What I Was Trying To Be All About

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-07-17 12:00:00 No comments

The very worst time in my life to date was, I think, the period from about 2002 through 2006. I got involved in a creative project with several other people that failed miserably. I'd lost a job I'd had for many years, and was struggling to make ends meet as a freelancer. Nothing I wrote during that time has survived, and I attempted a halfhearted foray into music making that also went nowhere. Most people near me probably didn't know I was a wreck inside, because I'd gotten good at hiding it, much to the detriment of both them and myself. But the worst part of this period, aside from the creative sterility, was the growing feeling that whatever kind of culture, society, or world we were building, it wasn't for human beings, and I felt helpless in the face of that.

I'm in a better place overall now, but I didn't really feel like I had climbed completely out of the hole until around 2010 or so. One of the turning points for me was when I visited a convention where a couple of old acquaintances of mine had booths and signings, and I made an absolute blubbering fool of myself in front of them. After that I swore whatever the hell else I did with my life, I wasn't going to prostrate myself in front of people and beg them to acknowledge me, because when has that ever worked?

And then there was that horrible feeling of being in a world made out of Styrofoam and cardboard. Everything seemed programmatic, predictable, uninventive. I thought of an old joke — I think it was by Jeff Rovin, writing as Mel Brooks's 2000 Year Old Man: "Video games aren't here to entertain us; they're here to entertain the TV set." It's not people, in all their messiness and difficulty, that we build society for, but some "impossible generalized man". (Yes, I was writing about this the other day in passing.) I no longer subscribe to the most extreme version of this belief, but I can't deny it left its mark on me.

Good art, and that includes good entertainment, rehumanizes us. It reminds us that we're not interchangeable stock characters, that messiness and complexity and difficulty are in fact the human condition and are not annoyances to be done away with, that people are not problems to be solved. Much of my ambivalence around SF (as opposed to fantasy or other fiction) stemmed from the sense I got that many of its creators did, in fact, feel that people were a problem to be solved.

When the term transhumanism entered the vocabulary (fossil record indicates it was sometime in the 90s or so), I felt many of the people in that camp shared such a mindset even if they didn't explicitly cop to it. The human being as it currently existed was something to be transcended (pace Nietzsche) and replaced with something better. Sure, but replaced with what exactly? All the self-dubbed specimens of High Evolutionism I saw coming out of that movement didn't strike me as improvements. If someone sees me as nothing but an obstacle on their way to transcendence, that tells me they're not likely to think my dignity is worth their trouble.

My way out of feeling bad about what I was surrounded by was to try and create, in whatever limited form I could, a few things that constituted a response. It was an imperfect, incomplete, wholly limited response, but it was a response all the same. It wasn't something intended to make me money or catapult me to fame, although I did my best to make the work accessible to others. It was, and still is, a kind of cultural/personal therapy, a way for me to do two things. One was dispel my unwarranted feelings of jealousy and resentment towards others and their success. The other was to, well, be the change I wanted to see in the world, for lack of a better description — to not see people as problems to be solved, but experiences to be had.

Was it enough? I don't know. It helped to be conscious of my truest motives. The only thing I want from my work is to use it as a way to make sense of myself and my world, and to do that in a way that other people can share. Maybe it will help them make sense of things, too, and offer them an alternative, however paltry, to whatever else is around them that doesn't do that job.

Tags: creativity creators