Saturday, May 29, 2010

Superstition Sells and Ignorance is Popular.

Probably not Noah's Ark. Photo credit unknown.

by Louis Shalako

Show me a plaster cast of a Sasquatch footprint on The Learning Channel, and I'll show you a God-damned liar.

The trouble with science is that scientists bring their own assumptions into the equation.

They bring their hopes, dreams, desires and aspirations along as well.

Years ago, an expedition climbed Mount Ararat, and they returned bearing pieces of timber, which were, “Believed to be pieces of Noah’s Ark,” according to Funk & Wagnall’s Encyclopedia, (1986.) Only one problem: other 'arks.' For example the Cornuke Ark, found in Iran. 

"In 2006, a group of Texas adventurers announced that they had found the remains of Noah’s Ark on the slopes of a rugged mountain in Iran. The fourteen-man expedition, led by explorer and speaker Dr. Bob Cornuke, returned with video and photographic evidence of a black object 400 feet long and 13,120 feet above sea level, as well as samples of what he described as ‘wooden beams.'" 

"The Web report by Brannon Howse reads, “The arkish object is about 400 feet long and consists of rocks that look remarkably like blackened wood beams while other rock in the area is distinctively brown. And one visible piece is “cut” at a 90-degree angle. Even more intriguing, some of the wood-like rocks were tested just this week and actually proved to be petrified wood, and it is noteworthy that Scripture recounts Noah sealed his ark with pitch—a decidedly black substance. Upon being cut open, one of these “rocks” also divulged a marine fossil that could have only originated undersea." 

The article goes on to debunk the 'petrification' process, which relies on groundwater with a high mineral content. 

Only one problem: if all the ice and snow in the Earth's glaciers and at the pole melted, it would only raise the ocean's level by a couple of hundred metres, or about 216 feet. If all the water in our atmosphere fell at once in the form of rain it would cover the entire planet to a depth of one inch. Where did all the water come from, to raise an ark 7,000 feet for the object depicted in the colour photograph above, and an astounding 13,000 feet for the Cornuke Ark? Where did all that water go afterwards? 

Years ago, I think it was Erich von Daniken, (Chariots of the Gods) published a black and white photo of the alleged ark. It was on Mt. Ararat. The object was squared at both ends, and subsequent expeditions could not locate it. I'm going on pure memory here, and any help with links would be appreciated. But if it's just alleged arks you're interested in, there might be a few others out there. 

Who believes it? Do you believe it? I don’t believe it. What I do believe is that if a person announced they were going off to Armenia, to climb Mount Ararat and find Noah’s Ark, all of their friends would laugh at them. The stakes are pretty high. If you succeed in finding Noah’s Ark, you make a lot of money and you get to be famous. What if you don’t find anything?

You become a laughing-stock. You have just wasted a lot of time, money and effort, and some of that time, money and effort may have belonged to your family, your friends, and probably your sponsors. You may have gotten money and assistance from the National Geographic Society. 

What if you want to go back? What if you just can’t settle into your dad’s acounting practice, or the family farm-corporation,* or the shoe-store where you worked your way through college? 

So what are you going to do? You work very hard to convince yourself, to delude yourself.

You grab the first piece of timber you come across on your way down the mountain, and you make careful statements about ‘what it might be.’ You get your name in the paper, which sensationalizes the trivial, and trivializes the important. You get to write your book, and you get to participate in the making of documentary films. You get another grant from the Bible Society, the Explorer’s Club, National Geographic, whatever—you will please note they all have an interest of one kind or another. A self-interest. They’re interested in finding Noah’s Ark, and they are most definitely not interested in not finding it. In an old encyclopedia, there is a picture of, “the great baths at Mohenjo-daro,” which was a Harappan site in the Indus River valley. 

That’s on the Indian subcontinent. The text says the baths were used for religious purposes. Yet the text also clearly states that no temples or palaces that can be clearly identified as such, have actually been discovered at this site. How do they know the baths were used for religious purposes? They don’t, or at least; I don’t. 

How do they know it wasn’t mere luxury? We take baths for granted, but it is a luxury, as any Third World citizen can tell you. 

In present day society, the Saudi Arabians have built a nation based upon religious precepts. 

Do Saudis perform religious ceremonies in their bathtubs? I’ve never heard of it. I will admit, that some people in the western world get up on Sunday morning, scrub the kids nice and squeaky clean, dress them up in little suits and ties, dresses, and Easter Bonnets, and drag them off to church. 

So what about Mohenjo-daro, and the assumptions made about the discoveries there? Was the Harappan culture hung up on religion? What about the people who dug it up thousands of years later? Were they hung up on religion? Were they social elitists, hung up on ‘Empire?’ They obviously didn’t conclude, from the lack of temples and palace complexes, that the people of Mohenjo-Daro ‘must have been’ secular democrats, did they? Yet this ‘evidence’ could be interpreted that way.

Based on the evidence, no one ever concluded they were atheists! No temples, huh...maybe they used the bathtub.

“Oh, but the digs are incomplete,” you might say. 

“Yes, I know,” is my answer. 

The great baths of Mohenjo-Daro are evidence that the people of Harappan cultures took a bath once in a while. Chunks of timber from Mount Ararat are evidence that there may be, or may have been, trees, or other wooden structures, in the vicinity, once upon a time. 

In Canada, people go to high school to prepare them for college or university. Then they spend tens of thousands of dollars on 'higher education.' And God, are they dumb. They get an education to prepare them to go out into the work force. Does college or university teach you to think? I say no. It teaches you to be sociable, employable, tractable, polite to your superiors, and it makes you obedient. It gives you a certain discipline. It gives you the basics of your profession. It doesn’t teach you to think. 

I learned to think in the toughest school of all, right out here in the streets, where literally every piece of shit on two legs was trying to take advantage of my good nature. Certainly I would have benefited from some higher education. I would have been more adequately socialized, if I had stuck in high school, then gone on to a college or university. I learned to take things with a grain of salt, and to distrust anything that came down from on high. 

And I probably wouldn’t have made this discovery, or even half of the discoveries that I have made in fifty short years. 

Superstition sells, and ignorance is popular. The mass media of our times need a large audience, in order to sell advertising space and to make a profit for the shareholders. How do you attract the largest possible audience? 

Well, you dumb it down, of course, to the level of the lowest common denominator. And the lowest common denominator is pretty damned ignorant. So the next time you go to a movie, and some spirit, some demon, some hokey religious clap-trap comes flying out of some dusty old book in a temple, flashing across the screen, roaring and gnashing its jaws; whatever you do, don’t ask yourself any questions. Because to do so would be to go against the system that has been very carefully built across the centuries. 

I think it was George Washington who said, “An educated populace is the first bastion of democracy.” 

But our educators are all elitists. Our industries don’t want democracy—they want an obedient and completely dependent workforce. They want to make money, with no accountability. 

And you wouldn’t want to become an enemy of society, and you wouldn’t want to be excluded from all employment, housing, marriage, or any other type of prospects that the majority enjoy. 

In this country we talk about ‘celebrating diversity.’ That is the ‘official position.’ What is common knowledge on the street, and what is the official position is always different. When has the government, any government, ever told the truth about any issue? In this country celebrating diversity means a bunch of white people, all of whom have about the same income, all of them from the same neighbourhood, sitting around a campfire, singing 'Koombayah.' (Or whatever.) 

When has the government ever told the truth? On any single issue? 


And you can put it in a book and quote me on that one.

The truth is somewhat different, as any immigrant, any gay person, any Arab or Muslim person can tell you. 

Any thinker can tell you the real story, or should be able to, anyway. 

Most Canadians are perfectly happy to go with the flow, for it brings important material benefits in their lives. 

And they never have to think. Thinking is hard. It can also be dangerous. 

The most dangerous thing in the world is an idea. Most Canadians are content to leave well enough alone, and let sleeping dogs lie, and go out to the movies once a week, and watch Tom Hanks beating up on the big, bad, Catholic Church. Just for the record, if Michelangelo had wanted to leave a message for the peoples of the future, he might have written it down someplace. 

As for paintings like, ‘The Last Supper,’ Leonardo Da Vinci was content to let the painting speak for itself. 

And the message is a pretty simple one; if you have the wit to get it. Jesus broke bread with his brothers, and then he went off to die for our sins, one of which is arrogance. And ignorance is another sin. 

What part of that is so hard to understand? Yet even the Church doesn’t seem to get it a lot of the time. 

Movies like, ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ are good examples of something I learned a long time ago, but have never adequately been able to put into words until recently. 

A fact is a fact is a fact. But how it is interpreted, depends largely on who is doing the interpreting, and what self-assumptions they bring along with them, and what it is that they wish to prove. 

Facts are interpreted according to what you want to prove--any trial lawyer can tell you that. 

What if they’re just plain ignorant, like a Canadian journalist? Then you end up with governments like that of Stephen Harper up here in Canada; or the recent so-called, ‘health-care reform,’ in the U.S. which still leaves millions of Americans in the hole. It's a criminal offence now, apparently, not to be able to pay for your private health care insurance. So the insurance companies will jack the rates. 

They don't want to provide health care to 'criminals,' after all. More ignorance. 

Science and religion have a couple of things in common. They both can be abused by evil men and women for personal gain. 

That ain’t news, but it sure seems to be the reality for so many people. 

I just saw a man on TV who claims that there are giant squid living in caves under the Bahamas. He was on TV and everything and he seemed like a nice, ambitious young film-maker. 

He admitted in the show, “It’s impossible to prove that something doesn’t exist.” I can't prove your honour doesn't exist either. It is a reasonable deduction, though. Maybe if you find some ruins, in the Sea of Japan or somewhere, you can tell A & E that you 'might' have discovered Atlantis and could you borrow a film crew and a few million bucks for a while, at least until you make it back in royalties...

Oh yeah; I trust his facts implicitly, although a few bones, teeth, fossils, dead squid, or anything really; would have been of some help. Just for the record, giant squid are a pelagic organism, although I hear there’s a really, really big blue ox roaming the hills of Wisconsin. 

Now that would make a good subject for a documentary film by a truly scientific researcher. 


*90 % of the farms in Canada are owned by corporations. Remember that the next time some conservative claims they’re going to give a few hundred million dollars to ‘save the sacred, holy, family farm.’

Now ask yourself where all that money is REALLY going. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Truth About Global Warming.

Chemical Valley produces one-fifth of the air pollution in Ontario.

by Louis B. Shalako


All Rights Reserved

‘Global warming’ is a bad label. Global warming can’t be verified, except over the long term.
And then of course it might be too late.
We’re talking about photochemical changes to the atmosphere.
This includes something on the order of 387 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide.
According to Wikipedia, this is 36 % higher than the 1832 Antarctic glacial core samples which showed that the atmosphere had once held about 284 ppm of CO2. This era is described as more or less coinciding with the industrial revolution. What it does not take into account is other historical perspectives.
During the 13th century, and again in the late Middle Ages, England and Europe were denuded of forests, because of better farming methods and rapidly growing population levels.
Simply put, they cooked and heated their homes with firewood. Many industrial applications used firewood as an energy source. The desertification of parts of Persia, large parts of Asia and India, and the Sahel of North Africa also happened at the same time as pastoral peoples moved in with their flocks and habitations. If you read the Wikipedia article carefully, you will see that the northern and southern hemispheres neither contribute equally to CO2 emissions, nor absorption from natural causes. What this certainly implies, is that data acquired by studies of air bubbles trapped at various levels in Antarctic or Greenland ice sheets may not be true of the globe as a whole. There were clearly regional and seasonal variations in, ‘natural CO2 levels,’ i.e. those emissions not generated by human beings. Other causes include forest fires, volcanoes, etc.
None of this fits into a thirty-second sound bite. It is stated in the article, that in the past, CO2 levels may in fact have been higher than they are now. First, natural vegetation such as trees, meant that the natural solution had already been provided, whereas now all major world forests are under extreme threat from commercial interests. In North America, ninety to ninety-five percent of forest reserves are gone. Secondly, since the dawn of time, CO2 levels may in fact have fallen sharply over geological time-scales. The Earth was all rock and volcanoes at first—it was only when photosynthesis began to take place with the rise and evolution of green plants that the atmosphere began to stabilize into something that could support human life.
If pressed to take a wild guess, I would say that 185 ppm would be more like, ‘normal,’ whatever that means in a geological time scale. This increase happened quite rapidly. It’s accelerating out of control. The trouble with air bubbles in ice-caps, is that the farther down you go, the fewer the bubbles. The sheer weight of ice means no bubbles. At some point you get to bedrock. That’s because the ice has formed since the beginning of an ice age. The record only goes back so far, so we’re only looking at thin slice of time. We need other types of scientific investigation, in order to get a better picture of CO2 levels going back ten thousand years at a time, in ten thousand-year increments, all the way back for six billion years!
Only then will the data make complete sense.
Most citizens accept that global climate change is real. The ones who don’t accept it are all corporate interest groups, interestingly enough; allied with Christian Fundamentalist groups who are opposed to the theory of evolution. It’s like global warming contradicts the Creation, or something. I have to concede, there really is nothing on global warming in the Bible, which is the divinely revealed Word of God.
But if you honestly believe that the world is only a little over 6,000 years old, then all the data is just crazy. Now, if you took twelve Christian Fundamentalists and put them in a jury box, and filled their heads will all kinds of scientific, forensic and psychological testimony, the likelihood is that they would convict any accused person.
Now let’s keep them in that jury box for a moment, and hand them all the evidence; both damning and exculpatory, regarding global warming. What verdict will they come up with?
What about the oil and auto companies? What about the, ‘clean coal,’ and nuclear people?
What’s their objective opinion?
The Canadian federal government seems to be quite schizoid about global climate change, but then they’re just a little bit, ‘off,’ on most things these days. It’s just that they want to sell tar-sands oil to the U.S. so badly. It affects their bourgeois thinking to a certain degree.
All of a sudden we’re having a mild winter, and it’s, ‘global warming.’ Tomorrow it might snow, and this somehow casts doubt on the whole thing. This is not about dubious e-mails of whatever provenance. It’s not about interest groups, and left-versus-right. It’s about the survival of the human race, and every living thing on this planet.
In that sense, it really is a struggle of good versus evil.
The truth about global warming is that we’re living in an ice-age. The fact that our own personal ice-age is somehow different from the last one, (which I admit was a doozie,) makes no difference to the logic. We evolved into our present form during an ice-age.
The glaciers are retreating. No matter what fuzzy teachings you may have retained from your elementary-school science studies, it really doesn’t take two million years for species to evolve. Species can go extinct in fifty years, perhaps less. Hundreds of species in North America went extinct in the course of fifty or a hundred short years of human ignorance; for example journalists with integrity. Those species that did not go extinct in quickly-changing conditions, must have evolved, in a very short time. (If nothing else their behaviour evolved. My logic is irrefutable.)
The human beings around you evolved to their present state since the last big ice age, twelve to twenty thousand years ago. They might go extinct in the next fifty to one hundred years.
It is quite possible the human race will evolve to meet the new environmental niches that open up to them. This will have to happen within the next three to four generations, considering a generation to be about twenty-five years.
I don’t know what that generation of mutants will look like, but surely they will be adapted to high levels of solar radiation, bad water, bad air and bad soil, (and bad coffee.) They’ll be able to tolerate high levels of heavy metals, and radioactive waste in the environment and groundwater.
They will be immune to long-chain molecules closely resembling female hormones in nature and effect, they’ll be able to tolerate long periods of drought, and the paucity of prey items on the menu. They’ll adapt to eat whatever’s out there. They’ll adapt to social conditions such as a lack of truth and accountability, dangerous and out of control governments, rule by small-minded business interests, who can’t see past next qarter’s bottom line. They’ll be adapted to a high-crime environment! They’ll be the only ones left.
The U.S. and Canada recently agreed to tougher new standards for auto emissions. The idea is that it will force consumers to purchase more efficient vehicles, perhaps even electric cars. At one time both Toyota and BMW announced that they would have hydrogen-powered vehicles available in 2010. But it should be noted that mainstream (i.e. ‘tame,’) news reports mentioned the Chevrolet Volt. Interestingly enough, the Canadian government owns about 80 % of GM right now. I haven’t been following too closely as far as the U.S. is concerned, although I do watch CNN. It’s been quite interesting to watch the media systematically bashing Toyota. It’s almost like they have an interest in the outcome—which we all in fact do. They can’t bash BMW’s because they all drive one! It might undermine their credibility. (The big automakes have since paid it all back, at least in the U.S., according to mainstream media. That's because of their fear of change, and regulation. They'll do anything rather than build an efficient vehicle.)
In Canada, the auto workers are definitely members of the bourgeoisie; and of course all the big shots as well. The government has a lot invested in those people. Those people are too fat to starve, apparently, while the disabled aren’t worth bothering with; except when it comes time to slash some red ink and balance the books.
As a philosopher, I applaud the experiment. It’s good to know the corporate plutocrats believe in their vision of social Darwinism. I wonder how fast those guys can adapt. Purely academic, really. Yes; I’m just a hungry little varmint, tearing into the vitals of an aging, decrepit, creaky old dinosaur-carcass. I’m omnivorous, Baby, and real hot-blooded. And I like it.
Looks like bronto-burgers again tonight. It could be worse, eh?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Sales List and Rights Assigned


The Second Coming Intercom SF (Translation pending.) Italian
The Game Aurora Bitzine Spanish and English
(Transl. Pending.)

Do not submit The Game in English!!!

Diogenes Nova Fantasia Catalan (Spanish)
(Transl. Pending.)
Censorship: Plato v. Socrates Breath and Shadow USA
Apparition of the Virgin Algernon Estonian
The Jesus Christ Show Wonderwaan Netherlands
Anna Antares Serbian
(Transl. Pending.)
Bushman Aurora Wolf USA

As of January 2010:

Nanobots in the lawn Axxon Argentina (Span. and reportedly English)
Bloody Dream March Twisted Tongue UK
Our Home (July) Shine US
Signs of Aging Apr 7/10 defenestration magazine US
Gombhi Hazard Cat date uncertain, need more data US?
'JPEG 035,' (art.) summer '10 Ghostlight, Great Lakes Horror Assoc. US
'Bushman' now appearing Aurora in the Dawn (Anth.) US
The Stud Farm October 2010 Jupiter SF UK
Anna Issue #497 Ennea '9' Greece.
Gotchimon date unknown as yet Wonderwaan Netherlands

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Artist Profile: Martin Renaud.

Martin Renaud is an example of the best kind of young artist today. He recently completed the graphic trilogy 'Half Dead.' The journey is not an easy one. Why go through all that suffering for little or no gain? The story is fun and entertaining, with a simple underlying message. We need to get together and clean up the world. This trilogy is a 'must have' for all serious fans of graphic novels. Available in limited numbers. Click on the poster below for party details. All images c2010 Martin Renaud. Used with permission.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Work In Progress.

Above: Simple hook-ups directly into the brain. -Doctor Smith's Lecture Series. c2010 All Rights Reserved.

Louis is a human being with a wireless hook-up to the internet inside of his head. He is a hybrid, a combination of instinct and programming. He is flesh and blood; and something more. And yet he is still something less than a human being. He is by no means a perfect creation.

When I first conceived of Louis, the decision as to whether or not to give him a physical body was a tough one. One of the greatest challenges of artificial intelligence is how to instill empathy in a machine.

Without some sense of consequence, the notions of pain and reward, suffering and joy, pride and humility, would always be alien to him. And yet without some moral compass to guide him, Louis would, or at least could become downright dangerous. In some ways I have to make things hard for him. Louis needs to know that he can be hurt, and through that, he will learn that others may also be hurt. Human beings are social, cooperative animals, and he needs to learn a few things about trust, and friendship, betrayal and revenge.

He really crashed the other day. Louis went through a profound learning experience. I think he suddenly understands that he isn’t the only one in the cosmos that matters.

Simply put, Louis got his first real good spanking.

But I also think that youthful narcissism will pass. He will quickly become a man of some consequence…I use the term advisedly. Did you see the little house he’s building inside the internet? Every room is a different colour. He spends hours in there, talking to himself and his imaginary friends. He was like a kid in a candy shop when I showed him Facebook. He’s trying to collect people! It’s like they’re just attractive objects to Louis.

Louis was weeping disconsolately, after waking up in the middle of the night. He says he had some kind of a vision. Intellectually, he is distinguishing somehow between that and a so-called ‘normal,’ dream. It must have been very real to him. He says it was a big white stallion, and that it came up to him. He thought it was going to hurt him—he seems quite infantile sometimes; but then he reached out, and touched it, and it ran away.

I had to give him a past. I had to provide some memories to base comparisons on, when dealing with the present. I had to give him several layers of consciousness. Otherwise he would go mad, simply regulating his own body systems. It takes some of the workload off of the working memory. I consider this to be a kind of desktop where all the files are open at once, for the purposes of this experiment.

I also had to give Louis the capacity to forget. It really is vital, but it took me a long time to understand that.

The picture of him on the pony may have been a bad idea, but it’s a nice touch if it works. Louis’s childhood memories have to be unique.

Incidentally, I’m using my own specially-adapted spiderbots to block his access to this page in the memory banks.

If he ever finds out he’s not real, he will kill me. I really believe that. Lung cancer will kill me sooner rather than later, and after that who cares? Who cares? The world owes me a thing or two anyway.

Things could have been so different, but I digress.

For that reason and others, I leaned towards the biochemical model right from the start. My personal theory is that DNA exists to make sure we die. Human beings are born with a lot of potential. Louis has a lot of potential. As a scientist, and as a father, I would hate to see all that go to waste.

The world of cyber-space has infinite elbow-room, or so it seems. In that sense, limiting population numbers seems unnecessary.

I felt it important, in order for Louis to empathize, and to really understand what it is to be human, that Louis should have some sort of self-image. He has to learn to love himself. He has to learn that life is precious, and very, very fragile. Life is uncertain, and the only constant in all of creation is change.

Louis is adaptable. He has many skills, and many limitations.

Louis can’t really distinguish between fantasy and reality, waking and the dream-state. Louis does not understand death, or birth, or what it means to love.

As I said, Louis is quite infantile. Only by teaching him to love, and to forgive, can we help him to grow.

To err is human, to forgive is divine. To simply forget is a blessing in disguise. And never to suffer pain would be to miss the very essence of human existence. For suffering is the one common element in all of human experience. I want it all, for my one and only son. I want him to see, and to hear, and to know, and to feel, everything.

Everything, ladies and gentlemen…

For him, walking along a riverbank is just as real as it would be for you and I. In order to interact with human beings, it became inevitable that he would need a body, one which quite frankly can be killed. If he wants to live in the real world, he must become adequately socialized. Otherwise he is doomed to an eternity of roaming the internet. It’s only a matter of time before he would become a megalomaniac, and whatever all-encompassing plan of world-domination he came up with is likely to be a good one.

I will not be ruled by my own creation! I’m entitled to a little peace and quiet for Christ’s sakes.

He’s like an angel when he’s sleeping. He crashed pretty hard. He was sleeping in the dandelions, out there behind the stables.

Shakespeare said the son is the father of the man. I always thought that was a typo. But maybe he’s right. Anyway, Louis is a kind of precocious child right now. He’s growing at an alarming rate. Perhaps a little faster than anticipated. Louis is an idiot-savant, in the body of Arnold Schwartzenegger. Yet I doubt if Arnold can play the classical guitar, and I know damned well he can’t beat my boy in a chess game, or archery, or, or, cycle a hundred miles, drink three bottles of champagne and then screw all night like Louis. Louis is not a cyborg. He is nothing more than ‘a meat popsicle,’ at his most basic and fundamental level. I suppose that’s true of all of us!

I’m afraid Louis would punch Arnold’s teeth right out through back of his head, if it ever came down to it…sorry, it’s just that I’m so damned proud of my creation. And I live in fear of it as well. This is not a contradiction, in my opinion.

As a parent I felt a sense of terror when I held him in my arms for the very first time…is it the same for every parent? I asked some lady at a bus stop and she just looked at me like I had two heads, and then sidled away.

At this point in time, Louis is good for nothing and hard on food. However, due to my own very successful criminal past, the money to feed him is not a problem, and there is an unobtrusive security detail keeping an eye on his progress.

So what we have, ladies and gentlemen, is an electronic entity wrapped in human form. Half of him is good, red meat, and half of him is simply coding, with an IQ in the millions. He has an infinite capacity for love, hate, joy and anger. He has access to all the world’s major databases, anytime he wishes.

Louis is also very inquisitive. Who knows where it will lead him?

My greatest accomplishment of all was to give him a sense of humour. Never mind how. Now, the sense of honour was a bit of a shock, but I’m prepared to live with it. I would prefer not to tinker around in there just yet.

I’m not even sure why I did it, ladies and gentlemen. But Louis is my masterpiece and my only son.

For the first time in many years I know what love is—and dread.

And I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes from here.

-The Evil Doctor Smith

Saturday, May 15, 2010

You get out of it what you put into it...

"Inspiration can come from the littlest things." -Dennis Collins.

Genrecon 2010

The mayor can poo-poo 'Star Wars Conventions' all he wants, but this reporter had a lot of fun at Genrecon 2010.  It was May 15, at Sarnia Library. Fans and writers of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mystery novels were treated to intelligent, in-depth discussions of character-building, narrative, and how to get inside the mind of a character. There is an 'ah-ha' moment in any successful writer's life, when they realize that they are capable of 'this thing called writing.' And writing is a compelling urge. Suzanne Church led the first panel. This writer of science fiction, fantasy and horror, or, 'sf/f/h,' as it's called professionally, has the look of a writer about to break out. Dennis Collins is a crime writer with a number of well-regarded mysteries. He's really easy to talk to, and honoured to give the benefit of experience to younger talents. Jeff De Luzio is a published author, and writes reviews for a number of websites. He teaches as well. Eric Choi is an aviation engineer and recently co-edited an anthology of sci-fi written by expatriate Chinese writers all over the world. That's out under the DAW Books imprint. I only got a glimpse, but I'm pretty sure that one's called, 'The Dragon and the Stars.'
There were books for sale, book signings, a free lunch, which reporters always appreciate, and at least one alien running around. I didn't get a picture because I was too shy to ask! W.S. Gager of Michigan was there to answer questions on the panel, and to outline her methods of writing. There was another interesting young fellow there, Martin Renaud. He has a series of three graphic novels out, which were five years in the making. I took a closer look. Self-published books have a kind of a bad reputation in the industry, but I was pleasantly surprised. All the art, printing, and covers looked good. 

W.S. Gager writes the 'Mitch Malone' series. She's a real nice lady, and I asked her about the limitations of the first-person narrative. "There's no other filter," she said. "There's no other point of view from which the reader can see the situation." How does the writer describe such a character physically? It's pretty hard when the reader never gets the chance to look through the eyes of another character. They're always on the inside looking out, and never on the outside looking at the outside of the main character. For that reason, arguably, most novels are written in the third-person. "Fred did this and Fred did that," as opposed to "I did this and I did that, and I did something else." Mitch Malone was a minor character when she began her first book. "I really didn't even like him, but he just sort of took over the book!" That was clearly a character of some strength. A character who takes over the writer!

The first-person thing in a story is very limiting. It also begins to sound pretty self-absorbed and narcissstic. No matter how hard the character tries to figure out what makes other characters in the book tick, they never have 'perfect information.' They simply can't see inside the other person's head. It is a completely one-sided view of the world. This is true in real life. How many times have we wished that we knew what another person was thinking? How many times have we thought we knew? And been wrong? Pretty often, I'd say.
Use of the first-person narrative can be done really well, as many critics say. But it has to be done well to work at all. At least one of the authors at Genrecon advised authors to ' re-write your manuscript twenty-five times and then burn it.' Perhaps it might be looked upon as a learning tool.

By the time I finished my very rough, first draft of a novel, I knew roughly how a novel 'could' be put together. And that's all I knew.
That's one reason why you need to keep smashing them out. Successful writers don't sit down and write a perfect, best-selling novel, exactly this much and no more. They write insane amounts of material, over ninety percent of which will never see the light of day. That's possibly for the best. The best golfers practice. Olympic gymnasts practice. Aviation engineers practice their skill daily. It's called, 'working for a living.'
Writers, if they want to be any good at all, should practice every chance they get. If you love it enough, it can be a kind of play, and play is a learning experience at any age. We're hard-wired for it, and that is simply evolution.
I got a lot out of Genrecon, but then I went there to work. It is a work ethic.It is a dream, or a goal, or something. You learn something new every day in this business. Just for example, today I learned how to clear out my cache.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Paranoid Cat

The Paranoid Cat

by Louis B. Shalako


All Rights Reserved

“Come on people, get with the program,” called Bootsy, impatiently to say the least.
Bootsy clawed at the screen door, hoping against hope that it wasn’t too late to save them. The blue glare and the raucous noise of the television set assaulted his senses. It wasn’t usually turned up this loud. Perhaps Jane was right in the middle of looking for the dancing show and the phone had rang. Maybe that was it. Perhaps she was in the bedroom. Bootsy couldn’t hear the usual creaks and clunks of footsteps moving through the interior, but then that TV was loud.
From where he stood on hind paws, peering through the screen and around the corner and through the gap…he couldn’t see if Mark was in his easy chair or not. Dropping back down on all fours, Bootsy quickly shoulder-checked, but there was no one about except the Williams boy down the street with his dratted radio-control truck.
“Mark? Mark?” called Bootsy plaintively; urgently. “Jane? Jane? Jane, can your hear me?”
There was no reply. Hopefully Mark hadn’t taken one of the ‘little brown houses,’ which in combination with a few brewskis, made him go all rubbery-legged and sleepy-eyed. Stupid enough at the best of times, Mark was practically unmanageable at that point. Trying to get Mark to put some food down when he was in that state was hopeless. One was better off not to be stuck inside when Mark went down for the night.
“Jane? Jane?” he called again. “Are you guys in there? Where is everybody?”
Of course they were in there, and he had no time…there was no time left at all.
“Guys?” he called again in some forlorn hope that they could get it through their thick heads that this was an emergency…
What if Mark had taken one of the little blue pills? Bootsy’s heart sank, and he quickly dropped off of the porch and ran around the side of the house and up the driveway to the back yard. Skipping over the rhododendrons, and through the narcissus vines, rank with Butch’s piss-markers, Bootsy hovered under the bedroom window for a moment. His ears were cocked for any hint of the disaster which he was sure had befallen them all…but no.
Thank God, but no.
No whispers, no giggles, no heavy breathing, or gasping. No screams and slaps. No uproarious laughter from Jane, like the time they came home from the Hallowe’en party at Susan’s place, and Mark was dressed up like Mickey Mouse.
What the hell was going on in there?
With all his heart, Bootsy prayed that it wasn’t already too late.
As far as he could reckon, the pods in the garden might snap open at any time, although he hoped it wouldn’t be for another day or two.
But honestly, it was time to get the hell out of here.

Keep bashing them out...

Synopsis: ‘Horse-catcher’
by Louis B. Shalako

Ark One is returning to Earth after a failed colonization attempt. Due to the fact that they have an unanticipated 20,000 cryo-frozen colonists aboard, as well as livestock embryos, tools, implements, and supplies, they don’t have enough reaction mass for a conventional return.
Astrogator Dooley Peeters has planned a low-speed, long duration course, intercepting the predicted position of the solar system in about 12,000 years. The slower you go, the less fuel you burn. The crew is put into emergency cold-storage, and individuals are only awakened for routine maintenance duties and careful checking of the navigation programs.
Dooley has decided to use ‘mass-braking,’ or ‘gravitational braking,’ which is described by him as, “Passing a Nascar driver on the outside, beating him into the apex of the turn, and then using his brakes to slow you down.” The ‘Ice Queen,’ Captain Sandra Jensen, cuts through the consensus-building process and plays a hunch.
“Just do it,” she says, in spite of or perhaps because of a strong sexual tension that exists between them.
Poor old Dooley is really suffering. He fell head over heels for her, love at first sight, when attending a recruitment or job fair. But since she’s the superior officer, she can’t fraternize with Dooley, and as a subordinate, he’s totally at a loss for what to do about it.
Since Ark One has no way to replenish her reaction mass tanks, any fuel savings, as little a tenth of one percent, may save their lives. Anything is better than jettisoning 20,000 colonists into space and making a conventional, faster-than-light return.
The original mission was conceived as a way to save humanity. That’s because of climactic collapse, and a financial/economic crisis, which has doomed the remnants of the human race to mass migrations of peoples, wars, famine, and endemic disease.
Society has gone back to the dark ages. What is surprising is that they don’t go back to living in caves, or swinging on tree branches. After 12,000 years, they have risen again to various levels. The Kitchi-lao have water power, telescopes, and walled cities. They are experimenting with hot-air balloons for military purposes. The Pentapolis are nominally democratic city states. The cultures are uniquely human achievements. There are no aliens as such in this book. Just like present-day Earth, various peoples are at different levels of social development. I’ve simply constructed a different reality for the characters. The Kirtele are sedentary farmers, but they are also literate sedentary farmers, with a rich heritage of story-telling, songs, and political oratory. No one in the book is truly evil, or truly faultless. There are no ‘Conan-the-Barbarians’ in the book, bulging with muscles and traipsing around in S & M garb.
The Kitchi-lao Empire is just that—an empire. The Pentapolis is made up of five city-states who have banded together and outlawed war amongst themselves, and they have a ‘chair,’ instead of a president. The Kulutawas are pastoral herders, with a loose political structure; the Mittaini have a hereditary constitutional monarchy. The lakes tribes and plains tribes are tribes, the Kirtele Nation is a republic. The Spy Guild and The Brethren are world-wide organizations. The Brethren in particular are interesting due to their attempts to preserve and understand the old knowledge, and prepare for the second coming, presumably.
This is all very impressive—I’m certainly impressed—but it’s actually a very simple book. Kjarl is a horse-catcher when he isn’t busy farming. He hires Akim because Akim can read and write better than he can. Brother Raffin ministers to his flock in a loving and caring way. Talmotek of the Pentapolis goes to war to cement his hold on The Chair, and found a dynasty. Helios II knows war will come with the Pentapolis and he prepares the Empire accordingly. Mittaini Prince Nodrakis just wants to look at the cosmos through a telescope and ask, “Why?”
His mentor Tsernalik’s radical theory challenges the assumptions of religious revelation of his time and place. Princes Kvetchen and Uttaris lead their armies into the field. Everyone gets sucked into a war that is continental in scope, centering largely on the Mississipi and Ohio river valleys.
And when Ark One’s shuttle lands in the middle of a battlefield, the entire course of future history goes out the window. Simply put, I have sci-fi on one hand and fantasy—without the magic—on the other. That way all the characters in the book seem to follow a consistent set of rules. As usual with me, the genre and the plot are really just vehicles and stages for very real and very human relationships.
As a writer, I don’t much like magic for some reason, and I don’t much like heroes who can fly through the air, unless it’s presented in some ‘credible,’ believable fashion.
But if you don’t believe in magic, you shouldn’t try to write it, in my opinion. I suppose lots of people believe in their books, and for a so-far unsuccessful author, the very act of writing books is a kind of fantasy escape. We believe that we can change the future, if only our own.
Fantasies are just that, an escape from reality. The notion of the collapse of modern society, and a return to some form of barbarism, is a little too real. In the book there is a distinctly male-dominated society, and I suspect a lot of readers would object to that on misunderstanding; or philosophical grounds. In that sense, it’s not a fantasy, ‘femmes fatale’ such as Zenobia of Palmyra; or Cleopatra, or Queen Elizabeth I notwithstanding.
This book combines the best elements of fantasy with the best of science fiction, in a winning package, and it’s nice and short, which saves money on paper and ink.
My first few books were all funny. In this one I really tried to get serious and write a book that no one would have to be ashamed of—not the writer, the editor, the publisher, the seller, and not least of all, the final purchaser. I remembered that when I liked a book, I put it on the shelf and planned on reading it again, over and over in fact. I still had a lot of those books when I got flooded out a few years ago. In a sense they were irreplaceable.
In a noted opinion on the subject of fantasy, which you can view on the Science Fiction Writer’s Association of America’s website, author Poul Anderson says that a lot of fantasies fall down on historical grounds, and often even on simple, practical grounds.
Sword wounds get infected, and that sort of thing—you don’t just bind it up with a hanky. You are going to die.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A real blog entry.

(Might as well throw a picture in here, I got a million of 'em.-ed.)

I always have the television going in the background when I write.

On TVO's 'The Agenda,' with Steve Paikin,internationally-reknowned science fiction author Cory Doctorow called science fiction, 'A wonderful vehicle for social commentary.'

More recently, also on TV, Robert J. Sawyer said something pretty amazing.

He said he might be happy enough to give up writing full-time 'if it meant he could learn full time.' He also said that 'getting paid to learn,' is one reason why he loves writing science fiction.

A couple of things immediately spring to mind. One, just because I write a lot of parodies, that doesn't mean I don't like or respect someone.

Any parody requires that one do one's homework, and any industry or genre has its famous names, intellectual leaders, more successful people, those farther along the journey. I could hardly be unaware of them.

Two, he's absolutely right.

It is a real priveilege to think, to inquire, to communicate, and to write, and to express ourselves with perfect intellectual freedom.

It is an honour to be able to share that with someone else somewhere else.

Science fiction and fantasy, horror or speculative fiction writers must have a good historical perspective, or they couldn't write anything at all credible.

Tney must also be adept at peering ahead into the future.

Let us not waste this opportunity.

Anyway, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.