If you’ve visited this blog during the holidays, you know my feelings about Christmas music. It’s my tradition to unleash a primal, Munchian scream against the unbearable, tinny, maudlin, manipulative, manufactured dreck that the Sentimental-Industrial Complex annually sees fit to inflict on us. But this time, science is here to help us.
Editing on my novel has been proceeding more slowly than I’d like, so to motivate myself I returned to my writers’ group for a critique night. To get myself back in the spirit of things, I submitted “Misconquest,” a short story that you’ve seen on this site.
It was a good way to remember why I stopped going to critique nights.
On the morning of November 9, when the votes were counted and we all knew that Donald Trump would become our next president, I put the following statement on social media:
Well, folks, it’s been a nice republic.
It got a positive response from friends on the left and the right. They all sensed that something very important had been lost, though it was hard to pinpoint what. But those who find profit in that loss are leaving no end of clues, and it’s our job to read those clues.
Lightning struck, very close, and violent thunder shook the home of Harold Meltzer in Lower Hambat, Illinois. Sitting on his front porch, staring out, Harold did not react. There was nothing he could do. The storm had been raging for days. The river, already swollen by upstream snowmelt, would crest soon, and overwhelm the levee. That barrier, built to be so mighty, was now exposed as feeble against the wrath of nature. Once it failed, nothing could save the town.
Lower Hambat’s calls for help had gone unanswered. Emergency services were already deployed to the fullest at other locations along the river. Harold thought about his family home, and talons of despair constricted around his heart.
Harold’s neighbors also sat on their porches, looking out, watching the rising waters that measured the exact height of human futility. There was nothing to be done.
Then, something moved.
[Editor’s note: Archaeologists have recently uncovered a new account of this Greek myth, written from a different perspective. As it turns out, the Greeks may have been a little less worshipful of their gods than we had thought. Here’s my translation.]
Once upon a time in ancient Greece there was a clever philosopher named Rocrates, who just happened to be a large boulder. Rocrates lived under a tree in the forest. A family of foxes lived in a burrow underneath him, and their kits played on top of him, and their activities kept him clean. Rocrates laid there for years, happily doing nothing except for thinking up Rocratic dialogues that made the citizens of Athens look dumb.
But nothing lasts forever. The weather changed, and conditions became rainy and moist, and it stayed that way for a long time. The foxes moved out in search of a drier home, and Rocrates noticed that he was getting covered with moss. He felt lonely and wet and itchy, and he didn’t like it one bit. But Rocrates was also very lazy and didn’t feel like cleaning himself.
Rocrates pondered: “Sure, I could flop around until I’ve scrubbed this moss off of me. But I hate doing things for myself. What if I could get somebody else to do it for me?”
A friend challenged me with this idea: could I make watching paint dry entertaining? Here’s my answer: a top secret look into the high-stakes world of competitive paint drying!
A writer friend of mine was fretting about a children’s story she was developing. It was about a squirrel named Whiskie, which I thought was a fine name, but she worried that parents would reject the story because the name sounded like alcohol. That got me thinking, and here’s the result. (Profanity warning.)
The Adventures of Absinthe the Squirrel