where the writers are
The Writer's Responsibility and Other Rubbish

Seven years after publication of my first novel, Plasma Dreams, (perhaps due to some statute of limitations thing), my first unsolicited review/post-mortem report dribbled in from somewhere "across the Pond."  As this was emailed to me by some distant relatives in Canterbury, I can't verify that it has arrived completely intact, but I suspect that it did.

     "I rescued this pathetic little paperback from my neighbour's dustbin, more intrigued by the odd cover than by any hope of literary merit.  I'm still at a loss as to actually why the unknown author wrote this uncategorizable amalgam of science fiction, theology and second-hand Eskimo culture, likely aided and abetted by some hallucinogenic substances unknown in the Old World.  Yet, there seems to be a curiously consistent, if warped, internal logic to the "work" that actually allows the story to make some sense...if you can last long enough to get there...."

   Thanks....I think. 

   This sort of critique....or whatever it is...causes one to evaluate why one writes in the first place.  Obviously, if our responsibility is to critics...well...at least we can supply them with some interesting fodder.  But buried within the scathing sarcasm is a truth....one that I have always recognized....it is our calling to create some kind of internal logic, and that applies to just about any sort of literature, fictional or otherwise.

   It is our job as writers to help make some sense of the universe...to reduce the total entropy of existence...even if only in incremental and localized, and likely, temporary portions.  A book is worth more than its constituent ink and paper only to the degree that the product departs from the natural slide toward sameness in all things.  And it is indeed indisputable that, absent an outside creative force, EVERYTHING is subject to entropy....the physical world, politics, religion...even, (gasp) literature.  It's a constant battle against gravity in all its depressing manifestations.

  However, wasn't it Sam Goldwyn who said, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union."?

  At one time, I would pontificate, along with a host of others, that our responsibility as writers is to send some kind of message....that every story should have a moral appended to it....just like an Aesop's Fable.  As a Christian writer, the pressure to append some sort of "holy theme" is even greater, possibly.  C.S. Lewis handled this better than anyone, I suppose.  His theology was so intimately and subtly intertwined with story that no reader was ever aware that he had been preached to, when it was all over.  

   I don't have the chops to pull that off, which is why C.S. Lewis was C.S. Lewis, and I'm not.  But I also realize that C.S. Lewis lived in a time when the general entropy of the universe was less.  It was a time of Chevy Impalas and Buick Roadmasters....when cars were named after things that still sounded like what they were.  (What in tarnation is a Prius anyway?)  So at the risk of deigning to compare myself to a great master of anything, I will say that my job may actually be harder than Lewis's, if only because of the time we're in.

  I've found that it's a lot more fun to present self-evident truths in my writing than it is to pontificate.  The really nice thing about self-evident truths is that they aren't subject to entropy....they supply their own energy.  The great painters of the Renaissance understood this.  They knew that if they created the best possible product, the sermon would emerge under its own power.  It's a lot less obnoxious than preaching, at least in most cases.

  Now, I'm not naive enough to think that there aren't those who share my calling as a writer, yet whose message is completely diametrically opposed to mine.  I should acknowledge that Red Room has a comfortable mix of philosophies ranging from the far left to the far right, and as long as the average is somewhere in the middle, our discourse can be far more civilized than in the current political arena.  Perhaps this itself is one of the non-negotiable writerly responsibilities....to, as much as is humanly possible, cause people of any persuasion to "reason together," to wax Biblical.

  It's enough of a motivation to keep me at it.

 

 

Eric