I see that you are a Ph.D. student in English at the University of Florida. Are you planning on a career in academia or will the Ph.D. be used in a different fashion?
I do plan to become a teacher and researcher at the college level after completing my Ph.D. Whether that actually happens will depend a great deal on factors over which I have no control: the economy, job availability, etc. I'm not sure what I'd be happy doing with my degree if I can't get a job as a professor of literature. There are all kinds of other jobs for folks like me, but they all feel like the sort of crap I went to college to avoid. Literature is my passion. Teaching literature is also my passion. And I'm going to do it or live in my mother's basement until one of us kicks it.
That's a huge question! I'm likely going to leave a lot of people out in what follows, so you can ask me this question again in a year.
As a writer, I've been influenced a great deal by Tobias S. Buckell, Franz Kafka, Nalo Hopkinson, Philip K. Dick, Joanna Russ, Lauren Beukes, and Octavia Butler, just to name a few. Since most of what I write falls quite clearly within the realm of genre, it makes sense that my subject matter would be influenced by the types of people I like to read. And if not for all the World SF writers I've been reading the last few years, I don't think I'd have the guts to try my hand at writing stories from the perspectives of people who aren't like myself.
Style, however, is a different matter entirely. For that, you'd have to look to Thomas Pynchon, David Mitchell, Salman Rushdie, Brian Francis Slattery, and Kurt Vonnegut. There are others, of course, but these writers are directly responsible for making me reconsider how I construct sentences and narrative in fiction. I suspect if I get this weird novel of mine published, people will say it bears traces of all of the writers I've mentioned in this paragraph. Some of the work I've published thus far comes from my "early period," though; most of what I was reading (for fun) five or six years ago would probably have put me in that not-so-adventurous crowd. These days, it's an entirely different story.
Critical influences are a tad different. I don't think I've been directly influenced as a critic by any literary works, with exception perhaps to Philip K. Dick, who was the subject of an independent study I conducted as an undergraduate. Most of my critical influences come from theoretical arenas. Folks like Samuel R. Delany, Jacques Derrida, C.L.R. James, Homi Bhabha, Tom Moylan, Fredric Jameson, and many (many) others have all changed how I actually look at literary works, even when my only intention is to write a standard review. Entertainment value is rarely the main concern for me when I look at a work of literature, in part because any boob can write a book with exciting action. What matters to me are the things underneath the glossy finish. That's where the meat of the work rests, I think. Call me pretentious if you like...
- I've never been convinced that postmodernism actually exists in anything other than a socio-political or global capitalist form (i.e., Jameson, et. al.). For that reason, I really have a hard time describing just what postmodernism "is" in literary terms.
- When people talk about postmodernism, I'm not sure they know what postmodernism is either.
When I originally wrote my response to the previous question, I knew I would get a little flack for focusing so heavily on the West. That’s a legitimate problem in our discussions of postmodernism (“our” as in “academics” and “cultural theorists”). I don’t want to speak from a position of authority on other parts of the world, as I don’t know nearly enough about those places to say for certain how postmodernism in its Western form has affected them, or what postmodernist movements might look like in places like Brazil and so on. You could certainly argue without controversy that the West has had a profound influence on much of the world through globalization (one of the many components of postmodernism) and so on (colonization before that, too).
There's one thing social media has made possible for me on a personal level: the ability to maintain close friendships with people who live on the other side of the country. I currently live in Florida (meh), but some of my closest friends are in California. If not for Facebook, Skype, and so on, I don't think we'd have the same relationships we have now that I’ve skipped town for graduate school. It's also made it possible to keep in touch with family. I'm sure folks did just fine maintaining relationships and what not with little more than a telephone, but I grew up in the Age of the Internet, so the way I see the world isn't the same (just as all these freshman students of mine don't look at the world the same way I do because of 9/11 -- I still remember going through security in the airport without having a ticket).
As a professional, social media makes it a lot easier to network with other scholars (or writers) and to maintain a dialogue with fans, Internet friends, and so on. I feel like it's a lot easier to engage in my desired field now that we have all these tools at our disposal, though that's not always a good thing. The Internet has this uncanny ability to depress the hell out of me. Information disseminates so quickly and widely these days. If you follow politics as much as I do, you'll understand. It's just a sea of douchebaggery out there.
This question has actually been the hardest for me to answer. I've read a lot of visual narratives during the course of my academic studies, of course, and I even had a manga phase about six years ago. There are some exceptional works in the comic/graphic novel world, too, such as Art Spiegelman's Maus or even something like Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. But these are exceptions, as I think they're good regardless of one's opinion of visual narratives (though I could be wrong on that front).
So I thought I'd have a really clever explanation for their appeal, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what draws me to comics has less to do with some quality unique to the art form than some nostalgic longing for childhood. Most of what I'm reading right now is what you might call the standards: Marvel and DC superhero comics. Many of these comics are tied to things I was reading as a kid: X-Men and so on.