I heard about this anthology through the twitter accounts of the hosts of Writing Excuses, a podcast I’ve mentioned before on the Warbler, of which I’m rather fond. You’ll notice on that image of the cover that it was edited by none other than Brandon Sanderson, whose novels I’ve reviewed before, a few times. The anthology features the work of some 30 authors, alongside essays detailing their personal experiences relating to mental illness. I suppose that’s how I should have started this review. Altered Perceptions was compiled as a fundraiser, to help author Robison Wells out of a financial hole caused by four debilitating mental illnesses. Authors clamored for the opportunity to partake in this campaign, which ran on Indiegogo and raised over $120,000 toward the cause.
I hadn’t heard of almost all of the writers from this anthology, and truth be told, I probably won’t be buying many of their books. The fact of the matter remains that I appreciate their participation in this effort, most especially in regards to the telling of their own stories. Not all of the authors have mental illnesses, but the resounding message is that everyone encounters mental illness in their lives, and the way we deal with it speaks volumes about stigmas against mental illness, as well as the staggering prevalence of illnesses among us. This resonated with me with particular strength, as I’ve been feeling like seeking some psychiatric help over these last few months. It will be my first time in such an environment, but I think — no, I know — that it’ll do wonders toward helping me stabilize. That I can comfortably type that last sentence is testament to the inspirational power of the accounts written in Altered Perceptions. Major kudos to everyone involved, and I hope that more projects of a similar nature are planned and released regularly.
As to the fiction, there were a number of stories that stood out as exemplary, and some others that didn’t quite tickle my fancy, but (and I know it’s cliché at this point,) my favorite reading from the anthology was Brandon Sanderson’s entry. He submitted several chapters from an early draft of The Way of Kings, which demonstrated just how far he’s come as an author since he made the decision that he was going to make the whole “writing” thing work out for him as a career. Most interesting is that he describes having written the main character (who at the time wasn’t named Kaladin,) as too much of a flawless being. A hero figure without anything interesting going on in there. In the final version of The Way of Kings, Kaladin struggles with depression, though it’s never explicitly described as such. It makes him feel so much more real, so much more vibrant, and apparently completely shifted the trajectory of the plot. I, for one, am grateful that the book ended up the way it did.
Next week I’ll review Brandon’s recent novella, Legion: Skin Deep. Reading his most recent works right after reading some of his first work was an excellent experience for me, especially as I look over my fiction and deem it unworthy for human consumption. I have to remind myself that it’s a process, it’s a muscle that needs exercise, and the “muse” won’t help me build my chops. Only discipline and dedication can do that. Seeing how far a prolific writer like Brandon Sanderson came in a (relatively) short time gives me confidence. I’ll do it too. Maybe you don’t want to read the anthology, but donating to a good cause isn’t such a bad thing.