If you remember, my short story “Catchin’ Gargoyles” was accepted for the Cogs, Crowns, and Carriages steampunk anthology earlier this year. In fact, the anthology was split into two books, the second named Ghouls, Gears, and Gauges. Good luck all around!
I’m proud to be part of this project, and I’m proud of the story. The Kickstarter campaign for the book starts next Monday, September 16. I’ll be posting more about the books and the KS campaign soon, including links!
When I was in the game industry, we would always joke that Gen Con marked the end of summer. And in a way, it holds true—the biggest gathering for the industry and gamers that you work toward all year. Then you go back, regroup, and get ready to do it all again the following year.
Funny how our lives move to beats, like a script or a book. Some beats we can anticipate. Others come at you quick and unexpected. Who knows where I’m headed with this? Not me. So I’ll leave it.
My story “She is Medusa” is on Fabula Argentea. If you haven’t read it, go read it now. I’ve helpfully provided the link. There has been some trouble with the publishers of the anthology that “Catchin’ Gargoyles” was accepted for. However, the project has been saved by some intrepid independents, and we’re going to Kickstart a two-volume set, one of which will include my story. When I have more on that, I’ll let you know.
Despite the gangbuster start to the year, no other stories have been picked up yet. Such is life. But more stories are heading out and more are hitting paper, so even as this summer approaches its close, the work continues.
First things first: I’ve had two short stories accepted this year! That’s two more than last year! Hooray!
Which ones? Glad you asked. A story I wrote in January, “Catchin’ Gargoyles,” has been accepted for inclusion in the short-story anthology Cogs, Crowns & Carriages from OWS Ink, slated for release in November. I’ll let you know more about dates and how to order the book later. The second story, “She is Medusa,” was accepted for publication in Fabula Argentea in May. Super happy to have both of those stories out there where you’ll be able to read them.
My WIP, Bledsoe, slouched to a crawl. No one’s fault but mine. I’ve lost my way a bit on it. The plot has gotten muddy and I need to do some deep cleaning. I have about 20K words that I still need to write on it—I think—but I need to figure out the ending first. That’s on the slate for the remainder of this month, along with another short story that needs writing.
As always, there are the stories that are heading out the door. Everyone likes to hear and talk about successes. It’s harder to hear about and talk about rejection and failure. However, these things are part of life, and particularly part of the creative life. A story I wrote in February, “Ice Jamming,” has gone out twice and been rejected twice already this year. “Where the Glorious Fish Are” did the same. The good news is that the rejections were quick. I prefer those to the ones where I have a story tied up for 100+ days without word. Then one day, rejection. I’d much rather get a quick rejection and get the story back out to another market I think will publish it.
Over the last year, with my renewed focus on writing, I’ve noticed my style evolve, and I’m writing the best stories I’ve ever written. It doesn’t mean that the process has gotten easier, although it has evolved too. The results are noticeably better, though. Still, I’m but a single voice among many, many others, and the places for publication are at a premium.
You’re supposed to take the time between rejections to write your next story, so that’s what I’m focused on doing.
Finally, this past year has been particularly trying because I’ve been out of a full-time job. That’s about to end in April as I head back into the publishing world. However, my renewed commitment to my creative work is solid. I have too many stories to tell and worlds to explore to leave them alone anymore. More to come!
In March, I set a goal to write a new short story every month. I wasn’t able to achieve that goal, but I did write six short stories between March and October—well, five shorts and a novelette. And in November, I won NaNoWriMo, cranking out 50,000 words in 30 days. Upon inspection, that’s an immense improvement over my annual fiction output between 2006 to 2017. Of course, I was a full-time magazine editor during those years, so I was writing, just not on my projects. Yes, I’m trying to make myself feel a little less acutely over my laziness.
Of the stories I’ve finished this year, I’ve been shopping four out regularly to markets. The short story “99” simply doesn’t work no matter how I shake it, so that one is on indefinite hold. The novelette has gone through one rewrite and needs another, so it won’t be ready for others to see until 2019. That leaves “Run Rabbit, Run”, “Where the Glorious Fish Are”, “The Boy with the Blue Dragonfly”, and “She is Medusa”.
Combined, I’ve submitted stories 19 times this year, and received 17 rejections. This is how that breaks down:
I’ve been good about submitting stories within 24 hours after a rejection to keep them circulating, but I fell down in November—it was a busy month for me. So, I have two stories that, as of this writing, aren’t out there. Don’t worry, that will soon change.
The takeaway: Yes, nothing I’ve submitted this year has been published. “Glorious Fish” was shortlisted for an anthology, but was cut in the final round. Still, I felt good about that. Let’s face it: The fantasy and sci-fi field is filled with really good writers producing amazing work. At the same time, the space for those stories to find homes remains extremely limited. I know what that looks like from the editorial side—as an editor, you can’t fit all the great work that comes your way. You have to choose. My stories haven’t been chosen this year, though I’ve come close.
But 2019 is just around the corner, and I’ll keep submitting to new markets, plus I’ll add to the inventory as I write new stories and continue to improve my craft and level-up.
After the 50K burst in November, my most recent novel is a seething mess, but there’s a lot of good there. I don’t want to prognosticate, but I aim to have the rough draft finished by the end of December and then I’ll pause before getting on with the rewrite.
Lastly, work on the freelance side has been slow. As a friend of mine, who is also a freelance artist, said to me recently, it’s not like a faucet. You don’t simply turn a handle and the jobs just start coming in. But I am writing and editing freelance, and the contracts are picking up, so that’s good. Still looking for a full-time gig, though. Gotta pay the bills!
As you know, I’ve been out of regular work since March, so I’ve had more time on my hands than I would have had otherwise. Of course, the problem with time is that it tends to slip away. Pretty soon, you realize you’ve binged on a Netflix show or three that you hadn’t intended to, or your house projects take longer than you initially estimated, or you enjoyed playing with the kids or just sitting with your spouse and lost track of the day. Whatever the reason, there are only a finite number of hours any of us has during a year (8,760 or thereabouts) and they can get away from you.
I’ve read more new-to-me books in 2018 than I have in the last two previous years combined. I didn’t start out with a goal other than a vague hunger for more input, to explore places I hadn’t yet been. Surrounded by books, I felt starved, and that’s a weird place to be. Anyway, here’s the list grouped by author, but otherwise in no particular order:
OK, some might argue that Shakespeare’s plays aren’t books (although I have them separately as well as collected). But I think they deserve to be called out each a work unto itself. I’ll admit, 22 seems to come up a bit short. Twenty-four would have been better. Or how about 50? Well, there’s always next year, now that some of the interior painting on the house is out of the way.
I’m not going to wax on terribly long about these books, except to say that other than Corey, all of the contemporary science fiction and fantasy I’ve read this year has been written by women and women of color, and I’m loving it. I have read Okorafor and Priest before; Curran, Hurley, Jemisin, and Maas were completely new for me. Every one of them deserves more attention than I can spare in a single blog post, but some ruminations:
Okorafor brings a light, airy touch to her prose and wild ideas reminiscent of P.K. Dick, but more coherent and approachable than some of his work (I’m looking at you, Valis). At one point in Masquerade, I felt as if Okorafor had punched me in the stomach and then tossed me off a cliff. I was falling, flailing through chapter after chapter hoping she’d catch me before I hit bottom.
Jemisin stunned me by taking a word she made up and turning it into a slur that transfers emotional and physical shock, imparting just a little of what it is like to be a person in a society that abhors you and begrudgingly does the barest bare of minimums to allow you to exist, living lives of servitude and segregation, and you’re never safe, even from those who are supposed to protect you. She turns the narrative on the reader, wielding it with surgical precision, flensing away your defenses until you’re left devastated, reeling, furious, heartbroken.
Hurley blasts gender roles and upends sexuality before a savage backdrop of a universe bent on annihilating its inhabitants and its inhabitants tearing each other to pieces all in the name of survival (how is that for criticism of modern society?). And a big lesson in her books is something we teach our toddlers but so quickly forget or ignore as we grow into adults: Keep your hands to yourself. The consequences of ignoring this one simple rule can and does have life-shattering results, and she makes you feel it.
Priest, Curran, and Maas deliver lighter fare: steampunk and zombies during the American Civil War and a ghost story unlike anything that’s out there right now; a boy band killing demons in between gigs with a very Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe; and a 17-year-old assassin on adventures that remind me very much of Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar books featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. (An aside: There’s a scene in Fiddlehead where I was so creeped out by the antagonist that I almost threw the book across the room. The only reason I didn’t was because I needed to know what was coming next!)
All these novels and novelettes exhibit a unique care for the fragility of their characters’ emotional selves. There is much to enjoy about all of them, and as much or more to learn from the books and their authors, in craft, empathy, cultural awareness and sensitivity, and simply how to be human. As a friend of mine likes to say, science fiction and fantasy are at their best when they make us re-evaluate ourselves, force us to confront ourselves, and serve as an impetus to change, ourselves and our world for the better. These women do that and have been doing it, and I regret that I’m only now reading their work. If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and start.
I’m bopping in for a couple of quick updates. First, I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo all month. Barring a catastrophe, it looks like I’m going to hit the 50,000 words by or before the end of November—in just a couple of days. I’ve learned a lot about me and my writing process during this time. I’ll discuss what I learned through the process in a future post. And NaNoWriMo has helped get me back in my groove writing every day.
Backing up to October, I finished writing the zero draft of a novelette. The rewrite is in process, paused due to NaNoWriMo and freelance work. Next post, I’ll take a look back at the short stories I wrote this year and the number of submissions that went out. Oh! And the books I’ve read this year. Not a lot of different authors, but deep on the few I’ve read.
That’s all I have for you right now. Be back soon.
Last week, many people lost their jobs in the wake of video-game company Telltale Games imploding. They were left without severance and insurance, and they were wiped out so suddenly, none had had a chance to prepare for the future. I had something similar happen to me in February this year. The differences are that I had about 30 day’s lead time and I did receive severance, though it was far from a golden parachute.
As many of you know, I’ve been writing for practically all my life. But I really started writing in high school, focusing mostly on trying to break into roleplaying games. I mean, I lived 15 minutes away from TSR, so how could I not want to write for Dungeons & Dragons. But none of my work was up to snuff, so it didn’t happen. Then WotC bought TSR while I was in college, the company moved away, and, well, I figured it wasn’t meant to be. And I let that particular dream go.
I majored in English in college, and while I was working on my degree everyone asked, “What are going to do, teach?” No, I’d reply. I’m going to write. I’m going to edit. I’ll work in publishing. Always to laughs or rolled eyes. “Good luck with that.” Except my English profs and my fellow English majors. They never questioned the vision. Maybe because they too followed or were on a similar path and held similar convictions. Perhaps blowing out another person’s candle risked extinguishing their own.
The best revenge was that I did get into publishing (Take, that! Naysayers!). First with a small game company run by author Margaret Weis, and then a few years later at a company that owned 14 magazine titles and a full-fledged books department. That was a big step for me, especially coming off a stint as a freelancer in between the two. For the next 12 years I worked for that company, helping it grow, improving existing products, and developing new products. I launched a brand, building it from the ground up while helping drive the company’s expansion into new markets, particularly games.
During those 12 years my wife and I had two kids, bought a small house, and even bought a brand new car—just one (it’s dying now with nearly 300,000 miles on it). Also, during those 12 years, I gave more and more time to the company, worked weekends, traveled all over the country, and kept giving and giving and giving. I told my wife and my children that it would all pay off, that I was on the verge of having everything that I’d worked toward come to fruition. This was a lie, and I knew it when I told them. My wife knew, too. But it was a convenient lie, a pretty fiction that let me feel OK about the amount of work I was putting in for a lot less than I deserved.
However, I used the lie on myself, too. I stopped working on my projects. On my writing. I stopped shopping my stories. I watched as other writers I knew only in passing, or I’d met through Margaret, or because we’d met at a convention, or I happened to read their published work begin to get noticed and their work appeared more and more. I told myself that I had lots of published material, too. And I do—just not much fiction. Not much that I own the rights to. But so it was. I was weak and willfully blind.
In January of this year, the new CEO of the company decided to shut down the one brand I’d developed and fold it into another brand the company owned, and either unspool or sell the other. I was told I had 30 days to sell the second brand or they’d just close it. Either way, I was gone in 30 days. (I lasted a little longer than that because I was able to land a buyer for the property, and they needed some help making that go.)
I have always approached the jobs I’ve had with a certain amount of bushido. I’m loyal and self-sacrificing. I realize that I can be removed at any moment, so I try not to get emotionally attached. From that standpoint, I still haven’t been able to summon up a lot of anger about what happened. I think things could have been handled differently, but, in a sense, I went to war and I was killed. What can you do? Sometimes you fight as hard and as well as you can and still catch one in the head.
For me, what hurts more was watching what the closings did to my staff, what the closings did to brands so many people had put their hearts and souls into. What hurts is realizing that I’d let my loyalty and self-sacrifice go too far. I’d sublimated myself to the company: I’d become a sightless cog and none of my superiors were looking out for me or my family—and why I ever thought they would is beyond me. What hurts is looking at the years I’d spent getting to the office early, working all day, only to come home late to edit more stories or pore over spreadsheets or research how to break into another market and then go to bed and do it all over again the next day, and the next, and the next. “Dad, you wanna play Skylanders?” “No, I can’t right now.” “Dad, it’s time for me to go to bed.” “I’ll be up in a second to tuck you in.” Not to get there until hours later and they were already asleep. A wasteland of stories littered my hard drive, sketched out but little more, or worse, started and unfinished. But it would all pay off, I told myself. Soon, I could ease back and work on those stories. Years of this.
Come mid-February, I had more time than I knew what to do with. But my writer’s discipline was in tatters and still is. I’ve worked on darning and patching it. But it’s been slow going. I’ve reached out to friends and gracious contacts who have offered to help out when I have a new book(s) that I’m ready to pitch. My promise to myself has been that I’ll never take my off of my craft again. I’m working on it, as hard as I can, strengthening atrophied muscles. The truth is though, I, like many (if not most) people who write—or who simply want to live—need a day job.
As you know, cannibalizing your retirement to keep your family afloat sucks. Spending a huge chunk of that every month to keep your vision and dental insurance blows. Knowing that you have to let your health insurance lapse because if you don’t you won’t be able to afford the basics is a bitter and particularly painful pill to swallow. For those who don’t have a bit of money socked away to help—I can’t even imagine it, particularly if you’re a single-income family with children, like we are.
But we trudge on and rebuild. My wife, the kids, and I are making it work, and this summer has been the best one that we’ve ever had, despite what has happened. I owe them such a huge debt of time that I’m afraid I’ll never be able to repay it. I also owe myself. I’ve been able to rediscover my voice, and I have written more stories in the past eight months than I’d written in the previous four years. And I’m shopping them, which is super exciting regardless of the almost 95% rejection rate. (I’ve been an editor for 12 years, so I get how it looks from the other side of the equation.)
We may be struggling right now, but I’m happy to say that we’re happy, and we’re together. I hope that all those who have recently found themselves without employment at Telltale Games and elsewhere, will be able to get back to it as soon as possible. I wish them and all of us all the luck in the world. Just remember to always be true to who you are. That’s a lesson I’ve taken a very long time to learn.
I left my full-time job in February this year. I’m not going to talk about that in this post. Rather, I’m going to give you some insights about what I’ve been doing since then. This is going to be some pretty dry stuff, probably, so I apologize now.
When I left my job, I had two finished novels under my belt. One, I decided long ago, would not see the light of day. The second, titled Into the Night, was better written and I thought stood a chance in hooking an agent. I wanted to do one more pass before I started submitting it and enlisted my wife to help with it. During this pass I realized there were some problems with the characters that I just hadn’t been quite able to resolve in subsequent rewrites. After many conversations with Angie, I decided to scrap the book and concentrate on two other novels I had begun along with writing short stories.
Between March and August, I’ve written five short stories, and I’m working on a sixth. Four of those stories, “The Boy with the Blue Dragonfly”, “Run Rabbit, Run”, “Where the Glorious Fish Are”, and “She is Medusa” have been submitted a total of eleven times this year. “The Boy with the Blue Dragonfly” has been out at one market since April 23. Rabbit and Fish have both been rejected multiple times, and Medusa is still awaiting a decision for its first submission. In May, Fish was shortlisted for an upcoming anthology, and I should know in October if it’s been chosen. I killed the fifth story,"99", after writing it. The idea was decent, but no matter how much I hammered on it or tried to coax it with fire, it just kept springing back into what it wanted to be. After it was finished and edited, I determined that the beginning and end were great, but the rest of the little beast simply had to go. It still snaps its beak at me from the story drawer, but I keep my hands well clear and haven’t yet lost a finger.
It's a mixed bag, to be sure. But you can see the importance of writing, finishing a story, and then writing the next story. You can’t write a story, submit, and wait until it gets published before you write another one. You’ll wait forever. And sometimes, a story just isn’t worth showing the light of day. What’s great about this list, for me, is that it’s the most robust list of stories I’ve had submitted to various markets in years. I had sublimated myself and my personal work to my day job, and for years I just didn’t have the energy to write for myself. That’s changed.
Back in May, around the time I was informed that the Fish had been shortlisted, I got to thinking about Into the Night. It had problems to be sure, but it also had a lot of good in it. I pulled out my notebooks and started going over my research and my early drafts. A plan for salvaging the novel began to crystalize. Let me rephrase: A plan for salvaging the world I’d built began to crystalize. Suddenly, I had something that was clicking with me. And where I found myself struggling to figure out where to take the story after Into the Night, I had no shortage of ideas where to go with the new take. The main characters form the original book disappeared, erased and replaced by new ones who are a natural fit—something I just couldn’t get quite right with the original crew.
And it’s been a joyful experience. I’ll admit to some hesitance with the writing. I’m scared. Scared that I’ll put in a bunch of work and once again have something that I’m not ready to share with the wider world. Scared that I’ll have wasted my time. Scared that I’m not up to the task. Scared that my possession of the English language, that my editing skills and word crafting simply suck horse wang. But I keep saying fuck it, I’m in and I’m gonna do the best that I can at this moment right now. What else can I do? Quit? Not likely.
So, the new BIG project, a novel I’m calling “Bledsoe” has begun to take shape alongside the short stories I’m writing. That other novel I started back in March has a bit more of a glidepath for it. But I’m working on it as time allows, because it’s too good to let alone. In short: I’m productive, and it feels great.
But the prospects of a real job loom on the horizon, as they must, or this guy and his family don’t eat. More on that next time.
See, I’m back.
As I look over my journal from the last month, I see a lot of salient points that I’d like to share with you, but not too many of them are quite ready for sharing at the moment.
Good news: I’ve picked up some freelance work. I’m careful about ringing too loudly about who I’m working for, because I don't want to kick up too much dust in the faces of those hiring me. They don't care about my politics, my toilet mouth, or my general outlook, but readers might. And frankly, I'm sensitive to that because I like to pay my bills and feed my family. Suffice it to say, I’m writing some online news items and copy editing a quarterly print magazine, and there are some other opportunities in the works. Of course, it doesn't take much to do a Google search, but you'd be surpried how many people are too lazy to do a Google search.
I finished a new short story last week. Weighing in at 6,500 words, I was afraid that it might sag a bit in the middle. But after punching it up a bit and edits from my circle of beta readers, I’m feeling really good about it. It’ll start going out to markets this week.
The other day, my daughter, 3, asked me, “Why is the Sun awake?” I thought it an interesting question. The sort of question early humans asked themselves when we gave everything a personality and a conscious purpose. I sometimes wish we still lived in times full of that magical thinking, brimming with a wonder that I think we lack in many ways. Maybe that sort of wonder is left to children and creatives, people less focused on status and power and being correct. People less interested in pulling apart the how tos and wherefors, explaining why this molecule at that temperature causes a chain reaction and then …
As soon as you say that stuff, she’s off on another tangent. “Does grass feel happy when it’s green and does it feel sad when it's yellow?”
“Yes, it does. How did you know? So, when we get home, we need to go out and talk to the tall grasses with their fluffy purple tails and make them happy so they don’t turn yellow. And we’ll give them water, too. Water always helps make grass happy.”
She and I played hide and seek yesterday. I decided to hide really well and then see how long she would look before giving up. She searched for a good five minutes and then began calling for me. I kept waiting another five minutes, and when I revealed myself, I found her kneeling in the kitchen, tears in her eyes.
"Dad, you ruined the game. I couldn't say, 'Find you!'"
I said, "That's a special adult power, and I won't use it again."
"What power?" she asked.
"The go invisible power," I told her.
"Oh! Does Mommy have that power, too?" I nodded. "Don't use that one. It's not fair."
"I promise, I won't."
One day, I’ll miss these times where we share a world all our own, untainted by the real world just beyond her peripheral vision. The world that now teeters on the precipice of disastrous consequences. A world that is stacked against her because that’s been the narrative since the Sun woke, perceived the threat of the Moon and cast down the goddess.
Still, I remind myself, that all is not lost. I remember that she will be stronger than ever I was, like her mother. And it is my job to bring this world we share to vibrant life, and preserve it as a place to retire, to regroup and recuperate, so we can both go back into the world just beyond our peripheral vision and try to make it better.
Until next time, be kind, look out for each other, and create something magical, even if it's only for you.
I’ve been silent on my website for over a year. That was never my plan, but I was angry about the presidential election, the political state of the American republic, the proliferation of guns and bigotry and racism, and the sense that civilization was on the brink of complete disaster. I don’t feel different about any of that. I’m still angry. However, my time away allowed me to find fruitful ways to channel it. I simply didn’t want to shower all of you in blistering spleen on a biweekly or monthly basis.
What’s up with me? I am freelancing full time again, editing and writing, and have renewed my focus on my fiction. That isn’t to say I won’t take a full-time gig again, but I won’t pull back from my fiction roots. I’ve let too much lie fallow and not spent enough time pursuing what I adore. That means working to get my fiction in the hands of editors and getting my name recognized beyond the niches where I’m already well known. That’ll take time, but I’ve been on it since the middle of February, and I won’t slow down.
I finished up three short stories in April, had them edited, beta read, rewritten, and ready for publication. I’ve submitted them all, been rejected, and resubmitted them—multiple times. It’s the nature of the work. I finished up the rough draft of a new short in May. This one, called “99”, took longer than I wanted to get on paper. The narrative is still uneven and it needs to be punched up. But I need some time away from it. So, I handed it over to Angie, my first pass editor in all things, and see what suggestions she has before heading back in.
Meanwhile, I’d finished a novel last year, and thought I was ready to start shopping it. But I’ve decided that I missed the mark, even after seven revisions. However, all is not lost. It’s given birth to two other ideas, and I’ve picked the one that interests me more to start work.
Full speed ahead!
I spent a day pouring myself through the Afrofuturistic world of Binti as imagined by Dr. Nnedi Okorafor. Immediately engaging, Okorafor subtly convinces us of a future Earth where humans can travel through space aboard biological starships distantly related to shrimp and have evolved technology to an almost-magic. In her universe, humans have warred with other intelligent species, seen horrendous damage to our planet, and still suffer from an array of prejudices, bigotry, and even racism despite having been introduced to a wider, more populated galaxy.
Binti and its sequel Binti: Home present us with a genius young woman who can use math to weave magic but doesn’t, herself, really go on the offensive. She is attacked but conceives of other ways to overcome the violence she encounters rather than to meet it with violence of her own. You get the sense from Binti that if only the correct thoughts and words are applied, the universe can achieve harmony.
Despite adversity and setbacks, Binti perseveres, even while she struggles with her own internal doubts about who she is, her relationships with family and her best friend (who is from another species not overly fond of certain humans), and the trauma from events that occurred during her first space voyage. Both Binti novellas speak words of encouragement to the reader. They tell us that we can be better people and improve the world around us—and to overcome doesn’t mean resorting to violence, though we may want to out of anger or frustration or fear.
There is a third book on the way. Due out this fall, I can’t wait to see where it takes us next and how Binti’s story concludes.
I also recommend you read Okorafor’s Who Fears Death. The novel was perhaps the most emotionally challenging book that I’ve ever read. Some of the material I had to stop and set the book aside to give myself a chance to calm down. Anger, disgust, horror, happiness (even though it's fleeting), Okorafor evokes them. She writes with a graceful style that pulls no punches, yet shows amazing empathy for her characters and readers. Very much worth your precious time.
I've been thinking a lot over the past few months about autonomy, automation, robots, drones, and the what this means to people who go to work every day for a paycheck. I'm not a social scientist, hell, I'm not a scientist at all. I'm just a guy who works with words, edits a tech magazine, and writes sci-fi and fantasy fiction. But it seems to me that jobs have to stop being a measure of one's worth.
We must face the fact that automation is here to stay. The quest for efficiencies through improved machinery and automation has been the overriding impetus of business since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. It makes perfect business sense, and workers have been feeling the pinch for more than a hundred years. Now, with the speed of improving technology quickening to an inhuman pace, the pain automation inflicts on the working class has become unbearably intense and shows no signs of relenting.
Robots don't need food or water or a bathroom. Robots don't need days off. Robots don't need health insurance. Robots don't want overtime. Robots will work with unquestioning loyalty regardless of pay or if you make them work twenty-four hours everyday for a year without a minute of downtime. Oh, and they don't make mistakes.
Of course, for a society who values jobs and work above all else, the thought of robots or drones replacing human workers causes fear. But fear won't slow the march toward more and more autonomous, dark factories (factories that don't require the owners to turn on the lights because the workers, robots, don't need lights to work), short of outlawing robots, which won't happen.
So, what to do? It seems obvious to me that our social contract must be reimagined and renegotiated. One's worth cannot be tied to how many hours of "productive" time is spent creating a product or service for sale. We must aspire to a second Renaissance during which we turn toward Humanity for answers to our greatest questions, delve for experiences, and look to science and art and exploration as the measures of human value. We should encourace learning and discovery, not only for the sake of some tangible end, but for the sake of knowledge and betterment, which are worthy ends, though given less weight in our current materialistic philosophy.
Certainly, some jobs will still require human hands. I'm not advocating for a world that doesn't require humans, nor do I think one is imminent. Robots, at least in the near term, will require people to maintain them, design them, and write their code. But we should view automation as a means to allow us the freedom to purue more gratifying, personal ends. Automation will allow us to help build and support a more common good.
What does a more common good look like in practice? I'm not certain. Surely, it would herald an eventual end to capitalism in any form that we recognize. And to be sure, any major levelling of the economic landscape between the haves and the have-nots, wealthy and poor, will be vehemently resisted by the plutocrats and those convinced labor is the only means by which to ascertain one's raison d'etre. And those who subordinate their own self interests to others they believe their betters are a far larger hurdle than the wealthy, for they have greater numbers and carry a vast amount of weight in a democratic state.
We cannot change the social contract over night, nor will it be painless. But for humanity to move forward, to continue to build on democratic principles of self determination, to live comfortably with the technology that it is creating, and to avoid being ground to pulp by uncaring and outmoded economics that favor a few to the detriment of the many, it has to be done.
Look, I'm upset and outraged and fed up and tired of all of the bullshit surrounding the U.S.'s not-so-slow descent into an authoritarian kleptocracy of dunces. But every time I turn my mind toward writing something about it, the words disappear, a red haze fills my vision and I wake up in the morning behind the shed atop a mound of apple cores and covered with scratches from raccoons. So, that's where I'll leave that for the time being.
The other day, after finally dragging myself out of bed, I stumbled up to a mirror and stopped short. "Holy shit," just came rolling from between my lips. For the first time, ever, and I mean, never before, had I seen my reflection and thought, "That ain't me. That dude is sick. Like gonna fucking fall dead sick."
I'll be honest — not whiny, honest. I have been burning the candle at more places than just both ends. I've carved away the wax all up and down the candle, exposing the wick wherever I could and happily lit it. Obviously, it's not great for the candle when you treat it like this. Also, it makes a hell of a mess. You get wax shavings all over the place; melted wax on your hands—hot, HOT, HOOOOOOT! Not to mention all the fire.
Self care is perhaps the hardest part about being a creative who has a full-time job — even if that full-time job is in the same field you're being creative — I'm a magazine editor. So, I write and edit for a living, manage a staff. I'm helping launch a B2B conference in Portland, OR, this July. I am also part of a game publishing company. Plenty of career projects to keep me busy, not to mention my wife and kids. But the writing continually beckons, prods, wants attention, and fucking doesn't leave me alone. For a long time, I've whittled and chopped and diced my days into such small pieces to try to fit in time to write that for a long time, years, I was sleeping four hours a night, tops.
I hit my breaking point around last Christmas. I took some time off from work and writing and I decided I'd read and just chill. Eleven days. Those eleven days have been the best days I can remember in the last ten years. Relaxing. Fun with the family. No pressure. Six glorious hours of sleep every night uninterrupted by nightmares or stress dreams or insomnia. Just the cool black of not knowing.
Those eleven days blew up my rhythm. Annihilated it. They've forced me to rebuild from scratch, rethink how I plan and execute my days. One good thing, I'm off the four hours every night routine. Somehow, I'm sticking with six. I tried going back and my brain is just not having it. And I think I'm going to let it win this particular fight.
While I continue to kick ass for my corporate master, I'm figuring out how to continue to kick ass for myself, too. I've written a lot. Now it's time to get that out in the open for others to see. I've enlisted the help of someone I trust to assist me in getting my ass in gear with my agent proposals. It's something that I've resisted for a long time because, goddamn it, I can do it on my own and don’t need your help! But help is good. And I've come to accept what I’ve always known, and that is that while I love helping others, sometimes I'm the one who could use a hand.
Enough of this for now. Be good to each other, and kind, even to those you don't know.