A Swarm of Bees Wants You to Write CliFi
A Self-Aware Swarm of Bees That Your Ex Is Now Dating
Look, I get it. You’re an aspiring novelist. I’m a swarm of bees who spontaneously became self-aware and seduced your boyfriend. That doesn’t mean our relationship has to be strained! Maybe it’s hard not to feel lousy about being dropped for a series of spiny arthropods, especially after how he’d poke fun at you when your legs were stubbly. But don’t feel bad. Not to get all graphic, but what woman could compete with a hundred thousand bee tongues moistened by the nectar of wildflowers? Thinking of you languishing in self-pity and peanut butter at your parents’ house, I can’t help but feel a little guilty. I want to help! Fortunately, I awakened as a successful female literary agent in her early ’30s with an army of tightly compartmentalized minds at her disposal.
My first and perhaps most urgently needed advice to you: “Bee” organized. Sorry, just had to get that out of my system, I’m done. But seriously, I went through your notes. I know you’ve read about famous authors writing novels on paper scraps and cocktail napkins, but I think you’re mixing up the behavior of writers with the act of writing. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. didn’t have a widely available portable technology that can save and file every thought you can type or speak. You need to find a system that works for you, specifically one that, well, works. We honeybees have a cycle of laying eggs and swarming to build a new hive, harnessing the internal then manifesting it. This is a good blueprint for any creative process, but I would understand if you prefer to continue to operate in chaos, AKA “self-sabotage, because actually trying is scarier than another day substitute teaching.”
“Bee” interested in people. Okay, I guess a few members of the swarm are really fond of the “bee” pun. I apologize, but every moment of my existence requires the consensus of a hundred thousand minds, and frankly, you can’t even decide how to accomplish nothing every day.
I’m so sorry, I don’t know where that came from! I guess I’m under a lot of stress. Dave and I are trying to build a hive in the downstairs bay window, and halfway through he decides it’s “too Portlandia,” and he doesn’t want people (i.e., strangers) to think we’re …
Anyway! You should try to get out more and observe people. While you can learn a lot about storytelling from binge watching foreign films and documentaries, if you only experience the human condition through a filter of art you risk becoming isolated from it. Start with just a drink or a coffee somewhere, trying to overhear conversations. Then move on to gallery openings and other quiet events and ask people how they heard about it. I know it’s hard. If you feel shy, how about you try pretending you’re being paid! Tell yourself, “I’m not here to make friends, I’m a journalist. I’m conducting research.” Most people can’t tell the difference!
That said, if you insist on living like a hermit, you can learn about people using social media. I know you have a habit of wallowing in despair about how social media is making us narcissistic and emotionally inept. That’s nice, David Brooks, but think of it this way instead: you have unprecedented psychic access to actual people eagerly revealing their pride and insecurities on social media and plenty of other places. Perhaps it is easier to haughtily dismiss technology rather than to take the time to learn how it may help you to tell a story. And it’s more than social media. There are so many experimental formats. Have you looked into Twine? You can publish a “choose your own adventure” novel. How cool is that!?
We glamourize the past as a “golden age,” and while I’ve only been sentient for a month, I think I understand. The past seems great! Literature was a standard household discussion, poets were the spokespersons for generations, and the bees weren’t dying out at terrifying rates. But don’t forget, those times were pretty crappy for everybody without financial resources and social privilege. As a trans-consciousness woman of species, I can feel the weight of old power structures against my every move. You should see when I try to enter a government building! Isn’t it a little funny, as the literary canon grows inclusive, we’re trying to pronounce it dead and irrelevant? I know, I know, it’s a coincidence.
Also, two words: climate fiction. Just saying. If you want to write CliFi, I know people. And by people I mean bears, but those fuckers owe me a favour. I could get you one-on-one time with some displaced and confused grizzlies. I’m thinking about your legacy here. I mean, I’m constantly being killed by pesticides, but you’re 34. How long since your piece was in The Messenger? I know you think you’re “finding yourself,” but to publishers, you may as well be sleeping. Jeez, I am so sorry! Dave just—
You know, sometimes I think I did you a favour. Ugh! Why am I telling you this? And why won’t the backspace bees do their job? Anyway, if you’re worried about the details, writing dystopian futures is fun and easy! Just imagine one troublesome policy implemented to an extreme degree that crushes people’s individuality. This is especially effective for the American audience, who reserve a strange paranoia for any collectivist threats to individuality. Deploy elements of fantasy for any area you don’t feel like researching. I’ve always wanted to write about a dystopian future where the government employs dystopian future novelists to distract people from how bloody dystopian it’s getting. I have dreams and visions too, you know.
Don’t get angry. Judgmental people drag you down. They see your reputation of patiently working hard, they get you involved in their life, and next thing you know you’re up at 2 AM mixing saliva and tree resin wondering where he is, too ashamed to think objectively and too invested to just leave. So when he finally comes home and asks why you’re playing Magnetic Fields at pulley-weighted window-shaking volume and staring at a wall, you just say “I don’t know,” and somehow you end up apologizing to him because you were “withholding.” God dammit, how does he always do that?
That last paragraph of advice was about emotionally predatory publishers, not boyfriends. Just to clarify.
So Dave left in a hurry this morning, muttering something about going away for awhile, and that you’d be here to get your stuff. I was so excited, I didn’t even ask how long he’d be gone. Then I noticed something when I was looking through his closet. I found a shoebox with some sugar cubes and several empty dropper vials of LSD. It dawned on me that he left without breakfast, with which he’s always very regimented. Usually he has pancakes and I have … sugar cubes. I think I know what this means.
I am quickly finishing my open letter to you, then I’m going to try and reach Glacier National Park, and maybe catch a few supercells spilling light into the late summer afternoon skies. I have read all of your work, and I will carry it with me always. I know you think nobody has faith in you, but now you know that’s not true. You possess a staggering multitude of voices. I think it’s time you end the self-doubt monologue. So when you come home, come sit in your garden and let those voices swarm the page. Water the scarlet monarda, I’m right there. “Bee”-lieve in yourself—oh, come on guys, really?
A Self-Aware Swarm of Bees that Your Ex Is Now Dating lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She has represented over 15 New York Times bestselling titles, including Desquamated Keratinocytes & Ceruminous Secretions, a new biography of David Foster Wallace by a Q-tip Wallace once used.
A Self-Aware Swarm of Bees That Your Ex Is Now Dating is not accepting unsolicited queries at this time.