This is a shorter column than usual, because I was busy writing a novella.
I will surely be back to my normal verbosity next month.
I read Special Deliverance by Clifford D Simak, the author of
City that I reviewed before. This one was published in 1982.
Edward Lansing, a professor, has a humdrum life. Then he discovers a
special slot machine that puts him into a forest. He follows a path
to an inn, where two men, a robot, and a woman are awaiting him.
Then one more arrives: Mary Owen. As far as I can tell, there is no
physical description of her, but in due course Edward falls in love
with her. This is typical of old style science fiction, the kind I
don't write. They form a party of six that travels on, trying to
discover why they have all been conjured here from different worlds.
They come to a huge cube fifty feet on a side with no apparent
access, and an ancient defunct but dangerous city, and a monstrous
deadly wall, and a tall spire. One by one they are lost, until only
Edward and Mary remain, and they get separated and have an awful time
finding each other again. It seems that there is no return to their
home worlds; they encounter others who have given up the chase. This
novel is slow moving yet I found it compelling. It turns out that
this is a kind of test to qualify superior people to make a new,
better, Earth society. I would not call it a great novel, and there
are both stylistic and scanning errors that a proofreader would have
caught, but it is worth reading.
I read As Wings Unfurl by Arthur M Doweyko. I reviewed the
author's novel Algorithm here in 2014. The present one has
constant action and many characters; I read it in ten page fragments
and can't be sure I followed everything. The gist is that there are
warring “angels” who may have planted mankind here on
Earth not long ago, leaving an archaeological trail so they would
think they evolved on Earth. The main character is Apple, short for a
more complicated name, human. He has one prosthetic leg, from his
service in the Vietnam war. Now he gets along as well as he can. He
is accosted by two toughs in the street when he tries to help a
stranger, fights back, but gets knocked out. He wakes in the
hospital, a hero who saved an old man; someone took out the two
toughs. It turns out that the lovely angel Angela interceded on his
behalf; she likes him. Thus he gets involved in the war of angels,
who are tough folk with special powers, not at all delicate. He
hardly knows what's going on but is eager to be with Angela, though
the chances are that she will lose and humanity will be destroyed.
There are folk from Tibet, including a snow man, also trying to save
mankind. The war teeters back and forth until finally Angela wins
after seeming to lose, and all is well, for now. Apple is happy to be
with her at last. So it's a kind of violent romance.
I wrote Hair Suite, 36,000 words, the sequel to Hair Power,
published by DREAMING BIG PUBLICATIONS and now available. In the
original novella Quiti, a young woman dying of brain cancer, does a
favor for an alien hairball, and is repaid with a new head of hair to
replace what her treatment took. As it grows it gives her marvelous
powers, such as genius intelligence, telepathy, and the ability to
fly. It also becomes her clothing, as it is like a cloak that can
appear as any outfit she chooses. In the end she and her friends
become envoys for the aliens, setting up an embassy, the Hair Suite.
The sequel picks up as another alien sphere using human hosts
contacts her. The aliens are the Chips, friendly rivals to the Hairs,
who enter human ears like hearing aids but deliver far more than
sound. They, too, cure otherwise fatal maladies, such as AIDS, and
have some powers the Hairs lack, such a clairvoyance. But the rivalry
is cut short when they learn that Earth is threatened by the Pod, a
space vessel containing predatory plants that will make Earth their
garden, consuming all other life. So the Hairs and Chips join forces,
because neither is going to get much benefit if the Pod reaches
Earth. The Chips can reach other galactic cultures via mini
wormholes, and they discover the WormWeb, sort of like an animate
internet on a galactic scale. They get into a wild fantasy parody,
where Quiti is a princess taking on a sorceress, showing her how to
impress a man romantically rather than turning him into a toad—until
the sorceress starts impressing Quiti's husband Roque. Hmm. If you
like wild romps, keep this one in mind, when.
Our home life for the month was less fun. My front scooter tire blew out,
so I patched it, only to have the rear tire go flat. So I patched
that, twice, and discovered that a nut that holds the rear wheel on
was missing. So I bought a new nut, and thought I had the scooter
operative again. No such luck; the new nuts didn't fit. So this time
we'll take who whole wheel in, so they can find a nut that does fit.
Flat tires and lost nuts are a pain. Meanwhile we accidentally ran
over one of our gopher tortoises, killing it. That little grave
hardly had time to settle before we ran over another. I am a
vegetarian because I don't like hurting animals; we regard our little
tree farm as a kind of sanctuary. It's ironic that I wind up killing
some. Had we known, thirty seconds before it happened, or even
Last column I mentioned starting to read a big book titled Age of
Atheists, and it has fabulous insights, but then life and work
caught up with me and I had to set it aside at page 50. Maybe some
day I'll return to it, as it is surely worthwhile. About atheism: I
never had an imaginary friend, but just realized that today most
American adults do. They call him Jesus.
Clippings: according to SCIENCE NEWS, evidence has turned up that the ancestors
of mankind mastered fire as early as a million years ago. That makes
sense to me, because we have clearly evolved with fire for some time.
Our jaw retreated and our gut diminished because we discovered how to
make food more digestible, and of course a flaming torch could back
off any animal. We owe our ascendance in significant part to fire.
More people are getting older; NEW SCIENTIST says that more than half
the babies born in wealthier countries since the year 2000 may reach
the age of 100, becoming centenarians. Maybe, but I'm betting against
it, because obesity, drugs, and careless living will curb lives
before they get close. If they should succeed, the food will run out.
We already have too many people on the planet, and this will hasten
the exhaustion of the necessary life supports. Classic Peanuts coming
strip has Snoopy Dog taking eleven panels to type “It was a
dark and stormy night.” Good writing is hard work, he thinks.
Well, Duh! Teenage pregnancies are at a record low, because of
contraception, but the question is what else does the Pill do to
those young bodies? No study has been made, and it should be. What is
the age of Creativity? Writers and composers do their best work in
their 40s, and composers close to it. Where does that leave me, in my
80s? Sigh. In Florida the Second Amendment trumps the First
Amendment. Column by John Romano points out that even discussing gun
violence can get you into legal trouble. “Are Floridians so in
love with the Second Amendment that we're willing to abuse the First
Amendment?” I think it is evident to anyone who is not a gun
nut that this is crazy. Without freedom of speech this wouldn't be
America. The gun nuts do need to be curbed, as it seems they don't
believe in free speech any more than a dictator does. Maybe they
truly believe that freedom comes out of the mouth of a gun, and they
want to shoot anyone who argues.
Column by David Brooks says that Western society is built on the assumption
that people are fundamentally selfish, but in real life the push of
selfishness is matched by the pull of empathy and altruism. I
certainly hope so! I have believed for some time that empathy is
fundamental to the human condition, distinguishing us from animals.
In the early days it helped us with hunting; we could feel how the
prey was likely to react, and counter it. Now it helps us understand
the views of other people, and support them. In my profession of
writing I see publishers as essentially soulless corporations out for
money rather than art, whatever they may claim, and I have done my
best to support other writers achieve their dreams, knowing the lure
of a dream. I am empathic (no that's not misspelled) without being
foolish, I trust.
Article in NEW SCIENTIST about Dark Matter and Dark Energy, by Anil
Ananthaswarmy. Scientists have been searching diligently for both,
and found not a shred of either. I suspect that is because they don't
exist. Ah, but how then to explain the way galaxies hang together
instead of flying apart, and why the universe is mysteriously
expanding when it should be slowing or contracting? Well, they may be
illusions created by the machinery of our cosmological model. It
relates to the way matter curves the universe. It gets a bit
technical, so let me give you my simplified analogy. When you look at
a map of the world, Greenland may look bigger than Australia, when
you know it's not. So why don't they show it accurately? Because they
can't. The world is a sphere, and a sphere does not map perfectly on
a flat surface; the edges get distorted. If you made Greenland the
center of your flat map, then Australia would look huge. When you
look at a globe you can see the contours of land and sea more
accurately. Well, if you could look at the universe from outside—yes,
this is impossible, but please suspend your disbelief a moment--then
you might see it as it is, as a sort of multidimensional globe. A
globular tesseract, maybe. But we have to look at it from inside,
posted on a flat parchment as it were, and so it is distorted. The
seeming expansion is illusory, as is the seeming extra matter. That's
why we can't find them: they don't exist. In time scientists may
correct their perspective and cease searching for ghosts and dragons.
Item in our most local newspaper, CITRUS COUNTY CHRONICLE, listing old
rules for teachers. For example in 1915 #1. “You will not marry
during the term of your contract.” #2. “Female teachers
are not to keep company with men.” And so on. Teachers had to
be home at night, not loiter in ice cream stores, not travel beyond
city limits without the permission of the chairman of the board.
Women could not smoke, dress in bright colors, or dye their hair. And
#11. “Your dress must not be any shorter than two inches above
the ankle.” Not a word about competence in the subject matter.
Are these the good old days that conservatives long for, when men
were men and women knew their place? Sigh. Things certainly have
changed in the past hundred and fifty years. I prefer the present
day, despite its manifest faults.
I was talking with a lawyer in connection with a writer who has been
seriously abused in a legal issue, and I mentioned that I am
jingoistic about this sort of thing, that is loudly aggressive.
Later, pondering, I realized that in this respect I'm like Donald
Trump. I am not supporting him politically, but I may understand him
in this limited manner. The sense of the word derives from circa 1878
when there was a question whether Britain should support Turkey in
opposing a Russian advance. “We don't want to fight, but by
jingo, if we do,/ We've got the ships, we've got the men,/
We've got the money too.” It became a popular song of the time.
I think this could be a motto of the Trump campaign, maybe if someone
calls it to his attention. I have a mental picture of a pacifist with
a machine gun. Nobody in range will call him a hypocrite, by
Newspaper review of the book Spain in Our Hearts: Americans and the Spanish
Civil War 1936-1939. This is of interest to me because I was
there, albeit only five years old. My father was doing Quaker relief
work in Spain, feeding the hungry children left by the fighting; when
the war ended with General Franco's victory over the democratically
elected government, my sister and I joined our parents there, until
we were kicked out by the dictator and came to America in 1940. I
suspect the hungry children suffered thereafter. The thing about that
war is that the Nazis and Fascists used it as a proving ground for
their weapons. Then, having worked out the kinks, they dived into
World War Two. Both sides in Spain committed atrocities like mass
murder and rape as weapons of war; I see that one of the punishable
offenses in their view was vegetarianism. Ouch! It was an ugly scene,
and a warner to whono would be warned, evidently not the allies, who
had to learn the hard way.
My 31,100 word novella Pira will be published in AwGhost by
eXcessica. It's a science fiction love story. This is the one about
the girl who can kill at up to a hundred feet with the power of her
laser-focusing hands. She's 15 but looks more like 11, and must have
an adult guardian as she goes about her business, which is tackling
dangerous hostage takers and other criminals. She has a permanent
crush on Orion, her guardian, a black belt in judo, and is desperate
to win him, but he is not about to touch a child. They get into the
thoughtful poems of William Butler Yeats as their relationship
develops, and do a remarkable dance together. This is perhaps my
favorite of my recent novellas, though I do like them all in
More anon when.