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April 19th, 2016
Three Arguments Against Political Correctness
Before I start, an argument was made to me that Political Correctness is not the appropriate term for this issue. Having given it some thought, I think there is an argument both for and against this claim. I will discuss the matter in a different essay.
Now, to begin…
1) In my recent discussions about political correctness, I ran into a number of people voicing some version of the following argument:
“When I am triggered, I react with anger. I shout and scream at people who I perceive as having said rude and hateful things.”
Now, am I wrong, or is the main argument against politically incorrect speech: it is rude and hurtful?
So…is rudeness acceptable?
Or is it not?
If rudeness is not acceptable in other people, shouldn’t we also not behave rudely ourselves?
If rudeness is acceptable in us, the triggered person—if it is okay for us to behave in an angry and emotional way toward the person who said the thing we perceived as offensive—then, must it not also be okay for other people to say offensive things?
For surely, we cannot have the standard: it is okay for me to be obnoxious, but not for you to be obnoxious.
That is hypocrisy.
2) A second argument I saw was: “People who complain about being attacked by political correctness are just babies who should be more thick-skinned.”
This answer delights me.
I would love to see everyone be more thick-skinned.
But again, it has to be everyone or no one.
It is ridiculous to say: “Stop being a baby because you got attacked by five, or ten, or fifty, or two hundred people on the internet, who all screamed and shouted at you because they didn’t like something that you said that had not been considered offensive yesterday.
And yet say: “It is okay for a person to take offense at a comment that was not meant as a slur.”
It wouldn’t be so bad if there were two or three offensive terms and we could all agree to avoid them unless we meant to insult. But it is not like that anymore. Now there are more and more ideas and words that are labeled offensive or hateful. And there is no authority. Anyone, at any time, can declare something hateful, and they will find no lack of folks eager to jump on their bandwagon.
So even a decent person cannot avoid being savaged by ravaging swarms angry PCers..
(If this were not the case, there would not be so many cases of strong supporters of Liberal causes—people who are known for really speaking up for them—being attacked by the ravaging hoards. )
Yes, our society would be benefited if more of us were courageous and thick-skinned. Both those who have been attacked by large groups of angry PCers, and those who have perceived something another person just said as a personal slur.
3) One of the problems with a society that encourages people to become outraged is: I know people who get really angry if you don’t use the latest politically correct term, and I know people who get really angry if you do use the latest politically correct term.
That must be horrible for companies trying to placate their customers.
Here is the argument I hear from the second group—those who hate politically correct speech:
It makes it harder for people to understand works written in the past. Whenever a new word is chosen as the “right “ word for any group or cause, the old word becomes a swearword. (You can’t get anyone to change to the new one, unless you insist that the old one is bad.)
Words that were perfectly polite at the time the book was written become rude. So books are banned for things that were not ever meant to be offensive.
Worse, once the new words take hold, the new generation doesn’t even get taught what the old terms meant. So, they cannot even understand the older works if they try.
(As an example: people in older generations know that Man often meant Mankind. Nowadays, children are taught that Man means male. With the result that they completely misinterpret many old works to have been written about males when they were actually addressing humans. )
For those of us writing now, this means that—no matter how polite or careful we are—the forces of political correctness might at any time take offense at some idea we included in our books, making them objectionable to future generations.
Also, it corrupts worlds. Because, in no time, the new word gains the same connotation the old word had.
This is why words keep changing: Negro, Colored, Black, Afro-American, African American; Crippled, Handicapped, Disabled, Special Needs—just to name a few.
If we insist people use a new word because we don’t like the connotation of the current word, all we do is ruin another word.
What is needed is to reclaim the current word. We need to help people change their image of the group of which, they currently have a negative image .
If we do this, we do them some real good.
(End of section noting argument of political-correctness hating friends.)
Finally, in closing, the best thing I’ve seen to date on this topic was written by my Old School Liberal friend, Don, who said:
“Interesting semantic discussion — "political corrects" is what I would define as the silencing of people whose opinions might offend some one, yet the argument here seems to be that no one is fired for being politically incorrect, they're just fired for expressing opinions that offend someone.
And, for those who claimed no one ever lost a job due to political correctness:
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon
, political correctness
April 18th, 2016
New anthology with stories by John and myself!
GOD, ROBOT, edited by Anthony Marchetta, is a collection of intertwined stories that explore the meaning of intelligence, faith, retribution, and redemption.
It is the year 6080 AD. Detective Theseus Hollywell has at last discovered the hiding place of William Locke, a notorious fugitive from justice who has been hunted for decades after committing unspeakable crimes. But Locke has a trick up his sleeve, one that the detective couldn't expect: He has a story to tell.
GOD, ROBOT is the tale of the theobots, the robotic beings created to love God and Man with a perfection no mere mortal could achieve. In ten stories by eight different award-winning authors, Locke recounts the role of the theobots throughout history, from the purposes for which they were originally created to their ultimate role in deciding the fate of Man, the galaxy, and one lost and tortured soul.
The book features contributions from some of the biggest names in Superversive SF, including John C. Wright, Vox Day, Steve Rzasa, Joshua Young, and L. Jagi Lamplighter.
GOD, ROBOT is 162 pages, DRM-free, and $4.99. Available only on Amazon.
The bonus book is Sci-Phi Journal #7. Subscribers who purchase GOD, ROBOT prior to 12 noon on Wednesday, April 20, may download a free copy.
Also, William Locke who appears here is the same William Locke who is the best friend of Vladimir Von Dread and Gaius Valiant in the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment. (This was his life before he was rescued, turned into a child, and brought to Roanoke…or part of it was.)
And the main character, the detective, is the son of Astrid Hollywell, who hasn't been onstage yet much in the series but will become very important in the future.
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon
, john c. wright
, josh young
, l. jagi lamplighter
April 12th, 2016
School of Darkness: Or How I Discovered That I Was Wrong About…Everything!
On a recent Superversive SF, Peter Bradley recommended a book called School of Darkness by Bella Dodd, a woman who had been active in the Communist party in the 30s through 50s, before returning to the Catholic Church.
I grew up in New York. My father came from the Bronx. My mental image of Labor Unions was quite a rosy one. I had been told that businessmen were greedy. Working conditions were terrible. Workers spontaneously rose up, of their own accord, and demanded better conditions. This worked.
I knew people who thought modern Labor Unions were corrupt, but I thought that, if true, it was something that had happened once they were no longer really needed.
In high school, one of the most chilling things I learned about was the Red Scare in Hollywood. I had a mental picture of Communists sympathizers as sweet helpful souls who wanted to help the less fortunate. I figured artists and actors are often taken in by such things, and thought that the blacklisting of Communists in Hollywood was one of the most terrifying things I had heard of…because I saw myself likely to be part of the blacklisted group.
Because I thought that the actors were just innocent dupes, I figured the other people targeted by the Senate UnAmerican Activities Committee were probably equally innocent or unimportant.
After all, it did not say otherwise in anything I read in school.
Later, I heard that when the KGB opened their documents, the people called before the Senate UnAmerican Activities Committee were actually Communist Party members, many in the pay of the Soviets—actually working for the downfall of America.
I guess, at some level, I had not actually believed it. Or I had pictured them as ineffective intellectuals with glasses sitting around a table somewhere discussing politics and accomplishing nothing.
When I thought of the Communist Party, I pictured, basically, the Libertarian Party. A small party of idealistic intellectuals, devoted to a cause on principle and tirelessly working toward it despite very little success.
I could not have been more wrong.
Bella Dodd was an Italian-born American (she was an American accidentally born in Italy, who grew up there until she was about six,) who went on to become a teacher. Influenced by the young free thinking teacher at her college (who later committed suicide, so empty was her life), Bella became interested in labor rights and was targeted by the Communists.
To my utter astonishment, at that time, the Communists were a huge, well-organized group with fingers in every single pie.
Because they had many of their members stay secret, not reveal that they were actually Communists, they could be members of every group. They formed Fragments, as I think they called them, in every political party, every labor union. Because if this they knew what all the different parties and groups were up to, and could organized coordinated attacks to get their policies across.
In the various teachers unions, their main goal was getting schools to 1) accept federal aid and 2) emphasize separation of church and state.
They had as an avowed goal: designing public schools so as to break up the family and make the children idea future Communists.
The Communists attacked the Church, demonized it, and tried to separate workers from their priests at every turn. Bella saw this over and over and gave some examples. She also admitted to helping over 1,100 communists get into the Roman Catholic Church, with plans to alter and destroy it from within.
They also attacked race harmony in America. Word came from the Soviet Union that America’s racial peace and its morality were its strength, so these things had to be destroyed.
All these things, these things we all complain about but think is just ‘part of life’, this highly-organized, secret group were deliberately attempting to orchestrate.
And they were really clever at it. Whenever anyone came up with a logical argument to make the bad thing sound like the moral high ground, they quickly shared it. Suddenly, that argument was the accepted view.
Here is another person, Mallory Millet, on the same subject.
It was 1969. Kate invited me to join her for a gathering at the home of her friend, Lila Karp. They called the assemblage a "consciousness-raising-group," a typical communist exercise, something practiced in Maoist China. We gathered at a large table as the chairperson opened the meeting with a back-and-forth recitation, like a Litany, a type of prayer done in Catholic Church. But now it was Marxism, the Church of the Left, mimicking religious practice:
"Why are we here today?" she asked.
"To make revolution," they answered.
"What kind of revolution?" she replied.
"The Cultural Revolution," they chanted.
“And how do we make Cultural Revolution?" she demanded.
"By destroying the American family!" they answered.
"How do we destroy the family?" she came back.
"By destroying the American Patriarch," they cried exuberantly.
"And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?” she replied.
"By taking away his power!"
"How do we do that?"
"By destroying monogamy!" they shouted.
"How can we destroy monogamy?"
Their answer left me dumbstruck, breathless, disbelieving my ears. Was I on planet earth? Who were these people?
"By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution and homosexuality!" they resounded.
Of course, that failed. We haven’t seen any increase in any of those things…
But back to School of Darkness:
Many, many young people flocked to the Communist Party, because they were idealistic and wanted to help their fellow man. They were impressed by the idealism and lack of material goods of many of the inner circle members.
BUT…their goal was revolution. They thought that the Capitalist system had to be overthrown, so that the new better system could come, through violent war.
Everything they did was intended to disrupt America, to destabilize it, to break up the peace and cause discontent.
They caused strikes or lengthened them. They urged workers to join labor unions. American workers were fairly content. Their wages were rising. The Communists had to use propaganda to convince them they were unhappy.
And, boy, did they!
People all over the media and advertising were secretly Communists. They decided how America would see a whole series of things, starting with the idea that fascists and communists are opposites, when both sides were controlled by the same organization. During the Soviet-run Spanish Civil War, they spun the whole thing to make the Church look bad and the rebels look good.
And, they all…this entire movement, took all their orders directly from Moscow, and the moment Moscow said “Jump.” They jumped.
They courted the rich, and money poured into their coffers.
They courted the young and used them up. Bella reported that young people would come into the movement and pour their whole life into the cause in a desire to make the world a better place. The Party would encourage them, use them up, and spend their lives, without much concern for any of them.
Bella discovered that the same highly-organized group who put the Communists into power in Russia also helped support Hitler. At one period, during WWII but before Yalta and Bretton Woods, the Communists were told to make peace between the factions.
And, boy, were they effective!
They had a finger in every pie! They stopped all strikes, got the different unions and parties to work together. They had enough control in enough places that they became the go to power to get things done.
But then orders came from Moscow to go back to pushing revolution and business as usual.
This was where it all started to fall apart. These orders included turning on the man who had been running the party all this time in America. He was not necessarily a good man, he had had people beaten and killed, but he was organized and effective. After he was forced out, it began fracturing.
It wasn’t too much longer until Bella, who was a person who spoke up against some of their more foolish actions, was forced out, too.
She remained a long and lost for some time, her husband had left and her parents had died during her quest for Communism.
Eventually, however, she met Bishop Fulton Sheen and found her way back to the Catholic Church.
At the end, do you know what they did, even back then, to throw her out of the party? They called her a racist. They spread about that she was “against the Negro”. Considering that she had spent years living in Harlem among people of all nations and advocating for them, this was the worst blow to her.
It was eerie to see them doing then the exact same thing that crybullies do now: call people racists when they are not racists.
Every time I see this happen—the internet hoards descend on someone and call them out as a racist, someone who is not a racist, I think of all the real racists in the world. I think two things:
One, I think of the story of the man who is looking for a quarter under a street light, instead of where he dropped it, because the light is better under the lamp. They go for the easy targets.
The other is the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Every time anyone attacks a fake racist, they open the door a little farther for the real racists. Because, already, I notice people who have reached the point that they just shrug and turn away at the cry of “racist,” because, in their experience, it is always a lie.
The more people realize that “racist” is just a pejorative for “we hate you,” the more they ignore it.
Which means that the real racists—and there are real racists out there—when they come will be ignored and will get away with much more than they could have in a sane society.
The most horrible part of all, to me, is that this is not a new book. Not at all. In fact, it was written ten years before I was born.
Which means, my whole life, I could have known all this…but I did not.
In case you wish to listen to Bella Dodd speaking:
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon
April 4th, 2016
Political Correctness vs. The Search for Happiness
A debate broke out recently about political correctness between myself and some of my fellow SF fans. (You can read Matthew M. Foster’s response here.)
I am very fond of Mr. Foster, but I must respectfully disagree.
Once, many years ago, I spent a week at a Rensi Zen monastery. It was housed in a beautiful estate in the Catskill Mountains in New York. The estate had once belonged to Harriet Beecher Stowe, (who happens to be, I am told, a distant relative of mine. ) The entire week was spent in quiet meditation and contemplation.
I had a lot of time to pray and think.
I was young, just out of college. I spent the week delving into the heart of my personal life philosophy. By the end of the week, I had come to a realization:
We all want to be happy.
To be happy, we must be wise.
To be wise, we must be free to make mistakes
or we cannot find our way to wisdom.
Because of this, I am a strong supporter of the great dialogue that is civilization. Were it up to me, nothing would ever interfere with it.
Political correctness quenches this conversation. Here are some of the reasons I say that:
* It replaces discussion and debate with Puritan-style disapproval.
You don’t explain to someone why you disagree with them. You speak so as to shut them down as quickly as possible.
* It keeps people from sharing politically correct views in a way that might convince.
Because of this, if the person who favors the politically correct position has a good reason for their opinions, the other person will not know, because debate has been silenced.
*It keeps people from sharing any other view.
If the person who does not favor the politically correct position has a good reasons for supporting their position—the person favoring the politically correct reason will never hear it, because he shut down the debate before he had a chance to hear the reasons.
*Rude people are rude anyway.
Most people who really want to be rude don’t care about political correctness, and they are still rude and mean—this means it is the nice people, the people who really don’t want to hurt others feelings—who get attacked and squelched.
*It gives a false sense of consensus.
Because people stop voicing views that are not on the accepted list, people who support the politically correct view are left with a false sense of the general public agreeing with them.
*It creates backlash.
If you have an opinion and your friend has a different opinion, you can have a conversation.
If you have an opinion, perhaps a mild or moderate one, and every time you voice it, you get slammed for being evil—by people who refuse to even consider your point of view, because they have already labeled anything that doesn’t agree with them as blasphemy…
After a while, you get annoyed.
Some people really believe their position, and they stick to it.
But many people…when their moderate position isn’t accepted, their response is to go the other way. To go rabid, so to speak.
And that is what creates people like Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Vox Day.
People get so tired of being shut down that they find it tremendously refreshing to hear anyone, even someone far extreme of their position, speak openly about whatever it is that is bothering them.
* It hides facts.
Once political correctness moves into science—and a few people lose their position for not voicing the party line (which has happened in both the scientific and educational fields)—people stop wanting to publish the truth.
I am sure there are scientists who support the global climate ideas, for instant, but I have yet to meet one. But I keep hearing reports of scientists in the climate field who are keeping their head down, unwilling to publish their results until they either have inconclusive proof of what they have found or the political climate changes.
That means the rest of us are being robbed of honest scientific debate.
One should never be afraid of debate…it’s a good thing, even if you were right all along.
It is a very good thing, if you were wrong.
*It encourages rudeness.
People who favor political correctness say it is about politeness. But the same people, so often, also favor shouting down anyone who disagrees with them. They pick a handful of opinions that they declare to be rude, then they shout and scream at people who don’t agree with those opinions.
But they are perfectly willing to be rude themselves on any other topic.
*It encourages intolerance.
Any time we decide that anyone who disagrees with an idea is automatically wrong, that is intolerance.
People who favor political correctness often defend themselves by claiming that their opponents are motivated by hatred. But, people can have hour long debates on topics as frivolous at pie vs. cake. It stands to reason that they might have reasonable but differing views on such important subjects as: abortion, race, gay marriage, etc.
Reasons that have nothing to do with hatred.
To automatically assume that any contrary opinion is wrong, without giving it a hearing, is intolerance.
Tolerance means listening to views we disagree with—not merely supporting ideas we think someone else (i.e. Christians, the establishment, the previous generation etc) doesn’t like.
Tolerance is hard.
But it is worth it.
Especially when, as often happens, the tables turn and, suddenly, our particular group is not the one in the ascendant.
So, to review: We all want happiness. To get it, we need to be wise. To learn wisdom, we need the freedom to fail, to be stupid, to walk the wrong way, and, yes, even to think wrong thoughts.
Lake at the Zendo
Freedom, particularly, Freedom of Speech, is absolutely necessarily to happiness. How about we all stop shouting and go back to the days of:
“I may disagree with what you say,
but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.”
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon
)Tags: dai bosatsu zendo
, politically correct
March 17th, 2016
Iron Chamber of Memories
Once upon a time, my husband was an atheist. Then he had a heart attack, and was healed by prayer. He both converted and went to the hospital to find out what happen. They told him, his heart itself was healthy, but he needed a quintuple bipass.
When he came home from the hospital, he had a dream. He dragged himself out of bed to the office and wrote down, from the dream, an outline for an entire novel. Almost twelve years later, he wrote the entire novel in five weeks. (Normally writing a novel takes him six months at least.)
Today, that novel is now available: Iron Chamber of Memories.
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon
, iron chamber of memories
, john c. wright
March 16th, 2016
Superversive Blog: Interview with Frank Luke
An interview with author Frank Luke, who gives one of the best arguments for why it is not immoral for Christians to read and write fantasy I've ever seen.
How did you come to write your book?
Rebirths started as a short story called “New Life.” I'd written several of those, and had an idea while feeding my youngest about a new character. I'd been wondering about a necromancer who appeared in my-unreleased-starter novel. How did she come to be? “New Life” explored that. She's the antagonist even though she's working with the main character. I sent the story to an editor. He wrote back that it needed a sequel. That sequel novella, “This Body of Death,” came back from him that with another piece that length, the three together could go in a single-author collection. “New Life,” “This Body of Death,” and “Once Called” were that collection. That publishing house folded, and I've taken the book indie since.
Have you always wanted to write? Or did it suddenly come upon you?
I've wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I first started writing Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfics in junior high and high school. I stopped writing any fiction of length during college and seminary, but that creative itch just was not satisfied. The last year of seminary, an idea started forming, and I went with it. I've been writing ever since. Someday I may pull that novel out and give it some attention.
Some people feel Christians should not write fantasy. What is your take on this issue?
I've read some of those arguments. They never held water for me. I can't see anything inherently sinful about writing fantasy. If it was, then Christians shouldn't even read fantasy, but there is no argument you can make against reading fantasy that doesn't cut out all fiction (read those, too). Granted, there are types of fiction that Christians should stay away from. I'll just name two obvious ones: torture porn and erotica. But we aren't talking about anything like that.
I write fantasy because it touches the spirit in ways that other genres don't. One reader of Rebirths, a widower, said Derke's grief over his wife's death mirrored his own path through grief. I believe the breath of life that God gave our first parents is that human beings create art for art's sake. We don't paint to mark our territory. The primary purpose of song and dance is not to attract a mate. We do those things because we are creative, as God intended us to be. If you eliminate all forms of art, you eliminate life. God wants us to live life abundantly. Why would we even think of saying that the art of story telling is off limits to Christians? Instead, we should be writing the very best fantasy.
Two of the foundational fantasy authors were devout Christians, George MacDonald and Tolkein. Christians writing fantasy today aren't entering Satan's territory. We're staking our place on the front lines of a war to keep what our predecessors started. Yeah, there's a lot of junk out there in fantasy writing, but name one genre that doesn't have junk. Those who say Christians shouldn't write fantasy say we should be focusing on writing Bible studies. One reason they give is that there are a lot of junk Bible studies out there, so we need good Bible studies to combat the bad. That applies to fantasy and sci fi. The bad needs to be countered with the good.
Some would also have a problem with Rebirths being a dark fantasy–people have said they read it in full light because some scenes are downright scary. It's the same thing. There is nothing inherently sinful about horror. Writing to showcase gore, death, and debauchery is wrong, but spine tinglers are not the same category. I couldn't do a slasher story.
You mentioned that someone complained that the book was “too Catholic” but you, yourself, are not Catholic. Could you explain how this came to be?
As a Christian writer, I have to be true to God and to the story. The story wouldn't work any other way. I didn't sit down and say, “ah how subversive would it be for a Pentecostal pastor to write a book with a Catholic character.” I like tradition and don't do things just to stick it to the man. The scene pointed to is where the main character asks the priest to shrive him. It takes place in the thirteenth century, there are no indications anywhere of Derke doubting any of the sacraments, Derke has had his issues with the Father in the early parts of the book, but he has repented and returned to faith. In that final scene, with an Orthodox baptism and communion already taking place, for Derke to not confess would be out of character.
Who are some of the authors/books that inspire you and your work?
Rebirths has been described as “imagine if CS Lewis wrote an Elder Scrolls novel.” I can see that, though I've never played Elder Scrolls or even know if they have novel tie-ins. Also in Rebirths is a dwarven priest named Father Phaeus. I was reading a lot of GK Chesterton when Phaeus came to be. The next writer didn't inspire Rebirths because I only found him a year ago, but I have to list John C. Wright. There's more than one shout out to him in Seven Deadly Tales, a book of mineexploring the seven deadly sins that is not related to Rebirths. For example, the demoness refers to Satan as “Fixer,” and in another story, a character makes the comment about how the Hugos used to mean something.
How has writing surprised you?
Two things surprise me the most about writing. What amazes me the most is how the characters and stories take on a life of their own. If you try to force the story in the wrong direction or take the character out of character, the whole thing suffers. I'm working on a companion set of stories to Seven Deadly Tales right now. I expected the stories at Joshua's Pawn Shop to be sweet, whimsical tales or short adventures highlighting the cardinal virtues and heavenly graces. Nope. “Fun and Games” clocked in at 14,500 words, and “Legacies” is 33,000 and still growing.
The second thing that surprised me is how much fun it is! If I'm not having fun writing it, you're not going to have fun reading it. Even my dark writing was fun to write.
Are there plans for a sequel to Rebirths?
Weavings is in the works. More people have asked me about the Joshua's Pawn Shop stories, so I'm giving it priority. But Rebirths and Weavings are planned to be part of an open-ended series. Rebirths was three connected novellas. Weavingsis a set of three vignettes, highlighting an event in Derke's past, each followed by a novella showing how those events are still impacting the present. It also features the greatest adventure of all—romance. Derke and his love interest marry and begin the adventure of family while still serving in their ministry. At this point, those stories will feature the Wild Hunt, lycanthropes, and the king of nightmares.
What do you do when you are not writing?
It's either family or church besides writing. I make sure to spend time with my wife and our sons. Also, I'm an associate pastor, and so I'm usually working on my Wednesday night series. I can also be found preparing stuff for the church's Royal Rangers outpost. I'm the Ranger Coordinator for our relaunched outpost.
Rebirths will be on sale for 0.99 from Wed the 16th of March until the 23rd.
To read more:
Franks blog: http://frankluke.com/
Where he answers Bible questions: http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/users/363/frank-luke
Seven Deadly Tales: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B019BJAS3Y
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon
February 10th, 2016
Superversive Blog: Interview with Author Marina Fontain
Finally, a distopia by someone who has actually lived in one!
Today, we have an interview with Marina Fontaine of Liberty Island, author of the new book, Chasing Freedom.
How did you come to write this book?
It all began with a flash fiction contest at Liberty Island, an online fiction magazine. A New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, had written a fictional piece sometime in late 2013 that had future U.S. over-run by zombies because the politicians defunded CDC (or something like that, anyway). Liberty Island challenged its members to “write better.” I had a good chuckle, wished my writer friends good luck and went to bed.
Overnight, I had a “vision,” if you will, of an American family packing up to move to Canada. Also, they would be transported by a horse-and-buggy arrangement. That was all I knew. Mind you, before this happened, I had never written fiction in my life, but I got curious as to how this setup might happen. Why are they leaving? Why Canada? Why horse and buggy and not a car or bus or plane?
You can probably tell where this is going. I wrote out the full flash fiction piece, and Liberty Island published it along with other entries. But I kept wanting to know more about the world. I started getting more characters, more stories, and it just kept growing until at some point I realized this could be a full novel. And so here I am, much to my surprise, being told I can no longer call myself an “aspiring” author because my book is actually out there.
How did you pick the genre?
Dystopia is a natural fit for me as it happens to be a combination of writing “what you know” and “what you read.” Having grown up in the former Soviet Union, I know first hand how an oppressive society operates—what it does to people, how the system sustains itself, but also the potential weaknesses and cracks that are invisible to the outsiders. I have brought a lot of this understanding into my writing, and it helped make it more grounded and realistic.
I have also read many dystopian novels, both classics and the more recent offerings. There were themes that I have loved, but also points of disagreement with some of the visions out there. I have tried to address some of what I thought were the pitfalls of the genre and create something that was fresh and—hopefully—exciting, even to the readers who might have been over-saturated with the dystopian literature as a whole.
Can you tell us (without too many spoilers) a little about the characters and their journey?
In short, my heroes are ordinary people who rise to the occasion, and my villains are those who do not. A big theme in my novel is individual choices, and how anyone can end up either making the world better or being led into doing evil. Thus, none of the characters are over-the-top cartoons. They are all recognizable and easy to understand.
For example, the main protagonists of my novel start out simply as teenagers posting subversive information on the Internet and end up leading the country-wide Rebellion movement. It comes at a terrible cost, but they chose that path and paid the price even though most in their position would not. There are several other protagonists as well, who mostly just wanted to live their lives, but get forced into picking a side—again, at a price.
On the flip side, the villains are more or less regular people who for various reasons become trapped in positions where they either act in despicable ways or enable others in doing so. The true villain in my novel is the system that destroys people’s souls. It is one of the themes not often addressed when talking of totalitarian societies. We tend to focus on the obvious victims, who get jailed or tortured or killed. But what of the many more who die not in body, but in soul, little by little, and often by their own choice to simply “get along”? That’s a bit of a soapbox for me, and I tried to work it quite a bit into the novel.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Here’s where it gets awkward. I have the least creative day job in the world—an accountant for a real estate company (OK, I can get pretty creative with those expense classifications, but nevertheless…) Aside from that, I am a mother of three and a pet parent to four guinea pigs. In my copious spare time, I read and review books, blog and hang out with my friends on the Internet. And before you ask, shockingly enough, my wonderful husband puts up with all of this. I have been very blessed indeed.
Is this your first book? Do you have others planned?
Chasing Freedom is my first. It is self-contained, although I might over time write a few short stories set in the same world. There is an anthology in the works called (tentatively) Right Turn Only that has accepted my submission of a short story based on the background of one of the characters in the novel.
As for completely new material, I am currently working on an idea that might become a short story or a novelette, depending on how fleshed out it becomes. One thing I’m finding out is that once inspiration strikes, you as a writer have no choice but follow, and I’m excited to discover where it ends up.
Personal Blog: Marina's Musings
LIberty Island Creator Forum:
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon
)Tags: chasing freedom
, liberty island
, marina fontain
February 3rd, 2016
Superversive Blog: Guest Post by S. Dorman
Guest poster S. Dorman returns with another powerful essay:
My Hero, Lost On A Mountain In Maine
One of my heroes was lost on a mountain in Maine. Not on just any mountain, but The Greatest Mountain—Katahdin, it was named of the Abenaki. Highest mountain in the state and sharing with downeast coastal Quoddy Head first light each day in the continental U.S.. The mountain has a distinctive profile, standing lone and long. Its two often cloud-swathed peaks are connected by a narrow path of eroding stone called the Knife Edge, some places 2-3 ft. wide, some places dropping off almost sheer to the valley below. Below the summit of Baxter is a plateau where my hero spent part of his first day wandering in clouds, once dropping through krumholtz. Thoreau, one of the first to write about Katahdin, was guided partway by a native Abenaki and, going on from there, he may have taken the Abol Slide for his climb. We don’t think he made it to the top. The slide has been a well-known hazardous trail for generations. Abol is recently closed to hikers for its accident prone unstable debris, in most places solely an abrupt fall of talus, the unending eating away of rock in numberless pieces by frost-wedging — action begun by the glaciers. That glacial debris is in the Gulf of Maine an eon after these giants left us with nothing but rocks. Rocks.
My hero was lost on this mountain, terminus of the Appalachian Trail, in 1939. How can someone be lost on a mountain, you say? There’s only one direction to go — down. After reaching the summit with his companion, he descended to wander through cloud on the plateau below the summit over rocks and stunted mountain trees called krumholtz. But the surrounding wilderness below Katahdin is where my hero was truly lost, while searchers refused to look anywhere but on the mountain itself. They did not come within ten miles of him afterward, believing him perhaps fallen into a crevice of rock. He had fallen so, in the krumholtz, but managed to climb up and out. Altogether he was lost nine days, and covered perhaps 75 erratic miles. Coming from the suburbs of New York City, he nonetheless had had some youthful training in Boy Scouts, and tried to follow what he had learned with them: follow streams down. He needed fresh water more than anything and thought this plan would keep him from thirst and bring him out to civilization. He was dressed as a day hiker on getting separated from his party in clouds at the summit.
To tell you why Donn is my hero would take a catalog of physical, mental, and spiritual difficulties. At the head of the physical list is weakness from hunger. Next, for me, would be biting bugs: relentless blackflies, deer flies, mosquitoes, and another category of blood eaters, leeches, a.k.a. bloodsuckers. Partial nakedness was a difficulty: Before his separation in the clouds he’d kept his jacket but given his sweatshirt to a companion. Donn also lost his dungarees to miscalculation in a leap over one of the numerous gaps caused by glacial erratics in a stream he was following. After slashing his sneakers on talus, he lost them and suffered embedded thorns, deep cuts and swollen feet, stiff toes, and the loss of part of his big toe. I don’t need to add wild animals to the list because these turned out to be a source of comfort to him, even the bears. I think this would not be so today because coyotes now roam in packs through the state, but add rainstorms, fierce sunburn, sickness and vomiting.
A catalog of my hero’s difficulties would not be complete without acknowledgement of both psychic and spiritual sufferings. And this is where the real heroic harrowing comes in. He had punctuated the first day with prayer, and ended it with more. (Later he discovered that people across the USA had been praying for him.) On the second day, Donn was afflicted with images of delusion so strong that he was instantly convinced of their reality. He could not understand why people and mechanisms would not respond to him when he tried to communicate or confront them. It wasn’t until his knees, on trying to stand, appeared as metallic mechanisms that his prayers took on a strong character and were no longer simply a matter of habit. His prayers became a potent necessity.
Praying worked miracles in his ordeal, but always he felt God encouraging him to get up and keep walking. He had to make choices regarding his route that were beyond his ken. There was the time he decided to forsake an old tote road and telephone line tacked to trees in order to follow the water. Things of human make he came across in this wilderness were moldering and decrepit, camps, bedding, empty tin cans. Sometimes he was forced just to put one foot before the other. Sometimes he was unable to do so and had to crawl. Once he felt strong gentle hands lifting him by the shoulders, setting him on uncertain trembling legs, moving him along just a bit.
Sometimes it seemed Someone else was talking to me. They wanted me out of the woods, going home. They would keep me sane if I listened.
Another time, near the end, he felt empty blackness come up into his head and mind. To me this blackness seems spiritual in nature but may have been caused by near starvation. Or perhaps it was simply incapacity of a body that could not follow on forever.
As noted, the book was first written and published in 1939 after the ordeal, but has since become iconic, and read in the Maine schools. The same first person narrative in other editions of print and audio have followed, with plans to dramatize.
The riveting audio book performance is by actor Amon Purinton. He portrayed the experience of Donn’s receiving a bowl of soup, after near starvation in the wilderness as though he were being given a chalice of shed blood just then turned into wine.
One thing to add to this catalog of heroic ordeal. My hero, Donn Fendler, was 12 years old when he was lost on Katahdin in Maine.
Lost on a Mountain in Maine.
The riveting audio book performance is by child actor Amon Purinton. He made the experience of Donn’s seeing a bowl of soup miraculous.
And here is a connection to science fiction: http://thegreenandbluehouse.com/2016/01/18/lost-on-a-mountain-in-malacandra/
The Hunt Trail Donn climbed to reach the summit:
Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon
)Tags: donn fendler
, lost on a mountain in maine
, s dorman