How Much For Just The Kidney?

6BA433B2-B88E-431E-8FF6-D167B7A87E8FOkay…so, most of the time, writing a “list” post happens because a blog writer — not me *cough, cough* no, never me *cough* — can’t come up with anything better.  A list is a “Get Out of Posting Free” card…

Other times, however, the lists come up because…well…there’s too much shit to talk about for any one post. Today is one of those…because, of course, I would never ever do a list for the first reason!

Shit, not even my mother bought that one.

Ahem.

Never mind.

So, anyway…a random list of squirrel-moments:

1) Why the hell do we get so worked up about Supreme Court appointments? I mean, honestly, no one gave a shit until the late 80’s(ish), so why get so freaking insane (for or against) now? Because Congress willingly gave up all but a tiny vestige of its power, influence and credibility decades ago, that’s why. They shifted the intended three-way separation of powers into a two-way one when they got on their knees and refused to take a stand on anything. When the Founders put together the Constitution, they envisaged the tension between the branches — and the loyalty elected officials had to their respective branches — outweighing factional or party interests. What, after all, did a popularly elected House member have in common with the “landed gentry” of the Senate? Sorry Jefferson and Adams, but y’all missed on that one. As much as those guys wanted to avoid the bullshit of Britain’s Parliamentary system, and the concomitant supremacy of party over everything else, we still ended up at a point where loyalty to team trumps loyalty to nation and people. And, in spite of how much we complain, we voters keep voting for the idiots (on both sides) who contribute to the general level of incompetence and bullshit. *sigh* Sometimes I wish I hadn’t studied the fall of the Roman Republic quite so closely…

62AF9E94-D55D-4A73-A611-3EEE37F19CAA2) Last Friday’s post got me to thinking that I should probably explain what I mean by “flash fiction”. Umm, well, I actually meant to add such an explanation to that post…but I forgot. Sorry ‘bout that. So, a bit of explanation: when I use the “flash fiction” tag on a story, it means I gave myself an hour to get it done. That’s it. An hour to come up with an idea, write the story, edit it, then import it into WordPress and post it to the blog. To use that particular post as an example: I sat down to start working at roughly 9:15 AM, with no idea at all as to what I wanted to write. At 10:00 AM, I hit the “Publish” button for The Dark. An extra hour or two — let alone an extra day! — would have made that little story much better…but then it wouldn’t have fit under my personal definition of Flash Fiction.

3) Why the hell are we as humans — and especially me, as a writer — so self-limiting? “Oh, I’ll do X when I have money…” is an excuse we all too often use. It is also one that all too easily becomes “Yeah, I can afford it, but I’ll wait and do X when I have the time…” as soon as circumstances change. Bah! Harrumph!! Just how much shit can I/we put off, anyway? I think I’m going for a World Record on that particular topic… Remember — all the way back to Wednesday! — when I talked about putting yourself into your writing? Hobbies and interests and the like? Yeah, maybe I should take my own stinkin’ advice from time to time: I’ve had this concept for a nonfiction book half-researched and outlined for…oh…three years or so, now. It’s an area that is a passion of mine, and one in which I actually am an expert (rather than my usual fake-it-‘til-you-make-it BS), but still the thing sits in Scrivener unattended and unwritten… *yet-another-sigh*

64AEF2C6-4026-4B25-8284-5FA441864A9A4) Another of those things I’m putting off is travel, and that itch is starting to strike…bad. Since I made the (semi-poor) decision to come back from Yellowstone, I haven’t really gone anywhere. Freaking Denver is the most exotic place I’ve been recently…and that ain’t particularly impressive for someone who lives all of an hour away from Denver. New countries are calling to me, places I’ve never seen: Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia… Old countries are calling, too, favorite places: Italy, Croatia, Czech, the Baltics… I feel almost like I did when I posted a rant a few weeks back: “…cannot get out…”

0F30B67B-CACC-4A28-AF2F-D6890D0AE4715) To go with #4 above — I had my photo gear stolen a while back.  $15,000 worth of camera and lenses, gone in a poof because I’m an idiot who can’t lock his truck.  The insurance payout was…err…not good, so I despaired of even trying to get back into pro-level gear.  I finally started shopping for cameras the other day, however.  I started shopping and stopped almost as quickly as I started.  Just to get to a decent starting baseline will run a minimum of $3,000.  THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS.  Anyone need a kidney?  I got one for sale: one owner, lots of miles…

Wait, What? My Paper is Due Today?!

IMG_0163So there is an IWSG Question o’ the Day for today, but…well…I’m gonna go my own way on this one. Not because the question is bad, but because…

Well, honestly, just because.

Something I’ve mentioned in passing in previous posts is bringing yourself into your stories. Not yourself as a person, but your passions and interests and knowledge. How can you not, in all candor, bring yourself into what you create? You are who you are; you are the sum — and more — of your experiences and your knowledge and your psyche. That sum can, and arguably must, come through in everything you create…every story, painting, photo, quilt, cake, what-have-you.

Now, for me, that puts a number of things in play — it brings history and astronomy, it brings photography and music, it brings both the untracked wilds and foreign cities, it brings different languages and cultures and the love of not knowing where you will be or what you will do from one day to the next…

It’s easy to talk about all of that in general, philosophic terms, by the way. It’s harder to get into the concrete, real terms of how all that actually comes into play in writing, but I’ll give it a try.

I’ve mentioned before that I am currently writing sci-fi. One thing to keep in mind is that my current series — and the original “trunk novels” that gave rise to it — were based heavily on my work in naval history. The DockRat series is about as far from that origin as you can get, however.  Rather than being based on the hopes, courage and self-sacrifice of a few, it draws instead on the depravity, crime and exploitation of an entire society…

When you get right down to it, DockRat is a series that comes from where I grew up (Los Angeles) as much as it does from my experience and knowledge of history and modern society. I am still in there, however. In the music, in the visualization and contrasts, and in the (intentional) cognitive dissonance that is a key part of my protagonist, and his society.

Now, I mentioned those first stories not to lead into DockRat, but to make a point about bringing yourself in.  I love astronomy.  I get all geeked up about astronomy, so of course I spent huge amounts of time working out the physics of the speeds and distances and travel times of the various ships involved. I spent even longer working up a 3-D simulation of every single star within 50 lightyears of Earth*, then figuring out all the shipping lanes and traffic patterns and the like.

*That’s a LOT of stars, by the way…

Erm…I seriously nerded out on all that, actually.

When I wrote a story, way back when, about a gunslinger? Yeah, I spent months training on the mechanics and realities of quickly drawing and firing a pistol. It is — ahem — a hell of a lot harder than it looks.

Now, the point of those examples wasn’t that we all should do the writerly-equivalent of method acting. No, the point was that your own interests and hobbies and knowledge, as the creator, very much should run through what you write.

To give a negative example: I once read a (to-remain-unnamed) novel set in Samarkhand. I’ve never actually been to Samarkhand*, but it was pretty damned apparent that neither had the author. If you’re going to write about an exotic locale, you better have at least been there! Colleen McCullough, for instance, accumulated several years in Rome before writing her outstanding Masters of Rome series.

*It’s on my list of places to go.

I had, I’ve mentioned before, two stints in college — one studying linguistics, and the other history. I love history. I love the cut-and-thrust of the politics, and the intrigue, and the back-stabbing, and all the wheeling-and-dealing. But just as much do I love languages. Just as much do I love the differences in culture and behavior and thinking that lie at the heart of different languages. I, honestly, think differently when I speak Japanese, or French, or Czech, or any of the other languages in which I can make my way*.

*Yes, I’m fairly fluent several…they come easy to me. Unlike math. Math is evil.

Those twin loves — those obsessions, really — enter into every story I write. They give depth to the settings and plots, yes, but even more do they give depth to the characters. They also give me a pool of knowledge and expertise from which I can draw as I write.

Oh, and they let me geek-out on stuff I like while I’m writing!

Addendum — By the way, the other part of me that comes into my writing is procrastination; if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m trying desperately to bang this post out on the morning it’s “due.”  It’s nice to know SOME things haven’t changed since college!

Microfiction Friday: “The Dark”

The Dark

They say the dark is oppressive, that it carries fear and danger.

Not when the dark is your friend, I say. Not when the dark hides the dangers. The dark has been my friend since the day I was born.

The sound of feet and we all moved, we all pushed and crawled deeper into the dark. The sound of a voice and that crawl became a sprinting brawl — the dark was about to end.

A heaving body next to me, all breath and sweat and fear. There were no words. There could be no words, the dark was about to end.

An iron rattle, and a creaking, and the dark was shattered by that demon we all feared, by the light. The world disappeared behind that light, behind that which made us blind and helpless.

Words, then, from that body next to me, “No! Not me!”

I cracked an eye and saw the shape we all so feared, saw the huge silhouette with reaching hands.

That body next to me continued to scream, even as it was pulled away by those hands. I don’t know why, but I stood. I stood and kicked at the silhouette. I came only to its waist, but still I kicked. Still I tried to stop the disappearance of yet one more of us from the dark.

One of those hated hands lashed out, sent me reeling. I stumbled and fell. I don’t know if my tears were for the screaming voice I had not been able to save, or for myself. All I knew was that I would be next. All I knew was that, after eight years in the dark, I would be next.

{The basic concept was 300 words, based on the line “the kids in the dark”}

Overcompensation, or The Art of the Hunt

There’s this urge, when you write about something where you can (kinda) see both sides, to prevaricate. To cover your proverbial bases in order to establish your credentials with both sides.

Now, amidst the US’s current bitter divisions — divisions of society as much as politics — that might be simple common sense…or it might just be an attempt to weasel out of criticism or condemnation.

I am not, when you get right down to it, immune from such prevarication. I cover my bases, too, and today’s post is no different. My first go-‘round at writing this started with an intro paragraph about the fact that I own several guns, and that I have no problem at all with hunting. Hell, I went on to add, I have any number of recipes for deer and elk and duck and quail and anything else my friends might happen to bring home from their forays.*

*I personally suck at hunting, by the way. I grew up in Southern California, where walking around with a gun wasn’t “hunting,” it was self-defense…

But why should I need, or want, to add such prevarications? All those little caveats did nothing to change or add to or develop the point I wanted to make.  They were nothing other than a pointless effort to establish my bona fides with those who probably wouldn’t like what I have to say in the subsequent paragraphs.

Fuck it, I finally yelled at myself, just make the goddamned point!

Alright, so just what the hell am I talking about?

Hunting grizzlies.

Well, not just hunting grizzlies…trophy hunting in general. Hunting not for meat, nor for need, nor for survival, but solely to “prove” just how big is someone’s imaginary hunting-dick.

I am not, as you might have guessed, a fan.

Quite simply, I am a firm believer in the concept of showing respect to that which you kill. Anything you kill. You use everything — and I mean everything — to show that respect. Skin, meat, organs…you use the lot. Whatever you killed, be it deer or elk or fish or what-have-you, deserves at least that much.

But to hunt and kill something solely for a pelt? Or some horns? Or, worst of all, for a fucking picture with its corpse?

Yeah, there ain’t enough bragging in the universe to make your genitals seem any bigger than the sad, tiny little things you actually possess…

Ahem.

So, Wyoming — my neighbor state, I’m ashamed to admit, and my home when I lived in Yellowstone — chose to schedule a hunt for grizzlies just as soon as the current administration decided to “unlist” them from the endangered species registry. They were unlisted because Yellowstone currently has about 700 hundred of the things…700.

Where once thousands roamed, there are now SEVEN HUNDRED…and the rednecks just couldn’t wait to start shooting the damned things.

Not even freaking Montana or Idaho jumped into the slaughter so quickly, or so thoroughly. But Wyoming is…errr…well…it’s a shithole, to be honest. It routinely competes with Alabama to see just who can limbo ever lower under our already low bar of decency, civilization and intelligence.

650B1C08-042C-47C7-BB68-111D28CFA0A5No one, by the way, kills a grizzly for the meat — bear meat is greasy as hell, and not worth the effort. Just as no one goes out to hunt random grizzlies to survive. No, if a grizzly is threatening you, or is preying on humans, you shoot that specific bear…you have to, when you get right down to it, because killing in those instances is a necessary part of survival. I carry a gun on every single one of my backcountry hikes, and I’m fully prepared to shoot if and when I hit one of those “him or me” moments. But what you don’t do is go out and start randomly blasting away at any and every grizzly you see and have the gall to call that “survival.”

No, the sad truth is that the “great” state of Wyoming just wanted to give a handful of trophy-hunting yokels a chance to get new rugs for their floors…

All my criticism and condemnation aside, there have been some good guys in all this. There is a wildlife photographer out of Jackson Hole* who managed to cage one of the permits. He got the permit to shoot grizzlies, yes…but to shoot them with a camera, not a scoped rifle. Others have been working similarly, to deny at least some of the limited number of permits to trophy hunters. I have supported those folks, and will continue to do so…

*Far and away Wyoming’s best town, by the way, even before all this crap.

I don’t care if it’s grizzlies, lions, giraffes, or freaking penguins, for heaven’s sake — if you are hunting solely for the thrill of the hunt, and to prove how “manly” you are, you have failed. You have failed as a man. You have failed as a human. You have failed as anything other than a pathetic weasel with, err, “substandard equipment”…