If babies began to be born with antlers, or arachnid properties, or with penises for hair, many people, myself very much included, would treat them with dignity and advocate for their rights. My newfound empathy for those with a visceral desire to prevent an introduction of difference has not helped me to understand bigotry toward those who are different. I am nevertheless struck by Adam Zaretsky’s beliefs that willfully introducing transgressive differences into society would be both desirable as an end in itself and bring about a world that was ultimately more tolerant.
Much of human history, social-science research about negative effects of diversity, and the science-fiction canon all lead me to the more pessimistic conclusion that sentient beings of that sort would face much hatred and persecution, and would, if so empowered, dole out much hatred and persecution in turn.
I wonder if my diversity-loving tribe has lost the ability to see that.
Famous dead writer David Foster Wallace made many writers unhappy. The unhappiness, of course, was a feeling of inferiority. You know, if you’re a writer reading Wallace, that you just aren’t that good. You just can’t be. Anecdotal evidence of this includes many hours of my sadness. More anecdotal evidence of this includes Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, a big brick of a novel clearly intended to rival Infinite Jest, the latter marking its twentieth anniversary this year. (Franzen, in an interview in BookPage, said, “Infinite Jest got me working, as competition will get you working.”) And then there’s David Lipsky’s Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, a book about hanging out with Wallace that is largely about Lipsky’s envy at not being his equal. I am not alone in this neurosis.
But first you have to write the ending.
Correction: First off, you must avoid any ending in which some godlike savior comes into the story to take care of everything and everyone. This is a deus ex machina, a last-minute, last-ditch, make-everything-right, sort-out-the-kinks-and-crinkles ending that satisfies no one.
Now: write an ending that is not deus ex machina.
One day, during my retirement, if there is still Social Security or whatever, I plan to write a collection of short stories called “Places I Have Lost My Son.”