where the writers are
The Maxtrix of Decadence Surrounding the Books

The jury may still be out on Iraq and Iran, on Brittany’s hairstyle and global warming, but by now we have a clear-cut verdict on the issue of western decline. No longer sufficient to admit that the West has lost relative position with regard to the rest of the world in material terms, it’s past time to confess that we are deep into the historically well-attested syndrome sobriqueted [my word] as decadence, a mortal condition, probably irreversible, that is reflected, indeed proved, by the waning quality of the civic and aesthetic arts in evidence today.

Has ever there been a time when merit and success were so inversely related? And really, could anything be more painful than forced to scan the roll call of America’s most famous people? Than the best-seller lists? Than our educational system? Than the conduct of billionaires? Than television?

Imagine the historians of the future trying to understand this, how the cultural contributions of the earth’s richest and most powerful nation can be summed up in terms of basketball, rock and rap, consumerism, new forms of pornography, art galleries full of high priced junk, “vibrant” neighborhoods, pulp journalism, etiolated children glued to computer screens, women soldiers, pullulating cities, special effects cinema, etc., etc., the whole bloody list.

Truth is, in its senescence our civilization has become a cultural failure, a denouement foreseen by Toynbee and others, fostered by comfort and security and a prosperity that has been too far prolonged – the worst of conditions for writers of serious intent.

(Future blogs will offer suggestions as to how writers can continue to operate under such conditions while still preserving some measure of human integrity.)

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The War against Entropy

In any closed loop system, be it physical, sociological, or political, the only possible end state is entropy...a condition of bland sameness. We are seeing the cultural equivalent of "heat death".... the physical state of the universe where there is no available energy to do anything. Everything is at the ground state. It is the reason a perpetual motion machine can't work.
There is a solution to the entropic state, but it requires reaching outside of the closed loop system. You can't derive creative energy from the surrounding culture any more than you can make a steam engine run on fog.
For some time now, various makers and creators have been running on their reserves, but as you have noted, their influence on the massive "heat sink" of culture is waning. You can't boil a bathtub full of water with an acetylene torch...you can't even make it warm. Though the temperature of an acetylene flame is extremely high, the heat capacity of the flame is negligible.
The way you boil a bathtub with an acetylene torch is you pour all the water out onto the floor. Then you can vaporize it instantaneously. As a creator, you aren't going to influence culture in bulk...but you have a chance of doing it a molecule at a time...if you're lucky. Unfortunately, you need an audience that WANTS to be heated up in the first place...


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The atomic theory of decay

Henceforward, I look to physics and Eric for support. He'll take care of the plasma and I'll deal with whatever is left over.