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Savage Survival

 

Darrell Bain's Monthly Blog - May 2010

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Bainstorming: Darrell's Bain's Monthly Blog.
Copyright © May2010, By Darrell Bain
http://www.darrellbain.com

Responses to subjects brought up by this blog are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

Subjects this month: A real letter, Book reviews, Injuries, Religion & Gender, Dachshund Training, Book reviews, Laws, Federal Government and schools, Twitter, Snakebit with Televisions, Tonto as usual, About The Melanin Apocalypse, Progress report, Good deed punished, Excerpt from The Melanin Apocalypse.

A real letter

I had a pleasant surprise this past month. I received a real letter in a stamped envelope from a fan. This brought back all kinds of nice memories of an earlier time in my life before the advent of computers, back when life was simpler (although not necessarily better). Not that I would like to have to do without my computer now, but it is very seldom one receives a personally written and printed piece of mail from the post office these days. Also the person very thoughtfully included a SASE with his letter. The first thing I did after opening and reading the letter was run show it to Betty to let her know that people still did write letters! What a good feeling that was and from such a simple little thing as a piece of mail!

Injuries

I have a consistent back problem but am able to live with it most of the time without too much trouble. However, the first week of April something popped and I was in a whole lot of pain for several days. I have no idea what caused it but it was so bad I couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep no matter how many pain pills I took. I guess I finally wore it out because I’m mostly over it. However, now that I’m better Betty pulled a muscle in her shoulder. She has no idea how she did it. She was up and down for a couple of nights trying to get comfortable enough to sleep but is gradually recovering. Damned if it's not one thing. it’s another. At least we seem to take turns so one of us is well enough to take care of the other when they are having problems. So far.

Religion and Gender

Are men or women more religious? Or neither? Or is one gender more profoundly religious than the other. Or not? Just wondering. 

Dachshund training

Author E. B. White, who owned several Dachshunds, wrote: "Some day, if I ever get a chance, I shall write a book, or warning, on the character and temperament of the dachshund and why he can't be trained and shouldn't be. I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club than induce a dachshund to heed my slightest command."

Book reviews

Red Dragon Rising is a trilogy by Larry Bond and Jim DeFelice. The first book is titled Shadows of War, which I just read. In it, China, under pressure of climate change that has destroyed much of its food producing areas, is invading Vietnam with future plans including all of Asia coming under its hegemony. It has lots of action and some well drawn characters that get the trilogy off to a good start. I liked it and look forward to reading the other two books as they come out.

Blackcollars by Timothy Zahn is a novel of an earth conquered by aliens and a special underground of enhanced humans conducting a guerilla warfare against the overlords and their human collaborators. Lots of action and a good storyline. I read this one on my Kindle.

I read the first of James Barnes’ alternate universe stories, Patton’s Spaceship. It was a neat book if you like the alternate universe genre. I’ve ordered the next in the series.

I also re-read Barnes’ great science fiction novel Mother of Storms. It’s impossible to know if all his near future technology will be developed but the theme of the story, the release of methane into the air from the ocean bottom due to an error is uncomfortably close to what’s happening in the artic as more and more permafrost melts. Methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than most others. Release enough methane into the atmosphere and the past hurricanes we’ve seen would be nothing compared to the ones that would develop then. Barnes does a masterful job of describing just how bad things could get!

David Weber is a wonderful storyteller. I believe he could do well in any genre although he’s pretty well confined himself to science fiction. I just finished the first of his Safehold series, Off Armageddon Reef. It is about the last remaining habitat of humanity, a world where they are hiding from aliens who have destroyed all other human worlds. In order to survive they have had to give up technology but now, almost a thousand years later it may be time to revive it. However, a religion instilled by the old leaders of the colony has forbidden advanced technology forever because they thought this would keep the aliens from discovering the last habitat of humanity. This stifling false religion will have to be overthrown with the help of a most unusual character. I won’t spoil it by telling though. Just read the book. I think you’ll like it.

Laws

Politicians seem to think they always have to pass laws in order to get re-elected. Personally, I’d be more likely to vote for the ones who want to repeal laws. Here’s some bipartisanship for you: have equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats try to agree on some laws to repeal, those that are known to be detrimental, no longer effective or just plain bad. Surely they could find some to agree on that could be repealed.

Federal government and schools

It seems to me that there has been a perennial noise, in fact almost ever since I can remember, about how our schools need to be improved. However, the solution most often spoken of is the need for more money or more government supervision, neither of which correlates with the quality of schools. I personally believe the federal government ought to remove itself from the school scene and let the states and cities and school districts run them. They could certainly do it much cheaper if they didn’t have to follow so blasted many federal dictates and the teachers could spend more time teaching. I can remember when I was in grade school there were no teachers’ aides, no secretaries (well, maybe one but I don’t remember if there was). The school principal also taught sixth grade. Kids who couldn’t speak English were simply immersed in the school with the kids and learned it very quickly. I believe that school was every bit as good as the ones today, if not a hell of a lot better, and the federal government was nowhere to be seen. We learned world history, geography and other subjects that are barely touched on today.

Twitter

I’m trying to begin twittering more often than in the past. I have no idea if anyone finds my meanderings interesting, though. At least I do get some feedback from Bainstorming.

Snakebit with TVs

For our anniversary a few months over a year ago Betty and I gave each other a giant new HDTV set. In all the time we’ve been married we’ve never had a TV set fail so I didn’t bother getting the extended warranty. I figured with solid state electronics there couldn’t be a lot to go bonkers. Wrong. Three months past the warranty date it busted. After checking and finding it would have cost over half of what we paid for it to have it repaired we decided to just get a new one of about the same size but a different brand, a good name brand. It lasted precisely two weeks before the sound went out. We took it back and got our money back and bought our third new big screen HDTV within 16 months!! Is there something about these big HDTVs that doesn’t like us???

Tonto, as usual

Tonto is scared of butterflies. They’re BIG. Honeybees, on the other hand are smaller. He’s always been enticed by them. One day he came in from outside licking his mouth, tossing his head and rubbing his muzzle of the rug. We knew with a fair amount of certainty what had happened. He had finally caught a honeybee and the honeybee took a dislike to being gulped into the mouth of an idiot dachshund. Naturally it was right before the Easter weekend and we couldn’t get him into the Vet. When we took him the next week he had about stopped the head tossing and licking his lips. The Vet agreed with us that he had probably caught a bee or a bug and it bit or stung the inside of his mouth. At any rate we haven’t seen him chasing honeybees since. We believe he has put them into the same category as butterflies: dangerous, fanged creatures it’s best to avoid!

The Melanin Apocalypse

An excerpt from The Melanin Apocalypse is at the end of the blog but I’d like to say a few words about it first. I consider this to be my best book, if not in writing expertise, then at least in terms of the sociological implications and possibly malignant misuse of genetic engineering in the not so distant future goes. I took some very real areas of research and extrapolated what might happen if some of those techniques fell into the wrong hands.

After the book was published I received a letter from a reader asking why I hated black people so much. I was astounded. Nothing could be further from the truth. I picked blacks as primary victims in Africa and The United States and Arabs of the Middle East simply because those two groups are and have been involved in controversy for a long time. It was not because of any inherent dislike of them.

Genetics is progressing at such a rapid pace that the events portrayed in The Melanin Apocalypse or something similar could very well take place within the next couple of decades, if not sooner. I am a strong believer in the advancement of science but the technology today is so diverse and advancing at such a rapid clip that the results need to be monitored. Not that I said monitored, not controlled. The book should be taken as a warning for our leaders that not all terrorists use bombs and that some very small molecules of organic matter have the potential to wreak more destruction than a dozen atomic bombs.

The Melanin Apocalypse is not just a dry book of technical rendition. It includes a very real love story and great deal of suspense and tense confrontations that you would expect to find in any suspense/thriller and/or science fiction novel.

I was really hoping for a wider readership of this book, not just to make money, but to demonstrate how terrorists don’t always and won’t always use known and mundane methods to support their dark agenda. I also included a segment in the novel of how politicians might think they are driven to use the same techniques of terrorists in the name of national security.

Progress Report

My latest novel, The Frontier Rebellion, is available in both print and ebook editions. As of this writing it is the number one best seller at Fictionwise.com and also made the Kindle science fiction best selling list.

I am working on a novel that is proving kind of hard to write but I like the theme of it and feel sure I’ll be able to get it done. I just don’t know how long it will take.

I’m in the process of looking for a collaborator for two other prospective novels and think I’ve found one. More when that’s confirmed. I just don’t write as fast as I used to and I have more ideas for books and stories than I’ll ever finish in my lifetime. Later: I do have a collaborator for at least one of the books. Mary Ann Steele will work with me on “The Disappearance Enigma”. She is the author of more than fifteen books, mostly science fiction. Her web site is  http://www.sciencefictionseries.com/

Good deed punished

Good deeds never go unpunished. When I got my new computer I had two choices for who got my old one. Our daughter Pat who already had a working computer or our housekeeper's 12 year old daughter. The lady is a single mother struggling to make a living and I wanted to do something nice for the daughter. In the end I decided that Pat would get my old computer on the condition that she give her old one to Esmeralda so that's what happened. Unfortunately, by the time Pat's old computer got to Esmeralda's house something had gone wrong with it (probably from the move) and it didn’t' work. I got my granddaughter to try fixing it and she nailed it down to a failed hard drive or a major failure in the tower. Esmeralda had her heart set on a computer. She is a smart girl and would have put it to good use. So I guess I will buy her a new tower for about 300 dollars. Ironic, huh? If I had just given her my old one directly, all would have been well. Instead the move killed Pat's old computer and my good deed will now cost about three hundred bucks. Oh well. We can afford it and it doesn't hurt to do something nice for someone who doesn't have much.

 

Excerpt from The Melanin Apocalypse

         Mary Hedgrade's face was lined with worry. It was never comfortable to be the bearer of bad tidings. In some countries, she thought she might be executed for bringing such news to the head of state, especially with the blunt concluding statement that not only did the CDC not have a cure or vaccine for the Harcourt virus, but there were no prospects for either in the immediate future.
         President Marshall shifted his gaze uneasily around the conference table, trying to find a way to deflect the onus of Mary's words to someone else. She was telling him things he didn't want to hear.
         "I didn't know," the President of the United States said. "I swear I didn't know!" His voice came out muffled. He raked his hands through his hair and looked accusingly at Edgar Tomlin, the National Security Director. "Why the hell wasn't the FBI after those people? God knows they've been trying to force blacks back to secondary citizen status for fifty years! How come you let them start a goddamned epidemic before arresting them?"
         "Because the bastards got smart. They took off to South Africa and helped the white supremacists there with money, and took that crazy geneticist from Sweden with them," Conrad Seigler said. "We'll get them, though. We've tracked them back to America and we still have agents looking for the Swede. We think he stayed in South Africa." Seigler was the current head of the CIA and for a change this one looked the part, or at least as popular culture depicted spies, with dark hair and eyes that shifted constantly.
         "We believe you, Mr. President. How would you have known? You don't have any scientific background," Secretary of State Joshua Brenham said. That was true in a sense, he thought. The capability for creating man-made epidemics had been included in presidential briefings ever since 9/11 but hardly anyone really believed it would ever happen. Certainly not the president. He barely understood the rudiments of science. He'd even made political hay of his lack until this came up. He probably had forgotten he even had an official science adviser. Now it was coming back to haunt him.
         President Marshall Marshall dropped his hand from his hair to the table and twined the fingers of both hands together. They squirmed there like small animals trying to escape a trap. "How bad is it? Isn't there anything we can do to stop it? Anything at all?" He looked bleakly around the table with wounded eyes, red-rimmed from lack of sleep.
         Conrad Seigler shook his head, while shifting his gaze around the table. "There's nothing to do except work on drugs that might help and try to develop a vaccine to prevent future outbreaks. According to Mary, the virus has already infected damn near every one on earth. Isn't that right, Mary?"
         "Maybe. Probably not. No virus gets everyone. Anyway, it's too soon to predict exact numbers. I can tell you that it will infect a huge number of people, given enough time, simply by the lack of a vaccine and the fact that it's been tampered with so that we have no natural immunity to it. Let me run through what we know. The Harcourt virus almost certainly was originally released into the population in Nigeria…"
         "To throw us off the trail," Edgar Tomlin interjected, wanting to make it clear why none of the homeland security agencies had discovered what was going on until far too late. He couldn't afford for his agency to be blamed.
         "Yes," Mary Hedgrade agreed, concealing her irritation at being interrupted behind the new worry lines creasing her face. "Then, from Nigeria they went back to South Africa and made sure it got started there to repay their friends for their help. After that, they traveled to Europe, then to the major hubs of air traffic into and out of the United States and on to other big cities of the world. According to Edgar, this all happened two years ago."
         "Then why is it just now starting? Why didn't blacks begin dying then?"
         Mary wanted to roll her eyes and look to heaven for understanding. Unable to do that, and knowing that the president had either not understood the briefing paper or hadn't even read it, she explained as best she could.
         "The virus masqueraded as a very mild cold, with hardly any symptoms at all. No one paid any attention to it. It was programmed to migrate from the respiratory tract to the Kupffer cells in the liver and lie dormant until a trigger mechanism was activated. We think the triggering factor might have something to do with the number of times mitosis--cell division--occurs in the Kupffer cells, but we're not sure yet. At any rate, once it becomes active again, the cells release the virus back into the peripheral circulation. From there it invades the melanocytes, the pigment producing skin cells, and begins interfering with melanin production. It causes the tyrosine metabolism to malfunction, producing quinol intoxication and--"
         "How many? Will everyone die?" The president interrupted Mary's discourse, knowing he wouldn't understand it. What he wanted was figures, something he could grasp. He scanned the room, seeking reassurance. There was none. The five men and one woman present besides him sat in silence, knowing that there was no answer, no solution. Not yet, and maybe never. Although no one mentioned it, the specter of the many difficulties encountered in controlling the HIV virus was present in their minds.
         "How many?" The president asked again, raising his voice. "How many will die?"
         Joshua Brenham knew. As Secretary of State, he was familiar with population distribution by race across the continents. He also knew that he was probably a dead man. To his credit, he repressed the slow, boiling rage he felt inside. It would do neither him nor anyone else any good to vent it here. "The very worst estimates say that unless the virus can be controlled, there may be as many as two to three billion deaths," he said quietly. "In America, the black population numbers about twelve per cent, roughly 35 million. Of course some of the ones classified as black won't have skin color dark enough to be affected, other than perhaps becoming rather sick, but those are more than made up for by other groups with dark skins. Some Hispanics, some from India and some Arabs and Orientals. Mary says that everyone who has naturally dark skin and has been exposed to the virus will become ill. The severity will depend upon how dark, but over half the population of the world will presumably display few symptoms, or mild ones at the most.
         "Three billion! My God, how could they do it? How could they?" the president exclaimed, his gaze again roving the table. His facial expression expressed horror and outrage, but inside, he was beginning to feel a guilty hint of dark satisfaction that the blacks of the world would all die. Wouldn't that solve a lot of problems? He was incapable of imagining all the repercussions that such a pandemic would cause, most of them much worse than such relatively simple problems as discrimination and poverty and failures in education.
         "Mr. President, it doesn't matter now," Edgar Tomlin said. "The important thing is that no one must ever know that it was American citizens who let this thing loose on the world. If that gets out, our entire civilization might fall. It may anyway, but if no one knows, we stand a chance of coming through the crisis."
         You others do, Brenham thought. I have no chance at all.
         "What if we just turned those nuts over to the UN when we catch them, and let them execute the crazy sons of bitches?" suggested General Borland Newman, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Wouldn't that do it?" Newman had a guilty secret, too. Already, he was thinking of how much more power he would hold once martial law was imposed.
         Edgar laughed hollowly. "Don't you know? The UN doesn't believe in the death penalty."
         President Marshall wiped at his eyes. "Don't bring up silly ideas, General. We can't let this get out. Edgar, I don't care what you do with those white supremacists that started this thing if we catch them, but I don't want anyone to ever hear about it if we do. Not a word. Understand?"
         Tomlin nodded, wondering if he was hearing the president right. Probably, he thought, which suited him fine--except that he didn't think it could be kept quiet.
         When no one protested, the president continued. "We have to start preparations now. Get a spin ready that downplays how bad it could get. In the meantime, get the rest of it all worked out. How to control the riots; hospital space and medical supplies; controls on the economy; National Guard units to call up; defense preparations; all the other things we must do to ensure the survival of our country. That takes priority, understand? Our country comes first."
         "While blacks have no hope of surviving," Brenham said, unable to help himself, nor able to conceal the bitterness in his voice.
         "I'm sorry, Joshua. I'm as sorry as can be. But how were we to know?"
         The president was right in one respect, Mary Hedgrade thought. In the beginning, no one had any idea of the enormity of the consequences soon to arise from those first reports coming in from Nigeria. At first she hadn't believed it was possible herself, then that it might be, but that no one could possibly be so evil as to introduce that kind of virus into the world. And finally, when the evidence became overwhelming, she had put her face in her hands and wept. Once Mary realized what had happened, she had kept a very tight rein on all information the CDC discovered about the Harcourt virus, but she soon realized that concealment was not only pointless, but counterproductive. Only a White House directive had kept her from disseminating the CDC findings to the world. Not that it would do any good now, she thought. As Brenham had noted, the initial phase was past. For most of the susceptible population, nothing could be done for them unless a miracle occurred. It would simply have to run its course. She shivered and her mind returned to the conference room.
         "How about nukes? Is there a possibility some country will try bombing us even if they can't prove we started it?" General Newman spoke again. Rows of ribbons adorning his uniform attested to his experience, though if one knew how to read the decorations it would be apparent that there were none denoting combat. He was a political general, one of the breed who made rank by cozying up to and catering to politicians.
         Brenham gave him a sour glance. "Who can predict what's going to happen when people start dying? All you can do is keep our forces alert."
         "Luckily, the virus won't be so lethal in the countries that have nukes," Conrad Seigler observed.
         "Yeah, luckily," Brenham responded, unable to keep his voice from trembling. He wanted this to end so he could leave. The only thing keeping him now was his loyalty, not to the president, but to the institution of the Presidency.
         "China might be a problem," Mary said. Her head was down, glancing at the notes on her PDA. "Their population is borderline. I think more than eighty per cent of them will survive, but there are going to be a hell of a lot of sick puppies there for a while. And sick men aren't always rational."
         "You don't have to be sick to be irrational!" Brenham shouted, then hung his head, ashamed at the outburst. But damn, it was hard to keep it inside. Here these people were talking about a quarter of the world dying, yet they were safe and he was dead and his family was dead. It was so goddamned unfair!
 

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
May 2010

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