All posts by Elizabeth Bent

I really can’t understand – rant

I admit, I’ve never grasped why people supported Trump. He has never appealed to me- sneering, misogynistic, abusive, bigoted, and frankly, so poorly spoken he seems to be stupid. He’s cruel. He’s manipulative. He lies constantly.

I get that his supporters have bought into the narrative that Hillary is “just as bad” (every criticism can be demonstrated to be false, but this post is not going to be about that). So their choice seemed like a natural one- if they’re both evil, go with one you feel will “drain the swamp” or change the world, because you feel the world has left you behind- there are economic opportunities in larger centers that might not be available in your home town, you feel sneered at by late night TV comedians, you feel left out.  So bring it all crashing down.

The heartbreaking thing is that when these people try to explain why they are angry, the reasons have nothing to do with Obama and Hillary. Mostly it’s about a lack of good manufacturing jobs- well, those are gone, the world is different now than it was twenty or thirty years ago, and getting mad at those in power because progress has left you behind instead of going back to school and getting a new kind of job seems pretty pointless. Can’t afford school? Neither can anyone else, and Hillary had a plan for combating that, and creating new jobs, but then- you hated her. Trump won’t be able to bring those old jobs back, and hasn’t even tried- he has a history of failing to pay people that work for him, and he also has his campaign merchandise made overseas, not in America.

I’m sorry, Trump supporters, that you have bought into a pipe dream. Along with the dream of good manufacturing jobs comes a lot of policies and attitudes which are racist, sexist, homophobic, demeaning, inhumane. The new Vice President endorses electrocuting gay people to “cure” them. Maybe you overlooked those things because, to you, Trump was “only joking” and you think he’s such a great guy he wouldn’t actually start throwing your fellow Americans into concentration camps, or force “ethnic” looking people to carry identification papers everywhere, or be stopped and frisked constantly. Maybe you don’t know anyone brown or queer so you don’t care if they are targeted by discriminatory rules or lose their right to marry or adopt children. Maybe when you look at Trump you see a savior, a hero, someone that will stand up for the little guy (he never has before, but who knows, maybe he will start).

It’s obvious that I don’t agree. I would love to be proven wrong- so prove me wrong. Donate to the ACLU, or your local mosque. Do something kind today instead of accusing me of being a whiner and a sore loser. If Hillary had won, many of you planned to riot, and none of you lost any rights or privileges under Obama. How exactly did you “suffer” under him, and why was any of that his fault and not the fault of the global economy?

Your choice for President reminds me every day of my abusive ex husband. I remain to be convinced that he is anything but a tyrant, and it remains to be seen if it was foolish to give him even more power. I am not optimistic.

Don’t give up, America

Early on November 9th I watched Donald Trump win the US Presidential election. I was shocked- I truly thought Hillary Clinton, who is better in so many ways, would win. I thought rationality and good manners would win. I thought appeals to voters’ higher natures and a vision of America that is just, tolerant, and inclusive would win.

I admit, it has been hard for me to watch Trump succeed- I am a domestic abuse survivor and sometimes things he would do or say would bother me- a lot. They would haunt me.  The smug, bullying, abusive man who is so certain of himself and his worth despite showing no signs of integrity brings back a lot of memories. However, he’s been elected, and it’s been pointed out to me that the reality I live in now- unsure of whether the legal and government systems put in place will protect me, unsure of whether tomorrow or the next day someone will target me for abuse, unsure of whether my neighbors approve of and support this kind of abuse (maybe not overtly, but tacitly) is the kind of America people of color live in. All. The. Time.

I grieved yesterday- I think America would have truly shone under Hillary- and then today and the next day and all the days after that I’ll start doing my part to make America a safer place, not just for me and people like me, but for everyone.

There are lots of things to do. Get involved in local politics. Write to your senators and congresspeople about issues you feel passionately about, or call them. Organize groups to write letters and call. Organize petitions and protests. Make donations to organizations that stand up for minority rights or for women’s health care, LGBT+ rights and equality, fair and humane immigration, refugee rights. Say something when you see or hear about injustice- most bullies back down when they are confronted in real life, though we all know online they seem to gather courage. If you have white/ethnic/cisgender privilege, as I do, it seems only just to use that privilege to speak up for people that are marginalized or mistreated. Apparently pro-Trump supporters now feel it is OK to harass minorities, and heartbreaking stories of abuse in public spaces and in schoolyards are circulating the internet. Don’t stand for it, if you’re white. Don’t just watch and blog it later- say something. Stop it in its tracks.

I’m going to start by  writing each and every senator and congressperson agitating for the approval of Merrick Garland to Supreme Court. I’ve also learned that a climate change denier is tagged to run the EPA- his name is Myron Ebell and he’s made a lot of foolish comments about the climate so far. I plan to make calls and write, to him and anyone else I can think of, about this issue even though I know it may be a quixotic gesture. I have to try.

Through my tears, I started looking into volunteering for Planned Parenthood and I made a recurring donation to the ACLU. Most Americans agree with me that these organizations do important and valuable work, and I won’t listen to the hate-filled folks that want to trample on minority rights (Stop and Frisk doesn’t help reduce crime and it harasses people of colour unduly– I’d like to see all those smug white pro-Trump folks on TV endure that kind of treatment in their home towns for long) or refuse to let women and their families and doctors make the right decisions for themselves. I am part of a nationwide group called the Pantsuit Nation on Facebook, and I’ve read so many heartbreaking tales of women who were forced by medical complications to choose- if their right is taken from them not only will it not save babies (they die anyway) but it causes immense suffering to both mother and child, for no reason. Anti-choice protesters seem to think that all women asking for an abortion skip in there blithely and don’t give a shit about human life, that we don’t take it seriously, that we aren’t torn to shreds about our choice. I will always fight against that stupid, dangerous stereotype. And Planned Parenthood is often the only source of medical care (they are not an abortion factory-style assembly line!), since they provide a lot of free or low-cost care for reproductive health and contraception. If you’re against contraception, you’re pro-abortion.

I’m also heartened by the fact that Donald Trump is an actor, and was a Democrat three years ago. I am hopeful that his bizarre, misogynist and racist sentiments were just an act to get elected. That they could get him elected makes me sadder than I can articulate, which is why on the 9th I grieved. But today- today I pick up my computer and I get to work.

A message from the future: Your vote matters.

This came to me. It’s too short for Smashwords, so I thought I’d share it here.  I hope you enjoy it, though I predict that Trump supporters will not approve.

—————-

“What’s that?”

Melissa frowned.

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “It looks like… I don’t know.”

“We’re recording, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Get all of it,” Melissa Stone’s supervisor, Becky Hargreaves, said. “This is unprecedented.”

“Yes, OK,” said Melissa.

She drummed her fingers on the desktop. The experiment they were running was generating far more output than expected, this closed timelike curve was just spouting data, and that was unusual.

The stream of numbers sputtered, came to a stop. That in itself was not unusual- closed timelike curves generated in Melissa’s temporal physics lab eventually stopped producing data. What was unusual was the volume generated this time around. The experiment had been run a dozen times before, and always with the same volume of data. Why, this time, was there at least ten times as much?

Melissa remembered some science fiction movies she had watched as a child. She kept drumming her fingers on the desktop, looking at the stream of numbers.

“Let’s try something,” she said, and started typing. She had spent time working as a video editor prior to starting graduate school. It was just a guess, but-

She decided to convert the data she had gathered into a two dimensional image format, updated every second or so, and try converting data which didn’t seem to fit into a standard onscreen rectangle into audio format. There were a lot of different ways to do this and Melissa spent a long time tinkering, optimizing the scripts she wrote to do this, until she was satisfied with the result. It was jerky, and low-resolution, full of glitches, but this is what she saw:

A human face, smeared with dirt, loomed onscreen. The face was too close to the screen to be detectable as male or female, and the voice belonging to the face was distorted.

“To the human race,” it said. “This is a message from your future.”

The face grimaced, jerkily

“I only have a moment,” it said, earnestly. “I can’t explain , but I am the last physicist left in the United States after the great Purge of 2050. I have an urgent message for you, sent back to what we believe is a few weeks before the first turning point.”

Something like an explosion in the distance, and the video washed out for a second.

“The first turning point in history is November 8, 2016, in the United States of America. Donald Trump is elected, and while he is only President for fifty days this puts into motion a chain of events which starts World War Three, and plunges the world into chaos.”

The face frowned, wiped its brow.

“Our message, the message of my dead colleagues and myself,” said the face, “is simple- you must change history. You must not allow Donald Trump to be elected. If you can change this event in history, you will literally save the planet. The amount of devastation wreaked as a result of worldwide chaos is uncountable- you must, you must believe me.”

Hands gripped the camera that the face was speaking into.

“My name is Doctor Melissa Stone,” it said, “and I’m the last remaining US physicist- I am trying this experiment in hopes that our experimental wormhole can take this message back in time- I remember it working, maybe it will work-“

Melissa watched as her future self looked over its shoulder at the door splintering in the background.

Future Melissa gripped the camera.

“People of 2016: you MUST NOT vote for Donald Trump,” she said, before the image was jolted into oblivion.

Melissa looked at her computer’s  date and time. It read 4 am, October 31, 2016.

She watched the video again, this time carefully examining the face. It could be her, perhaps- a few age lines, a bit heavier, kind of distorted from the video… but how?

In the morning, she showed her supervisor. Becky watched the video and snorted.

“Is this a joke?” she said.

Melissa shook her head.

“Well, no one will believe us,” said Becky, and made a cutting gesture across her throat. “You can’t put this on YouTube. The University’s reputation is at stake here.”

Melissa grimaced, looking remarkably in ways like her future self in the choppy video.

“But the future,” she said, realizing as she said it that it was extremely likely that nothing she, or Becky, did would change- this video had such poor production values it could have been produced anywhere, and no one would believe her when she claimed it wasn’t a hoax.

“Bury it,” suggested Becky, and Melissa bit her lip.

“All right,” she said, and, after backing up the raw data on one of the lab’s immense hard drives, she deleted the formatted video.

Becky watched as she did so.

“You didn’t keep any copies?” Becky asked, and Melissa shook her head.

“We do the experiment again,” said Becky. “And we don’t tell anybody.”

Melissa agreed, but inwardly, decided- maybe she can’t show the video, maybe her future self would never be watched on YouTube, but there was a way she could be heard.

Melissa opened up her word processor, and started to type.

The future, she thought to herself as she typed, the future of America and the world could hang in the balance.

A few minutes later she had uploaded her short story to Smashwords.

“It’s fiction,” she said to the empty lab. “It’s only fiction… because he won’t be elected.”

Or will he?

Votes matter. Your vote may literally change the future. Vote.

New short story published! “Diary of a Mad Scientist”

Hello, readers,

Today I woke up with an idea brewing in my head, and I turned it into a short concept piece, “Diary of a Mad Scientist”, available now on Smashwords for free. It chronicles the thought processes of a bipolar scientist who is not certain if she is receiving messages from the future. Is she? Or is it all just another bizarre dream?

I plan to expand upon this in future- there’s lots of room for adding in a bit more of the bipolar experience, and for things like character development. But for now, please enjoy this very short story.

I’m especially pleased since I’ve had writer’s block for quite a long time,  and I’m hoping this heralds the beginning of more new work.

Spoons in service of Hillary Clinton

Hello, readers!

I made a reference to “spoon theory” in my last post- because I myself, while I don’t look sick, often am tired and lethargic and unable to do a lot once I’m home from my full-time job. Lucky for me, my full-time job ended! Today was my last day. From now on, it’s just a few hours a week here and there. I’m mostly on “vacation”!

I put “vacation” in quotes because I’ll be visiting my husband for several months in Ohio, and I’ve decided to marshal my energy once again for something important. I did consider spending a lot of time writing, but this seems far more urgent. No, Ohio is a battleground state for US Presidential Election votes, and I am going to volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign to make sure she has as good a shot as possible at winning Ohio. I can’t vote for her- I’m Canadian- but I will help her campaign. I can’t afford a lot of money so I’m going to volunteer.

I realize this will make me very uncomfortable- they have things for volunteers to do like knocking on doors and phoning people, stuff that makes an introvert like me very nervous- but I’m willing to step outside my comfort zone to do this. Never in my life have I been more afraid of someone getting elected to high political office than I am now of Donald Trump’s candidacy for US President.

I hope if you are in the United States, or an American living abroad, that you will do what you can to make sure Donald Trump is never elected.

One more week of counting spoons

My full-time hours at my paying job cease at the end of next week! I’m very pleased- in October and afterward I will be working part time for my current boss, remotely on an as-needed basis. This comes as a welcome relief. I’m lucky enough that I am being supported by my husband at the moment, and my income can be optional.

I’m planning a long vacation in Ohio, which is where my husband works. Now, Ohio is not really a locale which springs to mind as a vacation destination. For me, the ability to spend most nights with my husband make going there worthwhile.

If you are familiar with “spoon theory”, you’ll know that not everyone has the same amount of energy or other physical resources to get things accomplished. In my case, I’m bipolar, so I find it hard to marshal a lot of energy at least half of the time- like a lot of bipolar women, I am frequently depressed, though I’m happy to say that in the past year or so the depression has been fairly mild. This past week I’ve been exhausted most nights and finding it hard to wake up, and hard to get anything substantial done after dinner. When I have a good day where I have a lot of energy, I try to use it to get the things done that I meant to do earlier, when I had less energy.

The thing that makes me look forward to this vacation is not laziness, or a lack of interest in my current job, which I love- no, it’s having more free time and the freedom to work when I feel like it (or, when I have more energy), and the freedom to nap when I don’t (or, when I have less energy). I don’t really think of myself as disabled, because my illness is managed fairly well, but finding energy is something I struggle with most of the time. Not when I’m hypomanic, of course, but that state of being comes with its own challenges.

When it comes to writing, I haven’t done very much at all this year, and it’s mostly because I’ve been waiting for a solid chunk of uninterrupted time when I also have energy, and nothing else pressing to do. I suspect I will become more productive so long as I’m able to keep a firm cap on the number of hours worked at my job per week. I’ve been indulging myself in John Scalzi, Neal Stephenson, Gail Carriger and Stephen King novels here and there, because reading takes far less effort than writing. I’ve also been rereading old works of mine, and thinking: (1) wow, there are still errors that need fixing, and (2) I wonder what would happen if I added in this character’s back story, or changed this other plot element?

So I’m not even finished revising those works. This includes my already revised novel Perigee as well as my novel-in-progress, Anagama. I realize I do need editorial input if I’m going to take my work out of free self-publication and into the realm of paid work, but first things first. I want to spend a bit more time with my novels (and also write a draft of Infinity) before I start looking for an agent that can help me find a good editor.

I have one more week of counting “spoons”, and then as far as I’m concerned, I’m on vacation! I can’t wait.

My 9/11 story

I thought long and hard about whether to share this story, which I have kept to myself for fifteen years, but I figure it can’t do any harm.  This story has been with me since before I started having problems with delusional thinking, and it has never changed in my mind- so I really think it is true. It may not be, though, which is the frustrating caveat I have to make for all my memories. Take it as you find it.

In September of 2001, I was gearing up to leave my abusive first husband, who lived in Auburn, Alabama. I was packing things (my now ex husband was travelling overseas, and I planned to be gone when he got back) on the evening of September 10. I answered the ringing phone.

There was a person on the other end asking for a travel agent. I hung up the phone.

The phone rang again. Same person asking for a travel agent. He was very irate and told me there was no chance he had gotten the phone number wrong.

One thing about me: when I lose my temper, I don’t usually yell or scream. I use my Sarcastic Voice. It is a very sweet, gentle voice in which I am capable of saying the nastiest things.

Out came my Sarcastic Voice. I pretended to transfer the call to a travel agent. He told he he was very unimpressed with our service and wanted to know when his flight left the next morning. I pretended to take down his name and contact information, then pretended to have trouble looking up the flight information.

“Oh, for Chrissakes- it is either 9:30 am or 10:30 am, which is it?” the irate man on the phone exploded at me.

In a split second, I calculated that if I said his flight was at 10:30 am, there was a 50% chance he would miss it completely.

“Your flight is at 10:30 am, sir,” I said,  hoping I was lying. He snarled at me. I hung up the phone, satisfied with my mild sabotage.

The next day, of course, everything changed. I was in my laboratory when I heard the news, saw internet footage of the planes flying into the Twin Towers. At first, I thought it was a movie. But the news reports kept coming, and coming. No movie, but reels and reels of horrifying footage, transmitted into my television set at home.

A few days later, I got another phone call. It was a man asking to talk to the travel agent he had spoken to on September 10, 2001. I told him I was alone in the house, a residential address, so if he had spoken to someone at this number, it had to have been me.

He apologized for his earlier rudeness, and told me that he had missed his plane in New York that morning, thanks to me.

Distractedly, I apologized. My mind was full of my upcoming move away from my now ex husband.

“No, no,” he said. “I was on flight, ” and I can’t recall the flight number now. “From New York to Los Angeles.”

“I’m sorry, I-”

“It was one of the planes that was hijacked on 9/11,” he said.

My jaw dropped.

He went on to thank me for saving his life.

“You have my information,” he said. “Look me up. Call if you ever need anything.”

To this day I don’t know who it was that had phoned me.  I hope he is well and happy. I decided to share this story not because I want to glorify myself or my actions- which were actually really mean-spirited- but because I felt it is important to remember that sometimes, the smallest things you do can have far-reaching consequences.

Dreams of “Brian” by the train station

I wrote this little piece as an attempt to overcome writer’s block. If you know anything that might help me find “Brian”, please contact me.


They spring, fully formed, from my brain each morning as I wake up. Each dream is so clear and detailed, so plausible, that I find myself puzzling over them again and again. Are these memories? Are they imaginary? I have no way to tell. Most people can tell the difference between dreams and reality, at least to some extent. I can’t. This is what it means to be touched by the gods, if you believe in gods. For atheists like me, this is what it’s like to be bipolar.

Today I woke up thinking about my friend at the train station. I never knew exactly who he really was- his name online or at the clubs was “Brian”, and he contacted me when I was living in Sweden, asking if  he could have my address. I expected a letter or maybe a phone call, not an American standing by the train station building, calling my name. His dark navy or black wool coat stood out against the deep yellow of the station’s siding, and he had dark hair and eyes. He called my name again. I did not recognize him. I looked at him, and he recognized me. I turned to walk away- who was this? Why was he here? I was wearing a dark pink winter jacket and a bright green backpack from IKEA that held my work laptop. He walked up to me, said my name once more.

Uncomfortably, I looked away.

This is where the dream fragments. I don’t clearly remember what happens, other than that he quotes some of my fiction writing- passages from my novel Perigee.  I run away.

Later, in the sunshine of another day- I can’t remember if it is just a few days later or if it is a few months later- I meet him again at the train station. I have twenty minutes until my train. He asks me to have a coffee with him. This time I am not afraid. We go to a small coffee shop that sits across from the yellow-sided train station building, and I sit looking out into the sunshine, at peace. He sits next to me and does not say much. He sketches in a black-covered sketchbook. Again, I cannot recall much of anything of what is said. He gave me a ten kronor coin and told me to keep it. I pocketed it, and later used it at a grocery store. Ten kronor is about $1.30 or so in US dollars, not a significant amount of money.

I later regretted giving away the coin, as I had another dream that it had been a special coin- one of very few works of art by a Swedish artist, who made solid gold 10 kronor pieces and put them into general circulation as an art project. However, that I owned one such coin was probably only a dream.

I don’t know who “Brian” ever was. He would phone me occasionally while I lived in California, so I gather he lived there too. I think he wrote IMs once or twice while I was in Alaska, and he may have called me and done impressions of different characters on some cartoon shows. He was briefly on some online forums I was a participant in. I know these dreams are based on someone real. Who was at the train station? I might have met my mysterious friend, or I might have been delusional and completely imagined these encounters. I don’t normally hallucinate, but I do sometimes remember things that never happened. Maybe these dreams, these god-children, are not memories but only fantasies.

Whoever he is, wherever he is, if he is even real, I hope my friend “Brian” has a pleasant day followed by sweet, harmless dreams. Tonight, I will sleep, and tomorrow I will start puzzling again over the morning’s dose of strange dreams.

I keep hoping “Brian” is real and that someday I will find him to thank him. I can be reached via this page.

Overcoming writer’s block

Hello, readers! I have no idea who might read this little blog, so I’m putting in a contact form- let me know who you are and what you might have read recently (my work, or more likely someone else’s).

I’m currently in Centerville, Ohio, in the condo my husband is renting, enjoying a short vacation. This fall (see previous post) I will have more time to write. I thought of trying to finish something short this week, and I find myself faced with a crippling case of writer’s block.  I’d love it if you helped me overcome this by telling me something about yourself, even if it’s just what you are currently reading, or what kinds of stories you would like to see written. I may not be able to write those, but I enjoy email and would welcome input or feedback.

The stuff I’ll be working on will most likely be an Agent Diamond and Charming Guy tale. One that’s a bit more inclined toward espionage and Bond-esque villains. 

Stay tuned! More writing coming this fall

Hello readers!

I’ve been remiss- I have not finished the Agent Diamond and Charming Guy story I have been working on. It’s still going, but I’m pleased to report I’ll have a lot more free time this fall to focus on getting more stories out- I’ll be leaving my job at the end of September! I’m really looking forward to a period of relaxation between jobs. I’ll be going back to school for some computer science training eventually, but initially I’ll just be loafing about my husband’s condo, drinking wine and eating strange snacks from Trader Joe’s as I tap away at my keyboard.

The main reason I haven’t been writing is that I’m tired from this job and from taking care of business to do with my side project dealing with a cancer-fighting gut bacterium (a collaboration with UCLA). Also, a bad review of my second novel, which is in draft form, made me kind of hesitant to pick it up again. But I’m hopeful I can find someone to help me fix its problems and get back in the metaphorical saddle, and start writing again! So stay tuned for more updates this fall.