormones, symbol-systems, RPGs, and media. Readers are encouraged to see themselves in the Raistlin character: a figure of great intelligence trapped in a weak and sickly body, and for that reason contemptuous of others. That contempt is localized in the figure of Raistlin’s twin brother Caramon, the sibling who inherited the pair’s physical strength. Public school attempted to divide me from this through memorization of the alternative rituals of “science” and “mathematics” — but these had none of the same seductive powers, none of the erotic charge, the pleasure felt when under the spell of a fantasy.
My favorite works of art are psychedelic, and usually partake of what I like to call an “inner-cosmic epic” aesthetic involving ego death, ascension, discovery of hidden realms, humans becoming gods, gods become human — essentially, journeys inward to the edges of the known and beyond. I encountered formative works of this sort as a child: Marvel’s Secret Wars comics, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance Legends trilogy, adolescent geek culture seeded with radical cosmic fallout from the psychedelic art of the 60s and 70s. Are there similar works available today, readying the soon-to-be heads of Generation Z? “Work,” though — that source of all blues. Let me just say, “What a fucking drag.” My blood boils. I can’t even look at anything having to do with it. And now I’m going to have to run around wasting consciousness — and by that I mean creative labor-power and labor-time — hustling for some alternative form of it. My time was to be used on a project of self discovery and collective redemption. Not on this bullshit. The philistine capitalist devils among the ranks of my countrymen have succeeded. They’ve stripped me of the right to determine my own life practice and life product. They’re fucking with my daily ritual, my devotion to my chosen craft. If you want me to educate, then allow me time to read and write. And let the writing be the teaching. That is the life I want. And fuck anyone who tries to guilt me for that. Fuck my employer, too, though, for threatening me with non-renewal of my contract. That’s right: my job and the jobs of some of my coworkers are now in jeopardy. The chair of my department called an emergency meeting midweek. “I regret to inform you,” he announced, “but our provost has been ordered by administrators higher up the food chain (either the president or the board of trustees) to cut instructor positions in departments across the campus.” Looking ruefully at my colleagues and I, he predicted that, among the half-dozen faculty holding these positions within our department, several of us are likely to be let go Apprentice-style by schoolyear’s end, with letters announcing the university’s decision to can us likely to arrive in our mailboxes sometime in October. So a pox on those country-club cornbread motherfuckers. Job market, here I come.