Interesting People, Vol. 1: Adam Lane Smith

Welcome to a new feature here on Amatopia! It’s called “Interesting People,” and I’m going to interview people I think are interesting. Simple enough, right?

For this inaugural installment, I interviewed author Adam Lane Smith. Adam wrote one of my favorite books that I’ve read in a long time, a sci-fi mystery/adventure called Making Peace. I reviewed it upon release, and I highly recommend it to fans of the genre, or anyone just looking for something a little different than what you’ll find on the bookstore shelves.

Adam is also a very intelligent and easygoing guy, and I’ve truly enjoyed getting to know him over Twitter. In essence, he is the very definition of an interesting person. I hope you enjoy the conversation (my questions in bold, Adam’s responses in normal type):

* * *

Before we get into anything else, tell me one thing: why on Earth don’t you have a blog or website of your own?!

The short answer is that I’m lazy.
The long answer is that in the process of writing my book I had to deal with many pitfalls and time sinks. My former publisher went full SJW and let me know in a passive-aggressive manner that I was no longer welcome at their company, and then in an aggressive manner threatened my day job. I started and then completed an apprenticeship as a psychotherapist. I worked a traveling job. I started two new jobs. I conceived and then had my first child, and then conceived my second. I worked long hours reading everything published and unpublished from fellow authors while networking with them and raving about their works on social media so they’d know who I was when I finally published my book.
The struggle wasn’t limited to my personal life. After I finished writing the book, I unwillingly went through three separate people for my final cover. My second cover artist almost opened me up to being sued by using copyrighted material and claiming it was legally okay after I confronted him. I had to learn about editing and got a punch to the gut from the fantastic editor I hired, which necessitated 45 hours of editing and rewriting after I’d thought I was done.
All of that is my sniveling way of saying I was exhausted. Rhett C. Bruno mentored me through the launch and warned me sternly not to launch without a website, but I was beyond caring. I wanted to be a real author and be done with the cursed work which had tormented my soul night and day for three years. (Is that tortured enough for me to be considered an artist?)
But, unlike with modern Hollywood trash writing, there is a happy ending! I’ve got someone working on my author website right now. That’s registered at AdamLaneSmith.com, and will eventually exist once I prod him hard enough.
That’s a pretty good reason not to have a blog, but I’m glad to hear that the official home of Adam Lane Smith on the web will soon be up and running.
 
Your answer dovetails nicely into my next set of questions. As someone who really enjoyed Making Peace–indeed, it’s one of the strongest Pulp Rev works I’ve read–I’m eager to discuss writing, but I’m also intrigued by this publisher who tried to get you fired. What’s that all about?
 
Before getting into that, though, how about a little of your background, to the extent that you’re comfortable talking about it? You know, the kind of thing an actual professional interviewer would’ve asked you about first.
I grew up in Central California in George Lucas’ home town. When he writes about Tattooine and has Luke complain about how miserable it is, that’s what he’s talking about. When he writes about Mos Eisley, that’s our home.
I grew up poor in the ghetto. My mother came from a wealthy family but was disowned and disinherited for marrying a Christian man, and my father grew up with a divorced mother in trailer parks. No one helped us, and my parents each worked multiple low-paying jobs day and night to keep us fed and scraping by. Life was hard. Much of this is mentioned or hinted at in the afterword of my novel.
People died, friends were molested, I fought for my life several times against violence and untreated sickness, I developed PTSD, family members were abducted and raped by gangs, violence was ever present. One of the first lessons you learn is to lay on the floor with the adults on top of you so they die first and the kids might live under the corpses.
I learned to love reading as an escape, and dreamed of being a writer. By the grace of God, I worked my way out with the help of my diligent wife. Now we live a life of relative comfort and safety on a farm.
Those who’ve read Making Peace probably see a great deal of my upbringing in the setting.

When Dreams Are Dead and You Just Don’t Care

You know what’s a real pain in the neck?

Starting a band. No, not just that. Being in a band!

First, you need to find other musicians who have the same tastes and ambitions as you. Then you need to find out if they can actually play. Third, you need to determine whether they’re reliable (you’ll soon discover this as rehearsals begin). A practice space is nice, too, If you can actually solve for these parts of the equation, then you need material. And in the untrained world of amateur rock bands, everyone wants the glory but never wants to do the work. And they hate the guy who does.

When you do get gigs, they’re late at night at some dive with awful parking and you’re probably third or fourth on the bill, near closing time, when nobody is there because all of your friends who nodded and smiled and said they’d “totally make it” when you told them about your show bailed on you because of “work” or something, and so you end up playing to another empty room.

What a hassle.

It’s a funny thought to have, though, because for a good fifteen years of my life music was the most important thing to me. I had always been fascinated by the way these vibrations my air molecules can be organized into shapes and sounds and structures. Composition and performance were my passions in equal measure, and I always thought I would have slides into orchestral composition and teaching after some years of performing in various ways.

Not my picture, but I’ve stood on an awful lot of stages like this.

The thing was, I didn’t finish music school. Nope. On some incredibly bad advice, I switched majors and ended up you-know-where. This was also, mostly, my own fault though. Lack of confidence, no real experience dealing with adversity, and growing up in a cage of safety really took their toll on my psyche and resiliency.

Fast-forward to the present. Some years ago, while I was back in school, I had to sell all of my instruments to pay bills. It was crushing, and still stings. But it was necessary, and stings less over time. And while I make rumblings about wanting to buy another bass eventually and maybe even play in a band, the drive just isn’t there like it used to be.

In hindsight, and this is weird to say, selling all my guitars might have been a symbolic letting go of the past, of dreams that won’t come to fruition.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Corinthians 13:11

Perhaps I’ve just moved on. And this is natural. Continue reading “When Dreams Are Dead and You Just Don’t Care”

Hating What Everybody Likes

What is it about consensus that makes so many of us recoil? Why does going along with the crowd rankle?

I tweeted a question recently about which band or artist that seems universally loved that people can’t stand just for fun. But it got me thinking about why this is so.

I can speak from experience: sometimes consensus makes me dislike something more than the thing itself, even if I actually kind of like the thing.

There are two reasons for this, I think:

  1. Previous experience of being burned by trusting consensus; and
  2. The Dunning-Kruger effect: “Of course I’m smarter than everyone else!”

I can give you some personal examples of both of these, some musical and others not.

On the musical front, I resisted the appeal of The Strokes, even though the songs I heard when they first came out really appealed to me. What bugged me was the types of people who were pushing them: New York hipsters and the Pitchfork set. Blech.

A similar thing happened with some other, non-hipster bands. It took me a while to get into Coheed and Cambria, who I am now a huge fan of, because they were associated with emo. And I could not stand emo.

And yet I fell for the lure of the bands Vampire Weekend and TV on the Radio. I suppose I was trying to keep an open mind at that time, and trusted those who I thought knew better. Now, after realizing “Hey, these guys suck and I don’t actually like them!” I never listen to those bands. Live and learn.

I resisted the Harry Potterbooks for quite a while, but read them around the time the final book came out and quite enjoyed them, recent history notwithstanding.

Regarding Harry Potter, I suppose I had committed the youthful mistake of thinking I just had better taste than 99% of people in America. That’s arrogance, and it’s amazing what a little humility will do for you.

(I was totally right about the Twilight books, though. And to be fair, there is not always wisdom in the crowds. But I digress.)

Art is subjective. But peer pressure is incredibly powerful. What to do? Continue reading “Hating What Everybody Likes”

The Liberating Power of the Trashcan

After careful mathematical analysis, I have come to the conclusion that a good 50% to 75% of what we own is junk.

Want me to show my work? Here:

This is box one of three of old law school textbooks. I graduated law school in 2009 and kept these books, figuring that they would be handy for reference. Maybe I’d have a sweet legal office like you see on TV shows, with shelves full of impressive-looking, imitation leather-bound tomes of legality.

But alas! Legal research this past decade tends to be done on this amazing new thing called the Internet. And the law is constantly changing, so while the historical stuff in my old Constitutional Law textbook might still hold some value, those cases are called “settled” for a reason.

(Also, it is my contention that “constitutional law” as an area of legal philosophy is a joke, since it doesn’t depend on what the words on the document actually say and mean, but whatever “penumbras and emanations” five un-elected judges in black robes decide they mean on any given day. But I digress.)

And check out the textbook from my interesting “History of Anglo-American Law” class.

Cool stuff.

I have looked in these books zero times sine graduating law school. So into the trash they go.

Moving really forces you to assess what is important to keep and what is not. There are also, of course, considerations of space, but that’s a topic for another day. Here we’re talking about the stuff itself.

“Important” is, of course, subjective. I love books and music, so I retained several banker’s boxes of books and music.

I also like old video games, board games, and jigsaw puzzles, so those things were spared the trash. I’ve sold enough things that I later regretted selling, so I’ve learned my lesson (to be fair, I went back to school and had a mortgage and other bills that need paying, but the principle remains).

Clothes? Very important. But if I haven’t worn them in several months, I chucked or donated them.

And it’s kind of liberating! The healing power of the trashcan is something not to be taken lightly, or trifled with. If you’re judicious in what you throw away, you’ll find peace of mind and space you never thought you’d have. Continue reading “The Liberating Power of the Trashcan”

Book Review: The Art of the Argument by Stefan Molyneux

I like Stefan Molyneux. I find him a very smart, interesting, and entertaining speaker. He is a philosopher with a wide area of focus: Politics and government, culture and entertainment, philosophy and the nature of truth, economics, religion . . . it all gets discussed on Molyneux’ podcast at Freedomain Radio and on his YouTube channel.

A lot of people don’t agree, of course. They mock his catchphrase, “Not an argument,” call him “LOLyneux” for some of his more esoteric ideas like peaceful parenting (e.g., never ever spank your kids), and generally think he’s a fraud or a quack. I get the disagreeing with him about stuff, but where the fraud and quack accusations come from eludes me.

An author of many other books, Molyneux is what you could classify as a right-of-center liberal. He’s big into individual freedom and small government, and is staunchly anti-socialist, but is also pretty socially liberal nationalist who believes that every nation has the right to determine its own destiny free of foreign meddling. He’s anti-globalism and anti-war, as well as being anti-racist . . . but takes a lot heat for his views on, say, the racial distributions of certain things such as IQ.

And yet, with Molyneux, it seems like he just point out things that appear to be objective facts in order to discuss, understand, and make sense of them in order to do something good with them.

I never get the impression that Molyneux hates certain types of people.  I mean, he’s an atheist who sees all religion as a bunch of anti-rational mumbo-jumbo used to explain things in earlier times, and yet he also defends Christianity and fully recognizes its important to the development and continuing survival of Western civilization.

In short, he’s an interesting guy.

Stefan Molyneux

Which brings me to The Art of The Argument: Western Civilization’s Last Stand. The subtitle is a little hyperbolic, but argument and debate have been some of Molyneux’s most discussed topics for a long time. In fact, the idea of “the argument” permeates everything he does.

Basically, Molyneux pushes for clear, rational, and evidence-based thinking as a means of presenting viewpoints and ways of life in the battlefield of ideas. The more evidence-based and divorced from emotion and selfish gain an argument is, the better people will be persuaded to see its truth. Similarly

On the other end of the spectrum, we have sophistry. Sophistry is Molyneux’s pet peeve. Sophistry is the facile manipulation of emotion, rhetoric without truth, designed to confuse and enrage the listener to support an anti-rational and often counterproductive position that usually benefits the sophist. And more often than not, the sophist is coming from a position of pain, projecting their own neuroses, hatreds, and hangups on the world at large as a way of lashing out at “unfairness,” “inequality,” and “injustice.”

In short, Molyneux stresses that there is an objective good–what can lead to Universally Preferable Behavior (UPB) as he calls it–and that it revolves around the age-old battle between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.

On this topic, I find it hard that anyone can disagree with Molyneux.

So when I heard that he was writing a book specifically about what he calls “The Argument,” I was excited.

So how does it fare? Is it the intellectual battle manual we were promised? Does it really lay out the best ways to think and reason and debate?

Not quite.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s an interesting, well-written and clearly thought out book. But it doesn’t exactly deliver as promised. Continue reading “Book Review: The Art of the Argument by Stefan Molyneux”

Book Review: SJWs Always Double Down by Vox Day

It’s tricky to walk the line these days. So many people are binary thinkers, meaning that they want to paint you with the guilt-by-association brush for the mere fact of agreeing with a person they themselves find disagreeable, even if the person in question is right about the thing in question.

I’ve written about this phenomenon before, coming down firmly on the side that it’s okay to like a work of art despite the politics or unsavory personal predilections of the artist in question:

Life is more fun when you experience things and engage with them. Communication is the purpose of art! If you don’t like a message, nobody’s forcing you to live by it. However, it’s hypocritical to say “I’m open-minded!” while categorically refusing to listen to the “other side” and its points-of-view.

And if there’s one takeaway I hope you get from this post, it’s this: You don’t have to feel guilty for liking something. Save the guilt for, you know, actual sins.

Roman Polanski raped a child, but that doesn’t make his movies bad. Michael Jackson had inappropriate relations with children, but that doesn’t make his music any less fantastic.

Which brings us to Vox Day.

Now, I am in no way equating Day, real name Theodore Beale, with Messrs. Polanski and Jackson. However, Day has a similarly unsavory reputation among polite Internet society in politics and among the mainstream sci-fi/fantasy community. Many find his hypotheses on gender, race relations, immigration, religion, and culture in general distasteful, and he’s been involved in several, admittedly nerdy and kind of inside-geekdom-baseball controversies over the years. But despite all this, two facts remain:

  1. The man can write; and
  2. The man is spot-on when it comes to SJWs

(Note: For an explanation of what an SJW is, check out my review of SJWs Always Lie and my post about beigeness.) Continue reading “Book Review: SJWs Always Double Down by Vox Day”

The Influence of Art (and Other Hypocrisies)

[Preemptive request: I don’t buy the “video games cause school shootings” argument, so kindly don’t spam the comments to the effect that I do. Thanks.]

It’s a well known fact that violent video games create violent people. Except when they don’t.

It’s just like movies and TV: These things have absolutely no effect on the behavior of those who watch them. Unless they do.

The President waded into this recently after the terrible school shooting in Parkland, Florida, suggesting a summit to discuss the effect that video games have on young impressionable minds. He was widely mocked for this. It’s settled science, after all, that video games don’t make players violent gun nuts.

But they do turn gamers–especially white male ones–into misogynistic racists who hate gays. Or something. I don’t know.

And movies and TV, which influenced people to stop smoking, most emphatically don’t make viewers more violent. Except when they do. But they also paved the way for America to accept gay marriage. Except showrunners and moviemakers are unbiased souls who just want to make art and not propaganda. I guess.

My point is that this entire debate is pointless nonsense. Of course art influences people. How couldn’t it? Continue reading “The Influence of Art (and Other Hypocrisies)”