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.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Does religious bigotry equal racism or sexism?

Since Romney withdrew, I've probably heard about a dozen pundits and read at least that many columnists who have said that religious bigotry is the last remaining predjudice. Americans are willing to vote for a black man or a woman, the pundits say, but they won't vote for a Mormon. I made the same point myself a few articles back. Having grown up in a Pentacostal church, I can assure you that members of that faith wouldn't vote for a Mormon--nor, I should note, would they vote for an atheist or a Catholic, a Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. Possibly they'd vote for a Jew and most protestant denominations. Definitely not a scientologist.

However, polls show that vast majorities of American's won't vote for atheists. As an atheist, I'm more or less resigned to the notion that I have to vote for people who profess a faith. Still, I doubt I'd vote for a scientologist. Nor would I vote for a president who professed a disbelief in evolution, as Mike Huckabee has. Is this bigotry? Sure, as defined by the dictionary. It states that bigotry is the "stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own." But, of course, under that definition, everyone is a bigot--liberals are stubbornly in opposition to conservatism, conservatives are completely opposed to liberalism. I suppose there are a few mushy people in the middle who are so devoid of opinion that they regard all opinions as equal. I HATE those people!

But does religious bigotry equal racism? It seems to me to be a very dumb parallel. You are born into your race. You have no choice but to live your life black, white, or some shade in between. (I will avoid a Micheal Jackson joke here.) Hating people based on their physical attributes is fundamentally unfair because they didn't choose these physical attributes. (I suppose there are some physical attributes you control--an intense dislike of all people who tattoo "White Power" on their forehead could be justified.) But, religion isn't like the color of your skin. As an adult, you have the power to choose your creed, beliefs, and opinions--and other people, I would argue, should be free to scorn you for these.

Please note, I'm not advocating or justifying violence between people of different faiths. If you're a Muslim and I'm an atheist, I still feel we can chat politely at parties, work side by side at most jobs, and educate our children in schools that stay neutral on the matter. I also agree that there should be no legal religious test for holding an office in America. If you want to take your oath of office on a copy of Dianetics, well, the law shouldn't prevent that. But the choices of voters are a different matter than a legal test. I see nothing wrong with deciding that someone who thinks there were dinosaurs on the ark, or that L. Ron Hubbard was tapped into a higher truth, shouldn't be president. Nor do I feel victimized that the majority of people think it's written into the constitution somewhere that this is a Christian nation and think that all atheists are tools of Satan. You're entitled to your opinion. Which is, of course, the ultimate beauty of America--we're all entitled to our own goofy beliefs, and free to regard those who've drawn different conclusions as idiots. And thus the great wheel of America turns....

Sunday, February 03, 2008

More political blather

A few months back, I said that Ron Paul was the first Republican candidate I could imagine voting for. He's still in the race, but stalled at about 5% support, which is actually a lot better than I thought he'd do. And, there's a vague chance I might actually get to vote for him. If Romney doesn't drop out of the race, then the Republican nomination might actually roll on to the convention, meaning NC would actually have a voice in the primary process for the first time since I've been a resident of the state. Still, that would mean I'd have to register as a Republican, and I just can't see myself swallowing that kool-aid. And, while Ron Paul is very closely aligned with many of my political views, the has two big strikes against him:

1. There are charges, based on things that were written in a weekly newsletter that he used to publish, that he's a racist. The charge of racism gets flung around a lot in politics. Bill and Hillary are getting slapped the label, which shows how trivial the word has become. Still, I have read some of the quotes, and they are bothersome. Paul's defense is that he doesn't remember writing them, that he thinks they were the words of some staffer writing as him. I'll buy this... most politicians write very few of their own words. Still, that just puts Paul back into the "just another politician" camp and removes some of the edge from his talk about personal responsibility.

2. The whole gold standard thing. Paul is an advocate of returning to the gold standard. He feels that the value of money is completely arbitrary as long as its valued against other currencies instead of an actual, physical commodity. Which is true--except that it's arbitrary when valued against the actual, physicial commodities as well. Gold has no inherent god-given value that magically allows it to determine the true worth of a dollar. The value of gold floats on the arbitrary whims of humanity as much as the value of currencies float. So, I'm afraid I lump gold standard advocates in the same box in my head that holds flat-earthers and creationists.

One thing I will say in Paul's defense: He's anti-abortion, but at least he has the philisophical integrity to then also be anti-death penalty. "Pro-life" politicians who would fry half our prison population and who passionately advocate war drive me crazy.

However, all this talk about Paul is pointless in a way, because he's definitely not going to be a candidate for either party. If he runs as a libertarian, he'll pull down the cool 1% they normally get. Maybe his higher visibility might boost the take to 2% or, dare I dream it? 3%!

The all or nothing nature of the american political system galls me. I've lived 43 years and never once had a politician representing me, and doubt I will in the next 43 years either. The only thing that I can draw a little joy in is that a lot of the Republican chattering class is about to find themselves in the same boat. The most vocal elements of the Republican noise machine--the unholy trinity of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity, loathe John McCain. Coulter said this week she'd vote for Hillary before she'd vote for McCain. Assuming that they are too be believed (a dubious assumption, I know), then a McCain victory would be fun just to either see the mental contortions these vapid talkers go through to convince thier listeners that there were pro-McCain all along, or else see if they remain firmly anti-McCain and wind up blamed for a Republican defeat in the fall.

Finally, in a wierd instance of media bias this morning, I noticed two headlines stating that Clinton and Obama were now tied going into Tuesday's primary. But, when I looked at the actual articles, Clinton had a 4 point lead on Obama, 47-43. Now, sure, that's within the margin of error. But, it's not a tie. The headlines would be less biased in saying that Clinton has a slight lead.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A guest message from IGMS Editor Ed Schubert

To Readers of Science Fiction and Fantasy everywhere,

When you have something great, you want everyone to know. So you tell people about it. You share it. You pass it along to friends everywhere. Well, that’s what we’re doing with InterGalactic Medicine Show. We want to make sure everyone has had a chance to check out what we’re doing, so we’re offering up a sampling of our stories – for free.

During the month of February we are going to make one story from each of our first four issues available at no charge. Two stories will be set free on February 1st, and two more on February 15th. Just visit www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com and explore the table of contents; the free stories will be clearly marked.

Issue one’s free story will be “Trill and The Beanstalk” by Edmund R. Schubert, issue two’s will be “Yazoo Queen” by Orson Scott Card (from his Alvin Maker series), issue three’s “Xoco’s Fire” by Oliver Dale, and issue four’s “Tabloid Reporter To The Stars” by Eric James Stone. Each story is fully illustrated by artists who were commissioned to create artwork to accompany that tale -- as is every story published in IGMS.

“Tabloid Reporter To The Stars” will also be featured in the upcoming InterGalactic Medicine Show anthology from Tor, which will be out this August (we wanted you to get a sneak peek of the anthology, too). However, the other three stories aren’t available anywhere except the online version of IGMS.

It’s really quite simple. Great stories. Custom illustrations. Free. We’re pleased with and proud of the magazine we’re publishing; now we’re passing it along to our friends and telling them about it. We hope you’ll enjoy it and do the same.

Edmund R. Schubert

Editor, Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show