It's 2AM and I'm perched at the keyboard finishing the most difficult essay that I have ever attempted to write.
This long-problematic piece was actually started nearly ten friggin' years ago. But because the subject matter was so close to heart, it was always difficult to retain objectivity about the proper direction, and the quality of the actual work.
Tonight, though, after two days of just chipping away at it again for the god-only-knows-how-many-eth time, I finally feel what I've always wanted to feel about this piece: that the rhythm and the wording are both right, and that the whole is worth every bit of the seemingly endless effort.
After nearly a decade of starts and stalls one would think that I'd managed to pen something equal in size to Plato's Apology. It is only a 3,000 word essay. But one that shoehorns 50,000 years of human history into a thoughtful and entertaining text. That is partly what made it so damned difficult to write.
It's also kinda personal...but had to be made much less personal to make it actually work. Letting go of the parts in which you have an emotional investment is prolly the hardest part about writing. For me it is, anyway.
Two years ago, one of my previously failed attempts to rework this essay resulted in the "Black East" article that was published in Giant Robot. In many ways, that text is a pre-quel to this one. (And maybe the "Afro Samarai" piece in KFG5 is something of sequel.)
Coincidentally (though there are no coincidences), I was contacted two weeks ago by historian Runoko Rashidi. The respected author and lecturer asked if he could include "Black East" in the latest history volume that he's editing called African Star Over Asia. When I finally find the words, I'll say something about just how...legitimizing this opportunity feels. Right now, all I can say is that it's an honor.
As to the title of the old-but-new essay, it has actually had a variety of 'em throughout its decade long gestation period. But "Monster Islands" is the title that was settled upon in 2010, and it's still a perfect fit.
Click to enlarge
At center in the image is the current work-in-progress, which is essentially complete except for a lil' fine-tuning. On the top left side of the screen capture, the movie Monster From a Prehistoric Planet (aka Giant Beast Gappa) is playing, with the volume turned down. Underneath that minimized screen is a map of Papua New Guinea which, like the movie itself, is referenced in the piece.
On the right side of the screen is an antique photograph of a young maiden from Papua New Guinea. Something dug up during one of the Raiders of the Lost Ark-style research runs. Beneath her stunning portrait is an iTunes window which shows the song "Genocide" by the Reavers (ft. Spiega, Billy Woods and Kong) as it plays with the volume turned down low. The track is on the previously posted Return to Monsta Island mixtape.
When I open my eyes to dream, that screenshot perfectly illustrates how I would like my life to look. But in the vision, I actually make a living doing what I love as a writer and artist. And if not everyday, most of my work/play days would look like that. The only discernible difference is that there would prolly be two flatscreen monitors on the desktop...and the desk would be something new from Ikea.
As for tonight (today), I'm happy with what I've got. And happy with how my life looks.