by Kort E Patterson, Editor
This will be my eighth annual expression of surprise that I am still serving as the editor of your regional newsletter. I'm pleased to point out that we've been getting more submissions this year! I even have a couple already in-hand for the next issue!
This issue also extends the range of topics that have appeared in POC to include yet another area of the human experience - bungy jumping. Surely with all the topics and perspectives that have appeared over the years, almost every reader has been subjected to least one piece that came close to sparking his interest.
It's enough to warm a newsletter editor's flinty black cinder of a heart several whole degrees!
In celebration of these unlikely developments, this issue contains the traditional short story by your editor. (In these uncertain days of continual transitions, momentary attention spans, immediate gratification, and instant everything else, any opportunity to claim a tradition has become too rare and precious to waste.)
I hope you enjoy the story. It isn't the story I started out writing, but I think it came out all right. Or maybe I'm still too close to writing it to be able to see it clearly. The closing date for this issue of POC has already passed, so I don't have time to write another one. It will have to do.
Since I am still close to the process, and only need a short "Digressions and diatribes" to finish the issue, it seems that I'm going to describe how much the short story changed while I was writing it. The point I think I'm going to try to make is how much the process of expressing an idea in written words can change the writer's perspectives and understanding of what he's writing about. Then I think I'm going to try to point out that I often have a similar experience when writing nonfiction - having more than once convinced myself to completely reverse the opinion I'd started out intending to advocate.
I hadn't found any excuses to write short stories since the last anniversary issue, so my brain wasn't configured for generating story ideas. (I was pretty sure a story written in the prolog source code and Linux shell scripts I'd been most recently attempting to extract from my "localhost wetware", would only be appreciated by a tiny potential audience - if at all.)
And of course, as soon as I tried to think of a plot for a short story, the "contrarian circuits" with which my brain seems to be so over-endowed kicked in, flooding my synapses with everything but what I wanted to think about.
Time was running out.
I don't live in an intellectually sterile environment, so eventually something would suggest a story line. But then my second line of defense against success would be mobilized - succumbing to the "quick and dirty" attraction of substituting complexity for the far more difficult challenge of elegance. (See Science, Politics, and Elegance elsewhere in this issue.) Complex story lines take a fair number of words to spin out, and I needed a SHORT short story, so I was still stuck trying to get off square one.
More time had run out.
Maybe I could serialize one of my existing "too long" short stories! Lets see...how many issues would it take...hum, only six issues before the next anniversary issue...probably have to leave at least a little room in each issue for stuff like the Intertel logo and the mailing label...well, so much for that option.
Then I had an idea that seemed to be small enough to fit in a "short enough" short story: Creativity provides its own rewards. The only reward I'm going to get for writing this story is the inner satisfaction of writing it. There are probably things I could be doing for money, but I'm determined to write a story for no money. Some artists derive so much inner joy from their art that they've been willing to forgo all other earthly pleasures in order to focus entirely on their art.
What if society attempted to extend the idea of enforced equality of socioeconomic outcome to equalizing total life experiences? What if society attempted to factor the intangible value of such aspects of life as the satisfaction of creativity and productivity into its egalitarian calculations?
Within this dystopia, artists should be starving in squalid hovels since their artistic creativity gives them such a deep and profound "positive experience", while the rest of the population is "denied" their "right" to an equal experience. In order to "compensate" for this inherent inequality, those who were "denied" the satisfactions of creativity and/or productivity, were provided with "enhanced compensation" in other "life areas" - such as giving them a better standard of living, political power to abuse, etc.
Of course, having to settle for a penthouse apartment, expensive cars, corner office, and an unlimited expense account chaffed on the raw nerves of the dull-wittedly unproductive - who continued to grumble about being deprived access to the real quality of life that those greedy "inner satisfaction" elites were hoarding all to themselves.
A rebellious "protected from responsibility" teenager has decided, as a prank, to intentionally fail a test that "everyone" is telling him is important but won't tell him why. (Knowing the purpose might skew the results.) Only after "acting out" by intentionally marking all wrong answers does the main character discover that the test will determine his lifetime job and place in society.
The twist at the end would be the main character getting a notice saying his test results indicate he will be so incapable of even accidentally experiencing inner satisfaction, or making any life decisions that result in positive outcomes, that he qualifies for affirmative action. He's crushed that because of his prank, he'll have to settle for all the perks of upper management, where having the power to direct the creative and productive efforts of others, is considered to be a "poor second" to the profound inner satisfactions he will be wrongfully denied solely because of his total lack of innate skills and abilities.
At least that was going to be the story when I started writing...
Oh - and this appears to be where the piece about writing the story ended up...