I’ve mentioned how my television viewing has waned, but I’ve noticed another trend: a lot of what I’m watching now is non-fiction. Most of what’s on my DVR is documentaries. Some of them are work-related, tied to a book I’m writing, plan to write, or might write something along those lines someday. I have a couple of documentaries about being a ballet dancer saved that I’ll watch/re-watch before I work on the next Fairy Tale book. I’ve saved a documentary on the Dust Bowl that’s part of the worldbuilding for a book I have in mind. But then there was a series on the art of the gothic in the Victorian era and how the Gothic Revival was about the reaction to industrialization that I recorded more than a year ago because it looked interesting, and it turned out to be the basis for my worldbuilding in the book I’m working on now that wasn’t even a gleam in my eye at the time I recorded it.
My recent viewing seems to have been focused on World War I, with a three-part American Experience documentary that was really eye-opening. I knew some about that war, but there were a lot of things that weren’t really covered in school, like how the politics worked, both in Europe to set it off and in the US to decide how/when we would get involved. Then there were the things going on in the country at that time, like some really virulent racism and an extreme curtailment on civil liberties. There was also a film related to the war, done in dance, but I wasn’t that impressed by it. The choreography was kind of blah, that contemporary pseudo-ballet that mostly involves a lot of writhing on the floor and making pained expressions.
I also finally got around to watching an Independent Lens piece from a few months ago about the tower shooting at UT. Having gone to the University of Texas, I was pretty familiar with the incident. The bullet holes are still there on the buildings and statues, and I had a habit of looking for the ones I knew about as I walked around campus. They became like landmarks for me. This film portrays the incident in a rotoscope animation, with voiceovers by the people being depicted. That made it very intense and personal, and the shock was seeing some of my familiar bullet holes being made. I’d planned to watch it so I could delete it, but I’m going to have to watch it again to take notes because it was an excellent study on people under stress — the victims, the heroes, and the bystanders. They really got into the physical and emotional sensations and their thought processes, and it’s the kind of stuff that I think I could use for characters to make their reactions more authentic.
The other thing I found a little shocking was just how familiar that version of the university and the area around it was to me — a lot more familiar than my more recent visits. Then I realized that there was less time between that incident and my time at the university than there has been between the time I graduated and now. This film was made in commemoration of the 50th anniversary, and I made my pre-registration visit to do some paperwork, set up a local bank account, and generally scope things out on campus on the day of the 20th anniversary (I got to watch a lot of national news crews at work on campus). The explosive growth of Austin didn’t start happening until late in my time there, so the campus and the area around it hadn’t changed that much between the time depicted in the film and my time there, but a lot has changed since then. It made me feel very old and weirdly nostalgic. I don’t even really like going around the campus now because too much around it has changed.
Meanwhile, a couple of weeks ago it must have been “programming for fantasy writers” day on the National Geographic channel because there was a documentary on finding the “real” Atlantis and one on Stonehenge.
And on the fictional side of programming, with the season finale of The Magicians, there’s even less TV to watch. So maybe I’ll get this book done. And then another.