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Yesterday I discussed the statement that the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant was a “profoundly man-made disaster”.  Today I want to discuss the possibility that disasters can be both man-made and natural.

“What is a man-made natural disaster?” I hear you ask.  (I have very good hearing – at least when imagination is involved).

A natural disaster is a disaster caused by nature.  The obvious examples are floods, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and natural fire.  A man-made disaster is caused by man.  It stands to reason then that a man-made natural disaster must be caused by man messing with nature.

I’m thinking a terraforming project gone wrong – we try to colonise another planet by messing with its nature, but disaster strikes when the process goes awry.  It’s the classic disaster movie, re-done for sci-fi.

What man-made natural disasters, natural man-made disasters, or nature-made man disasters (wait, is that even a thing?) can you think of?

Today I was reading the BBC website (you may have noticed I do that a lot), and I came across this article.  The first sentence is

The crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant was “a profoundly man-made disaster”, a Japanese parliamentary panel has said in a report.

Uh… yeah.  Nuclear plants don’t grow on trees.  They were made by humans, so any disaster involving them is man-made, right?

It got me thinking.  One of the major pieces of advice given to writers is to cut out all of the useless words.  But how useless do words have to be before they should be cut?

To me, a statement that a nuclear disaster is man-made is a bit pointless.  Others might see it differently (and, when you read the article, they don’t really mean the disaster itself, but the human reactions and responses which made it worse than it could have been).

On the other hand, I think everyone can agree that “he thought to himself” is a little redundant.  Unless the book has telepathy, I suppose.

So where do you draw the line in your own writing?  Does it depend on the style of book or the target audience?  Can you give an example of a sentence which you thought was fine but others thought was pointless?  Or, more interestingly, the other way around?

The Author

Nicola Higgins is a 30-something martial artist who runs two Brownie packs and works full time. She somehow still finds time to write.

Her favourite genres are near-future and alternate world science fiction and fantasy.

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