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                                                                               JOURNAL #158

                                                                                April 1, 2014


          The UN has released a report on global climate change. It was put together by a team of scientists rather than politicians. And it's scary, especially for those people, like me and pretty much everybody in places like London, New York, Shanghai, and Tokyo, who live close to the ocean and not much more than a few feet above sea level.

          According to the New York Times story, the report states that "ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct. The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth." And incidentally, the violent storms that have rolled across the continent this year will get worse. Despite this, we all know people who deny it's happening. Which raises a question: How is it that we are so inclined to simply ignore evidence that conflicts with what we believe?

          I mentioned in the last journal that my book club had read Elaine Pagels' Origin of Satan. Organized religions tend to insist that one must believe certain dogma, or they will not gain salvation. But it's always seemed to me that belief is not a voluntary act. We look at the evidence and our brain decides automatically whether it buys the story or not. We can pretend to believe something. Or we can behave like the Jesuits who declined to look through Galileo's telescope. But surely we're not deceiving a Creator.

         Some of the people around me are still talking about cyclic climate changes and insisting that's all it is. Of course there are people who maintain that the U.S. is always been on the right side of every dispute, never mind about slavery and women's rights and an Afghan war that has now become the longest in the nation's history originally begun, as I understood it, to bring Osama bin Laden to ground.

          When I was working on Coming Home, the Alex & Chase novel that will be released in November, I had to do some research on rising sea levels. If it goes as some project, it's sobering stuff.


          We blundered onto a movie titled Paul last week. We expected to watch it for about ten minutes before moving on. But I like road films, especially with a science fiction link, and we couldn't turn this one off. An excellent comedy.


          John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey have released volume 1 of their Apocalypse triptych. There'll be three volumes, one with stories about discovering an apocalypse is approaching, the second about weathering the event, and the final volume about the aftermath. Writers were invited to commit to doing a story in each volume. The plan is that they would be connected, following the same characters through the overall experience.

          I've done a number of stories for John Adams. This project sounded like fun, and I readily accepted the invitation. Without giving much thought to what would follow, I wrote "Enjoy the Moment" for the first volume, The End Is Nigh. The nature of my version of the apocalypse: A brown dwarf is approaching and, within twenty years, will drag the Earth out of orbit and send it into interstellar space.

          A problem surfaced pretty quickly: You can't do much about a brown dwarf. I couldn't imagine that people watching temperatures drop and the sunlight dwindle every day would be able to muster much in the way of optimism, which meant I'd be stuck with doing a story about characters utterly without hope, trying to adjust to abysmal living conditions. And, of course, the third story, dealing with the aftermath, couldn't be much more than handing out pills to the last few survivors. Nobody was going to want to read that. At least not the way I'd write it.

          This thing has been hanging over my head for the last few months, while I've been trying to move ahead with a sequel to Ancient Shores, which is due in the fall. I considered asking John for a pass on the final two stories. Or having Maureen inform him that I'd become an amnesia victim and was talking about running off to the Bahamas.

          I'm not sure what happened last night. I watched the Phillies win their opener against the Rangers, and went to bed with a sense that anything was possible. I was awake thinking about the project until about six, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a solution arrived. I'll let it pull itself together today, and start writing it tomorrow. It should have become obvious that good things were coming  when the 76ers broke their 26-game losing streak a few nights ago.