Rethinking the Blog

I’m sitting here at my favorite bar in Yokosuka Japan enjoying a cigar and dark beer reflecting on the past five years of blogging. I begun blogging early on when I first decided to take writing seriously.

When I started Barbarian Book Club my goal was to use this space to document my writing process and to make it a hub for promoting my writing. In the past few years due to this place and social media I’ve grown as a writer and also developed numerous professional connections in the independent world of writing.

But, honestly I’ve used this place as an extension of my social media, almost as a long-form version of Twitter.

Yet the biggest undercurrent of development in my growth as a writer has been in the scope of the politic. The more I’ve delved into the culture of the creative the more I’ve realized that all art is strictly in the philosophical and the political. Every act of art is political and cultural because culture is anchored in the political. Culture does not exist independent of politics, because culture is intertwined and reflects the philosophy of the creator.

Accepting the above fact means that I’m no longer going to shy away from using this medium to discuss my philosophical and political observations. Views that have matured and changed drastically in the past five years.

Practically what this means is that I will be using this place as a home not just for my writing but for my observations on culture, life, politics, and religion.

I plan on restructuring this space away from a focus on everyday blogging and towards a more essay focused medium discussing subjects such as masculinity, fatherhood, personal growth, and how these subjects pertain to a fledgling career in the independent publishing subculture.

I have a lot of material planned and outlined and I hope I can grow this page as a discussion hub or at least a place worth visiting for like minded readers and writers.

An Example of Political Poison

Last week I posted my little mini-screed about authors being blatantly open and antagonistic on political lines. I despise it. I despise it from conservatives and I despise it from liberals. It ruins the SFF community, a community that should be about escaping from everyday ugliness and fun.

Today I came across an excellent example of why I hate current politics injected into the writing world. About a year ago I came across a really sweet short story in Asimov’s or Analog Magazine. It was about an AI in prison for murder. I thought the story was a standout in that issue so I looked up the writer. Auston Habershaw. I found his blog, followed him, and enjoyed reading his other work and his weekly blog posts.

I didn’t care if he was  liberal, conservative, monarchist, or flat earth believer. I just enjoyed his stuff. So when I went through my WordPress reader page today I read his latest post as it came up.

That’s when I found out that he considers me an idiot. Dab smack in the middle of his “funny” post was this beautiful insult “Maybe this is the kind of person who turns on Fox News, thinks it’s all true, and votes for Trump. Maybe – just maybe – the tiny demographic who craves or needs or enjoys hosted movies on television are the reason why life is awful and everything is terrible and we’re all going to die of global climate change.”

The truth is, he has the right to say whatever he wants. He has the right to say it’s comedy or sarcasm. But you know what, it still sucks. It’s a partisan attack. A shitty one, with all the recent leaks showing all media being in the DNC’s pocket.

It sucks because it takes somebody like me; very bi-partisan multi-issue voter with nuanced beliefs across the spectrum, and made me feel like I have to defend myself. Am I an idiot for wanting to vote Trump? Is my mother a moron for wanting to vote Hillary? I came for sci-fi fun and now I am on the defensive.

So yeah, it totally sucks. I can’t ever read his novels again or follow his posts because I will always feel partisan from now on. I don’t know if one is an idiot for voting for Trump, but I am absolutely sure that one is an idiot if they give their money and support to people who think they are idiots based on exercising their democratic rights.

(My political viewpoints are not an issue here btw, I live in Japan, I will not be voting.)

The Poison of Politics in SF&F

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
Groucho Marx

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Us Americans are currently on the last leg of one of the most contentious and polarising elections in our nation’s history. It has polarised our society and re-arranged political loyalties across the whole spectrum of affiliation. Even our pass times and escapist entertainment isn’t unscathed. Writers and celebrities are constantly weighing in on politics and the culture war. Should Science Fiction and Fantasy be political? Should writers openly wear their political affiliation on their sleeves?

My answer.

Yes and No. Most, if not all,  intelligent fiction has at least a minuscule political element at its core. We are after all social and political beings. What I find unappealing and quite unpleasant is when writers and creators voice their own personal opinions and write polemical pieces thinly disguised as fiction.

I hope nobody misunderstands me. I love politics. I love discourse. Nothing is better than sitting with friends and discussing opinions and world views over beer, coffee, and cigarettes. My favorite pastime is clashing wits with my wife over beers, debating everything from immigration to corporate tax.

I would like to believe that my political and philosophical views are nuanced and complex. So nothing makes me cringe more than seeing one of the writers I read and admire shoot off a disparaging tweet or blog post about the currently opposing political tribe. Nothing makes me sourer than realizing that people I find intellectually stimulating fall into the idiotic us vs them mentality. No, all liberals voting for Clinton aren’t nanny state race hustlers or brainwashed self-hating sheltered college kids. Trump supporters aren’t all undereducated slack-jawed inbred southern racists clutching their guns and bibles.

Most of all I read SF&F for fun and relaxation, not a socio-political lesson. Authors blabbing, throwing political insults and raising pitchforks are the online equivalent of that crude person talking about rated R stuff at grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner. Somewhat entertaining but overall offputting.

Exploring politics, philosophy, and social ideas in fiction is wonderful. I love space opera and fantasy that is heavy on political concepts. My favorite parts of GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire are the political and social maneuvers of Littlefinger. I love the corporate libertarian themes of private enterprise vs government found in Hamilton’s novels.

What I find obnoxious and unreadable is when an author shoves their personal public political affiliation in my face. Guess what. There is nothing interesting or original about a conservative writing fiction where the protagonist is a perfect self-sufficient do-gooder, held back by the obviously socialistic meddling, gun grabbing, U.N style government. Nothing is more predictable and boring than liberal writers shoving another perfect feminist empowered grrrr PW RR lesbian fighting the evil white male capitalist corporation or the religious conservatives. Boring! We all watched Ferngully and Avatar. Do something new!

I believe that writers should embrace a gentlemanly(womanly) view on public politics. Discuss your politics in private, let your work speak for itself. I want to read novels that make me think. Make me question the viewpoints of the heroes. Make me understand the outlook of the antagonist. That, in my opinion, is almost impossible if the author shoves their personal viewpoints in my face through Twitter and Facebook.

In closing. My opinion is that writers should keep their personal politics private. Pushing current political viewpoints undermines their fiction, alienates readers from opposing sides, and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I personally strive to write fiction that not only entertains but also makes one evaluate their political and philosophical beliefs. I want to explore truly diverse viewpoints. In order to accomplish that goal, I will keep my personal politics private.

Lets focus on the fiction.