Suspended Animation Closer To Reality

Always the stuff of science fiction, human suspended animation is getting closer to reality.

At a hospital in Pittsburgh, surgeons are now allowed to place patients into a state of suspended animation. If a patient arrives with a traumatic injury, and attempts to restart their heart have failed — if they’re on the doorstep of death — they will have their blood replaced with a cold saline solution, which stops almost all cellular activity. At this point, the patient is clinically dead — but if the doctors can fix the injury within a few hours, they can be returned to life from suspended animation by replacing the saline with blood.

I’m currently working on a short story that uses this as a plot device; gee how many stories have? A ton. However, I do think it’s cool that the fiction aspect of this science fiction plot device is becoming less fictiony.

Post Americana A Short Story

prelim2With the world in a chaotic downward spiral and the United States of America convulsing with civil war and societal breakdown, someone has released an awful plague upon the earth and a global nuclear conflagration seems inevitable. The government created The Program, a top secret plan to place a handful of elite men and women in hibernation throughout the country to ride out the end of the world in a last ditch effort to rebuild humanity.

“You’ll be in hibernation for a few years. Worst case scenario, a decade at most,” the Director had said. But when Brace wakes up 150 years later it’s apparent that humanity must have taken one huge dump. Life begins in Post Americana.

Well, that’s the blurb anyway. It will be available on Amazon shortly.

I mean, c’mon, everyone loves a good post apocalyptic story no matter how done to death they may be.

I Want My Multiverse

And I want my multiverse now.

Given that war is the archetypal splitting point for alternative history, perhaps the threat of fascism accounts for the rise in popularity of parallel-world stories in the 1940s, sometimes as wish-fulfilling escapism, as in the film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), or else as warnings of alternatives that could so easily happen. In Borges’s short story ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ (1940), for example, an invented world causes reality itself to cave in. A year later, Borges again worked the theme of branching realities, in a wartime spy story called ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’. When the American physicist Seth Lloyd met Borges at a Cambridge reception in 1983, he asked him if he was aware that this story eerily prefigured Hugh Everett’s concept of many worlds. Borges had never heard of it, but said that it didn’t surprise him that physics sometimes followed literature. After all, physicists are readers, too (of literature, and of history).

Yes, this is an essay on the theoretical concept of multiple universes existing at once, but the one line that seemed to really stick out to me considering my current state of mind is:

Benjamin says that to understand fascism we need to appreciate how in an oppressive regime every day is presented as a new emergency.

As is often the case, some of the most interesting parts of an essay like this are the comments. The very first comment I read was in reference to how the above Benjamin quote made the commenter “shiver.”

Cool, at least I’m not alone.

Ukraine Counter Revolution Arrives From Russia

And that is pretty much how Putin has intended it to happen. This letter from Donetsk accurately paints a picture of Russians being bussed in by the thousands to create a “counter revolution.”

What’s happening in Kharkiv and Donetsk now reflects someone’s strong intention to provoke and impose an illusion of a local civil conflict. The pro-Ukrainian side in Donetsk is very strong and entirely aware of the future they would lose if they join Russia. The pro-Russian side is mostly represented by aggressive thugs, “tourists” from Russia and older people who watch Russian television and do not use the Internet. Their time for dealing with the natural confusion of the moment is now being brutally stolen by this violent distraction.

Yes, the Ukraine counter revolution arrives from Russia.

This is occurring by Putin’s design. Part of his design, too, is counting on weak projection from the West, which seems to be panning out. The amount of propaganda that reasonable people identify as absolutely absurd is astounding. From the beginning, Putin brayed about how the West was fomenting, planning, and financing the uprising against the Yanukovych regime. Then, when Yanukovych was sent packing, Putin sends in thousands of troops into Crimea and thousands of Russian citizens into cities to trump up a “counter revolution.” Yet a staggering number of useful idiots don’t seem to be able to grasp the cynical irony.

Never underestimate the power of human absurdity. Anyone who actually believes and propagates the notion that the Ukrainian revolution is a Western financed usurpation by neo Nazis is, to put it as nicely as possible, a dangerous, blithering idiot. The revolution in Ukraine is as complex as any revolution in history, but at its most basic it can be described as people uprising against a government that was completely unaccountable to the people; a government that was corrupt from top to bottom, and a government by oligarchs for oligarchs in which people were nothing more than a resource to be used to further the desires of a blatant kleptocracy. Of course it was all backed and supported by Putin’s Russia.

Early on, before Yanukovych was sent running, I always felt that if he was deposed, Russia would at the least come into Crimea. I stated as much the day after he was sent running. It was obvious that Putin would make a move on Crimea. What else would you expect a former KGB official who once stated that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy in the twentieth century to do.

Every action will have a reaction. Inaction is an action which will have a reaction. You can’t just skate because you don’t get involved. Whether you like it or not, the world just doesn’t work that way.

I don’t know how this will ultimately turn out. There are so many possibilities that it is impossible to make a prediction with any seriousness. But I will state what I believe is a real possibility. When the “referendum” is carried out next week, Crimea will vote to join Russia. The actual referendum is nothing more than a formality; a dotting of an i and a crossing of a t. Putin will assure victory. That much is a certainty. It’s what happens after that one can make reasonable assumptions of possible outcomes.

When Crimea joins Russia, that could very possibly be the tipping point. There are substantial numbers of people in Crimea who absolutely do not want to be part of Russia. They will come out, Russian troops and/or Russian “supporters” will crack down. Blood will be shed. This could very well cause Ukraine’s military to at last commit itself. From this point all bets are off. Russian “tourists” in other parts of Ukrain; Odessa, Donetsk, and Kharkiv will come out in support of fellow Russians. One can easily see Putin using this as an excuse for a full scale incursion into Ukraine. Why wouldn’t he? He has not received any real threats to cause him to not consider it when weighed against his wish to reconstruct a simile of the USSR. Kind of what I’ve heard others jokingly refer to as a NewSSR. A full scale incursion into a country of 45 million people is no small matter. Ukraine will fight. Russia would probably win. A lot of people would die. Many, many people would die. All of this at the doorstep of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania; all of whom could not just sit by and not react to some degree. To what degree and exactly how, I would not venture to guess. But I do know that there is a possibility of a conflagration that history will look back on and say, “All of this could’ve been avoided had the world just stepped up and put a firm, united foot down when there was just a few thousand troops in Crimea.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.

A Carl Hiaasen Family

For this week, anyway.

I’ve read two books by Carl Hiaasen and have thoroughly enjoyed them. This week I got the bug to escape to South Florida again and picked up Hiaasen’s Skin Tight.

After dispatching a pistol-packing intruder from his home with the help of a stuffed Marlin head, Mick Stranahan can’t deny that someone is out to get him. His now-deceased intruder carries no I.D., and as a former Florida state investigator, Stranahan knows there are plenty of potential culprits. His long list of enemies includes an off point hit man, a personal injury lawyer of billboard fame, a notoriously irritating TV journalist, and a fumbling plastic surgeon.

Now, if he wants to keep fishing into his golden years, Stranahan has no choice but to come out of retirement to close this one last case…

I was telling my wife about how much I like his books and she was intrigued, so I rummaged through my book shelf and handed her Skinny Dip.

Chaz Perrone might be the only marine scientist in the world who doesn’t know which way the Gulf Stream runs. He might also be the only one who went into biology just to make a killing, and now he’s found a way–doctoring water samples so that a ruthless agribusiness tycoon can continue illegally dumping fertilizer into the endangered Everglades. When Chaz suspects that his wife, Joey, has figured out his scam, he pushes her overboard from a cruise liner into the night-dark Atlantic. Unfortunately for Chaz, his wife doesn’t die in the fall.

Clinging blindly to a bale of Jamaican pot, Joey Perrone is plucked from the ocean by former cop and current loner Mick Stranahan. Instead of rushing to the police and reporting her husband’s crime, Joey decides to stay dead and (with Mick’s help) screw with Chaz until he screws himself.

As Joey haunts and taunts her homicidal husband, as Chaz’s cold-blooded cohorts in pollution grow uneasy about his ineptitude and increasingly erratic behavior, as Mick Stranahan discovers that six failed marriages and years of island solitude haven’t killed the reckless romantic in him, we’re taken on a hilarious, full-throttle, pure Hiaasen ride through the warped politics and mayhem of the human environment, and the human heart.

Part of the allure of reading a Carl Hiaasen book this time of year is, well, this time of year; March. Every winter, no matter how mild, turns into a long winter this time of year. Reading stories that take place in South Florida seem to help one to get over that final hump.

One thing that a lot of people may not know is that Hiaasen not only writes adult themed books, but he also writes juvenile and young adult books. What the hell, I thought, I’ll pick up one of his books for my 11 year old, and went to the library and checked out Flush:

Bestselling novelist Carl Hiaasen is back with another hysterical mystery adventure for young readers, set in the Florida Keys.

You know it’s going to be a rough summer when you spend Father’s Day visiting your dad in the local lockup.

Noah’s dad is sure that the owner of the Coral Queen casino boat is flushing raw sewage into the harbor–which has made taking a dip at the local beach like swimming in a toilet. He can’t prove it though, and so he decides that sinking the boat will make an effective statement. Right. The boat is pumped out and back in business within days and Noah’s dad is stuck in the clink.

Now Noah is determined to succeed where his dad failed. He will prove that the Coral Queen is dumping illegally . . . somehow. His allies may not add up to much–his sister Abbey, an unreformed childhood biter; Lice Peeking, a greedy sot with poor hygiene; Shelly, a bartender and a woman scorned; and a mysterious pirate–but Noah’s got a plan to flush this crook out into the open. A plan that should sink the crooked little casino, once and for all.

The deal when I suggest a book for my son is that he not make a judgement until after he’s read at least 20 pages. He put in his time with 20 and he’s good to go as soon as he finishes the last few pages of what he’s currently reading.

So now, everyone in the Medley household is reading a Carl Hiaasen book.

 

Writers Shun The New Paradigm At Their Own Peril

The gist of this story is that because of the economic downturn and the internet, writing is becoming a sucky job as far as actually making any money:

The credit crunch and the internet are making writing as a career harder than it has been for a generation.

I think that the main issue here is that the paradigm has changed and that many legacy writers are being left behind if they don’t embrace it. Sure, there are some mega-writer superstars out there, but they are few and far between. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to make a living with it. There are a fair number of indie writers out there that are making a living: JA Konrath, Barry Eisler, and others. Sure, these guys had established names in the legacy publishing world, but so do the authors featured in this story.

Rupert Thomson is the author of nine novels, including The Insult(1996), which David Bowie chose for one of his 100 must-read books of all time, and Death of a Murderer, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year awards in 2007. His most recent novel, Secrecy, was hailed as “chillingly brilliant” (Financial Times) and “bewitching” (Daily Mail). According to the Independent, “No one else writes quite like this in Britain today.” Thomson has also been compared to JG Ballard, Elmore Leonard, Mervyn Peake and even Kafka. In short, he’s an established and successful writer with an impressive body of work to his name.

Yet he’s on the verge of financial ruin because he’s unable to bring in any money from his writing. I wonder how much he pays his agent and what his share of sales are after his publisher doles out the money?

Later on in the article other writers blame internet technology, Amazon, and Google. Well, yeah, all three are the driving factors in the changing paradigm. The biggest problem they pose is if these authors are unwilling or unable to leverage the opportunities that this new paradigm presents. Really, Joe Konrath has written and written and written and WRITTEN about it.

Granted, I’m not “pro”. I’ve not sold scads of books or ever had an agent or a publisher. I get that. I don’t work hard enough at it to deserve it. I think that the numbers of books that I’ve sold are pretty commensurate with the amount of real work I’ve put into it, which is very little. But I think it’s pretty obvious that there is probably more opportunity out there for writers who are willing to embrace the new paradigm than there ever has been before.

Writers shun the new paradigm at their own peril.

 

What If God Is A Programmer?

Recently I participated in a discussion that basically asked the question, “Do Republicans believe in evolution?” Although I’m not a Republican, I know plenty of people who would classify themselves as Republicans and who accept the reality that evolution is a fact. Notice how I didn’t state that they believe it was real. The reason why is because evolution is a scientific fact. Again, I’m not a Republican. I’m a Libertarian. Libertarians share some common ideological bent with some who would call themselves Republicans.

The conversation soon devolved—intentional pun—into a debate of whether evolution was real or not. At that point I lose interest. You can’t have a meaningful discussion about, say, math if the person with whom you are talking can’t accept the fact that 2+2=4. But before it got to that point, the discussion touched on the coexistence of evolution and a creator; God, if you will. Some view evolution as an exemplification of a creator. That it could not possibly occur without some intelligent designer pulling levers like Oz behind the curtain. Others view evolution as being unnecessary and an affront to the notion of God.

This sort of discussion is difficult for me because although the two need not be mutually exclusive, I know that evolution is a verifiable fact. A creator or God is a belief.

As it stands there is not presently a way in which we can either prove the existence of a creator or the nonexistence of a creator. We simply cannot know. Both sides of that argument are basing everything on belief; both the theist and the atheist. One believes in a god, one does not, but both are basing everything on a belief. It’s an expression of faith. I accept the fact that I cannot know if there is a god or not therefore I’m agnostic on the matter. Every time an atheist looks down on a theist in snooty derision, I want to punch them in the throat. “Ass hole, the basis of your assumption is the exact same as the theist; belief. Now put a cork in it.”

Keep in mind that I don’t disregard religion as a whole. I do not. I fully acknowledge the important role that Judeo-Christianity has played in the development of Western Culture and accept that though not without flaws, that role has been by and large a positive one. I appreciate Western Culture and know that it would not exist as we know it without the Judeo-Christian influence that it has benefited from.

Amidst the debate of if a creator exists or not is a theory known as the “simulation theory.” It goes something like this: The universe and everything in it including us is one giant computer simulation. Basically, what if God is a programmer? It may sound crazy, but there are some serious thinkers that have tackled this idea. A great article on the simulation theory can be read at Aeon. No, this isn’t some rehash of The Matrix. It’s far more complex than that. And, frankly, much more interesting.

Our species is not going to last forever. One way or another, humanity will vanish from the Universe, but before it does, it might summon together sufficient computing power to emulate human experience, in all of its rich detail. Some philosophers and physicists have begun to wonder if we’re already there. Maybe we are in a computer simulation, and the reality we experience is just part of the program.

A pair of philosophers recently argued that if we accept the eventual complexity of computer hardware, it’s quite probable we’re already part of an ‘ancestor simulation’, a virtual recreation of humanity’s past. Meanwhile, a trio of nuclear physicists has proposed a way to test this hypothesis, based on the notion that every scientific programme makes simplifying assumptions. If we live in a simulation, the thinking goes, we might be able to use experiments to detect these assumptions.

The article goes on in great detail on how some of these experiments may work. I really do recommend taking the time to read it, especially for fiction writer types looking for inspiration.

The interesting thing is that if science were ever able to prove that our existence is simply a computer simulation, it would both prove and disprove the arguments of both the theist and the atheist. In fact the only real winner in that scenario would be nihilism. Wrap your head around that one.

The prospect that our existence could be nothing more than a computer simulation is a frightening one that has as much credence as theism or atheism from a completely empirical standpoint. But imagine a world in which we have advanced enough technologically to empirically determine the genesis of our existence and it turns out that our existence is not real; that we are simply nothing more than a simulation. Now think about the implications of that.

That is frightening.

Hindsight Is 20 20

Or not.

hind·sight

noun
  1. understanding of a situation or event only after it has happened or developed.

I’ve come to realize that the old adage “hindsight is 20 20″ is not entirely true. Oftentimes, hindsight is completely blinded by rank ideology or a grave misunderstanding of history.