Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Garden of the Tale: "The Country/The Country," My Serial Novel Mingling Politics and Fantasy Posted Online

The Country/The Country
             A serialized novel by Robert Knox

"One of the things science fiction does... is to extrapolate imaginatively from current trends and events to a near-future that’s half prediction, half satire.” -- Ursula Le Guin

          I just posted chapters 16 to 18 of my new novel, "The Country/The Country," online on a site designed for authors of a new work. Starting last month I have posted weekly segments of the book online, following the formula of the serial novel exploited by 19th century authors such as Charles Dickens and Dostoyevsky. Inspired by the catastrophically divisive presidential election of 2016, the novel's events take place in a fictional country that shares many similarities with our own. I consider the book a combination of political satire and speculative fiction. Similarities between the fictional country of The Commonhope of UZ and the US will be apparent. But I've also given myself permission to invent characters (and a few creatures), such as a psychically empowered seer who calls herself a witch, a backwards neighboring culture from 'the North,' ancient earthly forces known as "the bodies," a near-human robotic assistant, and various spiritual aides referred to as the Ancient Ones. 
         The principal character, named Keel, is a former college teacher pressed into early retirement by the declining interest in his academic specialty, "the classics." The chief antagonist is a wealthy politician, the principal of an international cartel called Animal Firm, whose political theories involve more frankly brutal tactics than even those currently on display in our national politics. Dogs also play a role, as does an oppressed class of gender nonconformists know as the 'flexibles,' women who can walk up walls, and the political theories readers may recognize as those attributed to the influential theorist Machiavelli. 
           So far I have posted about one quarter of the total book. I intend to continue posting weekly segments of the ongoing story online (Wednesdays are the weekly target) through the November election. I'll post link to the site here:

     Click on the word "chapters" to navigate easily through the portions of the book posted so far. 
       If you create an account on the Inkitt site (it's free), it will allow you to post comments, or a 'review,' at the end of any chapter. Posting comments, even a word or two, helps me by (among other reasons) drawing attention to the book. You don't need an account to read the work, but you do to comment. I would of course appreciate hearing what you think, as well as any amount of time and attention you can give to reading my serial novel. 
         I'll finish this 'pitch' by posting the brief summary publishers call the 'blurb' I created for this book.
          And then share a few of the readers' comments I have so far been fortunate to receive on the early chapters.

A retired teacher, Keel is an Everyman in "The Commonhope of Uz," content to be a good citizen in a country founded on the rule of law and the guidance of reason. But after a long period of prosperity under a widely admired chief executive, fears of economic stagnation and social change are driving  the candidacy of a new kind of leader. Called "Pig" by his supporters, who pack rallies to show their eagerness for vague, sweeping concentrations of power, businessman Karol Pegasso dominates the country's complicated election system. Chance, or something larger, drives Keel to join an opposition, formed by young radicals and old-fashioned idealists, and led by an aging psychic who calls herself a witch. Together they summon forces beyond the old understandings of reason and law to build a wall of flesh and stop Pig's march to power. But in the end the country's safety relies on waking the slumbering giants of compassion and care, known as the Ancient Ones, "the bodies," and the Angels of Light.

My thanks to those of who commented on the early chapters. Some sample comments:

"I like sense of humor, irony, and suspense."

"Easily recognizable and relatable. I hope the citizens of UZ are able to resist! I look forward to reading more."

"Knox's fictional world is far too real. Many analogies can be made between this world and the United States in 2018. Looking forward to reading future chapters."

"Enjoying this story. Anxious for more. Knox's attention to detail is always exciting."

"Looking forward to reading the next chapter."

"Now we've been introduced to Mrs. Nathan and I'm anxious to learn more about her. A wonderful story is unfolding, which has parallels to our current society. Can't wait to see what will happen next."

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Garden of Climate: Let's Give Nature Back to the Indians

          Given that the United States government has fully entered "The Age of Intentional Misrule" by ignoring science and the greatest threat to the future of humanity our species has ever faced, it is no wonder that sensible people seeking leadership, action, and hope have been forced to look elsewhere.
            Last week many political and economic leaders -- those who do not embrace the current governing party's "National Way of Selfishness and Stupidity" -- met in California for a Global Climate Action Summit to talk about what can be done, and what should be done, without relying on any support from the so-called most powerful nation on earth, the country (that's ours) that's fast proving to be the paper tiger our enemies used to call us.
            The State of California, the largest public entity in the United States still under rational leadership, made news when its governor announced his state's pledge to eliminate carbon emissions within 27 years.
            That's a good step. But the bigger, and closer, signpost is the year 2030, by which time worldwide  emissions must be reduced substantially in order for the world to have a chance of keeping global warming increases within 2 percent F. Anything above that increase, according to the best projections, and we're swamped.
            To reach this goal, according to news reports on the climate action summit, the human world has to cut its expected annual greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of nearly 15 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, on top of the pledges nations made at the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
            The pledges so far made by businesses and US state governments amount to about 4 percent of that total.
            So, basically, the world has a long way to go.
            Another perspective on what have to do -- and have to refrain from doing -- was offered by actor Harrison Ford, one of the non-scientist, non-politician celebrities to attend the Global Climate Action Summit.
            "I beg you," Ford told summit attendees. "Don’t forget Nature. Because, today, the destruction of nature accounts for more global emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world. We can put solar panels on every house, we can turn every car into an electric vehicle but as long as Sumatra burns—we will have failed. So long as the Amazon’s great forests are slashed and burned, so long as the protected lands of tribal people, Indigenous people, are allowed to be encroached upon, so long as wetlands and bog peats are destroyed, our climate goals will remain out of reach, and we will be shit out of time."
            Many of us at one time or another have donated money to organizations pledged to plant trees to fight global warning. There are many good environmental gains to be made by planting trees -- to resist environmental degradation, keep soil in lumbered areas from blowing away, enrich soil, and reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere because trees absorb CO2 in process of photosynthesis.
            But we will never be able to plant enough trees to match the global warming deficit caused by destroying earth's oldest ecological systems. Old forests in the tropical, subtropical and temperate regions are the most densely 'green' places the planet will ever see. The concentration of biota in these regions far outweighs anything man-made. All that green takes greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.
            Green plants terra-formed our planet millions of years ago to make it livable for animals like ourselves by sucking carbon out of the atmosphere and sequestering it at the bottom of the ocean. And ever since their appearance here, the green life in earth's forests cleans our atmosphere.

            The world's governments and businesses should by all means be working hard and fast to replace fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases they produce with renewable, non-polluting energy sources.

         But we need -- as human societies -- to develop a shared data bank of wisdom that recognizes that our survival is based on developing ways to preserve the earth as a living system independent of, and more powerful than, our species.
         To do this we need the assistance of first peoples who have lived with the earth before, and for longer periods, than modern Western society has done.
          Some examples of that 'first people's perspective are provided by speakers attending the San Francisco "Rise For Climate" march for a fossil-free world. Mirian Cisneros, president of the Kichwa people of Sarayaku in Ecuadorean Amazon, called for a "Permanent protection of all forests and life in our ancestral lands" of the Kichwa people:
          "I want to tell all of you that I come from those forests, rivers, lakes and mountains that have life. I come from there, where the human being and Mother Earth live in harmony. I come from Kawsak Sacha. I come from the Living Forest. I also come from a people who has fought for years and years the threats of oil exploitation. I come from the land where we have defended millions of lives. And today we are here to leave you with our Kawsak Sacha proposal, Living Forest...
          "We are also here because we want the world to know that indigenous communities like ours, Sarayaku, possess innovative solutions, such as our own proposal of Kawsak Sacha, a permanent protection of all forests and life in our ancestral lands. The world requires just and noble solutions, such as this one, to confront climate change. And also we ask for respect for our indigenous rights, self-determination and our autonomy. In this way, we can guarantee the life of humanity and to live in peace."

           At the same event Chief Ninawa Huni Kui stated:
           "I’m from the Huni Kui people, and I am from the Brazilian Amazon in the state of Acre. I’m here to unite with other indigenous peoples and the peoples of the world, because we’re here to defend rights. The governments are going to hold a summit to decide the future of the world and the future of our peoples. Their vision of the future is just about profits, making money. And they make money by polluting and destroying this world. So I’m here to bring the voice of the Amazon rainforest to this discussion."

            Our 'advanced,' Western and Westernized societies that continue to use up too much of the world's resources must turn to older societies for advice and direction; and to respect the wisdom of ways of life that we too hurriedly superseded and replaced. 
           Let's put these people in charge of saving nature. For only by saving their homes will we be able to save humanity.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Garden of the Seasons: More Than a Full Swallow from Jug End Trail, in Egremont, Massachusetts

            I like Mount Washington State Forest, a big hunk of Berkshire woodlands, its pretty mountain roads, and huge slabs of greenery. And I like heading off in that direction, knowing we're reaching higher elevations and 4,000 acres of undeveloped land.
            To get there we head south down Route 7 and then west, toward New York State. A year ago, starting from the New York side, a group of us (siblings and spouses) drove to the state preserve to find the trail to Bash Bish Falls, just across the state line into Massachusetts.
            This time, on Labor Day, a day that turned unseasonably warm, we followed directions from a Berkshire County hiking guide through Great Barrington to Egremont, then down a smaller road to the state forest, turning off at one of those old mud-brown state park signs that told us we were entering a 'management area.' Just a quarter minute later we see a sign for Jug End -- it keeps a low public profile -- described as a 'State Reservation.'
            A free, no-hassle, modest parking area greets arrivals. The place looks well taken care of.
            Our hiking guide praises Jug End's trails for offering "some of the best views in the Berkshires."
            And, the bonus for us, you don't have to climb up a steep trail to reach them. The trail we take is a very satisfying loop marked with blue blazes.
            We find open fields or meadows, left wild and yet somehow managed to keep the trees from making inroads. Maybe they cut it every year in the spring. It's in full bloom now.
            Wild meadows in September are a delight. Many wild plants like Queen Anne's Lace are still blooming, spilling all over one another and mixing with asters and other late bloomers. Some, like the Goldenrod pictured above, are just reaching their peak.
            Butterflies are all over the meadows as well.
            We pass through two fields, according to the guide, but it seems like more because of the trail loop, or the choices we make while walking along soft pathways of recently mowed wild grasses. Someone, as I said, is keeping the place neat and pretty.  
            The vast greeny hillsides arise from the field's far side. We take out our cameras and photograph all the vistas. The sky is blue over the green ridge line, and above the hills at the edge of vision a few puffy cumulus clouds hang amid all that blue and drift in the most ephemeral of the four elements.
            The clouds are like liquid time.
            We perspire in the September sun that gilds the land, the air, the flesh below, warm as the early summer sun of those long-lasting solstice days.
            Our blue-blazed trail dips beneath the cover of trees, and we follow a woodland path alongside a brook, looping back where the brook ends, meeting a few happy visitors looping from the other direction. All wearing the smiley glaze of a happy day in the elements.
            Coming back along the field-margin path we are sun-struck a second time after the cooler sanctum of the woodland, and astonished anew by the even richer depths of September gold as the sun loops in its own journey toward the western skies.
            Here's some useful information, how to get there, etc., from the state's park department: