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.
Selfish?
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, 
 OR
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?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

So the weather is going crazy-what's the worst that can happen?


So the weather is going crazy

So the weather is going crazy-what's the worst that can happen?


It seems to many, this year, that the weather is going crazy. Abnormal events keep recurring as a tumble of dominoes.  Droughts, floods, gales and hurricanes. Of course we have always had them, but are they growing worse, more erratic?

 Life behind the mines would have been bearable for a while for those who started off with an agricultural or horticultural background, such as Blaisemill and Belacot, the first a communal self sufficient holding and the second a small farming community. For those without this knowledge a good supply of books and reasonable intelligence would maybe be enough to see a small community through a few years. There were many small communities who survived in The Sefuty Chronicles.

However, life, real life, has a habit of stacking bad fortune against a good. We are mostly, in the Western world, fortified against natural disasters; if there’s a bad growing season we have to spend more on food as prices rise, in a few words we can summon food across the globe to fill our empty shelves. If some particularly nasty bug, disease, or blight attacks our crops we have an endless array of chemical solutions to aid us, if we over graze our agricultural land we have an endless supply of chemical fertilizers to help us boost the yields
If these solutions run out?
What happens then behind those mines, when the sun doesn’t shine day after day after day, as happened here in the UK in the summer of 2012. Our farmers were brought to their knees and spiraling costs sent many out of business. 
How does the livestock cope when cold winds howl from the north and the east, when snow drifts into sold coffins for animals on the hillsides , when a whole generation of new lambs freeze hardly before they have drawn their first breath, as has happened in recent winters?
What happens to our hard working and intrepid farmers in the wet years, when rivers overflow and wash away the topsoil, or, as is happening this year in Somerset, the floods remain so long, all vegetation dies and there is no grazing, no crops for the next couple of year?
 The year your livestock succumb to disease such a foot and mouth or swine diseas?. Can you afford to keep livestock, if the food supplies are low? But, if you don’t have livestock and you can’t leave your area, because of land mines, what happens when the crops fail? The continuing effects of selling livestock in a famine can be seen year after year in those countries who already struggle on the edge.
In 2012 when it rained all summer I tried to sow seeds in the garden, they rotted before they could come up, the crop yield was low, miserable, I tried to gather what few crops there were, a matter of going out in sou'wester and gumboots. It was frustrating, irritating, but not actually catastrophic because the greengrocers in the village could fill in the gaps for me.
How long can we continue to rely on the artificial to keep the natural alive and thriving.?  We may be painting ourselves into a corner.

Behind the mines, a bad harvest, at the very least, means you’re lacking nutritionally, your energy levels will dip dangerously low and at worst means famine and eventual death from starvation. It is not hard to see how despair and desperation could lead to suicide or a complete giving up on any hope, or faith that rescue would eventually come.
When does one, in fact, give up on the rescue? When do you look around you and start to look for the components of an equation for life? When do you look at your available land, your available manpower, and begin to calculate just how large a population can be sustained on through the bad years.
When do you start putting a value on each person in the community?

Next week: How my character's dealt with the problem of population v food supply 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

When a society collapses

When a society collapses

When a society collapses


The world of The Sefuty Chronicles is a grim place. During the Great Wars caused by climate change and lack of resources, many towns, villages and farms chose to hide, from the rioting hordes of desperation, behind rings of land mines. This was done with the promise of release when the war was over. The war never was over, the fighting became more localized, smaller but never finished, there was to be no rescue.

Not for 50 years.
So what resources did they have to enable them to survive on limited land, limited free sources?
They had their own knowledge, gleaned from a time when all modern conveniences had been at hand.If they were lucky they had a library of books, but it was chance what subjects they covered.The towns and villages had food for awhile in their shops and seeds and plants in their nurseries and the farmers had crops or livestock to hand.
Expertise in the various populations was variable. The farmers and gardeners probably being the better off. But they had a lack of artificial fertilizer and all them had a lack of mobility, due to the mines therefore any hope of trade or exchange was minimal. Vets and doctors only they were within the rings of mines - and how long would medicines hold out
What you had when the mines went down, was what you had.
For a few months that would probably have sufficed, after all, with proper management, products in shops and barns could be rationed and kept.
But 50 years and then it’s a whole new game.
And what of those who did not choose to be put behind the mines. Those who trusted that the authority which had kept security in place for so long. Those who ‘knew’ authorities would help, after all, what did they pay their taxes for? What was in store for them when those authorities fell.
When security vanished and law and order became an historical footnote.
Theft, looting, chaos?
Is it possible to reorganize society without those three aspects coming before. Can the good and the righteous prevail against those who disdain these virtues.Indeed can the good and the righteous remain so, if their families are starving and there are bleak choices ahead.
What would happen to the authorities and the security forces. Could they have made a comeback within those 50 years and rescue the population? Would they consider them at all in the aftermath of the Great Wars?
Is it possible for a nations authorities to completely abandon the population?What? who? would be needed to restore a nation to peace?
In 50 years how many would still be alive?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014




So how is progress with The Ancestor's Tale, the fourth book in The Sefuty Chronicles.

Actually, not so good.

I first realized the trouble I was in last summer, when I found, with careful contemplation,that what I was struggling with was in fact two books. They had inadvertently merged together. Now how has that happened?

I believe the problem was caused by the prolonged interruption in the writing of it, caused by illness. Some of the more minor characters had had time to think of themselves, time to enlarge and run away with their own tales.

Those characters were a handful of children.
And they weren't even dead!
So they didn't belong in the book titled The Ancestor's Tale!

Eventually I had to face facts and work out a plan to save this fourth Chronicle.
Drastic plans.

I dismantled the many thousands of words I had already written, 90,000 of them.
Painstakingly untangle the two separate stories.
Sat down to decide what could be salvaged from the wreck.

After a couple of weeks of pondering and pottering around the garden, I decided the children needed the limelight and in fact they should do so in The Children's Tale. I had approximately 30,000 words for this new tale. What to do with the rest, I didn’t want to lose the ancestors, their story was important too. They have been moved over to a new book Companion Tales, I had begun planning this book in 2012, they would provide most of the backbone to this follow up book.

Companion Tales will be a series of short stories chronicling not just the ancestors, but also a few of the minor characters already mentioned in the previous books of the series, who in fact had had a fair amount to do with the story. So the Companion Tales would include Kennett Marshall and Gran in their early lives as well as the geneticist who medals with the DNA. Along with a few characters from The Children’s Tale.

Sorted.

The new Children's Tale, which is to be the fourth in the series, deals with the first-generation of mongrels. The children of Bixs and Jack, and their siblings and friends. Born outside of the City in a time of violence and war, trying to make sense of where they belong, where their loyalties lie. I have decided that in fact this does actually make a better fourth book. The story continues the end of Jack's Tale more smoothly than the Ancestors would have done. This leads me to wonder whether our brains are cleverer than we are. Well of course they are, we know this, Somewhere in the deep recesses of my tired, ill, mind my brain knew as I was straying along the wrong path. In those hours that I spent on my bed, not being able to do anything except let my brain go along its own sweet way The Children's Tale took off.

It sounds simple written like this,

Dismantle, untangle, resurrect.

However, another problem with the writing of this book, caused by my long illness, is the fact that what I am working with words which have been written over a long period of time, some typed, some dictated, depending on how much energy I had. Some indeed hand written. They have been written when I have been feeling optimistic and well, they have also been written when the opposite has been true. Editing these words is proving to be a new challenge. I can manage the different character’s voices, but which of mine am I producing?


Now at the beginning of 2014 real deep editing has begun. This has been the longest period of time spent writing a book, it began at the beginning of 2012. I think it will in fact be a better book due to this length of time,the amount of daydreaming and thought that has gone into it. We will see what editing will do with it, whether or no I can in fact edit the separate versions to become one whole.