Genocide by Mumps

I’ve been thinking of an amusing plot idea, possibly for a pseudo-apocalyptic thriller of the sort that I wouldn’t ever be likely to write.  I’ll give you a little background information to set the stage, and if any of you ever want to use it, please be my guest.  (It would be nice if you’d let me know, so that I can keep my eyes out for the story, but it’s by no means required.)

We’re all reasonably familiar with the disease The Mumps, caused by a viral infection, and much rarer for people to get in the modern, developed world thanks to vaccination.  What some people don’t know is that, in addition to causing inflammation of the parotid glands, leading to the familiar, puffy-cheeked look of its sufferers, it can also, on occasion, cause orchiitis – an inflammation of the testicles.  In some victims, this can lead to decreased fertility and even to full-fledged sterility.

Now, what if some “mad scientist” – perhaps an eco-terrorist – carefully selected for just those strains of the virus most frequently causing orchiitis, then genetically engineered that to engender peak virulence, increased transmissibility, and so on, before releasing it into the general population?  The goal would be a form of preemptive population control, a genocide that wouldn’t require the murder of already-living people (except, of course, for that small percentage of Mumps sufferers who do die from even the ordinary illness).

One could write a story about the discovery of such a plot and the brave and dangerous attempt to head it off, or about living in a world that had already succumbed to its effects, a la “The Stand.”  The specifics, of course, would be up to the individual writer, but it could be a good story.  One (amusing?) side-effect (or benefit, depending upon one’s point of view) would be that, in the West, at least, anti-vaccers would disproportionately fall victim to the nefarious plot.

This, however, is not a good enough reason for those readers who are scientifically inclined and have the resources to choose actually to carry out such a plot in real life.  No indeed!  I would never endorse such a dreadful course of action, no matter how darkly amusing the side-effects would be, or how beneficial it might be to the beleaguered other species of plants and animals on the Earth.

(Wink, wink)

I’m kidding.  I honestly would NOT want to see such a thing happen.  I do have children, and I hope they have long, rewarding lives in a healthy world that’s achieved peace and prosperity without the mass-sterilization of the human population, if such a thing is possible.  Still, I would like to read a story about it, and it’s not my kind of story to write, so to my fellow authors a out there:  Have at it, if you’re interested.  I eagerly await any fruits of your labors.

And, to any of the other sort, as I said above:  I already HAVE kids.

An Update on Editing, Writing, and Florida (with a bit about contagious illnesses and mass transit)

Hello, all!

I haven’t written any blog entries for some time now, so I thought that I’d take a moment today, as a break from daily editing on “Mark Red,” to give those who are interested an update.  I apologize for the delay; I’ve been sick as a dog for a surprisingly long time recently, and as a consequence my motivation has been lagging.  It seems that, after catching one respiratory infection, and being on the tail end of it, nearly recovered, I caught another one.  These are the hazards of riding mass transit, I’m afraid.  With so many people using the train every day, touching the poles and the hand-rails, the petri dish for contagious diseases is prodigious.  I’ve resolved to minimize my contact with said surfaces as much as I can, since I’m still coughing up nasty phlegm after almost a month of illness, waxing and waning.  It’s frustrating, but I’m nevertheless a big fan of mass transit, not the least reason for that fandom being that I can do my writing and editing while on my way to and from work, dreaming of the day when I will no longer have to do so because I’ll be able to make a living solely from my writing.

With respect to the editing of “Mark Red,” it’s proceeding well, but there’s much work still to be done.  I think one of the very best guidelines for editing that I have found is the one an editor gave to Stephen King back when he was starting out (as detailed in his wonderful book “On Writing”), namely, to make your final draft ten percent shorter than your first draft.  This is a terrific rule for me, because I tend to digress a bit in my fiction as well as in my non-fiction.  It’s not such a crime in non-fiction—digressions can be fun and can keep things interesting.  However, when writing fiction, digression tends to slow the story down.  Also, I get too much into my characters’ thought processes, which is particularly bad when they repeat those same thoughts many times.  This isn’t necessarily unrealistic.  After all, people do tend to ruminate a great deal in their daily lives, and if the voices in our heads were all played aloud, every human would no doubt sound hopelessly neurotic.  It does, however, tend to get boring pretty quickly in a novel, or even a short story.

So my goal, among others, is to make “Mark Red” only ninety percent as long as it was when I first started editing, by trimming off the stray bits that don’t add anything to the flow of the story.  This may seem elementary, and I suppose it is, but it’s crucial.

Regarding other matters:  I’ve been getting more exercise lately, despite being ill, because I’ve been walking from my train stop to my new office location instead of taking the bus, and sometimes walking back to the train at the end of the day.  It’s about 2.4 miles each way, so it’s a nice, healthy stroll, and can be very pleasant in what passes for winter in south Florida.

On that note, a few weeks ago while walking, I came upon a sad but interesting sight:  the beheaded corpse of a coral snake on the park path which I take from the train:

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This is, of course, the most venomous snake in the western hemisphere, but it is also not particularly dangerous, since coral snakes tend to be mild-mannered.  I think it must have come out onto the pavement to sun itself during the relatively chilly weather, and someone saw and recognized it for what it was and overreacted.  It’s a shame, but an interesting example of the sorts of amazing wildlife that we have here in south Florida.  I recently read Dave Barry’s “Best. State. Ever.” and I couldn’t agree with him more in that conclusion.  The politics of Florida may be insane—an insanity that has apparently spread to the national level—but it is an amazing environment.  Also, the national weather service reported about a week ago that 49 out of 50 states had snow on the ground.  You should know which state was the exception (Hint:  It wasn’t Hawaii).

Well, I think that’s enough meandering for today.  I considered writing my own semi-deliberate digression about the curious phrase “sick as a dog,” since in my experience dogs don’t tend to get sick as often as humans, but I’ll leave that at the immediately preceding comment and spare you any further speculation.  I hope you’re all well, and enduring the ongoing winter in the northern hemisphere with as much equanimity as you can muster.  The days are now getting steadily longer, and that’s good news for those of us who get moody when the nights predominate.  For those in the southern hemisphere, enjoy the summer!  For those who live in the tropics…well, you don’t need any boosting from me, I would imagine.

Stay healthy, everyone.  Watch those doorknobs, hand-rails, and standing poles, and wash your hands regularly!

TTFN

Prometheus and Chiron

Well, here it is, for your reading enjoyment:  A little bit of horrific relief from your enforced holiday cheer.

 

PROMETHEUS AND CHIRON

by

Robert Elessar

 

copyright 2016 by Robert Elessar.  All rights reserved.  Any unauthorized reproduction of this work by any means is strictly prohibited.

 

Tommy first saw the woman at the station in the evening as he waited to catch the train home.  He had done some drywalling in a friend of a friend’s house that day, and was tired and in pain as he waited. Continue reading

A SOUTH FLORIDA CHRISTMAS SONG

(Sung to the tune of “White Christmas,”…obviously, I guess)

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas,
just like the ones I never knew,

with the flowers blooming
and sea birds zooming
across the crystal sky so blue.

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas
despite the Christmas cards I’ve seen.

May your snow be sparkling and clean,
but may all our Christmases be green.

New Short Story First Draft Finished

Okay, I’ve been incommunicado for a little bit, but I wanted to let you all know that I literally just finished writing the first draft of my new short story, “Prometheus and Chiron.”  It won’t be ready to publish for a little while, but since it took me so long to write (relatively speaking), I thought I’d let you all know that I haven’t actually dropped off the surface of the Earth.

The story took more time to finish than it might have because I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my back lately, and it hurts my concentration.  As is often the case, I am doing my writing on the train to work, which only gives me forty or so minutes a day (plus waiting time, and I sometimes also work on the way home).  I’ll be editing the story over the course of the next several days to weeks, and then I’ll publish it as I did my previous one, here on my blog.  I hope you all enjoy it.

This tale is very much a horror story, and as is often the case with horror short stories, it doesn’t have exactly a happy ending.  Still, I think it’s good…but then, I would, wouldn’t I?

I should be writing the occasional other blog posting here and there, as there are several topics on which I hope to expound, and I mean to get those entries out as well within the coming weeks, but I’m not putting them on any kind of schedule.  Of course, once I’m done with, and have published, “Prometheus and Chiron,” I will go back in earnest to the rewriting of Mark Red, and thence to the rewriting of The Chasm and the Collision, so that I can finally go back to getting out my newest novel, and any and all stories thereafter.

So there is much to which to look forward, if you enjoy my writing.  If you don’t enjoy my writing, I’m forced to wonder what the heck you’re doing here.  Still, if you have comments or criticism, I do welcome and encourage them, even if they aren’t exactly positive.

Finally, I wish you all the happiest of holidays, whichever ones you may celebrate, and a very happy New Year (Gregorian calendar).

TTFN!

“I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords”

Well, here it is, in all its glory, for your reading enjoyment:  My latest “short” story.  If you have time between shopping and eating this Thanksgiving, please give it a read.  I welcome your feedback in the comments section below, both positive and critical, though I do ask that you be polite.  “Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me.”

In any case, without further ado, here it is:

Continue reading

Full Disclosure

For those who have any interest, I wanted to give a brief notification about a change of plans.

Though I am nearly finished with the editing of “I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords,” and in fact plan to publish it tomorrow, I will not immediately go back to the editing of Mark Red.  The reason?  The best one possible:  I got hit by a new short story, and it wants to be told.  It’s going to be quite short this time…or at least it should qualify for what ordinary people (i.e. not me) think of as a short story, so it should only push back the editing of Mark Red by a week or so, I’d imagine.

I plan to release this story on my blog also, unless reaction to its predecessor is uniformly condemnatory.  I don’t really expect that to happen, but we’ll see.

The way this story came to me raises interesting points about the triggers of my story ideas in general.  I don’t know how it is for other authors, but I find that about fifty percent of my stories—short and novels—originate with a title, at least lately.  Clearly, “I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords,” was a title-driven story, as was “Paradox City,” and “The Death Sentence” (both available to read in my collection, Welcome to Paradox City).

Other stories are triggered by a much more nebulous and varied set of stimuli.  This latest one was born of something that happened at the Tri-Rail train station in Hollywood, Florida, and grew fully into its story idea within the space of minutes.  I won’t tell you anything more about it at the moment, because that might give part of the tale away, but it should be available to read before long.

Thanks for your ongoing attention.  “I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords” should be available by tomorrow, barring the unforeseen.  Best wishes to you all, and in case I forget to say so later to those in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving.

TTFN.