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.

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