Let me start with reckognizing the great art of writing. I am really impressed with much of what I read on other blogs here. You do not stop to amaze me. The great detail you explain, the explicit expressions you manage and the great stories you tell... Wow!
I could only dream of writing something like that. I would be very happy if I could just do a little story telling. But I must admit that I am best at scientific explanations and arguments, which is also very essential when writing an international popular science book - but not enough.
I have come to the conclusion that if the book is to get through and reach a broader audience it must be written - at least partly - as story telling and with examples of great detail. One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, is journalist and write almost only in examples - whole chapters about each example. I would never be able to do that. He is, by the way, considered one of the 100 most influential persons in the World!
The idea that came out of these thoughts is that the perfect setup for an international popular science book would be combination of scientist and writer, e.g. an economist and a jornalist or writer. That is why I am searching for a good writer that would consider popular science a great challenge.
The ambition of the project is to write an international book with examples from most of the World, that introduces an innovative idea to society development and sets a new agenda for politicians and grass-roots in the Western World. The economic theory behind is based on simplicity and the huge ressouces that are bound in heavy bureaucracy, unneccesary rules, excessive administration and too many special arrangements.
I know that non-fiction is not the greatest area of interest at The Word Cloud, so besides your thoughts on the co-writing setup I have suggested, I would also like to hear about other communities, e.g. journalist communities, that you may know of.
Thank you in advance for taking an interest in this subject.
Lester Thees has worked as a welder, office manager, truck driver, and private investigator, to name just a few. He spent a while in college, another while in a Catholic Seminary, and many years in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. His writing career began when a friend cornered him in a dark alley and forced him to confess his unholy urge to write stories. Quirky, peculiar, and strange stories that leave him cackling like a madman as he scribbles them on scraps of paper.
“Character-driven fiction fascinates me. I love to read it and write it. There’s nothing as thrilling as creating characters, then following them around to see what they’ll do.”
His short stories have appeared in dozens of magazines and anthologies.
His novel, Leaving Town, is modern pulp. Edgy, violent, and oddly comedic. Set in a small town, the pair of protagonists stumble through a pack of characters who could force a ten-way tie in the Misfit America Pageant.
Leaving Town is available for Kindle at
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...and if you (or someone you know) have a guest post about crime please, bear LaeLand in mind. In return, you'll get a two-day promotion.
Matters of Life and Death
The fundamental question for a human being is this: do I die when
I die? If yes, then it might be fair to assume everything is
physical, that matter is all.
If the answer is no, then we have a far bigger implication. Matter is not everything. Other stuff exists – call it spirit, mind, non-material reality, whatever. The point is, we suddenly have a massive unexplored meta-universe.
This is what people have generally believed, everywhere, always – heaven, hell, the afterlife, the beyond, bardo, tir na nog, spiritual realms, and so on. But not now. The prevailing western attitude can be summarised in a conversation between Ralph and Piggy in Lord of the Flies. Here’s the how it goes:
Ralph raised the conch to his lips and then lowered it. “The
trouble is: Are there ghosts, Piggy?..”
“Course there aren’t.”
“Cos things wouldn’t make sense. Houses an’ streets, an’ – TV – they wouldn’t work.”
And that’s it, more or less. We live in a manufactured world of houses, streets, TVs, footwear, cars, computers – all the material objects that insulate us from other realities. None of them survive death, so why should we?
Technology has persuaded us. Science has persuaded us. Nothing exists except matter. Which is odd, because science says no such thing.
Here’s what science really says. Our sort of matter (baryonic matter) makes up about 4% of the universe. That’s right: 96% of the universe is other stuff. We can’t emphasise this enough. All the resonant certainties of St Dawkins and his fellow prophets are based on one basic assumption: that matter is all.
And they are wrong.
The rest of the universe is made up of dark energy (73%) and dark matter (23%). And the point of the word ‘dark’ is that we scarcely know anything about these things. Nonetheless, putting a label on them can fool us into thinking we have some understanding, so it is good to shuffle the synonyms around, just to jog ourselves out of complacency. And when we do that, we find some very interesting synonyms for the ‘dark’ component of dark matter: hidden, undetected, unseen, occult.
That’s right: 73% of the universe is occult energy and 23% occult matter.
Now, we mustn’t get carried away and immediately conclude that all the mystics, shamans, yogis and spiritualists have been right all along. It may or may not be the case that all this occult matter and energy corresponds to heaven, hell, the afterlife, the beyond, bardo, tir na nog, spiritual realms, and so on. We are in no position to know.
But it is interesting to note the congruence:
Religion says there are vast other realities we
cannot detect by physical means
· Science says there are vast other realities we cannot detect by physical means
It is a fascinating parallel, although in our present state of
knowledge we can say no more than that.
A while ago I was experimenting with twitter. What sort of items did I like reading? Offbeat thoughts, wit’n’wisdom, snippets of this’n’that. Maybe I should try a few such things myself. So I came up with a series of dark matter tweets.
· Gosh, there's a lot of dark matter in the kitchen today. Can hardly push past it to the fridge...
· Sod it – fridge full of dark matter too. Now is that a bottle of milk or...?
· Some fascinating galaxies floating through this lounge...
· Really kicking off in Dark Matter right now. Good and bad angels having a right set-to. Woops, nearly knocked over a saucepan there
· Oh come on now, this is silly – good angels lobbing lifetron bombs at bad angel patrol – yikes, what about our stair carpet!
· Think I'm back with proper matter now (baryonic). Mind you, I do appear to be tweeting. (Remind me, is that normal?)
And so on. The basic idea is that every room, every house, every
street, car, bus and train is likely to contain vastly more dark
matter and dark energy than anything else. If computer screens
exist in dark matter (uncertain, I grant you) then there could be
six dark matter screens in each room for every one of ours. (Have
a look: can you see them?) And if dark energy could configure
itself into the likeness of computer screens (even more
uncertain) then there would be eighteen such screens for each of
ours. (Eek: hardly space to breathe!)
‘Dark’ computer screens are, of course, unlikely. Far more likely to have angels and demons battling it out over the kitchen stove. Or bleeding ichor (the blood of angels) onto the stair carpet.
Or, well, we can’t really guess. And that’s the point of calling it ‘dark’.
We just don’t know. But when someone trots out the weary old ‘wenyer dedyer ded’ they don’t know either.
So let’s be cheerful and relaxed about science. It’s good stuff, it’s great stuff, but it does have its limits. And real science is honest about this. So if anyone tries beating us over the head with it – saying we’re nincompoops for wondering about this or that – well, they’re just not being scientific.
There's a good article about it here:
and a more detailed technical article here:
It's a piece called Science, Fiction & Truth and I talk about some of my heroes and prejudices in science fiction, what goes into a “high concept” idea, and the Radium Girls. I really, really enjoyed writing this, and I would love if you checked it out. Oh, and she is giving away five free copies of my e-book.
Here's a little taster:
My science fiction tastes have always been very compartmentalized. Space operas must be TV shows. I’m not convinced they work as well as movies, let alone books. Anything to do with robots, I prefer as a movie. I want to see the robot, and only movies have the budget to make it look really cool.
I’m a little more democratic when it comes to books. A good story will trump all, but I do gravitate towards near-future dystopia. Spaceships and aliens and all that are okay, but I would rather have a story about a man who struggles to form relationships because he can read minds, or about a cloning experiment gone wrong. For me, the further the story is away from the real world, the less it says about it in a clever way.
This latter qualification is important to me. Sure, you can have a version of Romeo & Juliet set on an interplanetary cruiser, or have an alien encounter story that teaches us about racism, but I prefer my messages a little more subtly coded. I don’t like neon signs telling me what to think.
Philip K. Dick is a favourite. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was great, but I liked Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said even more. He was a master of creating this sense of unease in the reader, which perfectly mapped what the character was feeling.
In many of his stories, it takes a while to figure out if this is taking place on our world or not, or whether it is set in the future or not, or whether the main character is crazy or not. That sense of dislocation is a brave move for a writer. So many feel compelled to do their world-building right from the start, with unwieldy explanations of various technological advances or geographical quirks that signify to the reader, right from the off, that you are somewhere else.
Read the rest at: http://claudiea.blogspot.com/2011/06/science-fiction-truth.html
I have posted a new blog on Persistent Writer that could potentially help all of you.
A couple of months ago I began talking to a wonderful writer on Twitter called David Baboulene. David is a published author and has a regular spread in Writing Magazine. I asked him if he would mind being interviewed for my blog and he agreed! I can't tell you how excited I was that he accepted. I'm now proud to call David a friend (we chat almost every day!). He offers amazing advice and i'm hoping to work with David in the future on some projects as well as organise seminars for him in the autumn.
Please take a look at what David has to say and visit his website / blog. I have learned so much from him in the short time I have known him, and I know that you guys will too.
I hope that you find this useful.
PS If any of you need any help or advice about setting up a blog, i'll post a blog on here about how to go about it. Let me know if any of you are interested xx
Today I found news of a 'scientific' report in my national daily - admittedly originating in the US but confirmed by UK boffins - informing us that the majority of young men get broody. (Broody?! It's a term coined by breeders to describe hen fowl ready to mate and produce fertile eggs. Can the term be applied to cocks?) Anyway ... most males aged 16 to 24 confessed when asked that they would like to have children of their own. Stop the world and pass the sal volatile! Whoever heard of young men wanting children of their own?
The same research also found that a growing minority of young women are choosing not to have babies. Shock horror! Forgive me but isn't it only in the last 50 years that women have had any choice in the matter?
Is it because of my age and the circles I've moved in that I have known very few men who didn't want and love their children? And a smattering of women who chose not to have them?
Okay, so there are weirdos who live life against the grain but they are not the the norm and scientific research into the blindingly obvious makes me wonder if my Gran might have had a thing or two to teach at PhD level.
Has any scientist ever set out to produce an equation proving the power of love?
There is something ennobling about the search for the divine. We feel in it a source of strength and purpose, perhaps partly because we are aiming for the unattainable. We seek a perfection that is somehow outside the universe and has mastery over it. We would know something of an entity that we, who are of the universe, can never truly know.
The pursuit of knowledge, the day job of the scientist, so often seems pedestrian by comparison. But in every scientific discipline there are those who question the fundamental assumptions of their field, those whose passion drives them to ask what is most essentially true, those who would know the unknowable. Science also can aspire, and it is perhaps because of this that it gets into so much trouble. For there is a traditional belief among scientists that they are discovering things. Steadily, surely, generations of earnest theorists believe, and would have us believe, that they are revealing the truth about the world around us. But this is simply not true. They are not discovering anything. They are inventing things. And the truth of that can be a hard blow to those with noble aims.
Reality is powerfully chaotic and unpredictable, and through fear of that chaos we impose system on it. We develop theories, and some of them in time most of us believe to be true. Mediaeval Europeans believed that the sun circled the Earth. Thanks to Copernicus, who invented the idea that it did not, few now believe that. Does that mean that our forebears were wrong? That we are right, or have a better idea?
In the 1600s, Christiaan Huygens performed experiments that proved the wave nature of light, while Isaac Newton devised other experiments that proved light to be composed of particles. Both sets of experiments were highly convincing to their colleagues and still convince today. Many physicists offer a simple explanation for this apparent contradiction. Light is composed neither of waves nor of particles. It is made of something else that shares some attributes of both. But is that a better explanation? Is it more true?
There is an element to all science of, ‘Seek and ye will find.’ When we observe the universe around us, we see what we want to see, according to what we think we know about it at the time. It is what we say it is, because that is how we see it. So no scientific hypothesis or theory or fact is ever discovered. They are all invented, of the culture which bore them, and they reflect that culture and complement it. They do not reflect reality. They construct it, because they then influence the way we see things in the future, and the way we see things is the only reality we have.
I read recently that the Large Hadron Collidor will expose the secrets of the universe, show us whether there is a massive God particle accounting for the discrepancies in current physics and reveal the field that unifies gravity with the quantum nature of matter. It will do none of those things. What it will do is draw curvy lines on a bit of paper. What scientists will then do is invent explanations that seem to fit those curvy lines, or adapt explanations they’ve already invented.
It is surely because science develops the theories that shape our understanding of the world, while it is our understanding of the world that shapes the science developing those theories, that what we think we know will never stand still. There will never be a final theory. There are no right answers. All of it is true, and none of it. We will always need to have an overall view of the universe and how it functions. The view most of us hold today in our particular culture is a mixture of recent ideas that hold sway and past ones that have stood the test of time. But they are all an invention. They are none of them fundamental truths. So far as science can go, there is no platonic Truth.
I hope this sketch doesn’t sound nihilist or pessimistic. It’s not meant to be. I believe it is a good thing to be passionate about the pursuit of science, just as it is to be passionate about the search for the divine. Aspiration and understanding are our purpose, and without purpose we hardly feel human. But when I hear a scientist meekly boast that the latest theory is right and its predecessors were wrong or that a certain theory will one day explain everything, the child in me sighs.
Not that I disapprove of the ambition. At least they understand what a theory is meant to do. Sometimes people claim that they have a theory because they can make predictions and then test them. But that does not mean that they have a theory. So what if they can postulate something that makes predictions and then confirm them by experiment? Great. Lovely. But if their notion doesn’t explain anything then it’s not a theory. It’s not much use to anyone, I should think.
So let’s celebrate the aspiration of science, as we do that of religion. They are both there to explain things and to give us purpose. But let’s also understand science’s limitations. It does not touch anything which is fundamentally real, just invents continually explanations that fit a snapshot of the culture out of which they came. All theories have a shelf life and a market. But they are no less beautiful for that. And there is something humbling and gratifying about accepting science for the engine of perpetual motion that it is.
Science and Religion
Martin Rees – President of the Royal Society, Astronomer Royal, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge – has been doing the Reith Lectures on Radio 4. Here’s part of what he said this Tuesday:
“Imagine ants crawling around on a large sheet of paper (their two-dimensional ‘universe’). They would be unaware of a similar sheet that’s parallel to it. Likewise there could be another universe (with 3-dimensional space, like ours) less than a millimetre away, but we would be oblivious to it if that millimetre were measured in a fourth spatial dimension, while we are imprisoned in just three.”
Later on, when asked “Can science aim to understand religion”, he replied “I take the view that science and religion can and should coexist.” He went on to comment that although Richard Dawkins on his website calls him “a compliant Quisling” he remains “entirely unapologetic at being a compliant Quisling.”
This seems to me entirely proper. If there can be another universe a millimetre away, that leaves plenty of room for angels to dance on the heads of pins if they really wish.
There again we don’t need another universe. There’s plenty of dark matter in this one. Statistically, the room you are in right now should be packed from floor to ceiling with dark matter (it should outnumber baryonic matter – our sort – by about 7 or 8 to one [the estimates vary]). It may consist of dark matter sideboards, computer tables, filing cabinets and the like – but I doubt it. More excitingly, there might be platoons of goodies (a.k.a. angels/devas etc) fighting squads of baddies (a.k.a. demons/asuras etc). Or, sadly but more credibly, we just can’t imagine what’s going on.
And, of course, don’t forget about dark energy (making up about 70% of our universe [26% or so being dark matter and only 4% or so being baryonic matter – our sort]). What does dark mean? Hidden, undetected, occult – all genuine synonyms. So if you want to be controversial you have some reason for calling our universe 96% occult. Martin Rees’s extra universes must, of course, be entirely occult.
So, in conclusion, it seems crackers to use science to attack religion - it is no position to know. On the other hand, it cannot support religion either – only leave room for it, which is what Martin Rees does.
In the process of reading King's various anecdotes about his early experiences, I found my own memories triggering and firing. Memories of the things I have written over the years, or the experiences that have built-up to those pages of cramped black lettering. It got me thinking. I need to write down these snippets of my past, at the times I remember them. Put them into words on the page, lest they be forgotten one day.
So really, at this point in time, I am writing this more for myself than for you, my readers (If I have any). So stop complaining about my lack of credentials (You never know, one day some of you may be reading this after I actually have some!). Just let me ramble on for my own sake, and either enjoy or ignore at your own behest.
My first memory of writing, was a short science fiction story called “Richerd and the Alien Prince” (Obviously the character's name was Richard, but my typing or my spelling left something to be desired. I'm not sure which, probably both). If my maths is correct, it was probably 1985. I was about nine, my father was still alive, and we had been in the UK for perhaps less than a year since returning from the Bahamas (Job, not holiday). Being a Church of England Priest, my father had various tasks requiring the use of a typewriter, one of which was the church magazine.
I have little doubt that his creation of these monthly releases was an influence on me. Most likely at its greatest influence when I published the Rebel Review, but I shall go into that on another occasion. At this point, the primary factor was a typewriter, and my love of science fiction and adventure.
From here on in, I shall refer to my father as 'Dad', being the term by which I remember him. Dad had been given or loaned (I can't remember which) an old blue typewriter upon starting his new position. He was ever the gadget fan, a habit and addiction which I have most certainly inherited, be it genetically or by influence. Finding aforementioned typewriter functional at best, he soon purchased a wonderful new electric typewriter (This was just before the days of word-processing computers, which themselves will garner a few paragraphs in a later article). This typewriter was quite the marvel of modern technology, with gleaming white plastic sides, at least one or two glowing LEDs, and magical buttons that seemingly required little-to-no pressure before a letter was suddenly printed on the page with all the speed and power of a nail-gun on maximum. However, I digress. This typewriter had little influence on me apart from its untouchable wonder, and one other small factor. It freed up the little blue typewriter until such time as it was eventually returned to its original owner (So it must have been borrowed).
I metaphorically (perhaps even literally) rubbed my hands together in glee. Here was my chance! And so was spawned 'Richerd and the Alien Prince'. My ability for thinking up original character names must have been somewhat lacking (And may still be, depending on the opinion of my readers) because Richard was the name of my best friend of the time (Then again, if memory serves me correctly, he was only an acquaintance through church at that point, and yet to become my friend).
Richard is a local guy living a quiet and seemingly solitary life, who then witnesses the crashing arrival of something in the local woods. Of course he investigates, only to discover it contains an alien. Somewhat pathetically (Especially considering the alien prince looks human), Richard faints from shock twice in a row. What can I say, I was convinced that meeting an alien for the first time was so shocking that one's brain ceases to function momentarily, even when they look no different than someone you would pass in the street (Yes, this foolish story element embarrasses and bugs me even to this day). Anyway, despite having different languages, they make swift friends. However, all is not well. The enemies of the alien prince are hunting him in order to stop his ascension to the throne and removal of their power. A car chase ensues, and soon our heroes rather easily steal a jet from the local RAF base, and manage to shoot down the dastardly alien spaceship, saving the day. Not only that, they go back to Richard's house to celebrate by having a meal of chicken and chips. Believe me, I'm not kidding. It was my favourite meal as a kid, so that's what my heroes ate to celebrate. If you don't like it, tough.
I sat on the floor with the little typewriter, that in complete opposition to my Dad's electric counterpart, required fingers to be used like mini-hammers to ensure the letters were typed on the page with legible pressure. No doubt many hours later, a two-page short story was completed with plenty of errors, lots of words stricken through, and unusual grammar that will probably puzzle alien scientists in a post-apocalyptic world when it is the only surviving manuscript they discover, and (probably correctly) lead them to conclude that we were all insane.
The main point, is that I started writing. Adventures, stories, ideas and characters have always been bubbling over in the back of my mind, whether I have taken the effort to write them down, or they occurred to action figures in numerous miniature adventures.
Of all the things that story achieved, one shall never be forgotten. The immortal words of an alien language that meant something along the lines of: “I'm sorry, but I don't know what you're saying.” Words that shall be remembered in my family alongside immortal movie terms such as “Gort Klaatu Barada Nikto.” Those words were...
“Baggy La Nifnook.”
(Written for my own everyday Blog at: http://duncansguide.blogspot.com/ Go on... have a look... you know you want to, really. ;-)