Doom & Gloom: Ingredients For Path of Angels

I came across this article in one of the Facebook groups I belong to. It’s one of many by snowflakes melting over the fact that the election didn’t go their way. Normally, I would just do a full blown eyeroll and move on, but since this ties in nicely to Path of Angels, I thought I’d use it illustrate my point.

First A Fisk

Kameron Hurley: There Have Always Been Times Like These

— posted Saturday 10 December 2016 @ 10:45 am PST
From the December 2016 issue of Locus Magazine

‘‘Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom.’’
–Ursula K. Le Guin

Ms. Le Guin was eulogising the fact that fiction had become more about money than art and in some ways denegrating capitalism. She was talking about the industry of writing. 

At 87 years old, she’s got a bit of experience under her belt in this area. However, I must disagree with her, with the advent of ebooks and widespread self-publishing, there is far more freedom to create literature without limits than there has been in any other time in history. 

I know, I’m getting ahead of the story. Sorry. 

Change is the only constant in our lives.

This is true in some aspects. We cannot prevent aging or stop things around us from changing. Governments change, societies shift, technology advances, etc.

People, on the other hand, don’t change. We are still the same silly creatures were were thousands of years ago, fighting over the same silly things. Best to accept it and work within those realities. 

Octavia Butler …In even the darkest times, a ray of hope. A glimmer of light.

I admit, I had no idea who Octavia Butler was (she passed in 2006). So, I looked her up. All of her books, have a themes of transformation or of the powerless overcoming the powerful. And as with any writer, her experience bled into her writing. From all outward appearances, she was a gifted writer and a very determined one.

The themes in her writing are nothing new, just presented in a different light. Transformation is almost a requirement of fiction. If your character doesn’t change from their experience, then what is the point of the story? 

Speculative fiction has always been the safe sandbox for creating ‘‘what if?’’ stories. It allows us to play out our utopias and dystopias without miring ourselves in real-world revolution, with all its bloodshed and instability. We can sit back in our arm chairs or cozy up in our bunker and visit another time and place, and explore reali­ties that we can choose to embrace and seek to make real, or ones we can dismiss and guard against.

Let me fix that for you. Fiction. Fiction has always been the safe sandbox for creating “what if?” stories. That is the point of fiction. To answer the question “what if?” What if there were murders at sci-fi convensions (It Was Only On Stun) or what if an Olympic athlete gets stuck going to school in a small town (Perfect Blindside) or what if it rained food (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs). Fiction is the playground of “what if?” where stories of every shape and form are created. And what a wonderful playground it is.

I miss those days.

Those days are not gone. With ever so many more books available in all of history, there should be no reason that one can’t find something they enjoy reading. There is no reason that one couldn’t write and publish something they enjoy writing. The gatekeepers are gone. Go forth and produce. (And stop whining.)

When I cast about for a safe harbor now in a world speeding so quickly and changing so rapidly that our parents could have never have hoped to prepare us for it, I remember these stories. I remember the possible futures, the fantastic landscapes, the harrowing quests and epic federations that inspired me to be part of building a more hopeful future.

I got a giggle over this. Yes, there have been quite a few technology changes in the past 30 years or so, but I imagine it’s nothing compared to the advent of indoor plumbing, electricity and the combustion engine. Those inventions changed society far more than the internet or cell phones have. In fact, those inventions made life better for people in general. Technology today is still a very mixed bag.

…She had seen the fearful white supremacist heart of many of this country’s people clearly for what it was.

One thing about humans is that they never change. History shows us that. If it isn’t the Roman’s feeding Christians to the lions, it’s Hutus slaughtering the Tutsi, or Japanese massicuring the Chinese. Superiority of one group over another has always been an issue. In the US for a time, white supremacy was an institutionalized ideal. Racial minorities were not the only ones to suffer under it however, those with physical and mental handicaps were also subject to unjust treatment. Those days are gone. And good riddence.

The United States and United Kingdom embrace far-right fundamental­ism and Russia moves toward the field of war, and I say: we have seen these dark times before.

Embraced far-right fundamentalism? It’s obvious that the author doesn’t understand what far-right fundamentalism is. Politically speaking, our country has shifted in general to the left. This tiny move back toward the center is nothing close to embracing far-right fundamentalism. A little nonfiction reading would cure that ignorance.

We are artists, certainly, but above all, storytellers. We create the narratives that help us all make sense of the world. As Le Guin said in her National Book Award speech, the hard times are coming. In fact, at this point in the year, I’ll say that the hard times are here, harder than they have been for many for a good long time. There are already young people who do not remember the world before 9/11 and the grim powers of surveillance and destruction that we licensed to our own government. Now we prepare to usher in 2017 with a far-right nationalist at the head of a country brimming with nuclear weapons, and another generation is poised to forget the freedoms that came before it.

[Eyeroll] Sorry…that is just silly. Artists are freer than they have ever been before. No other time in history can we write anything we want and hit publish. No other time in history can we write anything and not need an editor or a printing press or a trunk load of money to get our stories out there.

When I first started writing, my chances at publication were severely limited because, first, the internet was not as common as it is today. There were no fancy graphics, no point and click, no Amazon or Create Space. If I wanted to send off my stories to publishers, I had to type them on a typewriter and then have money to get them photocopied and money to buy stamps to mail the submission and money to buy stamps for the return postage for the rejection letter. I was limited by how much money I had to send off submissions. Today, I can slap an email together, attach a file and have it sent in less than a minute to multiple publications for nothing.

The internet has opened up doors that used to be locked for many writers. It no longer matters how rich or poor an author is, or where they are from. Anyone can write and be published. Of course some writers do better than others for a variety of reasons. But, where this author sees darkness because of one isolated election, I see a plethora of opportunities and story ideas.

We are going to lose much in 2017. That is something that we as writers, as artists, as human beings, cannot forget… but we cannot allow it to let us lose our hope or our ability to tell the stories that not only earn us our supper but also inspire and comfort others during times of great upheaval.

The only thing I’ve seen lost so far, are people’s flipping minds. Trump is a president, not a dictator, not a king. He will be gone in a short 4-8 years and life will go on. 

We have our possible futures…That hope and that future are not dead, but they are set back once again, in that long and ancient war we have fought and written about as futurists and fantasists. The long war between the light and the dark, between our better selves and our darker natures.

For some that possible future is now, with Trump. The possibility of jobs opening up, the possibility of people with differening opinions not being fired from jobs or blackballed or violently attacked, the possibility that individual freedom from government intimidation will return, and the possibility that people will be free to espouse unpopular opinions without being mobbed on social media for them. I’m not so optimistic. I don’t have as much faith in Trump as some do.

However, I am optimistic in that people who are being currently bullied by the left’s totalitarian tactics will continue to fight back, that both sides will have their place in the future. That the unpopular views of society will have a voice that can be accepted or dismissed by individuals without reprocussion.

Our hopeful stories…That is the future we must build together.

[Eyeroll] I haven’t read this much drama since I dug out my diary from junior high. (Whoa, I think I rolled my eyes too hard.) 

As this snowflake melts at the slightest possibility of dealing with anything she doesn’t like, the rest of us will be working hard to build a future of our own choosing. Will we all agree? Are you kidding? We can’t even agree where to eat most of the time. 

I for one will spend my time making people’s lives a little bit better, whether that is through the entertainment I provide with my writing or through my volunteer work. You will not find me denigrating a whole segment of our population because I don’t agree with them, nor will I sit on my ass complaining about the conditions I have to live in that are beyond my control. I am a fighter as are many people that I know and respect, even if I don’t agree with them.

Path of Angels

So, how does this tie into the book I’m writing? When I came up with this idea four years ago, Obama was heading into his second term in office. At that time, it was the far right side, rather than the left who were warning that the sky was falling. There was talk of Texas seceding from the Union, civil war, etc. This time around, it is Trump going into his first term and California wanting to secede, civil war, etc.

I took the wild ideas and talk of Christians being put into camps and how rainbows and unicorns would be everywhere and ran with it. What if everyone segregated by political/religious beliefs? Of course, being a poli-sci major I couldn’t see that ever happening in the US. The US had to go.

First, I elected a woman President, Jane Elliott Brown. She wasn’t the savior that everyone expected, she was a tyrant that provoked civil war which spread to other countries. The global economy collapsed. California was traded to the Chinese in exchange for our debt to them being cleared. And in the end, the boundaries of every country had changed. In the heart of once was the US became Nacerma.

Nacerma is the conglomeration of a bunch of different liberal utopian ideas as well as a few conservative ones. I will get more into the different parts of this world in other posts. Nothing was sacred when it came to building my fictional society. My main character is simply trying to make her way through life, while others are trying to make changes to the society around them and still others are trying to use the society to their advantage.

It’s the lunatic rantings of people like the author of the article that gave me fodder for my story. Her gloom and despair are the ingredients for my writing.

1 Comment

  1. // Reply

    Well said, Dawn, as usual. I am amazed by the irrational fear that I have seen since the election. Not sure if it is all real or if it\’s just being used to enhance their victim status.

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