Notes from The Buffer Zone: The Shifting World Order

I can’t get used to it, no matter how much I try. I really can’t. I’m constantly astonished by the fact that the rest of the world has fallen in love with superheroes, magic, and space opera.

I watch late night talk show hosts squee over plot twists in Game of Thrones, and I marvel. I listen to news announcers reference Star Trek in a hard news story about, say, politics, and I can’t believe it. I hear librarians talk about ordering more fantasy novels, and I’m astonished.

Used to be . . . librarians complained about spending hard-earned library dollars on that dreck. Used to be . . . librarians hid the dreck in side rooms and pointed those rooms out only when someone asked.

Used to be . . .

The world wasn’t a better place back then. I’m not one of those people who wants to return to the SF ghetto. I fought for decades to get the wider world to recognize the literary goodness of SF & F. I wanted this world. I wanted everyone to see what I see—just how great our genre really is.

I’m just not used to it.

Used to be . . . I didn’t tell people I wrote SF & F because I didn’t want to hear the snobby, “Oh, I don’t read that crap.” Now, I don’t want to tell them because introvert-me is afraid I’ll launch a three-hour conversation about plot twists and good books and favorite movies.

Used to be . . . no one cared that I wrote Star Trek novels and knew actors/screenwriters/directors from the series.

Used to be. . . no one really cared that I had written a Star Wars novel and knew lots of folks who worked on the original film.

Used to be . . .

Now, I have to be careful admitting who I know. In a discussion about Game of Thrones with a librarian, I mentioned that George R.R. Martin’s friends knew he was working on this long before the first book was out.

“Really?” the librarian asked me. “How do you know that?”

“Because I’ve known George almost as long as I’ve known my husband,” I said—and ooops! Oh, dear.

After the obligatory fannish meltdown, the librarian asked if I could help them snag George for one of their promotions. For free. No expenses paid.

Um, much as I’d love to do something like that for libraries—and occasionally do things like that myself (donating fees and covering the expenses on my own), I’m certainly not going to put one of my friends in the same boat.

After people find out I know George, they quiz me. Do I know J.K. Rowling? Stephen King? Some other really famous writer? What about this actor? What about that director? How come my stuff isn’t on TV yet? And if I’m so rich, why aren’t I donating more to this organization or that organization?

I stop answering the who-I-know questions almost immediately. That way lies madness. And I’ve stopped trying to explain how Hollywood works—that my stuff is continually under option there, but that doesn’t mean much more than money in my pocket. It’s a lottery to get something produced, albeit a better lottery now that there are so many platforms, than it was 20 years ago.

And if I’m so rich, how come I don’t know about it? I mean, I do well, but I’m not J.K. Rowling rich, Stephen King rich, or George R.R. Martin rich. Big writer earnings are news . . . because they’re unusual, not because they’re common. That’s what makes them news.

But . . . it used to be that I could predict when the fannish squee would assault my ears. I could predict when someone would go gaga for a book or a movie. I could tell when someone would turn their nose up at my profession or my favorite writers or feign ignorance, even when I knew they were lying.

They don’t lie any more. Everyone, it seems, loves what we do.

Our genre has become the genre and much as I love it, I find it disconcerting.

The upside is that I don’t have to go to an SF convention to have one of those detailed fannish conversations about some world that I love.

The downside is that I don’t have to go to an SF convention to have one of those detailed fannish conversations about some world I love.

I’m still getting used to it.

Used to be ain’t what is.

And that’s new—and really, really cool.



One thought on “Notes from The Buffer Zone: The Shifting World Order

  1. Ernest Brown

    I have been reading SF&F for longer than I care to think about. If truth be told, two (2) of my most favorite books are Siverlock and A Canticle for Leibowitz. This site is one I visit every few weeks just to see if anything new is on. As a result, your Notes from the Bufer Zone always gets my attention. Please keep writting this segment and keep your stories coming.
    They help me make it through the day and thus through life.

    Ernie Brown

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