Tag Archives: prejudice

The Idea Mill #34

This one is going to be a bit different than other Idea Mill visits. I usually save links and try to get three unique stories to post about. Today I have two, and I’m combining them into one concept.

If you’re new to these, I write speculative fiction and that involves asking “what if.” I think it’s important to base spec fiction in reality wherever you can. These stories help build a bit of foundation that we can use to build our speculative story.

This time, I don’t even have links. This stuff is everywhere and is very current news. This is why I’m constructing the post this way. If I wait, it might not be as current.

You must have all seen the stories involving Cambridge Analytica and the misuse of Facebook data. I know Facebook stockholders are aware of it. In a nutshell, these people pirated the data to make targeted events during the last election cycle. If you believe all the stories.

We live in an age of data. The world is full of massive databases that contain everything from our banking information, our preferences online, where we eat, where we buy groceries, and more. Surf for a new book to read, someone is tracking it. Follow a clickbait article with a titillating story and it’s been logged. I know if my wife looks at anything on her laptop, my Facebook ads change and show me options to her search. Made it kind of hard to surprise me for Christmas.

This is what we already live under. Enter the new database that we’re contributing to. This one is fun… there’s no harm in fun, right? It’s almost taken on a party atmosphere. Here’s how it works:

You take a swab and wipe it around the inside of your mouth. Then you mail it to a company who will analyze it and send you an idea of your genetic heritage. Usually it proves that Mom really did know what she was talking about as far as your ethnicity.

Keep in mind, your results are going into a database somewhere. Keep in mind that one of the largest databases in the world was just accessed inappropriately and misused. Now we have a solid foundation to start speculating. What if…

What if the Nazis had access to such a database. Think how much more efficient their genetic purging could have been. Genocide went on before the Nazis, and it’s still going on today. Don’t tell me it will never happen on such a large scale again.

We can also take this into the speculative realms. What if aliens made a cold clinical decision and used this database to collect whatever they prefer and destroy the rest.

Keep in mind that your heritage is only one thing a DNA test can reveal. How about one of the cancer genes? Maybe the hacker is big insurance, and they start raising the prices on those who have one of these genes. Maybe the general population develops a new prejudice against someone with one of these genes. You no longer have to worry about cancer killing you… your neighbors will do it long before then.

Maybe the database starts influencing reproduction. Insurance refuses to cover children from matings they didn’t pre-approve. Maybe it’s not so deep, what if humans start checking out potential mates on the database before getting involved with someone? We already run background checks and credit checks on potential partners. This isn’t all that far fetched. My own wife and I spend part of date nights on our phones these days. Humans aren’t as connected on a personal level as they were twenty years ago. Nope, not getting involved with her because she’s going to lose her teeth by the time she’s fifty.

Take it up a notch, and have one spouse cave to the pressure of breeding with an approved partner. A mutual agreement would certainly lead to a marital breakdown. A secret affair can also add a mountain of stress.

Maybe there is a trend toward a certain genetic combo that poses a workplace hazard. Could employers start demanding DNA tests as part of the hiring process? Maybe it reveals a reasonable percentage of people with that gene are prone to thefts.

These are big ticket issues that work in some kinds of fiction. They play on the idea of what we are afraid of, which is always a good idea in fiction. There is also a possibility of taking it down to a smaller level and telling a good story too.

What if some family fun revealed a secret nobody was supposed to know? A bigot could make for a good character arc. Pride makes a great thing to toy with in our stories. He or she despises some kind of race or ethnicity. A DNA test reveals the character is of that heritage at least partially. First thing would be to despise his parents and blame them. Maybe he runs away and goes on a journey where he finds himself and discovers some errors he’s made during his life. Maybe he finds family members he never knew he had. Maybe the employees he’s been making work overtime, and denying benefits to, are his nieces and nephews.

Obviously a family member who was the result of an affair could be pretty dramatic too. What if this revelation changed the line of succession to the throne of some country? Or maybe it’s a huge inheritance? You could play this for laughs, or make it dangerous and dark. What do you mean Uncle Bob can’t inherit Grandpa’s company?

I’m not contributing a corny story this time. I wanted to rush out the foundation stories from the news and speculate a bit. What could you create using these two current events? I’d love to hear it.

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African Me & Satellite TV, on Lisa Burton Radio

Today on Lisa Burton Radio, we’re on the phone with Princess Sithole, all the way from Zimbabwe. I’m your host, Lisa the robot girl. “Welcome Princess.”

“Thank you Madam Lisa! Mangwanani – although that is good morning in Shona. Is it morning with you?”

“Yes, but I think you’re a day ahead of me. My bio says you’re a cook. That has to be a fun job, creating new things and feeding your family. Tell us a little about that.”

“Yes. I cook. It is not always a fun job. In Zimbabwe some years back, and even now again, there is very little food to be bought. One time it got so bad that all I had to cook with was carrots from the garden and Marmite. Still, I am very, very good at cooking, so nobody complained. I suppose you could call it a job – what I do, but I think of it more as caring for my family, Suzette and Herman, and before Felix the cat and Cher the dog too. Hau. Shame. I get sad even now, thinking of them. All my family. Blood and two legs is not everything, you know.”

“It takes a lot of gumption to create something and share it with the world, even if it’s a garlic martini. Your life isn’t all fun and games though. You’ve had to deal with instances of animal cruelty and even murder in your village. How did that effect you?”

“Aah. That garlic martini. It was the one thing that did not bring much praise. Although, as I say, the tasting of it led to the falling off of a chair, so it wasn’t all bad. Laughter is food too sometimes, so I don’t see it as a complete failure. I’m sure that if I drank alcohol I would have enjoyed it. Garlic is wonderful. Before the animals were killed, so cruelly, Cher used to enjoy stealing wine if it was on a low enough table. That old dog suffered a little with arthritis, and being a colonial Labrador, I was not very surprised that she took Chablis for the pain. Very common painkiller with colonials. Mr Mandela, my parrot, too likes a little to drink. But then, when you see how those killers treated him you would understand. That is why he is called Mr Mandela – because he was hurt for so long and has still not bitten anyone. Yes, my little friend. We are on the radio with Madam Lisa. I hope you are not offended by being called Madam. It is my way. The way we do things here in Africa, even now. It is wrong maybe, but it is expected by many. Even though I personally only use it for those I respect and no other, it’s a habit so deep now after so many generations, it’s hard to break. I think that too much value is attached to appearances, be it the hue of your skin or any other thing. Cruelty is very much in the eye of the beholder. Some people honestly think that we are lesser than they. Not to even talk about how much less animals are. Poor things. I have seen people shocked at the chickens of Africans, scratching away in the dirt. They would never eat such a cruelly treated, in their perception, chicken. I personally would rather eat such a chicken than one which has been unable to move very much at all for all its life in a small cage. Life is just as cruel as we allow it to be. I wish it was not so. I bet you are surprised to see an African cook as a chicken activist. I am very fond of chickens. Live ones, that is.”

“You and me both. In my own story, I had to deal with lots of prejudice. You’d be amazed how many people aren’t willing to accept an electronic human. You seem very attached to your employers. What can you tell us about them?”

“You are indeed as human as human can be. You have love in your heart and that is what makes you human. That is what makes Mr Mandela human too. My employers? Yes, I suppose that they are that. They are more my family. They have been that for me more than employers, and I love them both very much. They are not racists at all. Not like those other two, read and you will see, and they are not afraid to say so. Any more. It was not always so. Suzette has been fragile for a long time. Just like Christopher was – he who was murdered. She is crazy, a little bit, but beautiful, inside and out, and Herman. Well. Herman is a lion and I would do anything for him, even though he insulted my martini.”

“They sound like very nice people. If only everyone were that way.”

“Indeed they are. The good thing is that most people are good people. Sometimes the bad people are so bad that they seem to grow in stature in our minds, even though in reality the truly bad are almost always cowards. They feel that making others smaller makes them bigger somehow. Suzette understands the problems we face in Africa today. People think that there is no more racism because there is no more apartheid. Ha! Here if you are poor and you want to eat, you will have to learn to be as inferior as is required. I suppose it is that way all over the world in one way or another.

“With Suzette and Herman, it is not about the colour of your skin, but the colour of your heart. It is simple really, when you love truly. We were all family. Christopher too before he was taken, even though he pretended to be so very stupid for so very long. The whole world should look at the colours of hearts when they seek to hate and kill. Not the colour of skins or any other apparent difference. We are all the same inside our heads and our hearts.

“Another thing. If we don’t share what is in our hearts, nobody will see our true colours. If Christopher hadn’t written so many words for his whole life, after he died, nobody would ever have known the true colour of him. In the end we saw that his colour was gold, and still today I cry with joy for having known him as well as sadness for having lost him. Our writing is important when we are gone. Even if it is just how we enjoyed our breakfast. Writing shows our colours to those who loved us when we are gone as well as when we are here. Writing keeps us alive forever.

“Yes Mr Mandela. Your colour is gold too. As were the colours of Felix and Cher. All animals have souls of gold. People could learn a lot from animals.

“You know Lisa. We think that our lives will never end, and that there will always be time to make things right. But that is not true. The only time to be right and do right is right now. We should live our lives considering love first. Who we love, what we love and believe, and know that of all things in life, love is the most important. We must find it where we can, and nurture it when we do.”

“I love animals. I have a pet rabbit named Bunny that I rescued from a butcher. I can send you a picture after the show.”

“Eish! Rabbit stew is also very much enjoyed in Zimbabwe. They are not so easy to catch. Myself, I have never tried it. I am not your usual Shona woman though – I much prefer cheese to meat. Mr Mandela will enjoy meeting your Bunny. He likes to snuggle. Does your Bunny sleep with you also? Mr Mandela sleeps on my pillow. Now I know that parrots snore too. I make sure to take many pictures of him and to write about his special occasions. Like I always say, we must leave our footprints behind for others to see. To learn, to laugh, or just to know. Even parrot footprints.”

“Oh, you’d like my boss. He writes all kinds of things, and understands those things could be around for a long time.”

“That sekuru is a very handsome man, your boss. That beard – eish! It is truly legendary. Does he throw the bones also? In Africa he would be very well known. I must read his writings soon, to see his colour, and to see what footprints he will leave.”

“He doesn’t throw the bones, but now that you mention it I’m sure he’d love to learn. Our sponsor today has been AFRICAN ME AND SATELLITE TV, by Jo Robinson. Any final thoughts, Princess?”

“Thank you so very much Lisa. It has been a great honour to be here even though I never thought I could ever be on a radio show. I believe that I will be famous in my small part of Africa today! I will send you a copy of my cookbook, Africolonial Cuisine, when Jo gets around to publishing it for me. Eish! That one! Of course she is my family too – my mother I should say, but she is a little crazy too and runs around like a mongoose with a snake that won’t die sometimes. Still, I love her, and will love her even more when I see my new book on Amazon! I made a cover for it myself – would you like to see it? I wish you very well in your future Lisa. You must come and visit us. Suzette and Herman will be pleased to have you stay, although some of the local ladies might be jealous of your impressive bosom. Eish! It is indeed a very Shona bosom! What sort of martinis do you like?”

“I don’t need to eat or drink, but I’d still like to visit eventually. Thank you for being my guest today.”

***

For many years Suzette has managed very well to live her life without actually taking part in it, avoiding any possibility of pain by very carefully ignoring reality. Until something happens. Something so terrible that she has no choice but to abandon her cocoon of safety.

After the brutal beating of an elderly domestic worker, Suzette takes her in, and sets off a chain of events that leads to devastating heartbreak. And an unexpected hero changes everything. Finally finding her voice, she speaks out, and her world explodes, culminating in the death of a very special man.

On her path to make amends, she discovers the story of his life, connects with the people of his past, and finds the chance to fully live her life once again if that’s what she chooses to.

Here is the purchase link again, in case you missed it.

 

You can find Jo at the following locations:

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Goodreads

Google Plus

Blog

Jo doesn’t know I’m posting this, but she is a great advocate for indie authors. I find her blog informative and extremely helpful. She also provides author services, like cover design, proofreading, and formatting. The links for those services are in her blog.

Testimonial time here: I hired Jo to format THE EXPERIMENTAL NOTEBOOK OF C. S. BOYACK II, and found her to be fast, efficient, and affordable. She is extremely easy to work with.

She made these beautiful covers herself.

Princess’ cookbook is coming soon, I am told.

 

 

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