Guns, Germs, and Steel: Necessary History

Guns, Germs, and Steel: Necessary History

History in a Nutshell

Jared Diamond’s ambitious work attempts to cover tens of thousands of years of history in about 450 pages. All told, what he created was nothing short of astonishing.

Writing Style


Guns, Germs, and Steel might read like a textbook in places, but in retrospect I still took away quite a bit from my reading. Diamond’s expertise is primarily with the New Guinean people, but the breadth of knowledge displayed in the book covered every part of the globe in some way. My main criticism is that parts of the book dragged and felt labored. The information itself was usually interesting, but because he was making a scientific case, he ended up beating a dead horse in some chapters, circling around to the same topics again and again. In that way, instead of 450 pages, I would be just as happy with 300. However, I may be in the minority here.

Key Takeaways

Diamond’s main purpose in writing Guns, Germs, and Steel was to show through strong research why some societies flourish and conquer wide swaths of land while others remain hunter-gatherers in nomadic tribes. However, the science presented was sound and the arguments convincing. But, at times Diamond seemed deeply irritated with our society’s colloquial views of, for instance, why the United States has become a superpower while other countries or peoples have not. This anger pours out into his writing.

In my opinion, it was unnecessary and detracts from the point he was trying to make. However, the raw information presented is convincing, which leads me to still recommend this book to lovers of history, geography, and anthropology.

History and You

Why does this matter? Why should you even bother reading history? Well, I would argue there’s no better genre to read if you want to write better stories. Consider George R. R. Martin and his series, A Song of Ice and Fire (made into HBO’s Game of Thrones). Much of what transpires in the series is based on historical events, although with fantasy elements added in. A large part is based on the War of the Roses which took place in England between 1455 and 1487 A.D.

***SPOILER ALERT***

However, in season six of the HBO series, a very major event was based on The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in which a number of plotters attempted and failed to assassinate King James I of England. Guy Fawkes was one of those involved.

***END SPOILER ALERT***

My point here is that George R. R. Martin is widely credited with having amazing storytelling skills. He uses history, not as a crutch, but to inform his writing in a way that adds flavor and realism the reader can’t help but enjoy.

Nerd Alert

In my case, I’ve used a number of historical events to inform my writing. From Jim Crow laws to the Battle of Asculum, historical references can be found in the subtext of my books. Really, this is as much for my readers as it is for me. I enjoy reading about history and feel it adds something to my writing. Likewise, my readers often tell me they like the added subtle references, almost as if they are Easter eggs. Ahem, Nerd Alert!

Point Taken

‘Okay, okay, so I should read history, but where do I start?’

Anywhere. Guns, Germs, and Steel is a bit dry for your first outing, but it does provide a reference point for just about anything else you could think of reading in the future. Don’t want to start there? Check out my reading list to see if anything strikes your fancy.

Are you a history buff? I want to hear from you! I’m looking for recommendations for books to read, so jump onto that comment box and let me know what you’re reading!

What is Grit?–How To Make It As An Author

What is Grit?–How To Make It As An Author

What is Grit?

Angela Duckworth is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, a MacArthur “Genius” Grant winner, and the author of the bestselling book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Her research predominantly deals with the study of success. While there are a number of professors and success experts writing about this very subject, many were referenced throughout her book and few wrote so cogently about it.

Duckworth’s research came to a head when she isolated the concept of grit, which she defines as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

10,000 Hours

In Grit, Duckworth mentions the work of Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. In it, Gladwell studies a number of highly successful people from past and present and comes to the conclusion that each of them participated in dedicated practice for at least 10,000 hours in order to become an expert, world-class performer, etc. Duckworth goes one step further and says that the underlying personality trait that allowed those successful people to put in that time was grit.

Mindset

Another famous researcher Duckworth relies on in making her case is Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University. She is the author of the acclaimed and widely read Mindsetwhich is also one of my favorite books on success. Her work is some of the most cited sources in multiple fields, including psychology, sociology, business, and others.

The Fixed Mindset

The crux of her research is based around two primary mindsets that people ordinarily have. The first is called the Fixed Mindset. People with this mindset don’t believe that they are capable of change or improving a certain aspect of their lives. Of course, the easiest of these aspects to expound upon is intelligence. A person with this mindset does not believe that they can grow smarter over time. In her studies, she found that this often led to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the person who believed they could not change was ultimately right.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” – Henry Ford

The Growth Mindset

The alternative to the Fixed Mindset is called the Growth Mindset. People with the Growth Mindset believe they are capable of internal change, such as becoming more intelligence through concentrated study. But, that’s not all. Dweck’s research found that the Growth Mindset led to better learning outcomes in students. Also, she found students could be taught to have a Growth Mindset.

How does this relate to grit? Duckworth found that grit and the Growth Mindset go hand-in-hand. Which makes intuitive sense in my opinion. People who believe what they do matters in their success try harder and longer in their pursuits of long-term goals.

A Solution For Struggling Authors

If you’re a writer or novelist who is struggling, you need to ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Do I believe I am capable of becoming a better writer given enough time and practice?
  2. How much effort am I willing to put in to achieve my goals?
  3. How long am I willing to put in consistent effort in order to achieve those goals?

If you can answer these questions satisfactorily and still want to be a writer, you’re probably on the write track (pun intended).

In all likelihood, it will take years to ‘make it’ with any creative pursuit. Most ‘overnight success stories’ are anything but. Most people do put in their 10,000 dedicated hours of practice before reaching success. Consider this: if you work full-time at a job, you probably put in about 2,080 hours per year. This means you could be an expert in that job within five years (if all of your time at work is dedicated, structured practice). However, most writers don’t write full-time. Ultimately, it can take a decade or more to get to the level of writing you need to be at to achieve the kind of success you’re looking for. In my case, that success includes selling enough books to justify writing as my full-time job.

Grit

Angela Duckworth’s book was a good read which reinforced what I already knew about the study of success. I would, however, say that reading Outliers and/or Mindset would be a better use of your time in the long run. Both are highly acclaimed, with snippets and buzz words becoming part of the vernacular.

What is your definition of success? What are you doing to get there?

Chapter 1 – The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key

The Corsair Uprising #1: Chapter 1Chapter 1 Permafree

Welcome! I hope you enjoy the chapter 1 of The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key. If you enjoyed it, you can download the entire book for free on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, and a number of other websites.

 


Chapter 1

 

2144 A.D. – Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Liam Kidd stood in an alley surveying the bustling street, making sure to check the sky for surveillance drones. A bead of sweat rolled down his scarred face, which he quickly wiped with a gloved hand before it froze in the cold Toronto winter. His bright blue eyes darted between passersby as he searched for his pursuer. They wanted credits, and if he didn’t pay, he’d end up paying a different kind of price.

Takara was a corporate enforcer and sometimes assassin working for Vesta Corporation, the largest asteroid mining company and the first one to hit one trillion credits in valuation. They were an old corporation with ties to every political office on the planet. Earth needed the precious metals and minerals for manufacturing and some fat cats at Vesta had found a way to deliver them from the Asteroid Belt, holding a tight grip on the supply. Even more frightening was their mafia-like tactics that left countless people missing and presumed dead.

Agents like Takara, a former Yakuza member, practically had immunity from prosecution. The system was corrupt, but Liam had never had a problem with it. Until now. He’d done a few freelance jobs for Vesta Corporation in the past. Nothing big. A smuggling job here and a protection detail there. It was easy money. That is, until millions of Vesta Corporation’s credits went missing and he was the prime suspect.

Liam poked his head out from the alley and decided to take his chances. He pulled the brim of his winter hat low over his long blond hair and pulled his blue jacket close. A gust of wind made his thick Norse jaw quiver, his short stubble doing little to warm his face. The fibers of his clothing were engineered to keep heat in, a necessity during the winters up North, but hardly a panacea for the frigid climate. He kept close to the buildings as he walked toward a growing crowd. It was New Year’s Eve and people were already showing up for the festivities. Liam had never been a big fan of crowds, but he would make an exception, just this once.

When he was intermingled in the mass of people he chanced a backward glance. His heart raced as he searched for her face. Takara was hard to miss. She was heavily tattooed and had cybernetic implants on her arms and parts of her face, her normally graceful lines interrupted by cold, sharp alloys. He didn’t know exactly what the implants did, but he was sure it was all to make her a more efficient killing machine.

There was no sign of her. Liam let himself relax a bit. He needed to sort through this mess before he ended up dead, or worse. Liam imagined being sent to the asteroid mines. Though spider bots did most of the hard labor, they needed workers to maintain their systems and to start the refining process. He’d been on smuggling runs to the Mars Colonies in the past, but disliked the cramped quarters and extended length of the mission. Even with the latest ship upgrades it took about three weeks one way. Too long in cramped quarters for Liam Kidd.

The New Year’s celebration had a number of musical acts lined up for the afternoon leading up to the midnight countdown. Kim-Yoon, a Korean pop star, was singing live on the stage. What passed for ‘live’ was a hologram of them singing live in another location. To be fair, the holograms were so lifelike it was hard to tell the difference, apart from the occasional glitch. The same performance was being broadcast in New York, Rio, Los Angeles and everywhere else. It was almost midnight in Korea, which meant their headline act was about to perform.

The song ended and the air was filled with the screams of teenage girls. Video of cheering crowds from around the world lined the screens on the metal frame of the stage. He couldn’t stay there. Now was his chance. Liam made his way through the cheering crowd, keeping low and using the cover of the masses to shield his face. Any minute a drone could recognize him and he’d be done. Facial recognition would only take a moment.

After a few minutes he reached the edge of the crowd and decided to try to make it to his apartment on Fifth Street. It was only three blocks, but it seemed much farther in the waning light of the sun. He was going against the grain as more people began to show up. He cursed. Liam would look out of place to any trained observer, but he had to give it a shot.

He pulled the brim of his hat down and walked along the smooth grey facades of the downtown buildings. Liam only made it a block before he heard the familiar robotic chirp. It was the unmistakable sound of information being sent from a drone to a user. He looked up and saw a spherical drone hovering above him, a small jet distorting the air below it. Its smooth metallic exterior was interrupted by several camera lenses pointed in every direction. Red OLEDs flashed, making the drone appear to glow in the fading light.

Liam ran. The drone followed closely, continuing to chirp frantically as he tried to lose it down a side street. If Liam didn’t get away fast, he didn’t like his odds. He’d been on the other end before and knew that the more time that passed, the less likely he was to live.

He came out on Third Street, the drone trailing by a few feet as he weaved in and out of passing people on their way to the concert, bumping shoulders with several of them and prompting a slurry of snide remarks. The sound of heavily electronic music filled the air once more and a laser-light show began behind him, sending colored beams of light into the cloudy, darkening sky.

Liam passed a side street that was filling up with food carts for the New Year’s celebration. Alley parties were finally catching on in Toronto, though Liam never saw the point. He couldn’t remember one good experience that occurred in an alley. Yet, dozens of vendors were already set up and serving while a DJ erected his speakers. The smell of countless spices floated over to him along with the brief feeling of heat against his face. When he ran past the alley another gust of cold air hit his face and the long scar on his right cheek seemed to tighten.

He was sprinting now, clear of the bulk of the crowds and in a straightaway to his apartment. Liam was in fairly good shape, not too bulky or too skinny, athletic despite his generally poor nutrition. He thanked his genetics for that. As his speed increased the drone started to trail a bit, unable to match his pace. Still, Liam continued to turn his head every so often to make sure he was losing the robotic nuisance. After taking one final glance backward he turned his head back to his front, where he saw a flash of something metal.

Whatever hit him made him lose his balance on the snowy ground so that his feet dug in and found only ice beneath. He lost his footing and flew backward, landing hard on the sidewalk. His eyes unfocused as he stared up into the dusk, until there was nothing left but a dark grey blotch with sprinkles of white fluttering down casually. The buildings and the sky were indistinguishable to him.

“Takara,” Liam breathed, the wind knocked out of him.

“Liam Kidd. Always making trouble.”

Takara straddled him and put her laser weapon up to his head just below his cap so he could feel the freezing metal tip. He squinted, focusing his eyes on her face. He’d never seen her this close before. She might have been very pretty before all of her modifications. Her dark brown eyes now looked like the leads of a circuit, her fine black hair tied back behind heavily pierced ears. She was dressed from head to toe in form-fitting black leather, itself a testament to her moxie since most countries banned the tanning of leather in the 2070s.

Takara gripped his jacket tight and brought Liam’s face close to hers. “Where’s my money, Gaijin?”


 

 

Well, that was Chapter 1 of The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key. Hope you enjoyed it!

Please download the entire book for Free on AmazonNookKobo, or Smashwords! Please let me know what you think in the comments below! The first book is permafree, meaning it will always be free wherever digital books are sold. If you like the first book, please consider buying the other books in the series.

The Corsair Uprising #2: Nightstalkers

The Corsair Uprising #3: Death Wish

The Corsair Uprising #4: The Lost Corsair