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necrovore

A Different Kind of Activism?

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There are mailing lists for Objectivist activists, bloggers, and academics. As for myself, I cannot join any of them: I am not in a position where my activism would be especially credible, I have other things to do besides the work required in maintaining a blog, and my academic days are almost certainly behind me.

However, I like to think of myself as creative (or at least trying to be). Most of the time I am trying to write some story or other, and sometimes I even succeed in finishing one. The implication though is that I'd rather be working on stories than blog entries or LTEs.

Writing fiction (I mean to include novels, short stories, plays, and screenplays) can be an effective form of activism -- as long as the stories are good. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are the primary examples. First and foremost they are excellent stories, but the problems the characters face can only be resolved by the exacting and scrupulous use of Objectivist principles. Much like certain problems in real life. :D It is interesting that Ayn Rand herself wrote her novels before she started writing columns and articles -- and in fact, had it not been for the novels, no one would have cared about the columns and articles.

I have also read Terry Goodkind and Tales of the Mall Masters, and in so doing I saw the value of having other Objectivist fiction besides Ayn Rand's. I think it would be great if there were more Objectivist fiction. I am trying to create it myself, but there is one problem: writing good fiction is hard.

Sometimes it is helpful for amateur writers like me to join writers' groups, where they can discuss techniques, critique each others' work, and just provide general encouragement to each other. Many such groups are online, but, to my knowledge, none for Objectivists.

I know there are at least a small number of Objectivists here who are interested in writing fiction, but I do not know for sure how many.

What I'm curious about is whether there would be enough interest to start a mailing list or something for amateur Objectivist fiction writers -- and whether the group would survive or splinter apart (e.g., would you be interested in the group if the members preferred to write in a different form or genre than you, or if they used substantially different techniques, or if they had substantially different skill levels?). I have never run a mailing list before and I'm not sure I want to, but I might consider joining one if it existed. Or a separate area could be created on this forum. :)

So what do you think: could this be a good idea?

[P.S.: because Objectivism is defined as Ayn Rand's philosophy, it might be confusing to refer to fiction as Objectivist when it was not written by Ayn Rand. Maybe I should say "Objectivist-leaning" fiction, or "Objectivism-influenced" fiction?]

Edited by necrovore

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I'd join. Sounds fun.

I'd love to work with people who write similarly to me AND with people who work opposite. All the more fun- plus, you learn more that way.

I WOULD create the mailing list myself if I had the time, but unfortunately I don't. Plus, I'd need a little more to go on.

Like, what do you mean by "activism"? How does that apply to fiction? I'm not sire I follow.

My writing is more of an implicit than explicit philosophy. Good for activism? No. Good for reading? Yes.

Well, I'm interested. I'd like to discuss it a little more beforehand, but it sounds like fun so far.

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I'd like to join. My writing isn't always explicitly Objectivist but the messages and questiosn posed are certainly Objectivist themed, with Objectivist leaning answers implied.

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There are mailing lists for Objectivist activists, bloggers, and academics. ...

What I'm curious about is whether there would be enough interest to start a mailing list or something for amateur Objectivist fiction writers -- and whether the group would survive or splinter apart (e.g., would you be interested in the group if the members preferred to write in a different form or genre than you, or if they used substantially different techniques, or if they had substantially different skill levels?). I have never run a mailing list before and I'm not sure I want to, but I might consider joining one if it existed. Or a separate area could be created on this forum. :)

Do you know why those mailing lists for Objectivists activists, bloggers, and academics exist? It's because I created them. I saw the potential -- and I made them happen. I didn't toss off the idea, hoping that someone else might do the work for me. I wasn't sure whether the lists would work or not: the academics list is pretty much a bust, actually. But I was willing to stick my neck out; I was willing to fail; I was willing to learn by doing. And so it got done.

A list for Objectivist fiction writers sounds like a potentially promising idea. But you'll never know -- and you'll never gain that potential value -- unless some takes the initiative to make it happen. It's not hard to run a mailing list; it doesn't take much time, skill, or effort. To start such a project mostly requires you to exercise some leadership: it requires you to have the courage to make your idea into reality.

Step up, folks! If you want it, go get it! If not, then just drop it.

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Necrovore,

I think that you are onto a very good idea, and I think there are several ways that you could execute it. One idea is to simply start a Facebook group, and you could introduce the group using an overview similar to what you've just given. Not all of the details have to be worked out when a group is started. You _do_ want to try to get ideas as to what your group's guiding principles are.

I have to also say a bit about the idea of "Objectivist fiction". First and very much foremost, keep in mind what AR herself discussed over the years: there's a substantial difference between Realist-Romantic fiction and propaganda. Propaganda is driven mainly by political advocacy. Fiction is primarily concerned with the story. (AR frequently talked about "plot-theme"; don't forget to check out her _Art of Fiction_ book!)

I think that there are several reasons why her fiction came before her philosophy. She was driven to depict heroism. She wanted a more interesting career. Her writings in early fiction give little indication of wanting to invoke epistemology, and she didn't have a fully integrated philosophical system until she set to work on _Atlas Shrugged_. She wrote for herself. She wrote her essays as a way of advocating ideas in a direct manner aside from other literary considerations.

If you think that you are better at writing fiction than non-fiction, then you should try to work in terms of the requirements of fiction only. By the way, I do think that Galt's radio address belongs in _Atlas..._ because it still involved developing his character as well as the plot-theme, but I doubt that any author would want to use that technique very frequently. If she were to write the content of that address as an aside or in some other manner that broke with the requirements for writing a good story, then a great work of art would have been flawed. In other words, she would have defeated her purpose.

Also, keep in mind what Dr. Peikoff said: _Atlas Shrugged_ is an Ayn Rand novel rather than an Objectivist novel. That is, it reflects her personal writing style. In my opinion, it's fair to refer to "Objectivist art" or "Objectivist what-have-you" if those terms are clarified or given stipulations. The terms which I used would have to be used in the way that you used your terms "Objectivist-leaning" or "Objectivism-influenced".

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You can count me on that.

I begun writing a novel of mine about 10 months ago, although I knew nothing of Ayn Rand at the time.

However, the novel is written in a diary style and should be capable of showing the difference of 'without Objectivism' and 'with Objectivism'.

Although my style is a bit more of realism than romanticism - I am writing my own personal experiences but all the names are changed, some people merged into one, etc.

I have finished about 180 pages in Lithuanian, my mother tongue and just found a person who can help me fix my style and grammar mistakes.

I am thinking of finishing my work during my summer vacation.

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Speaking as a fellow artist (a composer) one thing that I must strongly emphasize is that if you are going to be a serious artist you must not regard your artwork as needing to serve a purpose beyond itself. This includes activism. The whole purpose of art is to demonstrate life as it might be and ought to be. As such, artwork is created for no purpose beyond its own contemplation. This is what gives art its power. It presents an artist's metaphysical view of life through deliberate selection and creative interpretation of elements of reality that confirm that view. Think of the great stories you've read, paintings you have seen, movies you have watched, etc. Whatever different genres, styles, scopes, or media such work might have been, I am willing to bet one element that they all have in common is that the themes presented in such works are timeless and universal.

If you try to narrow the metaphysical scope of art to a political end, you will end up with nothing but unconvincing propaganda that no rational man could want to read. Does this mean that you should keep Objectivism from appearing in your work? Not at all, but you must be careful about how you implement it. As an artist, your purpose is to create great art, in your case the kinds of stories you would want to read. It is not your purpose to convert people to a particular worldview. If you focus your work as a vehicle to win people to Objectivism then you'll destroy your work by placing greater importance on convincing others of something rather than creating an engaging story. I appreciate your intention as I too wish to see this philosophy spread as quickly as possible. However, this is the wrong way to go about it.

Look at Ayn Rand's novels. If you were anything like me, when you first read them I bet you were so eager to find out what happens next. Rand is only able to do that because her first goal as a writer was to create engrossing stories full of the kind of characters she admired. Since Rand cared so deeply about the quality of her stories, we as readers are able to do the same. Only through her abilities as a writer was she able to concretize her most complex ideas through a dramatic plot in a way that many of us could understand and make us care about them. Had she not cared about the quality of her work as an artist, I doubt there would even be an Objectivist movement at all.

Read The Goal of My Writing in The Romantic Manifesto. In that article she basically states that her purpose in writing her novels was not to teach Objectivism, or to spread her ideas, or anything like that. She states that her goal is the presentation of an ideal man. In fact, rather than using her characters to demonstrate her philosophy, she had to discover the principles of her philosophy so she could write about her characters!

Now I'd like to add a word on "Objectivist art." There is no such thing. There are artists like Bryan Larsen who are also Objectivists. Though Objectivism has plenty to say on the subject of esthetics, the idea of an Objectivist school of art is absurd for the same reason that the idea of the Objectivist party is absurd in politics. The reason this is wrong is that Objectivism refers to the written system of ideas that Rand presented/endorsed during her lifetime and nothing else. It doesn't even refer to Peikoff's excellent DIM hypothesis even though it's true and conforms to reality like Objectivism. Now can you imagine any philosophy in history that has as part of it's canon, a painting, a piece of music, etcetera? Now this is not to say that it impossible or improper to have a school of art based on the principles of Objectivist esthetics. It's just improper to use the term 'Objectivism' to label it.

Now to address your main question of forming a writers group/mailing list:

Yes it's a good idea. :P

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It's also good to remember that just because Rand's goal was to portray the ideal man, doesn't mean yours should be.

Good fiction does not require Objectivist-like heroes as characters or as a protagonist. It also doesn't need explicit philosophy. Make the goal of your writing a personal value, something that only you know how to express and give shape to. If you don't, your writing will be forced, stale, and flat. It also won't be yours.

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It's also good to remember that just because Rand's goal was to portray the ideal man, doesn't mean yours should be.

Good fiction does not require Objectivist-like heroes as characters or as a protagonist. It also doesn't need explicit philosophy. Make the goal of your writing a personal value, something that only you know how to express and give shape to. If you don't, your writing will be forced, stale, and flat. It also won't be yours.

I already thought about it. My novel, in essence, portrays a young man who is trying to be an ideal man, who is trying to achieve happiness. What I think should make my novel so good is trying to portray anything with teenager's emotions and adult's reasoning. After reading my draft, many people thought that I am at least five years older, so I believe I'm successful at that thing. On the other hand, the main character of my book is inexperienced and sometimes does some awkward things he is not sure why he did them afterwards and allows his emotion to take over from time to time.Anyway, I believe it to at least mildly interesting read.

And now it's time to start today's chapter. :P

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It's not hard to run a mailing list; it doesn't take much time, skill, or effort.

Well, it's a bit harder when one is first getting started. :P I can start something on Yahoo! Groups, if nowhere else. Prodos used to run his lists there.

There's a substantial difference between Realist-Romantic fiction and propaganda.

...you must not regard your artwork as needing to serve a purpose beyond itself. This includes activism. The whole purpose of art is to demonstrate life as it might be and ought to be.

Yes, I've read The Romantic Manifesto, and I recognize the difference between story and propaganda. When I described writing as a "different sort of activism" I meant very different: its purpose is not to teach but to show, or, more specifically, its purpose is to provide the audience with the experience of a sense of life. One of the great things that Objectivism has going for it is the sense of life that can be achieved through it. Fiction allows the portrayal of both the struggle and the triumph.

Trying to pass off a lecture as a story is a kind of fraud, and audiences rightly resent it. Ayn Rand "got away with" Galt's speech (and Francisco's money speech, and Howard Roark's defense argument) not because of the philosophy the characters held, but because the speech (each speech) explained events in the novel (its novel). Some people don't understand this and condemn Ayn Rand herself as didactic, and may well say the same thing about any work that has an Objectivist slant to it, but they are wrong.

No good story can avoid making philosophical statements. As The Romantic Manifesto points out, you make a philosophical statement when you choose whether or not to have a plot. Other statements work their ways into the story as it is developed. A writer's philosophy and sense of life should come out in his work, and I would like to do what I can to encourage the production of works, whether written by me or by others, where the sense of life that comes out in the work is an Objectivist one. There are many different ways to do that.

There will always be people who object to Objectivist ideas in works, or who object to any ideas in works, or who object even to matters of structure that have implications regarding ideas, such as plot itself. As for me, I say those people are not part of my target audience. Objectivists are. However, I also do not want to write works that only Objectivists would want to read. I refuse to sell out my principles, but there are not enough Objectivists that I could make money by writing for them alone. :P

The story has to come first, but philosophy always plays a supporting role.

The group I form would be intended for Objectivists and serious students of Objectivism who write, or want to write, novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, and/or teleplays, and market them to the general public. (I only leave out poetry and songwriting because such short works present entirely different problems, and usually have no need of plot or storytelling.)

I want to leave out both general questions about writing and general questions about Objectivism, because there are other groups for those. This group should stand at the junction between the two and deal with issues that concern elements of both.

The reading list would of course include the Aesthetics chapter in OPAR, and The Romantic Manifesto, The Art of Fiction, and The Art of Nonfiction. :)

Have I just made the mailing list more or less interesting? :dough:

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It's not hard to run a mailing list; it doesn't take much time, skill, or effort.

Well, it's a bit harder when one is first getting started. :P I can start something on Yahoo! Groups, if nowhere else. Prodos used to run his lists there.

There's a substantial difference between Realist-Romantic fiction and propaganda.

...you must not regard your artwork as needing to serve a purpose beyond itself. This includes activism. The whole purpose of art is to demonstrate life as it might be and ought to be.

Yes, I've read The Romantic Manifesto, and I recognize the difference between story and propaganda. When I described writing as a "different sort of activism" I meant very different: its purpose is not to teach but to show, or, more specifically, its purpose is to provide the audience with the experience of a sense of life. One of the great things that Objectivism has going for it is the sense of life that can be achieved through it. Fiction allows the portrayal of both the struggle and the triumph.

Trying to pass off a lecture as a story is a kind of fraud, and audiences rightly resent it. Ayn Rand "got away with" Galt's speech (and Francisco's money speech, and Howard Roark's defense argument) not because of the philosophy the characters held, but because the speech (each speech) explained events in the novel (its novel). Some people don't understand this and condemn Ayn Rand herself as didactic, and may well say the same thing about any work that has an Objectivist slant to it, but they are wrong.

No good story can avoid making philosophical statements. As The Romantic Manifesto points out, you make a philosophical statement when you choose whether or not to have a plot. Other statements work their ways into the story as it is developed. A writer's philosophy and sense of life should come out in his work, and I would like to do what I can to encourage the production of works, whether written by me or by others, where the sense of life that comes out in the work is an Objectivist one. There are many different ways to do that.

There will always be people who object to Objectivist ideas in works, or who object to any ideas in works, or who object even to matters of structure that have implications regarding ideas, such as plot itself. As for me, I say those people are not part of my target audience. Objectivists are. However, I also do not want to write works that only Objectivists would want to read. I refuse to sell out my principles, but there are not enough Objectivists that I could make money by writing for them alone. :P

The story has to come first, but philosophy always plays a supporting role.

The group I form would be intended for Objectivists and serious students of Objectivism who write, or want to write, novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, and/or teleplays, and market them to the general public. (I only leave out poetry and songwriting because such short works present entirely different problems, and usually have no need of plot or storytelling.)

I want to leave out both general questions about writing and general questions about Objectivism, because there are other groups for those. This group should stand at the junction between the two and deal with issues that concern elements of both.

The reading list would of course include the Aesthetics chapter in OPAR, and The Romantic Manifesto, The Art of Fiction, and The Art of Nonfiction. :)

Have I just made the mailing list more or less interesting? :dough:

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I said: "It's not hard to run a mailing list; it doesn't take much time, skill, or effort."

necrovore replied: "Well, it's a bit harder when one is first getting started. :dough: I can start something on Yahoo! Groups, if nowhere else. Prodos used to run his lists there."

Well, you might think about asking someone who has done it for some help. I'd be happy to answer your questions, for example. (Hmm... that gets me thinking: perhaps I ought to create a little guide to starting mailing lists for Objectivists.)

And you might look at how I've phrased the list requirements for OActivsts. And I'd recommend Google Groups over Yahoo Groups: the interface is cleaner, GG doesn't have the limits of YG, and Google doesn't add advertising to each message sent out.

It's super-easy to set up a Google Group, and if you have any questions about the mechanics of list management or better and worse list policies, I could easily answer them via e-mail or with a quick phone call. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I do have some reasonable advice to give based on many years experience in managing mailing lists of various kinds.

Ultimately, all of that stuff is easy because Google designs good software. What you need to be willing to (1) set a clear purpose for the list, (2) establish criteria for membership, and (3) do it!

I can't emphasize point #3 enough. Virtue does not consist in having some good idea -- or offering it to others. It consists in making that idea reality.

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What is 'objectivist sense of life'? Could anybody answer me?

Basically a sense of life (I am trying to define it myself, right here on the spot) is a set of subconscious feelings about existence and one's own place in it. It not only sums up to an emotion -- a benevolent or malevolent universe premise -- but it also includes emotions about particular things, about whatever a person deems important in his own life.

For a fuller definition, I refer you to "Philosophy and Sense of Life" in The Romantic Manifesto.

Objectivism is an explicit philosophy, not a subconscious feeling. It makes definite statements about existence and one's own place in it. However, it is also possible to sum up Objectivism in the form of an emotion, and I think that emotion would be the one you get from reading The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, particularly at the end when matters are resolved.

I remember when I was reading Atlas Shrugged that I noticed the emotions it was making me feel. The emotions seemed to run the full gamut, including fear, anger, wonder, and joy. At the end, what I felt was a sense of happiness and anticipation. On a strictly emotional level, I think that is what Ayn Rand was trying to tell us: life can be like that.

[Edit: minor changes.]

Edited by necrovore

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...When I described writing as a "different sort of activism" I meant very different: its purpose is not to teach but to show, or, more specifically, its purpose is to provide the audience with the experience of a sense of life. One of the great things that Objectivism has going for it is the sense of life that can be achieved through it. Fiction allows the portrayal of both the struggle and the triumph.

Necrovore,

Not that I think that the end result of your writings might come out very differently given what has been said in this thread, but it would seem to me that what you mean by "activism" really amounts to just straight-forward artistry. There are different aspects to doing artwork. There's making the work just to realize the work, and there's also getting the work to an audience so that the artist can get feedback. There's also another aspect of wanting to show an audience a new way of thinking, and that is as far as I'm concerned very much part of offering an artistic experience. If this is what you are having in mind, then I don't think that you even need to think in terms of activism at all, and I really suspect that that is the case. I think that you just want to do your artwork and reach people, and I think that any sincere artist has those goals in mind as well.

Your further comments just reinforce what I've just stated. It's really true: Depicting a scenario via art has a number of consequences. The funny thing is that once the work is done the interpretation is really out of the artist's hands. I've read of a few artists who have been quite concerned with how an audience responds, but truthfully, there's only so much that an artist can do to influence the expectations and interpretations of the work. Naturally, over time, an artist gets better at managing the "feedback cycle" between himself and his patrons, but the basic dynamic never changes. Patrons rarely have the same experience of the work as the artist does. Some artists have let this fact disturb them greatly, so I think it's important to be mindful of this aspect of the nature of artistic interpretation.

I think that this also further reinforces the very idea of ego as AR considered it. As Dr. Harry Binswanger said at a UCLA lecture, "_You_ are God." In other words, you are the master of your respective destiny. I mention this because the artist _does_ get to play "God" to other people. If you've read all of _The Romantic Manifesto_, then you already know what I'm getting at.

I could go on, but I bet you get my drift. :lol:

Edited by tps_fan

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Necrovore,

I just read the descriptive blurb about your group on NoodleFood. Now that I have a clearer understanding of your group I'm just going to say that this sounds like a great idea and I'm going to mention this on my next video podcast and on my site's blog.

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