Rebuttals & Reflections
Although this section will
probably expand in future to cover various other issues (or a multitude
sins — depending on your perspective), it’s presently devoted to a few of
more knee-jerk reactions to my recent novel (See: Hot Off the Press).
Before I get on with it, let me
remind my detractors and well-wishers alike that The Lee Shore
fundamentally, a love story…albeit not the kind you’re used to.
One of the broadest can be paraphrased as follows:
Q: How many other novels employ terms like Möbius strip, Klein bottle, quantum mechanics, and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle; use words like parthenogenesis, pan pan, and neuropeptides, polyandry, polygyny, and polygamy; refer to everything from Carl Jung to Druids, Alan Watts to Thoreau, the Upanishads to Shrödinger; quote an Irish ballad and the King James Bible in nearly the same breath; employ sailing and navigation precepts as metaphors for sex; present part of the dialogue in Spanish, expect the reader to look up one of the clues in a Latin dictionary, and hinge the whole thing on a phrase of Sanskrit? What am I to make of it?
A: None, to my knowledge. And make of it what you will.
Q: In my opinion, you use entirely too many semicolons, entire colons, parenthetical remarks, and big words. Not to mention, at the other end of the spectrum, obscene language in…well, more than one language. How do you expect people to digest all this?
Thoughtfully. And with pleasure…as they’d consume a meal prepared with
There are plenty of writers serving up fast food, like so many empty
in drive-through restaurants. That fare isn’t hard to find. Perhaps I’m
myself, but I choose to believe there are still a few intelligent
there — despite the steady dilution of literacy today — hunkered down in
intellectual bunkers, somewhere in the
Q: Did you just disparage Ernest Hemingway?
A: Yeah, I b’lieve I did.
While some verge on more technical issues:
Q: Do you genuinely believe AI (artificial intelligence) could replicate human thought?
A: Probably not this week…but why not? Besides, I needed “a jar to keep a soul in.”
Q: I’m willing to “suspend my disbelief” up to a point, but wouldn’t I have to acknowledge the possibility of telekinesis in order to accept at least part of your premise?
A: I like to see healthy skepticism in a reader — almost as much as “suspension of disbelief.” Look at it this way. Neuroscience has already demonstrated that people with spinal cord injuries can actually transmit wireless thoughts — detailed motor skill commands, in other words — to external devices. All you have to do is extrapolate from there. What part bothers you most? The concept that thoughts can be transmitted and employed to effect physical results — which has already been proven? The lack of some mechanical intercession? Or is it simply the grand scale?
Q: The post-apocalyptic geology you depict is rather drastic, don’t you think?
apocalypse tends to lose some its punch if it’s not actually apocalyptic.
Wouldn’t you agree? Might as well go all the way, then. In for penny,
in for a
Q: Did you really think it necessary to tilt the whole world on its axis?
A: Do you know a more effective method of knocking out GPS? Or did you mean that question to be metaphorical? Besides, the 2010 Chilean earthquake apparently shifted the axis of our planet by about 3 inches (approximately 8 centimeters). It’s really just a matter of degree.
Others focus, more or less, on this topic:
Q: Defending polygamy is inherently sexist. Well…isn’t it?
A: Polygamy may
be sexist…or not, much like other forms of marriage. Polygyny,
practiced in some compounds in
Q: Are you advocating free love? Because this novel certainly seems to. And I don’t believe in that sort of thing.
A: If you don’t believe in free love, how much do you think it should cost?
Q: Are you married, and if so…?
A: That isn’t necessarily material to this discussion. But yes. Very much so. Read the dedication page of the novel if you don’t believe me.
there’s a whole
set of objections centered on religion.
Q: As a secular humanist, I’m somewhat offended by…
Q: As a fundamentalist, I’m somewhat offended by…
Q: As a practicing witch, I’m somewhat offended by…
Q: As a __________ (fill in the blank, at your own discretion), I’m offended by…(again, it’s your blank).
I generally answer these criticisms with questions.
Q: As a secular humanist, I’m somewhat offended by your apparent reverence for mysticism. Even though you seem to feel deity inhabits a scientific reality, that’s an anthropomorphic perspective.
A: Not precisely. Anthropomorphism tends to attribute human motivations to whatever intelligence permeates nature. I’m not nearly that ethnocentric. However, given that such intelligence may not operate on those narrow principles, can you rule out its existence entirely, and with scientific certainty? Are you so convinced your world is composed of senseless matter, devoid of some conscious spark, that it’s become an article of negative faith?
Q: As a fundamentalist, I’m somewhat offended by your irreverence toward traditional belief. Not only that, some Christians in this book are depicted as villains.
A: Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t contemporary fundamentalists the very ones who gave Jesus the most trouble? And, as to the rest — though that’s surely how they’d have described themselves — did you consider the villains to actually be Christians?
Q: As a practicing witch, I’m somewhat offended by the perpetuation of this poisoner stereotype, apparently started by Robert Heinlein, who….
A: Whoa… Perhaps you should practice a little harder. First of all, the quote from Exodus is precise, and the original translation happens to be essentially accurate — it was Heinlein who got it wrong, but… Don’t you realize he was on your side? And, secondly, there’s this: People sometimes resort to poison. Witches are people, too. Therefore… It’s a syllogism, get it? Not a slander on your lifestyle. Since one of your practitioners actually gets burnt at the stake by bigots in this plot, isn’t that enough empathy for you?
Q: As a __________ (fill in the blank), I’m offended by…
A: Do you normally get this distraught over works of fiction? It’s a novel, after all. I’d like to think it’s a good novel, but…
Q: Don’t you think God is offended by being conceptualized as female?
A: No, I doubt She is. Anyway, don’t you think God has better things to take offense at?
(I tend to answer these with clear statements.)
Q: Have you found Jesus?
A: Jesus and I get along just fine, thank you. It’s some of his so-called “followers” I seem to have problems with.
Ah, well…there were several Taoists who liked it.
And finally, this:
Q: Are you trying to convince me of something or other with this book? Is your writing meant to sway my opinions?
certainly not — though the characters in the book probably are. All I do
to them, then write it down. But a good story poses good questions.
the other hand — once
in a while — someone
Q: If you
had to pitch this book to
A: I have no
such intention. For a number of reasons,
Just a closing note to all those (Taoist or otherwise) who genuinely valued the book:
Obviously, the preceding
remarks weren’t directed at you…but you knew that already.
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