Wednesday has been Column Day for 11 years, and over 11 years some stuff will happen. My rule of thumb is that one should not re-read oneself unless one is willing to pay the emotional price, which usually involves groaning, but at least it’s some sort of record of what I was thinking, or not thinking. Some of these are collected in my books, but I’ve decided to ignore that for the time being and just find one from the past, every Wednesday, and post. If not for your edification, then mine. Groans are acceptable.
From November 17, 2004.
There was a period in my life when I read a lot of science fiction. Actually, I’ve reached an age (46) when I can probably stop saying “period” and start using “era” in terms of personal history, but I’m not going to.
And I should even correct that first sentence to say “…when I read science fiction a lot.” Or maybe I should just shut up.
Because real science fiction aficionados, and yes, you can spot them a mile away, would scoff at my brief flirtation with Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, and might point out that “Star Trek” books are not really literature.
From my spotty experience, though, I was struck how the “greats” or “giants” (or “kragrrh,” in Klingon) were mediocre prognosticators (“gapr’rah”) of the future. Or our future, by which I mean today. There were exceptions. Arthur C. Clarke’s nonfiction writings were sometimes right on the money, particularly his vision of communication satellites. And Robert Heinlein postulated the waterbed.
But the day-to-day technology we all enjoy in 2004 seems missing from those old stories. There were Mars colonies and time travel, but no ATMs or cell phones as I recall. And as far as I can tell, in all their wonderful tales of what would be, no one dreamed up the Internet.
Prophecy is hard, though, so we’re pretty much left with Andy Warhol.
“In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” Warhol said, maybe tongue in cheek, but I look at reality television, Jerry Springer-type shows, “American Idol,” that Subway guy who used to be fat, etc., and I have seen the future and it’s here.
For example. I have a website. Don’t you?
I was advised that I absolutely had to have a website, so I found myself entering a strange world, with words like “domain” and “hosting” (both of which appear repeatedly in “Star Trek” books, by the way). And then there was the name. I figured I’d use my own, just call it “chucksigars.com,” but then I worried. What if that was taken? What if someone reserved that, as people sometimes do, waiting for a sucker to come along to be bilked out of hundreds to buy it back?
BWAHAHAHA. Sorry. Just a little joke. It’s mine.
I was told I needed a website because I wrote a book. Who knew?
I wrote a book because, in the spirit of Sir Edmund Hillary, I could. Wait. That was Bill Clinton. Anyway. It’s a just a collection of three years of column writing, three years that saw my wife change careers, my father struggle through a terminal illness, my son grow approximately two feet in height, 9/11 and war, various Mariner seasons, and my daughter graduate from high school and go to college (about which I wrote approximately 15,000 columns).
The book publishing industry is not in great shape, as you may know, mainly because people are watching “Survivor” and not reading, so unless your last name is King, Clancy or Coulter, or Oprah runs across you, your chances are pretty much zero. But it’s possible to have one published, as long as you’re willing to forego most hope of profit and do your own marketing, which consists of standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign that says, “Kraklavk dignh’ha. Chrysfde blaytek!” (Translation: Will Write for Food. God Bless!).
But there’s room for hope. After all, as the saying goes, if you take 100 chimpanzees, put them in a room, given them high-speed Internet access and show them how to use Google, in a hundred years one of them is bound to find “chucksigars.com.”
Half of them will have their own websites by then, too.
And please know that I’m not shamelessly plugging my book here. Really, it’s not that big of a deal.
Plus, I have plenty of shame.
But the other day my aunt e-mailed to inform me that my book was now listed with the online booksellers, such as Barnes&Nobles and Borders. So I clicked away, and then sat back. My fifteen minutes were here.
I ran upstairs to tell my wife. “I’m on Amazon.com!”
“That’s nice,” she said.
And I understood, then, that fame is an empty feast, a candy bar, an energy drink that leaves you tired at the end of the day. Besides, my Amazon ranking places me just ahead of “How To Eat Worms: 100 Delicious Recipes.” I’m not in any danger of yukking it up with Jay Leno in the near future.
But it’s still fun, to laugh at one’s vanity and see the absurdity of the whole thing. It’s a book, but there are lots of books, and really it’s hard to get all that excited when I know I depend upon the random kindness of chimpanzees. There are, in other words, more important things.
Unless one of you knows Oprah. But you’d tell me, wouldn’t you?
Ghaj vay’ ghargh! (“In the meantime, have some worms!”)