Over at Wil Wheaton’s blog, Wil points out and long and interesting interview with Neal Stephenson on Barnes and Noble’s website. Aside from discussing many things Anathem, I’d like to follow up on the same quote that Wil talks about:
If you choose to read a book today, it’s not like a hundred years ago, when that was your only option. Today, when you read a book, you’re making a conscious decision not to play a video game, not to surf the web, not to watch a movie, not to turn on the TV. It does require a certain discipline to make that decision…
In one of those ironies of life, when you’re young and you feel you have all the time in the world, time seems to pass so slowly, yet, when you’re older, with a job and family and you know you’re time isn’t unlimited, it seems to pass so quickly. Sometimes I wonder just when, exactly, did my oldest son become 12 years old. Where did it all go?
All of that is to say that, like many people, my time is valuable, and what with family obligations and all, my free time is even more limited. And as a SF/gaming/tech geek, I have several demands on my free time, and it’s impossible to engage in them all.
My number one favorite thing to do is read, of course, and with the number of books we receive at the SF Signal hidden underground lair, there’s always something available for me to pick up and read. But reading takes time, time that I usually scrounge up before bed. Most nights, I have to read something before nodding off, it just feels wrong if I don’t. The bad part being, if the book is really good, I won’t actually go to sleep till 1am or so, and I really feel it the next morning. I don’t see this bug being killed anytime soon.
My second favorite thing is gaming. I’ve been a gamer since way back, since my dad brought home one of these sweet Magnavox Odyssey 2 game systems. We moved on to an Apple ][+ a few years later, and it was the very first Wizardry game that made me a hardcore gamer (at that time, not so much now). Scott and I spent hours playing the heck out of that game, and we still occasionally play other games together now. Like a book, on the days that I do game (which is fewer than I’d like), I may be up till late playing because I just want to go to ‘one more room’. With the veritable cornucopia of SF themed games this year I just don’t have enough time, or money, to play them all, even though I really want to. It doesn’t help that most of the games I want to play are rated ‘M’, so I have to wait until my older boys are in bed, and will stay in bed, which isn’t till 9:30 or so most nights, later on weekends. Sometimes I just won’t bother turning on the 360 or PC to play because I’m too tired, so I swat the game bug by switching on the TV.
It used to be that SF, aside from a scant few shows, wasn’t represented on TV very well. That has changed in the recent past, with so many shows, that I have to actively seek out which shows to not watch, just to keep up. And with only one DVR, there is a log jam of people wanting to use the TV watch recorded stuff, so, again, I end up watching my shows either late or the next day online at lunch. The good news is that there are only a few ‘must watch’ shows for me, and they are all on break till the new year, so I don’t feel any pressure to watch anything right now.
The last thing I like to do is get online and surf. I’m a tech geek and I like to keep up with a wide range of stuff. But this is one ‘bug’ that is most manageable, in terms of time. I can do a bit of surfing during the day, so that helps, and I do a bit more when sitting with the baby as he nods off to sleep. But after that, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of the computer and surf more or even game. I sit in front of one all day, doing it at home has lost a lot of its appeal. Which is rather depressing as I used to love to sit and surf and/or play games all day.
So all that to say, basically, that I agree with Stephenson that it takes discipline to sit down and read, which is a passive activity, when you could be actively engaged in storytelling in any number of cool SF games, or engaging in SF conversations on the web. Our highly technologized society has given us more gadgets to enjoy our chosen field of entertainment, but it has also ensured there isn’t enough time to see or do it all. And in this fast paced world, there’s nothing quite like picking up a book and reading, which is why I choose to do that more than anything else. There’s no commercials, no one jumping up from behind a crate and shooting at you, and no email or IM alerts to catch your eye. Just you, the book and a few hours of quiet.
If only I could read faster and save some time, I’ve got monsters to shoot.