The long view



Because David Gerrold was as good at predicting the imminent doom of my career as everything else he does, I’m busy planting the orchard on the little farm we’ve bought since that prediction. Just in case that doom finally arrives at the right address and gets delivered I want trees. I don’t understand it – Australia Post is actually remarkably reliable. You’d think they could manage a bit of doom. Mind you it’s not just Australia post. The US postal service seems to have failed him on Larry Correia’s doom. All it seems to have done is make us buy real estate. Is that what the Puppy-Kickers meant by ‘I hope they buy the farm’?

Anyway, if it all does go pear-shaped, I’ll have the pears to match. Well, I’ll have pears, apples, figs, grapes, cherries, peaches, nectarines, grapefruit, lemons, apricots and advocado pears (fruit-trees for the farm are what I asked for as birthday presents, and got)… not to mention the Banana Passionfruit. Er…

orchard planting 010

Well I’ll hopefully have them in a few years’ time. With the Chestnut trees, I should be long dead before they get up to full production. I’ve spent most of my adult life planting trees, especially fruit trees, that I have known I was going to leave behind. I’d like to have to enjoyed them, and others may chop them down – but I usually manage the long view. Someone needs to plant for the future.

We’ll probably have the banana passionfruit earlier.

I’ve nurtured it and several plants through several years in pots, waiting for enough of this kind of doom to allow us to buy our own place. It’s taken some vision, a lot of faith in my ability to write books popular enough to sell, to ride the storms of the industry. It’s part of the long view.

An orchard – pretty much like a novel, or a career as writer, really requires (for most of us, anyway) the long view. I suppose if you were rich enough, there are short-cuts – short cuts based on someone else’s long view, because you might be able to have fully grown trees delivered, someone had to grow them. But the real answer is that it’s something that rarely happens (or happens well, anyway) by accident and almost never fast. And it’s not just ‘plant it and forget it, and come back in 10 years’ either. You have to prep the ground, plant the right things in the right place, nurture, prune, water, AND exercise patience. Here you have to keep the wildlife from demolishing your plants, let alone your fruit. You can make a horse’s butt out of it and still do well, or get something at least. With the best laid plans, and hard work, it can all still go wrong, of course. The best chance, however, comes from the most effort, the most foresight, and the longest vision.

Which has a lot in common with writing (and possibly life). Look, our industry is in strife because it lacks the long view. You have editors buying the equivalent of tropical fruit to try and grow in Nebraska – because they happen to like tropical fruit. You have authors given no support (the equivalent of tossing an apple core in and hoping for a tree.) You have poor quality pruning (editing) and little or no watering (money). And of course there are vermin trying to destroy authors for little more than petty spite. There’s a lot of very short term thinking – the ten year view, let alone the hundred year view is not a feature that I have noticed. That’s what separates humans from most of the animals – we don’t need instincts to prepare for winter, we can figure it out. Inevitably, of course, some alarmists have to capitalize on this ability! And some sheep follow them.

Still, for most of us that long view is both what sustains us and saves us.

It’s been, to the day, 19 years since my first book was bought – probably the biggest birthday present I’ve ever had.

The long view back is quite different. It will be with your book too.

Cheers. I am off to drink a glass of wine and have special dinner.



  1. Oy – I live in Iowa, and if you plant by the river (they like wet feet and dry ankles), you can still get Pawpaws, which aren’t far from tropical fruit. But you have to exercise extreme patience, as they won’t establish as the first trees, prefer shade, need well-drained, well-prepared soil, and aren’t custard apples. 😉

    And Happy Birthday to the book!

    1. Well, I am building a small greenhouse area, for the crops that can’t handle the cold. But that is still a big step up on not being aware of the fact that the tropical fruit isn’t actually suited to the place… 🙂

  2. Birthy Hapday, and conga rats on the anniversary of the book.
    The fruit trees around me are full but A: they belong to the neighbor, and B: it is a small crab apple (apricot sized) and a Pear, neither I can force past the bad taste, but the local citified deer enjoy them so the pass through my yard or down the street to forage for them.

  3. Long views. I am liking how people are describing their careers from the start to now. Every single hard struggle. Gives us all hope and lets us all know that it is work.
    Congratulations on your incipient orchard and may you be around long enough to enjoy the fruits of your labours.

  4. Good on ya.

    I’m hoping someone is taking care of the apple trees I planted at our last house. They should be producing in another couple of years given even a basic level of attention.

    Here, I don’t have that kind of space. The best I can really manage is a berry bramble.

    1. It’s more like a failed attempt at intimidation ;-/ . And projection, IMO. He can’t grasp that it’s being a writer that counts, not being a SJW.

  5. Happy birthday, my friend. This career still sucks at times, but the suck times would have been longer and suckier without your help, support and occasional sharing of woes.
    We shall overcome, or die trying.

    1. Hopefully we will all dye trying as there is nothing sadder that the man with no more goals to conquer.

      1. >Nil carborundum Illigitimi.

        I’m pretty sure I understand the intent of that one. However… I’ve seen about six different formulations of the “actual” Latin for it. Google Translate claims to do Latin-to-English, but it doesn’t make a believable trans of any of them. (No, I never learned the language in HS or College…)

        So, either this nor any of the others is actually Latin, or Google Translate is noticeably spotty. Caveat Emptor. (Or rather, according to GT, “User Cave” which I think means they don’t have a Latin cognate for “User”.)

  6. Because David Gerrold was as good at predicting the imminent doom of my career as everything else he does,

    This should give you a really good case of Schadenfreude then: David Gerold has a gofundme:

    “What makes this necessary, two royalty checks are delayed, payment for a BIG story isn’t due until October, and negotiations on something else are dragging on longer than expected (and nothing is final until the check clears the bank anyway.) So I need to raise some serious cash right now. (Online sales have helped, just not enough.) ”

    (No, I’m not going to link to it.)

    I chortle. Verily, I chortle.

    1. Acutally, I’d intended to copy and paste this paragraph:
      “The mortgage, phone bill, and electric bill are all due and I have some serious car repairs looming, PLUS we’re still trying to repair two rooms in the house, as well as paying off some of last year’s delayed expenses. It’s a perfect storm of financial challenges.”

    2. Hell, I wasn’t aware he was actually producing stories any more. Thought it was all recycled 70s manuscripts and pontificating on social media.

      1. One can only recycle story concepts laid down by Heinlein for so long before coming up short. Though he did do several rather well back in his day.

        1. Yeah, I loved most of his adventure-type stories and have run down several of his more obscure books just because I like the way he writes. I just don’t intend to buy any more of them new, assuming he ever *produces* anything new again.

          I went looking for Gerrold on Kindle before the wooden-asshole debacle, and damn near everything I wasn’t already familiar with was either a fairly obvious drawer novel or HEY I’M GAY LET ME WRITE ABOUT GAY ISSUES TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL ELSE. I was disappointed.

    3. I wasn’t aware. But there is a certain justice in it. :-). May he receive exactly what he tried to inflict on others. It couldn’t happen to a nicer wooden arsehole.

  7. Hippo Birdie?

    David Gerrold, who hasn’t put a book out in a decade, is hardly one to be predicting the end of other people’s careers.

      1. Is this eventual fruit of affirmative action? If he’d been sued instead of Heinlein feeling sorry for him and kindly letting him off the hook, and the producers giving him a ‘get out of jail’ – well, that would have been the end of his ‘career’, and, frankly, I can’t say I think we would have lost anything. A few other authors might have got the work. They lost something, and we have lost something in them.

  8. A story I’ve heard about trees and the long view. I have no idea if it’s true or not, but this post seemed an appropriate place to share it:

    One of the halls at Oxford needed some serious repair. It had been held up by huge oak beams for 300 years, but now the wood was starting to rot. The beams needed to be replaced, but no one knew where they were going to find oak trees big enough to make those sorts of beams in this day and age. They thought about it, and about what they might use for a substitute, but couldn’t come up with any ideas. Finally, someone suggested that they call up the local forester and see what he had to say.

    When they did, the forester said, “Yes, I’ve been expecting your call. Your trees are ready. When would you like them delivered?”

    It turned out that when the hall was first built, the builders knew that the oak beams would need to be replaced in a few hundred years, so they planted the oak trees that would be used for the replacements and had the foresters tend them until they were needed. Now that’s looking ahead!

    I have no idea if this can provide any morals for a writing career, but I always liked that story.

    1. I had heard that story too. Told orally, so I have no idea where the teller picked it up, but it came with a slightly different take on where the wood came from—a stand of oaks on the campus that had a notation in the informational bit of “do not cut these oaks.” They’d decided to ignore the prohibition, and then they came across the original reason for the proscription, that they’d be needed to repair the roof beams.

    2. Plant fruit bearing trees and you’ll feast in four or five years.
      Plant dense hardwoods such as walnut, hickory, and oak and your grandchildren will thank you.
      As for oak beams, these days mostly being replaced by either metal or composite wooden laminates.

      1. Uncle Lar, I am doing that too, but with local trees with good grain and color. And long time windows. I won’t see them harvested, but I will know I did it.

  9. Right now I’m battling grasshoppers real (the big ones that we call lubbers) and metaphorical (a bunch of time-devouring distractio—Squirrel!). And trying to remember the long haul. In some ways it helps that I have journals going back to the mid 1990s to glance through and remember that yes, I survived Crazy Supervisor, Bad Assistant-Boss, and a few other alarums and shifts. And to look at how my back-list is selling. Long and steady, walk and trot will beat short gallops.

    Congratulations on surviving yet another perambulation of the sun! May your trees and your keyboard both be fruitful.

    1. Get a couple of cats. Mine seems to love catching and eating grasshoppers, the bigger the better.

  10. Happy Birthday, Farmer Freer! May you continue to be blessed with success and, eventually, bountiful and fruit filled trees. Enjoy the reward!

      1. A good friend of mine uses a self-description that may be relevant here:
        “Central-European Peasant Woman—Strong, like Ox; Beautiful, like tractor!”

  11. Flat Cats hasn’t cut ice with me since Spokane. He simply doesn’t register anymore.

    On fruit and nut trees: It hit me that I am of the age that I shall likely not see a harvest from either, particularly the latter. I would like to plant black walnuts for the children, but I don’t know if they’d sell the land before they saw a benefit from them. It’s not that I’m planning to die, but no one gets out of this alive, and I don’t think they’ll be an exception in my case.

    On protection from wildlife. Have seen things ranging from galvanized in rolled around trunks to small fencing. My father once protected a pear tree from a mule who liked to rub against it with the application of electricity. Not an electric fence, either. Definitely not recommended, though some sort of farm electric fence may prove effective. I lean toward the pulse models, as I’ve seen a cat killed when it bit on a steady model, and couldn’t let go.

  12. Happy BIrthday Dave, and yes the long term IS the smart way to go, but that takes persistence and effort, which many of the young do not seem to want to do.

    1. Well, my son (26) is nearly at having paid off half his mortgage – which is an achievement for young working couple — so many may not want to do it, but some are. I’m very proud of the boy.

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