My novel, The Magic Bullet, a high concept thriller that brings a new fictional perspective to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, has reached a final edit and is ready to be formatted for the printers. Watch this space for announcements concerning a firm date for publication
Quo vadis, America? To where are we headed? by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Finished the full review of the proof copy for Shrapnel this evening and made the necessary alterations and corrections to the basic revised file for the printers. I will upload the changes tomorrow and, essentially, the print edition should be ready for release after a couple of days. I still have to make the final review of the file for the Kindle edition, which has a different format and that should be ready to upload sometime on Thursday. Shrapnel: Short Stories is an eclectic collection of my literary short fiction and the release for both print and Kindle versions will be on the same day next week. I’ll announce the firm release date when it’s known. This anthology was my first venture into publishing, but it will not be the last. Frankly? I love it.
This process has been an education and a grand preparation for publishing one of my novels in the near future.
The novel I plan to work on next was completed last year and it will now be reworked, edited, and refined. It’s a thriller with a twist and it represents an opportunity for me to appeal to a much wider audience than that which appreciates a literary anthology, so it will also be a grand experiment in marketing… now that I have learned the basic “mechanical” aspects of the process. With that first novel, I will likely consider expanded distribution and some of the more sophisticated methods for cover design and interior layout. At this point there is absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Watch this space.
Two things we need in America, three actually.
First on my agenda would be a national compulsory voting law. The second and third would involve compulsory course requirements in K-12 public education, being compulsory and neutral civics lessons beginning around the sixth grade and continuing annually. In grades 8 through 12, I would want to see classes that teach critical thinking. The details are always debatable and mutable according to need and to design, but the essence is there.
Governments that are structured as representative democracies rise and fall according to the quality of their electorate. While democracies may be more inclined to thrive in terms of equality, human rights, and liberty… they are also the most vulnerable… and, as we have seen in recent years, susceptible to a profane level of inequity through corruption and control by an organized oligarchic entity.
This is by no means a quick fix, but is a long term and necessary solution to much of what is wrong about our political structure in America today, something in which we need to invest as soon as practicable.
I don’t hear anyone talking about this in political leadership and the only way they ever will would be if the American people demand it. It would be cynical to suggest that the leadership in both parties would not be willing to champion the idea of this particular threefold approach to reform, but I think there’s an element of truth in that kind of cynicism today.
I’m not an academic, nor am I a political leader by any stretch of the imagination, but if someone with a validating resume were to put this forward, give it a name, and make of it a movement and an issue, they would likely be remembered kindly in the history books henceforth and in a gradually more progressive America.
If you are that person… this is your cause and maybe your destiny. Seize it.
I have been working on this anthology over the past several months, revisiting all my short fiction, a huge body of work fifty years in the making… both published and unpublished work… selecting those stories that I consider to be my very best and combining them in some kind of logical order… a difficult task, since this is an extremely eclectic collection of fiction.
Following months of work in compiling, editing, and formatting, the book, properly an anthology, is essentially complete and it has been put into the proper file configurations required to produce both print and e-book versions. I will, hopefully, publish both versions simultaneously through Amazon in the very near future… perhaps sometime in early autumn… as my sainted grandmother might say, “…if the Good Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise….” which is a more colorful way of saying, “…barring any unforeseen impediments, difficulties, or calamitous events.” We’ve seen a few of those in recent months, calamitous events.
The print version of book will be soft cover, 6″ x 9″ in size and approximately 170 pages in length. Both print and Kindle versions include stories ranging in length from a very short 150-word experimental fragment in the style of magical realism… to an award-winning and more traditional short story of over 4,700 words. Both published and unpublished work is included in the anthology, all newly edited, but representing my work from as early as 1973 through more recent times, the latest being a short story published in March of 2020. The theme and the title of the book are derived from a poem I wrote a while back, and it is included in the front of the book as a kind of prologue:
Shrapnel: A modern American koan
Truth is never elusive.
It sits pretty on the table
like a hand grenade.
Pull the pin.
A good story does more than entertain. It reaches out for the truth we need to hear… picks it up and pulls the pin. Hopefully, one or several of the stories in my anthology will do just that for my readers, pull the pin on some truth we need to hear and consider. Good fiction will rock your world. Beyond mere entertainment, such is my intent.
It’s always been my belief that fiction is a more perfect way of telling the truth unimpeded by personal inhibitions and fear. When the story is divorced from the reality of a personal connection on the part of an author, we can express those hidden things we never otherwise would even so much as whisper to ourselves in the dark night of our dreams. If the writer dares and succeeds in the risk, the reader will be changed accordingly. As Norman Mailer suggested, writing is the “spooky art” and I maintain that it can be entirely subversive when properly applied. Even dangerous.
Once this preliminary project is completed and out there, I have about a dozen novels in various stages of preparedness for publication that could follow in its wake at the rate of about two or three per year. More about that later.
Watch this space for further announcements as the publication date draws near.
“Shrapnel: Short Stories…. Coming soon. An eclectic collection of short fiction selected by the author.” by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Exception to the CC License as follows: The poem, Shrapnel: A modern American koan (© 2020 James Lloyd Davis) and the book cover rendered above and for the book, Shrapnel: Short Stories are covered by applicable US copyright law and may not be reproduced without permission by the author.
As you go through life and learn things, you begin to recognize that there are fables and mythologies that we use in substitution for the realities we’d rather not enshrine with acceptance.
War, for instance, is always the result of an imposition of one or more nations upon another, institutional armed robbery and murder on a massive scale disguised by some sanctifying metaphor, such as the bombing of Iraq into the Stone Age by way of a magnificent display of “shock and awe” we label as necessary in “…the defense of freedom.” Or, the enthusiastic religious conversion of entire indigenous nations in the Americas by hordes of passionate armed and armored “missionaries” by way of the sword and the cannon “…in the name of the Prince of Peace” and to save them all from their pagan depravity. And then to bring the civilizing influences of compulsory, uncompensated labor and perpetual subjugation to those few who managed to survive their conversion.
Hypocrisy permits more crime and hides more violence than ever did honest, if criminal intent, but we manage to enshrine the most militant and murderous among us for the sheer chutzpah they display in their zeal for oppression.
Is it any mystery that when the tyranny of these cruel, avaricious and self-serving men is recognized for what it was that people are ready to tear down their iconic images enshrined in bronze?
“But it’s George… and everyone knows that George was an honorable man, the father of our nation.”
Nations have many fathers… and mothers.
Judge a man by his actions, not his aspirations or his words. Whatever high minded principle those men we call our Founding Fathers chose for their particular camouflaging mythology… in their case the divine imperatives in a statement that “…all men are created equal…” which did not include the black men they owned as a farmer owns cattle or sheep. Nor did it include women of any color. Washington owned people. More specifically, he owned black people… men, women, and children who made him rich with the unpaid and harshly compelled labor of their hands. And while he owned them, they could never enjoy the liberties, rights, and privileges for which he fought. Make no mistake, our nation was not birthed by men who took any of their mythologies to be inclusive, but fought for the sovereignty of their own and personal wealth in order that they could be richer by half and not taxed into want and commonality by a king who gave them no respect.
Hypocrisy is the father of all nations. Hypocrisy has killed more people than we can possibly count. Hypocrisy enables oppression, genocide, and tyranny. It’s time we stopped sanctifying and sheltering the icons of false idols.
It’s time to wake the hell up.
False Idols and Other Affectations by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
It’s now been ten days since the launch of the Peoples’ Daily Brief and though participation was encouraging, it’s dropped off considerably, so the work I’m putting into it is difficult to justify.
Although I sometimes use the pronoun “we” while writing these reports, it’s just me, myself and I behind the curtain, so there is that…. and while there are ways to expand readership, they generally require either money, enormous time expenditure, or famous friends. Having none of the above, I’m going to have to stick with slow, steady growth.
In the meantime… and without any help, a daily report is proving too ambitious, considering the time required, both for research and for production… writing, editing, etc… so I’m going to reconsider, rethink, reschedule, repurpose, and possibly even rename the project and will, in a few days, announce the results.
We’re not giving up. So… watch this space.
For those of you who’ve been reading the PBD, thanks. We love you… all of us… me, my head, and all the many alter egos that therein dwell.
Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
21 June, 2020
We don’t even have to enumerate or declare the problems. We live with them daily and even when we isolated ourselves in our homes at the height of the pandemic, the media surged its insistent edge of disease and Trump, Trump and disease… day after day through our phones, our iPads and our cable. Unemployment, pestilence, strife and oppression daily, symptomatic expressions of something inherently wrong at the core of our lives. What makes it worse is that we don’t get solutions, just problems.
We don’t have a government any more. We don’t have that structure that offers us solutions. The government we had? Even if it was nothing more than lip service, they offered us solutions. As near as I can tell, our government was taken over by hedge fund managers, a hostile takeover, a downright purchase of something that wasn’t supposed to be for sale… and in the manner of all corporate pirates, they’ve dismantled it top to bottom, selling off the assets as they do and leaving all the liabilities to its shareholders, the working men and women of America. It’s not enough that they’ve screwed us in the workplace, broken the backs of our unions, now they’ve taken our government and put it up for auction, for sale to the highest bidder.
If anyone’s going to fix it, it will have to be us to do the work… so let’s talk solutions. Just you and me. For the moment let’s pretend we have the power to fix it.
Solutions are the elusive side of the equation, but sometimes? Even the questions are tricky. Personally, I’ve often used a simple declarative statement as a kind of colloquial expression to put a cap on a discussion that’s devolved into a standoff, something to the effect that, intellectually speaking, “…perspective is everything.” And I seldom have to go beyond that simple premise, since we… or most of us anyway… can generally agree to accept our differences with the dispassionate understanding that we will not always agree. As pithy sayings go, “perspective is everything” speaks clearly, seems simple enough, a rather basic and, perhaps, fundamental expression of the underlying imperative behind intellectual things in general. Finding solutions for seemingly insoluble problems is an intellectual exercise after all.
Perspective is everything.
However… and for the purposes of this essay, let me specify that what I am saying in essence is this… “Every aspect of our culture, including at the very least, our social tendencies, our morals, our philosophy, our social constructs… including the bases for government and law, our biases, et cetera, et alia, are founded and ultimately dependent upon our collective acceptance of a common world view, or… the accepted perception of that view, our own and humanity’s place in the world or the universe at large, and in context and concert with one another.”
Having so specified that, let me now hit you with a corollary statement.
“When our institutions fail us and the need arises for either reform or deconstruction that must precede the building of new institutions, the first duty of those who would be the agents of change is to question the most fundamental perceptions on which that failed endeavor was constructed and, if necessary, construct a new foundation on which any new institution will be built.”
Fairly simple, right? Well, not really.
People get upset when you challenge their notions and the people who establish the validity of a nation’s notions, at least here in America, although you could probably suggest it works that way elsewhere… the people in charge tend to be the people who are quite pleased with the way things are because… they hold the authority… the power, if you will. They also tend to use that power to their advantage.
Revolutionary ideas are the hope of the dispossessed. Their oppressors? Not so much. So, if the majority of people represent the dispossessed and the wanting… while a shrinking minority has all the money and all the power, who do you think will finally decide whether the foundations of that nation in which there is a large and growing disparity have failed? The answer is obvious when the minority rules, so where’s the relief for the rest of us? It will take a revolutionary idea to solve these insurmountable problems. Do we need a revolution? Must revolutionary ideas always be the source of revolution? Good question, but for now, let’s leave it unanswered and try to determine how a neutral observer would see our situation.
In the academic arena, though one could hardly name Academe as neutral in these issues, since their existence seems to depend on the charity of wealthy individuals. Spare us the objections otherwise, since the very premise of capitalism is the pursuit of money as the prime motivator of all human interaction. Capitalism is not and never will be the engine of intellectual inspiration. Value for value is the rule. There will be exceptions, of course, but not enough to drive an idea that is inimical to the status quo and the power structure it supports. It would be ideal, though, if the product of academic inquiry was valued according to the neutrality that guides it, but it does not.
Who influences research?
The people who pay for it.
Who pays for the research?
The government and corporations.
But if the corporations influence the government, which they do, and inordinately so, the answer to the question, “Who pays for research…” is then reduced by half. Once again you could plead the integrity and subsequent neutrality of scientific research. And once again, I will tell you that the prime rule of capitalism, which is the language and the religion of corporations, is… value for value.
“You give me what it is that I want and I will give you cash.”
And if I am perfectly happy with the way things are, will I give you money for research that I know will provide a conclusion that calls for a change? Will I pay you to tell me that in order to solve the problems, I must surrender my privilege? If I was St. Francis, perhaps, but I very much doubt that St. Francis would be working today as vice president in charge of research grants for a major corporation. I really do.
Forget, for the moment that we will argue incessantly over what the solution may be, let’s just imagine that we have narrowed it down to a solution that brings equality and justive into our lives as realities, not merely the mumbled aspirations that have passed for a reality since the nation was born by a C-section from mother England. The question is, “How do we get from what we have to what we want without the bother of a revolution?”
If we, the people, are ever to decide our fate by choosing to work inside the system to champion revolutionary ideas that would ultimately level the field in both social and economic influences, would we need an academic study that we can present to our government representatives… stating our case in order that they might fix the problem through legislation? Do they even do things like that anymore? I say… “What a waste of time that would be, since for every study that proves our premise, the statist elite could produce ten… and likely one of them would derive from the same university that gave us ours, but reach an opposite conclusion.” Such is the power of wealth.
It’s a very old game, this oligarchy maneuver… and it works just as well within the democratic illusion as in the supreme authority once claimed for itself the divine right of kings. Even Senators, Congressmen, and Presidents, when all else fails, still fall back on the old God Gambit with some measure of success because many among us still fall for the oldest trick in the authoritarian playbook. It’s a shame, really, because we could trust an academic approach when it is honest, and who better to do the necessary groundwork than those who specialize in the study of change as intellectual historians, philosophers, ethicists… people like Quentin Skinner who wrote:
“The history of philosophy, and perhaps especially of moral, social and political philosophy, is there to prevent us from becoming too readily bewitched. The intellectual historian can help us to appreciate how far the values embodied in our present way of life, and our present ways of thinking about those values, reflect a series of choices made at different times between different possible worlds. This awareness can help to liberate us from the grip of any one hegemonal account of those values and how they should be interpreted and understood. Equipped with a broader sense of possibility, we can stand back from the intellectual commitments we have inherited and ask ourselves in a new spirit of enquiry what we should think of them.”
So… if we know that the system is corrupted… and many more do than will say so aloud… what is the remedy? Maybe the complexities that we see in the systems we have inherited are confounding our perceptions… a purposeful and camouflaged field of smoke and of mirrors. Perhaps the solutions are so damnably simple, so maddeningly obvious that a child, lacking the sophistication of indoctrination through education, could show us how it’s done. The task then is not one of academic research, but of surrender. The surrender of a nation’s notions when they fail to give us what we need. It should be easy.
It’s not, though… is it? Ask yourself, “Why?”
You know and I know the answer to that one.
Because it’s hard. Damned hard. You will have to work for it and you will have to fight for it and you will have to lay everything on the line for it… your time, your substance… maybe even your life. That may well be the price of what you want for yourselves and your children. That’s a risky proposition, no? If you have the least amount of privilege working for you, you have something to lose, don’t you?
In that case, you might think it not worth the cost. Many do.
The justifications for standing in the gap for the rich and the powerful are manifold, convincing, and rewarding enough to ease the pull of a “woke” conscience.
It costs most people nothing to go back to sleep.
Ultimately, only you can decide if it’s worth it.
So… is it?
It would be and it is to the many black men and women who have been demeaned, humiliated, harassed, beaten, jailed, falsely accused and even murdered at the hands of law enforcement for so long that no one can remember a time when justice stood for anything but a lie. We could start by fixing what is the greatest and most pressing of all, since the oppression of any among us diminishes all of us.
Let’s fix the worst parts first and as we gather strength in solidarity, the rest of it becomes just that much easier. So… where do we begin?
Defunding the police is only the beginning.
It’s time change the laws that criminalize poverty and create a conveyor belt from the schoolyard to the prison yard with such predictable ease and unquestioning justification that the least study could shock people who seem to never notice what is right there in their face… or is really ignorance… and not selective blindness?
I get tired of quoting facts that never seem to break through, but if you believe the Black Lives Matter movement is unjustified in its depth and span nationwide, then you are the problem and I’m wasting my time with you… and you with me, so walk away and have a nice life. The truth will reach you soon enough. I just hope that it comes from revelation and not from the trouble and the strife your apathy has purchased.
If you’re interested, watch this video from The Real News Network in Baltimore, titled, Why do police shoot people in the back?
Or listen to this interview from Reveal, titled, Uprising
If you want to take the time, go to this site for the numbers. The Prison Policy initiative
It’s not just a policing problem. Our entire criminal justice system needs an overhaul and since 911 and the development of massive data collection by our government and the known abuses thereof, an intelligent observer might deduce that we are becoming, if not already, a police state that could rival that of the old Soviet Union.
Do some research. It’s depressing.
But wait !! There’s more !!
If you are really curious, you might want to read a few good books on the subject. Over the next week I’ll compile a list and on Sunday, a week from today, I will publish a reading list. Who knows? Maybe this could be the cause you have been looking for. We have a lot of problems, but if we tackle them one at a time, we don’t have to start a revolution… we will be the revolution.
Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.