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?


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 :) 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Book Review: Cadain's Watch by Daniella Bova

I must admit I approached this book with trepidation, for two reasons.

My first and most obvious thought was, "Hey, a dystopian novel set in the near-future U.S., told mostly from the points of view of several characters from the resistance movement? That sounds an awful lot like my own novel. How could I possibly enjoy it without constantly making comparisons, for better or worse?"

The second source of hesitation came from the presence of a Christian Angel as a character. I've seen some discussions as to the difficulty of writing real-world (rather than imaginary) religions, in particular Christianity, into fiction. After all, having an all-powerful God explicitly on the side of the heroes removes much of the suspense in the outcome, at least on the macro level. The story can still be great, mind you, but generally speaking it's not what I prefer to read.

That said, I was somewhat familiar with Daniella Bova's writings from a couple of her published short stories, so I decided to give her full-length novel a try.

As it turned out, in spite of superficial similarities of the premise, this novel is nothing like mine, and it's a good thing. If nothing else, it answers the common complaint that nowadays we have too many dystopias, and they're all alike.

Well, not this one.

A few things immediately stand out, before you even get to the supernatural element. The main characters are older, and they have families. It's understandable why most dystopias focus on the young and the unattached. It's hard to rebel against the government, no matter how oppressive, when you have family to feed, and when said government can come after your wife and kids if you step out of line. On the other hand, in reality, people will more readily fight and die for their loved ones than for an idea, and this is the approach this author takes. Yes, there are some characters who join the resistance because it's the right thing to do, but for the most part, it's a timeless tale of hard men in hard times fighting to protect their wives and kids.

Not that women are entirely absent from the story. They also, for the most part, serve the timeless role as protectors, nurturers and teachers, and thus the keepers of civilization in a broken world. At least such are the women on the side of the Light. Some of the main villains are also women, but only nominally so, for by the time we meet them, they have lost all right to be called human, let alone members of the fair sex.

As for the Angel Cadain, he serves as an occasional narrator for the story, both to fill in the blanks in the overall picture and to show us the thoughts and actions of some of the non-POV characters. For that I am grateful because let's face it, there are some heads where you as a reader will not want to spend any time. Does it break the traditional narrative structure? Does it nevertheless make for a more readable story? Yes to both.

To answer my original concern, while Cadain does put the finger on the scales, as it were, to encourage, guide and occasionally outright help the heroes, the actual work is all done by men, and as a result not everything works the way it's planned, not every battle won, and not every heartache avoided. And so, nail-biting suspense scenes abound, even in this setup.

On a side note, while reading this novel, especially the parts with the supernatural element, I was reminded of an article by one of the Jewish scholars on the story of Passover. The miracle of the Parting of the Red Sea is one of the great examples of Divine help given to the righteous. However, some scholars claim that Moses had to first walk into the Red Sea and keep walking until the water was all the way up to his nose, and only then, once he--as a man--had gone as far as he could, did the Miracle occur to take him and the rest of the Jews safely across.

And that's the reason why the novel works on this level. The men fight, struggle and suffer, but there is hope and help available to pull them through, and the reason it doesn't feel like an easy way out is because none of it, not a single action or decision or sacrifice is easy. Every victory comes at a price, and all of it is earned.

Is it a flawless story? No, not really, although for the most part my criticisms are subjective. The pace is slow, and only in part because the author tends to the wordy, but also the writing on the whole is more literary than common to the genre. It's very much "a journey, not a destination" kind of read, and frankly your enjoyment will hinge on how much you like spending time with the characters. To me, the protagonists, both male and female, are easy to like, in spite (because?) of the guys acting like real-life blue collar Americans, complete with love of smokes, whiskey and colorful language. Which reminds me: this is not your typical Christian fiction. There's foul language, occasionally cringe-inducing violence and many scenes and references that are downright disturbing. That is a feature, not a bug, because a dystopia should disturb, even though this one unlike many others also gives you a large measure of hope.

 All in all, it's not "light" reading by any definition, but it's worth your time and emotional investment. Recommended.

Purchase Cadain's Watch on Amazon