Thursday, August 10, 2017


This site was originally composed in order to promote my Young Adult novel "Axis of Eternity" (you can read it, if you wish; the chapter headings are in the sidebar to the right).  The site name, "The Redoubt", came from a specific location in the novel, a cave in which the free-floating souls of the deceased might learn to rebuild their bodies for a second shot at corporeal existence.

The project of writing and attempting to sell that novel taught me a great deal.  Axis died a worthy death after 120+ rejections by agents and publishers.   The story universe lives on in "Monsters in Heaven", a short story which will be released in the January 2018 issue of Broadswords and Blasters. I had great fun with Axis, but it's no longer the centerpiece of my writing, and this site is no longer a "Redoubt" in the sense of the cave in that story.

What IS central to my writing is problematic concepts.  By that I mean:  the deliberate inclusion of material that will discomfort the reader and challenge his/her pre-existing beliefs.

For instance:  I am a cisgender white man who writes stories from the perspectives of other kinds of people--African child soldiers, gay kids, women, what have you.  I make no apology for this.  All identities are intersectional; hence, any attempt to write from any perspective other than the author is going to involve cultural distance.  A world in which nobody is allowed to write as anything other than themselves is a world in which no book can be published in which two characters interact--by definition, one of the two perspectives involved is "appropriated."  I tire of the idea that to research, empathize with, and do honor to another human viewpoint is somehow exploitative.  I choose not to confine myself to the perspectives informed by my direct experience.  If you don't like that, fine; go read something safer.

Moreover:  I write about individual human beings AS individual human beings, not as representatives of groups.  Every character I write is himself or herself, and possessed of particular flaws and foibles.  No one of them is intended as a stand-in or representative of their gender, or sexual orientation, or ideological orientation, or ethnic group.  If the only way you have of dealing with a character is to place them in a category, you have a problem with reading.  That's your issue to deal with.  I won't reshape my characters to make them fit your idea of what's appropriately representative.

This approach to writing is not presently popular in the authorial community.  It makes it difficult for me to sell work.  I can live with that.  What I can't live with is the utterly poisonous environment that crowdsourced policing of modern writing has produced.  The use of social media for "dragging" and gang-swarming of writers and artists who challenge the norms of the moment is indecent and contrary to every principle of creativity and authenticity.  It is an attempt to impose ideological conformity through fear, to replicate the ethic of a high school ruled through peer-shunning by the "cool kids" on a societal level.  History will be brutal, absolutely brutal, in its judgment of those who engage in this practice.

Because I love the world of ideas, my fiction is often based in thought experiments.  I ask questions the implications of which are unpleasant.  What if reading a book could change your sexual orientation?  What if North Korea were secretly the paradise that its government propaganda claims it to be?  What if magic were not only real, but the product of the systematic slavery of an undiscovered set of sentient organisms?  What if the cultural collisions that have driven so many of history's wars were to manifest on an even more massive scale in the afterlife?

There appears to exist a growing school of thought that engaging horrifying ideas through speculative fiction somehow empowers them and creates real-world damage.  This is the mindset of those who react with horror to the idea of a TV show set in a world in which the CSA won the American Civil War.  To folks who believe that, this stuff is going to be unwelcome.  That's their business.  I'm not writing for them.

We do not need Milo Yianoppoulos-style provocateurs who systematically produce outrages in order to monetize them.  But it can't be the case that the only options are that and a constant reaffirmation of the prevailing ethic.  There has to be room in literature for questions that challenge the assumptions of the powerful--and those who define the mores of a community are, by definition, powerful in that context.  There's only one kind of writer I want to be: the kind whom those who set the rules deem "problematic."

So, yeah, I'll own the word "problematic".  "Problem" is just another word for "challenge."  Challenges are good for us.  They keep us sharp.  I hope you find me challenging in the most enjoyable sense of the term.

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