A few years ago I scored my first professional sale to a respected science fiction publication. This came after years of writing, submitting, giving up and starting over. It came after nearly five decades of reading and viewing the world through the eyes of visionary thinkers, many of whom encouraged me, through the audacity of their thinking and expression to sidestep trends and conventions, reach my own conclusions and write in my own unique voice.
That wonderful, validating success inspired me to dig in, get serious, work hard. Sacrifice to make time for writing instead of fixing stuff around the house or taking that much needed second job or pursuing the fine art in which I’d earned my degree. I stole time from my employer to scribble notes and outline plots. I wrote a novel. I self-published a collection of short stories. I have tormented editors no end with stories ranging from really, really good to embarrassing.
But I can’t get arrested. By any reasonable estimation I am a failure as a science fiction writer. Any idea of joining my betters and mentors has been convincingly put in its place and today I am glad.
If the recent dust-up over the Hugo awards teaches us anything it’s that there truly are no gods among us partisan mortals. Sides matter more than hard work, talent or the interests of readers. The accomplishment of fine writing just can’t compare with the rush of a pithy Facebook post reinforcing allegiance to one mob or the other. I know it gets more consequential than that but as a failure I have the luxury of only looking as deeply as I choose.
For the record I am squarely on one side of this thing and not the other. But more than that I’m tired of the sides or rather the scorched earth intensity of self-important puritans and their social media droogs. Those of you who are fighting for your territory, insisting those of us out here in reader land declare for or against and those among you who are happy to put on the gang colors and beat the hell out of anybody trespassing in your crumbling literary ghetto rather than rehabilitating the neighborhood.
Shame on you. You get to write stuff and sell it. People actually read what you write. They care about what you think and are moved by what you express but in true, privileged First World fashion you regard your artistic prosperity as nothing but a pile of debris to stand on so your pissing and moaning can be heard above all the other hard-working successes in the field.
Someone once pointed out that conflicts in academia are so furious because there is so little at stake. How much more so in the arts? So thanks for the lesson in perspective, Puppies and Warriors. I have no sage advice about how to get along or triumph over your enemies or fix what you think is broken. If you can’t see that you’re all drinking from the same spring in the oasis surrounded by the desert of the mundane world then I don’t know what to tell you.
And don’t worry about us out here in reader land. We’ll get by.