I’m merely writing fantasy…

I’m merely writing fantasy…

I’m coming to the end of my second book, ‘Kold Kronicles Book Two:  Defiance’ and am in the middle of writing a big battle scene.  As always you need to balance being descriptive with not glorifying violence.  Can be a difficult balance as I know from my own experience and reading comments of other authors.  However, I need to remember, I’m merely writing fantasy…  

The other thing about coming to the end of something that, in this case, has taken almost two years to write is that you begin to feel a sense of loss.  Y’know, guilt, sadness, but most of all, what the hell am I going to write about in the next book?  That’ll be ‘Kold Kronicles Book Three:  Deliverance’ then.  

As you would imagine, research is important in any writer’s work.  For Book 2 I looked at the impact of a laser guided bomb exploading near a human body.  So, what effect would that have?  Answer – it ain’t nice.  What would be the result of gene splicing a Brazilian Banana Spider with a Camel Spider, aka Wind Scorpion?  Answer – somewhat frightening.  How dangerous would a group of gene spliced super beings be, i.e. the Schlachten, as a war-fighting unit?  Answer – you don’t wanna know.  Seriously, you don’t.  They even frighten me.  However, I’m merely writing fantasy…

Let’s then consider the world your characters inhabit.  You can look at the works of various political writers from throughout history for help in devising what you might create, (remember, I’m merely writing fantasy.)  I’ve found Montesquieu’s philosophy that ‘government should be set up so that no man need be afraid of another’ quite interesting.  Look him up, quite a guy.  Obviously good points as well as some that are questionable, but he was a writer of his time, 1689 – 1755.  Context again.  He talks about the distribution of power.  About not linking the three elements of judicial, legislative and executive power because if you do:  There would be an end of everything, were the same man or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals. (‘Montesquieu:  The Spirit of the Laws, Book XI Chapter 6)

He also defined three types of  government:  republican, monarchical, and despotic. In the first the people is possessed of the supreme power; in a monarchy a single person governs by fixed and established laws; in a despotic government a single person directs everything by his own will and caprice.

So, I’m thinking this could be the basic scenario for the next book.  The Connectome, (the über bad, rich group mentioned in Book 2), are after a world which will bend to their will and allow them to accrue even more wealth.  To succeed requires a puppet head of state.  They make use of what I laughingly call ‘social media’, (I’ve written about that misnomer here); ‘dark money’ and a browbeaten, morally corrupt, bicameral system;  add blackmail and violence and the result is the placement of a head of state who has, by using all of the above, been able to conjoin all three elements of the society concerned into one person’s hand – his.  

This, as Montesquieu wrote:  … would be an end of everything…  Since you’d have a despotic government, where ‘a single person directs everything by his own will and caprice.  Yep, that’s worth thinking about as a framework since, as I’ve already mentioned, I’m merely writing fantasy.  

Let me build on that a tad further.  In the next book I’m considering a scenario where a key character is someone whose business background and personal appetites make him puppet to an enemy power; who uses ‘social media’ to direct foreign and domestic policy utilising dog whistle politics; who alienates foreign countries who have been allies for decades;  responds to opponents with vitriol and spleen;  and who, finally, is unaware of those manipulating his strings.  He thinks he is successful because he knows his base believe he can do no wrong – no matter what he does; whilst others cannot believe that their country is sleepwalking into tyranny.  That is until my ‘good guys’ take him on. 

Hmmm, could work.  Needs some character development and fleshing out a bit though.  

Obviously, this scenario can never happen since I’m merely writing fantasy.   

Phew!  What a relief, eh?

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind’ 

And she had such nice shoes too…

And she had such nice shoes too…

So there we were, the love of my life, LOML, in this city of life, laughter and mellowness.  Amsterdam – it was a birthday theng.  My birthday.  The weather was hot and sunny, people wandering around, taking photographs, smiling.  A beautiful and historic city.  Suddenly the sky darkened and it looked as though it was going to rain.  When Amsterdam does rain, it does rain!  Seriously, it rains.  Bouncy type of rain.  You know, the kind where the raindrop hits the ground and it bounces up, in this case about six to nine inches.  As I said, bouncy rain.  

Rather than be soaked, LOML and I decided to go to the same place we’d visited the day before for something light to eat and something to drink.  We sat outside under the awning and watched the show as the heavens opened and the rain did its dance and bounced around on the cobbles.  Fascinating.  People running for cover, others laughing and letting the rain bounce off their upturned face and outspread arms.  Joy.  

At a table near us, a very elegant man and woman.  Him, stylish, quiet, observing the impromptu show in front of us.  Her, hair drawn back, elegant with bright intelligent eyes.  However, it was her shoes that caught my eye.  Glittery, obviously expensive, resembling sports shoes, but sports shoes that you rarely see.  She saw me looking and smiled.  

‘Madame, I was just admiring your shoes…’  I said.

‘Thank you, they’re,’ and she mentioned a luxury brand.  ‘You are here on holiday?’ she asked.

‘I am, it’s my birthday.’  

‘And where are you from?’  

‘Edinburgh, and you?’

‘Washington.’

‘Ah.’  Silence, erm, reigned.  

‘We have lived there for some time having had to leave Iran.’  

‘Ah.’

‘We have loved it there.  The generosity of the people, their welcome, but now…’  She tailed off.

‘Ah.’  (I know, I know, I can be quite articulate sometimes.)

‘He is changing the country, that man.  We have seen this before, creating fear, enemies where previously there were none.’  

‘He is,’ LOML and I said together.    

We were all quiet for a while.  Thinking, pondering.  She sighed, finished her light meal and tonic water and they left nodding their farewells.  

Both were obviously sad.  Sad for a world that was changing in a way that they thought was not for the better.  So was I.  And she had such nice shoes too…  

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind’ 

Power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot, Facebook and Twitter…

Power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot, Facebook and Twitter…

Social media, eh?  An oxymoron if ever there was one.  Social:  from Old French, or from Latin, ‘socialis’ allied; from ‘socius’ friend.  Media, ‘the main means of mass communication…’   Well, they got one right.  With the current state of things, the hatred both have helped create, perhaps they should be renamed.  How about, Trolls-r-us?  

Troll:  1. To fish for by trolling.  2 a: to antagonise (others) online by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content.  3 b: to act as a troll. (Merriam-Webster.com, 2017)

Seems apposite.

Both, Twitter more than Facebook, enable anonymity that many hide behind.  These, ‘the anonymous’, are able to rage against an individual, a race, a religion, sexual orientation, or whatever their hot button is, without any penalty.  Anonymity allows them to threaten others with being attacked, raped, killed, have acid thrown in their face.  Without penalty.  Let me repeat that, without penalty.  Free-speech anyone?    

To avoid criticism, both organisations define themselves as platforms rather than publishers because, well, publishers have a responsibility for what is written on their pages / sites.  Not Facebook, or Twitter, though, no, no, no.  ‘We’re a platform so don’t have the responsibility for what people write.’ Well, dear reader, that’s bollocks.  

Both enable people to demean the language of debate and social intercourse; both allow many to conflate disagreement with being an enemy, not an opponent, (I’ve already written about this);  both allow people to rage and say the most outrageous things, most of it without proof, and have their cant believed by those whose views replicate their own.  Then let’s add that both can be used to target specific groups with disinformation.  All this without responsibility.  Thank you, Twitter.  Thank you, Facebook.  Thank you, Cambridge Analytica.  

Both epitomise the modern day ‘prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages, power without responsibility.’  And we allow these two publishers to get away with it.  And we allow these two publishers to make money from what we view and from the dysfunction they have helped create.  The word obscene comes to mind.  As does immoral.  As does unforgivable.   As does harlot.  And it impacts all, and I mean all, areas of our world.  Even sport.  

Rita Panahi, an Australian journalist and social commentator, in an article in the Herald Sun, February 7, 2013, headed ’Soccer trolls abuse proves how right I was’.  

Online anonymity gives users a power without responsibility. They tweet what they would never dare say to your face and in forums inhabited by like-minded, asinine souls they egg each other on. The lack of accountability results in misogyny, racial abuse, threats of violence and insane rants posted without fear of repercussions.’ 

This is about football for God’s sake!  She continues:

The philosopher Plato argued that without accountability for our actions, we would all behave unjustly. One wonders what he would make of a modern world in which the internet affords users almost complete anonymity.’

Yep, that about nails it.  Definitely power without responsibility.  

So, it’s up to us to decide whether we wish to continue contributing to the coffers of these two organisations.  These two powerful, irresponsible, publishers.  Your choice… 

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind’ 

In a world of chaos, ‘normal’ won’t fix it

In a world of chaos, ‘normal’ won’t fix it

As an inkster who writes about things various and whose book uses fantasy as a vehicle to sometimes show what’s happening in the world today, I continue to be fascinated by what’s occurring in the world of politics, both here in the UK and Europe but also, obviously, in the United States. Many moons ago, I was heavily involved in organisational change.  This included supporting those impacted by the changes that were being initiated.  Some welcomed change, others had genuine concerns, whilst a small number were hostile to the extent of being deliberately obstructive.  The reason for this was they felt that change impacted their ‘version’ of reality, values, self esteem, authority, and so on. 

Change invariably involves chaos, especially at the beginning of any change programme, hence my interest in chaos theory.  Do a quick search on the web and you’ll come across a number of definitions. 

For example:  The main idea of chaos theory is that a minor difference at the start of a process can make a major change in it as time progresses.’

Here’s another: Chaos theory is a mathematical theory that can be used to explain complex systems such as weather, astronomy, politics, and economics. Although many complex systems appear to behave in a random manner, chaos theory shows that, in reality, there is an underlying order that is difficult to see.’

‘Politics and economics…’  Hmmm.  This appeals. 

Read more

‘Enough now, enough now.’

‘Enough now, enough now.’

Social media, eh?  The main platforms, as everyone well knows, are Facebook and Twitter.  Both have their benefits but increasingly, they have been having, and have been creating, problems.  Problems social, problems financial, problems of integrity, problems of transparency.  In sum, problems.  Big bastards as well.    

Let’s start with Twitter.  During the 2016 election, a number of female political candidates were threatened with rape, murder, being slashed, you name it, they were threatened with it.  Troll farms set up false accounts that created even more mayhem.  One only has to add that obscene waste of oxygen currently in the White House, and the anger and chaos he loves to create into the mix to see that the initial idea of Twitter to create open communications has become dysfunctional.  Read more

Let us toast the humanity in us all and see these Ticks for what they are.

Let us toast the humanity in us all and see these Ticks for what they are.

Interesting times.  At the time of writing, 5 March 2018, it seems that the Italian election has resulted in success for a number of political parties with anti EU / establishment views.  Confirms the wave of anti-establishment feelings that are currently washing across the world.  Think 45 in the US, Brexit in the UK and now we have the election result in Italy.  There are others, think of France, Hungary for example.  Frustration with so many things, some valid, others not.  

And yet, and yet… the decency of the everyday person comes through in times of tragedy or challenge.  Think back to 9/11 and the queues of people waiting to give blood.  Think of the bravery of so many people helping others post the obscene bombing in Manchester in 2017.  Think of the bravery of the paramedics during the equally obscene events that have been happening in US schools and elsewhere.  So many dying, so many wounded and damaged and not only physically, the scars, the trauma, lasting a lifetime for all those involved.  As one trauma surgeon put it, ‘In mass shootings, there are no unwounded victims.’  And yet, and yet… people continue to help others, sometimes at great risk to themselves.  

On a more local level.  During the recent extreme weather we’ve experienced here in Edinburgh, I’ve seen folk contacting neighbours to check that they’re okay; did they want any shopping done?  Clearing the footpaths for neighbours; walking for hours through snow and sleet to get to work so they could undertake a cancer surgery.  So caring.  So compassionate.  So many.  So typical.   

So, if there is innate decency and humanity throughout the world, why is there this, almost visceral, hatred of the current status quo?  Something to do with a feeling of unfairness perhaps?  A frustration at seeing powerful elites getting away with so much?  Perhaps seeing those responsible for the current political and economic environments continue on their merry way without a care and no social conscience?  The media praising of wannabe celebs?  The dumbing down of debate and merely casting insults?  Those disagreeing with you not an opponent but an enemy, (I wrote about this in a previous blog.)  

There is so much frustration in this world.  It’s there, it’s cerebral, it’s emotional, it’s powerful.  Seriously powerful.  And yet, and yet… the elites continue to ignore it.  Or even worse, as we’re seeing now, playing on it and using it for their own political and economic purposes.  Just like ticks, if you think about it.  It can lead to demagoguery, (which carries a heavy burden of history), and if not addressed, the result is too horrible to contemplate.  

Therefore, let us toast the humanity in us all and see these Ticks for what they are.  Challenge everything they stand for, loudly, very loudly, and where it applies, vote them out.  

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind’ 

Isn’t language interesting? You don’t kill opponents

Isn’t language interesting? You don’t kill opponents

Isn’t language interesting?  It can be used for peaceful purposes, taking heat out of a situation; whilst at other times to ramp up anger, vituperation and, most regrettable of all, hatred.  Hatred of different ethnic groups, sexual orientation, political beliefs – I could go on.  Currently, (remember, this is being written in January 2018), we have the 45th President of the United States, talking / ranting / tweeting about using the ‘nuclear option’ to address the current shutdown of Government.  His language is that of hate and contempt.    

Regrettable.   

Nowadays we have social media, online news media and television, radio, cable news, in fact a multiplicity of sources for the information we take into our daily lives.  We no longer have the press barons of yore controlling what we see and supporting those whose interests align with their own but not necessarily the majority of us.  I think it good that we have begun to take away this power.  Note the word, begun.  We are not there yet. 

We can now learn of events anywhere in the world within minutes, sometimes as they are happening.  For example, the obscene and cowardly bombing in Manchester in 2017, and the dreadful images of the multiple murders in Florida by a lone gunman with an automatic rifle.  This access has its benefits.  It also has its responsibilities.  It can be used to promote hate, can be kept deliberately ambiguous, and is sometimes used to tell outright lies in support of a particular point of view.  Where is the balance?  Where is the fairness?  There isn’t any at the moment.  

In the United States, until it was repealed by the FCC in August 1987, there used to be the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ which had supporters and detractors from across the political spectrum.  Look it up in Wikipedia and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Since then there have been a number of attempts to reintroduce some elements of it.  The main reason for this, I believe, is that there were two corollary rules of the doctrine, the ‘personal attack’ rule and the ‘political editorial’ rule.  Both required those impacted by reports to be notified.  In sum, it was about balance, it was about fairness.  This no longer applies.  

Those who try to look at both sides of an argument, or who disagree, are considered weak or called the enemy.  Interesting word, enemy.  Having been in the military, the word invariably means someone we have to dehumanise since we may have to kill them.  Those who disagree with me are not my enemy, they are my opponent, a different thing entirely.  I don’t want to kill my opponents.  I don’t want to disrespect my opponents.  Unfortunately, we are now in a world where balance is no longer respected, vituperation rules and reasoned debate mocked.  Until we are able to differentiate between an enemy and opponent, this vicious circle will continue and demean us as human beings.  It needs to be broken – and it can be.  It ‘simply’ requires us to use language to communicate and involve not exclude.  Go high when the response goes low.  In sum, to confirm and reinforce our common humanity.  

Which returns me to my first comment.  

Isn’t language interesting?  And a powerful tool for good.  So let’s use it that way.  

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind’ 

So, why do we write when it can be such a pain in the bum?

So, why do we write when it can be such a pain in the bum?

I have a Twitter account as well as Facebook page.  Twitter allows me to touch base with other, in the main, like-minded folk and Facebook generally with friends and family.  Today’s blog is about the former.  I’ve already written posts about some writers, e.g. Lexi Lefevre (fabulous poet) as well as Doug Wallace (great SciFi inkster).  I’ve left feedback on the latter’s book on Good Reads here.  It’s a good book and worth reading if you’re into fantasy.  

It’s the quality of the poetry, the use of words and the imaginative worlds they create that so impress me.  Read more

I lost a friend today. Semper Fi, Bill…

I lost a friend today.  Semper Fi, Bill…

I heard today that I had lost a friend.  He passed away having fought an unwelcome guest with all the power and passion that made him successful in what he did when we worked together.  He told me six months ago about this unwelcome guest, liver cancer, and that he and the love of his life would fight it together.  He fought.  Oh, how he fought.  Even as he lost that fight, as I found out today he had, it did not beat him.  He would not allow it.  His wife would not allow it.  He would have gone down fighting.  

Semper Fi, Bill.

He was a faithful friend to me and the crew with whom he worked.  He was a healer in all that he did.  He was the first person I thought of when asked if our team could help a group of people who had lost one of their own.  He went in, he worked hard, ‘don’t you ever sleep?’ he was asked more than once.  You look after your own.  No one left behind.  His Marine training, attitude and beliefs would have reinforced that.  

Semper Fi, Bill.

I lost a friend today.  

And I am so sad. 

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’