Thursday, January 10, 2013

Next Novel - Schism

I'm going to tip-toe into the minefield here, which is necessary in order to talk about my new novel.  Although I'm going to try to go into it without coming down on one side or the other, this post has the potential to piss off a few folks.  However, those that take too much heart from this are the entrenched partisans who are part of what Schism is about.

Our politics are broken.  Notice I didn't say our system, but the cogs within it have gone out of whack.  Each side is convinced of the righteousness of its position and is unwilling to give an inch.  Democrats rightfully point out that the President won a fairly resounding victory in the electoral college, as well as their pickup of two net seats in the Senate.  The Republicans, on the other hand, also rightfully point out that since every single seat in the House of Representatives was up for election, the country sent a Republican majority back to the House.

In this process, the folks who are willing to reach across the aisle have seen their numbers dwindle.  Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan, fierce political opponents, famously had drinks every Friday.  Six Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee joined with Democrats to vote for the proposed articles of impeachment on Richard Nixon.  Even Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich worked together well enough to put the country on a path towards a balanced budget.

Today, however, this spirit of cooperation does not exist.  Each side - from the Tea Party to the folks who support Move On - have seen no value in compromise and/or working together.  They stake out the extremes of their parties and refuse to give an inch.  We can't change the tax rate, talk about spending, or reform the regulatory environment without the other side screaming that its opponent wants to shove grandma over a cliff or swear in Satan as the defacto Command-in-Chief.  It's in this environment that things look ready to boil over, and it's in this environment that Schism looks possible to me.
(Is America ready to blow its top?)
If the conditions are right, all it takes is the right spark to ignite a conflagration.  World War I proved this - the nations of Europe were primed to fight, and it took the assassination of an obscure Arch Duke to plunge the entire world into war...a war, I might add, that would reshape the world for the next century.  In Schism, that spark is ignited by an eco-terrorist group.  A well off family has decided to build a ski lodge in Idaho, but members of the ANFPP(Action Network For the Protection of the Planet) feel such construction would infringe on a wilderness already under too much strain from development, so they burn the lodge down.  The ANFPP prides itself on destroying only property and not hurting people, but they miscalculate in this instance and accidentally kill the family building the lodge, as that family was staying at the site to oversee the final stages of construction.

However, one member of the family wasn't present.  The family's oldest son is in the Army and was in Afghanistan at the time.  Devastated, the young Ranger begins to plot revenge.  He secures a loan to rebuild the lodge and sets a trap for those responsible for killing his family.  As the group comes in to destroy it yet again, he ambushes and kills them, filming it for broadcast on the Internet as a warning to other eco-terrorist groups.  Knowing he'll be pursued by law enforcement, he runs to the grounds of an extremist militia that vows to protect him.

Political pressure begins to build.  The man is seen sympathetically by a lot of people, while others in the environmental movement, although saying they decry the violence that began this ordeal, scream for his arrest as a vigilante.  The President - a Democrat - surrounds the site with the FBI and ATF but knows they don't have the weaponry to take out such a well armed group, so he orders the federalization of the Idaho National Guard.  The Republican Governor of the state, dealing with his own political pressure, refuses to allow the transfer of authority(citing the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 that doesn't allow for the use of the military in a law enforcement role on American soil), so the President federalizes the National Guard of nearby Washington and orders them to go in and detain the Soldier.  When the Idaho National Guard refuses to allow the Washington National Guard to cross into the state, a pitched battle erupts, and the sides separate from there.  Lines are drawn around the red/blue divide, urban and rural, and even within the boundaries of several states(Missouri, for example, reliably votes Republican, but St. Louis and Kansas City are reliably Democratic).  Several nations try to take advantage of our trouble by moving into previously forbidden territory while our nation burns.

One of the hardest things to do here is to come down evenhandedly so that I don't look like I'm promoting one side or the other.  There are also lots of questions I have to resolve as I move forward - How does a Republican Congress react to a Democratic President's use of troops on American soil, and do they use what they believe to be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act as grounds for impeachment?  How do Democratic representatives and states react to the second attempt in less than 20 years to impeach a Democratic President.  What does Canada do?  Parts of it along the coasts of Vancouver and Quebec are solid blue, but parts in the interior are solid red, so do they stay out, or do they invite those they agree with to join them?  Here's my biggest question - how does the US Military react, especially in the paralysis of civilian leadership during a foreign attack?

I've decided to divide this novel into four acts, with each act containing enough sub-plot to stand on its own.  I think I know where part of it is going, and I'm struggling with how to resolve it in a way that's both satisfying to the audience and realistic, and how to do this without pissing off 40% of the country(from the way I look at it, 40% of the country supports one side or the other, with the 20% in the middle usually being the ones to sway elections).  Whatever happens, I think it's going to be a wild ride.

Try not to argue too much in the comments.  Unlike before, I might not respond to all comments, since doing so could be seen as coming down on one side or the other, although any really nasty comments will get deleted(hopefully it doesn't come to that).  Now, have I launched a great new novel - slated to be my third release - or have I gone into politically untenable territory?  I guess we'll find out soon enough...


  1. I'm simply going to say this was good. No sides taken (^;

  2. Wow, you are right. No novel, more like a documentary of what's to come. I think you should pick a few characters on each side to really go in to depth writing about. Who they are, where they come from, why they believe the way they do. Fear drives most people. I see the Right reacting because they fear what is to come. I see the Left reacting because the "want" something and won't stop until they get it, whatever the cost. What's lacking it the truth. Both sides believe what they know to be truth. Well, maybe not always, sometimes they are willing to "look away" as long as their "truth" supports their cause. You must address social, economic and religious issues as they are what polarizes both sides. The climax or breaking point may be like an addict or alcoholic that hits bottom and finally starts doing the right thing. Or someone that loses something that turns them toward or away from faith or simply trusting someone. Don't forget the apathetic, lazy or uninformed. I keep thinking about a cafeteria where one group insist that everyone must eat in their line, another thinks a different kiosk is better and a third has yet another opinion. The success of each relies on how many they can get to eat at their line. The apathetic are just hungry and will eat either at which is cheapest, free, best quality or has their favorite food but in the end, all they really want to do is eat, regardless of which line it is from. The dynamics of families may change with Older members views vs younger views. Ok, that's probably enough for my two cents worth. I could never do it. I couldn't separate myself from my beliefs to be able to write a compelling storyline for "the other side". Good luck.

    1. It is definitely challenging to see the other side of the coin as well. ;-)