winding lonely road

Going Where the Writing Road Beckons

This week marks ten years in Nevada. My perspective has changed greatly since 2012, in large part due to where I resided for the first seven. I was fortunate enough to have been a local newspaper columnist for the final three years of a soul-stifling existence in Lyon County, and in many ways this blog fulfills that opportunity to sound off on a weekly basis about inescapable issues of concern.

My column, which won a first-place award from the Nevada Press Association in September 2019 while I was in fact escaping to Clark County, was titled “On My Mind.” But there were more than a few rural residents, including public officials, who didn’t want me speaking my mind. They sought to direct the local newspaper, owned by media corporation Gannett and produced by the Reno Gazette-Journal, not to publish anything they didn’t personally agree with.

Hence, there’s a reason I wrote with a great deal of snark in my first novel, Alienable Rights, that certain smalltown residents’ idea of a “free press” meant not having to pay for the newspaper they nonetheless want to read and dictate content control therein.

For the most part my column remained unscathed by blatant censorship, with a few glaring exceptions involving mentions of Confederate flags and the sheriff who embraced them, racists, white supremacists and, of all things, Area 51. It was so very telling.

Therefore, it is not an absurd notion to say it’s a wonder I was able to survive in a county seat of roughly 3,000 residents that has since named their “justice complex” after the disgraced thug of a former president, having already declared the hypocritical hamlet a proud gun-mongers “Second Amendment Sanctuary.”

Those Lyon County officials were no aliens, but all-too horridly human. Because one doesn’t have to entirely fabricate the vile, ridiculous, and absurd in speculative fiction. You simply have to have lived it.

This issue of folks not wanting others to write and publish what they don’t want to comprehend or accept—especially if written by an educated outspoken female—is a recurring theme in the four novels of my Other Worldly series that takes front and center in the fifth, Alien Sensation, coming soon.

And here’s the thing. What with all the recent book-banning hysteria of the alt-right—another moniker that was frowned upon by the powers-that-be at Gannett, I’m fully aware that if I were a famous author, my works might well be targeted for addressing sociopolitical issues of racism, religious hypocrisy, misogyny—the entire gamut of utterly gobsmacking ignorant bigotry.

If pseudo-religious, blatantly racist fanatics had their unconstitutional way, books like mine would never be published in the first place.

Which is why a recent article disturbed me, coming from the business manager of a writer’s publication who was enraged that anyone would try to tell him what he could and couldn’t write. I might have wholeheartedly agreed had he not proceeded to attack this as “wokeness,” “political correctness,” and the inevitable hypocritical cry of right-wing extremists, “cancel culture.”

It was when his vitriolic rant claimed that private individuals having an opinion about his written work was “fascism” that I wanted to vomit, literally.

Fascism entails government, as in public officials, censorship of the written word or free speech. Fascism is not private individuals finding your work offensive and no longer wishing to subscribe to your publication or do business with you. Those people merely had an opinion that he should not be able to write what he does. Even if their position is based on inaccurate observations regarding the First Amendment, they still have the right to be misinformed and to find him or his writing repugnant.

You can’t control the opinion of others any more than they can control what you write.

Yet isn’t it amazing that the so-called conservative people who like to dictate to everyone else are the ones most enraged when someone challenges their privileged white male reality? People who are clearly projecting their own tendencies when it comes to denouncing the opinions of others as fascism.

So, what has now changed for me after two and a half years in the Vegas Valley? I will never again see rural smalltown life as bucolic, peaceful, or even remotely pleasant. I am excruciatingly aware, as my protagonist Rowan Layne says, that wide open spaces don’t necessarily mean wide open minds.

I now choose to reside where an uneducated, ugly majority isn’t able to freely bully and suppress voices of those in the minority, political or otherwise. Because addressing racism and sexism is not mere politics or “wokeness.”

Unfortunately, I apparently still have to be concerned about folks who have a conveniently twisted idea of what constitutes fascism while they openly support a political movement that seeks to silence any and all opposition by banning books, or via violent insurrection and attempted martial law.

Where will the written word take me in the next ten years? One never knows, but I and my Other Worldly series protagonist aim for a place with more enlightened beings, as opposed to those entrenched in maintaining a way of life steeped in hateful ignorance. That’s a road to nowhere best left in my rearview mirror.

And yet, bigotry is everywhere. I suppose I will never run out of things to write about, as long as I live in a nation in which I can still voice opinions, as opposed to being silenced by an actual police state.

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