I show concerned parents who want to give their children the best start to life how to better understand their children.

4 Oct 2012

May The Words Do What You Want Them To

Hello all and welcome to another blog.
I live in Durban, South Africa and I met another blogger from Durban a while ago.
I asked if he wanted to do a guest post on my blog, and he said, "yes."
So here is a guest blog by Ashley Jacobs from Durban South Africa, entitled May The Words Do What You Want Them To.
You can find his blog at http://theurbaneagle.com.

Greetings to those encountering my blogging for the first time! Which is almost certainly all of you. I’m a Durbanite who blogs under the moniker of The Urban Eagle or TUE for short. My blog is a collection of observations and opinions on my different interests as a young doctor and aspiring science fiction writer. Please have a look at the various pieces on my site and feel free to comment.

These words are now written in the front cover of my favourite science fiction anthology by one of the contributing authors. I recently attended the Open Book Festival in Cape Town where I was fortunate enough to meet a few writers who have inspired me over the years. Leading up to the weekend I’d messaged many of my friends with annoying exuberance about who was going to be there and why I loved their writing and just had to meet them.

Why then did I only manage to attend a meagre smattering of the events?

You see, I dream of writing science fiction. I love drawing extrapolations out of the tangled mess of life called ‘today’ like when you twirl spaghetti around your fork pulling it out from the bowl of Bolognese sauce. My weekend started with an accidental encounter with the best-seller science fiction deity of the festival. I was nonchalantly browsing his books on the display table and had completely unexpectedly stuffed myself into the front of the queue to meet him. Fortunately I had a copy of his 600 page masterpiece handy which I had hastily thumbed through on the flight from Durban. He asked whether I’d come to get my book signed and I said, “I guess…” I made a joke about the dog ears and scuffed margins of his bestseller, but it turns out he appreciates a well-worn book too.

At the same time I sensed in him the strongest solipsism that I’d ever felt in my life. Like nothing one of us fans could say would reach into his inner core and jar the workings of his powerful CPU. His poise and locked-in body language with curt responses placed me at the user interface of a vast machine. Such fierce intelligence and lofty polymathy. For a second I wondered if that’s where true science fiction comes from… I felt distanced from my hero knowing the absurdity and tragedy of South African hospitals has forever yanked me out of the world of detached speculation.

This was still early in my weekend, so I asked science fiction deity whether he likes to write in coffee shop or in isolation. He told us he writes in isolation, locks himself away and bangs out strange worlds constructed with philosophy and mathematics on his computer. I guess what I wanted to know was whether or not he could be seen – like my fellow Durbanites that I see in Corner Cafe or Colombo – slaving away over a cappuccino growing cold as the ideas flow.

Would you have felt unsatisfied with that experience? I admit that I did. On the one hand the budding dilettante in me was stimulated, but isn’t that what we use the internet for these days?

The next day I attended a book launch of a Speculative Fiction anthology I was keenly anticipating. One of the hosts was a rather famous South African writer who is a trailblazer in the genre. I took my seat trying to blend in as best as possible and promised myself I wouldn’t ask another stupid question come audience participation time.

At the end of the hour-long discussion I seized the opportunity. I went up to this writer and simply asked, “Can I fanboy you for a moment?” She told me she totally does that to other authors and flashed a warm smile. She fixed her attention on me for that moment and I felt embarrassed as she signed my book as if I’d just asked a stranger to lend me change for a parking ticket.

We chatted about rejection letters and science fiction. She seemed to take me seriously and be genuinely interested in my lone story inspired by the dystopia called South African healthcare. Maybe deep down I still wanted to know whether I was just another fool with a MacBook or whether there was something to this burning desire to work the words until stories took shape. My short story is getting published at the end of this year (details to follow on the blog) and she seemed genuinely excited and promised to read it when she had the chance. My spirits were lifted for the whole weekend.

In this encounter, punctuated with her simply buying a picture book for her kid, I realized we were similar in this regard – we both wanted the words to do what we wanted them to. After that I didn’t have it in me to listen to more famous author discoursing with words heavy with lingual gravity. I wanted to be behind my own keyboard feeling my own words piece together, and I think it is that desire that makes us writers.

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I show concerned parents who want to give their children the best start to life
how to better understand their children.
And I show people who are facing difficulties that they are not alone


  1. So often you hear the advice that the best way to write is to write, but perhaps your experience that weekend supports that adage. Best of luck with your work.