What the What

It’s bath time and I was using this parental free time to check up on what’s going in with our new Ompahloompah and Chief. Just and observation, but apparently I’m not allowed to customize my news feed ‘s range of input.

Breitbart is to news as drain field effluent is to a healthy, nutritious snake. Like so many others, I too would very much appreciate the ability to exclude fake, biased, and bigoted sources from my feed.

Google, just so you understand, this is the kind of bullshit design that quickly runs toward deal breaker in my book. Fix it, fix it fast, because normalizing racist, misogynistic crap like this has already done incalculable damage.

Atlatl Teaser

by Zane Kinney

by Zane Kinney

The eminently talented Zane Kinney has handed over cover work for the next episode of Up Slope, but I’m going to tease you all with it for a while because I’m not yet through copy edits on the manuscript.

Muh ha ha ha ha haaaaaa!

He’s also handed me a couple of pencil sketches which I daresay may sate your building anticipation. I get to meter these out.

The Atlatl making a Jupiter shot.

Writing Dystopian While Living In One

Admittedly we’re not there yet, but given the US’s recent Presidential and Congressional results a dystopian future may very well be in our future. I’d point to prescient articles like this one in The Guardian.

“There are plenty who believe that if Trump went ahead and actually implemented his programme, he would create a different country: closed, xenophobic and at odds with some of the founding principles – religious equality or freedom of speech – that have defined the United States since its founding. The country would still exist – but it would no longer be America.”Yesterday I wasted nearly 4,000 words writing a detailed critique of the Trump Inaugural Rush. His 100 days plan is littered with self-contradiction, mutually exclusive steps, and pie-in-the-sky notions of what he’ll be able to achieve. It looks like half of these he made up on the spot. These conclusions should have been obvious to anyone who bothered to read what he said back in October.

Yesterday I wasted nearly 4,000 words writing a detailed critique of the Trump Inaugural Rush. His 100 days plan is littered with self-contradiction, mutually exclusive steps, and pie-in-the-sky notions of what he’ll be able to achieve. It looks like half of these he made up on the spot. These conclusions should have been obvious to anyone who bothered to read what he said back in October.

Right now, I’m nearly 30,000 words into a dystopian thriller, a project that I’m working on for NaNoWriMo. I stepped back from another dystopian storyline I outlined in October because I wanted to let it settle a bit before I started writing. And there’s yet a third outline plus partially finished manuscript cooling its heals while I search for ways to increase its impact. All of this writing is gritty, is intended to make the reader think, and will hopefully sweep you into the narrative.

Now, I’m looking down the barrel several potential catastrophes. Trumps trade policies, as outlined, have the potential to destroy American jobs and plunge our economy into never ending trade wars. His foreign policy will likely plunge us into more wars. His domestic and security policies are little more than rewritten McCarthyism. On immigration, energy, manufacturing and anything else you can write a policy for he’ll be trying to reclaim the prosperity of the post-WWII liberalism by instituting failed 19th-century industrialist dogma.

Okay, so what does that mean for me, a guy who, ultimately, likes to tell stories about catastrophe?
My knee jerk reaction was “Holy shit! No one is going to want to buy or read dystopian fiction in the middle of a crisis.” Fiction is, at its heart, an escapist activity. For those of us who regularly partake, we’re trying to get away from all of our problems, anxieties, and sorrows. When zombies are roaming the land, when they just ate your grandmother, you’re not going to be interested in reading about roaming zombie hoards.

Here’s the thing, dystopias aren’t actually about all the trouble. They’re more about people, our heroes overcoming those challenges. In fact, that’s exactly why I love to write stories just like this. My protagonists often face what seem to be insurmountable odds with little more than their ingenuity and luck to carry them through. They MacGyver the shit out of those problems (which I really enjoy writing).

So my first reaction, “Oh no, more wasted words!” may not have been my most thoughtful. Dystopias can serve as a medium of inspiration on so many levels. Hang on, expect a wild ride.
I am a writer. My essential tool in this life is the written word. And history shows us that words can be the most powerful tools at our disposal. I intend to write stories of hope, in which ordinary people overcome significant resistance and enormous power. I mean to tell stories that will leave this man impotent and lost to time. Dystopia corrected, dominance destroyed.

When it’s done, when these four years are over, we can get back to putting America together again. We can get back to the hard work of making the world more just and welcoming.

I hope that this will serve as a reminder, as the last days of our brief golden age expire, we can all look forward to that next ballot. We can have those conversations that we were afraid to have before the election, we can confront bigotry, and motivate the lazy. We are the government we deserve, make this your story arc.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and right now I’m feeling raw. Six years of service to my country as a soldier, six more before that working the front lines of public lands and somehow its become pointless. All that sacrifice. While the rest of you were out there getting college degrees, I was up reading over radio intercepts from DPRK, trying to puzzle together what the fuck those assholes might be about.

I gave my oath to defend the Constitution and this land ultimately because I grew up with a strong land ethic. I read Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac while huddled against a rock for shelter in Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness. My radio had died two days before, a storm had moved in, and all I could do at the point was wait it out. Several months later, with my new wife, I found myself back in Florida searching for work with health insurance. My youngest brother had signed up, and damn they made it sound like all you’d have to do was work hard. I’d done that, months wondering the wilderness picking up hunting trash and endless summer days swinging a Pulaski. So I took my work ethic, my young wife and, my land ethic and I signed up expecting that someday I’d return to the wilderness.

My relationship with that woman, my foot, my time, and so much more of was burnt in the tabernacle of service to my country. Until now, I’ve been at peace with this.

I’ve recently been told “Wait and see. Everything is bound to work out for the best.”

Veteran’s Day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice, which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918. Veterans are thanked for their services to the United States on Veterans Day. Veterans Day honors those who served the United States in all conflicts, especially veterans.

How can this be so? Where is the honor in this?  A man who lied and manipulated his way into office. The Electoral College intends to install a man into office who doesn’t understand the concept of sacrifice. Who, unmindfully, has the land ethic of the Once-ler. A man pathologically unwilling to share. A person with whom I have no common values. Someone as to be so unlike me that our only commonality is the shared genetic heritage of our species and the randomness of the geographical land of birth.

Typically, I’d be writing to ask that people hold their thanks. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable because it feels like a request. Maybe you want to know what I did, where I’ve been, who I saw die; I don’t know, but the request is made when you say “thank you for your service.” I hear the anticipation in your voices. It’s not a movie, it doesn’t work that way. When I left the service of my country, I left a broken and desperately screwed up person. Not the same guy that gave his oath six years before.

It’s taken me sixteen years and a lot of hard work to feel “normal” around the majority of you. I find grace only far beyond the things of man. In the wilderness. And for a man who holds this as his essential ethic how could I want the esteem of a people that would elect a man with no respect?

Dear America,

My disappointment in you has reached a phenomenal apex. Truly, I don’t know how it’s possible to feel so much of this low down dirty frustration, but you’ve gone and made it possible. I guess Americans are innovators, and so many of you just engineered and optimized a new kind of international bad mood.

I’ve spent a good deal of time this morning casting about in search of solace. I guess I’ve found some. Here, let me itemize these places of grace.

  1. I am consoled to live in a democracy, one that is only as good as its voters deserve. We are the government, so to those of you who’ve used your vote to say they’re unhappy with this social system of self-rule you’ve simultaneously volunteered.

    And again, in my lifetime, you’ve given yourself every opportunity to make your world into the utopia of your heart’s desire. You control both Houses of Congress, the White House and now the Supreme Court. Absolutely nothing stands in your way. Not for the next four years, and likely for a long time after that. You are now entirely responsible for what happens next. Success and failure are yours alone so keep that in mind as we move into February. If you care, as so many of you said you did, then you’ll look at the country and the world that you’ve given yourself on that day and use it as a benchmark from which to measure success.

  2. It should now be obvious, beyond any shadow of a doubt, where voter suppression and gerrymandering are happening within our borders. I’m looking forward to seeing the demographics of the vote correlated with age, race and cultural makeup of the neighborhoods where it took place.

    See number one, because if you’re behind the outcome of the 2016 election, then this is now, too, your responsibility. I suspect that we’ll see plenty of places where the vote — access to voting — is not unencumbered.

  3. For millennials, in particular, you’ve just gotten your first big wake-up call. I know, this is going to make an already tough introduction to the world even more challenging. I mean, what did you think electing a guy with six bankruptcies and multiple divorces in his past would mean for the economics of the country.

    Perhaps, you’ll realize that Snake Oil salesmen only sell snake oil? The point being, that if you voted Republican because you wanted a good job, or you wanted to see manufacturing jobs return to the country, or you wanted an affordable education, equal pay for equal work, maybe you voted for the team, or maybe you just didn’t vote the outcome of this election is as much your responsibility as it your gnarly old grandpa’s. Some of your parents won’t live through this term of office. In any case, we Gen-Xers are less numerous and struggling as much as many of you are so now you’re going to get a great big reason to be involved. And that’s a good thing.

Is this the end? Who knows? Significant challenges that will require full participation from an informed citizenry loom on the horizon. I expect the President-Elect to claim his mandate any day now and in doing so, he’ll signal the direction he’s going to take us. I still love this land, I’ve defended it both figuratively and literally, and I know it some of its best features intimately. That’s where I’m going to invest my time and energy because, as I’ve mentioned, so many of the rest of your feel you’ve got the rest covered.

Keep in mind that we created this government “in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” and I’m certain you’ll have it taken care of.

Sisyphus and Social Media

By all accounts building a kingdom is no small task. If this is what you intend, you’ve got to start with a vision, some resources, some talent (not entirely yours unless you happen to be a demigod), and top all of this off with an unwavering obsession. Mind you these are just the prerequisites.

Sisyphus, the founder of ancient Ephyra, discovered along the way he’d also need endless patience, both with himself and with the world as a whole, because his kingdom and the Gods would punish him for his successes.

So it goes for me and my contemporaries in literature trying to carve out a piece of the pie for ourselves. I’m sitting across the table at the coffee shop from another writer. Nice guy, mostly works on television screenwriting, who I’m speculating is digesting a rejection letter. His brows are drawn tight together, toward one another, and his lips are as thin. He’s apparently dealing with some issue or let down, and like the consummate screenwriter he is, he’s also pounding away at the keys.

This is a part of the trade, isn’t it? I’ve been feeling the weight of my social media platform lately. Everything from Patreon to Facebook feels like a great stone that I’m forever pushing up a hill. Hill? Check that, shield volcano the breaks through the atmosphere of desolate Mars.

I find new readers one at a time, and in the meantime, I’ve got to continue to push all these different platforms forward and up the incline.