Stating that "at present I have nothing much to say (and linked with this) no imaginative sense of an audience," Bruce Charlton has announced that he is suspending his blogging at Bruce Charlton's Notions.
Though I respect Dr. Charlton's decision, I would be lying if I said I will not miss reading his blog on a daily basis, which I have done for the better part of four years. As with any blog, I did not always agree with everything Dr. Charlton posted, but nearly all of his posts contained kernels of wisdom and insight that forced me to think more deeply. I contacted him personally on a few occasions over the years; his replies were always prompt, courteous, and thoughtful.
I hope Bruce's absence will not be permament. Regardless, I wish him the best and thank him for the exceptional work he posted on his blog.
I am in a place I have not been for many years. I do not know what to call this place, since it is not an actual place at all, but rather a place in the mind. After many years of dormancy, my imagination is awakening again. I am beginning to conceptualize ideas, characters, and themes that are slowly being structured into a narrative framework. In the coming months, I imagine I will begin recording the narrative in writing.
In the meantime, I am allowing these initial surges of creativity to play out. I do not spend much time consciously thinking about them - I simply let them all permeate. The best ideas or notions come to me as I walk to and from the train station before work and after my day at the university is done. It's a half-hour walk each way and during that time I let my mind wander as I traverse the farm fields that separate Fertőendréd, where I live, from Petőháza, the town in which I catch the train. I pass a cemetery, two churches, a stone statue of the Virgin Mary, and many houses and small-town businesses as I walk to and from the station, but I barely notice these things on a conscious level. I began walking to the train shortly after Christmas as part of an effort to get back and shape and keep myself fit, but physical exercise is no longer my primary motivation for walking to the train and walking home. During these walks, I am purely in the world of imagination. It's good to be back in this place of the mind again and I'm curious to know what the result of this most recent creative stirring will be.
Very few writers understand the inherent horrors and dangers of ideology as well as Fyodor Dostoevsky. His dark political and social satire Demons, first published in 1871-72, centers around a small town that suffers the rather catastrophic consequences of an attempted revolution. In the novel, Dostoevsky portrays the revolutionaries, who of course see their aims as noble and virtuous, as demons - not in the literal sense, but rather in the sense of being possessed by a demonic power that propels them to commit the most horrific crimes and outrages under the banner of goodness, justice, and humanity. The novel has several different titles in English: The Possessed, The Devils, and Demons. Interestingly enough, each title works because it essentially encapsulates Dostoevsky's profound insight that those that seek to improve the world through the vehicle of ideology end up being consumed by and thus possessed by the ideology, which becomes a satanic force that leads to the destruction of all, including the revolutionaries themselves.
I read the novel about twenty-five years ago (a beat-up paperback copy titled The Possessed) and I remember being incredibly moved by it. Though I recall the overall plot and some of the characters, my most lasting impression was the tragedy Dostoevsky masterfully invokes as the revolutionaries become possessed by the ideology they wield, the horrible descent that occurs when their ideology poisons their souls leaving them in a desert of political and moral nihilism where violence becomes the only viable solution to the obstacles they face. Put briefly, it is an intense, violent, and deeply-troubling novel that is made all the more profound by its uncanny prophetic vision (remember, the Bolshevik Revolution flared up a mere half-century after Demons was published and Russia eventually became privy to horrors the likes of which the world has rarely seen).
When I look at the world today, I see people from across the political spectrum firmly entrenched in the gutters of ideology. In the West, ideology reigns supreme. Like Dostoevsky's revolutionaries, many of today's ideologues are possessed, beyond the point of no-return. I am wary of these kinds of people and I humbly suggest that you should be wary of them too. I plan to re-read Dostoevsky's masterpiece in the coming weeks; I firmly believe doing so will fortify my sensibilities when it comes to the dangers of ideologies. If you want a better understanding the force that fuels contemporary ideologues, I can offer no better novel and I humbly suggest you allow yourself to be Possessed by Demons or Devils in order to be able to identify and gain a better understanding of the possessed demons and devils that lurk among us. The times may have changed, but the demonic forces behind ideology have not
The book is available free ebook on Project Gutenberg among other sites:
With the exception of this website, I have not done much in the way of platform-building. Below I explain the reasons why:
1. Because I worked as a high school teacher, I was not entirely free to put myself out there.
If I had published a book called How To Be A Great Teacher or Fluffy Bunny's ABC Adventures, I would have had no qualms about building an online presence as a writer while I worked as a high school teacher. But I hadn't written a book like that.
I published my novel in 2012, but I continued to work as a high school teacher until March 2015. Though I tackle many themes and subjects in my novel The City of Earthly Desire, a large portion of the narrative focuses on the pornography industry that began to thrive in Budapest immediately after the collapse of communism in Hungary.
Now, as anyone who has read the novel can tell you, it is not a pornographic novel, that it is I did not write it with the sole aim of arousing sexual desire in the reader; on the contrary, the novel is extremely critical of pornography as a pernicious social and soul-corrupting phemonenon. I wrote no explicitly crude sexual scenes, but I admit that some of the content of my novel is, due to the inherent nature of the thing I chose to focus on, vulgar in nature. It would be difficult to provide the reader with a truthful representation of what the porn industry in Budapest was like without including some of the terms and ideas inherent within the porn industry itself. Of course, the novel is not solely about pornography, which I frame as the choice between love and lust, but it does dominate the narrative landscape of the book.
Because I was still working as I high school teacher in 2012, I took a considerable chance when I self-published the novel. In today's hypersensitive education environment, I knew that one vindictive student or curious parent would be all it would take to put my career in jeopardy. Therefore, my promotion of the novel after it appeared on the market was tepid at best. I imposed a sort of censorship upon myself. I had think about the potential consequences of every little thing I did and ensure that anything I put online could not be misconstrued, used against me, or misunderstood. Even so, a couple of students did stumble across my novel or blog from time-to-time, but none of them ever bothered to look into it in any great detail nor notify my higher ups about it, let alone purchase or read it. The only exception to this was the private school prinicipal I worked for in Toronto; a cultured gentleman, he not only purchased the novel and read it, but told me he liked it and left it at that. I doubt I would have been dealt with so mercifully had I worked in the public education sector at the time.
When I went to work in England, I quickly learned that I had to keep my novel off the radar if I wanted to keep my job. I kept my blogging and online activities to a bare minimum in order to avoid accidental detection by the administration or students because I knew that if I was discovered there, I would have been drawn and quartered without a second thought. In the end, it was a good experience because it finally inspired me to get out of teaching high school and do something where I had more control of my life. I quit my job in England a mere eight months after I had accepted it and took a university instructor position in Sopron, Hungary instead.
Since I am no longer working as a high school teacher, I no longer feel constrained or compromised about my novel or my activities as a writer. In fact, I have doggedly focused on manifesting the kind of circumstances where I can be myself, speak freely, and promote my work as I desire without the fear of losing my job. I have also attained enough financial security to be able to withstand the possible loss of a job. The work I do outside of writing is no longer a potential noose around my neck.
2. I could not engage in the most effective platform building activities
Even in 2012, I knew YouTube was the way to go, but for all the reasons I have mentioned above, I could not engage in promoting the book through YouTube when I was a teacher.
3. I had to be careful on Facebook and Twitter
Again, the teacher thing. Then, in 2015, I quit Facebook and Twitter altogether for personal and political reasons. I will not return to Facebook or Twitter in the future even though I know they can serve as useful platform-building tools.
4. I focused on my family
My son was born six months before I published my novel. Being a writer is important to me, but being a father is infinitely more important.
5. I was happy and am happy still
I'll be honest. I always was, and continue to be fairly apprehensive about putting myself out there in terms of presence. I am a fairly private individual by nature and I am not inspired by dreams of fame; I simply would like to reach a wider readership. Unfortunately, I do not how I can build a readership without putting my face and body out there. A book on the market is not enough these days. Nor are positive reviews or mere presence on a blog or on sites like Goodreads. So if I want more people to read my book, I have to be more visible. Here's the catch - I am happy about my life now, and though I would welcome a wider readership, I am still wary about the extra attention it may bring.
Well, having said all that all, buidling, or rather, expanding my platform is now a primary goal and I am currently focusing on this endeavor. Stay tuned.
Like I don't have enough to worry about when it comes to proofreading and revision, now I have to agonize over which of the 30? 70? gender pronouns to use when I write my stories, too?
And what happens if one of my characters decides to go all gender-fluid on me in Chapter 2 and I forget to use the appropriate pronoun in Chapter 8? Will he or she (is he or she even correct here?) have the right to file human rights violation complaints or hate crime charges against me for my wanton act of authorly bigotry?
I had a tough enough time with the whole "he/she" thing in sentences like "If a student is late for class, he or she must sign the late sheet." What the heck do I write now? "If a student is late for class, he or she or they or zhir or do re mi fa so la tee doh, or elfkin, or bearspirit must sign the late sheet."
But the people I feel really sorry are the hacks who write porn and erotica. I mean, I'll probably struggle to use the right pronouns in my own work should I choose to include a non-binary gender character in one of my stories; but gosh, those sonsabitches that make a living writing porn? They got their work cut out for them.
Imagine having to write a massive group sex orgy scene involving 3 cisgender females, 2 cisgender males, an agender, 2 bigenders, an MTF, 7 or 8 genderqueers, 1 intersex, 6 neutroises, a non-binary, 4 pangenders, 12 transexuals, a couple of two-spririts, 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, 10 lords-a-leaping, 9 ladies dancing, 8 maids-a-milking, 4 drag kings, 2 genderblenders, and a really irritable butch named Bob.
Come to think it, imagine having to read the scene after it has been written . . .
Blog and Comments
Blog posts tend to be spontaneous, unpolished, first draft entries ranging from the insightful and periodically profound to the poorly-argued and occasionally disparaging.
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Blogs/Sites I Read
Bruce Charlton's Notions
Meeting the Masters
From The Narrow Desert
No Longer Reading
Twisting the Tail of the Cosmos
The Postil Magazine