(An article by Rivera Sun, written at the request of Khem Aryal as a guest post on his blog Red Stanza. Please visit his wonderful site, if you have a moment.)
There is no safe route through these wild times we live in. The North Pole is a lake, Australia’s center bakes with heat, drought and frost wreak havoc on America’s heartland, and greed would put a price on water and buy up the birthright of us all. I am a writer with a soul on fire. I do not write for posterity . . . I write for today. Our species hangs by an uncertain thread over the black pit of extinction. All the considerations of writers before us have no weight or value in these times. The scorn of reviewers steeped in academia does not matter. The famous canon of literature will be worthless without humans left to read it. It is time to write like there is no tomorrow. Past and future have condensed into a single quivering drop of dew called Now. So, go ahead. Sit down and write that magnum opus. Hold back nothing. Bare your writer’s soul like a youth inflamed with passion. Life is too short to do things by halves. Sweat, groan, pace, tear up your pages in disgust, shake the cramps from your hand, swig another gulp of tea as you wrestle with that tempestuous, perfect metaphor. Plunge your soul into humanity’s river, baptize your self in our folly, and be reborn into our beauty.
It is with this ferocious spirit that I wrote The Dandelion Insurrection, from scrawl of lead and eraser bits scattered across the backside of drafts of earlier novels to the typing that clattered like rain on a tin roof, to the cannon’s burst of publishing that shot the stuntman out into the air with fireworks of excitement. The Dandelion Insurrection is a story of love and revolution in America; of corporate tyranny and nonviolent struggle; of characters so real you will swear you have met them; and an epic myth that charts a course through the treacherous waters of our times.
It began humbly, by the fire in the quiet hush of winter in Northern New Mexico, where I live in the shadow of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. I poured a cup of tea and turned my thoughts to how I could help our culture strengthen itself for the many struggles that lie ahead. We are a culture stretched between Disneyland and Hollywood, wallowing in over-consumption as our economy collapses. Yet, a lineage of struggle runs through our bloodstream. We are the children not just of railroad barons and perpetrators of genocide; we rise from the bones of those who sought to end slavery; we emerge from the women who demanded suffrage; we have, until recently, enjoyed the fruits of those laborers who demanded better working conditions; and these struggles are only the barest glimmer of the story that lies beneath our identity. By equal parts sordid and shameful, courageous and heroic, our history poises the continuous question of what part of this legacy will we strengthen through our lives?
As the snow fell in the gray gleam of early darkness, I chose to use my writing to address the injustices of our times. I cast the intrepid explorer of my mind along the trends of our growing police state, government surveillance, corporate control of politics, ecologically devastating resource extraction, increased militarization, rising poverty, collapsing economies, and all that lives in the frightening Pandora’s box that is the United States of America. The depth of winter found me grappling with utter darkness, squinting at the horizon for a glimmer of hope’s light. Spring came, as it always does, sending my imagination into fertile explosions of creativity and possibility as I studied the seminal works of Gene Sharp. The strategic use of nonviolent struggle began to shape The Dandelion Insurrection, grounding it in pragmatic possibility. By midsummer, the novel burst through the lightning storms into the first readers’ hands, ready to inspire us all to courage and action. Responses rolled back immediately, indicating that this book is reaching them like a breath of hope when they are drowning in the black waters of despair. This response inspires me to call my fellow writers into action.
It is no time for complacent, self-indulgent, narcissistic writing. These times call for vision and boldness – not just from us, but also from all human beings. If we, as writers, wish to be of service to humanity, we must pick up the mantle of courage and apply unrelenting focus and unwavering awareness to the issues of our times. There is not a grain of sense in writing if the future of humanity slides from uncertain to doomed. We are charged with literary leadership. We cannot slack off in triviality, wallow in indulgent bemoaning, or succumb to the urge to rant . . . not without lifting our minds and pens to positing solutions. We have a responsibility . . . and also an unprecedented opportunity. The imperatives of our time are the standards of our literature. We feel the ticking clock, the growing tensions, and the worrying pressures of our troubled civilizations. It is time to write like there is no tomorrow, to light our souls on fire; to throw open the shutters of our heart and let the blaze of our love come shining through.
This is how I write . . . as a lover of humanity and this world. Passion flings my words across the page in a rush of affection for this earth and all it cradles. I use poetics, myth, and romance when appeals to logic are not enough. I study, research, strategize, and contemplate the sociopolitical impact of my words. I am a doctor seeking a cure for my ailing lover, bending my mind and my craft to the service of my heart. Humanity is navigating the rocky shoals of extinction. We can be beacons in the night, a generation of writers who sounded the foghorns of warning and guided humanity with our light.
“Give your writing every last drop of your faith in humanity. Pour your heart and soul into this moment of human history. It will either be the beginning of a new world . . . or our last days on earth.” -The Dandelion Insurrection by Rivera Sun
Author/Actress Rivera Sun sings the anthem of our times and rallies us to meet adversity with gusto. In addition to The Dandelion Insurrection, she is the author of nine plays, a book of poetry, and her debut novel, Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, which celebrates everyday heroes who meet the challenges of climate change with compassion, spirit, and strength. Rivera lives in an earthship house in Taos, New Mexico. She has red hair, a twin sister, and a fondness for esoteric mystics. Everything else about her -except her writing- is perfectly ordinary.