No, not that weird stuff!
I mean my biweekly link dumps of witches, occultists, strange/obscure history, and academic papers. Why do I post these (apart from their vague relevance to the work in progress)?
Well, I was a strange child. And I had help.
I grew up on an irregular diet of “Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World” and the occasional surprise “In Search Of” when it aired at odd times on TBS. Also one side of my family nurtured an interest in UFOs, ghosts, cryptozoology, and other Forteana/paranormalia: I remember reading my grandmother’s back issues of Fate Magazine from around age 8, and books got passed around through the mail and at holiday get togethers.
I think the cryptozoology thing grew out of the usual childhood fascination with dinosaurs. My interest was intense enough that by elementary school I was making papier-mâché Loch Ness monsters and a faked plaster cast of a Bigfoot footprint for school projects.
I can’t remember my teachers’ reactions.
Various family members expressed everything from skeptical interest to full on belief – dinner table conversation could go on for hours. As a child I was fairly uncritical about it all; as a teenager I became more skeptical but sought out anything that made my eyebrows jump – conspiracy theories, alien abduction, prank religions – for the sheer WTFery, if nothing else. I can’t remember how many times I checked High Weirdness by Mail out of the library (oh hey, now there’s an online version!).
And yes, in the 1990s I was a dedicated X-Phile. So many of the stories were already familiar, and the writers did a wonderful job with the source material!
As an adult I’m more detached but my interest remains, though I’ve grown so hard-headed it’s difficult to believe in anything I can’t hit with a hammer, so to speak. At the same time I recognize that subjective experience is relevant to the experiencer, objectively provable or not. In the end it’s not about aliens or ghosts or witches, but about people and how they integrate the unexplained into their lives.
Still, my inner curious child still aches to know: what really happened? What did they really see/experience/find? Through writing fiction I can speculate with the luxury of not having to prove anything, and I have the freedom to make up answers.
I could (maybe I will) do a whole separate post about growing up as a history buff. Suffice it to say I’m not terribly surprised that two lifelong interests collided to have me writing about Elizabethan magicians ~30 years later.
What about you? Do you have any childhood obsessions that still inform your creative pursuits today? Tell me in the comments!