Cory Doctorow: Six Weeks Is A Long Time

Cory Doctorow
Photo by Paula Mariel Salischiker

Greetings from the past.

I write these words six weeks before you will read them. I used to do this all the time, back in the glory days of print. Hell, I spent most of the ’90s writing a monthly guide to interesting websites, which came out two months after I submitted it.

I’ve been writing six columns per year for Locus for fourteen years and I have not missed a one. Over those years, the fuse on all my other work has grown steadily shorter. The lead time between a writing and publishing a blog post is near zero. Even investigative pieces that require fact-checking and interviews run mere days after I turn them in.

But this column is the exception. Six times a year, I challenge myself to write an essay that will still be relevant in a month and a half. You’d think that for a science fiction writer, this kind of futuristic thinking would be kid’s stuff. You’d be wrong.

Six weeks is a long time.

Right now, as I write these words in March of 2022, the odds of nuclear Armageddon are higher than they’ve been for decades. The world’s many proxy wars are threatening to join up and become one Big One. Local and national governments are dismantling COVID precautions just as the most contagious variant yet is taking off.

I write when I’m anxious. That’s how I wrote four books during the lockdown. My coping strategy for any kind of discomfort is distraction. I’ve had complex, chronic pain since I was a teenager, and I’ve spent my life using the fog of work to lift me out of my bodily dysfunctions as well as my mental stresses. For me, that thing they call a ‘‘work ethic’’ is just a way of avoiding the unpleasant here-and-now.

Six weeks is a long time.

I have rejected dozens of ideas for this month’s column. Any subject with the gravitas to be read six terrible weeks from now is a subject I don’t want to think about, much less speculate upon. Any subject that lacks that gravitas is disqualified for obvious reasons.

I grew up haunted by the specter of nuclear ex­termination. I made banners and marched and sang and even got arrested to block the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I read post-apocalyptic SF with the delicious thrill you get from worrying the nerve of a painful loose tooth with your tongue. As the nuclear threat faded in urgency, I found myself haunted in a deeper way by the specter of environmental collapse. I made signs and marched and gave money to causes and put solar on my roof. I wrote solarpunk and tried to keep hope alive, for me as much as for my readers.

But six weeks is a long time.

Greetings to you, in the distant, six-week future. How are things, on the other side of the white-noise roar of statistical indeterminacy?

I bear glad tidings. Only six weeks ago, you, me and most everyone else we knew couldn’t imagine getting through these next six weeks. If you’re read­ing these words, you did the unimaginable.

Six weeks and six weeks and six weeks, we eat the elephant of the unimaginable one bite at a time.

When it gets too hard, we distract ourselves: writing, socializing, reading. It’s not an escape, it’s a refuge. A chance to regroup and muster and head back out.

You made it through six weeks. It was a long time.

I know, columns about the problems of writing columns are the most navel-gazing of self-indulgences. But I won’t apologize. We all do what we can to make it through the next six weeks.

Six weeks is a long time.


Cory Doctorow is the author of Walkaway, Little Brother, and Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free (among many others); he is the co-owner of Boing Boing, a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a visiting professor of Computer Science at the Open University and an MIT Media Lab Research Affiliate.


All opinions expressed by commentators are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of Locus.

This article and more like it in the May 2022 issue of Locus.

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction FantasyWhile you are here, please take a moment to support Locus with a one-time or recurring donation. We rely on reader donations to keep the magazine and site going, and would like to keep the site paywall free, but WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT to continue quality coverage of the science fiction and fantasy field.

©Locus Magazine. Copyrighted material may not be republished without permission of LSFF.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *