All in all, we talked for
three hours about the Bokononism,
the science, and the technology found in Cat's
Cradle, the Tralfamadorians
found in Slaughterhouse-Five,
and the Doomsday theory I
was proposing in my thesis. And the time passed altogether too
quickly. When it came time for me to board, with thoughts of
my conversation with Vonnegut
running through my head, I forgot the draft of my thesis on a
bench at the station, and had to rewrite it, over the next few
weeks, from memory.
Months later, I received the
lost paper, by mail, sent by Vonnegut,
who had picked it up absent-mindedly
with his other papers at the station and had only gotten
around to finding it and to reading it. He wrote a simple comment
on the cover: "You don't really
think we have a 50/50 chance of survival, do you? Be honest."
Remarkably, the rewrite was virtually identical to the
original, including my disingenuous
conclusion, because I was emotionally unable to face
the truth that we were all doomed unless we found a way to leave
this planet. To quote Vonnegut: "And so
thirty years have passed since that fortuitous meeting.
And here I am in South Detroit,
of all places in the known universe. My physical location doesn't
matter as much nowadays as
it may have decades ago. The resources available to me through
the internet have made living and writing feasible anywhere.
And it isn't my external environment that is important to my
writing anyway. It is all about what is going on in my imagination.
When people ask me where I live,
I am tempted to say, with a tip of the hat to
Rod Serling: "I am imprisoned in the Outer Limits,
with occasional trips to the Twilight Zone for good behavior."
Nonetheless, but mostly because I live in a
beef and potatoes working town, it is now my turn to
be vexed with the label:
Science Fiction novelist. People just don't get what
Science Fiction is although
the fruits of it exist all around them. And a novelist, to them,
is out there in some magical, mythical
kingdom living with faeries and unicorns. To meet one
is beyond their limited ability to comprehend. They literally
suffer culture shock. I've
seen it many times. And in an attempt to defend themselves against
this strange mythical creature
known as a novelist, they usually
mumble demeaning, incredulous, and insulting nonsense. Alas.
If, after discovering that I
am a Science Fiction novelist,
and I get this all the time, your first,
boring beyond belief, burning, utterly disingenuous, weird and
wonderful question is: "What
kind of books do you write?" then you have missed
the point entirely. And I am forced to quote
Josephine Saxton who posed the question: "Did
your mother only breast-feed one of your heads?"