Category Archives: Philosophical Opinion

Apologies for the Cat

ConfuciusFor the record, I am not politically correct. In fact, I have a very strong urge to do the exact opposite of what the politically correct say I should do. That said, I used to be a Platonist and was against the mocking of other people’s religion. The constructive criticism of such was okay as long as it was done politely and with decorum, but the attempt to “shout down with laughter” I thought to be a very unsound and distasteful approach in the etiquette of argument. And yet, a few weeks/months ago (5/28/16 to be precise), through the personage of my cat, Confucius, I mocked a certain Sheikh Saleh Bin Fawzan Al-Fazwan for trying to ban people from taking pictures with cats. He believed that people who took pictures with cats were becoming “too Western.” In response, I ridiculed him here. Now, the Platonist in me (and the Christian, as well) feel obliged to offer the Sheik an apology. So, I apologize to Sheik Saleh Bin Fawzan Al-Fazwan—although I’m sure he has no idea I exist. I should not have mocked him and, by extension, even Mohammed and Islam. It was poor taste on my part. Sorry.

Anyway, in my opinion, banning pictures with cats seems very odd. If you want to make it some kind of religious tenet, I suppose you can, but it seems kind of a trivial thing to me. Kind of on the level of not eating meat on Fridays in Lent according to my own Faith (Catholicism). I was always of the mind that how you treated other people was paramount. Ritual was just ritual, and not of major consequence. Kind of: “I desire love, not sacrifice.” God wants us to love Him and each other, not get lost in the minutiae of religious rules and strictures. The older, wiser me realizes that some people get very upset if their rituals are infringed upon.  Anyway, I think the more pressing problem for Islam is the segment of its practitioners who are going around killing everyone and everything they can. I think the Sheik and his religion would be better served if he addressed that problem and not the current celebrity status of cats. I am free to criticize the loons of Isis all I want, but they probably won’t listen to me, as I am an outsider. Indeed, they probably won’t listen to the Sheik either. But potential recruits? There the Sheik might have a more substantial impact. Muslim youths would surely listen to him far sooner than they would me. And he could do so much good, if he directed his energies there.

Confucius Speaks

ConfuciusMeow. Time for another politically incorrect post.

It has reached my feline ears that a certain Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia by the name of Sheikh Saleh Bin Fawzan Al-Fazwan has banned people from taking pictures with cats. Don’t believe me? Although it is beneath the celestial dignity of a feline like myself to make false claims or be forced to support my claims for verification, I’ll present the following evidence anyway: http://maudmanyore.com/2016/05/saudi-arabian-cleric-bans-people-from-taking-pictures-with-cats.html and http://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/styles/story_medium/public/thumbnails/image/2016/05/26/17/saudi-cats2.jpg and … well, google it. See? I told you so.

The Sheikh claims the ban on such pictures is an attempt to keep people from becoming “too Western.” Clearly, he is a Westernaphobe as well as a felinaphobe. Pesky Muslim Sheikh. Although perhaps I should take the whole business as a compliment: visual expressions of Mohammed are condemned as blasphemy in the Muslim world; is the Sheikh trying to make a similar connection with cats? If so, I fear I must correct the record: us, cats, are not major religious/political leaders in this world. We certainly don’t deserve the status of a Mohammed or a Jesus or a Buddha for our efforts and achievements in our earthly lives. If the truth be known, we could earn such, if we wanted to, we just prefer to spend our time having our chins rubbed and that place behind our ears scratched.

I hope that does not earn me a fatwa. If so, I’ll have to respond with a meowtwa.

I’ve Got It: My Next Novel Will Feature …

This might be a bad idea from a politically correct point-of-view; I might make myself into a pariah by posting this. But I’m not politically correct. If the truth be told, I can’t stand the whole movement. I get it: if there’s a man standing next to me in a dress, that’s no cause to beat him senseless or publicly ridicule him. But I still think it’s a little weird. And I think I’m within my rights to raise an eyebrow. Sorry.

 

I find it amusing as I hop from ezine to ezine and peruse the wish lists of the respective editors. A whole bunch of them are looking for LGBTQ (or whatever) literature and all sorts of variants on that theme. Basically, the characters in our stories are getting stranger and stranger, more and more removed from “normal” (if there is such a thing–the PC movement denies that there is; I’m not so sure). I suppose that’s natural as a perfectly “normal” character would probably be boring. But it seems to me that it is possible to get lost in the weeds of details, striving to make your character so unique it becomes its own bizarre amalgamation of traits and randomness; a string of characteristics that mock the whole notion of character.

 

So, in light of the vast PC wisdom, and the muse that inspires me, my next novel will feature …

a cis-gendered Hispanic male albino lesbian with a penchant for Cheerios and heavy metal music. His love interest, of course, will be a trans-gendered female weightlifting Sumo wrestler from Alpha Centauri with seven fingers on her right hand and an extra row of teeth; she suffers from psoriasis.

 

I should apologize for that. Maybe I can make it good by claiming they are both hobgoblins. Am I allowed to tease hobgoblins? Or are they off-limits, too?

 

Odin Speaks: The Legend versus the Myth

Arf. I am Odin. When I speak, you listen, for I am all-knowing and wise.

OdinOnce again, I stumbled across a curious fact while reading some of my more unconventional fare (more specifically, while I was reading a couple books on Atlantis). Apparently, there is a distinction between a legend and a myth. Both are stories, of a sort. A Legend is based on some historical fact; it contains some kernel of truth; however, whatever truth it contains has been buried by an avalanche of distortion and historical debris that has been produced by the many intervening years between the telling of its story and the events that inspired it. A decent example of a Legend is the Legend of Atlantis, told by Plato. A number of the details of the story have been confirmed (specifically a handful of Athenian details), so it seems that some of the story is based on a truth that has been obscured by time.

In contrast to the Legend is the Myth. A myth is also a story concerning events from the deepest mists of time. However, a myth usually involves the activities of some supernatural force: like a hero, demigod, or god. They are heavily filled with symbols and interpretative meaning, but they were never intended to be taken as factual. For example, the Greek Myth of Phaethon’s disastrous attempt to drive the sun god Apollo’s chariot is an excellent example of a myth.

The skeptical lune lurking inside me, however, is not so sure that that distinction can be easily verified. Are we sure Phaethon’s chariot ride is just symbolic? It could (if we stretch the bounds of credulity) involve some half-alien hybrid who got a turn riding his father’s spaceship. That’s not likely, but it’s possible (that’s the problem with having a training in philosophy: just about anything goes—except contradictions—or, alternatively, nothing goes; it’s usually one or the other: Will the sun rise tomorrow? The scientist says, “Of course it will.” The philosopher says, “I don’t know.” It’s the difference between deductive logic, and inductive reasoning. Certainty and probability.)

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today. Woof.

Fantasy and Demons

BBT_TourBanner_FromTheAshesOfRuin

A ways back, I wrote an article for my newsletter (sign up here, if you are interested in receiving future mailings of my newsletter) dealing with demons. It was a light-hearted foray into a potentially serious subject. I say ‘serious’ because I’m not entirely certain if real-life demons are fiction or reality. Those familiar with my life story might know that I suffer from a psychological disorder and a delusion that revolves around demons. So, forgive me if I take them more seriously than you might be inclined to.

 

Anyway, most of the different religious sects across the globe believe (or at least through much of their history did believe) in demons. They developed various rites to exorcise demons from possessed people (that is drive them out). I’ve never studied demon lore and I have no idea how to perform such an exorcism. I just want to point out that there may be a ‘demon phenomenon’ whose underlying reality is markedly different from what the religious believe it to be.

 

According to the religious a demon is a spirit or entity that can harass or even possess (that is, take over) a regular human being. When this happens, a priest or even witch doctor is needed to drive the demon out. However, in this modern age the whole concept of a demon seems kind of archaic, a throwback to primitive times. Nowadays, most psychiatrists and medical doctors would attribute demonic activity to psychological disorders. Even things like uncontrolled telekinesis and other such phenomena could be explained if we allow that the brain is hideously complex; it might be responsible for such activity at an unconscious level.

 

Anyway, back to my original point. I am a fantasy author. And I write about demons. However, I will be the first to admit that I did not do massive amounts of research on the subject of ‘real’ demons existing here on Earth. What I “know” of demons I’ve gathered from a miscellany of sources throughout my younger reading years: I’ve been influenced by AD&D, my Catholic upbringing, and other sources, but I never seriously studied the subject under the auspices of the aforementioned Catholic Church. So, basically, I may have made mistakes in my so-called demonic lore.

 

And I have no intention of trying to fix those.

 

If there is any truth to demon lore, I don’t want to inadvertently give a recipe for someone to try to summon a demon in real life. Hence, the lore in my novels is basically misinformation. I’ve heard this or that where wizards would use salt (I incorporated that bit a little in my latest book) or some other detail, but all the details and information are summoned mostly from my imagination. If you try a ritual detailed in my book, be assured: it won’t work—even if demons are real and not figments of the imaginations of disturbed people; you need more than a circle cut in stone to summon them. Also, in my book, all the demonologists are evil, and the rituals described are likewise evil. After all, in my mythical fantasy universe summoning demons requires a blood sacrifice. Don’t do that in real life. If it’s an animal, it’s unnecessary, cruel and very uncool. If it’s a human, it’s murder, no ifs, ands, or buts. Not that I’d really expect someone to re-enact something they read in a fantasy book. But I had to write about something today; so, I chose this.

 

That’s all I wanted to say today.

 

Atlantis: Fact or Fiction?

This post has little to do with fantasy literature, per se. At least not directly. The connection is that the story of Atlantis is kind of fantastical.

 

The story of Atlantis comes to us from Plato, specifically from his dialogue The Timaeus. I never studied that one in college. I’ve read bits and pieces of it—mostly the stuff about the demi-urge and such. Anyway, within the dialogue we are given the legend of Atlantis in which Plato tells of an ancient advanced civilization that was wiped out in a cataclysm of some sort—earthquakes and floods, basically—which not only destroyed the Atlantean civilization in its entirety, but devastated the Athenian nation as well. Plato provides a number of details about the Atlantean civilization which I will not go into here. I will say, having read several books on the subject now, that I believe the Atlantean Legend is based on a real nation-state that once existed. Exactly where it was, though, I have no idea. It could have been somewhere in the Mediterranean, somewhere along the North African coast, somewhere along the Spanish coast, somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, or even in Antartica.

 

However, I would like to distinguish here between Plato’s Atlantis and the New Age Atlantis. Plato’s Atlantis is the Atlantis of which he wrote. It may have been a technologically advanced nation, but only a technologically advanced nation relative to its time. Perhaps Plato’s Atlanteans mapped South and North America; perhaps they knew of Antartica; but they did NOT fly around in planes, nor did they develop a space program based on crystals or something like that. Why do I say this? Because according to the Platonic Legend, the Atlanteans were at war with the Athenians, and the Athenians won said war. If the Atlanteans were so advanced they were flying around in planes, they would have mopped the floor with the primitive Athenians. And they didn’t. They lost. No super-technology for you.

 

The New Age Atlantis is the term I would use to refer to some ancient culture that may have existed in ages past with technology on par with or perhaps even exceeding our own. Plato’s Atlantis provides no support to such a theory. Such an Atlantis may have existed, but we must look elsewhere for evidence (we only refer to it as Atlantis for romantic reasons for surely it was called something else during its times). Things like the Nazca lines in South America, or those tiny golden airplanes that were found, again in South America. A New Age Atlantis would require a global catastrophe to wipe out and reset the humans of this planet back to the beginnings of the Stone Age. Such an event is possible but, at first blush, appears kind of loony. That said, perhaps I’ve watched one too many episodes of Ancient Aliens, because I’ve grown convinced that there was either a New Age Atlantis-like civilization in our past or we actually were being visited by aliens as far back as our prehistory. The evidence presented on Ancient Aliens is (sometimes) quite compelling.

Confucius Speaks

First, the important stuff: I am deeply offended that I was ‘upstaged’ by a Goodreads Giveaway Announcement last week. We all know cats are more important than selling books. Jeez! Now, on to the rebuttal of my whining human’s complaints:

My human clearly is not cut out to write. He can’t take the pressure. Afraid of a little bit of competition from Amazon. Hah! Boo hoo! It’s not like they have a complete monopoly on milk. I mean, that would be a travesty. Milk! Yum yum. Meeow. A few books here. A few books there. And he’s complaining because he’s not making any money at it. You have to have gumption to write! Nerve. And tenacity. It takes persistence and more persistence. I know. Back when I was being worshiped in Egypt, so many eons ago, I wrote a book in hieroglyphs. Perhaps you’ve heard of it: The Book of the Dead. Yes, I am the font of ancient Egypt lore. Because I’m a cat. And we know things. Most specifically we know that the human race will know no peace until we are worshiped once again as gods. And fed. Regularly. And have our ears rubbed. Just the way we like it.

Get your priorities straight Mr. Ryan. And get me some cat treats!

 

The Trials and Tribulations of an Indie Author

Methinks I’m going to vent a little, today. Perhaps it is not good form to spout angry vitriol at the ‘Net and all it offers. And perhaps it’s not good form to point out your own weakness—or maybe the whininess of such makes one look bad, but I’m finding the life of an Indie Author a bit tough to take of late. I enjoy the writing. I enjoy the editing. All the parts of the writing process are cool for me. I even enjoy developing new concepts for my book covers—although that’s not my forte and I hire someone to do the final cover. My big problem is that I’m just not making any money.

 

Yes, my chosen career is actually a money sink. I keep pouring more and more in, and getting pennies in return.

 

Part of my problem is that I have the business sense of a stone. I have no clue what to do about marketing. None. Whatsoever. I’ve posted interviews on-line at various sites. I’ve done virtual blog tours. I’ve bought advertisements on various ebook newsletters and similar sites. But no one wants to buy my books. I write well enough; I usually earn four or five stars on Amazon, and rarely fewer than three on Goodreads. I just don’t know what the problem is. My dashboard on Smashwords indicates that people just don’t want to pay money for an ebook—even when it’s consistently earned five stars. I have a number of sample downloads for all of my books, but very few actual paid downloads. Perhaps I’m not supposed to share that because it shows weakness. But it’s the truth. And I feel obligated to warn other potential Indie authors. If they wish to go into this business, they should go in with their eyes wide open.

 

Furthermore, if you want to be an Indie author, you should know that just being a good writer is not good enough. You need to have some business skills, not to mention a certain degree of Tech savviness. Like I said above, my business skills are sorely lacking. I never studied business in college and I’m having to learn the ropes the hard way. As far as Tech is concerned, I’m reasonably comfortable on-line; I just don’t like spending my whole day hunting through various web sites or visiting Social sites. I would much rather be writing. Or editing. Or brainstorming. Or what-have-you.

 

Then there is the whole Amazon factor. It is my belief that Amazon is going to put all the Indie writers out of business or force them into slavery. I don’t know much about business, but I do know that I can’t compete with Amazon when they offer all the books you want for a $3 monthly fee. Which is what they are doing. No one wants to pay for books anymore. Amazon is conditioning the consumer to expect free books. I gave Drasmyr away for free. And I may even give a Novella or two away for free. But that’s it. Every book I write represents a substantial investment of both time and money: for my novels, close to two years and a painful amount of money.

 

It’s enough to make me pull out my own hair in frustration.

 

Next week: my cat, Confucius, will reply!

Guest Post on Cirsova: My Influences for My Fantasy Literature

Hi All,

Just a note to let you know I’m guest posting on Cirsova today. Just a few thoughts on some of my influences in fantasy literature and how they have affected me. I talk a lot about J.R.R. Tolkien. Check it out!

Confucius Speaks …

Confucius

Look at me! I’m a cat! I am wise, wily, and wicked. I’m an avid fantasy reader who has agreed to post on Mr. Ryan’s blog. I’ve read Mr. Ryan’s books. They’re all great, except for one flaw: No cats! What is the problem? He had rats! But no cats. I’ll be contacting PETA soon unless you include a cat in the next book. Be warned, Mr. Ryan. Overlooking a class of animal as prevalent as we are is tantamount to deliberate oppression. You have not heard the last of me. And if PETA doesn’t respond, it’ll be the Labor Department. I’ll take you to court and sue you for as many cat treats as your 401k can provide.

 

Unless, um … um … you rub my ears and fluff my pillow and let me rub my body against your calves. Don’t step on me! Just let me revel in my silken loveliness!