Vanishing Ice and Future Economics

In my novel, TWIST, set in the year 2075, the seas have risen as a result of global warming, inundating the coastal cities and driving the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi River valley. The current exhibition at the Whatcom Museum, entitled Vanishing Ice, presents a sobering visual record of the process that has been taking us there for the past 250 years.

Seventy works of art – photos, videos and paintings by a range of international artists – depict alpine and polar environments, highlighting the massive recession of glaciers and ice fields, the fundamental changes caused by global warming.

This leads us into another dimension of dystopian economics, as a follow-up to my previous post, The Chapstick At The End Of The World: the increasing economic value of an ever-more-scarce ecology.

Vanishing Ice by Noble -- Click To Enlarge

In the utopian scenario, we foresee wealthy ecotourists paying big bucks to visit the last few penguins and polar bears in their native habitat. For example, here is a print from the museum show by Anne Noble, entitled Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica, and described as follows: “Anne Noble juxtaposes Antarctica’s seemingly inaccessible landscape with empty plastic chairs that perhaps represent the droves of tourists eager to experience the ice before climate change transforms the continent. A sense of loss pervades her work, as Antarctica becomes yet another commodity for the taking.”

Vanishing Ice by Braasch -- Click To Enlarge

But then there is the dystopian vision of this future, in which desperate tribes of humans armed with pointy sticks fight for control of the few remaining repositories of fresh water, since the glaciers and snowfields which fed them are long gone. Take a look at this pair of photos of the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, the more recent shot in 2005 by Gary Braasch, compared to Arthur Oliver Wheeler’s 1917 image. From the description in the museum exhibit:“ [they] confirm the scientific data that the Athabasca Glacier has lost half its volume and retreated almost a mile (1.5 km) since its discovery in 1898.

Hate to be Mr. Negative, but what do you think? Take a look at Vanishing Ice and decide for yourself.

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The Chapstick At The End Of The World

Masterful dystopian novelist here, reporting on the predicted end of the world as we know it.

So, dear readers, shall I advise you to stockpile gold bullion and bullets? Noooo, actually end-of-the-world economics will not be based at all on gold — can’t eat it, and it won’t prevent sunburn or cure warts or do anything else useful, therefore you won’t be able to trade it for much because in addition to being useless, it is heavy to carry around. You and everyone else will have more important things to think about than jewelry.

Ok, what about bullets? Yes, you would think they might be a good medium of exchange, at least until they are all used up or the guns break or rust. But bullets will not be a universal currency — only those with the right type of guns that utilize the type of bullets you happen to have will be interested in bartering with you. And once you’ve given them the bullets for their gun… well, how long will they let you keep the stuff they just gave you for the bullets? Maybe this will work if you have more and better guns than they do. But the odds are against being able to get the stuff you want with bullets, unless you put the bullets in your own gun, thence to rob and/or kill, which brings up more fundamental issues than dystopian economics…

Returning to the subject at hand, let’s look at other possible media of exchange. How about coffee? Soon to become rare, coming all the way from Central and South America, and valuable as a stimulant. Say, speaking of stimulants, might as well throw some of that Columbian marching powder on the back of the donkey or in the hold of the sailboat as you bring it north…

Hmmm. Sailboat — now there’s an idea — a boat that can carry heavy loads from place to place without fossil fuel. Might be handy to have.

But since not everyone will acquire a sailboat — or a donkey — just in case the world might come to an end, let’s bring this down to a more basic level. How about band-aids and antiseptic ointment? Aspirin? Chapsticks? These are small and inexpensive items, easy to stockpile, that just about everyone will want once the world comes to an end, since there will be a lot of headaches, infections and chapped lips. Two chapsticks for a chicken? Well, alright, I’ll make it three.

In
image
We Trust.
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Whatever Happened To Utopia?

As the author of a dystopian novel, I have to ask why, and when, did Utopia become Dystopia? Growing up, I read all the science fiction I could get my hands on. It wasn’t called ‘speculative fiction’ yet, ‘cause it was written by and for the scientifically minded, based on an optimistic vision of science creating a glorious future for us puny humans. Yeah, I was a nerd, a card-carrying member of the Science Fiction Book Club, reading authors like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and all the rest.

What a vision! We were destined to evolve as a race, get smarter and stronger, master the arts of mental telepathy and teleportation; as science made our lives ever easier, we would zoom into space, build glorious shining cities, enjoy high-tech leisure, and all the rest of the Utopian mindset.

So when did we flip over into dismal Dystopian visions of the future? When did Zombie Apocalypse replace The Jetsons? When did taste in popular music morph from Patti Page crooning “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” (1953) to the band Anthrax “Spreading the Disease” (1985) or Megadeth assaulting us with “Countdown to Extinction” (1993)?

Pretty radical change in attitude in that thirty-odd years! What the heck happened? Why did pessimism take the place of optimism? Since Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer all began in the early ‘80s, maybe you could blame it on Ronald Reagan. I don’t know.

250px-Jetsons

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He Was a She

                                               Sharla Here

Spoiler alert: If you are reading my little blog before you’ve read Twist, it may ruin a few surprises. Also, if you have not yet read it, some of this won’t make much sense. So, please read Twist before proceeding.

Well, it’s my turn on Myron’s blog again. I talked about the 1970’s and Perfect Fingers last week, but just to keep everyone on his or her toes, I am going to switch gears again, and return to Twist. So let’s talk about Kit.

Kit is a swinging kicking mystery wrapped up in a slightly crazy dark shell. In my Female Tropes blog I focused on Kit’s relationship with Adam and how that disrupts sexist themes, but today I want to talk about what her whole persona embodies. From the first time she sings, “Somewhe-e-ere over the rainbow”, I knew Kit was going to be great.

When we meet Kit we are deceived.

“He disarmed and scattered the gang of kids…He knocked me off balance…He came at me and threw me again… He dropped the knife…I saw his face. He was a she.”

Gender

For two whole pages Kit fought off street kids, pinned Adam, and of course was assumed to be a man. After hearing her high voice, Adam allows the thought  that she is a young boy defeating him enter his head. But does the idea that a woman is besting him penetrate his ego? Nope! Adam, like me, was surprised to find that this samurai was a woman. The fact that this is even a surprise to us is something to ponder. Why do we assume that a person who can fight, comes to the rescue, and is wearing dark shapeless clothing is a man? I’m sure there’s a complex, lengthy, and confusing sociology answer to that, but lets keep it simple: that’s all we ever see.

Even fictional characters tend to be confined by the conforming boxes we‘ve built into society. However, Kit is a character who takes her knife to that box.She is not a one-dimensional heroine who fights off bad guys in a tight skirt. In fact, she is wearing a shapeless black robe, and why not? It never makes sense to me in books, movies, or TV shows when a female character is fighting someone in a pushup bra, leotard, and high heels. Yes, that was a dig at you Superwoman.

Well, that’s all folks. Let me know what you think of Kit below. Also, I will be going on a little hiatus for a few weeks, but if you have any ideas for blogs to come,post here or on the Facebook Page. I will see you soon, but not too soon.

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Climate Change = Conflict

Ever read the paper, logged in to the guardian, or turned on the news and felt like the world was transforming into a more hellish and violent place every day? Well, scientists definitely noticed. New research looked at studies around the world spanning 100’s of years and found a strange and frightening correlation: Climate Change = Conflict! As the numbers on the thermometer mount so do murder, assault, domestic violence, and the number of wars and ethnic conflicts.

In Twist, this correlation rears its ugly head. The climate of 2075 is devastated, the ozone is all but depleted, and Wichita is a place of murder and mayhem. Is this our future? The global temperature is estimated to rise 3.6° F by 2050, which could lead to a 15% rise in crime and a 50% increase in group conflict. My response: Sanctified excrement, we are in for it now…

So here comes the big question: WHY? Why does humanity react to climate change with such violence? Well, no one knows…yet. Some ideas: Perhaps because climate affects economic conditions which also leads to higher crime? Maybe there is a psychological explanation: studies link higher aggression to higher temperatures—I guess I’m not the only person who gets testy when the sun blazes. Or, is this correlation insignificant? Remember, correlation does not prove causation. What do you think?

In my opinion, it makes perfect sense that humanity is affected by climate change. Lobsters are becoming cannibalistic due to global warming, many animals are threatened with extinction, and maybe humanity’s reaction is aggression and violence. It seems the world may have more to lose than just ecosystems and species. The good in humanity may also be at stake.Climate Change and humans

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$32 Billion And 2.4 Million People

                                                              Sharla Here!

Spoiler alert: If you are reading my little blog before you’ve read Twist, it may ruin a few surprises. Also, if you have not yet read it, some of this won’t make much sense. So, please read Twist before proceeding!

Human Trafficking

It’s Wednesday, so here I am again to offer my 2¢. Today I read an article about a thriving international business that earns $32 billion a year. This business is illegal, harmful, and ruins lives. How many of you jumped straight to drugs? Then maybe firearms? Wrong on both accounts. One of the largest black market businesses is human trafficking. So, today this is what I will be talking about.

While the bulk of modern slavery is often women and girls, thousands of men and children, all around the world, are victims as well. It is estimated that over 2.4 million people are shackled to this industry.

Despite the obvious illegality, inhumanity, and cruelty of this business, internationally, there has been a lack of investment to combat it. Does any of this sound familiar to Twist readers? Homeless children being lied to about a better future, being kidnaped, and used. If you’ve read Twist, you know human trafficking is still alive and well in Myron’s dystopian future. In Twist, Montrose was aware of the atrocities being done in his city, yet he refused to act against them. Adam Twist confronts Montrose, and finds out the truth:

“You knew about that?”

“I suspected,” said Montrose…

“You knew about the private little hunting lodge down below. And what’s in there?”

“There were rumors”

“You went along with it?”

“You don’t understand. I couldn’t stop him. There was nothing I could do.”

“C’mon. You’re the man in charge.”

This exchange is one I can easily see playing out in the real world. I fear if we do not do something soon about human trafficking, the corruption of 2075 is one we, in the present, will face. While following over $32 billion dollars across the world to find and end modern slavery is a difficult task, it is one that needs to be done. If you are interested in learning more about human trafficking, here is a resource about national human trafficking, and one about international human trafficking.

Well that’s all for today folks. I will be back next week to talk more about issues surrounding women in the real world and in Myron’s. Don’t be shy, comment below to talk about this week’s blog. Also, if you have any ideas for next week post below or to Myron’s Facebook page.

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Overused Female Tropes

                                                        Sharla Here!

Spoiler alert: If you are reading my little blog before you’ve read Twist, it may ruin a few surprises. Also, if you have not yet read it, some of this won’t make sense. So, please read Twist before proceeding!

Hello again everyone! Last week, I talked about domestic violence, and the character Sal. Today, I’m going to be taking a slightly different angle, and will be blogging about how gender relationships are portrayed in Twist, as well as other media outlets.

Women

All too often in films, comics, novels, and video games men’s relationships with women are two-dimensional. Here is a link to a video blogger who entertainingly, talks about the unhealthy way women are portrayed in the media. Below are some of the repeated absurd themes we all know too well.

  • Men as the hero and as women the damsel in distress
  • Women as the hyper sexualized sub character to be conquered
  • Women as the evil seductress

Now, taking these three common tropes, let’s explore Adam Twist’s relationships with women. As I read Twist, I originally feared Dora would fall into the 1st category. However, I was greatly relieved when this wasn’t the case. While Dora is a woman in
trouble and Adam does help save her, she is not a helpless woman. She runs away from her home to escape Calley’s abuse. Even though her escape attempt lands her in another abusive relationship, she was not a woman who simply sat by and waited to be rescued. She took action to get out of her situation.

How about Sal? At first, readers may assume that Sal and Adam’s relationship is also an example of the first trope, but if you read a little further, the truth is revealed. Adam disapproves of how Sal’s husband treats her, yet he refuses to embrace the hero stereotype and step in gun’s blazing. Instead, in the end of the novel, Sal becomes her own hero.

Let’s talk about Kit, my favorite character. She is described as beautiful, young, and can kick anyone’s ass, although she is also a little crazy. I have seen far too many stories develop this character: a sexy, strong and independent women who the male protagonist chases after, and in the end, of course, she sees the error of her headstrong and cold ways and falls for the male hero. Thankfully, this is not the case with Kit.

“We could have fallen into the rustling grass and gotten naked and brought the two sad halves of ourselves together…But we didn’t. ‘Better get going.’ I(Adam) said.”

You’re so prepared for the cliche to play out, yet the relationship between Kit and Adam remains, mostly innocent. No conquest of the attractive, fierce heroine. In fact, the only one who tries to initiate any sexual relationship is Kit.

Finally, the last stereotype: women as evil seductresses. This character is so over played and unoriginal that I want to throw things every time it rears its ugly head. When was the last time you saw a male character wear a v-neck, excessively tight pants, and speak slow and seductively to get his way? Oh ya… NEVER! This seductress trope, which is applied almost exclusively to women, represents a very unhealthy attitude in society. It mirrors the false idea that a woman’s main attribute is her sexuality so she must use it to get what she wants. I was ecstatic to discover that no such woman existed in Twist.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg regarding women stereotypes in mass media, and only the tip of the gender relationships in Twist; however, that is all I have time for today. Thanks for reading, and I will see you again next week. Also, don’t be shy, comment here or on Myron’s Facebook page with suggestions or questions for next week.

 

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From Django Unchained to Adam Twist

The last couple of weeks, issues surrounding race have been blanketing the news, from the Supreme Court decision on The Voting Rights Act, to the racial overtones of the Zimmerman trial. So, this weekend I opened my copy of Twist,and revisited the issue of race in the year 2075In the world of Adam Twist which I created, many of today’s concerns are extrapolated into the future of 2075: homelessness, human cruelty, sexual violence, a ravished environment and government corruption, but not race. There is one mention that the major female character, Kit,

“…was a beauty, like some kind of rough-edged street goddess. High cheekbones, dark eyes and deep complexion. Mixed blood. Native-American, Hispanic or Afro, maybe all three.”

And that’s about it in terms of race. Even the protagonist, Adam Twist, is ambiguous – could be played by Harrison Ford or Denzel Washington, works either way. So not all is bad in the future – race may no longer be a hot issue.

After this happy realization about the future, I then switched gears into the past by finally watching Django Unchained. As the final credits rolled, I tried to put this film into a box. Does it have layers of social commentary? Is it about racial inequality? No, forget those nice words out of a sociology textbook – it’s about slavery, a merciless punch in our face with the raw brutality and human agony of one group of people capturing, tormenting and forcing their will upon another. Sure, the scene with the KKK halting mid raid because they can’t see out of their hoods is absurd and humorous, but what better way to expose injustice and cruelty of the past than by exposing the stupidity of the perpetrators? But then there is the scene in which the plantation master orders his men to release their dogs to rip apart a slave who tried to escape. Hard to watch? Make your lily-livered ass squirm in your chair? Too bad, because Tarantino is going to rub your face in the slime whether you like it or not. Remember the eye gouging in Kill Bill?

This film is genius writing, as well as casting. Samuel L. Jackson as the obsequious house slave Stephan, and Leonardo DiCaprio as the vicious, violent yet charming slave owner, added a whole new layer of humor, satire and irony to the film. You can’t help but laugh darkly as Jackson hobbles into shot, a mixture of yassuhs, boot-licking servility, and short-tempered obscenities.

Finally, I came to the realization I come to about most Tarantino films: Yes, it is a cocktail of spurting blood, exposed entrails, absurd plot, dark humor, fast action, and clever wit, but it also carries a hard kernel of truth, in this case tracing a trajectory from an ugly past which we try to keep hidden, into the present and, by extrapolation, into a future in which today’s confusion and stupidity about the issue of race will seem as monumentally boneheaded as that of Django Unchained.

DjangoUnchainedOfficialPosterPT

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Women in 2013 and 2075

Sharla Here!

Spoiler alert: If you are reading my little blog before you’ve read Twist, it may ruin a few surprises. Also, if you have not yet read it, some of this won’t make sense. So, please read Twist before proceeding!

Well, here I am again!  As promised, I will be blogging about women in Myron’s novels. Today, I will be focussing on Twist. While I hope to later delve into more obscure and subtle gender relationships in Myron’s works, let’s deal with the most obvious point of discussion first: violence against women. Take Sal for instance. She represents a major issue that women face, domestic violence. Sal, one of the first female characters Adam Twist interacts with, is repeatedly beaten by her husband, Dake. While a lot has changed in the dystopian future of Adam Twist, this situation is eerily familiar.

Adam cannot understand why Sal stays with her husband. He asks Sal, “Why do you let him beat you up like that?” This question is one that many victims of domestic violence often face. It is a difficult question. Here are just a few of the many and complicated reasons people stay with abusers:

1. Fear: What happens if you leave and he follows and hurts you more?
2. Love: Most people love their partner, regardless of the abuse.
3. Embarrassment: They are ashamed of what has happened and unwilling to talk about it.
4. Normality: Some people think that such a relationship is normal.
5. Reliance: Some are reliant on their abusive partner emotionally, financially or otherwise.

After exploring some of Sal’s responses, I believe she stays with Dake because of love and embarrassment; of course, you’d have to ask Myron to be sure of her motivations. Sal tells Adam her husband “had a good side, he just got in with Calley, and that bunch, and it made him crazy.” That sounds a lot like blind love to me.  Let’s appreciate Adam’s response, he says,

“Sure. Like maggots weren’t really meant to live in garbage, except they’re a little mixed up.”

He can see right through Dake and realizes his behavior is not excusable. Sal also struggles with the third reason, embarrassment. When Adam tells her he can see the remains of yellow bruises on her face, “Sal jerked her head, turning the bruised side of her face away…” and then she snaps, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” This is a common reaction, denial of the abuse and an attempt to hide it from others.

Sal’s situation is resolved, to my personal satisfaction, when she shoots her jerk of a husband. However, this is a novel — that solution is not a good or a plausible one for the real world. If you or anyone you know is dealing with domestic violence, here are some resources.

I know that was some heavy stuff, but I think it is important to talk about these issues and look at Sal’s fictional character in 2075 and how it represents the situation many women face in 2013. If you have any comments or questions please post them here!

I’ll be back next week to talk more about Women and Myron. If you have any suggestions for next week’s blog comment below! Check back here or Myron’s Facebook Page next Wednesday, to see more from me!

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Threats of Global Warming

If Adam Twist could hop off the pages of Twist and into 2013, I think he would appreciate this part of Obama’s speech on Tuesday: “The question is not whether we need to act, the question is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.” No truer words could have been spoken. However, it occurs to me, is it already too late? While reading about the president’s speech I found another story that outlines some of things we could lose if global warming continues. There are the obvious things like loss of coral reefs, polar bears, land mass, and fish populations. However, we could also lose some of the little pleasures in life: food and drink. Wine, German beer, honey, peanut butter, chocolate, strawberries, and disturbingly, coffee. These are just some of the many products that global warming threatens. Whether you’re concerned with rising green house gases, melting glaciers, devastated ecosystems, or not being able to get your caffeine fix, we should all think about what a warmer planet will mean.

fire planet

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