Sunday, April 1, 2018

Dear Children, We Have Failed You.



A common theme surrounding the current hysterical calls for gun control is that adults have failed, and it's time for the children to come up with the solutions.

Never mind that only about 10% of the participants at The March For Our Lives were teenagers. Never mind that the organization and funding came from adults.
Never mind the endless adoring coverage from the legacy media.
Never mind the "spontaneous walk-outs" organized, encouraged and in some cases mandated by the schools.

The narrative is clear: the kids should take over and show the rest of us how it's done.
Because we the adults have failed.

And, in truth, we have.

My generation grew up during the tail end of the Cold War. We watched the Berlin Wall come down and the once-unstoppable Soviet Union fall apart. Those were heady times. People smarter than us spoke of the end of history. Freedom was on the march throughout the world and there was no stopping it.

Sure, there have been quibbling at the edges as to the causes of the fall of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev received the Noble Peace Prize. Ronald Reagan's iconic "Tear Down This Wall" line has gone down in history even though most of the mainstream historians steadfastly refuse to give him any credit. But for the most part, especially as more details emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, everyone has accepted the fact that human progress towards freedom had been inevitable all along.

Those on the Right took it as validation that Western system of government has stood the test of time. Those on the Left decried the resources spent on the military and celebrated the peace dividend.

It was all good.

The mighty enemy was gone, its ideology defeated.

We could, pardon the expression of unfortunate origins, declare victory and go home.

And so we had.

With no visible external threat to worry about, we had our chance to give our children the best, most prosperous future that we could.

We obsessed over child safety. We baby-proofed our homes, searched out the safest crib designs, took hours to perfectly install that car seat and endlessly fretted about chemicals and allergens in baby food.


We read all the books, and we were going to get it right. Because, unlike the prior generations, whose worldview was colored by wars and ideological strife, we could afford the luxury.

Our error was as tragic as it was, in retrospect, obvious.

We'd become complacent.

We allowed our political leaders to take more and more control of our lives while we weren't paying attention.

Worse, and most unforgivably, while spending all our energy on keeping our children safe in body, we forgot to protect their minds.

We left both their entertainment and their education to the professionals, but we never stopped to check who those professions were, and, let's face it, had always been.

With the parenting books telling us to "trust the child," we hesitated to correct and question the ideas our children acquired from an early age. We thought a four-year-old crying that we were killing the planet, or a five-year old refusing to eat a hamburger was precocious and adorable. Our children were so smart! So advanced! They cared so much! Of course, they would surely outgrow the silliness and recognize the reality. Let them explore the ideas and think for themselves. After all, that's what modern schooling was about: teaching the children to think for themselves rather than forcing them to memorize all the boring facts.

We didn't so much miss the warning signs as we chose to ignore them.

In part, it was lack of time, what with both parents working as hard as they could to make sure we could still afford that house in the suburbs, where our kids could go to the best public schools. (And those "free" schools don't come cheap, but who can quibble with yet another local tax increase that would be going towards better education?).

But mostly, and let's be honest here, we simply didn't want to rock the boat. We didn't challenge the school curriculum, or whatever ideas individual teachers chose to feed into our children't minds under the guise of education. After all, we wanted to stay in good graces with the teachers and the school administrators. We wanted our children to have the best grades and the best behavior records. We were looking forward to filling out those college admission apps and having to ask teachers for recommendations. So why bother to challenge the status quo? What can one parent do against the whole educational system?

And so we waited and hoped. Our kids were smart. They had all the resources. Surely they would not be satisfied to simply read the books and listen to the teachers? They were bound to rebel eventually, to start asking questions, just like every generation before them?

Our hopes were in vain.

The new generation is "rebelling" not by asking questions, but by mindlessly repeating what they've been taught. They march hand in hand with their radical elders, demanding for their rights to be taken away, while claiming to own the future.

And make no mistake about it, we of Generation X bear much of the blame.

But all is not lost.

I, for one, refuse to wallow in generational guilt and to leave the world to the screeching multitudes of the brainwashed. We can acknowledge with brutal honesty what went wrong and refuse to double down on our mistakes.

We can teach those willing to be taught.
We can fight those who need to be defeated.
(And we would do well to learn the difference.)

What we can't do is despair and step aside.

There is a scene in my dystopian novel Chasing Freedom where a young man is wondering what it was like to live in the days when freedom was taken for granted, and how it all went wrong.

We know the answer to both.

What we do with that knowledge is up to us.

Dear children, we have indeed failed you. But rest assured, we are not giving up. Join us, and help us fix this broken world. You have nothing to lose but the chains of nihilism, hate and despair thrust upon you by those who wish to keep controlling your minds.

Don't let them.
Choose life.
Choose freedom.
Choose the future of your own making.

Let's get to work.





Sunday, February 4, 2018

Papa Pat Rambles: "MAGA 2020 & Beyond," by the Usual Suspects


This substantial and highly complimentary review of MAGA 2020 & Beyond is especially gratifying because the reviewer, whose political affiliation is hard to pin down, understands exactly what we set out to accomplish. This anthology is meant as a celebration, both of the unlikely political victory and of all the possibilities that come as a result.

I appreciated the reviewer's kind words about my two contributions to the anthology. Of course, I am in very good company since every other story and essay has something to offer, as you will see in the mini-reviews Mr. Patterson provides.

In addition, his personal commentary on the current state of our great country is worth reading in tis own right even if you're not (or maybe especially if you're not) a fan of the President.

Papa Pat Rambles: "MAGA 2020 & Beyond," by the Usual Suspects:     My Amazon review, which needs votes, has yet to be released by the Amazon crew, after 22 hours. Coincidence, or conspiracy? You dec...

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Night For Freedom NYC



Last night it was my privilege to attend A Night For Freedom event hosted by Mike Cernovich. The event had been repeatedly misrepresented and sabotaged by the Left even before it began, and I spent most of yesterday on Twitter following the organizer's scramble to find yet another venue after two others reneged on their contracts at the last moment. I'm not generally conspiracy minded, but it did look to me as a concerted effort to stop the event from happening. Whether the two different venue owners were paid off/intimidated, or were intending to cancel all along will be for the lawyers to untangle. The bottom line was, the opposition was bound and determined to keep a few hundred people from getting together and having fun at a private venue.

To re-phrase an old joke about Jewish Holidays:

They tried to stop us. They failed. Let's party.

Oh yes, I'm going there. The fervor seen on the Left to shut down all dissent absolutely comes from the same place as ancient tyrannies that practiced religious prosecution. Fortunately, in this country, they don't have the power of the State to support their desire to silence and if necessary kill those who do not share their worldview.

Or rather, they don't have it YET. Every time someone nods approvingly at a "Punch-a-Nazi" joke, we inch closer to the day when incidents like the unprovoked attacks at the attendees last night become the norm. And that is when the First Amendment becomes just words on paper.

No, we are not yet there. But we can't dismiss the urgency of our situation either. Citizens who have lost their right to think and speak different ideas, and to get together to discuss those ideas, are no longer free.

And so I was, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, after 30 years in the country that's been a beacon of freedom to the world, about to attend an equivalent of a dissident meeting.

If that was not enough cause for trepidation, I came to the event alone, which is something I almost never do.

Naturally, this being an "Alt-Right" event and all, I quickly came across a group of Russian/Ukrainian Jews and spent most of the main program hanging out with those fine gentlemen, bonding over our love of Ayn Rand and making fun of feminism. They also introduced me to Michael Malice, a Ukrainian-born writer and commentator best known for his book Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il. 




What's that, you say? This doesn't sound like the "Alt-Right" crowd at all? Well, who are you going to believe, mainstream media or someone who was actually in the room?

The program itself was ranging from inspiring to pure fun, with everything in between. Owen Benjamin channelled the late George Carlin at his edgiest, and performed a large part of it as musical numbers to boot. Michael Malice presented an optimistic spin on the current cultural and technological challenges and advances. Jack Prosobiec did a spoken word performance tribute to the American flag. Gavin McInnes was his usual irreverently hilarious self.



But the best speech of the evening, somewhat to my surprise, came from a Canadian political commentator Stefan Molyneux. He encouraged us to ask a question that may of us immersed in the culture war and political strife often forget.



We all know what we're against. In fact, we know it so well it's possible to spend days, weeks and even months in a state of simmering anger at what is being done to the country we so love under the guise of common good and political correctness.

But what is it that we are FOR?

Generally speaking, movements built only on destroying the status quo, no matter how tyrannical, end up either failing entirely or turn into their own form of tyranny when they prevail. But also, for practical purposes, it's easier to convince people to follow you if you can present a vision of the world YOU want to build. Tempting as it is to say, "Let's just defeat the Left and we'll figure out the rest later," we do need to know OUR vision and we must be able to present it in a coherent way.

And this, for me, is one of the bigger takeaways from the event. It's important to fight, and I will always support those willing take on the modern version of Thought Control Police. But in the long run it's also important to present an inspiring, positive vision of the future. A Night For Freedom was more than a political event. It was also a party, a celebration, complete with almost two hours of dancing, and I suppose our the fact that our last-minute venue was an actual nightclub was very appropriate.

While Left-wing artists lament loss of creativity because their favorite candidate lost an election, we are the ones having fun: partying, creating, and inspiring. This is how we get people on our side. And this, friends, is how we win.

Speaking of Winning, Superversive Press has lowered the price for MAGA 2020 and Beyond to celebrate the first Anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration. Pick it up and enjoy stories and essays that present a positive, optimistic future. Happy Reading! 


Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy 2018! Looking Behind and Planning Ahead.

Putting a certain scientist of outstanding pomposity aside, there is always a special feeling that comes with ushering in a New Year. Unlike personal milestones, such as a birthday or an anniversary, this one is universally understood across generations and cultures. Even for those, like myself, whose religious New Year does not coincide with a secular December 31st celebration, the date is still significant.

It is always useful, after all, to take time to assess where you've been and plan where you want to go. Doing it with a glass of bubbly in your hand, and sharing the experience with millions around the world, is as good a way as any.

As a woman of a certain age, I am surprised and gratified that 2017 was a year of challenges and learning.

My first-ever visit to Dragoncon, covered in detail in this podcast, and also in my guest post at Uprising Review was more than an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. I also showed me that perhaps I'm not as much of an introvert as I always thought. I didn't mind the crowds. (OK, I wasn't happy about standing online for 2hrs trying and failing to get into the Alton Brown show, but nevertheless...). I loved chatting with strangers in the Con Suite and taking photos with cosplayers. I even enjoyed every introvert's nightmare: participating in a panel. But of course one of the highlights of the visit was randomly running into John Ringo outside one of the host hotels. And yes, I shook his hand and told him I was a fan and he was gracious enough to chat. On the whole, the Dragoncon experience is hard to describe except that now I fully understand why people come year after year for decades.



In terms of creative news, writing for and helping put together the Superversive Press anthology MAGA 2020 and Beyond was the biggest event of my year. As one of the editors for the project, I got to work with both new an experienced writers, and my interactions with them were both positive and rewarding. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I might be doing more editing in the future should an opportunity present itself. The SQUEEE moment, of course, came when I lucked into editing the Foreword by one of my favorite celebrities (if that's the proper word): Milo Yainnopoulos. In light of the current controversy, I am happy to report he delivered a very clean copy and took all the edits 😀


There were other interesting new experiences, included but not limited to: finally visiting Washington, D.C. and taking tour of the White House (hey, my Congressman turned out to be good for SOMETHING!); getting yelled at in a convenience store parking lot for wearing a MAGA hat; getting blocked on Twitter by a Senior Editor at National Review; and being a guest on an L.A. broadcast radio show The Writer's Block.

Plans for 2018? A this point in my life, I'm not too much of a planner because life has a way of changing things. However, I have already booked my next Dragoncon trip, and as for my other goals... More writing, challenging myself, and making new friends on- off-line.

Happy, healthy and prosperous 2018 to all my readers, and thanks for sticking around!




Sunday, December 17, 2017

Movie Review: The Last Jedi




First, some background:

1. My familiarity with the Star Wars Universe begins and ends with the movies. I have not read any of the books and so am entirely indifferent to any deviation from the beloved Extended Universe canon.
2. I disliked both the Prequels and The Force Awakens, the former for just being drek and the latter for the missed opportunities which in the end made it more disappointing.
3. I skipped Rogue One entirely because of the super-obnoxious pre-release behavior by those involved with the movie. I heard the movie itself was very good, and I might see it someday as a library rental.
4. I was reluctant to be disappointed again, and pay $20 plus food for the privilege, but decided to give the Star Wars series one last try. Part of me was hoping this would be the time to give up and move on with my life since quite frankly I'm burned out on the endless Hollywood reboots and sequels.

Unfortunately for my wallet, I will not be giving up on the series quite yet. In fact (excluding Rogue One, which I haven't seen and thus cannot judge) this is my favorite of the new crop of Star Wars movies.

The new entry had a long way to go, as far as I was concerned, to make up for the artistic brain fart that was TFA, and the list of accomplishments is rather impressive. Mind you, these are MY pet peeves from TFA that have been addressed. YMMV.

1. Finn in TFA existed only to a) provide stunt casting, by director's own admission and b) make Rey look even more of a Mary Sue than she already was. It's almost like the writers said "Let's have a black character because we must, but he can't be too interesting or accomplish much because Rey must be the hero at all times." In the sequel, he comes onto his own, stops being Rey's comic-relief sidekick, and fully, voluntarily, accepts his identity as "Rebel scum" rather than being pulled along by forces not of his choosing. The caper subplot gets a resounding Meh on the whole, but it's worth it for giving Finn a character arc and potentially a love interest who isn't Rey, which again goes with him becoming his own man.

2. Poe, much like Finn was not allowed any character development in TFA (and having since enjoyed Oscar Isaac's performance in The Promise, I became extra annoyed at the waste of talent the more I thought about it). Aside from setting in motion a couple of plot points, he really had no reason to be there. Again, in the sequel he gets a full character arc, growing from a brash "flyboy" to a mature leader. My only complaint is that the character as written (someone brave and skilled but hotheaded, with much to learn from his elders) was better suited for a younger actor.

3. Rey, who was a May Sue to end all Mary Sues, and an unlikable one at that, has become someone different. Still stubborn and occasionally obnoxious, but... vulnerable, willing to ask for help, open to making human connections (she may or may not be falling for Finn, but the fact that the possibility exists is refreshing). Also, the writers go at least through a nominal demonstration that yes, she actually is very good with the staff and it might explain her previously unbelievable skill with the light saber. A small thing, but something I appreciated. And, not to go all spoiler-y, but she does make a mistake, and a big one. Still a Mary Sue? Perhaps, but not in a dumb, in-your-face manner of the previous movie.

4. Kylo Ren is not longer a pathetic youngster to be dismissed. More on him later.

Now that I got TFA out of the way, what of the new developments? Let me cover the highlights so as not to give too many spoilers.

The biggest "shoot-me-now" moments for me were with the new CGI creatures. They're beyond silly and don't add anything to the story except some lame comic relief. I get the merchandising part, I really do, and none of this compares to the travesty that was Jar Jar, but it made and overly long move seem even longer.

The over-abundance of women leaders, while taken to ridiculous heights with the new commanding officer sporting pink hair and a long evening gown, was not, for ME, entirely out of place. In a Rebellion that is both long-running and constantly facing superior forces, it might stand to reason that it's mostly women who'd made it to an old age. Or at least that's the symbolism I'm seeing in this setup, perhaps not intended by the writers. In times of war, men run towards the enemy, and women carry on so the civilization, and hope, survives. Societies decimated by war can and do end up with a matriarchy of sorts. It so happens, I grew up in one of those, so it just might be my perspective.

And now, the most important question of all. Did Luke as a character get ruined?

No.

I can't say any more without spoilers, but while his fate is sad, the manner in which it's handled is neither overly depressing nor nihilistic. In a way, the character comes full circle, and it feels right.

Back to Kylo Ren.

He is, intentionally or not, a Millennial villain. Having gotten over the worship of his grandfather, he is intent on obliterating the past as a way to a better future. If this sounds disturbingly familiar, it's probably because you've been paying attention to real-life news over the last few years.

I have to admit to laughing inappropriately during a big scene (you'll know it when you see it) because at some point I looked at Kylo Ren and thought, "Now he will scream helplessly at the sky."

And he did.

And I giggled.

It broke the mood of a truly poignant scene, but I couldn't help it. This was one of those moments where art and real life met, and quite possibly I was the only one with that reaction. That's the thing about art. It has layers. I can't say, though, that this was my favorite scene.

That honor belongs to the very end of the movie, and this is why I think it's worth seeing.

There are forces at work, in our own time and place, who would do away with heroes and legends, who say we've outgrown the need, and the key to success and progress lies in leaving those behind or, better yet, destroying them altogether.

The closing scene responds to this attitude with a quiet but determined rebuke. And in that alone, it recaptures something the old Star Wars had and the series just might, belatedly, recapture again: a sense of wonder, hope, and the future that's worth fighting for.

Go see it, and make up your own mind.










Thursday, December 14, 2017

Movie Review: Silenced



As regular readers might remember from my several posts on the culture war and censorship, I consider free speech one of the most important issues of our time. Aside from it being a basic human right enshrined  most prominently in our Bill of Rights, it is also a pragmatic necessity for our civilization's survival, for one simple reason.

You can't solve a problem you can't name.

And boy oh boy do we have a boatload of Problems-That-Cannot-Be-Named.

Oh, we're all aware they exist. We whisper of them amongst the like-minded, looking over our collective shoulders. We discuss them in closed Facebook groups and on Discord chats, forever fretting about spies and suspensions. But for the most part, we have all agreed that some things are just off-limits out in the open, at least if you want to keep whatever it is that's precious to you. For some, it's a job; for others, family harmony; for still others, long-term friendships. The reasons are valid, and sometimes even admirable, but the consequences of such decisions slowly accumulated over the last decade or more to bring us to one undeniable fact.

We are all Silenced.

And now, thanks to the efforts of Mike Cernovich, Loren Feldman and many dedicated supporters who'd provided the funds, we have a chance to explore the magnitude of the problem and possible solutions.

The documentary introduces a collection of speakers from different walks of life and of wildly varying respectability/fame/notoriety. They are clips rather than complete interviews, giving an overall effect of unfiltered, unedited expression, even though the choice and placement of different clips is anything but accidental. At first, the format is jarring as we jump from one person to the next with little time to digest the content. However, but at some point the pattern emerges, and we begin to see that each participant is telling an important part of the story, much as all the pieces of a kaleidoscope create a picture.

Allan Dershowitz gets a much-deserved top billing, in part because he is perhaps the most mainstream name in the group, but mostly because he's got all the best lines (sorry, Milo!). I wish some of those thoughts could be put on T-shirts and worn on college campuses, although part of me worries about the violence or at least expulsions and firings that might result.

Other contributors range from famous to unknown, sympathetic to "cross-the-street-to-avoid," highly intellectual to plain spoken. Some tell stories of having been censored or disemployed, while others simply explain their personal views on the importance free expression. More importantly, we see the cost of both soft and hard censorship, not just in political discussions and entertainment, but in areas that affect us on a daily basis (medical research is a particularly stark, yet unsurprising, example).

Different races, religions, sexual orientations and political ideologies are represented, not because someone in the back room was checking off diversity boxes but because freedom of speech is just that important. Some of the participants would likely not wish to be in the same building with each other, and yet here they all are, getting (virtually) together to speak up for the one thing on which they happen to agree.

Free speech is precious.

It is rare.

And we, who have been blessed with it, dare not lose it.

Let us be Silenced no more.

Silenced is available on Amazon (free with Prime).




Friday, December 8, 2017

The Writer's Block Radio Show Interview

On December 7th, I had the privilege of being interviewed on The Writer's Block Radio Show. The show is unique in that the hosts take time to read the books and so are able to discuss them in depth. In my case, Jim chose to read The Product and Bobbi took Chasing Freedom. We talked about my choice of dystopia as a preferred writing genre, the different characters and concepts in my books and of course the ups and downs of the creative process.

It was my first time being interviewed by hosts I didn't know personally through online interaction, and it was a pleasure meeting both Jim Christina and Bobbi Bell. It was an all-around fun experience, even though we spent a while discussing some rather heavy topics. Those who heard my interviews in other venues will still hear plenty of new material because many of the questions were really interesting and different. I hope my answers would prove interesting as well. Enjoy!


Oh and of course: BUY MY BOOKS :)