Monday, June 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby case a boon to fiction writers?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby / Conestoga Wood Products cases is a real eye-opener for the politically obsessed. But for writers it certainly can provide interesting fodder for speculative fiction plots.

Now, corporations, which exist on paper only and clearly have no souls, nevertheless, have religious rights under our constitution, thanks to the recent court ruling. The decision held that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement for insurance coverage of certain contraceptives violated the companies’ religious freedom rights. 

This particular decision, written and supported by five men only, dealt with Christian beliefs. Will we be seeing similar lawsuits and rulings concerning closely held companies (their stock is not publicly traded) owned by majorities of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Mormons, Scientologists, or YOUR RELIGION HERE? 

Among other things, corporations have been given rights by this court to essentially spend whatever they want to influence our elections. They already have a stranglehold on local, state, and national legislators through lobbying efforts (also a part of the First Amendment). They essentially control our defense establishment. 

They have controlled our economy for some time, even wrecked it a few times – 1929 and 2007 come to mind, but there are tons more if you care to do the research. For-profit corporations took over our health care during the past several decades, which led to passage of the ACA. Try to get dental care without a financial statement and $50,000 of home equity for a Second Mortgage. 

Citizens THINK they are pushing for such things as renewable energy and decent food production, even climate change strategies, but corporate giants control the bulk of those areas. Also, the Roberts court is systematically weakening workers’ rights to organize. These trends point to ever increasing corporate control over our lives, taxes, homes, families, health, and general well-being.

See that dark corner back in your junk closet in the basement? That is what you have control over, and this is in doubt if you are forced to rent instead of buy. 

Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times"
Speculative fiction is based on current trends extended into the future or near future. Post apocalypse stories, books, games, and movies have flooded the market in recent years. Corporate power is a common theme in many stories and has been for a very long time. Go to YouTube and watch Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” or read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Player Piano”.

As the Supreme Court continues its march to fundamentally change our society here in America, writers should examine these trends and get them into our fiction. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Where do your characters shop?

Where do you shop?

Okay, we all hit the malls, grocery stores, and the occasional chain convenience stores. Some cities have high-end shopping districts, like LA’s Rodeo Drive, Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue and Denver’s Cherry Creek.

But think about other places to shop, places that have a little more texture than white bread America.

Consider places like dollar stores. Originally designed for families with $40,000 or less in annual income, dollar stores are becoming more popular with the more affluent, who also are feeling pressures from the economic downturn.

Your character, for example, might hit the dollar store once a month to buy cheap wine glasses that she then decorates and sells for three bucks to make a few extra dollars a month. Or, a homeless guy in one of your stories might regularly hit a neighborhood dollar store to pickup a can of soup or hash.

These shopping venues add interesting granularity to your writing.

And don’t forget the other non-standard shopping locales: thrift stores, farmers markets, ethnic grocery stores, flea marts, and used furniture stores. All of them offer interesting alternatives to overpriced brand name products nicely displayed in 30,000 square foot chain stores.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Where do you write?

I’ve written all over the place, all over the country, really. Oddly enough, one of my favorite places to write is in a noisy coffee shop. Several spots in southeast Denver are on my weekly “route.” I seem to be able to concentrate despite the noise, possibly because of my early years as a journalist working in a noisy wire service bureau, newspaper city room, or capitol press room.

At my previous home, I often worked in this windowed corner, fighting the sun, but enjoying the space. Tilting the table up a bit (it’s my mother’s old art table) gave me a comfortable angle to plap on the keyboard.

Still I’ve written everywhere: on planes, in trains, on buses, at restaurants, in hotel rooms, coffee shops, at friends’ homes, on the beach, in the mountains, backpacking.

The point is to write every day, even if it’s 100 words. If you can get to 200 words, you’ll have a thin first draft at the end of a year.

If you can think of your book as 200 words every day instead of 100,000 words sometime in the future, you will be surprised how quickly you get there. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

How to Write

I learned it from Bill Logan. He worked for the Rocky Mountain News,
covered the legislature for many years, and then wrote about trout

“You put down one word on paper,” he told me shortly after I joined the staff of the Rocky Mountain News (R.I.P.). “Then another, and so on.”