Tag Archives: Circumstances

The tragedy of civilized progress

Post-apocalyptic New YorkEvery morning, I wake up, get into a stale metal box and travel down a concrete corridor at high speed, at the risk of injury and death, in order to get someplace I have no desire to be.

There I stay for (usually) nine to ten hours a day before coming home. At home, I have two or three hours before bed, where I repeat the whole process again from scratch.

I don’t have children yet, but I cannot help but wonder what would be the point of having children if I will forever have so little time to spend with them?

I am not alone in these circumstances; my wife does the very same thing. So do my mom and dad.

So does my boss. And so does his boss. So it isn’t even a matter of hierarchy; climbing the corporate ladder won’t net me any more freedom.

Nor is their any hope in sight of ever living any other way. “Retirement” is largely based on faith in government funds which quite frankly cannot afford to support my generation or those who are schedule to retire before my generation without even further increasing the cost to me to do so.

Every morning, I stare at the bumper of the car in front of me, and silently I ask the human race:

“Is this progress?”

Consider the following figures, taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/40-hour_work_week#Annual_hours_over_eight_centuries:

13th century Adult male peasant, UK 1620 hours
14th century Casual laborer, UK 1440 hours
Middle Ages English worker 2309 hours
1400-1600 Farmer-miner, adult male, UK 1980 hours
1840 Average worker, UK 3105-3588 hours
1850 Average worker, U.S. 3150-3650 hours
1987 Average worker, U.S. 1949 hours

In the 1980s, the average American worker had to work 500 more hours per year than his European ancestors did 600 years ago. And I have to assume that it was actually easier for the blacksmith or wagonwright or farmer in the 14th century to stop what he was doing and go visit his child or wife in the middle of the day than it is for us to do the same.

What progress have we made?

Using the data provided by the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erik Rauch has estimated productivity to have increased by nearly 400 percent. Says, Rauch:

“… if productivity means anything at all, a worker should be able to earn the same standard of living as a 1950 worker in only 11 hours per week.”

I must ask us, as a community, as a country, as a society:


We dash madly from project to project, from home to job and back again, taking classes before work, after work, at work, and what is all of this meant to accomplish?

At best, we’re going in circles. At worst, we’re going backwards. Our standards of living have improved, but the time we have per day, per month, per year to enjoy those standards has decreased.

Once upon a time, a father could support his wife and children with his work alone. At least the mother had time to spend with her children, even if she was also responsible for educating them. Now my wife and I must both work just to sustain ourselves — we couldn’t realistically support children at our current income.

When will our many inventions and increased production net any kind of universal payoff in the ability to enjoy all the niceties we’ve invented over the years? And how can this possibly come to pass?

Non-fiction Article Sold…Again?

soldLast night I received notice from www.helium.com that another the same article was purchased again by a third-party publisher.

Same circumstances as before; subcontracted for pennies-on-the-dollar of the going rate for freelance articles. We’re talking payment so cheap, the article has sold TWICE and I still don’t meet the “minimum withdrawl” amount at Helium.

So although my work has proven profitable, to Helium in actuality and to two publishers in theory, I haven’t yet made a dime from it.

Still, it’s a thrill to know my work strikes a chord with people. Just a shame that even my marginal successes (so far) come from non-fiction!

The really good news is that I still own the copyright, and as many publishers as desire can buy the same article again, furthermore I can also still submit it to magazines on my own. (Just not for First North American Rights.)

The other cool thing is that this reminded me of a fiction story idea built around the same frustrations I express in this non-fiction piece.

I find the results intriguing

statisticsI don’t think I’m likely to get many more votes, although if you want, you can still vote here for my next project. Let’s tally the current results, though:

2 votes to rewrite Perfect Justice.
2 votes to write The Dragon Thief.

::blink:: Okay, I’ll come back to that.

1 vote apiece for Manifest Destniy and Second Chances.

The coolest thing about these results is that each story appeals to at least one person, even among a small group of people. Had one story monumentally dominated the poll, I’d fear that the other ideas were stale.

I honestly had expected Second Chances to win, for no other reason than that’s the story I’m the most excited about at the moment, but only for two reasons: 1. It’s the freshest idea, and 2. I’ve recently begun work on it. The others have either been sitting idle awhile or else not yet begun. You can see how circumstances colors a writer’s perception; just because a story is freshest in my mind doesn’t make it the most appealing to audiences in general.

So of the two which pulled ahead, both surprised me. The Dragon Thief, unlike some of the other titles, has no overt philosophical, religious, or political implications. You can see how the other stories play with themes like justice, fairness, religion, good & evil, memory, experimentation, and so forth. The Dragon Thief is nothing more than a straight-up fantasy story.

But that’s what appeals to some people, which is a Really Good Thing. Excitement begets excitement, and seeing that two people wanted to read that story first has made me much more excited about writing it than I was before.

What about Perfect Justice? That story fills an odd place in my heart; that girl you almost dated in college, still love deeply but no longer romantically and aren’t in touch with anymore — something like that. There’s a lot of baggage associated with rewriting it, yet it had so much potential I can’t ignore it. For one thing, it’s the only submission so far to win me a “send more” reply. For another, many of the problems with it were obvious to me shortly after writing it.

I’m dragging my feet on rewriting it because — flawed or not — I already wrote it. And it’s easier (to me) to write a story from scratch than to rewrite one that’s already on paper. It’s like completely remodelling a house vs. building a new one; changing where the walls are placed is actually a bit more complex than just building brand new ones on a new foundation. (Or so I imagine.)

There are a lot of decisions to make, too. Do I begin with the text I already have and just mass edit, cutting whole portions to make room for new scenes? Or do I begin like a brand new story, starting from the first page, referencing the other version only for the best ideas, lines, and descriptions? A mix of both?

Either way, I’ll be constantly checking for continuity and cohision, and it’s likely I will still miss some things. Just imagining doing this begins to make my head spin as from a complex chess problem.

So which of the two winners shall I write first?

The Dragon Thief. Mostly because I want to see how it turns out. When I need a break from it, I’ll plug away at a new version of Perfect Justice, and vice versa. You’ve gotta give the people what they want.