Monday, November 21, 2016

A Call for a Cosmopolitan Union

I think the only thing that will stop our mass extinction is for the vast majority of people to realize that capitalism will not save us.
People keep getting sold the same lie over and over, that it's better this way, that it will help us. Never has, never will.  You get a few generations that get in on an early cycle who get nice trinkets, but the lives of later generations always suffer.
There are those who will tell you "but capitalism is defended by reason!"  There cannot be a more wrong-headed statement.  Capitalism is not defended by "reason" because "reason" implies stability and certainty, of which capitalism has none.  Its cycles ebb and flow in a state akin to natural law.  It is merely the Law of the Jungle, enshrined in the quasi-rational trappings of civilization.
But what of our alternatives?  What can we do besides capitalism, if it is so much akin to natural law?  
Our present crisis stems from the fact that Marx's alternative to capitalism proved even less appealing in practice.  It made the error that human nature was inherently rational inasmuch as the need for altruism is greater than the selfish impulse.  Rand attempted to rectify this by saying that the human being was inherently selfish, and instead created a society where antisocial thugs are looked upon as the cream of society because they had the base animal cunning to get rich on the labors of others.  We must therefore embrace the proposition that human nature is not rational per se; the selfish impulse and the altruistic impulse exist, simultaneously, and they cannot be separated from one another, or one nourished at the expense of the other, without producing a mutilated human being.
And so Marxism proves no alternative; neither does Fascism, which is merely capitalism at the end of its life cycle before it either renews itself under the guise of liberal capitalism once more (as we saw at the end of WW2) or collapses into some form of petty autocracy with one lone parasitic despot as head of a ruined, impotent state (as in the case of Zimbabwe).
Herein is the crisis of our generation: we cannot continue the scourge of capitalism, but at this time no alternative exists.
This is where religious fundamentalism becomes a terrifying thing, because it is the only cohesive force in our world that is unaffected by markets.  It is affected only by the willingness of the masses to either believe a message or to obey the orders of those who do.  If capitalism comes to complete ruin in a world where there is no other alternative, theocracies will soon spring up, and these theocracies will begin to fight each other for dominance.  And at this time we are seeing, in the appropriation of crusader identities by fundamentalist Christians and of Caliphate identities by Islamic fundamentalists, the beginnings of a world that may, in a hundred years time, go careening straight into a bloody religious war in which all forces of cosmopolitan values, all people of irreligious alliance, all people of faith who do not revel in fundamentalism, and all institutions which stand in their way will be destroyed.
We cannot let that happen.  The idea of the whole of human history coming down to a war between fundamentalists is a terrifying prospect if you are not a fundamentalist and I, for one, am calling for another way before it's too late.
What I propose is not an economic philosophy but a social philosophy aimed at uniting as many sane, reasonable, empathetic, intelligent, and enlightened people as possible.  It must be able to reach across lines of race, religion, and nationality and abide by values that are both cosmopolitan and well-defined.  It must give value and dignity to people who are very different from each other, and unite them in reclaiming the world.  It must find some balance between the need for individual rights and self-actualization, and the eternal reality of the survival of the culture through altruism and sacrifice.
More than that, It must be steadfast, resistant to entryism by reactionaries, and have a strong definition of what it considers good leadership rather than an aversion to leaders.  But above all the integrity of its guiding principles should be held far above the dignity of any leader, lest it degenerate into a cult of personality.
I call this movement the Cosmopolitan Union and it may be the only hope for any of the good aspects of liberal values to survive the likely self-destruction of capitalism, should it ever materialize.

Time will tell.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Machine Spoke of God

This was a short story I wrote in mid-2013.  Not much to say about it except it's not one of my favorites, but it has its merits.

A neurally-networked AI goes gnostic.  Inspired by this video:



Monday, November 14, 2016

From The Files of Queen Okk-Okk (Short Story)

Since I wrote this story in 2006 or 2007, it has appeared under several titles, including "Concerning the Grasshopper Flintwing," "Concerning Flintwing," and "From The Secret Files of Queen Okk-Okk."

Whatever the title, the premise is the same.  It's Aesop's old fable about the ants and the grasshopper with a dystopian slant; the ants here are cold, calculating imperialists whose only goals are the extraction of resources and the expansion of territory; the grasshoppers are free creatures whose home is being taken from them.

This is probably one of the few early stories I'm really proud of.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Designed For Greatness- Short Story

This is the companion to "Forty-Thousand Dollars," the post immediately preceding this one.

More info on these two stories here.

Forty Thousand Dollars (Short Story)

This story was originally written with an anthropomorphic fox protagonist in 2010 and was featured in the Anthropomorphic Dreams podcast.  I re-worked it as a story with human characters for an anthology but I never released the anthology.

Actually, I thought I had posted this before, along with its companion piece, "Designed for Greatness."  The two stories are actually the same story, told through the POV of two brothers: one of them was genetically enhanced to have the intelligence and low inhibitions of a politician or businessman but ends up a ruin in adulthood; the other, born naturally and with nonverbal learning difficulties (i.e. extremely bad at math), grows up to become a successful writer.

I will post both stories today, since they go together.

Incidentally, these two stories are very personal, and I put a lot of my own pathos into these stories.  In particular, I struggled with math in school and always felt like I was considered the runt of the littler, despite being the oldest (and biggest) of two.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

One Final Thought Before The Elections

This blog is not dedicated to election coverage.  I am not about to go into a long-winded screed about why I believe the things I do or what the tragic state of the election so far has been.

Suffice to say though, I am extremely worried, in part because we have at least one candidate who believes that the basic rules and graces of democracy don't apply to him.  This candidate has appealed to the fearful, the resistant to change, and the hateful and has brought them so far into the mainstream that many people- myself included- fear that a dam has been breeched.

It is the broadly-shared opinion of many analysts that regardless of who wins, violence and bloodshed are likely.  Both candidates are likely to face a coup attempt as the two sides fighting for supremacy in this country are at loggerheads; the division is nearing the critical tipping point and the divide between these competing visions of what our country should become has become so dire and so bitter that conflict may be inevitable.

But for those who can only think of themselves and what they'll do to save their own skins if and when the violence breaks out, I ask that you think about the generations that are only just coming of age, the teenagers who are either voting in their first elections now, or are still too young to vote.

These teenagers... they're beautiful people.  Read some articles about them and you'll see what I mean.  They're concerned about the environment and the rights of others.  They have an emotional maturity that the schoolyard bully mentality of today's electorate lacks.  They are open about gender and sexuality.  They're beautifully diverse.  They reject religious dogma, most of them either choosing the path of honest atheists or embracing an open, free-form spirituality.  They are the closest this country has created to an enlightened people.  They can come closer to perfecting our republic than anyone ever dreamed possible.

This is why, no matter what comes our way, those of us who share their dream of a world where people can simply be themselves in mutual respect and in equal dignity need to stop worrying about our own tomorrows, because we have a more important purpose.  We need to stand against whatever the forces of hate throw our way because the generation to come is worth it.  And if we have to, they'll be worth dying for.

Soon, very soon, the occasion to show what we're made of may be visited upon us.  And let us not fool ourselves: that occasion may call for us to take up arms and actually fight and die so that others may live.

But it that occasion calls, remember one thing:

Everyone who ever called you an SJW for not giving in to their regressive agendas, for not having the emotional maturity of a five-year-old child, for not fobbing someone off because they were black or Latino, for not buying into their small-minded essentialism, for standing up for a friend who was being harassed, has actually paid you an unintended compliment.

You know what that "W" stands for?  It stands for WARRIOR.  And a warrior must always draw the line.  So when the forces of hate and fear stand to in open warfare, we must be prepared to meet them with like force even if it means our blood may be shed.  If we retreat in the face of the enemy, they will cut us down anyway so if we die, let us die standing like warriors do!  Let's show them just how right they were when they called us warriors and give as good as we get!

We will not throw the first punch, but, God willing, we will throw the last one.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Britannica

I wrote an article for Encyclopedia Britannica!

This is the result of several years of research on William Longespee (Longsword), Third Earl of Salisbury, a very interesting figure if there ever was one.

https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Longsword-3rd-earl-of-Salisbury

Friday, September 9, 2016

Repair Console: A Free Novelette- Conclusion

a Cathar revivalist sect is being persecuted by a fundamentalist government, in a historic mirror of the Albigensian Crusade some decades in the future.  In Portland, Oregon, things have gotten especially bad since the big quake leveled most of the city, and in the wake of an earthquake came a devastating sickness that killed many thousands of people.

Keith Montrose, a Cathar antique store clerk, is offered an old NES console in an age when poor air quality has made the plastic on most of these consoles turn to dust.

But there is more to this console than meets the eye.

This was inspired in no small part by Philip K. Dick's musings about God reaching through to this world from the "trash layer," so credit where credit is due.

Sorry for the long absence!  Here's the conclusion.  I'll have another story soon hopefully.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

So Many Ups and Downs

Just a few hours after being told that I'm going to have to take a pay cut and go from stocking shelves to cleaning toilets if I want to have a job tomorrow, I got an e-mail from Encyclopedia Britannica's editors.

I had told them a week or two ago that I had done some research on William Longespee, Third Earl of Salisbury, that had synthesized more information in one source than nearly every biographical blurb I had ever found about him (including their own sparse page about him).

The focus of my research has been both in the synthesis of biographical material and in the argument for his being at the center of a sort of undercurrent of mythmaking that began shortly after he died and has continued well into the present, with Count William morphing from a medieval diplomat to an archetypal knight in shining armor.

Long story short, the editors at Britannica want to have a look at my research!

Life lately has been a roller coaster when what I need is a rocket.  If Britannica finds my research useful, then I'll have contributed to one of the most respected and authoritative reference sources in the English Language.  Why am I still doing menial jobs?!?  Something's got to give.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Repair Console- A Free Novelette- Day 4

a Cathar revivalist sect is being persecuted by a fundamentalist government, in a historic mirror of the Albigensian Crusade some decades in the future.  In Portland, Oregon, things have gotten especially bad since the big quake leveled most of the city, and in the wake of an earthquake came a devastating sickness that killed many thousands of people.

Keith Montrose, a Cathar antique store clerk, is offered an old NES console in an age when poor air quality has made the plastic on most of these consoles turn to dust.

But there is more to this console than meets the eye.

This was inspired in no small part by Philip K. Dick's musings about God reaching through to this world from the "trash layer," so credit where credit is due.

On Day 4, things get really interesting!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Repair Console- A Free Novelette- Day 3

A Cathar revivalist sect is being persecuted by a fundamentalist government, in a historic mirror of the Albigensian Crusade some decades in the future.  In Portland, Oregon, things have gotten especially bad since the big quake leveled most of the city, and in the wake of an earthquake came a devastating sickness that killed many thousands of people.

Keith Montrose, a Cathar antique store clerk, is offered an old NES console in an age when poor air quality has made the plastic on most of these consoles turn to dust.

But there is more to this console than meets the eye.

This was inspired in no small part by Philip K. Dick's musings about God reaching through to this world from the "trash layer," so credit where credit is due.

Here's Day 3 of this story.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Repair Console- A Free Novelette- Day 2

Here's the second day of my novelette, "Repair Console."

In the story, a Cathar revivalist sect is being persecuted by a fundamentalist government, in a historic mirror of the Albigensian Crusade some decades in the future.  In Portland, Oregon, things have gotten especially bad since the big quake leveled most of the city, and in the wake of an earthquake came a devastating sickness that killed many thousands of people.

Keith Montrose, a Cathar antique store clerk, is offered an old NES console in an age when poor air quality has made the plastic on most of these consoles turn to dust.

But there is more to this console than meets the eye.

This was inspired in no small part by Philip K. Dick's musings about God reaching through to this world from the "trash layer," so credit where credit is due.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Repair Console- A Free Novelette

I've decided to serialize this work (written in 2014) here on my blog.  It's too short for publication as a stand-alone work but too long to submit to most anthologies.  It's that unusual bit of literature commonly called the Novelette.

In the story, a Cathar revivalist sect is being persecuted by a fundamentalist government, in a historic mirror of the Albigensian Crusade some decades in the future.  In Portland, Oregon, things have gotten especially bad since the big quake leveled most of the city, and in the wake of an earthquake came a devastating sickness that killed many thousands of people.

Keith Montrose, a Cathar antique store clerk, is offered an old NES console in an age when poor air quality has made the plastic on most of these consoles turn to dust.

But there is more to this console than meets the eye.

This was inspired in no small part by Philip K. Dick's musings about God reaching through to this world from the "trash layer," so credit where credit is due.


Latest Projects

Here is a rundown of my latest projects:

*I wrote a screenplay based on my novel "Basecraft Cirrostratus."  Dubbed "Steel Clouds," it is currently making the rounds at screenwriting contests.

*Another screenplay is on its way, this one based on my novel "The Vimana Incident" and sharing that title.

*My novel "The Linen Butterfly" is still in development (as it has been for far too long) and it is now being developed to incorporate parts of "The Goldenlea," my first novel.  "Butterfly" was intended as a sequel for "Goldenlea," but I saw the opportunity to revamp both stories into a single work I can really be proud of.

*I am working with a translator on a Spanish translation of one of my novels.

I also have an interesting bit of news.  The other day I stumbled on a used copy of "The Vimana Incident" on eBay listed by a French seller for 34 Euros (about $38)!  Considering the book is still in print and can be bought in the EU from Fusselschwarm in Germany for only 9.95 Euros, this means that (in France at least), my books are now selling for more used than they sell for new!

So, am I a cult fiction author now?

Meh, probably not.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Job- Short Story

This is an early-ish piece of mine, dating from about 2009.  It's meant to be an attempt to write something like Kafka, though I don't think it quite hit the mark.

*****************************************************

"So, Mr. Foreman, I would like to welcome you to our company, or as we like to call it, our family."
The man in the polo shirt smiled so brightly that Mr. Foreman was instantly disarmed, and forgot that this man had never so much as stated his name.
"Family?" Mr. Foreman asked. It was a curious idea. A family... that's a group of people who tolerate each other because they ought to, isn't it?
"We look after our employees' every needs," he explained. "We house, feed, clothe, and even entertain our employees in return for their valued service to our organization."
"That's quite a benefits package." Mr. Foreman's previous job scarcely even paid him. He was thirty-two and still lived with his widowed mother, and the idea of finally moving out on his own had a prestigious allure to it.
"Well then, all I need is for you to sign this contract, and we'll get started," the man said, holding out his phone.
Mr. Foreman ran his finger over the screen in an X pattern and a small message appeared to say that the signature had been accepted.
"Right then, right this way, Mr. Foreman," the man said, leading him out of the office and down a narrow corridor.
The corridor was bare concrete and lined with small, industrial-style doors with tiny safety glass windows that were almost too high to see through.
"These are our employee housing units," the man explained. "They contain all the basic necessities, and if there is anything you need your computerized assistant can have it delivered within twenty-four hours."
"Impressive," Mr. Foreman said, adjusting his collar.
"It is!  A triumph of technology really. Our employees rate highest on nearly every satisfaction survey. So, here we are."
They stopped at one of the rooms about midway down the corridor to their left. The man typed a sequence of numbers into a key pad next to the door and it unlocked with a mechanical buzz.
"Step right in, make yourself at home," the man said.
Mr. Foreman walked into the room. It was solid white, except for a video screen at the far end of the room that played a screen saver montage of bright colors and shapes. On one side of the room was a treadmill, and on the other a bed and a desk with a computer. On the wall next to the treadmill was a small door with a red button beneath it, and next to that a metal straw protruded about six inches into the room.
"You can do all of your work from this desk without ever leaving the comforts of home. But the real center piece is the all-in-one entertainment and comfort center. So, are you hungry Mr. Foreman?"
Mr. Foreman nodded. "Now that you mention it, I am."
"Just press the red button and let the machine do the rest," the man said.
Mr. Foreman walked over to the red button and pressed it. A gentle buzz could be heard from within the wall.
"Hello, Mr. Foreman, hungry I see? What would you like to eat?" a smooth female voice with an artificial edge said from the direction of the video screen. A montage of pictures of food and question marks danced around on the colorful LCD display.
"How about a BLT?" Mr. Foreman said.
"Coming right up," the screen said.
There was a hum and a whirr, then within minutes the door in the wall above the button slid open. There, on a blue china plate, sat a passable BLT.
"Incredible!" Mr. Foreman said, taking the sandwich.
"Just put the plate back and press the button again when you're done," the man said. "Would you like to see how the entertainment system works?"
"Maybe later," said Mr. Foreman. "I'm thirsty at the moment."
"Just press the button, tell the computer what you want, and you can drink as much as you want from that small metal tube there," the man said with a smile.
Mr. Foreman pressed the button once more.
"Can I get you anything else?" the computerized voice said.
"How about a beer?" Mr. Foreman asked.
"We have sixteen domestic and twelve import varieties currently on tap with more to coming soon. Would you like to see a menu?" the computer asked.
"Nah, surprise me," Mr. Foreman said.
"Coming right up," the computer said.
A small buzzer sounded and the drinking tube shook slightly.
Mr. Foreman walked up to it and began to drink from it, taking long, deep sips from the downward metal straw.
"Mmm... It's either an import or a really good domestic. A lager, I think," Mr. Foreman said.
"Only the best for our employees," the man said with a grin.
"Come to think of it, I have to ask, where are the bathrooms?" said Mr. Foreman, his eyes darting across the room.
"Ah, well, you see, everything here has an antimicrobial coating, so you won't need to shower near as often as you normally would. There are showers down the hall for the few times you'll need them," the man said.
"That's all well and good, but what if I need to... you know..." Mr. Foreman asked, starting to look uncomfortable.
At that, the man walked over to the desk and tapped a small, unassuming panel next to the paper shredder. It opened readily, a large stack of documents falling out from behind it.
"Part of your job will be to shred as many documents as possible," he explained. "The more documents you shred, the better. It's something you can do in your spare time, it hardly takes any effort. What I would suggest is that you cover the floor in shredded paper and use that to... well, to keep the place clean. Soak up your business, if you know what I mean."
Mr. Foreman's eyes went wide. "You aren't honestly suggesting that I..."
"Hey, you came here to do business, didn't you?" the man said. "No reason to skip out on doing your business while doing your business. Besides, it isn't like you'll be wallowing in your own filth. The antimicrobial coating will take care of the smell, and we'll have the dirty papers removed and clean paper supplied daily. These units are actually cleaner than the average American home."
"I don't know about this..." Mr. Foreman said, rubbing his chin, his eyes turned to the corner of the room.
"Do you want the job or not?" the man asked bluntly.
"Alright! I'll take it!" Mr. Foreman said.
"Well, then, I'll leave you to get comfortable in Casa Foreman," the man said with a smile and a nod as he turned to leave the room.

"So cute. Almost like us, really!"
A redheaded woman, about thirty-eight years old in a blue pinstripe pantsuit peered through the small window of Mr. Foreman's room.
This one wasn't a bad looking specimen for being working class. He clearly took care of himself. He was one of the most active workers there, too, constantly on his treadmill, or drinking from his tube, or purposefully pushing around the paper that lined the floor of his room to move the soiled papers all into one neat corner.
Next to her stood an older man, about fifty years old with gray-streaked black hair in a more formal business suit.
"This one's pretty industrious. Might have made middle management back in the old days. Nowadays it's dangerous to have one like that loose, though," he said.
"You do know the door's unlocked, Dave. He could leave any time," the woman said scornfully.
"You have to understand, keeping people in one place is a little easier than keeping a gerbil or something," said Dave. "With animals, you have to have a lock and a cage that's stronger than they are. The bigger the animal, the stouter the cage. But with people, all you need is an idea that's stronger than they are. As long as you can jam that idea into their heads, they're yours to control. This one here believes that he ought to be a productive member of society. You can see how he shuffles around, always busy. He's the sort who measures his worth by how much he can get done in a day, even if it's all pointless tasks. He believes he has to be a model employee, and that idea rules his life."
"But he's also smarter than average," the woman said. "I grant you, he's no Einstein, but he's not a complete moron. I don't understand how someone like that can stay trapped by an idea."
"They can and they do," said Dave. "And even if they don't, there's one more thing that will keep him here until he's grayer than me."
"What's that?" the woman asked, more in annoyance than curiosity.
Dave smiled, running a hand through the gray streak on his head, as if it were a charger for his razor wit. "Mr. Foreman here owes us more money than he'll ever make. Just by living here, he's racking up debt like you wouldn't believe."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Just As They Raised Him- A Short Story

This story was originally written several years ago.  I removed it during the protests in Ferguson and Baltimore because I did not want anyone to accuse me of misrepresenting those events, but in fact the story pre-dates those events; I think I first wrote it in early 2013.

Pay close attention to the recent history this story!  I wrote this 3 years ago but you'd think it was straight from today's headlines since it involves a group of right-wingers who stage an armed occupation of a government building in Oregon followed by the electoral victory of an openly racist presidential candidate.



Sunday, January 10, 2016

Review- "The Search for Philip K. Dick" and "Penelope of the Mind" by Anne R. Dick

Finally dusting off this blog to start posting again!  I've got some more material to share but in the mean time, here's a couple of long-overdue book reviews.  I've got several more books by Anne Dick (the third wife of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick) to review but I'm starting here.

The Search for Philip K. Dick is a genuine masterwork of biography.  Starting with the story of how this erudite, romantic man entered her life and then passed through it like a churning storm of neurosis, addiction, and misplaced passions, Anne goes far beyond her personal experience and makes a genuine, moving attempt to understand Phil rather than simply judging him as some of his lesser biographers have.  Through literally decades of interviews, conversations, and recollections from friends, family, coworkers, associates, neighbors, and acquaintances, she masterfully pieces together about as complete a picture of the man behind the self-made myth as anyone could hope to do.  The biography covers not only his fateful years in Point Reyes Station, but his earlier years in Berkeley, as well as his time at a prep school in Ojai and his later years in Fullerton and Santa Ana.  This is definitely one of the best if not the best biographies ever written about PKD.  I would highly recommend this to PKD fans, literature scholars, and collectors of interesting biographies.

Penelope of the Mind is an anthology of poetry that covers the subjective aspect of Anne and Phil's relationship, and contains a number of autobiographical poems that are bound together by the recurring theme of Penelope, wife of the long-missing Odysseus from Homer's Odyssey.  Through colorful imagery that ranges from pure whimsy to dark humor, Anne Dick makes for a compelling Penelope.  Ever present is the spirit of her Ithaca, the idyllic countryside of Marin County.  Her ties to the land run perhaps as deep or deeper than the life-changing relationship that forms the core of this anthology's theme.  Anne's verse is skilful and her language forward and unpretentious, but vivid and imaginative.  I look forward to reading the other anthologies Anne has written including Space and Love and Iliad Poems.