Category Archives: Writing
When I was planning the plot for The Halcyon Dislocation, an essential element was the development of a dystopian political system for the isolated, dislocated University of Halcyon. In particular, the political system, to the outside observer, would look like a functioning democracy with regular, honest elections, opposition parties, and even new grassroots parties that objected to the status quo.
However, the system is rigged so that these fledgling opposition parties almost never rise to power since it takes a very long time to gain a following, and even if they do, they will find the new party membership and the incessant government propaganda has turned them into another version of the older parties that they were supposed to supplant. Hence nothing has changed except possibly the ruling party’s name.
The reader might ask, “Why do we need such a new, elaborate political system. Man’s history is replete with tyrannical regimes which used propaganda and force to beat down opposition, often for long periods of time?”
I would answer that those systems all have several fatal flaws which this modified dystopian quasi-democracy circumvents.
First of all, using power overtly to suppress dissent means the dissent goes underground and the government receives outward compliance until the opposition gains sufficient momentum that people begin to believe a regime change is possible. Then allegiances change very quickly.
Secondly, suppressed citizens are smart enough to see what is going on and they will not be fooled even if the penalties force them to comply outwardly. They are essentially slaves in their own country and will serve and work halfheartedly at best. It will lead to a general malaise.
The Aberhardt Principle
A key element of the Halcyon quasi-democracy is the Aberhardt Principle, named after the professor on staff who wrote about it. In this approach for making societal change, one sets up a system where everyone is encouraged to speak their mind so the sociologists can measure how effective the advertising, propaganda, education, and entertainment activities have been in changing people’s minds about key issues. The focus is on changing people’s minds against their will by repetition, multiple lines of influence, and long exposure to the multi-media message. The rate of time-dependent change of people’s minds determine how quickly the agenda-setters in the Halcyon quasi-democracy can implement their social changes.
So, even though grassroots opposition parties form, by the time they get to power (if they ever do), they will find not only has their new party changed their outlook, but sufficient time has elapsed that the electorate now fully endorses the new sociological innovations that the old grassroots membership opposed.
This is not a political blog and I draw no inferences to past, present, or future systems which might resemble this Halcyon University dystopia. I merely point out, through this imaginative exercise in plot development, that it is possible to develop a political system that has honest, regular elections, allows citizens to share their political views with some freedom, and yet is totally tyrannical and constrained even though the programmed social innovation happens on a multi-year timescale to allow for Aberhardt-style attitude adjustment.
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Writing is a solitary vocation. Where one writes can make up for much of the solitude and certainly enhances the writing experience, particularly if the locale has some role to play in the story. One such inspiring locale is Maui. I’ll let the images, for the most part, speak for themselves. Here are a few topics that make Maui special.
The Haleakala Dormant Volcano
Like the other Hawaiian islands, Maui is volcanic in origin and the landscape is dominated by two dormant volcanoes. The larger, on the east side of the island, is called Haleakala. This mountain, at least from the west slope, has none of the precipices and rock faces that I came to expect from hiking in the Rocky Mountains, but rather slopes up relatively gently from the east coast of the island to the summit. Indeed from our balcony (lanai) on a clear day we could see the observatory and the Red Hill Lookout at 10,023 feet.
Taking the hike to the edge of the crater is an awe-inspiring endeavor and gives one a sense of the size of this volcano. Numerous hiking trails allow for the exploration of this massive formation.
On many mornings, before sunrise, the summit can readily be seen from the foot of the mountain, but as dawn breaks it frequently becomes cloud covered.
The Hana Highway and the Tropical Part of the Island
Haleakala has an enormous influence on weather patterns on Maui. South and west of the mountain, the land is quite arid with many dried-up water courses. In contrast on the other side, there is a great deal of rainfall, with many creeks that can flood rapidly after a heavy downpour. The abundant moisture provides a tropical rain forest setting.
Maui Coral Reef
There are many coral reefs close to shore on Maui and it is relatively easy to find good snorkeling close to accessible beaches. Here are a few images that we were able to capture using a rented underwater camera.
Whether you’re writing an adventure situated on a tropical island, or like me, re-reading Jules Verne’s MYSTERIOUS ISLAND with its dormant volcano, Maui is an inspirational locale for writers and readers alike.
If you have a CALGARY PUBLIC LIBRARY card, you can check out Peter’s books for free …
I’ve reached a milestone with the publication of my fifth book, Coventry 2091. It’s time for me to revise my author’s bio. Here is a preview of the changes.
Long before I became a fiction author, I was an avid reader. Books in general and novels in particular influenced me greatly. J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings , C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of the Narnia , and Stephen R. Lawhead’s trilogy, Song of Albion are among my favorite and best-loved novels.
I also very much enjoy classic science fiction classics such as Robert Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky.
The stories I most enjoyed were not only entertaining, but they taught me something about all that is good and excellent in ourselves and the world around us. They inspired hope without glossing over the fact of evil
I began writing The Halcyon Dislocation in response to a challenge of sorts. I was meeting with friends in our small book club when I began musing about how much I would like to write a novel. One of my friends, an accomplished author in her own right, looked me in the eye and said, “Why don’t you do it then?” After many conferences and contacts with other authors, my first book was published.
I am now the author of five books. As a futuristic novelist, I started my writing journey by creating a complex, parallel world in The Halcyon Dislocation. And so I began my speculative fiction series, The Halcyon Cycle. My second novel, The Battle for Halcyon, describes the fate of the displaced University of Halcyon as it seeks to return to its own space-time. The third in this series, The Dragons of Sheol, published in 2019, takes the reader to Abaddon, a continent ringed by mountains with the main land mass six kilometres below sea level.
In 2021 I have published the first book in a new series, The Coventry Chronicles, called Coventry 2091. These stories, naturally enough, make some assumptions about what life will be like seventy years from now. Although, I foresee some troubling and deeply unsettling changes ahead, I am at heart an optimist and believe that whatever evil we may face, it cannot forever triumph over good. As a reader you might be surprised at how that manifests itself in the story.
In writing these stories I have been able to pursue a life-long dream of writing fast-paced novels that explore the intersection between adventure, science, faith and philosophy.
My book, The Battle for Halcyon, won a 2016 Word Award in the Speculative Fiction category. Previously The Halcyon Dislocation was short-listed as a finalist in The Canadian Christian Writing Awards – Futuristic Fiction Category. I am grateful for the recognition I received as relatively new and unknown author.
I am currently working on the first draft of Coventry Peril. This story follows the travails of the Coventry Penal Colony and their hope for freedom and a place of safety.
I started writing Coventry 2091 in 2018, just when my last book, The Dragons of Sheol was in the final stages of editing. Since I was starting a new series I began by asking a number of “What if” questions to help flesh out the plot.
What if, in the year 2051, a sustained, peaceful protest took place in Canada that threatened the plans of our Federal Government and alarmed many urban voters? How might the government react? Answering these questions led to the story that became Coventry 2091.
As the plot developed, I realized that our legal system could not efficiently process and jail thirty thousand peaceful but determined protesters, so I imagined a extra-judiciary tribunal which I called the Peace, Order, and Good Government Tribunal which quietly and efficiently sent thirty thousand to a Canadian Penal Colony.
Imagine my surprise when I read the front page news last week in the National Post and in particular Colby Cosh’s article on a ruling in Ottawa’s favor on Carbon Taxes citing “Peace, Order, and Good Government” (POGG) from the British North America Act justifying this huge transfer of control over resources from the provinces to the Canadian Federal Government.
From the point of view of my novel’s story, I suppose this precedent which essentially is a Carte Blanche for enabling the Canadian Federal Government to override any explicit provisions of the British North America Act, with Canadian Supreme Court approval, makes my imaginative story line more plausible and in some senses disturbingly prophetic. The government, particularly if supported by a majority of a sympathetic electorate, could override any protections we currently enjoy by using the POGG card.
I’ve only had one other time when one of my story lines seemed disturbingly prophetic in this way. Check out a previous post in the link below.