I think I already mentioned that I recently finished a rewrite of my memoir, Nested Scrolls: The Memoir of a Cyberpunk Philsopher. Here’s a bit from the very end of the book, and some photos I took recently around the SF Bay Area.
[A back entrance to Three Mile Beach north of Santa Cruz.]
When my father was on his last legs, he said, “What was I so worried about all those years? What difference did any of it make?”
Like many writers, I spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about the relative success of my works. But I also work at being grateful for what I have. After all, the vast majority of people don’t get published at all. My books are printed and find a substantial audience; I get money and respect in return. I’m lucky to have the ability to write.
[Guy riding on a cart pulled by a kite, Ocean Beach, San Francisco]
And, thanks to the chapter I wrote about society as a kind of computation in The Lifebox, the Seashell and the Soul, I’ve finally came to accept that writers’ sales obey a scaling law that’s technically known as an inverse power law distribution. You’re not getting lackluster book advances because someone is actively screwing you. It’s the scaling law.
The scaling law applies across the board—to the populations of cities, the number of hits on websites, the heights of mountains, the number of friends that people have, the areas of lakes, and the sales of books. There’s no getting around it. Thus, if you’re the hundredth-most popular writer, you earn a hundredth as much as the most popular one. Instead of a million dollars, you get ten thousand bucks. That’s how nature is. It’s not anyone’s fault.
[Pumpkin crop on Wilder Ranch farmland, north of Cruz.]
Even if the financial rewards are modest, I revel in the craft of writing. I like being able to control these little realities where things work out the way I want. It’s no accident that so many of my heroes leave the ordinary world for adventures in fabulous other lands. In just the same way, I move my mind from the day-to-day world into the fantastic worlds of my books. I make art because it feels good to do so.
Writing is hard, and after each book is finished, I wonder if I’ll be able to write another. But I keep coming back And I’ve got painting as well—another path to creative bliss.
It’s been deep and intense, here inside this cosmic novel.
[With Jon Pearce by a yonic rock formation, near Strawberry Beach, north of Cruz at this Google Earth location.]
When I started writing my memoir, Nested Scrolls, I was wondering what my life has meant. But now I see that’s not a question I’m in a position to analyze. I’m inside my story, not outside of it. What does a flower mean? A waterfall?
This said, as a writer, I can think about my life’s structure, about the story arc. I see a few obvious themes.
I searched for ultimate reality, and I found contentment in creativity. I tried to scale the heights of science, and I found my calling in philosophy and in science fiction. I was a loner, I found love, I became a family man. I was a rebel and I became a helpful professor. And I never stopped seeing the world in my own special way.
It’s been a wonderful trip.