Future Fire

Book news: a nice, thorough review of TABOTD went up yesterday, on the very good site, Future Fire. The review gets to what I was getting at (and not just b/c it’s a good review):

Baum portrays protagonist Myers as a genuine human being, filled with the sort of traits we all share, even the ones we don’t always want others to see and never give voice to. His constant discomfort at his role as either author or prophet of the apocalypse feels genuine; his desire to not have the constant responsibility is understandable. The reader finds Myers easy to identify with and therefore his actions, whatever they may be, seem reasonable.

Everyone hasn’t responded in this way:

Some reviews have said the characters were very real, and that may be so; however, I actually like myself, so I have a hard time relating to somebody who has such a low opinion of themselves on such a deep, psychological level.

I like this part especially:

I don’t mean to say that I agree that an apocalyptic war is the only way to bring about change but… well maybe I do. Policies, however well meaning, will be resisted. Politics are a constant battle between left and right and I don’t think it matters what side of that line you may fall on, we can all probably agree that government may have lost any real interest in governing and is instead more interested in playing a game of thrones. Religion has ever been a huge dividing line, the words of one prophet or another fought over as it has been for centuries and likely will be for centuries to come. Cultures will always try to preserve themselves, which isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it does leave one to wonder if it isn’t just another way we separate ourselves from one another. “Separate but equal” sounds good in theory, but even while many are perfectly fine with it (I count myself among that number), there are just as many who regard that separation with suspicion. While you may define this as largely just the ignorance of the uneducated (as I do) it is difficult to come up with any real piece of social engineering that could break through that ignorance.

This is where the war comes in. Keep in mind that the ideas here come with the caveat that it is known utterly and without question that the survivors will reach a new stage of enlightenment due to their shared experiences and those that fall will absolutely go to “heaven”. Operating with that as a known set of parameters, can I at least see the argument that the war is a valid means of social change? Sure. Even the protagonist Myers wishes there were another way, but seems to accept that there may not be. If the power were put into his hands to try a different route, would he take it? Absolutely. That does not mean, however, that it is impossible to accept the apocalypse war as a means to an end.

I wondered while writing it (and even now) if people were going to think I was advocating that war is necessary. That I’m a eugenicist in disguise. I mean we live in a society that seems bent on destroying itself regardless. If we take Tea Party to its logical extreme, in which social safety nets are stripped totally – no more Medicare, no more Social Security – then we’re looking at a scenario where people are going to die regardless of a war. That may never happen of course, but we’re partway there – imagine a Tea Party president with a majority in every branch. Polling is against these cuts, so it’s a dark fantasy, but it’s not a totally off the wall possibility – especially if you add in the wild-card of Diebold voting. Never a more fictional-sounding name than that one.

Mix this together with Climate Change denial – we might be heading toward an environmental collapse, and half the country is violently opposed to dealing with it, which could just lead to violence unleashed by Mother Nature. So Eugene Myers (and I) are torn between wondering how to fix this broken country. Obviously killing everyone isn’t a solution – and obviously, killing anyone isn’t a solution either. But if we’re headed towards collapse, one could argue its necessary to save ourselves. Unfortunately, this is exactly the logic used Anders Breivik. You need to kill people to save us from destruction. Basically, it doesn’t make sense to kill people based on what might happen. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t wonder what life could be like with the regressive thinkers out of the picture. Right now we have to fight an uphill battle to make no progress.

When such an unradical president as Obama is considered a radical, and when actual radical reconstruction of the country is necessary to steer us from a possibly doomed future, it’s fucking frustrating. It’s hard not to think that we’re in the middle of an ideological war that has yet to fully manifest beyond ideas. It’s actually heartening that there isn’t more politically-motivated violence on a daily basis, given the heat of the rhetoric. There’s a lot of insane language shouted online, but there’s not a lot of insane action. Though I imagine there are people on the left willing to go to war to save the country – just as there are (probably more) on the right. I do have some faith something will come to save us (some technology) before a total meltdown. Humans are a good species, we’re meant to be alive, we’re just not much more civilized than the wild.

So I’m writing these books about a world war (Part I) and civil war (Part II) because I can’t quite see how things progress without a collapse, leading to a total revision of the last 100 years. Whether that comes via a war-like intervention, or just natural disintegration, we’ll have to see. Meantime, in fiction I get some moderate control of the future.

5 Responses

  1. Holly Harris says:

    I just finished The American Book of the Dead. Thank you so much for the free download; that was very generous of you! I have recommended TABOTD to friends. It kept my interest despite my current health problems (while most materials lose my attention – Congrats!) I saw a few typos and a few subjects on which you might have provided a bit more detail, but other than those minor things, it’s a terrific novel! Again, many thanks. Bravo!… I have a theory about why we aren’t seeing REVOLT right now – particularly since the financial meltdown in 2008 and the ever-deepening divide between the wealthy and the poor – antidepressants. I’m both curious and scared to see what will happen once we can’t afford these medications and the veil of apathy is lifted from the masses. I’m too sick to fight but CANNOT believe that good food, healthcare, and education are no longer affordable in this country. This can’t last much longer.

  2. Henry Baum says:

    Thanks a lot for reading and thanks for writing. Yeah, I hope to put out a revised edition when I’m done with Part II – fix some typos, fill it out a bit. It’s a good theory about pharmaceuticals. I looked it up and it’s pretty bleak. Meanwhile, the drugs that might open up people’s minds are illegal.

    Once you take away the adult pacifiers, you’re still left with two groups of mad people: one in support of the poor, one in support of the rich. Wisconsin showed that Americans can rise up. Somehow, Wisconsin-style protesters and the Tea Party have to band together. Somehow the TP have to stop their fetishization of the rich. I’m not entirely sure how that can happen without a breakdown that’s so brazenly obvious that there’s no choice but to revolt. The theory of we’re only four meals away from revolution. People might have to literally starve before taking action – because if life’s generally OK and it’s only bad for other people, then most will be fine with the status quo.

    Meantime, there’s the wildcard of religion – as the Dick Cheney guy in the book says, religion is the quickest way to get people fighting each other. One side wanting religious law, the other side opposing it. A sort of intellectual starvation that calls people to action.

    Anyway, thanks again, I really appreciate it, and be well.

  3. Don Campbell says:

    It’s that intellectual starvation that worries me. We seem to live in an anti-intellectual society where having knowledge is frowned upon. This is occurring during the most information rich era in human history, which is the most mindblowing part of it to me. The Internet gives us what amounts to the sum total of all human knowledge available to us at our fingertips. With smartphones, you can access this knowledge virtually anywhere, any time. Despite this unprecedented access to knowledge, the best use most people can make of it, apparently, is playing Farmville.

    I said most of what I had to say in the review except for this: I got the review list late this last time because I was in the middle of moving across the country and there weren’t very many titles left on it. TABOTD was the only one that looked halfway interesting. I am exceedingly glad I had limited options, however, because otherwise I may have skipped over it and that would have been my loss. Looking forward to Pt II.

  4. Henry Baum says:

    Yeah, this is puzzling – the fact that there’s more information available and people are becoming more entrenched. But cognitive dissonance is more powerful than the information itself. People see new information, get scared by it, and dig in deeper. Over time, though, new information will reach more and more people and things can get better. Just hopefully the lunatics don’t take over before that happens.

    Thanks again for the review.

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