NOTE: This post was written as part of the November 2012 Carnival of Aces, with the subject of Fiction. It contains some unavoidable plot and characterization SPOILERS for the novels mentioned, so click the cut-tag at your own risk. 

Hi. I'm R.J. Anderson, a Canadian-born, US-published, UK-bestselling author for children and teens whose sixth novel, Quicksilver, is coming out in early 2013. And if you're an asexual reader who loves YA fiction but wishes there were more characters like you, there's someone I'd like you to meet.

Read more... )
Quicksilver will be in bookstores mid-to-late February 2013 in North America, early May 2013 in the UK. You can see the cover, read the jacket copy and check out some advance reviews on GoodReads, or preorder the novel via Amazon (US / Can / UK), Chapters Indigo or Book Depository.
It may or may not be something to be proud of, but I passed 20K tweets today. I have also very recently finished the copyedits for the US edition of Quicksilver, the companion novel to Ultraviolet, which is something to celebrate as well. So I am having a bit of a Twitterbration. And I am extending it to my LiveJournal, Dreamwidth, Tumblr and Facebook subscribers, too!

Here's how you play:

1. Leave a comment with a number between 1 and 314.
2. I will reply with a line, or maybe even a whole paragraph if I feel like it, from that page of Quicksilver.

And that's all! Comment away! Or you can play on Twitter, where I'm @rj_anderson and the tag is #Quicksilver.

ETA 12/10/19: Contest is closed! Thanks for playing.

QUICKSILVER cover 


Once I was a girl who was special.
Now I am extraordinary.
And they will never stop hunting me.

The compelling follow-up to the bestselling ULTRAVIOLET, this psychological thriller will take your breath away...

-- Orchard Books (UK) blurb for QUICKSILVER by R.J. Anderson


I am happy to report that as of today, I turned in my last major revision of QUICKSILVER to my lovely UK and US editors. And after addressing their suggestions and those of my insightful beta-reading team, I am very pleased with the way the book has turned out. It gives me hope that readers of ULTRAVIOLET, and perhaps some new readers as well, will enjoy it too!

Unfortunately I also have some sad news to report, which is that the UK edition will not be coming out in November, as we'd originally hoped. Due to a succession of family health crises and other unforeseen delays, I was unable to finish editing the book in time for my publishers to get it ready for a 2012 publication date, which means that the paperback of QUICKSILVER will now be coming out in the UK in January May 2013 instead. However, the North American hardcover publication date remains unchanged, so US and Canadian readers can look forward to seeing the book in March 2013.

I apologize to those who've been eagerly awaiting QUICKSILVER and are disappointed to have to wait two six months longer! But these things happen sometimes, and I felt it was more important to give you a book I had really put my heart into writing and researching -- a book I could be proud of -- than to rush something out that wasn't my best work.

Thanks to all my readers for your patience and support! I can't wait for you to read this story, and I'm very excited to find out what you think of it.

No, actually you can't. *clings to fandom, barnacle-like*

Somebody at some point a few months ago (I can't remember who or under what circumstances, as I've been working doggedly on Quicksilver for the past six months while trying to get my mother through cancer treatment and a series of debilitating vertigo attacks, and everything that's happened to me since January is pretty much a blur) told me I should write something about the way I relate to fandom, which they thought was interesting and fairly unusual for a pro author. So here I am, writing about it.

First, my fannish credentials )

I'm far from being the only professional author who got her start in fandom, of course. Several people I met in X-Files fandom or HP fandom or Alias fandom, or any of the other fandoms I was part of in the early 90's, have since been professionally published and gained a fan following in their own right. Yet I know at least some of them still dabble in fanfic from time to time when a plot bunny hops across their path. And sometimes they write meta and get involved in other aspects of fandom, too--cosplay, fanart, going to cons as an attendee rather than a guest. Because they're still fans at heart, they still love the kinds of shows and movies and books and music they've always loved, and getting paid for their original work hasn't changed that. Why should it?

That being said, nearly all the pros I know who are still involved with fandom use a pseudonym. And often with good reason, because... )

I don't hide my identity, however. Like Diane Duane, Peter David and a few other stout or possibly reckless souls, I do my fannish activity under the same name as I publish my books.

One day, perhaps, I may come to regret this. But so far, using the same name for all my writing and meta and fannish interaction hasn't caused any problems for me. For one thing, my fanfic has pretty much the same content and rating as my original novels, and in some cases is even a bit tamer than the canon I'm writing for -- so it's unlikely that a parent is going to go ballistic if they find their tween or teen reading my stories.

Another reason I don't bother with an alias is that I am no longer a BNF [5] in any fandom, if I ever was; which makes any accusation of me profiting unduly from another author's work to be a pretty long stretch. [6] So I still have the profile on Fanfiction.net that I set up when the site first opened. I'm on AO3 and Fiction Alley and a few fandom-specific archives as well. I'm a happy member of [community profile] sounis, and though now and again some other member recognizes me and says something nice about my writing, I keep my replies brief because I'm not there to talk about me, I'm there to share in the Queen's Thief love.

Here's my philosophy of fandom in a nutshell: it's not about me )

Anyway, that's how I do fandom, for good or ill. Because I am still a squeeing fangirl at heart, even if my pro commitments keep me too busy to write a lot of fanfic or meta these days. And unlike some pro authors I know who have had nasty experiences with fans harassing them for not writing more fanfic instead of those STOOPID ORIGINAL NOVELS HOW DARE YOU, I've had a pretty easy ride in fandom on the whole. The tiny group of readers I have who've stuck with me since my pre-published days have been lovely, kind, supportive people; and the modest amount of fanart, vids and fic I've seen for my books has been created by enthusiastic young readers who have no idea I've got any fandom history at all. And as long as that keeps up, I've got no reason to go underground.

And when, as happened this afternoon, I get a bunch of thoughtful, enthusiastic reviews for a fic I wrote back in 2003 from a reader who has no idea I've written anything professional at all, it makes me just as pleased as a good review for my published books does. Because I put all the same heart and skill into my fic as I do into my published work, even if the skill set involved is a little different. And because, as a fan, I know how enjoyable and worthwhile a well-written fanfic can be.


--
[1] This was before I had any idea that Anne McCaffrey was militantly opposed to fanfic based on her work. Sorry, Anne.

[2] We will draw a merciful veil over the Spies & Detectives' Convention crossover with Manimal and Simon & Simon, in which my self-insert Mary Sue accidentally stabbed A.J. Simon with a letter opener and had to nurse him back to health. And an even more merciful veil over the everybody-gets-mutant-abilities crossover that had twenty-six characters but only sixteen pages.

[3] All 120K of it. I still feel like I owe that poor editor at Del Rey an apology just for subjecting him to the first three chapters.

[4] Naomi Novik, for instance, is heavily involved in fandom and it's no secret that she writes plenty of fanfic herself; but most people don't know her fannish alias, and she prefers to keep it that way. I know of two or three other well-known authors who take a similar stance.

[5] Big Name Fan -- i.e. an author or artist whose name everybody in a given fandom will probably recognize, even if they haven't seen their work.

[6] Since I got published I have only written one piece of fic based on another author's books, and I think said author and I are on pretty similar levels at the moment as far as book sales go. So if somebody reads that particular fic, they're just as likely to be a reader of mine discovering her work as they are to be a fan of her books discovering mine. And since the story is so heavily based in her world and characters, it isn't really an advertisement for my own imagination so much as proof of my mad fangirl love for hers.

[7] I did mention it on my Teaspoon profile, in the first flush of my "Squee, I'm going to be published!" enthusiasm, but even then I didn't mention the title of the book. And it's changed now.
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Considering that I started my first blog in 2002 you would think I would be a little more assiduous about maintaining it, but frankly these days I haven't the energy for much beyond Twitter. Plus, I have been so busy beating my head against the first draft of Quicksilver and all the associated research (which will NEVER END, I swear) that I have neglected even to report on my weekend at the Nebulas. But really, does anyone care about all that? Except for possibly wanting to hear how I (along with four other authors) ended up serenading Neil Gaiman in an elevator?

(Before we got on the elevator, however, I should mention that he also serenaded us with a rendition of Derek & Clive's "Jump", which is pretty much the sort of song one would expect Neil Gaiman to perform on short notice. He has quite a nice singing voice and can even keep a tune unaccompanied; clearly his wife has trained him well.)

(And before that he told us a few bits of trivia about his Bradbury-nominated [and later winning] script for "The Doctor's Wife", such as that it was called "Bigger On The Inside" until practically the last moment, and then Steven Moffat decided to change the title on the grounds that it was too spoilery. To which Neil objected, saying that he could think of any number of other story ideas that could be called "The Doctor's Wife", but Moffat said patiently, "Yes, but in the case of your story it's actually true.")

(All this happened late on the Saturday afternoon before the Nebula banquet, because Ellen Kushner, Diana Peterfreund, Franny Billingsley and E. Lily Yu had decided to sing folk ballads in an out-of-the-way corner, and invited me to come and sing along. Neil came looking for Ellen because she's an old friend, and the best bit was sitting across from Diana and Lily when they realized what was going on and watching their jaws simultaneously drop.)

(And that's about the whole story I think, except that the song we sang to Neil in the elevator was "Greensleeves", in four-part harmony, which dwindled to three-part and two-part harmony as we got off at the various floors, and Neil later described it as the best lift ride he'd ever had, which I have to agree with because it was tremendous fun and would have been even without him, but it's always nicest to have an audience.)

(Also, you should read E. Lily Yu's Nebula-nominated short story "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" because it is really clever and she is a lovely person, whom I hope I shall meet again some day. Ditto on Ellen, Diana, and Franny, of course, and also on Delia Sherman, whose Freedom Maze is utterly wonderful and thoroughly deserved to win the Norton, so I am thrilled for her and not even sorry I didn't win.)

(And I also met Genevieve Valentine who is delightful, and then I bought her Nebula-nominated novel Mechanique to read on the plane ride home, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.)

ANYWAY, after that truly epic series of parentheses, the actual point of this post was to mention to any of my readers in the Toronto region that I will be signing the Canadian paperback release of Arrow this Saturday at Chapters Brampton along with Megan Crewe (The Way We Fall) and Leah Bobet (Above), and we will even get to speak and answer questions for a few minutes first, which makes it more of a Proper Event than any bookstore event I've done yet. So I am quite excited about that, and if you should happen to be in the Brampton area around 2 p.m., please stop in and say hello!

(And now I must go and put dinner in the oven, and then I shall collapse.)
I probably shouldn't be writing this because I have a killer headache and I have just tried to take a nap with no success, which means I am Crankypants. However, I think the point stands regardless of my frame of mind:

Fictional romances which involve two people being so absorbed in each other that they end up being indifferent, insensitive or downright cruel to the other people around them are, IMO, not romantic at all. They are obsessive, unhealthy, co-dependent relationships and make me want to smack both the lovers upside the head.

This is why I started getting very unsettled by Nine/Rose after "The Long Game". It's also why I found the behaviour of Ten/Rose in episodes like "Tooth and Claw" deeply problematic and upsetting, and why Ten's pillow talk to Martha in "The Shakespeare Code" made me grind my teeth.

Similarly, there are a number of popular "oh-so-romantic!" novels I've read where the love interests are all gropey and kissy in front of friends who are single and/or suffering from unrequited feelings and/or going through tough times in their own relationships, and I couldn't buy into the romance or sympathize with those characters at all.

(And IMO Wuthering Heights takes the absolute cake for non-romances, because not only are Heathcliff and Cathy cruel to everybody around them, they're also cruel to each other. As a novel about massively dysfunctional characters involved in a gothic tragedy it's superb; but anybody who interprets WH as a great romance has, to my mind, a highly suspect idea of love.)

Full disclosure: I'm not even going to pretend that this view of mine isn't rooted in personal experience. When I was young and single I had a friend who constantly macked on her boyfriends in front of me, making me feel completely unwanted and intrusive. After one particularly cringeworthy display in the middle of a shopping center I took her aside and quietly asked if she and her boyfriend could reserve the passionate kisses and lingering embraces for times when I was not present, and her response was a plaintive "But we love each other!"

I'm sure she felt very strongly about her feelings of passion for her boyfriend being bigger and more important than anyone else's feelings, and how this demonstrated the Epic Quality of Their Love. But I'm also sure, to this day, that she was wrong. (Not least because she and that boyfriend broke up a few weeks later.)

Or to use a non-physical example, in my single days I once got a letter from a recently-married cousin saying, "Marriage is fantastic! I highly recommend it, you should try it sometime!" Which made me want to HULK SMASH because at that point I'd never even been on a date, and not for lack of wanting or trying either. But I swallowed my bitterness and wrote her a polite response saying that I would dearly love to meet a wonderful person and get married, but this was really not in my control, and that I was happy for her contentment in her marriage, but perhaps she might consider not saying such things to other single people in future because they could be quite painful and upsetting.

(Perhaps not surprisingly, she never wrote to me again.)

Anyway, I have now been happily married for fourteen years and have three children, but my feelings about this matter have not changed a whit, and I'm certain that I'm not alone. So to my fellow writers in the process of trying to create truly swoonworthy romances, may I suggest that before your characters rush into a clinch or share a sly in-joke or otherwise engage in exclusionary behaviour in front of others, you and they should stop and think a little about how those other people might feel.
There has been a lot of bad news in my life lately (not for me personally, but for people I love and am close to -- serious health problems, impending operations, the sudden death of my uncle), so it was lovely to open my e-mail the other day and find out some really fantastic news for a change:

Ultraviolet has been nominated for the 2012 Andre Norton Award!

This is the YA division of the Nebula Awards, which are legendary in the SF&F genre, so even being considered for the award is a pretty big deal, let alone actually making the shortlist. I am thrilled and honoured.

Here's the full list of nominees as posted on the official SFWA site:
I have actually not yet read any of these, but I've heard amazing things about all of them. I think I'm going to make it my business to read all the other nominated titles before the awards ceremony.

***

For my fellow writers in the quasi-local area, I have more good news -- I'm going to be presenting a workshop on revision in Waterloo, ON at the end of March:

Poster with details under cut... )

So if you need a pep talk before launching into your own revisions or would appreciate some general tips on how to go about it, this may be the seminar for you! Or just come and say hi and hang out with me and some other writers. Whatever. :)

***

And finally, a vid that has nothing to do with writing but I've been posting it everywhere since I discovered it last night, just because it is so INCREDIBLY CLEVER. And also broke my heart a little.

From the author's introduction at her journal:

In the beginning, there was Sherlock Holmes. And Holmes brought forth the brilliant doctor House, embodied by the lovely Hugh Laurie. Who prior to that in Fortysomething played a slightly less brilliant doctor, Paul Slippery, who begat three sons, the eldest of whom was played by the equally-lovely-if-somewhat-peculiarly-named Benedict Cumberbatch. Who of course grew up to play Sherlock. ... And then my head exploded.

All I can say is, watch. Enjoy. Marvel at the parallels. Surely some of them had to be intentional?!

There has been a lot of bad news in my life lately (not for me personally, but for people I love and am close to -- serious health problems, impending operations, the sudden death of my uncle), so it was lovely to open my e-mail the other day and find out some really fantastic news for a change:

Ultraviolet has been nominated for the 2012 Andre Norton Award!

This is the YA division of the Nebula Awards, which are legendary in the SF&F genre, so even being considered for the award is a pretty big deal, let alone actually making the shortlist. I am thrilled and honoured.

Here's the full list of nominees as posted on the official SFWA site:
I have actually not yet read any of the other books on the list, but I've heard amazing things about all of them. I think I'm going to make it my business to read all the other nominated titles before the awards ceremony.

***

For my fellow writers in the quasi-local area, I have more good news -- I'm going to be presenting a workshop on revision in Waterloo, ON at the end of March: 

Poster with details under cut... )

So if you need a pep talk before launching into your own revisions or would appreciate some general tips on how to go about it, this may be the seminar for you! Or just come and say hi and hang out with me and some other writers. Whatever. :)

***

And finally, a vid that has nothing to do with writing but I've been posting it everywhere since I discovered it last night, just because it is so INCREDIBLY CLEVER. And also broke my heart a little.

From the author's introduction at her journal: 

In the beginning, there was Sherlock Holmes. And Holmes brought forth the brilliant doctor House, embodied by the lovely Hugh Laurie. Who prior to that in Fortysomething played a slightly less brilliant doctor, Paul Slippery, who begat three sons, the eldest of whom was played by the equally-lovely-if-somewhat-peculiarly-named Benedict Cumberbatch. Who of course grew up to play Sherlock. ... And then my head exploded.

All I can say is, watch. Enjoy. Marvel at the parallels. Surely some of them had to be intentional?!

Chachic's Book Nook has been hosting a Queen's Thief Week, with guest posts by various book bloggers and authors who are fans of Megan Whalen Turner's writing -- including me! So today I got the chance to ramble on about the things I like most about the books, particularly her handling of religion:

How I fell in love with the Queen's Thief series (and why)

It's been a whole week of great posts, though, so worth checking the rest out as well...
Over on Verla Kay's Children's Writers and Illustrators Chat Board (affectionately known as the "Blue Boards"), a writer calling herself Tamilyn just posted this bit of advice, and I thought it both smart and useful:

"If I'm not writing, but only wishing I could write, then I am a Moper. I have too much pride to be a Moper, so I remind myself that writing takes work and that I'm not afraid of work. Then I work."

Which, in the face of the self-doubt and discouragement that afflict all authors from time to time -- whether at the start of a new manuscript when the page is an alarming blank, or in the middle of it when all the shine has worn off and the faults of the first draft seem to far outweigh its merits -- is a very good thing to remember.

The only thing I might add to that thought is that researching, making notes, outlining, and other not-actually-writing-the-narrative parts that are necessary to the creative process do not count as Moping. They can count as Moping if you are doing them endlessly and unnecessarily to avoid the Scary Writing Part, which is a trap I have fallen into on occasion in the past and may yet fall into again; but otherwise, they too count as Work, because the story will be better for them.

So I have done Work today, and that is good. *nods emphatically*

***

Also, I am reading a big fat biography of Nikola Tesla and I love his little crackpot soul SO MUCH. I'm also discovering that the Sanctuary version of Nikola, personality and attitude-wise at least, is really not so different from the historical one as I'd supposed -- and I'm only three chapters in.
On the comment thread for "A Scandal in Belgravia" at Mark Watches, I just found this comment written by Indigo Sto Helit, and it is so well written and so exactly what I think myself that I'm going to repost it here:

Oops, better cut for SPOILERS )

(That being said, I'm really looking forward to HOUND, as I think it will be much less nerve-wracking.)
And the recipients of the North American ULTRAVIOLET audiobook have been chosen. Thanks so much to all of you who entered the contest -- I wish I could have given you all a copy! But alas, 'tis not to be...

The winners were @NicsYABookHaven (via Twitter), Irrel (via Tumblr) and [livejournal.com profile] ferretvamp14 (via LiveJournal).*

Congratulations to the winners, and do not lose heart -- I hope to do a SWIFT giveaway when that book comes out in March...

--
* I also had two Facebook entries, which I included with the Tumblr entries since there were the fewest of those. But neither of them won. Sorry, lovely Facebook people!
I was going to write a review of the movie I saw last night (in 3D, which was rather irritating as I had to fit the 3D glasses over my regular glasses and the distance between the lenses and my eyes was a bit too far, thus rendering me slightly seasick throughout) but then I found that [personal profile] teenybuffalo had already written a thoughtful and lovely review with which I entirely agree, and which you can find here.

[personal profile] teenybuffalo also makes some smart points about Tintin's character, which is really not the blank slate that some claim -- he's just unrelentingly heroic and unflaggingly loyal, which is frequently mistaken for lack of personality by those who prefer morally ambiguous and/or tortured characters. However, I happen to quite like characters who are doggedly committed to doing the right thing if it kills them, so it never occurred to me to see Tintin as bland. Especially since he is, at times, quite wickedly clever and flat-out hilarious. ("...since I've just been bitten by this mad dog!")

One thing I also want to mention since I haven't seen it in any other reviews: I did not at any time feel that these characters fell into the Uncanny Valley, which was a pleasant surprise after the trailer (which did give me such worries). I was particularly watching the characters' eyes to decide if they looked "dead" or not, and I was thoroughly impressed by the light and expression in everyone's eyes. Also, the level of detail is phenomenal. You can see the fine hairs on Tintin's forearms and the texture of Haddock's skin. And Sakharine's hair is fab. :)

Upshot: I want more movies, please.
I was going to write a review of the movie I saw last night (in 3D, which was rather irritating as I had to fit the 3D glasses over my regular glasses and the distance between the lenses and my eyes was a bit too far, thus rendering me slightly seasick throughout) but then I found that [livejournal.com profile] teenybuffalo had already written a thoughtful and lovely review with which I entirely agree, and which you can find here.

[info]teenybuffalo also makes some smart points about Tintin's character, which is really not the blank slate that some claim -- he's just unrelentingly heroic and unflaggingly loyal, which is frequently mistaken for lack of personality by those who prefer morally ambiguous and/or tortured characters. However, I happen to quite like characters who are doggedly committed to doing the right thing if it kills them, so it never occurred to me to see Tintin as bland. Especially since he is, at times, quite wickedly clever and flat-out hilarious. ("...since I've just been bitten by this mad dog!")

One thing I also want to mention since I haven't seen it in any other reviews: I did not at any time feel that these characters fell into the Uncanny Valley, which was a pleasant surprise after the trailer (which did give me such worries). I was particularly watching the characters' eyes to decide if they looked "dead" or not, and I was thoroughly impressed by the light and expression in everyone's eyes. Also, the level of detail is phenomenal. You can see the fine hairs on Tintin's forearms and the texture of Haddock's skin. And Sakharine's hair is fab. :)

Upshot: I want more movies, please.
...and I found an entire box of Virgin and BBC New Adventures and Missing Adventures novels, including some that are fairly rare and look to be going for quite a price on eBay. So I figured, why not post 'em and see who's interested?

Condition-wise, they have been read, some of them multiple times (*cough* COLD FUSION *cough*), and have slightly cracked spines and wear -- the Virgin NA's and MA's in particular. Though on the other hand, my BBC NA's are in excellent condition with little or no wear.

Basically, I rule make me an offer. I'm going to ask you to cover postage to your country, and I reserve the right to accept the highest bid offered on a single title if multiple people show interest in a short period of time, but otherwise, feel free to suggest whatever price you think reasonable. (PayPal only, please.)

Comments are screened. I'll strike through titles as they are sold.

What's on offer... )

Suggestions for anywhere I should cross-post this are welcomed, or feel free to link people to it.
To celebrate the North American release of Listening Library's unabridged Ultraviolet audiobook read by Justine Eyre, I'm giving away 3 copies to readers in the US and Canada!

If you're eligible and want to enter, just comment here, or tweet with the hashtag #UVGiveaway on Twitter. I'll choose the winners randomly in the New Year.

Hmmm...

Dec. 21st, 2011 01:40 pm
rj_anderson: (Default)
After all the nonsense going on over on LJ, I am thinking more and more than I might need to migrate to Dreamwidth. Except that if I'm going to keep a blog, I should probably do it on a less fandom-centric location like Blogger or WordPress... but I don't like the way either of those handle comments.

Sigh.
Warning: The linked article opens with a photograph once featured on the cover of Time magazine, which many people will find disturbing. That doesn't mean you shouldn't look at it (you should), but it does mean you should be prepared.

Ever since I first read this article I've been wanting to link to it, but couldn't do so conveniently until now. The whole thing is well worth reading, but here's a relevant excerpt:

I was teaching my senior [high school] Philosophy class. We had just finished a unit on Metaphysics and were about to get into Ethics, the philosophy of how we make moral judgments. The school had also just had several social-justice-type assemblies -- multiculturalism, women’s rights, anti-violence and gay acceptance. So there was no shortage of reference points from which to begin.

I decided to open by simply displaying, without comment, the photo of Bibi Aisha. Aisha was the Afghani teenager who was forced into an abusive marriage with a Taliban fighter, who abused her and kept her with his animals. When she attempted to flee, her family caught her, hacked off her nose and ears, and left her for dead in the mountains. After crawling to her grandfather’s house, she was saved by a nearby American hospital. I felt quite sure that my students, seeing the suffering of this poor girl of their own age, would have a clear ethical reaction, from which we could build toward more difficult cases.

The picture is horrific. Aisha’s beautiful eyes stare hauntingly back at you above the mangled hole that was once her nose. Some of my students could not even raise their eyes to look at it. I could see that many were experiencing deep emotions.

But I was not prepared for their reaction.

I had expected strong aversion; but that’s not what I got. Instead, they became confused. They seemed not to know what to think. They spoke timorously, afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize any situation originating in a different culture.

They said, “Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.” One student said, “I don’t feel anything at all; I see lots of this kind of stuff.”

Another said (with no consciousness of self-contradiction), “It’s just wrong to judge other cultures.”


My brother (yes, it is my brother who wrote the article, and I couldn't be more proud of him) goes on to make a number of important points about the failure of "character-based" education programs in a school system (and a society) that insists moral judgments are relative. Particularly here:

How can we claim to be forming character in our students when we refuse to commit to any moral position ourselves? If character education is to have any substantive value, it ought also to specify with what or whom we should empathize (or conversely, not empathize) and to explain why or why not. That said, there are areas in which we have been quite directive. In anti-bullying campaigns, homosexual rights assemblies, multicultural fairs, social justice drives and women’s rights initiatives, we do not hesitate to preach, admonish or dictate because we feel so fervently committed to our ground. But it is clear that the message of women’s rights had been, in the case of Bibi Aisha, outshouted by the metamessage too often embedded in these programs -- that there are no real standards, no certain moral truths, and no final ground to stand on; and that anyone who thinks there is, is simply naïve or a bigot. In this case, even the strong rhetoric of women’s rights could not survive the acid bath of universal tolerance.


G.K. Chesterton famously stated that "Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions," and certainly the kind of tolerance expressed by the high school students in my brother's Philosophy class falls into that category. But what else can we expect from young people when they (and we) are told over and over, in the classes they attend and the TV shows they watch and the books they read, that making moral judgments about other people's behaviour is the worst kind of arrogance and self-righteousness, and that any views they might have about right and wrong ought to be kept strictly to themselves for fear of offending someone?

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