Tag Archive | violence

Ghosts of the Past: the Dark Side of Medieval politics

Ghost of the Past Chinese webLast week the Ghosts of the Past debuted in Chinese language edition thanks to the careful work of some of the best translators in all of Beijing.  One measure of feedback I received from my editor was just how dark and sexy the book was.  Given my well deserved scholarly reputation as a historian, Ghosts of the Past and its equally saucy sequel Princess Anyu Returns might seem out of place from the rest of my work.  Out of place until you look deeper into history and explore the treacherous realm of sexual politics that was the experience for most medieval noble and royal women.

Life for women has always been somewhat of a treacherous experience filled with dangers.  With few or no legal rights or protections, women rarely decided for themselves who to have sex with, let alone marry.  Instead the men in their families, their governments, and their religions held almost complete control over their bodies.  Among women of high social status this meant that women’s bodies were tools for gaining wealth, power, and social status by those in position to use them.

Ghosts of the Past cover webThis social and political reality for women underscores the sometimes brutally dark sides to Beinarian society.  Sex and childbearing are tools the villains (both female and male) use at their leisure to impose their will on others, advancing mysterious agendas that only become clear after Princess Anyu Returns from her exile.   These agendas add spice to both Ghosts of the Past and Princess Anyu Returns with twists and turns around every corner.  Villains use sex and violence freely to achieve their goals, predating on the innocent and using every method at their disposal to thwart the heroes and heroines.  They are just as likely to kill as seduce and use offspring created at the expense of their enemies as weapons against them.

It is a dark, dystopic realm where only the bravest dare tread.

Are you brave enough to travel there?

 

Find the Ghosts of the Past in English on Amazon, Barnes/Noble, Smashwords, and iTunes or in Chinese on Amazon, Chinese Amazon, and Douban.

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!

The Myth of Perpetual Trauma

Originally posted June 25th, 2012

“You really need to see a therapist” advises a perfect stranger responding to my comment on a news blog where I discuss the gross under-reporting of sex crimes and domestic violence. My remark is sociological in nature, referencing data I learned in my university education which included sociology, social psychology, and pre-counseling psychology courses. The person reading it regards my data as “angry” and “hurt” in nature and assumes that I am a survivor of some sort of domestic violence or sex crime who needs professional help.

She was correct in assessing that I survived something, but completely off-base in her assumption that surviving something automatically means that the person is so traumatized by the event(s) that she presently needs professional therapy. Knowing nothing else about me, she could not know my personal medical history, much less the details of the crimes, yet she felt it appropriate to stick her head into very private personal business. Her underlying assumption was “if victimized, then need help.”

As well-meaning as her intent was, it is faulty in its logic. Every single person and every crime is different. We each respond to the stressors in our lives differently.
Sometimes a stressor like domestic violence or rape un-nerves us, undermining our capacities to live normal life. In these cases, it is probably advisable to seek professional help in getting back to a more productive mental state.

But the point of therapy is not to stay in therapy forever; the point of therapy is to get BETTER and NOT be in therapy any longer. The point of therapy is to HEAL – just as you heal from a physical woundIt is SUPPOSED to end; if no end is in sight, then the treatment isn’t working and a new therapist and/or approach is needed, just as you would do for any physical condition – like my chronic migraines where prescription drugs didn’t help, but a change to holistic therapy DID in reducing my physical pain.

Just as a stressor may unnerve us, it may equally INSPIRE us; we can and typically do respond to stress POSITIVELY. Surviving domestic violence or a sex crime often provokes us to make positive changes in our lives, allowing us to break destructive habits, increase in wisdom/insight, and grow deeper in our chosen spirituality. We learn from every experience in our lives; the most stressful events are generally the best teachers.

Despite living my life today with physical scars on my body that will never really go away from the crimes I suffered, I can honestly tell you that I would not change anything about my life, even and especially the mistakes I’ve made.
I am not less of a person. I am not weak for surviving criminal behavior. All of these experiences have given me insight, forced me to grow religiously, and developed inner resources and skills I would never have been able to. Through the crimes I suffered, I came to finally overcome several bad habits I’ve had that, in hindsight, have been rather self-destructive. Under the stress of coping with these hurtful events, I have discovered that I BLOSSOMED as an individual. My insights and understanding of the world is rooted in them.

Have I ever gone to therapy? Absolutely, many times over the course of my life, and using many different approaches. But therapy did its job: to help me cope and move on.

Surviving a crime is not a life sentence, no matter how brutal, horrible, or long-lasting. We all heal and move on. Surviving is not weakness, not something to be pitied. The strongest people in the world all survived some sort of serious trauma. Remember that next time you hear someone suffered something; odds are really good they are tougher inside than you are!

Shock Fiction: What Popularity of Horror and Erotica Genres Say About Our Culture

Next up is my look at why sex and violence seem to outsell more conservative fare.

 

cover art to Fifty Shades of Grey -- one of the worst written and most poorly edited bestsellers of all time

cover art to Fifty Shades of Grey — one of the worst written and most poorly edited bestsellers of all time

Shock Fiction: What Popularity of Horror and Erotica Genres Say About Our Culture

A Look at the Popularity of Sex and Violence in the Media

 February 8th, 2014

Sex and violence sell. For decades we’ve seen the connection between book/movie/music popularity and graphic violence/graphic sex. Can it be any wonder why Miley Cyrus bares all or why a song implying that women don’t mean “no” to sex when they say it topped the charts in 2013? We relish in treating women as bodies for male gratification; it’s shocking and therefore appealing to us, like some sort of dark sexual fantasy.

Except the fantasy does not match with our experiences. Rape is not fun. It’s not sexy. It’s an act of brutal violence that stays with us, often for the rest of our lives. Rape is about power, control and domination over another living being. In the real world, there is nothing fun about being on the receiving end of it.

Violence too is also not the fantasy the media we consume tells us it is. Speak to any woman or child in a battered woman’s shelter and ask her how “fun” it was to be beaten, raped, intimidated, controlled, or worse. Violence may be entertaining to hear about, read about, or watch on the big screen, but the actual experience is far from something you want for yourself. If it were, post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) would be as rare to psychotherapists as smallpox to American hospitals.

Given this disconnect, why do we need to consume these fantasy experiences that, ultimately, further callous us against the suffering of others? Why do we buy the sexually violent and poorly written “Fifty Shades of Grey” over better written books modeling healthy relationships between women and men?

Perhaps we have closed ourselves off to our emotions, to our ability to feel in our own lives, let alone sympathize and empathize with others. Rather than face the challenges in our own lives, we find it easier to wall our emotions away – much as the fictional Vulcans repress their emotions. Once repressed, our own emotions become difficult to access. We lose touch with those things that bring meaning to our lives and no longer remember how to relate the experiences of others to our own lives – a critical form of learning that other primates find exceedingly difficult if not impossible to attain.

If we cannot see ourselves reflected in other living beings, it becomes easy to ignore experiences we would never wish for ourselves. In essence, we de-humanize everyone else. Others have no real value. It is profoundly selfish of us.

We become completely emotionally disconnected. Can it be any wonder we seek to fill this void with whatever excitement we can find – sexual or violent?

But we can do better than this. We can embrace our feelings better and learn how to deal with life’s challenges in ways that keep us connected and related to other people. One simple way to do that is to turn off our electronics and return our focus to attentive in-person and voice-telephone contact. Yes, this means we need to learn to listen again instead of constantly broadcasting everything in our heads. Yes, this involves more self-control. Rather than bullying from afar, we have to re-learn the humanity of others by keeping our remarks civil if not kind and spoken from much closer physical distances.

Once we achieve this we will find ourselves able to respond not only to the breadth that literature has to offer us, but the breadth and depth of the human experience. We will not need cheap and shallow thrills or instant fame anymore. We will grow to appreciate the subtleties in humor and plot. We will come alive once more.

Analysis: Top Ten Storytelling Cliches that Need to Disappear Forever

This hospitaler, a stand in for both Lord Knight Corann and for Lord Knight Elendir, stands as the perfect medieval knight.

This hospitaler, a stand in for both Lord Knight Corann and for Lord Knight Elendir, stands as the perfect medieval knight.

This afternoon I gave across one of the most poignant columns on writing and the writing process I’ve seen in a rather long time.  The subject:  literary cliches.

http://litreactor.com/columns/top-10-storytelling-cliches-that-need-to-disappear-forever

It is very hard to disagree with Mr. Hart here; he hit a lot of the bigger cliches right on the head — and shown us why knocking someone unconscious is a REALLY BAD IDEA to put in a story.

Avoiding cliches is difficult.  Write in an archetypal character — like Lord Knight Corann from The Great Succession Crisis — and you run the risk of such a character being called cliche.

One matter I do have a bit of disagreement on was his talk about bad parenting.  True, people do over use that device, but his description here really comes off to me, as someone who endured a violent childhood, as rather — dismissive.

In my humble opinion, Mr. Hart does not appear to really understand the psychology of abuse nor how it provides a genuine obstacle to success — not insurmountable — I am living proof of that — but an obstacle nonetheless, something people must work at to overcome.

Domestic violence is not something to talk about lightly, as if it is no big deal.  Rather, it is a serious matter that must be addressed by our society through prevention (as Sir Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame talks about) first and foremost.

Now should a challenging childhood really be the main motivator for villainy?  Absolutely not — yes, that is overdone.  But it should also never be described as if it is no big deal.

We as writers possess a social and moral responsibility.  Ours is the greatest power for social change.

The cliche about the pen and the sword is genuinely true.  As strong as physical might may appear, it is the power of ideas and words, filtered through the talents of writers, journalists, and authors, that changes our world most.

Endeavor always to make the world as better place through your pen and your works — published and otherwise.

Ghosts of the Past shows a sexier side to Beinarian society

Ghosts of the Past digital cover

Ghosts of the Past is book two of my Peers of Beinan series.  Set three generations after “The Great Succession Crisis,” and spanning four generations, Ghosts follows the descendents of Princess Anlei as they struggle with terrorism and violence.  Readers of “The Great Succession Crisis,” will remember the revenge promised by Lord Janus.  Now Janus takes his revenge from the grave directly through his new incarnation and through his descendants in this story where you never know who or when someone will fall to terrorism or murder.

True to my narrative style, none of this violence is graphic; you don’t need to see every drop of Beinarian green-yellow blood to know someone is dead!

Sex too is an inevitable part of Ghosts of the Past as generation after generation is born.  None of this gets explicit, but there is a lot more sex to Ghosts than its prequel.

A reader or two has suggested that this sex is not necessary.  So this morning I would like to take a look at this sexier side.

Character building and sex:

As early as chapter one, we see our first hero, Lord Knight Elendir, seduced by Princess Cathryn, then by Lady Elita in the chapter of the same name.  Is this sex for the sake of sex?

Let’s take a look at what happens and why.

Early in chapter one, we watch the sixty yen-ar old Elendir elevated to knighthood.  This sounds pretty old, until you realize that Beinarians come of age at 50 yen-ars and live over 300 yen-ars barring accident, illness, or violence.  Ages 50 to 80 for Beinarians are therefore roughly equivalent to Earth humans aged 18 to 21 with all of the same habits for reckless behavior that comes with that age.

Typical of a such a young man, Elendir starts out vulnerable to his hormones, finding it difficult for him to assert mind and will over his body, especially when faced by attractive women who know how to exploit this flaw.  As a knight of Ten-Ar, he has been trained to resist his body, of course, but is far less successful at it than his ancestor, Lord Knight Corann, from book one. Elendir is therefore a flawed young man whose failings come to haunt him — and those he loves — later on in life.

Elendir’s best friend, Prince Kendric, also has some serious problems.  The treaty that “resolved” the Great Succession Crisis has forced him to marry a woman he doesn’t know and doesn’t love over the woman he is very deeply in love with.  But Princess Lidmila is not your typical nobleman’s pawn.  With secret connections to the same terrorists behind the healing center bombings, she abuses Beinarian fertility technology to drug and control her unwilling husband.  These drugs take a serious toll on the young prince who in time resumes his relationship with his sweetheart, Lady Aurnia.  As with Elendir, the sex described after the fact is used to convey key information about Prince Kendric, Princess Lidmila, and Lady Aurnia.

Finally, there is Kendric’s youngest daughter Constance who becomes the youngest ever Gurun dynasty queen after her father’s murder (celebrated in the song she sings at the crime scene).  Constance is in a tight place.  Both her parents are dead.  The terrorist strikes have now raged for over 100 yen-ars (300 Earth years), decimating her family, and the future of the planet is on her narrow, adolescent shoulders.  Attracted to Elendir’s son Corann, she marries according to her political instincts.  But time cannot erase her attraction and affection for Corann, setting in motion what comes later.

Ghosts of the Past IS a sexier story than its prequel, but for good reason as I hope I have demonstrated.  Far from erotica (most of it is done through metaphors and vague descriptions), it shows very poignantly the consequences of our choices and the impact of poor decisions from our youth on the rest of our lives — and others’ lives by extension.  In Elendir’s vulnerability to his body, he becomes more real to us than some cookie cutter knight from a storybook; whether we admit it or not, every single one of us has felt the intensity of that particular fire from adolescence.  Therefore in sharing this experience, we also feel his agony regarding the deaths of his parents by terrorism and feel his struggles more intensely.

This I hope makes Ghosts of the Past more than just a murder-mystery, but a story we all can relate to, even from a galaxy far far away from Beinan!

 

–Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Peers of Beinan series

http://www.peersofbeinan.com

http://www.amazon.com/Laurel-A.-Rockefeller/e/B008YVJJFE/