I sometimes feel like a bit of a moral coward, like a great many I know who are straight and white and male - the least persecuted combination on the planet! - but who are also very open-minded. I worry about saying what I truly think and believe - particularly online - for fear of getting into an argument with less tolerant, more puritanical people than I, or people that have faith in the unknowable (which is something I took a good stab at for a decade or so, but ultimately found misleading, hollow, insubstantial and unsubstantiated.) I hate conflict, and the internet often gives people bigger bollocks than they might have face to face. It gets pretty nasty, I've noticed, with very little tolerance and almost no give and take.
Sometimes, though, I feel a need to put my cards on the table. If I am to call myself an artist I should be clear about what defines me, who I am, and how I perceive everything around me. It is what drives me after all! So with that said...
What the hell is going on?
Half the world - maybe more - is conditioned by Iron Age belief systems or brutal and localized ideologies maintained by a thuggish elite. People, in this age where pretty much all information is freely available, choose not to think for themselves, or are afraid to. We claim not to trust our leaders, but we adopt the previous generation's thinking as our own - because... Well, because what? Schools don't teach free thought or personal choice, they indoctrinate whatever the local culture - and parents - demand. Religious leaders don't teach it because that's the last thing they want.
As a result we're all mutually intolerant.
I find it incredible to believe that race, sex and sexual orientation can STILL mark somebody out as a lesser human. People die, get thrown in prison, or mutilated because of an accident of birth and their geographical location at any given time.
The same root of a once singular religion now has dangerously conflicting beliefs in the three prime religions that grew out of it, and never the twain shall meet. They are mutually intolerant of each other at their core.
I don't care at all if people believe in some higher force. I do have to wonder where that force came from, how and why it evolved, and why it seeks dominion though. I don't relish giving up free-will (such that it is, in a limited capacity) for an eternity of subjugation and devotion. And I can't understand any being so petty as to create an eternal burning hell for creatures as insignificant as we are. It reeks, to me, of fear and arrogance - that we should believe ourselves so important!
The world and all things will end, and long after we have already gone no memory, nor eyes, nor ears, will be left to record that moment - and that's fine by me. It's in living that we should take care. It's in living that we should look skyward each day in wonder. It's in living that we should love our fellow humans. It's in living that we should learn, and think, and change, and not cast ourselves in stone, or build walls and rules based on the less-wise beliefs of a far more ignorant age.
I have no issue if somebody wants to believe in any of the many thousands of gods that have been worshipped. But they that confuse us with fear, that threaten with damnation, that force us to choose one or the other incompatible belief or be a heretic - them I have issues with.
We are blessed with a brief span of years on this island Earth. We have so little time, and there is so much to cherish and love. Not the tiniest speck of dust, nor the vastest of the galaxies matter one more than the other. In a gods eye it's just blinking a tear away. There's not enough time to be cruel. There's not enough days to waste on judgement.
The real issues remain around power, hunger, and money. The great thought-leaders of the world could change much very quickly if it was in their personal interest to do so. It's all so miserably self-serving.
And lastly - do I look like a wooly-minded weak liberal? To think for yourself is a good thing. To change your mind because you hear a better argument is not something to fear, it's liberating. To do it in the face of your ingrained culture is heroic. To cast yourself in stone is to be blind, deaf and dumb.
For me, to be an artist and a writer you need an open mind, to be able to free yourself from society's shackles - at least momentarily - so you can see the bigger picture. And you need to be able to question the morality of your own work too. Much of my work is violent, while I am a very passive person. So what does this say about me? Do people get the irony, or the gut-level wishfulfillment? The desire to be tougher perhaps, to live a less troubled life? I sometimes question whether I am also objectifying my subject matter, particularly women. I'm still undecided on this as I happen to be pretty red-blooded, and part of the admiration of the opposite sex is Darwinian I feel. It's murky water, but worth looking at seriously, otherwise everything remains purely surface, and therefore artefice. If we, as fantasy and sci-fi creators, are to be truly taken seriously these factors do matter. If what we do is allegory, then what is the message, what are we reflecting?
I don't ever expect people to share my views, but my life has led me here. You can find all of the above in my work in varying shades. It's who I am. When I view your work I expect I'll meet you too.