Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Writer's Thinking Summer: Re-seeding the Cognitive Playground

Here is the view from the galley. I'm back on Guam and sitting in the belly of our boat. It's early on a Saturday morning and Terry and the cats are sleeping. It's rainy season and there is the nice sound of a torrential downpour on the deck so it's a fine time to be reading and thinking about stuff.

I'm between writing projects, the books of The Eye of the Stallion fantasy trilogy being finished, except for a final tweak of the last book, A Drop of Wizard's Blood. Book II, The Mirrors of Castaway Time is due to be published soon--next month, maybe. So I've been looking around for some brain candy in the form a a few good reads.

I like to think of a book as a cognitive playground (for both the reader and the writer). For me to spend precious hours between the covers of a book or a magazine, it has to offer me something to chew on, something to get cognitively involved with and excited about the way a kid might get excited about a new toy.

Sometimes, if I'm real lucky, I find it in a novel. There are few things as fine as a novel that delivers the goods on cognitive, emotional, and artistic levels. That would mean great writing style, profound wisdom dispensed subtly and maybe with equally subtle humor, and page turning excitement. A book like that is a rare fine, indeed.

It is easier to find a work of non-fiction that satisfies because you know if you are interested in the topic by just reading the title. So, the little time I have had to read this summer, I spent working my way through two of Richard Dawkins' books simultaneously: The Blind Watchmaker and The God Delusion. Dawkins is a biology professor at Oxford and is famous for beating the religious right over the head with its own ignorance and knee-jerk denial of the gifts of reason and science. By the way, rather than claiming to be a strict, radical atheist, Dawkins says he is a "Level 6" agnostic--almost absolutely certain there is no God--and that is as far as a scientist will go toward an absolute belief. Science, is, after all, all about probability.

I studied a lot of science in college and have a pretty good idea of the basics of Darwin's evolution but these two Dawkins books were, as he would put, consciousness raisers. For me, a consciousness raising experience is an epiphany of sorts, a realization that feels like a fresh breeze blowing across my mind, a feeling of profound excitement that I have just learned something new and something critically important. It makes me take a short, quick breath and makes me feel, as I mentioned above, like a child again.

So, Dawkins is brain candy as is the book I'm reading now: A View from the Center of the Universe. Lovely stuff in here, folks. The latest speculations from astrophysicists and quantum physics on what the universe is all about--its existence, size, age, contents, future, and most importantly, our place in it as human beings. No religion here, just science for the layman, and for this layman, its heady stuff. Here's an example: The universe is probably about 14 billion years old. Our planet is about 4.5 billion years old with about 6 billion years to go before it is destroyed by the death of our own sun. Human "civilization" has been around in some form for maybe 5 or 10 thousand years. This means we have just begun. We have another 6 billion years to go. When you think of the technological progress we have made in just the past 100 years, it boggles the mind to consider what might lie ahead--if we can survive. And one of the biggest threats to our survival is fundamentalist religion.

That's why it is so very critical that we get a grip on this problem with fundamentalist religiosity. Since the middle ages, religion has fought scientific progress tooth and nail. The religious authorities locked Galileo up because he supported Copernicus's findings that the earth was not the center of the universe. The Bible implies the Earth is flat and fundamentalists insist it is only 6 thousand years old. The result is, while technology moves forward, the social/cultural status of the vast majority of humanity remains in the dark ages. We continue to believe in incredibly far-fetched superstitions and mythologies that cause us to hate and murder each other relentlessly and without guilt.

Well, never mind. I'll think more about this later. The rain has let up and I need to take a long walk. And I've got boat projects this weekend. The faucets in the galley are dripping and I need to get my dive gear on and clean the bottom and the prop and check the zincs. We hope to go sailing if the weather improves.

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