Blame this on the head cold I’m almost over (truly) and the mild fever that accompanied it. Blame it on the change of weather, that had me getting up in the middle of the night to close windows that had, sudden and inexplicably, become openings to the arctic.
Blame it on my dad giving me all the books of legends of the region that he could gather on short notice. Yes, I also got books on the history of the City of Porto and surroundings, but when it comes to Fantasy it is easiest to dip into the legends. And these legends are full of changing times and changing circumstances, of the tumultuous succession of Romans and Swabians, Moors and Christian crusaders, absolutist and parliamentary monarchists, republicans, French invaders and British liberators.
Most of the legends are just that, legends, though I suspect a lot of what the guys writing these books ignored is that that type of popular memory might be wrong in the particulars (So it wasn’t that particular Caliph, but something happened here, perhaps a hundred years before or since. I know from my own experience it’s very easy to confuse stories your grandmother told you for things that happened in her life time and that you find, once you look into it, had to have happened in the time of her grandmother’s grandmother, and which she told me as had been told to her. — Confusing how many grandmothers ago is particularly easy since her introduction was always “My grandmother told me that once upon a time, this street–“) but is often right in the details, particularly when various local legends chain on each other to form a coherent whole. (A Moorish defeat in one place, leading to a Moorish route passing through the next village, leading to–)
Anyway, legends seem to cluster around times of great change, times in which lots of things were happening, times of turmoil and movement. As did, I’ll admit, my grandmother’s stories. Humans seem to have an innate predilection for stories in which stuff happens. (I know. It’s astounding, right? It’s almost like there’s a difference between stories and sermons.)
My favorite — I’ve been crashing early, but having trouble sleeping, so chain-reading these little one to two page stories, until I physically can’t hold the book up — was the story of Wellington taking the city of Porto and eating the lunch originally cooked for Soult. While Soult wasn’t waiting around to eat it, and had prepared to leave the city in the morning, it is easy to believe the servants of the house he was occupying went around preparing lunch, as they would have done, anyway. And of course Wellington would have eaten it, and probably toasted his victory, as befits the gallant spirit of the age where being seen to do something with flare was even better than “just” doing it.
Then this morning, I woke up and caught up with Mad Genius Club, where Dave Freer has written a post about the changing state of our field. (Last Monday.) Changing Spots.
In it he notes many things I have myself realized, including that it’s d*mn hard to plan for the future in this time of turmoil we’re entering.
And it’s not just in publishing, of course. If it were just in publishing it would be easy. One could after all fall back on the rest of the “stable world.”
It’s not just in publishing.
It’s everywhere we look, and part of this is that we’re in the middle of one of those macro conceptual changes the human race goes through now and then. You know, nomadic to agriculture, agriculture to cottage industry trade/cottage industry-trade to industrial/ industrial to mass production/mass production to personal-individual-small scale.
All of those are accompanied by equivalent turmoil: political, scientific (as the conceptual change spreads), territorial.
All of them.
So, things to remember:
-It is only beginning. Someone on Facebook said we’re living through the period of history summarized under “causes leading to” before the map gets all arrowy and scary. And they’re not wrong. What I have a feeling though, is that we’re living through “Factors contributing to” the “causes leading to.”
Things are still working themselves out, and the economic fall out of what seemed like the relatively simple innovation of instant communication around the world and portability of data hasn’t fully worked itself through yet. When will it work itself through? When you see land in “states with no jobs” pick up on sales. You’ll know we’re halfway through the transformation when pay scales start to balance between KS and NYC. (Not quite. Very large cities will always have a pull of their own. It’s the mid range cities that will balance and empty. But you know what I mean.) You’ll now we’re almost done when telecommuting is the ASSUMPTION for any job that can be done this way. I don’t expect it in my lifetime.
-The very beginning is enough for craziness and dislocation, war and rumors of war. Trust me. So, we’re living through that.
-The Future won’t look anything like those people who think history comes with an arrow think it will look. It also won’t look like the dreams of those who wish to hurtle back intot he beginning of the 20th century. (No, seriously. They’re the romantics of the present day, wearing their retro chic opinions like people who built “ruins” on their estates.) It’s an hysterical reaction of scared children in either case.
-It is entirely possible that the future won’t look like anything any of us CAN conceptualize. Start working through the consequences of a truly decentralized, not-space-attached workforce. Real estate? Dating? Family structure? Education? If you really think it through it will make your head spin, particularly as you get into the consequences of the consequences.
So, what to do? Try not to get too excited. Stay flexible. Be able and ready to jump. Don’t try to define the present based on the past: it’s likely not to work too well.
In practical terms: take care of yourself. Make connections. Teach your children well. Don’t let yourself be gaslighted. Learn. The more options you have the better. And stay awake. Falling asleep is to fall behind and lose touch with what’s happening.
Most of all don’t give up. There is a good chance the future will be better than the past (though some disgusting interludes do occur.) and if we don’t live to see it, other humans will.
May you thrive in interesting times.