Lovely drive up to Madison with Benjamin Rosenbaum, as always — one of my favorite parts of the con. At some point I started out complaining about the state of the field, but Ben quickly figured out that what I was really worried about was the state of my own writing. And then we had a nice long natter about that. The short version is that at this point, twenty years into my career, I am reasonably confident of being able to turn out competent, publishable work without much trouble. But, as Ben says, I want to produce better art than that — I want people to be reading my work in 200 years!
I don’t think I’m living up to that standard yet, and I am not sure I’ll ever achieve it. And I’m a little worried that especially right now, especially in genre, with the current conversations about diversity, people (editors) might let me skate by a little bit because my work hits the diversity buttons and it’s competent. I kind of want to shake them, and shake my readers, and shout, “Hold me to a higher standard!” Ben suggested I stand up on a chair at my party tomorrow and harangue the audience.
I’m probably overthinking the diversity thing. This is one problem with advocating for more diversity, though, that the people who you bring in who are more diverse start to worry that they’re only there because of the diversity initiative. SIGH. Catch-22. I’m not sure there’s anything to be done about that, since clearly we are still shockingly un-diverse overall in publishing, if you look at the scary numbers. Nothing to do but understand the state of affairs as it is, and then try my damnedest to make sure that the work I send out is as good as I can possibly make it. It’s not going to be perfect, I know. But I would rather write / publish stories that are ambitious and flawed than stories that are competent and safe.
Airing some of my anxieties, with Ben to help me think things through and challenge the sillier bits of my thinking, was relieving to the spirit, at least. Maybe I can go into the next piece of work with a quieter heart and a more focused mind.