Daily Archives: September 29, 2006

Tales of Horror From Years Gone By

In a column in Asimov’s magazine, science fiction writer Robert Silverberg regales us with stories of the bad old days of writing, when there were no computers, you made copies of what you wrote with carbon paper, retyping your manuscript to get it clean enough to send to your publisher took a month, and Silverberg protected his retyped manuscript by storing it in an old refridgerator, where he assumed it would be able to survive a fire.

Madness.

Contrast this, if you will, with my experience of writing The Last Colony, in which I finished the book on a Tuesday and by Wednesday afternoon had to my editor via e-mail. No “first draft,” no retyping, no storing the original in a disused kitchen appliance to protect it from the flames. As soon as it was done, click, off it went. The experience of writing a book is mechanically so incredibly different than it was twenty five years ago that I actually hesitate to call it the same process at all. I constantly marvel that anyone ever wrote anything before computers.

I marvel about enough that I genuinely wonder if I would have been a writer if I had been born in the 1930s rather than in 1969, which allowed my desire to become a writer to coincide with the advent of the personal computer, and therefore, with the sort of ease of creation I have now. I suspect that I would have indeed become a writer, because I like to tell stories and because lacking a time machine, I wouldn’t know that in the future the practice of writing would become almost absurdly simpler. But looking back, I’m appalled and terrified in precisely the same way I am about the practice of bleeding a sick person the relieve the phlegmatic humors vexing their bodies rather than, you know, giving them antibiotics. We live in an age of miracles and wonders, people.

Tales of Horror From Years Gone By

In a column in Asimov’s magazine, science fiction writer Robert Silverberg regales us with stories of the bad old days of writing, when there were no computers, you made copies of what you wrote with carbon paper, retyping your manuscript to get it clean enough to send to your publisher took a month, and Silverberg protected his retyped manuscript by storing it in an old refridgerator, where he assumed it would be able to survive a fire.

Madness.

Contrast this, if you will, with my experience of writing The Last Colony, in which I finished the book on a Tuesday and by Wednesday afternoon had to my editor via e-mail. No “first draft,” no retyping, no storing the original in a disused kitchen appliance to protect it from the flames. As soon as it was done, click, off it went. The experience of writing a book is mechanically so incredibly different than it was twenty five years ago that I actually hesitate to call it the same process at all. I constantly marvel that anyone ever wrote anything before computers.

I marvel about enough that I genuinely wonder if I would have been a writer if I had been born in the 1930s rather than in 1969, which allowed my desire to become a writer to coincide with the advent of the personal computer, and therefore, with the sort of ease of creation I have now. I suspect that I would have indeed become a writer, because I like to tell stories and because lacking a time machine, I wouldn’t know that in the future the practice of writing would become almost absurdly simpler. But looking back, I’m appalled and terrified in precisely the same way I am about the practice of bleeding a sick person the relieve the phlegmatic humors vexing their bodies rather than, you know, giving them antibiotics. We live in an age of miracles and wonders, people.

On Moral Cowardice

Re: The appalling new detainee trial bill that will undoubtedly be signed into law:

President Bush is a moral coward, and has always been a moral coward, since at no point has he shown anything other than incomprehension of and contempt for the United States Constitution, particularly when it comes to his pet projects of torturing people and sham trials. I simply can’t conceive of a worse president than this one; and I can’t imagine a scenario in which, if placed in front of him, I didn’t express to him in no uncertain terms the depth of my contempt of him, his policies, and the low moral position he’s placed my country. I find it appalling that the only good thing I can say about the man is that I can’t imagine he won’t be the worst president of the 21st Century, so in that respect the worst part of the my political life will be over in two years and change.

Senators McCain, Warner and Graham are moral cowards for making a big show of having problems with Bush’s awful trial plan, and yet “compromising” with a deal that has no discernable practical difference from the president’s original trial plan. These men postured as bulwark for the Constitution, and I for one gave them my faith, which is not something I’ll be in a mad rush to do again. McCain in particular I hold out for special criticism, because he does have the moral standing to stop something like this in its tracks. Instead he traded that moral standing for a bit of political theater.

The Senate Democrats are moral cowards for not filibustering this bill as they ought to have, fearing Republican retribution at the polls and figuring that it’ll be tossed out by the courts anyway. I simply cannot understand the sort of rank and pervasive incompetence Democrats have to have in order to allow themselves to be politically flummoxed time and again by the least popular and least competent president in modern political history. The Democrats ought to have stepped on this bill’s head and killed it, not only because they could have, but because they should have. Someone should have stood up for the Constitution and for the moral standing of the United States and its practices. Someone should be up there calling Bush what he is: A tiny man so frightened of the terrorist boogyman that he’s willing to shred our moral standing to keep him away, and so dead-eyed hateful of what it means to be American that he can’t find a way to protect this country without urinating on what it is that makes us great. Merely pounding on a podium for C-SPAN is not sufficient to do this. This bill should have been stopped. It wasn’t.

I’m proud to be an American, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my government. I’m tired of having to count the seconds until this bilious waste of a president is shoved out the door in January of 2009. I’m tired of hoping that some members of the president’s political party might actually put principle over political expedience, particularly when it concerns the Constitution. And I’m tired of waiting for the opposing party to actually grow a goddamned spine and become an opposing party. I’m tired of wondering why the people we elect to lead us don’t seem to actually understand what it means to be American, and to be moral, and to do what it right for us. And I’m tired of having to look so hard for genuine leadership as opposed to the sham idiot version we have now. I feel like Diogenes, and I’m coming up short.

I’m tired of being led by moral cowards. I want better for myself, and for my country.