Brexit: a broader perspective (1)

May 16, 2016


I don’t usually blog that much about politics, but the referendum on 23 June 2016 on whether the UK should leave the EU is probably one of the biggest decisions voters will be asked to make in my lifetime.  Both sides in the debate have been throwing somewhat extreme and wholly contradictory claims around – when the reality is probably somewhere in between these two extremes.  So what I’m trying to do here is to look at things from a broader perspective.  If you’ve already made up your mind, this probably won’t help you.  But if you are genuinely undecided, you may find it useful.  In this first post, I’m going to look at the EU and security.

The EU and security

A lot of noise has been generated about whether being in the EU has security benefits, with the remain side saying these are significant and the leave side saying that the EU doesn’t really have much of role in security matters.  In a way, both are right.   Eurosceptics are correct to point out that, unlike NATO, the EU does have much to do with the “hard power”, military aspects of security.  But that was never really its primary aim – and this is where the remain side has an equally valid point about the EU’s impact on security.  The EU was formed after the second world war to encourage countries to trade with one another as the best way to promote economic security – and in doing so, minimise the risk of further wars.  We have not had a conflict between major European powers since the second world war.  This is of some historical significance given that, from 1550 onwards, significant parts of Europe have been at war with one another for much of the time – and the UK has often been drawn in (on at least 4 occasions in the last 200-250 years).

It could be argued that with or without the EU, there would have been no significant European post-war conflicts and Western European prosperity would have grown at a similar rate.  For example, it’s possible that the threat from the Soviet bloc would have made Western European countries feel that they had to stick together.  But there is a broad consensus amongst historians that one of the key factors which created the conditions for the Second World War was the harsh economic settlement imposed on Germany following World War One.  After 1945, there was a conscious effort to avoid repeating that mistake – in which the EU (and its predecessor bodies, the ECSC and EEC) played an important role, by providing a framework to promote economic recovery and trade.  Against that background, it seems to me rather churlish to deny the EU any credit at all for the lack of major European conflict since 1945.

But how relevant is all this in 2016?  After all, the risk of us going to war with Germany now seems pretty low.  That said, I don’t think that conflict in Europe or on its borders is inconceivable – or that the EU no longer has any useful role to play in preventing it.  For example, Russia is far more belligerent than it has been for some time – and has been pursuing a policy of hybrid warfare, where it sends in “little green men” whilst mounting a vociferous propaganda campaign to deny its involvement, as in Ukraine.  Part of the response to that has been a “hard power” beefing up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe, particularly the Baltic states.  But an equally important part of the response has been the EU’s “soft power” imposition of economic sanctions.  This is one reason why no one would be more delighted with Brexit than Vladimir Putin - because he would see it as weakening the international clout of both the UK and the EU and undermining their collective resolve on issues like sanctions.

But ultimately what this comes back to is whether the EU is and will remain a serious player economically, since that is what its role in security matters largely depends on.  I’ll be looking at that in my next post.  The key points I wanted to make here were simply that (1) there is an important link between the economy and security – and (2) to properly assess the EU’s worth, it needs to be considered in a longer term historical perspective.

 

The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect

February 26, 2016



This is an excellent “big picture” sci-fi novel, which is available for free online – but it’s not one for the faint hearted (owing to a certain amount of disturbingly graphic content – of which more later).

Caroline – along with the rest of human race – “lives” in a virtual environment where she can do almost anything.  But being something of a contrary sort, Caroline most wants what she can’t have.  She is a so-called “death jockey”, who spends much of her time arrang...

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The Curse of OCR

November 1, 2015



I’m a little hesitant about criticising books for having typos, as I’m sure that – despite my best endeavours to weed them out - my own are not entirely error-free.   So having a pop at William Boyd’s publishers over the numerous typos in the Kindle editions of some of his older novels could be seen as mild hypocrisy on my part.  Someone with higher moral scruples might conceivably agonise about this for several paragraphs – perhaps even whole pages.  But a couple of sentences is en...

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Taking Candy from the Devil

October 10, 2015



For me, this somewhat quirky novel by Robert P Kaye falls into the category of what Graham Greene used to call “an entertainment” – it doesn’t take itself too seriously, although it does touch on some satisfyingly serious issues along the way.  Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Here’s what it’s about:

Chris Bly is returning to the family home in the Washington Cascades with his tail between his legs, having tried but failed to make it big in the unforgiving world of West Coast tech...

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Falling down the cracks in the genre map

September 10, 2015


So, peer review site Authonomy is to close.  The cynic in me is inclined to say that this is just further evidence that major publishers (the site was backed by Harper Collins) aren’t particularly serious about new ways of discovering writing talent.  I gather that over the site’s 7 year lifespan, 47 manuscripts were chosen for publication.  That’s hardly earth-shattering, although it seems to be a better strike rate than a similar UK-based site, YouWriteOn, which I have reviewed here (...

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Facebook, pen names and "lack of integrity"

August 29, 2015


Like many authors, I write under a pen name.  But because it involves pretending to be someone other than I really am (in name at least), I did hesitate a little before I took the decision.  After all, in some situations, using a false identity would be regarded as a bit of weird thing to do, if not downright creepy (e.g. middle aged men pretending to be teenage girls etc).  But then I told myself to get a grip, because there’s nothing particularly weird about using a pen name – lots of a...

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Ted Chiang: sci-fi or something else?

July 12, 2015



As previously noted, this blog does not have its finger on the literary pulse of our times.  And so it is with Ted Chiang, a multiple award-winning author who I stumbled across only recently from The Economist blog.  In fact, he has been publishing stories since 1990, when I gather his first one appeared in the now sadly defunct Omni magazine.  This biographical detail made me feel a little nostalgic, because as a teenager during the eighties I was an avid consumer of Omni (pocket money permi...

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Day Gazing by Carla Herrera

May 27, 2015



I first read this collection of short stories a while ago and had been meaning to do a review of it for some time.  But in a way, I’m glad I waited because it’s meant that I ended up re-reading the collection in full – and there were a number of stories that I got more out of on the second (or even third) reading.

Anyway, the first thing to say about this collection is that, although it’s subtitled “Weird Shorts”, all the stories are written in a very accessible way – so don’t ...

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The Fifth Lectern

March 31, 2015



With the UK general election campaign underway, now seemed a good time to review "The Fifth Lectern", a self-published novel by Andy Cooke about what might have happened if the 2010 UK general election had turned out slightly differently.  The key change that the author has made is to have the surge in support for the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) occurring not in 2014-15 (as it has in real life) but back in 2010.   The background to this is recounted in a novella-length prequel to "Th...
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The Inelegant Universe

January 31, 2015



This collection of short stories by Charles Hibbard is thought-provoking, varied and beautifully written.  And if short stories aren’t really your thing – although in this case I would urge you to make an exception - the author has a number of other longer-form fictions available on Smashwords (discussed briefly below). 

But getting back to “The Inelegant Universe,” what can you expect from this collection?  Well, here are some examples to give you a flavour:

  •  “Fare ...

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About Me


Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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