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Ghosts

The last several days, there’ve been a whole slew of people looking over my shoulder. I wrote a while back (in the Warp blog, which is where the less-Elfquesty thoughts go; check it out) about the travails of relocating the Warp Graphics office from its soon-to-be former location in town to the finallyrenovated basement of what we like to call “the cabin.” (For those of you keeping track, this was back in April. My foot is mostly healed, though I suspect it’s going to remind me noodgingly for months to come of what I did to it.)

Thing is, if you were here, you wouldn’t see any of these folks, for they are all ghosts – the spirits of Warp staffers past, if you’re feeling Dickensian. They mostly congregate at the old office, because that’s where they put in their time and effort. And now that things are changing in a big way, now that after a dozen years I’m moving out of our shared space, they’ve come calling in concert. Sometimes we have conversations, they and I, short little snippets of reminiscence. There’s Peggy and Mary Lou and Steve the Limey Brit and Dan Dan the Shipping Man; there’s Cat and Conrad and even (going waaay back) Deni and Mr. Mike and Joellyn; there’s Barry and Colin (or Angel, whichever he was at the moment) and Blevvo and the other Steve (Mr. Angry).

(That’s just the folks who, at one time or another in Warp’s history, actually came in and punched a time card. There’s a whole ‘nuther list of free-lancers making up their own spectral population, but they were never attached to the physical place, so they’re not too much in evidence. Some, but not a lot. What happened over time, and what’s happening now, in this particular space isn’t part of their context for being.)

Talks with one’s self – or with the ghosts of past relationships, who can say that it’s not the same thing – are easy when you’re making a big change, like a move from one place to another. The simple process of packing up stuff uncovers a myriad conversational touchstones. Every drawer in every desk is gone through, to see what’s worth keeping and what’s to be given or tossed away. Something as minuscule as the stub of a pencil can call back a memory that’s years old, yet still vivid. A push-pinned note, hidden behind half a dozen others on the bulletin board that has to come off the wall, can remind you of something that was supposed to have been done long ago, that never got done, that ultimately never mattered – yet at the time seemed so important. Reams of notes, meticulously taken and saved, chronicle the production of every comic, every book that we released… but do I really need to know that such-and-so printer called on a certain day, a dozen years ago? What to save, what to let go? I’m getting very close to the point where the walls will be as bare as the day I first looked at the space to be rented, so even the inanimate objects that adorned those walls for so long – bulletin boards, artwork, doodles stealthily added to the dry-erase note board, giant slide rules and flags flown to the moon – add their own whispers to the low chatter. And of course like falling dominoes, one memory leads to another and to another, and suddenly the clock indicates it’s an hour later and you still haven’t boxed up all those papers or books or whatever. Ghosts are good at taking up time…

…just as change is good for stirring up ghosts. Sometimes change is planned, sometimes it just shows up on your doorstep in the dead of night. It’s neither good nor bad; it just is. The trick to staying on course is in realizing that how you feel about change – and the ghosts and memories it stirs up – is entirely up to you. I am, or at times have been, a lot like Skywise. As a good example there’s a scene in Kings of the Broken Wheel in which he and Cutter are talking shortly after the death of Starjumper. Skywise says, “I don’t like things to end.” He’s comfortable knowing how things are, and that they will be tomorrow as they are today. But Cutter knows that change is the essence of life; it’s a part of “the Way” – change or die (or stagnate, which is in its own way a kind of death). At this place in the story, Skywise hasn’t yet realized that change is only a shift in direction, not an impenetrable barrier to living on. He hasn’t yet gotten to the settled place within where he understands that “endings” are simply changes that he’s put into fearsome garb. He’s still exploring. His story – indeed, the stories of all the Wolfriders – have quite a way to go. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’m riding the changes here. Very soon I’ll close and lock the old office door for the last time. An ending? Yes, but also a new beginning. Or maybe, in the best tradition of Hollywood thinking which combines both endings and beginnings, how about a sequel! (Oh all right, I’ll take off the Rolex and gold chains now.)

Shade and sweet fading to black, waiting for the next scene…

Richard Pini


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