July 19, 2009

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS: The Death of the Dream Goldfish

I have come to loathe the death of dreams.

Martin Luther King, Jr. died without seeing his dream realized and even with the election of President Obama, some argue that King’s dream is dead.

H. Beam Piper died taking his dreams with him, leaving us the poorer.

Science fiction writers whose careers began brightly with awards and powerful dreams turned into novels lost their dreams for reasons ranging from “they just don’t understand my artistic genius” to agreeing to write a novelization for a movie that flopped.

A week ago my son’s dream of becoming a paramedic died by the decision of another man.

My own dream of publishing a SF novel is dead. I haven’t had a story accepted in a major magazine since ANALOG published “Warning! Warning!” five years ago and the market isn’t getting any better.

I have come to loathe the death of dreams in my life as well as the lives of others. As is usual, those whose dreams die are usually the best, the brightest, the youngest and the kindest. The ones who see their dreams realized are the ones who hold closely to clich├ęs, and who pander to the masses. The novels and stories that get the awards are the ones we think will impress outsiders most – like when the Andre Norton Award went to HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (J. K Rowling wasn’t interested in accepting the award herself…) – rather than the ones that stretch the imagination and explore new ground. The books that get published in multiple series are lauded because “at least people are reading” – at least this was the excuse I heard when kids were reading the GOOSEBUMPS books. Meanwhile, books that are different and exciting, like THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY by Adam Rex are ignored. The market is flooded with fantasy and vampires and zombies while science fiction is published blockbuster writers typing endless series in worlds they didn’t even invent. The ones with the grandest dreams of peace on Earth die horrible deaths and the ones who prefer business as usual continue on and on.

I have come to loathe the death of dreams.

But once killed, are dreams dead forever? Will we be subject to endless iterations of STAR WARS as the representative of science fiction and authors who steal their titles from old hymns without giving credit for the work? Will I ever see a book published with my name on it? Will we ever have true racial equality? Will my son ever be a paramedic?

It is in the nature of dreams to persist; of nightmares to be burned into memory; and of dreams to be recurring.

“Keep your dreams alive. Understand that to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.” Gail Devers

Lastly: “It will come about after this, that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Joel 2:8

I have come to loathe the death of dreams; but is seems my loathsomeness (:-)) is misplaced because dreams do not die – they just need to be cared for. If they are poured out again and again and again, then that means we’ll always have a fresh supply to take care of.

My concluding thought is a question: Dreams are like goldfish then, right?


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