Tag Archives: world

Community: Hope Against a Crisis

I’ve written before about how, despite my interest in dystopian subjects and new ways to destroy the world, I am not anything remotely like a “prepper” because I don’t want to live my life motivated by fear.

And I still feel that way. But we just had a wicked ice storm that paralyzed north Texas, and it made me think.
I was fairly well-prepared for the storm. My mom’s a worrier, and had alerted me to it well in advance. I’d followed the weather, made lots of hearty foods and ran out to buy extra wood and supplies the night before it hit. I have an ice scraper that looks sort of like a wizard’s staff and two cans of de-icer, blankets and a nice winter coat.
But things did not go according to plan. At all.
First, when I got home, my water had been turned off. There went my plan to fill a few pitchers before the storm really hit, and it was too late to try to get any from the store, which was overrun by panic-stricken shoppers. A miserable-looking work crew was on it, though, and it was restored by 9 p.m., just in time for me to enjoy a hot shower (and fill my tea kettle).
Then, overnight, my power went out. About 100,000 people lost power, all together, and the power company had no timeline on when it would be up. My plan to work from home was out the window, so I had to trek in to work. By the time I got home, it still wasn’t back, so I had to go stay with family for the weekend. Alternative sources for heat and light just hadn’t been part of my preparations.
TL;DR: Ice storms are unpredictable.
But it made me realize the most important part: I had somewhere to go. Even if my parents hadn’t lived in town, I would have been able to call a number of folks who would have let me stay with them while I waited for the power to come back.
And that’s why I’m not afraid.
When faced with a crisis, we (humans) tend to help one another. In addition to the people I knew would let me stay with them, I saw folks working together to clear downed trees, carve cars out of the ice or pull them back into the road, share resources. (I gave some neighbor kids a few board games to keep them entertained while they waited out the power problems.)
People help. Sure, sometimes people cause harm or damage, but by and large, people help.
A coworker who has a “prepper” bent and is new in town was surprised that there wasn’t any looting. The thought literally never occurred to me. How sad that fear of others was his first concern. (I guess he would say how sad it is that I wasn’t worried about my stuff…)
I think I’m not the only one thinking more about community lately. Our self-imposed technological isolation from other people is starting to have ramifications, and we’re starting to talk about it. More and more, it’s becoming clear that people NEED people. It’s considered socially acceptable to be very close to your spouse, but what happens when your spouse dies?  We need more than one person, or two people, or three people in our lives. We need a community, and that takes time and effort to build.
I need to do it better. This week, I started by being nice to a neighbor who has lived nearby for six months. I shook her hand and said hello.
It’s a start.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Small-town Girl, Livin’ in a Lonely World

First, go ahead and get the song good and stuck in your head. You know you want to.

Now that that’s taken care of, keep clickin’ and read this great list of the appeal of small towns as settings for a story. Basically, in summary, small towns:

  • Harbor undercurrents of deep emotion
  • Have lots of secrets (because anything that’s not a secret is common knowledge)
  • Are really interconnected
  • Are friendly but also distant toward new folks
  • Are an easy snapshot every reader has built-in
  • Have a limited number of suspects but lots of motives*

*I suspect the last part is why “Murder, She Wrote” worked so well!

I think this is a great post, but these things extend not just to a small town, but to any small community. I grew up in a big suburb, but it might as well have been a town of 200 because everyone at my church knew everything that was going on (or that they assumed was going on), and you couldn’t get away with anything. High school is often the same way; you’ve got a small population that is heavily involved in itself. (I’m finally watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and you can always tell when someone is going to die because they’re a new person to the cast for that episode.)

I did live in a small town, or two, and I think this list did leave a few things out. Small towns often:

  • Aren’t up-to-date on current trends (in other words, are “a little bubble of the past”)
  • Don’t have as many resources
  • Are small for a reason
  • The pace is slower, but the emotional stakes are higher

My observations have a lot less to do with people than Elizabeth’s, but can really inform the world and the options available. Unless it’s a really big crisis, the CIA aren’t likely to come to a small town in Wisconsin; the people there are just gonna have to handle their problems themselves, and they probably like it that way.

What is unique about your setting? What made you choose that place for your story?

Leave a comment

Filed under writing

Disconnecting from Constant Connectivity

It’s something of a joke, the amount of time I am on the internet. At my day job, much of my legitimate work requires me to be connected to the ethernet–and a great deal of my screwing-around time does, too. Then I come home, and…play on the internet some more. Or maybe I watch Netflix, through my internet connection. Or check the weather on my smart phone.

I’ve become one of those people.

In fact, three years ago, before this day job, before the smart phone, before Netflix, I had already identified myself as having an affinity for the online. It was part of what inspired me to write “Alt.World.”  I took the idea to some extremes in that book, and the three weeks I was completely cut off from the internet after a hurricane informed the story quite a bit. (What do you do when you can’t get the service to which you are addicted? Where literally your whole world exists? What do you do with yourself after that?)

That’s why I found this article, “I’m Still Here: Back Online After a Year Without the Internet,” so interesting.

The author, a guy about my age and with a similar background, decided he was too addicted to the internet, and decided to challenge himself by…not being addicted to the internet anymore. By quitting cold-turkey.

He was hoping for enlightenment, but didn’t find any. Or rather, he found some: he found out a lot of his problems didn’t exist because he was distracted by the internet–the way, I think, he was secretly hoping.

Things would certainly be harder without the internet. So much happens there, that one person opting out means they are opting out of a whole lot more than an information source. They’re opting out of casual friendships. Of contact with people from far away. Of easy-to-access navigation and dinner ideas and dating services.

I take internet sabbaticals. When I go on vacation, I don’t plan on taking my computer with me. I write things down in a paper-and-pen notebook, so I can remember the experience later. I don’t “check in” anywhere with any apps. I try to soak in the experience.

And I think those kinds of breaks are useful, and good. But I also spend at least an hour online, catching up, as soon as I get back in town.

Do you need the internet? Could you go without? What do you think would happen if, for some reason, society suddenly lost the internet?

Leave a comment

Filed under writing

The Doctor and Zaphod Beeblebrox

Apparently aliens are all about picking up chicks from Earth. Our planet must be like a Greyhound bus station for these weirdos: they just drop in, pick out a lady they fancy, and they’ve got a Companion. Hurray!

It makes for great stories, it really does, but–hell to the no.

 Why I Won’t Be Traveling Around Space/Time With an Alien I Just Met

  1. Seriously? You want to go *anywhere* with this guy?!

    Stranger Danger
    With both the Doctor and Zaphod, you have a sort of good guy who just walks up to a woman he doesn’t really know and is all like “hey, wanna see my spaceship?” Honestly, that’s the best/worst pickup line I’ve ever heard. And yet it seems to work pretty well. But that’s a terrible idea. I mean, really. It’s just a bad idea to board any UFO with someone you don’t know. Because then you end up with someone who has two heads and a split personality. We have anti-psychotic drugs for crap like that. (Despite his dapper ties and whatever, the Doctor isn’t much better; at any point he could have to regenerate and become someone with a completely different personality? Yeahhhh….I’ll pass).

  2. No Way Home
    Alright, so maybe you are a sucker for cheesy pick-up lines and you go with him. Well, then what, honey? When I first started dating, my mom taught me to always have what she called “Mad Money.” Basically, it’s enough money to a) use a payphone to call for a ride (back before folks had cell phones) or b) get a taxi home in case you get stranded somewhere. How are you gonna follow that advice when you’re traveling through space and/or time? Congratulations, you just got taken for a ride by a maniac and you’re now stuck somewhere with no way back. If you’re lucky, you could probably flag one of the Earth-crushing bulldozers for a ride, but that seems like a pretty bad situation all around.
  3. Itty Bitty Living Space

    Hope you enjoy spending ALL of your time in this weirdly-lit room.

    It’s a little hard to tell on the Tardis (with that whole bigger-on-the-inside thing), but both it and the Heart of Gold are a bit tiny. Not only are you going to be stuck with this creep because you didn’t plan far enough ahead to have your Mad Money at the ready, but you’re stuck in a pretty small place. Anybody who has been on a road trip for more than 5 hours can tell you things get cramped when you’re stuck in close quarters for a period of time. And most of the time with these guys, it’ll be just the two of you (and maybe a robot or two). It’s gonna get testy.

  4. They’re Trying to Kill You
    Look, no matter how “neat” these guys seem at first, you should probably eventually realize they don’t have “safety” on the top of their list. Everywhere you go, you’re nearly eaten, blasted to death, turned into a poppet by the improbability drive, or otherwise harmed by creatures bent solely on your destruction. How many near-death situations does it take before it stops being fun? Honey, if you’re sticking around, you’re both an adrenaline junky and a masochist.
  5. More Than One Way to Explore Exotic Locals
    The supposed appeal of these guys is the promise of seeing the galaxy and all its wonders, but if you fall for that, I’m just sorry for you. There’s so much incredible stuff to see here, on earth! Our planet is absolutely amazing, and you can get around it all by yourself. Or, if that’s too expensive or scary or whatever, turn on the TV or, better yet, grab a book. The limits are really in your imagination.

I’ll read about your adventures when you get back. (But you probably won’t make it back anyway.)


Filed under Uncategorized

In Light of Tragedy, Do a Good Turn

I’ve been thinking a lot about the tragedy in Newtown. It’s horrible, and it leaves me feeling horrible, scared, and helpless. I can’t control the frightening, terrible things in this world, but I can control what I do and how I act. I’ve resolved to be on the lookout for the things I can do to spread love, kindness, and generosity.  Not just today, or this week, or until we reach an arbitrary number of good things, but in my life, all the time.

It’s easy, sometimes, to contribute to a “showy” charity or volunteer event, like a Fun Run benefiting disease research. We make it particularly easy at Christmastime, when Angel trees show up even in the malls, and Santas ring bells outside of the grocery store, and we ostentatiously pile gifts up for people in need. And the financial donations pour in to the Red Cross after huge disasters of all kinds. And those are all good things, but I think we can always make more room for good deeds in our lives.  Giving money, or items, or time are all important, but we—or at least I—can do those things from a comfortable distance.

It’s too easy to get secluded and ignore others when we can help, or make someone’s day in a small way. It doesn’t have to be anything big—in fact, I think it’s probably better that we offer up many small things than only one big thing—but I think, in light of these kinds of tragedies, the best we can do is to reach out and connect with other human beings in our world. Not via indirect donations (but those are good, too, and worth continuing!), but also through personal, human, interactions.

I’m going to watch for the Good Turns I can do. I hope maybe you’ll keep an eye out for the Good Turn you can do, too.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized