Author Persecution? Sounds Like Free Advertising!

Last Tuesday, I did a speech for my political discourse class on extremist literary censorship.  In researching for it, I came across some interesting stuff – some of it depressing, naturally, but some of it encouraging.  The thing that really stood out to me is how often attempts to stifle dissent via literature actually strengthen writers’ abilities – instead of being allowed to point out specifics in their own societies, they have to dig deeper and find the universal.  They have to learn to put their theme between the lines, avoid preaching it outright, hone their ability to write with subtlety.  All of those skills are important to good writing, especially if a writer values social commentary.

The other beautiful irony of banned books and persecuted authors is the number of times that such bad publicity backfires and simply becomes free advertising.  Let this be a lesson to any writers who worry about being controversial….  I hope somebody with serious motivation decides my book is dangerously subversive and obscenely irreverent.  Maybe if they’re loud-mouthed enough, it’ll spark a publisher’s interest – ha!

And I really must finally get around to reading some Upton Sinclair soon, because I have a newfound fondness for him based on the fact that, when Oil was banned in Boston, he paraded through the streets reading obscene passages from the book of Genesis and from Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a protest….  Has to be the best protest modus operandi I’ve heard of recently.

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Friday Exercise – We’re All Mad Here

I’ve had a series of interesting discussions (based around quantum mechanics) this week which have touched on the orderly/chaotic nature of the universe, the nature of consciousness and/or linear time, probability and the multiverse, and, well, to be Douglas Adams about it, Life, the Universe, and Everything.

This in itself is good fuel for the fiction fire, especially if you lean toward speculative fiction (as I do).  Gets the gears of imagination turning (yes, I know I just mixed metaphors, but it was in two separate sentences and this is an informal blog post, not high literature, okay?) and sparks all kinds of ideas (maybe the gears of imagination have little metal shavings rattling around which are fire hazards, which would make all three of the metaphors I’ve now mixed in these two sentences tie together into one cohesive and acceptable metaphor).

Anyway, there is plenty of inspiration to be had from reading/discussing quantum theory, but even without getting into the complex and confusing scientific end of things, I love a good long look at different perceptions of reality.  Are events random and coincidences meaningless, or are they shaped somehow?  If they’re shaped, what shapes them?  A divine being, a sub-cellular connection of some sort, the influence of a conscious universe trying to work through an identity crisis?  Is there predestiny?  Is it easy to alter the course of events, with one tiny decision changing the whole world through a ripple effect?  Or does reality re-align itself, pulling in other little coincidences to re-stablize what was thrown off?

For that matter, concepts as simple as pessimism and optimism are realities that we live in or fight against.  In the same world, we have people who function from a reality in which all good things are possible with a little kindness and effort, and others who function from a reality in which all things have an ulterior motive and the best you can hope for is to avoid falling into traps by being naive about how devious the world in general really is.  Sounds like two different worlds entirely – and yet, it’s just two different perceptions of the same thing.  And neither is entirely right nor entirely wrong.

So with all this kind of thing in mind, pick two viewpoints on reality which, at least on the surface, completely contradict each other.  Now, assume that both these viewpoints are entirely correct, and that they’re both entirely incorrect.  Free write about it, just mulling it over to yourself.  Or if characters come to you – one conflicted character who is faltering between these two viewpoints, or has a simultaneous belief in both; two characters at odds with each other because they have opposing viewpoints, or two characters who have opposing perspectives but still get along, balancing each other – then give your characters a scene to play out.  Or if it gives you an idea for an entire plot, start writing it and let this clash of ideas be the theme behind the story.