Works in progress

I was hoping to be able to tell you about my Lunacon and LI-Con schedules by now, but that’ll have to keep. No blame! It can’t be easy organizing conventions. All I can tell you about that for the moment is what I reported about a month ago: The launch party featuring Mighty Mighty and other, more worthy titles is scheduled for Saturday night at Lunacon.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been a busy little nut case.

As I mentioned here shortly after returning from Arisia, where I gave a first reading of my newly completed novel (well, pre-submission draft at least) and generated a little buzz from agents. I’ve gotten some positive vibes back from the beta readers for Pitch Ribbons: A Cantata for Four Voices, but I’m still waiting on all the manuscripts to come back with notes. I’m sure I’ll  have some work to do once those chickens roost. Meantime, I know certain sections that absolutely need rewrite. You see, a lot of Pitch Ribbons takes place on motorcycles, which I’ve never ridden in my life. So I went and got my Class M learner’s permit and am going for lessons. Within the month, I should be a licensed rider. Yes, I thought I was smarter than that too, but I’ve always been a stickler for research. I never want my ignorance to take a reader out of a story.

I have to admit, it was a little jarring when the DMV lady asked, while handing me my temporary permit, if I wished to be an organ donor.

“I hope not,” I replied, then explained I already have that designation on my driver’s license.

Then she showed me the results from my written test.

“Congratulations!” she chirped. “You only got two wrong!”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I want on my tombstone: ‘HE ONLY GOT TWO WRONG.'”

Assuming I live long enough, though, I will continue working on my next attempt at a commercially successful, or critically acclaimed, or at least widely witnessed train wreck of a novel. I just started on it next week, so I’ll tell you more about it as it takes shape.

But here’s what I can say about my new work in progress. The villain’s name will be David Stolarz, the name of the winner of a  raffle to benefit the Boy Scout troop for which I serve as an assistant scoutmaster.  (Yes, you read that right.) In addition to the tuckerization, Dave won signed copies of Land That I Love, Age of Certainty, and an advanced reader’s copy of Mighty Mighty. And if that’s not enough, he also won a $25 dry-cleaning gift certificate.

I can also tell you that it is a return to social satire and speculative fiction parody. The kind of skewering I gave to the superhero genre in Mighty Mighty I now apply to such near-future police procedurals as Almost Human or RoboCop. And as Mighty2 concerned itself with the limitations people saddle themselves with, this new novel will focus on  overt bigotry, unconscious prejudice, cultural appropriation, the hypocrisy of conservatism as a social movement, the privileges of the descendants of those who made the rules, and the sense of entitlement that engenders.

Wow, that sounds pretty deep, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, I’m too much of an intellectual lightweight to be taken seriously about any of it.

The working title is Augie and the first line is “You can tell a lot about somebody by sniffing his anus.”

You’ll love it. Trust me. But something tells me David Stolarz will never speak to me again.

PS: Please say something nice on Amazon and GoodReads!

Freedman’s back! Why now? What does he want?

I’m going to be honestly brutal here. I haven’t been blogging because blogging is what you do when you’ve got time on your hands and are otherwise completely unproductive. If you’re a blogger, you probably have some inflated sense of self-importance that deludes you into thinking people really give a rat’s ass what you think about something. If you’re in the ADHD spectrum and blogging, then your delusion compels you into thinking people give that rodent’s posterior what you think about any random thing that misfires in your brain. In short, you have to be some lame, pathetic loser to blather on via the internet about your life’s minutia.

I am blogging today because I have formally joined the ranks of the losers. I’m blogging because I now need the money.

I have never before mentioned my day job on the Web. I tried to be sensitive to those Muggles who paid the mortgage for this crazed, manic scribe of satire and fantasy and science fiction and horror and all those other things that separate me from reality. But they laid me off in July along with 8,000 other poor saps; I helped them sell around $3 million worth of hardware, software and services between February and May, but apparently they didn’t notice. They missed their Wall Street numbers and somebody had to go. They missed the next quarter too, so maybe they’ve figured out by now it wasn’t my fault. I still have enough respect for the company (which did give me a fair severance package) not to mention them by name. Contrary to what people say, I didn’t work for I’ve Been Moved. Or I’m By Myself. Or I’d Buy a Macintosh. Or It’s Better Manually. Or Inexorably Bound to Mephistopheles. But you get the idea. I didn’t talk too much at work about my literary pursuits. That’s because there were only two kinds of people in that company: Those who didn’t appreciate my sense of humor, and those who didn’t get my sense of humor.

So anyway, my corporate career has served its purpose. I live in a house that I can sell any time for more than I paid for it. I have a good chunk of the money I’ll need to retire on. I also have a good chunk of what my kids will need for college. And I have enough to carry me through a few more months of transition.

Transition to what is a question. At first, I figured that I’d get snatched up by some other IT consulting practice. That didn’t happen. I then figured I’d go over to the client side, get a job calling bullshit on the consultants. The fox-guarding-the-henhouse thing came awfully close, but no deal. So that leads me here.

I’ve given up on the whole corporate thing (immediately after the whole corporate thing gave up on me). I’m going to piece together an entrepreneurial, blended career. I will continue to take IT management consulting gigs, but as an independent contractor. I’m also rebuilding my book of business as a financial journalist and, considering my 15 year sidetrack with Azul Grande, I’ll also build clientele as a technology writer. I’ll try to get some adjunct teaching gigs in Business, Information Systems and Creative Writing faculties. Maybe I’ll tend bar.

But I’m also going to start taking my income from fiction writing seriously. It didn’t matter before. I could lose money. I didn’t fucking care. Now I do. If you really like my work, if you really like me, I could really use your help now.

If you haven’t bought my books, please go to either Amazon or Rebel ePublishers and buy them now. If you have, please tell the world how much you loved them by posting reviews in Goodreads and on Amazon.

Thanks for all your support up to this point, and thanks in advance for your continued best wishes.

Lunacon post-mortem

Screwed it up again. Here’s the fixed link:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfQ8hUd62es

Again, I’ll be putting this in more cogent writing here in the next post.

 

Here’s the third of three vlog entries from Lunacon 2013: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STBLj5TmXuY&feature=youtu.be

I’ll be following up these themes in my next written blog post here in this space — where it’ll be better thought-out and much more concise.

So who said I’m an atheist?

About a hundred years ago, Don Marquis coined the phrase, “A hypocrite is a person who — but who isn’t?”

That quote occurred to me often over the past week — the week after I finished editing the Age of Certainty anthology written mainly by atheists of stories which cast God as a speculative element, a week during which I hit up leading “rationalists” for blurbs to help hawk it — a week in which I took my family and a couple Catholic kids from the neighborhood to Israel to celebrate our 13-year-old’s bar mitzvah, praying at the Western Wall in tallis and tefillin, visiting the spot on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where the original Christian church was founded, leading a traditional Shabbos dinner with prayers and rituals and discussions of text from the Torah. Oh, and for extra credit, three of the kids of I took with me — including two of my sons — are members of the Boy Scouts of America, an organization with which I am also affiliated as an assistant scoutmaster, and part of my brief on this trip was to help the boys earn a merit badge; there are only two things that can get you kicked out of BSA: being gay or being an atheist — and while lifting the ban on gays is at least being discussed, nobody is making a case for lifting the one on non-believers. (There are scouts who are Buddhists, Hindus, members of native American religions, and even some Wiccans, but you have to claim to be “reverent” toward something.)

So, in short, where do I get off?

Let’s start with my own identity. I’m a Jew. Whether or not I’m Jewish is beside the question. I have no choice in this matter; it is a circumstance of my circumcision. There are only about 15 million of us in the world and I guesstimate that for every one of us alive today there are 10 people in the world who want to see us all dead. Nazis, Klansmen and Islamic militants rarely follow up the question, “Are you a Jew?” with “How into it are you, really?”

It should also be pointed out that most Israeli Jews you’ll encounter are not religious stiffs. They don’t cover their heads. They don’t keep kosher; I was surprised by the ease with which I could find a bacon cheeseburger or a pepperoni pizza. They don’t keep the Sabbath (although there’s a strong cultural aversion to talking business on Friday nights). We timed our trip to coincide with the Jewish festival of Purim. If you’re not familiar with the story of Purim, I can tell you it’s on the same theme as every other Jewish holiday: “They tried to kill us all. They couldn’t. Let’s eat.” What makes Purim unique is that it commemorates the events of the Book of Esther, the only biblical text that at no point mentions the name or even overtly suggests the existence of God. As far as the pious community is concerned, the holiday takes place over a one-day period that this year fell on Saturday night to Sunday. As far as the larger secular community is concerned, the party started Thursday night and, as far as I can tell, is still going on. It’s like Jewish Mardi Gras.

So I count myself as a secular Jew, but even that’s not the entire story. I went through a significant portion of my life trying to “return” from my Reform (i.e., virtually Episcopalian) upbringing to a more authentic (no ironic quotes) form of Judaism. I learned the rubrics of prayer and observance, as well as the customs and small-talk that would allow this frequent out-of-town visitor to pass for a fully observant Jew. What my Shabbos hosts didn’t know is that, after nightfall Saturday, I’d be returning to my red-headed Irish wife. Our three children are considered bastards or worse by the overwhelming majority of the Orthodox community (although, in fairness, not to all individuals therein) because their mother isn’t a Jew.

The Reform movement, which is much more OK with soaking money from Jewish dads who married out of the religion, doesn’t see a problem, but I have a problem with Reform. Basically, Reform Judaism doesn’t believe in anything as far as I can tell. They don’t practice anything except a couple of photo-op kid-oriented holidays and a once-a-year guilt fest that their temples rely on for funding purposes. And they don’t know anything. Although their rabbis tend to be quite adept at chanting from the Torah, few of them could converse in Hebrew long enough to get driving directions from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea. Reform laity knows even less about their supposed faith — those that know anything at all. I come away from Reform Judaism thinking it’s not a religion at all except in maybe the same sense that the Southern Baptist Convention is a religion: It’s got less to do with worshiping God than with providing ecclesiastical cover for a political party — the Democrats to the Baptist Republicans.

The Orthodox and Reform movements have one thing in common, though: They both consider me someone else’s problem. I’m generally unwelcome in both camps. (Exception to the rule: Chabad Lubavich. They’re “ultra-Orthodox” — to use a journalistic term they themselves find ridiculous — Chassidic Jews, but are refreshingly non-judgmental.) The Orthodox can never get past the fact that I maintain an “inappropriate relationship” with a gentile woman and continue to be part of the lives of the children I sired by her. The Reform don’t like the way I call them on their bullshit. So what’s left for me?

Well, there’s always Christianity. Nothing would like my wife happier, I’m sure. But to be brutally honest, I think the reason a lot of people have an issue with religion in general is that they grew up in a country where the prevailing religion is this misbegotten Rube Goldberg device slapped together from spare parts from Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and both Greco-Roman and Norse mythology. I’m astonished by how many otherwise perfectly reasonable people buy into this nonsense in such a big way. You can make fun of the whole concept of religion, but Christianity is the one religion that all the other religions make fun of. It’s intellectually, morally and spiritually bankrupt. Well, maybe not spiritually. If you define “spirituality” as the energy to jump around, a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’ with abandon, then yeah, it’s spiritual. If you define spirituality as getting in touch with quiet, still, divine voice within yourself, good luck.

So I’m an atheist, right? Wrong. I feel the need to believe in at least the possibility of something.

So I’m an agnostic, right? Wrong. Agnostics are to atheists what bisexuals are to gays — maybe they’re for real, but maybe they’re just kidding themselves. I like to think I know myself better.

I’m a believer. A believer in what? I don’t know. Not Giant Space Daddy. Not Flying Spaghetti Monster. Definitely not some Jewish guy who took time before fulfilling his death sentence to get his hair bleached and nose fixed.

But I believe in justice. I believe in kindness. I believe in charity. I believe in abstract thought and free will. And I believe that these are the traits than natural selection tends not to favor over cunning, camouflage, sharp claws and powerful jaw muscles.

So I choose to believe in a purpose, a direction, a human nature that is distinct from animal nature. That doesn’t mean we didn’t descend from animals. Of course we did. That makes all living things on earth our cousins, and our responsibility as stewards, not as masters.

It’s often said that Unitarianism “believes in, at most, one God.” The same quip applies to Judaism too. So it’s fair to say I too believe in, at most, one God. Judaism, at least, concedes its inability to adequately describe this God. Usually, Jews refer to “Adonai” — the enforcer of justice who does what He can to temper His indignation at your affronts with mercy and understanding. But some people don’t respond well to that. There’s also an emanation of God called the “Shechina” — and She (yes, this side of God is perceived as female) is a protective, motherly presence. There are others as well, culminating in what’s called Ein Sof, That Without End, that which cannot be manifested or understood, that which is forever beyond our comprehension. This is God with all the tinsel torn away.

This is something I can believe in at least the possibility of.