When Jeff VanderMeer told how he wrote a novel in a mere eight weeks, he explained that family support proved vital. "I can't tell you how easy Ann made this experience, since I rarely left the house and she did a lot of things I usually do for the household," he said on his blog. "I can't thank her enough for that, and I owe her big-time." Indeed, most professional authors name the backing of friends and loved ones as the bulwark that bolstered their success.
So what happens when an author doesn't have it?
Those close to me are, God bless them, awesome folks, kind and loving and gracious to a fault. Yet they rarely get my interest in genre fiction. In fact, it positively perplexes them. Futuristic speculation, fantastic dreaming, grim grotesquery -- at best they tolerate such things, at worst openly wonder why anyone would waste his time with them.
I don't think I'm alone in facing such skepticism. Fantasy, SF and horror hardly receive high praise from the culture at large. Even literary fiction seems to have slipped in perceived influence, moving from being the firer of men's hearts to residing in an academic backwater. Could it be that Plato was wrong, that we really don't need to exile the poets from the perfect republic because no one notices them much anyway?
Surely not. Narrative remains a powerful shaper of the mind, even if no one recognizes it as such. In his "Defence of Poetry," Shelley famously argued that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." Perhaps we simply need to convince others of the truth of it.
(Picture: CC 2005 by Clearly Ambiguous)