Two-and-a-half months since my last post?
Frankly, I was burned out. It was so bad, the warning light on my fuel gauge of creativity had burned out, and no amount of tapping on the glass was moving the needle off that big red E. I was out of ideas. Every scenario that meandered through my brain had all the charm of an old can of beans, expiration date long past, bulging ominously at both ends.
Opening the can did not enhance its appeal.
I’m speaking in past tense here, though I can’t say with any certainty that I have, in fact, recharged my batteries, refilled the tank, and am ready to resume motoring along the sparkling superhighway of imagination toward a rose-streaked horizon radiant with unlimited possibilities. It’s quite likely I’ve not bottomed-out yet. What I could really use is a new vision.
I think writers, particularly those who favor speculative genres, need a distinctive vision. Science fiction is all about evoking an image of what the world might become a thousand years…or a few seconds…down the road. If you can’t see that world, your readers never will. It hasn’t helped that the collective vision of the science fiction and fantasy community has been on a serious downer for a good long while.
It was a lot like this in the ’70s, and I hated it just as much then. Everybody’s poleaxed by the End of Days. We’ve got nuclear apocalypse, climate apocalypse, terror apocalypse, epidemic apocalypse, cyber apocalypse, zombie apocalypse, and most of it is heavily seasoned with perhaps the ultimate fear, political apocalypse—liberal or conservative, choose your poison, sir or madam, and drink deep of a future in which your bloodsworn enemies are running what’s left of the world, as if zombies weren’t bad enough.
(Update, 22 Nov: If you think “political apocalypse” isn’t a thing, read this.)
“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” but it seems lately our dreamers are offering nothing but visions in which everybody perishes, or wishes they had. Even fantasy is dark and gloomy…”winter is coming,” and we’ve all been invited to the Red Wedding. Mark your calendars. Christian writers, I’m talking to you, too. We’ve turned the Blessed Hope into a monster movie because we think we can literally scare the hell out of a lost world. Shame on us.
We’re obsessed with futures nobody would choose to live in. Jeremiads are all good and well, and yes, our smug satisfaction needs the occasional cautionary size-12 brogan to the derrière, but “We’re Doomed” isn’t the message I want to leave my children and grandchildren. It’s a vampire lie that drains the hope and purpose from our souls, leaving behind a withered husk of misery. That’s no vision. It’s a curse.
Anyhow, I’m going to slide back behind the wheel and see if my fuel-starved engine will turn over. If it does, I’ll head for the back roads, the ones that wind through scrubby woodlands, past broken-down barns and loose agglomerations of skinny cattle, swaybacked nags, and gap-toothed kids in patched overalls who wave and whistle as you pass by—roads that play tag with the shadows of little mountains nobody bothered to name, patchy asphalt bordered with rickety stands stocked with faded kitsch and greasy cheeseburgers. Maybe I’ll find the vision thing along the way.
Or maybe I’ll just lean my seat back, crank up the radio, and enjoy the drive.