Sunday, February 4, 2018

BREAD AND CIRCUSES

This phrase began around 100 AD, when the Roman poet, Juvenal, pointed out the erosion of civic duty among the Roman population, who no longer cared about its historical birthright of political involvement—republicanism. (In the sense of creating a republic of representatives).

In the Roman Empire, it was bread, chariot races and gladiatorial games that filled the belly and distracted the mind, allowing emperors to rule as they saw fit.

The notion is particularly apropos today, Super bowl Sunday. The culmination of a season of NFL contests that more and more resemble gladiatorial combat—just look at the lifelong injuries if you doubt that. We have NASCAR, the modern chariot races, with death and dismemberment as spectacular penalties, cable and satellite TV with 300 plus channels, mega-lotteries, offering the tantalizing hope of becoming millionaires, at odds worse than being hit by lightning. Supermarkets crammed full of junk food, filled with sugar---six times more addictive than cocaine—and salt, and chemicals designed to tickle the taste buds and distract consumers from the reality of what they are putting into their bodies.

Please note, I am not opposed per se to football. Nor NASCAR. Nor lotteries. Nor TV. Nor junk food. I am opposed to what they are used for by today's emperors-- politicians and the power-elite. Diversion, distraction, satisfaction of the immediate, shallowest desires of a population, as a way to keep them ignorant, complacent, and slaves to debt while those politicians and powerful persons continue to rob them of their money, health, intellect, and moral backbone. To make them no longer care about the historical birthright of the human race-----to grow wiser, stronger, more loving, more inclusive, more—dare we say it?—godlike in our imitation of greater beings we claim to exist and care for us.

So, while you’re watching the Super bowl spectacle, picking up a six-pack, Cheetos, and a mega-lottery ticket—or not—take a moment to wonder----does this resemble the decline of the Roman Republic? Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.





Sunday, January 14, 2018

WHO AM I?

Writers are artists. Our medium is words. And as artists, we have to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” What defines me? Am I a Glen Campbell or a Tommy Smothers? Am I a Maurice Chevalier or an Edith Piaf?
During the Vietnam conflict, Glen Campbell decided he was an entertainer and it was not his role to take part in the politics of pro or anti-war factions. Tommy Smothers decided otherwise. And Tommy paid for that decision. His TV show was cancelled. For his activism, he gained some fans and he lost others. And for his decision, Campbell gained some fans and lost others.
During World War II, Maurice Chevalier decided he was an entertainer and it was not his role to do other than entertain, even if it was for those who had overrun his country. Edit Piaf was an active member of the Resistance. Obviously, she was not found out, for she would have paid a far more serious price than Tommy Smothers. After the war, some Frenchmen accused Chevalier of collaboration, which, he denied.
In these days of trumpery, artists must also ask themselves “Who am I?” And in asking that question, I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.  He who accepts evil without protesting against it, is really cooperating with it.”
I believe in the power of thoughts and prayers. I believe in the power of becoming myself what I want the world to be. I believe in the power of words to place people in positions where they can change their own minds about something. I believe, as Viktor Frankl pointed out, you cannot make anyone do anything they truly do not want to do. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Choice always intervenes. So I choose.
I'm done with trying to not alienate GOP voters, Trump supporters who otherwise might be amenable to changing their views. Time is up. I'm done with that. The man is deeply disturbed and objectively reprehensible. If you can't see that, it's time to think long and hard about what that says about you. Whatever price I pay for this decision, in my mind, is better than the price I would pay for silence in the face of evil. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Reading, Meet and Greet, and Book Signing

This should be a get together in pleasant surroundings, where you will have the opportunity to ask those questions you always wanted to ask a novelist. I will bring my award-winning books with me, and---a draft of my current work-in-progress, Witches' Gambit, to read from, if people request it.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Old Time SF Rock and Roll--A Choice of Gods

A Choice of Gods is classic Simak. Who? Right. Clifford Simak is one of the champions of early science fiction. He is credited with creating the “pastoral science fiction” genre, sci-fi set in the countryside. Heinlein once said, “to read science fiction is to read Simak. Anyone who doesn’t like Simak doesn’t like science fiction.” 

It would be hard to find many who agree with that sentiment today. Though his book, Way Station, won the Hugo, and four other books, including A Choice of Gods, were nominated for the Hugo, most of Simak’s books are out of print. He is largely ignored. And he is one of the neglected masters of the form.

You will not find space battles, swords, sorcery, blasters, urban dystopias, or zombies in A Choice of Gods. What you will find is a tale set on planet earth, in the far future, with bucolic descriptions of rural life. A tale of country folk who encounter extraordinary events. A beautifully written, well-conceived story that moves right along without seeming hurried. It’s old-school writing. And pastoral. He takes time to smell the flowers. And it may annoy some modern readers.

But to put some perspective on it, it was published in 1972. And he talks about travelling to other planets in the galaxy by the parapsychic power of the mind alone. He brings mysticism and fantasy into his science fiction picture. And AI. And sentient robots. And musical trees. And truly alien aliens. He sprinkles non-chronological journal entries into the narrative—something we modernists take for granted today. On the downside, his anti-technological stance is a bit heavy-handed, even illogical—there’s a small army of robots to do the manual labor in this rural paradise. And a lot of the significant action occurs off-stage, and is reported later in conversations. Finally, his pleasant pastoral style may be a bit too bucolic for some of today’s hyper-wired readers.


But to my mind, it’s well worth haunting second-hand bookstores to find copies of Simak’s work. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

If thought-provoking, neo-retro SF is your cup of astro-tea

The sentient moon Alvar discovers that the danger of creating a savior is he will be his own person. He will do what he will. And whether his acts are judged good or bad will only be known in the unrolling of time.  A New Novel by Award Winning Author, Charles Freedom Long. NOW 99 CENTS for a limited time. If thought-provoking, neo-retro science fiction is your cup of astro-tea, get yours at: http://myBook.to/alvarspear