The Scythe in my Toolshed

This is an update on how Hawk is coming along.  The answer is: mostly all right, I think.  I should qualify that (joke, Moshe).

The book took an interesting and fun twist while I was in Texas last month, and I like where it’s going.  In brief, I’ve taken the first chunk of chapters and moved them to the back, leaving me to write up to them.  This isn’t something I’m used to doing, which is a challenge.  The way the book has decided to structure itself is also a bit weird, fun, and difficult.  If I can pull this off, I’ll be pleased with it.

But the interesting thing is that I find myself writing a WHOLE LOT OF CRAP.  I mean, I usually figure that, while I’m putting things together, there will be a lot that drops out in revisions; but never like this.  The first draft of the first chapters contain an amazing amount of flab, and as I write, I keep reminding myself that, in the mental shed where I keep my writerly tools, there are delicate scalpels, jigsaws, a hammer, a set of screwdrivers, and, for situations like this there’s a  scythe.  I haven’t used it much, but it’s there.  I know that once the first draft is done, there’s no reason not to haul it out and get to slashing.  The point is to get to where the story comes together in a way I like; then I can go back and cut away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.  I’ve done that before; but this time it’s just amazing how much doesn’t look like an elephant.

For me, a great deal of writing revolves around tricking my brain into doing what I want it to do.  That is, finding a way to let the hindbrain tell the forebrain what the story is that I’m actually writing.  I have a lot of ways of tricking myself, but one that seems to consistently produce good results is just to keep going.  Keep plowing on, even if I’m writing page after page of running in place.  Eventually, there comes forward movement, and then eventually a nice shape and the snick of things coming together, and then I go back and make it look like I knew it all along.

But this time, there is just so much running in place that it’s freaking me out a little bit.  I’m falling back on my cockiness, and reminding myself that I’ve done this before (like, 20-some times); I can do this, and it will come together.  But in the meantime, it’s a little bit scary thinking of all the work that scythe will be doing; I mean, when I’m done, am I going to have a novel or a piece of flash fiction?  But the big secret is, that “little bit scary” is kind of fun.


Another reflection on “social justice”

It was, I think, about 30 years ago that I was first presented with the question, “Why is it less offensive to use the word ‘faggot’ than ‘nigger’?”  It was a rhetorical question, so, naturally, I tried to answer it.  It took me a while, but eventually I realized what ought to have been obvious: It is a class issue.  That is, 30 years ago, one assumed that anyone who was Black, or Latino, or American Indian*, was also poor, or at best working class; so one reacted to the derogatory term with a sort of extra layer of disgust.  How should I say this?  At no point did one believe that “faggot” was somehow okay to use–but “nigger” was even worse.  Hearing that word, the bile would rise in one’s throat, and to this day I have trouble writing it, and even more trouble saying it.  The struggle for equal rights (in the parlance of my youth, “Negro equality,”) was emphatically part of the class struggle, and nearly all of the Black leaders from Martin Luther King to Huey P. Newton (and even Malcom X in the latter part of his life) saw it that way.

By contrast, the Gay Rights movement emerged from middle-class radicalism.  And even though, at heart, it is a class issue (compare the problems of a George Takei to those of a gay auto worker), it was never publicly presented as anything but an issue of identity.  The defining characteristic of middle-class radicalism is and was subjective idealism–the belief that the problem is all in the head of the individual, and all you need to do is to change people’s ideas, and inequality will vanish.**

Feminism falls into an odd place in between.  By long tradition, it was part of the working class movement and (with some important exceptions) saw itself that way.  The Left saw equal rights for women as a vital part of organizing ever since Engels’ Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State.  The labor movement learned–often the hard way–that when it ignored the struggle for women’s rights it shot itself in the foot.  But sometime in the mid-60’s, around the time Feminism was being called Women’s Liberation (or, dismissively, “Women’s Lib”), it  began to transform itself, to move toward issues that (in the opinion of its leaders) could be solved under capitalism: language, personal and family interactions, public perception.  I still remember the point when it became less important that a political party fought for full equality then that there were x% women in leadership roles in the party.

But for a long time, the struggle for the equality of non-whites was still very much seen, by anyone who called himself a Leftist, as a part of the fight for the independence of the working class.  Exactly what is so pernicious about today’s “Social Justice” supporters–that is, those who favor the politics of identity–is that, now that there is a significant black middle class, even ruling class,  those who stand to lose by the destruction of capitalism are running as fast and far from the working class as possible.  What started as the belief that if you just hired enough Black cops, and maybe elected a Black mayor or two, poor Blacks would no longer face police violence has become, today, a determined rejection of any and all class issues.  It has become a fight for equality by and for the middle class.  Obama, of course, represents the highest expression of this milieu.

So, then, to me, these are the questions one ought to answer:  Can there, in fact, be equality under capitalism?  If not, can capitalism be destroyed in any way other than by organizing the independent power of the working class?  If not, what effect will identity politics have on uniting the working class?

Many–probably most–people reading this blog will have different answers than I have to each of those questions; but it seems worthwhile to at least pose the issue the way I see it.

*It is significant that I’m using “Black” and “American Indian” rather than “African-American” and “Native American.”  Why?  Because I am rejecting the terms used by the petit-bourgeois radicals in favor of the terms you’ll actually hear if you hang around with working class Blacks and Indians.  Think about it.

**Which, I suppose, is true–in the same sense that, if one is in the middle of the ocean drowning, one only has to get out of the water, hence there is no need for a life preserver.

Another Way to Write Badly

I just finished watching season 3 of Boardwalk Empire.  I rather liked the first two seasons.  It’s an era that interests me, I’ve always liked Steve Buscemi, and the writing seemed fairly intelligent.

I don’t know what happened this season.  All of a sudden, you start having an absurd body count.  And not just in the number of bodies, but they keep pulling the trick where character A appears to decide not to kill character B, then suddenly does.  You can only get away with that a couple of times before the viewer starts rolling his eyes and going, “Do the writers expect me to fall for that again?”  And you can only produce so many bodies before you get “The Dark Knight” effect of, “Oh, a fight.  Am I supposed to care what happens?”

Perhaps its Scorsese’s influence, I don’t know.  But, whatever, it was disappointing.  Violence needs to matter.  When there’s too much of it, it stops mattering.  When it stops mattering, it’s worse than morally questionable, it’s boring.


Happy New Year

2012 was a good year for me, hope it was for all of you as well.  May we all have a fun and productive 2013.  I’m staying in tonight and writing.  Why?  Because I like it.  How cool is that?  I try to remind myself, from time to time, how lucky I am to make a living doing what I love, and this is a good time for such reflections.

Okay, done reflecting now.  I’m over a third of way through Hawk, approaching the halfway point.    Back to the word mines.


New Stuff on the Site

Just want to point out that Corwin and Felix have been busy.  There is now a page of free download stuff (only two things on at at the moment), site rules, Quotables are back (want to automatically select and display a random one eventually) and the link to the policy on fanfic is now working.  Thanks, guys.  Also, a reminder that if you have questions or comments about a specific book, you can click on the link (under “Books”) and ask there.

I’ll say something obnoxious or inflammatory when I think of it.