101.4

A hundred and one… point 4… No, not Dalmatians.  Although there are spots, many of them, and inimical aliens who remind one of Cruella. And plenty of evil and dim-witted hench-villians. Words, words, words. Thousands of words. 101.4K of them… I don’t believe there is one I haven’t…

Ok, I am being silly. But it’s the first book I finished in some time.  I am, as usual, drained, tired, wondering why the hell I do this.  After all, I’m reasonably bright, very determined, quite able. I even managed to get a couple of respected tertiary degrees, which would have seen me near retirement and comfortably off if I’d stuck in academia with them. There are many lucrative professions I could have taken on, few of which have the same interminable hours, stress, delayed rewards (and, usually, quite small rewards).

I put it down to being delusional, myself.

The writing profession is not really one for the rational, I suppose. Hell, we write about imaginary people.  If I was the kind have a psychologist who was asking me if my imaginary person was in room with me (some of them are fairly unpleasant when trapped in a book, let alone in the room with you)… I’d have to say ‘yes.’  Fortunately, they tend to get replaced by the next.

 In my case it comes from loving to read, and regarding authors as the ultimate aspirational role model. People I could never be as good as, but wanted to be. I suppose that’s why I regard so many the fairly useless loudmouths of the modern literary sf/fantasy world with something close to disgust. Not merely because I find their work banal, formulaic and dull, with ten words of story for every ten thousand words of whatever the current fashionable cause de jour is, but because they spend so much time and effort disparaging popular and successful authors whose boots I am not fit to polish – people like Tolkien, Heinlein, CS Lewis, who I regard role models. I suppose it’s because they’re such inferior little twats, that they know they can’t cut it compared to these. Like people destroying statues of better men, think this makes them into the new icons – or at least stops them being held up against people they simply can’t hold a candle to.  Remember that next time you read one of the modern ‘dahlings’ tearing strips off Tolkien or Heinlein, or demanding Lovecraft or Campbell be exiled. This is how to label yourself as an inadequate loser 101.  

It was kind of a shock to discover how many authors I regarded as masters of the craft died in poverty and obscurity, battling depression, bills and having a miserable old age, instead of lauds and comfort I felt they deserved.  I still don’t know if that would have deterred me, had I known it earlier. None-the-less it is a fact of our profession. It’s not really a meritocracy, or even a popularity contest. There’s being in the right place at the right time AKA luck. There are so many other factors outside the writer’s control, and sometimes, even, if in their control, that they can be terrible at, even though they write really great stories. You always have little writing talent but be strong at politics of it (be this social media or kissing up their publisher or the literary establishment), enjoying some success. This tends to head into ‘a great success’ if they have even a modicum of talent, too.

I think this is book 24. I’ve lost track, and there are several unpublished and several more unfinished in various stages. It’s perfectly possible to strike lucky later, even at the tail end of your life and writing career – and to suddenly sell millions copies of books that were available long before (Sir Terry Pratchett’s Carpet People, Dark of the Sun, and Strata – all well above any competitors at the time, but nearly unheard of) so who knows, one of them might suddenly catch fire. That would be nice, simply because I like to be read. I like to think I might give a few people aspirations of their own, even if it is ‘I could do better than this!’ But… as I said to my son the other evening, I write, now, more in the certain knowledge that while my books may never crack that combination of luck and merit that makes bestsellers (I sure as hell won’t crack the politics) I will write books that leave their readers feeling the world is little better place when they finish them.

I will write books I would have like to have read.

So I wrote this one.

Image by 👀 Mabel Amber, who will one day from Pixabay

19 comments

  1. I write because I have to tell stories, or they gang up on me. I write because people have said that my stuff helps them escape the here-and-now for a few hours. Even when I don’t feel like plopping my rump into the chair, I write because it’s an addiction I probably can’t break. (As a mentor said in the late 1990s, “If you’re going to get addicted to airplanes or drugs, pick drugs. They can cure that.”)

    It’s a bit like singing in a certain choir. Every so often, when I drag myself in early on Sunday morning, I wonder if it’s worth it. And then I got stopped by someone who said, “Oh, you sing at the church that kept going! We watch you every Sunday.” [We were one of very few places that managed to keep a choir and worship going all of last year, aside from March-June.] So I keep going. And writing.

    1. There’s an art to chasing characters out of your head in a manner that lets you hit the publish button at the same time.

  2. Another book? Something nice for me to read then. 🙂

    As to the pouting purveyors of mediocrity, the likes of the one who needed to take down Campbell while accepting her Campbell Award… meh. They are slavish followers of fashion. When the fashion changes, they change with it. Which seems exhausting, really. Far too much trouble for me, I’ll say.

    We’re in a period of intellectual fashion similar to the Herbert Spencer period of the 1800s. A “new” idea takes the imagination of the Ivory Tower, saints and rogues alike, sweeping all before it. Presently only the rogues will still be espousing it, and fashion will move on. Back in the day, Social Darwinism was all the rage, and you couldn’t pick up a newspaper from 1870 onward without seeing some fool gassing off about it. Crane Brinton’s famous 1933 question; “Who now reads Herbert Spencer?” pretty much shows what happens to stupid ideas with time.

    But, for 30 years it was a pretty rough ride for people who didn’t think Social Darwinism was a thing. So, as the urologist said to the sommelier about a similar subject, “this too shall pass”. An intellectual kidney stone, soon to be flushed down the loo of History. But not soon enough.

    Go write another book and don’t worry about it, Dave. Meanwhile I’ll throw money at you. ~:D

    1. Social Darwinism was just the Aristocratic Principle given a “Scientific” White-Wash.

      Of course, the Aristocratic Principle is still alive & well, only now the would-be Aristocrats claim to be the Woke and thus better than the rest of us. 😦

      1. I did a deep-dive into Herbert Spencer once upon a time in the mists of ancient history, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and TV was in black-and-white. There was an uproar about the just-released book by E.O. Wilson called “Sociobiology” amongst the Marxist precursors to our present crop of SJWs. Social Darwinism and Spencer’s name were bandied about quite a bit, so I looked it up.

        The uproar was pretty much the same thing as Sad Puppies vs. the CHORFs or Gamergate. Wild baseless claims of racism made against scholars who pretty much didn’t understand what the fuss was about. “Yes, we are discussing the physical underpinnings of social behavior, what of it?”

        What I continue to find fascinating about Spencer was the way he latched on to Darwinism as the zeitgeist of the time and rode that wave like a surfer at Pipeline Beach. The wave pretty much stopped within a couple of years of his death, like it petered out without him to keep pushing it along. More like Social Darwinism is a stupid idea, and his many critics finally got some traction after ol’ Herbert wasn’t around to throw some muscle on them and -make- them shut up.

        Truth is the first victim of censorship, but Truth will out no matter what force is brought against it. What is, is.

        1. While I had heard of Social Darwinism, I had never heard of Herbert Spencer.

          What I found interesting when I looked him up is that he was a believer in the Lamarckian evolutionary ideas which were over-shadowed by Darwin’s ideas.

          Oh, for those who don’t know, the Lamarckian evolutionary ideas basically claimed that the “efforts” that an animal would make would influence how the animal’s children would develop. IE The ancestors of the modern giraffes stretch their necks to reach leaves high in trees and thus their descendents had longer necks.

          Spencer’s belief in that would influence his idea that the children & grand-children of successful people would be superior to the children of less successful people.

          Logical if you assumed that the Lamarckian evolutionary ideas were correct. 😉

          1. Lamarckianism also become big in Communism thanks mostly to Stalinist quack Trofim Lysenko, who helped lay the intellectual background for the mass famines of the Stalin years. Stalin loved it. After all, if you can make future generations Communist by teaching the current one Communism, then naturally everyone to come would be an even more fervent Communist, right?

            It also meant that anyone who taught Darwinian evolution was a counter-revolutionary, along with a whole raft of other ‘politically incorrect’ sciences like Freudian psychoanalysis. There’s a very long chapter on all of this in Anne Applebaum’s ‘Iron Curtain’.

            1. With respect to Freudian psychoanalysis, the monster had a point.

              In the first place, it isn’t a science.
              In the second, it’s questionable that it helps more that harms. (Especially when the practitioner has “issues”, and a great many do.)

              1. Agreed on Freudian psychoanalysis being quackery, but it was still a surprise to hear that the Soviets made it illegal given that I recall most American Freudian types were always so big on Communism. Then again so were and are a lot of other people who would swiftly find themselves sent off to the gulag if they got their wish granted.

      2. The trick is, that Leftists love to constantly redefine terms. And a term that is not precisely understood beyond the connotations of “bad” is ripe for abuse.

        I’ve been called a Social Darwinist for holding that immigrants have a duty to assimilate.
        I’ve also been called one for saying that not all cultures are equal, and that cultures which cannot compete and survive on their own merits should pass away.

  3. Or, a great writer can ‘fail’ just because his agent picked the worst possible time to die.

    H. Beam Piper, RIP.

  4. Shakes head sadly. I counted 106 spots on that dog, and that’s just the side I can see.

    Congrats, Dave! Waiting breathlessly for the book to hit Amazon.

  5. You sent my husband a friend request, on social media.

    He stared at it.

    “….(Foxfier), do I know a Free-er?”
    *looks over*
    “Rats, Bats–”
    “You are (expression of disbelief suitable to a sailor.)”
    “Yeah, you had a nice conversation or three with him at Sarah’s, hon.”
    “*sonic boom as he hits accept*”

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