Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Well, This Turned Out to Be a Great Big Gigantic Waste of Time

***Well, shit, as you all know, happens.  When I'm keeping the blog up-to-date, I usually stick to a M-W-F schedule, posting at noon.  So, if you haven't figured it out yet, allow me to draw back the curtain: I schedule most of my posts ahead of time.  Sometimes weeks, even months ahead of time, especially in the case of guests with time restrictions.
Scheduling posts is kind of a crapshoot.  Sometimes links go dead, as they are wont to over time, or jokes that seemed timely suddenly fall flat.  I've never had THIS happen before, though.  A prediction I wrote in a scheduled blogpost came true.

I predicted Patrick McLaw, who has been touted as a sort of political prisoner in the verrrrry myopic wing of the writing community, would turn out to have much bigger problems than what he said in a self-published book.  I scheduled this post for September 10, and wouldn't you know it, yesterday my "prediction" came true

I'm sort of pissed, because if I had posted this in real time, I would have seemed amazingly prescient.  Instead, I now get to seem like a Johnny-Come-Lately.  But, you know what, I already wrote the damn post, and it's not getting any fresher, so what the hell, I may as well post it now.  There's no way I can prove, of course, that I really wrote this before the news broke, but if I strike you as the sort of person who would lie about something this inane to seem right, then you, sir, don't know that I liked Napoleon Dynamite AND Battlestar Galactica before they were cool.  Trailblazer.***

I once self-published a novel about a school shooting.  You'll probably never find it unless you know me extremely well and personally.  But, yeah, hidden out there in the murk of the interwebz, far worse than any manuscript I at least copped to and burned here on the blog, is my fictionalized account of the blowout from the Columbine Massacre.  If the police look into it, and you believe the hype, I'm about to be arrested.

I suppose that statement would seem inflammatory out of context, but I don't mean it that way. Those of you reading this who are in the publishing community (authors, agents, etc.) probably already know where I'm going with this. For the rest of you, you should probably know that a young schoolteacher named Patrick Law was recently sacked and possibly arrested. He also self-published a novel about a school shooting.

I wish to point out that I did not connect those two facts, either by causation or correlation. But you'll note that when I list those two facts in a row like that, it sure SEEMS like a young schoolteacher got arrested BECAUSE he wrote about a school shooting. I have no idea if that's the case. In fact, I'd venture to say it's probably not.

Based on what little facts I can glean from the news stories - which all appear to be more or less identical - this dude was a 23 year old eighth-grade teacher, has multiple aliases, wrote a science fiction story (set a millennium from now) about a school shooting, was dismissed from his job, was ordered to have an emergency psychiatric evaluation, and is currently in some kind of Kafkaesque alegal limbo.

There are holes here. Big, gaping holes you could drive a Chrysler through. Why was he ordered to have an emergency headshrinking? Why was he dismissed from his job? Was he arrested? If so, what was the charge? If not, what the fuck is the dude's status?

The internet being what it is, and authors being, you know, storytellers, lots of people have jumped to lots of conclusions. I can't blame them, honestly, because this journalism is super shoddy.

1. Conclusion 1: Aliases refers to his pen names

2. Conclusion 2: He was dismissed for some fiction he wrote and no other good reason

3. Conclusion 3: McLaw is now a political prisoner

So, I can definitely see where these ideas are coming from. However, remember what I said about causation and correlation. I feel like we've been presented with a Mad Lib and people have filled it in with their own juicy prejudices. It sorta kinda feels like we live in a police state, what with Ferguson on the one end of the political spectrum and Cliven Bundy on the other, so it doesn't seem that far from possible.

Here's one thing that bugs me. Authors have been jumping all over the seemingly Orwellian usage of "alias" instead of "pen name." And yet (and here, again, I'm no journalist, but...) these articles all mention two aliases. Patrick McLaw, aka Patrick Beale, aka Dr. K.S. Voltaer. So, K.S. Voltaer is a pen name. But my (admittedly cursory) search of Amazon shows no books by anyone named Patrick Beale since 1956, 35 years before he was born.

So who the hell is Patrick Beale? What is Patrick McLaw or K.S. Voltaer doing under this name? And another point: I'm guessing he does not, in fact, have a Ph.D., and yet K.S. Voltaer is supposedly a doctor. Are we looking at a Father Guido Sarducci situation here? Is the "doctor" part just a lark? I know lots of people who use pen names, but I can't think of one that made up credentials. Making up credentials sort of seems like something a crazy person would do.

But all that aside, I think the second conclusion is the one that bugs me the most. People are saying that McLaw got sent in for a medical evaluation because he wrote some twisted shit. And considering the kind of twisted shit I personally write, I have no special desire to belabor this point, but sometimes people write twisted shit BECAUSE they are crazy. I'm saying, we might be putting the cart before the horse here. Why is the assumption that McLaw got sent up the river because he wrote some book about a school shooting?  Why isn't the natural assumption that he acted crazy, got ordered to have an emergency evaluation, and it turns out that one symptom of his issues is a twisted book he wrote three years ago?

Here's a perfectly plausible scenario counter to the current "Maryland is a Soviet-style police state" theorem. Maybe Patrick McLaw did something horrible or acted in a way that a teacher shouldn't. So the school board suspended him, and asked the police to look into his background, and when they did, after an ordinary financial check, they found out he was also an author.  Then the media being what they are, reported all of these disparate facts together (perhaps with an intent to deceive, perhaps not) and now authors particularly are making castles in the sky out of it.  Oh, and, by the way, making a campaign to buy this guy's book.  This guy nobody knows anything about who sometimes pretends to be a doctor and sometimes pretends to be some other guy and got sacked from a union job and cops are looking into.  I'm not saying injustice never happens, but justice also someteimes (on occasion) happens and maybe we should figure out which this is before we make it a cause célèbre.

I don't know.  It could be that we ARE alll living in a Soviet-style police state and authors are getting arrested for what they write.  In which case, can one of you swing by the secret police headquarters and bail me out?  I'm pretty sure I'm going to be next.

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