Imagine waking up after a 60-year nap and seeing a society where “mostly peaceful” riots were the norm.
Paul Clayton did just that, but with a twist.
The prolific writer’s new book, “Escape from the Future And Other Stories” uses science fiction to both engage and warn readers about trends that demand more attention. The book’s main story follows a time-traveling family, but other tales touch on hard-Left activism and Identity politics gone wild.
The main story in the book, “Escape from the Future,” follows a ’60s-era family who wind up in 2020 America, warts and all.
HiT reached out to Clayton to learn more about the book, how he tackled a common problem in the culture and his frustrations with Conservative, Inc.
HiT: The main story in “Escape from the Future” looks at today’s society from a curious lens, a family time-traveling to the present. Can you share how you came up with that device to showcase just how far we’ve fallen, culturally speaking?
Clayton: I’ve used ‘time travel’ to overcome the “frog in the slowly boiling pot” phenomenon. Young Americans have no perspective on how much the culture in America has changed. That comes with age.
But many older Americans don’t see it because the pace of cultural change is so slow. To overcome that, I’ve used time travel as a “fast forwarding device.” I think it has worked well in my stories.
By the way, I’ve used the ‘time travel’ device in “Van Ripplewink: You Can’t Go Home Again.” In that work, Van, a high school senior in the year 1966, wakes up in a coffin in a field in 2015 Philadelphia.
The book explored race relations in post-Ferguson America. It received a nice positive review in the Smoky Mountain News. I think it’s one of my best books, but race relations are a mine field for writers, publishers and reviewers.
Few dare to go there. I did, but the book, like my others that delve into sociological realms, languishes in the great Amazon Sea.
In that book, Van makes his way home only to discover that his old neighborhood, long an Irish American enclave, is now predominantly black, with a small minority of Vietnamese boat people refugees.
You can imagine how triggered woke liberals would be by something like that.
HiT: The core characters in “Escape” have a hard time processing how horrible modern life turned out. Why don’t you think more people, no matter their ideological bent, feel a similar way? And are there institutions who are partly to blame here?
Clayton: I think that most Americans, the ones with perspective and historical memory, know at a deep subliminal level, that something is not right in this country. They probably suspect that many of our leaders are corrupt to the core, in hock to foreign powers, like China.
They know that the culture has “changed,” with what were once taboo sexual practices, now being “normalized.” They know that the culture is being bastardized, that America is losing its once honorable and principled luster.
But they are in denial. I know some of them. They are afraid to dive deeply into what lies beneath all the normal distraction of daily life. And, to answer the second part of your question, yes, there are institutions to blame. Government for one. Geriatric senators and congress representatives. Many of them on psychotropic drugs. Many of them on the payroll of foreign powers, like China.
The education establishment for another, hijacked by activist teacher unions and their sexual activist members. And ‘the press.’ That includes news organizations, and satellite and broadcast TV.
HiT: ‘Human Exclusion Zone’ offers a slick peek at the near future … can you share how you look ahead while keeping an eye on current tech realities?
Clayton: Well, that story is based on current trends (green theology, socialism) and on human nature. Human nature, of course, never changes. So that’s a given.
And if we no longer put our faith and trust in a higher power, God, we are putting our faith and trust in man, in humankind, and humankind is flawed to the core.
HiT: ‘Zone’ offers its own cautionary tale, but it’s one rooted in modern activism. Did any one event inspire the story’s twist/concept?
Clayton: This story just showed up in my head one day. I let it marinate in there for a year or two.
Its genesis probably came from the daily headlines about the never-ending attempts by the Left to demonize traditional families, suburbs, internal combustion cars—dumb ones that cannot be turned on and off from afar by green government bureaucrats—and to herd everyone into high rise hives with crowded, dangerous public transportation.
And as we all know, there are a lot of folks who now care more about saving the whales, dogs, cats and wolves than they do human babies.
The Left, especially ignorant young Lefties, have a fanatical faith in the new world they are busy building. You can see that in their religious devotion to ‘green,’ their hatred of tradition.
They ignore any reliable competing technology, like natural gas generators, nuclear reactors and possible future fusion reactor technology, and any cautionary evidence against a purely green culture, like the limits of our current energy grid, the limits of solar panels, windmills and current battery technology, energy storage limits.
Those limits, if thrown a wild card by nature—as when the Texas grid went down due to extreme cold and lack of wind or sunshine—can cause major disruptions and loss of life. But, try and tell that to some young green-believer.
HiT: It’s not hard to suss out your politics from the book, but the stories are consistently engaging and brisk. Talk about the balance between sending a message and not making the reader bludgeoned by the process.
Clayton: Well, it’s all in the wrist. That is, the art of story. Drama. Culture. That thing that the Right seems to place so little importance on. By the way, the book I wrote before “Escape…” called, “Crossing Over,” seems to be getting some traction.
That’s because the subject matter—a possible 2nd American civil war—seems to be on a lot of peoples’ minds now. In that book I’ve taken a modern, but traditional family, and put them in the middle of what could go down, massive chaos and crime, people attempting to flee the cities for havens of safety.
Anyway, if a writer creates a realistic fictive world by “showing,” the reader will, for the most part, go along for the ride and be affected. Like a virus, a heretical idea or meme will take root deep down inside. This is why the Left literati shun works like mine.
HiT: Why is science fiction, and horror, so effective with social commentary?
Clayton: It allows the reader to relax’ and lay down their defenses against having their world view attacked; after all, it’s science “fiction,” story that could happen, but probably won’t (at least that is what we tell ourselves).
It’s not real.
If the story was told in a contemporary setting, the reader might be looking around and saying, “no, I don’t agree with that,” or “that’s not really what’s happening”… because they’ve been programmed by the ABC/NBC/CBS/MSNBC/CNN/CIA media to believe a certain way and look at everything that contradicts that as “conspiracy theory.”
But in a sci-fi setting, under the comforting veil of “story,” the reader lets in, or entertains, ideas that they normally would not. I think the process only works if the story and the storytelling is vivid and compelling, and that’s what I attempt to do.
HiT: Horror has been inundated with socially aware stories of late, but it’s always from one direction — the Left. Are you aware of any TV shows or films that flip the script here, showcasing freedom-friendly tales or warnings of a socialist uprising?
Clayton: The one that comes to mind is the “My Son Hunter” movie. But I cannot really think of any others. And this is where I get angry, because I think that the conservative side, the Right, gives lip service to Andrew Breitbart’s on-point observation that “Politics is downstream from culture.”
Yeah, they all say it, but very few (I don’t know of any, except yourself) actually “live that” or “do that.”
The Left owns publishing. They have completely taken it over. The Right has a few conservative publishing houses, but they seem to focus on 500-page tomes by Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter selling for $29.99.
These books are not culture; they are politics, and as such will not be bought and read by young people, will not change any minds. Novels, short stories, movies, plays… these are “culture,” and the Right ignores them.
They have abandoned the cultural battlefield, leaving it to the Left and their stable of man-hating, progressive, angry minority, and sexual pervert authors and their stories.
Woke acquisition editors at publishing houses and woke literary agents openly state that they are not interested in any works by white male authors, especially Christian, straight, or traditional ones.
(a friend who is a literary agent told me that he cannot even get editors to read first novels by young white male writers, no matter how good; they are just not interested. this is heartbreaking for writers who may, in fact, be brilliant, & critical of their own “privilege.”) https://t.co/GmtVY8lbCV
— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) July 24, 2022
I have reached out to the Right, conservative media, over the years, sending emails, snail mails, sending books through the mails, sending gifted ebooks, just about begging for a read and a mention.
One of my books actually made it to former presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan’s kitchen table. He told me he would read it when he finished his current writing project. Never heard a word back.
I have pinged the folks at Fox News, sending emails, letters, books… You would think they’d be interested in a good conservative novel. After all, it seems as if everyone at Fox is writing and pitching a book–histories, dog books, cookbooks.
But I have never gotten anything back. Just radio silence.
I’ve thought a lot about this, as to why, and I’ve come to a couple of possible conclusions, but I’ll keep them to myself, as I don’t want to burn any bridges. I’ll just say that I am deeply, deeply disappointed in “conservative pundits and media types.”