recently, sfwa sent their bulletin, and the cover is awful. there is a woman in the proverbial chain-mail bikini. she is standing like a pinup mostly nude in the middle of very cold-looking mountains having slain something that looks like a cold-weather monster. it is a throwback to a past that i thought we had all agreed was pretty awful and wrong and wouldn’t that be very uncomfortable and impractical, anyway? it’s a pandering fantasy thing, that speaks to our lowest impulses. and here it is, again, the bottom-dwelling marketplace that seems to do so surprisingly well, because people love to speak to the bottom of their shoes, and celebrate the terrible things, and swallow placebos of the mind. chainmail bikinis for everyone. chainmail bikinis forever. sfwa apparently wishes to remind us that without even thinking hard about it, what folks really want is chainmail bikinis.
and, sales of books that might as well be chainmail bikini books, and seeing the general success of books that speak to these impulses, and films based on them, and seeing the few bright lights squelched, squeezed, and altered away from distinction and rather watch the voices turn book-by-book towards a plain, unadorned, thriller-esque big tent before our eyes due to this cold, material reality of art as a commodity is the sort of thing that makes me want to shrivel up into a hole and pull the earth over me. the great voices of our age will bend to the market because the rent, the bills, the audience is greater there, and we can do more with a larger audience, etc… and chainmail bikini, or close enough to it, because why not? it’s what people want, right? we want to make the audience happy, right?
sales are a good thing, right? writing the kind of books people actually want to read, instead of books that exist for the ego of the author, or something else soundbite-y and justifying. i’ve heard it explained away before, and the soundbites are all right, i guess, but they always seem to be used as a way to justify a chainmail bikini or its intellectual and spiritual equivalent, and i don’t know about that. the proof is in the pudding, right? talk about it all you want, but there is your chainmail bikini and the rest is just excuses.
for a long time, i was able to just keep going and keep writing, but it’s getting harder. it’s hard to watch things do very well that are terrible, spiteful things that have no respect for audiences’ intellects, and also to watch how little the world seems interested in the things that interest me.
some days i just stop and sit outside and look up at the sun and wonder what it will take to get me to give up – to really give up.
i think the cover of sfwa bulletin #200 is what giving up looks like, and surrendering to all the pieces of our world that want things to be terrible, easy, and the sort of art where you just throw shiny things in the air and some of them are fireworks that explode.
account for the manner in which you’ve lived your life, and what art you’ve made and pushed upon the world.
maybe my sales figures are terrible, but i came about them honorably.