An Old and Familiar Evil

Stephen King’s Castle Rock is moving along at an appropriate pace. We’re halfway through the episodic run and we have somewhat of a clearer view of just what’s going on in that damn town.

During this week’s episode I had a sudden moment of clarity in regards to the deeper meaning behind this show. A potential reading of the relevance. The kind of reading that places the programme within the context of society, and that you could write a three-thousand word media studies essay about.

This is the abridged version of that essay.

Most media is influenced in some way by the society it was made in, particularly television. 24 thrived in a post-9/11 world of fighting terrorism, Breaking Bad reflected the moral ambiguity in each of us as our own lives were shown back to us on social media, and Game of Thrones hides politics and diplomacy behind pure fantastical escapism — it’s much easier to consume politics today, when it’s all one big reality show.

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In a fairly throw-away conversation from episode 5 of Castle Rock, Jane Levy’s character — Dianne “Jackie” Torrance, niece of The Shining‘s Jack Torrance  — discusses how nothing interesting happens in this town anymore. How the older people talk about the tragedies and horrors that happened in the 80s and before, but for her entire life everything has been fairly calm.

She’s an aspiring writer, who is longing for something interesting to happen so that she can “write what she knows”. Of course, she has no idea that she’s having this conversation with an evil entity of some kind (Randall Flagg?) — but the point is that this conversation struck a chord with me. Given that the conversation’s only other purpose is to confirm that she’s Jack Torrance’s niece, I’d say that there’s more to this scene than just a young woman bitching about the mundanity of modern living.

Castle Rock is all about a returned and familiar evil. Small town life was fairly safe and had been since 1991 — since the evil was removed. Now, in 2018 this evil is back and felt immediately by the people of Castle Rock.

Under President Donald J. Trump (star of The Apprentice), American society has returned to a state we haven’t seen it in since the 1980s and Ronald Reagan. By that I mean for the working and lower-middle classes — those who inhabit the fictional Castle Rock.

In the real 2018, the working classes have been stirred up in a tidal-wave of racism — they’re marching in the streets again and are causing extreme acts of violence, such as the driver in Charlottesville last summer. Most members of the working classes oppose the far-right movements or are indifferent, but it’s still a tactic we haven’t seen work from politicians and certain members of the media since the 80s.

Everyone who makes less than $80,000 was duped by the Trump campaign into voting for them, just as Reagan’s team did. They promised prosperity for all by cutting business tax, where the workers assume that they’ll feel the benefit; Which they rarely do. Greedy men use those tax breaks to further line their own pockets, further increasing the wealth gap between rich and poor. The working classes are plunged into poverty and the lower-middle classes become the new working class.

Meanwhile, at the top, in the ivory towers who “suffered” over the last two decades by not making as much money as they could’ve done, celebrations are thrown at the return of the old-way. Bankers who lived through Reagan are rejoicing at the return of that third decimal, while millions can’t afford food or medicine.

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I’m arguing that as well as adapting a multitude of Stephen King novels, Castle Rock also seeks to reflect the times we live in. An evil that had been kept at bay for a long time, the evil of inner-corruption, has now been unleashed. The people are happy to let it happen, or were duped into thinking it’s a good idea, because most are too young to have lived through it last time. And those who remember it fondly are the ones who profited.

To return to the fictional evil, the retired sheriff of Castle Rock — Alan Pangborn — remembers it the first time around, and he’s the only truly anxious character from the get-go. He plays the role of a Baby Boomer who has given up on stopping evil, and has decided that if the world is going to burn, it may as well be now.

Molly Strand, aspiring businesswoman, makes a pitch for a prosperous shopping centre and new real estate in Castle Rock, but is laughed out of the building. She’s on the fringes of the middle-class, and not a member of the community elites, and so it’s not her turn anymore.

In most episodes we get a message from the far-away businessmen who own the private Shawshank Prison, where their affable and disconnected tone serves as a juxtaposition to those who live and suffer in the town — as they take on the role of the 0.1% in modern society.

Episode 4 features a mass-shooting and episode 5 features a family quite literally being torn apart by the returning evil; Sound familiar?

Given that the evil of Castle Rock is potentially Randall Flagg, I wonder if in future seasons we’ll see him stir up far-right political groups, as he is known to have done in the past.

I’m not saying that America was perfect between 1991 and the present day (far from it), but the enemy was typically on the outside. It was gulf wars and foreign invasions, terror attacks and drone strikes; All of which are horrific problems of their own, but they had very little effect on the life of an average town in America. Even the financial crash of 2008 had the biggest impact on the upper middle-classes, and a trickle-down effect on the average American.

Castle Rock is a reflection of working-class communities in modern America, who are seeing and presumably will continue to see an increased amount of suffering at the hands of an old and familiar evil.

In the case of Castle Rock, it’s the return of the devil. In the case of modern America, it’s the return of greedy, corporate and nepotistic capitalism. Which, I must ask; Are they not one and the same?


Today is Friday, August 10th and it’s harder to be kind to people you’ll never meet — but you should do it anyway.

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Pop Oscars

I’m not the film snob I used to be. As a teenager I really cared about the films that other people watched, and tried to project a cool image of myself via the films I liked — in an attempt to impress girls. It did not work.

These days I still moan and whine about the state of the popular film industry, but I don’t begrudge anyone for watching those movies. Who am I to judge anyone who wants to watch the world get saved, over and over, by a person in a different costume each time? If that’s what people like, then that’s what they like.

The big, franchise, tentpole movies are going to succeed whether I complain about them or not. They might not win genuine critical acclaim, or be remembered more than a decade later, but the makers of those films at least have big stacks of cash that they can burn to keep warm in the winter months.

Money and fame are the award of the blockbuster. Well, until yesterday happened.

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Future Nine Time Academy Award Winner

Yesterday the Academy Awards added a new Oscars category; Best Popular Film. While I’m sure the recipient of the award each year will be a great blockbuster (Black Panther, Wonder Woman, Transformers: The Last Knight), the Oscars are about celebrating achievement in the art of filmmaking. Taking an established, popular brand and adapting it for the big screen isn’t art — It’s outright business.

I know, I know — “But they made it as a separate category, it won’t take the spotlight away from the winner of Best Picture,” I hear you say. Which would be a valid point, if they hadn’t shortened the televised ceremony to three hours.

As a writer, who judges films largely on the quality of the screenplay, I look forward to seeing the two writing awards each year. Something tells me that they won’t make the televised cut, when the ceremony is made shorter and a blockbuster category is added. Selfish, I know — but I’m only human.

I can picture it now; The ‘Popular Film’ segment will be an hour long and feature five minute video packages about each of the nominees.


Cut to: Outside — Where thousands of fans cosplaying as the latest superheroes and Star Wars are lining the streets of Hollywood. Someone from daytime television interviews them all, one by one.

Interviewer
Do you think Fast & Furious 9 will get the Oscar?

Fan
Not this time — I think it’ll be Baywatch 2!

Interviewer
Either way, it looks like a good night for Dwayne Johnson.

Fan
About time!

A disgruntled and surly Mark Hamill comes on stage to announce the recipient of the first ever Popular Film Oscar.

Mark Hamill
And the winner is…Star Wars Episode 9… God damn it! F***! No! I hated filming it!

The curtain falls and music plays over a rage-filled Hamill.

Fade to black.


In all seriousness, the Oscars were the one pop-culture night of the year where I could still revel and celebrate in the form of film. Day-to-day film conversations are now dominated by anything that can be branded and marketed in groups of three, and so Oscar season chat was the time to exclusively discuss the great films of the year.

The sorts of films that a writer slaved over for two years, before a director agonised with the best way to present this story. The sorts of films that would be shot in new, unique or stylised ways — with music and sounds that send shivers down our spines. Films that talented actors would bring to life in ways that the writer couldn’t possibly have imagined, and that an editor would spend three months locked in a basement obsessing over.

Now, modern blockbusters do a lot of those things — because all I’ve done there is describe how movies are made in one paragraph or less — but they feel like they’ve fallen from an assembly line. At every stage someone has been involved and asking; “How can we make more money from this?”

A good filmmaker, a true filmmaker — They’re an artist who cares very little about how much money the film makes. They just want the film to be enjoyed by its audience, and to have them leave the viewing with a new experience or perspective.

As soon as I saw the announcement, my first thought was that award ceremonies already existed for money-making blockbusters. Isn’t that what the Saturn Awards and Empire Awards are for?

I’m not under any illusion that an award ceremony means anything to the Academy beyond marketing, politics and spectacle. They exist to make the giver look better than the recipient, but they do mean something to the person who has spent a lifetime working in the industry. When Guillermo Del Toro won for Shape of Water this year, I thought to myself that I prefer a couple of his other movies — but then I realised — To Del Toro, that Oscar was recognition from his peers that he was worthy of the award.

90th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room

If a superhero film ever moves people the same way that an original drama or comedy can, then it absolutely deserves to be nominated for Best Picture. Films can be enjoyed on multiple levels. I might love a blockbuster as I’m watching it, but I’m not going to be talking about it and recommending it to everyone, as I would with something like Ladbybird.

Very talented people are involved in the crafting of some blockbusters, and they’ll receive a handsome prize-purse for their efforts. I just think that the Oscars should remain as the place where the best artists are praised for their craftsmanship.

I wonder how Del Toro would’ve felt if — ten minutes before he received his award for Best Director — he had to watch Tom Cruise collect his Oscar for Best Popular Actor. In which he promotes Scientology for ten minutes before ranting about being the greatest stuntman of all time, who definitely doesn’t own female slaves.

Reading this all back, I’m still trying to project the image of “cool cinema viewer” — I haven’t changed a bit.


Today is Thursday, August 9th and I’ve built a killer playlist for my YA dystopian WIP.

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Anxiety Disorders and Difficult Situations

The other day I had to do something out of the ordinary. I won’t go into it — because it really wasn’t about me — but it was something I’ve only ever done once before, as well as being a situation that most would find difficult or stressful.

I’m not here to write about what I did, but rather how I did it. The few other people who know what happened commented afterwards how naturally I managed to slide into the role that was required, and overcome the stress of it all. Welcome to the world of an anxiety disorder.

About four years ago I was diagnosed with having an anxiety disorder and it was a bit of a lightbulb moment. I was lucky enough to receive a course of counselling on the NHS back in England, in which I went through some Cognitive behavioural therapy sessions. Since then I’ve had panic attacks, bouts of depression and times where I’ve felt completely enveloped by my poor mental health — but I’ve never felt as low as I did before my understanding of the disorder.

Back when I was diagnosed I was scored on a chart, where I could see via line graphs and data just how bad my anxiety disorder was. “This isn’t great. In fact — It’s about as bad as it possibly can be,” my straight-talking NHS counsellor told me, “but it’s nothing you can’t fix.”

Before my CBT sessions I displayed strong symptoms of social anxiety and agoraphobia, on top of my generalised anxiety disorder; I couldn’t have conversations with anyone on most days, and some days I was terrified of what might happen if I left the house.

To put it simply, an anxiety disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain that means you process events differently. It plays into the whole primal fight or flight element of living; Something that used to be all about surviving potential predators in the wild, but now helps us out in scary situations. My imbalance means that I read most encounters as fight or flight — which allows the anxiety to seep in, leading me to not do either. Instead, I freeze.

It’s recommended that people with serious anxiety disorders don’t drive, as it consists of a lot of instant decision making that can put people’s lives in danger. So I don’t drive, for now. Most other aspects of modern living are fine enough to handle with some CBT, meditation or understanding of the disorder — because in most situations you’re given a minute or so to make a decision on something.

If we reduce negative feelings of a mental heath disorder to a simple 1-10 scale, I was told that I’m constantly at a 5 — that’s my base camp. I know that when I meditate, or control my breathing in any way, I can get that feeling as low as a 2 and feel what it’s like to not have an anxiety disorder.

It’s great, by the way — but I can’t be constantly meditating. I might live at a high altitude in Colorado, but I’ve got a long way to go before I’m actually living up a mountain.

For whatever reason, whenever I encounter something in day-to-day life that I’ve done a hundred times before, such as order a meal, make a phone call or speak to a stranger, my 5 goes up to a 7 or an 8. Until online delivery came about, ordering a pizza used to be an impossible task.

In these everyday situations my fight or flight kicks in, as usual, but then my anxiety asks why everyone else involved in the encounter isn’t also freaking out — and I start to panic. Why isn’t the waitress as terrified to receive my order as I am to give it? Why isn’t my polite neighbour trembling with fear when we say hi to each other? I’ve learned to control this, for the most part, but it’s something I have to actively suppress.

Now when something traumatic happens, something that legitimately demands a fight or flight response, and people around me do start freaking out — That’s when I’m in my element. See, I’m already at a 5, so to jump to a 9 isn’t a huge stretch for me. The people also involved the other day, they were floating along at a 1 or a 2, but they also had to jump to a 9, from a much lower point.

I’m good when accidents happen to other people, because everyone is running around and visibly displaying the same panic I feel on a day-to-day basis. This stops the anxiety of “you’re not normal” seeping in, so I can think clearly and do what I need to do to solve the problem. I’d really prefer it if accidents didn’t happen to other people though.

Jon Ronson is a journalist and writer with an anxiety disorder, who occasionally discusses its impact on his life. Despite his struggle with performing a lot of basic, daily tasks — he has spent time with terrorist groups, been around some dangerous people and put himself in situations that most would normally find terrifying.

In a podcast interview he once mused:

“Maybe it’s why people with anxiety disorders are quite good when it comes to actual difficult situations, because we’ve rehearsed it so many times. We panic unnecessarily so often that when something really worth panicking (about) comes along, we actually handle it really well.” – Jon Ronson

What I had to do the other day was nothing like spending time with terrorists to get to know them, but it was something really worth panicking about.

It got me thinking that maybe I can overcome even more of aspects of my life effected by my anxiety disorder, if I can just convince myself that it’s all worth panicking about. I’ll have to give it some thought, because reprogramming thought-processes can be risky — but if I could respond to normal situations in the same way I did to that stressful one, then I’d consider myself as close to “cured” as I think is possible for my particular mental health issue.

The world is a scary place from time to time, and while ordering a pizza isn’t worth having a panic attack over — if I tell myself that it is, then maybe I wouldn’t panic in the first place?

Some thoughts for thought, which is now my neurosis speaking.


Today is Wednesday, August 8th and if you’re struggling with your mental health you should talk about it. It’s not talking that causes the damage.

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Writing Genderless Characters in a Fictional Dystopia

First off I want to preface this post by saying that I’m not an authority on either biology or gender studies. I read a couple of books on gender studies back at university and a solid amount of material on gender representation in fictional texts and the media. I’m learning new things every week and I like to keep an open mind to new information. So, if I’m off the mark, please let me know.

The second thing I want to mention is the context of my current WIP. It’s a YA fiction, dystopian novel that’s set two-hundred years from now in a society that’s recognisable — but different in a lot of ways. One of those ways is the lack of prejudice surrounding sexuality, race or gender. Everything is about class structure; A society through the lens of Wall Street in the White House, instead of elected officials.

Due to the specific makeup of my fictionalised society — one that’s eighty years removed from the end of a major overpopulation crisis — immigration hasn’t been a thing for a long time, and non-heterosexual relationships were encouraged back in the day, due to heterosexual relationships being the leading cause in people.

So, as a result of all of this, gender roles aren’t something that’s understood or accepted by my characters living in 2200s. Class roles very much are, and so people are still treated in abhorrent ways for something that’s out of their control. My protagonist, she comes face to face with gender roles from the old-world and shows how she feels about them.

She. I’ve used my first pronoun to describe a character. Now — It’s my understanding that sex and gender are two completely different things. Sex is biological and gender is a societal construct based on acquired understandings of what it means to be either masculine or feminine — or both or neither or somewhere that floats sporadically between the two.

For the ease of writing a piece of fiction with a multitude of characters, particularly characters who’re predominantly teenagers, I use the pronouns of that characters biological sex — but they very much do not conform to any kind of gender role. The easiest way to describe it in modern-terms, would be that I write all of my characters as ‘agender’. Even though that’s not a term my characters would use.

Because again, labels are not something that this society has had to think about for a long time.

Now, this doesn’t mean I have trans-erasure in my current WIP. I’ve read a lot of thoughts from different trans activists on how biological sex is up for debate in the same way as gender theory — of which I’ve read both sides of the argument from trans people, and don’t know enough yet to know where I stand beyond, “people should be who they want to be and I’m no authority because I don’t have a full understanding”.

My novel doesn’t really deal with those issues, as my fictional society became accepting on trans people a long time ago — if I have a character that’s labelled ‘she’, she could easily also be read as a trans woman.

It’s my personal opinion, based on what I’ve read about gender studies, that we’re all technically agender. If gender is a social construct and we want to remove the idea that a colour, item, clothing style, toy etc is associated with a specific binary gender, then we need to start stripping the power gender has to control and type someone.

I also understand that even though I personally believe that every single human is a genderless canvas to be painted or not-painted upon, because I don’t think that any of things listed above should be described as either masculine or feminine — we currently don’t live in a society that shares those views. And so I understand why people identify specifically as agender (or another synonymous word) because they’ve faced prejudice for being who they want to be in this world, and a label helps people who won’t be hostile, recognise who you are.

I’ve had the fortune of being able to be who I want to be, regardless of the perceptions of that action, without receiving any hatred for it. I’m a biological male, and I’ve had regular comments throughout my life about something I’ve done being “feminine” or “girly”, but I’ve always taken them as compliments that my own perspective in this world can’t be gendered.

That’s my own experience — I would never begrudge anyone who would shift their labelled identity as a result of how they feel, as that’s the best part about gender — it’s a construct. It’s all as equally valid as it is invalid — in my opinion.

My fictional society assumes that the prejudices are no longer there. It has its own, screwed up problems — but nobody hates another person for doing/wearing/being something that is perceived as masculine or feminine; Everyone does what they want because they can.

So in that, my characters are written as gender-neutral, as far as outward appearance, hobbies, behaviours and characteristics go. I’m still using gendered pronouns to refer to their biological sex, which means (again, to clarify) that if I’ve written ‘he’, that person could easily be a trans-man.

I’ve been told by a lot of people that my female characters are stronger than my male characters, as far as accurately portraying thoughts and feelings goes. I’ve also read that people who identify one way, shouldn’t try and write the perspective of another identity, which I disagree with, as that’s one of the core skills of being a writer; Empathic to other world views enough to portray them as accurately as possible. Otherwise all stories written by women would feature only women etc.

I haven’t even touched on sexual orientation in this post, as that’s something else entirely, maybe I will another time.

Dystopian fiction is about finding a broken part of modern society and taking it to the Nth degree. I chose wealth inequality for my WIP. As a result of that, and given that two-hundred years have passed, gender isn’t really an issue in my world. At the same time, I understand that it’s a topic which is hotly debated in modern society.

The best fiction is relatable to the reader in the time that they’re reading it in — So my hope is that by having genderless characters, any and all readers will be able to relate to them in some way.


This has been an open discussion of my thoughts on writing fictional characters in 2018 that live in a dystopian 2219. I’d love to know how anyone feels about this, as I believe the subject and dialogue should be as fluid as gender is.

Today is Tuesday, August 7th and ‘Agave Maria’ is the name of my debut album for sure.


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Good Riddance InfoWars

Finally, InfoWars has been dropped by some major distributors. Facebook, iTunes and Spotify no longer carry their podcasts or host some of their pages — hopefully in what is the first step in a long journey into combatting “fake news” and hate speech.

For those who don’t know, InfoWars is a platform which peddles conspiracy theories and whey protein to paranoid men. I’m sure we could have healthy debates over the journalistic reputations of Fox News Entertainment or CNN, but we could never have one about InfoWars.

They’re the platform who claim that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax, and that no real children died in that horrible tragedy, stating that it was all staged to “advance the liberal agenda”. They’re also the platform who’re being sued by the parents of the children who were murdered — which will hopefully put them out of pocket by a few million.

InfoWars is fronted by an angry-faced man named Alex Jones, who looks as though he ate Kevin James immediately after Kevin James had contracted a rare tropical disease. He spouts the most insane conspiracy theories that play on people’s desire to assume that the world is out to get them, specifically.

I think Alex Jones and InfoWars are a part of an early wave of online content creators, and that hopefully we can do better than him going forward. Obviously digital communication will shape the next hundred years of society, until the next big thing hits — but the 21st century is all about connecting with each other.

What Alex Jones did is he realised that he could make millions of dollars, simply by tapping into people’s long-held prejudices and reenforcing their opinions by presenting them as fact; By making his zero-researched web platform look like a traditional news show.

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This is the desk that Alex Jones presents from, he has the illusion of “news” by surrounding himself with the semiotic signifiers of journalism. He’s got pieces of paper on the desk, a big screen in the background, an open tablet computer; Just like cable news. Yet, this blog, these words you’re reading right now — they’re better researched than anything that is spewed on InfoWars.

This blog is just a bunch of rambling opinions for nobody in particular, designed purely for one person (me) to think and then write about something different every day. Alex Jones is doing the exact same thing, but tells you that it’s the absolute truth and that everyone else is lying.

We need to understand that there’s a huge difference between “left wing bias”/”right wing bias” and actual, legitimately harmful “fake news” stories.

Some adults are already too far down the rabbit hole, and they’ll believe anything they see on the internet just because it backs-up their personal opinions. I remember being online ten-some years ago, when not everyone had cracked the whole internet thing yet, and Facebook was only just becoming popular with people who weren’t college students. Back then you had to go to the deepest corners of the internet to find people who were seriously talking about the things Jones talks about.

Now, his videos get millions of views and open up wide discussions. It’s no longer just Bill and Pete talking on conspiracyhead.co.net about why 9/11 definitely was carried out by the future Obama administration — it’s Alex Jones on InfoWars.

Here are some reasons as to why the market for this brand of “fake news” has increased:

  1. The less tech-savvy people are now online — In the last ten years, the sorts of people who would’ve listened to conspiracy radio shows are now seeking them out online and seeing them as a news source, purely because they don’t know how to read media.
  2. A lack of education — Disenfranchised young-people are turning to these sources for information, because they don’t want cable news, and they might not want to read any long-form online journalism. Alex Jones is the easy, angry sound-bite for those who feel left behind.
  3. A lack of regulation — Governments are only now starting to realise that anyone can say the most outlandish things, and people will believe it. Until today, InfoWars has been allowed on mainstream platforms, despite the fact that its content is harmful to younger eyes.

That, for me, is the scariest part. We now have a generation of online consumers who’ve probably never watched cable news, but have grown up watching their parents using devices that are connected to the internet. I wonder how much their parents have taught them about media literacy before they begin to consume other people’s ideologies; Which when spouted without the use of sources, science or statistics, can be horribly damaging.

Something tells me that InfoWars will be able to use these bans as a way of furthering the us vs them mentality they have; This punk-rock idea that prays on an ageing Gen-X and younger Baby Boomers. They’ll rant for weeks about how the mainstream don’t want them to tell the truth, and that it’s all some kind of conspiracy. When the reality is that they peddle unfounded lies and hate-speech, in order to sell products and merchandise — Something I believe they are self-aware of.

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If InfoWars was ever banned from being on the entire internet, then I’d fight for their right to have freedom of speech. They’re not banned from being online, they’re just banned from what’re the modern equivalent of town-squares and shopping centres. They can no longer set up a stall at a privately owned event, in an attempt to sell their conspiracies to the public — but they can still meet in private where people can join them if they so choose.

Again, this isn’t about the “liberal elites” shutting down the “free-thinking media”, this is about major companies finally making common-sense decisions in regards to fake-news, propaganda and hate speech.

InfoWars needs to fade away into insignificance. Personally, I’d welcome the rise of a well-sourced, well-researched and professionally presented digital conservative platform — because it’s healthy to have prominent voices from both sides of the isle.

What’s not healthy, however, is telling millions of people that the government controls the weather, that the Earth is flat and that mass-shootings never even happened.


Today is Monday, August 6th and there’s a lot of crazy in the world right now, with not a whole lot of diagnosing.

We Need to Talk

Yesterday there was another clash between fascists and counter-protestors, this time in Portland, Oregon. Most reports are suggesting that a few members of the counter-protest group threw projectiles into the group of fascists, and subsequently they were all rushed by police.

The few people who did, shouldn’t have become violent, but hateful ideologies stir things up in people, and rightly so. If I’m approached by crowds chanting “rights for whites” who’re donning symbols that represent racism and hatred, I’m going to get pretty wound-up by the senseless hatred of it all.

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My favourite part from yesterday — if you can call it that — is the fact that members of the Christian faith were a part of both groups. Local clergy and small church community groups marched peacefully with the counter-protestors, while people holding equally peaceful signs that read “repent and believe the gospel” marched with that facist groups.

I wish the Christians from those two groups would just sit down and have a conversation with each other. That’s the kind of dialogue I want to see in America, not all of this spouting racist opinions and fighting each other nonsense, that serves no purpose beyond reminding everyone that the country is sick.

Each side should be asked to present their best debaters, and then they meet on a stage in the middle of a square, or park, or whatever. People who would march in the protests/rallies would then have to watch together, and listen to each person as they are allowed the same amount of time to speak.

If this happened, I believe that the crazy would speak for itself. With one side boiling all points down to “We don’t like people who don’t look like us,” and the other responding with “We want every human to have a fair chance in this world.”

That way, the public don’t just see a bunch of racists who hide behind broad and populist philosophies — they’ll see them for what they are. And the counter-protestors won’t need to resort to violence, as they won’t be baited by the imagery of a mob walking towards them, carrying signs that are designed specifically to “trigger”.

It’ll be an open dialogue; A sharing of thoughts and feelings that are backed up by facts and statistics. The right thrives on not showing its true colours until the final moments, in this setting they would have no choice, as they would be pushed to defend their ideological position.

Going back to the Christian involvement from both groups that I find so fascinating; I can almost hear the two sides debating with each other, as they justify why they’re on that side of the protest.

“Jesus was a man of peace, who believed in treating everyone as equal, whilst also taking care of the most vulnerable in our society. You’re out here advocating for white people to be the superior race, under the banner and loving message of a man who wasn’t even white — how do you justify that?”

” Yeah but… God hates you.”

Or something like that — I find it hard to debate right-wing ideologies via Christianity, because my limited understanding is that Jesus wasn’t so much a fan of hatred.

Right-wing supporters of the Patriot Prayer group gather during a rally in Portland

‘Patriot Prayer’ is the name of the group who marched in favour of far-right views and white nationalism. Their leader denies that they have anything to do with these views, but he allows people carrying swastika flags into his ranks. So for someone who doesn’t want to be associated with the extreme fringe of the right-wing, he doesn’t do a lot to combat their continued involvement in his rallies. I wonder why…?

Far-right groups across the world and throughout history have always managed to rise into positions of power by claiming that “they’re not racist”, it’s a part of their branding. If you march under the banner of ideologies that absolutely are not under threat, that most people would agree are a good thing, such as “freedom of speech” or “freedom of religion” — then potential new supporters don’t see what you really look like until they’re too deep into your ranks.

I’m fairly certain that both groups marching yesterday support free speech and freedom to practice your religion without persecution, and if that’s all Patriot Prayer legitimately stood for then they wouldn’t even warrant a counter-protest from the left.

I say this all the time, but freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of the words you speak — particularly when you’re proclaiming that other humans aren’t as equal as you are.

Also marching with Patriot Prayer on Saturday were the ‘Proud Boys’, whose definition of their movement, taken from their website, is a perfect example of branding yourself as not something, but acting and believing the direct opposite.

“All that is required to become a Proud Boy is that a man declare he is “a Western chauvinist who refuses to apologise for creating the modern world.” We do not discriminate based upon race or sexual orientation/preference. We are not an “ism”, “ist”, or “phobic” that fits the Left’s narrative. We truly believe that the West Is The Best.”

In these few sentences alone, they denounce that they are racist or sexist, yet describe themselves as chauvinist — the definition of which is someone who displays prejudiced loyalty in support of a specific gender. They claim they’re not racists, and yet declare that the “West Is The Best” — they’re dangerous morons, basically.

Typically, people who aren’t racist don’t need to have ten videos on their website justifying why they’re not racist, as the Proud Boys do.

“Proud Boys”, I can’t stop laughing at how hilarious that name is. Why not Brag Lads? Or Smug Men? Probably because they’re definitely boys, who have a lot of growing up to do.

I’m a white, heterosexual male who in no way feels threatened by the equal opportunities being offered in modern society. I have no idea what world these Proud Boys are a part of. But call me a Shamed Boy, knowing that they exist in an attempt to represent my “voice”.

I’d love to see a left-leaning, middle-aged Christian woman have a sixty minute debate with a bratty alt-right Proud Boy. That’s my dream for active discourse between two differing ideologies; No hiding in the shadows pretending to be something your not, just open dialogue to let the ugly speak for itself.


Today is Sunday, August 5th and rest in peace Barry Chuckle.

Some Acquired Writing Tips

My favourite acquired discipline over the last several months is writing on days that don’t feel like good days. Instead of treating writing as a chore that must be completed, I’m using it as a cure for my low mood. Which I’m told is healthier than sitting in a dark room and not moving for seven hours at a time.

My current WIP is at 55,000 words after four weeks of writing, and if my chapter outlines and plot structure are to be believed — which they rarely should be — then I’m a little over halfway there.

This is down to persevering on days where I normally wouldn’t have been able to do much of anything; Days where the cloud hangs a little lower than is bearable. Now I use my writing as a way of climbing a mental mountain every day, so that I can see above the cloudy atmosphere and out onto the landscape I’ve created from my mind.

With almost everything I’ve ever written, I’ve had this horrible habit of trying to think like the protagonist in my day to day life — and typically I’ve written about miserable people who’re not having a great time of it. You could probably call it a vicious cycle, or a self-fulfilling prophecy of an unfulfilling mood.

This time around, through writing YA fiction, any misery is a watered-down version of true anguish; It’s all Hollywood baby. Terrible things happen to my teenage characters, and they feel a wide range of intense emotions — but it’s through a lens of fiction as opposed to an attempt at true realism. In that, I’ve managed to remove myself from the process.

Keeping this daily blog has also been a great exercise in discipline, and I’d recommend it to any writer who is working on long-form projects. If you have a puzzle to solve with your narrative, or need to figure out just how to structure the dialogue in that upcoming scene, I’ve found that writing something totally different every day helps me to get in the mood for problem solving. Plus, once you’re writing, it’s hard to stop — it’s starting that’s the difficult part.

You can trick your brain into writing for hours on end, by just saying to yourself:

“It’s five-hundred words, that’s all you have to do today. Just make it to a five-hundred word count and then you can breathe.”

Before you realise it, you’ve written six-hundred words and its only been forty minutes.

“Well you’re not going to leave it at an odd-looking number like six-hundred are you? That’s only four-hundred words from a thousand!”

And so you write for another hour and make it to twelve-hundred words. Then you repeat this until you’re absolutely exhausted and can’t push the total daily word-count any higher.

“Okay, four-thousand five-hundred words is pretty good — let’s go eat and then we’ll do it all again tomorrow.”

Thanks brain!

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If you do happen to reach a moment of absolute hopelessness with your WIP — as I still do despite my more productive days — then you should read.

Specifically you should read something that’s related to the genre or form you’re currently writing. It’s not failing, it’s just doing something different that still contributes to your overall finished project. Besides, if you’re diving off a cliff of depression and you can feel the cocoon of self-hatred forming around your extremities, where you know writing something original will be absolutely impossible — Then it’s better to read than to collapse in on yourself and do nothing.

You could even listen to a podcast or watch a documentary that’s related to your WIP. Learn more about aspects of the world you’ve created, by studying the available resources — This might not feel as good as actually adding to the world you’ve built by expanding on what already exists, but it’s definitely preferable to not doing much of anything.

Reminding yourself how far you’ve come is another huge motivation. Were you working on your WIP a year ago? How much of it did you write then? Have you written more this year than you did last year? If the answers yes, then you’re absolutely laughing.

Did you write more this week than you did last week? No? That’s okay, because you wrote more this month than you did last month. Progress in completing long-form projects is always going to look like a messy line graph; As long as your averages are on an incline, then you’re doing fine.

Urgh — That rhymed. I could go back and delete it, as nothing about this blog post is live. I mean — it’s not like I’m delivering these words as a speech or a lecture, even if that’s how I imagine them as I write. No, I’m too far beyond it now. It’s in the past and part of finishing something is continually moving forward, and only looking back once you cross the line at the end.

Writing is re-writing, I firmly believe that, but it’s important to complete that first draft before you go back and work on the second. Then you’ll know just exactly how screwed you are, and you can take steps to remedy it.

I should really go back and edit out that rhyme I don’t like, now that I’m drawing this blog post to a close. Except — then my final couple of paragraphs about editing won’t make quite as much sense. I suppose it served as a suitable segue into something useful, similar to this very sentence as I make my final point; All writing is exercise.

Even if you look back and decide that something you’ve written is useless — it’s not. You flexed your muscles and learned how not to write something. Either way, you improved.

If you’re a fiction writer who is reading this and it’s been a while since you’ve spilled your mind out onto the physical or digital page, then I recommend you do. You will have turned something that was once was internal, into an external, near-tangible world that can be consumed by others — and that’s beautiful.

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Today is Saturday, 4th of August and a flock of magpies woke me up at five AM, they were screaming about shiny doubloons and assorted trinkets.