‘Word is to the kitchen gone
And word is to the hall,
And word is up to Madam the Queen
And that’s the worst of all,
That Mary Hamilton’s borne a babe to the highest Stuart of all’ (traditional folk song)
Now of all the things to have running through my head as an accompaniment to the delicate yowls and growls of a chainsaw biting and chewing She-oak, this song was not exactly a first guess… what made the mental connections trigger my remembering a song I haven’t heard for thirty years? Minds, memories, particularly mine are odd like that. I have a large anti-computer in my head, useful for turning vast amounts of information into garbage. It’s as good a reason for being a professional writer as any I’ve heard, and lot less pretentious than some. I have been listening to a number of my peers discussing donating their papers to various museums and curators, and the superiority of paper to electrons for permanency (I haven’t had the heart to mention the need for acid-free paper etc.) Huh. Mine will be collector’s pieces too. Sooner than theirs, in fact. The garbage truck comes around on Thursday. Perhaps I am just not as important, or as fashionably PC. I’m certainly no worse as a writer, and I am sure long before my bones are gone to clay, all memory of my writing will be.
And honestly I couldn’t care less. I don’t write for literary posterity. Huh. What has posterity done for me in the past, that I should want to help her out in the future? Anyway, she’s a fickle bitch. What endures even for a while is basically never what the present thinks will. Today’s social norms and perceptions of the future – or past (via fantasy) will mean little to folk in 70 years, let alone 200. Language too evolves (not always for the better – who said evolution was always ‘better’?) and unless someone ‘translates’ their deathless prose, it’ll be hard to comprehend soon enough, even if it was easy with the cues of current mores, settings and fashions. I suspect part of this SJW hero daydreams… but well, unless you were something totally different and exceptional (and probably outcast right now) all that prose will be… is yet another indistinguishable clone of the current more – of which there so, so, so many. Rather like the Mary of the song… it’s damned hard to push against the tide. It’s easier to go along with the mores of the time (and the Queen’s/Duchess etc. Ladies in waiting had a long history of not saying ‘no’ to their Sovereign Liege. It was probably not wise or easy to do so, even if you wanted to. And Queens etc varied in their tolerance, just as the Nobles varied in their generosity – my own ancestors have not one but two royal bastard daughters married off into the family (along with money and Royal favor to provide for them. Long gone now, alas.). The more I read of it, the more it seemed like that was pretty much an occupational hazard… but didn’t stop it being a very sought-after position (Not that kind of position, Kate!). That was the norm then. The only writing by one these high-born women that’d make it along to posterity would be one that didn’t just do what all their ‘sisters’ did. And who wrote exceptionally well, and probably meddled in politics well too.
Mind you: not everything changes. I thought how the power structure – and gossip channels – still resemble this so much in our modern world. If word – in modern Climate Science – reaches Madam the Queen (or their equivalent) of you doing/saying something naughty, like poor old Professor Bengtsson – you will be target. Likewise in SF circles it seems if you deign to have little Hugo Nom that isn’t ‘legitimate’ – ergo the offspring of one the officially sanctioned Queens… they’ll demand your head. On that topic I see to my wry amusement that for three of the Hugo Noms (for’ policy reasons’) they’ll only make pieces available. That’s okay surely? I mean you wouldn’t expect the voters to actually read the nom in its entirety to decide who to vote for? Next thing some silly sausage will say that voters ought to judge the book on how good it is (which I always do by reading a fraction of it, don’t you?) or that they should pay their publisher for the ‘privilege’ of making that decision. Good one, Orbit. Authors in traditional publishing would struggle to put the blame for this decision where it belongs because you might never work that town again… it’s another reason to be independent, if you can. At least your bad decisions are your own.
Anyway, the little children of my imagination are not via the sanctioned Queens, and I put them in tiny boats, and cast them out to sea, to sink or swim… but I hope they come back to me. I write for now. For readers. If I have a legacy in my words… it’ll be written in the memories and possibly genes of people I made feel a bit better about life, themselves and the world. Hey, we all need ambition. It’s that and money. Not only is the money the most sincere flattery a writer will ever get, but it buys the basic necessities that the land here doesn’t give, like coffee and chocolate.