Three right-leaning writers take our woke age to task in this short story collection.

Some stories rarely get told by Hollywood, let alone writers seeking approval from august literary imprints.

The folks behind an “Appalling” new story collection didn’t let that stop them.

Appalling Stories: 13 Tales of Social Injustice” pokes fun at PC restrictions with a collection of tales speaking to an increasingly silly age.

Appalling Stories-cover

These ‘Appalling Stories’ tackle pop culture in a way most readers wouldn’t expect.

HiT reached out to the authors behind the book – Paul Hair, David Dubrow and Ray Zacek – to find out more about the short story collection and why they trained their firepower on Social Justice Warriors.

HiT; Sinking your teeth into social justice follies is both fertile ground and mostly unexplored terrain … did that make the project even more tempting to tackle?

Ray Zacek: Oh, you better believe! ‘Son of a gun we having fun on the bayou’ was my approach to this collaboration. Plucking the tail feathers from the peacock of political correctness appealed to my Inner Groucho Marx.

I’ve always admired the Impressionists who rebelled against the rigid formalism of the Academie des Beaux-Arts and, in doing so, earned themselves ridicule, impoverishment and banishment from ‘the establishment’ of the time. And Van Gogh lost an ear but he was having a bad night in Arles. Should’ve laid off the absinthe.

HiT: You’re collectively sick of storytellers who favor message over narrative … how did you approach “Appalling Stories?” You’re clearly tweaking our woke world while making sure entertainment is first and foremost… how do you know when you achieve that balance?

Ray Zacek: I regard it as exercising critical sense and self-restraint, and not self-censorship, to achieve that balance and avoid Preaching to the Choir. The choir tends to get bored easily and fidget in their seats anyway and get stingy during the offertory.

In writing I adhere to The Basics: plot, character, setting, dialogue, diction, pacing, fluidity of style, the concrete detail and the felicitous turn of phrase. Craft before Message. As Mr. Goldwyn said: if you have a message, call Western Union (though the modern equivalent would be: Tweet it, or seek subvention from government). I do not want to hammer an audience with Received Wisdom. Concussion isn’t art.

HiT: Even “Saturday Night Live” has taken aim, albeit briefly, at our woke culture. Do you see social justice activism declining in 2018, or will the movement continue to gain steam over the next 12 months?

Ray Zacek: Well, I ceased watching “SNL” many moons ago so I cannot speak to their aims or ambit (neither do I watch Kimmel or Colbert). Let me preface my response with a disclaimer: I claim no power of prescience. As Yogi Berra said, It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

Fallibility thus registered, I do not see the SJW’s in any decline over the next 12 months. If anything, their energy will ramp up in the months before the mid-term elections. People convinced of the righteousness of their cause, of their own innate superiority over the mass of yahoos who like human eczema inflame the country with racism, white supremacy, xenophobia, blah blah blah, and who believe with passion that the arc of history is the rainbow under which they seek to redistribute the pot of gold stolen by the One Percent, will prove indefatigable.

They (meaning that ratatouille of SJWs, progressives, liberals, democratic socialists, et al) are the secular inheritors of protestant Puritanism (absent sexual inhibition) in America, a self-appointed elect (not an elite, mind you, because many are middle class, at best, or even ne’er-do-wells).

And in being an elect they share two beliefs: that they are on the right side of history and their opponents are not and thus are base and corrupt; and that government and not private associations best address social concerns. In this assessment I am indebted to Joseph Bottum and his work “An Anxious Age” (with an apology to Mr. Bottum for any distortion I may have conveyed).

HiT: Were there themes or story lines that almost cracked the book but got bumped at the last minute … can you share what they were?

Dave Dubrow: Yes. I had originally written a story about a 7th grader who was being bullied by a group of Syrian immigrant children at school. Focusing on the 7th grader’s father’s perspective, I illustrated his helplessness in the face of the school’s insistence that the bullying was a function of cultural differences and even racism on the part of the bullied kid.

The problem was that I didn’t know how to end the story, so I had the dad go to the bullies’ house (in a bad neighborhood) to try to talk to the parents personally about the problem. Nobody was home, the dad leaves, and then he’s murdered in an attempted mugging in the parking lot. Very ugly and very sad, with no resolution for the reader. Which, in its own way, is rather like the immigration issues playing out right now.

I just couldn’t figure out an ending that wasn’t either hackneyed or tiresome, so we all agreed that I should ditch it and work on something else. That something else ended up being the Cultural Overtones story, which I’m glad I could include in the anthology.

HiT: “Bake Me a Cake” is ripped directly from the headlines with a sneaky twist. Can you share why you decided to tackle that topic head on?

Dave Dubrow: A writer friend suggested the idea behind “Bake Me a Cake” some time ago: a story about a mom-and-pop bakery asked to do “The Aristocrats” of cakes. He/She requested that he/she remain anonymous, which is one of the reasons why “Appalling Stories” is necessary: the far-left stranglehold on publishing is so pervasive and frightening that even moderately left-wing writers avoid controversial subjects for fear of social and professional backlash.

I had to write the story because the underlying concept behind it is playing itself out right now in the real world, and it’s as ludicrous as any fiction you can bring to mind. Sweet Cakes by Melissa has been ordered to pay $135,000 in emotional damages to a lesbian couple for not baking them a wedding cake.

The plaintiffs’ hurt fee-fees are more important than the First Amendment to the Constitution. Masterpiece Cake Shop’s similar case is being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court instead of being laughed out of town. This is what Social Justice Warriors have resorted to: suing you for not baking them the cake they want.

Ruining your business, your career, your reputation because you won’t cater to them. Isn’t that absolutely crazy?

HiT: We’re learning that some publishers have readers who scan new text to spot problematic material, but you’re invested in the self-publishing space. How critical is the latter moving forward, particularly with subjects that don’t make urban dwelling editors happy?

Dave Dubrow: You’re referring to that New York Times article about the “sensitivity readers,” aren’t you. Isn’t that absolutely chilling? I encourage anyone interested in the future of fiction to read that article, keeping a barf bag handy.

Note how the NYT conflates the notion of a publisher hiring a knowledgeable reader to fact check a writer’s description of police procedure with hiring a reader to “fact check” the writer’s depiction of the experiences of people of color (or elves or mutants) to make sure nothing offensive gets through.

… the far-left stranglehold on publishing is so pervasive and frightening that even moderately left-wing writers avoid controversial subjects for fear of social and professional backlash.

Now that radical ideas like there being only two sexes have become counter-culture, controversial, or considered hate speech, there is nothing more important in our culture than the self-/indie publishing revolution going on right now.

Yes, there are valid complaints that the lack of New York City publishing gatekeepers has resulted in a lot of terrible books being foisted on the reading public, but when you weigh that against how those same gatekeepers are deliberately and maliciously closing the publishing doors against so-called conservative ideas, there’s no contest.

The only caveat is that as a self-publisher, you have a responsibility to put together a product that’s well-written, professionally edited and proofread, and bearing a cover you didn’t make yourself out of MS Paint. Anything less and you’re producing noise, not signal: get out of the marketplace.

For the rest of us, the door’s wide open. Just focus on story, not agitprop, and you’ll find your audience.

HiT: The book bounces from genre to genre, although the science fiction tales struck me as the most subversive – in a good way. Can you talk about how that genre can be so effective at blending subtext with engaging prose?

Paul Hair: Science fiction can do one of two things with controversial issues: it can substitute a fictional issue for a real-world one, or it can address a real-world issue in a fantastical setting that helps to alleviate people’s reactions to the issue by way of their interest in the sci-fi world. (We mostly went the second route with our stories in this anthology.)

Now that radical ideas like there being only two sexes have become counter-culture, controversial, or considered hate speech, there is nothing more important in our culture than the self-/indie publishing revolution going on right now.

The sci-fi setting then forces subtext (less so in the second option, but it’s still there) because the author never directly addresses what is happening in reality simply because the story isn’t set in reality.

And that subtext allows the author to write engagingly about subjects and issues he’d otherwise might never get an audience to read.

HiT: White privilege takes it on the chin with “Our Diversity Is Our Strength.” Do you ever fear that what you’re writing today might be prescient if the culture continues down a certain path?

Paul Hair: I think we’re already there.

I was in the Army Reserve from 2004-2012 and I saw firsthand just how much the armed forces emphasize diversity and political correctness. And after readers finish, “Our Diversity Is Our Strength!” I encourage them to do a web search for “Can Gay Marriage Defeat the Islamic State?” “Navy Secretary: ‘We Don’t Have Enough Women in Navy or Marine Corps,’” and “Officials Say US Special Forces Are Too White And Too Male.” They might end up agreeing with me about our culture already having reached the point-of-no-return.

HiT: Are there any plans to expand the project — a second volume, a web site expansion … or another medium?

Paul Hair: That depends on the success of this book. Readers can buy the eBook version now or they can wait for the paperback version, which should be available soon. I’d also encourage them to review the book on Amazon.

Those who like what we’re doing can follow us on social media. That helps us gain wider recognition. People can visit my website, Liberate Liberty, and follow me along with links to my social media presence. They can do the same with Dave’s website. And they can keep up with Ray via Twitter (@Zhombre).

When you go to Amazon, you will also find Ray’s and Dave’s author pages.

The more sales we make of “Appalling Stories” (and our other work), and the more people who follow us on social media, the better the chance is of us producing more stories and, perhaps, delving into new mediums.