Disregarding the Oracles

I love science fiction. As early as the 1800s, science fiction authors were predicting today’s everyday things like motion-sensing doors and credit cards. Pretty commonplace by today’s standards, but imagine how out-of-this-world it must have seemed when Jules Verne described his “phonotelephote” which allowed “the transmission of images by means of sensitive mirrors connected by wires”. And yet today we take things like Skype and FaceTime for granted.

Other predictions have hit close to the mark as well. H.G. Wells predicted the atomic bomb. Tom Clancy wrote about a terrorist attack that was very similar to September 11. Writers have predicted everything from the World Wide Web to skywriting and lunar modules launching from Florida. So what is my point?

Yesterday I happened on this petition: Writers on Trump. It said many of the same things I have felt for most of this election season, which is, basically, that Donald Trump as president of the United States would be a disaster. I’ve kept my political views off this blog for the largest portion of the election season, but I’m crossing the line now. Here it goes.

This petition, which I did add my name to, is signed by some of today’s leading writers. Bestselling authors. Household names. Stephen King. Amy Tan. Jane Smiley. The authors whose names are bigger than the titles of their works. The ones whose new releases have long reserve list even though the library splurged and bought thirteen copies.

Today’s oracles.

Writers see the world differently. Writers observe, but they also influence. When Aldous Huxley wrote about mood-enhancing drugs in 1932, perhaps it sparked the invention of anti-depressants? But it is very difficult to understand how Jonathan Swift in 1735 could predict that Mars actually had two moons, a fact that was not discovered until 1877.

What are today’s writers predicting? Dystopia seems more prevalent than Utopia these days. Apocalyptic futures abound. Are these prophecies unavoidable, self-fulfilling or just warnings of what might be?

The Writers on Trump petition is pretty damn clear, and here’s the part you may want to pay attention to:

“Because the rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response…we, the undersigned, as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States.”

Warning or self-fulfilling prophecy? History will decide.

Writers: Don’t Wait. Write a Banned Book Today.

“If a story is in you, it has got to come out.” –William Faulkner

I love that quote by Faulkner. It’s how I’ve always felt about my best writing. When the story is in there, it just needs to come out, and the only way is through my fingertips. It’s a wonderful feeling.

What isn’t a wonderful feeling is how I feel about the publishing industry right now. I feel like writers are becoming less of artists because they’re at the mercy of publishers and consumerism. Will a story sell? If a publisher, editor or agent says no, too often the story is never written. Or if a writer sneaks and writes it between his/her agent-approved projects, it becomes one of Stephen King’s “trunk novels.” Filed away in a forgotten place.

When did writers start writing what everybody else WANTS them to write? If that were always the case, there’d be no banned books week (September 27-October 3, just fyi). Can you imagine Huxley pitching A Brave New World? Or Ray Bradbury trying to sell an agent on Fahrenheit 451? What if, at the time these books were being written, the publishing world said no and the writers didn’t write them? What if those books had never been there to inspire thoughts and feelings that aren’t always pleasant, but nonetheless help us to become a better place?

I believe it is the duty of writers and artists to bring things into the world that wouldn’t otherwise be there. If it’s a story that sells a million copies, great. The important thing is to get it on your computer screen and out of your head. Then do your damnedest to send it out into the world. Through the normal channels, through a small publisher, in ebook form or pamphlet or on your own blog, if need be.

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, onto paper.” –Ray Bradbury

Because that’s your job. That’s why you’re a writer.

In honor of banned books week, I’d like to urge all my fellow writers to join me next week in writing something they want to write. Don’t write it because somebody else thinks it will sell. Write it because it’s in your heart. You may rediscover that joy that writing used to bring you.