A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving…
The World As I See It, 1931 AD
Bern, Switzerland, Earth
I sit here on the eve of the release of my first hardcover book, contemplating a new blog post. It has been a start and stop and then start again journey seven years in the making. The rush of emotions I feel from this; the stress and anxiety from sharing some of my innermost thoughts with the entire English-speaking world clashing with an immense feeling of pride in the little work of art we’ve put together, a feeling of relief that it’s almost over in dissonance with the thought that it’s only just begun. Suffice to say, I haven’t been sleeping much. Yet more than any other emotion bouncing around in the jumble in my head the thing that I feel most of all is an intense feeling of gratitude. I wouldn’t be sitting here, writing these words that you read if it weren’t for a confluence of people and events which somehow, serendipitously added up to this very moment. I can’t forget this. There is so much to be thankful for.
I am a writer only because of failure. I’d been a (criminally underpaid) scientist for a few years before selling out and deciding to go to law school. Graduating in 2008, I managed to land a $160,000 a year job at a prestigious law firm until the financial crisis took out the firm, and many others, in its wide swath of destruction. The New York legal market in full meltdown, I was unemployed for nearly a year. This was a pretty devastating blow to my ego. Frankly, I thought I was kind of the shit. I had very suddenly begun making a ton of money, living the good life in a sweet spot in Manhattan when suddenly POOF—there it all went. The long bout of unemployment that followed was extremely depressing. I felt like a massive failure, even though none of what had happened was my fault at all. This was a hard lesson to take. Yet my greatest gifts were the people around me, a support network of family and friends who helped me through this time.
But then life struck again, as it does. It was right around this time that we learned that my grandmother had pancreatic cancer. Coming from a tight-knit family and being the oldest grandchild, this was another soul crushing blow. My grandmother’s slow withering was the first death I’d experienced of someone truly close. Devastating blow number two was much worse, deeper from an emotional sense but also far more visceral. Yet serendipity lies in the fact that I was unemployed and freely available. One of the greatest gifts in my life was being able to be there during my grandmother’s last few weeks. And she fought gallantry, slowly wasting away in the hospital bed installed in the middle of the living room of the house that my grandfather built with his own hands. It was tragic and yet beautiful all at once.
I started writing The Last Day of Captain Lincoln at my grandparent’s kitchen table during my grandmother’s last few days of life. I guess I was trying to put myself in her position, wondering how I would react if the same gruesome deadline were placed on my own life. What became the bones of the story poured out of me. Captain Lincoln’s search for meaning was my search for meaning. Yet it was only through this ordeal, a long-lasting family tragedy atop ego-busting career failure, that any thought of writing anything first entered my mind. It still feels random and surreal, even so many years later. It’s crazy how life works. I found writing the long way, and now I can’t let it go.
I will thank my family and friends for their support when I see most of them at our book launch party tonight (pictures coming soon too, I hope)! It is the love of the people around us that is our most valuable gift. I will save the rest of my words for them when I see them in person.
I will thank all of the authors I’ve ever read, and especially those science fiction writers who affected me the most, by trying to write original, forward-thinking fiction. I declare myself a science fiction writer and take on that mantle seriously, as a voice for the people of this planet in the perpetual battle against hate and greed.
I have been given much. Now is the time to give back.