Humanity is fickle, wayward, self-serving. It is also “best” when it is vibrantly alive, growing, positive.
I stumbled across a formal statement of optimism to guide my writing this week. “The Human Wave of Science Fiction” (re-blogged yesterday – the original blog entry by Sarah Hoyt is nearly two years old, relevant as ever, and well worth gaining a new round of “eyes” PLUS continuing commentary). I’m not only on-board with the concepts, I’m reviewing my overall writing output from the last four decades (oh, yes, I have been writing since I was in high school, even before it was “cool”). I’ve been surfing the Human Wave since before it was formally described, with very few exceptions released to the attention of anyone else.
The choices made have put me in the position of being even more on the fringe of The Fringe than I had fully realized before.
Out here on the fringe of The Fringe, life can be hard and the challenges border upon the overwhelming BUT that does not mean that we humans are going to curl up and lie down to quietly accept the worst. There is far too much of the BEST yet ahead of us. Out here, we may not be on the edge of the world, quite, but we can see it from here. On the better days, we can even see beyond the edge and speculate just what those visions may bring for our future.
The past of humanity has given us tools. How we apply those tools to create our futures says a great deal about us as a species. How WE apply the tools our tools create on our individual scale can make or break our individual destinies. Those applications can also influence the efforts of others around us.
Small-scale case in point: Internet “cute” animal videos and the directly-related Stupid Human Trick accounts. I can choose to ignore both categories — they will still be there, and people will still seek them out, create new examples, and make themselves some tinier bit happy. I can share the links or direct copies to a carefully selected circle of friends and acquaintances, with or maybe without additional commentary. I can comment on their existence WITHOUT actually linking or forwarding (hello? doing so Right Now).
I can and have done all of those things in some measure even without the Interwebz to use as a tool, since well back in school (early book report on a Walter Farley title, If I Recall Correctly – IIRC).
As long as I refrain from obsessing on the darn things, I enjoy them well enough. Both categories bring a smile, a laugh, an outrage, or perhaps some moment of contemplation from time to time. Stupid Human Trick examples occasionally reinforce thoughts that the gene pool needs more bleach, but can also lead me to think seriously about the role of common sense, reconsider safety factors, or ponder the possible when creating the next “impossible” obstacle for the characters in my fiction. My Curmudgeon-in-Training status also needs occasional weed-and-feed, of course…
Ten thousand. A recurring figure in my thoughts over the years has been the consideration of that figure in various combinations and as applied to planning an assortment of story concepts. Right now, expressed as dollars, a figure not immediately obtainable. Expressed as mileage, more than I have driven an automobile in the last year AND approximately how far I would like to journey on my next “real” vacation. Stated as a target, the number of book copies under my name where I will perhaps completely believe that I have “made it” as an author. (Hey, I have a start already … hmmm, where did I stash that last statement from www.lulu.com?)
I’m pretty certain where I first derived the number from. Ten thousand adult humans of child-rearing age has been at one time or another used as the “minimum” human population to sustain a colony without further contact by the originating civilization, given certain other factors. No, I can’t be certain where I first found the concept. Probably a good bet to blame Robert A. Heinlein or some other of his contemporaries. Could have as easily been something out of Shute’s thoroughly NON-HumanWave novel (and movie adaptation) ON THE BEACH.
Without regard to the actual source, the figure of 10,000 has become part and parcel of the poems and stories that I have and continue to create. Applying it to these current thoughts, out here on The Fringe trying to keep ten thousand of anything can be a challenge. As of last night’s 10PM news local news broadcast, 10,000 rounds of .22 ammunition might just be worth their weight in gold to the right buyer (empty shelves in the local big-box retail outlets). In a mega-disaster scenario, that same amount — gold or ammo — might become a death sentence OR it could be the seed of salvation for a person, a family, a community struggling to survive.
I prefer to explore the potential of the seeds and grow the community.
Humanity as a collective entity is straining at the boundaries of this birth-place. A few of us have managed to step outside the boundaries for a few moments, only to return because of limitations and frailties. Frailty of physical survival, first-generation equipment, national economics and resolve all contributed to our failure — so far — to follow through on the promises our fiction had provided.
We never completely abandoned our collective dreams, however, at least not out here on The Fringe. We still write our stories, our poetry, our songs. We share what we write with others, of our own and our future generations. We struggle on, doing what we can to keep the fires burning even while the barbarians outside the gates of our sanctuaries seek to deny us fuel to burn or the energy to tend the lamps and braziers.
We also cheer every time a new player succeeds in joining the growing “club” of those with proven equipment for reaching orbit, or surviving extended periods of time in isolation, or even getting us one step closer to making impossible technology an everyday tool. Consider 3D printing for a moment: mayhap still primitive, but the process sure looks a LOT like Star Trek — and similar other SF thinking — predicted the possible, with “the replicator”. Still in early prototype testing for something like pizza in space, specialty companies are already applying 3D print tech to produce chocolate confections practically impossible to create using older (manual) methods.
Ten thousand. Expressed as hours, using the currently-“standard” 40-hour working week, that’s right at five YEARS on-the-job for most workers. (Two-and-a-half for crazy writer-types on a mission…) All too many of the best and brightest currently working have no way to be certain they will even have the same employer in five years. It is a dead-even bet at best that they will not have the same duties and expectations within their job as they do today, with the primary exclusion of those on the more “menial” end of the scale (and even the janitor and waitstaff are finding the technology explosion changing the way they work).
A common employment interview question these past twenty years or so has been “Where do you see yourself in our company in five years?” There are suggested ways to answer the question provided by employment counselors. I submit that most of those ways no longer have relevancy to the real world. I would like to propose a Human Wave answer:
I don’t know, but I intend to make the most of whatever I’m given to do in the course of that time. I have the skills and experience the company is looking for now. I have the will and the knowledge to build upon those and build toward that future, and the flexibility to adapt when the tools and expectations change.
Don’t know about all of you who may read these words, but I will close today’s examination with a request. Go find a copy of the last Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. Doesn’t matter if you have never read one before, and I don’t care if you don’t like comics. The words are what matter most on this one. I’ll expand by at least partial paraphrase. It is a great big UNIVERSE out there.
Watterson got it right.