“Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience.” ~ John Locke
So reads the plaque on Phil Gordon's wall. In Absolved, I try to explore the depths of that belief to discover where it might lead us in the near future. When I began writing it almost two years ago, it seemed in some ways unlikely. I no longer think that. Events now rush at us like incoming artillery rounds. It is an even-money bet as I write this whether the society will suffer an Absolved-like civil conflict or simply fall apart of accumulated self-inflicted stresses.
The present administration acts as if chaos propagation – the destruction of the American economy (including the debasement of its fiat currency by monetizing the incredible national debt), the compromise of our national security interests, the appeasement of our traditional enemies, the selling-out of what few friends we have in the world, the willing discard of our national sovereignty – were going to get them re-elected. No one is that stupid. Which leads me to wonder if, like the Russian Bolsheviks and the German National Socialists before them, the Obama regime – the “gangster government” as Michael Barrone rightly called them at the time of the auto “bailout” -- intends that the last election actually be the LAST election.
Paranoid? Perhaps. Yet how else can such otherwise self-destructive behavior be explained? Besides, as I learned only too well in the Nineties, you’re not paranoid if someone really is out to get you, and you’re not a conspiracy “theorist” if there really is a conspiracy going on.
The sad fact is that Absolved may be a rosy scenario compared to the darkness that could actually befall us.
Since I began posting chapters of Absolved on the ‘Net, I have been the recipient of many emails, some laudatory, some critical. Some take me to task for killing off all my characters. My novel, like war, has its casualties. Yet, I "kill off" no one in my tale who either doesn't deserve it or who isn't willing to make the trade for what they perceive to be the greater good.
Like all wars, there are "collateral" casualties. It would not be believable if there weren't. I can only tell you that I am not bloodthirsty. Writing about this subject actually depresses me. I have a son and two teenage daughters. My son, in turn, has two sons of his own. I want to live long enough to sing all my grandchildren to sleep to the tunes of “Hobo's Lullaby,” “Bold Fenian Men,” “Rising of the Moon” and “The Minstrel Boy,” just as I did with my own children.
Another civil war in this country is the last thing I want.
"The Useful Dire Warning."
So why write about one? Perhaps, as David Brin, author of the magnificent book The Postman (which bears no resemblance to the Costner cinematic flop) wrote in a forward to a reprint of Pat Frank's classic Alas, Babylon:
Two books that emerged at roughly the same time as Alas, Babylon were Eugene Burdick's Fail Safe and Peter George's Red Alert, which later inspired Stanley Kubrick to make the magnificently humorous and thoughtful Dr. Strangelove. As archetypes of the useful dire warning, each dissected a specific possible failure mode, bringing it to the awareness of so many that, ironically, their particular type of debacle became much less likely. Indeed, the "self-preventing prophecy" may be the highest and most useful species in all of the vast, imaginative genus of speculative fiction. In much the same way that Orwell's 1984 girded millions against "Big Brother," these tales may have helped to keep their own nightmares from coming true. In other words, our most vivid nightmares may have been utterly practical, helping to save our lives. -- David Brin, Foreward to the First Harper Perennial Modern Classics Edition of Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon, 2005, p. X.
One of the things about Absolved that has come in for both praise and criticism is the deadly details. When Phil Gordon or Kraut Mueller craft improvised rifle grenades, you can tell from the detail that it is certainly possible to do so. When thousands of Brightfire mercenaries-in-training are crushed under a fuel-air-explosive delivered by crop duster, you believe it is possible because, frankly, it IS. They say to write about what you know, and although in most cases I have not personally done the things that my characters in the book do, I have done enough research to know that it can be done.
Internet readers will note that there is less mind-numbing detail in the publication version of Absolved than in the Internet chapters. The original plan was to make Absolved part novel, part Resistance manual. The details, frankly, are an impediment to the flow of the story, so the plan is for a companion volume, tentatively titled The Absolved Resistance Field & Technical Manual, authored by two of the stalwarts of the novel, Kraut Mueller and Charlie Quintard.
There are characters in the book (most of them in fact) that resemble real people, or composites of two or three real people, who I have actually known. For example, "The Flying Dutchman," introduced in a future chapter is a sure-'nuff real smuggler pilot, a larger-than-life character I met a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, as they say.
The Dutchman represents the archetype of the smuggler as freedom fighter just as much as John Hancock, Dr. Syn, Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds or the grocery stockboy Dale in the cancelled CBS television series, Jericho. Like Hancock, however, the Flying Dutchman has the advantage of being a real American. If I place him in fictional circumstances, he reacts the way he would in life, I think. If he dislikes my representation of him, I'm sure he'll let me know. After I'm done, you may play the game of pin-the-caricature-on-the-real-jackass to your heart's content and those who know me best will no doubt be able to pick out characters who I have patterned on them.
Take Kraut Mueller, for example. Like the fictional Kraut, I have played a cat-and-mouse game with the ATF since the 90s. There is, I confess, more than a slight resemblance between us. Even so, Kraut is a better man than me -- smarter, more aggressive in his actions, and more competent. The real me is not half as interesting as Kraut. If I were to try to cook up shaped charges in a basement I'd be dead already. Frankly, I'm a klutz.
I hope you’ll find that the reality of the characters and the believability of the action coalesce into a narrative that flows from the terrible opening to a logical conclusion with a good read in between. Believability is key to my purpose. For if this book is to operate as a "useful dire warning," then both real sides in my imaginary civil war -- and they are VERY real, just ask David Olofson and his victimized family -- must be able to recognize the imminent threat to avoid it.
In this, I am writing as much a cautionary tale for the out-of-control gun cops of the ATF as anyone. Both sides must get the point in order to avoid conflict.
I hope that when I'm done with what I envision now as a trilogy (plus the technical manual), the Absolved series can perhaps take its place alongside these other "useful dire warnings." Being a practical man, however, I recognize that this is but a glimmering hope. Events rush by, pushing us like rudder-less boats in a strong current to where we know not.
A peaceful pool? Perhaps.
The thunderous cataclysm of a deadly falls?
Perhaps, in the wicked light of the Olofson case, more likely.
The Unintended Inspiration
Books are most often dedicated to the one person, or persons, who made the project possible – to those who inspired and informed the author. This book has a forward thanking all the folks who have assisted me in my project, among these my long-suffering wife Rosey, my kids, other gunnies and fellow workers in the thankless task of trying to restore our tottering constitutional republic.
But I think it is appropriate to dedicate Absolved to "Waco Jim" Cavanaugh and Agent Jody Keeku of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the twin unintended inspirations for all my recent work. For the coterie of my Internet friends, neither needs an introduction. For the rest of you, the very moniker of "Waco Jim" should tell you the larger portion of his sins. Keeku was the principal agent of David Olofson's frame-up and imprisonment. Whether my novel is a prescient glimpse into a bloody future or a "useful dire warning" that is heeded, is entirely up to the likes of them and to the corrupt politicians who hold their leashes.
It is they who, by their conduct, will absolve us of the necessity of any further obedience to an oppressive regime. As I point out in Absolved, if the law no longer protects us, then they will find to their sorrow that it no longer protects them either. The choice is theirs. So I dedicate Absolved to them and their thuggish fellow gang members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. As Ho Chi Minh once observed, "Cherish your enemies, they teach you the best lessons."
I hope they understand that before it is too late.
If not, there is always Aunt Jenny Brooks’ soap dish.
Believe me, you mess with Winston County, Alabama, at your own peril.
20 October 2009