I’ve always been weird. As a child, my earliest memories from school were how I was always so much different than everyone else—not just personality-wise, being extremely shy compared to them, but also in my interests. The other kids weren’t into the things I wanted to do and talk about which was probably why I didn’t like talking to them. But the weird thing is I didn’t like being weird as a kid. I had such severe social anxiety that I wanted to fit in and be like everybody else. I was terrified of being ostracized and rejected by my peers. I didn’t want to stand out, so I would hide my weird interests from them.
For instance, I was a vegetarian (which today is somewhat fashionable, but in the 90s was much rarer—more weird), but I never told anyone. I was afraid they would think I was “weird” if they found out I was a vegetarian. I would refrain from being my true self with other kids at school and instead tried to act more like them. The main interest of my peers was sports, so sports became my main interest.
It wasn’t like I had to force myself—I enjoyed sports too. But I had many other “weird” interests that I didn’t pursue as much as I otherwise would have. I tried to play just about all the major sports (baseball, basketball, soccer, football, golf, and tennis) but I was never good at any of them. I was not very athletic or coordinated. I especially struggled with team sports because my shyness and social anxiety interfered with interacting with teammates and playing in front of crowds.
It wasn’t until high school that I started to embrace my weirdness. I stopped following mainstream sports and became more interested in alternative sports like skateboarding and snowboarding. (I was never any good at skateboarding either, but I was decent enough at snowboarding.) I also got into punk rock music and the whole “X-Games” culture. There weren’t many people in my high school into that kind of stuff, so I basically followed those “weird” subcultures on my own.
High school was also when I started getting into science fiction. I wasn’t reading any sci-fi books yet (that would come later), but I became fascinated by science fiction movies. It wasn’t until high school that I first watched the Star Wars series in full. I refused to watch the trilogy when I was a child because I had an odd aversion toward “old” movies. The prequels came out while I was in high school, so I watched the original trilogy in full for the first time and realized that, despite being older, they were much better. I then started watching a lot more science fiction movies, which would continue into college (and to this day).
College was also when I started watching indie and cult classic movies. I got into indie music as well—obscure artists like Bright Eyes and Radiohead. I suppose Radiohead isn’t that obscure, but their music is definitely “weird” compared to anything I heard on the radio before then. I had some friends into weird movies, but no one shared my other weird interests. To fit in with my college classmates, I stopped skateboarding and got back into mainstream sports like basketball, football, and baseball.
It wasn’t until post-college, after going through the self-work to overcome my social anxiety, that I finally felt more comfortable being my true weird self. I had no group that I was trying to fit in with anymore, so I started to fully embrace my weird and esoteric interests. I stopped looking at being “weird” as a bad thing. In fact, it was actually a good thing. Why would I want to be like everyone else? Why would I want to be “normal”? Normal is dull and boring. The greatest innovators throughout human history (in art, literature, science, and philosophy) were all “weird” compared to their contemporaries.
As I’ve written before, I began creative writing during my last year of college, initially through the form of screenwriting. Some of my early screenplays were science fiction, but I wouldn’t label them “weird.” It wasn’t until years later, after embracing my weirdness, that I started reading weirder fiction, which made the fiction I wrote weirder as well.
I don’t mean “weird fiction” as in the specific genre of Lovecraftian cosmic horror—though I do love that genre and write some of it myself. H.P. Lovecraft defined weird fiction as, “The illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which for ever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis.” My “weird fiction” is weird in the more definitional sense of the word—as in odd, unusual, and uncanny. (Listen to the Weird Studies podcast for more about “the weird.”)
I’m not interested in the ordinary—stories set in the real world—because I can experience that in the real world. What I love about fiction is that you can create a reality where the impossible happens (or in the case of futuristic science fiction, the not-yet possible). Reality doesn’t offer me interstellar space exploration and mind uploads (yet), or ancient aliens and lost civilizations (yet), or secret cults and inter-dimensional monsters (yet), but I can experience all those “weird” things in fiction.
As Lovecraft said, “There will always be a small percentage of persons who feel a burning curiosity about unknown outer space, and a burning desire to escape from the prison-house of the known and the real into those enchanted lands of incredible adventure and infinite possibilities which dreams open up to us.” Count me among that small percentage of persons—I always have been, but perhaps did not realize it and embrace it until later in life. I was always interested in the weird, but I thought liking weird things would make other people think I was weird, and I thought being weird was bad. Obviously I was wrong. Now, I don’t want anything to do with non-weird people or things. If you’re not weird in some way, you’re not interesting in any way.
My rabbit hole interests are always changing, and I delve in and out of different genres including science fiction, horror, fantasy, mystery, and satire. I write some stories devoid of science fiction, fantasy, or anything supernatural—but even then, there will inevitably be something weird about the tale. I can’t help but weirding up my fiction. “Weird” may be the only label I feel comfortable branding myself with as a writer forever. Will I ever not be weird? I hope not.