Arts for Action's Sake

Social Protest or Science Fiction?

December 8, 2017

Tags: climate change, Venice, New York 2014, Kim Stanley Robinson

Venice anyone?
Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel, New York 2140, (Orbit, Hachette Book Group, March 2017) presents a grim vision of the impact of a warming global climate. I’m sure Robinson could have easily conjured up a world like that in the lauded, 2016 movie Interstellar, where America’s farmland is sufficiently fried to create a new Dust Bowl and the only solution for humanity is to use gravitational propulsion to escape to a distant galaxy through a recently detected wormhole near Saturn. But instead, a writer who ironically is best known for his own space-escape yarns such as The Mars Trilogy, has set himself a more difficult challenge. Robinson visualizes a world where mankind can’t avail itself of improbable technological advances or convenient astronomical discoveries, and instead must struggle to adapt to a barely recognizable planet. (more…)

The Law of Unintended Consequences

November 29, 2017

Tags: Ryan, robotics, taxes, tax bill

Perplexed?
There’s no need right now to dive into the details of the disastrous impact of the Republican tax bill on the well-being of the 99 percent. That should be apparent. What may not be apparent is how the corporate tax cut is likely to play out if, as the Republicans claim, the tax windfall (more…)

Time to give thanks for...

November 21, 2017

Tags: Thanksgiving

Puppies anyone?
At this time of year when we’re encouraged to give thanks for our blessings before the commencement of the season of greed, here, in no particular order and with apologies to NY Times columnist Gail Collins, are some of the things I’m giving "thanks" for, hoping they will put a little smile on your face…

…Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, whose principled (more…)

Protest Pop? Resistance Rock?

November 15, 2017

Tags: folk music, Resistance

Two of the greats
Can popular music be a force for societal change? What an irrelevant question for anyone who came of age in the 1960s, when most popular music was all about political action. Pete Seeger, the Weavers, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, the list goes on and on, from the lyrical soliloquy of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” to the anthem of “We Shall Overcome.”

So where’s popular music today on the Resistance spectrum? Ironically, that question was raised by a recent article (more…)

To Kill the President: The Novel

November 9, 2017

Tags: Trump, social protest novel, publishing business

Cover of UK edition
Sounds like an interesting premise for a thriller, doesn’t it, once you get over your moral hang-ups? Especially easy to do when the president in question is an over-the-top caricature of the current White House resident. Bad enough this fictional blowhard and bimbo connoisseur is distracted from his apoplectic Situation Room rant by the opportunity to grab a tempting piece of you-know-what. (Spoiler alert: he’s intent on launching a first-strike nuclear attack on North Korea and China (more…)

Hammer-down Economics

November 3, 2017

Tags: Income inequality, trickle-down, hammer-down

In response to the their new tax bill “talking points” released by the Republican solons in Congress yesterday, permit me to quote Suzanne Dealy, the principal female character in my new novel, The Piketty Problem.

“I know all about the extraordinary concentration of income and wealth, not just the ten percent or the one percent but the one-tenth of one percent, and especially the concentration of capital, which is the financial hammer that the one percent and one-tenth of one percent will use to keep beating the rest of us down, because hammer-down works and trickle-down doesn’t (more…)

The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming

October 31, 2017

Tags: Robots, fast food, income inequality, Carl's Jr.

Knowing my concerns about the danger of robots making the already corrosive economic inequality in our country even worse, a friend and former colleague of mine passed on a blog post that is a must read: The Real Story of Automation Beginning With One Simple Chart by Scott Santens. The one simple chart shows that when the number of oil rigs began to rebound after the 2016 decline in oil prices, the number of oil and gas industry employees didn't budge. The reason? Robotic "Iron Roughnecks" now perform the repetitive task of connecting drill pipe segments as the well is drilled deeper and deeper. What once took a crew of 20, will soon take a crew of 5.

The trend is difficult to ignore. And there are so many other good points (more…)

Germs or Jobs?

October 20, 2017

Tags: Robots, income inequality, fast food

Those of you who have had a chance to take a look at my new novel, The Piketty Problem, or The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming, know that its underlying theme is the impending impact of robotics on fast food in general and McDonald’s in particular. For those of you who might think I was stretching novelistic license, I thought this recent article about Chowbotics (now that’s a stretch!) in the New York Times might be of interest. The company has come up with a salad-making robot (more…)

In This Time of Trump, What the Hell Happened to the Social Protest Novel?

October 16, 2017

Tags: social protest novel, The Jungle, Trump, Upton Sinclair, Class Mom

In advocating for a larger role for the arts in promoting societal change, the book world—or the lit biz as I like to call it—seems the logical place to start. Not only is serious fiction what I know best, but it’s also the medium that historically has had the most impact on society’s perceptions and actions, thanks to the “social protest” novel, a genre that sadly has fallen into disfavor among publishers to the point of basically disappearing. (more…)