I don’t know how I would alter my beliefs. Become more idiotic? Adopt their self-contradictory, asinine belief system that has nothing to do with the real world, that’s based on dogmas that have never been tested in the real world? I mean ... it’s easier to write science fiction than to take seriously the silliness on both left and right, I have to say. ... Both belief systems are really not philosophies; they are really incoherent and self-contradictory. I’m not interested in that. I couldn’t make them work as fiction. I couldn’t invent those as political systems that would be believable in a science fiction universe. Only because they really exist are they believable, because if 30 years ago I had written a story in which either the far left or the far right philosophies were, the audiences would go, "Nobody would ever believe that. That’s just too silly. They couldn’t hold those two ideas simultaneously.” Oh yes they can, because they don’t think and they don’t analyze. So, no, it isn't even remotely tempting.
The thing is, in my fiction, I don’t even put my beliefs in there. That’s the thing that’s frustrating.
For example, in "Empire," which was attacked savagely as being a right-wing screed — absolutely not true. If anything, it’s right down the middle of the road. It shows idiots on both left and right. The only thing is that I actually show positive characters who hold conservative views. Well, I was writing about people in today’s American military. ... The overwhelming majority of the military share values more like President Bush’s than President Obama’s.
So if I’m going to write those characters, I’m not going to do what left-wing writers do, which is please their friends by having all of their characters be liberal no matter what — all their positive characters — and only boneheads and idiots can be conservatives in their fiction. I’m going to write a good character who believes as my friends in the military tend to believe.
Just writing honestly makes them attack me because they can't bear a favorable depiction of someone they disagree with. It’s intolerable to them. They are arch-fanatical puritans. They can’t bear the thought that someone somewhere who is intelligent might not hold the same idea as them. It’s the essence of intolerance, and that’s the way they are.
"Empire" is actually about tolerance and has been attacked by the intolerant for being so right-wing, which it absolutely is not.
It would be funny if it weren’t so frustrating.
The reviews that were written painted it in the eyes of people who hadn’t read it — and this was the goal — as being just a far-right screed. And therefore there’s no reason to pay any attention to it. So I’m actually talking to everybody. It’s not a far-right screed. It's about trying to restore civil dialogue in America and to stop the violent rhetoric that leads us — frankly, the violence of the rhetoric today is very similar to the way it was before the Civil War. I think those are the only two times when it’s ever been as extreme and as intolerant and hate-filled. And the worst thing is, the people who accuse others as polarizing the most are the polarizers themselves. The far left is the source of 99 percent of the polarization today while they accuse the right of being polarizers merely for disagreeing with them or having another thought. Which is very frustrating in itself.
When you write a book that, if anything, is about tolerance, but it’s received with such intolerance, then you begin to despair of whether it's possible to talk to these people in this time. But I still find readers, and those readers do understand what I’m doing. Maybe it will make a little difference, maybe a little change.
DN: What’s your motivation (for teaching) writing workshops?
OSC: First, when I teach writing at a university and when I teach writing in these workshops, the first thing I tell people is, "What are you doing here? Why aren’t you home writing?"
If you're not actually producing large amounts of fiction, then any writing class you take is going to be a waste of time because you’re not going to be prepared to understand anything that’s being said to you. You have to have your hands deep in the mud to get some idea of what’s growing there.
Having said that, my writing workshops are geared not toward art per say. Most writing teachers deal with style in the same way that most acting teachers deal with some version of the method. And it’s all a waste of time. The one thing that you can't teach is style. Well, you can, but the result is ... almost unreadable type of prose.
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