Fiction in a World of Fear

by Andrea Scrima

Tragedies like the mass shootings in El Paso, Dayton, and most recently (since this panel first aired last month) in Odessa bring everything to a stop. As we read the details and look at the pictures, we all pause, look around, and take stock of our priorities and what we hold dear. Writers are no different, except for the work we do. We’re often in the middle of describing a particular part of the world—when another part is suddenly falling apart.

Jon Roemer and David Winner polled a handful of active writers and asked how public tragedies impact their current and future work—projects that may or may not portray mass shootings. We aimed to gauge how writers deal with such landmark events in practical ways and how, if at all, their writing engages with violence in America.


In The New Yorker last year, Masha Gessen described the difficulty of defending the values and institutions currently under attack, because it requires “preserving meanings” and is “the opposite of imagination.” She aspired to “find a way to describe a world in which… imagination is not only operant but prized and nurtured.” On Facebook the Monday after the shootings in Dayton and El Paso, a different writer, Grant Faulkner, simply posted two words—“another killing”—over and over, hundreds of times. Gessen described traditionally crafted work, while the Facebook post is visceral and immediate. Where do you think your next work will land?


Jon Roemer: The Facebook post reflects what I was feeling the Monday after the shootings. But the fiction I’m writing now probably won’t be read for a year or more. So I think hard about its relevance, especially if we keep rushing toward more violence. Part of the job is to be forward-thinking. Just wish I could write and publish faster.

Zachary Lazar: I’m writing the most traditional novel of my life right now (though that isn’t saying much).  I simultaneously have no faith in the power of novels and total commitment to the novel as a thing, an art form, something I like. Mass shootings seem to me to be one symptom among many of our culture’s failure to address meaninglessness, to create meaning, and even though I don’t believe there is such a thing as meaning, the active pursuit of it is essential to sanity. I just don’t give a shit about social media. I guess it did good work during the Arab Spring but I think the role it plays in the U.S. right now is more or less comparable to the crack epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s.  It makes TV look nourishing. Read more »

The Spooky Silence Of Sarah Palin — Why, For Four Long Days After The Giffords Shooting, She STFU

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

We-came-unarmed-this-time So some crazy young man (they're always men) shoots a Congresswoman pointblank through the head and sprays thirty more bullets from a gun clip he bought at Walmart, killing a 9-year-old girl and five others in Arizona, “the mecca for prejudice and bigotry” according to the sheriff of Tucson … and for four long days, the biggest mouth in American politics was as MIA as an atheist in a foxhole.

How come?

Let me tell you why.

The only thing Sarah Palin could've said that would've really pricked the nation's ears was this: “I wish I hadn't put out that map with the cross-hairs, with one of them targeting the district represented by Gabby Giffords. And I wish I hadn't talked about 'don't retreat, reload' in a political context. Gun talk and threats around guns don't belong in politics. We can agree to disagree, angrily if we wish, but we shouldn't be threatening each other. I'm sorry I added to the gun talk.”

Unfortunately Sarah Palin can't do this. Because if she did, she would lose face with her constituency. They're ALL about guns and gun talk, and they think only wuzzes apologize. She can't disappoint them. Mama Grizzlies don't apologize. They attack.

Sarah Palin is screwed by her own persona. She's boxed in by her own political posture. With no mea in her culpa, her pitbull persona has lipstick but no grace. So she has nothing worthwhile to say. Gun talk is what she is all about. How can she walk away from what she is, and what people who like her are all about?

The Tea Party extremists that Sarah Palin represents are all about threats. All about taking guns to political rallies. All about watering the tree of liberty with blood. All about taking up arms against our tyrannical government. All about “Second Amendment remedies,” i.e. using the Constitutional right to bear arms to get what they want. All about “we came unarmed — this time.” All about war and macho frontier posturing.

Sarah Palin stands for something all right: the victory of right-wing dumbfuckery in America. We're dysfunctional because we have more influential idiots in our nation than any other industrialized nation has in theirs. You have to ask yourself what kind of a nation elevates dumb-brunette loons like Michele Bachmann into our government and raging moonbats like Glenn Beck into our punditry and considers a celebrity airhead like Sarah Palin a viable presidential candidate. Anywhere else they'd be laughed out of public life, but here they're heroes. It's like the Attack of the Zombies, or the Rule of White Trash. Half the nation is not embarrassed by these blithering lunatics, and the other half puts them on TV.

Read more »