This week Michael Patrick Hicks steps up and talks about his novella ‘Revolver’. I read this little beauty not long ago (see my review here. ) and I can tell you that it’s an absolute doozy of a read. It is a short science-fiction tale set in a future United States where the media has too much say and the country is controlled by the religious far-right. Hick’s tale goes straight for the jugular, pulling no punches and I urge you to give it a whirl.
Michael is a fellow lover of books. He is an avid book reviewer and audio book reviewer and I always find his reviews honest and informative. He has a number of short stories published and as well as the mentioned novella ‘Revolver’ there is a zombie novella called ‘Let Go’ and a science-fiction novel (and sequel) called ‘Convergence’. Mike is also a big fan of Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s ‘Extinction Cycle’ series and recently contributed a novella set in the EC universe for the Kindle Worlds series on Amazon. Although only available in the US, Mike sent me a review copy and I really enjoyed it (see the review here ).
Right now you can sign up for Mike’s newsletter and get a FREE ebook copy of ‘Convergence’, so go do that (links at the bottom of the post).
Thanks, as always to Mike for participating in this feature. I hope you enjoy.
Staring Down The Barrel Of Revolver
Michael Patrick Hicks
In August 2016, N.K. Jemisin won a Hugo Award for best novel for her book, The Fifth Season. Speaking with New Statesman, Jemisin said that work came from a place of anger, which prompted Chuck Wendig to note on Twitter a particular lesson we writers should take away from this. “Find your ‘fuck you’ novel, then write it.”
My “fuck you” novel was actually a longish short story called Revolver, which I began working on during the tail end of 2014, and which was first published in the anthology, No Way Home.
American politics may be the most perfect place to find plenty of “fuck you” material to write about.
Let me state now, and for the record, that I am an atheist and lean toward the progressive side of politics. If this angers or frightens you, or you’re worried about reading things that don’t match your particular echo chamber, now may be a good time to stop reading. But, if you can tolerate viewpoints that may not match your own, let’s continue.
Over the course of 2014, leading into midterm elections for House and Senate seats, the religious right, in their pursuit of power, became huge fans of telling us how rape was a gift from God and that women should be stripped of bodily autonomy and reproductive choice, and forced to cherish their rapist’s baby (also a gift from God, naturally, and, unfortunately for those women, all part of his Plan for them). They bandied about words like “legitimate rape,” and told us that some women rape so easy. If it wasn’t an “enjoyable rape,” they said, then women’s bodies had ways of shutting that down. Texas legislators cut funding to women’s health clinics in an effort eliminate Planned Parenthood and health care options for low-income women, forcing clinics that didn’t even perform abortions to be shuttered. Poor women lost access to birth control prescriptions and cancer screenings, but in typical right-wing fashion, they didn’t give a shit about any of that because, well, you know, those women were poor, and born without a penis they already had two strikes against them on the social acceptability scales. Apparently, they needed to be controlled by powerful white men who, despite repeatedly displaying their utter ignorance of human biology and reproduction, felt themselves better suited to make decision on behalf of these women than medical professionals.
That’s what these debates and bills all boiled down to in the end, you see – power and control. Powerful men in control of subservient women.
In the midst of the GOP’s War on Women, I repeatedly watched women’s rights stripped away. Here in Michigan, even female legislators elected as State Representatives were banned from speaking on the House Floor for saying the word “vagina” during a debate on an abortion bill that would, like Texas, destroy women’s clinics by placing unnecessary restrictions, prohibitive licensing, and operating costs to burden them right out of business. I suppose it’s almost needless to say that this bill, HB 5711, passed and was signed by Governor Snyder. I heard proposals of women being jailed for having miscarried, or at least having their entire lives turned upside down with police investigations and interrogations – this, shortly following my wife’s second miscarriage.
And then there were the sad, rabid, and generally just pathetic puppies attempting to hijack the Hugo Awards because they feared science fiction and fantasy was being written by too many non-white, possibly irreligious, people – some of whom were even, gasp!, women. And lest we forget about GamerGate and their “ethics in journalism,” which was often coupled with GGers rather unethically threatening female journalists with rape, murder, arson, and doxing.
After being approached to contribute to No Way Home, and its overarching theme of being stranded, I decided to take all my “fuck you’s” and put them into Revolver. In this story, our central character is Cara Stone, a homeless woman who has been all but stranded by society. The religious far-right is in control of society, and to do away with the ne’er-do-wells, like women and homosexuals, they’ve established a game show. Participants are invited to kill themselves, live on TV, with their families receiving a stipend as reward. Given the path our real-life political leaders were, and still are, heading down, in which they mistake their religious beliefs for American Law and wish to do away with that pesky Constitution in favor of their Bibles, I looked toward other theocratic regimes, such as Saudi Arabia, which helps fuel suicide bombing campaigns by giving hefty financial rewards to the families of these so-called martyrs.
Since it was published, Revolver has been called “stunning and harrowing” and a “classic example of social science fiction.” And while those are certainly awesome words of praise, it wasn’t until my story was called, by various readers, “hate speech,” “horrid left-wing drivel” and “so nauseatingly Politically Correct that had this book been physical instead of electronic, I would have physically flung it across the room,” that I knew I had hit my mark and done my job. One reader even e-mailed me to let me know I was a godless commie, an accusation that is only 50% true, and since I own all of the rights to all of my work and sell it for profit, I think I can fairly easily refute the whole commie part.
Revolver held up a mirror to society. Some readers responded enthusiastically, while others were pissed off by it for reasons good and proper, and because they didn’t like what was being reflected back at them and it made them squirm uncomfortably at being called out. For both these reasons, I consider the story a success and it’s one I’m deeply proud of. It’s also a story that frightens me, particularly as I look at the shape of America today and what the candidacy of a man like Donald Trump represents about us as a nation and as a people. In that regard, Revolver is every bit a horror story as much as it is social science fiction. If you should happen to find yourself staring down the dark, black barrel of Revolver, I hope it scares you, too.
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