#CSFFBlogTour: ‘Rebels’ and Dystopian Fiction

Rebels Jill WilliamsonThis post is for the Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy blog tour. I should have posted it yesterday but I got sick and instead spent my time petting cats and watching Dancing With The Stars. Dexter and Castle.

This book made me mad at author Jill Williamson. Because it’s the last book in the trilogy and I never, ever, ever wanted it to end. I found it endlessly re-readable as I find The Hunger Games, and that’s rare for me in Christian fiction. Because though I’m a Christian (Catholic flavor) most of my favorite authors are secular, with the exception of Orson Scott Card (who’s Mormon flavor).

So, you may have guessed that in this blog tour I’m not going to be channeling my inner Len Goodman (the mean judge on Dancing With The Stars). Instead, today I’m going to be talking a little bit about Dystopian fiction.

The term ‘dystopian’ is the trendy way to refer to science fiction novels, usually ‘YA’, set in a ‘negative utopia’.  (The term was coined by Thomas More, who became a saint when he stood up for his Catholic faith against the demands of King Henry VIII and lost his head for it.)

The Hunger Games is set in such a negative utopia, as is The Safe Lands series of which ‘Rebels’ is the conclusion. One can ask what are the influences behind the creation of the fictional dystopias in these and other books.

I believe that a major influence on all fictional dystopias created in our time are the real-world dystopias of the totalitarian regimes of the last century, some of which continue to exist and harm their citizens even today. Think of North Korea, where you can spend life in a labor camp due to your brother’s crime, and your children, born in the camp, will stay there for life as well. Or China, where women pregnant out of wedlock, or who already have their one permissible child, are forced to abort, even as late as the ninth month.

These two examples are socialist based totalitarianism. All of the great totalitarian regimes of the previous century were socialism-based, though they represented two different forms of socialism.

  1. The international socialists, also called Bolsheviks and communists, first came to power in the Russian revolution. They murdered people for being from aristocratic families, including the children of the tsar. They turned churches into museums of atheism or places to park tractors. They had a system of Gulags— prison camps. One leader, Stalin, killed about 7 million Ukrainians by taking away their food harvest and then forbidding them to leave Ukraine to find food. International socialist totalitarian regimes existed in the Soviet block countries of Europe, in China, North Korea and Vietnam, and in Cuba.
  2. The national socialists were more pragmatic. Rather than waiting until their countrymen were ready for a revolution in favor international socialism, they incorporated nationalism into their party programs and came to power by elections. The national socialists include the Fascist regime of Italy and the National Socialist (Nazi) regime in Germany.

Fictional dystopias may parallel these real ones, intentionally on the part of the author or not. Or they may represent an attempt to be as different as possible from these real-world horrors. Most have elements of both.

In The Safe Lands series, the dystopia came into being as a result of a plague. The Safe Lands authorities encouraged a wild, self-indulgent lifestyle with lots of drugs and casual sex. And they encouraged a reincarnation belief to help people accept ‘liberation’ at age 40 without rebelling. In all these ways the dystopia is a contrast to the real-world ones.

But there is total control over people’s lives as in real-world totalitarian regimes. Men and women are required to participate in forced artificial reproduction. The resulting children are raised by the state. Dissidents and other rule-breakers may be punished by ‘premature liberation’, which to inhabitants of the Safe Lands sounds a lot like death.

Jill Williamson, author of The Safe Lands trilogy

Jill Williamson, author of The Safe Lands trilogy

To buy the book ‘Rebels’ by Jill Williamson, go here:

http://www.amazon.com/Rebels-Safe-Lands-Jill-Williamson/dp/0310735777/

To visit author Jill Williamson’s website, go here:

http://www.jillwilliamson.com/

Blog tour participants:

Visit these blogs and see what other people have to say about Jill Williamson’s Rebels and The Safe Lands series.
Julie Bihn
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Vicky DealSharingAunt
April Erwin
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Jeremy Harder
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Melanie @ Christian Bookshelf Reviews
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa Annakindt you are here
Writer Rani
Audrey Sauble
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Elizabeth Williams

COMMERCIAL MESSAGES (feel free to ignore)
free poetry e-book: 

texture_248 surly petunia ebookIf you like explosively eccentric poetry that’s sometimes funny and always a might peculiar, try my just-published chapbook, surly petunia. As you can see I’m too poor to afford capital letters in the title. 😉

Smashwords: (free e-book) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/480237Amazon.com: (they made me charge 99 cents) http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NZ96EYE

My e-mail list:

Shrek-pleading-catEnjoying the eccentricity of this blog and/or my poetry? Then you might want to join my email list. You’ll be updated on any of my publications— a new poetry chapbook and a (dystopian) sci-fi serial story are in the works— and maybe even receive my mom’s top secret Christmas cookie recipe.

Link for e-mail list: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr

END OF COMMERICIAL MESSAGES

You may now resume your normal life.

 

Advertisements

#PoetryPantry 220: socks are underwear, after all

texture_248 surly petunia ebook

I’ve just published a chapbook/e-book called surly petunia, containing 24 of my poems. And so I’m sharing today one of the poems from surly petunia, one that was published in HEATHENzine Aug/Sept 1990. This blog post is for Poetry Pantry #220 on Poets United.

socks are underwear, after all!

eating spaghetti with a cattle prod

the small byzantine child asks

mother may i keep this fish head

it followed me home

& the mother

a neophyte carpet prostitute, says

yes but only if you

drink your opium

all gone

1990

This poem is an example of the ‘bizarre world’ theme that runs throughout much of my poetic output. Does it have a serious, deeper meaning? Maybe. Maybe not. Is the deeper meaning you are finding any relationship to any of the ones I might have had in mind? Probably not. Unless you are weird, like me. (Weird like me— that sound like a great title for a manifesto.)

surly petunia

This chapbook I consider a sampler of my work and so I set the e-book price at Smashwords to free. (The next chapbook won’t be free— it’s all part of my sinister plot to get off SSI disability and have a life.)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/480237

It will also be on Kindle, where it will cost 99 cents. (Eventually I think it will be free on Kindle because of price-matching, so if you are low on funds, wait, or else download the epub version from Smashwords and use free software ‘calibre’ to convert it to mobi/Kindle format).

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NZ96EYE

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00NZ96EYE?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Amazon India: http://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B00NZ96EYE?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

If anyone reading this post is thinking about producing their own book or chapbook at Smashwords or Kindle Direct Publishing, and you have questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section.

Chiron Review

001Three of my poems, juror expend, drastic quotient and Red Cholera Blossoms have been published in issue #97 of Chiron Review.  I’d written to the editor recently because my records stated that three of my poems had been accepted for publication there in 1990, but I never got a contributor’s copy and couldn’t afford to subscribe. He checked his records and found that the poems had not been published, but he invited me to resubmit. I sent 2 of the original poems, and because the third had gotten lost over the years, I included a sijo, Red Cholera Blossoms. All three were accepted! And so I want to encourage all poets and would-be poets out there— don’t be afraid! If a crazy cat lady with Asperger Syndrome can get her poems published in a cool ‘zine like Chiron Review, you can get poems published, too! Just keep writing, submitting, and improving your craft.

E-mail list sign-up

Yes, I have an e-mail list. I’m going to be sending out updates when my books become available.

The form to sign up is at: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr

Writing As ‘Creating Product’

Do You Have Goals bannerThis is a post for the Do You Have Goals/The Five Year Project blog hop.

My goal for the purposes of this blog hop is ‘finish and publish a novel or two.’  One of the things I’ve been doing to meet my goal is that I’ve been reading up on self-publishing. Most recently I’ve read Write. Publish. Repeat. and one thing that caught my attention was the focus on self-publishing as a business.

I think I’ve begun to think of it like farming. The farmer plants crops, tends them, and then sells them. When I write I am planting my crop. Revisions/proofreading means I am tending the crop. When the crop has matured I am ready to put it up for sale.

A moody farmer who plants only when his farming ‘muse’ inspires him would not be able to produce enough product consistently to create a survivable income. In the same way, if I write only when I feel inspired and artistic, I will not produce enough product to have much of a writing career.

At this point, the main ‘product’ I have is my poetry, which I’ve been writing since 1988. I have self-published a little, but since I was print-only and had no e-book version, it didn’t sell well.

Today I’ve been working on a poetry ‘chapbook’— twenty-four poems to be published as a free e-book, and perhaps as a cheap printed booklet if I can work that out. The chapbook is called surly petunia, which is the title of a poem in the collection.

Using Scrivener, I’ve ‘compiled’ surly petunia as an e-book. This is only a ‘first draft’ and I have a few things to correct. But I should be able to have it published as an e-book in about a week.

Other projects in the pipeline are a revised, expanded edition of my first full-length poetry book, ‘Where the Opium Cactus Grows’.  A second poetry volume, ‘Waiting for the Poison Shot’, is also planned. And there is a science fiction serialized story in 9 parts I’m working on.

Right now I’m feeling good about these projects. They seem pretty doable. Check back next month to see how far I’ve come.

Read some poems: https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/category/writing/poetry/

Join my e-mail list: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr

 

In Praise of Plain #BookCovers

001

Does your very favorite book have fancy art work on the cover? If it does, would you have liked the book less if the cover had been plain? In my own case, most of the illustrated book covers on my favorite books fail to do justice to the story within. A plain cover like the one above would have done as well, in a few cases, it would be better.

The book above is En Ĉinio Batalanta by T. Hasegaŭa, published in 1945 by the Japana Esperanta Librokooperativo (Japanese Esperanto Book Cooperative) and printed in China, probably because the communist ideology of the book’s author was unwelcome in Japan at the time. I bought the book on Ebay, knowing nothing about the content and thinking it a war memoir from a Japanese soldier rather than an activism memoir of a Japanese communist who had to flee her country and live in China. The plain cover with only  a few lines and some very faint red stars for decoration works well for me— enough for me to buy the book based on it.

002This is a book from Germany’s Reclam press, known to students of German literature around the world for its inexpensive tiny books covering great German writers. This one is one of my favorites among Schiller’s plays, based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.

003

Another German play, this one by Bertold Brecht (1898-1956). I picked this one up second-hand in a thrift shop in the USA. Another plain cover that uses only lines for ornamentation. Notice also that the typeface/font used is also very plain.

004

This book cover is somewhat less plain, with its colorful border and the logo at the bottom. In Spanish, this is a devotional commentary on the book of Philippians (a book of the Bible).

005

And finally, here is a plain cover on a contemporary English-language book published by Tyndale Fiction (a Christian publishing house). It’s hard to see in the photo but the book title ‘Vanish’, as well as being in tiny script next to the author Tom Pawlik’s name, is in larger off-white letters in the central white area of the cover.

Why Plain Book Covers are Timely

1. Plain book covers can be a meaningful choice. Think of the ‘plain’ traditions of the Amish. They choose not to use certain colors, or any type of print or decorated fabric, in making their clothing. Does that make an Amish dress ugly when you compare it to a dress cut from the same pattern but made of gingham or calico (print fabrics)? No, Amish plain dress is beautiful in its simplicity. And so are simple book covers.

2. Plain book covers are a thrifty choice for the e-book age. Most successful indie authors will tell you that the vast majority of their book sales are sales of the e-book rather than the print book. Now, supposedly some book shoppers closely scrutinize the book covers when shopping for a books on Amazon.com or other online shops, but I’ve never done so myself. I look at the book description instead. But once I’ve bought the book, I seldom if ever see the book cover.

The New Gatekeeper

Now indie publishing ‘experts’ demand that we should pay $500 or more to a book cover artist. Most of these ‘experts’ ARE book cover artists, in fact. $500 for a book cover that may never be seen? For short stories? Knowing that an indie writer may need to write ten to twenty short stories and novels before any real degree of success hits?

That seems to be demanding a new type of gatekeeper in the way of a new indie writer— you must have the wealth to spend thousands of dollars just on book covers in order to see if you can make it in the writing world. Because, I guess, only the wealthy have anything worthwhile to say to the world.

But that’s bunk. For someone like me— a person with Asperger Syndrome living on SSI disability— this new ‘gatekeeper’ is a way of saying I must give up forever on the notion of being an indie author. Because on SSI disability I will NEVER have the funds to buy fancy book covers to get started in indie publishing.

My current fiction-writing plan calls for publishing some short stories with sequels, just as Hugh Howey did. Howey had a number of them out when the first of what became his ‘Wool’ series became popular enough for him to start writing sequels to it. How much money would I have to sink into book covers before my writing became profitable if my career goes like Howey’s, which is not that likely?

Does that mean I’m stuck with plain book covers? No! For me, plain book covers are a choice— a way of saying ‘yes’ to the non-rich writers of the world.

The Plain Book Cover Manifesto

Because fancy book covers don’t guarantee quality content, I vow that as a reader I will give equal attention to writers who use plain book covers— and writers whose book covers are flawed. In fact, the plain book cover shall become my new standard of beauty in book covers.

As a writer, I vow that I will create plain book covers for my work now. And if my writing should prosper, I will still use mostly plain book covers. No slapping an illustrated cover on every book just to look prosperous. Illustrated covers should be reserved for those occasions when a fine and fully appropriate piece of cover art is available.

Because writers who are poor, disabled, of minority race or third-world nationality, unable to create their own fine art, widows, orphans, and all the other disadvantaged of the world also have stories to tell, I vow I will listen to them— whether they can afford $500 book covers or not!

This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the work of struggling young artists. I do, and I hope they will find many clients who will buy their art because they want to, not because they feel they have to.

#PoetryPantry 219: Sackett’s Sijo

Turkish translation book cover for one of L'Amour's Sackett novels.

Turkish translation book cover for one of L’Amour’s Sackett novels.

This is a post for Poetry Pantry #219. Click on the link to find other poets, to look at cool pictures from Slovenia, or to share one of your own blogged poems.

Sackett’s Sijo

My mind a-rambling like wild geese
I took in the river far below
A-thrashing and a-churning
With here and there a deep blue pool.

Then a shot struck me a wallop
Falling I met the clear cold water.

(c) 2013 Nissa Annakindt

This poem came about when I was reading one of Louis L’Amour‘s Western novels, and features one of his most popular characters, William Tell Sackett. I crafted it using words, phrases and images from the opening scenes of one of the Sackett novels.

The sijo, in case you are unfamiliar, is a Korean poetic form somewhat like the Japanese haiku. I rather enjoyed using this Asian poetic form for a decidedly non-Asian subject.

Louis L’Amour, by the way, in addition to being one of the bestselling Western authors of all time, also wrote a volume of poetry, Smoke from This Altar. I have not yet managed to add this volume to my Louis L’Amour collection, but I have found some of his poems online, such as A Handful of Stars.

Publishing Update:

I’m getting close to finishing the e-book version of ‘Where the Opium Cactus Grows’. just have to figure out how to attach a book cover in Scrivener. The second poetry book, ‘Waiting for the Poison Shot’, will follow in a few months after the first. Both will also be available as physical books. I’m also working on an e-book poetry chapbook, ‘surly petunia’, which will be a free e-book. It will be mostly poems from my original ‘surly petunia’ chapbook, which also went in to the original ‘Opium Cactus’, but I’ve put in some that are scheduled to be in ‘Poison Shot’.

Also in the works: a sci-fi serialized story set in a future United States that has become a grim, Soviet-style totalitarian state where faith is forbidden and vast numbers of people live on the streets or in robot-patrolled govt Shelters.

If you want to be notified when these books are available, join my new mailing list: http://eepurl.com/FN2hr

Reviews: I may be willing to do reviews of poetry books if the poet will provide me with a review copy. I won’t review erotic or ‘naughty’ material as I don’t read that type of thing. So if you have a poetry book out….

I Don’t Like Obama Because He’s __________.

ObamaPaler

Is this a good look for the president? (I prefer his current hairstyle.)

It’s no secret. Obama doesn’t make me happy, happy, happy. And although the news media has been trying to keep it under wraps until recently, large numbers of US citizens feel the same way.

The reds over in the Democrat party, when they notice that, attribute it to one absurd answer to the fill-in-the-blank  in the post title. Because he’s Black? He’s half-and-half! And the half that raised him is the half that even the KKK would approve of. And they seem to be unaware of the laundry list of blacker-than-Obama conservatives that the conservative community is wildly enthusiastic over as potential presidential candidates.

I don’t like Obama because he’s ______.

If you dissent from the Thou-Shalt-Love-Obama-Or-Else crowd, how would YOU fill in that blank? Here are some of mine:

  • because he’s anti-life — abortion kills one of every four children conceived, and nearly one of every two Black children conceived. A euthanasia document called a Living Will is required to be pushed on every senior citizen who makes doctor visits, but the euthanasia connection is never mentioned. And schoolyard bullies taunt disabled kids with Asperger Syndrome with the words ‘You’re a mistake’ because in their childish innocence they imagine all disabilities can be ‘prevented’ with selective abortion. Obama is the most pro-abortion president ever.
  • because he’s at war with the Catholic Church — by trying to force every Catholic institution to provide abortifacient/contraceptive pills free of charge to all employees/students. Nearly every person alive knows that the Catholic Church does not permit the use of abortion-causing or artificial contraceptive means. By insisting on this, he’s risking that many Catholic charitable institutions will be unable to help anyone— at a time when Americans need more help than ever.
  • because he’s been able to lie with impunity —- when Richard Nixon told some lies to the American people, the news media hunted him down until he resigned. Obama lied about his beliefs about same-sex marriage during his presidential campaign. He lied about his relationship to the controversial group Acorn. He lied about how he knew domestic terrorist and sexist Bill Ayres. He lied, saying he was willing to make a ‘compromise’ in his war against the Catholic Church. He lied that people could keep their health insurance plan under Obamacare, knowing that the law would outlaw many of these plans. And he doesn’t show any signs of knowing this is wrong.
  • because he’s let his wife have political power over school lunches —- Michelle Obama wasn’t elected president. Even if she WAS the president, she shouldn’t be taking power out away from local school districts and making new school lunch policies that have led to more wasted food, higher costs, and hungrier kids.
  • because he’s open about going around Congress using executive orders —- it’s one thing when a president resorts to an executive order because something really needs to be done and Congress can’t manage to do it. But when Obama brags about using executive orders to ram through his partisan policies when Congress has rejected them, it weakens what’s left of our democratic system. A lot of presidents have used— even overused— executive orders. Only Obama brags about it.
  • because he’s been calling Republicans and others partisan when they vote their conscience against his proposed measures — and isn’t that the very definition of partisanship— to call the other guys partisan because they won’t do it all your way?

This are my ways of filling in that blank. Not one of them, you’ll notice, mention Obama’s looks, posture, hairstyle or skin color. What do you think? If you are one of those who doesn’t care for Obama, are his looks a factor? Should they be?

E-Books or Realbooks for a Space Colony

colonizationHTImagine you were planning on leaving your safe happy homeworld and going to found a new space colony. Do you ever think about things like that? I like to, and I like to read books about it as well. (The book cover illustrates one of the books in Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar/Colonization series which has the twist that the colonizers are aliens and the world colonized is Earth.)

But think for a moment about what it would be like to go to a new space colony that would be spending its first 50-100 years under harsh, primitive conditions. No aid packages from back home on Earth except for the occasional bit of emergency medical supplies. No new people until the 250 colonists start having babies. How would you keep your culture and your literate traditions alive in such a circumstance?

Let’s set these groundrules: there are strict weight limits to what your colony can have in the way of the one form of entertainment you can have: books. Either you can have a community library of 500 real, paper books, or you can have 5 e-readers with 600 e-books on each (the same 600), and the means to recharge those e-readers.

Let us also say that the paper books are designed to last 100 years at least, as are the e-readers and the recharger. How do you make your choice?

E-reader:

The advantage here is that you get 100 extra books. Pretty good if those are all the books you can read forever— more books is better. In addition, let us say the e-reader has the standard capacity to increase the text size. That will be of great help to aging colonists someday. With printed books, they will be restricted to any that are large print— and those large-print books might be too heavy for a frail elderly person.

Realbooks:

Forget the concern that realbooks look, feel or smell nicer. On a primitive colony that won’t make much difference. But imagine some stormy night when there is little to do besides read? With E-readers, five people at a time can read. With real books, all 250 initial colonists could read at the same time.

Now, of course, with e-readers you could have someone read aloud to others. Up to 5 someones, in fact. But while hearing books read is nice, it’s not the same as reading them yourself. It also doesn’t contribute too much to continuing a literate culture, any more than watching movies and television shows based on books turns us all into readers.

Each option has advantages and disadvantages, probably more than I’ve thought of. Can you think of any concerns I haven’t mentioned? What factors would you use to come up with a decision on which option your colony will go with?

And remember, whichever you choose, you and 249 other people will have to live with your choice for the rest of your life. So what do you choose?

Bonus question: if you got to pick 5 books for the colony, which would you pick? (If a good Bible translation is important to you, which Bible translation would you pick, in addition to those 5 books?)

My books would include Gone With The Wind, Lord of the Rings (1 volume edition), Jane Eyre, and World War Z, and my Bible translation pick would be a King James Version with ‘Apocrypha’ (unless they’ve come out with a King James Catholic Edition).