Harmless Practice

High school is unpleasant in oh so many ways.

And perhaps the least appreciable part of the high school experience has to do with its annual mandatory ritual of animal mutilation. Every year, students are required not only to handle cadavers but to desecrate them, in an act that has become ubiquitous to the American education experience.

I am naturally referring to frog dissection.

Now there’s a smell I could do without for the rest of my life.

But despite its unpleasantness, the process of dissecting frogs and other animals potentially serves a valuable function: it gives students the opportunity to open and examine something that isn’t a human being.

Not every student is going to become a surgeon or a mortician or a forensics expert, but the ones who are will eventually need to have the knowledge and skill necessary to sunder skin and manipulate the insides of a living creature. And it is essential that first-time students perform such an act on non-human subjects because…well…nobody likes to tell a grieving parent to look on the bright side: at least their son served as excellent practice for his fellow students.

So high school students perform autopsies on already dead frogs. College students perform them on already-dead piglets. Doctoral students perform then on already-dead humans who have voluntarily donated their bodies to science. And, in the case of surgeons, they eventually move on to living subjects, gradually taking on more responsibilities within each surgery.

Or, if they’re a cosmetology student, they practice on the brave.

Run, lady. Run while you still have your dignity!

Mistakes will be made.

A Controlled Environment

The necessity of these gradual introductions to difficult skills, in an environment designed to minimize the consequences of failure, provides students with fertile testing ground. Even should they botch the assignment, such failure will not put a permanent halt to their progress. And nobody important has to be sacrificed in the process.

(Of course, there have been places and times in history where living human subjects were subjected to involuntary medical and surgical testing. The horrifying consequences of these places and times is reason enough to endorse the use of alternative test subjects, preferably of the non-human and already-dead variety.)

After many attempts, the student becomes so adept at handling tissue that they can competently perform life-saving surgeries or efficiently carry out real-world autopsies in ways that do not damage the integrity of the body. Society benefits. Everybody wins.

And these same lessons can be applied to other fields where the consequences can be just a real.

A Different Kind of Frog

Engineers frequently create less expensive “dummy” versions of whatever devices they seek to create.

The bare-bones dummy devices allow for stress testing—the purposeful breaking/ruining of a product to better understand its weaknesses.

The same goes for software engineering. Coders frequently create a kind of parallel software program within their main body of code. If their code interacts with specialized hardware, they will go so far as to create a digital emulator of that hardware to send false-yet-realistic data to the software.

And then there’s marketing.

And these may be the least ethical of all, because they use live human subjects at all education levels. They have no other choice. Marketers don’t sell products to dead frogs, or even dead people. The only data that can tell them anything is data given (or taken) from someone who is mortal enough to have wants and needs.

And this is where I run into some trouble.

The Frogs in My Closet

I lived most of my life without any need for marketing expertise. I imagine most people aren’t grateful enough to be in that same boat.

Well, I was consciously grateful for that fact. Marketing has always been a scary subject for me, not only because I believed I could not do it, but because I feared what I would become if I ever did become competent at it.

I had hoped that, once I became an author, I could depend on others to perform that service for me. The worst that could happen is that I would be on the side of the devils, rather than being one myself.

But it was not to be. As the slow-to-adapt publishing industry attempts to brave the slings and arrows of modernization, the marketing burden has been placed more and more upon authors. And for a self-published author, self-marketing becomes paramount.

This has led me to—let us say—experimentation in a number of new and mind-expanding ways.

But I am smart enough to start this experimentation on the equivalent of frog cadavers. The training wheels are firmly in place.

That said, I have a healthy appetite for risk.

Things I’m Doing at the Moment

I find talking about my own books to be rather difficult.

It’s not that I have nothing to talk about. Advent 9 is a revolutionary story told in a revolutionary way. Publishing veterans have admitted this to me, and I know the book’s qualities inside and out.

Still, it is difficult for me to talk about this book at length, due to a natural shyness and other psychological blocks, as well as the painful awareness that speaking at length about a project you are personally involved with can easily sour the idea in the mind of the listener.

However, there are things I can talk at length about. There are subjects in this world I can praise night and day, and I can do it in a way that feels natural, is inviting, and speaks to the shared experience of everyone who lends an ear.

These are my frogs, and the one that is safest to experiment with is the idea of reading, as a pastime.

I can sell anyone on the idea of reading. The subject has so many facets that are praiseworthy and present a genuine solution to the problems of whoever I’m talking to. The concept of reading is a fantastic product to sell, and I can do so shamelessly, hour upon hour.

And the more I do it, the more my tongue is loosed, and I am able to speak with the marketing of angels.

And nobody important has to die!

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