Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Teacher Suspended, Travel Restricted, Police Raid Home -- for Writing Novel

Sometimes you wonder if those who run police departments, those who run our schools, have
ever read the First Amendment. Indeed, sometimes you wonder if they have ever read anything at all.

A teacher has been suspended, taken into custody and subjected to psychiatric examination. Where did such an outrage occur? The Soviet Union in the days of Solzhenitsyn? North Korea?  Maybe Iran?

Nope.  It took place just a few days ago in Maryland.  Maryland in the Good Ol' Frickin' First Amendment U S of A.

The current online Atlantic Magazine contains one of the most disturbing stories I have ever read. And if you care anything about writing, and the right to write, you should be disturbed, too. To read the full article, CLICK HERE.

Patrick McLaw, a 23-year-old middle school English teacher at Lane Middle School in Cambridge, Maryland has been taken into custody, suspended from his teaching job, and forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation for writing a novel.  Police have used K-9 dogs and searched his house and the school.  They proudly announced that Mr. McLaw "does not have the ability to travel anywhere."

The Insurrectionist, published under the pseudonym Dr. K. S. Voltaer, is set 900 years in the future. Following the largest mass killing at a school in history, agents of a secret government agency begin tracing clues that lead to threats for an even larger mass-killing at the nation's largest school.  The book was published in 2011 by Northern Imperial Publishing, and is available on Amazon.

I haven't read the book, so I don't know how good it is. But It sounds like a decent premise for a futuristic thriller.

But because the subject of the  novel is a mass school killing -- 900 years in the future! -- the school district suspended Mr. McLaw, he was thrown in a psyche ward, and police are investigating, including a complete search of the school which according to cow-towing local media, a sweep of the Lane Middle School for bombs and guns, which turned up nothing.

Gee.  Imaging that.

I recently met Tricia Fields, the Hillerman Award-winning author of The Territory. It is a taut thriller set among drugs and guns along the Texas-Mexico border.  Tricia's day-job is at a small town Indiana school corporation. Good thing she isn't teaching in Maryland or she would be suspended, and the school system would be searched for drugs and guns.

After all, she wrote about that.

But there's more.  Mr. McLaw used "aliases."  In fact, the local newspaper (which should be ashamed of its coverage), began with the lead calling McLaw "a man with many names."

Of course, in the literary world, publishing a book under a different name is referred to as a pen names, or sometimes pseudonym, not an alias.  And it is a common practice for many reasons. Sometimes it is to change gender. Sometimes it is for marketing. Sometimes it is because you are writing something that is outside your profession or your general area in which you write.

Mary Ann Evans could not get published as a woman, so she wrote Silas Marner under the pen name George Elliott.  Stephen King published many books, including some of his best short writing, under the name Richard Bachman.  Of course, perhaps America's greatest novelist was Samuel Clemens, who never published a book under his real name, using the moniker from the riverboat days of his youth - Mark Twain.

The list of pen names is nearly endless.

But so too is the absurdity of small minded people.

Maybe a remedial course in fundamental civil liberties might be in order in eastern Maryland.