Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Idea for an Alt-History story

I am a huge fan of alternate history.  Real history as well, for that matter.  I was kicking around a scenario I haven't seen done before.  What if the French had dominated the North American continent?

I would likely start in the present day.  The English settlers in Massachusetts would now be a semi-assimilated ethnic group like the Cajuns in Louisiana.  They would live under French rule, but have a distinct culture.  They would likely have been relegated to the less-desired areas of the Bay State.  Paradoxically that would likely mean the Cape and Islands (As these were never good farmland).  Known colloquially as the Grims (for Pilgrims), these stern and dour holdouts would likely have a culture as insular as the Amish, clinging to their stern Congregationalist faith.  I could see them as sailors, perhaps doing well in the Age of Sail, but now slowly being inundated by a sea of French tourists from the nearby cities of Noveau Lyons (Boston) and Nouveau Rouen (New York).  Or perhaps the Dutch are also still players in the area, and Nouveau Rouen is still Niew Amsterdam.

How could the French win?  I can think of several causes:

Virginia was a bust:  Jamestown wasn't the first attempt to settle in America.  The fabled Roanoke colony failed a few years prior.  So what if the Jamestown settlers had a bit worse luck?  Maybe Pocahontas didn't love John Smith.  Powhatan decides to raid in force, wiping the colony out.  Or maybe their famine is worse, eventually starving them into extinction.  Perhaps the fad of tobacco doesn't catch on, depriving the colony of their one main trade good that they depended on in the early years.  A few worse turnings and the fragile colony would evaporate.

King Phillip's War: In our history this conflict with the local native American tribes decimated the early colonists.  Fully a third of the settlers were killed, and many settlements were abandoned.  It eventually led to the merger of the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies, and ids why there is no state called Plymouth today (although Plymouth is still an enormous town by Massachusetts' standards.).  If the Wampanoags had been a bit more successful, and the colonist been a bit less lucky, they could have been pushed right back to the shoreline.  It would have taken decades longer to recover, right up until the mid 1700s, bringing the colony into the French and Indian War era.

The Huguenots are allowed to settle in America:  This was truly a missed opportunity for the French.  The Huguenots were the French protestants, forced into exile by the crown, but not allowed to come to America.  Many settled in England, becoming staunch Englishmen in the process.  If the French government had decided to use them as colonists, like the English allowed the Pilgrims to do, they would have remained loyal French citizens, and would have had a greater stake in building a viable colony than the run of trappers and priests did in our history.  The French Canadian holdings would have been much stronger, and there would likely have been a much more concerted settling of Maine and Vermont territory by Huguenot settlers.

Bad luck for the English in the French and Indian War:  This conflict was arguably the first 'world war', with conflicts springing up all over the globe wherever the French and English were competing.  The upshot in our history was that France lost, losing all claim to India and much of America.  Their empire never truly recovered.  Assuming that the English had not done well as settlers, and the French had, the English crown could have retrenched, and allowed France to take India and America, just as the opposite happened in our history.

Just some random thoughts :)

How do you explain thirst to a fish?

This post is a little more off the beaten track, and deals with issues of a touchy, somewhat political nature.  As such, if you prefer not to read it, I totally understand.  It's just something that has been bothering me, and I wanted to put my thoughts on the subject down on paper.  So, here goes.

There is a lot of talk about entitlement and privilege these days.  DISCLAIMER:  I belong to what is arguably the most majority group in America.  I am male, cis, white, and I was raised solidly middle class.  My only deviation is in my religious preference, and even that is a personal choice, not something that I couldn't choose.

What I am seeing these days is that a lot of people in my situation don't seem to grasp exactly what privilege IS.  I have heard people say, "No one gave me anything, I always worked for what I had." or "I don't get all this free stuff/special status/preferential treatment  like the [insert minority group] do."

The problem I see is this.  People who get a cultural privilege perk often don't even notice they are getting it.  In their mind, it isn't a privilege, it is just the customary order of things.  They grow up, head to school, enter the workplace unaware of the many subtle ways belonging to a majority works in their favor.

Thus the title of this essay.  A fish cannot conceive of thirst.  It is a foreign concept to its worldview.  I am like the fish, in that I can never viscerally know what it is like to be viewed as a hostile person in my own country, but I can try to intellectually understand.

I did once get a small taste of the feeling.  I was stationed in Saudi Arabia in the late Nineties.  While I was there I was tasked as a driver to the S2 and the commander.  I got to go out a lot more into the civilian areas of Saudi than many soldiers did.  Whenever I was in the city of Riyadh, I always had the feeling of eyes on my back.  A lot of the passers by would stare at me like I was the incarnation of Satan himself.  My skin and my dress picked me out as a foreigner, a kafeeri.  I had no business being in Saudi Arabia, in their mind.

Putting aside the whys and wherefores of what we were doing there, and the fact that I had the US Army at my back, it really was uncomfortable.  Although I wouldn't say I was in real danger, it felt as though a low-grade pressure of hate beat against me constantly.  I also felt that the smallest thing could accidentally  start a huge problem, and that I had to walk carefully through the crowds, careful not to make any sudden movements of quick hand gestures.  Living that way was exhausting.  Yet, there are minority groups in America that live their entire lives in that frame of mind, without hope of reprieve, in their own country.

I have tried to frame the issue as not 'privilege', which seems to not work as a descriptor, but rather as 'mulligans'.  For those unfamiliar with the word, it is a golf term for taking a shot over with no penalty.  When you are in the majority, the system gives you a lot of mulligans.  Lord knows I have gotten a few myself.  Ask yourself this:  Have you ever been pulled over for a driving infraction?  Maybe one of your tail lights was out, or you were speeding a bit.  The cop comes to the window, and you become your politest self.  At this point, he makes some decisions.  If he scans the car and you and decides that you are an upstanding citizen then he lets you go with a warning.  If you trigger one of his wary modes, he might ask you to step outside the car.

Now I have been pulled over a half-dozen times.  Any of those stops could have led to further complications if the cop had wanted to make an issue of things.  When I was younger I could have easily been thrown in jail for any of a dozen minor legal infractions.  Then what?  Would my anger make me act out?  Would I feel as if the State was against me?  Quite possibly.  Would I have been led by this initial incarceration further along the path of the career felon?  Perhaps.

What I am trying to get at here, in my own fumbling way is that without the mulligans I received my life could have turned out quite differently.  With the ever-present feeling of being hated, or at the least mistrusted, adding to this, I could have ended up a much more angry and violent person.  Without the automatic +25% trust factor my gender and hue give me I might not have gotten the opportunities that I have.

Anyway,  a random thought on the concept.

Climbing that hill

I am trying to keep in mind that I dedicated myself to putting at least something on my blog every day I have a chance.  Today's entry might not be much, but it is something.  And something is better than nothing.

Story idea:

The Grey Monastery:

My descent into madness was not a precipitous fall.  Rather, it was a gentle slope, one mild footfall at a time leading me downward into Itzalak Haranean towards the Grey Monastery.

When my journey began, I was not shut away in Piscatawnaway State Mental Hospital. I was a tenured professor of Archaeology. I had a fulfilling, if somewhat dry, academic career studying ancient Basque culture and teaching bored undergraduates about Pompeii and Troy.

For years I had been attempting to get grant money for a dig in the Pyrenees Mountains. I had been researching various sources about some of the isolated mountain communities that existed on the higher slopes untouched since Roman times. Unfortunately, my efforts had run straight into the Wall Street collapse and the Great Depression. Suddenly even tenured professors were looking over their shoulders nervously. While Farwater was a well-thought of private college, the local burghers began to look for cheaper venues to educate their children at. Grant money for things as esoteric and unimportant as tracing the Basque culture's migration path through the Pyrenees just wasn't there.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Vision quests

The last 27 months of my life have been a crucible in which the new me has been forged.  I can truly say that I do not feel like the person I was on 3/31/2015.  That person is dead.  I may have commonalities with them, and a shared history, but so much of them has been destroyed/refashioned that I do not feel a connection with them at all.

This is not a cause for mourning, in fact, there were several things about the old me I disliked.  I am hopeful that the person that I am evolving into will be able to successfully navigate the treacherous shoals of later middle age and sail into a relatively comfortable retirement.

One thing I have now is a burning thirst for adventure.  I have an urge to travel the world, and part of my quest for a better job feeds into this.  In the last two years I have been to NYC twice, and I will be going for a third time this weekend. I have visited Canada twice, and will be going a third time in August.   I have traveled to Indiana, and Seattle.  Locally I have gone several places in Boston and on Cape that I would not have bothered with.  Note that this all occurred during a point in my life where I had three concurrent jobs and I was going to college.

On the horizon is a trip to Germany.  I am going to take my mother, who is a world-class budget traveler.  My dear friends Holger and Sabine offered to put us up, after I had discussed an interest in taking a river cruise.

What I have been finding as I explore the whys and wherefores of travel is that commitment is everything.  Doubt slays all plans.  Also, preparation is needed.  As the old Christmas jingle goes, 'even a miracle needs a hand'.  Don't let the scope or cost of a journey put you off.  Visualize what you want to happen, then turn your will towards it.  Plan and prepare, but don't let 'can't' or 'won't' creep in.  Money for these trips always seems daunting, but I find that you somehow find a way to get it done.  Time as well, but once you set the dates in time you find your schedule will wrap around the plan.

The mind is a marvelous instrument.  I truly believe that we all have the power to bend the world to our will, if we just have the faith to do it.

A new tack

Well, This month has been one of craziness and the like.  Several major things are boiling in the background, which hopefully will be resolved before long.

I had a small epiphany the other day.  I need to make time for writing if I am ever to achieve my goal.  It doesn't really matter what I write, just as long as I commit to putting words to paper(screen?).  I am blessed with a current job that allows me all the time in the world to do this, a rare job indeed.  I would be sorely remiss if I didn't take advantage of it.

So, I will write about whatever I feel like.  Hopefully this will lead to more stories, but if not, at least I am cultivating my writing abilities.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Six months gone:

Again, I have been incredibly remiss with updating this blog.  I cannot really blame myself:  I was working three jobs and going to school during the spring semester.  However, I still desire to write.  I just need to find a paralegal job first and then settle in and not have to work 15 gazillion hours.

So, as a filler until I can work a bit more on my writing, a little bit about what the next few months will hold for your narrator monkey.

I have graduated my course, and I am now actively searching for a job.  It is not easy, but I am hopeful I shall be employed by Fall.

I only have two jobs now.  I have to be circumspect with my expenditures.  It is something I have had to work on anyway.  I tend to buy a lot of unneeded stuff, and I really need to simplify my life at this juncture, especially if I am going to be moving.  There will be time enough for collecting when I have my main job squared away.

I just came back from PaizoCon over the Memorial Day weekend.  I had an excellent time, and I met with several of my close friends and made a few others.  I also was given a superb tour by my battle buddy Amanda Belle Paterson, which gave me a close look at Seattle.  I have to say I was impressed.  The vacation gave me a chance to decompress and order my thoughts as I head into this next battle.

I have plans to travel to NYC in July, and Canada in August.  I am hoping whatever new job I get doesn't interfere with that.

Life is a wonderful thing.  Despite the setbacks and issues, I have had more joy in these past two years than in the previous decade combined.  It has not always been easy, but I think that I have really grown as a person.  I could never go back to the way things were.

Anyway, that's the update for now.  I will hopefully not take another six months to update this blog.