Why Grown-Up Writers are Still Paranoid

There are a lot of reasons – ours isn’t a job famous for encouraging a sense of security at the best of times – but this sort of thing is one of them.

A middle-school teacher in Maryland has been placed on administrative leave and “taken in for an emergency medical evaluation” based – if the news reports coming out of the town are to be believed – on the fact that he wrote and published a science-fiction book involving a school shooting some 900 years in the future.

Is it a good book?  I don’t know; based on the fact that it appears to be either self-published or published by an exceedingly small press, my guess is probably not.  But dammit, if we’re going to protect art from oppression and restraint, we shouldn’t get to throw in an “only if it’s really good art/the kind of art we approve of/not just mere entertainment” clause.  Just because the Muse does not love all of her lovers equally does not mean that all of her lovers should not be equal under the law.

Is the guy in fact crazy and/or a danger to himself and others?  Again, I don’t know . . . and the people whom I suspect are in the best position to know, to wit the students he interacted with on a daily basis, aren’t in a position to say anything.  Not that anyone would listen to them if they did, unless what they said supported the official line.

(Students know that this is how the world works.  To quote Rudyard Kipling’s Stalky, “You’ve been here six years and you expect things to be fair? My hat, Beetle, you are a blooming idiot!”)

And the fact that the Sheriff of Dorchester County is going around saying things like, “He is currently at a location known to law enforcement and does not currently have the ability to travel anywhere,” without specifying what sort of location it is, and why the writer in question is unable to travel, is – especially if you’re a writer yourself – downright unnerving.

Because it means that if you’re a writer, and at any point get entangled for some reason with the law, or with politics, or with the ever-hungry 24/7 news machine, then anything you have written can and will be held against you.  Even if you made the whole thing up.  Maybe even especially if you made the whole thing up.  People who can do things like that with their brains aren’t normal, after all, and probably shouldn’t be trusted.

Nobody ever promised us that this job would be easy.

They never promised us that it would be safe, either.

5 thoughts on “Why Grown-Up Writers are Still Paranoid

  1. No kidding. There’s a reason why most teachers who write, write under pseudonyms, and keep it all on the down low.

    It’s also why, despite the financial disadvantages, I’m glad I’m a freelancer. I can all too easily imagine myself getting crosswise with office politics, and having bad things ensue.

  2. What’s the matter with kids these days? Back in ’68 (when I was in middle school) the students in his class would be on strike.

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