The dystopia is a dying art. Popularized by authors such as George Orwell (1984), Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Cat’s Cradle), dystopian literature sacrifices the popular feel-good storyline and happy ending for provocative commentary and an argument for social or political change. Works following the dystopian model make use of social outsiders, antiheroes, and intellectual misfits. They make examples of their characters. Good people die. The corrupt do their worst. The world as we know it comes to an end.
These days, however, people don’t want to read anything depressing. They want good news. They want happy endings. They want to escape.
And that is precisely the problem.
We all have our individual tastes in fiction, and that’s fine. Just the same, we must take a closer look at the social complacency current trends reflect. More specifically, we must ask if these trends reveal simply a population looking for mindless entertainment, or if they might instead be an indication of something much more nefarious and telling.
The 1984 Effect is the connection I see between social complacency and trends in literature, most notably, the virtual death of dystopia and similar genres. I argue that we as a society have been brainwashed into believing escapism is the key to a healthy, happy life, and with that we have sacrificed free, progressive thought and intellectual stimulation. Like the characters in Orwell’s 1984, society has been taught to go with the flow, do what it is told, and question issues just long enough perhaps to see the political backlash and fall back quickly into line. Occupy Wall Street is the perfect example. Many of us want change, but lack the initiative, the tools, or the backbone to manifest it. Moreover, our minds are in the wrong place.
This is not the time for escapism, as tempting the bait may be. This is the time for assessment, reflection, and problem solving. This is the time to be reading the literature about the times. It is time we reject complacency and once again begin looking toward the future.
I challenge you, the modern reader, to embrace the dystopia and all that it stands for. Read for fun, but also read for progressivism and intellectual discourse. Consider the depth of the profound ending (rather than the happy one) and all it might do to effect the change we’re all so desperate for. Let’s make a difference in this world, you and I, one book at a time. After all, without taking a long, hard look at what needs to change, we will never make it happen.
Start your reading revolution with World-Mart, the dystopia of our time. Available through amazon in both paperback and electronic formats.
Interested in effecting change? Let's talk!
New website coming December 15. Trailers, author interviews, book giveaways, and more:
I'm over at the blog of talented paranormal romance writer, Tony-Paul de Vissage, where I share some of my (somewhat humorous) milestones as a writer. Here
is the link. If you like vampires, you'll dig Tony-Paul's website. Enjoy!
Today, I would like to welcome writer and publisher Clayton Bye, who co-edited the upcoming anthology Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road. Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview, Mr. Bye. How long have you been writing?
I've been writing “on purpose” for 17 years. It seems you’ve written quite a bit during that time. What inspired you to write your first book?
Some great friends I met through Toastmasters noticed I was doing a lot of speeches that were motivational in nature. They liked the content and knew I wrote out my speeches to help me prepare my delivery, so they suggested I should write a book. It turned out they knew what they were talking about; I had enough material already written that it was just a matter of organizing it and editing it until I just couldn't do it anymore. In 1994, after a year of working on it, I published How To Get What You Want From Life
. I netted $11,000 in the first year, selling locally. The book has continued to sell as a back listed item: total earnings to date are approximately $20,625, net. Tell us a little about Chase Enterprises Publishing.
How did you get your start in publishing? When I was 18 or 20, I sent a poem to the “Fiddlehead,” a literary magazine on the East Coast of Canada. They returned a rejection slip with the following scrawled upon it: “Wonderful imagery, if a bit wordy.” I didn't like the way the whole rejection thing made me feel. Also, writing was so damned hard, I just stopped trying. But when the time came to publish my first book, some 16 years later, I remembered that feeling from so long ago. So, I took a bag full of skills I had garnered working in the newspaper industry, put together a camera ready book block and sent it to a printer (there was no POD back then, so you had to set up pages the way an offset press operated at that time: 1, 312, 2, 311, 3, 310, etc.—setting headers and page numbers was a complete nightmare. Anyway, I got it done and have been self-publishing ever since. My company, Chase Enterprises, created that same year, had and still has two main functions: first, it's an umbrella under which I have conducted several business concerns, including my new imprint, Chase Enterprises Publishing; second, the company name, derived from my firstborn's middle name, symbolizes all the dreams my clients and I pursue (chase) on this journey we call life. It sounds like you are able to do things you are really passionate about through Chase Enterprises. Does that give you any time for leisure reading? What genres do you most enjoy reading these days? What makes a particular work stand out for you?
That's a hard question to answer. I'm Editor-in-Chief at The Deepening, with 6 blogs and an editorial column to oversee. Each blog requires reading in different genres or different styles/levels of reading. The most popular blog is Horror, consequently I read more horror than anything else. This is a nice fit as I enjoy horror a lot. But... since I don't get to choose what I read--most of the time, on those rare days when I can pick up one of “my own books,” I've found myself turning to a couple of authors who write fantastic historical novels, a genre I've barely touched. These authors are Jack Whyte, who has given us an Arthurian history so believable I have a hard time remembering it's just fiction; and Diana Gabaldon, who's writing is so captivating that her series about a Scottish warrior (1743) and a time traveling, modern-day woman (1946) is cherished the world 'round. What, in your opinion as a reader, writer, and editor makes a work not only good, but great? What turns you off?
The deeper an author can pull you into the story, the more real the characters and the world they inhabit become, and (usually) the less apparent the author is to the reader, the better a book is.
A great book does all, or some, of these things but also reaches you on such an emotional level that it impacts your world, sometimes to the extent that it changes you. Well known, modern books that come to mind for me are Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull
(it was a phenomenon in the '70s), Richard Bach's Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
(affected me big time) and Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead
(Only due to the fact that the story of her hero, Howard Roark, has been burnt into the minds of so many individualists, myself included). But you can ask any avid reader, and you'll find that each has at least one book that has affected them on a deep emotional level; a great book will receive multiple mentions over the years I'm turned off when the author does something that suddenly kicks me out of the story, that disturbs the dream, that ruins the illusion... Who do you consider to be your most notable writing influences?
Because I write (or will write—it's been my unspoken goal) in all the major genres, I have an eclectic group of writers who have influenced my writing: Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, Frank Bettger, Og Mandino, Damon Knight, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Alistair MacLean, Hammond Innes, Louis L'Amour, John D. MacDonald, Robert Frost, Robert Burns, F. Scott Fizgerald, Alice Munro, Stephen King and Robert McCammon are the most notable to date. Do you have anything special you do to put yourself in the writing/editing mood?
As I write in a conversational manner, and because it catches all sorts of errors, I always read aloud when editing. It also gets me going, keeps me going and helps to hold the outside world at bay. How long does it take you to write/edit a story from first sentence to ready for submission?
I have only recently begun to work the short story field, so I really can't say. As for book length works? It varies a lot, but out of the 9 books I've written one year has repeatedly shown up as the period required. 9 months to write, 3 months to edit; 3 months to write, 9 months to edit; 2 weeks to write; a year to edit; and one month installments, sold as a one year subscription, edited as I went and sold as a book when done; the former example occurred twice (different projects). And then comes the fun part—selling your work. What tools/social media do you use to market your books?
I subscribe to the Ninja way of marketing: when you find something that works, take it, make it your own and practice it until you become proficient in its use. For me, the list I have used effectively, now and/or in the past, is as follows: in person, in bookstores where the owner gives me a prominent position and also talks up the book, in person at public events, by telephone, by mail, by email, through distributors, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Linked-in, MySpace (although I've pretty much dropped it, as the company has made it user unfriendly), my own website, my virtual store, targeted advertising (radio, newspaper, flyers, sponsored blog ads, submitting my main website to hundreds of search engines repeatedly at six month intervals), spreading my name across the internet in any business-like way I can, building a name as a reviewer who now attracts submissions from small to large publishers, teaching at high schools and colleges, holding seminars and utilizing back-of-the-room selling, recommendations, testimonials, Authonomy participation and the collection of all comments made about specific books, reviews of my books, radio interviews, newspaper interviews, internet interviews (mostly on blogs), submitting short stories and poems to magazines—online and offline, I was asked to submit my fantasy novel, The Sorcerer's Key
, for consideration as a movie, the result of networking, providing local students with my book, How To Get What You Want For Life
, as they entered middle school, the same book is used as a course outline in one of our local high schools. I'm getting a headache, so I'll stop now. I'm sure your readers will have gotten the point. Tell us a little about Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road. Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road
is the first book I have published for someone else. It's actually a marketing project thought up by Sassy Brit, the owner of the promotional website, Alternative-Read.com (AR). Sassy has a core group of “affiliate authors” who are mainstream users of, and/or contributors to, her website, and she wanted to do something special for them. She tossed out the idea of an Anthology featuring “affiliate authors” to the bunch of us one day, just as I had been thinking of when I was going to make the jump from writer and editor to publisher. I put up my hand, so to speak, and the pair of us dove in. We didn't get all of our affiliates, so I brought in some authors with looser association to AR. I think they rounded out the group nicely. Sassy and I decided to give our authors a challenge to come up with something that would give the reader a different kind of experience than what they're getting now. An Alternative Read, if you stop to think about it. Then we tossed ideas around a lot until we came up with a title, subtitle and back cover headline. Here's all three in sentence form... Introducing: Writers on the wrong side of the road. These are the most dangerous rule-wreckers from Alternative-Read.com. So, we decided to take away the rules and let them write whatever they liked. Read the book to find out what we got. No doubt the result is a broad and interesting array of stories. What would you say are the biggest challenges in working with such an eclectic group of authors?
The authors involved in the AR project are all professionals. There were no challenges at all until we came to the final proof—a printed copy of the book. And the challenge was actually with me. After the author's submitted the final copy of their story and I had paid them the contractual amount, I was done with them, so to speak. Well, it seems that traditional publishers allow the authors a look at the finished product, before it goes to print. When they realized this wasn't going to happen, I had a mutiny on my hands. So, in the end, I allowed a final proofread by the authors, then resubmitted the manuscript. I wish all projects went so smoothly. Bonus question: If your writing/publishing were to take off and overnight you found yourself filthy rich, what charity would you consider most befitting of your donations, and why?
1 in 3 people will get cancer; the statistic for death from a heart attack or stroke is about 1 in 4; and worldwide there are more than 30 million people infected with HIV and AIDS. I could go on and on. There are countless charities and research projects that need money. But my approach to charity has always been to help people in my own community who, through no fault of their own, need financial help and who aren't receiving it elsewhere. I don't see why this would change if I became “filthy rich.” Thanks so much for stopping by today, and the best of luck with your upcoming anthology, Mr. Bye! See my review for Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road. Click here for more about Clayton Bye’s books.
This anthology contains some of the creepiest and unusual stories I’ve read in a long time. While a few of the selections seemed out of place either by caliber or by genre, the best works in this anthology truly set the bar for greatness in speculative fiction. As a whole, I rate Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road at four stars and recommend it as a great addition to any speculative fiction library. Here's the story breakdown:
“Hold Up” by Lucille P. Robinson – 4 stars
A serial rapist gets more than he bargains for at his local Wal-Mart.
This story is thoughtful and well-written. I liked the premise a lot, but would have liked to have read more. The ending was justifiably abrupt, but it did leave the story feeling somehow incomplete. Nonetheless, it's a good, short read.
“Judgement Day” by Angelika Devlyn – 3.75 stars
A young woman jumps at the chance at revenge after an attack sends her to the hospital with a miscarriage.
This story has some great moments to it, but needs a few kinks smoothed before it might live to its full potential. The premise is very good and the twist fun; however, following the story is frustrating at times because believability of many of the character motivations is shaky in many places. The erotica was well-written.
“For Art’s Sake” by Elizabeth Coldwell – 4.5 stars
A move and career change can be a pain in the rear. . . .
I don’t claim spanking as one of my turn-ons, but I enjoyed this erotic piece all the same. The story is well-written and cohesive and moves to a satisfying ending.
“Simon Seeks” by Nathan L. Yocum – 4.75 stars
A psychic finds his own life on the line when sent on a search for a missing girl.
This story is executed beautifully, offering creative visuals and awesome depth to details other authors might leave mundane. The only disappointing part is the ending, which seems far too abrupt for such an otherwise meticulously laid out story. I wanted to read more.
“The Barefoot Hero” by Timothy Fleming – 5 stars
A man looks back to the past after the tragic death of an old friend.
“The Barefoot Hero” brought tears to my eyes. The story is bittersweet, tragic, and brilliantly written. The characterization is deep and thoughtful, leading to a conclusion that is as painful as it is gratifying. A lovely story.
“The Cenotaph” by Casey Wolf – 4.25 stars
Past and present collide when a camper stumbles upon a long-forgotten memorial.
A thoughtful commentary on perspective and war, this story does a great job at showing the fears and expectations that arise when one considers leaving for war. Some of the shifts are a little jarring, but may be intentional in an attempt to pull the reader into the protagonist’s confused state of mind. Overall, this is a very good story.
“Take Two” by Kit St. Germain – 4.5 stars
An interesting post-apocalyptic future history, this story speculates the effects of religious take-over and genetically modified food.
Very well-written and creative, “Take Two” paints a very interesting future picture, moving at a fast pace and growing in intrigue as the story progresses. The ending is anticlimactic however, offering a good twist, but not executing quite powerfully enough to hit with the five-star punch it could have.
“The Journey” by Megan Johns – 4.5 stars
A housewife on a train ride contemplates her life while eavesdropping on a group of nearby passengers.
“The Journey” cleverly explores human insecurity and interpersonal dynamics, while offering a twist ending that is sure to delight.
“Triona’s Beans” by Casey Wolf and Paivi Kuosmanen – 2 stars
A young girl goes on an intergalactic adventure with little people that look like feathered beans.
I had great difficulty getting through this story, which reads like a very young children’s fantasy. This story does not belong in a dark speculative fiction anthology.
“The Meal” by Mike Brecon – 4 stars
Two couples come together for the taping of a reality television show.
The concept behind this story is great and I enjoyed the writer’s style, although I would have liked to have seen some of the scenes hashed out a little more.
“Seven Deadly Sins” by Karen Coté – 3 stars
A man snaps after his past catchers up with him and unravels his life.
This story is creative, sick, and bleeding with potential. Sadly, the prose needs tightening, as do the structure and story development. As is, the story depends too much on shock value, leaving the reader with flat characters in a tense but static environment.
“The Smile in Her Eyes” by John B Rosenman – 4.75 stars
A man sees what he believes to be the essence of his deceased wife in a teenage girl.
Very well-written and creepy on many subtle fronts, “The Smile in her Eyes” reads like Lolita in The Twilight Zone. Pay attention to every little detail when you read this story or you’ll miss out on its full brilliance.
“Slumfairy” by Tonya R. Moore – 3 stars
Factions fight over the pilot—and therefore the future—of a super-massive space ship.
This story is difficult to follow, with plot holes and vague spots that leave too many questions throughout the work. There is too much going on, too many aliens to keep track of, and not nearly enough time taken to paint a good, cohesive picture of it all.
“A New Leaf” by Megan Johns – 4 stars
A divorce finds solace in her garden after starting over in a new home.
Sweet and well-written, this story would have been even more enjoyable if it had not ended so hastily. Even so, this is a satisfying story.
“Man Slaughter” by Lucille P. Robinson – 5 stars
An alleged murderer recalls each of the deaths she has been accused of while giving her official statement of confession.
The characters and plotline of this story are developed and executed masterfully. The characters are believable and the story creepy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.
“Pronghorns” by Casey Wolf – 5 stars
A double suicide goes to “Plan B” when initial plans go awry.
“Pronghorns” is a darkly brilliant commentary on life and death. It is well-written, gripping, and has a shockingly profound ending. This is one of those stories that resets the bar.
“Frame of Reference” by Mike Brecon – 4 stars
Story and reality collide in the mind of a young, insecure writer who finds himself unsure how to proceed with a scene.
Any type of artist will appreciate the twist to this quick, fun read.
Malpas by Marion Webb-De Sisto – 2 stars
A woman falls victim to, then in love with, an incubus.
The premise is decent, but the story is thoroughly unpolished. The prose is simplistic, the vast majority of the dialog recaps previous scenes, and the erotic scenes seem forced and filled with unnecessary, moment-jarring dialog. This story is a disappointing end to a very good anthology.
Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road will be available soon at your favorite online retailers.
Huge congrats to Marilyn C., Andrew J., Jesse K., Sam B., and Robyn B. ... you each have won a copy of WORLD-MART! Your copies are in the mail.
My thanks to all 407 entrants to the giveaway. Good luck next time!