Being A Modern-Day Dystopian Writer, or, Help Me I Can’t Keep Up With This S**t.

As I was coming up with the title for this post, I was suddenly reminded of an old bit from a Lewis Black CD that I had a long time ago. It was talking about George W. Bush’s time as president, and how hard it was for a comedian to keep up with all the bullshit that was going down. I can’t remember how it goes exactly, but it was something along the lines of “I just can’t keep up with this shit anymore. I see something on the news, I think ‘I’m gonna make that funny’, and then the next day, THIRTY OTHER THINGS FUCKING HAPPEN.”

I feel that. I feel that so much.

I’m a dystopian writer. I love to write scenarios in which something bad about our society is ramped up to the furthest possible degree as sort of a hey, this is where we’re gonna end up if we don’t knock this shit off. Granted, I’ve yet to publish any of it, mostly because of my own insecurities. But I do it.

Lately, though, it’s gotten so hard to write. There are times when I see the latest breaking news and all I can really do is sit there with my mouth open because how in the hell is this thing – and that last thing, and the thing before that – actually happening right now?

Writing has always been my escape from a world that can be so very cruel. It was a coping mechanism when I lived with toxic family members. It’s been a means of venting my thoughts when battling mental illness. And while I’ve embraced the idea of using my writing as a tool of protest, my voice in the world, sometimes I just don’t want to sit down and write about fighting bigotry when my social media throws that same bigotry at my face the moment I load up anything.

I have ways out of this, of course. No one says I have to keep writing dystopian fiction if it hurts so much. I can change genres. I can offer the service of writing about diverse characters in stories where the diversity isn’t the point of the story. I finally broke down yesterday and closed the Scrivener file for my main dystopian WIP in favour of writing a fluffy, silly romp about two non-binary ace people who look for ghosts and get into a lot of trouble. I can keep doing that, and it’s still a valid contribution.

But that feels like cheating, to me. It feels like the equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing lalalala until it all goes away. I started writing The Illusion of Beautiful Things at a time when it seemed like the situations in my story – racism, queerphobia, misogyny – would never reach the point they’re at now. I feel like I have to write this, even more than I did before. Even if it has to be shelved as contemporary fiction by the time I’m done.

Anyway. That’s a little bit of rambling that’s been in my head for a while now. I hope getting it out in writing will help me process and deal with it.

To everyone who needs it today and every day: stay strong.