Pride in our writing…

February 9th, 2017

It’s often interesting to do some soul-searching. Why do we write? We all take pride in what we write. Or just call it satisfaction after spinning a good yarn. (I’m obviously talking about fiction, but you can extrapolate to your circumstances.) Some people, even readers, might think that our pride or satisfaction makes us narcissists. Admittedly some writers carry that pride a wee bit too far.

I can see it in some blurbs or descriptions of books. Here’s a recent one: “Compelling! Provacative! Informative!” There are worse: “Sure to be a bestseller!” Or “Author Hits a Home Run!” The rest of the blurb might actually provide some information, and maybe they were written by PR personnel with an acute case of superlativitis, but if they were written by an author, narcissism might be indicated.

I’ve seen it in book fairs. Authors full of themselves extolling the virtues of their writing. Authors reading from their magnum opus in a boring monotone, offering a cure for insomnia instead of perceptions about their book, including its important themes. Worst case: authors reading for their own audiobooks! Next worse case: authors in love with the pronouns I, me, and mine in book trailers (at least Patterson seems to avoid that). I’ve also seen great humility. Being humble is a virtue. Nowadays there are many good books and good writers. I feel lucky some reader chooses to read one of mine.

Some creative people want to put themselves on a pedestal so that other mere mortals can worship them and bask in the light of their self-defined genius. Of course, non-creative people do that too (we even have a president who’s a narcissist—if that were his only sin!). It’s all about ego. While some feeling of self-worth is better than depression and suicidal tendencies, a balance must be struck. Relating to other people is a skill many of us lack now (including the U.S. president), but huge ego trips don’t help.

If you’re writing for self-aggrandizement, don’t. In fact, if you’re writing for any other reason than love of writing, your motivation is ill-conceived. Odds are you won’t have a bestseller, but you’ll maybe have a few readers who are fans. Odds are you won’t hit a home run in Yankee Stadium with your book either, but you might with your after-work softball team. (I’m guessing it has to be a print version if you swat at the ball with a book—hey, baseball season is almost upon us!)

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Steve’s shorts: Snug Harbor…

February 8th, 2017

Snug Harbor

Copyright 2017, Steven M. Moore

                Not all the colonists awoke. Cryosleep had a risk that compounded over time, and almost two centuries is a long time. Adriana Cisternino-Cho had to decide whether to eliminate her husband’s name. James Cho had died in transit.

The exobiologist threw herself into her work as soon as she recovered in the huge ship that was in orbit. She didn’t want to think of the bodies that were spaced and sent to burn up in the new planet’s atmosphere. Others needed to visit the psychologists. She’d stopped going after two sessions. Nothing was going to bring Jimmy back.

The starship Vasco da Gama, the sixth colony ship a dying Earth had launched, had been assembled in LEO. It used standard technology developed over two centuries of exploring Earth’s solar system augmented in scale to match the size of the ship. The AI had kept watch over its cargo of a fifty-member landing crew and thousands of frozen embryos. They had parked the ship in orbit around the fifth planet of another system.

Only thirty-three of the skeleton crew had survived. Tests showed all the embryos were probably OK.

Dyads and triads had formed among the survivors who had lost their significant others. Adriana wasn’t interested. It seemed that only yesterday Jimmy and she said their goodbyes and entered their cryochambers. You knew the risks, girl. That doesn’t make it any more bearable!

Although the tests showed all the embryos were probably OK, she wondered about their future. If the planet wasn’t a feasible home for a colony, everyone would die, unless there was some possibility of reprovisioning the starship. Hundreds of more years in cryo? I’d rather die!

***

Two exobiologists were in the first shuttle party to zoom in on the planet, more of a survey crew that checked out five possible sites in more detail. They had done all the surveying and probing they could do from orbit.

“More land area than Earth confirmed. Mild climates are commensurate with axis tilt, but polar regions are stable. Oxygen levels in agreement with normal photosynthesis of local vegetation, which is abundant. Omnivore herds are plentiful in interior plains of continents.”

The AI summarized their findings ad infinitum. Adriana almost dozed. After it finished, Scot Cobb, their temporary leader, said, “Any comments? Adriana? Don?”

“We saw herds but no predators,” said Don Chang.

“That’s an oddity,” Adriana said in agreement. “There has to be some mechanism to control their numbers.”

“Food shortages?” said Scot. “When those strange grasslands are wasted, maybe the herds die off.”

“A possibility,” said Adriana. Why am I so agreeable? She didn’t buy Scot’s conjecture. I must be tired.

“There might be some lemming phenomenon,” said Don. “It will be interesting to study.”

“Will we be able to eat anything on the planet’s surface?” said Roberto McLane, an exogeologist.

“Let’s hear the AI’s ranking of the landing sites and see if we agree with it.,” said Scot.

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The progressive imperative, part two…

February 7th, 2017

In a previous post I outlined some things progressives need to work on. How do we do that? Many Dems are still in denial about the 2017 presidential election—pointing the finger of blame at the wrong persons for the most part—but the losses two years after Mr. Obama became president, the Gingrich Revolution, have become insignificant compared to 2017. Hundreds of Dem legislative positions were lost to the GOP at all levels—national, state, and local. The presidency, two houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court are now controlled by the Republicans. Either true progressives have to take over the Democratic Party, or they’ll have to establish a viable third party. Either one will take time, motivation, and considerable energy. Now that the ABC’s of the new American Reich (“Adolph” Trump, Stephen Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway) have shown their true fascist proclivities in Il Duce’s first weeks in office, this progressive imperative has become all the more important.

Faux-liberals have to and will be denounced—their numbers are legion in national, state, and local governments (some current Dem members of Congress should be shaking in their boots). These are people who cozy up to the rich, make false promises to get elected, and become sycophants of the elites. We don’t need more politicians who are beholding to Wall Street and multinationals. We need politicians who truly care about ordinary people and work hard for them. Becoming part of the national oligarchy should never be the goal of the true progressive. All goals can be summarized in one statement: make things better for all citizens, not just the privileged few.

To follow that one mantra, progressives need to elect progressives—true progressives. More grassroots efforts like those that characterized the Sanders campaign are needed. These will be difficult because progressive voters are discouraged, and rightly so. They have had to do battle with conservatives, Trumpers, faux-liberals, and the rich elites. It’s hard to run the marathon corresponding to years and years of political activism, but that staying power is required now to turn things around. I challenge all true progressives to do what they can. Do-nothing attitudes and non-productive actions will only make things worse, especially if the latter are just non-productive whining and wringing hands about losing the 2017 election.

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Monday words of wisdom…

February 6th, 2017

We will not close our minds. We will open our hearts.—Canadian PM Trudeau

***

The Midas Bomb (2nd ed). If you are waiting to get started on the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” this first book in the series about the crime-fighting duo’s first case is on sale at Smashwords until March 1 for $0.99, a 67% discount from the original price—in all ebook formats, including .mobi (Kindle): use the Smashwords coupon code PV57D. Of course, it’s also available on Amazon as a .mobi ebook or print book (the ebook isn’t for sale there, though). All books in this series are complete and independent stories, and you can read them in any order. #7, Gaia and the Goliaths, will be out soon.

In libris libertas!

Mini-Reviews of Books #26…

February 3rd, 2017

Death in Holy Orders. P. D. James, author (2001). We can call this “finding hidden treasure.” The ebook was on sale, so I decided I wanted the ebook version. (I did the same with Heinlein’s Podkayne recently.) I took a look and became pleasantly surprised when I realized that this was one book in the Adam Dalgliesh series (#11) that I missed. I read so many books that they become fuzzy if cherished memories in my mind, especially in a series where you have a strong main character like Commander Dalgliesh.

The book is in James’s verbose and very English style (that was a turnoff for me in the much shorter sci-fi story Children of Men). It’s filled with excess narrative (like Christie, she hides the clues among the verbose weeds), but I’m always a sucker for British mystery, the DS, DCI, and, in this case, Commander-ranked agents and detectives in London’s Metropolitan Police AKA Scotland Yard. Christie’s detectives Miss Marple v. Poirot were different; they were both private citizens, one a meddling spinster and the other a PI. The crime is still murder, though—in the case of this novel, multiple ones. We peer back a little bit into Dalgliesh’s past and into the pasts of many of the suspects’, as well as the victims’, dark pasts in some cases.

The setting is a struggling divinity school. For a while I couldn’t figure out whether it was Roman Catholic or Anglican, but no matter (I still don’t know, but it seems like it’s Anglican in the RC tradition, whatever that means). The characters are complex and interesting and woven with skill into the complex plot and seaside scenes of the story. James has Dalgliesh performing his usual methodical sleuthing. It’s an interesting read albeit a bit too long and verbose.

This novel generated a bit of nostalgia. I was reminded how P. D. James and other English mystery writers, Christie included, influenced my own writing in the upcoming Rembrandt’s Angel, which can be partly considered an homage to these great English writers who have entertained me.  Of course, I minimized the verbiage a wee bit, following my minimalist writing tendencies, but Esther Brookstone, a Scotland Yard inspector, and Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, stubbornly plow into a case like Miss Marple and Poirot…or Dalgliesh. I hope you have as much fun reading about their adventures as I did (and you will) reading this one.

***

Coming soon! Gaia and the Goliaths has environmental issues as a theme, but Chen and Castilblanco still have to solve a crime. #7 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series” starts out with the murder of an environmental activist on a street in Manhattan. As the detectives pursue the investigation, they discover that the activist’s boyfriend is also a target. His activity overseas leads to the conclusion that there is a conspiracy involving an American energy company, a Putin surrogate, and an old nemesis. This new novel will be available in all ebook formats.

In libris libertas!

Zero-content fiction…

February 2nd, 2017

Some readers think I’m too “political” in my fiction. This often needs a translation. What many of them mean is that I treat uncomfortable themes. Whether mystery, thriller, sci-fi, or some combination, there’s usually one or two themes, from spousal abuse to sexual perversion (child porn, etc), from corporate excesses to the ravages produced by inadequate medical coverage. I’ll go out on a limb here and state this is why subgenres like cozy mysteries, bodice rippers, historical fiction, and fantasy are so popular. Readers can read about good v. evil without really confronting the evil in their everyday lives while extolling cardboard Dudley Dorights (hmm, that really dates me) who surpass all odds and save the day.

In other words, some readers want zero-content fiction—murders committed with no rhyme or reason by murderers who are simply bad, neo-Victorian visions of sexual relationships, twisted and romantic versions of past history, and princes and princesses jousting with their enemies with swords or blasters. A good time is had by all, as they say. Some authors, realizing this is the market they’re faced with, pamper and addict such readers to this fluff.

I’m not saying there isn’t strife in the fluff. I’m saying that the reader can distance herself from it because it seems far from her everyday reality. (I’m not implying that these readers are necessarily female, by the way. There’s no gender-neutral version of herself and himself in English, so I use the former to avoid repetition.)

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Steve’s Shorts: 2035…

February 1st, 2017

2035

Copyright 2017, Steven M. Moore

Regional Governor Ricardo Sandoval kept one eye on the protests in the NADA capital of Atlanta as he answered his videophone, the red one he generally kept under lock and key. It needed a thumbprint and voiced password.

His counterpart, Regional Governor Desmonda Bailey, appeared on the screen.

“Yeah, I’m watching. NADA’s propaganda machine is whipping them into a frenzy. I’m more worried about the massing of troops on our borders. Our only recourse might be the battlefield nukes.”

“A last recourse, but I agree,” said Bailey. “Our small forces would be run over by those fanatics.”

“At least NADA’s generals have two fronts to divide their forces, but you’re at a geographical disadvantage, Desmonda. They can roll across the Adirondack chain a lot easier than the Sierras and our other western mountains. Maybe the sanctions weren’t such a good idea.”

“Nonsense. Their Great Leader started paying attention when we voted them in. They were a logical first step for trying to make him come to his senses. I don’t know what our next steps should be, but I’m not about to let him and his hordes overrun our Region.”

“I’m with you on that. But my security team warns that they might take out our satcom. We have to be prepared to act unilaterally unless we can agree on something now.”

“Let’s define some plans, old friend. My people warn me this could escalate fast.”

***

The two leaders worked for an hour and a half, coming up with plans that both the Eastern and Western legislatures would pass given the emergency. They worked from scenarios already prepared and studied, originating in the collaborative defense departments.

When they finished, Sandoval told his aid to call for his limo. The trip to the capital was walkable, but the limo was used to keep his security detail happy.

During the trip, which took more time loading and unloading of security personnel on each end than travel time, he went through some historical antecedents he might include in his speech.

Things had gone to hell fast beginning in 2017. That contentious election for president had unleashed pent-up hatreds that had smoldered for years, even decades. Perhaps inevitable, he thought. Reasoned discourse went the way of the dinosaurs.

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Is nuclear power off the table?

January 31st, 2017

In my forthcoming novel, Gaia and the Goliaths, #7 in the “Detectives Chen and Castilblanco Series,” Detective Castilblanco considers some of the pros and cons about nuclear power. The novel’s main theme involves climate and environmental issues, pro-environmental activism, and attacks on the environment waged by corporations and their political sycophants.  Russia, known for its lack of concern about the environment and the Chernobyl disaster, plays an important role too. These issues are current ones now, considering the new U.S. administration that will invade Washington D.C.

Mr. Trump and his cabinet choices will probably set back any progress we’ve made on environmental issues, except for states like California that are far more progressive than Washington, and there are plenty of willing accomplices for Trump’s team in the GOP-dominated Congress. The new president thinks global warming is a hoax and climate control isn’t necessary. But questionable actions have been taken by Dems too. There is a general consensus among politicians that nuclear power is bad, so let’s get rid of it.

For example, Governor Cuomo of New York has championed the closing of the Indian Head power plant on the Hudson, mentioned in my novel, without having any viable alternative for replacing the power the plant generates. Many European countries depend on nuclear power, as does Japan. Is it dirty energy? Are nuclear power plants accidents waiting to happen? Have politicians created a Frankenstein monster in order to win votes from environmental activists?

First, let’s state for the record what affects global warming and is bad for the climate, namely fossil fuels. Presumably Cuomo, who has no technical background and is apparently channeling Van Helsing in his pursuit of nuclear energy as an evil vampire, will replace Indian Head’s power output with coal-burning or natural gas power plants. Those are worse for the environment. We need to reduce the carbon footprint, not augment it. Any environmental campaign must be anti-fossil fuels because there is no way to use them that won’t damage the environment. Period.

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Irish Stew #60…

January 30th, 2017

[Note from Steve: Lots of mini-comments, mostly related to Mr. Trump. Don’t worry—I’m not responding to every tweet!]

International

Welcome to fascist America! That’s what needs to be on the Statue of Liberty now, thanks to Il Duce Trump’s most recent executive order which led to the detainment of Muslim travelers in the nation’s airports. This decree from a small-minded and arrogant SOB is as unconstitutional as it is unconscionable and represents a blatant pandering to his bigoted and hateful followers.

In the dragnet, Muslims who have helped the U.S. military, CIA, and state department in their fight against terrorism, Muslims who are war refugees who have legal visas after 2+ years of extreme vetting, parents visiting their children in the U.S. who have visited them many times before, and others were detained, some forced to sign papers allowing DHS to return them to their place of origin, action which mostly likely puts their lives in danger at the hands of the true terrorists. Others are left in limbo with no place to call home. Still others who have already immigrated and are contributing here in America shouldn’t leave the country, even to Canada, for fear of not being able to return. The stay granted by a federal judge in Brooklyn seems to affect only green card holders. That’s not enough!

What’s next? Muslim-Americans being required to wear crescent patches? Internment camps? Goose-stepping troops marching down Pennsylvania Avenue and in front of Trump Tower? The parallels with 1930’s Germany are scary!

“Build the Wall!” Trump’s campaign slogan is a sophism. Most claims coming out of his big mouth are sophisms. His executive orders are sophisms and carefully worded to hide his administrations racism and bigotry. American taxpayers will have to build the wall, not Mexico. Illegal immigrants will tunnel around it or come in on temporary visas, as the majority already do, most staying as good workers who do jobs Americans won’t do, raise their children to be responsible members of immigrant America, and stay out of trouble. The wall will do nothing more than another pandering to Trump’s bigoted and hateful supporters.

America’s greatness lies in its immigrant tradition. Building the wall is the least intelligent thing we can do for immigration reform. And intelligent people know that. The president of Mexico knows that, which is why he blew Mr. Trump off, among other reasons. Why waste time talking to a psycho?

Europe’s turn to the right. French and German progressives and many others are feeling the heat. Mr. Trump was the first, but he might not be the last as the world turns to right-wing demagogues. now called “populists” in the new doublespeak (see the next item). I’m the first to acknowledge that conservatism has its place—change for change’s sake can never be a sound governmental policy. Every action has at least one reaction and careful consideration must be given to whether a policy change will create unintended consequences and have negative impacts—that requires logic and reason driving careful analysis, not ideological and illogical rants.

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Monday words of wisdom…

January 30th, 2017

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…and I’ll detain them, persecute them, and send them back to die.”–Lady Liberty’s new slogan.