It’s one of the great cliches of fantasy writing. Crossing from the light side to the dark side – when a character who had previously seemed like the paragon of righteousness has a sudden change of perspective and becomes instead a paragon of evil – the classic example being the fall of Anakin Skywalker to become Darth Vader in Star Wars. Or the alternative – crossing from the dark side to the light side – the classic example also from Star Wars when Darth Vader becomes, well…, good Darth Vader (and dead Darth Vader not long after that).
When I think about my own life, I can think of a number of similar transitions, although the context may be slightly different.
Way, way back at the dawn of time (or the time when I was at school, which is close enough), I was a numbers guy. Maths, maths, maths, that was totally my thing. I took all the maths subjects. I even did one I wasn’t actually qualified to do. Plus the science-y subjects, which of course rely quite heavily on maths. When I went to university, what do you think I studied? Maths, maths, maths – and a lot of science as well.
I can’t place exactly when the first transition occurred. Certainly, getting a job in the Arts faculty of a large university was part of it. Suddenly, I was working with words and ideas people, rather than science and numbers people. It must have been around the same time that I began to engage with the idea of being a writer, and even started to do some actual writing. At that point, numbers were out. I had totally crossed over to being a words person.
At the time, I referred to it as crossing over to the dark side.
I’ve largely remained on that side in the intervening years. I’ve moved right away from that science-y background as I’ve immersed myself in the world of writing and words. And I haven’t regretted it. This seems like my world. More and more, I came to think that rather than crossing from the light to the dark side, I’ve really crossed from the dark to the light side.
Until just a few month ago.
For the purposes of my job, I’ve started to work with maths people, and to engage in the world of numbers again.
It’s a bit of a shock to the system – at first. But as I’ve reconnected, I’ve began to refamiliarise myself with the basic concepts and calculations. It’s all come back to me so quickly. I feel like I’m putting on some old clothes I haven’t worn for ages, but whose fit is surprisingly comfortable.
When I first re-entered the world of maths, I again jokingly commented that I was crossing over to the dark side. But now I’m not so sure. I’ve crossed over so many times, I’ve lost track of which side is the light and which is the dark.
Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe each side is really just a shade of grey. Maybe I can move forward with one foot on each side. Mind you, I don’t see myself reverting to becoming a mathematician, and I definitely don’t want to abandon my writerly pursuits.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as