I think, as the death toll crosses a politically-minimized 150,000, that we have to accept that the horror we felt when we watched the towers fall was about the buildings, not the people.
July, we hardly knew ye. It was a pretty big month, but you wouldn’t know that based on the cone of silence that has descended on this humble blog. In fact, one and a half Very Big Things happened.
First was summer camp. For three weeks I spent much more time writing fiction than writing code. I hung out with a bunch of talented people from all over the world, learned a few things, got encouragement, and generally worked on my craft.
To be honest, I feel a little presumptuous these days calling what I do “craft”, but it gave me the right chance with the right people to go back and find structure for my very favorite project. I have about 150K words for my 80K story, but now I can see which of those words fit together into a story. Much of the rest is pretty much self-fanfic (without apologies — that’s fun to do), and enough ideas to carry into sequels. It’s the kind of story where a publisher will be happy to hear that there are sequels, should the first book succeed.
Often I travel to Kansas for Summer Camp, but of course this year it was all remote. While I absolutely missed the chance encounters that lead to great discussions, the late-night movie gatherings, and the nights where we read our work for each other, the remote version had some surprising dividends. Naturally, there’s the refreshing absence of “why can’t people clean up after themselves?” type of frustration that one finds when sharing a kitchen.
But there were other benefits as well. People who live far away could be with us. Successful writers and busy editors added a depth of experience, enthusiasm, and shared dread. One woman actually went through an absolutely hellish book launch while summer camp was happening. (Hellish because of the people involved, not the book.)
And because of the nature of this summer camp, unbound by geography, when it was over… it didn’t end. As I have typed this, messages from campers have gone by in little bubbles at the top-right of my screen.
I haven’t participated in those conversations very much, though. The great feelings and strong ideas I came out of summer camp with ran directly into work. But that leads me to the other Exciting Half-Thing!
Five years ago, I picked up a project that someone else had already been working on. Maybe six years ago by now. When you see the code now, you would never imagine the long and winding road that is also a car wash and you’re in a convertible and there are random naked electrical lines dangling down I have been through. Here’s a brief synopsis of what the writing community calls a try-fail cycle:
- Helpful Tech Person: This is how you do this.
- Jerry struggles to do this, calls in help from all over the company, costing everyone time. After a few weeks he ALMOST succeeds, but then the underlying rules change.
- Helpful Tech Person: Why aren’t you doing this the easy way?
There’s one guy at my company that it’s probably just as well I didn’t know where his workstation is. It would not have ended well.
I have to say that one reason I’m finally so close to finishing is because I’m working with someone on the other side of the api who is both knowledgeable and invested in my success. I need to figure out the right gift to send him when this goes live. It’s tricky now, because it should be something he can share with his team, but, well…
But that’s the other half-thing, a thing that will someday soon become a fucking huge thing. This whole goddam mess will be going live soon. I have told my boss that for a few days after that happens, I may be hard to reach. The last of my 18-year-aged Scotch will be consumed in celebration. And I’ll renew my Summer Camp connections, and get my novel moving forward again, and hey, maybe take a few photos as well. Summer Camp opened up a lot of the creativity that work and current events had crushed. It’s time to get back in the saddle.
It is late dusk, the Fourth of July, 2020. There is everywhere, all around me, the rumble and pop of fireworks. It has been going on for a while, now.
I don’t honestly remember any Independence Day being quite like this one.
But of course in my lifetime there has not been a day like this one. I hope there is never a day like this again. We are celebrating the moment we became a nation built on principle, and simultaneously we are revolting against a regime that has abandoned principle.
Around me is a nearly constant drumbeat of noise, near and distant, sharp with proximity or heavy with distant force. The soundscape is frothing, rolling and popping, unceasing. It has not been like this before.
But of course it hasn’t. Nothing has been like this before. This noise is coming from Americans, the true proud-to-be sort, even the earned-my-right-to-be sort, but it is certain the noise is not coming from people happy about the way things have been going around here.
As I type this the background has become a steady roar. You can take that as a metaphor if you want.