Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the in-floor radiant heating is so delightful (when it works), and since we’ve no place to go, Lincolnville Beach having rolled up like an Italian infantry division, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

That’s the last you’ll hear from me about the weather. Except insofar as it appears to have been personally directed by some malignant deity as part of a campaign to destroy my garden. Such things happen, and I will not hesitate to blow the whistle on them.

More of this in April.

In the meantime I have one great statement to make about the Great State of Maine: For me, moving here twenty years ago rendered science fiction superfluous.

I’m reasonably serious about this. As a struggling writer in Washington, DC, I turned out a series of SF-and-fantasy novels and short stories and any number of reviews and essays and the like. I belonged to the Science Fiction Writers of America. I went to conventions. (I did not wear a costume.) I could comprehend insider jokes about Somtow Sucharitkul. Then I moved to Maine.

My SF career survived for about a year. But somehow, its most compelling raison d’être — the exhilaration of dreaming up alternative worlds — had lost its punch. Why take the trouble to imagine a different universe when you could just drive up to Belfast and look around? Why bother making up bizarre yet fascinating characters when you could join the Unitarian Church, buy your groceries at the Co-op, or approach perfect strangers on the street?

Ben Smith, co-founder of the Shebang Street Theater, on the Camden Green

Ben Smith, co-founder of the Shebang Street Theater, on the Camden Green; in the background, Penobscot Bay.

In Adam Smith’s Powers of Mind, there’s a fascinating bit about Fran Tarkenton. Smith asked the great quarterback how he was able to maintain his legendary poise and focus in the frenzy of a game, with the crowd shrieking so loudly he could barely hear himself calling signals. Tarkenton just looked at him and said calmly, “I am not a function of the crowd.”

Yeah, we’d all like to think that.

I wonder, though. I’m a different writer in Maine than I was in Washington. Probably I’d be different again in Chicago, or Bangalore. But it seems to me that the reality-gradient between Maine and the rest of the universe is steeper than most places. It’s not that we’re pure and virginal, or out-of-touch with mainstream America, or on some ornery, different-drummer trip. It’s that Maine, to a considerable extent, is a place sufficient unto itself. Light rays can escape, messages can be exchanged with the outside world, but news from Earth seems to arrive here a few seconds late and subtly attenuated.

If you’re reading this somewhere out of state, please allow time for the full meaning and resonance of my posts to cross the reality divide. Should I happen to seem shallow, pretentious or ill-informed, it’s probably just a faulty connection. Check your ansible settings.

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