The Big Idea: Will Ludwigsen
Posted on March 28, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 29 Comments
Before you read this Big Idea entry by Will Ludwigsen, about his story collection In Search Of and Others, I just want to say that I, too, loved the In Search Of television series to an insensible degree. And in honor of my and Will’s love of the show, here’s the opening theme.
Yes, that should set the scene for today’s Big Idea piece quite nicely.
When I was a kid, a television show called In Search Of hopelessly addicted me to weird epiphany. Hosted by Leonard Nimoy in the late 70s and early 80s, it examined the intractible mysteries of existence like ESP, the Loch Ness Monster, and UFOs. It often “solved” them too, usually with a big pseudo-scientific middle finger to Occam’s Razor.
Why believe that Amelia Earhart crashed and died off Gardner Island when you could imagine she was captured and turned by the Japanese into Tokyo Rose? Why think that settlers built the rock formations at Mystery Hill in New Hampshire when, hey, the Phoenicians might have?
That show (and the crackpot books I also read at that age) seriously warped my scientific education.
For one thing, I felt like an insider privy to arcane knowledge. Pissed as my father was that I couldn’t tell the difference between metric and imperial socket wrenches by touch, I still knew that there were pictures of ancient astronauts on the walls of Incan tombs and that seemed far more important. I figured that if everybody agreed about something, what was the point in knowing it?
For another, my endorphin rush upon learning new things became miscalibrated to the flamboyantly weird and surprising. There are ten times more microbial cells on and in our bodies than human ones? Meh, whatever. But there’s a PLESIOSAUR IN LOCH NESS? OMG!
I outgrew that, more or less, and these days I’m hopelessly skeptical. I’m probably just as mistaken about the world as I was then, but now it’s within the dull and conservative borders of “plausibility”– a confusion between cause and correlation, maybe, or a misjudgment between representative data and anecdote. That hulking shadow on the side of the road is either a bear or a cow, but it almost certainly isn’t Bigfoot.
Yet sometimes I miss being creatively, unabashedly, whole-heartedly, all-in WRONG about the universe in a way that seems most common to kids and lunatics.
Being wrong in that way was comfortably personal. When I was wrong about UFOs, it was because I wanted one to take me away. When I was wrong about ghosts, it was because I wanted to talk to someone with the cosmic perspective to tell me things would be all right. When I was wrong about the Kennedy assassination, it was because I didn’t want a squirrely little jackass to control the course of history.
Being wrong is really just a form of wish-making, isn’t it? You’re fitting what you want of the world onto whatever evidence you have. You’re making your own mythology, which might well have certain virtues over the received ones we take for granted.
Is it possible to cling too long to our wrongness? Certainly. Is it dangerous? Of course. Has being wrong caused millenia of human misery? Alas, yes.
But there’s a good way to be wrong, a way without the arrogance or petulance or zeal. Being wondrously and responsibly wrong means taking a moment to enjoy it, revel in it, and ask ourselves just why we want the world to be that way.
I was drawn to the genres I choose to write and read, science fiction and fantasy and horror, because they seem to be the literature of epiphany. They’re often about people who discover that their convictions about reality are more about them than the universe. I call these moments of “personal singularity,” realizations that change one’s perspective so completely that everything before seems primitive and alien.
I didn’t set out to write a collection of stories about personal singularities, but somehow In Search Of and Others seems to be one anyway. It has ghosts and abandoned houses and homicidal children and botched science fair experiments, and the thing those characters seem to learn over and over again is that you should be careful what you’re wrong about.
Why? Because you never know quite how right your wrongness might be.
In Search Of and Others: Amazon|Barnes and Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s
Read sample stories from the author. Follow him on Twitter.
Great description, and as a lover of that series, I’m in for the eBook. John – the B&N link is incorrect, however (it links to an uncorrected proof). Here is the link I used: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/in-search-of-and-others-will-ludwigsen/1114796055?ean=2940044356610
Will Ludwigsen is a fabulous writer. If you like weird short stories, you’re going to love this collection.
P.S. I would have been lost without Leonard Nimoy and the “In Search Of” television series. :-) Thanks for the (re)memories, John!
The thing I eventually took away from In Search Of is that people can be very convincing and still be wrong.
May have to check this out. I like the idea of personal singularities.
In search of hosted by Leonord Nimoy?
Wow. talk about flashback to the 80’s….
safety dance by men at work,
one night in bangkok by talking heads.
ice ice baby by david bowie
footloose by rick springfield.
Yes. Good times good times…..
Love the stories of Will Ludwigsen’s I’ve read and would love to read more!
“ice ice baby by david bowie…”
Ummm. What? I must have missed this episode of In Search Of.
Oh, how that theme fills me with joy. “Yay! Crackpot ideas are coming!”
[Silly little boy wants to look big and tough to all the other silly little boys — JS]
Wow. Someone did lots of good drugs back in the day. Or they came from an alternate universe where David Bowie tried his hand at rap, and the Talking Heads did musicals about board games. Come to think of it, that would be an interesting universe to visit.
[Deleted again. Poor little infant, so desperate for attention! -JS]
[Bored with this one now — JS]
What I have long admired about Ludwigsen’s work is that he convey’s a story’s weirdness in such a way as to easily suspend disbelief. A reader is gently led into strange lands. Not to say that the endings cannot be a shock (I still remember the feeling I had when I finished reading “The Speed of Dreams”) but that you forget you are reading speculative fiction. A good thing.
I’d never heard of Will Ludwigsen, so I took a look and ended up buying the Kindle edition just now. Nice stuff.
A friend of mine gave me a copy of “Cthulhu Fhtagn, Baby” a while back and I enjoyed it immensely. I have more than a little curiosity about this one too.
Good looking cover. Is that Harry O Morris?
Hey, BenJ! It’s not Harry O Morris. We bought the photo from a kid (like high school or college) who’d posted it on DeviantArt. I was stricken by the composition of the piece, and it was a great pic.
I’m sorry but I prefer my fiction labeled as such. It may seem harmless but look where we are now. I can’t turn on the History channel without being told about ancient aliens visiting earth. Or how about the discovery channel I think and bigfoot? I don’t know about a ‘squatch but I do believe there is a dumb*** in them there woods.
In thirty years there will be people waxing nostalgic about that crap.
[Deleted because off topic — JS]
Yeah, In Search Of, hosted by Leonard Nimoy. It was on right before “The Love Boat” with Captain George Peppard, helmsman “Howlin Mad” Murdoch, Cruise Director “Face”, and Bouncer Mr. T.
And rigth before “In Search Of” was Cagney and Lacey which always opened with ” Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated,” which alternated with “Dukes of Hazzard” Bo and Luke Duke running around in the General Knight Rider, fighting bad guys.
And of course, this.
[Person previously deleted for off-topic comment continues to post off-topic comments that are delted. Perhaps he will sense a pattern. Perhaps he might read the site comment policy. Perhaps he will figure out what is likely to happen if he posts yet another off-topic comment in this thread – JS]
[Deleted because the comment is off-topic and it’s author is apparently unobservant enough that he has not noticed that the site’s comment policy is linked to on every single page of the blog. Wald, stop cluttering up my site with your annoying, unobservant stupid, please – JS]
I just want to encourage the continuation of this great service to readers. Some of the books features excite me, some would bore me to tears. But this is the best source of new reading material I know of. Keep up the good work.
Thanks for the reply, Will. dA is a fun mixed bag. You see all levels of skill and inspiration. There are definitely worse places to look for an illustrator.
In Search Of! Oh man, I ate that show up as a kid. Sounds like I’ll eat Will’s book up, too. Can’t wait.
Just curious – has your skeptism resulted in being better able to identify metric/English sockets?
Alas, not really!
Greg, I am pretty sure that was Laverne & Shirley that had the “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated” jingle. :D
Also I started In Search Of and Others last night, and so far it is wonderfully creepy, beautiful, and compelling.
Modern Dog, read the rest of Greg’s post closely. :D
Ha! Brian, serves me right for posting before I’ve had that slug of afternoon caffeine. :D
Thanks again for the views you send my way. :)