Reviving a 2015 manuscript

Hello, readers! While I work on revisions and polishing of my now-completed manuscript Infinity (close to 60,000 words), I unearthed a manuscript called Anagama that I finished in 2015. It was difficult to write, and there were many problems with it, not the least of which that I had started it in 1998 and had been working on it and putting it away periodically in all the time since. I forced myself to finish it, but the results were disappointing. So I put it aside to think about what to do with it.

I finally know- it hurts to do this, as I’ll be discarding many passages that I rather like, but I completely revised the plot, changed most of the characters, and am changing the main focus of the story. In past incarnations, Anagama had as a big focus the nature of a vampire-like main character and his special abilities. I think this was a mistake. I had invented, in 2014, a female scientist character who is a secret hero, and her story is much more interesting. I started to want to tell it in 2014 when I invented her, but bent most of the book into the frame I had devised for it when I was much younger and not as good of a writer- so the story really, really didn’t work. By tearing up much of the manuscript (everything but the first three chapters, actually) and starting again, I now can make the story into what it should have been.

Another big focus of the new manuscript idea is that it focuses not just peripherally, but centrally on the idea of trying to quantify what is human. People do this all the time. We come up with all sorts of criteria for categorizing animals and human beings. During the time between when I finished Anagama in 2015 and yesterday, when I picked up the manuscript again, I realized that there is interesting literature discussing concepts of what it means to be human, and whether there is a biological foundation for the concept of race (spoiler: there isn’t, it’s a social construct, though I am sure some may disagree). In Anagama, I hope to discuss this along with the larger question of what it means to be human, and whether there is a biological foundation for the concept of human being that can safely exclude sentient beings that don’t meet the criteria. The story focuses on mutant humans, infected with retroviruses that literally alter their genomes to the point where they are no longer classified as human: chimpanzees and humans, for example, share 98.8% of their genomes, but no one classifies a chimpanzee as a human being. So in discussing the question of whether it is ethical to deny mutant humans the basic rights given to human beings, this question of chimpanzees vs. humans also comes up.

The question of animal rights is a tricky one, not least because humans enjoy eating animals, wearing their skins, and using their labor. I was a vegetarian for 14 years because I struggled with the idea that it was all right to eat animal flesh; I stopped mostly for financial reasons (I was living in a place where vegetables were more expensive than meat), but now would struggle to be able to eat a lot of vegetarian/vegan food since so much of it contains gluten, which I cannot digest, or is very expensive. So there is a grey area for me: I couldn’t bring myself to eat a primate or wear its skin, and I am deeply disturbed by research that involves primates. But I am less bothered if the animal is a cow- is that hypocrisy, or do I simply judge how an animal is treated based on its apparent sentience or intelligence? Is this ethically sound? We don’t eat or skin humans born without much intelligence, or born without brain stems.

So there is much to be pondered in the question of what it means to be an animal that is human, specifically, and how you can distinguish human animals from nonhuman animals, as well as the question of whether this distinction justifies differential treatment.

I promise, despite these forays into philosophy, that Anagama will still be an entertaining yarn, with daring escapes, car chases, psychic phenomena, and lots of intrigue.

Have a nice day!

 

 

Nearly done first draft!

Hello, readers! I am nearly finished the first draft of my novel-in-progress, Infinity, and I’m very happy. It’s roughly 60,000 words, though I suspect it will become slightly longer as I revise and add in a few scenes I’ve thought of recently that should probably go in.

I hope to write the concluding chapter today, and then start revising later this week.

Have a great day!

On time

I’m about halfway through my novel-in-progress, Infinity, and I find myself at a point now where I have to have the main character explain some concepts about time to other characters.

The plot of this novel relies heavily on the idea of time travel- both of information and of people and objects- and while this is currently thought to be impossible with existing technology and known laws of physics, I’ve not yet given up hope that I can come up with a halfway plausible-sounding explanation for it.

The easiest solution, as has been pointed out to me many times, is just to fake something using existing science fiction tropes, but I actually want to entertain physicists and other scientists as well as people with no real specialized knowledge of science. I know it’s easy to just say “oh, future technology” or “well, it just works like this, okay?” and be done with it and get on with writing. But that wasn’t a very satisfying solution for me.

Now, of course, I’m no physicist and I can’t come up with elaborate proofs or even really comprehend a lot of what real physicists talk about. I am currently a bit over halfway through Lee Smolin’s Time Reborn, which discusses theories of time, and it is tough going for me since I keep getting sidetracked. However, I am pleased that some dreams I’ve had about how time travel might work mesh with a few of the more recent things I’ve read about in Lee’s book. It will, of course, likely be gibberish (I probably am misunderstanding a lot of the concepts put forth in the book, particularly as they may only be presented in simplified form). But it is my pseudoscientific gibberish, thank you, and I hope it inspires others to really study how time works.

I’m happy to report that I’m largely over the month-long period of odd dreams and an inability to generally function, and I’m back to writing. I am working on both a scientific article dealing with a hypothesis I formed while researching my cancer project, and on Infinity. I’ve also had a few fairly sinister dreams where James Comey was following me around on campus with a bunch of FBI agents, and I had no idea it was him because he looked like one of my coworkers. This has given me the germ of an idea for a story involving spies and spycraft, a more serious one than the silly shorts I write about Agent Diamond and Charming Guy. This spy story is put on the burgeoning pile of ideas I have for things I want to write after I’m finished with Infinity.

Have a great day!

Hypnagogic dreaming

Hello, readers! I’ve had an interesting bout with odd dreams lately, spurring yet another round of story ideas. This one has to do with all sorts of divine entities, usually female- different goddesses and female religious figures. I have bandied about the title Hypnagogia before, for various story ideas, and I think this time I finally have the right story for that title. The definition of hypnagogia, according to Wikipedia, is “the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep: the hypnagogic state of consciousness, during the onset of sleep.” This completely describes the kind of dreaming I’ve done for a few days now, in which most of the day is spent asleep or half-asleep, but dreaming continuously.

I have to nail down the details of the story, but I figure there will be fertility and love goddesses (and saucy passages), a goddess of destruction, and goddesses of vengeance as well as figures of mercy and healing. This story will be pretty exciting- there may be some crime bits, or action/adventure bits, though how to incorporate those is going to be tricky (I don’t want to name actual people or actual events, even if only in a work of fiction). I have to think about what to include in order to get all the goddesses enough exposure. I will probably have to make up some stuff, maybe about crime and how federal agencies work, drawing in part on dreams and in part on actual events or facts.

And of course, a lot of my dreams for the past year or so involve time and warping spacetime, so I figure there is going to be some of that as well. Science fiction! I am not entirely sure what genre this story is going to be in- I suspect it will have strong romantic features, but also fits into a lot of other categories as well. Science fiction/fantasy romantic crime thriller? Knowing me there will be comic bits as well, but first I have to take this idea from a bunch of confusing dream images into an actual plot.

So lots of different kinds of stuff going on in this story. I am going to try to put it up for sale on Smashwords if I can find an appropriate cover, and for this one it’s possible there may be a screenplay. I have often wanted to write a screenplay, and while I have been putting it off forever, I have a friend now in film school who might be able to give me tips.

Work on Infinity is ongoing, of course, but as with all my works-in-progress it has been stalled due to all these dreams.

Have a great day!

 

Astrobiology

Hello, readers! Been away from writing for a little while, but the recent find that Saturn’s moon Enceladus might be “hospitable to life” is not only exciting in its own right, but has made me think back to what I know about the science of astrobiology.

Most science fiction shows feature aliens that are large, complex life forms, like xenomorphs or Vulcans. However, the reality is that most of the life on other planets is likely to consist of single-celled or filamentous organisms, analogous to bacterial forms of life in extreme environments on Earth. The kind of life to be found on Enceladus is likely to consist of chemolithotrophic food webs consisting mostly of bacteria, nestled close to the hypothesized deep sea vents on that icy moon. Analogous food webs lie deep in Earth’s oceans, where “hot smoker” geothermal vents spew warmth and the minerals that power these food webs, which exist independently of light from the Sun. There are more complicated and large organisms deep below the surface of Earth’s oceans, like large tube worms and several forms of invertebrates, but most of the life around these geothermal vents consists of bacteria that can gain energy for living from transforming the minerals released by the vents. From what I recall, the food webs around these vents depend on the cyclical transformations of these minerals between their different forms, and it’s all conducted by bacteria. The tube worms, for example, have large digestive organs consisting of sacs of bacteria powered by minerals. It’s fascinating.

I may dig up new research on these vents and write a short story about what people may find on Enceladus once they send robots beneath its icy surface.

In other news, I am still about halfway through my SF novel Infinity, and I plan to work on it again starting tomorrow (today and much of last week I spent dealing with bipolar dreams, which come and go- they usually leave me with all sorts of ideas for stories, and this time around has been no exception).

Have a great day!

Baby steps

Hello, readers! My progress on my most recent novel was sidelined by about eight days of severe illness, but at least I have a bunch of really interesting ideas to use to fuel future fiction, so it wasn’t an entire waste of time. I’m more or less back to normal now, and since my taxes are done, I figure I’ll be getting back into writing fiction starting tomorrow.

My cat, as I type this. has decided to walk across the keyboard:

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I really wish, sometimes, that I weren’t bipolar, but quite honestly I have no idea how to be anything or anyone different. I actually want to start working on my novel right away, but because I know I can’t disrupt my circadian rhythm too much, it is just going to have to wait.

Have a great night!

The ‘wire tapps’ were me- my bad

Hi readers,

I just had a detailed dream in which I was talking to a variety of folks on the phone in my office in Canada, with a variety of problems. One named Michael said he was in legal trouble, and I advised him to seek immunity. One named Devin was head of a committee and ‘subjected to a smear campaign’. I advised him to step down.

One was named ‘Don’ and called multiple times, first with winning ‘a big prize’, and questions about whether he should get ‘outside help’ swaying public opinion to help him win. I said he should only do what is legal. He kept asking and asking if he could bend the rules a little so he can do it, and I said he had to follow his conscience. He asked me for advice on how to make sure people didn’t find out he had ‘gotten outside help’, and I told him to never do anything himself, and make sure if people had meetings, that it was never the same people twice. That confusing network of spies and Trump associates? I’m sorry, world, that was my fault.

‘Don’ asked me how he could become popular. I told him Americans love war and celebrities. He asked me if he should use Tomahawk or nuclear missiles. I explained nuclear winter to him and he asked if it would affect golf in Florida. I told him it would, and that it also would last about fifty to a hundred years. I have a  vague memory of his asking me if he could build a radiation shield dome that would enclose enough grass for a golf course. So I’m to blame if Trump starts World War Three, but at least he might wait a bit before using nukes.

It gets worse: I kept hearing the thoughts of ‘Don’ and friends, and repeating what was on their minds. Sergei Kislyak. The Seychelles. Hidden bank accounts full of Russian money. Money laundering via changing the odds on a casino in Saipan, which is close to Hawaii.

After a while, ‘Don’ accused me of having intel on him. I was pretty fed up by now- ‘Don’ needed lots of pampering and seemed to really want the future I painted for him, which was “military parades and flags and marches”, a future I personally do not want for myself or anyone I know. So I told him that I only had the information he had given me over the phone. His response? “So you’ve been wire tapping me.”

I knew this man was paranoid and kind of stupid, so I preyed on his paranoia and said, “Sure, we’ve been wire tapping you since the beginning. Everywhere you go, everything you do, we know about it.”

“Who’s we?”

“Your biggest enemy,” I said.

“So, Obama,” he said. “Then why haven’t you brought me in?”

“It’s an experiment,” I said. “And who says you aren’t being brought in?”

‘Don’ lost it at this point. He raged and foamed and accused me of being Susan Rice; I told him I had never gone by that name. He then asked me what agency I worked for. I said “U.N.C.L.E”, and then that I went by the name Agent Diamond.

“And that person you trust the most?” I said. “They’re double-crossing you. It’s only a matter of time.”

‘Don’ then proceeded to threaten me with all sorts of things, prison and waterboarding, execution. He told me my own name prior to my ending our dream conversation, having found my Twitter feed and my various blogs. He said he would smear me so no one would work with me, and when he realized I am bipolar he said he’d get me drugged up, in a straitjacket, unable to talk, and make sure they gave me drugs that would irreparably fry my brain. I told him the RCMP would have something to say about that. I am a Canadian citizen, only visiting the USA- though if ‘Don’ is to be believed, I might take a trip to Cuba. I hung up the phone.

So, world, Donald Trump’s my fault. His election and the bizarre behaviour of his administration can be placed at my feet, and I apologize deeply and sincerely- I really would have preferred that Hillary won.

It now remains to be seen if the FBI can uncover all the various links between Trump and Russia, and make sense of them all- and if they can find evidence of some kinds of crimes, not just shady associations. I sincerely hope for the safety of the world they find something quickly. I mean, come on, someone might persuade Trump that he can build a wall around Mar-A-Lago and it will be safe from nuclear fallout, in which case he won’t hesitate to bomb the shit out of us all.

The man is sick, dangerous, and willing to kill billions as long as he can keep golfing. If Marie Antoinette were reincarnated 70ish years ago, I’d place bets on her soul showing up in Trump.

I’m not really able to sleep now, but for all our sakes I hope this dream of mine was only a dream, and not a prophecy.

Missed a book signing- for a good cause

Hello, readers!

I realized from perusing John Scalzi’s blog that he would be in my area today, signing copies of his new book, The Collapsing Empire. My husband and I are both fans, but unfortunately we didn’t make it, mostly because I didn’t read the actual blog post detailing the event until the event was over.

It’s all for a good cause, though- my current project Infinity is now at just over 40,000 words. I still have a way to go before I have a first draft finished, but I’m a bit over halfway done. The reason I missed the event is that I was busy writing instead of checking Twitter and reading blog posts to learn when the event was.

It will probably be some time before Mr. Scalzi is signing books in this area again, but I will try to keep out a more vigilant eye. Who knows, maybe by the time he comes around again I may have a completed draft of my own book!

While we wait, we will wander over to the bookstores he has been at most recently and see if there are copies of signed books lurking on the shelves.

Have a great night.

Test recordings of sadistic voicemail system

Hello, readers! I’ve mentioned before that, just for fun, I wrote a short audio play about a sadistic voicemail system, and it plays homage to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’m learning how to record it, just for fun, and so far I’ve managed to figure out how to amplify the recordings I make on my crappy headset microphone (I have a very soft voice) and learn how to make audio recordings on my computer. I wanted to share with you one of the test audio clips, but alas, I can’t seem to upload audio to this website. If you’re curious, write to me at bent dot elizabeth at gmail dot com and I can send you a test clip.

This was a difficult process for me since my office is not particularly soundproof and not only did I have to deal with passing traffic (airplanes as well as cars), I had a curious cat investigating the ducks outside through the window blinds.

Have a great day!

What I have been up to lately

Hello, readers!

I’ve been busy for the last couple of weeks wrestling with my own psyche (unfortunately, this can happen to bipolar people a lot) and just trying to get healthy again. This is the first day in about two weeks that I’ve felt more or less like a normal person. So good, right?

It’s sidelined me from focusing on my story Infinity and my other writing projects, but I’ve managed to put together a short script (I plan to record it some time, whenever I figure out how audio recording and sound effects work on my computer) in which a hapless customer encounters a sadistic voicemail system. The script is something I threw together and I’m likely to change it, and it is not something I’ll try to make money from since it is essentially an homage to Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. But I feel better for having produced something during my bout of illness. The reason I decided to write an audio script was that recording it will force me to deal with my fear of performing/reading aloud.

Before I became ill, my hubby and I went to Colonial Williamsburg. It was a very fun day, and I picked up a cookbook and several pamphlets about historical cooking. I had the idea to make a family cookbook a while ago, and this cookbook and its interesting recipes have cemented my desire to come up with something that is partly cookbook, partly prose. Only I have no desire to actually do all the difficult work of investigating the history of food. One of the recipes I will be presenting is from a friend whose last name is Roberts (as a joke, we refer to him as “Dread Pirate Roberts”). I plan to invent tales for each recipe as to how I came across them, with the first tale being how Dread Pirate Roberts gave me his recipe for lamb stew while I was vacationing in Bermuda. I’m really looking forward to putting together this book. It’s due to be finished in November (I hope to self-publish it in time for Christmas this year).

I hope you have a fabulous day.