My next post will be a story submission for an anthology being put together by Grand Archdruid John Michael Greer and his publisher. It’s a contest — so I may or may not place. But the mechanics are to post the story itself to a blog, then send a link to the contest organizers. What that means is that all of you get to read my story first. If it places in the contest, then you will be able to recommend that your friends buy it!
Despite our occasional minor disagreements, I find that Greer thinks a lot like I do (or I think a lot like him). In particular, I’ve understood since my college days that people do not respond to fact, logic, or argument. They respond to stories.
Even technical sales teams are coming to understand this: they no longer say, “What are our specifications?” but instead, “What is our story?” Engineers (such as myself) are increasingly being asked to help sales write the stories that move people to buy products.
Despite knowing this, I’ve only in the last few years attempted to learn the story maker’s art. I think I’m well into my apprenticeship at this point, but journeyman is a distance down the road.
Greer has spent the last year or so in his blog pointing out how our modern culture really has only two stories. There is the Progress Story: that everything, despite occasional setbacks, is moving upwards toward biggerbetterfaster, and furthermore, that this trend is baked into the very nature of the universe and thus into our genetic destiny. Then there is its shadow, the Apocalypse (or Anti-Progress) Story: that everything is coming to a catastrophic end, probably next Thursday.
There are many other kinds of stories, which you discover quickly if you stray outside the narrow realm of things written within the last century. Most people don’t stray, of course, because it takes some effort to read anything written less-recently. One of the reasons that it requires effort is that it likely has a different premise than the familiar Progress or Apocalypse. It seems unfamiliar and alien. It challenges the binary logic of the two-story system we are raised to think describes reality.
The next hundred years are almost certainly going to destroy the lock this two-story system currently holds on our imaginations, as the economic and technological progress of the last five centuries comes to a slow, grinding halt and begins to reverse, yet (incredibly, inexplicably) without triggering the End Of The World. Old kinds of stories that lie in cold storage at the moment, as well as new kinds of stories never yet told, will become popular and far more relevant.
The objective of this contest is to write into this void between and around these two points of Progress and Apocalypse. The results should be interesting.
In the process of thinking about this, it has occurred to me that calling the near future in our country an “American Decline” (as a part of the larger Post-Renaissance Imperial Decline) is probably less accurate, and less hopeful, than calling it an “American Winter.” This thought came to me, appropriately enough, as I was standing out in 21º (-6º C) weather, shoveling snow, shortly after speaking with Marta, who is currently in the Miami airport looking out on 80º (27º C) weather. I told her how three inches of snow was picturesque in December. Not so much, now.
I think our future is going to have some poignantly “not so much, now” moments, as we start to plow headfirst into the Law of Diminishing Returns. But it is not so much a decline, as a season. It will not be all bad. And it will inevitably be followed by a Spring, a Summer, an Autumn, and yet another Winter. This cycle may well be the nature of every culture and civilization that humans develop between now and the extinction of the species — or perhaps in some far-distant future, we will become less volatile.
At any rate, I will post the story soon, and I hope you all enjoy it.