Extract: Facebook Ask The Author

This is extracted from a Facebook Ask the Author interview on November 29, 2013.

Hi, I’m Lance Erlick, the author of two novels in the Rebel series: The Rebel Within and Rebels Divided. (http://www.amazon.com/Lance-Erlick/e/B00C1PKYSA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1371212711&sr=1-2-ent). I also have a short story out on Amazon (Watching You) and one on this website (Nature of Emergency).

After years of squeezing writing in between long stretches of earning my keep, I’m now a full time writer. My focus has been young adult science fiction and other stories that take my fancy. I am currently working on a 3rd story in the Rebel series.

Question: If you could write in one fiction universe for the rest of your career, what universe would it be?

Answer: That would be tough. I enjoy a wide range of areas. I guess if I had to choose it would be young adult science fiction as I enjoy the wonder of how young eyes view our changing world.

Question: Lots of stories begin with ‘what if’ what about yours?

Answer: The Rebel series is no exception. It began with the question of what would happen if bleeding-edge fertility research succeeded in allowing non-reproductive cells to fertilize an egg. While a boon to infertile men, it would also allow two women to have a biological child. That could bring a revolution in social mores. What do you think?

Question: Do you write “hard” science fiction, or “soft” science fiction?

I would say more on the soft side. When I read hard science fiction, it often struggles with character and plot. I am more interested in the interaction of character in new situations. I do want there to be a science base, but I don’t dwell on it. For example, I explored fertility research enough to know there’s a chance of developing a process for two women to have a biological child without a man and then used that in my stories without getting into the technical details. It was enough to realize it was a possibility.

Question: There are a number of ways this scenario could go. Does your story follow the line of thinking that men would be seen as superfluous? Fathering is a lot more than being a sperm donor.

Answer: The Rebel society is the result of a 2nd Civil War in which things get twisted to the point radicals take over and create an all-female society. A female-plurality society has existed before. The Mormons had such initially because more women joined their group in the beginning than men and that influenced their polygamous society. After one of the Paraguayan Wars in South America, most of the men were killed and the society had to deal with a heavily female gender mix. I agree there is more to parenting than being an egg/sperm donor, but every new development brings benefits and challenges. Something to consider that influenced the Rebel society is that while women have made great progress over the past 50 years, males now only receive 40% of college degrees in an information society. What will that mean to gender choices in the future?


Helping Young Men Find Their Way

(by Lance Erlick)

With 6.6 million men under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail or prison) in the U.S. and 2.7 million less men than women enrolled in college, how do we go about engaging young men to see they have a future? Instead of preparing for jobs and a valued place in our society, young men have turned to drugs, gangs, violence, or checked out in other ways. Why? Because they don’t see a better place for themselves.

Traditional male oriented jobs have either gone overseas, to women, or to immigrants. Fundamentally, the economy has changed and given our desire to improve our standards of living, this was inevitable. Where once, farm related jobs represented 70% of the economy, now they have dropped to 3%. Automation and improved farm technology improved the productivity of farms, improving the standard of living of farmers, but with far fewer individuals involved. The same thing happened in manufacturing. Even without exporting manufacturing jobs, the push for higher incomes has led to more automation and fewer individuals employed in manufacturing the products we use. If all the manufacturing jobs returned to the US, we still would not employ the number of workers we did in the 1960s.

Basically, the world has changed and too many young men have not adapted. So, how do we help them see a better future than drugs, gangs, and extremist causes?

Where Have All The Young Men Gone?

(by Lance Erlick)

At a time when jobs that utilize men’s physical prowess are in decline and knowledge jobs are increasingly important, where are the young men?

Almost 60% of all college degrees now go to women, a tribute to their striving to improve themselves in a knowledge-based economy. There are currently 2.7 million more women in college than men. Women graduate from high school at higher rates and go on to college to prepare and improve themselves for knowledge jobs in our new society. They even read more than men.

So, where are the men? An estimated 750,000 are involved in gangs, compared to 30,000 women. Fully 6.3 million more men than women are under correctional supervision. That includes those in jail or prison, on parole, or on probation. Countless others have given up.

Now, what type of society will we have when so many males become discouraged and check out or get involved in gangs, drugs and violence as opposed to seeing the value of engaging with the rest of our society?

Are Men Obsolete 3

(by Lance Erlick)

In her book Men on Strike, Dr. Helen Smith talks about how men “are dropping out of college, leaving the workforce and avoiding marriage and fatherhood at alarming rates.” She points to the number of books out about this “man-child” phenomenon. The issue is that young men don’t see the value of connecting with a society that does not value their attributes. For decades TV shows and movies have bashed all aspects of male behavior. If we were to do the same to female behavior, there would be a national outcry and outrage that we were denigrating girls and women and giving them poor role models. But our society considers it okay to bash all males because less than 1% hold onto coveted positions of power.

Increasingly, I see young men choosing foreign brides when they do marry because they can’t find American women who respect men. They may become disappointed after the wedding, but they are attracted to women who are not constantly looking for male infractions against womanhood, a behavior that is fostered onscreen and in school.

Now, much has been written over the past 50 years about how we need to give women a bigger stake in our society in order for them to feel part of the community. Yet, because of that feared 1% of males who hold power, we have spent that same 50 years marginalizing men. We did so in the hope that it would cause that 1% to step aside and give more opportunity to women. While there has been some movement in that direction, a significant side-effect of these tactics has been to marginalize the remaining 99% of males. Now a society that does not make use of 49% of its people cannot excel. Seems I’ve heard this somewhere before in reference to excluding women.
Yet, the danger goes beyond that. Males with no stake in society turn to drugs, violence, gangs and other inclusion groups where they can feel respected. In doing so, they create a tremendous burden on society, a cost everyone will have to bear.

Is it not time that we examine how we can engage more males into the future of our great society?

Lost Boys & Education

(by Lance Erlick)

This is addressed to anyone who has sons, husbands, brothers, or who just plain cares.

Boys need more hands-on experiences in education than they are getting. They need experiences that will channel their energy instead of trying to subdue their masculine energy in the classroom. They don’t need Ritalin as much as an involved experience that is relevant to their needs.

 Lectures, also known as one person standing before a group spouting data and wisdom, has been shown in recent studies to be one of the least effective teaching tools. Yet, it continues to be a mainstay in many classrooms. Why? Because it is an easy way to manage the large groups of students that are thrown at teachers.
We are finally spending the effort to understand girls’ needs in education. It is time we took the time to understand the needs of boys who have been dropping out of the educational system because they don’t fit.

What do you think?

Lost Boys/Obsolete Men

(by Lance Erlick)

Looking at my sons’ generation, I see young men at risk of winding up where girls were fifty years ago.

In 1960, 34% of college degrees went to women. Today, only 41% go to men, testimony they aren’t adapting to the knowledge-based economy. Over the years, male participation in the labor force has dropped from 85% to 70%, with a majority of management jobs now going to women. While I applaud advances made by my mother, sister, and others, isn’t it time we ask why so many young men fall behind?

Those who discount that there’s a problem will point to the 1% alpha males as proof that boys aren’t disadvantaged. But alphas thrive in most environments, while other boys check out or become antisocial.

Over the past fifty years, the economy shifted away from traditional male jobs through automation and outsourcing. Today’s economy relies on social and knowledge skills where women have advanced using education and social networking. Meanwhile, young men struggle to find new role models, leading to despair and rage.

Families changed with fathers often absent. Many years ago, well-educated women like my grandmother had few opportunities and poured their aspirations into her children. Today’s moms use that energy on jobs to support their families and make ends meet.

When the government stepped in with welfare, alimony, and child support to relieve financial burdens on women and children, the unintended consequence was to remove the direct economic contribution men made to their families. While it freed women from economic dependence, it removed a key element of how men defined themselves.

Growing up, boys receive thousands of messages that girls can aspire to anything, but boys need to subdue their masculine drives as antisocial. Males are portrayed as troublesome, oversexed, into drugs, and prone to drop out. Is it any wonder they do?

Considered disruptive, many boys don’t fit standard education models and so are given Ritalin to conform or are punished for their masculinity. They aren’t engaged to read because it’s a passive activity that doesn’t address their needs. As a result, males only read 20% of all books, which inhibits their success in college and in the job market.

My eldest son started reading early. His school principal told us not to worry about challenging him because they would have him back in the pack within two years. When he graduated college with a degree in computer science in 2001 and found stiff competition in the global economy, he gave up working with computers. Why did this motivated child become less motivated as he moved through school?

While my youngest son, like many boys, had attention issues in school, he had a quick and active mind. Because he had difficulty sitting quietly, his teacher put him in the hall by himself and asked us to put him on Ritalin. Instead of channeling his energy into something constructive, she tried to crush his spirit so he would conform to her complacent model of the ideal student.

It used to be a privilege for a boy to transition into manhood and assume his place in society. But after hearing that men are irrelevant (not needed as breadwinners, uncertain job outlook) many see little attraction to growing up. Studies find that 60% of men haven’t found themselves by age thirty.

Traditionally, young men made their way in society through physical labor and supporting a family. They went out on their own (out west or to the big city), into military service, or followed their fathers. Today with dads often absent, miserable with their lot, or worried about their own futures, many boys don’t see the benefit of busting their rumps. Without other role models, there’s no clear rite of passage today for boys.

In smaller communities a young man only had to prove himself to those around him, which is part of gang appeal. In a global economy, competition is everyone everywhere, making it difficult to envision one’s role. With jobs that traditionally utilized men’s physical prowess automated or outsourced, a generation of young men struggle to find a place of value for themselves in our changing world.

Continuing to ignore their needs will lead to increased numbers of disenfranchised males. Some escape into drugs, alcohol, and fantasy worlds that delay growing up. The criminal justice system overflows with millions of non-productive males. Enraged, others turn to violence or long for a society that values men like the Middle Ages, a fundamentalist state, or its current counterparts – gangs and fringe groups.

We don’t need quotas or male affirmative action but new role models to guide boys into a manhood that utilizes their masculinity and doesn’t amount to turning boys into women. This is a complaint I’ve heard often voiced and mostly ignored or ridiculed.

Can we provide role models and rites of passage that recognize boys’ needs and societal changes? Will we change an educational system that has failed to engage young men in reading, and finding themselves a valued place in our changing society?

Looking at the progress women made over the past fifty years, gives me hope that we can help young men make this transition.


Are Men Obsolete 2

(by Lance Erlick)

It’s easy to say adapt, but how do we do that while we’re struggling to make ends meet or looking for work, or feeling left out?
Our ancestors adapted when they crossed the Atlantic, the Pacific, or the Bearing Straits to reach America—and many are still making this leap of faith. They picked up roots from all that they knew and took their chances on the New World. Our predecessors adapted when they moved from the farm and rural communities to the bigger towns and cities, giving up a lifestyle they were comfortable with and adapting to a new one. Others who came before us picked up roots from one community and moved to another, like when many moved from Oklahoma farms to California back in the 1930s. The point is, we have been adapting and showing our flexibility throughout history. We have shown our flexibility to adapt.
When I lost my job some time ago, I met a lot of others in similar situations as mine. They struggled, looking for local jobs in their field because they were unwilling to move or to challenge themselves to take a different job. What I did was to open myself up to jobs throughout the Midwest. I looked at a broader range of jobs. I soon found a job that worked out for me and my family despite having to move away from the home we loved. That is adapting and being flexible. Out of persistence, we were able to move back home a year later when other jobs opened up.

Are Men Obsolete?

(by Lance Erlick)

Yes and no. How’s that for fuzzy thinking?

Men traditionally measured their value in terms of strength, earning power and being head of their household. However, technology has automated many of the jobs that require strength, women have made great strides in raising their own independent earning power, and men are increasingly finding they are no longer head of a family household.

Traditional male roles of physical labor in manufacturing and construction have been heavily automated or outsourced over the past few decades. In its place, the economy has shifted toward knowledge and social based skills that no longer favor men. At the same time, roughly 60% of all degrees are now going to women, who are responding to the changing economy by furthering their education and skills.

Male dominated jobs took a bigger hit in the 2008 economic crisis, and many men struggle to adjust. According to Hanna Rosin (“The End of Men”), women dominate all but 2 of the 15 job categories expected to grow over the next decade. The two growth areas men continue to dominate are janitor and computer engineer. The latter requires knowledge skills. Thus, having lost the most in the recession, they are not well positioned to pick up jobs going forward.

In the middle management ranks, women already make up more than half of these jobs in the United States, though they still are rare among the top executives. What this basically says is that the alpha males remain in control at the top, but below that, men are struggling to hold their own in a changing economy.

As a result of these changes, greater numbers of women are out-earning their spouses, meaning men are no longer the primary breadwinner. Women are increasingly looking to themselves for economic support instead of a partner and thus are rejecting traditional family relationships, including postponing marriage, being choosier about partners, and having fewer children.

According to Rosin in “The End of Men” the working class is becoming a matriarchy with women increasingly making all decisions. This may be because there is no man present, because the woman is economically supporting the family, or because the man has abdicated his role.

Because girls now have greater prospects in the United States than ever before, women using fertility clinics are asking for more daughters than sons. Will this in time shift the gender mix of our society, particularly when women continue to live longer than men? To add insult to injury, recent fertility research is closing in on the ability to allow two women to have children without a male contribution. This could remove the last crutch of women needing men.

Let me first say that I applaud the advances made by women and place none of the burden men face on the lap of women’s advances. My grandmother received her bachelor’s degree a hundred years ago when that was rare for women. My mother put herself through school to finally receive her PhD and work in education. My sister has made great strides in her career. And I am proud of their accomplishments.

But come on, guys, are you going to keep taking it on the chin because a handful of alpha males still retain all their glory? I know this all looks dismal for the male, but I would point out that men benefit from millions of years of evolution. What does evolution tell us? First, that the adaptable males will find a home in the new economy and society by demonstrating their value in more than just strength and money.

Alpha males will always find their place in society or die trying. When one door closes, they will find another. As long as they can make a place for themselves in our society, they will do so. If they can’t, they will overturn society so that they can create their own place. That is the nature of the alpha male. So, I don’t worry much about the alpha.

But for the rest of men, they have been kicked off their perches over the past 50 years. They are finding they are no longer head of a family household, no longer the direct economic support of their families, no longer the voice to be heard. Unless they adapt, they will become 2nd class citizens, obsolete, or fall prey to various unscrupulous alphas who will use them for personal gain.

So, how do men adapt? First, by recognizing that strength may not provide you any advantage in the new world and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The strenuous work you might enjoy at age twenty, wears a bit by age forty or fifty, leading to men dying younger. Second, while overall, men still out-earn women, don’t count on having superior earning power over your significant other in the future. Without that, be prepared for a more cooperative rather than hierarchical social arrangement at home, which just might enhance your prospects of finding a suitable partner. Third, look at the skills the new economy will require and make sure you get the proper training. It might not be college, but it most likely will involve investing time in getting skills. Finally, consider what you have to offer to your family and community beyond your physical prowess and economic earning ability.

Do men know how to adapt? Absolutely, we have been doing so for ages. Do we have the knowledge, communications, and social skills to compete in the new world economy? Newborn babies do not have these skills and yet as they grow, they develop them. There are few things we cannot become masters of within four years except for becoming doctors or lawyers, which require more training. Can we adapt to the social economy in which cooperation and interaction become more of the model rather than the hierarchical organizations of the past?

We can if we choose to. The alternative? Well, evolution teaches us one other thing—those who do not adapt, perish.

Let us make ourselves of value to the future of our families, communities, and country.

Two Mothers/No Father

(by Lance Erlick)

Over the past 15 years, scientists have made significant progress toward helping infertile couples and preventing the passing of genetic defects to children. At the same time, extension of this research could be used to allow two women to have children without men, meaning a child with two biological mothers and no father. Continue reading

An All-Female World?

(by Lance Erlick)

Is an all-female society the next step in evolution for Homo sapiens? Some would argue that such a community would reduce violence and sexual assault, and spur cooperation. Women would finally have complete control over their bodies and fertility. That is, as long as the technology works – for if we did become all-female and the technology failed, the next step in evolution would be Homo extinctus. Continue reading