Oil. Metals. Horror. Fantasy. Part 1

When I put these four words in the description spot below my Twitter handle, I did it in an attempt to be both honest and succinct. This is what I do: I write about oil (and gas, and everything energy) and metals, and I write fantasy and horror. I thought put together they might look weird or ridiculous, but I took the risk. I wanted to be honest, I always try to be. But here’s the thing: there is so much in common between energy and mining, on the one hand, and horror and fantasy, on the other, I realized I never really had a choice in the genres I write in, even if I allowed the eccentric thought one could actually choose a genre to write in to enter my mind.

The horror part should be easy enough to see. There is truly a lot of horror in oil and in mining and I’m not just talking about huge disasters like the Deepwater Horizon explosion or the Samarco dam burst. I’m not even talking about pipeline leaks and toxic chemicals used in gold mining.

These are big-deal news that everyone who reads or watches news has heard about. They suck but they happen and will continue to happen because, as one energy industry vet told me, there are always people involved and people can be dumb and there are so many things that can go wrong at any given point. Scary, right? So many. Just because one person has been dumb at a certain moment in time. It really takes just one person and one dumb decision. if this is not horror, I don’t know what is.

But, like I said, it’s not just the leaks and the spills, and the disasters. Did you know, for example, that most Saudis are so unaccustomed to work they are having a kind of an existential crisis now that the oil money’s tight? They have no habit of working, and I’m talking about two generations of people. Think for a second before you tell yourself “Lucky bastards.”

Work is essential for self-actualization, that striving to be the best version of yourself or at least a better version, in your own eyes and mind. If you do work you love, you feel fulfilled, you feel happy, and you know–vaguely or exactly–what more you would want to achieve in your field. If you hate it, you know exactly what you do not want to do with your life and this–hopefully–spurs you into a direction that you do want to go into.

Now imagine you don’t have to work. You don’t have to do anything, really, so you stop feeling any desire to spend your energy on something that you enjoy because you’ve never had the chance to find out what you might enjoy, besides tending to the needs of your body. Did you imagine it? It’s a nightmare and the people who live it don’t even know it’s a nightmare. Oil did it. Human stupidity did it.

Of course, here’s the other extreme: the Niger Delta and those so impoverished, so desperate, they cut into pipelines to steal the crude, process it in makeshift refineries and sell the fuel. In the Niger Delta and elsewhere, people stripped of all prospects of a normal life grow angry and become militants, sometimes ready to kill. Oil did that, too. And human stupidity. Natural resources plus stupidity is by far the most dangerous combination in human history.

And what about the roughnecks that get from one day to the next on meth and downers? These stories do not make huge headlines like the Deepwater Horizon or the Iraq War. Yet these are the real stories of real people who have to keep going otherwise they’ll be out of a job and they need a job like the rest of us. Some may even like it. But the only way to keep going is by taking drugs. Like Hollywood stars, if you like, only without the glamour.

You know, I wanted to make this blog post funny, to joke about the horrors of the industries that none of us can live without. I failed miserably, of course. It’s impossible to make true horror funny. Just read “Snuff” and you’ll see. Anyway, I’ve just decided to make this a two-part post, so the fantasy bit will come next week. Hopefully, it will be more entertaining. Sorry about this. Really.

Just one final note: when I said none of us can live without oil (and gas, and metals, and all this) I meant it literally. We can’t, those of us in the so-called modern societies. We’re past the stage where we could “go back to nature”, that is, to pre-Industrial Revolution times. Way past it. And it’s not oil’s fault this time. It’s all on us, dumb humans. Dumb and brilliant, if you think about it.


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