Saturday, October 01, 2022

Quote of the Week: The Power of the Pen

Time was when men of Horse Watson's profession typically never slept sober, and died when their livers eroded. It must have been fun to watch the literate swashbucklers make fools of themselves in their frontier saloon, indulging in horse-whipping and shoot-outs with rival journalists and their partisans. But who stopped to think what it was like to have the power of words and publication, to discover that an entire town and territory would judge, condemn, act, reprieve, and glorify because of something you had slugged together the night before? Because of something you had hand-set into type, smudging your fingertips with metal poisons that inexorable began their journey through your bloodstream? For the sake of the power, you turned your liver and kidneys into spongy, irascible masses; you tainted the tissue of your brain with heavy metal ions until it became a house haunted by stumbling visions. Alcohol would temporarily overcome the effect. So you became an alcoholic, and purchased sanity one day at a time, and made a spectacle of yourself. It was neither funny nor tragic in the end - it was simply a fact of life that operated less slowly on the mediocre, because the mediocre could turn themselves off and go to sleep whether they had done the night's job to their own satisfaction or not.

 - Algis Budrys, Michaelmas, p.147 (in SF Gateway Omnibus)

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