This was the year I introduced my kids to Broadway.
The grownups packed suitcases in secret on a Thursday night.
The next morning we pretended to drive to school, and then got on the highway instead. We cranked up the soundtrack to the Percy Jackson musical. Both kids sang along.
“Aren’t we going to school?” one of them finally asked.
“Where are we going?”
All of us loved The Lightning Thief. It reminded me what I adore about theater. A small cast played a whole host of characters with dizzying quick-changes, vocal ranges few mortals can aspire to, and ingenious shoestring effects like tidal waves created with toilet paper and leaf blowers.
This was also the year I joined forces with Marietta Zacker, magnificent literary agent and source of much that is good in the universe.
And this was the year I crashed the National Book Awards for no reason other than to see and celebrate bookish friends in their finery.
At the gala I met LeVar Burton. We hugged. He knew my name because he recently picked one of my short stories to read for his podcast. The man who played Geordi LaForge performed some words that I wrote to revisit science fictional disability and my inner eleven-year-old wonders where we can possibly go from here.
Next year I might blog more than once. Maybe. Probably not. I plan to avoid the interwebs while working on secret projects and continuing to serve as faculty chair for this amazing program. So let me tell you a story now, before I disappear for a bit.
A couple of months ago I was on a panel of authors and historians at a convention. We talked about science fictional futures worth envisioning and striving for. It was was fun. It was also hopeful–or at least it tried to be.
Right after the panel a teenager stepped up to the stage to talk to me. She cheerfully pointed out that the planet, by the estimation of many notable experts, will soon become unsalvageable. That is the future she envisions.
“Everyone seems to be counting on us,” she said. “On kids. No pressure. But at the same time no one listens to us, and nothing seems to change no matter what we do. So my friends mostly sit around and joke about their nihilistic despair. How do we keep from doing that?”
I tried to give her a good answer. We talked about how hard it is to shift the story of your own actions from despair to possibility when you can’t see any tangible results. This feels like watching your own hair grow in the mirror. It looks like nothing. It is not nothing.
I told her that writing novels also feels like this. Books are too big. You can’t ever see the whole project at once. But one word after another will still accumulate.
I told her how much I hate the phrase “just a drop in the bucket,” because we use it to describe meaningless and negligible contributions to something. This is wrong. A bucket placed under a leaky sink will be full by morning. Drops add up. So do words. So does everything else.
I told her something that many friends have said to me lately, in some form or another: the Old Lie has collapsed. It insisted that nothing was wrong. The New Lie has replaced it, and now insists that it’s too late to change, that all of us are powerless to do anything about any of it. “Don’t tell yourself the New Lie! Don’t tell each other the New Lie. Don’t put yourselves in that story. We owe each other better stories.”
Happy New Year, mi gente. Get in some good trouble. Tell each other better stories.