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Reading Chuck Wendig’s ‘Invasive’

Attack of the Killer Ants, and Other Adventures in Paradise

competitive exclusion /

(n) 1. a situation in which one species competes another into extinction.

2. the inevitable elimination from a habitat of one of two different species with identical needs for resources.

While I didn’t love the book itself, despite enjoying Chuck Wendig’s writing style and Xe Sands’ narration, there were certain elements of the story I found fascinating. One prominent idea in the novel was the concept of competitive exclusion, and regardless of what was happening in the book with genetically modified killer ants, it was a concept that grabbed my attention for its implications beyond the themes of futurism and doomsday/survivalist prepping. Eliminate the characters, the ants, the hi-tech monster story and the shell game of human monsters pulling strings throughout, and you still have this concept.

We live in a world of finite resources. But we have also been poisoned to believe that finite means limited, and that in order for you to have enough, I must not. We have been indoctrinated by survival of the fittest, despite us all having the potential to be fit enough to thrive.

Read the definition again. Rethink the concept. Competitive exclusion is not what our initial assumption assumes it to be. It is “a situation in which—”

It is a situation. It is a situation in which two organisms are made to compete against one another. And much like in Wendig’s novel, it is a situation created and constantly influenced by those in power, those with wrath, those with unlimited resources all at the expense of those with no knowledge, no shelter, no protection beyond what might be scraped together during the panicked stampede of an isolated island’s population.

So while we may not be trying to escape face-eating genetically modified ants, it might be useful to look around at rush for resources we see everyday in the ‘fight for $15’, in teachers union strikes across the country, in food deserts in every community in the wealthiest nation in the world, in lawmakers threatening to take away school lunch funding to schools that fail to hit standardized test standards, in billion dollar companies run by millionaires eliminating jobs and closing factories to maximize profits, and the elected officials that earned tens of thousands of dollars voting against needs of thousands for the benefit of a few. All of this is an engineered situation that depends on anhysterical and uninformed reaction by those with little power so that the few can hoard resources and stockpile assets beyond what could be conceivably utilized.

Now that I think about it, we might have a better shot against the ants.

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Remembering Sir Walter Scott

Born August 15, 1771, Sir Walter Scott’s enjoyed widespread acclaim throughout his life. Despite his reputation declining in the late 19th century as writers turned from romanticism to realism, he was still recognized as the inventor of the genre of the modern historical novel—although many give that distinction to Jane Porter, whose work ‘The Scottish Chiefs’ about William Wallace was published in 1810, four years before Scott released ‘Waverley,’ his first novel.

Still, his Waverley novels played a significant part in rehabilitating the public perception of the Scottish Highlands and its culture, which had been formerly perceived as barbaric, and as a breeding ground of hill bandits, religious fanaticism, and Jacobite rebellions.

Sir Walter Scott may have been onto something when he wrote, “All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education” as author and conservationist, Beatrix Potter recalled that she learned to read by painfully spelling her way through the Scott novels ‘Rob Roy,’ ‘Ivanhoe,’ and ‘The Talisman.’

Given Potter’s own love of nature, she may have enjoyed Scott’s estate, Abbotsford, which, in addition to the home he built that would have cost nearly £2 million in today’s money, he also grew over time to include over 1,000 acres.

Dearborn Street Sketch

Looking for something else entirely, I went down the rabbit hole of my external hard drive, which had been a labyrinthine dumping ground of folders and files and enough potential writing and design projects to keep me busy for years if I had the time to organize it all into something manageable and accessible.

While fishing around, I came across this Photoshop sketch that I’d worked up off a photo or Google maps shot three or four years ago in a similar onslaught of nostalgia.

I’d wanted to put together maybe a dozen or so sketches like this to breakup a story I was trying to figure out. I had a short story that I was working off of and wanted to make it into something else, something longer.

I had come up with this idea after reading Edouard Levé’s novel, “Suicide”. It was his last book, as shortly after turning in the completed manuscript to his editor, Levé took his own life. The novel is interesting as it’s narrated to the main character, essentially turning the reader into the victim of the title suicide. It’s haunting and puzzling, infectious and entirely successful in calling into question what it means to exist.

I didn’t suddenly want to write every book I had in my head in this style forever now, but there are two ideas that have followed me around for several years that lend themselves to the style. Oddly enough, both deal with death, just as Levé’s work did, although in my case, one is a violent death at another’s hand, and the other is a tragic accidental one.

I wonder what about this writing style, this voice, that lends itself to tragic subject material? The ability to so easily accuse and question within the unfolding of the narrative? The way in which it immediately makes the reader a character, and can borrow their own prejudices and experiences, their fears and doubts, without needing to put those words on the page? Both ideas are a collection of photographs and written scenes, but are barely more then bones and bullet points, and a few odd fragments. I’m not sure how the stories will work out yet, or whether they will at all. For now, at least for this story, this is all I have.

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