Tag Archives: Fiction

Random Book Recommendations!

Hello again folks!

I just wanted to drop by quickly and say a few words. First of all, thank you all for reading this blog. There have been an above average number of reads this year, and I am really grateful for that. Thank you for sharing this journey with me,

That said, I keep seeing the above meme circulating around social media. It frames our existence in terms of four pretty well known dystopian novels. I think this speaks deeply to the times we live in, but also speaks to the power that narratives have in our lives. That we can see our own troublesome reality in rather depressing stories says a lot. It means we are living in times of fear, and that we need to be on guard for things like authoritarian governments, misinformation, and the erosion of women’s rights, and the separation of church and state.

Yet, it also speaks volumes to the power of narratives to shape our outlook on the world. Consider Christianity and the Bible, a book that has undeniably shaped the West and our history in the US. There has been no shortage of dystopian stories, and this is a product of living in uncertain times.

However, it also shapes our perspective on the present as well as the future. Narratives are inspired by our experiences, and they simultaneously shape those experiences. What I am trying to say is, we need to be careful that a grim present doesn’t limit us to a grim future. Just because we can see ourselves reflected in the four stories in the meme above… Well, this should not be the measure by which we shape the future. We have other options, and so I give a short list of some great books that have a little more positive view, even if they are far from perfect.

Fiction

The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

What can I say about this one that I haven’t said already? This is a great series that involves the terraforming of Mars, and all the scientific, cultural, religious, and political aspects that go along with that. It had a huge impact on me and helped shaped by views of democratic socialism, science, and where we are going as a species.

New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson

It should go without saying that I am huge Kim Stanley Robinson fan, and this book has been one of my favorites. New York 2140 is a great story about the city of New York in the aftermath of rising seas. Yet, life goes on, and the people start to come up with new ways of living in a drowned city. If you want a great fictional introduction about climate change, capitalism, and what a post-capitalist society might look like… This book is for you.

Gardens and Glass – Solarpunk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibari

I’m an unashamed solarpunk, and this is a great introduction to the genre! Inside are all kinds of short stories that show what a world changed by climate change might look like. But instead of grim and dull, these stories are bright, scientific, and full of promise. Yes, the climate crisis is real, but another world is still possible. That world may just be in these pages.

Non-Fiction

Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken

There is a lot we can do to mitigate the worst of the climate crisis, and the best of those solutions are within this book. From solar farms, to wind turbines, to the rights of women and indigenous peoples; those solutions are ranked within Drawdown. It’s a great starting place for what we all can do right now, with the technology and methods we have available to us.

Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku

I love this book for a lot of reasons, even if I don’t fully agree with every point. (And this is true no matter the book.) That said, this book is a great overview of the science and technology that will be available to us in the near future, and paints a fairly progressive and optimistic view of what that could look like. It’s a great compliment to the other books already on this list.

Light of the Stars, by Adam Frank

Last, but definitely not least, this has been one of my favorite recent reads. In a way, this book is a love letter to Carl Sagan. But more than that, it highlights all the scientific knowledge that informs how we might face climate change as a planet and as a civilization. It lays out what we learned from other planets about climate, ideas like the Gaia Hypothesis, and Drake’s Equation. It’s a wide ranging book, and very enlightening to where we stand now as a species, as a planet, and what our future might be. And no, not all hope is lost.

We still have numerous possible futures open to us, even though the present is full of troubles. But we can let present troubles define our possible futures. That is still up to us.

Thanks for reading!


Liminal Worlds: World Building

Hello again folks!

Have you checked out my recent book, Liminal Worlds? It’s available on Amazon, $2.99 for Kindle, or 14.99 for paperback. Now, if you excuse the plug, it is the world I have built for this book that I want to talk about today.

Call it a little peek into my writing process. When I started writing this book, I knew I wanted to create a “near future” book, with both cyberpunk and solarpunk elements. Some parts of the world would be very gritty, and run by big corporations, and other parts would green, bright, and sustainable.  I also wanted to build a world that would be recognizable to us today, but also far enough in the future that I could take some liberties.

I settled for about the year 2070, and a world that was in transition from a corporate ruled capitalist system, to one a little more sustainable and democratic. So if you don’t mind, I want to talk more about the elements that went into that.

Technology

Obviously, as with any science fiction novel, technology is front and center. There were a lot of technologies I really wanted to play with and explore the implications for a late century world. Renewable Energy is front and center in the world, and makes up about 80% of the total energy demand of the planet. This comes in the forms of wind and solar primarily, but also other forms such as hydro and geothermal power. Each city and country on the planet has the mix that best meets it’s own needs. Some of those needs are even supplied by space based solar power, which is then beamed down to planet.

Other forms of the power on the planet are things like Generation IV nuclear fission, and even nuclear fusion power. These forms of power make up the rest of the power in Liminal Worlds, for load balancing as well as certain high energy projects, such as the Berlin Space Launch.

While I have not explored it in too much depth, outer space is a big part of the world. In order to make outer space accessible, my world is home to a couple of space elevators, and items such as the Berlin Space Launch, which is a modified version of the StarTram concept. It’s basically a ten mile high magnetic lift system, that gives rockets and cargo a boost before they leave the planet.

Electromagnetic technology such as MagLev Trains also make up a big part of my world. Not only are most cars, trucks, and ships some form of electric vehicles, but also high speed trains and aircraft. There is in fact a world circling MagLev train, though this has not been touched on in the book. (Not yet anyways. ) Another concept I deploy is the EMLAR, ElectroMagnetic Launch Assist Rail; which is basically a catapult for short distance aircraft takeoff. The Berlin Space Launch is a much larger version of this.

Beyond energy and transportation, information technology plays a large part in the book too. The ‘Net is a massive information network built up from current forms of cellular and broadband tech, but also nanotechnology as well. The latter is central to the plotline (no spoilers) of the book, and makes the ‘Net of the book vastly more advanced than the internet of today.

Environment

I write a lot about climate change and environmentalism here at this blog, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that those issues are also front and center in my book. As the recent IPCC report states, we have about 12 years to mitigate the worst of climate change.

Yet, my book takes place about 50 years in the future, so where does that leave us? Well, in my world, we as a planet have mitigated the worst of climate change, though it definitely is still a factor in the background. My book is not utopian, and there is plenty of ‘ugly’ still in the background. Some cities adapted well to climate change, others didn’t. Same with regions and countries. Some simply adapted and mitigated better than others.

That doesn’t change the fact that the world has changed in five decades. Globally, humanity has continued to have to deal with the loss of species, pollution, and climate migrations. While on the whole, it is a ‘best case’ scenario, there is still a lot that was messed up, or that still needs attention.

I hope to flesh more of those details out over the coming months with short story writing.

Social/Economic/Politic Systems

What would a future world be without speculation on changes on social, political and economic systems? Liminal Worlds gave me a lot of options to play with some world building. In short, fifty years in the future, I build the world around two big trends.

First, the trend towards the breakdown of hierarchy. This played out in two ways, first there are more Nation-States in the world, though the tend to be smaller and more dependent on others. Also, it ‘broke down’ a lot of larger international organizations, such as the UN, the EU, and the US federal government.

At the same time, there has been a trend towards greater integrations, and more networked relationships between cities, regions and non-state organizations. This has created new alliances and partnerships where old ones have broken down, the most prominent of these in my book is the UN Global Council. The UNGC is basically a union of former countries, states, regions and cities. It creates a quasi-global area of integration.

Creating a future ex-US.

I am still working on a deeper project of mapping out my world, but I wanted to explore some of the ideas I used for the (former) United States.

First, I looked at the map from here;

Which helped me work out the diversity of the US, and identify some possible “fault lines” that might create enough tension to result in breakdown. The 11 US cultures was one was to identify those areas, and what a more broken down US might look like. (Even our current political climate is basically the red areas vs the blue areas on this map.)

I also looked at these two maps from here;

These two maps helped me to even subdivide the US into smaller units, centered around cities as the center of economic activities. As such, this left me with a world with ‘fuzzier’ borders, and less relevant Nation-States as the centers of power.

Another map I drew upon was this one of major US megaregions, which helped to even further refine my ‘core’ areas of narrative. For example, much of the Liminal Worlds takes place in the Great Lakes megaregion, and primarily in Toronto.

I know that was a lot to throw at you all at once, but it is my hope that you enjoyed this exploration of my creative process. Naturally, I invite you to pick up my book, Liminal Worlds, which is available on Amazon. That way, you can see more of the research and work that went into creating that world.

And more importantly, I hope you enjoy the story!

Thanks for reading!

 


New Novel, New Campaign!

Hello folks,

I wanted to stop in and tell you I am working my sixth novel towards publication, and I just launched my Indiegogo campaign to help fund it!

This is by far my largest platform, and I’m asking for a modest amount of $650 dollars. If everyone here chipped in a dollar, I’d have met my goal!

Consider donating today, and really help me bring this project alive!

https://igg.me/at/LiminalNovel/x/18051611


Walking with the Ancestors Part 2-B

The boy shivered in his furs. Winter would be here soon, and the nights had gotten bitter, and the winds gnawed at his bones. He made his way back to the old woman’s fire once more, and continued to shiver until the warmth of the fire finally beat back the cold.

“You have returned for another night? Could it be that you want to hear another story as well?” The old woman said with a smile.

“It is just so cold. I just want the fire.” The boy said, pulling off his mittens and shoving his bare hands towards the fire.

“Then perhaps that is the story I will tell you about tonight? Shall I tell you about how our ancestors learned about fire.” The old woman said and the boy nodded.

“Very well. As has already been told, fire was there at the beginning of times, and that is why there are stars in the sky, and too why the fire people dwell far below the earth. In ancient times, the fire people covered the whole of the earth. But they were the only ones that could stand the heat, and a great discussion took place. You see, other peoples wanted to come and live on the earth as well, but most could not stand the heat. So the world was cooled, and the fire people retreated into the ground. But they could not disappear forever, for the sun still had to rise, and the stars still had to dot the night sky. Otherwise things would grow cold and black.” The woman said.

“But why is it so cold? Is it always cold when there is no fire?” The boy asked, staring out into the night as far as his eyes could see.

“Long ago, our ancestors lived in a place that was warm, as it was blessed by the heat from the sun. It was a land covered with vast plains and forests, and rich beyond all measure. They dwelled in those forests, and generally were very happy. But as time passed, some felt the urge to seek out new lands, and so they left that place of warmth and forests. Soon they discovered that the lands beyond were not as blessed by the sun, and these places were cold indeed. In those days there was no fire to keep them warm, and so they stayed in the warmth of the sun.” The woman said.

“So it grows cold when there is no sun?” The boy asked.

“Some places are more blessed by the sky fire than others, child. Where there is fire, there is warmth. The sun people rejoice in the warmth. But they cannot bring warmth to all lands, and in some places they are not as easily found. In some places, the sun people disappear for many months.” The old woman said.

“Who lives there?” The boy asked.

“Those that love the cold. The ice people can be found in those places, and the people of shadows. They love such places. ” The old woman said, and the boy looked up.

“Are there people up there, shadow people?” The boy said.

“Oh yes, the enjoy all dark and cold places. They have been there since long ago, just as the fire people.” The old woman said.

“There is a lot of shadow up there. There must be a lot more shadow people.” The boy said. The old woman could do nothing but smile.

“Perhaps child, perhaps. You would have to live long indeed if you wanted to count them all. Our ancestors wondered the same thing, when they first met the cold, and they turned back to the lands of warmth and sunlight. But they longed to explore new lands, and finally the other people took pity on them. They said to themselves; ‘we should teach them the lessons of the fire people’.

Our ancestors had long wondered about the fire people. Just like you child, they saw the sun rise each day, and the stars in the sky. Some even saw the fires rise up from the earth, or those that rode with the lighting. They knew of fire, but they did not understand it, not in those early days.” The old woman said.

“And did the fire people teach them?” The little boy asked.

“Oh yes, they did. People of all kinds, of wood and tinder, of fire and air, and even those of water, came to our ancestors and taught them.

The people said to our ancestors;

“Look here, fire is always hungry. This is what it likes to eat.” The people of wood and grass said, and many others.

“Look here, fire is reckless and may eat more than is needed. I can help tame it.” The people of water said, and so too the people of earth, and many others.

“Look here, fire needs to breath. Look how he grows when he breaths deep!” The air people said, and others besides.

“And what did the peoples of shadow and cold say?” The little boy asked.

The old woman let out a hardy laugh.

“They said; ‘EEK! Get away from me!’ “. The old woman laughed again.

“Is it because warmth and cold are enemies?” The boy asked.

“Not at all child. They are not enemies, but are very different. The cold people do not do well in the warmth, and so they avoid it. Just as the shadow people don’t much care for the light, so they flee from it.” The old woman said.

“What happened next?” The little boy asked.

“The secrets of fire were gifted to our ancestors, just as the secrets of rock and stone had been before them. Our people learned to make tools from stone, and then the lessons of fire were taught to them. And so our ancestors spread out from their warm home, and they were pleased to find that the cold and dark fled from them. They journeyed to new lands, some colder than others.” The old woman said, just as a brisk wind howled across the camp.

“I sure wish we would have stayed in the warm place.” The little boy said as he moved closer to the fire. The old woman laughed once more. She threw another bit of wood on the fire.

The flames danced and flickered.

Commentary;

You might notice this one reads a little bit differently than the first one. In the first story (1B), I said that the people “…shaped the world from its burning core, and they were pleased with their work.” In this one, you might notice, I said something more along the lines of; “In ancient times, the fire people covered the whole of the earth.” I wanted to point out that while I am trying for some measure of consistency; each story does have a different focus, and might read a little bit differently. I am going to really try for a coherent narrative, or more accurately a series of narratives. I will do my best to avoid glaring contradictions, but this does not mean that each story will exactly reflect the others. It’s a balance in my mind.

Also, I do not think it is inconsistent from an animistic perspective. A world shaped by fire, and a world covered by fire people, are more or less synonymous. However, it is important to remember the focus is a little bit different this time around.

I really tried to avoid adversarial dichotomies throughout this story. I didn’t want it to turn into another “fire vs ice” story, but in some ways this was unavoidable. The fact is that opposites exist. Cold and warm are opposites. Fire and ice may be opposites, but instead of making them enemies or opponents, I tried to give the impression that they were merely different. So instead of a “fire vs ice” story, I went for more of a “fire and/or ice” story. Not enemies, but very different. One of the foundations of my animism is diversity, that the world is full of people, most of which are not human. Each will have its own desires, will and personality. Some may even be down right fatal to one another. But I don’t necessarily consider this an adversarial relationship. Consider steam for a moment.

Or the concept of steamy. Oh la la.

As I discussed in the last part of this chapter, it was fire that helped to contribute to Homo erectus‘ expansion across the globe. In addition, as has already been discussed, it was around the time of H. erectus that we see the first evidences of stone tool use. I regret that that fact got little more than a cameo in this story. I don’t in any way want to minimize the importance of stone tools and the impact they had on our development as a species. The impact was immense, and would continue to be so for a very long time. If I created a story to explain that, it would be much like this one. It would be a “teaching” story, in which the people of stone and earth teach our ancestors how to make stone tools. There is so much more to be said here, but the important thing to remember is that this story is about fire, and so it is central.

Sorry stone people.

As I said, I do not in any way want to minimize the impact of stone tool use. However, fire was just as vital, if not more so to our survival. I think it would have been very difficult for our ancestors to survive outside of Africa without the use and control of fire. Realize, that over time they would have to endure an ice age in Europe. The use of fire opened up much colder climates to settlement, and also brought about a change in both cultural and dietary habits. I do not have the space to really detail all of that, but it cannot be understated the importance of fire.

And with that in mind, we leave this chapter behind. In the next chapter, I am going to get to marrow of this series, and bring us up to the time where I can start talking about my own ancestors in a much more specific way.

Hominids, neanderthals, and humans oh my!

Thanks for reading!

Notes:

1) I have started to consider each grouping of posts a “chapter” I.E this would be chapter 2, part B. So in the future if I refer to “chapter 2”, it means this post and it’s companion part A.