In my writer’s blog I will feature a website-exclusive commentary on my published works, characters, and little asides that went into creating them. Hopefully for any other aspiring writers out there, this may be of use. I love to help other writers out where I can. I, myself, have benefited greatly from the advice and guidance of wiser, established, and (thankfully) benevolent souls, both mainstream and not, who have led me along my path of this craft over the years. I aim to pay it forward myself (I’m teaching my first creative writing class this Spring), and I hope this blog – with anecdotes of what I’ve done and how much I struggled with my fiction & non-fiction, published and non-published – will help do that.
A Bright, Infinite Future. I thought I might as well start with this story, my most recent to be published. It is featured in the December 2015 issue of Non Local Science Fiction Magazine out of Pennsylvania. I wrote the story as an expression of my reaction to the death of the courageous young lady you see pictured below. Neda Agha-Soltan, a 26 year old Iranian, who was a citizen participant in the Green Revolution against the Spring 2009 election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
I was in Edmonton at the time, marking diploma examinations. It was late June 2009 and while the Western world reeled at the bizarre death of Michael Jackson, whose controversial end made scandalous headlines on virtually every television station and news website at the time. Neda’s death was also making the rounds albeit on a far lower scale, primarily on YouTube. Incidentally I caught wind of Neda’s death while searching up the details behind Jackson’s condemned anesthesiologist – Dr. Conrad Murray, the image of this dying Iranian girl, shot in the chest while her two friends tryied desperately to help her, startled me – shocked would be an equally appropriate word. This was not Hollywood, nor was it a scripted dramatization of war, or murder, that we saw countless times in movies, television, and video games. This was real cell phone video, of a real life victim of a political repression, and for the first real time in history – we had a front row seat, and it was horrible.
You can still watch the video today – it is easy to find, heartbreaking to watch. It’s still on YouTube and countless other streaming video sites. I do NOT recommend watching it; rather, I would encourage everyone interested in Neda’s story to watch the powerful and wrenching documentary on her life “For Neda,” which also can be found online. For a politically-active citizen like myself, who no doubt would’ve been right alongside her had I been an Iranian protesting the political corruption in her country, Neda’s story – and her death – are a symbol of the sacrifices that must be paid to showcase evil to the world. Granted, there have been countless others like her in world history, civilians oppressed and murdered by ruthless militant authorities, but hers was presented to us right onto our digital laps. Such is the power of media, especially media that gets it right in our faces – the cell phone video that day was happenstance, it was uncoordinated, un-calculated, sloppy and instantaneous, but it was there, and it caught everything that needed to be shown.
If the explosion of news media and photojournalism helped turn American public opinion against the war in Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 70s (photos of the Mai Lai Massacre, for instance, or the disturbing one of a naked Phan Thi Kim Phuc fleeing in terror from a napalm attack, hold particular resonance and agony for me), then the video of Neda’s death must hold the same sway. Given the current turmoil in the Middle East in this post Arab Spring era, I think Neda’s death, as instantaneous as it was, carries the same resonance. Tragically, countless other video taped deaths equally as gruesome and more deliberate – Daniel Pearl’s to name one – have occurred since Neda’s. Videos like these without question have become a unique trend of the digital, viral world we now live in, giving human societies all over the world a first hand civilian view of the experiences of war, terrorism and – with it all – tragic death. It is the new function of civilian media, and it is for this reason, at the core of A Bright, Infinite Future, I presented the Cel’Dero’s story through the eyes of journalist Sherrie Dennigre. Cel’Dero, of course, represents Neda, and Delroy Higgins is me, and what he experiences in the story is what I went through in response to Neda’s tragic end, a video that haunts me to this day. Given the current state of affairs in the Middle East with ISIS, the Syrian Civil War, and the ongoing Saudi Arabia, Iran, & Yemen conflict, I remain heartbroken at the thought that 2016 will only bring more chaos, destruction, and death to that part of the world – including death that we will see firsthand on the news and social media feeds of the World Wide Web. As always, I can only hope I’m wrong. I really wish I would be.
My story, A Bright Infinite Future, is published in the December 2015 edition of Non Local Science Fiction Magazine, which can ordered online through Amazon at http://www.amazon.ca/Nonlocal-Science-Fiction-Issue-4-ebook/dp/B019DA87MA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1450244202&sr=8-3&keywords=nonlocal+science+fiction