November 11, 2022
Some time ago I decided I wanted to read The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn, so I bought the unabridged three volume set on eBay. It's an incredible piece of literature and commentary; I strongly encourage everyone to read it. One story he relates really struck me, and in fact inspired me to write the short story you'll find below. He talks about a woman who was a true believer in Communism. She was wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, and wrongly imprisoned, like so many innocent Soviet citizens were. Even after seeing the deprivation, brutality and horror of the Soviet penal system, she never renounced her Communism, and in fact claimed her imprisonment was her own fault! That anecdote got me thinking about modern times and how many of us, despite overwhelming evidence, are so staunchly entrenched in our own ideologies that we ignore, or just don't see, the truth of events happening around us.
This story is about that, about the refusal (or psychological and emotional inability) to change one's mind about ideology. But it's about a few other things too. Once I got started writing it, ideas just started coming out that I'd never planned on. It happens that way with me and my stories. Ordinarily I'd keep this one tucked away until I was ready to publish it in a collection, but after the midterm elections, I felt it was time to let it out of its virtual cage, also known as my hard drive. It will be included in the next short story collection I publish, whenever that might be, but for now I hope anyone who's made it this far reads and enjoys it.
There have been a couple instances over the last few days of climate activists committing acts of vandalism and destruction as a form of protest. It’s happened before. Remember the ELF (Earth Liberation Front) committing arson against car dealerships? In the UK two anti-oil activists poured tomato soup on a Van Gogh painting. A short time later another group visited a grocery store, also in the UK, and proceeded to remove milk from the cooler and pour it on the floor. I guess I can (sort of) intellectually understand the Van Gogh event, even though I completely disagree with the tactic. He’s a world-famous painter and defacing one of his works was certain to draw attention, even if it didn’t create much sympathy for their cause. The pouring out of the milk I don’t understand at all, nor do I really want to do any research to find out if the perpetrators voiced a rationale for their actions. They’re idiots and I don’t have any interest in what they have to say. Pouring out milk that some mother might want to buy so she can feed her kids is not protesting. It’s utterly petty and self-centered. The goal of these activists is, ostensibly, to stop “climate change”, which would, presumably, ensure that everyone on earth lives some sort of climate-utopian better life. What that would actually look like I don’t know, and I’m not sure they do either. The bottom line is if you want to protest something, vandalism and the destruction of property are not the way to convince people your cause is just.
I’m not going to get into the whole ‘is climate change real’ debate here, other than to say I believe it is changing because it always has changed. The simple fact that it’s possible to find fossils of aquatic life on ten-thousand-foot-tall mountains, or the remnants of tropical flora buried under the arctic tundra should be enough to prove that fact. What I do not believe is that driving my car is going to destroy the planet.
So, what were these activists actually protesting? Oil. Among other things. One of the most terribly bad, horrifically evil supervillains, according to climate change activists, is the oil industry. They’ll tell us things like, if we don’t stop drilling, the entire world will look like Mars or the moon in three years. Or something. And exactly how bad are oil companies and the products they produce? Well, I have a bit of experience there, because for six and a half years I actually worked in an oilfield – Kuparuk on Alaska’s North Slope. I can’t speak about other fields and the companies that operate them, but Kuparuk was the most environmentally conscious place I’ve ever been.
Here are just a few examples:
Wildlife has the right of way at all times. Herds of caribou, thousands of them, move through the field each summer. If there is a caribou, or three hundred, on a road blocking traffic, everyone stops. They don’t harass them or blare their horns. Everyone waits until they move. That’s true regardless of what animal might be in the road. I once sat in a pickup truck for fifteen minutes waiting for a red fox to decide it wanted to trot off into the tundra. Interfering with the animals or walking on tundra in summer without permission is punishable by termination.
There are pipelines there that carry all sorts of products other than oil from one facility to another. They’re built on pilings or columns above the ground, and not just a few inches either; many of them are six or eight feet up. I once watched a training video where a biologist explained one of the reasons why they’d been built so far off the ground. It’s so the caribou can walk under them when the snow melts in summer. They actually studied the caribou herds and determined an ideal height for the pipelines.
There is also a full-time spill response team that will respond to a spill like a fire department would to a fire. (Oh, they have one of those too – with huge fire trucks and everything.) Any liquid spill consisting of more than a cup, I mean a measuring cup like you’d find in a drawer in your kitchen, requires notification of the spill response team. I remember one incident in winter when a piece of equipment blew a hydraulic hose. There was a trail of hydraulic fluid droplets that covered an area maybe twenty feet by twenty. A coworker and I spent a half hour out in the sub-zero cold digging those tiny little droplets out of the snow and dumping it in hazmat bags so that it could be taken to a hazardous waste facility for disposal. There was so little hydraulic fluid on the ground that if that had happened on the gravel driveway at my house, I would have ignored it. But not up there. If that spill hadn’t been reported, the management at that facility could have faced serious repercussions, including termination, for not reporting it.
What’s the point of all this? The point is that there are oil companies out there who do it right. Who actually do care about the environment and about the health of their employees. Maybe the anti-oil activists should do a little research about oil companies before they go throwing their lunch on a masterpiece painting.
October 16, 2022
I read the news today, oh boy. And no, the English Army did not win the war. But there most definitely is a war going on, and I don’t mean the one in Ukraine. Our war is fought not with bullets and bombs, but with words, ideas, headlines, information. This isn’t the first time a war like this has been fought, and it certainly won’t be the last. The soldiers in this war don’t wear camouflage uniforms or drive tanks. They wear business attire and operate smart phones and laptops. Most people call them The Media. I don’t know what they call themselves, but it most likely is synonymous with God.
I like documentaries. My wife and I recently watched one about Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS. A point of clarification before continuing: I have absolutely nothing against Mormons. Or Catholics. Or Hindus. Or Muslims. In fact I’m not biased against any religion. Believe what you want to, worship as you wish, just don’t try to forcibly compel others to join your sect. If your beliefs dictate that you knock on doors to share the word, then get after it. I’ve got no problem with that provided you take no for an answer should that be the response you get. If you knock on my door, I’ll politely decline your offer to educate and enlighten me. Let that be enough for you and leave. And of all the various representatives of religions who’ve visited me, that’s what has happened. I’ve never had a Jehovah’s Witness come back to my house a second time after I’ve told them I’m not interested. They get it, and they’re respectful of my position. But not everyone is going to be polite to you if you show up on their doorstep unannounced, and many may even be quite hostile. Sadly. I’ve never understood why some people are rude and nasty when a simple No is all that’s needed. We all have strong feelings about the things we believe in or disagree with.
I don’t care what continent your ancestors came from. The level of pigmentation in your skin doesn’t mean shit to me. Your brown eyes, blue eyes or green eyes; your straight hair, curly hair or no hair; your accent, language or guttural grunts: none of them matter to me. At all. I don’t care. Wail, scream and gnash your teeth at how “oppressed” one group is compared to another. Perform all the logical and linguistical contortions you want in order to make everything about race. Just don’t tell me I’m bigoted simply because I don’t agree with you.
I don’t care what gender you are attracted to. Your preferred pronouns, your self-designated abbreviation(s) LGBTQ+-!?&*$# are utterly without meaning for me. Marry whoever the hell you want to. Marry a damn doorknob. I don’t care. Just don’t try to indoctrinate my kids into your world. They’re from mine, and they’re going to stay there.
I don’t care how vegan you are. If you want to wait until the apple falls off the tree and lands on the ground before you eat it because the tree might feel pain if you picked that same apple while it was still attached to that tree, then starve. If you are completely comfortable eating engineered foods that mimic something real, like those fake eggs they advertise on tv, then knock yourself out. Just don’t tell me I have to eat them too. I like real eggs and I’m not going to give them up. If you don’t want cheese on your portabella “burger”, then don’t have it. I don’t care. But don’t tell me I can’t have a triple Baconator from Wendy’s. With cheese.
I don’t care if you want to protest because your side lost some court case, or some event happened that hurt your delicate little feelings. Protest away. It’s your right as a citizen of the United States. But you do not have the right to riot, throw Molotov Cocktails, try to intimidate others, and generally act like a spoiled four-year-old whose tyrannical parent just took away their favorite toy because things didn’t go the way you wanted them to. Grow up and learn to deal with disappointment and losing. It’s going to happen to you again soon, in one form or another. Get used to it. If you want to carry a sign proclaiming your position on some issue, go right ahead. I don’t care. Just don’t tell me I have to accept you burning down a city because you lost or you’re mad about something.
I don’t care if you want to drive an electric car because you think the world will end if you don’t. I don’t care if you cover your house in solar panels and erect so many windmills you can’t walk out your door without getting smacked in the head by a rotating blade. Those things kill birds in the thousands, but by all means, save the world from the dreaded greenhouse gases. Just don’t tell me I can’t drive my truck or heat my house. Nature was here long before us, will be here long after we’re gone, and she always seeks to find balance. By the way, North America and most of Europe used to be covered by glaciers. Where did they all go? Did all the car and factory exhausts from twenty thousand years ago melt them? So go right ahead with your “green” efforts. Compost your own shit if you want to. I don’t care. Just leave me and my John Deere riding lawn mower alone. It’s got a cupholder (!) and I like driving it.
I don’t care about the latest celebrity scandal. It makes not one iota of difference to any of the problems in the world what some slack-jawed, glassy-eyed, drooling moron wore to some awards show no one watched. And that goes double, maybe quadruple, for politicians at the Met Gala. The pronouncements of Hollywood’s denizens mean nothing to me. The hypocrisy and idiocy emanating from that gaping, frothing, suppurating pustule of a self-righteous enclave smells worse than the world of The Walking Dead would if it were real. So read your tabloids, follow all the hottest celebrities on the social platform du jour, and accept their uneducated, incoherent and infantile mumblings as equal to a proclamation from Socrates. I don’t care. Just don’t tell me I have to pay attention to that offal too.
I don’t care how you live your life. Drink to excess or be a teetotaler. Smoke all the weed you want to. Or don’t. Live under a freeway overpass and shoot poison into your veins with a needle if that’s what you want to do. I don’t care. But don’t show up on my land looking to rob my house or harm my family to get your drugs. I have lots of guns and a big dog who doesn’t like strangers. So, if you want to get tanked every night, or obliterated on the dope of your choice, go right ahead, I don’t care. Just don’t drive when you’re wasted. That’s a total dick move.
I don’t care what you think of my politics and opinions. You won’t find me out marching in the streets. I much prefer writing to chanting. Slogans get old. Then they start to sound weird. Don’t believe me? Try it. Pick any word or phrase and say it over and over again for a minimum of three minutes straight. It begins to sound and feel like gibberish, like it’s not even real words anymore. That’s what your slogans are to me. You won’t convince me to change my mind, and I’m probably not going to convince you to change yours, although I admit I would be happy if I did. So go on and chant away, and I’ll keep my opinions, thank you very much, and you keep yours. I don’t care.
You know what? I changed my mind. I do care. A lot. And I’m paying attention. Are you?
May 11, 2022
So here I am, sitting at my desk, late afternoon sun will soon be shining right in my eyes (no curtains or shades on the window I’m facing) and it’ll be hard to see my computer monitor, so I figured I’d better write something while I can still read what I’m typing. I’m at 68941 words of double-spaced, Times New Roman, font size 12, 206 Word pages worth of Blackfire 3, and I’m in the middle of a scene with Sliss and Ul’ll Uhas that has me stumped. It won’t last forever; in a day or two (or by the time I’m done with this little note) I’ll have an idea and away the story will go, back on the rails and hurtling toward the dynamite planted under the tracks somewhere down the line. Actually, the story isn’t stalled for a lack of ideas, I actually have lots of ideas, just don’t have any ideas I like and that work the way I want them to in order to wrap up the scene.
I’ve never understood or experienced writer’s block as some describe it. Since I started writing I’ve always had something I wanted to say, a story that I wanted to write, so I’ve never lacked for material the way some claim to. I supposed I should be thankful for that. Maybe I have ideas because I write whatever comes to me and don’t confine myself to one genre or another. That could be a bad thing I suppose. An author whom I enjoy and who has written several very long series (only one of which I’ve read) wrote a blog post some time ago that I happened to run across, and his advice was not to genre hop. Stick to one variety, he argued. Jumping from post-apocalyptic action to fantasy to horror will confuse and alienate your audience. Maybe he’s right, maybe not, but I can’t do that. There are countless authors who only write in one genre, and whose work I very much enjoy, and that’s fine. Personally, I have too many ideas for too many different stories to restrict myself that way.
(The sun has finally fallen to the point that its shining in the window at me. I’m having to tilt my head as I try to put a hanging plant between it and my eyes. When its lower I’ll use the trees outside to block it out, although it’s got a ways to go before I can do that; it’s still too far above their lofty tops. But it’s melting the snow – finally!)
And now back to our gently interrupted discussion. Where exactly do stories come from? I can’t speak for others, but for me they just sort of appear. I got the idea for Enders & Associates from a damned wine bottle! Yep, that’s the gawl-darned truth. It was sitting on our kitchen counter; my in-laws had bought it when they’d come for a visit and had left it at our house. (Neither Marcy nor I are big drinkers, and when we do imbibe its usually not wine.) I was still working in the Arctic at the time, and in fact was just about to walk out the door to drive into Anchorage to get on a plane and head up there, and happened to glance at the bottle. I don’t remember the name of the vintner, but it had a picture of a man’s face on the label. He looked like someone from the early part of the twentieth century, such were his clothes, and I remember thinking that was a rather strange image to put on a wine bottle label. But the bigger, more consequential thought that came to me was the story for Enders. Well, not the entire story, but the salient parts of it. I’ve never had a story occur to me in its entirety. Generally, as in this instance, I’ll get a bit of inspiration which could be anything, then build the story around it. My short story Greta’s Got a Bat came about because the title occurred to me. That’s it. The title popped into my head one day, I created a blank Word document, named it with the title of the story, then wrote the thing. I’ve actually had several stories start out as nothing more than titles. A good title frequently proves to be extremely rare and elusive prey, so when I come across one I like, I always make sure to capture it in the form of a Word document. I just name the file whatever the title is, then it sits in a folder on my hard drive until I come up with a story to match it. Not long ago I wrote one called Stuck on Fairview Loop in precisely that manner. A guy I work with said that phrase one day, and I thought it was a great title for a story, so I stole it. Thanks Chris!!! Sorry, no royalties yet. But my larger point is that I had the title for months until a story came to me that matched it.
So what the hell is the point of all this rambling, you might be asking? There isn’t one, other than this: I was reading a bit of BF1 the other day, trying to make sure I didn’t contradict something in the plot with a bit I was working on in BF3. In a work of this scale, with this many characters and plot lines, it’s easy to forget little details. “Did so-and-so tell whoseywhatsit about his/her magic powers?” Shit like that. I have five separate Word documents of notes for BF - characters, places, miscellaneous, plot lines, the shortest of which is five pages, and I still forget things. Sorry, digressed again. Like I said, I was reading through BF1 and realized that my prose was just not very good. Granted it was my first book, my first time writing a piece of fiction really since high school, and I’ve read much worse prose in my life, but if I was writing it now, it would be… hopefully better. Look, I know I’m not Dickens, Hugo or Tolstoy, nor will I ever be, and that’s ok. I write how I write. If you like it - great! If not – there isn’t much I can do about it, (I love the sun but it’s getting tremendously difficult to see, not to mention warm.) so I won’t let it bother me. But I will keep writing, even if it’s only to produce some random thoughts like these. The answer to the question asked at the beginning of the paragraph is this: I want to be a better writer. In order to be one I need to write. So I’m writing this since I don’t have an idea that I like for any of the stories I’m working on. It’s in the action, the doing, that one realizes progress and improvement.
Epilogue: Writing this the day after everything preceding this passage. Thankfully the sun isn’t in my eyes yet. I got past that little blockage in BF3 I mentioned yesterday. Knew I would, it’s always just a matter of when. And here is the really cool thing to me: Getting past it involved creating an entirely new character, a new area of a city I’m fleshing out, and an entirely new plot thread that led to a few new insights into another very enigmatic character who has befuddled me a bit. It only took 500 words, which I wrote in about a half hour, but I spent probably an hour in the imagining. This shit is so much fun! I’ve written before about how I do not plan or outline anything beforehand. I sit down at my computer, put my hands on the keyboard, and write. So I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen in that scene until I imagined and wrote it. I’m discovering this story as I go along, just like anyone reading it will. That, to me, is the truly magical part of all this. What the hell is my demented brain going to spit out next?!
April 3, 2022
I’m a news junkie, read at least a little bit of it every day. That’s right – I read my news. I learned a long time ago that if you want to truly be informed, turn off the network news on tv (doesn’t matter if it’s one of the big three or something on cable) and go read. Think about it. How much information can you really pack into a twenty or thirty second clip? Not too much. No, I much prefer to read when it comes to my news.
Growing up we subscribed to our local newspaper, and from the age of probably 12 or 13, I read it. Back then I had no political or social opinions to speak of, and most of my attention wound up focused on the sports section, the comics, or Dear Abby. But once in a while an article would grab my attention about something that happened in the world or in my state or city, and I’d read it. Analyzing the writing of others was not something I was particularly adept at back then, and it wasn’t until later in adulthood, primarily after I went to my first college, that I began to notice how the news could be framed to promote or denigrate something. I don’t remember, nor do I want to revisit, any of those articles I read as a kid to try and determine if the media was as biased then as it is now. It probably was, in general, but just wasn’t as blatantly open about it. Or maybe they were. Regardless of one’s opinions on society, current events and politics, there is a media platform catering to you and your beliefs. That didn’t exist when I was a kid. There were newspapers, and the three big tv networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS. And you had to get up from the couch, walk to the tv, and turn a knob to change the station. After doing that you might even have to adjust the rabbit ears or the antenna in order to get the static off the screen. How inconvenient! It was the dark ages, the 1970’s and early 80’s. Disco alone should prove that point.
So what the hell am I getting at with all this? Today’s news, that’s what I’m really writing about, and more specifically, what can we believe? Allow me to explain.
This morning, as is my wont, I got up, took my multivitamins and made a pot of French Press. Then I sat down at my desk and opened my Kindle Fire, which is what I use to read the news while I drink my coffee and wake up. There are a few websites I visit each day for local, national and international news, and today was no different. I usually check them in a specific order, and when I got to the last one, an aggregator, I ran across an article about the French presidential elections. There were several bullet points in the article, and one of them was in regard to a tweet supposedly sent out by the BBC, which claimed to quote the current president, Emmanuel Macron on the issue of immigration. Except that the BBC denied creating the tweet, and the Macron people claim he never said the words that the tweet attributed to him. Further, in a sidebar on that website was a headline and a link to an article about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ad showed a young girl’s face in close up, and she exhibited obvious injuries in the form of some swelling and numerous superficial cuts. The headline said, and this is an actual quote: “The bombing survivor accused of being fake”.
I didn’t read that article, I have no idea what the truth is on either matter, and that’s my larger point. What the hell is the truth, is real anymore? What happened to, in the words of Dragnet, “just the facts ma’am”? Most media outlets claim to present only facts but read closely – you’ll often find language intended to persuade the reader to adopt a particular position on a given issue. And its everywhere. No matter what side of the political spectrum you’ve built your house on, it’s there. Sometimes it’s so overt as to be nearly nauseating, other times it’s so subtle only someone who is really looking for it will find it. But it's easy to spot once you know what to look for.
Despite all of this, I still read the news, except now I question everything. The media, instead of persuading me, has turned me into a skeptic. We can’t believe our own eyes anymore. Even images or video we once deemed unimpeachable can be manipulated or outright created with today’s technology in the form of deep fakes.
When I was in college at the University of Alaska, Southeast, one of my profs in a historiography class I took assigned us an essay to read. It’s by a man named Theodore Clarke Smith and is titled That Noble Dream. The argument Smith made in the essay is essentially that every historian should be as near to completely objective in their writing as possible. In other words abandon your prejudices and predilections, and go where the evidence of your research takes you, regardless of the outcome or how it upsets your ideology's apple cart. That’s a lesson today’s media could well stand to internalize. As for me, I’m going to go read the sports page.
April 24, 2022
I’ve had entirely enough of career politicians. It would be a simple thing to segue from that statement into a discussion of term limits, which I heartily support at both the state and national levels, but that’s not the purpose of this missive. Instead, I want to explain why I’m voting for Bob Lyons in the upcoming special election for the Congressional seat left vacant when Don Young passed away. Now if he wasn’t an example of a career politician, then I guess I don’t know what one looks like.
There are currently forty-eight (!) individuals vying for Young’s former seat, and I only recognized a few of their names when my mail-in ballot arrived. (Mail-in balloting needs to be eradicated nationwide, by the way.) I glanced through the list of names and immediately discarded all Democrats. I’m currently reading The Gulag Archipelago by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and am nearly finished with the second of its three volumes. If you haven’t read it, you should. And if you believe Marxism, Socialism and Communism are the way to Utopia, then you really should read it. Since the current Democrat party is so enamored with these incestuous, destructive and murderous ideologies, and since I’m so diametrically opposed to them, then, mirabile dictu, I simply can’t vote for anyone affiliated with the donkey party.
So who does that leave? Why independents (on the ballot they're marked as "Undeclared" and "Nonpartisan") and Republicans, of course. I haven’t voted for a Democrat in any election since the Clinton administration. (Back then I was largely undecided in my political opinions and voted based on criteria I’d rather not reveal; I’m slightly ashamed of my one-time ignorance and less-than-logically-sound former voting methodology.) Information on all forty-eight candidates was not provided with the ballot. Which is as it should be. If one is going to cast a ballot in an election in the United States of America, then it is incumbent upon that individual to educate themselves concerning the candidates and issues. And that’s exactly what I set out to do.
The State of Alaska’s Division of Elections features a Candidate page where one can find contact information for each person running for office. It also displays a link to a website, should a candidate choose to create one for their campaign. This is where I started my research. Many candidates did not have a website listed, and I simply skipped over those. Everyone has a website these days, even me. If you’re going to run for the lone seat in the US House of Representatives from the state of Alaska, and you can’t be bothered to create a website describing yourself and where you stand on the issues, then I can’t be bothered to vote for you. And sorry, but I’d rather not devote any more of my time and energy to Facebook or Twitter, for reasons those who agree with me politically will, I’m sure, understand. So if you’re a candidate with a presence on either of those platforms but who doesn’t have a website, I’m probably not going to find you. Nor will I go looking for you on either of them.
I spent probably an hour looking at websites of candidates whose party affiliations were not Democrats, and eventually whittled it down to three. Instead of making a decision right then, I went to bed and looked at those three candidates again the following day, then made my decision. The person I will be voting for is Robert “Bob” Lyons. Now let me tell you why.
He’s like me – a political outsider. I have no friends in politics, no connections, no influence. And that is the kind of person I want representing me. I’ve had my fill of the establishment, of career politicians who know nothing more than the ways of the swamp, be it in Washington D.C. or Juneau. These people have been in office for years, in some cases decades, and has anything gotten better under their stewardship? Bob Lyons, according to his website, operated trucks and equipment. So have I. His father was in the service. So was mine. He built his cabin, where he still lives, by hand. I can’t do that, but I admire those who can. Our opinions on issues are also very similar. But what I really liked about him were the pictures of he and his family that he posted on his website. He’s not afraid to show himself having fun, smiling on an amusement park ride, or making a funny face and giving a thumbs up in front of a Trump sticker pasted on some vehicle. That’s the kind of representative I want – one who has opinions that align with mine on the issues, which Bob’s appear to do, but who also doesn’t take him or herself too seriously. Too many politicians are more concerned with the optics of things, how they are going to appear to the public. ‘Oh no! My tie is crooked and has a spot on it! What will my polls look like in the morning?!’ Bob seems to be more interested in showing the voting public who he is instead of who he thinks they want him to be, and I respect that.
I’ve never met Bob Lyons, had no idea the man even existed until a couple days ago. It’s also possible that my conjectures about him are completely wrong. But I don’t think they are. At least, my gut tells me they aren’t. I really did look at several candidates' websites, and there were a few whom I could have voted for and been content, but I went with my gut as I always do. So when it comes time to cast my ballot for the person to replace Don Young, I’ll be casting mine for Bob Lyons.
May 10, 2022
I pondered long and hard whether or not to write this book, and once it was done, whether or not to release it. The modern cancel culture is something that more and more of us are concerned with, and while I've never been particularly vocal in my opinions outside of my family and friends, I ultimately decided to publish this book because I don't like the direction in which the country is headed. In other words I decided to make my own contribution to the fight. When someone exercises their right to free speech and criticizes some segment of society or political movement and their personal information is publicized by someone who disagrees with them, that's a problem. Or when a public figure who has taken a stand on an issue is accosted in a restaurant by a group of chanting and screaming morons, that too is a problem. The silencing of dissent, no matter what side of an issue you are on, is one of the most insidious dangers our nation faces. No one should be silenced for voicing an opinion - ever. If someone's words offend you, debate them, challenge them, or quit fucking listening. Walk away. Change the channel. Read a different blog or news website. But stop with your cancelling.
Bryce Ingman doesn’t know anything different. His entire life has been spent under the steel-shod boot of oppression. In this, the Federated Territories of North America, freedom and self-determination are forgotten notions from a dusty past. But there are those who still remember. Follow along as Bryce discovers what it means to be free, how absurd and self-aggrandizing tyrannical governments actually are, and how much politicians and the institutions they create deserve to be ridiculed. At turns poignant, tragic, sarcastic, parodical, and philosophical, Society’s House of Intractable Tension is cautionary tale of what has been and what could yet be if certain elements in society aren’t opposed by those who believe in true freedom.
When I began writing The Blackfire Chronicles, I made a vow to myself to try my damnedest to create a world that was as original as I could make it. There are so many fantasy stories these days, most of which I haven’t read. The big ones for me are The Wheel of Time and The Sword of Truth. I love them both! My thanks and admiration to the late and lamented Robert Jordan, and to the still-writing Terry Goodkind, with a special thank you to Brandon Sanderson for finishing TWOT. He did a masterful job!
Stories are by nature derivative; there will always be similarities between new stories and old stories. Basic themes will repeat themselves, characters will have similar or identical traits or personalities. Writing something that is comparable to something else is an inescapable fact. Its going to happen, and as a writers and creators, we just have to accept it. Of course each one of us has his or her own identity, as it were. That’s what makes a reader either like or dislike a writer’s work. I’m speaking really broadly here, and these statements could be applied to almost any artform – music, painting, cooking, etc.
I’ll never criticize anyone who takes the time to sit down and write a novel or short story. The simple act of writing, whether it gets published or not, is difficult. Anyone who writes (or creates things in general) has my respect.
Now that the introduction is out of the way, here’s what I really wanted to say. I will never use a real name in a fantasy story. In fact every name, every creature description, and a host of other things were completely fabricated by me specifically for the BFC. I tried very hard to make this story as original and unlike any other fantasy story as I possibly could. But as I said before, I’ll never criticize anyone for creating something. What they create and how they do it is completely up to them. I’m speaking here strictly of my own notions about writing, and specifically about the BFC.
Here’s the paragraph where someone out there will surely decide that I’m arrogant. I hope that isn’t the case, because I don’t think of myself as arrogant, but I do have definite ideas about my story and the things I created for it. That said, here goes: There are no dragons, elves, orcs, wizards or any other race/creature/monster/thing in this story that was created by someone else. All those things have been done by others far better than I ever could. If you are a fantasy writer and you want to put a dragon in your story – do it to it! If you’ve got a good idea and can work a dragon(s) into it in a way that’s engaging and new, then have at it! I totally support that! What I don’t support is not even trying to come up with something original and just using someone else's creation because it sold books in the past, is recognizable, or you had a picture/poster of it on your wall as a kid. I picked up one fantasy book recently, and within the first three pages I read about dragons, dwarves and elves. I put it down less than twenty pages in. The writing was fine; the author seemed to have a solid voice, but it was so derivative I just couldn't read it. I refuse to use the creations of others in my story. Even the names of creatures, people, places and things are completely my invention. Obviously I wasn’t going to come up with a new name for something like a castle or a river. Although I did strongly consider doing just that for a minute. But in the interest of clarity, I used words for common things that any reader should/would recognize.
And that brings me to the reader portion of this confession. If you don’t like my stories because of these unfamiliar things – I get it, truly. People like things that are comfortable, known. Its easier to form an image of something in your mind if you’ve already seen it in movies or on tv, or read about it in another book(s). There is a lot to be said for familiarity. For the BFC, I sometimes wish I’d kept track of how many minutes I sat at my desk, staring at my computer screen, while I imagined and discarded ideas for a new character name or the appearance of a new creature. That shit is hard! I mean try it yourself – imagine a creature that looks nothing like some creature you’ve seen somewhere else. Or at least try to make it as unique as possible so as to differentiate it from that creature in the horror movie you watched on Netflix the other night. Does it have tentacles? Five hundred eyes? Is it enormous? Small? Is there more than one row of teeth? No teeth? Is it green, brown, black, red, purple, polka dot? Hard to do isn’t it, to come up with something that you can’t think of and say, “Oh, that thing was in that one movie”. Of course the creatures I created for the BFC will bear some resemblance to something else. I couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t have features that already existed on some other creature. What I did do is try to arrange and combine those features in a new way. Or at least a way that was new to me. And the names are complete fabrications. Most of them are based on nothing other than combinations of letters that I put together in my head.
And that brings me to the ‘other authors’ part. As I said toward the beginning, I haven’t read most of the fantasy series out there. In total I’ve probably only read ten or twelve fantasy series in my life. So to all the other authors who’ve written a fantasy story, or any other story for that matter, if I’ve duplicated a name in the BFC that you’ve already used – I am truly sorry. Every item in my story that required a name got one that I came up with myself. If one of mine is the same as one of yours – it was completely unintentional.