Thursday, August 20, 2020

Surviving the Slow Apocalypse

More about the "slow apocalypse" from Kameron Hurley this month:

Of Men and Monsters

Writing about police brutality, serial harassers in the SF field, incompetence and corruption in government, etc., she says, "Monsters masked as men have always walked among us." She deplores the difficulty of making broad structural changes, with the result that the same problems cycle around and continually resurface, "because we punish individuals instead of remaking systems." About the "monsters," she goes on to say, "What ensures their continued existence is the esteem we hold them in, the lifting up of powerful bullies out of fear: fear of retribution, fear of discomfort, fear of what would happen if we did not uphold the status quo." She focuses in particular on the "monsters" in the "professional spaces" of the science fiction community.

In connection with the protests, riots, and assassinations of the 1960s and early 1970s, she acknowledges, "There have always been times like these." Learning from the past is a necessary prerequisite for creating a better future.

Therefore, it strikes me as incongruous when, although she concludes with an expression of hope, immediately before that she declares, "It’s been difficult for me to write anything these days that isn’t prefaced with how difficult it is to do much of anything but survive during the final death throes of America as we know it."

Are things really THAT bad? I tend, rather, to accept Steven Pinker's thesis in THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE and ENLIGHTENMENT NOW that these are the best of times for our planet, not the worst. Yes, even now. What if COVID-19 had struck in the middle of the nineteenth century, before the germ theory of disease was accepted? Only sixty or seventy years ago, the deaths in police custody that have roused such passionate cries for change would hardly even have been considered newsworthy. Our country has survived worse, such as the Civil War, the Great Depression, and two World Wars. As my stepmother used to say, much to my annoyance when I was a teenager impatient to grow up, "This too shall pass."

Speaking of writing, my personal coping mode is the opposite of Hurley's. I don't feel competent to deal with the weight of the present crises through fiction. In my last few works, as well as the WIP I'm starting now, I've practiced writing with a light touch and hints of humor that I hope will offer readers (along with myself) an hour or two of pleasurable escape.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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