Monday, 13 October 2014

Children finding their way

Many apologies for such a long absence - that old friend of mine, LIFE, came to stay and rather like those house guests in the old days of Jane Austin and Dickens just stayed and stayed:) LIFE is going to visit someone else , I hope, any day now but is going through that stupid ritual of just getting out of the door then remembering one last thing it forgot to mention. However, we are by the front door:)

So back to words, to writing and to this long and torturous process of The Children’s Tale, the first three were so easy to write in comparison.

Why the difficulty?

It wasn’t helped by the discovery that I was combining two stories in the one, two stories that didn’t really mesh very well. Stupid me!

That was last year, I had to untangle the two stories and reassemble them. I had been trying to write The Ancestor’s Tale but obviously my subconscious was telling me, or trying to, that the most obvious follow up to the three previous was a tale about how the children of our companions were going to manage in this world of want and war.

I have spent most of my working life with children, both privileged and not. In my travels around the world it is the children I have been watching. Mainly because the growth of baby to adult is so fascinating, the connections and conclusions they make so endlessly varied. And although I worry for all caught up in events beyond their controlling it is the children I worry for more.

So the children of my tale?

The Feral’s children would appear to be the privileged children, secure and fed. However, their fathers are at war and their responsibilities in the absence too high for their years. They are also, neither Feral nor Human, where do they belong? Where is their allegiance?
The mined-in settlements are fearful of the world outside and lacking knowledge, they have their own cultures formed over the 50 years of their confinement and with some troubling and disturbing history to absorb.How will they manage to assimilate with others.
The rag-tags are displaced,terrorized, many orphaned and alone.How will they find the trust so badly needed.

All have to find not only their place in this environment but, also need to help create a world they would wish to inherit, if they ever reach adulthood.

There is time for their ancestors to explain why and how all were in this predicament. Time enough for them to present their reasons and excuses. Their stories lie in a different volume.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Still the same spade! Blue Moon lives again:)

There is an old joke that keeps doing the rounds. A guy shows of a gardening, or DIY tool, proudly, with a tear in his eye, declares it’s the old hoe, spade, hammer that his father handed to him before his father died. ‘They built things to last back then’ is the proud declaration, ‘why this has only needed a new blade and two new handles in all that time. As good as the day his father handed it to me,wouldn’t change it for a new one, no way.’

Blue Moon is a little like that spade/hoe/hammer. The story created over twenty years ago has only needed a ‘couple’ of changes, but otherwise as good as the day it was born.

Well no, not really.
It was brought home to me when I was discussing with a friend just exactly how I had brought it up to date.

A new blade, two new handles? And the rest!

I mentioned last time that I had in my innocence broken the cardinal rule of writing - to write about something you know - when I set it in the USA, in the police department. Broke the rule twice. Back then there was no google mapping, no swooping onto the Internet to research. Finding out about areas, departments did actually require someone on the ground. Three times I and friend from forever journeyed over there to carry out ‘research’.

Each time we had to buy another suitcase before returning home to carry the excess books, brochures, maps etc picked up in the course of the trip. We had a great time exploring the country. Thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

I wrote a book, called it Blue Moon.
It wasn’t great.
Actually, most of it was pretty dire:(

Never destined for publication I had enjoyed the writing of it. Then on a menopausal hiccough I took myself off to university in my late 40s, packed Blue Moon away in a box and got on with real life.

It never really went away, this story of the American detective. Kept poking me in the mind with a hiss of ‘hate this box’.

I got Blue Moon out one NaNo time and re-read it. Some bits were actually not bad. Some bits.

The world had changed since then, in so many ways. We had new technology, we had fought wars, leaders had come and gone, the culture had dramatically changed. I was vastly older and maybe a little wiser.

Was the story even worth resurrecting? I had by this time published the first three of The Sefuty Chronicles. Knew about at least having some knowledge of the subject of the book. New blades and handles were needed.

So I changed the following:

The hero was no longer to be a detective (what did I know about detecting-nothing) He was now  a builder/property developer.
He and his friends no longer lived in the USA (I really couldn’t take any more research to update the American connection! Now he lives on the East coast of England, this is my patch.

All the names of the main characters have been changed.

Instead of four characters thoughts and speech there is only three, the heroine remains only as memories of three friends as they each recollect past events. No longer a linear narrative, each of the three friends have their own sections where they recollect and interpret. Involving gaps, back stories and misunderstandings.

There are still the harrowing events, the lies and deceptions, the cover ups. Must have those.

And still it is a story of love: between lovers, between friends, between adult and child, between people and their God and what devastation can occur when secrets are heard, when loyalties and love are tested to the limits.

See, still the old story, just needed a couple of new blades and handles. Wouldn’t change the story for a new one - no way:)

Friday, 6 June 2014

May vanished now June is running past me!

I should have been reporting all through May on the Story a Day Challenge, which I had signed up for.  Various life events delayed reports.

 Now of course the month is over.


Really this old lady is slipping behind her deadlines!

I didn’t quite manage 30 stories but did manage 26. Very pleased with that. So that is 26 drafts towards the Companion Tales, which will be the final instalment of The Sefuty Chronicles (5thth).

Of course I need to finish the 4th first!

I enjoy writing short stories, and these have enabled me to enlarge a little on some minor characters that have appeared throughout the Tales, give them a small voice.  Some of them will also explain a few anomalies and untold puzzles along the way as well. 

It has an interesting experience; mostly the short stories I have written in the past have not had such a strong link between them and certainly no link to any novel. It added further restrictions and challenges, but broke open another strand of imagination and made a very restful change from the editing of The Children’s Tale which is still on-going – will it never end?

Now of course it June and JuNoWrMo has begun.  I join this challenge every year, mainly because the 50,000 words to be written do not have to be part of a new novel, as with NaNoWrMo.  I use the month to work on a WIP.

There is not 50 000 words still to write for The Children’s Tale so am going to work on my modern novel   Blue Moon this month.  This is a story which has been pushing to be written for 24 years!

 I know, hardly a modern novel:)

Blue Moon was inspired by a small newspaper article about an English policeman being beaten by thugs and helped by a passer-by. Inspired by but, in its original draft, bearing no resemblance to that story, except that policemen were involved, good detectives actually. There was no beating, no passer-by and no Englishman.  I was so much younger then and knew no better and maybe I wanted a holiday or three:)

I set my tale in the USA.

Foolish, foolish, moi!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Eating people is wrong?

Last time I was writing about the dilemmas of population control probably facing a population who were isolated, with uncertain food supplies. But maybe I should have backtracked a little and discussed what would have have happened to the food supplies before they were so alone.

In the Sefuty Chronicles I had set up a world ripped apart by war. Catastrophic wars in fact. Due to climate change and the decreasing availability of natural resources. I had supposed that there would be mass movement of displaced people, fleeing from growing deserts, minor wars over land control, drowned or salt poisoned land, floods and other climate disasters such as increased hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, rain and so the list goes on.

The world, at this moment, hosts billions of people. The global population growth is beginning to slow, it doesn’t feel like it but, individually, nation population growth is slowing down and in some cases almost stopped. There will be many more millions to accommodate as those who are young now reproduce, however this will be offset to an extent by the huge aging cohort dying. There is still the capacity to feed us all, if we become more responsible about resources.My scenario has discounted this responsible behaviour. Pre- chronicles the world has run out of resources and global starvation faces everyone.                                                                                        

Mass migration produces fear in the populations facing the arrival of so many extra mouths to feed, if resources are already reduced fear is easily translated into violence. There would little welcome. Equally there would be fear in the fleeing masses. Survival becomes all, if strength is left, feeding yourself and your family will incite violence. Small localized wars would soon spread to larger more violent conflict as governments mobilize to pacify their own and to deter outsiders.

Already all over the world discontent and rage is being generated over much smaller numbers of immigrants and refugees. Nothing on the scale I am talking about in Sefuty Chronicles, we can still hold out a hand to aid, but more and more the hand wants to only aid, not to take in, the displaced.

The richer nations will pour in money but not open up homes.
Normal human nature?

So pre-Sefuty Chronicles has been global war; the north against the south. The richer nations against the poorer. The more technology against the less industrialized. However, eventually the minerals and natural resources  which often came from the exploited south, ran short for the north. Machines ground to a halt and the north too faced massive food shortage.
The North may not dry up, but good harvests are not guaranteed.

Governments fell as populations sensed their coming doom and toppled them. Anarchy not far behind. Law and order breaking down and nations unused to violence in their own territory left to fend for themselves.

This has all occurred before the Chronicles are written; I have suspected that those who delight in, or mind not, violence would soon gather in the available resources once government was gone and rationing would be a matter up to highest biders, favours and who you know. 
Those who consider themselves law abiding, gentle, unable to hurt others would die or become as the others. Famine is a dreadful event. Starving not a pleasant death. Self survival, survival of your family becomes all.

During the 1930s, multiple acts of cannibalism were reported during the Soviet famine in the 1930s (Yaroslav Lukov 2003)
Survival was a moral as well as a physical struggle. A woman doctor wrote to a friend in June 1933 that she had not yet become a cannibal, but was "not sure that I shall not be one by the time my letter reaches you." The good people died first. Those who refused to steal or to prostitute themselves died. Those who gave food to others died. Those who refused to eat corpses died. Those who refused to kill their fellow man died. ... At least 2,505 people were sentenced for cannibalism in the years 1932 and 1933 in Ukraine, though the actual number of cases was certainly much higher. ( T. Snyder 2010 Bloodlines. Europe between Hitler and Stalin)
Cannibalism is documented to have occurred in China during the' Great Leap Forward', when rural China was hit hard by drought and famine.(Jung Chang Wild Swans: three daughters of China)
In modern history there is the documented account of the ill fated Donner Party trapped in cold, blizzard and helplessness in the mountains of North America, also of the survivors of an air-crash in the mountains of South America. During the 2nd World war cannibalism was reported from Russia, especially at places such as Stalingrad under siege for years, so long that all the domestic, wild animals and even the vermin had been consumed. German and Japanese troops, cut off from their supply lines and with no sources of food to keep them alive, no doubt there are many other events of a similar nature , when the world is such turmoil survival becomes all.

In The Gulag Archipelago, Soviet writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described cases of cannibalism in 20th-century USSR. Telling about the famine in the 1920s in Povolzhie he wrote: "That horrible famine was up to cannibalism, up to consuming children by their own parents . . . ‘
Cannibalism has a long history not always proved, but common enough for it to be one of humanity's practices usually in times of famine, or for appeasements of angry gods.
Sailors adrift on the salty sea, shipwrecked or air wrecked survivors with limited hope of rescue, adverse weather marooning a population, nationwide famines when help is not forthcoming from governments all have thrown up this last taboo and broken it down.

I have placed evidence of cannibalism in the Chronicles, evidence discovered in the bones found 50 years after the event, at the time when the security of my nation broke and vanished. Cannibalism then, rumours of cannibalism, within the mined rings as well as in the land left unprotected.
Those left behind within ‘rings of explosives’?, yes, I can see some kind of cannibalism being practiced after successive bad harvests. Not always, for most it is a taboo to far.

But. . .but. . . but
Could I eat another?

My love of meat when younger was so strong friends would joke they wouldn't want to be shipwrecked with me, however, although I state that it would be foolish to die if there was a dead body next to one - could I?

Would I be able to kill another to feed?
If it was just me?
If my family needed the food?

Could you?

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Whose life is the most important?

Who should live or die?

We have grown up with the thought that we are all important, and I am still talking about my culture, I don’t know enough about other cultures to make sweeping statements. However, there are rumours of double standards, even here in our so called civilization there is a debate about whether everybody has the same rights to life or choices in their own care.

There are rumours of some elderly and/or disabled, not being given the same treatment in hospital as the young and abled. Arguments on the very premature and even the right of having children. Choices being made, without our consent, on the rights which  individuals / society have over our lives. I believe the consensus would be, that we are all entitled to live. This idea of the equality of all persons is relatively new in our history and has been hard fought for. It flourishes now in this land in a climate of certainty and social cohesion.
But in a climate of uncertainty and anarchy, what then? In the Sefuty Chronicles what would those settlements decide when it comes to making choices of food distribution. Back to the basics of survival.
If food is limited, should people who cannot, or will not, pull their weight in the manner of work, be looked after by others. The old, infirm,or very young, for instance?
Are all children wanted, should population controls be put in place, a limitation too how many or when they are allowed to be born?
If food is limited who should receive rations? Are women as bearers of children and so the future, worth more than men with their strength to provide protection and work the land?
Just how many children are needed to keep a population stable, when each year' rates harvest , illness and accident rate is uncertain?
How many of the old with the knowledge and skills are needed to pass on valuable information?
There comes a point in this scenario I set up in The Sefuty Chronicles, when some kind of population control is needed. I had many isolated settlements, no interaction with others, closed societies abandoned by any kind of central government. But all with a history and culture of modernity behind them. How in the extremities of survival would they choose?
How would they divide, first the food still in homes and shops, second what they can provide for themselves?

 To the men because they need the muscle power, 
to the women because they need to be healthy to nurse the children, 
to the children for their successful growth?
I remember, decades ago in the 60s, when TV showed pictures of a famine for the first time, hundreds of bone thin refugees, having made their way to a camp for help. Pictures of starving babies being lovingly cared for. An angry refugee male arguing that it was madness to feed the babies, the young adults needed the food, what use to a dying society to have well fed babies? What use was a baby, what could they do? Nothing, until years had passed. It was shocking to hear yet even then in my youth I could understand his logic and anger I cared for children, it was my chosen career for decades and what he said was against every fibre of my being, but I could understand.
Some societies in a famine will abandon the child (anathema to us) but, it does actually make sense, if you keep adult men and women alive more babies can be conceived when the famine has passed. If you keep children alive and let the adults die the baby on its own won’t survive. This chicken and the egg again. Other societies have many children, as an insurance against old age and infirmity, someone always there to help you stay alive.
So decisions about food divisions and population control would be be needed in my dystopian world. It is not sensible to trust to luck against natural disasters. 

Children apart, what happens to the sick, injured and old. What worth do they have? If the sick cannot work or contribute to survival are they abandoned/killed - if an injury is not so great, does everyone else carry them until they are back working alongside again? The old, are they useless mouths,a repository of knowledge and advice or cherished parents? Do our modern ethics, so hard won over the centuries, or our ancient religious beliefs, get used as our guides, or would they be abandoned to the even older instincts for self survival.
I thought long and hard about these choices, came up with a few variations for different communities. Impossible to know how any of us would react to supreme extended disaster We all hope we would maintain our moral standards.
Would we?
Could we?
How would you decide?