Saturday, December 15, 2012

Loaded Thoughts

Naturally enough, I can't stop thinking about the school shooting at Sandy Hook. And at Chardon, Virginia Tech, Red Lake, West Nickel Mines, Westside and of course, Columbine. The list is sickening, and it keeps growing longer...

And that's got me thinking about guns.

A gun, any weapon really, is a force-multiplier. Pure and simple. Stick, knife, brass knuckles, assault rifle or fighter jet, the point is that your weapon does more damage in your hands than your hands do alone.

One thing about guns: any damn idiot with a trigger finger can do a lethal amount of damage.

This random, horrible, murderous urge is, I hate to say, universal and very human. I imagine it has to do with the effects of social pressures, rage and hopelessness on marginal, borderline personalities.We have seen it in modern China. We see it in the cafard of Polynesia, the mal de peleo of Puerto Rico, the Navajo iich'aa and the Philippine/Malaysian syndrome whose name our language adopted, running amok.

Some folks just melt down. And when that buzzing starts in their heads, they go on a killing rampage. The only thing that changes are the available weapons.

Which brings me back to guns. Some poor bastard loses the plot and takes after a bunch of kids with a knife, he gets tackled and subdued. Yes, seven deaths is seven too many, but he only got those because of the shock and delay onlookers experienced at the sudden attack. And that shock and delay WILL happen in that situation. (You concealed-carry advocates may be sitting there with Diehard scenarios running through your head, but even with extgensive and specialized training, violent surprise will cause you to lose a step.) Point is, grownups went, "Hey, that guys stabbing kids" and tackled his ass to the ground. Imagine if instead he'd opened up with a pistol or shotgun, or an assault rifle.

Obviously, the US has a LOT of guns- 89-90,000 per 100,000 people. My new home New Zealand has 22,000 per 100,000 still one of the highest on the planet. Thing is, while we certainly have our share of amok here, we don't get school shootings. We don't get workplace shootings. Even our own Aramoana Massacre only claimed four lives.

Why? Kiwis certainly aren't nicer than Americans, or less prone to violence. Every darkness that dwells in the human heart dwells in us, and we certainly have our fair share of guns.

So what then?

Near as I can figure, it's that here they have gun control. Real, live gun control. Nothing illegal at all about owning a gun, or a lot of guns if you like. But you do have to be licensed. Not a criminal. Not mentally ill. You MUST have effective safeguards, gun safes, etc. The more guns you have, the more secure your home had better be.

And the cops actually come out to your house and CHECK! They visit, to make sure you haven't gone mental. To check out that gun safe/cabinet/etc. and see who has access and are they licensed too. They will check your alarms and such, because they don't want guns in the hands of criminals, naturally.

And you know what? Cops here don't carry either. If guns are called for, there's something called the Armed Offenders Squad, specialists like a SWAT team who take care of any shooting needs doing.

We/re not perfect here. We're human. We don't get it right all the time. Bad things happen, and will happen in the future.

But by limiting the ACCESS of the mentally ill and unstable to deadly weapons that require little more than to point and click to unleash hell, we do live better, happier, safer and more secure lives.

How many more dead does my birth country need before it finally takes action??

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bass Ackwards

One of my favorite Neil Gaiman quotes is something along the lines of 'you never really learn to write novels- you only learn how to write the novel you've just written'. (Except, of course, probably better phrased than that, since he is, after all, Neil Gaiman...)

Certainly true in my case. Over the course of a dozen-ish novels (including the graphic novels) I have plotted and pantsed. I've thrown my carefully crafted plots out halfway through. I've outlined a scene or two ahead so that I'd have an idea where the words were headed. I wrote my first graphic novel from an outline on a single page of notebook paper, from an idea I got while face-painting children at a public pool.

I've pounded out pages on a 1920's Remington typewriter, tippity-tap-tap-tapped them on a variety of laptops, once even forged my way through some ugly writer's block by slowing down enough to use a 19th century dip pen. A. Dip. Pen. 

No two novel-writings have been alike. Maybe I'm still finding my particular groove. Maybe I'll never have just the one method. 

All I know for sure is, I've never had anything quite like this. 

I've been working on Paris Blues (not it's real name, I'm sure, but we gotta call 'em something) for some months now. I started as usual, vague idea of a plot arch, tapping at the laptop (well, HP mini notebook these days- easier to cart around) and well aware that my plots rarely go where I think they will. I was happy to roll along for the ride. 

Things got weird. For reasons I can't remember anymore, about 10,000 words in I found myself scribbling away in a blank notebook with a fountain pen. No complaints out of me: I find the shush of nib on paper, the glistening trail of ink to be the most sensual writing experience possible. And as sometimes happens, slowing down my hand speeds up my words. 

I was prepared for characters who seemed important in the beginning to fade as I went on. I was just as prepared to find new characters walking on with plenty to say, knowing they'd mean a pretty big rewrite at the beginning to fold them in. I was even ready to find that my gangster story was more of a murder mystery. Maybe. Or not. All part of the fun. 

What I wasn't ready for was the story to come at me out of order. I love Stephen King's analogy of writing a story as pulling at a buried thread. Well, this here thread seems to be one big tangle. I can see (kinda, sorta) where it's all going. Going-ish. Okay, so there's a sense of it all hanging together, but I keep getting scenes that DO NOT fit chronologically. 

On the one hand, I could leave them as they came, be the next Vonnegut, maybe win some kind of literary prize. More likely, I'm going to end up opening a second draft as I transcribe them into the laptop and start monkeying with things until the whole shebang makes sense. 

No Whitebread or Booker for me, but hopefully a story that's fun to read and hard to put down...