If we’re going to win the information war, we must fight on every battlefield and in every arena — and that includes the writing of fiction. BarbWire contributor, Paul Hair, recently published his first collections of short stories, Mortal Gods: Ignition and Winning through Losing. As someone fascinated with the creative process, I had a few questions for Paul:
JB: Quickly set the stage — you’re retired military turned writer of nonfiction — and now fiction. Fill in a few more of the basics about yourself that can help readers know what they need to about you.
PH: I’ve written non-fiction columns and articles for over five years now, having been published at nationally recognized sites such as Breitbart, the Daily Caller, WND, and BarbWire. Most of that writing focused on serious things, including the so-called social issues. Those things are important, but it’s also depressing to write about them. It’s time for me to focus on fiction and other things, and to have some fun while doing so. Hence, Mortal Gods: Ignition and Winning through Losing.
JB: In your BarbWire interview of Paul Bois, author of “The Bound,” you asked this this question: “Do you think conservatives and Christians properly understand the importance of culture and being involved in it?” What’s your answer to that question?
PH: Mr. Bois gave some really thoughtful answers. I encourage everyone to read them.
As for my answer to the question, “Do you think conservatives and Christians properly understand the importance of culture and being involved in it?” No.
Some conservatives and Christians understand the importance of culture, and you can find some articles or columns that brilliantly explain it. (Read, for example, “The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement.” Eric Heubeck wrote it and Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation published it in 2001. It no longer is at FCF but you can still find copies of it elsewhere—most notably at left-wing sites which remain hysterical over it. Heubeck’s analysis and assessment is one of the best things written in the twenty-first century on culture and strategy.)
But a majority of conservatives and Christians do not understand the importance of culture. And that’s a shame because culture is the primary shaper of our values and beliefs. We can build as many news organizations, think tanks, public policy organizations, radio talk shows, political movements, and watchdog outlets that we want. But if we have no influence on the culture we will lose the war.
JB: Robert McKee, author of the screenwriting book, Story, wrote that when people turn to fiction they “do not wish to escape life but to find life…to flex [their] emotions…to add depth to [their] days.” The world “consumes” films, novels, theater and television in great quantities: what’s the state of their “diet” and how can works like yours help improve it?
PH: An increased amount of my non-fiction writings of late, particularly at BarbWire, have focused on entertainment. And while conservatives and Christians regularly complain about Hollywood, they consume it as much as everyone else.
Without naming names, one notable conservative who is adamantly anti-Donald Trump recently wrote a review praising the new movie Deadpool. He even boasted of how it was vulgar and raunchy fun, and encouraged others to see it. I laughed to myself because I thought that summed up how a lot of conservatives (and even Christians) think: they talk about how people and culture have gotten too vulgar and corrupt all the while they are lapping up some of the most vulgar and corrupt things that Hollywood has to offer. And they don’t seem to see the irony in it.
So where does my fiction writing come in on this? I’m providing an alternative to Hollywood. My stories aren’t sermons and they don’t preach but they aren’t glorifying evil and denigrating good either. (Read my recent BarbWire column, “Hollywood Glorifies Satan in ‘Lucifer’ and Demonizes God in ‘Preacher’” for an example of what I mean by this.)
At the same time, my fiction is thought-provoking and has themes and motifs. For example, God is present in all three stories of Mortal Gods: Ignition but you have to search for Him.
So my fiction is entertainment but at the same time it isn’t promoting evil or serving as worthless fluff.
JB: It would seem daunting to delve into an arena dominated by liberals and the pagan worldview. How would you encourage others to dip their toe into the fiction-writing water — so they can eventually dive in fully.
PH: Start writing and start promoting what you write. That’s what I’m doing right now. I don’t have any great advice to give because I’m not yet established. Take advantage of new media and technology as much as you can and try to build an audience.
Also, while it’s true you might encounter hostility from the left, you might encounter it from the right as well. Conversely, you might find people on the left who will help you (or are nicer to you than people on the right). This isn’t to say you won’t find people on the right who are nice and who will help you, because you will. But keep your options open and expect the unexpected.
JB: Explain your genre — “transgender superhuman” sounds like a parody — and parody isn’t easy these days due to all the wild real life plot lines that fill the headlines daily.
PH: You bring up a great point. “The First Transgender Superhuman” is actually just one of three stories in Mortal Gods: Ignition. And both the title and the plot of the story take into account the modern obsession with the concept of “transgender.” There is an element of parody within the title and even the plot, but ultimately the story is drama.
I intentionally put “transgender” into the title and the plot because it is a contemporary story for contemporary times — only it is crafted in a fashion unlike anything you’ve read. In fact, “The First Transgender Superhuman” is so dead-on in addressing contemporary issues that you’ll be amazed at how eerily close the “transgender” element of the plot comes to mirroring real-life events. (Read the story and then read this article on how the CIA has a strategy to recruit more “transgender” people.)
“The First Transgender Superhuman” also deals with illegal aliens who are invading and conquering America—another contemporary issue. And if you are worried this is putting too many elements into one short story, it isn’t. Read it to see how all these things come together in a completely unique and satisfying way. The last line of the story is incredibly funny.
The same holds true for the other two stories in Mortal Gods: Ignition (“Like Hail and Fire, Mixed with Blood” and “Warrior”).
Also, all three stories are set in a universe where superhumans — not superheroes — exist and function as they might if they really were alive in our world. In other words, they don’t dress up in spandex and fight crime. Rather they wear regular clothing and are subject to law and order like everyone else.
I created the Mortal Gods universe because both I and the public are fascinated by the concept of superhumans. Furthermore, superhumans aren’t mere fantasy any longer. I recently wrote an assessment for BarbWire that shows how military forces and governments of the world are actively pursuing the creation of them.
So the plots and the titles (of Mortal Gods: Ignition and stories within it) are meant to appeal to a wide audience. In fact, they are meant to appeal to anyone who is an adult. I don’t want this to be a book for conservatives—I want liberals to read and enjoy it too.
I’d like for everyone to read and enjoy my second book of short stories but it probably will appeal more to conservatives. Both stories in Winning through Losing take place in a real-world setting.
If you want to have a good laugh, read “Common Ground” in Winning through Losing. It’s not quite a comedy, but it falls into the humorous category. And if you are a fan of politics, you’ll definitely love it. It’s a tale of how the Big Tent Party is battling the Forward Party in a presidential election. (These are clearly stand-ins for our real-life political parties.) And you know how we constantly hear about how we need to find common ground in politics? That concept plays a huge part in the plot and ultimately results in a funny resolution.
So I’m actually writing in multiple genres and putting contemporary issues in the stories of my two books.
6. JB: Tell us about Liberty Island.
PH: Liberty Island is a webzine featuring libertarian and conservative authors. It was specifically designed to help get people with non-leftist ideologies inserted into the culture. I’m one of the Creators at Liberty Island. Liberty Island didn’t publish Mortal Gods: Ignition or Winning through Losing but the fact that it has taken me on as part of its team is something I appreciate. It also lets my readers know that someone has vetted my fiction and thinks there is something worthwhile in it. In other words, when you buy and read Mortal Gods: Ignition and Winning through Losing, you are getting quality products.
7. JB: What are you working on next?
PH: I’d like to write more Mortal Gods stories. And in keeping with writing solid stories that appeal to all people, I might someday write Mortal Gods stories from different characters’ perspectives—including characters that have entirely opposite beliefs than me. (In fact, it is very possible that none of the people in Mortal Gods: Ignition and Winning through Losing share the exact same beliefs as I do. They are, after all, fiction.)
And I’d like to extend “Common Ground” into an ongoing series. We all can use some solid humor and the end of the story actually leaves open the possibility of sequels. And I think I could write a lot of sequels. Politics and punditry are so outrageous and ridiculous that stories practically write themselves.
Beyond these, there are plenty of other stories I have already outlined. I likely will publish some of them in full at my personal Liberate Liberty website (where I publish updates on my fiction and relevant cultural/entertainment issues) and at my Creator page on Liberty Island.