Sweet are the uses of adversity which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his blog.

Okay, well, hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again—the last Thursday of January already, which means that 2021 is almost a twelfth of the way over—and therefore it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.  For those who find such regularities in the world comforting, I’m only too happy to provide one such for you.

I’m back at work physically now, as well as just actively, and I can tell you, even though I’m past the acute phase of Covid, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.  I’m still pretty beat up just from the after-effects of the virus, getting tired in the middle of the day when I don’t normally have that problem, finding it hard to concentrate, and so on.  And I’m pretty durable with respect to illnesses in general, having been exposed to many of them professionally, and weathering most of them nicely.  I really feel badly for people who have chronic health difficulties who then get this illness, and I’m glad that vaccines are being distributed and used.

One good thing that came of my convalescence was that, as I started to feel a bit better and the weekend came around, I decided to take another look to try to find an old picture I’d drawn of the Vagabond, and which captured his essence very nicely.  I think I’ve mentioned here previously that I hoped to use that picture as the basis for the eventual cover of the novel.  Well, I went through all my email and social media accounts to find any occasion on which I’d uploaded or attached that drawing, but I had no luck, even on my old MySpace page.  So, I decided to dig methodically through some material my sister had sent me from when she was moving out of, and cleaning up, our parents’ former house.

Well, I didn’t find the drawing anywhere in there, unfortunately, and I didn’t really expect to find it.  But I did find two editions of the Acorn, which was a xeroxed compilation of writings that had won gold medals in what our school system called the Pop Olympics.  In the earlier one, there was an excerpt of a story I wrote in either ninth or tenth grade.  I knew all about that one, and I’ve never felt any urge to recreate the story.  It was just a cheesy little thing without much depth.  But then I found a copy of the Acorn from my junior year, and I discovered that it included the full text of my short story House Guest, which I’ve mentioned here before as being the story that won me the National Council of Teachers of English award in high school!

That was a story I’ve definitely wanted to recreate if I can, and of which I had previously only had the first page or two remaining.  Now, mirabile dictu, I have the whole thing again!  It will need sprucing up, of course; I was only 16 or 17 when I wrote it, and though it won an award (two awards, I guess), it’s still not as good as I would want it to be if I were writing it now.  Nevertheless, now I can include it in my eventual collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, as a “new” story, which is good, because I don’t think I’m going to be able to fit Outlaw’s Mind into that collection.  It’s just going to be too long and will probably need to be released as a stand-alone short novel.

I also found the handwritten beginning of a short story I might have mentioned before, called In the Shade.  It’s a pretty grim horror story—grim in the sense that it involves a supernatural force that, to begin the tale, has sort of bitten off the fingers of a nine-year-old boy.  I may try to finish that story and put it in the collection, since it was almost done when I stopped writing it initially, and it’s not bad.  It just feels particularly harsh because the first victim of the story is a kid.  I worried that maybe I was being a bit too brutal.  Still, the kid turns out…well, I won’t say “all right”, but he does survive the story.  The same can’t be said about everyone in it.

We’ll see.

Of course, being back in the office as I am, I’m back to work on editing/rewriting/laying out of The Vagabond, of which I’m on the penultimate run-through.  It’s going well, and I look forward to its publication, but I might be forced just to try to recreate my old picture for the cover.  Then, I think, once The Vagabond is done and I’ve finished Outlaw’s Mind and Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, I’m going to flip back over to broader fantasy/sci-fi rather than writing more horror.  Of course, nearly all of my writing ends of having dark/horror-esque aspects, since that just seems to be the way my mind works.  But something a bit more light-hearted and adventurish might be a welcome break.  Perhaps I’ll work on Dark Fairy and the Desperado or Changeling in a Shadow World after I’m through with these*, assuming nothing kills me first.

Of course, I always have lots of short story ideas jotted down, some of which have already come to fruition, and others of which might follow.  It would be nice, in the fullness of time, to recreate Ends of the Maelstrom**, the first novel I ever wrote, and some aspects of which underlie many of the cosmologies in others of my story universes, including The Chasm and the Collision.

So, there are many tales to tell still, and there probably always will be.  Sometimes that feels like a wondrous opportunity; at other times it feels like a broad, forbidding wilderness with an endlessly receding horizon.  Mostly, both aspects are true at once, and I guess that tension can be a useful thing.

TTFN

Book in the grass


*I think I’ll put off Neko/Neneko for the time being.  I’m no longer in contact with the artist I wanted to do the cover for it, anyway, and that was the strongest impetus for me to write that as my next project.

**I actually found a few printed-out pages which included about the first chapter of that story as I had typed it into a word processor…on old, perforated, continuous-feed printer paper, of all things!  So at least I have a starting point, and of course, I know how the story goes.

Cleanse the stuffed blog of that perilous stuff which weighs upon its heart

Okay.  Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and thus to another blog post.  It’s Thursday the 14th, which feels like it ought to be some inverted, retroactive, complex-time-based lucky or unlucky day, but as far as I know, no one takes it as such.  Of course, there’s no reason to think that the arbitrary dating system we humans use should have any effect on any given day’s intrinsic “luck”, but it can be fun to think about and play with such notions.  Now, at an individual level, there are indeed lucky and unlucky days, but these designations are applied after the fact, since luck is just a description of specific outcomes of events governed by probability and statistics.

I’m going to try to keep this relatively brief, today, which is unlikely to break anyone’s heart.  There’s not much going on in my personal life (though the world, as always, continues to produce new and exciting brands of chaos).  I haven’t even done an Iterations of Zero post this week, though there are plenty of older posts to read if you’re so inclined.  I continue to struggle to work regular IoZ entries into my schedule, even though my lack of “a life” would seem to imply that there would be ample space (or, rather, time) to do so.  There are, however, simply too many empty distractions, and the ever-present problem of “will” or “drive” to accomplish things.  Contrary to what may be popular belief, willpower is very much a neurological function (interacting with other bodily states), and it is subject both to exercise and to fatigue.  It is certainly not constant, any more than physical vigor is.

That being said, my will to work on The Vagabond has seen no significant faltering.  The editing process goes well; the book is subtly improving with each run-through, which is gratifying, at least for me.  It continues to be a good horror story, in my biased estimation, and I’m pleased with my past self for having written it.  I can’t go back and give him a pat on the back directly, but I can at least thank his memory, though most other things associated with that memory trigger sadness and regret.  I suppose that’s the nature of recollections of things past, whether they are triggered by the smell of madeleines or by editing a horror novel*.

As I’ve said before on more than one occasion, my mental health doesn’t tend to be very good, specifically with respect to dysthymia and depression, when I’m not writing new fiction, but I also know that I am too prone to diversion if I interrupt one writing project—such as editing The Vagabond—with another.  That was one factor that led the original writing of The Vagabond to take so long, and also ensured that I rarely completed any long projects prior to the period when I was an invited guest of the Florida DOC.  If I allow myself to be distracted by a new creative writing idea, I will continue to be distracted, and enterprises of great pith and moment will with this respect their courses run awry and lose the name of action.

Not that I never completed anything in the past; quite the contrary.  I wrote a longish fantasy/sci-fi novel** in high school called Ends of the Maelstrom, the cosmology of which lurks still in the background of many of my other universes, though that original novel is long since lost in time like Roy Baty’s tears in the rain.  One day, perhaps (it’s a very big perhaps) I might rewrite it.  But I’m not getting my hopes up.

I also wrote at least one complete screenplay in high school (a lot of it done in idle time at my after-school job at GM, where I usually finished my official work rather quickly).  It was a deliberately cheap horror movie, which I intended to produce, with my friends playing the parts.  Some of them were good actors.  Unfortunately, the technology available to me then made it unworkable, though if I had modern video technology, I probably could have pulled it off.  It’s just as well that I didn’t, I suspect, since even one of my best friends, who was to play a major part in the movie, said that the story was unworthy of the title (Night Vision).

Well, I said I’d keep things short this week, so that’s enough recherche du temps perdu for now.  Hopefully I’ll be able to work in an IoZ entry this week, on some random, walk-in science or other.  In the meantime, I’ll wish you all the best I can realistically wish you.  Try not to let the chaos get you down, and especially, try not to let the absurd, tragi-comic antics of many of your fellow humans make you demonize and revile them or consider them inherently your enemies or beyond redemption.

That’s my job.

TTFN

Picture1


*I’ve never read any Proust.  Most of what I know of his work is from other people’s descriptions, first and foremost from the Monty Python “All-England Summarize Proust Competition”.

**It was all hand-written on very narrow-ruled notebook paper, with many digressions into the margins throughout, and was over five hundred pages long.  It would have been much longer than The Vagabond, and if I were to rewrite it now, I’m sure that I would make it longer still, because there were interesting ideas that could have been explored further than I did at the time.

For here, I hope, begins our lasting blog.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, the first Thursday of an already rather tumultuous 2021, and thus—“Sound drums and trumpets!  Farewell sour annoy!”—it’s time for my weekly blog post.  We thus continue the regular pattern from yesteryear.  Hopefully, some other patterns will be less persistent.

At the beginning of last year, I posted (on Facebook, I think) that I hoped that 2020 would be “the year of seeing clearly,” since it sounded like the usual pronunciation of the (American at least) description of normal vision.  Alas, as is often the case when I attempt to be optimistic, I was disappointed.  I’m also likely to be disappointed in my less serious wish that the year following 2021 should be 2223, but at least that’s just silliness, while the former was a legitimate hope.  Maybe I should stick with silliness.

I’ve been doing my best to continue with my usual processes over the course of the dismal holiday season, and thus I can happily report that The Vagabond has now entered its penultimate editorial run-through, and I’ve even begun formatting it for eventual publication.

I think horror aficionados will appreciate it, as will even some who may not be true horror fans, but who enjoy fantastic adventures interposed into seemingly ordinary reality.  Based on my own experience of popular fiction in one form or another, I suspect that a great many people do enjoy such stories.  It’s just kind of fun to think about the usual, mundane* rules of ordinary life being suspended or infringed upon by epic, paranormal events.

Yesterday I posted a new “audio blog” on Iterations of Zero.  It’s a meandering soliloquy about, among other things, the biological source of the human tendency not to appreciate what we have but only to bemoan its loss or impairment.  I did an audio blog because I had trouble writing another post using my smartphone, partly because of the continuing musculotendinous pain in my left hand and forearm.  Also, I just felt too glum to summon the will to do it.  It can be hard to find the motivation to put one’s words out into the aether.  If a voice cries out in the wilderness and no one hears it**, did it really say anything?

I gave myself the freedom not to edit out background sounds and whatnot too much for that post, to make it easier and more likely that I really would upload the recording—which I did, so I guess that worked.  I don’t know whether the audio has so many such artifacts as to be irritating, but at least I put it out there.  If anyone listens and has comments, feel free to leave them in the appropriate section on IoZ or here.

I continue to have trouble getting interested in new fiction (new to me, anyway) of any kind, whether movie, TV show, book, or even comic or manga.  This distresses me greatly, because fiction, especially novels and short stories, but also movies and TV shows, has always been one of my greatest joys.  That’s one of the main reasons I write fiction.  I bought a new tablet, of decent size, so that I could read manga and some of my old favorite comic books from my youth on it.  That pursuit ran out of steam after about one and a half days.

I still do enjoy some nonfiction—science, particularly—but I’m running out of new material that interests me even there.  I’ve read so many of the science books that interest me, and I’ve watched most of the hundreds of YouTube videos on science-based channels that I like, such as PBS Spacetime, Sixty Symbols, Numberphile, Veritasium, and so on.  I even have (in the office at work, where I’m given a fair amount of leeway, which is nice) a collection of harder science books, like Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, Thorne el al’s Gravitation, Sean Carrol’s Spacetime and Geometry, and Hawking and Gibbons’ Euclidean Quantum Gravity, but it’s hard to be surreptitious when perusing a big-ass textbook during moments of downtime, and let’s face it, those books require some real attention.  I’m interested in the last one because I was quite taken with Stephen Hawking’s notion of complex time as eliminating the singularity problem of black holes and the Big Bang, making the nature of such boundaries no more unreasonable than the fact that one can’t go further north than the north pole while on the surface of the Earth***.  But this material is…well, it’s complex, obviously, and to understand it deeply would take some real concentration.

That’s what I seem to have trouble with, perhaps.  Real enjoyment, I think, requires concentration, and that requires the will and discipline to concentrate.  I’m not the sort of person who can come and go while a movie is playing, for instance, and I get irritated when other people do it.  But it’s getting harder and harder to be interested in anything enough even to care to watch or listen to or read it, and I certainly have no one with whom I’m able to share or interested in sharing any of these experiences…not anyone who wants to share them with me, anyway.  (Can you blame them?)

Sorry, I don’t know why I got off on that tangent so much, but it is bothering me tremendously, and it makes everything else in the world seem progressively, increasingly gray, muddy, and faintly noxious.  Maybe I’m hoping that someone reading this will recognize the issue and know of some hitherto unimagined solution.  But I don’t think that will happen.  As with Moriarty and Holmes, I suspect that everything people might have to say has already gone through my mind and has been found insufficient.

I could be wrong, though.  I’d be quite satisfied to be wrong on this matter.  I don’t mind being proven wrong, myself, because what I really want it to become more right as time goes by, if that’s possible.  Maybe that goal simply isn’t conducive to satisfaction and enjoyment; I don’t know.  But if ignorance is necessary for bliss, then I guess I’d rather be uncomfortable.

Anyway, that’s enough of that.  Welcome to the new year.  I’d like to be optimistic about it, but at least if I’m not, I will only tend to be pleasantly surprised.  Stay well, and stay reasonably safe, and do your best to stay (or become) sane.

TTFN

eye testing


*Of course, they’re only mundane because we’ve become inured to their familiarity.  If you stop and read (or watch or listen to) some works on cosmology and physics or on natural history, biology, ecology, or similar things, you will encounter forces interacting at scales both vast and minute with character that the greatest mythologizers of the past could never have imagined—or would never have had the audacity to share.

**Not even the chair.

***I even used some highly bastardized related notions in Son of Man to describe the workings of the “Assembly Chamber”.

I’ll have my blogs ta’en out and buttered, and give them to a dog for a New Year’s gift

date yearHello, good morning, and welcome to the last day of 2020 A.D. (or C.E. if you prefer).  It happens to be a Thursday, and so of course it’s a day for this, my weekly blog post.

I don’t think anyone is going to be heartbroken to see the end of 2020; at least the majority of people in the world will probably not be sad to wave it goodbye.  I’m sure that there are many individuals who have had good years overall—there are people who have fallen in love, have gotten married, had children, received hard-earned degrees, gotten good new jobs, started exciting careers, and so on.  There are, no doubt, some lottery winners out there, as well.  But even they cannot have been utterly shielded from the vicissitudes of a year that has included political chaos of higher-than-usual degree in the United States, in the UK, in the rest of Europe, and to some degree in China as well, to say nothing of the more numerous, smaller economies of the world that have likely suffered more than the larger ones in the face of the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.  It’s been a tough, and weird, year for a lot of people and, as I said, many will be happy to see it go.

Of course, there’s nothing magical about January 1st, 2021.  The annual January restart is a purely human marking point, rather arbitrarily chosen.  The laws of physics—and of biology in general and virology in particular—know nothing of human dating systems.  But the psychological impact on humans can nevertheless have value, and may actually, truly, cause changes in human civilization, and hopefully those changes will be at least slightly for the better*.  Optimism is not my strong point, but I’m hopeful that the world will move in a net positive direction this year through the phase space of civilizational states.

As for me, I continue to move forward in my little, local fashion.  Specifically, my editing of The Vagabond is going well and at a good pace.  I’m near the end of another run-though already, with only a few more to go after that.  I’m very eager to see The Vagabond finished and published—it’s been more than thirty years since I first started writing it.  Then, of course, I hope to finish Outlaw’s Mind and get it ready to include (I hope) in my collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities.  I’m eager to get back to new fiction; my mental health seems to deteriorate when I’m not writing new stories.  Stephen King has famously said that he finds writing to be the greatest therapy he’s ever known, and though I can’t say for certain that it’s the very greatest therapy for me—my personal history with such things has been complicated—it does seem to help.

As far as other creative matters go, I think I mentioned that I was having some trouble with my left hand and forearm due to apparent overuse in working on learning the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia among other songs.  Well, it’s not fully recovered, but it seems to be getting stronger, and I haven’t been able to avoid practicing every day despite the pain.  In fact, my housemate, who built two of my guitars, just two days ago changed the strings and reconditioned the fretboard on the Les Paul copy he’d made for me.  I’ve already said that it is the most beautiful sounding instrument (of any kind) that I’ve ever had the privilege to play.  Well, I tried it out last night, and its sound is even more lovely than it was before.  I think I described it as “entrancing” to him.  When suffering from my usual insomnia last night, I couldn’t help but get up and play it a little more in the dark.  It was quite a nice way to pass the time, but it’s probably best that I not overdo things too much with respect to my left hand and arm.

Given the newly enhanced guitar, I think I’m soon going to record and then share on YouTube (and here) my own piddling little versions of Julia and of Blackbird, both of which songs are comprised of finger-picked guitar and solo voice.  This makes them comparatively simple to perform, though not simple to get sounding good.  And, of course, when you’ve just got the one guitar playing, if you screw up, it’s pretty obvious.  But it’s a good challenge, and I’m reasonably pleased with myself to have come as far as I have in the short time I’ve been playing.  I’m also working on learning/getting better at playing the Radiohead song Street Spirit (Fade Out), which is a darkly beautiful song over arpeggiated chords.  I’m also having fun with the simple guitar part for their song Talk Show Host, which sounds great even though it’s simple, as well as Polyethylene, Parts 1 and 2.  The latter was one of the bonus tracks on their rerelease of OK Computer, subtitled OK/Not OK, to note the inclusion of several such songs that had not been included in the original album.

But all that’s just hobby stuff, really, even the writing and producing of my own original songs.  I love playing and singing music, but writing is my true calling, if there is such a thing.  As evidence of that fact, I am writing this here, today, as I do every week.

And with that, I’ll draw this last blog post of a tumultuous year to a close, and wish all of you a very happy, and especially a healthy, New Year.  Hopefully, we can all do our parts in this vast, spontaneously self-organizing system that is human civilization to make things head in an ever-positive direction, keeping and strengthening what’s good and improving what’s not so good.

TTFN

fireworks


*There are always those who sardonically say that things could not get much worse, but of course, this is never really true.  As Calvin (the comic strip character, not the religious philosopher) noted, life is almost never so bad that it cannot, in principle, get worse.  But we can hope at the very least for regression to the mean.  Unless that’s what’s already happening.

All my books and stories are available and would make excellent Christmas gifts for book lovers!

Hello and good morning.  It’s not Thursday today, of course, but I just thought of something that I wish I had thought of and posted yesterday instead of the rather rambling and negative post that I did create.

Although it’s probably too late for Hanukkah*, it should not be too late, if you have avid readers on your list of Christmas gift recipients, to order them a copy of one of my books, if you think they would be interested.  I have six titles available in paperback through Amazon, which I’ll summarize here:

Welcome to Paradox City IconWelcome to Paradox City:  A collection of three dark “short”** stories, one of which is a light-hearted near-comedy and the other two of which are darker.  The first, The Death Sentence, is about a man who finds a previously unnoticed room in his public library, and in it discovers a bizarre but intriguing book containing illustrations and writing in languages he doesn’t know…but which also contains one particular line that can be at least pronounced, as it is written in Latin characters.  He only slowly discovers the secret of that sentence…and of the rest of the book itself.  The second story, If the Spirit Moves You, is about a man who suddenly discovers that he can see ghosts—or “the unquiet dead” as they prefer to be called—and that he may well be the only one who can, and who can help them make contact with the modern world.  The third story, Paradox City, involves a man who enters a popular but rather peculiar nightclub, which bears the name of the story’s title.  Though the entertainment is good, and the service is excellent, and he meets and falls for a charming young woman who is equally taken with him, this is a club in which peculiar, impossible, sometimes paradoxical, and ultimately horrifying things can happen…and if you make the wrong decision, you might get stuck there forever.

Mark Red Cover

Mark Red:  Mark Reed, the title character (obviously), is a teenager who spots an attempted mugging and rape.  He tries to intercede to help the woman, but her assailant stabs him, giving him a mortal wound.  However, it turns out that the mugger’s target was a vampire, who deliberately put herself in the situation to prey on the criminal.  She makes short work of her assailant, but then has only one way to save Mark, which she feels compelled to do because he got hurt trying to help her.  She gives him some of her blood to replace what he’s lost, turning him into a demi-vampire—with a combination of the aspects of humans and vampires, the nature of which state he learns over time.  The vampire, Morgan, determines to stay with and protect Mark from his own urges for blood until such time as she can find out how to cure him, for as she explains, contrary to popular folklore, a full vampire can never die at all, even if they wish to.  And if Mark ever kills a human by drinking their blood, he will become a full, uncurable vampire, cursed with immortality.

41lnfutijalSon of Man:  David McCarthy, a college student in Chicago, is going to the university library one morning when, without transition, he finds himself in a featureless cylindrical room.  The wall of the room opens, and two men—Anderson and Greer—eventually explain to him that he is now more than two hundred years in the future.  They tell him that only a few decades after the time from which he was taken, an apparent global thermonuclear war, now call the Conflagration, destroyed civilization and most of the people, but that the human race was saved by a “man” now known simply as The Father, who united humanity, willing or not, under his control and guidance, and rebuilt civilization, with his astonishingly advanced technology and inexplicable genius.  He also initiated the “domestication” of the human race, killing any person who initiates violence against others, and sterilizing their first-degree relatives.  Though grateful for the Father’s rescue of civilization, the two men, their friend Michael, and some others think that he has gone too far, and they enlist David to help them either convince the Father to abdicate or to find a way to remove him…choosing David for reasons that he at first cannot believe.  The Father has an enemy within his own mind—a mind that now spans the entire world—and that enemy wants to help them overthrow the Father.  He alters David in an inexplicable way and assist the group in their quest to achieve their goals.  But his motives are not certain, and he also reveals to them some secrets of the Father’s past and nature that horrify them, especially David.

CatC cover paperbackThe Chasm and the Collision:  Alex Hinton and his friend Simon come home from middle-school one day and find that Alex’s mother has, apparently, left a newly purchased and unrecognized—but delightful-smelling—bunch of berries in the fruit bowl in the house.  Alex tries the fruit and discovers that it tastes even better than it smells, and he shares it with Simon and with a girl name Meghan, on whom Alex has a crush.  Soon, Alex and the other two begin seeing and hearing seemingly impossible and sometimes terrifying things, which no one else perceives, and they begin developing new, amazing abilities.  They also find a strange apparent “space warp” in the wall of the dining room of Alex’s house.  Eventually, they are accosted, captured, and brought back to what turns out to be a piece of another world—Osmeer—which is the counterpart to Earth, but in a universe that lies adjacent to ours in higher-dimensional space.  They learn that some process has set the universes on a collision course, and that if they collide, the impact will wipe out everything in both universes in a new Big Bang.  A great genius of Osmeer has created what is called The Chasm—a way of taking part of Osmeer out of its world and positioning it between the two universes to hold them apart, at least temporarily.  Within the Chasm, that part of Osmeer has permanently sunset-colored skies, and time flows there roughly thirty times faster than in the original universes.  The pre-teens learn that in the other universe, not only are there intelligent “dinosaur dogs” called tixuns with advanced sense of smell, who work with humans, but also intelligent, furry “mole-weasel” creatures called orcterlolets, that can tunnel and build by manipulating the fabric of space itself.  Most amazingly, they learn that all the plants of that world are conscious, and can communicate with each other telepathically, as well as with gifted humans and tixuns called Gardeners.  The man who created the Chasm has also helped breed and create a special tree, called Wynestrith, whose purpose is to save both universes by returning them to their proper places.  Alex, Meghan, and Simon have unwittingly become embroiled in that quest, and they learn that there is a cult, and a Prophet, and a much darker and more terrible Other, an Ill Will, that wants the collision to happen, and that only the three friends, working with Wynestrith, will be able to prevent the collision, and the destruction of two universes.  But they will have to survive to do so, and also—hopefully—they will be able to succeed without their parents and teachers finding out they were ever gone.***

Unanimity Book 1 simple Cover ProjectUnanimity Book 2 simple Cover ProjectUnanimity Book 1 and Unanimity Book 2:  Charley Banks is a pleasant young university student, majoring in English, with a long-term girlfriend he loves very much, nice parents, and a positive outlook on life.  He takes part in a seemingly harmless neuroscience experiment, testing a new form of external magnetic cortical stimulator, innovated by one of the school’s professors.  After the test, though, in the follow-up MRI, he has a severe grand mal seizure.  When he wakes up in the hospital, he discovers, to his amazement and delight, that when he touches other people, if he focuses on the curious sensation that now happens at the point of contact, he can merge with their minds, taking over their nervous systems, replacing their consciousness with his own, but with access to all they know and are.  At first the union only lasts while he’s touching them, but soon this ability grows, and he is able to maintain his presence in others even after separating.  He then becomes able to control more than one person at a time, and then becomes able to extend himself further using bodies he already controls, all while still controlling his normal, original body.  He keeps this gift secret even from his girlfriend (at first), and as the power grows, he decides to use it to correct some perceived and real injustices done to people he cares about.  But his methods are extreme and horrifying, and it becomes clear over time that his mind has been altered in other ways than simply giving him his new abilities.  This becomes still more dangerous when he discovers the astonishing effects of having a person die while he’s controlling them.  His power, and his willingness to use it, seems to grow without obvious limit, and even after a few other people, including his girlfriend, learn of his ability, and of his altered character, its unclear what, if anything, can be done to prevent Charley from someday encompassing the entire human race.

All of these titles are also available in Kindle format, including Son of Man, for which I somehow failed to link the paperback and the Kindle versions.

I also have several “short” stories that are only available in Kindle format for now, though I plan to collect them into a paperback edition along with a new novella soon.  Most of them are available through Kindle Unlimited if you’re a member, and anyway, they’re less than a buck apiece if you buy them.  I won’t go into too much detail; instead, I’ll copy the blurb from each listing on Amazon.  My short stories tend to be rather dark, and most of them would count as horror (not “Ifowonco” or Penal Colony, though).  They include:

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords”:  Peter Lunsford, a lonely, book-loving, self-educated and self-destructive salesman, has an abrupt and radical change of fortune.  His subsequent actions lead a genius named Darrell White, enabled and inspired by Peter’s choices, to create the world’s first artificial intelligence.  Unfortunately, this happens at a time when humanity has devastated itself with global war and is unprepared to accept the existence of these new and superior minds.  These facts will combine to create a future that Peter would not have had the courage to expect, and the implications of which are impossible to foresee.

Prometheus and Chiron:  Tommy—a former Marine, a part-time construction worker, dependent on opiates for the treatment of chronic pain—is waiting for the train home one evening, when he sees a strange, shivering, ill-appearing woman seated on a bench across the track from him.  Her presence fills him with dread and revulsion, for no reason he can understand.  Even after a month passes, she remains seated in the same place, always visibly suffering.  No one else at the station ever seems to see her at all.  But Tommy sees her, and even dreams about her.  And she sees him.

Hole for a Heart:  While driving through central Pennsylvania on a road trip from New Jersey to Chicago, Jonathan Lama spies a peculiar pairing on top of an approaching hill:  A huge pecan tree, next to which lurks an out-of-place scarecrow.  Intrigued, and craving a break in his long drive, he pulls off the highway and goes into the nearby gas station.  There, he hears the story of a man named Joshua Caesar, a person of possibly supernatural evil, who terrorized the region almost seventy years before, and was finally brought to rough justice by his neighbors in retaliation for his crimes.  Local legend holds that the figure of the scarecrow is Joshua Caesar’s body—not changing, not decaying, staked out next to the highway for nearly seventy years.  Jon is entertained but of course does not believe the tale.  Then his car suddenly refuses to start, and while he waits for a tow-truck to arrive, stranger things begin to happen…things which lead him to doubt his sanity, and to wonder if, just maybe, the legends of Joshua Caesar’s unchanging scarecrow corpse are actually real.

Solitaire:  (This is my oldest—and darkest—published short story.  It’s not for the faint of heart.)  It’s the early nineteen-nineties, and Jerry, a successful advertising executive, is having a breakdown.  He’s done too much shading of the truth, and he’s watched too much Headline News, and he can no longer make sense of the world.  Now, sitting at the breakfast table, he contemplates the possible future for himself and his family while dealing out a hand of solitaire…

Penal Colony:  While heading for his car after a night out celebrating the closing of a big deal at work, Paul Taylor meets a strange, despondent man, poorly dressed for the cold, who seems horribly depressed by some personal setback.  Still slightly drunk on both alcohol and success, Paul invites the man for a cup of coffee and some food at a nearby all-night diner.  There, this peculiar man tells Paul of a conspiracy begun by the creators of various social and virtual media companies…and of technology that allowed these conspirators to control the minds of the people of the world for their own personal enrichment.  He tells of the overthrow of that conspiracy by a group of which he had been part…a group which had then turned on and “exiled” him.  Though the man’s story is engaging, and the man himself is personally convincing, Paul is forced to admit that he has heard of no such conspiracy or overthrow.  The man finally explains to Paul why he hasn’t heard of it.  It’s an answer that Paul cannot believe…until the man proves it.

Free Range Meat:  Would you try to help a dog locked inside a car on a hot, sunny day?  Brian certainly would.  As an environmentally conscious “near-vegan,” he loves all the creatures of the world—even humans, most of the time—and he does his best to help them whenever he can.  So, when he hears the obvious sound of a dog trapped in a black SUV on the hottest day of the year, he commits himself to helping it get out if its owner doesn’t arrive within a few minutes.  But isn’t that an unusually dark SUV?  Even the windows are so tinted that Brian can’t see inside.  And don’t those barks and whimpers sound just a little…off?  What breed of dog makes sounds like that?  These are troubling questions, and as Brian will learn, sometimes even the noblest of intentions can lead one to places one might do better to avoid.

That’s everything (so far).  None of it is, perhaps, traditional Christmas fare, though CatC is a fantasy/sci-fi adventure whose heroes are middle-schoolers, so its arguably a holiday-worthy story.  But a book, like a puppy****, is not just for Christmas.  Most people can’t read one of my books in one day, in any case.  And to a book lover, there is rarely any better gift that can be given than a new book.

(I would advertise my songs here as well, but they definitely aren’t holiday-type ditties.)

Happy Holidays!


*Except for Kindle books, of course.

**I use scare quotes because though not truly novellas, they are quite long for short stories, especially Paradox City, which gives the book its title.

***This is my most “family-friendly” book.

****Which is also very good cold on Boxing Day.

For they blog truth, that blog their words in pain

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday again, and so—as required by the dark ritual, which is designed to summon the Great Old Ones and bring about the end of mankind’s dominion over the realm that rightly belongs to Cthulhu*—it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

I can’t say that there’s much new happening around here in the past week.  As you know, last week was Thanksgiving in the US, so I wrote an early blog post that was nonetheless released on the appropriate day, thanks to the wonders of computer technology.  It was not a terribly exciting holiday for me.  I just loafed around in my room, played some video golf, went to 7-11 for some snacks and lunch, and loafed around some more.  I don’t remember specifically giving thanks, but I suppose there must have been some general thankfulness there somewhere, as I expressed in last week’s post.  I can at least honestly say that no turkeys were harmed in the making of my Thanksgiving celebrations.

The Vagabond is still proceeding well.  I’m within 20 pages of the end of the latest run-through, and it’s getting a bit better each time, which is good, since that’s the whole point.  It’s soooooo** much faster to get through than Unanimity was.  Not that I don’t love Unanimity.  I do love it, very much, and I’m quite proud of it.  I like the characters in it a lot, which is not unusual; I almost always like my characters, even the bad guys.  But it is a long book, and editing it was laborious.

It occurred to me yesterday, though—and with a bit of irony, since they’re bit players at most—that in Unanimity, I particularly like Charley’s parents.  They seem like people you’d like to know in real life.  They’re not my favorite characters in the story; I’m not sure quite who my favorite would be.  Possibly Michael; he’s the one with the most attributes of my own personality, though he has them in a much more pleasant form than they occur in my real self.  But Charley’s parents are fun people.

In unrelated news, not even tangential to what I’ve been discussing so far, but which I can’t help but think about:  I’ve been developing some inflammation/strain in the proximal portion of my left forearm, near the origin of some of the hand flexor muscles and tendons.  I know why it’s happening.  I’ve been working on the guitar part for the Beatles song Julia (it’s actually the only instrumental part of the song) and that involves fingerpicking a long series of changing chords, many of which are barre chords.  I’ve practiced to the point where my hand no longer wants to cramp before the end of the song, and I’ve duly impressed myself (which isn’t too hard) but apparently the repetitive strain continues to take its toll.  I’d better finish learning the song and record myself doing it so I can feel that it’s finished and move on, since NSAIDs don’t seem to be helping much.  Do any of you know whether there would be benefit in using a spandex elbow-forearm “brace”?  My medical background suggests that it might be useful, but not with a high degree of confidence.

As far as the infectious disease front goes, I remain Covid-free***, though not everyone in my office is so lucky.  This makes an already slow time of year a bit slower, which in some way makes my job easier, and in other ways makes it harder, and overall makes it gloomier.  This was particularly trying yesterday, when we had a surprising cold snap for south Florida.  I’m sure that people up north would not be impressed, but the temperature dropped by almost thirty degrees in twenty-four hours, and it usually doesn’t get that chilly, even in passing, until January or February.

Oh well.  Subtropical world problems, I suppose.  You may find it funny, and you’re welcome to enjoy the schadenfreude.  It’s already warming back up, in any case, and at least the rainy season is more or less over, as is hurricane season.

That’s about all I have for now, though I’m sure I could find tangents down which to become lost if I chose to let it happen.  But I’ll spare you that indulgence and keep things short this week.  I hope you all continue to have the best possible days and weeks and months and years and other intervals of time that you can possibly have.  At the very least, try to stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*Though, to be honest, in my view—and I imagine that Cthulhu would agree—if one of the Elder Gods can’t just claim the realm on his own, he frankly doesn’t deserve to have it.

**That should be read with a long “o” sound, not with an “oooh” sound like a ghost.  In case you didn’t know.

***Which seems like it could be an excellent bogus marketing claim to put on product packages to lure in thoughtlessly health conscious people, as when one sees “gluten free” on products that of course are gluten free…like plain corn chips or plain potato chips.  I half expect to see motor oil advertised as gluten free and GMO free.  Which it is.

My conscience hath a thousand several blogs, and every blog brings in a several tale

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another of my weekly blog posts.  It is not Thursday morning as I write this, but it will be Thursday (or later) when you read it.  I’m writing it a day early, to be published on the usual day, since this Thursday is a major holiday where I live.

Given that, I would like to wish Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the US who are reading this, and to everyone else, a happy day in general.  It can feel as though there’s much not to be thankful for right now, but I’m sure that, in the modern world, we still have many reasons to feel fortunate—certainly those of us with the luxury of reading and writing blogs.

Positivity isn’t my strong point, as my regular readers may know, but it is worth remembering that we take for granted a tremendous number of incredible advances that our forebears even a generation past could not have imagined.  If you go back a century, to the time of the 1918-ish flu pandemic, it’s sobering to realize that they didn’t have antibiotics to treat the numerous bacterial infections that often complicate influenza, let alone ventilators, oxygen monitors, corticosteroids, or molecular biology to be able to discern the nature of the disease-causing agent.  Indeed, DNA itself was decades away from being described, so the tools for understanding and treating a highly contagious and dangerous viral illness were far weaker than they are today.  Vaccinations had been invented, but they were in crude form, and the science of understanding, let alone designing them, was in its infancy.

And the internet, of course, or anything like it, was not even a dream of science fiction yet.

So, if we work at it—and I say again, it’s not my strong point—we can find things about which to feel truly thankful.

On to other, lighter matters.  I did a rather unusual experiment recently, one about which I have mixed feelings.  I’d be thankful (!) for any feedback you might think appropriate.  As those of use who use Amazon know, when you’ve purchased something, Amazon often sends an email asking if you’d be willing to rate and review what you bought.  I think this is a useful service, but it can become onerous at times, so I don’t review nearly everything I purchase, even books that I read and enjoy.

I received a request to rate a jacket I’d just purchased.  It was the same brand I’d bought a few years ago, and my old one was getting a bit raggedy with use, so I ordered a new one (in a different color—black, of course).  I decided that I really should give a review, since I’d used the product and liked it enough to buy it again.

Well, as you may also know, once you’ve reviewed one item, the Amazon page asks you if you want to rate and review other items you’ve purchased—you know, while you’re in the mood and all.  And at the top of the list was my own creation, Unanimity Book 1, for which I’d already received more than one request for reviews.  I bought copies of the book for the people at my office I thought might enjoy it, and then another one for someone who asked me later for a copy, so the review requests were recurrent, as tends to happen with all of my books.

I’ve occasionally been tempted to write a comical, self-serving review that makes it obvious that I’m the author to anyone reading, but I’ve never done it before.  It was my understanding that Amazon doesn’t allow people who have a fiduciary interest in a product to provide reviews for it.  I respect that policy, as I understood it.  But they kept asking, and asking, and asking…and I’m not made of stone (except perhaps for my heart).  Finally, on a whim, I wrote a brief review, starting off by revealing that I am the author of the book, and I rated it five stars.  This is not, of course, an unbiased rating, but it is at least an honest one, in that I really do think it’s worthy of that rank to me, not least because of the effort involved in writing it and the characters, whom I like very much.  I wasn’t really expecting the review to go up.  I figured Amazon’s automatic checkers or whatever they might be would block it and send me a kind but firm email stating that they can’t publish reviews from people involved financially in a product.  Well, only Amazon itself is more financially involved in my books than I am.  But at least so far, the review is there, which is amusing to me, at least, but I do feel the need to repeat my disclaimers about it and the rating.

To be honest, if I’d thought it was really going to work, the book I’d feel least conflicted about reviewing would be The Chasm and the Collision, which is certainly my most wholesome, family-friendly story, written specifically with my children in mind at the time*.  I’m quite proud of the world-building I did in it, which includes telepathic plants, mole-weasel creatures called orcterlolets who can directly manipulate the local shape of space itself, flying manta-ray like monstrosities called gowstrin, a bit of bastardized M-theory describing universes floating next to each other in “the bulk” and in danger of colliding, and three middle-schoolers who inadvertently get caught up in the emergency attempt to prevent that collision, which would destroy everything in our universe as well as the one of Osmeer.  And, of course, as I say in the jacket blurb, our heroes must try to help prevent this cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for being late for school.

Yeah, I don’t feel any qualms about recommending that book to pretty much anyone.  My sister has read it more than once, and the last time she did, she actually thanked me for writing it.  That was pretty huge.

The Vagabond, of course, being a horror story, is far from as family-friendly as CatC, but it is coming along nicely, and it is fast-paced, and a far more in-your-face horror story than, say, Unanimity.  The horror in the latter is complicated, partly psychological, partly existential, involving the threat of the complete loss of free will, autonomy, self-awareness, etc., without anyone even knowing of the threat, let alone being able to do anything about it.  At least with a traditional, moustache-twirling, evil incarnate type villain, you know what you’re up against and can make a stand.  When the villain is one of the people you love most in the world, who doesn’t even think that he’s doing anything bad, and about the threat from whom you know only because he told happily you, things are a little dicier**.  At least, I think so.

But The Vagabond will probably be more straightforward fun for most people, and it is certainly shorter.  Still, if you read only one of my books, I would recommend The Chasm and the Collision, without knowing more about your preferences and tastes and whatnots.

With that, I think I’ll draw this prematurely written blog post to a close.  I do, honestly, hope that all of you who are in the US have as good a Thanksgiving as possible, while doing everything you can to keep yourselves and those you love safe and healthy.  Hopefully, you can console yourself by imagining the November blow-out that will come once we have this latest virus*** under better control.  “So tighten your belts, and think with hope of the tables of Elrond’s house!”

TTFN

Thanksgiving (2)


*I don’t think either of them has read it, or any of my other books, though each book is dedicated to them.  They don’t want to have much to do with me since the time I was invited to be a guest of the State of Florida for three years…in fact, my son won’t interact with me at all, though my daughter does stay in contact, and shares news of her various adventures.

**I think that’s a neologism.  Certainly, MSWord doesn’t recognize it.

***And our various politicians and the political processes itself.

And thus the native blog of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought

Hello and good morning.  Welcome to another Thursday, and—as I always point out, rather unnecessarily—to another edition of my weekly blog.

For those of you living in countries that celebrate some equivalent or descendant of Armistice Day (in the US, it’s Veteran’s Day), I hope you had a pleasant yesterday, enjoying a holiday that was originally intended to commemorate the final resolution of World War I and a return to relative peace.  Though I have great respect for all those who have fought to protect freedom, as is sometimes ruefully necessary, and I certainly think they deserve to be treated far better than they are—at least in the US—it’s good that we celebrate the fact that these brave ones, at least, the living veterans, were able to come out of the other end of their wars alive and somewhat intact.

The weather in south Florida has continued to be abysmal, what with the recent, slow-moving tropical storm.  Unfortunately, even without such cyclonic phenomena, south Florida can be so damp and rainy that it’s almost unbearable.  I’m also suffering from the clock change that happened just a bit more than a week ago, which brings aggressively forward the months of seemingly endless night, with the sun setting yet another hour earlier in the already nocturnally dominated Fall and Winter.  I don’t look forward to the latter part of December, as I’m prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Of course, those who know me might well wonder in what way my seasonally affected affect effect is in any way different from my usual personality.  It’s a valid question, and I can only reply that it makes my underlying dysthymic and depressive tendencies more difficult to ignore and resist.  I try.  But often I fail.

Anyway, enough of that for the moment.  Work on The Vagabond continues and is productive.  I think it’s already a better book than it was before, stylistically.  I haven’t changed the story at all, and I don’t intend to alter it in any noticeable way.  This is not to say that it’s a perfect story; I’m not even sure what would constitute such a thing.  Still, I think it’s a good supernatural horror novel.  It has action, suspense, danger, a good number of scary parts, a bit of romance, and some fun characters, including a truly malevolent villain.  This is all, of course, my own judgment, and I am inescapably biased, but I still think I’m correct.  I hope you’ll all take a chance and decide for yourselves, when the time comes.  I think it is something to which you can honestly look forward, if horror novels are your cup of tea.

I’m still running up against internal and external metaphorical walls with respect to making content for Iterations of Zero.  I’m not giving up on it, but it’s frustrating, because I don’t want to take time away from fiction to do it.  Writing fiction is something I do by simply starting every day with the work—though currently that’s editing, not primary writing—as soon as I get to the office.  Coming up with a story idea is fairly easy.  I accomplish the rest by committing to write at least a page every day, when I’m not editing, and then go from there.  Almost inevitably, once I get started, I end up writing quite a lot more, and usually it’s time itself that calls a halt to the work.

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish,” as Sam Gamgee’s old Gaffer always said; the converse is that, once you begin a job, it can sometimes be hard to stop.  There appears to be a kind of metaphorical inertia, which is why it’s such a good thing simply to set the schedule and commit to writing whether one happens to “feel like it” or not.  When I think of what I could have accomplished if I had taken that approach when I wrote The Vagabond, I sometimes want to weep.  That novel is only about 160,000 words long, but it took me more than ten years to finish it*.  In comparison, I completed two longer novels and a short story that was almost a novella** over the course of just under three years by working every day during the hour or so after the lights came on at FSP West.  While I don’t recommend that location and environment to anyone, it still just goes to show what you can do by saying to yourself, “To hell with inspiration, just work.”  Trust me, FSP was (and still is, I presume) not a place of inspiration, though tragically, it is sometimes a place of forced expiration.  (It could also, during “lockdowns”, sometimes be a place of barely contained urination, when we were forced to stay on our cots face-down for hours on end at times.)

On that pleasant note, I think I’ll call it good for today.  As usual, I wrote more than I thought I would—again, all it took was forcing myself to get started, and just to do it, and then matters moved forward almost on their own.

I hope you all have a good week, and month, and year, and so on.  Please stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

Do it


*To be fair to myself, I was doing other things—college, post-bacc courses, teaching, medical school, residency, etc.—during that time.  Nevertheless, I could have written so much more had I just committed to doing it.  A big part of my problem was procrastination born of neurotic perfectionism, in which the perfect becomes the arch-enemy of the good, or even of the “good enough”, in a way that is far more horrible than any fictional villain ever could be.  I’m sure many of you can relate.

By way of advice, with respect to this, all I can say is that the best thing you can do is to give up completely on the idea of “perfection”, or even “greatness”.  The terms aren’t even well defined; you’ll always be able to poke holes in yourself and your work, no matter how much effort you put into it.  I feel confident that no work of fiction or nonfiction has ever been perfect.  Some have been and are considered “great”, but that judgment is reserved for their posterity, and as far as I know, it is never universally agreed upon.  Just do it, as Nike and Palpatine counsel, trying to keep improving incrementally as you go along.  Practice will tend to make you better—that’s just how nervous systems seem to work—though it will never make you “perfect”.  If you just keep growing a tiny bit all the time, and keep doing what you’re doing, before you even realize it, you can become and accomplish amazing things.

You will never be “perfect”, but in many ways that’s a blessing.  After all, if there is no highest point to reach, there’s nothing to stop you from continuing to climb higher and higher without limit.  Surely that’s preferable to perfection.  It’s certainly more interesting.

**Mark Red, The Chasm and the Collision, and Paradox City.

For a blog of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Good morning, all.  It’s Thursday again, as so often seems to happen right after Wednesday, and so—whether you would wish it or not—it’s time for another edition of my weekly blog post.

Before I say anything else, I want to let you know that I have finally written a new post for Iterations of Zero, which I titled “Some Universes Even Go Both Ways”.  It’s a slightly fanciful, broad, and quite non-rigorous “thought experiment” about whether there’s any reason the Big Bang (specifically involving inflationary cosmology in my ponderings, though that’s not a requirement for the point I made) wouldn’t happen in both directions in time.  If you like that kind of thing, please feel free to read it.  It was fun to write, though I don’t know how well that predicts how much fun it will be to read.

I’m currently enjoying a book called The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) by Katie Mack*, and just this morning, while reading along, I learned that there’s a relatively new version of the “ekpyrotic universe” proposal that has some things in common with the ideas from my blog post, including universes that face toward or away from each other in time.  Mack doesn’t go into much detail about the hypothesis, but it comes from real, serious, working physicists, so it’s sure to be much more well-thought-out than my little indulgence.  Such coincidences do, at least, make one feel moderately clever, since serious people are exploring ideas that are not entirely unlike something one thought of on one’s own.  Don’t go looking for me on the short list for the Nobel Prize in Physics anytime soon, though**.

Of course, I’ve dealt with other fairly high-level physics concepts in a couple of my novels, including The Chasm and the Collision—which imports crude concepts from M Theory—and Son of Man in which I introduce the idea of using particles that travel through complex time as a way of precisely scanning events that happened in the past without upsetting those particles (I first encountered the notion of complex time in A Brief History of Time, which is still a great book, even if some of its speculations have been ruled out).  I also threw in a bit of repulsive gravity, engineered through the creation of a highly uniform quantum field to create negative pressure (I used it to make floating buses, of all things) in Son of Man.  But of course, these ideas are just plot devices for me, and neither book could honestly be considered “hard” science fiction.  Still, neither one involves anything technically supernatural, even though I call CatC a fantasy adventure story.

The Vagabond, on the other hand, does involve the supernatural, it being a supernatural horror story, and the process of editing it is going along pretty well, especially now that I’m done with my latest “bad cover”.  I’m almost finished with my second run-through of the book; I’ve continued to need to tweak things to adjust for contradictions in the flow of the original story as written.  These mostly deal with times and days of the week, which I evidently didn’t give much attention when I was writing the novel (probably because I wrote it over such a long and intermittent period of time, myself).  I certainly didn’t give them the attention I should have.  It’s still a fun story, though, and I’m smoothing out the rough edges as I go along.

Speaking of the “supernatural”, as in contrast to science fiction, I may have said before that I think all so-called supernatural notions in any story’s universe must, in fact, entail a kind of science.  If what we call the supernatural actually exists in some fictional universe, then it is a part of that universe’s nature, and so is not supernatural at all.  It must follow rules and have consistent, non-contradictory characteristics.  If magic followed no rules, then no character would ever be able to use it.  I’d love to be able to talk to Albus Dumbledore about “magic theory” in the Harry Potter universe, since I’m quite sure that he understands as much of it as anyone does.  I’ve always felt a bit disappointed that there weren’t any magic-theory classes at Hogwarts.  Maybe even NEWT students just aren’t ready for it, and they only begin such studies in university.

Are there universities of magic in the Harry Potter universe, as there are regular schools of magic such as Hogwarts?  I imagine there would have to be.  I guess only J. K. Rowling knows for sure…or perhaps even she knows not.  We certainly never read about anyone’s post-graduation education in the books; no one talks about having advanced degrees in Potions or the like.  Maybe I’m asking too much from what were, after all, meant to be kids’ books***.

Anyway, with that rather incoherent bunch of random thoughts, I think I’m nearly done.  Halloween is coming up this Saturday, but it’s going to be a disappointing one, I fear, despite the full moon.  I haven’t written any new stories for the holiday, but I think Prometheus and Chiron, Free Range Meat, and especially Hole for a Heart would make appropriate short stories for your Samhain celebrations, as would the stories in Welcome to Paradox City.  Of course, Unanimity Book 1 and Book 2 are appropriate reading for Halloween at some level, though it’s not really a typical Halloweeny horror story.  Maybe Mark Red, being about a vampire and a demi-vampire, would fit the holiday better.

For me, though, there’s too much real horror—though it’s more depressing than frightening—at the political, cultural, epidemiological, and intellectual level to be able to enjoy celebrating imaginary ghosts and goblins much.  Also, there’s just no one with whom I could really celebrate it.  Maybe I’ll watch a horror movie to take my mind off the much greater, and yet drearier, horror that is reality, from the human to the cosmic to the quantum scale.

Unfortunately, I’m trying to avoid candy.  Sigh.

Well, that’s okay.  I hope any and all of you who are going to be celebrating enjoy yourselves to fullest extent allowed by human and physical law.  At least it’ll be a good day for wearing masks.  Please stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

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*This was probably the trigger for the thoughts that led me to write the blog post.

**Or for Literature, frankly, which is arguably my central area of focus.  And my ideas relating to Peace, unfortunately, tend to involve the severe reduction of the number of humans in the world, occasionally flirting with a target of zero.  Given the state of human affairs—especially politics—I don’t feel too bad about entertaining such thoughts.  I have a notion that a curve describing the average IQ of the human race might steadily rise as the population lowers, until, just below zero, it reaches some maximum, or perhaps even shoots toward a limit of infinity.  But then, of course, we hit a singularity at zero.  Actually, well before that, the curve becomes nonsensical, since you can’t have fractions of people (as far as I can tell).

***I don’t think I am, nor do I think Rowling would disagree with me—kids can handle far more than “adults” think they can, and often more than “adults” themselves can handle, since they tend not yet to have stifled their creative imaginations.  I suspect that magic theory and university-level education for witches and wizards just didn’t really have anything to do with the story Rowling was telling, so she never brought them up.

I blog of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing but vain fantasy

Good morning and hello everyone.  I hope you’re all doing well.  It’s Thursday, as you know, and so it’s time for another weekly edition of my blog.  This being the second Thursday of the month, it would have been an edition of “My Heroes Have Always Been Villains,” had I been able to keep that feature going*.

Work has continued on The Vagabond quite nicely; I finished the first run-through early this week, which served to familiarize me once again with my book that I wrote so long ago.  It sometimes feels like a very long time ago, and I guess it was…between twenty and thirty years, or more than half my life.  Weirdly, though—since it has been quite a while, and in some ways, it seems like ages—when reading it, I have to admit that it also seems quite fresh and recent.  I feel very much just the same person as I was when I wrote the novel, which is almost ridiculous considering how many things have happened to me since then**.  I suppose this is just one of the peculiarities of human consciousness…or at least of my own consciousness, which may or may not be considered human, depending upon whom you ask.

I think I wrote last time about how a woman in my office asked about my books for her son.  Well, as promised, I got the boy a copy of The Chasm and the Collision, and I got a copy of Unanimity Book 1 for her (definitely not for him).  She told me a few days ago that her son had been reading CatC and enjoying it and had reached chapter 4 already.  Because of that, I decided I’d read that chapter myself again, just to know exactly where he was.  It’s okay for me to skip ahead; I already know what happened.

Well, I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed it, and on and off I’ve been reading further***.  As I’ve said before, it’s my most family-friendly book, having been written about three middle-school students, and being therefore written for middle school students, as well as for “children of all ages” as they say.  That’s not to say it’s a childish or light-hearted book; there are some rather scary and dark portions, and it’s not short, except when compared to Unanimity.  It’s nominally a fantasy adventure, and without dark and dangerous forces, such stories don’t work at all.  My sister, who is older than I am and reads even more, says it’s her favorite of my books, and that the main character, Alex, is her favorite of my characters.  I might have mentioned that last week.  Apologies for redundancy.

I say it’s “nominally” a fantasy adventure because it could be more literally described as a science fiction story.  There’s nothing “magical” in it, and even the “travel to other worlds” aspect uses concepts that I cobbled from M Theory, as I understand it from my layperson’s perspective, drawn from the popular works of Brian Greene, Lisa Randall, Stephen Hawking, and the like.  Don’t worry, I don’t get much into that—I don’t know enough of it to do so even if I wanted to—but it does give me an arguably plausible way to bring in other universes and the spaces between them, and the possibility that the Big Bang was caused by two “branes” colliding with each other…and that such a collision might happen again.  (The word “brane” never appears in the story, however.)

Anyway, don’t worry about all that.  It’s a highly speculative science fiction story that really has the character of a youth fantasy adventure.  It even contains some environmentalist ideas, though they are by no means in your face.  I know, right?  A book by me, displaying any kind of conscience?  What’s the world coming to?  But again, you don’t have to worry about all that.  It’s a fantasy adventure about three middle-school students who get caught up in an inter-universal crisis and must do their best to help avert cosmic catastrophe while not getting in trouble for missing school.  I’m proud of it, and I can pretty much recommend it to anyone without reservation.  It doesn’t contain even a single instance of profanity!  I do encourage you to read it if you like that sort of thing.

Speaking of that, I would like humbly to request that, for those of you who have read my stories and books, could you perhaps take a moment to go to Amazon and rate and/or review them?  I considered doing it myself, as a kind of joke—making it clear that I was the author writing the review—but that seemed just too cheesy, and I don’t think Amazon lets authors do that, anyway.  I’m fairly sure they block reviews from people who have a financial interest in a book, which seems impressively and surprisingly ethical of them.  I can’t help but approve.

Finally, I’m thinking about releasing another of my songs as an official “single” to be put up on Spotify, YouTube Music, iTunes, Pandora, etc., like Like and Share, Schrödinger’s Head, and Catechism, but I only have two more original songs so far that could be so released:  Breaking Me Down and Come Back Again.  I’ve linked to their “videos”, so if any of you want to have a listen and give me your recommendations—even if that includes a recommendation never to allow human ears to hear the songs again for the sake of all that’s good and pure—I’ll gladly take your input.  I won’t necessarily follow it, but I would love to have it.

With that, I’ll leave you again for this week.  I’ve still not been able to kick-start myself into doing more with Iterations of Zero, though I have drafts of a few things.  Keep your eyes open, if you’re interested.  And, honestly, do consider reading The Chasm and the Collision.  Heck, if you can figure out how to work it out, I’ll gladly autograph a copy for you, for what that’s worth.  Most importantly, continue to take good care of yourselves and your family, friends, and neighbors, and stay safe and healthy.

TTFN

CatC cover paperback


*No, I haven’t gotten over it yet.  Maybe I’ll try to do one of them a year or something, perhaps around Halloween.

**Including, but not limited to, medical school, residency, moving to Florida, having kids, acquiring a severe back injury and chronic nerve pain, getting divorced, spending time as an involuntary guest of the Florida DOC and as a consequence being unable to practice medicine or vote among them…all sorts of interesting things that make for a most stormy life so far.

***Interspersed with reading Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker, PhD.  This is a very good and, I think, very important book.  I encourage you to read it.