Friday, June 30, 2017

Independence 4-8818

We were happy once. We were filled with laughter, for we loved our brothers. We looked upon the world and saw that it was beautiful. Our life was good, for it was orderly. We had a place where we belonged, and therefore we were blessed.
The City Leaders are wise and know all things. But we are wrong.
We wished to be an Artist, before our Day of Choosing. We drew pictures in the Home of Students when we should have studied, which is a sin. We painted on the walls without permission, for which we were chastised many times. Of all our brothers we were chained in the basement most, and left there with no light.
When we received our Life Mandate on the first day of our fifteenth year we were not sent to the Home of the Artists as we had wished, but were punished for our crime. The Council of Vocations made of us instead a Street Sweeper, and we died that day, for our joy and hope were taken from us.
But the Council knows all things, and they are wise. Our body is upon this earth only to serve our brothers. Therefore, we raised our right hand before the Council and said: “The will of our brothers be done.”
We are guilty of the great Transgression of Preference, and now we must do penance for our sin, for all the days of our life.
Yet we know that we were fortunate, for this is how we came to work with Equality 7-2521, they who were our friend. The Council knows all things!
But our gladness did not last.
Curse Equality 7-2521! They have taken our contentment from us. Curse them and have mercy on their body, for they are lost.
Equality 7-2521 was our friend, whom we loved above all others, though it is forbidden us to say these words. The Great Doctrine that is carved upon the Hall of Justice tells us All Men Are Created Equal, and thus we must love our brothers equally, putting none above the others.
Even so, Equality 7-2521 was our dearest friend.
But now our friend is dead.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The 1st Review of "I"

"A Magical Sequel To Anthem!" ★★★★★
    - Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph - June 29, 2017

One day I found something magical in my mailbox. It was a review copy of R. Scot Johns' spellbinding novel, I: A Sequel to Ayn Rand's “Anthem.” The author sent it to me for consideration, aware that I had previously reviewed ANTHEM, Rand’s 1938 (52-page) dystopian novella.

Truth: At age 71, I am a long-time student of Ayn Rand’s rational philosophy.
Truth: Secretly I often puzzled over Rand’s novella and wondered what untold stories lingered between the lines of her sparse but tantalizing and powerful prose.
Truth: I like sequels for that very reason, but only of very thought-provoking literary tales.
Truth: The uncertain future of our own time and place begs for philosophical insight.

So when I opened the pages of this sequel I did so with an historically honed distaste for Collectivism and the travesty it inflicts on the human condition.

True to Ayn Rand’s use of the third person “we” when referring to the self of any character, “I” carries through with that theme and forges ever greater implications. It becomes increasingly clear that constantly intoning the word “we” literally extinguishes all sense of one's own individuality and personal liberty under totalitarianism.

Indeed, the end product of any totalitarian state is exactly this, where:
“We are one in all and all in one.
There are no men but only the great WE,
One, indivisible and forever.”

Such haunting words remind the reader that, even today, maybe especially today, there are those who intone similar notions about gender, sexuality, race, political correctness and, above all, economic equality. And we perceive the mantra of wealth distribution as an overriding feature of collective rule. “We are one together. We are never alone.” say the wealth distributors; after all, we do nothing and are nothing by ourselves.

R. Scot Johns masterfully but gently invokes Rand’s notions of Objectivism by SHOWING US how Collectivism works in extremis, instead of just TELLING US about it. We can see and feel for ourselves how it must be to live where self is not only banished but its expression is forbidden. Things become ever more clear when the Council of Scholars proclaims creativity as treasonous transgressions against the state; when the Council of Eugenics cleanses us of race impurities by terminating the lives of those who lack the requisite genetic purity; and when tongues are cut out and speakers of unspeakable words are burned at the stake. There is much more that will captivate and also cause your muscles to writhe with tension.

Those who know of Ayn Rand’s work are, of course, familiar with such things but the masses are not, nor are our children even though the future is theirs to make of as they will.

I loved this book and I think even Ms. Rand would smile upon it knowingly. It gives depth to her rational concepts without sacrificing their integrity in any way. Even more importantly, it evokes a sense of urgency about the ever-looming perils of totalitarian rule and what we as individuals can and must do to counter it.

PS. This is also a triumphant love story. Sh-hhhhhh!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rush & I

Thanks to RUSH for kind permission to use the lyrics to 2112 in "I".

It was the album "2112" that first introduced me to Ayn Rand in my early teens, via the reference in the album's liner notes to the genius of the great Objectivist philosopher. So it is wholly appropriate that it comes around now to the inclusion of several excerpts and references to that seminal prog-rock record in my sequel to Ayn Rand's Anthem, on which (at least in part) 2112 was based.

While the ending of the musical version of the story was problematic at best, being fraught with nihilistic pessimism and leaving many questions unanswered (one might imagine Rush penning a sequel to 2112 in which the protagonist emerges from death into a Hemispheres-like realm of continued existence) - not to mention its inherent elements of mysticism being entirely opposed to Rand's rational outlook - Anthem itself ends on a note of hopeful optimism, albeit one that is left unsettled, with the world still fully ensnared in the throes of totalitarian collectivism. Therefore, neither version of the tale felt entirely conclusive.

It was my intention in writing "I", therefore, to provide a more suitable ending with a sense of closure. After all, the idea that a single man could overthrow an entire world government begged many questions of its own. How does one free a people who do not even know they are enslaved? What means and methods does he use to break those chains? What is their response, and how does the World Council react? Surely they would not sit idly by while one by one the unhappy citizens depart for greener pastures, ala Atlas Shrugged? Does the world devolve into a fourth war of widespread violence and fire? Or is it something more clandestine and subversive in nature?

These are the questions I sought to answer when setting out to develop the story of Anthem (and 2112 by extrapolation) further. While the specific details of 2112 are distinct from Anthem, the story arc and structure are much the same, and consequently I found myself referring to (and quite often listening to) the album again and again for inspiration, even though the characters and events of I are those of Anthem - that is, discovery of electricity and light rather than music. Yet many of the lyrics suited so well that I found I wanted to include a few to bring the whole full circle, as it were. 

Consequently, I sought - and ultimately received - permission from Rush's music publishers to do so. Thus, you will find three snippets of lyrics and a handful of subtle references to 2112 scattered throughout I, some more and some less obvious than others. I wish to thank the band (and Neil Peart as lyricist specifically) for kind permission to use their work. I can only hope I did them justice.

(Incidentally, the lyrics in the meme above are taken from The Fountain of Lamneth, Part VI, from the Caress of Steel album, not 2112, but are equally apropos.)

Happiness

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Annotated Anthem - FREE eBook

Click to download free ebook
"It is a sin to write this..."

These immortal words form one of the finest opening sentences in all of literature. They are simple, direct, compelling, immediately prompting many questions. Why is it a sin to write? What are we about to read that is considered so egregious as to be a sin? Who is writing it, and why? What prompted this immoral action, and what will be its consequences?

Ayn Rand wrote Anthem in 1937 as a warning against totalitarian oppression and the dangers of collectivism - the ultimate result of extreme socialism in which all are made equal regardless of merits. She saw the results of this firsthand in her Russian homeland before fleeing to the U.S. This short dystopian novella presents a world where all live only for their brothers and the singular pronoun has been removed from human language.

I first read Anthem in my early teens, and have read it many times since. It was a formative influence on my deeply ingrained sense of independence and self-reliance. It was an influence on George Orwell and Neal Peart as well.

In writing my sequel to Anthem I re-read it again a dozen or more times, gleaning details and making copious notes on everything from social structure to population count. How many people live in the City? How long has it been since the Great Rebirth? What technologies are available? How many Vocations are there and what do they produce? How do the Councils function and how are they selected? The more important question in the end, of course, what "how does it all turn out?" That is the question I attempted to answer in the writing of I.

In gathering together all these details I compiled a number of lists and charts, many of which can now be found in the Archives section of my website. However, in order to facilitate a quick and easy reference I also produced what I now call "The Annotated Anthem" (complete with matching cover), an ebook edition containing 577 interlinear hyperlinked end-notes and running commentary addressing a broad range of issues, such as:
  • analysis of plot details and structure
  • character traits and motivations
  • detailed breakdown of socio-political structure
  • population count based on numbers given
  • Homes, Departments and Councils evaluated
  • technologies present or inferred in the City, as well as what is absent
  • inconsistencies and contradictions in the narrative or details
  • aspects of Objectivist philosophy considered in context
  • differences between the 1938 and 1946 editions, along with selected quotes of deleted lines
You can download the ebook free in three formats (Kindle, ePub, PDF) by clicking the image above and signing up for my mailing list (I hardly ever send out anything, so you won't be spammed, and you can always unsubscribe). If you're interested in dystopian fiction of this sort I am in the formative planning stages of an original apocalyptic fiction novel that I hope to start this summer. The mailing list will allow me to keep you posted on my progress. It may or may not be a graphic novel.

Either way, this is a chance to get a critical edition of Anthem free of charge. Rand's book is in the public domain in the U.S. where I live, but most free editions are poorly formatted or taken directly from Project Gutenburg. This edition is derived from the revised corrected text of the 1946 edition, of which I have several versions, including an original Pamphleteers edition from Caxton Press in Caldwell, Idaho.