Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz,
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends…
Ahem. I’ve spent a good few hours today, swanning about in the Mercedes Benz, looking down on the pheasants (We don’t have peasants around here. I had to make do with pheasants. One adapts to circumstances.) from my lofty place in the world, through the windscreen of the Mercedes Benz (just repeating that, in case you didn’t get the first time). I’d like to set something straight though. I have had lots of help from my friends.
Yes, the world is different from inside a Mercedes Benz. More… Lofty. And the feeling of power in one’s field is most delightful. I revel the thought of crushing some of the clods that have annoyed me. They are mud beneath my treads. I won’t let myself get bogged down in that though. I’ve still got a long row to hoe, so to speak.
Still, people don’t drive Porsches in my field much. Oh yes, there are a few successful writers out there who could afford them, and I’m sure that New York Editors, Publishers, and even the distributors are in utter penury to give the poor old working writer a better deal, or they could. I hear Jeff Bezos leads by example at Amazon, going to the back of the queue of his executives at the soup kitchen… heh. I suppose you’ll say ‘those are not your friends, Monkey.’ And you’d be right. It’s business, at least as far as I am concerned.
Which of course is why you should be surprised about me swanking about the Mercedes. Well, you know, quality will out. And there is nothing like a Mercedes to tell people you’ve made it, you’re great.
Mind you it would have been some fun to drive over a few Porsches, after they got bogged down in my field. Porsches, generally, don’t do that kind of mud. I have 32 gears, 4 wheel drive, and diff-lock, and bigger wheels than most Porsches. This Mercedes Benz was built for mud…
And yes, it is a Mercedes Benz – an MB Trac 440 of some vintage, and lots of rust. The mud inside the cab was growing moss. It still is a Mercedes Benz. It’s just also a tractor with four large wheels and a lot of height. And, yes it is out, standing in my field right now. Mercedes IIRC took over the company that made Unimogs –and built a tractor on the same technology. It actually belongs to one of those good friends who has given me a lot of help, and I’m using it on the little farm we bought. Without peasants, a tractor does a great deal of the work we need to get done.
So why did I write this, besides for my – and hopefully your – amusement? This is after all a writing blog, not an agricultural one, despite the level of bullsh!t you get out of me. You see, one of the problems I see in modern writing – particularly the kind favored by the modern literary wing of sf and likely to be awarded a Chavez or three, is that they’ve forgotten ‘show don’t tell’ – Which is why you end up with boring social justice sermons, which are as subtle as a brick, and about as much fun as one thrown through your front window.
I’m an odd individual for the anti-traditional publishing establishment side of the writing world, in that many of my books are about social issues. That’s normally the other side’s bragging point and raison d’etre. Mine, admittedly, are NOT fashionable or popular or politically correct ones, and I don’t lecture on the rightness of any of them, but leave the reader to make up their own mind, if they notice or care. It would be fair to say it’s a fairly major part of everything I’ve written. (For example RATS, BATS & VATS is about a clash of Fabian Socialism, Communism, hierarchical crony capitalism, and about what actually defines ‘human’, for a start. Yet I have never had a soul comment on this. They all say ‘funny’ – which suits me down to the ground.)
To the contrary to the literary establishment I find this an irrelevant and personal choice. I am quite outspoken about the idea that books need to be fun, entertaining to read, and that ‘social justice’ is an un-necessary addendum. I’ve nothing against it being there, just as I have nothing against some people writing turgid PC sermons. I am sure there are people who want that. It’s a numbers game, however. Despite the fact that New York’s Liberal Arts literary and publishing elite think it is what people ought to read, it sells badly: If you don’t chase populist reading tastes, then there is no money left for idealism.
Which is why idealism, or, if you like ‘Social Justice’ issues, if you’re going to write it and sell to lots of eager willing customers… either needs to sell to a large audience who wants sermons (which is pretty pointless evangelism of an issue or cause) OR need to masquerade as other things. (And this, BTW is not confined to the left. Writers of other political leanings do, or want to do, this too.) A tractor as a Mercedes Benz for example. This quite a lot of writers get. The problem is they don’t get that the tractor actually needs to BE a Mercedes Benz to do this successfully. The old tractor is old, it’s a tractor, but by Heavens, it is quality. And everything I said about it was true – and in the process I said a great deal more, mocked a lot of things and I amused my readers.
Plough a straight furrow, not a furrowed brow.