(Yes, I know that implies that my usual subtitles are clever, but allow me my illusions.)
It’s Spring Break for the Spawn and me here in Mondoville, but for Mrs. M, it’s business as usual. While I sometimes travel to Nashville over the break, the recent closure of I-40 has turned the usual six-hour drive into something closer to eight. So I’ll probably just get caught up on grading and such while the Spawn continues her newfound hobby of checking her e-mail eleventy times a day to see if she has heard from Top Choice Grad Program. She has already been accepted at Even-Higher-Ranked Grad Program, but her heart is with Top Choice (also highly ranked), and then there’s the whole matter of funding. We shall see…
But meanwhile, why not some potpourri?
Yesterday was Senior Day for our men’s and women’s basketball team, so I spent the afternoon at the gym to cheer them on and wish them well. The well-wishing went better than the cheering, I’m afraid, as we were swept by the visitors from Carson-Newman University, but this year’s crop of seniors are a good crop of kids and deserve their celebration.
An interesting point: Four of our five graduating women’s players are Australian, and the other is from the U.K.. As part of the observance, the playing of our national anthem was preceded by the playing of “God Save the Queen” and “Advance Australia Fair.” I thought it was a nice touch, although the ladies seemed a little embarrassed.
(Our roster next year will have far less of an international flavor, although we still have a remaining Aussie and a remarkable young woman from Kriva Palanka, in the newly renamed nation of North Macedonia. It’ll be another two or three years before she graduates, but I suspect our athletic department probably should start looking for a version of that anthem as soon as possible. It may take a little work. (Oh, who am I kidding? Here it is.) I was talking to this player a few weeks ago about the name change — she was fuming, because this meant that she had to get new documents with the country’s new name, which would be a significant expense and hassle. But I’m really glad she’s here — she’s a great kid.)
Our sole graduating men’s player is a former student of mine, and we learned that he has excelled in ROTC during his time here as well, and will be graduating with a GPA around 3.5 (I’m not violating any FERPA here — this was announced on the PA at the game.) It was also nice to see that a sizable contingent of family members had come down from Maryland to see him off. They were easy to spot, as they were all wearing T-shirts with the player’s name and number on them.
While it would have been nice to send them off with victories, the real victories came in the form of these players’ good citizenship and classroom achievement; I’m proud of all of them.
While everyone knows that Twitter is a political fever swamp, it’s slightly less common knowledge that one of the most virulent pockets of infection may be found where discussions involve fiction that is ostensibly targeted to young adults. (Caveat: Many of the readers of YA fiction fall outside the titular demographic.)
In the past few months we’ve seen two different novels get nuked pre-publication as a result of social media mob actions attacking the books and authors for insensitivity to marginalized groups. (By the way, the authors in question are an Asian woman who immigrated to the States and a gay, African-American man, who has been known to join in mobs in the past himself. It seems that witches can pop up anywhere, huh?)
So I was chatting with a friend about this the other day (not least in order to say “Thank God I don’t write that stuff”) when I realized something about this particular brand of awfulness. I think it’s connected to the same idea that ticked me off not long ago, when Kyle Smith kvetched about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s recent choice of projects.
In all these cases, we see people other than the artist telling the artist what s/he can or cannot, should or shouldn’t make. At this point in my life and my insignificant career as a fictioneer, I feel inclined to take the Harlan Ellison position on these matters. It is not the audience’s job to decide what sort of eggs the goose should be laying. They don’t have to take the eggs if they don’t want them, and they don’t even have to thank the goose for trying (although that might be nice.) If they don’t like the eggs, ignore them. But to tell the goose that it is only allowed to lay a particular kind of egg and that it should be harmed for laying other kinds of eggs? That’s not really too far from Molly Norris country (and yes, I remember Molly Norris, and so anyone who cares about art.)
Put less metaphorically — I don’t owe society (or any at-large member of it) anything from my work but to do the best version of it I can do. It is not my job to support a political or social agenda. It is not my job to critique or extol any way of life, belief system, or power structure. It is not my job to represent anyone or anything I don’t choose, and any such representations I may perform are in the service of my conception of the artwork.
I am not a group. I am not a class. I am not a demographic. I am a writer (at least from time to time), and I tell the stories I choose to tell, pulling them from whatever internal or external stimuli draw them out of me. Some people will like them. Some people won’t. They can offer me gifts of money or other considerations in exchange for them, or they can refuse to do so. They can offer me suggestions, or point me toward particular inspirations, knowing that I’m under no obligation to accept them. But once they start trying to dictate what my stories should be, and especially once they start actively trying to prevent other people who might like those stories from accessing them, they are no longer an audience — they are just another damned lynch mob. And I mean damned precisely — those people are betrayers of the creativity that has moved our species from the trees to the cave to the world we now have. Their place is in Cocytus, with the rest of the traitors.
Thus speaks the King of liver-flavored toothpaste, who had not expected to write a manifesto this afternoon.
But let’s not end this with my doing the Yosemite Sam shtick. Instead, how about some music? I mentioned these guys the other day on the Book of Faces, but The Hu are a hard rock band from Ulan Bator, combining hard grooves with Mongolian folk instrumentation and throat singing. (I have to admit, I love the homophonic quality of the name, along with a new chance to do the “Hu’s on first” routine.) Their lyrics incorporate references to Genghis Khan and his various outreach programs, and looking at the videos, I can easily envision their ancestors as participants in same. First, here’s “Yuve Yuve Yu” (translated variously as “Very Strange” or “What’s Going On?”):
And next we have “Wolf Totem”.
See you soon!