Twelve Twelve Twelve

Twelve, yesterday, was the last day of this century that’d have a day/month/year lineup.

It was a great day for releasing books, just like 11/11/11 was last year when Joel D Canfield had a book party.

And yesterday “Yo Pal” Hal Elrod released a book I had the pleasure of working on, The Miracle Morning. Well, pleasure in terms of reading it once, and then it was time to play spot what could be changed. A lengthy task, but the end result was rewarding. I found it interesting how after I’d already read it over a few times, I noticed some articles online that made it to the front of hackernews about how doing things in the morning sets the day. Which is what Hal’s book is about – set the morning right and the day to follow will be better. Simple to say, not so simple to go about it – which is where his book comes into play.

But anyways, this isn’t time for my review of it. This post is about 12/12/12, and how it’s gone, the last triple date of the century. We now have to wait for 01/01/2101… assuming the calendar is still Julian at that time (what… you never know!)

So adieu, last triple day of the century. You gave us another good book. You gave us another thing to talk about at work.

And then you passed, silently, as every other day has as well. Into the past you go, and forward we’ll look.

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Retribution Inequality

I saw a question/frustration posed by someone in a writing group that piqued my thoughts (and a response) about retribution. It happened over a month ago, but it has stayed on my mind and will continue to stay there as an example of what not to think. This has relevance to Monday’s post, as it follows along the same type of thinking and how to view others.

The writer was bothered about a bad guy being killed off. Him dying was not the issue.

She took issue with the fact that the villain was dispatched in a second, gone, dead, poof, finished. Nearly instantly.

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, she said that he didn’t even know he was going to die, unlike his victims. He didn’t suffer, unlike his victims. He didn’t cower in fear, unlike his victims.

And she asked: Where’s the justice in that?

At first glance it almost seems like she has a point, but take a step back and remember schadenfreude – pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Let’s remember one very, very clear fact here: there is no more final punishment than death. Poof, gone, finished, that person is gone. Anything less and they have the hope of living. Death is very, very powerful. But it’s only a final punishment.

Torture is keeping someone alive while causing them pain. It is a cruel and inhumane thing to do. What is the point of torture? To cause pain and suffering. But it’s more than just causing pain. It has another component. It is also to take pleasure in the misfortune of the person being tortured.

Now we have a villain in a story. A vile, evil person who does terrible things. Things that require the justice of death to be placed upon him. The bad villain dies, justice is accomplished. Keeping him alive, making him feel fear, torturing him because we’ve relabeled him as a “villain” instead of a “person,” that’s torture. Not justice.

Even with all that I can see someone can still have some mental wiggle room, thinking that someone was so heinous that it really is deserved. Take another step back and recall the reason for the criminal committing the act in the first place, for they are doing it usually for the same reasons: taking pleasure in someone’s pain. Even if someone may “deserve” it, we shouldn’t relish in the pain of another human being, especially if we want to be the moral superiority.

Remember, people are people, and death is the final punishment. There is no point in making a villain suffer for their crimes if death is the punishment justice calls for. No point other than creeping closer to that same mentality that that same villain had – as said elsewhere, falling to their level.

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Snow shoveling is cold

I love the weather here. It’s cold, clouds come and go, the snow makes it seem bright which is good for mom, and there’s snow. In summer it was warm and humid, which was a pain, but bearable, even though I went without AC for most of it.

When the temperature reaches 50 F it’s feeling warm. We’d start fires and bundle up in CA if it got that cold. 30 F at night in CA was so chilling it hurt my throat. Here, it doesn’t.

But I tell you: I’d add snow shoveling with my list of things I don’t want to ever have to do but have to do. Currently that list is mowing the lawn, driving in snow, and shoveling snow. It’s cold and exhausting. But it really heats you up. Shoveling a solid gallon of water at a time (so around 6 – 10 lbs of snow) is tough work.

And 10 minutes later in a warm house (probably around 55 or 60, very toasty) your face is still feeling like it wants to contract from a liquid into a metal, don’t ask me how.

So it’s tough and cold.

But it isn’t so bad. Just new. Well, that and it makes the glasses so cold they condense all the water in the house onto them at once the second you step inside. Just sucks it all up.

But hey, if we don’t shovel the snow, we can’t go driving through it! Sure… like that’d be a bad thing.

I can see why bears hibernate. You really don’t want to leave the den when there’s a wall of snow outside.

But regardless, I’m loving this weather. And the people.

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The idea that people are people

I was listening to a certain speaker one morning as he was talking about a subject near and dear to all of us. He pointed out some examples of the way people have treated each other in the past, present, and unfortunately, future.

This treatment of others is one of the core issues, if not the core issue and basis of morality, that I want to convey with my Lupine series. I made a world of diverse species, humanoids, and anthropoids not simply because it makes it all a fun world to write (it is, I like it), but because it provides a very strong point of making each individual in the stories distinct from all the rest in a way that humanity today is not.

The characters may all have similar backgrounds, but they are distinctly different. Some look like animals, some look like humans with animalistic traits (that’s actually an important part of the non-revealed backstory, but that’s an answer for another time), and they all have different looks, behaviors, sensitivities, and even ways of thinking.

I want to make it clear that their ways of thinking aren’t simply due to their upbringing, but that there are real differences in each characters’ brain/physiology that make them think differently.

And thus, one of the moral points of the story is: they can get along together. Even through all their very real, very strong differences, the important characters all hold the very same beliefs. The belief that all other characters of all the other species are people. The idea that people are people.

Does that sound like a self-answering idea? It sure sounds like it. But here’s the problem: human history has shown that in the past, present, and future, a good portion of people (and I’m not talking 1% here) don’t view all other human beings as “people.”

The most obvious recent example is what happened to the Jewish community in 1930s-1940s Germany. They were not “people,” they were “Jews,” – relabeled in an accurate but de-personizing way.

But it goes back much farther, for all of history.

Note I’m going to list a lot of things here that may seem opinionated or divisive. They aren’t. It’s just to make a point. Think about the following. Everything below is a person. But think about the thought attached to something. Are they really thought of as a “person,” or are they the title that has been assigned to them? Even if mostly benign, think about how adding a simple label, even accurate, changes the perception of them not just for you, but for the people that believe in those labels.

Thus:

They were not persons, the Kings and Emperors were divine. (Anglo Kings and Chinese/Japanese Emperors were supposedly appointed by God for the former, and the latter were/(are) supposedly of the divine.)

They were not men, they were slaves. (A person has been, at some times in history, not defined by their belonging to the human species, but by the amount of melanin in their skin.)

They were not persons, they were extremists. (Now were looking at it not from simply a downtrodden perspective, but a renaming of those who did hurtful things.)

They were not people, they were Nazis. (We’re still re-defining person-hood here in order to make sense of why such terrible things could happen. We see that some people were so terrible in thinking other people were not actually people that thinking of the atrocious actions means we cannot view the perpetrators as people themselves.)

They were not people, they were Politicians.

They were not people, they were CEO’s.

They were not people, they were Rich Folk.

They were not people, they were Animals.

They were not people, they were Poor Folk.

They were not people, they were Soldiers.

They were not people, they were Terrorists.

They were not people, they were just a percentage, a statistic, an unfortunate accident.

They were not people. They are You and I.

This is one of those things that gets harder and harder to think of when all the terrible things that happen, happen. They get muddled by layers upon layers of belief that claim one idea but act on another.

It made me appreciate the view that all people are people. That belief should be the core of how you view others. The first and foremost one. After that you can add on that certain people have other attributes, such as wealth or status or beliefs or skin color, but that you never forget first and foremost that other people are people, and that treatment of them first demands you treat them as a person first and foremost, never as a title they may end up having.

And you should never try to reassign your belief that other people are somehow, in some way or another, for good or bad, not people. Because it’s people who do good, and it’s people who do bad. But it’s when you forget that people are still just people that you allow yourself to get lost.

And that’s why I write about characters that are entirely different in every conceivable way, in ways that humankind has never been. Because they believe that other intelligent species are just the same as them, people.

Wouldn’t it be great if every person held onto that belief?

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How I like entertainment

I’ve come to notice why I like games. Though this also applies to books and television. I’ve come to especially notice the styles and what I do and don’t like, and just how much they relate to my patience. I’ve found I’m not an enjoy-the-journey person, nor am I a completion-is-everything person.

I want a journey and completion, and then a new game/book/show to follow with another journey/completion. If the journey takes too long I get antsy waiting for the completion. If the completion comes too soon then I’m annoyed at how short the journey was.

Half-hour TV shows are bad, they are just too short. 45 minute shows are pretty good, they have a decent length journey and wrap it up well due to having the time.

Movies are a big deal, they are all about pacing. You get the pacing right and a long movie can be very, very enjoyable. But when I thing of a movie, anything that doesn’t push past the hour twenty-five mark feels like it’s cutting short, even though it may be just fine story-wise.

Which is why I find it interesting some of my favorite books are incredibly long. I find them an interesting contrast to the relatively short Nero Wolfe mysteries. But in essence, they are the same thing, both feeding the journey and conclusion loop I love. Because there’s another part to it. I like similarity in the next journey. In other words, I want the same characters going on new journeys and having new conclusions.

I’m happy with the Nero Wolfe books because there are 30 for me to read, and 40+ in existence, not counting the ones written by other authors. So I get to read a story, see it’s conclusion, and immediately jump into another one.

Not having that “another one” is a feeling I know well. Something ends, and you want another, but there is no other. It’s probably when I get an especially large dose of it that I switch mentally to another format.

I have different modes I switch through, sometimes months at a time in one or another. Game, reading, watching. I’ve gotten better about mixing them together, but there are times, sometimes months on end, where all I want to do of the three is watch TV instead of play games or read. (This is about choosing entertainment, by the way, not choosing an entire way of life and abandoning all else. Just whether I want to do all, some, or simply am only in the mood to read things for entertainment.)

How about those very long books I like? Well that’s actually quite easy. Even though they are half-million word monsters, the journeys inside are multi-faceted. They concern heroes going on adventures. They are like the old final fantasy / breath of fire / etc. games where there is one overarching plot, but several things standing in the way. Each their own journey and completion on the road to getting to that final major plot. It feeds into the loop and the desire for things to keep on going with the characters you are attached to.

This is partly why newer games that come out that are praised for length if they last a whole 10 hours thoroughly annoy me. Sure, lets get through 6 hour and a half levels instead of, oh, 20 half-hour levels… no thank you.

Which reminds me – Portal (one) may be rather short as well, but it did things like this well. You had a small puzzle, completion, new puzzle, overarching plot, and then an exciting climax. Portal (two) had its own merits, but in some ways it took too long.

Where am I getting with this? No where really. Just that I have a better understanding of what I like and why, and that it’s interesting this is why I prefer to write a series (Together with Silver) instead of several individual books. I don’t even have an idea of others, since the series is consuming.

I live and breathe series.

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