Saturday, January 25, 2020

How Does Fiction Deal with Our Fast-Changing World?

Sum4u [Creative Commons]
Our world changes increasingly fast, and the last decade has shown dramatic changes in how people see their world. The effects of scientists' predictions on not only our climate but also on our way of living on Earth are coming home to roost. Our world is reacting. Our failure to predetermine the effects our great inventions would have on our world is worse than negligent. We can put a name on it: Pollution. Land. Air. Water.

Another huge change is how digital electronics are taking over communication, media, and life.

And now we are now learning amazing things about other living organisms in this world (Tomatoes can emit ultrasonic screams when wounded; are they communicating?), and how intelligent elephants and octopus are (9 brains!). At the same time, we still don't know how some of our recent changes will affect other world's lifeforms, such as our plethora of cell towers emitting unseen microwave radiation. We ignored the effects plastics might have, and now have too much of it everywhere.

While I want to be optimistic, I have a great sense of pessimism at willful human ignorance. Yet the inclusion of these changes in fiction writing can have broad and often positive effects. Depending on the genre, the absence or inclusion of this knowledge will affect story-telling. How could it not? The time when a story is written often inherently marks it, whether the author means their writing to do so or not. This is because everyone's mindset is trapped in their own time's reality of mores, manners, and living styles, and the characters they develop often inadvertently expose these.

This is how I think fiction changes our world:

1) Most fiction shows people have not changed in thousands of years but have coped through dangerous times.
I think all genres provide reading pleasure but also provide insight and can incite readers to action. While historical novels try to show life and happenings in a particular period, those written by contemporary authors let aspects of modern mores often trickle in. The same is true of novels cast in the far future. This provides interesting results in both genres and also allows the reader to empathize with the characters. Change has always been inevitable. Today's society faces many uncertainties, including overpopulation which affects the Earth's limited resources. That is one of my pessimist's thoughts. Here is my optimism: Human have faced near extinction before and survived. We are smarter (maybe a dangerous mix of some too smart and some too ignorant) so we might come to a universal accord on how to deal with today's changing world. We might survive. Fiction has already predicted this but usually after a long, dangerous interval in many apocalyptic stories.

2) Most fiction gives readers insight and hope about social trends.
While historicals often explain past events, they also give a reader some insight into what the world was like without all the advances of technology. I would certainly believe the violence and shooting during the past decades in schools and businesses might effect mystery novels. It could be an important topic in contemporary romance, too, as to how it affects those involved. While fiction could help inform readers on the ways to avoid detection in malfeasance, it could do the opposite and discover the criminal. This could be true as in the last two years, DNA has identified murderers involved in decades-old crimes. It's a strange world.

3) Fiction has predicted and inspired change.
The ideas created in science fiction have affected our world. Who would have guessed how Star Trek changed the world from sliding doors to personal computers (and more)? Yes I know, Star Trek was a TV show, but it was fiction and writers wrote the scripts. There are many articles on this, I tried to choose a source with some authority. And fans are still thinking about the series. One trek fan predicts how the world can proceed without money. His article even drew praise from economists, so it could have future effects.

4) Fiction can open minds to accepting different cultures, societal changes, and issues.
Open-mindedness about gender and sexuality has changed and it has been predicted in fiction, perhaps fiction even helped develop the change. Digital communications have changed romance. These changes will infiltrate contemporary fiction. And our contemporary fiction is always evolving into historical fiction.
Read these authors take on how contemporary fiction deals with our rapidly changing world:

Monday, January 20, 2020

Writing Goals for 2020

I'm a little late posting my 20's goals, but I was finishing off a stalled novel. Finally finished Angels Tread, the fourth and last volume of the Black Angel series.  At 60K words I didn't know where to take the story, but in the first weeks of 2020 I wrote another 15K to finish the story. Now I'm deciding what I want to accomplish this year.

I have several projects, one is to write the second volume of the Carolingian's series. Another is to change genres to a contemporary romance and to a 40s romance.  Whether I will or won't, I find it helps to have goals written down.

Another goal is to get some regular posts in my Rhobin's Garden blog. It's been a while. It might take a more environmental angle, though.

Other than those projects, I have some painting and other art projects to complete and some to start besides painting rooms.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A third excerpt from Constantine's Legacy

Fifteen-year-old Leonard has been given the duty to keep watch of the new anointed king's son and nephew. Young boys, especially those now in a hereditary line of power, can get you in trouble.
Karl’s eyes squinted at Leonard. “You will not tell anyone, will you?” 

“I give you my oath, also, to always be your loyal man.” His words went far beyond the required, and Karl’s regard showed he knew it. Leonard looked directly into Karl’s clear blue eyes, perceptive enough to realize he might be swearing to his future king, but a flicker of doubt deepened his voice, which promptly cracked into a higher pitch. Both boys laughed. He glared at them through his embarrassment. Their humor at his expense ceased. 

Karl’s smile widened further. “Follow me.” He took fast steps toward the main building. Nithgard ran after Karl’s longer stride. Leonard sighed, wondering what trouble he had agreed to.

“You swore to be quiet!” Karl warned as he slid between two wooden portico slats. “No, I swore not to tell,” Nithgard replied, lowering his shrill child’s voice to a whisper. 

What was an adequate space for a large nine-year-old was a tight squeeze for Leonard. He pulled his body between the wooden slats hiding the understructure of the porch. He ducked low to avoid hitting his head on support beams, swore softly, and followed the boys as they squirmed their way through the debris beneath the porch flooring. The strong scent of earth and human waste assaulted his nose. Karl and Nithgard were quickly far ahead of him down the length of the building. Crawling, he swore again and saw the boys’ shadowed shapes disappear. He hurried forward, sometimes in a hunched-over walk and sometimes in a near crawl using his hands on supports to help pull himself forward. The light from between the slats diminished as he turned the corner where the boys had disappeared. He watched their shadowed movements through the foundation supports of the building. It took his eyes a moment to readjust to the near pitch darkness, but some light filtered in from the floor slats overhead. Losing sight of his charges, he followed the whispers ahead of him. A hand pulled him to the side, and he let out a low squeal at the assault.

“Quiet!” Karl hissed in his ear, “just a little further.”

They crawled down what seemed a crack in the earth and piled into a small space between support beams. Leonard flopped down, supporting his back against one of the beams, and saw the boys only as dark outlines except for the dim light’s reflection in their eyes. 

“Here,” Karl whispered. “We can listen to the council meet.” 

Leo’s heart tripped in fear. How had he let himself be dragged into eavesdropping on his leader’s private conference? If caught, he would be whipped. He could feel the lashes. Although he had never been whipped, he had seen it done. 

It was too late to retreat. Footsteps sounded on the floor planks above their secluded spot. From the sound, he judged several men stood overhead. Hearing the voices above him, he dare not speak. He swallowed in panic, recognizing his father’s voice. Leonard knew he was committing an act of treachery. He glared at Karl, who must have seen his look, for he shrank back against the opposite beam. 

“I cannot see anything, what...?” As Nithgard’s near-normal voice broke their stillness, Leonard quickly grabbed him and put a hand over the child’s mouth. Nithgard did not squirm for release but held deathly still. The enlarged gleam of the boy’s eyes showed his shock. Nithgard faced no punishment for his actions. Most likely Karl did not face discipline either, but Leonard knew as their guardian, he would suffer the consequence if anyone discovered his charges’ location. If not by Pepin’s order, by his father’s hand, maybe both. With what he hoped was a blood-curdling whisper, he demanded, “Quiet."

Saturday, January 4, 2020

A Reflection on Our Sky

Cloudy sky dotted with hot air balloons.


When I am outside, whether gardening, walking, driving, or just standing, I always look upward... many times. Doesn’t everybody? The majestic display often makes me feel minuscule and fills me with awe of the majesty and expanse of this world blanket of air. The sky's appearance is always changing, some days by the minute and some days over many hours. Only when the sky is cloud free does it ever look the same, and even then, depending on the day and time, not always. When clouds are present, it is always different. In many ways, the sky defines not only our ability to live on Earth but also our daily reality.

During daylight hours, the sky can be an empty, clear and a startling blue cover. Other times it is dotted with glorious puffs of snow-white puff-ball clumps of clouds slowly moving and shifting in shape or filled with stacks of billowing rotund froths of clouds. The sun's light highlights the upper edges in a glowing, angelic white while the lower parts have grey-lined edges lining darker undersides giving them three-dimensional shapes. Occasionally, high flying wisps, commonly called mares tails or Cirrus clouds, decorate the sky’s vastness. Sometimes clouds seem to stand still, other times they move at a fast, rolling, often threatening pace. Sporadically a dense blanket of grey predicting storms covers the sky and hides its upper reaches.

Along with the clouds’ visual grandeur, the wind created by the atmospheric movement affects our hearing. The sound can be soft whispers moving through the needle or leaf-lined branches of trees. or it can rage in a howling volume over the ground as well as the sky.

We judge the weather by its appearance, and to those gazing at the clouds, they provide predictive clues. They can be delightful, inspiring viewers' imaginations to visualize shapes like ships, or dragons, cats or whales in their vast undulating vastness. Clouds can change how the sun and its rays appear in the sky in fascinating ways. They can also show what will be an average, ordinary good day, or express impending storms of either rain or snow. Some cloud signs are so severe they indicate approaching danger. Thunderclaps startle us, and lightning bolts frighten but fascinate us. Tornadoes and hurricanes spell peril and disaster.

Olathe, Kansas, cloud photo taken by Karen Crnkovich
Watching the sky shows life’s adaptations. Birds and man-made conveyances often fly by. The birds glide and soar on unseen winds and drafts or can wing their way to anywhere. Sometimes they dart after smaller, flying insects. Airplanes and helicopters pass with loud engine noise.

On cloudless nights a phenomenal view of the universe appears showing its grandeur and the Earth’s movement. The moon’s reflected light often falls on clouds in a glow the sun seldom creates. Infrequently, northern lights play over and through the darkness. And occasionally, flying objects pass, showcased in reflected light, those closer to Earth often appear as dark shadows.


The sky in all its glory has enchanted man for millennia, probably since consciousness began, inspiring mythology, ideologies, and freeing human imaginations. Skies have imbued humans with stories for their own purpose on Earth. While we still watch clouds and let our minds float in cloud-based inspiration about creation,  finding imaginary images within those vast collections of water molecules, so did ancient peoples. The ancient ones often discovered hidden images and meanings. For eons, mankind's stories have been imbued with ancient sky gods and stories of the creation.

More than 2,000 years before Christ, the Sumerian god Anu reigned over the sky and held rein over the entire universe as the ultimate power of the world. Around the same time, or maybe long before, the Egyptian god Ra (sun), the goddess Nut (sky), and Horus personified as a falcon, ruled over the Eqyptian sky. Greek mythology had Zeus as the god of heaven and Earth, and Nephele was a cloud nymph. Zeus became Jupiter in Roman mythology.

On the other side of the world, the Navajo’s spirit Absonnutli created the sky. In New Zealand, Rangi, the sky father, and Papa, the Earth mother, were locked in a tight embrace with their children caught in the darkness between their bodies. Their children tore their parents apart, creating the world.

In the Hindu lexicon, Indra holds authority over the sky with his thunderbolt weapon as does the god Thor in Germanic mythology.

I find it interest how often males were sun gods and females Earth goddesses, maybe saying men represented energy and women matter, tying it to today's physics.


The sky’s atmosphere exists miles above the Earth, holding molecules of gases and all the billions of water molecules that form clouds. Just because they float, doesn't mean they are any more weightless than the moon. Those clouds weight far more than their floating images imply--sometimes we have the weight of a hundred elephants or more floating overhead, delivering water and snow to the Earth's surface.

As sunlight diffuses through the sky's many molecules, Rayleigh scattering lets the shorter, blue waves of light color the daytime sky. Red waves often appear to color the sunset sky.

Photo of Traverse City's East Bay, Sunset by Chris Courtright

Moreover, we know the atmosphere’s gases allow life on Earth. The atmosphere of the sky provides oxygen for animals and carbon dioxide for plants. Plants and animals work in symbiosis to expel into the air what the other life form needs. The atmosphere also invades and filters into everything, even the Earth itself: its waters, its caves, and even its soil. It holds other gases, too, like Nitrogen, Argon, Hydrogen, and Helium. The higher the atmosphere rises, the less vapor it holds. Gravity gathers most of the molecules close to its surface in the Troposphere. Above this layer, the Stratosphere holds a cover called the Ozone layer, composed of O3, which helps protect us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It is also present nearer ground level where it mixes with human-created pollutants from industry and vehicles. This creates smog becoming a danger to human health.

Knowledge lies out there… Of course, our night vision shows the vast universe of stars. We know much about the various objects in the sky that ancient man marveled over but never understood, not that we have complete understanding today. We have the hope of someday exploring it, and perhaps finding other Earth-like places. We know devastation lies out there, too – asteroids could crash into Earth, cosmic rays present a danger to human space travel, and black holes suck the matter and energy out of everything in their reach; plus the debris humans have left in space spells danger.


Humanity has tended to take the Earth for granted, including its sky. Many people are unconcerned with how our actions and inventions have changed and polluted the very things we depend on for life: water, earth, and air. We have filled our air with Sulfur dioxide, Carbon monoxide, and Nitrogen dioxide. Poisonous dust particles also float in the air. In some parts of today's world, it is not unusual to see inhabitants wearing face masks to prevent inhaling dangerous particles from smog, smoke, and other exhaust gases of man’s making. It is a dangerous situation of our own making; hopefully, one we can repair.