I’m not a happy warrior. Some people are. My friend Larry Correia, for instance. I’m relentless and non-stop, but I’d much rather avoid conflict altogether.
This is not because I don’t have the courage of my convictions, but because I feel sorry for most people on the other side, whether what we’re talking about is writing, technological change (in writing and education and myriad other things) or politics.
I can see being them, with very little change in circumstances.
Take writing, for instance. Until Kris Rusch opened the door of the jail cell I was where they were, but more so… Or perhaps less. I’m not even sure where the fact that my income had been a good supplement but never enough to make a living puts me in relation to people who had been receiving lavish advances and living from them, as most of the inner circle of what remains of SF have. Yes, I have friends caught in that position (most of the people concerned in the SFWA kerfuffle are aquaintances, sometimes friendly, but not friends) where the writing income dropped precipitously. But my friends are resourceful, smart people and are getting into other avenues and widening the feed on their streams of income. I.e. instead of being scared, they’re active and busy.
But until Kris Rusch opened the jail cell I was sitting here thinking “Well, hell. If no one but small presses will take me” (look, it was an agent-induced perception. Let it go.) “And all the presses are slashing advances in half… I might as well quit now.” Three years ago, I actually told my husband I thought I was going to quit and spend six months familiarizing myself with translation.
I want to emphasize that what I’m doing with indie is still not paying more than about a novel and not from Baen, (about half a novel from Baen) and that once I’m done with covers, editing, etc for the stuff I’m bringing out, it will be gone (mostly because I’m buying 1k of ISBNs and maybe 2k if I put stuff up fast.) So it’s not like I have guarantees that it will be an income, if my stuff from Baen stops selling and I have to go it on my own. (Right now, strictly indie, not advance purchase for the novels on installments or donations to the blog, it covers about “a normal electricity bill in summer.” That’s it. Granted this is the slump of summer, and I’m hoping as I get more up it will cover heating in winter. It’s a stage indie income goes through. That’s where we are.
I’m used to no guarantees. Look, at 22 I took up my roots, everything I knew and everything I was – and you truly can’t get this unless you are a girl raised in a Latin country – and came across the ocean to live with a man my parents didn’t approve of, among people they’d never met. Furthermore, I gave up the security of my degree, which I’d taken precisely because it guaranteed me employment. (Having seen my brother and older cousins finish STEM degrees and cool their heels for six to ten years before someone who knew someone got them their first break, I decided I’d take a degree which – failing the high road of translation for and/or the diplomatic service [which oddly, I had a very good chance of getting/was being groomed for had I stayed] or a teaching post at college [which I was tactically offered, should I stay] – offered guaranteed employment as a highschool teacher, with three months off in summer, and two sets of two weeks vacation and a middle-class salary. (Now teachers have other requirements in Portugal, but not at the time.) Here my degree meant nothing, and finding a job as a translator is like finding a job as a writer: someone has to give you a break, and you have to fight each step up. If I’d stuck with translation – and I want to point out even when I came here that’s ALL I expected. I never expected writing to be more than a hobby until my love pointed out that if that’s what I wanted I should go for it, and he’d support me while I tried – I’d probably be making more than I am (I can/could do scientific translation from four languages and that’s OBSCENELY well paid. Free lance, twenty one years ago, it paid $70 a page, and numbers counted towards “page” even though often the page was mostly numbers I just copied over.) On the other hand I’d be about where I am, career wise: solid, but nowhere near the top of the pile.
Anyway, I abandoned all guarantees, all expectations, all my visions of the future once.
It’s sort of like being in an accident. It’s terrifying the first time, less so the second, and I have friends who routinely get cut out of cars and don’t seem to care. (I don’t advise getting to that state.)
It’s a very different mind set than most people – and frankly one I’d never have navigated had I not already been divided by being brought up in Heinlein books and therefore not have fit in in Portugal. Most people like a predictable future and the rewards of that which they worked toward.
Writers, right now, at all levels, are being denied that certainty. Hence the rip and scratch. The Titanic has sunk, there are insufficient boats and we (they – I am blissfully floating away on a raft made of whiskey crates. Crazy but effective) are fighting for a spot atop the grand piano with the certainty that if you get too many people on it, it will sink.
That is all you need to know about the psychodrama between Sci Fi writers. I haven’t been around that long but I’m given to understand the field is PARTICULARLY prone to it, having had major seismic rifts over WWII and Vietnam as well as every change along the way. I know at cons I met people who hadn’t talked to each other for years over something one of them had said thirty years ago.
If it were only that, it could be let go, but this is happening in every group, every fandom, every casual association I belong to. People go off on weird tangents and then start ripping up at each other.
And then there’s politics. I don’t know if anyone actually believes the course we’re on, economically, socially, internationally, is sustainable. I don’t believe it, but then I’m a little more clued in about history and economics than others (though many on this blog leave me in the dust, since my research tends to be in terms of “How do I fake someone living in this era” which doesn’t exactly lend itself to macro-movements.) It’s truly astounding how many people think the closed-pie Marxism they were taught in school is economics, and who will therefore bow their heads and accept being poorer so “others can be richer” – and how long it will take them to get that they were lied to is a guess.
I suspect however there’s a lot more awareness than people would admit to, otherwise we wouldn’t go from zero to shouted swearwords in ten seconds, when you’re just expounding facts, or even your opinion (like my I Am Spartacus post, which seems to have got needles under a lot of people’s nails.)
I think at some level, almost every one of us is aware that we’re carrying on a party on top very thin ice, and we’re all listening for the crack.
The difference is, some of us have hope for the future, hope of a contact with reality that will bring us into a more aligned state with it (almost anything is.) Something that will stop the crazy “but I want a pony because France has a pony and France says his pony never poops, so you don’t need to worry about that.”
But they… they see the system they want, the system for which many of them have given their whole lives in work and devotion, crumble and reveal itself as a farce and a form of feudalism. They might say they don’t believe it, but the bankruptcies, the cracks in Europe are registering. Otherwise they wouldn’t shout so loudly, and they wouldn’t go from zero to screaming obscenities.
Mind you, most of us here – and elsewhere – are aware that we’re going to eat a lot of dirt on the way to rebuilding the American Republic. But we think that’s possible, if not probable. It’s something to work toward.
On the other hand, if you’re a collectivist, and you believe in the entire world singing Kumbaya, the last dozen years have administered a series of shocks to the system. There have to be doubts and questions deep in your heart, which makes you shout all the louder.
A friend of mine told me that before the 2004 election “the louder they shout the less secure they are.” Only this isn’t an electoral context. This is life. And at some level they know it.
So, where does that leave me?
It leaves me where I am. I hate arguing. I hate arguing with people I like in other respects.
But the hour is late and the journey perilous. I can’t in conscience stay quiet while we print the country into financial oblivion. I can’t remain quiet when we practically invite enemies to strike us. I can’t remain quiet while our liberties are torn apart.
In my ideal world, I’m living in a Victorian by the sea. (In Colorado? You say. Shut up wretches, this is my ideal world, okay?) and I have this little tower where I write, and no matter if my villains or heroes are male or female, straight or gay, white or purple with yellow pokadots, no one comes to call me names. In my ideal world, this blog is about what the squirrels did in the night, and recipes, and how to clean your house, and my cute, cute cats.
… This is not my ideal world. In all the rifts going on around us, I respect (and sometimes love) people on the other side. I can see how they got there. They either can’t or they ignore this. They project ignoble motives onto me and mine. And they pursue a fantasist course towards a paradise that can’t exist.
The past has shown a tendency for people in that unenviable position to amass a pile of corpses of those who oppose them, before the would-be-paradise collapses.
I will not go quietly into that good night, and so I talk.
I talk though I’d much rather stay quiet and not engage in conflict. I talk, though it will cost me friends.
It’s not easy. At heart all I want to do is write stories. This will never be a full-fledged politics blog, because that’s all I really want to do.
But we’re put into a time and a place. And sometimes it’s necessary to talk – even when it gets us called names by people who should know better. Even when it’s unpleasant.
Perhaps after it all settles, I can sit around writing stories and ignoring the world. Perhaps this will go by without a horrible implosion.
Perhaps. Let’s hope so.
But right here, right now, and though it pains me to say so, sometimes I have to talk. Night is falling and every position is thrown into stark relief, and the ice beneath us is cracking loudly.
Perhaps if we stop dancing and make for the banks fast, something will be saved. And perhaps there is a convenient whiskey crate some can row ashore.
But continuing dancing would be betrayal. Of me, of you, and even of those who think the dance can go on forever.
Should someone else be doing it? Undoubtedly. I’m just a bum writer who only wants to write. But somehow I find myself here, and I have this small and defective megaphone.
And we must each use what we can to light the idea of a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — regardless of race, credo or gender. Against the night that falls.