In Dreams Awake

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

(Henry David Thoreau)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Bit Every Day

 Much is changing. I have a new job, for a start - though here in my first week I've got the flu, or possibly Ebola. But never mind that.

 Caz bought her wedding dress today. Which I'm not allowed to see, by the way, and how is that fair? I'm excited too y'know. Anyway, yesterday we booked the venue - the Guildhall in Barnstaple, which is an old-fashioned colonial sort of room, full of pictures of the men who built Barnstaple when it was just a shabby little port on the estuary. Given that at low tide a large rabbit can wade across the river, you'll know that was quite a while ago. It's a nice place though. I'm going to enjoy getting married there.

 So... preparations for the wedding, a new job working in the kitchen of a very busy seafront pub, and not much time to write.

 They say an author should write something every day. Maybe not thousands of words, or even hundreds, but he should open the document on his PC (or whatever) and type in a couple of lines. Or think about the plot and where it's going, though that has to be in his writing chair, at his work desk, because you have to make a place for the Muse to come. So the advice goes. I nearly always do write, but sometimes it's just not possible. When I do a 10 hour day, rushing every moment, it can leave me just too weary to summon the energy. Writing is art, it takes emotional input to do it, and when your battery is flat the spark just won't catch.

 Which is why this is only a brief blog. I'm just too tired and flu-ridden to do much. I think I'll go to bed and sleep for a bit. Night all.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Enough Drama

 I've just finished the rewrite of Troy: The Ancient Dead, the concluding part of the trilogy. Bit of a relief, to be honest. The latter half of the book is full of talk of the end of civilisations - the Hittites have fallen, Troy is ruined, and there's a leftover fragment of the Minoans that gets Odysseus thinking about all this. It's got me thinking too, about all the dangers our own  21st century culture faces.

 Meteor impact, for example. There are claims that a "shotgun" impact destroyed the Indus valley people, when pieces of an asteroid rained down in the Indian Ocean. But in the past civilised areas were too few and small for this to happen often. Today we know the risk better, and the impact of Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter on 1994 shows us how bad it could be.

 Or super-volcanoes. Toba in Indonesia was the most recent to erupt, about 75,000 years ago, but the best known is probably Yellowstone, in the USA. It erupts every 600,000 years or so and is due anytime. The results would be catastrophic - vast clouds of ash settling on the ground, more in the air blocking sunlight to create a volcanic winter, sulphur mixing with water to produce sulphuric acid which we'd breathe in, and so on. It would likely affect the whole Northern Hemisphere, and kill billions.

 Or a pandemic. You can take your choice on this one; Ebola, swine flu or bird flu, Marburg, Sabia, Mapucho - or something else we haven't noticed yet, perhaps. Our mobile lifestyles mean that air travel provides thousands of very rapid vectors along which a disease would spread. Back in the 1500s the Spanish brought smallpox to the Americas, and in the ensuing decades up to 80% of the local people, with no immunity to the virus, died from it. Something similar is quite possible today. Any serious virus to which humans have no immunity could do it, and history shows pandemics break out quite often.

 All of these three threats are almost certain to happen, given time. But even so, the greatest threat to human cultures is probably still ourselves. I don't mean nuclear war, or biological weapons run amok. I just mean the seemingly endless, crippling stupidity of people.

 Got an unspoiled wilderness? We'll strip-mine it for coal, or mine tin and leave the tailings to poison the river. We'll use pesticides on our fields which are made using oil, so we leave a petrochemical sheen on rivers. When we need new housing we'll overlook the brownfield sites in cities, and build instead on fields outside. And worst of all we'll breed and breed, without any apparent thought for the consequences.

 In my school days there were 4 billion people on Earth. Today there are more than 7 billion and the number is still growing. All of them need food and water, clothes to wear, a home, the prospect of a job and some kind of decent life. How will we sustain them? How we will cope when the number reaches 8 billion, then 9?

 Civilisation throughout history have fallen because they outgrew their ability to feed themselves. The Mayans of Guatemala, the early Chinese of the Yellow River area, probably even the Achaean Greeks I've just been writing about. We're not immune, just because we have computers and neon lights, and tell each other that "it couldn't happen now". Of course it could. The rules which applied to them still apply to us.

 It's a bit less dramatic than seeing a culture wiped out by invading dragons, or by invaders with wicked spikes on their chariot wheels. But I suspect that living through it would feel quite dramatic enough.