On the Privilege of Being Offended
Lately, I have been seeing more than a few news articles about people who are upset because they find something offensive and want it stopped. I think they are being silly at best, and an extreme danger to society as a whole, at worst. Please consider the following items.
Number one: The ability to be offended is a privilege available only in a free society. In a totalitarian state such as those that exist in much of the world, if you say or do something that offends someone in power, you may lose your possessions, your freedom, and even your life.
Number two: We must learn from accurate history. If we erase the visible traces of history we deem offensive, then we have blinded those that follow to the very reason we find them offensive in the first place.
As an author, I constantly run into news articles or historical events where if I were to write them into the plot of a story, no one would believe it. It seems Shannon A. Thompson has the same issue and gives some excellent examples in this recent post on her Hate / Love Relationship with Historical Fiction.
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Reflections on the Creation Process by Anthony Stevens
My friend, the Sassy Brit, has a weekly challenge.
What’s On Your Desk, Wednesday?
I accepted her challenge, sent her a photo and a brief description, but then it occurred to me that some folks might be interested in a more detailed description of how I do what I do.
“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” – Cesar A. Cruz
Any discussion on the creative process should start with the physical environment and tools to be used. With that in mind, here’s a little background.
My wife and I have retired to a small apartment wing of the old family homestead. With this in mind, I downsized my office to include only that which I found critically useful.
The Multiplarity trilogy mentions several different spacecraft. It might be interesting to see the real-world examples that inspired these craft.
The first is, of course, the US Space Shuttle. While there are many good reasons why it never fully achieved its potential, the fundamental shape was the result of more than twenty-five years of airframe development. The Shuttle was such a good basic shape that the USSR copied it with their Buran Shuttle. A great deal has been written on both designs.
Behind the Creation Part 1 can be found here.
When I pause to consider it, Multiplarity not only has multiple plot lines with dozens of characters, but it required the detailed creation of four different fictional worlds. The first third of the book deals with a near future version of our world. The second part follows the founding of a lunar colony called Port Heinlein. The last part involves the reader with a rapidly maturing lunar colony and the colonization of two alien worlds. One is virtual and the other circles another sun.
Back in the early 60s, I found a poem in a SciFi pulp magazine that I loved. I’ve never been able to find it again. But I still recall it to this day.
Now I am Faust and Faust is you
And we, the witches who hailed Macbeth
We have the lightnings of a God
But not his eons, we know death
And we who stand, high above the Earth
On poised, foolhardy feet
That go towards ending
Came from Birth
We wonder sometimes what we do
Besides achieving balance
Faust, I, and the witches
For the last 40 years, that has echoed in the back of my mind. It still has a powerful message for me. I wish I knew what magazine it came from and the poet’s name.
What brought this to mind, you may ask?
This article that just might be life following fiction… the arming of SkyNet.
I know we’ve all heard at one point or another, that opening lines or paragraphs are crucial to the success of a story. Awhile back, I was chatting with some creative friends and the topic of terrible opening lines came up. Off the top of my head, I invented the following sentence.
Shivering in sodden furs, Koragh peered out of the cave as hurried clouds shed fetid streams.
I was surprised when several people responded favorably to it. After some thought, I put it in the first line of a new story and let it grow. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised at the short story that came from what I thought was terrible. Here’s the first couple of paragraphs:
“Shivering in sodden furs, Koragh peered out of the cave as hurried clouds shed fetid streams.”
Officer Mark Droves tossed the paperback over the seat. “Damn! I can write better than this crap.”
Officer Todd Davis almost choked on his cheeseburger before replying. “Well, why don’t you? Hell, you been braggin’ about knowing how to write ever since I’ve known you. So far, all I’ve seen have been a couple of pretty good short stories, and several hundred arresting officer reports.”
Let us segue to about a year ago. I was in the middle of editing a series of urban fantasy novellas and short stories. The goal was to create a single, cohesive novel with a few recurring characters. That horrible opening line was incorporated into a new urban fantasy novel. Since then, Shifter Shadows has turned into a one hundred and twelve thousand word tale that starts in early prehistory and ends in the near future.
With that bit of background, here’s a list of opening lines from some of my tales.
- Shivering in sodden furs, Koragh peered out of the cave as hurried clouds shed fetid streams. – Shifter Shadows (urban fantasy)
- A blacktop ribbon disappeared into the distance between rows of waist-high corn while a distant rumble grew louder and coalesced into a lime-green sports car. – Multiplarity (science fiction)
- He stared at the bleak landscape and muttered to himself. “Dust. Nothing but dust. I hate dust.” – Multiplarity (science fiction)
- Damn! It felt great to be alive! – Shibari Sails (modern pirate adventure)
- Only a slight breeze ruffled the warm waters of the lagoon as the galleon swung free, seaweed and barnacles crusting her anchor chain, broken mizzen still waiting to be repaired. – Tinkerzdamn (fantasy)
- This Monday was different. The moment her mother hugged her and tried to leave, Inara clutched the young woman’s leg and begged her not to go. –Shadows and Shades (paranormal romance)
What do you think? Do they entice you to read the rest?