Monday, September 22, 2014
Ten Years On... How Lost Changed My Life
September 22, 2004
Ten years ago today. I was still sad that there would be no Joss Whedon show on my TV that fall for the first time since 1997. I had just become a mom, and was struggling with a month-old newborn that wasn't eating properly, never slept, and in 30 days had shown me the beautiful side of motherhood (the immense love I could feel for my own child, the pride I took in friends and family seeing her for the first time and the looks of awe on their faces) as well as the dark side of motherhood (the judgement I got from non-parents and parents for choosing to breastfeed, the physical pain following the childbirth, the lack of understanding of what I was going through from friends and family, the sleepless nights).
Light and dark. Two sides of that same extraordinary thing we call life.
While pregnant I had written two books, and one of them was about to come back from the printer that week (the book on Alias) and the Angel book would appear a couple of weeks after that.
And there was some new show premiering that night about a group of people on a mysterious island, and critics were saying the opening scenes were some of the most extraordinary moments they'd seen in a pilot. So I was excited, to say the least. Exhausted, and faced with the very real possibility of not actually staying awake through the episode, but excited.
And then it aired. And it truly was one of the most — if not the most — extraordinary pilots I'd ever seen.
The scenery was spectacular. The acting was brilliant. The writing was fast-paced and deep. And I stayed awake for it, with my baby in my arms, riveted. I couldn't wait for the following week's episode.
I thought Angel and Alias would be my swan song. There was no way I'd be able to write any more books after having children, right?
September 22, 2005
I had just started talking to my publisher about a possible Lost book. Maybe Angel and Alias wouldn't be my swan song.
September 22, 2006
Eight years ago today. The third season of Lost was still a couple of weeks away, but I was holding the first volume in what was going to become a series of books on Lost, a book I'd written. My daughter was two years old, and we'd actually developed a sleeping routine where she'd be asleep by 8 and Mommy would work during the day, and after she would go to sleep, I'd write from 8 until 11 each night, and somehow managed to get a book out of it in the end. I was also about to have my first and only book launch for it, and I was excited.
I had just started blogging in July for the first time, and had just been hired by Wizard magazine to do a weekly Lost column. Plus side: I got a ton of people who read that magazine to follow me over to the blog, many of whom stayed with me until the end of Lost and afterwards. Down side: they balked when I asked for a paltry sum of money to be paid to me each week, because, like many online magazines, they just assumed they could find professional writers and pay them the sum total of NOTHING and they would be thrilled to do the work for free. (When the writer's strike happened, they used the opportunity to replace me with an intern, who wrote a lousy column for about three weeks before they quietly cancelled it.)
September 22, 2007
Seven years ago today. I was giving birth to my son. My doula and husband were both Lost fans, and by all doctor's accounts, I was going to give birth to that boy on the anniversary of the plane crash. But the boy had other ideas, and he decided to wedge himself into a strange position and not come out. Instead, I'd be in final active labour for many hours before the nurse from 2pm finally got the 11pm nurse to wheel in an ultrasound machine, where they discovered that he was wedged in my pelvis and had the cord wrapped around his neck. Panic. As they prepped for surgery, a doctor rushed in and manually turned the baby just before midnight (they had already frozen me in anticipation for a C-section, so I didn't feel what would normally have been an extremely painful procedure). As my doula and I watched the clock tick past midnight, she turned to me and cheerfully said, "Oh well, he'll be born on the 23rd. That's still one of Hurley's numbers, right?!" Despite the worry and pain, I remember laughing and laughing. He was born shortly afterwards, with the cord wrapped twice around his neck... and his little hand under it, pulling the cord away from his neck and up onto his chin, holding tightly to prevent himself from being suffocated. Even when he was a few seconds old, I knew I had the smartest baby in that hospital.
September 22, 2008
I had just experienced my first Slayage conference in June and was suddenly opened to the vast world of pop culture academia, and began incorporating some of that broader thinking onto my blog and into my writing. My son was one day away from his first birthday, the blog had exploded into a flurry of activity, and because I didn't write the season 4 book during my maternity leave, I had to get started on it now, and write the season 5 book at the same time when the show would start up again in January. I thought there was no way I could write one book with one child, and now I had to write two books with two children.
September 22, 2009
By this point Lost's season premieres had switched to January, so Septembers no longer had that special meaning for the show. But this time, in anticipation of the final season, I was in the midst of a Lost rewatch on the blog. Two days earlier Michael Emerson had finally won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actor for his work as Ben Linus on Lost (so deserved) and the day after this, I held my Finding Lost Season 5 book in my hand for the first time. There was a lot of sadness and excitement and anticipation surrounding a premiere that was still four months away, but what had started out five years earlier as a show about a plane crash on a mysterious island had become much, MUCH bigger than that.
September 22, 2010
It was over. It had finished almost exactly four months earlier, and I and many others thought the ending was a spectacular finish. While others thought it was the worst ending of all time. And still others were stuck in the middle, not quite sure what they thought of it. We had laughed, we had cried, we had argued, we had colluded... we had expounded theories and written haikus, and some of my favourite moments in my life were some of the discussions that had popped up on this blog.
But it was over. There was still a flurry of activity on the blog, because my final book was about to come out and I was holding a contest where people photoshopped Lost photos with characters holding my books. It wasn't the 500-comments-per-Lost-post I'd experienced in the final season of the show, but slowing down that activity was a bit of a welcome thing. Leading up to the series finale, I had been quoted in so many newspapers, done so much television, and had been interviewed on so many radio shows my head was spinning. I actually took a week of vacation time just to handle the media for the week leading up to the May 23rd ender. It was a whirlwind, and exhausting, but fun.
But in September, I'd just had the worst summer of my life, with far too many upsets and things happening to me personally all at the same time like a giant pile of suck, but I wasn't about to share them on the blog and bring down the room. I was going through a personal low point, and it was feeling harder and harder to smile every day, and I just wanted that feeling to go away. And without having Lost around and the lively discussions that followed, I almost felt lost myself.
But what I was going through was small potatoes to what the creators of the show were going through, being called every name in the book and then some. I'd seen fan vitriol, but nothing like this. And what was so sad about it is that Damon Lindelof eventually threw in the social media towel, and no longer gives any interviews involving Lost, and that's all because, like all of us sensitive artist types, he was so focused on the hatred and cruelty of fans that he couldn't actually appreciate all of the positivity sent his way.
Damon, your show changed my life. And I LOVED that ending. It was an extremely personal ending to the show, which meant it was only going to resonate with a certain population of the Lost crowd. And it resonated with me.
September 22, 2011
I had just undergone a painful and stressful heart procedure, and was just beginning to walk again (of all the arteries they can use to send the electrical wires into your body, they choose the ones in your groin. Why thank you, you sadistic heart prodecure pricks). And in less than two weeks, I was heading to New Orleans to give the keynote address at a small Lost academic conference. The show had been over for almost a year and a half, but people still wanted to talk about it. Especially that ending. And I went to New Orleans, and it was glorious and wonderful (and I want to go baaack!), and I managed to trick everyone there into thinking I was walking without pain, and I met the lovely and amazing Jo Garfein and we went to dinner and yammered about Lost the entire time (duh). And Chris "humanebean" Doran was there with his partner and it was so lovely to see them (for the second time that year, I might add!). There were a ton of Lost folks I hadn't previously met, and there we were in the city of music, talking about a show that had changed all of us. We were all ready to go on, and yet we'd all been deeply changed by this show. I no longer blogged the way I used to, and oddly, I don't think I actually blogged about the Lost conference at all. There'd been a time when I would have blogged three times a day on it, detailing every second of it. But I no longer had that drive to do that. I just wanted to enjoy the moment, and not document it.
September 22, 2012
My husband and I had made the decision earlier that year to move away from Toronto, and we still had a few boxes to unpack at this point but my kids were ensconced in a new school and enjoying it, my son was about to celebrate his birthday in our new house, and I sat on this day and looked out my office window and was happy. Really, really happy. I hadn't written a book in two years, because after writing five books in five years, I needed a break. This was the point where people started asking me what was next, and I happily said, "At this point, nothing." And I was OK with that. In an increasingly turbulent and stressful world, we'd found peace.
September 22, 2013
I opened my eyes early in the morning, threw on my bathing suit and headed out at 5 in the morning to the beach, where I sat and watched the sun come up over the water. I was in Hawaii on the ninth anniversary of a show I'd written about for five years, and my husband was already out golfing (surprise) and there was no one else on this small beach. Just me and my thoughts, watching that sun come up on what was going to be another gorgeous day. I had gone on the Lost KOS Tour just a few days earlier, and had been drilled by the guy on Lost trivia, and there was only one thing I got wrong which really niggled at me, until I found out that they'd come up with the question from reading MY book (ack!). I imagined what it must have been like to have lived in this place for six years, as many of the cast of the show did. How difficult it must have been to leave. How the luckier ones like Daniel Dae Kim found a way to stay. And how this beautiful island provided a setting for a show that changed what we expect from television. Even the dumbest programs on TV now seem to have something smart about them; no longer are executives going for the lowest common denominator when they're trying to figure out their fall schedules. Lost upped the ante of what we should come to expect from a network show. And it all started with a plane crash on a beach only a few miles from where I was sitting at that exact moment. Earlier this year, I had lost someone very close to me, and the last trip he took before he died was to this very place. I thought of him, and I thought of the show, and I knew there was going to be a huge celebration for the show's 10th anniversary the following year. Since I was in Hawaii in 2013, it was doubtful I was going to make it back for 2014. But that was OK. I watched the sun continuing its climb into the sky, and the early-morning swimmers coming out to the beach.
September 22, 2014
It's unseasonably cool here at home. I'm sitting in my office after having seen so many beautiful pictures from friends who are in Hawaii right now at the Lost 10th anniversary celebration. I'm thrilled that so many people had to go baaack to celebrate this wonderful show. And while it feels like Lost had its premiere date on September 22, 2004, and then I blinked, and now I'm sitting right here, I realize what a long journey it's been to get here. Ten years ago today I thought I'd retired from writing after my fifth book, I didn't have a clue what awaited me as a mother, and I thought no other TV creator was going to move me the way Joss Whedon did. In that 10 years, television has changed entirely for me. Aside from the shows I wrote about, I actually watched very little other television. Now I'm pumped for several premieres this week, and can't wait to see which ones stick. My daughter has reached double digits, and my son will be seven tomorrow. The two cats who curled up on either side of the chair when I watched the Lost premiere are both gone, but now we have two kittens, who are curled up in a box that's far too small for them, right near my desk. The job I'd had for seven years when the show premiered was the one I thought I'd die in, but I'm no longer at that office. I have dozens of people in my life now I didn't even know back then. A lot can happen in a decade, and Lost has been beside me the entire way. To everyone I've met because of Lost, thank you for being a part of my life. I have met people I never would have met because of Lost. I've read books I never would have read because of Lost. I've watched movies and other television shows I had no interest in before Lost. I'm a different person now, and a lot of that is due to a show about a bunch of people on a mysterious island, and the people on this mysterious ball of a planet that I met as a result.
And thus endeth my seemingly endless ruminations on Lost. It's really time to move on and let it go, and I think I'm finally able to. Besides, I've got to go and get working on my new Sherlock book. That thing ain't gonna write itself.