It will tell you something about how I’m feeling this morning (I think it’s allergies again, honest) that I spent considerable time looking at that title and trying to figure out how to make it more alliterative. Which can’t be done, or or at least not politely and without inventing new possessive pronouns, alas.
And yes, I do have far more weighty topics to write about. And a project that must be finished by Friday, and a load of “but I don’t wanna” that I don’t even want to talk about.
However I do feel this needed to be discussed. It really needed to be discussed. Because if not now, then when?
As you guys know I grew up in a society having a nervous breakdown. I estimate the nervous breakdown started when the king was deposed by people who were at best and kindest interpretation left-anarchists. This landed the country in bankruptcy and eventually ushered in national-socialism (note without a racial component. I’m getting tired of the left assuming any national socialism was the German variant. Look, the thing is despicable enough, like all socialism, without making it more so. In Portugal a racial component to any philosophy makes as much sense as in America. Or less. After all Hitler is said to have referred to Portugal as a mongrel nation. (Now that I’m American I far prefer mutt, but my 23andme seems to confirm I’m in no danger of racial or even ethnic purity.)) And when that fell in 74…. well. Yes, I know what the history books say. I also believe my lying eyes. It wavered back and forth at speed, various flavors of Marxism, which of course hated and excommunicated each other.
To survive, let alone thrive and do well in school, one had to be very alert to the social undercurrents of the movement that had the upper hand, or at least that had the upper hand in your group/school/region/at the moment.
Which helped when I came to the States, because I could read the…. substratum of social situations. I understood that though the President and SUPPOSEDLY the establishment were republican, the way to signal high social class, the way to be accepted in intellectual and arts circles, the way up in general was to signal left as hard as you could.
And it worked, even if felt awful.
In the same way, the way to signal “I want to write SF/F” was to signal left and “intellectual.”
I am for my sins capable of doing that, because I’m naturally interested in strange and geeky things, and I’m …. well….a geek. Always was. In saner times, and had I grown up in a saner country, I’d probably be an engineer.
BUT the signaling for “intellectual” was different, and heck, I knew enough about the left’s obsessions to do it too.
And then something broke. It started around 2003. Though it might have been a late-echo of 9/11 which had a profound effect on my ideas of the world.
2003, I’d written my Shakespeare trilogy and it had “failed” for values of fail that involve earning out a 10k advance a piece (keep in mind normal first timer advance back then was 5k, and is lower now) and getting taken out of print the day it earned out. And I didn’t want to write anymore of those. I had trilogy proposal out from before 9/11 which was in the same vein. “Literary” fantasy, if you wish.
But I wanted to write about– unexplored planets, strange species, daring men — and women — who are occasionally complete morons, but in believable ways. (More on this later.)
I can write literary. I enjoy reading (and writing) historical. But I couldn’t JUST do that, nothing else, forever.
I couldn’t get any agent to understand this. Most of them wanted me to do the prestige thing. They couldn’t understand why I wanted to write this weird stuff. Sure, it might sell, but there was no signaling (virtue or otherwise, in it — it was all “popular” shudder–.) In retrospect, the agent who took me then just lied, and decided to manage me by not submitting the “low” stuff and claiming she had. I mean, I sold DST on my own, and she tried to talk me out of it.
And then the proposal put out before 9/11 which not only required me to be literary but also to do a dance distorting my politics enough to pass (and it was totally cultural appropriation and couldn’t be published now, which tells you how far we’ve come.)
I think writing that broke me (part of the reason I haven’t reissued it.) It eventually led to my coming out of the political closet.
But there are more closets than one, and it’s not just politics.
The way to get ahead in the arts and writing, since forever is to sound erudite, to say the right things…..
Only that’s not who I am. I honestly doubt that’s what any of us are. We’re the odds, the goats, the people who stick out. Yes, our weirdness in general probably leads to our political weirdness, but we can’t just take things from on high and believe them. We have to go and LOOK with our lying eyes, and then…. believe those.
Yesterday I was talking to a friend of what I LIKE in science fiction. And I got all excited. Yes, Heinlein, of course, but more than that, I want to write….
A lot of you guys have read the Prince Roger series by Ringo and Weber. (If you haven’t, go look it, I’ll wait.)
The military aspects aren’t essential. The regency in space isn’t essential (though I have a few of those in the Schrodinger worlds) BUT the adventure, the exotic locales, the strange aliens, the…. adventure. I was telling her I wanted more books like that, and I was becoming convinced I’d have to write them, but it’s a bit like letting my freak flag fly.
And then it hit me: Why not?
Look, I’m 58. I don’t know how much longer we have, particularly with turmoil ahead and tech under attack. I’m fully indie. (In novels and shorts at least.) WHY shouldn’t I write what I want. Sure, it might not sell, but right now we don’t need that much. And weird things sell, anyway, like Austen fanfic.
So, why not just be who I am, drop the masks, live unapologetically?
And yes, I realize that’s not possible for a lot of you with your main job. I DO get that. I know how many of you are pseudonymous, under cover, and HAVE to be or starve.
But I bet there’s freak flags you can let fly besides politics.
You know how they say “Life is short, eat desert first?”
Well, life is in turmoil, and I’m battling a heck of a black elephant (I think it ate the black dog.) When it sits on me, nothing happens, either writing or anything else.
And I’m thinking: eating desert first is silly. I can’t risk the health issues. But…. you know what? I can write what I want, enjoy what I want, and not apologize if my tastes aren’t respectable or what “smart” people like.
<turns baneful eye on what “the best men/women” are up to.
You know what? I’ll be me. As hard as I can. I’ve run out of reasons not to do so.
And I know from when I came out of the political closet that deception twists the soul. So,forget it. I’m going to be me.
Hoists freak flag — it probably looks like several lol cats saluting the American flag, to be honest — grins and walks away to get work done.