Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When I lived in Lubbock, Texas in the early 80s, I would pass a strange looking man on my way to Texas Tech. He was short, maybe about five feet two and had the sun battened complexion of a farmer, but what made him stand out was that he looked like Alfred E,
Neuman, the mascot of Mad. He would be waiting on Ninth Street and when he saw me he’d break into a big goofy grin and gallop up to me like a horse, breaking into conversation. I knew he wasn’t quite right, as we say in Texas, but he seemed friendly. He always wanted me to “sign his book” and seemed to have a hard time understanding that I needed to get to class.

I didn’t know it at the time, but he was a casebook example of Williams Syndrome: Williams Syndrome gives you great empathy and hyper-sociability. Or in other words it fills you with a major desire to fit in. You want to make contact at any cost. Folks with Williams Syndrome usually have IQs in the 60s, but have a have a large vocabulary and an eloquence that belies their shortcomings. They look like Alfred E. Neuman, but are described as “elfin.” They tend to have perfect pitch.

Dr. J. C. P. Williams discovered the disorder in 1961. He worked in New Zealand and the large number of short people in his cardiac clinic with a similar suite of abilities and weaknesses, made him wonder if there was a syndrome involved. Mayo clinic offered him a job twice in the Sixties, but he simply failed to show up each time. Finally at the end of the decade he moved to swinging London to work, but disappeared from the world we know on November 22, 1968e.v. All that seems to be left of him was unclaimed suitcase in Kings Cross Station . Now this is an interesting place for a doctor to disappear, a small pox nd measles ce stood here, and before that Queen Boudica fought her last battle. Indeed her ghost regularly haunts the station The mystical doors of Britain were open that day – it was the day the Beatles released the White Album and Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s major enchantment began working on the world
But what was opened that Dr, J.C.P. Williams left the world and where was he needed?

The answer is that the door was opened to the Wizarding World. The three-year-old Joanne Rowling was in Kings Cross Station that day. Witnesses say that the doctor may have even spoken to her. Two years later she began writing a story about a rabbit (names Rabbit), who gets the measles and is visited by a giant bee, named Miss Bee. Notice how measles (one of the diseases of the hospital) and a rabbit (the sacred animal that Boudica gave to the goddess Andraste Can Miss Bee also point to the Beatles?

Why did Dr. J.C.P. Williams refuse the prestigious Mayo Clinic not once, but twice? Rumor in the Wizarding World points to a generous grant from St. Mungo’s Hospital who were beginning the House Elf Genome Project.

Free Government Money

Everyone has their story that begins “I was following my old life and suddenly I heard Captain McBain announce First Contact with the Siirians.
“ Some people became religious, some people became scientific, some people headed for the hills and some people rolled out the red carpet. I became greedy. I knew the governments of the world all wanted a share in history. It’s what governments do. They wanted to get the most bang for the cultural exchange buck. And there was going to be so much exchange between two space fairing civilizations it would make the discovery of the New World look like a farmers’ market opening on Saturday.
So my ad was in the oneirocast stream within an hour. You may have even dreamed it yourself. I put it out there even before any government announced the grant monies. “Have an idea of how we should trade/interact/make friends with the Siirians? Well your government wants to hear from you. They want to GIVE you FREE money to develop your idea and our kit shows you how to do so.” The dream ended with a mega-flash of sex and success images. It was crude but I wasn’t a classy guy. Every brain tuned into the excitement of First Contact, which meant thirteen billion brains on twelve worlds, autosomatically absorbed it.
The next our computers buzzed with queries. Governments were even asking us how we could help them. God bless the Siirians and their shiny carapaces.
I didn’t really care what idea these people had for setting up interactions with the crab-like race. I heard some of them from time to time as some member of my quickly growing staff would tell me.
Arrange a jazz festival for the two species
Arrange a contest between the two species for the best protocol to use when discovering a third species
If the Siirians dream link their oneriostream with ours
Open the Nobel prizes to Sirrians, get them to open their prize system to us
Hold joint Science Fiction conventions with them
Set up an Extra –Solar Writer in Residence in all of our main universities, and get the Siirians to do the same. If could get the crabs to teach Freshman English there would be a great meeting of the minds.
Then an odd thing happened. Bart Chang contacted my firm. I knew Bart from way back -- we grew up on Bradbury City in the Martian Republic. We even went to the same High School. He was the class weirdo. When we were doing simple things like learning to do oneirocasts or simple nanotech or reformed economics, he was reading “The Fall of the House of Usher.” His senior project was building what he called the Lovecraftbot, a device for handwriting long letters. Roy actually walked into our office and asked for me.
“Rex, you old dog. I knew you were behind this. I remember your style in dreams.” “Bart, long time no see. So what brings you here?” “I’m here to buy your services. I have the best idea ever for dealing with the Siirians.”
I didn’t like the shiny look in his eye. He had had that look a few times back in High School. Creeped me out.
“Well,” I said, “We’re more than happy to sell you a grant application kit.”
“I want more than that.”
“Well we do sell a special enhancement package. We will go over your grant application, and make it look very professional, check for any errors in the process and otherwise make it as palatable as possible for the officials.”
“That’s it. You were the best bullshitter I knew back on Mars and I need your expertise.”
“I’m flattered I think.”
“Here’s my pitch. I have been looking over vampire legends. What is the vampire didn’t suck our blood, but information – contextualized memory? What is we sent humans that could suck the Siirian mind clean and come back full of whatever is really going on behind those multi-faceted eyes?”
It was no doubt the most insane of the proposals, but I figured my job was to remove money from fools by selling them my kit. Of course I agreed to get right on it, and frankly I was glad when Bart left my office.
A consortium of three governments bought it. The North American Alliance, the Japanese Empire, and the Ganymede People’s Republic all saw merit in the Dracula scheme. Bart was thrilled and credited it all to me. Sadly the project was very hush-hush
Bart surprised his sponsors by already having mind- vampires. He had been using them for industrial espionage. They had been wiping minds on the twelve worlds for about six years. They really liked it. Bart had been right with his vampire model – not only the spies somehow nourished by the process they drew sensual pleasure from it as well. It wasn’t till First Contact came around that Bart had thought of a patriotic use for them. But like I say everybody’s story starts with First Contact these days. The only question was whether their minds were too different than ours, perhaps horrible and dark.
The three governments had little trouble getting Bart’s vampire in place. His name was Jeffery Sassoon. He was going to Knight Station as support personal. He would hook up to the station computer every night and do its dreaming for it. A crappy menial job. After a month he would brush against a Siiriain scientist suck out the contents of his mind and go home. Burnout on the station ran high; there would be no suspicion.
I had begun to admire he could run much better scams than me.
He arranged for me to be there when spy returned home. We waited nervously as he left his ship. He looked awful, deep black circles marked his eyes. He trembled as though sick to his stomach. Finally after an agonizing walk across the tarmac, Bart asked him, “How did it go? “
“It was awful,” he said, “A mind is a terrible thing to taste.”

Monday, June 23, 2008

How To Write A Novel

s,How to write a novel in nine easy steps.

1. Read two or three novels. I would suggest ones you can get in paperback. Here are the three that come to mind for me:To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Devil's Own Work by Alan Judd, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin -- they're all pretty short. Keep a journal of your reading. Note two things: What makes you interested (by really honest here -- what really keeps you focused -- not what youthink you should answer) and waft do you NOT see (for example in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper "I am a LESBIAN, get it?" Lee there is only one heterosexual marriage that 'works". Sculpture is about removing what isn't part of the statue.

2. Do not write your experiences, write from your experiences.

3. You can not make things too tough for your main character.

4. Passive voice is bad, avoid forms of "is" anytime you can, avoid adverbs.

5. Senses are very important -- sex has a taste and smell as does everything else. Mention food and wine often.

6. There are no little people. Don't do this,"The shopkeeper sold Ralph a package of cigarettes." Do this, "The Korean shopkeeper has a Hitler mustache and smelled of kimchee as he handed me the cigarettes he said,'Malboros are a manly cigarette.' I didn't know if was a come-on, sarcasm or just what passed for salesman ship."

7. Don't write it in present tense. It really does not make the text more interesting. It just pisses people off.

8. Follow your weird. If what interests you are Roman sewers, Japanese pop culture and phenomenology --write about that.

9. Shakespeare had it right -- include death, violence, mystery, sex, love and humor in everything in varying amounts. I will send you some essays as well.

Most web-advice on the novel sucks. Here is some that doesn't:


Read these summaries to think about somethings that you can do with the novel

The novel is anything you can get away with!

Toward a Future Senate

Towards a Future Senate

My mom is in town. One of her compadres died recently, Cyd Charisse. Cyd danced her first dance recital when as Mom played the piano. She wasn’t Cyd Charisse then, she was Tula Finklea

She picked up “Cyd” because her younger brother couldn’t say “sis.” Mom was nine years old when she played “Dance of the Butterfly” for Cyd. That means that Mom was still living on the family farm rented from the Bush family (not the president's family, the family that gave its books to "Just us Girls" in 1900 to start a library for Amarillo). The Fryingpan ranch, where barbwire was first used,

It so happened that my childhood home was built just east of the border of the Frying Pan ranch and that the fence posts which had held the first barbed wire had been frugally reused in the making of the back fence. Amarillo is all about re-use – for example the first incarnation of the Bid Texan Restaurant, where you can get a FREE 72 Once steak dinner (if you eat the whole thing in an hour) was made from the lumber of the German interment camp. Now what did we use them krauts for? We had make bombs. In fact the site they made bombs later make them plutonium enriched “devices:” The Pantex plant – we all used to take great pride that Amarillo was city number two the Russians would wipe out. (New York being number 1).

Like most facilities associated with Weapons of Mass Destruction it hosts Earth day events. The down side of the plutonium storage site is that it leaks into the aquifer

That also may be seen as slow recycling of virtual deaths from the Cold War into real deaths now.

Which brings me back to my mom. She has long since retired, but her volunteer work is aimed at the Class of 1939 of Amarillo High. She reads the paper every morning and notes who has died of her classmates. They are all friends now. Maybe it was the boy that sat on other side of study hall, maybe it was somebody that you didn’t even like but half a centenary after High School, you survived, you Remember, you are friends. I’ve always been pleased that the Greek word for Truth, aletheia means “Against the River Lethe” “Against forgetting.’

The truism of our age is that we learn to look to the young for peace. I think the actual place of peace will come from people who take great joy in surviving. What would happen if we had drugs to make old folks as clear headed as my momma and let them rule on the basis of “I survived, I remember, if you made it you are my friend.”? After all “senate” used to mean a “gathering of old men.”