“Follow your weird, ladies and gentlemen. Forget trying to pass for normal…woo the muse of the odd.”
That’s Bruce Sterling addressing the Computer Game Developers Conference back in 1991. Sterling is no late bloomer. At age 20 he published his first science fiction novel and co-founded the cyberpunk movement (think Blade Runner).
But he illuminates a pattern I first noticed with Sharon Kay Penman: Many “late” bloomers are driven, not just by passion, but by an obscure obsession.
Penman, an attorney, became obsessed with Richard III decades before archaeologists exhumed his body from a Leicester parking lot. In her late-30s, Penman abandoned her lucrative career to write The Sunne in Spendour, a novel that quashed the politically-motivated viewpoint in Shakespeare’s play, Richard III. How many former lawyers have the courage to take on The Bard?
Other examples of late-blooming obsession:
- Mary Somerville, a 19th century woman who found algebraic symbols so enthralling, she resolved to unlock their meaning (despite the threat of a straight-jacket).
- Peter Paul Roget, who turned his compulsive list-making into the writer’s best friend—Roget’s Thesaurus.
- PD James, Bram Stoker, and David Seidler—purveyors of murder, vampires, and a stuttering king, respectively.
That’s a lot of midlife-and-beyond weird.
Sterling has more to say on the subject. Here are some of his best bon mots to inspire your New Year’s anti-resolutions:
- “You can get a hell of a lot done in a popular medium just by knocking off with the bullshit.”
- “Don’t become a well-rounded person. Well-rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a pufferfish.”
- “There are reasons why you’re here. Learn those reasons. Learn about the stuff that was buried because it was too experimental or embarrassing or inexplicable or uncomfortable or dangerous.”
“Get weird. Get way weird. Get dangerously weird. Get sophisticatedly, thoroughly weird and don’t do it halfway, put every ounce of horsepower you have behind it. Have the artistic courage to recognize your own significance in culture!”
Thank you, Bruce Sterling. So let’s forget about losing weight, giving up coffee, and rising an hour earlier (yawn).
How about we just follow our weird into 2017?
- Bruce Sterling. The Wonderful Power Of Storytelling.