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22 December, 2011

Nerfreader: Giveaway: TimeSplash by Graham Storrs!

Nerfreader: Giveaway: TimeSplash by Graham Storrs! The audiobook of my time travel thriller, TimeSplash is being given away free at Nerfreader. Three copies of the audiobook are up for grabs, plus, as a bonus, there is a short story prequel to the novel, read by me, for each winner.

Just saying.

10 December, 2011

Reviews By Martha's Bookshelf: Giveaway Three Audiobooks of Timesplash & Prequel!...

Reviews By Martha's Bookshelf: Giveaway Three Audiobooks of Timesplash & Prequel!...: A month or so ago I posted a review of a good audiobook, Timesplash ! The author, Graham Storrs, has written a prequel, in the form of a s...

16 August, 2011

I Know What is Wrong With The World - and there is no way to fix it

I can sum up everything that is wrong with the world in three words:

People Are Stupid.
We like to think we are the pinnacle of evolution (in itself a stupid misconception of how evolution works) and that our vast intelligence separates up from the animals (sorry, stupid mistake, the other animals, I mean), but the fact is that we're not all that bright. We have a few advantages over, say primates, language and better memories for example, but research suggests that when it comes to sheer reasoning ability, we're not all that much brighter than chimps. I don't want to get into an IQ debate here, but let's assume there's some correlation between general intelligence and IQ. The average is around 100 (it varies from group to group and culture to culture - mainly because we're too stupid to devise a sensible test where the average is always 100 for every place and time).
Give or take a couple of standard deviations, most of us - like 96% of us - have that IQ. And it's abysmally low. It's the IQ of the kind of person who reads Murdoch newspapers, the IQ of the kind of person who watches soaps (even if it's the slick US cop show or medical show type and you think it's somehow better than Home and Away), and the kind of person who believes in the supernatural ("well, there has to be something more than this, doesn't there, science can't explain everything").
If you're still reading, it probably means you think you're not one of the stupid people I'm talking about. Well, you're wrong. Here's a little test to show just how stupid you are. 
  • Q1 Can you solve world poverty? 
  • Q2 Can you stop war? 
  • Q3 Can you stop the persecution of minorities?
  • Q4 Can you devise an economic system that treats everybody fairly?
The answers to all those questions are "No". I can think of dozens, probably hundreds of other questions that you would have to say no to, too. The fact is, we are all, even the very brightest among us, deeply and unutterably stupid. We can't solve the world's problems because we're too thick. We've been trying throughout recorded history (and presumably long before then) and we have failed. Failed dismally. Failed in a way that should be excruciatingly embarrassing to all of us. Let's face it, we're a bunch of chimps with cars and cell phones and we haven't got a clue.
And that's why there is no way to fix the world; we just haven't got the brains. We might as well give up, go back to the trees and scratch our arses until we're extinct.
Oh, hang on, we can't do that, can we? We stupidly cut down all the trees.

Now how did he get here?

04 August, 2011

Yasmin needs brain surgery but can't afford it

It is a sad and terrible indictment of the society in which we live that a woman like Yasmin McKillop might die because she can't afford the surgery that could save her life. Yasmin is a young woman, a nurse who cares for old people at my local hospital. She's one of those lovely people you take to immediately. She is married to my friend James, who is blind, and they have two young boys. And now, Yasmin has a brain tumour. The prognosis from surgeons at the public hospitals here is very poor, but there is a surgeon in Sydney who believes he can save her, if she can find sixty thousand dollars for the operation.

On a nurse's wage and James' invalidity benefits, Yasmin has no house to sell, no savings to draw on. Her family are just ordinary, working people. That kind of money is so far beyond the reach of normal people that it must seem completely hopeless to her family and friends.

In desperation, her sister, Mia, has launched an appeal. Mia is not a media-savvy campaigner with far-reaching networks into the circles where money like this is easily found. She's just a young woman who lives and works in a small, country town who loves her sister and is doing all she can for her. She has put up a Facebook page. She is talking to local people and local businesses - in Stanthorpe, one of the poorest towns in the whole of Australia. That's why we need to do something to help Mia raise that money and save her sister.

I know most of the people who read my blog are writers and working people too. I doubt we could raise that much money between us, but we can raise some, and there are plenty of other ways we can help. This is what I would like each of you to do.

1. Visit Mia's Facebook page and donate something to the appeal - even if it is only $5 - the price of a cup of coffee. The link is also at the bottom of this post.

2. Use the Facebook and Tweet this links at the top of this post to spread the word to your social networks. You can also Digg the post, or use StumbleUpon or any other sharing tools you like. Do whatever you can to help Mia get the message out to the world that Yasmin needs help.

3. Mention the appeal on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, MySpace, Twitter, and anywhere else you have an audience.

4. Write a blog post on your own blog - even if it is just one sentence with a link to Mia's appeal page, it might just help.

5. If you know a journalist, mention Yasmin's plight to them. A 'human interest' story like this might just be something they, or a colleague, are looking for. If the story made it into a State or national newspaper, or was mentioned on a popular radio or TV show, it would take the appeal to a level where anything is possible. Even if you don't live in Australia, mention it anyway. Generosity doesn't stop at national borders.

6. Write a letter and send it to your local newspaper, your local radio station, your local Rotary Club, anywhere you can think of where people might be willing to help.

I'm sorry to ask. I'm sorry to live in a society where I have to ask. Please help Yasmin and her family. Please do whatever you can.

The link to the appeal is

28 June, 2011

What Does it Mean to Believe in Reality?

I tend to say things like "I believe in reality and nothing else." Possibly seeing the world "reality" as a potential chink in the armour of my belief system, someone asked me recently to define what I mean by it. You know, it's a hard question, and I can only think of long answers to it.

Basically, like Samuel Johnson, I'm a rock kicker, not a solipsist (that Occam's Razor thing again). Once you take the step of believing in an external reality, it seems the sensible thing is to accept what your senses tell you. After that, to know more than what you personally experience, you need to start accepting what other people tell you they have seen and felt. And the only way to separate true from bogus (or mistaken) accounts, is to rely on the scientific method. Observations need to be replicable, theories need to be clearly and transparently related to observation by solid argumentation, and experiment must always trump theory (when enough evidence exists). On top of that, coherence and mutual support among theories is nice to have too.

Within the vast arena of our ignorance and the tiny capacity of our intellect, this leaves much to wonder and marvel at in the world. So much, in fact, that I wonder why anyone needs magic at all. When, from what we know and the arguments that sustain it, we can suppose that the whole universe might be a holographic projection from the surface of a cosmic sphere, one hardly needs the rather mundane imaginings of religious fantasists to excite one's sense of wonder.

20 May, 2011

My Predictions for the Future

Just a quick note to give you a couple of predictions about the future. Here they are:
  1. The Rapture will not happen tomorrow (as predicted by the Christians).
  2. The world will not end in 2012 (as predicted by the Mayans).
  3. No prediction from any religious text, or any ancient text whatsoever about the end of the world will ever be correct.
I will absolutely stand by these predictions and will happily put money on any or all of them.

Just a note about prediction #3. Telling me that Nostradamus predicted Napoleon, or whatever, doesn't count. It's easy to interpret vague nonsense to mean anything you like after the fact. What I want to see are real, solid predictions about the future. Like the Rapture prediction.

And, on prediction #1, all those guys who are waiting to be taken up to heaven tomorrow, are going to feel really embarrassed on Sunday, and not a bit let down. Please don't laugh at them too much as they make their way, red faced, to church.

08 May, 2011

A Word From Our Sponsors

There are a couple of short stories of mine appearing soon in anthologies and I'd like you to look out for them, please. Since I almost never try to flog my books here, I thought you might forgive me. Two of these anthologies ('Hope' and 'Nothing But Floweres') I donated stories to for free because they are being sold to benefit good causes.
In Situ – a spec fic anthology from Dagan Books, ed. Carrie Cuinn. It contains my story “Salvage”. Expected publication date is 15th May – pre-order it via Goodreads.
Hope – a spec fic anthology from Kayelle Press, ed. Sasha Beattie, with a great cast of Aussie writers. It contains my story “The God on the Mountain”. Expected publication date is “real soon now”! I am especially stoked that two of the other contributors are friends who shared the QWC/Hachette retreat with me in May 2008 – the event that I believe kicked off my professional writing career.
Nothing But Flowers: Tales of Post Apocalyptic Love from eMergent Press, ed. Jodi Cleghorn. It contains my story “Two Fools in Love” – the first time I ever sat down to write a love story and actually did it. This is already available as an ebook but should hit the streets as a paperback any second now.
If you've ever wondered what kind of stuff I write, here are three great chances to find out. You also get the chance to read load of other great stories and, in two out of three cases, to contribute something to a good cause.

03 May, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is Dead

So what?

Here are a few early thoughts on what it might mean that the "world's most wanted man" has finally been tracked down and executed.

1. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. Bin Laden was waging war. Sometimes wars don't go the way you'd like them to and, even when you're a big-shot general, sitting safely in your stronghold, well away from the fighting, sometimes the enemy gets to you and kills you. Them's the breaks. Bin Laden dropped a plane on the Pentagon. The Pentagon dropped a Navy Seals team on Abbottabad.

2. It's made many Americans very happy. Let's face it, Americans went nuts after 9/11. They thrashed about in a frenzy of outrage, fear and frustration. They invaded Iraq for Pete's sake! How crazy was that? Yet the fear was the worst bit of it. Americans became obsessed with the idea that their enemies could reach out and get them and it terrified them. It was shocking and horrible. It went against everything they believed about their superiority and invulnerability. And much of that fear was focused on Osama Bin Laden. He was the one who had hurt them. He was the one who, for ten whole years, dodged their best efforts to wreak their vengeance. So, of course, now he's dead, some of that sense of dread and impotence has been lifted. No wonder they're dancing in the streets.

3. With any luck, President Obama will enjoy a 'halo effect' from being the president in office when Bin Laden was shot. Yes, many American's think he's a Muslim, and a socialist, and a foreigner, but now they also know he's the guy who brought down the Boogey Man. American conservatives probably have a much lower chance now of winning the election next year. This is a very good thing, especially considering the absolute clowns who have been suggested as GOP candidates - like Palin and Trump. If killing Bin Laden gets Obama a second term, at least some genuine good will have come of it.

4. Stock markets - especially the American ones - rose for a short while there. They've fallen back again, of course, but hopefully that little blip will show everyone how ludicrous the whole stock trading system has become. When our global economy depends on idiots who spend higher on stocks because some terrorist fly has been swatted, we really need to take a long hard look at what is going on in the free market economy.

31 March, 2011

There Ought To Be A Law Against It

They should make it illegal to talk crap. I can't think of any other way to stop the flood of bullshit that threatens to drown out all sensible discourse. It should be a crime to say or write anything for public consumption that is provably wrong at the time it was said.

The irritating and most visible manifestation of the untrue rubbish people spout is in advertising. I don't just mean ads that say processed food X is "wholesome" or  indistinguishable from real food, I mean the lying nonsense about the beneficial powers of inert food supplements, or magnetic mattresses, or "quantum energised" crystals. All that New Age quackery, all that techno-babble, all that distortion and half-truth designed to mislead!

It gets beyond mere irritation when you hear garbage spoken by politicians. Many of them (particularly on the right wing) talk about medical issues, about welfare reform, about incentives, about wars on drugs, about the criminal justice system, about education and about tax reform, as if we haven't had a century of psychological studies, sociological studies, criminology, medical science, and anthropology. The evidence is all there if they had the wit to grasp it. Yet they go on, year after year telling us the answer is more police on the streets, stiffer sentences, getting back to the three Rs, sacking civil servants, etc., etc., etc.. I know politicians are just ordinary people with monster egos, and most of them don't have the intelligence to read research reports (from actual scientists, I mean, not from "think tanks"!) but if there were criminal penalties for being caught saying untrue things in public, maybe they would actually start to care about what they say.

And, of course, politicians lying to the public (wilfully or out of ignorance) can do real harm. It can blight lives and hobble whole societies. It can kill. But the people with the real power, who can do most harm, are the corporations and their various mouthpieces. We've seen endless examples of how the tobacco companies lied about the harm they cause, how the oil, coal and gas companies have lied about global warming (and pollution in general), and how the big news media corporations lie to ensure the political outcomes they favour. Yet there are no penalties. The Big Tobacco spokesperson may be responsible for thousands of deaths, but they are not tried for mass murder. The Big Oil CEO who sponsors obfuscatory research that may lead to hundreds dying in floods and droughts, doesn't face jail time, nor do the scientists who take his money and publish his papers. And the Big Pharma PR guys who tell the doctors lies about their products, are not being prosecuted wither, and nor are the doctors who sign their names to academic papers written by those same PR guys.

We live in a world where solid scientific evidence is ignored or actively disparaged, just so that people can sell you things, or feather their nest in some other way. It is a world where religious groups are allowed to teach anti-science courses which are nothing but insupportable nonsense - presumably so that young people aren't exposed to ideas or rational thinking or something equally horrible. There seems to be nothing anyone can do about all this lying and misleading and distortion and outright fraud. Or nothing anyone is willing to do. After all, the lawmakers are among the worst offenders.

Yet if there is anything there should be a law against, this is it.

03 March, 2011

Graham Storrs to Sign With The Book Harvest Literary Agency

Remember what  my 2010 end of year report said was the one thing 2011 would be all about? Or when I tried to find a single word to describe my hopes for 2011?

Yes, this was going to be the year that I got myself a literary agent, someone who would represent my work to the big-league publishers, someone who would promote me in circles I simply cannot reach, someone who would talke my writing career to a new professional level. Well, just two months into the year, I have found that agent. We haven't quite signed the contract yet, but I am very, very pleased to let you know that brand new, Sydney-based literary agency The Book Harvest has agreed to represent me, particularly, that Ineke Prochazka, is my go-to guy at the agency.

You might think that signing with an agency that hasn't made a single sale yet is a bit of a risk. You may also remember that I recently turned down an offer from another agent because I didn't think they could do enough for me, even though they did have an actual track record of sales. Well, yes, of course it's a risk, but Book Harvest has two very important things going for it.

The first is that the agency is positioning itself at the top of the food chain, aiming to sell to the big-name publishers. Events may prove that they couldn't make it, but their ambitions and mine line up nicely and the idea of being paired with a new agency has always appealed to me. We're both hungry for this and we're both going to go flat out to make it happen.

The second is Ineke Prochazka herself. She comes highly recommended by someone whose judgement I trust, she's got a background in the retail side of the book business (the side of the business, in my view, that it is absolutely vital to be across these days), and, in my dealings with her so far, she seems like a nice and approachable person, someone I'll be happy to do business with.

Of course, that contract isn't signed yet and there's many a slip, etc., but I am very pleased with how this is going so far and hope to get the paperwork out of the way very soon.

Wish me luck!

02 March, 2011

Scammers and the Gift of Sociopathy

Wifie has just been scammed by a company she got involved with online. It's an American company that ran a print ad in an Australian women's magazine offering a free trial of their product for the price of the postage. She paid the $7 postage with our credit card and the product duly arrived in the post. Then, when the credit card bill arrived, we saw the company had taken over $200 on top of the postage.

Wifie started emailing them demanding her money back. They ignored her. That was a month ago and we'd pretty much decided to let it go and write it down to experience. Then this month's credit card statement arrived and they'd done it again, taken another $200. This time Wifie spoke to the credit card company. (I had to speak to them too because Australian banks don't have the concept of joint and several liability on credit cards like everywhere else on the planet and our "joint" credit card is in my name!) She wanted them to block that particular company from ever drawing money from our account again.

You'd think this would be easy, since all they were ever authorised to draw was $7. But no. We had to cancel our credit card and start a new account. Can you believe that? So we now have no credit card and a wait of 10 business days before the new one is available!

The good news is that the bank hopes to be able to reimburse us the $400 we lost. I'm not sure why they would do that (unless there is an insurance included in our fees that I haven't noticed) but who am I to argue? Possibly it is because they feel guilty that they run a dodgy financial system where people with your credit card number can steal your money, but that would be strangely altruistic of them. As far as I can see, we got scammed and it's largely our own fault for trusting an unknown company with our credit card number. Maybe that's it? I suppose the banks want us to trust potential crooks, because then we will buy more stuff online. Well, it looks like another $400 may now have to be added to everybody's bank fees next year.

Nice smile, Mr. Madoff.
Wouldn't it be nice though, to be so completely heartless and soul-dead that you could just take other people's money if you felt like it? Wouldn't it be nice not to care about how much effort it took your victims to earn that money, how hard it had been for them to save the amout you stole, what they might have to go without because of your greed, or how upset they might feel because of what you did to them? I think sick, heartless bastards must be the happiest people in the world. Their brains, crippled by the lack of a normal conscience, are incapable of feeling all the usual concerns, the empathy and the compassion that bother the rest of us, leaving them able to laugh at and enjoy the unhappiness they cause. They don't even mind being despised, in all likelihood. What a gift sociopathy must be to these lucky people.

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