I Will Write in 2019; I Will; I Will

I have been inactive as a writer for the last year. I was busy. We moved from Minnesota to North Carolina. We had lived in the same area of Minnesota for 47 years; we had a handle on where things were and how things worked. Just moving broke more habits than I have time or energy to list. Then, handling the cultural and political differences sucked up the rest of my creative juices. But, after a full year of making adjustment after adjustment, we seem to have achieved a new stability.

One thing that I was able to do was read widely: 132 books during 2018. If you are interested, look at my Goodreads page for details: https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/10558442.

All of this is leading up to a plan to return to serious writing in 2019. Probably the most important factor for success is to publicly declare what my plan is:

Short Stories

  1. Identify resources regarding mastery of the short story format, specifically for the science fiction genre.
  2. Put together and execute a plan for acquiring/accessing these resources.
  3. Identify outlets for science fiction short stories; understand the characteristics of each outlet.
  4. Write and submit six short stories for publication (to multiple outlets as needed)

Novels

  1. Revise the first novel of The Shepherd trilogy.
  2. Draft the second novel of The Shepherd trilogy.
  3. Outline the third novel of The Shepherd trilogy.

Status Sharing

  1. Publish detailed status of what is happening, at the beginning of each month.
  2. Learn to accept some degree of failure. This is not life and death, just something to keep my mind from turning into (liver) mush; it’s a thing down here but I have not tried it.

A review of Walkaway

WalkawayWalkaway by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a ponderous book. It is filled (to overflowing at times) with meaty ideas and concepts. The villains (and there are many) are one dimensional and drawn from what appears to be a deep pessimism about the world. All in all, this felt like a homework assignment to read “an important classic” that no one would otherwise read. I liked it for the ideas and for some of the characters but not for the plotting.

View all my reviews

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I grew up in southern Ohio. During my late teens I worked with dozens of hillbillies, people who had migrated north to find jobs. I was never one of them, and I was too clueless to understand their culture. It was a couple of decades before I began to understand the critical importance of culture.

I recently moved to Western North Carolina. There are hillbillies around every turn in the road. And, if you have visited or lived in this area, you know that there are a lot of turns. Mountains, valleys, and turns in the road.

Vance writes about hillbillies. What is like to be a hillbilly. What is is like to grow up in a hillbilly culture. It is important to understand this culture. It is largely disaffected from the American Dream. For them, the game is rigged against them. Thus, there is no point in fighting; one can only lose.

But Vance is also a wonderful writer. Every once in a while he will quote some statistics and argue slightly abstract details of policy. The rest of the time he writes about a life that teeters on the edge. That alone makes it worth the time to read.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

How to Fix the FutureHow to Fix the Future by Andrew Keen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an important book for those who are concerned with the impacts of technology upon society. Andrew Keen covers a lot of those actual and potential impacts. He also tries to propose some solutions for softening the negative impacts. Ultimately, it comes down to having citizens act for the good of the community.

The problem that I have with the book is that Keen has very decided views upon what is good for the community. No one paying attention to what’s going on in the public sphere would perceive that there is anything close to unanimity in deciding what that public good is. There is a loud, noisy, and irrationally exuberant debate about almost every point that one could bring up in that public forum. But Keen seems to ignore all of that confusion. He has an answer and never seems to have any doubt that the outcomes that he finds desirable are the right ones for everyone.

For example, he decries the disruptions brought about by the activities of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, requiring that the tech titans think through what the impacts might be before taking any actions. But, on the other hand, he applauds the disruptions brought about by Ralph Nader when he challenged the safety of American-made automobiles in the last half of the 20th century, even though those changes were just as profound. Understand, I don’t think that Nader was wrong and that the tech billionaires are right. I just think that the authors viewpoint could be a little more nuanced.

Still, it’s a good book to read as long as one reads with some skepticism.

View all my reviews

A Review of Technopoly

Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to TechnologyTechnopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Postman has some good ideas about the impact of technology on culture. He is somewhat of a Cassandra, bemoaning the crassness of the modern age. Toward the end of the book, he becomes quite grumpy. Grumpy to the extent that he does not seem to be able to grasp the benefits of the technology. I am not sorry that I read it but it is not a book that I will ever re-read.

View all my reviews

A Review of A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You have been blessed if you have ever had one of those meals that stays with you. The food excelled, friendships strengthened, strangers intrigued, and you learned valuable insights. The warmth and comfort of the experience sustained you when times were difficult.

Reading A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel By Amor Towles is just such a feast. The language is wonderful, rich and expressive. The story is deeply satisfying. The characters are deep and attractive. The observations are subtle and yet powerful. And when you finish the book, you will be sad that there is not more to be read.

The good news is that the story is good enough that in a year or so, you can come back and take the journey all over again.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

A Review of The Great Influenza

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in HistoryThe Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nothing happens in isolation. A strain of influenza appears suddenly and lethally. This is bad. But it happens during a time of war. Even worse. Those prosecuting the war make things worse by severely restricting the flow of information, even lying to the public about what was actually happening. Monsters in the dark are to be feared the most.

The book covers a lot of territory, ponderously in places. But it teaches lessons that apply to today. How we treat scientific evidence. How we make complex decisions.

The only criticism that I would offer about the book, aside from the ponderousness, is that it makes villains of those who did not react early enough. This is a disease of brilliant minds that see further than the rest of us but do not have the time or inclination to explain in terms that the masses needed to understand.

View all my reviews

A Review of Gates of Fire

Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of ThermopylaeGates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is not an easy book.

It is at its heart a deep dive into an ancient culture that is radically different from the one in which we live. By their very nature, the names of people, places and practices are jarring to the eye and to the ear. Focused concentration is required. But there are rewards.

This is not an easy book.

Warriors fight and kill. Warriors fight and die. The descriptions of the battles are intense and graphic. As much as any book that I have ever read, the reader lives rather than merely observes the battles and the impact of those battles upon the bodies, minds, and spirits of the warriors. Pressfield makes you care about the players, and then makes you watch as they die.

This is not an easy book.

At its heart this is a book about ideas. The Spartan approach to life is demanding. To read about it, to understand it, and to live it, through Pressfield’s skill as a writer, is demanding.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews