Hell and the Sea is a Roman á clef novel set in the Indie Pub world of Austin based author Dim Hardy. If you don’t know what a Roman á clef is, please click on the link to read more about it. This portion is taken from Chapter 6 of Hell and the Sea.
And that was it. Worldcon was over.
Coop and I had one more meal the next morning before heading home. We met at Casa Rio for migas and coffee and talked about our plans for the near future. Coop was still working on several prospective film projects and hoping to get a book out before the end of the year.
“Anxious to get home and see the wife?” I asked.
“Yeah. Yeah, I am. I talk shit all the time but I love her and I miss her when I’m gone for long.”
“Do you feel like you got anything from the convention?”
“Well, I learned that you aren’t as dumb as you put on, and that Ron Grant is a sociopath who will one day turn on you.”
“I mean did you… you personally… gain anything from the actual convention.”
“This is a circus shit-show of mediocrity. I think once upon a time it had meaning, but now… not so much.”
“So you didn’t learn anything?” I said.
“No. No. I mean, shit no. Not a damn thing. I learned that conventions in this day and age are a huge waste of time. I mean it, too. Really. I’m paying good money to stare at people on stage ramble, and they don’t have a clue. Could be talking about selling ceramic tile or that spray you can use to seal your gutters or Saladmaster. You got that? You got Saladmaster? No? Heard of it? Nice pots and pans. Good stuff. The best. I’ll put you on to it if you want. Three and a half thousand dollars for some nice pots and pans that you’ll almost never use. But conventions? No.
“It’s just a heap of good time nonsense. Reminds me of sales seminars ten years ago where people were trying to, you know, give newbies in some multi-level marketing scam the motivation to go out and screw their family and neighbors. A rah-rah speech for Tupperware or calling cards. There’s nothing here. Just people talking steaks and selling the sizzle and then forgetting how to cook a good piece of meat.”
“Do you ever stop being cynical?” I said.
“I meant to come here, I really did, and I’m glad to be here despite everything, but I’m answering the questions you asked. Did I learn something? If that were my primary purpose of being here… I’d feel stupid, you know? Dumb as a bag of lip gloss. But that’s not my main reason for coming. I mean, being somewhere different fires up my synapses. I’m glad to be here. Glad to hang out with you, Dim. Besides, you know, I got business everywhere. Everywhere I got business.
“But this convention? What was this? A meeting of simples? I mean, people come here in good faith to be part of something, to learn something, to interact with others with the same interests, and now what do we got? I’ll tell you… we got the preface to warfare. This is 2013 and Sci-fi is a shit clown show of angry sects ready to go at it. You’ll see. Most of the people here don’t know it and you don’t know it but it’s true. Life is shitty people fighting for power. That’s life, brother. Anyone tells you different ain’t got the brains God gave a footstool.
“In the next few years this clambake of simples is going to embarrass everyone. Everyone. A huge fucking embarrassment is coming. You got the liberal Zulus, the conservative Xhosas, the moderate Bushmen, Right? I mean, shit, the social commentary. Oh, shoot me right in the fucking face right now. Everything has social commentary. Which is fine, if they weren’t just parrots for their masters. People pushing people around. The old days, you know, Robert Heinlein’s militaristic fascism would be just at home with Phillip K. Dick’s existential drug-addled ravings and people would just sit back and be like, “Whoa, man, that made me think. Thank you for that.” Now, now, what do we have? We got a bunch of keyboard pimps out there talking to their own choirs and not trying to buck the trend at all. John Scalzi and whoever it is on the other side just degrading everything to denunciation and snark. Like snark is intelligence. Like snark convinces anyone of anything. I’m talking both sides here. Nothing really original. Everyone saying the other side is just evil and wrong. Not pointing out that we disagree, or that we have differing worldviews. That would be fine. But now the other side is flat out devil-smashing-babies-against-the-wall evil. And that kind of thing can only end in tears, and frankly the groups and people leading the charge on every side should just be embarrassed and run out of sci-fi on a rail. But that won’t happen because the lemmings want someone with a cutting wit to tell them what they already think. They want their enemies fisted and left on the roadside. It’s like we made Triumph the Insult-Comic-Dog poet laureate for our culture. It’s just calamitous is what it is. And this is 2013 and we’re more segregated and more wanting to stay away from the “other” than we were back in the 1950s with all the loyalty oaths and blackballing and that crap. And I blame everyone. I blame the feel goods and the doomsayers because they’re all parts of the same coin. It’s just people writing bullshit and no one caring about the reader. And that’s all it is in the end. A bunch of chieftains like Ron Grant whipping up the tribe to get something out of them, not giving a hoot in hell about whether the writing is interesting or good or different. It’s a long con and the tribes suffer. That’s who suffers. The followers. The chieftains, people like Scalzi and whoever… Ron Grant… they are the only ones benefiting. Not the culture as a whole. Not literature. You know, even when the Medicis had their court artists, we got interesting stuff. That was during a time of vengeance and genocide and superstition. This is worse. Now we have ‘Twilight’ and Glenn Beck. And Ron Grant. And the publishing houses are a fucking dumpster fire because they want one of two things… they want social revolution and don’t care if books actually sell… or they want derivative tripe that they can pump out of Walmart like 24-packs of Gatorade.
“All the while Jeff Bezos and Amazon sit back and rub their hands together because they’ll sell you books at a loss and anything else you want so long as they get your email address and buying preferences. They got Ron Grant out there like a sock puppet and us all eating it up like it’s not professional wrestling.
“So you asked, man. Yeah, that’s us. Maybe if we get stuck into another land war in Southeast Asia, or a nuclear exchange then we’ll get something more than this regurgitation of social supremacy posturing for the broad masses. I don’t know.”
He took a sip of coffee and looked me right in the eyes. “Long story short, the convention sucked.”