2014-12-14

Subtle Power

I've been collaborating with Lee Dilkie again on my next project which is about to be kicked off in a few weeks. We are still working out the details but this next book is going to be wonderful. I'm not going to spoil the fun by pre-announcing what we are talking about but stay tuned for further information. The interesting thing about this collaboration is that I've never met Lee. He was a person who read my books and occasionally commented on them. His comments were always correct and to the point. Last year, I asked if he would like to be a beta reader for Peacekeeper 2. He agreed. His comments on the book were enlightening and the corrections I made because of his feedback have made Peacekeeper 2 one of my best works (in my opinion anyway). There are two points to make here: 1) Writers should always listen to what their readers have to say. 2) The internet is a powerful force that can bring two absolute strangers from two different countries together allowing them to work as a team on a project.

I'm going to discuss something I rarely talk about with anyone. Writers have the ability to shape people's minds. We don't do it with a gun in our hand or by using threats of violence. We do it with the subtle power of words. We create entire universes that exist only in our minds and the reader gets to enjoy being immersed in these foreign universes. While doing so, the reader's mind is learning, adapting, and changing in subtle ways. For those of you who've read my books (hopefully all of you reading this blog) you may have noticed a subtle theme throughout almost everything I write. I see the future much the same way I try to live my own life: racially neutral and religiously tolerant.

Let's take the first lifestyle and dig a bit deeper. I've always tried to see people for what they are - human. My brain can't help but notice that someone's skin is a different color, the shape of their face and eyes is different, or they talk with an accent. The logical part of my brain, the part that distinguishes me from all other life-forms on Earth, glosses over these details. I see a person, a fellow human, a man or a woman who belongs to the same species as myself. I try very hard not to judge a person based on their outward appearance. It's probably why I have such a hard time recognizing people because their looks are not important to me.

Over the years I've learned never to judge a person by what others say about them. I want to form my own opinions. I was told by many people that my current manager was unpleasant and difficult to work with. That could not be farther from the truth because we get along great. I continually heard bad stories as people talked behind the back of another supervisor I worked with. I never got to know the man well enough to form my own opinion. When I moved into a new department, I heard a completely different story. The work this man did was viewed with high compliments. Don't fall into the trap of going along with the rest of a group and start thinking badly about someone. You might be totally wrong and he might turn out to be one of your closest friends some day.

Religious neutrality is another life-style I follow. Religion has been and continues to be the cause of more suffering than any other human institution. People use it as an excuse to kill, torture, and belittle others. Is that really what religion teaches? Really? Religious fanatics are people who use religion as an excuse for them to act violently. I am a firm believer that people should be able to 'believe' in anything they want. If you want to believe that the Earth is flat - that's perfectly fine with me. I will disagree with you and I might try to convince you otherwise but your belief is just that--a belief. Your beliefs are a personal choice and I should respect that choice no matter how I might feel about it.

Disagreement between people is natural. It is how we handle this disagreement that matters. We are an intelligent species and we should show that intelligence in how we act. I might disagree with you about something but that does not mean I'm going to strap a bomb to my chest and kill your entire family. Disagreement is actually a very good thing because it drives human progress. If we never disagreed with anyone then we would never have built airplanes. Scientists of the past were firmly convinced that nothing manmade would be able to fly. A disagreement over this 'fact' resulted in the creation of the flying machine.

Scientists disagree all the time - it's part of their job to question theory. Stephen Hawking, Einstein, Newton, and many others became historical figures because they disagreed with current theory. Disagreement is a driving force in human innovation. How we handle our disagreements is an indicator of our intelligence. If your cat disagrees with being given a bath, it will physically attack you because it has no other recourse. The cat can't discuss the bath with you so you can arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. Even our closest genetic cousin--the ape--resorts to violence when disagreements break out. It's because they have no means to use to work out their differences. They don't have language.

Writers should be masters of language and as such we have the power to change the course of human civilization. Use that power wisely. Think about what you write. Very carefully analyze the subtle messages your stories send to the reader. Do you stereotype people without even realizing it? Are your characters racially and religiously neutral? We are an intelligent species--it's high time we started acting like it.