Thursday, December 18, 2014

The darkness within...


In "Black Goddess," I explored one emotionally tormented man's obsession with finding  the secret of evil; facing the darkness at the heart of the human soul.  To do that, I featured one of evil's purest and most potent manifestations:  torture.

I had to do a little research, reading accounts written by torture survivors.  Torture was described as something like a dark force or malignancy that spreads from the body to the mind and soul and eventually becomes dominant.  I also read analyses of how therapists reacted to the stories told them by survivors, and how it affected them.  (Some recoiled from the horror of it and discouraged their patients against digging it up, while others reveled in the horror and the pain.)  I also read accounts written by people who'd been trained by regimes that regularly used torture on political prisoners.  Not surprisingly, the trainers would look for a certain personality type; one that wants to inflict pain.  (They would use live subjects, and offer the trainees their choice of weapons.  Choose a knife, you were in.  Choose a gun, they didn't want you as a torturer; no taste for inflicting pain.)

Torture is in many ways the ultimate avatar of evil, because it depends on the complete absence or negation of the most basic human instinct for empathy with a fellow human being.  The average butcher has more compassion for the animal he slaughters than the torturer has for his victim.  When one's very goal, one's very craft, and more one's passion is to inflict pain on another, then what is left to define humanity?  Even in war, respect for the basic human rights of a captured enemy is a basic pillar of civilization.  Yes, there is a side to human nature that gives in to hate and becomes the very object of one's hatred:  pure evil.  But, civilization is based on the side of human nature that empathizes and learns compassion and understanding.  So, which side is the true face of humanity?  The cruel, unforgiving side like Sparta, that considered failure and weakness capital crimes, embracing the soldier above all?  Or, the kinder, more reflective side like Athens, that revered wisdom and beauty?  Both were products of the human soul.  But, what determines which path a people choose, and do they know where it leads?

Which path are we on now?  The CIA's torture report is out:    
Yes, our government tortured people in the name of national security.  The strategic value of statements acquired under torture was at best questionable, at worst useless.  No one has been brought to justice as yet for these acts and probably never will be.  And, officials that were in office at the time openly boast they'd do it again.

So, what does this say about us as a people?  Well, the report is out.  At least we're an open society.  The White House is not hiding the truth from the American people, as the Nazis hid the Final Solution from the German people.  (Bearing in mind, these were acts committed by a previous administration and published by a current administration perhaps desperately trying to make the voting public look with distaste at the opposing party.)  But, perhaps the openness and apparent lack of shame is less a positive than a negative sign of the times.  I suppose the telling test of our society will be how the public ultimately reacts to this information now that it's out in the open.  There will be differences of opinion, of course; demonstrations and counter-demonstrations.  In the end, probably no prosecutions, at least not at the highest levels of government.  Some will maintain it was necessary.  Others will openly revel in the sweet revenge and say in offices or on the Internet that we should have more of it.  Most will just want to forget.

Yes, we can revel in the infliction of pain on those we demonize.  We can look the other way as people are butchered on our own streets, because their skin is a different color.  We can resign ourselves to perpetual war waged from a comfortable distance with mindless machines that kill for us at the touch of a button.  Yes, it's easier to hate and kill than it is to forgive or heal.  But, that complete disconnect from compassion and empathy does have a price, and an insidious one.  We can tell ourselves it's necessary, that we're doing it to save lives and preserve freedom.  We may even believe it.  But, the means always determine the ends.  Turn readily and easily to killing and torture, and that's what you become.  No, it doesn't happen overnight.  It's an evolutionary journey, softened by an endless parade of excuses, rationalizations and euphemisms.  It's not torture; It's enhanced interrogation.  Those aren't dead civilians; They're collateral damage.  No, we're not ready yet to install gas chambers or crematoria at Gitmo.  But, will we be, someday?  And above all, would the mainstream population protest it?

Open your heart to the darkness when an enemy strikes at you, and the darkness creeps little by little into your soul, until that's all there is.  You wake up one morning and realize that's who you are now.  Maybe, that's who you always were, deep down.

In "Black Goddess" the protagonist finds a way back from the darkness through love.  In real life, that may not be enough.  Not for everyone.  Sometimes, there is no way back.  Not for those who hate and kill us, and not for us, once the disease spreads from attacker to attacked.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Susan Says...

Susan Gourley is hosting me today on her fine blog:

Stop by, check out my views on the writing game, and check out some fine SCIENCE FICTION and Fantasy titles.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Earth: The Return by Joanne Hirase

Latest exciting SCIENCE FICTION release from Joanne Hirase -- The further adventures of the cosmic hero Mac Carter

Musa Publishing is proud to announce the release of Earth: The Return, third and final novel in the Mac Carter Chronicles, a science fiction series exploring not just the potential end of the world but also  what impact humans might have on a war that the entire universe is tangled up in.

Curious? Here are some more details about Earth: The Return:

Mac Carter led the Chasramians and their allied planets to victory in the war for universal peace. Now as Chancellor of the Universe, he’s looking forward to a millennium of harmony and tranquility among the hundreds of planets that survived the war.

Unfortunately, an evil ancestor of the gods still remains. Mac must make the journey to Earth and eliminate the threat without reverting to his Earthly ways and putting universal peace at risk. He comes face to face with his past and an evil so strong that his friends must also return to Earth to help. Sol, his son and successor, is captured by the enemy and Mac finds himself fighting not only for Sol’s life, but his own Earthly emotions.

Can Mac win both battles and ensure that the millennium of peace endures?


The anxiety started in the bottom of his stomach. Mac tried to take a deep breath, but his head started to tingle. He got up and walked around the small spacecraft. He opened every door to see what was inside, trying to take his mind off the fact he was going to kill another person. He didn't find much of interest, so he went back to his table and picked up the letters from his children. Mac decided it would be nice to respond to each one, so he got his paper and pen and began writing letters. That would give him something to do for the rest of the flight to Earth. Mac never was good at writing letters before, but now the words flowed. He had so much he wanted to say, and put his heart into each one.

The speed of the ship changed. It was barely discernible, but Mac was becoming like the pilots; he could feel the navigation, just as Romas told him he would. Mac went to the controls, and looked out the window. He loved this part of the travel, when he could see galaxies, stars, and planets.

The Great Council had ordered the cleanup of the universe, and all planets were clearing out space debris and space junk to make travel safer. The goal was to have only natural items in the sky, as well as functioning satellites, communication ships, and the space travelers. Mac appreciated that because it meant he didn't have to sit at the controls and try to steer around debris. He could let the ship fly itself as it could detect the few obstacles in the galaxy that it needed to avoid.

All the magnificent lights in the sky made him smile. Then it happened. Planet Earth came into view, and a happy sensation coursed through his body. He saw the white swirls against the dark blue and vibrant green. Mac held his breath as the planet got closer and closer. The ship circled Earth and Mac rubbed his hands together. Now that he was here, there were so many places he wanted to go. A slight detour wouldn’t matter, unless the killing didn’t go well. He sighed and shook his head.

The intercom beeped and Mac turned on the screen. “It looks like I’m just about there.”

“Yes, you’ve arrived,” Ingiry said. “Do you feel any different?”

“No, I still feel the same way I felt when I was on Chasra.” Mac bit his lip.

“That is good news. I will let the others know.”

“Are you going to tell me who my mission is?”

Ingiry ignored Mac’s question. “There’s a landing strip cleared for your arrival, although the people at that airstrip don’t know that it’s you who is arriving. All they know is that it’s a ship from Chasra. They won’t pay much attention, as many ships and other aircraft land there.”

“Good," Mac said. “I don't want to be slowed down by anyone or anything, if I can help it.”

“Now, to answer your question.”

“Hold up, Ingiry. I want to take this in.” Mac sat at the window as he began to descend. He remembered what it looked like as they were flying away, and now as the planet got closer, a twinge ran through his body. He wasn't sure what it was and shook it off.

“What a sight,” he said. “I forgot how beautiful my home world is.”

He always made a point to look at other planets as they approached. Many were red, orange, and yellow. Others were marked with purple and green. But Earth, with its majestic blue, was unlike any of the others. The other planets had the resources that they needed, but not near as much water as Earth had.

“Okay, I'm ready to talk.” Mac felt the ship slowing more.

“Here is the most recent photo of the evil ancestor,” Ingiry said.

A photo of a woman with long reddish-brown hair came on the screen. Mac studied her face. She appeared to be in her mid-30s, and Mac shrugged.

“Who is she?”
Curious to find out more about how Mac Carter got off Earth in the first place? Make sure you grab a copy of 2012: The Rising and Chasra: The Homecoming so you can get all the details.

If you already know Mac's story, purchase your copy of Earth: The Return today.