Notes from An Alien

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Dystopia & Apocalypse ~ Two Seemingly Immortal Genres . . .

Spotted outside @Waterstones in Bloomsbury, London ~ from @For_the_Wynn ~

First some definitions:

Dystopia — “An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad , typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.”

Apocalypse — “An event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale.”

Next, reference to my past post, Why Is There So Much Dystopian and Apocalyptic Fiction?

Then, a quote from that past post:

My short novel, Notes from An Alien (which is still Free) begins dystopian, edges toward apocalyptic, then takes a few major turns to end up in places not initially imagined…

And, a link from that post: That Long, Rocky Road: Why Is Dystopian Fiction Evergreen?

I do hope you’ll go read the article at that last link; but, I want to go back to my novel, Notes from An Alien

Here’s some of the promotional copy:

Start with a 500-year Inter-World War.

Continue through ecological disaster and the decimation of populations.

Follow the institution of a Worlds’ government that helps bring a glimmer of hope.

Discover the challenges and failures of unifying three very different Worlds.

Explore what it takes to give birth to a lasting peace.

This is what reading “Notes from An Alien” promises.

And, this story could help Earth…

Notice the words “glimmer of hope”, “unifying”, and “lasting peace”?

Those words set Notes from An Alien apart from most Dystopian Apocalypses.

But, then, my particular brand of thinking can’t abide stories that are totally hopeless—my own personal story has been a never-ending battle to rid my inner life of the doom of psychological dystopia and emotional apocalypse

With that in mind (as well as the current political and social environments in most countries of the world), I’ll share something from an article in BrainPickingsA Responsibility to Light: An Illustrated Manifesto for Creative Resilience and the Artist’s Duty in Dark Times:

This is your assignment.

Feel all the things. Feel the hard things. The inexplicable things, the things that make you disavow humanity’s capacity for redemption. Feel all the maddening paradoxes. Feel overwhelmed, crazy. Feel uncertain. Feel angry. Feel afraid. Feel powerless. Feel frozen. And then FOCUS.

Pick up your pen. Pick up your paintbrush. Pick up your damn chin. Put your two calloused hands on the turntables, in the clay, on the strings. Get behind the camera. Look for that pinprick of light. Look for the truth (yes, it is a thing—it still exists.)

Focus on that light. Enlarge it. Reveal the fierce urgency of now. Reveal how shattered we are, how capable of being repaired. But don’t lament the break. Nothing new would be built if things were never broken. A wise man once said: there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Get after that light.

This is your assignment.

And, finally, a video from the magazine Aeon:

Notes from An Alien
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The Story Bazaar, Some Strange Fantasies, and Other Free Books…

I thought I’d forego my usual Saturday Re-Blog and pitch my newest short story endeavor—Friday Story Bazaar—a new Tale every Friday, until I think I’ve written enough to publish another book…

Story Bazaar

Cover by Jane Darnton Watson

And, because on Saturdays I publish the same Tales on Wattpad, I’ll share that link, where it’s simply called Story Bazaar

So far, there are 25 Tales, of no specific genre—a real mixed bag of story-forms…

Strange Fantasies

Cover by Jane Darnton Watson

So that’s the newest story endeavor; but, I also have 33 Fantasy short stories at the link Friday Fantasy that are also on Wattpad as Strange Fantasies and available as a book on Amazon (cheap, $.99…).

Plus, the left side-bar has more of my writings that are freely downloadable (a Novel, a Poetry Book, a Fable, and an Essay about Words…) — if you’re on your phone, you’ll have to use your general “Menu” button and find something like “Request Desktop Site” to see the left side-bar :-)

Plus, going to my site on Lulu, will let you download two more free books—a compilation of Spiritual Writings and a book made from my previous Blog…

Finally, one more free book—my unique method of letting folks interpret their own astrological charts………
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Why Is There So Much Dystopian and Apocalyptic Fiction?

Perhaps I should begin by defining Dystopian and Apocalyptic (though, I imagine omnivorous bookworms are quite familiar with these “genres”…).

Dystopian Apocalyptic Fiction

Spotted outside @Waterstones in Bloomsbury, London ~ from @For_the_Wynn ~

I’ll start with Dystopian (in the Oxford Dictionary of English):

“…relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad , typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one…”

Now, Apocalyptic:

“…describing or prophesying the complete destruction of the world…”

My short novel, Notes from An Alien (which can be bought but is still Free) begins dystopian, edges toward apocalyptic, then takes a few major turns to end up in places not initially imagined

Why is there so much dystopian/apocalyptic work out there [?] is an interesting question.

At the end of this post, I’ll hint at my own explanation; but, let’s start with an article at Publishing Perspectives (which deals, primarily, with the lesser of the two “evils”)That Long, Rocky Road: Why Is Dystopian Fiction Evergreen?

As always, I encourage you to go read the full article; but, I’ll share some excerpts.

First, a few opinions from John Joseph Adams, editor of a science fiction/fantasy imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

“Dystopian fiction–and in particular Young Adult dystopian fiction–has been the trend for so long because it resonates deeply with young people. When you’re young, you see society as dystopian; everything is against you; things don’t seem fair; you get bullied…”

That seems to say that dystopia is only in the minds of young adults and not in our world

Adams goes on to say something that may mean he sees real life as dystopian:

“People may eventually get too beaten down by the combination of terrible things happening in the real world and terrible things happening to characters in fiction, and shift drastically to something like escapist fiction, or perhaps an even more direct response by shifting to utopian narratives instead.”

Then there’s Aliette de Bodard, French-American speculative fiction writer:

“I have done a lot of code switching between cultures, so I can see that each has a different view of what is dystopian.”

“In the West, the young’s fears aren’t of nuclear war—that is the fear of the previous generation. It’s the fear of pandemics or global warming, which can seem vague, but are real to the young.”

And here are Natacha Derevitskymanaging director of Pocket Jeunesse, the imprint for 4- to 20-year-olds of French publisher Univers Poche and Xavier d’Almeida, director of its Young Adult collection.

I’ll direct those wondering who said which excerpt to the full article at Publishing Perspectives :-)

The following statement could mean, again, that our world isn’t dystopian through-and-through; or, it might be interpreted as saying the future actually can be better:

“…for YA, dystopian stories have to have an optimistic ending. It is also important that they have a realistic theme – which can be related to something that is happening in our society.”

And, one final excerpt from the article:

“It is not really growing any more. We’ve been waiting for another type of book for the last two years. These could be more realistic, issue-based books, but we don’t know how popular these books could become.”

So, there you have four folks who are deeper into the mainstream book world than I am.

I’m merely a published author who writes a blog; but, I do have a dystopian novel (and a few such short stories) and I certainly have played with apocalypse

But, before I say why there’s so much of this fiction (and keeping in mind that enough dystopia can easily tip the scales into apocalyptic states), I should share the word history of apocalypse (my bolding):

French from ecclesiastical Latin apocalypsis from Greek apokalupsis, from apokaluptein uncover

Interesting, isn’t it?

A word we use for the end of the world comes from words that lead to the meaning “Uncover”

A close study of human evolution shows that all shouts of complete doom have echoed through time as transitions to new levels of human endeavor—each Winter of humanity has melted into a new Spring

So, I think the two brands of fiction under consideration are prominent because writers sense the Winter/Spring Transition coming

I’ll close this post with a brief statement from the Prologue of my novel:

“You’re about to read the story of a People who went from a 500-year InterWorldWar and nearly complete loss of hope to enduring security. May the truth we discovered bring you courage to face the necessities of building a path toward global peace.”

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The Magic and Mystery of Book Covers

There are many theories about what attracts us to certain book covers.

Image Courtesy of Gabriel Robledo ~

Image Courtesy of Gabriel Robledo ~

There are many misconceptions about what a book cover should look like.

To say that certain covers “speak” to certain readers seems true to me…

To say that an author, publisher, or designer can always conceive of the “right” cover for a book has been disproven millions of times.

Notes from An AlienMy short novel, Notes from An Alien, got the best cover I could design—many folks say it’s a “good” cover…

The same thing can be said for the cover of my poetry book, Is Your Soul In Here? Is Your Soul In Here?

Strange Fantasies I had the help of another author, Jane Watson, with the covers of Strange Fantasies and Story BazaarStory Bazaar

I’m not sure if authors really need professional artist/designers for their covers; mostly because I’m not sure what exactly makes a cover “good”.

I may like how it looks but that doesn’t mean others will…

I may be extremely attracted to the cover of a book; but, I may not like the story inside, at all…

Some folks might say a traditional publisher knows exactly the right cover for every book they publish.

Please, go talk to about a dozen authors who were traditionally published—you should find at least one who hated the cover they got…

I’m very sure there’s no readily accessible data for the books the big houses have produced that had “bad” covers…

In the realm of Self-publishing, there are all the self-styled “gurus” who demand you must keep your reader in mind when designing a cover…


Perhaps a writer locked into a certain genre might “know” who reads their books; but, I tend to doubt if any author could guess the range of folks who could love their books; not to mention, like their covers…

So, with all this uncertainty and razzmatazz, I felt I had to share a particular article from Publishing PerspectivesRising Star Rafaela Romaya: ‘A Very Clear Vision for the Book’.

Rafaela is the Art Director at the Scottish independent publisher, Canongate.

The first statement that jumped out at me was this quote from Rafaela:

“There’s always an element of surprise and unpredictability regarding what draws people to covers, which is partly why each title gets the same amount of care and attention regardless of author or sales expectations.”

So, a professional cover designer admits the response of readers to covers has elements of surprise and unpredictability…

If you end up designing the cover for a book (or, consulting with someone about the design), this quote from Rafaela bears attention:

“I often have a very clear vision for the book and what it can achieve from the outset—finding the essence of the story through a small detail or unusual angle, and executing it in a style right for the audience whilst remaining distinctive.”

O.K., small details and unusual angles might help create a “good” cover; but, again, there is the wild uncertainty in the phrase, “…a style right for the audience…”—please, if someone out there knows exactly how to determine the definable characteristics of any particular book’s audience, my email address is in the blurb after this post………

You might enjoy reading the full interview; but, I will bring the video at the end of the article over here, since it shows a book cover that Totally blows my mind…

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Why Is This Author So Anxious to Write About the #InternationalDayOfPeace?

Some of you have already experienced September 21st—some are just waking up to it… 

It’s the International Day of Peace

Does such a celebration seem useless to you?

Does it seem like, no matter what people do, war and violence will never go away?

Surprise!  It’s thoughts and feelings like that that help keep us from global peace…

Ever heard of non-violent protest?

What if a significant number of folks rose up, all over the world, non-violently, for a sustained vigil for World Peace?

I hear someone saying, “The only folks who could afford to do that are the poor and outcast; and, nobody will pay any attention to them.”

That’s another attitude that keeps us away from International Peace

What if it has to take a small group of devoted folks, let’s say a few million spread over the globe, maintaining efforts for Peace; passing on their fervor to their off-spring; continuing this process; until, every other kind of person has died off?

It appears that may just be how this ol’ world will attain that treasured state of tranquility

I’m going on so much about this potentially “meaningless” day of peace for the same reason I worked so hard to write my short novel, Notes from An Alien (get your free copy here…).

And, because of the rampant disbelief in the possibility of Peace, I created an alien world struggling with the same issues the Earth is suffering through—perhaps experiencing it in another context will create the clarity of vision that might help folks dedicate time to working for peace

Perhaps, meditating on the following quotes will help some of you find time to help our ailing world…

“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”  – John F. Kennedy

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”  – Albert Einstein

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – Mother Teresa

“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one” – John Lennon 

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” – Mahatma Gandhi 

Perhaps we need not a Day of Peace but some official Year of Peace, Decade of Peace, Century of Peace

To echo another rather weird fellow, You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

I also have a special page here with Resources about Peace

Maybe reading this will help—World Female Leaders call for International Law, cessation of war to promote global peace.

And, the following story is more important to Peace than many folks would ever imagine—General Assembly Adopts Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, as United Nations, International Organization for Migration Sign Key Agreement.

The “theme” for this year’s International Day of Peace is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.”—and, in case you still doubt there are any concrete ways to Build Peace, read about the Sustainable Development Goals

Also, to see exactly where our human family needs the most help, checkout the Global Peace Index

Finally, here’s a video of the late Dame Margaret Anstee, the first woman to serve as a United Nations Under-Secretary-General:

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