It's awkward being an artist when the world is falling apart. It feels clueless and crass to hawk fiction while everyone's out fighting for real and urgent causes. Whatever your political leanings, these are scary times. Stakes and passions are high, there are dozens of global crises that demand our attention, and luxuries like art can seem remote and unimportant.
I have been struggling with that feeling throughout this year. What is my role in the world's problems? Is it my duty as a conscientious American to drop whatever I'm doing and go join the political process? Is it wrong to sit here tinkering with fictions instead of feeding refugees and protesting atrocities? Or are my energies better spent in my own field of expertise, where they can have a quieter but potentially deeper influence?
I've spent the last four years writing a story that's very much a response to these times. It's not a “political" novel; you won't find cheap jabs at public figures or snarky satires of current events, but I pumped it up from an aquifer that's been bubbling beneath our surface for a while now, and I've never written anything that turned out to be so timely. Watching 2016 unfold has been like watching a bad dream come true. But I want to believe the good parts of that dream are as prophetic as the bad ones. Maybe the resistance in this story could be some inspiration for the one in real life, a little gleam of hope as we stumble toward the apocalypse.
So rather than abandon my work to go out and take action, I've decided to make this book my action. My 500-page protest sign. This isn't an excuse to sit out the struggle; I'll keep doing whatever I can in the real world, but I'm not going to feel guilty for being an artist instead of a soldier. I'm going to keep pouring my heart into my writing and do whatever I can to get it into people's brains, because for whatever it's worth, fiction is my clearest language and my most effective tool. Some people are orators, organizers, journalists, activists. I write stories.
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Thank you, everyone. Stay alive.