I’ve been sitting at this keyboard, staring at the blank screen and wondering what to blog about for over three hours. Okay, not three hours straight. I went to the kitchen, had breakfast and started a load of wash in the hopes of getting the mental cogs moving.
It’s not that I have nothing to say – of course I do. I was born with my tongue attached to the bottom of my mouth by a thin tendril of skin. It amuses me to think that in the US, at least today, there would have been a very concerned talk with my parents about my birth defect and a time would be set for surgery to free my tongue.
This was Portugal in 62, and I was born at home. When the midwife realized I was crying funny, she investigated and, finding that my tongue couldn’t move freely, she slashed through it with her scissors.
Needless to say I have no memory of any of this. I have freakishly early memories, but not that early. However, my mom said – often – when I was little that G-d knew what he was doing when he stopped my tongue and they shouldn’t have meddled.
All this to say that while I had a lot to talk about some of it is not appropriate to this blog. I have no intention of turning this into an outright political blog – though I do the occasional political post when things overflow – because my writing is not primarily political. If it were – just as if it were primarily religious – I would not hesitate to make this my political blog. However, except to the extent that beliefs bleed through to my writing, my writing is not political or religious, and this blog is – whether one likes it or not – my public face and therefore the face of my writing.
And while I also have a lot to talk about that’s not political, there too I find myself stymied because some of this involves other people and events in the business – things I am either not allowed to talk about; not sure of their veracity; or would embarrass someone who hasn’t driven me that crazy yet.
So, forgive me if I talk in general terms, please.
Lately it has been growing on me that the entire country (or at least the area around me, and I have a feeling about the more outlying regions) is headed for a crackup of epic proportions. And lest you think I mean civil war or worse, no. I mean psychological crackup. I’d have titled this “here it comes your 99th nervous breakdown.”
Perhaps I’m imagining most of the signs – people driving in TRULY absurd ways, more than usual; people doing loony stuff like get in an argument with cashiers in supermarkets over issues known only to their psychiatrist; some true pieces of lunacy both on my business side in contacts with various literary-involved people (more on that later); stuff people say, and the like. These things are not a matter of kind – things of this kind ALWAYS happen in a free society. One of the things the rest of the world laughs at is how odd America is, without realizing it is a conjunction of freedom and wealth that causes the “oddness.” What I’m complaining about is the frequency. I can’t go two steps outside the house without running into some spectacularly bizarre behavior, which normally would be the talk of the next month, but now seems to be happening everywhere twice a month.
I might be imagining it, since the State of The Sarah is bound up with publishing which is obviously a nexus of insanity otherwise publishers wouldn’t be trying to dictate how OTHER PUBLISHERS treat books the publisher didn’t buy. Other rumors that have reached one are of strange behavior and peevishness from both publishers and agents including some publishers demanding lead authors sign a clause to NEVER self-publish. (Which would be fine if the contract stipulated that you would get everything you write accepted by the publisher at minimum x payment. Of course, that is just not on.)
Another state of the Sarah – as in things that impact me closely enough to matter – I had to stop using the little office I’d rented after two months (though I technically still have it for one more month) because the building was virtually empty, save for a direct marketing company up in the front of the building. All the little businesses that were there when I rented disappeared one at a time.
I had expected it to an extent, but not that fast or that thoroughly. And the emtpy building wasn’t secure against vagrants. After an encounter with a feral one in the hallway, I couldn’t convince myself to go back there to work. I kept telling myself I was imagining things and was crazy, but when I told Dan he said not to be stupid and to listen to my feelings – and the truth is, when I don’t, in those circumstances, I get in serious trouble.
So I’m stressed – though not about to have a nervous breakdown, mind – and could be imagining things. Perhaps. Maybe.
But I’m not imagining four shootings in a month. I’m not imagining the fact most people I know are worried about jobs and/or money and that groceries are set to double again, and as the cold weather comes energy will get… funny. We’ll just say that.
Other people have compared living in the US today to the Weimar republic. There is that slightly frantic sense of pretending everything is normal or better than normal, while we all stand on the powder keg of a cacked economy. But in this case it is perhaps worse, because it is not just our country’s economy that is er… unstable… but the whole world’s. And we know it. We’re all tapdancing at the edge of abyss and even those who are only mildly are of geo-economic realities feel the unease, if they don’t know why.
I’ve been in these situations before, and I’ve heard about them. It has a feeling of holding your breath, a feeling of the calm before the storm. In this case the many storms.
Look, we’re being driven by a tumult of technological change. It’s going to make everything very unstable for a long time. Most of you know my opinion of how politics and bureaucrats are making the whole thing worse, so I won’t talk about it except to say that it should by now be obvious to anyone that 20th century ideas of “progress” and of history having a direction that these people know and can get behind are in fact poppycock. None of the political theorists in the world could have guessed where the internet would take us. Even after the journey started, even five years ago, even those of us who have our heads in publishing, would find it hard to believe how it’s hit publishing and how fast.
They can’t guide us to the future. They don’t know the future anymore than we do. All they can do is protect our very basic liberties. Trying to tailor anything more complex is like what the publishers are doing to publishing. It won’t help, and it might hurt.
The fourteenth century is a byword for awfulness, but part of it was that things were getting better. There was tech innovation and increased population and more food. BUT all this was changing too fast, and human societies can’t change fast without fractures and war and confusion and psychological cracking.
It’s still better than no innovation. And it’s usually better on the other side.
The storm is bearing down on us.
Things are going to get crazier before they settle, but they will settle. Look to you, your friends, and those who can’t look after themselves. Work. Push in the direction you want things to go. The only way out of the period of uncertainty and insanity is through the period of uncertainty and insanity.
All around us, people might be headed for their 99th nervous breakdown. But we’ll be all right. Writers and readers and story people have means of escape. We’ll get through.
None of us asked to live in interesting times, but they are interesting, and we are part of them.
In publishing, in life, in work – let’s make them good.