Saturday, December 22, 2012

Working the Problem: Guns in America

Saturn devouring his Son
by Franscisco Goya
I haven't been able to write a word of fiction since last Friday. I will return to my work, but today I'm hijacking my blog to talk about guns. My youngest daughter is seven and all this week, when I look at her, she is surrounded by the ghosts of those 20 massacred children and by the adults who sacrificed their lives for them. The heartbreak of their parents and loved ones has accompanied me on all my last minute holiday errands. I think of the horror and helplessness of the first responders and my heart aches for the whole broken community.

I feel like this nation is devouring itself. Like Goya's disturbing picture of Saturn (the Greeks called him  Cronus) who, fearing that his children would overthrow him, devoured them. The media is partisan, politics has devolved to brinksmanship. And dialogue or debate on any important topic is too often drowned out by voices that scream the same tired talking points, like accusations, at the other side. 

Gary Wills in the New York Review of Books begins to articulate our sick relationship to guns in his essay titled "Our Moloch"

"That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year). "
Attending the sorrow that I feel for those families in Newtown, and for those killed every day in America, is the realization that my inaction makes me culpable. 

In response to Newton The Poetry Foundation's Poetry Off the Shelf featured a poem by Dan Beachy-Quick. 

This is not a poem of comfort. 

The poem begins at about 3:40, but the whole thing is less then eight minutes long and the preamble is informative. In the introduction Curtis Fox explains that the poem draws from the Euripides play about Hercules where:
"A god inflicts him with the madness that leads him to kill his wife and three sons, it's not a tumor it's not his father, its a god. Hercules didn't recognize his family and thought they were his enemies. A chorus of old men looks on helplessly as they tell us what's going on, not unlike our media today."
It is a poem that looks at madness and murder. In it I see the madmen who reap mayhem in our malls and movie theaters, in our schools and holy places. In this poem I also see everyone else, all of us who everyday create the world we and our children live in. In it I see myself.

by Dan Beachy-Quick 

I have no interest in the extremes on either end of this argument. While we should be free to own guns, we should also be free to go safely into gun free zones. I believe that we can regulate ourselves as a society so that we do not have to retreat into a bunker mentality where every public space is filled with criminals, madmen and armed vigilantes. 

There are so many things that we cannot control in this world but there are many things which we can. We make the world for our children. To make a world worthy of them, we have to become adults.

Adults who participate in real and candid dialogue. The kind of discussion you engage in with others when everybody is interested in SOLVING a problem, not just getting their own way. We've solved many highly complex problems. That kind of invention, innoviation, and stubbornness is the American way, right?

"Wake up anybody you need and get them in here.
Let's work the problem, people.
Let's not make things worse by guessin'." 
-Ed Harris as Gene Kranz in Apollo 13

Gene Kranz working the problem

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thinking Deeply

This cake's done, but my story isn't ready to come out of the oven yet.
One of the things I forgot to list in my gratitude post was how writing stories forces me to think deeply about the story, about the world, about myself, about everything really. What I love about writing science fiction and fantasy is that it forces me to imagine what it means to be human in a universe populated with other - other what? With the Other. There's nothing like creating a world that is alien (either alien of our own making or otherworldly) and thinking how we would behave around those Others. 

This is the part I think of as cooking the story, and it's what I mean when I say the story isn't "done" yet.
"You're finished," my mom used to chide, "cakes are done."

Maybe I should call it baking a story. In any case there's a lot of head work before a story is "done" enough in my brain, by which means it has arrived at the point where I can begin writing.
It's why a lot of writing looks like this --
-- though most of it still looks like this.
How to start thinking deeply in genre:

In fantasy you must establish the rules of the world of the story. If there's magic, how does it work and more importantly what are the limits? Because there's the rub as Shakespeare would say. And it's the rub, the obstacles that the characters must overcome that give your story its teeth. In science fiction the rules and limits align with what we know of the natural world, sociology, physics. 

Just remember the reader doesn't really care about the rules, not the way you do Don't waste pages laying them all out, turning your story into an instruction manual. The rules matter to your characters. Decide them then internalize them so that the world of the story can become compelling to your reader through your characters' thoughts and actions as they moves through their world.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A New Genre Magazine: Deimos eZine

and a handsome cover too!
I am proud to have a story in this first issue of Deimos eZine. My story Fairview 619 may be familiar to you as it was previously at Revolution SF's website. That little story has legs!

According to their website:
"Welcome to Deimos eZine. Deimos comes from the Greek Δεῖμος, one of the many words translated as dread. Deimos eZine embodies dread in the stories we believe in, the artwork we showcase, and in the lifestyle that many writers lead."
I don't know if I have a "dread" lifestyle (as cool as that may sound), but I've started to read through this issue and so far I like the company. I'm looking forward to getting to know these other writers through their work. The editors have plans to make Deimos available on Kindle and Nook as well as in print. 

For the writers among you, they are open to submissions and are also running a contest for longer pieces:
"We accept longer pieces for the contest, up to 7,500 words, and the contest winner receives a monetary award and publication in the September issue in a special Contest Winner section."
Whether you're interested in writing or reading, go check out this new kid on the genre block.