My first post for the Menagerie. I had wondered whether to use it to topple governments, or to inspire a generation to take up jazzercise, or even to hypnotise the internet into giving me its PIN numbers.
But instead I’m going to write about death.
I think about death a lot. Not because I’m particularly morbid, but because I see it a lot in my work. Not up close and personal, thankfully, but in vast collections of photographs, images from the wars of a century ago to today: dead Germans, corpses from all across the old British Empire, nurses who came to comfort the dying and ended up joining them, Argentinian conscripts cut down before they’d seen their twentieth birthdays.
There’s not much to distinguish any of them. Broken bodies are broken bodies, regardless of how they identified themselves in life. I’m always struck by how fragile the things which we choose to differentiate ourselves by are, yet how fundamental the foundations which we share. Why do humans persist in their tribal behaviour? Why must there always be a ‘them’ to give meaning to the ‘us’?
I don’t mean to belittle the bravery of individuals, or the selflessness that underlies many of the sacrifices that have been made, but the waste of it all saddens me. We live in a world of plenty. We are an ingenious species. Think of the energy and determination lost because of our constant need to butt heads, the drive and determination that has sent so many to their ends. How much better could things be if those qualities had been harnessed to bring us closer together?
Sometimes, I’m very glad I’m a muppet. We are much more enlightened beings, capable of great insight in the form of limericks, like so:
There once were some people from Earth
Who argued for all they were worth.
There was no chance they’d agree,
so they went on a killing spree
And nobody cared what the last line was because they were all dead and it was utterly pointless.
How does any of this relate to writing, I wonder? I imagine you’re waiting for me to tell you that I draw inspiration from the deep internal wells of despair, that my prose is honed to a savage edge by the need I feel to save you all, that I plan to write books which will drag humanity up by its bootstraps and make it hang its collective head in shame.
Well, I do…but somehow it always comes out as Middle Grade, with dragons and stuff.
Be good to each other, human readers, and thanks for stopping by!