Hello, good morning, and welcome to another of my weekly blog posts. It is not Thursday morning as I write this, but it will be Thursday (or later) when you read it. I’m writing it a day early, to be published on the usual day, since this Thursday is a major holiday where I live.
Given that, I would like to wish Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the US who are reading this, and to everyone else, a happy day in general. It can feel as though there’s much not to be thankful for right now, but I’m sure that, in the modern world, we still have many reasons to feel fortunate—certainly those of us with the luxury of reading and writing blogs.
Positivity isn’t my strong point, as my regular readers may know, but it is worth remembering that we take for granted a tremendous number of incredible advances that our forebears even a generation past could not have imagined. If you go back a century, to the time of the 1918-ish flu pandemic, it’s sobering to realize that they didn’t have antibiotics to treat the numerous bacterial infections that often complicate influenza, let alone ventilators, oxygen monitors, corticosteroids, or molecular biology to be able to discern the nature of the disease-causing agent. Indeed, DNA itself was decades away from being described, so the tools for understanding and treating a highly contagious and dangerous viral illness were far weaker than they are today. Vaccinations had been invented, but they were in crude form, and the science of understanding, let alone designing them, was in its infancy.
And the internet, of course, or anything like it, was not even a dream of science fiction yet.
So, if we work at it—and I say again, it’s not my strong point—we can find things about which to feel truly thankful.
On to other, lighter matters. I did a rather unusual experiment recently, one about which I have mixed feelings. I’d be thankful (!) for any feedback you might think appropriate. As those of use who use Amazon know, when you’ve purchased something, Amazon often sends an email asking if you’d be willing to rate and review what you bought. I think this is a useful service, but it can become onerous at times, so I don’t review nearly everything I purchase, even books that I read and enjoy.
I received a request to rate a jacket I’d just purchased. It was the same brand I’d bought a few years ago, and my old one was getting a bit raggedy with use, so I ordered a new one (in a different color—black, of course). I decided that I really should give a review, since I’d used the product and liked it enough to buy it again.
Well, as you may also know, once you’ve reviewed one item, the Amazon page asks you if you want to rate and review other items you’ve purchased—you know, while you’re in the mood and all. And at the top of the list was my own creation, Unanimity Book 1, for which I’d already received more than one request for reviews. I bought copies of the book for the people at my office I thought might enjoy it, and then another one for someone who asked me later for a copy, so the review requests were recurrent, as tends to happen with all of my books.
I’ve occasionally been tempted to write a comical, self-serving review that makes it obvious that I’m the author to anyone reading, but I’ve never done it before. It was my understanding that Amazon doesn’t allow people who have a fiduciary interest in a product to provide reviews for it. I respect that policy, as I understood it. But they kept asking, and asking, and asking…and I’m not made of stone (except perhaps for my heart). Finally, on a whim, I wrote a brief review, starting off by revealing that I am the author of the book, and I rated it five stars. This is not, of course, an unbiased rating, but it is at least an honest one, in that I really do think it’s worthy of that rank to me, not least because of the effort involved in writing it and the characters, whom I like very much. I wasn’t really expecting the review to go up. I figured Amazon’s automatic checkers or whatever they might be would block it and send me a kind but firm email stating that they can’t publish reviews from people involved financially in a product. Well, only Amazon itself is more financially involved in my books than I am. But at least so far, the review is there, which is amusing to me, at least, but I do feel the need to repeat my disclaimers about it and the rating.
To be honest, if I’d thought it was really going to work, the book I’d feel least conflicted about reviewing would be The Chasm and the Collision, which is certainly my most wholesome, family-friendly story, written specifically with my children in mind at the time*. I’m quite proud of the world-building I did in it, which includes telepathic plants, mole-weasel creatures called orcterlolets who can directly manipulate the local shape of space itself, flying manta-ray like monstrosities called gowstrin, a bit of bastardized M-theory describing universes floating next to each other in “the bulk” and in danger of colliding, and three middle-schoolers who inadvertently get caught up in the emergency attempt to prevent that collision, which would destroy everything in our universe as well as the one of Osmeer. And, of course, as I say in the jacket blurb, our heroes must try to help prevent this cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for being late for school.
Yeah, I don’t feel any qualms about recommending that book to pretty much anyone. My sister has read it more than once, and the last time she did, she actually thanked me for writing it. That was pretty huge.
The Vagabond, of course, being a horror story, is far from as family-friendly as CatC, but it is coming along nicely, and it is fast-paced, and a far more in-your-face horror story than, say, Unanimity. The horror in the latter is complicated, partly psychological, partly existential, involving the threat of the complete loss of free will, autonomy, self-awareness, etc., without anyone even knowing of the threat, let alone being able to do anything about it. At least with a traditional, moustache-twirling, evil incarnate type villain, you know what you’re up against and can make a stand. When the villain is one of the people you love most in the world, who doesn’t even think that he’s doing anything bad, and about the threat from whom you know only because he told happily you, things are a little dicier**. At least, I think so.
But The Vagabond will probably be more straightforward fun for most people, and it is certainly shorter. Still, if you read only one of my books, I would recommend The Chasm and the Collision, without knowing more about your preferences and tastes and whatnots.
With that, I think I’ll draw this prematurely written blog post to a close. I do, honestly, hope that all of you who are in the US have as good a Thanksgiving as possible, while doing everything you can to keep yourselves and those you love safe and healthy. Hopefully, you can console yourself by imagining the November blow-out that will come once we have this latest virus*** under better control. “So tighten your belts, and think with hope of the tables of Elrond’s house!”
*I don’t think either of them has read it, or any of my other books, though each book is dedicated to them. They don’t want to have much to do with me since the time I was invited to be a guest of the State of Florida for three years…in fact, my son won’t interact with me at all, though my daughter does stay in contact, and shares news of her various adventures.
**I think that’s a neologism. Certainly, MSWord doesn’t recognize it.
***And our various politicians and the political processes itself.