I have been, am, and always will be a fan of "genre fiction." Blame it on Star Trek: The Next Generation coming out right after I was born and the many nights watching adventures and philosophy and ethics. Blame it on my first, water-stained copy of The Golden Compass (water-stained due to far too many bath time readings). Blame it on a gorgeous and now mostly destroyed copy of The Mists of Avalon. Blame it on paganism, tarot, and the Renaissance Festival. Blame it on the kanar, the saurian brandy, and the synthehol.
When I was little, Riker and Troi were like my parents. And no, Nemesis, I will never forgive you.
All of this is to say - I am a fan of Dr. Who. But I never was really, really into it until last night, when we watched Vincent and the Doctor.
I hadn't seen Dr. Who, ever, until college. Of course, it and its mythos were a part of my life as a geek, because my parents and, it seemed, the whole fan world treasured the Doctor like a loved and lost member of the greatest family ever known - the nerds, the writers, the introverts. Dr. Who was that last remnant of secret and treasured geek television. Bad special effects, good writing, and terribly skimpy outfits.
I was born to a different world, shiny and oh-so-nineties, and the Doctor seemed as far away to me as Yorkshire on a sunny day with plain biscuits and no tea. Until last night. When I saw, new and fresh and painful, the power of genre fiction. Until I saw the sky turn paint.
When I was very little I did my greatest work of art. My father, ever the believer, still has it framed - I did Starry Starry Night. It was spiraling triangles and stars. It's probably the truest thing I ever made, because I made it, conscious and young, out of love. I made it because I saw the sky that way, too.
Vincent van Gogh was bipolar, did you know? Some blame it on the absinthe. But let me tell you, Vincent van Gogh was bipolar, you know? And I never knew it, I never thought, until I saw him, breathtaking, red-headed, sobbing and laughing, in a medium which is commonly derided, ridiculed, and made terribly uncool. Genre fiction. That thing that tells us who we really are - because far-fetched computers and mechanical friends and time travel can never, will never, take away from the human existence. Life in genre is life - genre has the capacity to reveal to us the things we are, the things we hope to be, the things we are afraid of in ourselves. Vincent van Gogh, fighting perhaps the biggest Cockatiel I've ever seen, said more to me about myself than I've ever read in Chekhov.
The sky turned into paint. The artist met himself. Genre created that truth which we see in the corner of our eyes but can't face. He was sick and he loved and he died. Yellow sunflowers and aliens and alcoholism and time travel and me.
I know this, because the Doctor showed me.
I went to a good school and got a good degree and never wrote one bit of genre fiction. It wasn't done. But don't let it fool you - genre fiction is what makes us who we are. We are constantly more than ourselves. We look to the future, television and books and comics, and we imagine, what if? What if we could see that which we are with clarity and hope and a knowledge that Vincent van Gogh turned the sky into paint and was so, so human? So impossible. So sad. So like me.
This post is dedicated to my stepmother. She knows why.