Friday, April 4, 2014

Change Is Inevitable

One of my great-grandfathers was very fond of the saying, "The only constant in the universe is change."*

Great-grandpa Ed was born in 1888 when farming was still the main occupation for the United States. Cars, electricity and telephones were toys for rich city folk. He was a teenager when Wilbur and Orville tested their airplane at Kitty Hawk. His eldest child was born the same year Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated.

All four of his sons dabbled in farming, though it was more a hobby than a living. Newspapers, then radio, then television in turn were the primary method of disseminating information. He watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. PCs were in their infancy when he passed away.

Why am I telling you all of this? Great-grandpa never complained when a new method came along. Pick-up trucks were a hell of a lot easier to deal with than a stubborn mule team. Tractor-driven rakers and balers? The best things ever invented. And how amazing is it we can get fresh fruit from South America!

Yesterday smacked me just how much people become so settled in their lives they resent change.

The first kicker was David Letterman's announcement that he was retiring next year. The hue and cry went up. "Late night will never be the same!"

First of all, late night talk shows are nearly as old as television itself, which a fairly young medium compared to dirty hieroglyphics in Egypt. They all follow the same general format, even my beloved Craig Ferguson (though he generally has read the book an author plugs on his show). Someone will step into David's place, just as Jimmy replaced Jay who replaced Johnny who replaced Jack.

The second kicker was a quote on Neil Gaiman's blog: "So many books are being published. Why don't people just stop making new books and read the ones that are already out there?"

Now I could take that quote TOTALLY out of context like someone did with Tracy Hickman, which would be an evil and terrible thing to do to a writer I admire. Neil was talking about the feeling of being overwhelmed in a big box store compared to a small bookshop he recently discovered. This made me think that he won't be having this feeling for too much longer if certain big chains don't get their act together and innovate. They cannot continue to ignore the changes in the publishing and book retailing industry.

The third kicker was the report of an interview of fantasy writer Tracy Hickman at AnomalyCon this year. Both The Passive Voice, J.A. "Joe" Konrath, and their respective followers had a lot to say about Tracy's statements in that interview, as did the commenters on the original post. And a lot of what was said was terribly inaccurate.

Tracy's been in the writing business for over thirty years. Hell, I read his Dragonlance books in high school. He responded to Joe's well-meaning advice and offer to help with a comment at Joe's blog and a post on his own blog. Tracy is adapting to the new publishing paradigm just fine, thank you, contrary to the dramatic reports of his great sorrow over his career.

On the other hand, Great-Grandpa Ed died in 1981 and never saw the downfall of the American family farm. I wonder how he would have handled it. Would he have accepted it and found an alternative occupation? Or would he have railed against fate and succumbed to despair? Given his disposition, I'd say he'd jump into the new world with both feet.

It's ironic to me that Dave, Neil and Tracy got their starts in their respective fields in the same decade Great-Grandpa passed away. My grandchildren will probably work in fields I cannot even envision.

Things change. The only choices we really have are adapt or die.

*It was decades before I realized how unusual it was to know five of my great-grandparents.


  1. What I wonder if whether we'll ever go through that much change in one generation again -- from animal-power ploughs to Neil Armstrong on the moon and personal computers, in one person's lifetime. Ignoring the lengthening lifespan of course; pointing to someone in the 25th century who lives for 300 years would be cheating. But in less than a century, that much change.... It's kind of boggling.


  2. Honestly, I think the change will accelerate.

    Take cancer treatments for example. My paternal grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1987. All the doctors could do at that time was surgery. When DH was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1994, the doctors used a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Now, SFF writer Jay Lake is being treated for colon cancer. When the standbys of surgery and chemotherapy didn't work, NIH tried a new approach that involved harvesting Jay's T1 cells, reprogramming them and injecting them back into Jay. (It's a little more complicated, but that's the gist.) He'll know in a couple of weeks whether it worked.

    But considering Jay's DNA was sequenced in a matter of weeks, whereas sequencing Grandma was unthinkable less than thirty years ago, I think we'll see even greater strides.

    However, I still want my flying car!

  3. Change is NOT Inevitable!!

    Just use credit/debit cards for all your transactions.

    As for flying cars, based on how people drive in two dimensions, I think adding a third is a BAD idea...

    1. Given the recent data breaches at several stores I shop at (not the least of which was Target), I'd rather deal with the change.

      Though you may be right about the flying cars...