Okay. Someone asked me how I feel about writing fiction in a world that still needs actual activism and hands-on work to make life better. They said something similar to, “I get pulled away from writing fiction because I feel guilty for not making tangible benefit to the world. Isn’t fiction just escapism?”
But I also got the following message, which I’m filing some of the serial numbers off of, as it were:
“I just wanted to tell you something. When I was 18 years old, my life was a fucking mess. I worked at a store that sold comic books and one day I stumbled upon Spider and the filthy assistants. Your comic kept me from killing myself. There is a character limit here so I can’t say everything I want to but thank you. From the very deepest part of my heart.”
I post this not to self-aggrandise. It is not a unique message, for good or ill. I get them surprisingly regularly. Frankly, messages like that scare the hell out of me, because I’m not very smart and not a very clever writer and I fuck up all the time.
But fiction speaks to people. Even fiction like mine acts to tell someone, somewhere, that they’re not alone.
You want tangible, social benefits to writing fiction? There are people walking around today because other people wrote words that spoke to them. That’ll do.
During a time when computing power was so scarce that it required a government-defense budget to finance it, a young man used a $238 million military computer, the largest such machine ever built, to render an image of a curvy woman on a glowing cathode ray tube screen. The year was 1956, and the creation was a landmark moment in computer graphics and cultural history that has gone unnoticed until now.
Using equipment designed to guard against the apocalypse, a pin-up girl had been drawn.
She was quite probably the first human likeness to ever appear on a computer screen.