The Politics of Science Fiction: Parkland, Florida – More Proof That Science Fiction Helps Shape Politics

After the United States’ 18th school shooting of 2018 left 17 people dead, something happened.  The narrative changed.

From inside the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students live tweeted a madman’s rampage. They Snapchatted and Instagramed the recorded carnage. And just like that, Americans couldn’t turn their heads away and play ignorant.

We heard their fear and their screams of terror. We heard the gunshots and saw the bodies – bloodied, crumpled, dead – in the classrooms and the hallways. We ran with those kids as they were ushered past fallen classmates and out a side exit. We no longer had the safety of a 2nd, or 3rd hand account of what went on behind closed doors when a killer takes aim at children. The children that survived this time? They made sure to bring their receipts. They brought evidence of the madness to the “adults” who are supposed to be charged with keeping them safe.

These kids have grown up with lock-downs and active-shooter-drills. On February 14, 2018, they had to put that training to use. They had to watch as their classmates and teachers fell. One by one. And then they had to listen to politicians tell them: “Now is not the time to jump to conclusions about gun-control.”

It wasn’t enough that their generation was labeled as entitled and soft,  now “gullible” has been added to the list because they couldn’t possibly be acting on their own when they say: ENOUGH. It has to be the Democrats and the Liberals brainwashing them into action. It can’t be because students like Emma Gonazalez, a survivor of this latest mass-shooting, have had enough and are calling B.S.

But I digress.

Science fiction and politics have been bedfellows for almost two hundred years.  From Shelley’s Frankenstein, to Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, to Huxley’s Brave New World, and all the way to Orwell’s 1984, science fiction has played an enormous roll in shaping our current politics.

And now? Now, many people are acting surprised that these kids are taking matters into their own hands –– but they shouldn’t be. We’ve been feeding these kids a steady diet of dystopian movies and literature for decades: Collins’ Hunger Games series, Dashner’s Maze Runner series, Roth’s Divergent Series. Tales where the future is terrifying and teens are put into impossible positions. Futures where their only hope for survival is to rise up and balance the scales. Getting shot at while you’re trying to study for exams? Watching your classmates die? Watching a governing body do nothing –– time and time again? Those are impossible positions that affect them now. Of course they’re going to rise up. And they’re going to use everything at their disposal to balance the scales.

The history of politics and science fiction is long. And, when studied, does not bode well for politicians.

So, Congressmen and Congresswomen, Senators and Representatives that have been on the NRA dole for decades. Time’s up. What you thought that was just science fiction? Honey, that was training.

See you at the voting booths.

 

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Sandy Hook: The Impact of “What-If”

Courtesy: CNN

It’s been five years since the lives of twenty-six children and adults were taken from their family, friends, and communities.  Five years of what-ifs. What if they’d been sick that day? What if they had been able to celebrate that 6th, 7th, 8th birthday? Who among them might have been president? The little girl in the back with the ponytails? The little boy in the front row with spray of freckles and missing front tooth? What if?

On December 14, 2012, as the reports started pouring into news stations about a shooting at Sandy Hook, we did not yet know the extent of what happened.  My daughter – a kindergartner at the time – was safe in her classroom at her elementary school in Maine.  But what if? What if the same thing could happen here? As we watched the news reports come in, I said to my friend: This isn’t good. Something really bad happened there.

The hair on my arms stood up. Instinct? A mother’s intuition? What if? I called my daughter’s school and told them I was coming to get her. They must have known something was wrong as well because they didn’t try to talk me out of it. I packed up my toddler, drove to the school, and brought her home. I turned off the TV and put in Christmas movies.  We ate popcorn and drank hot chocolate.  Because, what if? What if it HAD happened here? Would I have been one of those parents anxiously looking for my child among a sea of scared, tear-streaked faces, or would I be one of those parents holding their child close, thanking God for keeping them safe? How would I have handled that? Could I have handled it. And bless those who DID have to handle it because, my God, I have no words for the horror that must have encompassed.

That day, twenty-six families received the worst call imaginable.  Twenty-six empty places in church. Twenty-six empty seats at the dinner table. Twenty-six unopened piles of Christmas presents. I can’t imagine that pain and grief. Every year my heart breaks. And every year it rejoices – because those twenty-six people’s sacrifice creeps into my world, forcing me to slow down and take stock of what is truly important.

Since that day, every year – and I mean this sincerely – EVERY year, on December 14th, after supper, we put on Christmas movies and eat popcorn and drink hot chocolate. Because we know that there are 26 children and adults who no longer CAN. I stop for a moment, among the stress and rush of the holidays, put away the worries of juggling bills, responsibilities, and schedules, I pause the challenges of raising my hormonal 10-year-old daughter and my 9-year-old son…and I remember that day. Because I have the privilege of being able to ask “what if” while also knowing that tomorrow might bring the answer. Twenty-six other families do not have that privilege.

This year, on the fifth anniversary of Sandy Hook, I want to take a moment to say “Thank you” to those twenty-six families. It will never be enough, and the price is too much, the loss is too deep.  So I’m going to just hold onto this small grain of positive from a mighty beach of sadness. Because even though the “what ifs” will never be answered, we still have to let the sun rise on tomorrow, and by remembering these twenty-six people – we can ask “What if?” – and answer by making it a better day.

 

 

 

Finding the Balance Between Utopia and Dystopia

My guess is that the kind of thinking we are, at last, beginning to do about how to change the goals of human domination and unlimited growth to those of human adaptability and long-term survival is a shift from yang to yin, and so involves acceptance of impermanence and imperfection, a patience with uncertainty and the makeshift, a friendship with water, darkness, and the earth.” Ursula K. Le Guin, No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters – Copyright © 2017 

This book is next up on my “To Read” list…I cannot wait.

H/T To @ElectricLit for posting the article/excerpt – link below!

Electric Literature: Urslula K. Le Guin Explains How to Build a New Kind of Utopia

No really, how cool is this?!

The Guards (WIP)

So, this is another WIP of mine – I’m going to post bits and pieces to see if I can get some honest feedback. And when it comes to feedback, while I appreciate kindness – it’s not always helpful. If you can comment, be honest. I mean, don’t destroy my dreams but feel free to toss me a lifeline of constructive criticism. And thank you in advance.


12/5/17

Brigs

The depression was barreling toward its 20th year. Families who weren’t already independently wealthy were unable to keep the wolves from the door. Rents rose above meager means, and communities crumbled under the burden of impossible taxation. The financial responsibilities tied to homeownership could only be met by the moneyed few, and banks placed liens on homes of the less fortunate, selling them at auction for the price of back-taxes. The wealthy purchased these properties, and families forced out of their homes needed to learn how to survive as best they could. Those first few years were the hardest. Suicides occurred daily and, when the sun rose each day, it wasn’t uncommon to find a body or two bobbing in the waters of Frost Gully Pond.

As neighborhoods fell vacant, the structures were demolished and the land prepared for larger second, third, or vacation homes.  We were allowed to work as help – they needed cooks, maids, and gardeners to run those large estates. And some folks did just that.  Others felt that, if we were going to cook or clean or grow food for the wealthy, simply to make enough coin to purchase food for our own consumption, we might as well just cut out the middle man.

This is how the Tribes first formed.

Our Tribe consists of six families – the Greysons, McGills, Parnells, Listons, Devlins, and Andres. We banded together ten years earlier, when our town went from working class to barren, nearly overnight. Choosing to fend for ourselves instead of working for the wealthy put us squarely in the rebel category. We were nonconformists, outcasts. The trouble makers. Because we had the audacity to do exactly as the elite did:  look out for our own best interests.

In response, they sent the Guards to the fields outside the cities.  Small posts peppered the countryside.  Charged with keeping peace amid the already peaceful, the Guards labored under a manufactured fear we’d cut the throats of our overlords if left to our own devices. A few years ago, we’d have laughed them off as paranoid, but they weren’t too far off. Talk had been rippling across the valleys and rumblings from the west grew angrier and more desperate by the day.

***

My name is Brigs – well it’s actually Bridget Greyson. I hate the name Bridget, though, so I improvised. It works.

Today is December 1, 2085 – twenty days until Yule.  But you didn’t hear that from me. The only holidays we’re allowed to celebrate are Easter, July 4th, and Christmas, and any talk of Yule, or Hanukkah, or (Gods forbid) Ramadan results in swift retribution.  The Guards here don’t play around with that shit.

I’m too young to remember how it used to be. I was born forty years after the fall of the Republic.  My Gran used to tell stories about democracy – how everyone had the power of a vote, and how that vote used to matter.  She’d often cycle between hurt and anger when she spoke about the last few elections and how most folks didn’t even bother.

“That was the first portent,” she’d say, her eyes shining with tears that refused to spill.  “Many more followed – wrong was right, up was down, laws could be broken for a price, and truth, science, and facts were redefined as ‘opinions of the educated elite’.” She’d punch a finger in the air to drive home each point and stir the campfire with her walking stick before finishing. “Small seeds of hate planted in poisonous ground, watered with lies, and kept warm by anger – culminating in a harvest of desperation so deep folks would drown in it while the watchful eyes of the powerful looked on with bored faces.” She always had a point – and this point was that we did it all to ourselves. We allowed it to happen.

Education among the Tribes was forbidden. At least, we weren’t allowed to read or write. The Government did allow us to learn simple, basic math – so that we could stay on top of our responsibilities and pay our personal taxes.  Gran, however, had other plans.  She taught all of us in the Tribe – under cover of moonlight and while dreams occupied the minds of those who’d stop her.  By ten years of age I could read and write as well as anyone in the Guards – though it was necessary to hide those skills.

Gran knew she was breaking the law, but she did it anyway.  “Knowledge,” she’d say, “is the most powerful weapon.”

She died three years ago. I was fifteen when the Guards came and took her away.  They never gave us a reason, but the ‘why’ wasn’t hard to figure out. Playing stupid was the hardest part. I wanted to yell and scream, to use my intellect and wit like a knife to carve through the ropes that bound her wrists. Instead I used crude language and tears to try and convince the Guards to leave her be. They didn’t listen.

We never saw her again.  A year later, they brought back only her clothes – after all, no one in the Guards’ ranks would ever wear such rags.  The Tribe would normally repurpose the clothing of the deceased.  But this time was different, we didn’t have her body. So, we buried her clothes instead.  I carefully carved her name into a rosewood box using the runic script she’d taught me as a child. Pretty designs to the unschooled, which is exactly how it needed to be.

For her final rest, I chose the top of Small Pine ridge, just over a mile away and halfway between our camp and the ocean.  The air there is cleaner and the view out to sea is long and dramatic. It suits her. I brush dead pine needles away from the rose quartz encrusted rock that marks her grave.

The scent of cook fires rides the breeze over to where I’m perched, skinning a rabbit I’ve managed to net. The sun is strong and warm after the cold night, and a fine mist forms along the ground where sunlight strikes against the wet earth.  I can picture its quiet crawl across the camp, dampening the bottom of the tents and creating a wick for the cold to travel inside where folks lay huddled in warm pockets of closely packed bodies. A soft, purple dawn brightens in the east.

Soon the others will wake for their morning meal before beginning their day.  Some will scavenge for discarded clothing in the large dumps that line the outer city walls. These will be cleaned and repaired, and useable items will be parceled out to the neediest. The rest will be worked into patchwork quilts, blankets, and tent materials.  Others will head to the mines, trading their health for a chance to carve out a bucket of coal and a few silver coins to keep their families from falling into the malnourished category.  And still others will continue their quest to repair plots of land so that it might be used for growing food. The rest of our group consists of the cooks, the cleaners, and the hunters. I look down at my haul – one rabbit, two squirrels, and some wild onions I managed to forage along the way. Hopefully the others had better luck.

 

Just a piece of art that grabbed at me

Rapid-Fire Randomness…

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What happens when a dream, a conversation, a notification of a cousin’s acceptance into his Archaeological Doctoral program at Yale, and a life-long fascination with Mars all converge?

Possibilities.

Possibilities happen. And, sometimes those possibilities surprise even the the most creatively misunderstood (read: unsuccessful) writers among us!

Such a crazy, random, rapid-fire sequence of events. It reminds me of my son’s (Asperger’s) insistence that 2 + 2 = windowpane. Why? Because he remembers some random math problem that used panes of glass to represent two plus two with the sum total being a window of four panes of glass. But, I digress…back on topic: Hooray for random ideas!

So, now I’m writing. Again. I don’t delude myself into thinking that this will be anything more than an interesting and unique short story, but it will be a story.  All I can hope for now is that it captivates readers as much as it did me when it smacked me upside the head and announced: I’m HEEEEERRRREEEE!

So, This Happened.

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One of the things I really wanted to do was to write some compelling pieces about female sci-fi authors.  And oh my God, have we had some prolific feminine voices in the genre: Margaret Atwood, Ursula Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle, and Octavia Butler – to name just a few! These are writers I grew up reading, some of my favorites that helped me to mesh together a genre that both intrigues me and makes me feel like I can really make a mark in the literary field. They’re the reason I ever wanted to start writing in the first place.  One thing has led to another – and I’ll explain that in a moment, and I haven’t gotten to these pieces – yet.  But I do plan to, in the very near future. In fact, I have a short break coming up that’ll be begging for some writing, so stay tuned.

Now, to get back on point, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never hidden my hopes of, one day, joining this list of authors, even if it were just as a footnote. I would be so thrilled to count myself among these truly talented women.  And, I also know a degree doesn’t make an author.  I know this like I know breathing is necessary to life.  But – and there is always a “but” in my world – while my brain understands this, there is still a small, angry, bitter voice, hiding down in the dark, damp corners of my head, continually feeding me the idea that I am not a strong enough writer.  That my characters are weak, or my plots are too thin.  That I’m really not “good enough.”  If I knew how to smother that voice, I’d already have my pillow in hand but, alas, it still shouts out often enough that I find myself not trusting my own voice, and writing only in fits and spurts.

In an attempt to counter that personal failing, I took some classes and finished a degree I’d started nearly twenty years ago. However, as challenging as these classes were, they weren’t so advanced that they were able to appease my inner-critic, or silence that festering little gremlin.  No, this was just your basic BA.  Not an MA, not an MFA…something to be proud of, sure, but still: not enough.

So, I pushed it just a bit further.  What the hell, I thought, the worst they can do is say “no.”  And then that festering little gremlin can give herself a congratulatory pat on the back and an indulgent grin, and I can move on with my life, content in my perfectly acceptable, normal career of writing web copy and health care marketing pieces. So I sent off my personal statement and two pieces of writing – not my best work, but not my worst either.  They were what I considered mediocre. I’m still not convinced those mediocre pieces being mailed to the school wasn’t an attempt by the festering little gremlin to sabotage my application from the jump.

And then I got the letter.

I won one of sixteen spots for the June Cohort.  I will be going to school for my MFA. NOT my MA, my god damned MFA.  The authors on staff at the school think my work is good enough and shows promise.  The professors think my work is good enough and shows promise.  Me? I’m still on the fence – because I’m a self-deprecating little trollop that thinks everything she writes is “the suck.” But, right now? What I think comes second to what the pros think. And THEY think: Good enough.  And, bonus: that festering little gremlin has gone silent. For now.

Here’s hoping that letter is just the “pillow” I needed to smother that bitch.

Totally Random Musings

So this came across my news feed. I’m not ashamed to admit that my inner DIII Nerd laughed – loudly. ❤

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Throw Back the Curtain

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“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” – Author Unknown

I had just finished setting up my daughter and her friend so they could sack out and watch movies, before heading into my son’s room to settle him in with his kindle and a snack, when my cell started pinging message notifications one after another.  I stopped what I was doing and thought, “Well, something must have happened, and by the sounds of it, it can’t be good.”  So, I hurried up and tucked my son in, and then went to check what all the fuss was about.

It all started with a note on Facebook from a friend…asking our little group a very difficult question: should she…or shouldn’t she?  In the end, she did, of course. She did it because it was the right thing to do, because she is strong, and she is brave. But also because she felt an overwhelming responsibility to her daughter.  A responsibility that demanded she do everything in her power to nurture an environment, a country – a world, for the love of God – worthy of her presence.  One where she will have every opportunity – without strings.

So, you’re probably wondering, “What did she do?” And, that’s a fair question. What she did was throw open the curtain and walk out into the light.  She posted her story, with all its ugly facets and residual, sharply honed shame. She left the shadows and, damn it, she is not going back.

csa_shareable-01-600-600x320-1The story is one of a 17-year-old girl, a freshman at college, at an off-campus party, who was raped.  She didn’t report it because she was ashamed and intimidated. This boy and his friends made her cower in fear – she had to spend the next four years going to the same school. Over the course of our conversation, each and every one of us echoed our support for her by lending our own voices.  One friend recounted her experience: 8 years of physical and mental abuse. She never reported it because all of their friends were mutual.  She was ashamed and afraid – he made sure she stayed afraid. Another added to the conversation: an ex who demanded she abort their child and, when she refused, tried to “abort” the baby himself through physical violence. She never reported it because they were a couple, and she was afraid no one would believe her.  And, of course, I outlined my own experience with sexual/domestic abuse.  The first time, I didn’t report it, I was young 16 at the time, and terrified.  The second time I did report it, and got out.

This is just one small group of friends.  And yet, every one of us had an experience.  The really scary part though?  We were not alone.

On the public post, more women added their stories.  A rape while serving in the military – the victim forced to take an honorable discharge, but only if she remained quiet.  If she complained, or brought charges, that would earn her a dishonorable discharge.  The victim punished and forced out of the Navy because she had the audacity to “get” raped.

All across social media, from Twitter to Facebook, Instagram to Snapchat, women of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds (social and financial) have been coming forward to add their stories, their voices to the swelling tide of rage and disgust that is, at this very moment, sweeping across our country. Enough is enough.

consent#WhyWomenDontReport? Because we’re made to feel ashamed, like it’s all, somehow, our fault.  We’re told: “How were you dressed? Did your clothing ask for it”? “What did you expect, going out to a bar and having a drink?” “Don’t you know you court trouble when walking at night alone?” So, we’d like to address those questions with the following: “My God damned clothing is inanimate and doesn’t ‘speak.’” “I expected to go out for a night with my friends and not get attacked, why is that too much to ask?” “All I was ‘courting’ was getting to my destination unharmed and without being accosted.”  Now take your excuses that place blame on the victim, and shut the hell up.  There’s your answer.  That is why women didn’t report. But, do you hear us now? We are raising our voices and rejecting this twisted version of “how it is.”

We need men, real men, to stand up and support a different kind of narrative. And this should be done publicly, not privately via emails and messages, but right out in the open.  Loud, vociferous, and angry – male voices that offer support, empathy, sympathy and understanding. Because that code is still in place.  That dismissive brand of entitlement that seems to say “all men do it” when, in reality, they don’t. But to remain silent only allows the behavior, the “rape” culture to grow, fester, and bleed out into everyday society, everyday actions.  A society where little boys who hit girls do so because “they have a crush on her” – and it is considered a cute, and no-means-no1valid excuse. Where women can’t venture out into public without rethinking if the shoes they are wearing will allow them to run away if necessary, or if their dress is too clingy, or whether or not they have 911 already dialed into their cell phone, their fingers hovering over the “send” button, as they begin to cross a darkened parking lot to get to their destination. No more. Screw that to hell and back.

It has been said that sunlight is one of the strongest disinfectants – and nothing can hide when the spotlight is cast upon it.  Each one of these voices are throwing back the curtains, and snapping up the shades.  They are calling the light from inside their kitchens, the grocery stores, and the Kindergarten classes, they are screaming out their frustration from the boardrooms and the assembly lines, they are standing up in the crowds at the libraries, on the trains, in the carpools, and at the gyms. Because they’re fed up, they’re pissed off, and they’re just not going to stay silent one second longer.

Over the past few weeks, the conversation has grown into a giant, virulent boil that has finally, painfully – and damn-the-consequences – been lanced.

So, my advice to those who continue to push this “weak wristed” narrative that “real men talk this way,” “real men act this way,” or “it’s just ‘locker-room’ talk,” is to buckle the hell up – because you flipped the “bitch” switch, and we will not stay silent just to make your turn-of-the-century, stunted selves more “comfortable.” In fact, the more you insist this is acceptable, the louder, and more uncomfortable we will make you feel.

This ride has just begun, and you all can either act civilized and keep the hell up, or woman-silhouette-blue-skyget left behind to fade into obscurity.  But make no mistake: under no circumstances will we allow you to push us back into the shadows. #MyVoiceMyStory #IBelieveHerIAmHer