C: It's remarkable how every last one of these people is a delusional, unstable moron. There really are no exceptions. The quarter comes up tails 5000 times in a row. How does a world become this way? An entire society? There is no intelligence. There is no individuality. Look at this idiot. The arrogance and the stupidity. I looked at her profile. The usual cliches. Most words spelled incorrectly. A rocket ship would land up her ass sooner than she'd ever figure out how "your" and "you're" works. What is even crazy anymore when crazy--and broken--is now the norm? This is all I see. I never--I mean, I go years and years and years and years--encounter anything--a single remark, a solitary line--where I think, "Huh, maybe this one has a scrap of a brain, or might be the tiniest bit interesting or compelling. Ever so slightly different." And you will never encounter anyone in possession of the most basic social skills, or with any courage at all. Courage doesn't exist now to the point that there isn't anyone who can be themselves. Part of that has to do with the reality that there's nothing there, it's all melted away in this social media age of mental sickness, but people are these living poses now, rather than actual people who can be flesh-and-blood, multi-dimensional, honest and open people. You see it when people try to compliment me. They are terrified, and it comes out as this garbled, insulting remark--regarding which I then have to thank them, as my soul vomits--because they're trying to play it safe and that fouls up everything. Then you and I laugh about it because it's so depressing, and what else can we do with it?
P: Wow. It never ceases to amaze me the things people like this say to you. As many years as I've seen it.
C: You know what I used to think life was like? Or would be like when I got to the age when this would be relevant? In terms of my work, history, global influence, impacting the world. I thought it'd be like playing the best teams and trying to beat them. Amazing All-Star teams. International super teams. Dynasties loaded with Hall of Famers. That was my concern. That was what I was getting myself ready for, for years, decades, ever since I was four, five-years-old, with all I learned and how I was growing as an artist. When it was people who couldn't be worse at what they do--an Elif Batuman, a T.C. Boyle--who were getting what are tantamount to these charity handouts of victory. People who are terrible at what they do. But are they even terrible at it? They're just not even it. Do you know what I mean by that? Say someone built houses. And they were bad at it. They had a lot less skill than other people who built houses. But you can't even say me, Colin Fleming, is bad at building houses, because I'm not it, you know? That's these people as writers, let alone artists. Laura van den Berg? Matt Bell? Diane Williams? Christopher Beha? Tommy Orange? Lydia Davis? They ain't it. They're not even that thing any more than I'm a house builder, so can you even really say they're bad at it? Or should you say, that's how bad they are at it? In reality, the worst teams are the teams that are the division leaders, the teams you have to beat, while the league--the world--is rigged to make them successful. Losing is the new winning. It's been that way for a while now. Futility racks up points in the standings. I don't know how to beat the worst. People win by having no talent, and not being capable of anything. By not being it. They win not by what they have to say, but because they have nothing at all to say. (And then in publishing, you can add the reasons of race, gender--you damn better not be a straight white male under a certain age who wasn't already in place and tongued relentlessly since 1974, who is also a good person--how much money your family has, being the very portrait of privileged fragility who will fall to pieces with a single real experience in life, a single whispered "boo," any adversity, any absence of a cleared road and greased tracks, their entire life a handout, with their little cronies who are just like them, lying about their work, so that they'll return the lies in turn, and looking like either an ice princess or some nebbish dope who would explode upon trying to catch a football, and being in their sick cliques which are these pathetic re-stagings of high school--that level of pettiness, childishness, bitchiness--where this time they're the victors. Never underestimate how much the publishing industry is an attempt to re-stage high school and get revenge for those years for these people. You are dealing with--or subjected to; reliant on, until you find a way past them--dumb, simple, emotionally crippled, nasty--but cowardly--little children. People who are perpetually stunted and will never grow up, even less so than that meathead jock you knew who peaked in high school.) You beat them by being worse. I don't have that. That's publishing. But it's also the world at large, though they're certainly different, publishing and the world. It's society. It's relationships and romance.
P: It sucks now for you but you're going to be bigger than all of this. It won't impact you eventually and you will change a lot of it. You are the greatest artist ever. Everything you are making right now is a crucial part of what will follow. All of it. Every story you write, every book, every blog post, every article. All of it is part of this bigger thing that you are, and what everyone will know. You just have to keep going right now.