the anthony dobranski blog


Leave a comment

Sticking to my knitting (opinions)

As Facebook gently reminded me —

2017-fb-little-while
my professional media have been stale. It was less a writer’s block than a blind alley. Perhaps others will find my thinking instructive.

Like everybody, I have opinions about the world, and in these contentious times, it’s very tempting to share them. Everyone else is, and I talk prettier than many. Why not join the fray? Ooh, ooh, you’re discussing politics, or climate change, or guns? I can do that too!

I drafted three different posts on things political. One even got into my WordPress dashboard, until I deleted it.

Truth is, I just don’t want to be a public intellectual.

It feels irresponsible to say this. In the face of the great activists of the past, and today’s popular writers who still manage worthy columns (or at least snarky tweets) – and often get slagged by some fans for voicing opinions they don’t like – it seems weak to say, nah, I’m out.

I’m out. While it might feel good to get something off my chest, people aren’t waiting around to hear what I have to say about today’s crisis. Or, if people are, they don’t just want it once. If I start down that road, I have to stick with it, have to make it a bigger part of my life and thought.

Perhaps this would be virtuous, but it wouldn’t be singular. Many good people already discuss the state of the world, plainly and well, after actually investigating it and reporting on it. If I want to change the world in favor of my political beliefs, I’m better off writing checks.

Or, writing novels.

Not that I’m going to be ripping tales from today’s headlines. That’s not my thing. More to the point, the political power of good fiction is often indirect. Fiction can say complicated things to culture, often better than it says simple ones. There are political ideas in my novel The Demon in Business Class, but they’re neither immediate nor partisan.

The “messy ground where the worldly meets the divine,” as my back-cover text promises, is a place in the mind. My characters in their big world might inform your opinions about tomorrow’s crisis, whatever it is, but only by example and analogy.

That’s my contribution. We’ll see if it’s enough, over time.


Leave a comment

My new novel – published as a serial – and, why do it?

I’m so sorry! I have never shared my new novel with my blog. I think in part it’s because I view this as a less promotional space than a reflective one. I’ve posted about it in its future home, however, so I should talk about it here too. Perhaps more reflectively.

Starting in the first quarter of 2015 I will be publishing a serial historical mystery online at the Forest Hills Connection. It’s set in Washington DC in 1942, inspired by the wartime work of the National Bureau of Standards, which included proximity fuses for bombs and early uranium enrichment, along with many other unglamorous but vital duties such as alloys, radio crystals and weaponry sights. It’s also inspired by the strange life of Washington’s home front, a sleepy city become a world power and flooded with the nation’s first cadre of single women office workers. Here’s a promotional article with photos from the era.

The book came accidentally, an idea from the editor of our local neighborhood website to develop a serial novel about the neighborhood’s history, informed by the popularity of the historical articles the site publishes. Most neighborhoods at best have only a couple of novelists so my name came up quickly. I researched and I found myself interested.

But lots of things interest me. Novels are work and serials unfamiliar ground. I haven’t wanted to do anything but fantasy and sci-fi in decades. As a career move, another fantasy would be more in order, or a continued focus on short stories (but more about that in the next post). And it’s not as if I’m being paid.

So in the spirit of professionalism, in wanting my fiction to be more than a hobby — is this good business or bad?

Continue reading