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Through the eyes of another …

Last night I finished reading the 1952 classic The Space Merchants. I was so happy to have found this older story in my dad’s science fiction collection, and I’ve been talking about it on my other blogs. Today I realized that the discussion of one of my favorite elements of this book belongs here.

I’ll post a full review this novel by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth on Goodreads and will only say now that it is not a total thumbs up. I know that styles have changed over the decades, and science fiction has never been know for its complex character development, but I found the ending and many of the emotional transitions abrupt. I had high hopes for the story and it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, even though I’m glad I read it.

So what did I like? The satire of a society driven by ever increasing sales was spot on, in spite of the author’s failure to predict so much of modern society. What made the dichotomy between the ruling class of advertisers and lower class consumers work was the way in which the sales people so thoroughly misunderstood the lives of the average person. It’s barely a spoiler to reveal that protagonist and ad agency executive Mitchell Courtenay finds himself stripped of his identity and turned into a low life laborer. Once he is on the receiving end of his own work, his perspective changes.

Psychedelic 9The idea of obtaining personal growth and better perspective by walking the in shoes of another is a common plot tactic and rightfully so. From the literary classic The Prince and the Pauper to Trading Places, the hilarious movie it inspired, story tellers have shown how the heart is softened once a human walks in another’s shoes. Sexism took blows from both Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire. Black Like Me opened minds in entirely white Hays Kansas in 1968. I know, because I was in the English class that was required to read the controversial book.

The authors of the “The Space Merchants” use this powerful tool well as the privileged Mitch discovers that workers do not hold menial jobs merely because they are lazy. In fact, he is surprised to learn just how much hard work a menial job requires.

If the idea of experiencing the life of someone you don’t understand is powerful in a novel, it is even more powerful in the world. Reality TV shows, such as Wife Swap, have used this theme about swapping lives, and student exchange programs are based on it. At their best, travel and intercultural communication of all kinds can foster enough exchange to encourage empathy and respect.

My initial interest in telepathy grew out of curiosity about how difficult fighting a war would be if you could read the mind of your enemy and feel his or her emotions. Most of us can’t read minds and never will, but living a life similar to that of your “enemy” is the next closest thing.

Mitch Courtney is willing to sell anybody anything, until he experiences a life in which his small amount of discretionary income is the continual target of clever ads trying to pry his limited money away for things that bring him little joy and even harm him. The emotional transition that rang most true in this novel was the story a man who learns to see the world through the eyes of another, and changes his own life as a result.

(For more about the Space Merchants, see my posts I Know Sexism When I See It?The Kinky of the Future and Predicting the Future or Shaping It.)

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2015 in empathy, peace, telepathy

 

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Wearing many hats well

Many hats2We all balance a lot of identities as we make our way through an ordinary day.  I’ve managed girl, nerd, daughter, cook, wife, manager, mother, PTA  president (seriously) and irritable neighbor all in the course of single afternoon. Adding an extra persona like “writer” into my normal mix has challenged me, even more so because it seems to require several distinct pieces of head gear.

There is the wild creative hat that yields stories at traffic lights and helps me type with a manic fury when the ideas just won’t stop coming long after I should have gone to bed. I love that hat, and I wear it whenever I can.

Then there is the careful, tidy little headpiece that I wear when I proofread, edit, rewrite, add links, check everything and check it twice again. What? The font for the chapter five title is twelve not fourteen point? How did this happen? It is a nit picky little hat, but I have to admit that there is a lot of satisfaction to getting something perfect. At least I think it is perfect until the next time I proofread it.

It’s the third writer’s hat that just doesn’t seem to fit me very well. It feels to me like a loud gaudy thing and I hate to put it on. It is the hat of sales. Writers of all sorts, whether they produce self-published works, short stories, or trade novels found in the front racks of brick bookstores, all have to get out there and sell their wares. Fiction is a product. If you want to be read, and I do, then you need to convince people to read your work.

Now that d4 is off to my real editor and I have promised my family and myself that I will pause and breathe before starting the next book, I decided to play with this awkward hat for awhile. I returned to scouring writer’s forums for ideas to increase purchases and I finally let myself take a long hard look at my sales statistics. Yes, this area could use a little more work..

x0_sw final

Click to get x0 for free at Kobo

Turns out I sell books in places I have never heard of. Thanks to my opting in for everything at Smashwords, the ebook distributor I use, I can be found at a cool new online store called Inktera. You can also find me at Scribd, this great new service where for only $8.99/month you can read all the ebooks you want. I have got to get out more.

Even better, I made a list of thirteen new ideas to try to increase the visibility of my books. The first was to do an interview at Smashwords. Please check it out, I think it turned out pretty well. The second was to make my first novel free for awhile, ideally to generate sales of my other books. I decided to give this a try, and you can now grab x0 FOR FREE at Smashwords, or at another surprising site called Kobo.

How is this free thing working out for me? Well, when I posted on my Facebook page that x0 would be free for a short time, 915 people liked it. 915! That is probably a record for me for number of people ever liking anything I have ever done. However, how many have downloaded it? Zero. That’s right. Not one, so far.

As I look at this post, I think I see the problem.  If I was better at wearing that sales hat, this post would have started off with FREE BOOK in big bold letters at the top. Instead I started it out by writing what I thought was more interesting. Oh well, I’ve still got eleven more ideas to go. I’ll try to do better with the next one.

 

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 25, 2014 in writing, x0

 

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