If I have a terrible day I assume I will have a better day in the future. Oddly, anecdotal evidence supports this belief. After all if every day continued to get worse life would be unbearable.To some degree a belief in the fundamental fairness of life and the world is necessary for good mental health.
Most books, television shows and movies follow a pattern. There is a conflict. That conflict results in a grave injustice. That the injustice is discovered and resolved.This is not true of all books. The existentialist movement did not follow this pattern but generally that is how fiction works. The reason why is that it makes readers comfortable. It feeds into our inherent and fundamental belief in justice.
This belief in justice however may make justice harder to obtain. Couldn’t the belief that life is fundamentally fair lead people to conclude that they are rich because justice demands it and other’s are poor for the same reason? To some degree isn’t this belief a reasonable explanation to explain the most tragic parts of history? We justify genocide, slavery and war by dehumanizing others. It is easier to dehumanize others when people believe they are better than others. It could be argued if the world is inherently just and fair than these acts of evil must be justified because they were allowed to take place.
If we believe the world is inherently just and fair than we can be complacent. We do not need to fight for justice if we believe the world is already just. Thus, this mistaken belief in a just world leads to further injustice.
As a lawyer sometimes people will come in to my office charged with a crime. They safe and unconcerned because they did not commit that crime. Obviously, innocent people are not uncommon residents in the penitentiaries and jails of the United States. This injustice is made clear based on the newspapers that provide stories of innocent people being released after years in prison. If not for DNA testing or previously undiscovered evidence we might never know. Yet, it is not uncommon for people to have a firm belief in the illusory concept of justice. Jurors who believe life is fundamentally fair should be avoided. They tend to believe an innocent person would never be charged with a crime.
The belief in fundamental justice can also be racist. The vast majority of American millionaires and billionaires are Caucasian. Most of the ultra rich obtained their money from inheritance. If they are rich because justice demands it than justice much demand that poor people are poor for the same reason. The logical conclusion would be that Caucasians are more deserving of wealth.
The ugly truth is life can be and often is unfair. Justice is hard to get and comes at a price. I am not saying justice does not exist. I am just saying to obtain justice is a long and difficult fight and it is not an inherent gift. Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe Is long, but It bends toward justice.”. Perhaps he is right but we have a moral obligation to get off the sidelines and fight for justice in what ever small way we can.
Habitat for Human Remains has an unusual cast of characters. Unlike the previous novels Sam is visited by historical characters in his dreams. This creates some new challenges for me as the author. I step into the shoes of my characters when I try to give them life. Yet, characters based on historic people have a life of their own prior to my influence. I want them to have their own character but at the same time they are not so tethered to their world as to be unaffected by the influence of time. They are from their time and ours.
One such character is Abraham Lincoln. A man I certainly admire. Yet what would he be like in person. Surly he would be self assured, after all he was elected president. Yet, I would assume not to the point of arrogance. His language would be more formal but perhaps not completely old fashioned given his understanding of the passage of time. I tried to capture his voice as well as his appearance.
As for Lincoln’s appearance I assumed the images he would wish to maintain would be closer to his time of death. Images by Alexander Gardner (a photographer from Springfield, Illinois) and Victor David Brenner (the designer of the penny) best reflect my mental image of the 16th president. I assumed his voice was slightly higher than most people’s understanding. This opinions is based on what I have read as well as on Daniel-Day Lewis’ performance in the movie Lincoln.
Dr. Sigmund Freud was another character I tried to bring to life through a dream. If any historical character should haunt one’s dreams it should be Freud, given the time he spent with dream interpretation. I think of Freud as perceptive but at the same time some what silly. His psycho dynamic theory (Id, Ego, Superego) may be the basis of much of modern psychology yet it nevertheless seems old fashion to me. Freud’s ideas in his time compared to modern psychology was an important comparison for the book. The novel addresses mental health issues in the courtroom and in the treatment facilities and I wanted to compare modern and old fashion ideas as they relate to mental health. This goes back to Cocaine Zombies and The Fraternity of the Soul Eater that take a critical look at psychotropic medication and pharmaceutical companies.
There are other historic characters in this book but I don’t wont to spoil them all. This is a book of fiction. Obviously the Frost House is not real and thus the characters have never been there. At the same time I believe they add a realism to the fictional brick and mortar of the home.
The Frost House is as much of a character as any other in the book. The house is born of another era but is still impacted by the passage of time. It is old fashioned but is not trapped in time like a museum. The wall scones and chandeliers are electric not gas. The house contains televisions, modern appliances and air conditioning. The house is ancient, antique, old fashioned, vintage and modern all at the same time.
I would like to formally invited my readers an opportunity to visit this old haunted house. It is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. I just hope you will not be trapped there forever.