On Killing Off Fictional Family

I’m working on a fantasy story.  And I’m at the point in the origin phase where the protagonist needs a crisis to propel him into a new and horrible life.  And I’m wavering between some deus ex machina scooping him out of his normal life or a horrible injustice killing off one or more of his family.

And the funny thing is I feel bad about killing off his kin.  I mean, they’re good people and they’ve never done anything to me and all things being equal I might need them later.  So, I’m vacillating and trying to thread the needle.  Can I just kill off his father?  But I kind of need him for later.  How about his mother?  The murder of his mother would be a great catalyst.  There’s guilt and rage and despair and hunger for revenge and all sorts of mixed emotions.  That could work well.  But it feels like a cheap trick.

I could kill off his newlywed sister.  It’s going to happen at the wedding reception anyway.  But that’s even more conflicted.  There’s the bride groom and the other sisters and then the parents won’t be distracted by one of them dying so the protagonist will be dealing with all kinds of messy emotional baggage.  Everyone will be whining for a hundred pages and I don’t need that.

I’m planning some kind of mob hit.  I’m undecided between a shotgun blast coming out of the reception or a bomb thrown through the window.  Either way it’s not ideal.  Very messy.  Definitely not the beautiful death.

So, as you can see there won’t be any easy way to write this.  All kinds of angst and messy follow-on consequences.  But let’s face it, murdered family has been a great plot device since Cain killed Abel.  I’m already trying to work my way through a father with conflicted feelings about the son whom he loves but who is responsible for the death of his wife.  That’s got all kinds of possibilities.  As I said I need the father around later and his grudging cooperation in some plot devices would add a nice amount of resistance to some scenes that would otherwise lose all tension.

So, she has to go.  But I am grateful for her part up to this point and I will give her a nice close-up scene before the finale.  She’ll get to talk to her son and they will share something personal before I finish her off.  Then she’ll upstage her oldest daughter’s wedding.  What mother could ask for more than that?

So, as you can see, for me the characters in my story take on a life of their own and I have to think carefully before I bring anyone in.  The butterfly effect is in full effect and especially when my character has a very long-life span, I have to be careful about cutting off all descendants of present characters because I might need their grandchildren or even great grandchildren at some point.

And finally, this action is meant to cut off his normal life and send him forward into a future where many of his actions are going to appear to him to be pretty evil.  To make that happen I’ll need something to disorient his moral compass.  The random brutal death of someone who symbolizes normalcy and happiness to him is just about right.  Add in a feeling that he is culpable in the death and I think I can work that into a tragic figure.  Will Shakespeare, hold my beer.

Some Thoughts on Religion, Organized and Otherwise

Of late I have been looking into the current state of religion in our world and more specifically in my general vicinity.  I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and received a relatively thorough indoctrination into its tenets through a 12-year course of primary and secondary Catholic education (boys only high school with religious brothers as faculty) along with multiple members of my family in the Catholic clergy (priest and nun).  In fact, my uncle was pretty high up in the administration of a Catholic order so I got to see a bit more of the nuts and bolts of Catholic clerical hierarchy than I cared to.

From all this I have come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church rarely has much to do with God.  First of all, making unmarried men the spiritual leaders of your community is completely insane.  Some young man who has never been married and will never have children is the last person I would go to for advice and spiritual guidance when my back is to the wall.  Secondly the idea of forced celibacy on young men is also an incredibly unstable arrangement.  I’m sure there is a subset of men for whom it can work.  The idea of abstaining from sex could allow for concentration on less worldly concerns but I suspect that some form of castration would be the only practical way to eliminate the hormonal influences on a man’s mind.  And the horrors of the pedophile history of Catholic priests is all the proof I need that it is a terrible idea.  From what I’ve read celibacy is more of a business decision that the church adopted as a way of preventing nepotism from infiltrating up the hierarchy of the Church.  Originally parish priests could marry.  Only the ambitious clerics who eventually wanted to climb the ladder to monsignor, bishop or higher remained celibate in order to be considered for this advancement.

Because of this restriction the Roman Catholic hierarchy has been conquered by homosexuals all the way up to the Vatican.  The grooming of young men in the seminaries is an abomination.  Any legitimacy it may have had as the primary vehicle of Christ’s Church on earth has been completely forfeited by the sins that its priests have committed against innocent children and by the failure of its leadership to uncover these crimes and hand the criminals over to the authorities for the heaviest sentences that can be handed down.

I have of late been interested in the Orthodox Catholic denominations and the Traditionalist Catholic.  The Greek and Russian and other churches have much in common with the Roman Church and would probably be relatively familiar to me.  The lack of a celibate clergy is to my mind a big advantage.  And the liturgy would be familiar.  I will have to do a good amount of research to understand whether any of the problems of the Roman Catholic Church exist to a greater or lesser extent in the Orthodox churches.

Not having attended services to any extent in any of the protestant denominations my knowledge of their practices is based on popular information.  One of the recent innovations in some of the denominations is female clergy.  Another recent innovation is acceptance of homosexuality in the ministry and finally the sanctification of homosexual marriage.  As you might guess I won’t be interested in any sect that stands for any of that.  In fact, I won’t even get involved in any church that starts editing gender neutral wording into its Bible.  I’ll stick to the most archaic wording I can get.  King James is plenty recent enough.  If necessary, I’ll go back to the original Greek.  I can read that just fine.

I went to an article on denominational differences and put together this list of “safe” choices.  I eliminated any denominations that ordain women or sanction homosexuality in any way shape or form.  Interestingly that even knocked out the Mormons, which surprised me.  These are the sects that were left.  Adventist, Southern Baptist Convention (stopped ordaining women in 2000), Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, United Pentecostal Church International, Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  Now of course I actually need to know more about the other aspects of their beliefs.  Then I’ll have to see what local congregations exist in my neck of the woods and do a meet and greet with the ministry and find out if I fit in.

And finally, if all of these choices fall through then I have seriously considered starting my own church.  After all what did Saint Peter, Martin Luther and John Knox have that I ain’t got?  I’m just as created in God’s image as any of them and I can definitely side step a whole bunch of pitfalls that they’ve stepped in along the way.  And I sure as hell won’t be introducing celibacy into my ministry.  In fact, I think that I would require anyone thinking of leading a church to be the father of grown children and I’d use the job that he did raising them as prima facie evidence of his ability to guide his flock.  And I’d also want to meet his wife.  If she is a feminist that would be big old stop sign in my evaluation of his judgement.  And finally, I’d find out if he voted for Donald Trump.  If he didn’t, I’d boot him out and slam the door behind him.

But seriously, religion is a personal relationship between man and God.  The Bible says that the way to pray to God is to lock yourself in an empty room and talk to Him directly.  No one needs a big shiny church or a guy in a black suit to help you.  But if you can live in a community of people who have the same beliefs as you that is an enormous advantage spiritually, psychologically and physically.  And that’s the reason for my search.  I’d like to find a community.  If I have to, I’ll build it myself.  And with the COVID lockdowns I already have a beard that would do any Old Testament patriarch proud.

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

I don’t take many photos of bumble bees because they are so ubiquitous around my yard.  So I don’t pay them much attention. BORING!

But one time I noticed a bumble bee on a flower that seemed interesting.  He was sitting on a flower and not collecting pollen.  So I took a closer look.

 

And what do you know, it’s a robber fly.  Notice the enormous bulbous eyes that protrude above the head.  Look at the long coarse hairs around the mouth and the thick piercing organ sticking out.  Notice the clear separation between the head and thorax.. Finally notice that the back legs lack any pollen baskets that a real bee possesses.

Here’s a blurry closeup of its head and thorax.

I remember reading in a book on close-up photography the author’s respect for the ferocity of robber flies.  He said something like “if robber flies were the size of dogs we would be afraid to ever leave our houses for fear of being eaten alive.  Sounds like a good premise for a science fiction story.

Robber flies come in various shapes and sizes and only a few are mimics of bumble bees.  But they all are ferocious predators and mostly hunt by ambushing their prey.in flight.  And if you are careless they’ll even give you a painful bite if you attempt to catch them by hand.

I’ve found several different types of the robber flies on my property and I find them very interesting.

I was able to get a close look at this one by using the magnified view that my Sony A7 III provides.  That means I didn’t have to get too close to see it.  These things are very skittish and it flew away before I could get close enough to do a naked eye visual.

Mathematics, Its Contents, Methods and Meaning – A Book Review

Back in the times before the Great Flood, I was a lowly undergraduate student in a public university.  I started out as a chemistry major but credits back then were very cheap, almost free, so I ended up taking an enormous number of credits in mathematics too.  When I reached my senior year, I had taken all the requisite chemistry courses for the BS degree but I also had discovered that I found the lab work extremely tedious.  What was a nerd to do?  Well, I took a few more math courses and got my degree in mathematics instead.  Since I was planning on raising an expensive family with Camera Girl, I decided to get a job as an actuary at one of the many fine insurance companies in Manhattan.  Imagine my embarrassment to find that compared to being an actuary a lab chemist was like being James Bond.  These insurance actuaries were the most boring human beings that walked this green earth.  With two strikes against me I had to be careful what I did next.  I talked to some smart guys and they asked me what I thought of chemical engineering.  I asked them, “What is chemical engineering?”  Well, these wise men told me that it was the golden road to wealth, fame and happiness.  Since I’ve always been gullible, I believed them.  Where things went from there is a story for a long winter evening but suffice it to say that I abandoned science for the greener pastures of the engineering world.  In other words, I sold my soul to the devil.  But I earned enough to raise a family.

But I always hankered for the chance to take more math classes.  While I was taking my engineering courses I had the chance to speak to an old math professor of mine and described my regret that I’d be too busy for the next thirty years or so to take anymore math classes and wondered whether he could recommend a self-study text that covered all the fields of mathematics that I might be interested in.  I knew that this guy was something of a bibliophile and luckily for me he said he had the very thing.  He told me it was a Soviet Russian three volume set published in translation by the MIT Press.  It wasn’t too pricey so I bought it and stuck it in a corner of my bookshelf and there it sat mostly unread for thirty years.

About ten years ago I finally got my last kid out of college and paid off the house and I was looking at cleaning out all the junk I had accumulated over the years when I rediscovered this set of books.  On a lark I started thumbing through it and opened up the section on topology.  And quickly discovered that I still enjoyed mathematics.  Now you may think that engineering was a field where mathematics abounds.  But after almost thirty years in the field the mathematical content of what I did on a daily basis had degenerated from differential equations into spreadsheets to figure out equipment depreciation and maybe the odd pressure drop or heat transfer calculation.  I had become a lapsed mathematician.  So, it was with great pleasure that I scanned the various sections of the set.  Non-Euclidean Geometry, Topology, Prime Numbers and other equally useless but interesting things.  Now whenever I have time I delve into the books and lose myself for a few hours and enjoy the guilty pleasure of contemplating the whichness of what.  Today I was reading what these long dead Russians had to say about the relevance of Non-Euclidean Geometry when considering the details of our actual universe.  When a ray of light can be bent by gravity what exactly is the validity of the concept of the parallel postulate?  With our current understanding of particle/wave duality what exactly can we consider empty space?  These esteemed commies made a statement from what they call dialectic materialism and define space as the form of existence of matter.  Now what the hell does that mean?  From what I read they are saying that the concept of space only has meaning in the contest of matter.  Well does that mean there is no such thing as empty space?

This is great stuff.  It makes me feel young again and inspires me to want to write a science fiction story where everything in the universe is adjacent to everything else and therefore problems like faster than light travel are merely a matter of having the correct mental picture when attempting to go from your leather recliner to, let us say, a planet in the Andromeda galaxy.

Anyway, if you’re ever in need of a general reference on mathematics that might spark your gray matter, I highly recommend Mathematics, Its Contents, Methods and Meaning by A. D. Aleksandrov, A. N. Kolmogorov and M. A. Lavrent’ev.