I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fever Dreams, or, my most rambling post ever

Thursday I came down with a cold. I went to work that day, but have spent most of the time since flat on my back. My most annoying symptom has been an inability to feel as if I have a "normal" body temperature. I'm either burning up or I feel like I'm buried in a snow bank. My covers have been piled on, tossed off, tangled and mangled in every way imaginable.

I can't look at any given 8 hour stretch and say I've slept. Instead, I seem to be passing out for a few hours here and there, then rising in a state of discomfort to read, cruise the internet, or jot out strange notes on the pad by my bedside concerning the plot for my third Bitterwood book. Snippets of dialogue keep popping into my head. Bitterwood burns a library in one scene (the sky-dragons have a love of libraries and books). Jandra is shocked. Bitterwood growls, "No good has ever come to this world by a book." Given his backstory of having been indoctrinated by the Bible-toting prophet Hezekiah, his attitude is understandable, though, I hope, still unnerving to the average person reading the book. Bitterwood is an interesting hero because he's so unheroic. In today's culture, it's pretty slanderous to call someone a book burner.

The book I was reading during my fevered tossing was "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. I probably would have ditched it midway through if I'd had the energy to get up and go to the library. It was a bit too much preaching to the choir for me; I already think that all the arguments for the existence of God, or for God's intervention in human affairs, are laughable. The notion that the universe was created for us by a being like us is absurd in the face of the astonishing age of the universe and this world, and the unimaginable size of the universe. Wouldn't an intelligent designer have made better use of his resources? If people are important to him, why put them only on one planet in nine around the sun? Why take 4 billion years to do it? If we took the "argument by design" seriously (which is to say, the universe looks designed, so there must be a designer), then we also have to conceded that human life is just a stray mark on the master blueprints. 99.999999999999999999999999999999% of everything that ever existed has no direct interaction with human life whatsoever.

Still, I'm glad I pushed through to the end of Dawkin's book, because that was where I found my biggest point of disagreement. He argues that it's a form of child abuse to raise children as religious, and especially to teach them about hell and a judgmental, vengeful god. I'm not unsympathetic to his argument. But, my gut reaction is, what's the alternative? If parents believe in these things, how are we to stop them from teaching their children? Pass laws? Take at risk children away from their homes? Then what? Raise them in reeducation camps? 90% of the atheists I know came from religious households. Despite Dawkin's understandable concerns, I just think there's a greater social danger in attempting to intervene in childrearing than there is in letting the children be raised as their parents wish and attempting to change the minds of the adults they become.

Finally, in a completely unrelated topic, I followed the SC primaries this weekend and was happy to see Obama win. I'm not certain I'm going to vote this year; the libertarian party has been decertified in NC. Yet, I'm still following politics closely, and the presidential races for both Dems and Republicans are fascinating to me. On the Republican side, it looks as if the nomination will boil down to selecting a candidate who is disliked by at least 60% of the party. In national polls, none of them are able to pull much above 25%. All face some core of rabid opposition. McCain is loathed by the part of the base that cares about immigration. Romney faces some opposition from religious conservatives who will tell you they oppose him for flipflopping on abortion, but who actually stay home and let Hillary Clinton into office before risking the wrath of God by voting for a Mormon. Guiliani is opposed by this same segment for not flipflopping on abortion and gay rights. And Huckabee, who best represents the core that most strongly opposes Romney and Guiliani, is rabidly opposed by the fiscal conservatives. I really have no idea how this nomination is going to play out. My gut says Romney is likeliest to win the nomination since he's got the most money and can stay in until the last dog is hung. But, if he is the nominee, I predict a third party run by some figure from the religious right that will peel off 2% or 3% of fundamentalist voters, leaving Romney to carry maybe ten states in the general election. (By the way, I do think a Morman could be elected president--but only running as a democrat, since fundamentalist christians aren't as significant a proportion of their base.)

But, I started that last paragraph talking about Obama, not Romney. If history is to be made in this election, and we do elect either a black president of a female president, it seems to me that the more honorable, uplifting historic change would be the election of Obama. His victory would be a clear message that any man, regardless of the color of his skin, can grow up to be president in America. With Hillary, the message simply seems muddier. It seems to imply that any woman can become president, assuming she marries a man who is president first. There are plenty of other female senators. If this was Barbara Boxer as a serious contender, it would seem historic to me. As it is, it seems like not so much that Hillary is going to make history as the first female president, as she is going to be pointing a path toward future strategies for getting around term limits. It's already common in the house for spouses to pursue the seats of departed members. I predict we'll see more and more political couples rise as a two for one deal--Bob and Libby Dole if they were twenty years younger, for instance. The candidate's pick of a spouse will be examined as closely as the pick of a running mate. Indeed, it doesn't matter who Clinton chooses as her "real" running mate. The true second person on the ticket will be Bill himself. This can either be an argument for or against electing Hillary, I suppose.

Free download of DEADSTOCK

Solaris has made Jeffrey Thomas's SF novel DEADSTOCK available as a free download to support the upcoming release of the second book in that series, BLUE WAR. I enjoyed the book last year and think it's worth checking out. The first chapter, which I believe had been available as a free download before now, was actually not the strongest starting point for the book. It makes sense in a logical, cronolical plot sequence as the opening, but is is weakened by the fact it doesn't introduce the protagonist, Jeremy Stake, who's the real selling point of this book. But, now that the whole book is available online for free, you no longer have to trust me on this. Just read the first two chapters. I suspect you'll either keep reading the whole book, or run out to the store and buy a copy. The link to download it is here.

I'm hoping that this is just the first of many books Solaris makes available for free from their back catalogue. Baen Books has been following this model for a few years now, and it certainly hasn't damaged the sales of their authors.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Laura's snow

It snowed today, the first decent snow this part of North Carolina has seen in two years. There was a little dusting of snow once last year, and a smattering of icy weather that sent cars off the road in Raleigh, but I'm not counting those. Two years ago, as Laura was in the final months of her life, we had a really cold winter--but no snow. One of the things she told me she wanted to see that winter was one more good, solid snowfall, something that would drape the world in white for at least an hour or two.

It never came. When it was cold, it was dry. When there were clouds, it was warm. January, February, and March rolled by, and I tried to encourage her, telling her that I'd seen April snowfalls before. But, of course, the only white on the ground in April were the flowers painting the spring fields.

Since then, any time I hear a forecast of snow, I can't help but think of Laura. I tried to be tuned in to her needs. Any time she expressed even a faint craving for some food, I'd hop in the car to go get it. When spring came early, she talked about wanting a new flower bed and her father and I made her one. But, snow was something I couldn't bring her, and it's tough to look out over the blanket of white tonight without feeling at least a little melancholly. This is the kind of snow she wanted to see.

It's a little peace and beauty settling over the world, a little tranquility, at least until dawn. I'm glad I've learned the right way to look at it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Silent As Dust

My short story "Silent as Dust" went live this week at Intergalactic Medicine Show. It's my own rather stange take on a ghost story, and it is, in my humble opinion, perhaps the finest story I've yet put into print. IGMS is a paid subscription site, but individual issues only cost $2.50. You can read the first 500 words of the story for free by clicking here.

While you're there, be sure to click on the artwork for a fullsize view of the illustration. The detail is wonderful. Nick Greenwood is the artist, and if you follow the link you'll find other illustrations by him. Excellent stuff.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Bedroom renovation

Last year when I moved in, I renovated a lot of rooms, but ran out of time and money before I could work on the bedroom. It was a pretty bleak space. The walls were exposed cinderblock painted white, and the carpet was this dingey gray stuff that looked like it was probably 50 years old.

The white walls...
The bad carpet....

Since I have time off from work to work on the final draft of Dragonforge, I thought I'd go ahead and make a final assault on the place. I had originally thought about putting up more drywall, but while I was looking at paints, I kept noticing that there are a lot of paints made to give your walls a fake stone or masonry texture. I already had a real masonry texture! So, I decided to paint the room a brick color, brown with a hint of red (or, red with a hint of brown). The photo below doesn't really capture the color that well, since the flash makes it too light, and without the flash it looks too dark. But, you probably know what color most bricks are. It's that color.

The floor is laminate flooring I got for .69 a square foot at Lowe's. My roommate Duanne helped me put it down (also, he helped with painting). I'm glad I didn't tackle the task alone, because the laminate was a lot harder to install than it seemed in the store. Since it's locking together on the ends and the sides, you really have to lock in an entire strip at once, which might be possible if you're ten feet tall and have four arms. If my room had been any bigger, it probably would have required three people.

In any case, the room looks much better now than it did. Before it had sort of a prison cell vibe. Now it's warm and surprisingly outdoorsy... the brick color makes you feel like you're on the outside of the house. The room also looks larger.

Unless I put in an oven, this is the last major indoor renovation I'm planning for a while. Now I'll be focusing my energies outside.