Is Imperialism Dead?

March 9, 2016

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Ian K Ferguson

Ever since man invented the means for organized war the power aligned with those with the most advanced technology with which to pursue it. One can look back on the Roman Empire who invented roads, the chariot and superior organization, the British Empire which was built on the back of a superior Naval Fleet and latterly the American domination built on superior advanced weapons which of course included the Nuclear Bomb.

The Nuclear Bomb threat was however negated by the Soviet Union so, as Neil Postman says in his essay ‘The Conservative Outlook’ from 1987, America changed tack and rather than physically invading and taking over foreign lands they used television shows (I would also add movies to this) which, as he so accurately pointed out, left the Russians never figuring out what was happening. They were still thinking in what he terms ‘Realpolotik’ not understanding that electromagnetic waves penetrate more deeply than armies. He concludes that ‘if the Russians keep relying on nineteenth-century forms of imperialism while continuing to make terrible television shows, they may find themselves turning into a Third World country’.

We now find ourselves twenty-five years further on than when Postman wrote his essay and there are signs that Putin, as Russia’s all-powerful controller, has caught up somewhat. That is not to say that he is insisting on Russian TV Producers making their own version of Dynasty or Friends but I think he has realized that invading armies are probably not the way to go (the recent annexing of part of the Ukraine notwithstanding) and that whilst awful American TV shows can still capture a foreign Nation’s psyche it is the Internet which now holds the sway of influence. Certainly the Chinese seemed to learn these lessons very quickly as shown by their largely successful efforts to control it within their boundaries while sneaking a look at political and industrial threats abroad.

That is not to say that the power of TV to influence opinion has been completely degraded just that more people are using the Internet to not only view images of Fighter Jets destroying targets but express opinions about it, instantly.  The Third World War, which in my opinion has already started even though not declared in the traditional manner, is being fought in a completely new way with Western countries reluctant to put boots on the ground as people have grown weary of hearing about body bags and returning, disabled veterans. That’s why we use unmanned Drones whenever possible.

If the Internet is the new medium of war then the problem is that no one country actually controls it.  They are all trying, hence the furor concerning the NSA and Edward Snowden for example, but in reality, it remains by its very nature elusive. This means that the so called ‘Super Powers’ have been drawn into the primordial soup along with everybody else who wants their views to be paramount. The playing field has been leveled. That, very simply, is the reason ISIL, ISIS or Daesh (whatever label you wish to choose) has been able to grow to be the ‘threat’ it is perceived to be so rapidly. The guns, armored vehicles and

bombing attacks are incidental to atrocities such as beheadings which can be displayed to billions of people through You Tube. This is because people, particularly young people who have never known a world without the Internet, won’t even waste their time watching shows like Dynasty or Happy Days when they can play war games on their electronic devices anytime, anywhere and then tune in for the real thing which looks just the same to them. The lines have been blurred between make believe and what’s real.

You only have to look at what purports to be the Presidential race to the White house in America. Trump has turned off the politics of issues and long term objectives to the grimace inducing pantomime of exposure at all costs. Whatever it takes to get his face on the Internet and TV is his one and only tactic. If we only had radio and newspapers he wouldn’t have lasted five minutes because he has nothing to offer, yet he is leading the Republican polls. Can you really imagine him having to have a dialogue about crucial international tensions with Putin?

So, where does this leave us? In a mess I’m afraid. When we turned millenniums I had hopes that we had left a warring century behind, it lasted nine months and has got worse ever since. America, not understanding what the new age of the Internet meant, invaded Iraq (for no reason I can understand) with planes, tanks, guns and bullets with the consequences that are escalating and playing out now. You can’t, as Trump with all the insight of seven year old child suggested, get Bill Gates to turn the Internet off. Let’s suppose he could, the technology is so far ahead of this thinking that within the day it would have recreated itself in another form.  The only answer lies with humanity being able to conclude that we will never all agree on everything whether that be religion or who controls the oil (a threat to the planet in any case), which seem to be the overarching issues, so the only way is for everybody to agree to disagree and respect the views and beliefs of those they don’t and will never understand. In other words understand that Imperialism is dead. It had a good run for its money, but its over.

Not very likely is it? Oh well we can always imagine.

Is Imperialism Dead?

Come Together – A Call to Arms

In a world which seems to be rapidly splintering (I’m looking at you Mr. President and you Brexiteers and you Ms Le Pen amongst others) I would like to think that us Indie-writers can reverse the trend and come together.  A lot of us, me included went into this story writing malarkey without much of a clue as to how difficult it is to get anybody to read the stuff we have been sweating blood over in an effort to entertain.
Entertain?  Is that what we do?  Well, not all of us but I would say that those of us who write fiction (in whatever genre) are doing.  We fiction writers are in the entertainment business even though some of it may have a serious (political?) point we want to make, like in my novel ‘Gone Missing’, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but its still our own creation.
But writing, by its very nature, is a solitary activity, unless you have a cat, and we hope that what we are producing will appeal to somebody, anybody but we never know when we have decided we have finished.
We all know, once we have immersed ourselves into this writing folly, that writing what we hope is a good story (or better) is actually the easy bit.  We indulge our inner non-existent designer skills in producing an eye-catching cover and find a conduit to publish what we have done for all the world to see and buy.
But, nobody does, not even family or friends, so then we realize the hard work has to begin.  We have to become mercurial marketeers, which few of us are.
I recently read a book of short stories by that most popular of storytellers, John Grisham, titled “Ford County Stories” and at the front of the book was this short passage which brought home to me the utter enormity of what we are all trying to accomplish.  It was about the time when he published his first book A Time to Kill twenty years before this particular book of short stories was published in 2009.

I soon learned the painful lesson that selling books was far more difficult than writing them.  I bought a thousand copies and had trouble giving them away.

Now everything he writes fly off the shelves.  How did this happen?  Bearing in mind that he started in a time before everybody had the internet and social media didn’t even exist.

Answer: He commandeered the help of what he calls a dear friend.

It was enough to slowly get the ball rolling and it got me thinking (always a dangerous thing).
We now live in an age where the internet is omnipresent and packed by anonymous people offering their expert advice to us writers about how to build your email list for newsletters, how to write a blog and attract an audience, how to build your friends on Twitter and so on which we feel compelled to read and, if you’re anything like me, end up feeling totally inadequate at fulfilling.
We rush to open accounts on every social media outlet from Facebook fan pages to Pinterest and Instagram and end up feeling overwhelmed about keeping them updated so we give up.  Mainly because we’re doing it on our own and there are only so many hours in the day and all we really want to do is write.
Now I like to think that I have made some wonderful writer-people friends through Facebook which I have found invaluable.  We are all trying to find an audience for what we do and I think there must be a way for us to band together and support each other on the basis that a chorus of voices is more powerful than a solitary one.  I think a small group would work better than an overly large one because it would be easier to reach a consensus on what to do and therefore more manageable (but I could be wrong).
One of these internet contacts, who’s blogs I love and admire, Lisa Sell, together with Debbie Jinks has started a closed group Facebook page for people like us called ‘All Write’ which I hope will attract like-minded writers and I see an opportunity for those amongst the group who want to, to somehow, support each other to spread the word about each of us, a bit like the Canadian painters of the early 1900’s (actually 1920 to 1933) who became known as the Group of Seven.
The Group of Seven weren’t well known individually but people began to hear about the ‘Group of Seven’ because it sounded like a movement, it sounded important, which meant that little by little they did become incredibly famous amongst those who were interested in art.  Can you see where I’m going with this?
It’s the reason I have links to other Indie-writers I admire on my website.  If people like my stuff I want them to find my friends, even though we haven’t met in person and am not likely to meet any of them because we are separated by vast geographical distances across the planet but I support them and what they do.  It’s not much, but it’s a start.
I’m sure there are many other things we could do as a loosely knit group which could benefit us all so if anybody has any ideas I would love to hear them and I will take responsibility for trying to put them into action.  In short I would suggest that we are stronger together than trying to plough a lonely furrow.  What do you think?
Over to you.

Come Together – A Call to Arms

The First Draft is Always Crap

October 19, 2016

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Ian K Ferguson

Having been doing this fiction writing business seriously for over two years, now I have learned a lot.  Either from my own mistakes or from fellow writers I have been fortunate to meet through social media or from my own reading and internet research.  One of the main things I have learned is to treat much of what I have read from industry experts with a pinch of salt.  Everybody is different and so are the ways they approach creativity but I have heard so much about how  proper writers must re-write and re-write and re-write ad infinitum.  That the first draft written by anybody is always crap.  I disagree.

I write what is being processed by my brain at the time and then I self-edit it immediately, whether that means a sentence, a paragraph or a whole scene, because I know what I’m trying to say or do.  I need to get it right in the moment I am feeling it.  I can’t just write a bunch of crap thinking I can fix it later because if I did, when I went back to fix it, I wouldn’t have the same feeling within me.  For me it’s a more honest and effective way of creating something.

When I write a scene, for example, I can see it in my head in the same way you would watch something on a screen, everything; the location – be it a dull office or scenic outdoor, what the people are wearing (although I may not describe that), the way the characters are interacting with each other – their mannerisms, their expressions and so on.  Not all of it gets turned into words on paper but I use it to express what I mean to the reader so when I get to the end of it I can read what I’ve just done immediately and tweak things I may have missed or got wrong immediately, while the feeling still exists.

Now that’s not to say that when I finish a first draft that I think it’s perfect because I don’t and I will change it.  I make mistakes (grammatical, plot, details) or I may change my mind about what I have written completely .  But on the whole when I finish a first draft of a story it, on the whole, it remains the same through the polishing process.

I’m saying this because there are so many things I read which tell me that this is not what ‘professional’ writers do.  That ‘professional’ writers spend endless hours worrying about the construct of each and every word and sentence but, for me, that’s an inspiration killer.  If I used the words I used it was because it was what my gut instinct at the time suggested I used to convey the feeling I wanted to convey and I think that constant revision ends up watering that down.

So, for people like me, self-editing during the writing works and makes sense.  Trust yourself.

First blog post

Hello, my name is Ian Ferguson and I am a writer.  Well I must be if your reading this.

My intention for this blog is to write about whatever I deem to be interesting at the time I write it.  I have read lots of advice about ‘keeping on topic’ and only write about things you are an ‘expert’ in and so on and consequently have decided to ignore it all, however well meaning.

So if you choose to ‘follow’ what I write don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Much of what I will end up writing about will be about, well, writing because that is the path I have chosen to go down.

I have spent too many years trying to make a living doing something I thought I ought to do because it paid well and I was reasonably good at it but two years ago I thought, no, sod it, I’m going to do something I think I’m good at and I know I really enjoy with the added advantage of almost guaranteeing that I would die a pauper.

So I swapped my career in the I.T. software industry (where at one point and for too many years I owned a software company in England) for the life of a scribe in Vancouver.  Oh, the nobility of it all.

And you know what?  I’m having great fun.  In a way I’m lucky having decided to be a writer when it’s possible for anyone to do it if they are so inclined through self-publishing.  Meaning the rules have changed and the days of sending a manuscript to a Publishing House after Publishing House only to be rejected have gone.

I don’t intend to get into all the self-publication options I explored here today (and there are a number of options), but I will in future posts when I have a little more time.

No, the intention of today is simply to introduce myself and invite you to return.

Before I go I ought to tell you that in the last two years I have published three books.  The first was a tongue-in-cheek memoir of sorts on the trials and tribulations of supporting my home town Football team in England.  It was supposed to be along the lines and tone of Nick Hornby’s ‘Fever Pitch’ which you may know became a massive seller, two movies and a play for goodness sake.  Needless to say I am still waiting for my ‘Sandgrown’un’ to replicate that success.

My first novel is called ‘Two into One’ which is a book without a genre.  It is part action and part romance with a lot of other things thrown in for good measure.  At the end of the day I think of it as the kind of book you might buy in the airport on your way on holiday and finish on the beach.

The second novel wrote itself and is called ‘The Lynn Valley Orchard Rules’ because I think its a great title and gives a nod of acknowledgement to the great John Irving’s ‘The Cider House Rules’.  The Lynn Valley Orchard is an addictions treatment centre set in the beautiful setting of the Lynn Valley on Vancouver’s North Shore where there are no orchard’s in reality just a craggy gorge.

The book takes a light-hearted sideways look at a very dark subject through the experiences of it’s four main characters as they work their way through the process of recovery from their demons so it’s meant to make you smile and make you think.

All three of these are available as Kindle ebooks and in the case of the two novels as paperbacks through an Amazon store of your jurisdiction e.g. Amazon.ca or Amazon.uk)

That’s all for now, thanks for reading this far.  Come back soon.

 

First blog post