Well, fuck me with a Koran while I read Harry Potter

Did I get your attention? I hope so. It’s International Blasphemy Day today and it’s also currently Banned Books Week.

International Blasphemy Day was the concept of the Centre For Inquiry in response to the outrage over the Mohammed cartoons controversy. The Day is designed to commemorate the controversy and to celebrate free expression and everyone’s right to mock, ridicule and blaspheme religions. It’s also important in the face of increasing censorship of free speech, with things like blasphemy laws being passed in Ireland last year, among other places. The problem with this kind of ridiculous law-making is that it makes opinions illegal. Anyone is free to believe what they want, therefore anyone is free to believe that someone else’s beliefs are complete and utter bollocks. This is not a place for law.

The argument is that religious ridicule leads to the incitement of violence. Which is rubbish. Religious belief leads to the incitement of violence in many clearly recorded cases. Ridiculing said religions usually only leads to members of that religion calling for violence against the intolerant. Oh, the crushing irony.

It’s perfectly reasonable to hold any opinion you like. If you go online and tell people to attack any religious group then you are certainly inciting violence and should be brought to justice for that. Just like when the religious call for the heads of the infidels. In the same way that you should be dealt with harshly by the law if you actually do violence against anyone, for any reason. But if you go online and say that you think any given belief is a load of rubbish and that its adherents are a bunch of willfully ignorant losers, then that’s actually fine. You’re perfectly entitled to that opinion. Just like the religious are entitled to their opinion that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, or that a fella that liked nine year old girls was the conduit for god, or whatever.

Would you expect to be jailed for saying that anyone who voted for Tony Abbott in the recent general election is an idiot and should be ridiculed?

Of course not. What makes religion so special that it has to be treated differently?

This crosses well with Banned Books Week, because it’s usually religious wowsers that crap on about banning books. I mentioned Harry Potter in the title to this post as so many Christians in the US called for the book to be banned because it celebrated witchcraft. That still astounds me. It’s okay for them to tell children that a Jewish zombie that was his own father is the saviour of the world AND MEAN IT while it’s not okay for a work of fiction to celebrate a young man rising above adversity and defeating a powerful evil.

Have a look at that Banned Books page (linked above) and prepare to be astounded at some of the books that people have called out. According to the site, “People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and they protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups–or positive portrayals of homosexuals.”

Oh no! Don’t let on that the gays are actually, you know, human or something.

The most confronting things in human nature need to be discussed. Taboos are things that cause division and ignorance. Fictional representations of real human issues are often the best way to generate debate of this kind of thing. Unless a book is a direct work of hate, deliberately targeting a given person or group, then there is no reasonable excuse to ban it. Some things might be considered too intense for kids but that’s a whole different debate. You might remember my post about the Taboo panel at Worldcon where classification of books was mentioned. And soundly shouted down. When it comes to kids being exposed to questionable material, that’s a matter of parenting. Know should what your kids are reading and vet anything that might disturb them. (Incidentally, if you’re an especially religious person, I would suggest that your indoctrination of your kids is doing way more harm than any book they’re likely to read.)

Reading and triggering thought and debate is essential. Banning books is just endorsing ignorance. I should declare a certain bias – my own books would certainly be considered blaphemous by pretty much every religious group. But I held this opinion long before I wrote those books. In fact, I’d love a religious group to call for my books to be banned – you can’t buy publicity like that. Come on, you fuckers – come and have a go!


Versatile Blogger Award

versatile bloggerLorna Suzuki was kind enough to award me a Versatile Blogger Award today. She said:

Alan Baxter – not only is he a martial arts master, he is a master storyteller! He blogs about writing and business, and the business of writing.

I wonder if she’s thinking about a different Alan Baxter?

This is one of those chain blog awards that you get and then nominate a bunch of other people in a kind of self-congratulatory circlejerk of link sharing. At least, that’s the cynical view. The more optimistic view is that you receive the award from someone that really does like what you blog about and you use that power for good, to share links to other blogs that you really care about.

It’s a bit out of character, but I’m going to be optimistic today. You’re also supposed to list 7 things about yourself, in a warm, fuzzy, get to know the blogger kind of way. Anyone reading here on a regular basis probably already knows far too much about me, so I’ll give you a list of one thing about me:

1. I’m slowly training up an army of Kung Fu Assassins. Some starting from as young as 5 years old. So don’t fuck with me.

The rules of this particular award say you should list 15 recipients to pass the award on to. Screw that – I can’t sit here and think of 15. So I’ll just list a few that come immediately to mind. And no, I’m not taking this very seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very touched that Lorna thought of me when she was taking her turn at this – I’m just not very good at joining in. “Doesn’t play well with others” was often found on my school report cards. Perhaps that why I make a career out of fighting while I wait for the writing to start bringing in the big bucks.

So I’ll award the Versatile Blogger Award to (in alphabetical order):

aNadder – Michael Fridman blogs here about all sorts of things, in a most philosophical way;

Angela Slatter – other than being an awesome writer, she’s been doing a series of drive-by interviews of other writerly folk that have all been dripping with awesomesauce;

ASiF – Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. Excellent reviews of Aussie SF;

Evolving Thoughts – John S Wilkins on all things evolutionary, biological, religious and so on;

52 Stitches – A blog of short horror fiction, the versatility being in the variety of stories;

Horrorscope – The Australian Dark Fiction blog;

Metamagician and The Hellfire Club – Russell Blackford’s blog of all kinds of stuff to make you think. Also, Russell has teh awesome dance moves;

S F Signal – a beautiful melange of all things SF;

The Creative Penn – Joanna Penn blogs about all things writing related. An especially useful resource for building your author platform, if you’re that way inclined.

That’ll do from me. I hope you find something new and interesting among that lot.


See a bald editor to help cure cancer

FarrRussell B Farr, editor at Ticonderoga Publications, is doing a great shave for charity. Look at those russetty locks and that fulsome beard (pic nabbed from Kirstyn McDermott’s blog). It’s all coming off, hair and beard, to raise money for cancer research. Says Russell:

The ACT Eden Monaro Cancer Support Group have given my mum a great deal of support. The work they are doing is first rate. It isn’t easy being in Perth while she battles cancer in NSW, and to have this support group helping her when I can’t be there is a great relief.

To show my appreciation for this I am prepared to look like an idiot.

If you look at the photo, you can see that I’m looking rather hairy. When I reach my target, I’ll shave it all off – that is beard and hair.

While I’m hoping to reach my target by 1 November, I’d like to reach this earlier if possible. This will give me time to grow some hair back before I visit mum again in December (she doesn’t like shaved heads).

You can do your bit to help the hair come off by clicking here and then clicking the Donate button. Go on, it’s a worthy cause.


A bit of geeky fun for the Battlestar Galactica fans

I was reading the paper over the weekend and this story caught my eye. The story is basically about a plan to start coal seam gas drilling and there’s controversy because it’s going to be near the Warragamba dam, which holds a lot of Sydney’s drinking water. The controversy comes from the fact that the company plans to use “the fracking technique.”

Fracking, apparently, is hydraulic fracturing, which involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to shatter rock strata and force coal seam gas to the surface. That gas is then refined into natural gas to be used as fuel.

Well, frak me.