Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Doughnut Economics

Even if you haven't studied economics, you're probably familiar with the law of supply and demand. However, there's a lot more to economics, and economics doesn't always look at the complete picture. For example, current theories of economics don't consider the value of unpaid household labor or recognize that resources are limited. (The GDP can't grow forever.) That's why Kate Raworth wrote Doughnut Economics: How to Think Like a 21st Century Economics. 

The premise is simple: imagine a doughnut. (There's a visual on the Wikipedia page here.) The hole in the middle is where people's needs are met. (These needs go beyond simple survival needs to include education, health care, and a voice in government.) The outer edge of the doughnut is the ecological ceiling we can't cross without harming the environment. Between the social and environmental boundaries is the doughnut itself, a safe and just space for humanity.

Raworth's book discusses several strategies for "getting into the doughnut." These include viewing human nature differently, designing systems that redistribute wealth and regenerate resources the way the natural world does, and focusing on stability, not constant growth. Obviously, this is a complete turnaround from the way our current economy works, and changing this paradigm will require a lot of work. For example, thanks to interest, money gains value over time, which is unlike material resources that degrade. To force money to be used for regenerating material assets instead of being hoarded, Raworth proposes fees be instated to make money lose some of its value when it's held for a long time. It sounds like a crazy idea, but according to the book, some cities in Germany and Austria tried it in the 1930s to help the local economy. (I can't help but wonder if it would be simpler to lower interest rates for some types of investments or make investing in sustainability more rewarding.) 

I think the ideas put forth in this book are intriguing and worth pursuing, but I disagree with Raworth in her assessment of human nature. For this model to work, humans have be more socially reciprocating and interdependent, and I think it's harder to nudge people in this direction than she thinks it is. However, stories that engage people's emotions can change their attitudes and behavior. This is where worldbuilding and solarpunk come in. If we use these ideas to build new types of societies, we can inspire people to work toward them in real life. It's been said that it's easier to imagine the end of the world instead the end of capitalism. I know which one I'd prefer. 

Have you heard of doughnut economics before? If not, what's your favorite kind of doughnut? (Mine is chocolate with sprinkles.) Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Mid-Month Mysteries: Season of the Witch

October may be the traditional season of the witch, but witches are popular in cozy mysteries all year around. Typically, the heroine finds out about her witchy powers in the first book of the series and will learn more as the series progresses. Although she may use magic to find clues, it may not be used to help her find the final clue. However, it may be used in her confrontation with the killer. Some witches may use traditional types of magic with potions, wands, and spells. Others may be specialized (such as water witchery) or unique (something related to the witch's hobby or occupation. Here are just a few of my favorite cozy mysteries featuring witches.
Nancy Warren writes three series featuring witches. They include The Vampire Knitting Club (the heroine runs a yarn shop in Oxford where vampires meet to knit), The Vampire Book Club (the heroine runs a bookstore in a small Irish town where vampires meet), and The Great Witches Baking Show (the heroine is a contestant on an English baking show). The heroine in the Vampire Book Club series is middle-aged, experienced at witchcraft, and in trouble with other witches for misusing her magic. The other two heroines fit the pattern I mentioned.
Witches and baking (or sweets) seem to be a favorite combination in cozy mysteries. Erin Johnson has written a series called Spells and Caramels about a woman from our world discovering she's a witch in another one. H. Y. Hanna writes the Bewitched by Chocolate series about a witch whose magic works on chocolate. Rosie Pease's heroine uses her baking magic to bring couples together in Cookies and Curses.
Witch powers tend to run in families, which is why the heroine may have to help other witches. For examples, see Witchy Reservations or The Undercover Witch. Witches may interact with other magical beings, as in the Magical Renaissance Faire series.

I like reading cozy mysteries with witches because they mix fantasy into an otherwise realistic genre. If you like witchy mysteries, what do you like about them? Feel free to share in the comments.


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy

Anyone who's watched any science fiction TV show or movie has probably noticed how human-like aliens are. Of course, this is because humans play the aliens. Given that the only experience we have with lifeforms comes from our planet, how realistic is it to expect creatures from other worlds to resemble what we know? According to Arik Kershenbaum, the author of The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy, even if evolution on exoplanets might not follow the same path it did here, certain traits will still be selected for.

Kershenbaum starts by examining what forms and functions might be common across worlds. In particular, he focuses on features such as movement, senses, and communication. From there, he builds to what we might consider more advanced features such as as intelligence , sociability, language, and more. He even considers whether aliens might be capable of creating artificial intelligence and whether we would think of them as "human."

Kershenbaum may not think much of science fiction, but science fiction writers might be able to get some good ideas about alien creation from this book. The Further Reading section at the end lists many other potentially helpful books. It's always good to improve your scientific knowledge when you're writing science fiction.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

IWSG: Drawing the Line


Welcome to October! I'm looking forward to cooler weather suitable for partaking of scones and tea, but we're not quite there yet. Hopefully you're enjoying your fall no matter what the weather is like in your area.

Our hosts this month are Jemima Pett, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard

Here's our question for October: In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

The line varies depending on what I'm writing. I have characters in my science fiction that swear frequently. There's not much sex in my stories, but I would include it if the story requires it. (Spoiler: a sex scene may show up in the next Season Avatars story collection--if I ever finish it.) I'm not interested in writing steamy reverse harem stories no matter how popular they are, so the sex scenes would focus more on emotions than body parts. Cozy mysteries, on the other hand, tend to be "clean." There's no swearing or sex, and even though they're about solving murders, there's relatively little violence or gore.

No matter how you feel about writing sex, violence, or controversial topics, there's bound to be a reader who wants to read what you wrote. The key is matching the topic and language to the genre so the reader knows what to expect as they start the story.

Do you avoid writing stories with sex, violence, or strong language, or are you comfortable with it? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

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