I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004


(Note: This post makes more sense if you read the "Entropy and Death" post beneath it first.)

So if I'm not a writer, what am I?

I am an Ouroboros. Microsoft Word scolds me with a red squiggle when I type this. You won't find the term in Webster's or American Heritage. Even the hefty OED on my bookshelf doesn't define it--although I may simply be looking under the wrong spelling. It's absence from dictionaries is a little bewildering. I'm not making this word up. If I google the term, I get 139,000 hits, and that's just under this spelling. Oroboros and Ourobouros turn up still more hits.

The Ouroboros is a symbol. It's likely you've seen it before if you've hung out in tattoo parlors. An Ouroboros is most commonly depicted as a serpent biting its tail, forming a perfect circle. One dictionary of symbols I consulted defines it as " symbolic of time and the continuity of life.” It then goes on to define it further as "the union between the chthonian principle as represented by the serpent and the celestial principal as signified by the bird." To which I can only say, "whatever."

I actually have an Ouroboros tattooed on my left shoulder. To me, it symbolizes the most central aspect of my personality--my deep, unceasing introspection. I think about things. Then I think about thinking about things. I think. It is my greatest strength and my greatest failing.

Strength: I feel that I gnaw on the bones of life. I question everything, and often I like the answers. Nothing is insignificant in my world. I once spent the better part of a day contemplating a cardboard box, utterly lost in thought. The box had held a bottle of tequila, which might explain some of the fascination. But it wasn't just a simple box--it had been folded into this origami artistry to both contain and display the tequila and the margarita mix packaged with it. A 3-d cutout of a parrot rose jutted from the side of the box, looking approvingly at the beverage mix. And I thought: Someone made this. Not just someone--a whole chain of someones. Someone dreamed of the package. Someone painted the parrot. Someone wrote the promotional copy on the back, and someone had designed the font it was typed in. Somewhere, someone had the job of taking blank cardboard and making a machine that would cut and fold and glue it into the package sitting before me. Somewhere in Mexico, someone had harvested the agave. There was a factory somewhere that made the bottles. Some chemist had created the glue that attached the labels. A vast, unseen chain of commerce and legal hoops existed to bring this bottle to the local ABC store. The ABC stores existed due to a series of historical events that nearly wrecked America. The money I made the purchase with had its own complex history. This is world through the eyes of an Ouroboros--you see the everything in anything. The world is a vast web off connections and threads that leaves me fascinated by the most trivial things. I swear, this summer, I spent several hours online reading about dust, what it is, how it forms, and how the laws that govern the dust bunnies beneath my couch also govern the formation of planets.

Weakness: I eternally walk the razor pathway of solipsism. It easy to lose sight of the world around me as I wander the world within me. I can grow so drunk in thought about a box, I forget to drink the tequila. Actual experience is shunned for the chance to think about the experience. I find myself at parties, surrounded by dozens of people, and I don't want to talk with any of them. I just want to go someplace quiet and think. I am eternally struggling with questions I will never have any hope of answering. Often, I've thought away any flicker of emotion. I have a difficult time staying angry, and an equally difficult time staying joyful. When I was a child on Christmas day, I would often think, "Is this it? Is this joy, peace, and love?" Because I couldn't tell. I believe my first marriage ended because I let these questions spiral out of control. Is this love? Do our vows mean anything? I made them in the church of God I don't believe in. I pledged eternal love, but do I even know what love is? I don't believe in eternal life, so isn't a promise of eternal love a lie? Did we marry of our own free will, or are we just puppets, dancing on the strings of biology, or culture? Is free will even possible, or am I just a mass of echoes, the mutated expectations of my parents and their parents and their parents before them? I think my first marriage crashed and burned because I asked these questions. I think my second marriage crashed and burned because I didn't ask them early enough. And I wonder--what's the point of asking questions? Do the words even have meaning? When I talk with other people, I sometimes sink into despair at the almost impossible task of even having two people agree on the meaning of the most simple words. My time spent with others can leave me even more isolated and alone. The snake curled into a circle may not have its tail in its mouth. It might have its head up its ass. I sometimes tell myself to shut up, to stop thinking, to just live my life, to simply feel and do and be. Sometimes, I succeed, for an hour or so. Then, inevitably, I'll be left alone in darkness, and the questions will return. It will surprise no one to learn I am plagued by insomnia.

Another definition of Ouroboros says its "symbolic of self-fecundation." I think this is a polite way of saying the Ouroboros has fucked itself. And, yeah, I feel pretty damned fucked at times. But then the wheel of life rolls another turn, and suddenly I feel pregnant. I'm full of life. All these thoughts have given birth to characters, to plots, to places that have never existed, to worlds that will never be. My head is full of voices and I hear the conversations of people never born--people who exist only inside me. I write down these snippets of conversations on note cards, or start describing a room I've never stepped foot in, and before I know it, I've made a story. These stories are little Ouroboros--existing only within themselves, tiny universes completely self sustained. Once I give birth to these stories, I'm always left empty. I wonder if I will ever be able to write another story, of if this was the last one. The energy of creation is always followed by a veil of exhaustion. At these, my lowest moments, when I'm too tired to resist, the voices begin again.

The Ouroboros, a circle, a wheel. I'm not a writer. But the pages accumulate as my life rolls on.

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