I really mean it.
Completely surprised to say both 'Dead Lemons' and 'Pancake Money' have been long listed for the Ngaio Marsh Award
Congratulations to all the authors of all 10 books long listed for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. Read more here: https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/15-06-2017/making-a-killing-the-best-new-zealand-crime-novels-revealed/
Very happy to say that today my first book 'Dead Lemons' officially has it's Best Seller label charting at Number 1 on Amazon in International Mystery & Crime Books. A big thank you to all my readers.
For those who have asked about new releases I'm happy to announce that I will be publishing 2 more books this year - both due out towards the end of the year. (For those who are consequently also concerned about the workload - fear not - I have also bought a cushion for my chair). To find out more go here: http://www.finnbellbooks.com/
Today we are chatting with Finn Bell the author of The Far South Series:
Tell us something unexpected about yourself!
Turns out I’m not entirely human (I’ve had my suspicions for some time). I recently found out that I have some Neanderthal DNA in the mix – some people still do apparently. There’s no specific benefits to having them as they mostly only try to annoy you (through – in my case – funny to severe allergic reactions to almost everything everywhere) and also make you constantly crave fried chicken (has to be true – I’m sure). It’s nice to think, at least, that some 30 000 odd years ago some relative (human or otherwise) took what must have been a pretty big chance on love.
What novels affected you the most growing up?
My reading history is a whole smattering of random books over the years (and growing up is still ongoing over here) but I’d have to say the following authors hit me hard when I was younger (in no particular order): Terry Pratchett, Neal Asher, Jim Dodge, and Stephen King.
Where did the idea for your current book come from?
In my day job I’ve worked in Night Shelters, Charities, Hospitals and Prisons (and various interesting neighborhoods where I got repeat business from the same above client group). Over the years people have told me absolutely amazing things (spanning the human condition from wondrous to grotesque). After a while some of those things started following me home – writing became a way of making sense of it. Eventually that writing coalesced into my first book Dead Lemons.
Do you think there’s any way you could ever run out of ideas for books?
Unlikely, because none of them are mine and none of them are made up. It’s going to sound crazy (especially when you read my books) but thus far everything I’ve put in my stories has been done (usually to someone un-consenting) somewhere in the world. (See my answer to the previous question for context
How important is marketing and social media for you?
I’m only starting out but it’s a big part of my approach so far – Facebook, twitter and website – I have them all (inserting shameless plug: Please visit www.finnbellbooks.com ). So they will either be lauded as being behind my stellar success or pointed at as part of my abject failure. We’ll see.
What advice would you have for other writers?
Don’t really know if I have any accrued wisdom worth sharing that smarter people don’t already know. Why do I write? I write because it helps me (to at least try) to be a better person. I write what I know, about the things I’ve seen, the people I’ve met.I write because it helps me hold on to some things and helps me let go of others. This all works for me. Whether that will make for good books (that other people get something out of) I don’t know.
What are you reading now?
I’m currently re-reading ‘Fup’ by Jim Dodge. (If you haven’t yet you really should and if you have it’s probably time again.)
What’s your next step?
I’ve recently released 'Dead Lemons' and 'Pancake Money' at the same time. I’m now working on my third due for release April(ish) 2017.
Both my books (Dead Lemons and Pancake Money) touch on these concepts (or try to at least), hence their inclusion here. That line “Self-Determination and Morality Meets Crime and Punishment” can more accurately be read as “Something-that-doesn’t-exist and Something-we-can’t-define Meets Something-we-don’t-understand and Something-that-doesn’t-work.”
When I think of it, it always makes me smile and helps me take life just that little bit less seriously. Because it reminds that the human brain is clearly unsuited for the job of thinking, and it’s probably best if we build more machines to do our reasoning for us.
As oxymorons go, this one has layers.
Self-determination, or the simple notion that there’s a “conscious you” thinking and making decisions; that “you” that’s basically in charge of you, is becoming harder and harder to believe, let alone prove. To appropriately creepify this concept, try to realize that the “you” choosing to read this sentence really isn’t choosing at all. In actuality, there are various sneaky parts of you that get together to make the calls and then trick the “real conscious you” into believing that you made that decision after the fact. Simply put: You are not in control. You are not really you. (Not a safe, warm feeling, huh?)
Various branches of science ranging from neuropsychology to quantum physics are steadily disproving our sense of self, agency, and free will. If you want to read more (assuming that the rest of you will allow you to think that you had the ability and inclination to choose it) you can start with these authors: Benjamin Libet, Itzhak Fried, Marcel Brass, Simone Kuhn, Amir Javadi, Angeliki Beyko, and Vincent Walsh.
It gets even worse when we try to define what morality is.
A couple of thousand years ago, the ideas of right and wrong and good and bad were mostly underpinned by religions—basically morality translated as “God tells us what to do.” Most religions, of course, were led by old men of various cultures.
In time, religions made room for philosophy (in some places) and this changed morality from the basic “God tells us what to do” approach to the more crafty “God told us what to do but if we don’t like the answer then we can get really smart people to tell us what God actually means instead.” (Which should make you wonder what the pope is really up to these days.)
Over the past millennia, the fields of philosophy have, again, overwhelmingly been led by old men.
In the last few centuries, both religions and their attached philosophies have also had to make increasing room for the average person. Enter politics. Whether it be by democracy or socialism, people have decided that they, too, should have a say in defining what’s right and wrong and good and bad.
Finally, all this has helped develop the general operational concept of morality into the honest (but probably stupid) “We mostly tell ourselves what to do but act like we don’t really.” Plausible deniability for us from us. You will, of course, notice that most politicians and lawmakers are still old men.
Now imagine morality as it exists within a given person.
That one brain (which may or may not be entirely sane—but don’t get me started on that) will have to contend with the competing and often shifting internal and external pressures of their personal experiences and understandings of religion, philosophy, and politics, and somehow make day-to-day decisions that are still “good” and “right.” (Without actually having self-determination to do it with anyway).
Now consider crime.
Or rather, let’s complicate the sometimes conflicting forces of right and wrong and good and bad by adding legal and illegal to the mix. Now that brain has to do what it thinks/feels/senses to be “right” and “good,” but also factor in whether it’s “legal.” If this still sounds easy to you it means you have money. Enter basic economics.
Before you protest, let me change that to “have enough money” not to have to face the really hard moral choices on a daily basis.
Go to parts of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and various bits in between, and put yourself in far too many people’s shoes (if they’re rich enough to have them): Would you kill someone to feed your starving child or watch her die? How about just hurt them then? And it’s not a watershed test. It’s a lifestyle. So keep in mind that you’re likely going to have to make the same decision in a few days’ time. Still sure you’re going to find the “right,” “good,” and “legal” way forward every day? Every time?
(Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.)
And then, finally, there’s punishment.
Within the context of crime, this usually translates into some kind of consequence of hardship ranging from fines and restrictions all the way up to corporal punishment, prison, and death.
They are intended, once all the lofty rhetoric and pretentious jargon is removed, to hurt you (and scare everyone else).
The origin of the word “punish” in Latin literally means “to inflict pain upon.”
The pain is meant to impress upon you the simple message, “Don’t do that!”
The problem with pain is that it only seems to work as punishment when it is used within close relationships (like parents and kids), where punishment is balanced by reward and (hopefully) encapsulated in a loving relationship. (Even here there’s a fermenting miasma of confusing academic debate, so take the above as true at your own risk, as have I.) This loving relationship (happy thought) is a key factor in our integration of morality in the first place and also (as it turns out) helps build those bits of you that actually make the decisions the conscious you only thinks it does.
But when the human mind encounters pain from sources beyond these close relationships (like, say, random accidents and incidents, or the consequences of a legal system), it can have much more interesting results.
Enough pain won’t just change the behaviour the punishment intended. It can (and very frequently does) do a whole lot more (and by more I mean worse.)
Even a novice neuroscientist will tell you that enough pain can significantly change how the brain senses, prioritizes, stores, and uses information. Doctors, therapists, and counselors (and Secret Service interrogators) of various ilk will eagerly concur. Victims of all kinds of pain (accident, illness, war, abuse, etc.) will attest the same. Pain can change, almost entirely, your mind. The problem is, we don’t always know what to (although the balance of evidence-based research will tell you where crime and punishment is concerned, it’s going to be something bad).
Not only does that brain have to make “right,” “good,” and “legal” decisions based on the changing internalized models of the above that do not always agree, while using the free will it doesn’t really have, in balancing personal needs with external (potentially biased) laws and regulations buffeted by an uncertain socio-economic context defined by political agendas that may be far from fair (while also not necessarily being able to distinguish what it wants from what it needs, assuming of course that this outcome is contextually possible and the brain involved is also sane).
It needs to do it perfectly, forever.
Otherwise, the pain resulting from criminal punishment will likely make it even harder to get it right next time. Harder still the time after that. And so on. (Ever wonder why reformed criminals are so rare?)
So what, you may wonder, is my point?
(Difficult to say, I’m not really in control of me anyway.)
But I’d like it if my point was something along the lines of the following:
1. Don’t judge people too fast. It’s a lot harder for some than for you.
2. It’s probably time to bring back the death penalty. It’d be less cruel.
3. When are we going to stop listening to old men? They’re clearly a problem.
Here you'll find a blog about so very many things. Posts come direct and uncensored from my mostly unsupervised brain. Feel free, join in.
Today I learned (with the blank, trembling stare of a man sincerely trying not to pummel and subdue the truly lost) that there is now such a thing as 'Selfie Elbow' which - as you can probably guess - is like 'Tennis Elbow.' Or, if you've actually done real work in your life, this is when your elbow becomes stiff and painful as the tendons that join the forearm muscles to the elbow are over-used through repetitive movement.
There are people out there who have Selfie Elbow. An actual injury. From taking too many selfies. (I'm going to need some quiet time now.)
Oligarchy - 'a small group of people having control . . .' (Oxford Dictionary)
Plutocracy - 'an elite or ruling class whose power derives from their wealth' (Oxford Dictionary)
Politics. Probably the most annoying thing everywhere, forever. And what's more it's so very predictably an obviously bad idea (because no good ever comes from trying to tell other people you know better when they're already busy trying to do the same to you.)
The interesting (while still consistently annoying part) about politics is that you never hear the words oligarchy and plutocracy thrown around. No.
In modern politics we get told the world is full of democracy and communism and socialism (with a few naively honest dictatorships thrown in). Which, in concept, we all understand - they all describe (regardless of your favorite) ways in which, simply put, the many pick the few who then lead us. So far so good.
But. I say we understand them 'in concept', because I very much doubt the 'in reality' part. Whether you're reading this within a democratic or socialist (or whatever) country take a moment and consider the people running things. You're going to notice a few suspiciously common trends:
1. There's always only very few of them with real power, who actually call the shots (the rest are just there to take the blame when things go wrong and smile in the group photo). 2. Those few people are never poor or even close to it. 3. What they want and need and decide has a very big impact on the individual lives of everyone else while what everyone else wants and needs and decides has very little to no impact on them as individuals in return. (I could go on but you already get the point.)
When viewed from this perspective most of the world isn't made up of the political systems they're advertised as. What a country calls itself doesn't matter. Most of us actually live in either a plutocratic oligarchy or an oligarchic plutocracy (which, you guessed it, is exactly the same difference).
Why don't we just all say so? That's the part I don't get. Why all the be-jargon-ed rhetoric and pageantry and speechifying from our leaders? Why the pre-election angst and bemoaning of fate from everyone else? They know. We know. And we both know we both know. So?
Fascist - 'a person who is authoritarian' and 'a person who is very intolerant or domineering in a particular area' (Oxford Dictionary)
In politics fascist positions are often described as extremely right-wing and commonly include: 1. A willingness to employ violence to achieve a goal. 2. That goal almost always involves the control of the many by a select few. 3. That said 'select few' are deserving of authority based on a superior understanding of the truth / reality. (Which is why a game of charades at the Fascist Xmas party is just asking for trouble.)
Liberal - 'a person willing to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one's own' and 'open to new ideas' (Oxford Dictionary)
In politics liberal positions are often described as left-wing and commonly include: 1. A willingness to employ mass participation and collaboration to define common goals. 2. These goals almost always relate to a redistribution of wealth. 3. That all fascists are basically bastards but that the liberals are too superior to say so (and can't anyway because that would be intolerant of a different opinion).
Someone whose personal beliefs lead them to be violently opposed to other people who violently impose their beliefs on people. (Finally a position I can get behind).
does anyone else have a partner who sometimes wakes up sincerely angry at you for, and I quote: 'cheating on me in a dream I had last night' . . .