Warning: Rant Ahead.
Trying to write about Israel and Gaza right now is frustrating as hell. What chance is there that anything I say will convince anyone of anything? People would rather isolate themselves in their own little bubbles of propaganda and rhetorical nonsense.
Of course I’m biased in favor of Israel. As you should be too if you support democracy. Tell me where else in the Middle East the values of free speech, religious freedom, and the rights of women are championed as strongly as they are in Israel? (Hint: If you gave any answer that contains the name of any other country in the Middle East, you are wrong.)
Do people throw around terms like apartheid and genocide when talking about the actions of the Israeli government and the IDF because they’re genuinely misinformed, or is it because they’re anti-Jewish bigots reaching for the most inflammatory things they can say? (I say anti-Jewish and not anti-Semitic, because Arabs are also a Semitic people.) South Africans who lived under a real apartheid system should be offended that the term is even mentioned in the context of Israel.
Let’s get a few things straight about what genocide means. If Israel was out to commit genocide, there would have ceased to be any Arabs in Gaza years ago. Hell, the West Bank would have been completely emptied of Arabs as well. It would take maybe a couple of months to wipe out the West Bank; Gaza would be ethnically cleansed in a week. There is absolutely no nation on this planet looking out for the welfare of the Palestinians that has the power to oppose Israel if the Israeli’s actually set out to commit genocide. Do you think the U.S. would lift a finger to save them? The surrounding Arab nations? We’ve all seen how much love they have for Palestinians.
If Israel was attempting genocide, would they be treating wounded Palestinians in Israeli hospitals?
Hamas’s stated purpose is genocide. Their charter calls for the destruction of Israel. Do you think that means something other than the murder of every Jewish man, woman, and child? Hamas is actively trying to get as many non-combatants killed as possible on both sides. Some journalists in Gaza have actually been truthful about this.
While the world is focusing it’s attention on Gaza, ISIL is, by their own declaration, actively pursuing real genocide in Iraq. Where is the righteous anger over the plight of the Yazidis? (And why the hell aren’t the U.S. and NATO doing a damn thing?)
To say that one country should recognize a governing body that’s stated purpose is to destroy them is the height of madness. No, wait, I’m sorry. The height of madness is journalists and a high-ranking U.N. official saying that Israel is committing a war crime by not sharing their military technology with a terrorist organization that’s sworn to kill them all.
What other nation on Earth has to put up with this bullshit?
Then there’s my favorite flavor of stupidity; the people who like to say that Israel is an “illegal country”. Would it convince these brilliant scholars of international law otherwise if it were pointed out to them that Iraq, the oldest nation in the Middle East, was created by the League of Nations in 1920? The League of Nations, a body that officially ceased to exist in 1943. So by that logic, all the nations in the Middle East are outlaws. (And so would be the U.S.A., and along with every nation formed from either revolution or mandate by another nation.)
I am not saying that Israel is without fault in dealing with the Palestinians. Not by any means. You want to see some actual journalism? (I know, it’s a rare thing these days.)
This 2009 article gives a detailed and nuanced description of the IDF’s last military action in Gaza, the Gilad Shalit situation (finally resolved with his release in 2011) and the events leading up to it. It’s long (about 11,000 words; novelette length) but absolutely worth the read for those who desire actual information beyond rhetoric and propaganda.
This more recent Vice article takes a disturbing look at the recent rise of right-wing racism and militant hate among Israeli youth. One thing to keep in mind that’s not addressed in this article, is that today’s Israeli teenagers and IDF soldiers were children growing up during the Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005. Somewhere along the way, they’ve just about all been touched by an act of terrorism in the name of Palestine. Unfortunately, that means that many of them aren’t exactly clear-headed and rational when it comes to the idea of making sacrifices for peace.
The IDF’s incursions into Gaza are short-term measures that will ultimately only serve to continue the cycle of violence, unless they are followed with policing and rebuilding. What Gaza needs is a real government, rather than the organized crime family of terrorists (Hamas) that are running it now. Gaza needs a real police force, and economic hope for the future. Keeping Gaza isolated from the world like it has been since 2006 helps no one but the terrorists.
Racism, militant nationalism, and authoritarianism are the real enemies of peace. Propaganda news networks, whether blathering about imagined genocide, or making claims of oppression by the “liberal media” are all either enablers or supporters of these enemies. If you’re cheering for the deaths of anyone in this conflict, whether soldier or terrorist, you’re fighting against peace and democracy. Hate and fear are the targets that every rational-minded person should be taking aim at.
This rant has been a public service message. You’re welcome. /rant]
And now for something related to speculative fiction. Over at Lightspeed you can find the excellent short story “Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology” by Theodora Goss. (Both text and audio.) It’s a tale about nations, the idea of nations and nationhood, and our human capacity for self-delusion. Very timely.
Last week’s writing prompt from over at Writing Excuses was:
You have, with actual paint, painted yourself into an actual corner. But the paint and the corner are in a world in which there is magic, and “you painted yourself into a corner” may very well be some sort of a spell.
Now, let’s see what we can do with that . . .
Roger diligently applied the second coat of the foul-smelling black paint to the walls of the walk-in closet to the tune of the single humming incandescent light bulb overhead. His previous attempts to draw the doorway to Carcosa had proven fruitless, but he felt certain it would work this time. The mixture of bodily humors in the paint would provide a superior thaumaturgical conductor. One last thing to do though. Before he could paint the magical portal itself, he had to seal the room. He used the last of his enchanted paint to paint over the wood door as he recited the brief sealing incantation. He grinned with satisfaction as the door disappeared, becoming flush with the walls, sealing the closet off from the outside. Not even the cracks were visible.
“Excellent”, he said aloud to himself. “Now all that’s left to do is . . .” He trailed off as a sobering realization dawned on him. He had nothing to draw the inter-dimensional portal with, except for the dregs of the same black paint that was already covering the walls.
Then, the single incandescent light bulb in the closet’s ceiling chose that moment to burn out.
I had an interesting discussion a couple of days ago with a fellow Walking Dead fan and some people who don’t watch it. The chief question: are stories about flesh-eating zombies and the people trying to survive them fun? The answer- absolutely a yes! Here’s why.
At its core, every good flesh-eating zombie story, whether film, TV show, book, comic, or game is this: an implausible horrific situation that is both disaster and predator, which brings out both the best and worst aspects of human nature in the survivors. There are endless variations on this premise, as we keep seeing in every medium there is, and we, the audience, get a front row seat to the drama.
You know that inevitably someone is going to put everyone else in danger by panicking like an idiot, or that some military-type person is going to try to take control of the living humans by force, thereby proving that humans are our own worst enemy. The mindless flesh-eating dead are a force of nature, and the living have to learn how to adapt to a world where the rules have suddenly changed on them. But there’s a lot of room for different ‘how’s’, and I think that’s what keeps us coming back to watch, read, and play when zombies are involved yet again.
Add to that, the cathartic thrill of watching human-like monsters get their skulls shot, stabbed, and bludgeoned repeatedly. Who doesn’t enjoy that?
Just watch the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead to see what I mean. (It’s in the public domain due to a 1960’s copyright screw up. A quick search will tell you where to legally download it from.)
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On the writing front, I am actually making some forward progress on my Wasteland novel. Slowly, but new material written down is new material. No zombies in that novel though. It’s just not the direction I want to go with it. I know that may lose me like fifty percent of my target audience right there, but that’ll just have to be the way it is.
Who has time to keep track of the short fiction market out here on the web? Not I. At least not with any consistency. The best I can do is skim through the current issues of the various online speculative fiction magazines for stories that I think I’ll enjoy, or authors I know I already like, for samples of what’s getting published and what’s been done to death. Thankfully podcasts make that a whole lot easier. I’ve found that the Drabblecast is one audio fiction magazine that consistently delivers the kind of inspiring, genre-bending weirdness I love.
The tagline is, “strange stories, by strange authors, for strange listeners”. They’re good at delivering what’s promised.
As good as the stories are, the highlight of the episodes are often the intros and ‘outros’ performed by host and editor-in-chief Norm Sherman. Norm’s unique style of voice and sense of humor are a huge part of what makes each ‘cast a magazine, and not just someone reading a story. Even though the voice actors they get are usually pretty damned talented as well. But some of the best narration I’ve heard is actually performed by Norm himself.
It’s named the Drabblecast for the flash fiction. Since they started running longer feature stories on a regular basis, most episodes open with a ‘drabble’, a 100-word story that usually comes from the fans on the forum. Each episode also closes with a ‘twabble’, a 100-character story also submitted on the forums. If you’re not sure how a story can be told in 100 characters,and I wasn’t before I began listening, it’s worth checking out.
Here are few of my favorite recent episodes. (But if you don’t trust my taste, they have their own list for new listeners.)
Drabblecast 325 – Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon
A western fantasy faerie tale of sorts.
It’s a ghost story by weird fantasy/horror author China Miéville. What more could you want?
This is a long one, but great one. Two old friends run a barbershop in part of town that’s seen better days, and end up having to take responsibility for the deadly supernatural mystery that’s been parked on their doorstep. I don’t see how anyone could not like this story.
Vikings having a mid-life crisis and looking for a career change. Hilariously violent and violently hilarious.
Let’s see, then there’s the great stories by the late Jay Lake they’ve recently re-cast as Drabbleclassics. If you’ve ever wanted a single story to show someone that you could say “this is weird fiction — stories like this!” then you need look no farther than Clown Eggs by Jay Lake. The biologist in me wants to giggle incessantly at the title alone.
Oh hell, you could just dive in with the most recent episodes too. It’s hard to go wrong.
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The Drabblecast doesn’t have a monopoly on great weird fiction of course. To honor author Jay Lake, who recently passed away after a long battle with cancer (chronicled on his blog), Podcastle ran a full cast recording of the story “Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy” by Jim C. Hines. This story has it all: superheroes, talking tumors, fecal jokes, and jokes about cancer. It’s a phenomenal story, if you’re in the right place for it. They give fair warning in the intro that, depending on what’s going on in your life, it just might not be what you need to hear.
If you are in the right place for this story, be sure to listen all the way through the outro after the story. Trust me, it’s worth it. Especially for Drabblecast fans.
It’s been a very intense weekend, and I’m exhausted. This brief blurb will have to serve as my update for the time being.
The West Coast Writers Conference, hosted by the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society was 117% worth the time, and more so the money. (Waaay cheaper than many other writers conferences run.) I’ve learned a lot in the past three days. Too much to absorb all at once. But I have a full large notepad, and many handouts-worth of information to review in the coming days (or weeks). Lots of good information on improving my writing, revising and editing. Just as much on promoting myself and my work, and selling my work (eventually).
Lots of great people too. I encountered exactly zero cases of snobbery or elitism. Plenty of non-fiction and “literary” fiction writers, and not once did I hear (or even overhear) anyone talking trash about genre fiction authors.
Specifics will have to wait. After checking my work e-mail, it seems I may have another intense day ahead of me tomorrow, but one that will be much less fun . . .
Here’s a discussion topic and non-sequitur for the weekend.
True or False? George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, a.k.a. A Game of Thrones, was originally inspired by Rainbow’s song “Kill the King”, which was recorded in 1978.
If true, here’s a follow-up. Which character in the Game of Thrones books/TV series is based on Ronnie James Dio?
(No, you can’t choose Arya, smartass. She’s clearly more of a Dave Mustaine anyways.)
If you read my last post, it might have left you wondering just what kinds of genre-crossing stories I’m working on. Here’s a short list of projects I’m working on, and some story ideas that I’ve roughly sketched out that I consider candidates for major projects. Specific details are withheld to help you resist the temptation to pilfer the brilliant products of my mind.
Ok, in all seriousness, this list is also to help me keep straight what I’m working on. Putting it up here helps makes some of these projects a bit more “real”. You know, real as in things that I actually need to devote time to in addition to stuff like the day job, or laundry, or that home budget my wife and I keep saying we’ll write up eventually.
Project: Wasteland, my post-apocalyptic western novel that I’ve blogged about here before. Life and other excuses keep forcing me to take long breaks from this one, which makes it hard to get back into the flow again, no matter how much Nine Inch Nails I listen to. And it only gets harder because every time I think about it, I keep wanting to revise major portions of it, even though it’s less than half written. Recently I came up with a new ending, which I think is a good thing because it does a better job of justifying the story before, rather than forcing more changes. I think. At least I have a complete outline for this book. Outlining a whole novel was new experience for me when I started this one.
Project: Quentin, a modern-day urban fantasy novel that’s turning out to be more of a romance the more I write of it, and I don’t read “romance” novels as rule. One of my protagonists comes from a family of warlock’s that’s kind of like my own version of the Whatleys. I actually began writing a short story from this character’s point of view before I began the actual novel. I would like to finish that short story, but it’s sort of hit a rut, so I moved on to working on the novel. So far I have part of a first chapter, with two different limited third-person perspectives in it, and what I think is half of an outline. It’s working title is Quentin because that’s the name of my reluctant warlock protagonist. When I dreamed up the character, I honestly had no idea that the main character of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians was also named Quentin. (Note to self: still need to read The Magicians) I may have to change the name later, but he’ll remain Quentin until I have a finished draft.
My current challenge with this project is understanding just how I want the magic to work in this book. I’m not generally a fan of magic “systems” in books. I think it’s a carryover from RPG’s, and that systematizing the mystical often sucks the magicalness out of it. But if my protagonists are going to solve problems using magic, or have to solve problems caused by magic in a logical way, then it still needs some ground rules. I think I know the problems that I want magic to cause in this story, so I have a start. Maybe I need to give The Key of Solomon another look over.
And here’s some of the quarter-baked ideas I’ve been scribbling down bits of in my writing journals. At least, the ones I’m taking the most seriously at present.
A set of military sci-fi stories set in a posthuman future that I’m starting to think of more as mysteries. The original idea was inspired by The Black Company series, but it’s evolved some since I first daydreamed it. My protagonist is a man from the near future who, due to an accident, ends up cryogenically frozen and thawed out in the not-so-near future of post-space age colonization.
I just have some first-person fragments scribbled down for these so far. Whether it turns into a novel or I handle it as a series of short fiction, I think I will need an outline either way.
A cyberpunk-weird western hybrid that does in fact involve an undead gun-slinging cowboy. Just a sketch of an idea so far. This story needs a compelling central mystery that brings its main characters together. When I’ve figured that out, I’ll be ready to do some serious work on it.
And, a science fantasy adventure story that draws its inspiration from old-style sword and sorcery pulp adventures. I’m thinking of this one as the start of a series of short novels or novellas. I’ve got the main characters sketched out. I’ve been outlining the first story in my head for what seems like years. The soundtrack for this one is a mix of The Sword, Abney Park, Rainbow, and oddly enough, The Black Keys. This one’s a candidate for NaNoWriMo this November if I participate. (And it’s likely that I’ll be participating.)
I’m also working on revising and improving some of my short fiction. Revision is definitely something I need to develop a better system for, but I think I’m starting to finally develop it.
Lately I’ve been feeling like a lot of my stuff is still very amateurish in terms of style and structure. I’m looking forward to learning things at this weekend’s conference.