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August 26, 2003

“Note,” says the weblogger who writes Making Light. “My readers are the best thing about this weblog. If you92re not reading the comments, you92re missing half the fun.”

What she doesn’t say is that if you’re not reading the comments, you’re missing half of the outstanding Teresa Nielsen Hayden writing.

My problem with “creative destruction” is that when I hear the phrase, I think of what happened when Ron Perelman got hold of a large segment of the comics industry. He very nearly destroyed both Marvel Comics and the existing comics distribution system.

Comics is full of guys who’ve put years and years of hard work into learning demanding and highly specialized skills. Ron Perelman never studied under Joe Kubert. I doubt he knew more than one-point-five nanosquats about the Marvel or DC continuities. But he leveraged his leverage into enough leverage to grab hold of Marvel, and proceeded to wreck the hopes and livelihoods of half the people in the industry. Maybe more than half. […]

The more I watch how people build their lives, the less I like large upheavals. All of us are forever trying to spin out some modest little web of opportunity and possibility in the gaps and angles formed by the much larger economic entities around us. And when the lords of this earth bring their creative destruction down upon us, we weep for the wreck of our small schemes.

Some years back I came upon a little heap of old possessions that had been left next to a streetcorner garbage basket on the Upper West Side. It definitely had the air of someone cleaning out a long-inhabited apartment.

Naturally, I rummaged through it. What I found, bundled up together as they’d been stored, were an old newspaper, a language instruction book for teaching yourself Dutch, and a complete set of 78 rpm records to go with the book. They were all from 1929. The book was an artifact from another age, full of conversations about lifestyles involving cooks, nursemaids, and first-class accommodations on transatlantic liners. The newspaper — one of the old second-string New York papers, I forget which one — was from the day before the great stock market crash of 1929. Like the instruction book, it was an artifact from a vanished world. The 78s looked like they’d never been used.

I’ve always wondered what the deal was. It seemed to me that something had come to an end there, and that it had been important enough to someone that they’d preserved its remains intact for the next fifty-odd years.

Any time you have chaos and destruction, you get stories like that. They don’t get told much, because there’s not a lot of punch in a story about things not happening; and also because one of the hardest things to remember is all the possiblities and contingencies you had spinning in the air before large events precluded their existence.

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