Archive for the ‘dystopian’ Tag

On Killing A Society   2 comments

Writers spend a lot of time thinking about how to bump people off. Writers of dystopian fiction place that on a grander scale — figuring out how to kill the world as we know it.

Murder of individuals comes in many varieties. There’s the proverbial blunt object, a push off a cliff, the brake line “malfunction”. Murder of societies comes in varieties as well – nuclear holocaust, alien invasion, economic collapse. There are many ways to murder because depravity comes in many designs.

I remember reading a novel where a trusted spouse slowly poisoned her previously hale husband. Nobody suspected poison as the victim slowly withered and when eventually consumed, an unsuspecting coroner closed the case, listing the official cause of death as a long illness. The story in the book surrounded his niece asking questions and exposing the homicide.

In Life As We Knew It, I described the mortal wounding of America by nuclear terrorism. I don’t actually believe and therefore would not find it believable that there are foreign terrorists just planning to destroy the country for no reason. My brain keeps circling that central fact. Why would this happen? And I settled in part on poison because I see evidence for that in the world in which we live. You always wrap fiction round a grain of reality.

Fact. In its prime, the United States of America met every challenge. The Civil War devastated large parts of the nation and sucked the national soul dry, but America rebuilt into the world’s most prosperous economy, providing opportunities and better lives for millions. It was the sort of place where my great-grandpa Elmer could come from Ireland flat-broke, dodge the Civil War draft, and build a small fortune as a businessman afterward. It was a place where my husband’s great-grandfather Leo could also come from Ireland, get turned away from Ellis Island, go into Nova Scotia and enter the United States more or less illegally through the St. Lawrence smuggler’s boat and 20 years later be mayor of a New England town and a prosperous farmer. Full of ambition and energy, America became an industrial powerhouse powered by innovation that coined the terms “work ethic” and its derivatives “consumer,” and “middle class.”

Like the husband above, we drank deeply from life and enjoyed it immensely.

Then a generation arose that saw exuberance and activity as a negative. Theodore Roosevelt claimed that peace and prosperity were actually signs of incapacitation. We really needed to be involved in world affairs to be a truly grownup nation. JP Morgan and a host of well-bred businessmen insisted that America needed a central bank, elastic money, and an income tax in order to be fiscal sound. Woodrow Wilson said that the people shouldn’t have to worry our pretty little heads about governance. We could just let the “experts” handle it and go enjoy our lives. The administrative state could handle it all and Congress need not even be bothered by the mundane tasks of oversight. And while he was at it, we needed to involve ourselves in a European war. If someone disagreed with his diagnosis that the country needed these things, he threw them in jail.

The government refused to accept that the world’s healthiest and most robust economy could recover from the Depression of 1929 on its own, so Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt imposed higher taxes, deficit spending, unprecedented expansion of the regulatory state and crony capitalism, creating the Great Depression. Nowhere else in the industrialized world (Germany excepted) did the Depression of 1929 last longer than 18 months, because — for the most part — other countries allowed the economy to recover on its own, but the United States swallowed the elixir of Keynesian economic quackery, so suffered for 12 years.

World War 2 required still higher taxes, more debt and the government’s centralized control of the economy. In the 1950s and forward, every economic hiccup had to be tended to by our care-giving government, now grown to preeminent empire following the deadliest war in history. People called for a return of peace and prosperity, but the Military Industrial Complex and the intelligence-gathering arm of the government couldn’t allow that. We were told we needed continuous intervention around the globe and growing surveillance at home to keep us safe and “healthy.”

The vitality, risk-taking, ingenuity, individuality, integrity, and innovation that powered American greatness has been replaced with a desire for comfort, safety, and security without effort. There is no longer a connection between what we produce and what we receive. The dwindling few who work are duty-bound to support the rest of us. Coerced altruism is the requirement of the day according to the government, media, and academia.

Freedom is now seen as a danger to our society. More taxes, more regulation, more intrusion are seen as signs of health. We’re expected to give up our notions of honor and decency, control of our lives, our children’s educations, and anything else we cherish. We should care more about what we stare at on electronic screens than what we believe in our hearts to be true. Just do what the government says and everything will be great.

It’s hard to know when that last dose of poison will be administered. The country was already staggering when George W. Bush was president. President Obama may represent the fatal dose. Maybe the current election cycle madness is a symptom of collective insanity brought on by a century of political poison. It appears the patient realizes what is about to befall us, but do we have the strength to push the dram away?

With every election, government promises to change the dose of our poison by some degree or another, perhaps to prolong our death a little longer. And every time for decades now, we have fallen for that promise, never seeming to realize that we are ingesting poison.

This nation was born from a revolution for its freedom that initiated a dramatic experiment in representative and limited government, the protection of individual rights, and equality before the law. Yes, it took us a while to eliminate slavery and give women a voice, and for the economy to reach a point where the Industrial Revolution’s explosion of innovation and progress could free people from the drudgery of poverty, but the fact is we overcame those obstacles on our own, without the government’s all-caring, all-powerful strength. The government was small and incapable back when America was healthy and strong. In fact, those long ago Americans would have found such a government as we have today to be malignant and loathsome.

In my book, Americans don’t wake up soon enough, but here in the real world, it may not be too late. There are obvious stirrings against our oppressors. The Tea Party was a recognition by some of us that the government is poisoning us. Occupy Wallstreet was a glimmering that our economy is controlled by someone other than ourselves. Most people in the United States don’t realize we’re being poisoned and they certainly would be amazed to discover that the government is the poisoner, but we’re not dead yet either.

Some of us are waking up earlier than the rest and are sounding the alarm. Maybe it’s not too late. Waking up means realizing there is a big job ahead of us to clean up the mess we created, but it’s not beyond our powers to correct course … if we’re willing.


Implications of Deep Learning   Leave a comment

I read this highly supportive article on AI and “deep learning” that enthuses about how machines are going to replace human beings in pretty much every job, so we ought to restructure our societies so that people have an income without needing to work … and that’s a good thing.

I beg to differ.

So what else is new, right?

I’m not saying this future won’t come to pass, but I don’t foresee a utopia growing from it. I foresee a dystopia and wish Ray Bradbury were still around to write about it.

Human beings without work are hopeless and troublemakers.

This is more than my opinion. In Genesis, we read God’s creation of human beings and what He tasked His creation with.

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in. Eden to care for it and to maintain it. Genesis 2:15

We human beings were made in the image of God and God works. He creates, He tends, He has tasks and concerns and plans for our future. God Himself exists outside of time and the material world, so He doesn’t need an income. He does apparently enjoy work, else He wouldn’t do it.

It’s not surprising then that He tasked the creation made in His image with a job. Adam and Eve lived in idyllic garden where food was easy to get, but they still had to tend the garden and gather the food. When they disobeyed, God disciplined them by making their work harder. Why? Because He knew they were made in His image, that work was part of their DNA and that making it harder would be a true cost for their disobedience.

So now we’re told that we won’t need to work. We can sit around and contemplate our navels and not have to worry about feeding ourselves. Won’t that be lovely?

No, it won’t be. Maybe it will be workable for people like me who would still create (which is work), but the vast majority of humankind are not able to do that and no matter how much time they have on their hands, they won’t become creatives.Ever been bored?

Ever been bored? Ever had time on your hands and no way to distract yourself? Has that ever lasted for months?

In 2 Samuel 11, we read that King David (a man after God’s own heart) was bored. He didn’t go out with the army to fight the Philistines. He stayed in the city and rested. And while he was enjoying the benefits of not having to work, he saw Bathsheba, lusted for her, had sex with her and got her pregnant with his child, which required a coverup that resulted in the murder of her husband. God disciplined him – first, Nathan confronted him and forced him to name his own punishment, then his child with Bathsheba died. In all, David would lose four children because of his disobedience. But my point actually can be found in 2 Samuel 13 when we see that David went back out into the field. He had apparently learned his lesson about the danger of boredom.

No widow should be put on the list unless she is at least sixty years old, was the wife of one husband,  and has a reputation for good works: as one who has raised childrenpracticed hospitality, washed the feet of the saints, helped those in distress – as one who has exhibited all kinds of good works. But do not accept younger widows on the list, because their passions may lead them away from Christ and they will desire to marryand so incur judgment for breaking their former pledge. And besides that, going around from house to house they learn to be lazyand they are not only lazy, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things they should not. So I want younger women to marry, raise children, and manage a household, in order to give the adversary no opportunity to vilify us. 1 Timothy 5:9-14

Paul had been a scholar, but in his day, scholars worked for a living. He offered advice to several churches about the dangers of idleness.

For you know yourselves how you must imitate us because we did not behave without discipline among you, and we did not eat anyone’s food without paying. Instead, in toil and drudgery we worked night and day in order not to burden any of you. 3:9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give ourselves as an example for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we used to give you this command: “If anyone is not willing to work,neither should he eat.” For we hear that some among you are living an undisciplined life,  not doing their own work but meddling in the work of others. Now, such people, we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ, to work quietly and so provide their own food to eat. But you,brothers and sistersdo not grow weary in doing what is right. But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed.Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thessalonians 3:8-15

Here in Alaska, winters are a time of idleness for many. Especially in the villages, there is no work. Between welfare and Native corporation dividends, many villagers do not have to work other than to haul water and fire wood and with diesel fired heaters, not even much of that anymore. Alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual assault, and child abuse are all endemic, as is suicide. Kids in the villages say they feel hopeless. There’s nowhere to go, there’s nothing to do. We try to blame it on poverty. If we just gave them more money, community power sources, running water, the Internet …. They already have those things and they are still killing themselves and the ones who survive say they have no hope for the future because ….

Work gives us purpose and structure to our lives, but also it is a creative process that even non-artists can participate in. Brad, my electrician husband, loves to drive by a building he helped wired. He gets the same feeling I do when I see my books in print. When he’s not working (and he really likes time off), he’s working around our house or out on our cabin site. We choose for him to do that for financial reasons, but when I told him the day was coming when AIs could do the work for him and he could just watch, he rejected the notion outright. “Do you think an AI could write a book as good as you do?” he asked.

I think an AI could be better at grammar than I am, but I seriously doubt the story would have the same depth and human content. I believe an AI could paint a painting that technically would be as good as anything a hman artist could paint, but the AI would miss something indefinably human, creating a banal painting rather than a work of art.

“I feel the same way about my work. Even as I grind my teeth about my mistakes, it is the imperfections that provde character to the cabin. You miss that in mass production and that is really what AI produces. Besides, I start drinking when I get bored, remember?”

If I were writing a fictional book about this utopian vision of a world without work, I would write a dystopian where gangs of people would use their idleness to destroy and subjugate the creatives and where a shadow economy would grow up where people who were tired of idleness began to engage in business and attracted the ire of the government.

Yeah, that might need to be a development project.


The End Is Not Near   Leave a comment

I thoroughly agree with this. In my book Life as We Knew It, it takes a nuclear attack to bring us to crisis, but in reality, the weight of our own empire is going to eventually tear us apart … and that’s not a bad thing in the long run. Alaska would certainly be better off if it wasn’t a pretend state of the United States. We’re told we’re not a colony, but we’re not allowed to grow an economy, we have to ask permission of the mother country to sell our resources and we aren’t allowed to pursue our own interests. I’m sure other states feel the same way. Lela


The End is Not Near, It has Begun
By Jack Perry
April 15, 2016

I’ve gotten some emails from folks asking my opinion on “How’s it all going to end?” As in, what major crisis is going to finally cause the American Giant to fall down and go boom? Guess what? There won’t be a major crisis that does it. It’s going to be a slow cascade reaction of crisis and disasters. What’s more, it has already begun. We’ve already seen several of these disasters. More are on the way. The end has begun and is upon us.

Source: The End Is Not Near

Losing Freedom   3 comments

Writers of dystopian literature usually are readers of dystopian literature. I spent some time this winter re-reading 1984 by George Orwell and finally plowed all the way through the Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Last year, I re-read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It’s scary how much these works parallel modern reality.

Bradbury predicted wall-to-wall media home rooms, ear buds, and the decline of reading. In The Veld, he predicted virtual reality and its potential for harm.

Solzhenitsyn wrote history, of course, and from a painfully personal perspective. The parallels between the Soviet Union of his day and the United States of our own will make your hair stand on end. The measures the Soviet Union used to crush and control its population are manifesting today in the United States.  The rule of law has been subverted and courts now reflect the decision of the regime. Government policies substantiate the business interests and provide kickbacks for military contractors. Laws serve political and corporate interests. Most lawmakers themselves do not represent any of their constituents, preferring to enrich themselves by thievery, selling out their country and drowning the populace in debt and strangling regulation.

The police departments have largely been “federalized,” with budgets and procedures increasingly dependent upon federal rather than local or state policies. Sheriffs who follow their appointed roles as elected law enforcement officials upholding Constitutional guidelines are being “phased out” of existence.  The changed demographics of government-sponsored “immigration” of illegals and “refugees” are rapidly negating the remainder of the two-party system to ensure that the Democratic party takes control for the future.

Orwell envisioned this.  His work of fiction foresaw mass surveillance increasing by the day.  The “internet of things” is primed to allow “telescreens” to watch our every movement, with a camera on every corner to cover the public areas.  Orwell hated totalitarianism, having personal experience with it. He recognized man’s propensity was to move toward the enslavement of his fellow man.

The world’s situation is directly paralleling “1984” as three great spheres of influence are being formed by the powers that  be. We see those shifts of influence into the divisions outlined by Orwell now, as the nations jockey for position and power.  In 1984, the three powers shifted alliance as needed, but even two of the super-states in alignment and concerted efforts could not topple the third.

Populations are being conditioned (and largely are ready) to accept the coming totalitarianism. In fact, most would gladly embrace collectivist thought and socialism.  We see the blending of government and corporation today in virtually every facet of life. Elections are an illusion provided to keep the citizenry dulled into believing we are choosing this state of affairs.

The more I watch freedoms disappearing day to day, the more I wonder if there is a way to stem the tide.  Orwell and Solzhenitsyn gave us blueprints to follow…frameworks that detail what is befalling us. I’ve got to wonder – will people in the future refer to the brief period of freedom enjoyed by the American people as a “work of fiction” nobody is allowed to read?

Posted April 5, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in books

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Sale Ends in 12 Hours   Leave a comment

This is the last half day of the Kindle Countdown for Life As We Knew It.Life As We Knew It

Kindle Countdown Deal   Leave a comment

Life As We Knew ItLife As We Knew It is only 99 cents for the next few days.

When terrorism disrupts life as they knew it, cutting off transportation and communication, a small town must forge its own disaster plan.

Book Goodies Interviews with Lela Markham   Leave a comment

This Book Goodies interview ran a while ago and the notification got lost in my email.

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedAbout Lela Markham:
Hi, my name is Lela Markham and I told stories from the time I could talk. I eventually started writing them down and publishing some of them.

I’ve been a journalist, worked construction and outside sales, been an administrator for a mental health center for more than a decade and now work in transportation.

In 2015, I fulfilled a lifelong dream to become a published novelist. Currently, I’m focusing on epic fantasy and dystopian thrillers, but I write other genres. Watch this space.

When I’m not writing, I pursue the adventure of a lifetime in Alaska with my risk-taker husband, two fearless offspring and a sentient husky who keeps a yellow Lab as a pet.

What inspires you to write?
Human narratives fascinate me. We strive to be better than what we are and yet we are so often far less than we were made to be. It is that struggle that inspires me to write my characters’ stories. I often describe my writing process as putting into words what my characters tell me about their lives.

Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverTell us about your writing process.
My writing always starts with a character who often starts talking to me while I’m doing something unrelated to writing — filing at my money job or driving to Anchorage from my home in Fairbanks (380 miles). If the character hangs around and tells a decent story, I eventually get around to seeing if he or she would fit into a setting I feel like writing about. If the scene comes together, then I will decide what the purpose (the end) of the book will be and loosely plot out how I mean to get there. So, I am both a seat-of-the-pants writer and an outliner. Usually, I just list the major plot points at the end of the Word document I’m writing. As I fill in sections, I move to the next plot point. Nothing is set in stone until the rough draft is complete and even then, I will expand some sections on rewrite. I see plot as a braided river. There are multiple ways to get where I want to go and sometimes the side journeys are far more scenic than the straightest route.

For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I listen to my characters. I have, as part of creative writing exercises, tries to talk to them, but that’s largely been unsuccessful. They tell me their stories and I write them down. If they stop telling me their story, they almost always die in the book. If they don’t like a way I’m trying to take their character, they will express their displease by not talking to me until I revise my direction. It is really a fairly one-way discussion.

Front Cover LAWKI no windowWhat advice would you give other writers?
I’ve learned that people are fascinating and crappy to one another and that villains can have redeeming qualities while heroes definitely need faults. None of us is perfectly anything and the minute that I as a writer try to make a character perfect, I discover I’m writing boring garbage that I wouldn’t want to read.

How did you decide how to publish your books?
I chose to self-publish. I basically just got tired of being told “It’s a great book, but you need to define your audience better and write to them.” I just didn’t feel that was right for me. With self-publishing, I don’t have to conform to a market share analysis.

Of course, self-publishing means I have to work that much harder to be a professional at publishing. Not only do I have to write a great book, I have to edit and proof read it. I have to decide whether beta-readers are giving me good advice and which advice to incorporate into the book. I have to choose cover art and write blurbs. And, hardest of all, I have to market my books myself. And I have to do this while also writing the next book.

I would advise new authors to realize that success takes time and commitment and the willingness to stick with something even when you don’t see immediate success. Be patient and write the book you want to read.

Front Cover RedWhat do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think publishing is going through a huge transition right now as traditional publishing has lost its death grip on the industry to the new self-publishing field. Some of this was the inevitable result of tradition publishers insisting that writers must write to certain genres with an eye to the “hot” markets, a system that restricted a lot of writers out of the market and, frankly, as a reader, left a lot of readers bored. Self-publishing somewhat broke that blockade, though it really has a long way to go, mainly owing to inattention to detail and lack of professionalism. I don’t think the resurgence of self-publishing means that traditional publishers are going away. I think the two groups are going to adapt to one another and it is entirely possible that many new independent publishing houses will arise that are smaller and more competitive, more willing to work with independent authors in a changing environment.

What do you use?: Professional Editor, Beta Readers

What genres do you write?: I’ve published in epic fantasy and dystopian, but I also write mysteries, YA, and paranormal. Most of my books have some element of faith in them, but I do not consider myself a Christian-genre author.

What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print

Lela Markham Home Page Link
Link To Lela Markham Page On Amazon

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All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit, to allow you, the reader, to hear the author in their own voice.

Posted November 6, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Writing

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