Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Key Species

Noah Crankshaw needed a stiff drink. Amend that, he needed several stiff drinks. Enough to numb his brain. Enough to kill the neurons that thought up the exquisitely targeted, most effective insecticide ever concocted.
Noah Crankshaw, entomologist and chemist was a highly paid director of a large commercial laboratory that developed household and commercial extermination products. He went beyond meeting EPA environmental standards. His yearlong certification process showed the insecticide had zero effect on species that weren’t targeted. Theoretically, babies could drink it and suffer no ill effects. It did not so much as harm the proverbial hair on the proverbial head of anything but its target. After EPA review, the product was approved. Soon it was being sold to every household and every exterminator in North America.
It was stable—it did not degrade.
The company turned all production facilities over to its manufacture; the demand was so great. It was in demand in the third world and developing countries as well. And as the product was relatively inexpensive, global sales were beyond brisk.
They barely kept up with demand for the first seven months it was on the market.
But the market dried up.
No one needed it any more. All the cockroaches were dead.
Then the creatures that fed on roaches started dying off. They were starving to death.
Noah sat at the bar and looked at his unemployment benefits. They would last six months. He belted the first drink down.
That’s just about right, we’re not that far behind.
* * *
When I first wrote this bit of flash fiction, I was thinking about extinctions and that certain threatened species were potentially key species—but which ones were key species? So, to have a bit of fun, I imagined, what many consider a most loathsome animal, as a key species.
As it happens, one insect that is probably a key species to human survival, are bees. It also happens that with the introduction of neonicotinoids, bee populations are crashing. Without bees, all crops that require pollination will likewise crash. Recently in the news there were two major bee kills, one in Wilsonville, Oregon where 50,000 bumblebees were found dead in a Target parking lot after an ornamental spraying of the insecticide Safari. Oregon is looking into banning the ornamental use of neonicotinoid pesticides. But is that enough? Shortly after, an estimated 37 million bees were killed in Elmwood, Ontario, Canada from a corn crop grown from seeds treated with a neonicotinoid pesticide.
It is quite clear to me that neonicotinoid pesticides must be banned. They have been in Europe. It’s time for us to do the same. 
PS: A new study shows that neonicotinoids are just one of many pesticides/fungicides that are responsible for bee colony collapse. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Status: the 3rd book in the Richard III in the 21st-century

As many are aware, my third book has been delayed (working title: Strange Times). Although some probably have made an educated guess as to the reason, I figured I ought to provide some detail for this delay.
I’m planning on publishing digitally first, following with a print edition after about three months. The digital edition will be fully edited, but will be subject to correction depending on feedback. I don’t yet have an estimate for publication.
Even though I was over the moon when Richard III’s remains were found beneath a municipal parking lot in Leicester, UK, my third book, still a work in progress, suffered a set back. The three factors that contribute to my revising the book follow.

  1. Richard suffered from scoliosis—a condition I hadn’t considered because I had not found any contemporary evidence to support this abnormality. I intend to make Richard look more or less as he would have with the scoliosis for this book, but have no plans to revise the first two books except to write a forward acknowledging the discrepancy. It is my understanding from people I know who also have this condition, that the effects become more noticeable as the person ages, and for many, is not visible to others when the person is wearing normal street clothes. In addition, there are exercises that help alleviate pain caused by this condition.
  2. From the condition of the remains’ molars, Richard apparently ground his teeth. There was also evidence of decay. I had given him teeth that were in much better condition than they actually were. Here too, I plan on showing that he has work done on his teeth, and maybe gets an implant or two for teeth that he had pulled in his lifetime.
  3. I had tried to “not change history,” only speculating where things were unknown, such as with the fate of the princes. While I haven’t changed past history, my story does change present history. Half of the third book takes place in 2006, starting days after the end of the second book. When I had started the 3rd book, the search for Richard’s grave was in the beginning stages at most, and I didn’t have any knowledge of Philippa Langley’s research or know that she was to instigate this incredible find. Originally, I had planned on making finding Richard’s remains a significant plot point, but have decided to change it to a fictitious artifact now that that Richard’s remains have been found. 
For details on the actual research and dig, I encourage all to go to the Richard III Society channel on YouTube and watch the Leicester Grey Friars conference (9 videos).