The other day, I watched the body-camera footage of a police officer who entered the school in Nashville during an active shooter event in which three children and three adults were killed. Normally I don't watch videos that involve shootings and murders and the like. People post them all the time on social media--someone being shot, execution-style, for instance, in the street. I don't think it's good for a person to watch such things, but I felt that it was important to see this footage.
The officer approaches the school, and a woman outside gives him a kind of lay of the land and an update as to where the shots seem to have come from. The officer is completely composed. He addresses her as "ma'am," is polite and firm, and is moving with purpose. He doesn't delay. He is peak efficiency. He goes into the school, and you see how these men perform their job. It's a coordinated, team effort, which relies heavily on communication. A police officer goes into a room, performs a sweep, checks the bathroom if one there, says, "clear," and then rejoins his fellow officers as they all keep moving. Again, no hesitation. Total purpose. Absolute courage.
I watched as the officers moved through corridors lined with the drawings of children. I watched as they stepped over the body of a child who had been murdered, still somehow unwavering--I would have broken down--in the carrying out of their duty to stop the shooter, and stop her they did.
I am not getting into the pronoun thing. I am focused on the life and death thing. In the sanity and the insanity thing. These are true heroes. This is what it means to be a hero. These men. I was so grateful and so moved by their heroism. Just as I thought there should be no need for it. Nothing should ever come to this. These brave men should be off being heroes elsewhere. And they may well be, in others parts of their lives and their jobs.
But we should not require heroes to go into schools to save children from being murdered with guns.
I have lived with a story I created--I've had it since summer 2019--called "Fitty" that I know would save the lives of many children in this country, and perhaps the life of your child.
I am going to be as open and honest as I can be in this entry, because it's important that I do so and have this be out there. I believe that anyone who has seen this story--which includes everyone in publishing who has seen it--knows that it would have real impact, could change American gun laws, and would mean the preservation of lives.
What would something have to be to have that kind of effect? To have that kind of impact?
School shootings are something that exist for most people in the abstract. They are more conceptual than actual, because they exist at some remove--considerable remove--from that person's life. They don't want them to happen. They may feel horribly for the poor families who have this form of hell happen to them, because that's what it is--it's hell happening. But it's not the same as if it impacts someone they love.
A person who has a loved one impacted--injured, disabled, paralyzed, killed--is not going to be okay with our gun laws and gun culture afterwards. No matter what they felt, believed, or insisted upon previously. Your daughter or your nephew being slaughtered--and that's what it is--just by going to school to learn, to be with their friends, to be the child of innocence that they are--is going to make you wholly against this kind of weaponry.
Reading about someone else's loved ones doesn't have the same impact. A David Hogg or anyone like him can go out there and make a speech, but you don't care about David Hogg. There's also suspicion--people will monetize anything in our society. There is no shame, there are no morals. Sexuality, gender, race, are all monetized, and so are the deaths of children if it makes a career or a brand.
We can listen to survivors and the parents of survivors, and that may cause us great pain, but we don't love them, we didn't love their kids. When we don't have that first hand experience, or something close to it, the impact isn't the same. Change cannot come from that. It has to feel like it impacts us directly.
"Fitty" is a story that features characters that one loves as loved ones. That is what you would have to do and no one else has. No one else can do it. The characters of "Fitty"--most specifically, Fitty herself, and her teacher, Carlene--are as real as any humans on earth now, or as any humans have ever been, or as any humans one has ever known. That isn't to suggest they replace one's child or one's spouse or the person to whom one is closest. Of course not. What I am saying is that anyone who reads the story loves these people. They actually love them. As people. As real people. They are connected to these two people. These two people are a part of the reader's life. A real part.
To see what happens in the story, to go through that with them--and it's not anything anyone might think right now, as they read these words of mine, in terms of what the plot of story is, or what anyone could ever see coming--makes it impossible afterwards to be okay with what is happening, with gun laws, with gun culture.
If you put this story where millions of people could see it, children would not be being shot in our schools like they are. It would change our country. It would save lives. It could save your life, or the life of your child.
But here's the thing. I want to be as precise about this as possible. I find that the greater the truth, the more important it is that one be exact. In the history of the world, there have been very few kinds of people more evil than the kind of person who is in publishing right now. These are people I've spent the last twenty-five years in dealing with; I know them better than anyone can know any other person, including their own family members.
A publishing person wants to preserve their world--in all of its corruption--more than they want anything. That is their life. Anything that threatens that world--a world well-documented in the pages of this journal--creates for them their version of a life and death battle, of him or me. I threaten their world. With my legitimacy. My genius. My decency. All of the good things that I am. My production. My range. My expertise. My patience. My strength. My tolerance. I completely invalidate their system and their lives as they've constructed them and the rickety walls against which they lean, and the non-existent firm foundation beneath their feet. They recognize and have singled me out as the person who can cause it all to come down. For them to be exposed as what they are. Allowing me to advance, is, in their view, to risk their own lives and the nullities upon which those live are predicated, and to risk being seen by everyone else for what they are, which is to say, nothing at all.
They all see a story like "Fitty," and they know the change it can make in this country. The lives it can save. But these people would rather have your child die, if the alternative is letting me advance.
I've thought about that statement for the better part of a week. I have thought about it constantly. Can I make it? Should I make it? I don't want to make it, which is why I've delayed writing this entry in these pages. But I also know it to be true. Further, I know that these people would sign off on a million children being slaughtered, so long as it wasn't a child in their lives, if that was the option over having me advance on their watch. That is how far I know that their pathological evil goes. If there were a race of geniuses, and someone else was available to do the dirty work--that is, the actual executing--your typical publishing system person (pay close attention to my language, because, I am being as precise as possible; your typical publishing system person is not the same as every publishing person) would wish for genocide.
This isn't hyperbole. One reads through this record, which is now well over 2000 entries. One hears me give hundreds of hours of interviews. One reads my work. One knows me through this journal, too. I am always balanced. I am always fair. I am not emotional. I let nothing--not even the way I am discriminated against--impede my thinking; all is reason, all is rational, all is supported, all is backed up. Reason and courage are going to be, in part, how I prevail in this war. And, of course, my work.
Long, long ago, these people took from me even the option of acting in anger. Were I to act in anger, I would be letting them win, because the anger would overwhelm my life. It's simply too justified in too many directions. There wouldn't be be one person and their evil-doing for the focus of that anger; we're talking thousands of people. It would be total, because this is total abuse, total discrimination, total bigotry, from thousands of people, who are--and this is key--exactly the same kind of person.
That's how it is able to happen. There isn't variety of individual in publishing. Nor, for the most part--again, note how I'm qualifying that--are there actual individuals and people who think for themselves and think at all. That's why these people are in publishing--it plays to their baser, evil natures, their fears, their absence of abilities, their envy, their hate, their justified self-loathing that must manifest itself in others ways than with honest self-appraisal and subsequent and necessary change. It allows them to be those very bad things without repercussions or impunity. They can get away with it here, given that so many of them are in on it together, and they don't need to be smart or talented; it's all pretend, and the people in this system--most of them--are there to enable and contribute to the lies. They are monsters. I don't know how else to put it. Cowardly monsters. And they don't care if a child is shot in the head if it means they can suppress me. That's a preferred choice for them. In a way, it's them vs. that child, because to them, I represent their lives and security being at stake. If someone has to go, it's not going to be them.
I want to stop for a moment and say that if you're in publishing and you are that rare exception, don't try to hate me because of some guilt you might have that I'm talking about you or because I am saying things no one has ever dared to say, true though they are, or the knee-jerk reaction that I'm some demon because I have said these things and maybe they pertain to someone with whom you just had lunch. Think. Separate. Use reason. Not emotion. Breathe and consider. Take a step back and mull. Accept that I'm not talking about you, reconsider--if this is relevant for you--that you don't have to always be internally loyal to everything in a system just because you work within it or have some specific job title--but that the points I'm raising are fair and important. They are vital. Then try and be a part of the solution. A solution. Don't try to be angry at me because someone is daring to say the truth. I get that no one says the truth in this industry. Where is it getting anyone? I'm saying the truth. I care. I care about writing and the world and people. I care about us as humans. I'm not doing anything to you, save speaking the truth about a situation, a culture, and a system about which the truth must be spoken, so that our culture, society, and our country may become better than what they are. I think that's necessary, don't you? If we are not on the same side there, we should be. We can have something better, but we need to work together. So let's be focused on what matters, and cultivating an animus for me--because you think I've lumped you in with a very bad group of people or whatever reason that is not based in the actual truth--doesn't help achieve that. I'm not against you. I'm against bad things that stand in the way of better things.
For me to say this about "Fitty"--and these are significant claims--that story is really going to have to be something. It's going to have to be what I say it is, or I would be crazy to make these remarks. I don't think anyone who hears or reads me thinks I'm anything but the opposite of crazy. To that I'd add that I know--again, as much as I know anything--that if a million people see this entry here in this journal, and then go on to read "Fitty," not one of them is going to honestly--that is the key word (and it's very easy to know when someone is being dishonest because of an agenda or envy or what have you, with something like this)--say that it isn't what I have said it is, that it is not that powerful.
Rather, they are going to think I've undersold it. Of this I have no doubt whatsoever.
I've written many, many, many thousands of things in my life. They never dip in quality. When I write something new, I often share an excerpt of it on here. There are thousands of examples of my work elsewhere. I don't think anyone ever thinks, "Well, that one is less good." That's part of the miracle that is constantly unfurling here, which is another reason why these people want to suppress my voice, who I am, and my work. It's all of a qualitative piece.
But having said that, in my mind--that is, to me, with my mind--I consider exactly two works as being different, having their own place or places within my massive body of work. They are "Fitty" and "Best Present Ever." I don't think anyone thinks I'm an easy grader, or that I don't hold myself, with my work, to the highest standard--a unique standard--possible.
What I am saying about "Fitty" is true. It would save the lives of children. It would impact this country. And because those things are true, and because even publishing people recognize them as true, and because of what that would mean in terms of not suppressing me, and in me reaching millions of readers, they would rather the blood of children be spilled.
I was saying to someone the other day--because I have had long conversations about writing this entry--that I know these people and what they are about as much as I can know anything. I said to this person, "I know them better than whether or not I know I'm actually alive. Because it could be that I'm not alive, I'm in some parallel world, or hell, or that 'this'--whatever this is--is what happens after you die. Who are we to know? Maybe we never even know that we died, or that we didn't exist as we think of existence. But these people, within the context of life, or whatever this is, I know them exactly for what they are."
And I do.
I was on Twitter the other day, and someone in sports radio who is quite terrible on the radio was sharing some advice they were given early in their career. They had a station manager, and the station manager was providing feedback for this person's first few shows. The station manager took out a piece of paper, and drew two lines on it, separating the paper into three blocks. Under the bottom line, he wrote, "White." Between the two lines, he wrote, "Gray." Above the top line, he wrote, "Black." And what he said to this guy was you want to be in the gray. The gray is what I guess we'd now call the "hot take" zone. The Black zone gets one in trouble--it's going too far. The White zone is boring; not enough is risked to create engagement. And he said to the guy that he was in the White, and he needed to get into the Gray.
As I've been thinking about this entry, I've been thinking about the Black. But what I've been thinking is that these things I am saying about these people are so true, that in reality, it's nowhere near the Black. I can't think of anything more true. Tied, yes. But this is true as anything I've ever known, felt, experienced, thought about, pondered deeply. Lived. I have lived this truth. I am the proof of this truth. My work and this situation is the proof of this truth. That is also why there is not a single person who is going to denounce what I have written in this entry with their name attached to it, because they know it to be true. They are going to rip me to the evil people who are just like they are, and they may do whatever anonymously. All of those boats sailed long ago. They no longer matter. That fleet isn't going to stop me from getting to where I am going to get to, and if an entry such as this also exists as a kind of fire ship, then so be it. I am not going to lose to bigots. But there is no one who is going to take it on, name attached. They know that if anyone sees that story, they will be exposed for what they are and what they are up to will be revealed. No one is going to read "Fitty" and think it's just okay, or it's kind of good, or it's bad. It is better and it is more important and can do more good than even what I am suggesting here. And if you take that story and put it side by side with what they are electing to put forward, because it is from their kind of person, there is no one who is not going to know that the gap in quality and importance is infinite. I am using that word on purpose. Because that is the truth.
But let's go further. I want to show people who these people how these people think. I want to walk you through the psychology of it. When you have someone like a Willing Davidson at The New Yorker or a Thomas Gebremedhin of Penguin Random House, who has risen up through the ranks via connection and racial politics, and nothing to do with abilities or merit, you have someone who is going to get off on doing what they can against me, wielding the influence they can wield. It's power to such a person.
So let's set this up: You have "Fitty" in your hand. You recognize how special it is. You know what it could do. You've never read a story like it. You've never come across a writer or artist like this one. There is all of that proof out there. Who is like this man? How could you be?
This is a story that can only produce very strong reactions. Its power is unsurpassed. It can save lives. Now, because of all of those factors, which are huge things, it gives someone like a Willing Davidson a greater sense of power--given the enormity of what is here and the stakes--to not only dismiss, but to dismiss in as rude and perfunctory a fashion as possible. That is what gets someone off like this all the more. They recognize the extreme, and try to combat that extreme--for their egos, for the upkeep of their dysfunctional world--by being as curt and dismissive as possible. It cuts more, in their mind, given everything else that we're talking about here. Willing Davidson and Thomas Gebremedhin are but two examples. But that's what these people are doing, if they respond at all. There isn't anyone who reads this story who doesn't know what it is, who doesn't feel that power.
Someone said to me on the radio recently that in addition to their corruption, these people are very stupid. That is true. It's not one thing you're dealing with. But even though it's true, there isn't anyone among them, as warped as they are, as accustomed--and trained--to put forward absolute meaningless MFA-machined garbage--who is unaware of how special "Fitty" is.
Other people might not know how to describe what the experience of reading it is like, because we're limited in how well and how clearly we can speak, and these are massive thoughts and massive feelings. How do you begin to describe any of it? Especially when you have no prior experience with anything like "Fitty" in the whole of your life? And it's just you--you can't consult Wikipedia or the general prevailing opinion or what everyone else is saying or what many people have said for years.
Many people don't have that kind of confidence and courage. How do you describe the first sunset there ever was when you didn't know such a thing was coming or happened? We also live in a world where we are less candid than ever, lessing willing to be so, and worse at communicating, not just in terms of the language we use, but in how vulnerable we're willing to be. To talk about "Fitty," to me, one-on-one style, or in an email, is to say things you've never said to anyone before. But anyone who reads it knows it for what it is, and they have never had a life experience like the one provided by the reading of this story that would save lives.
It was never my intention to have to write about publishing in a journal like this. I held out for as long as I could. It wasn't a last resort, but it was what needed to be done knowing where everything stood, why it was happening, how everything in the system operated, and not being able to do anything about that unless I was also to start doing this thing I really did not want to do.
I went twenty years before I finally gave in and took this on. One of the last things I am is a confrontational person. To the person who is seeing this entry before all others--because there will be some new people reading these pages--I'd suggest having a read of more of this record. Hear an interview. See how gentle this man is. How loving. I will stand up for what is right as much as I need to. I will fight harder than anyone can, if it is necessary. But I am gentle and I am kind. I would prefer just to be gentle and kind. People are so quick to want to fight, but in a cowardly, digital way. I don't want to fight. I had no choice but to fight after having gone as long as I could, longer than anyone could taking it and taking it and taking it, without actively fighting back and not taking it. Not being a willing victim. That choice, which was agonized over, was not just made for me personally--but on the world's behalf, too, because of what the world, as a result, was also being denied.
And so we get to the end. I'm going to say it again. I have a story called "Fitty" that can help save the lives of children. And others. I have no problem saying that, because I know it to be true. There is an industry that prefers death and tragedy if it means making sure that more people don't know about the work of this artist unlike all others. This threat to their system.
When you see "Fitty"--and you will, I just don't know when--you will see exactly what I am talking about and why I felt I had to write these very words in this entry. They had to be said, for so many reasons.
I have the story that this country needs, and all I wish for it is for people to be able to see it where everyone can see it. I want children to be able to be children. As I see and process what our world has become, what it further sinks into being, I increasingly believe that children number among our few hopes for something better. We need them. We need them to be safe. And I also know, again, as much as I know anything, that we need this story called "Fitty."
Be well and be safe, and may your children be, too.