Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Bear Kosik – I first met bear at Rainbow Con in 2015. I’m thrilled to have him here with me today.
Thanks so much, Bear, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Bear Kosik: I was 14 years old. I was identified as being verbally gifted by a study being conducted by the Psychology Department at Johns Hopkins University. They put me in weekend classes with grad students from the Writing Seminars Department (with Iowa, the top-ranked writing program in the country at the time and still in the top ten). We learned to write and to criticize and give appropriate feedback. My work was usually deemed among the best in the class. A poem I wrote for one class ended up being published when I was 17.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
BK: In fiction, I prefer to write speculative history, off-world human colony stuff, and magical/mysterious realism. I love non-human sentients, emergent behavior, and creating communities and cultures (and alliteration). I tend to mix dialogue, description, and explanation into a literary, thought-provoking, biographical text.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
BK: My first published work was a poem, “Portrait of a Woman with Head Bowed” mentioned earlier. We read Auden’s “The Fall of Icarus,” which was based on the painting by Breughel (I think) of the same name. Then we were asked to choose a work of art and write a poem involving it. I chose my mother’s favorite painting in the National Gallery in Washington, DC that has a young Dutch woman facing a window with lace curtains but she is looking down instead of out the window. It was published in Ithaca Women’s Review.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
BK: I get excited about something or am given an idea by my husband or someone from Outsource.com. I write a few chapters, map out the story a bit, write the conclusion, write the rest, rewrite the lousy first chapter, and read through the whole thing for continuity and mechanics. I naturally incorporate concepts, symbols, and themes without really thinking about them. I stop to research things as I go along.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
BK: Until my mid-thirties, when I started going bald, I looked similar to Michael J. Fox and had red-gold-brown hair and beard. I never understood why men were attracted to me. I didn’t think I was attractive until my mother gave me a bunch of photos in my early forties.
JSC: Do you write more on the romance side, or the speculative fiction side? Or both? And why?
BK: Most definitely speculative. I have characters do romantic things, because I want to give people positive role models even if the setting is dystopian. I love history, sociology, and anthropology. It’s fun to extrapolate out into the future. Environments change, but humans are not going to evolve into something else for tens of thousands of years. However, I can create situations in which events have an impact on how people use their intellectual, social, creative, and communications skills.
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
BK: The only pet that ventures onto my keyboard is Miss KayKay Snugglegrumps, a four-year-old we rescued when she was abandoned by neighbors of the house we rent out. She’s a grey-brown tiger with white markings on her paws, face, and belly. My husband’s keyboard always has Rani Dolly Lama around. She is over sixteen and is a black Egyptian Mao like the ones that were mummified. I got her as a kitten when I was running a school in Jubail, Saudi Arabia and had her shipped to New York when my contract ended. We also have a 20-pound, muscular, gray tiger named Buster Amarillo Spotbelly. He has a yellowish belly with brown spots. He is eight. We also have a bunch of tetras in our aquarium.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
BK: Pantster pretty much. I do a bare-bones plotting after I have written about 50 pages and the conclusion.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
BK: Animal Day, when everyone does things to promote the welfare of pets and fauna. Some Christian churches already have a Blessing of the Animals service each year.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
BK: I am producing/directing two of my short plays, my debut as a produced playwright, at Manhattan Repertory Theatre on June 2, 4, and 5 and the Manhattan International Theatre Festival July 16-17. I am excited my debut is off-off-Broadway. Bookwise, I am finishing a prequel to The Secret History of Another Rome entitled C Square. It is an update of Frankenstein using AI, emergent behavior, and genetic selection as the technologies that violate the natural order and horrify their user. That should be out in June. Also, I am completing an off-world novel called Crossing Xavier that was drafted by my husband and will be published under the name Hugh Dudley. That should be out in August.
“I would like to send sets of Another Rome and Restoring the Republic (paperbacks) to three lucky winners using the flimsiest criteria available.” LOL… ok, let’s say comment below with your email, and we’ll choose three winners? 🙂
And now for Bear’s new book: Restoring the Republic:
What is the state of democracy in the USA today? Large portions of the public are angry about how selfish, ineffective, and nasty politicians, the established political parties, and mainstream media have become. Others are just as stridently defending candidates who represent the status quo and the political system that created the mess we are in. They fear, disdain, or mock the idea that the American people can move on to a new way of addressing our nation’s problems.
The fact is that the American people have already made great changes in how they address national issues six times according to historians. We are simply witnessing the rise of a seventh political system. Although Trump and Sanders are showing no indication that they are doing anything other than trying to get elected, the latter is calling for a political revolution. Trump wants to rearrange all of the governments’ relationships. A presidential election won’t accomplish either one. However, there are ways to do it.
Democracy is government expressed through the will of the citizens of a polity in which those citizens are all equal before the law. That expression of will may be direct, in assemblies, or other means of polling the citizens, or filtered, through the election of representatives. Due to the difficulties of gathering large numbers of citizens in one place, direct democracy is rare or paired with representative democracy through the use of referenda and ballot measures. Representative democracy has taken many forms depending on how representatives are elected, how the three powers of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) are structured and interact, and how many layers of government have been created. All of these attributes of government are set out in a constitution usually written by a specially chosen set of representatives of the citizenry. A democratic constitution also contains protections for the liberties of the citizens, positing freedoms citizens can enjoy and proscribing actions government can take. These safeguards are essential to the continuing success of a democracy; they forever remind the government that the citizens remain free to exercise their unalienable rights as individuals in a well-ordered society.
Democracy has been newly embraced or revived by scores of countries since the 1970s. In some cases, these states have demonstrated how unleashing the will of the people can lead to very undemocratic outcomes. The evolution in government and politics of the Russian Federation since 1991 is a prime example. The other former republics of the Soviet Union, save for the three Baltic countries, have failed to transition successfully to democracy. Ukraine has come closest. Democracy has stuttered in Ukraine due to the existence of a large Russian-speaking population that desires closer ties a Russia actively promoting closer ties. The Ukrainian-speaking population largely desires closer ties to the European Union. This tug of war over the future of a state has resulted from the way Ukraine acquired its territories; the country was pieced together when popular will did not decide policy.
Ukraine’s difficulties are just a new occurrence of an old problem, a fall back to the same issues faced by British, French, and other colonies of European states in Africa and Asia that became independent nations and attempted democracy in 1945-75. These instances raise questions as to whether some societies are prepared for democracy or value democracy. Russia presents the perplexing issue of citizens relinquishing their voice through the ballot box. The Germans, in essence, did the same thing in 1932 when they made the Nazi Party the largest in the Reichstag in two elections. Voters in Egypt, Serbia, Palestine and other states have done likewise. These were largely free and fair elections unlike the referendum for Crimea to be transferred from Ukraine to Russia in which some districts reported more votes “yes” than there were eligible voters in the district. Voters truly do sometimes use democracy as a means to dispense with or limit it. Democracy is hoisted with its own petar.
At the same time, democracy remains strong and stable in most of Europe and elsewhere. The social democracies of Scandinavia appear to have created the healthiest communities in the world no matter what measure is used. Most of the former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic republics have become stable democracies since 1990 after decades of single party rule. Many other countries can lay claim to continuing success in having robust democratic governments that change hands seamlessly and remain committed to realizing the wishes of the electorate. The demonstrations that made up the Arab Spring brought new democracies to North Africa. Those societies are still finding their feet and the future for democracy in the region is uncertain. Nonetheless, it is remarkable that the popular will aggregated and became vocalized. Expressions of popular sovereignty are rare. When they are expressed, they are rendered most often in the language of democracy.
This is not to say that democracy is the most sublime, attractive, or best form of government. As noted before, people turn to other political systems willingly. Circumstances, culture, and needs can make alternatives desirable and effective. As Winston Churchill famously remarked, “Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried from time to time.”
Less frequently quoted is his statement that “[t]he best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Herein lays the crux of the problem. Rarely will any politician acknowledge it, but citizens are limited by their intelligence, range of information and experiences, education, socioeconomic status, prejudices, and interest in the public sphere. This is not to say voters are dumb or incapable of determining their own best interests. It is saying that voters sometimes make choices just as everyone sometimes make choices based on insufficient or inaccurate data using reasoning colored by subjective and dubious logic.
They are not helped in making better decisions by politicians and media sources who know they will get a better response appealing to emotions rather than reason. People on the right particularly will go on about how all politicians are snake oil salesmen and never to be trusted. Next chance they jump at the opportunity to support Donald Trump who has spent his life trying to increase his profits through branding, the most refined snake oil pitch around, because he is voicing their opinions. Mr. Trump excels as the Pied Piper of the GOP; he is fully and completely saying the things other GOP politicians only hint at for fear of appearing too extreme for a general election.
It does not matter whether Mr. Trump is using his personal wealth and flame retardant ego to seriously lead a Tea Party-like rebellion against the GOP establishment or to identify the nation’s diehard bigots and haters so they can be placed on a federal database. Either way, he has demonstrated how easily voters can be drawn out by appealing to their emotions. Conversely, Senator Bernie Sanders has been demonstrating the difficulty in getting past emotions to appeal to rational decision making. He is faced with supporters of Secretary Hillary Clinton who are emotionally invested in electing a female president and maintaining the political status quo. Not surprisingly the response to Sanders’ effort has been primarily emotional, disregarding facts and contending his policies are thoroughly unfeasible.
The good thing about this hubbub is that it draws attention to politics and the role of the people in shaping their government. Governments in all countries with public primary and secondary education try to instill civic mindedness and socialize children to understand and support their constitutions and basic forms of political activity. They want their citizens to be aware of their duties and responsibilities, as well as to pledge their allegiance to the state. Generally, this works well enough in democracies that usually more than half of the citizens participate by voting in elections. Scotland’s referendum in 2014 on the question of independence from the United Kingdom roused intense interest. In the end, an astounding 84.6 percent of the citizens voted. Not every election can be so invigorating. Around two dozen countries go so far as to mandate going to the polls, although more than half of these do not enforce the law.
Participation in democracy is a chore. Those encumbered to complete this chore do not always put their whole heart into it. Such is the nature of man that he wears his duty to society lightly. He may have great expectations of his government or he may support severe limitations to government. Regardless, community, legislation, and infrastructure rarely rise to the top of anyone’s priorities. People have other things on their minds, other things to do. The significance of this lack of urgency appears in the ways democracies end up working. Even in the best of times, the voices of a small pool of active citizens keep things going. Everyone else just seems to be along for the ride. And yet, the people in democracies treasure their role even when they do not lift a finger to be active and even when their choices lead to undemocratic ends. Participation runs the gamut from full engagement to vacant indifference, but almost all citizens act as though they have skin in the game. The fact that they are sovereign individuals justifies that view.
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Bear Kosik’s most recent publication, a nonfiction book entitled Restoring the Republic: A New Social Contract for We the People, was published on March 30, 2016. His first novel, The Secret History of Another Rome, was released by Kellan Publishing on April 2, 2015. His novelette, Boots on the Ground, was included in the anthology The Brawny and the Bold, also released by Kellan in November 2015. He has ghosted three memoirs for clients and just completed a prequel to Another Rome entitled C Square, and a few short stories. He also writes and has had published essays and poetry.
Bearly Designed: https://www.facebook.com/bearlydesigned/