Category Archives: Craft of Writing
I’ve watched a lot of movies in a very short span of time for my YouTube channel, and I also spent years studying creating a narrative, but one of my biggest hobbies is reading about science and technology. I’ve loved a good deal of the MCU movies and shows, so when I watched Avengers: Infinity War, I went into it expecting a good movie. What I got instead was a contrived mess, with bad character focus, and quite possibly one of the biggest disappointments in my entertainment journey to date. Besides all that, the big issue, Thanos’ goal, is so riddled with poor science and logic that I was flabbergasted by the lack of foresight and knowledge involved in the plan and the repercussions if he was successful. In this post, with spoilers, I’m going to explain why the Snap is a bad idea and would result in the extinction for the human race and several other species. Lots and lots of spoilers below for Infinity War.
What We Know About the Snap
In just the movie alone, we see half the cast of the MCU disappear, including Groot, the last of his kind. We also see that whatever people were wearing also disappeared, including the Cloak of Levitation, Spider-man’s Iron Spider suit, Black Panther kinetic absorption suit, Falcon’s flight pack, Star-lord’s blasters, and Bucky’s arm. In an end credits scene, we see a helicopter crash, car crashes, and other bits of chaos as a result of the Snap. Thanos stated several times in the movie that he was doing it to help with the issues that overpopulation causes, such as war, famine, and disease, saying that there are not enough resources to sustain the life that existed. And according to an interview with the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, half of the animal life also disappeared and the quote can be interpreted to include plant life (though some scenes of the effect of the Snap take place in a forest and we see none of that flora disappear) and other kingdoms such as fungi, protista, archaebacteria, and eubacteria.
Russ Fischer: I do need to confirm something about the outcome of Infinity War. . . . Are half the animals dead? Are half of the the horses gone? Half of the ants?
Kevin Feige: Yes! Yes. All life.
“Kevin Feige Still Won’t Tell Us All Marvel’s Future Plans”
by Russ Fischer
Population Stasis: There Is No Such Thing
Thanos tells Gamora at one point that after killing half the population of her planet when she was a little girl, the children of her planet experience nothing but blue skies and full bellies. So we can assume that children are still being born on her planet. Brushing off the inane idea that “bad” weather means plant growth, he seems to be suggesting that in the years since he hit her planet with his stupidity that the rate of population growth has remained steady at a replacement level. Uh. Okay. Let’s think about that for a sec. No species existent or extinct has ever maintained a steady population replacement rate for more than—I don’t know—two seconds. Why? When resources are low, species population rates decrease. When resources are plentiful, species population rates increase. He doesn’t say anything about population rate mandates. Nor does his description of the Snap itself include anything about maintaining population in perpetuity. So in the narrative, Thanos isn’t planning for this, and the creative minds behind the movie didn’t think of it either. Populations rates are in constant flux dependent on the requirements of mating. On a sentient level, government mandates haven’t really solved the problems of overpopulation or underpopulation. And Thanos just fucks off to a farm after the Snap, and we don’t really get a denouement to show if the Snap included anything to maintain the current population. And you don’t just have to worry about reaching a critical mass of population again. You also have to worry about the underpopulation extinction threshold. The passenger bird only mating when they were in a swarm of thousands, and once humans killed so many of them that they weren’t mating anymore, even though they still existed, they were no longer sustainable as a species. A generation or two goes by, and they’re all gone. Well, but he only killed half of all humans, right? Right?! More on that later. Let’s keep talking about population.
Overpopulation? Nature Knows Best
Overpopulation does cause extinction, but there are also natural stopgaps to prevent extinction. Things that Thanos thinks are bad. Like nature has ever been nice. Every species fights among it’s own kind and with others for resources. Ant colonies have literal wars over territory and the resources that are in that territory. Fighting over resources is part of the natural balance. It’s not pretty. But one side wins, the other loses, winner takes the resources. Both sides suffer too many loses, can’t continue fighting, resources are divided up among those who remain. Both sides lose beyond repair, a third party takes the resources. Famine and disease also result from overpopulation, and both cause death. It’s not pretty. But the number of those who need resources goes down with the high death rate, and then the resources are enough for those still around. Can these three things cause extinction? Yes. But extinction is also part of the natural order. The rat city experiment shows that every species can overpopulate itself to extinction, but species had gone extinct without outside interference before. Do sentient species have an obligation to solve the resource issue without war, famine, and disease? Yes, but killing half the population, like those three stopgaps, is only a stopgap. It just cuts out the middleman. It is basically a very brief war. Is there less suffering this way? Uh, there could be if the Snap didn’t cause incalculable secondary damage.
Secondary Deaths: Accidents, Shock, Lack of Medical Care, Dependant Starvation, and Suicides
We all remember that helicopter crash, right? You think that was the only accident? Oh, no. Planes fell out of the fucking sky. Anyone remember the first episode of Flashforward?
It’d be very similar, but not as many deaths. But still a lot of deaths in addition to those people disappeared in the Snap. The immediate chaos would last as long if not longer as it was on Flashforward, and that immediate chaos would include a lot of deaths from car accidents, flight crashes, and heart attacks and stokes. The shock and chaos would kill some people outright, especially if some of those people watched a loved one disappear right in front of them. It would be much harder to get emergency medical care in the ensuing chaos because there would be less doctors, nurses, and EMTs due to the Snap and they would be stretched thin in the aftermath. I would guess this would account for about a million deaths at least worldwide. But that’s just the beginning. In general after the Snap, medical care would just be harder to get, shortening life spans, and this may be a change that would last years.
In China a single mother was arrested and no matter how many times she told the authorities that she had a child at home they did not send someone to take care of the child. That child starved to death. Okay. Maybe this is just a horror story, but imagine if you will how many people, a great number of young children, elderly, and invalids and severely mentally handicapped, are dependent on others for food and care. You may not know anyone, but these people exist all over the world, and often they only have one or two people in their lives that have regular access to them. In the aftermath of the Snap, a lot of these people would not be accounted for until it was too late. Many of them would starve or suffer too much health damage to recover before the world was settled enough to realize they needed help. It’s very sad. But it would happen. And there are those who would lose all hope.
Suicides go up after terrorism, and make no mistake, this is terrorism (source: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1521/suli.34.4.439.53744). Seeing the love of your life, your child, your closest friend disappear before your very eyes or learning that they disappeared while you weren’t there, knowing that you would never see them again, that’s a very strong motivator for suicide. Many businesses would shut down and the stock market would plummet, and the financial desperation caused by these things would also cause some suicides. Some people just wouldn’t want to handle the chaos and would see the world as completely broken and not worth living in at that point. It’s sad, but the suicide rate would markedly increase, adding to the death toll of the Snap, though it is unclear how long the rate would stay elevated. I would predict a dip and then a slower rise as the situation got more dire. I can also actually see an increase in conflict happening; more wars, not less. Because the Snap looks like the fucking rapture just happened. Religious zealotry is likely to go up, and with it violence, and thus death as well.
Animals as Resources: Agricultural Nightmares and Animal Industries
Forgoing the absolutely idiotic idea that plants and lower lifeforms have also disappeared in the Snap, it is confirmed at least that animals were included in the Snap. Also absolutely idiotic. Why? Pigs, cows, ducks, chickens, fish, lambs, goats, turkeys, all food resources around the world. Vegetarians still eat animal by-products such as eggs and dairy and non-dairy cheeses. In places where food is scare, almost no one is a vegetarian because food is food when you’re starving, and half of these animals disappearing would cause starvation to spread. Just turn vegan? Well, first of all. No. I like almond milk as much as many lactose intolerants, but I also love a good steak. (Also, now I’m on a low FODMAP diet which means no soy or bean proteins for me.) But also this isn’t feasible as a solution. For two reasons: one, vegetative protein sources, like nuts, take far more space and water (especially) than other vegetative farming and way more than both to source people with a healthy amount of daily protein. Also, nut allergies. The other (real) reason will be listed in the next section. But animals disappearing wouldn’t just cause a problem as direct food sources.
Non-industrial farming is still a thing in this day and age. Some villages are completely dependent on their farming animals to provide labor to harvest and to plant their food. Some people still live off sheep and get help from the dogs that herd them. Some people live off of livestock for uses other than food, such show, riding, and racing horses and rodeo bulls. There is a huge pet industry. A lot of science, especially medical research, is dependent on animals for advancement. Some of this might not be pretty and you don’t have to agree with it. I hate bull fighting. But it doesn’t change the fact that many industries would suffer too greatly to recover which could mean an economic tailspin for all of the world, which feeds into starvation issues, you big freaking dumbass, Thanos.
Endangered Species: Not the Bees!
Every species has a population threshold for suitability without interference. Drop below that threshold and extinction is the most likely result. Humans have brought species back from the brink of extinction before. But not even our positive interference is enough to save some species. The passenger pigeon was an American species that no longer exists. When these birds flocked overhead, they would blot out the sky. It’s hard to imagine that now, but since they were so abundant, colonists of North America thought that just shooting up into the sky for dinner wasn’t going to be an issue. Well, guess what? It was a big issue, because the passenger pigeon needed that giant flock to survive, so it didn’t actually take much for them to drop below a sustainable population. Something else you can blame on the colonists, but especially those more industrious 19th century entrepreneurs. Once it was realized that the passenger pigeon was disappearing from our skies, it was too late for human intervention to solve the problem that human intervention had created. We still have a lot of endangered species on our planet. Most of them are not important to industry or agriculture, and even get in the way, such as large predators. Some, like the passenger pigeon, are over industrialized, like rhinos, elephants, and whales. Some are simply damaged by our way of existence, like sea turtles and many other ocean dwelling and sustained animals. The Snap would greatly increase the likelihood of these animals falling below the population threshold of sustainability. Most of the human world wouldn’t be trying to fix it, because we’d have other shit on our minds, so yeah, Thanos killed the tigers. And the leopards. And the sea turtles. And the polar bears. And the . . .
There is one animal we rely on more than any other for our own survival, one we rarely consider: bees. We’ve all heard about the bee problem by now. Colony collapse disorder is less of a problem for farmed bees as it is for wild bees. I’m not saying that bee farmers haven’t suffered. In fact, I can guarantee that some farmers went under. But the ones to suffer the most have been wild bees. There are self-pollinating and non-self-pollinating plants. Those that self-pollinate don’t need bees to go from flower to flower on different plants to create seeds. Those that need bees to create seeds are called dioecious plants and include many types of trees, like maples, yews, rubber, ash, ginkgo, holly, osage, mulberry, poplars, willow, and cedar. Some plants are polygamo-dioecious, which means that they can’t be pollinated from their own flowers as the different sexes come from different trees, so some trees don’t produce fruit and thus seeds while others of the same species produce fruit (source: http://www.whatgrowsthere.com/grow/2016/01/29/same-sex-dioecious-trees-and-shrubs/). The food that we farm that require bees include: apples, mangoes, kiwi, plums, peaches, nectarines, guava, pomegranates, pears, currants, alfalfa, okra, strawberries, onions, cashews, apricots, avocados, passion fruit, many bean varieties, green beans, cherries, celery, coffee, walnuts, cotton, flax, macadamia nuts, sunflowers, lemons, figs, fennel, limes, quince, carrots, persimmons, palms, cucumbers, hazelnut, cantaloupe, tangelos, watermelons, coconut, tangerines, Brazil nuts, beets, mustard, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, turnips, many pepper varieties, papaya, sesame, eggplant, many berry varieties, cocoa, vanilla, tomatoes, and grapes (source: https://honeylove.org/list-of-food/). So the question is: if many bee species are already endangered and the Snap takes out half of what’s left of them, which will get us first, the starvation or the lack of oxygen in our atmosphere?
The argument against this is that, oh, maybe the Snap doesn’t hit endangered species. Oh? Really? Hmm? OOOOOOH?!
I’m sorry, was someone speaking? Did they happen to forget that Groot was the last of his kind?
Are there solutions to these problems? Obviously, yes. I can imagine Tony Stark revamping his nanotech to create swarms for pollination. My question is would he realize in time or at all that he needed to do this? Since I don’t believe that the writers, the Russo brothers, or Marvel Studios has realized this is a problem, I don’t think it will pop up in the movies. My vote is that we would not have enough oxygen, and here’s why.
Deforestation through Disaster: Overfarming and Overgrowth
I can foresee some idiots thinking with the loss of animal life that they would need to increase plant farming (without knowing that it would be probably futile). The lack of bees wouldn’t stop morons from trying to farm plants that need bees. These same idiots would probably cut down more forests instead of converting pasture land, and to their credit pasture land and farm land are not always the same. Instead more forest would be destroyed to make way for probably soy and almonds, which I did not list above as needed bees, and other nut trees. Unfortunately though, almond farming requires way more water, which has already caused problems in California, so you can see how this may cause similar problems elsewhere: what wildlands are left will not get enough water, which will dry them out and increase the likelihood or fire. Adding to that, the lessened numbers of herbivores in the Snap will cause overgrowth before the water runs out, which also makes fire more likely.
The Overall Result?
De-oxygenation of our atmosphere. Say good-bye to humans and most other lifeforms on the planet. This really does show how on the edge our planet is, not from climate change, but from species imbalance. We don’t have enough bees or plants survive the catastrophic loss of either. Environmental issues are important: waste in our oceans imbalances things, deforestation through farming and fire imbalances things, and declining bee population imbalances things. There comes a point where the ecosystem health falls below a level of possible recovery, leading to complete collapse, like that episode of The Expanse. We are smart enough to see that these imbalances could mean the end for us. We have the time to fix it now, before Thanos fucks us. Speaking of the purple dickhead . . .
Oh, He’s Just Nuts
There is a very bad idea that if a villain’s plans don’t make sense that they are just insane and that excuses the lack of logic in their plans. Let me say this as clearly as I can:
NO. No. No. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
Well, why isn’t that a good answer? Besides the fact that no one else thought of this plan, did Thanos seem insane? Oh, he wasn’t a good father. True. But you don’t have to be insane to be a bad parent. He wanted to spare people pain. That’s an admirable idea. Not to the lengths he took it. He could plan and strategize too. He didn’t seem to enjoy killing all those people. The only pleasure I saw was when he tortured Thor and killed Loki. He was even sad at times. So I have to ask. What do we mean when we say someone is just crazy? Or just evil? It seems like a phantom claim to me, because there are definitions to those words. I could say that Thanos is a megalomaniac but I would call him a sociopath. But being a megalomaniac doesn’t preclude the ability to plan, to foresee consequences to actions, to understand the way ecology works. One could argue that Thanos never meant to hit all animals, just sentient ones, and that the gauntlet took it further. We don’t know that yet though. As far as we know, the Snap went off exactly as Thanos wanted. Which makes him a moron, not a crazy person. How does Thanos not know the basics of ecology? How did he make it his mission to fix overpopulation, to prevent war, famine, and disease, and not understand that those are the forces trying to fix overpopulation? How?! He got this way because he was written this way, and no creative force at Marvel Studios or behind the movie thought of these issues. That’s clear because none of our heroes breakdown exactly what’s wrong with his plan. They just call him crazy. When comic artists have pointed out better arguments:
Thanos’ goal makes a lot more sense in the comic books.
Thanos’ Comic Book Goal
Thanos didn’t really care about protecting the universe’s species from extinction in the comic books. Not in most versions. Not in the better versions. Instead, he cared about making Death, an actual physical embodiment of death in the form of a sexy lady with a sugar skull face and a grim reaper robe, happy. He was the typical “nice guy” doing things for a woman that was not into him, things that went a bit far, killing half the universe things. But Death was already in love with the one man she could never have: Deadpool. It’s weird. It’s convoluted, and since the films try to wash away the strange territories that comic books sometimes get into and also take out the pansexual and bisexual characters, especially in the MCU versions, Thanos’ original goal is not shown in Infinity War. Instead, we get this pseudo-science and stupid idea with a false consideration that it will actually work to solve the finite resources in ecosystems. Ugh.
MCU Survives About 10 More Years
So yeah, I give the narrative universe of the MCU about ten more years. After the initial secondary deaths, people will start starving, and then they’ll die because our atmosphere won’t support oxygen based life anymore. How other planets fair is up for grabs. The Guardians movies have shown us many other planets, but some of those were already devastated by Thanos. I could picture the technology they have helping them to survive if he hadn’t already destabilized them. Thanos really underestimates what mass murder does to a society’s political and economic stability. But us, here on earth? We’re fucked.
November is almost over and as such, so is NaNoWriMo, the month in which aspiring writers attempt to write an entire novel in the space of thirty days. If you haven’t heard of it, this post is not really for you, but for your edification, NaNoWriMo results are meant to be a first draft. It’s an exercise in endurance. It’s not easy. So writers who do it should feel proud of their accomplishment. That being said, the process of writing a novel is far from over after the first draft is finished and the words “The End” grace the last page. In this brief post, I’ll explain why you shouldn’t send this newly “complete” novel to an agent or publisher.
Agencies Are Overloaded
When you’re starting out in a creative career, you don’t want to get lost in a crowd. This is very easy to do any time of the year, but no such time is this easier for new writers than in December. You’ve just accomplished what seems like an impossible task, writing a novel, and you’re so proud of yourself. And you should be, writing a fifty thousand words isn’t easy. Unless you’re just writing random words, I guess. Apple. Fart. Make-up. (Only 49,997 left to go!) But regardless of having done this and it seeming rare, a lot of other people have done it too, especially by the end of November. And they, like you, are also proud, and also want to get it published. So they, like you, send query letters out in December or full manuscripts, solicited or not. Most agencies and publishers get a major influx of queries in December as a result, and because of the holidays and the cynical but often correct idea that none of the queries are worth representation or publication yet, many of those agents and publishers just say no to queries received in December. It’s just not worth their time. Not with Christmas and New Year’s around the corner, not with the number of queries they have. Don’t allow your work to get lost in this crowd. Don’t submit at what can be considered the worst time to do so.
No One Wants a First Draft
I’ve written two full length novels at this point in my career. One of which (Novel B) I’m reading right now for proofreading, to add, to cut, to change words, to see what issues it has. The other (Novel A) I did that to several times already. I’m currently looking for representation with Novel A. I would never consider doing so at this point with Novel B. It took a lot of work after the first draft of Novel A was complete for me to think that it was ready for representation. Just going through Novel B right now is showing me that there is plenty of more work to do. No one writes a perfect novel the first time. We’re talking about at least fifty thousand words and so many internal parts all needing to work together. The likelihood that it will be perfect is next to nil. I need to rewrite. You need to rewrite. Everyone needs to rewrite. And we all deserve rewrites as readers. I’m not going to put on a wrinkly shirt to go to an interview. Why would I send an unironed novel to an agent or publisher? I’m not perfect. Nobody is. That’s a fact of life. That doesn’t mean we don’t force other people to look at our imperfect work and expect them to accept it. I was an English comp teacher for a while. I expected my students to read through their brief papers for errors before handing them in. And that’s just academics. Professionally, you can be damn sure that agents and publishers have expected you to do this with a novel. They aren’t going to get upset if you have five errors in fifty thousand words, but they are going to be upset if you have five errors on every page. But it’s not just basic proofreading that needs to be done. First drafts rarely have the narrative and character polish that finished books should have. I won’t say that all finished novels are perfect. That’s simply not true. But if you’re going to call yourself a writer, you don’t just owe it to readers to try to shape everything perfectly, you owe it to yourself and the craft too. And if you’re going to call yourself a writer, just remember: writing is rewriting.
Well, Then When?
It may sound like I’m asking a lot and the reality is that I am. Holding back is difficult for a great many people and realizing that the work isn’t over can be dismaying. Rewriting is also as daunting as a first draft but it is part of the process. But how do you know when your book is ready for an agency or publisher? Well, that’s harder to answer. Sometimes there’s only so much you can do on your own. Go over the work until you can’t really see straight anymore and then ask yourself if you’re ready for outside criticism. When you are ready for someone to tell you the worst news, then you’re ready to start shopping. But when you only expect good news, you’re not ready. Yet.