*I first met Pam years ago in Baen’s bar where she was a ware slush-reader. That is, she was a slush reader for Baen and she sometimes came into my conference — the diner, natch — in her human form, to… I guess to realize some of us were worse off than her. I have also been reading Pam for… a long time. I don’t remember the first time she handed me one of her stories to read, and I don’t remember what the story was — chiluns, while prepping the Musketeers for going up, I realized I don’t remember a lick of what’s in those books — but I do remember I thought it as promising BUT suffering from contamination from her day job. The last story of hers I read is much better, and I’m glad to see her making great strides and starting to sell her work on line. Give her stories a try! And give a warm ATH welcome — that means NO bad puns. I know better than to ban ALL puns — to Pam Uphoff, now in her human form!*
Some Assembly Required
I write both science fiction and fantasy, so I get to do a lot of world building.
It’s the most fun part of writing.
I like to start small. A single building. A house with a teenager playing a video game while his mom fixes dinner. A tavern, my characters chitchatting over desert. The kitchen of an abbey, with a young man chopping up vegetables. An office, the occupant sitting down with his first cup of coffee for the day.
Then I build the world outward, from there.
The city—or village, or countryside, or underground in Cheyenne Mountain—whatever I need for the story my subconscious is feeding me hints of. Counties, states, shires? Countries, kingdoms, planets?
Who has power over my characters?
A local government? Regional? National?
How does the President, King, or Conte collect taxes? Very important thing, those taxes, no world is complete without them.
Maybe we should analyze the real world as if it were fictional.
Because I think we all need to start small, and then build our understanding of the world outward.
Oh sure, I read about Syria, and Egypt and all the other trouble spots. I flinch from the pictures of the Boston Marathon, grind my teeth over Benghazi, hang my head in shame at the leadership of my nation. But the main impact of the Federal Government on my world is those checks I make out to the US Treasury.
In the real world, the next biggest tax bites are property and probably sales. My property taxes are collected as one, then split among school, sheriff, drainage district and the precinct. Oh, yes. My imaginary world needs schools, some sort of organized anti-crime organization, water, sewer, and street maintenance and repair. And if the population is growing, all new facilities, roads, and schools.
Creating an imaginary world can give one appreciation for the sheer amount of underpinnings our society has built as it grew and developed. And studying the real workings can enrich and complicate your imaginary worlds. It can make them seem very real. This is how the water system works. Here’s the city workers digging down to the broken sewer pipe and finding the skeleton of a man murdered twenty years ago! Oops. Ahem. Sorry. I’m a writer. These ideas just invade my mind.
When you get your nose out of the newspaper and put aside the considerations of foreign affairs and never ending economic stimulus, the local scene is astonishing.
And if Armageddon ever comes, keeping those local foundations up and running will prevent a lot of the collapse of society.
But in a crisis, everyone pulls together.
This slow sucking decline we’re in, the stress everyone is feeling . . . That when tempers flare. When houses are lost and people move away. When the widow is reduced to penury, and the youngsters can’t find jobs, people get ugly.
As a writer, I have to show that in my imaginary world. As a member of this real life community, I have to jump in and help, here and there. Defuse a situation, hire a young man to do a job I could do myself, drop off a bag of groceries where it’s needed.
And _then_ go back and read the newspapers. Understand that Syria means that the neighbor’s son is going to be back in danger. That the nephew who’s out of the Army could be recalled. To understand that MegaCorp buying OtherCorp probably means several hundred people right here suddenly without a job. That this or that county or state government funding this program means that program will face cuts. That the Federal Government mandating something means more paperwork for teachers. That the Federal Government sternly promising more oversight so who-know-what won’t happen again means it’ll take two extra hours to get a permit, and no doubt it’ll cost more.
The larger scale governments have started to seriously impact the smaller. Or maybe I’m just finally aware of that. I’m beginning to see that to save the underpinnings of society, we need to protect not just ourselves from the federal government. We need to protect our local government from the federal government.
Each layer has a proper field of endeavor, a proper scope to their oversight and control. The drainage district doesn’t have input into the school curricula. The Federal government ought not be able to tell someone they can’t fill in a low spot in their yard that’s breeding mosquitoes because it looks like wetlands to them. Their business ought to be looking outward at the rest of the world, and inward only to things that cannot be handled at the state level. Like maintaining a monetary system. The military. Protecting civil rights, the rule of law. The interstate highway system. And yes, some environmental issues as well, as little air and water pollution will stay put in the state where it is generated. Patent and copyright issues are important to encourage creativity in both the arts and the sciences. There’s a ton of stuff that could easily be argued as being properly under Federal control.
It’s much more comfortable in my imaginary worlds. I can make the local, regional and national and planetary governments stick to their own stuff. Or whip up popular pressure or an actual rebellion, according to my stories’ needs.
How do we do it in the real world?
We talk. We vote. We see the alternate news on the ‘net, and we don’t blindly accept the mainstream media. And it changes very little, very slowly, if at all.
So we’d better all learn the local system, and figure out how to best maintain it. How to make it ours. Because at the Federal level, everything is looking grim. They seem determined to destroy jobs, the medical system we’ve got, however flawed, the currency and the economy.
I think we need to save America by each saving our own town, city or county. Maybe we can save whole states, once the Feds collapse.
And maybe we can then rebuild a small, limited, federal government that will stick to its own job. My only suggestion is, keep the Constitution. And make the Feds keep to it.
Why do I think the Federal Government is headed for a crash and make over?
It’s because, in my fictional world actions have consequences.
The real world is complex enough that consequences often aren’t obvious. Many times they take a long time to arrive. But they are there. And they’re on the way.
This is the real world, and we can’t write it off.