We all know what they say about pens and swords. As a writer, should probably declare an interest and go out to bat for the value and power of my profession...
But when knee deep in the blood of my enemies, I know which I'd rather have.
I've been talking to people who are beginning to think that we are moving into a dystopian era. It is not hard to imagine Trump as the arch Nemesis of some kind of tech savvy batman figure. Unfortunately, the heroes seem less likely than the villains to defy the laws of common sense that prohibit their existence.
Fortunately, many in my social circle have surprisingly well developed plans for a future apocalypse. Planning seems to be most advanced for, in particular, Zombie apocalypses (Too many and too compelling Walking Dead episodes) Indeed, my other half has enacted a country-specific response that involves burgling medieval weaponry from the London Wallace Collection museum and heading for a remote part of Scotland. She also included very specific instructions on what to do in the unfortunate event that she was bitten by the aforementioned zombies.
1. Chop her arm off. (Pen unlikely to work for this)
2. If this fails, find a way to keep her alive in her zombie state, possibly chained up (Unfortunately this status is strictly limited to a zombie-specific scenario) in case a cure can be found for the zombie virus and its effects reversed.
3. If she becomes a direct threat to my survival, I'm allowed to chop her head off in as humane, sensitive and loving a way as possible.
Addendum: She will actually be genuinely upset with me for divulging our Zombie plan in case other people copy it.
It's not just the political situation that has me questioning the value of words, though it was brought into sharp relief when sent 'Let's stop Trump' petitions by both Avaaz and 38 Degrees on the same afternoon. (The equivalent of filling out an application form for both the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea to bring down the Roman Empire.)
As someone who would profess a degree of skill with words, alongside professional expertise in their use, I look onward into the evolving world of tech, the burgeoning debates around fake news and the fact that the world's best selling novel is Fifty Shades of Grey * and wonder at the purpose of all the years I've spent decrying the use of lower case 'i' as a pronoun and chasing rogue apostrophes through their university assignment habitat.
If we can only express at the level of our mass audience who become used to their own social media bubble cementing their own ideas like gospel, the dumbing down of the few surviving newspapers and the idiofication of reality tv, is there even any call for writers at all? Is Trump the fitting President for a post-elite era that values the self, greed and protectionism and the creation of divisions, literal and figurative between the different people of the world.
The romantics I know in my rag tag garret of displaced and disgruntled creatives would say that these are the times when the era defining creative works are born. I smile and nod at this and we all get drunk and loud and stagger home feeling like we've set the world to rights like the literary equivalent of the Avengers. (Hulk remonstrate vigorously in writing)
The commonly held belief is that my kind are safe from the future that quickens its pace around us. We laugh and tell each other that the robots can't mimic our own particular niche in the world. Creativity, empathy, the terrifying abstractions of human emotion expressed in a way that connects to our audience, or the zeitgeist or whatever the remains of the day happen to be.
But my own suspicion is this. The robots don't have to reach the levels of empathy and creativity expressed by our finest writers, or indeed, our best people. They only have to reach the level of our most disinterested readers. When it comes down to it, I'm pretty sure even a robot could choreograph events at a 21ist century coliseum. Take 30 Christians, ten lions, some duck fat, season to taste with something alcoholic and the mob will come. And the mob's reviews in Timeout will be positive because, like big brother, like Trump, like all the best sport, the drama offered by the reality of a gravely flawed world is more than enough to satisfy the casually interested, and more than enough to manipulate them.
Against these odds, it will take quite some piece of art to redefine this era... or quite some pen :-)
*Yes, I read the first three chapters and they represent an existential threat both to my morale and continuing existence. And even the sex is disappointing.