Archives

The Peers of Beinan: A Literary Journey

Castle Fantasy BackdropThere is a lot of science fiction on the market from independent authors published these last five years since I first published “The Great Succession Crisis.”  It is a crowded field where it is easy to get lost in. As with many popular genres, a huge number of books seek to emulate the plot and character elements of mega hits on the assumption of that what works for one highly profitable author must work for them as well. We’ve seen this with “Twilight” style paranormal romances.  We’ve seen this with “Five Shades of Grey” styled erotica.  The list goes on and on.

As moderator of a book promo group on facebook, I get to see the copycats almost ad nauseam. Books all look the same after a while. And while the premise of copying another’s ideas is repulsive to me as both a science fiction author and as a dedicated historian, I do genuinely see some success in these authors following those formulas — if the measure of success is Amazon rankings in any event.

But open these books and the blandness of copycatting shows itself. The writing lacks the sort of literary luster of the books and authors whose work holds the test of time. That is, perhaps, the best distinction one makes between commercial and literary fiction.  Commercial fiction is about today’s sale.  Literary fiction is about creating timeless works of art.  My fiction is literary fiction.

The Peers of Beinan Series is everything I love about the classics. As a free thinker and intellectual with a life-long passion for learning, it has never been my habit to follow the crowd – on anything. Whatever was “hot” or “trendy” was never of interest to me.  I always liked to be different. On occasion what I’ve liked and what the greater society is into have coincided — but never by my conscious design and rarely in precisely the same way.

I started my writing career with the Peers of Beinan because I saw an America becoming more and more socially and politically divided, an America where it was becoming more and more difficult to engage in civil conversations about the stuff that matters. I saw an America that was increasingly creating false equivalences between fact and opinion and where acts of hate against those who are different was going unpunished and ignored. Sound familiar?

I wanted to engage in an honest discussion with people about the subjects that matter to me most. Looking to the great science fiction/fantasy authors I like best — Gene Roddenberry, Dorothy “DC” Fontana, Ray Bradberry, Frank Herbert, Issac Asimov to name just a few — what I noticed is they often tackled some really big social and sometimes political subjects in their books — without offending people in the process.

I wanted to do the same.  I wanted to talk to people and encourage people to really think about things that matter to me. And I wanted people to open their minds to ideas and possibilities that put a different way to them they would never listen to.

And that is, in essence, what the Peers of Beinan Series is. It’s my reaching out across the universe and saying “this is important, please think it about it” from a group of stories that don’t ask that question directly of people.

house-personal-heraldry-collage

In personal interactions I am known for my point-blank directness. I don’t play the stereotypical gender roles game — not any more at least. And so I am “bold” as a woman and a writer. The Peers of Beinan is less point-blank than I usually am. It seeks to provoke thought without being confrontational. And just as important to me personally:  it seeks to bring you hope. For in the greatest darkness and despair, there is always Light. That’s how I overcame the great adversities of my life and how you will too.

 

Repost: Sexism Sucks for Everybody, Science Confirms

Last week the Smithsonian Magazine reported on a fascinating study about sexism.  In the study researchers discovered toxicity in traditional ideas of masculinity.  It is eye-opening stuff which I hope will help you in your life and your relationships. Author: Ben Panko.

trump-768x512

Donald Trump is a classic example of a man who needs to feel strong and more powerful than everyone else at all times in order to feel worthwhile as a person.

“You don’t need science to tell you it sucks to be a woman in a sexist society. While American culture may have progressed since the time of Mad Men, women today inevitably still encounter those who would demean their abilities, downplay their accomplishments or treat them as sex objects. In Sweden, women can even call in to a “mansplaining hotline” to report their experiences of having things condescendingly explained to them in the workplace.

But being sexist, it turns out, also sucks for the men themselves. That’s the conclusion of a meta-analysis published today in the Journal of Counseling Psychology that aggregates the results of nearly 80 separate studies on masculine norms and mental health over 11 years. The meta-analysis, which involved almost 20,000 men in total, found that men who adhered to these norms not only harmed the women around them—they also exhibited significantly worse social functioning and psychological health.

Discussion: Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?

manger-620x412This morning I found this fascinating article entitled “Is Jesus’ birth worth celebrating?”  In it Valarie Talerico takes us beneath the surface of the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth and looks at the inherent messages about female sexuality.

“A woman used is a woman soiled. A woman raped is a woman ruined. A girl who explores her body with a boy is a licked lollypop.  A divorced woman shouldn’t get married in white. Only an unbedded and so unsullied female—a virgin—could be pure enough to birth a perfect child, the son of God.”

The article goes into depth into the cultural and religious history behind these ideas that a woman who has never been sexually touched is superior to all other females.

Looking deeper than the article does, I must point out that these same cultures and religions often employ rape as a sort of weapon:  once used by the rapist, a woman is considered wholly unsuitable for marriage.

Though rape is a traumatic experience for the girl or woman, in societies and religious traditions where female conduct reflects on her male owners, the intent of the rapist is revealed to be more an attack on the men in her life, a way of dishonouring them through her.

Boudicca artist concept chariotThat is, in fact, the primary reason why Roman soldiers raped Queen Boudicca’s daughters:  they were sending a terrorist message that just as they ruined and shamed the Iceni (to rape their princesses is to shame the entire tribe), they were perfectly prepared to shame and terrorize any Briton daring to stand up to them.

And so we must examine in our own hearts what our values are and what we really want them to be.  Do we want to continue to measure a woman’s worth based on how many male genitals have touched her body and in what fashion?  Do we want to continue to weigh a person’s worth based on another person’s behaviour or experiences?  Do we still want to confuse service/nurturing with subservience and demand women treat themselves as inferiors to men?

Libby bird iconOr do we want something better for ourselves, our families, and our societies?  Do we truly believe in the equality of all people and the rights of every person to act according to her or his own conscience and convictions or will we persist on judging and condemning others for choices and circumstances that differ from our own?

Will we take the dark road of hate and judgement or will we take the harder road of love, acceptance, and peace?

I cannot answer that question for you; only for myself.  I choose love and peace.  I choose to accept you just the way you are — free of judgement.  You are wonderful just because you are you.

 

Merry Christmas!

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

 

The US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment: Police, Not Guns in Every Home

American gun patrioticThe 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution is interpreted by the National Rifle Association to mean that every American is guaranteed the right to own and carry firearms anywhere, at any time, in any context s/he wishes.  Common sense is not part of their position.  Guns should be at the zoo, at Starbucks, at your kid’s playground, even in your child’s school.  Guns should be everywhere because the Constitution says so!

Except the Constitution doesn’t say that,  Instead the full text of the 2nd Amendment is:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

14th century Italian militias.

14th century Italian militias.

Now as I talked about three years ago on Yahoo Voices and reposted a year ago, the idea of the militia has a specific historical context grounded in Anglo-Saxon tradition.  It is, at its core, a feudal institution pre-dating professional armies where local men and women responded to local emergencies by arming themselves and protecting their towns and villages.  Mercenaries (soldiers for hire)  were for centuries rather unreliable folks with rape/pillage habits — something American colonists experienced with the Hessian mercenaries hired by the Crown.  Before the emergence of completely professional national armies, soldiers for hire had the habit of abusing the local population, of taking what they wanted.  So locals tended to maintain their militias to protect themselves against such abuse.

gun murder

Times have changed in the United States and United Kingdom. Professional soldiers are hometown heroes and heroines — not threats to the safety of civilian populations. Invasions from foreign powers on home soil is essentially unknown to most Americans and British — the main modern exceptions to that happened during the 2nd World War.  Our armies have professionalized and this is a good thing. Because since the beginning of professional soldiering, the professionals have always possessed superior skills, protection, and weapons compared to their civilian counterparts.

And that is what a militia is:  civilians responding to emergencies.  It’s volunteer police, volunteer fire department, and neighourhood watch organizations. I’ve seen arguments for including USA state national guard units under this umbrella — except those are trained and equipped much more similarly to the full time army, navy, and so forth — and they are paid to do so!

Two London constables on duty.

Two London constables on duty.

So what then does the 2nd Amendment actually guarantee Americans?  If you treat the word “militia” properly, what is the 2nd Amendment actually protecting?  In my analysis as a historian, the 2nd Amendment guarantees us POLICE FORCES and FIRE DEPARTMENTS which do the same job that our militias once did.  Police forces/constabularies and fire departments protect local populations from danger — from within our localities and from outside threats.  When a riot breaks out, it’s the police — not a Federal soldier — that is sent in to deal with it.  When Federal soldiers ARE sent in to deal with riots we habitually treat this much as our ancestors did with mercenary soldiers — and perhaps rightly.

In the Autumn of 2001 New York Penn Station was protected with Federal soldiers carrying high power weapons through the station to police it, a response to 9/11.  Believe me, that terrified me as I walked through the station to catch or depart from my New Jersey Transit trains!  A regular NYPD officer in regular uniform with regular equipment felt safe to be around.  But Federal troops?  Utterly terrifying!

gun murder 2We need our police officers and constables.  We need this modern form of our ancient militias.  We need to honour and respect the work our officers and constables do and trust them to do their job — rather than delude ourselves into thinking we can do their jobs better than they can and therefore arming ourselves.

Gun are not the solution.  As a matter of fact, they aggravate our problems.  A woman is 500x more likely to be shot/killed during a domestic dispute when firearms are kept in the home than she is when family firearms are kept in a neutral location such as a gun club.  There is a reason why the murder rate in the United Kingdom is so much lower than in the United States.  This twisting of the 2nd Amendment is why.

Some of you are likely to attack me for writing this.  That is fine with me.  Be my guest.  Because as a woman who was hurt in a gun “accident” as a child, I fiercely uphold that the gun laws in the United Kingdom are the best way to go.  I’ve seen what guns everywhere all the time can do and it disgusts me and terrify me.

Leave the guns to the police and the constables.  Leave them to the real modern militias. And please, in the name of sanity, stop thinking that having a gun around makes you safer!  IT DOESN’T!

Going at it alone: more lessons from Josh Duggar

josh-duggar-reason-for-abuseRecently the Duggar family went on the record in an effort to lay to rest the scandal concerning Josh Duggar’s molestation of his sisters when he was fourteen years old.

In the interview the Duggar parents admit that Josh informed them of his behaviour three times across 2002 and 2003 and that each time the family decided it was best to deal with it from within the family boundaries instead of going outside of it.  When that did not work on the first attempt, they went to their church for help.  On the third time in 2003 they sent Josh to a faith-based camp for help.  But in all three cases it was dealt with entirely from the tiny confines of their close-knit community instead of informing the law and allowing the state to step in.

In 2012 I wrote a report for Yahoo Voices concerning rape and incest within the insular orthodox Jewish communities, a report that was re-posted into this blog before Yahoo dismantled Yahoo Voices.  In that report I called for an end to victim-blaming in religious communities.  Sadly with the Duggars his victims are also defending his behaviour, no doubt partially because the Duggar parents are in denial themselves regarding just how serious sexual violence is.

Until we start treating sexual crimes as serious, until we stop making excuses for those who violate the physical integrity of other people, and until we genuinely punish the perpetrators of these crimes while providing a strong and protective support system for those hurt by them then of course we cannot expect to stem this epidemic of violence and sexual violence.  Even in 2015 we treat rape as “no big deal.”  Women and men both do this, including victims of assault and sexual assault.  We keep making excuses and telling those hurt to shut up and “get over it.”

Now as a healed survivor, I am the first to say that experiencing assault and sexual assault does NOT BREAK YOU.  It doesn’t taint you.  It doesn’t make you less of anything.  In fact it becomes an opportunity for transcendence, to grow into something greater and be a better person — no different than any other form of hardship.  This isn’t lessening the horror of the experience; what I suffered WAS HORRIFYING.  A healthy human being MUST BE HORRIFIED by violence and especially sexual violence.  At the same time, our societies have this habit of not only dismissing survivors when we speak up (been there!), but also treating us as the walking dead.  So we are dismissed first for daring to speak up and second when the wounds heal — as they must heal.

It’s a culture that favours those who rape, beat, and kill and treats those who receive this treatment as surplus population who had better just die off quickly so our societies can pretend there’s not a problem.

Most alarming to me is the matter of the insular community.  Why?  Because I see its danger as someone whose insular community made it easy to continue these acts of violence and to continue dismissing me when I sought help.  Yet, unlike the Duggar girls, I went to adults for help — but they wouldn’t  help because of the insular community.  It was easier to call me “evil sorceress” or “seductress” (right because four year old girls instinctively know how to seduce men 10x their age into sex?) than place that phone call to social services that would have taken me to safety.

The larger problem is therefore not Josh Duggar — a man who doesn’t deserve to have his children grow up with him — but the communities themselves.  We can only help people in need when we go beyond our castle walls and allow the larger secular community to intervene, to enforce laws written to protect children and provide safe home environments for everyone.

Yes, our governments are not perfect; there has never been a truly perfect government.  But when we fail to trust others beyond the boundaries of our small communities we set ourselves up for exactly the epidemic of violence and sexual violence plaguing our societies.  Protecting the community becomes more important than what is right and just for the people being hurt.  This was the case at Penn State and it is the case with the Duggar family.

What is your take on the Josh Duggar matter?  Reply to this post with your comments below and let’s get a serious conversation going!

%d bloggers like this: