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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Problem with Religion

It’s not Climate Change or Terrorism; it’s religion. Radical Islamic fundamentalists, like their Christian counterparts of the Middle Ages, are demonstrating once again why religious fundamentalism remains both the most egregious form of human thinking ever invented and the most difficult to eradicate. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Climate Change and Population Growth

Climate Change is real. It has always been real. As the planet warms and cools, the climate changes. The Sahara Dessert, millions of years ago, was a vast area of verdant growth and forests and rainfall. Now it is sand and heat. Millions of years ago, Kansas was under an ocean. Six hundred thousand years ago, the area around Topeka and Lawrence was under an icecap five hundred feet thick. Thus, the earth's climate has changed and the planet has warmed and cooled thousands of times in the past, mostly during periods when there were no people and no fossil fuel industry.

Demonizing a single industry (fossil fuels/big oil), an industry that helps hundreds of millions of people stay warm and provide for themselves, as a definite cause of climate change is nothing short of ludicrous. 

Bottom line: If Climate Change is being caused by fossil fuels, if Climate Change will wreck havoc on worldwide coastal cities and crops, then Big Government had better start planning evacuations and food storage, because curtailing fossil fuels is never going to stop it. Because China and India and other less developed countries are pumping carbons at unbelievable levels. And they use old technology. But, they have no choice. When the planet grows from one billion people in 1800 to seven billion people today, there are necessarily going to be massive problems regardless of climate change.  

Blaming those problems on the one industry that, more than any other, we must utilize to stop suffering and chaos is simply wrong. By 2030 global population will have grown to 8.5 billion people. And, we are running out of drinkable water, not because of pollution, but because there are too many people for the planet to absorb. We must advocate for abortion and a one-child policy worldwide. We must build more lakes and reservoirs for water containment, and plant more trees. We are gifted by the planet rainfall, which is converted ocean water we can use. We must capture that water or die of thirst. In the interim, we should incentivize our energy companies to help China and India and poorer countries convert to modern fossil technology and to develop all other energy sources. The population is growing so fast, everyone is facing chaos and suffering in the next century. There are many things we can do about it, and demonizing a single industry for political purposes is so very harmful to our progress, and takes our focus away from the real problem : Global Population Growth. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Literary Fiction

I enjoy reading "literary fiction," loosely defined as a novel that is more character driven than plot driven and where the reader is expected to do a little work, read between the lines and be engaged in something more than simply "who done it." In literary fiction, readers are asked to discern hidden meanings and nuance while experiencing both the external and internal lives of main characters. Every word counts in literary fiction. Authors are careful about such things as foreshadowing, word choice, metaphor, atmosphere and internal conflict.

To me, there is little surprise any longer in commercial 'thriller' fiction, stories in which we are presented with a plot puzzle as to who committed the murder and/or how the culprit can be brought to justice. I really don't care anymore.

Of course, the author will attempt to surprise us and lead us in the wrong direction. This, to me, is formulaic, and offers little surprise regardless of the outcome. We understand that we will know the answer by the end. These novels all read about the same to me. Read one of these and you've read them all. I can't remember one from the other after little more than a week.

Give me Olive Kitteridge, The English Patient, Love in the Time of Cholera, Suttree, All the Pretty Horses, Affliction, The Human Stain etc etc. If you want a murder in your story try, "We Need to Talk about Kevin."

There is a reason crime novelists can crank em out by the dozens. Once they have the formula, they just plug in different scenarios and voila, another generic novel gets published. It's up to us readers to demand better than pablum. Let's read literary fiction and kill dumbed down writing.

...and then there is 50 Shades of Grey and its sequels...writing doesn't get much worse than as exhibited in those novels. Even steamy sex can be hard to enjoy with writing this bad. Certainly, these books have garnered huge success, which speaks volumes about the degree to which horrible writing is accepted by the reading public these days. Surely we, as writers, can demand higher standards, standards created by the authors of literary fiction.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Craft of Writing

I began to write fiction in 2010. As a retired trial lawyer with three decades of experience, I knew how to write. Didn't I? Legal arguments, opening and closing statements for trial, correspondence, memorandums, briefs and on and on. How hard could it be to write good fiction?

Turns out, I had no idea how difficult writing fiction would be. I bought the books. I tried my hand at a few stories, concocted some scenes. Even wrote a poem or two. Stuff you can't throw away fast enough for fear someone might read it.

When I look back at that early writing--the stuff I forgot to delete--I am aghast at the poor quality. Embarrassing stuff, filled with adverbs and telling, point of view all over the place, misplaced modifiers and overwritten passages that did little else but call attention to itself.

After three years of study and effort, I am still deleting some but saving some. I have reached the conclusion that writing fiction is beyond mastery for anyone, the greats included. Which is why writing is such a wonderful thing. You can never become good enough at it to quit. You can never say, with honesty, that you have mastered the craft of writing, not wholly, literally, utterly. Can't be done. They say golf is hard to master. I've played golf. It's not even close.

The muses, after all, are quite fickle maidens. You just keep working, editing and rewriting, with the hope that eventually something will sing.