Wednesday, November 16, 2016

On (fiction) writing during the apocalypse

I've seen a lot of discussion online about whether fiction writing still matters, post-November 8. I have wondered the same thing. Who cares about our carefully crafted worlds, our beautiful sentences, our quirky yet lovable characters, when the American experiment may be at an end? Shouldn't we be doing something with a more immediate effect, that reaches out to more people than those who already agree with us?

Here's the provisional conclusion I've come to. We need to keep writing, no matter what it is that we write. We're going to need good stories to get through this, including stories that aren't overtly political. (And by "good," I mean by the same definition as we used before November 8--nuanced, not overly didactic, respectful of the reader's intelligence, etc.) Let's not censor ourselves. Someone else may try to do that soon enough.

However. Let's also not kid ourselves that fiction writing represents a sufficient form of defiance in this new era. We're all going to have to be braver than we ever were before. We're going to have to feel scared and sick a good part of the time, as we push ourselves beyond our previous limits. I had to fight with myself just to call my liberal Democratic Congresswoman's office yesterday--I'm that phone shy. And I'm going to have to do a lot more than that. I'll have to be ready to protect people who are being harassed or threatened or even physically attacked (even as I may be a target myself, though that's less likely). I'm going to have to march, and do many other things I haven't even thought of yet, but which will scare the hell out of me, and which I may try to find excuses not to do, because I'm so scared, and still partly unwilling to believe that any of this is really happening.

So I must not use my "liberating" or "subversive" writing to excuse inaction in other areas. But I also must keep writing and reading--for respite as well as inspiration. We will all need both, in abundance.

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