Flash Fiction #183

Retirement Village

PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

RETIREMENT VILLAGE

Wuz anybody famous ever born here? Y’alls gotta be jokin’! We wuz gonna have Thoreau Theodore, thuh weather-forecastin’ prairie-dog, but thuh little varmint wouldn’t come outta hiz hole. Wouldn’t matter if’n he seen hiz shadow or not, we’d jest git ‘nother six weeks of whatever’s outside.

Some Eastern dude retired here. Place useta be called Nowheresville – motto, “Civilization’s Thataway ->”. Folks renamed the town after him. Think he wrote a book – sumpin’ about fishin’ at some pond, ah think. Doan know why ennybuddy with a pond ta fish in, would come to a place like this, drier than a popcorn fart.

***

Click to hear ‘Wild Horses,’ Canadian Gino Vanelli singing about parts of the US where the population density is so low, that you can be, “a hundred miles out of town.”

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Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Friday Fictioneers

Book Review #16

The Whenabouts of Burr

I just got back from a short time travel trip.

I recently visited the website of a female author. She has written 5 or 6 Young-Adult Sci-Fi books, all centered on Mars – ‘The Tunnel on Mars, A Ranch on Mars, Subduing Mars, etc.’  The post I read was her book-review of Time And Again, a seminal time-travel novel.

I told her that I was also fascinated with time travel stories. I showed a bunch of them in my post of books read in 2016. I remembered a somewhat different time-travel book, and suggested it to her. Later, I went back in time, dug it out of my hoard of old Sci-Fi books, reread it, and decided to do a book review of it.

The Book: The Whenabouts Of Burr (1975)

The Author: Michael Kurland

The review: The time travel in this book isn’t – quite. It’s a story about parallel Universes, and alternate Earths, created by different choices at significant historical nexus points, like the Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton duel. Like a deck of cards skewed sideways, each reality is just over nine hours from its neighbors. The more levels you travel through, the further back in time you go.

It’s a great device for the author to make sociological comments – a fun game of “What If”. In some levels, Burr lives, but becomes an exiled political outlaw. Some levels have benevolent, supportive democracies, others have restrictive tyrannies. On some worlds, Europeans did not reach the Americas, and the natives have developed their own civilizations.

The sharpest social comment/warning comes from the author’s description of Prime Time, the world which originally developed the Temporal Translation Technology. The people have become like professional Victorian tourists, slumming, and gaily gadding about the alternate words, observing. The entire society has become effete and static. There is no interest, or challenge, nor further research or advancement through struggle, because they now steal/import all discoveries and new technology from the other ‘Earths.’

Published only a little over 40 years ago, it’s not as old as many of my books. It was a fun re-read, and a warning reminder of how Western society may be going. I got back in time to publish this post, and I’ll move forward, to have another ready in a couple of days. See you then. 😀

’17 A To Z Challenge – S

Challenge2017

ALONE AT LAST

For the letter

letter-s

I’m going to talk about Solitude

Maybe because most of the gregarious masses can’t handle it and I can, I like to think of myself as possessing greater moral and mental strength. Of course, that may be because just about everybody wants to be the hero of his own life’s story, even as I bashfully, humbly, insist that I would willingly be second banana, a supporting player – perhaps the third spear carrier on the left.

Most people, especially in the civilized areas of the planet, can’t handle solitude – are frightened by it. Lenin once said that, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”  He wasn’t referring to ‘God, and Jesus as Savior,’ he was talking about the sheep who huddled together in churches, to reassure each other that they were all the same.  If everybody thinks the same, somebody isn’t thinking.  He wanted them all thinking about him, and the new Russian nation.

When Jesse, The Body, Ventura was Governor of Minnesota, he cynically (but accurately, truthfully) stated that, “Christianity is a crutch.”  Of course it is, even if the faithful don’t want to hear that.  Like Lenin, he wasn’t talking about salvation or belief, but about the need of most people to be connected to ‘The Group.’  No independent action or thoughts allowed.

Archon says that smart phones are an affliction and an addiction. I’ve listened to some of the conversations in stores, and on the street – and they’re about less than nothing!  How strong, and pitiful, the urge is to be constantly connected.  It seems that nobody but me – and you – are capable of living inside their own head for any amount of time.

Before the alleged birth of Christ, Jewish men were alone much of the time – farming, hunting, herding sheep – in solitude.  When they went to the Temple, they wanted to be alone with their God.  It is small wonder that the women, used to nattering at children, and each other, were told that, “Women should not speak in the Temple.”  Silence!  Blessed silence!  🙂

Recently, a young man on a cave tour, was accidently locked in for 60 hours – from Friday afternoon, to Monday morning. He had a bit of food, and got water from seepage – but he couldn’t get any cell phone reception! He was SO happy to be back among his friends.  I’ll bet he didn’t develop or invent anything during that time.  Albert Einstein came up with the Theory of Relativity because he was alone much of the time in a German patent office.

(Some) people are nice. I just don’t want to be hip-deep in them all the time.  I want/need a little alone time, even if all I develop is a desire for French toast for lunch.  I have fallen out of my mind head and onto this blog-post.  You can welcome me back.  Comment away.  😀

Ars Est Celare Artes

olympic-rings

The above title is a Latin motto which means ‘The Art Is To Conceal The Arts’. To properly awe an audience with the performance of a difficult task, it is often necessary to make it appear easy.

A comedian, commenting about the Olympics, said that all he understands about gymnastics is this; he hopped into the air, and landed on his feet, perfectly erect, and said, “That’s good!”  He hopped into the air again, and landed leaning slightly backward, so that he had to put a foot back to keep from falling over, and said, “That’s bad!”  To win gold, you have to make it look easy.

I recently had the chance to read the beginning of an online novel by a writer who, like many of us, hopes to be a published author. He’s a member of a highly respected profession.  He’s intelligent and well educated.  He has a (reasonably) good vocabulary and grasp of grammar and composition.  What he is not, is an author – or writer.

I only managed to read the first three paragraphs, before I had to stop, or suffer nausea and vertigo. Here are the three paragraphs.  Remember to take Gravol. (Americans may take Dramamine.)

You are on the beach, watching the swaying of the waves. The waves sweep across the steeps like a flock of stampeding sheep speeding over the steppes, the snaking waves hissing over the driftwood steeped in the sandy wrack.

A squadron of gulls lifts uneasily into the air and then dissipates against the grey sky. You look meaningly at the gulls. They hover, the flurry of gulls. The gulls lull heavily in the air, squealing their dull squeals.

You incline your head downward and stare at the inrushing waves, each one a hungry-mouthed sheep, coming toward you ravenously. The water is deliquescent twenty feet from the shore. Beyond the shoal the surface seems lacquered, solid, unbreachable, enameled, brackish, thick, as if it were a spreading mass of viscous aquatic jelly. From the shore you cannot fathom, through the spume lid, the pelagic fathoms. The lake’s lid is swarming with wavelets, each one undulant and alive—afroth, the lake’s lip, frosting wisps.

That opening is almost as bad as, “It was a dark and stormy night.” This thing has more verbiage slathered on than icing on a Wal-Mart birthday cake.  This is like the parlor of a Nevada brothel – cheap, gaudy and ostentatious.  Typos, overdone alliteration, excess words, redundant words, repetitive words, overly ornate words, eight-dollar words, employed to seem interesting and impressive, but used incorrectly.   Steppes, and steeps, and stampeding sheeps – oh my.

To ‘look meaningly’ is to use a facial expression to convey information to another person. You cannot look meaningly at seagulls, because their tiny bird-brains don’t get it. And speaking of seagulls, I can think of five verbs to describe the noise they make.  ‘Dull squeals’ is not on the list.

Deliquescent means; The process of a solid dissolving or becoming liquid through the absorption of moisture from the atmosphere. That obviously is not happening here. It’s a good, solid, proud word.  It’s just hanging out in the wrong neighborhood.

Instead of smooth, clear, economical communication, this writer seems to have gone out of his way to confuse and impress, and say, ‘Look how much work I went to, to attract and hold your attention.’ It is not concealed. (But it should be!)

spacehounds-of-ipc

I recently re-read E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s Subspace Encounter. Doc was the mentor who taught Robert Heinlein much about writing.  An engineer by trade, Doc always used the exactly correct word, and the exactly correct number of words.

In this book, he has Mankind meet another galactic civilization. Physically, they are Human, but their society is vastly different.  Not cruel, but they are pragmatic to the point of making the Spartans look like soft amateurs.

To identify their empire, he coins the word ‘Justiciate.’ This is literary irony.  It is like referring to The People’s Democratic Republic of North Korea.  It is not ‘for or by the people.’  It is not a democracy, and it is not a Republic.  There is little ‘justice’ in a society, where the ruler of 180 planets is identified as the Supreme Tyrant.  And the supreme ruler of the red-skinned sect, who wants to kill 90% of those of other skin colors and keep the rest as slaves – identifies himself as The Grand Justice.

Having invented the Justiciate, Doc went on to invent an interplanetary monetary unit for them – the Junex, meaning the Justiciate Unit of Exchange.  For an imaginary empire, he created imaginary money to give believability.  No sheeps or steeps or gulls were needed.

As a young adult, I missed much of his precision. Re-reading it now, with life experience, I have a greater appreciation.  He made it look easy, when it really wasn’t.  I’m glad Jim Wheeler made me do it.  😀

Flash Fiction #115

lanterns

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

LET THERE BE LIGHT

Light was the first thing to be lost when “The Wave” rolled through. Electricity stopped flowing, technology disappeared and we reverted to the lives our ancestors had endured, hundreds of years ago.

No-one knew what had caused it, but it was the end of civilization as we knew it. The superstitious called it ‘Magic.’  The religious claimed that it was the wrath of God.  Who knew what scientists called it?  All media, including the internet, had winked out of existence!

The Third World countries scarcely noticed it, and Survivalists suddenly had more friends and followers than any Kardashian ever had.

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Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Flash Fiction #93

Barbed Wire

PHOTO PROMPT © Madison Woods

IMPRISONED INFINITY

Barbed wire tamed the Wild West. It had been Terra Incognita – the land beyond the law.  Its business was Beef.  Myriad cattle grazed millions of open acres, giving birth a century later to McDonalds and Burger King.

Then came the farmers – Sodbusters.  The cost of enough lumber, on the treeless plain, to keep cattle from crops, was exorbitant.  But then came the wire salesman, offering a cheap solution that was horse-high, bull-strong, and pig-tight.

Even men with no property deeds objected to being fenced out of once-open land. Wire wars were fought, but eventually, civilization moved west, and peace prevailed.

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Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Flash Fiction – Part 1

That title is incredibly optimistic.  It implies ongoing capability and commitment.  I accepted BrainRants’ challenge to write a short-short story.  Go to Rochelle’s, Addicted to Purple blog.  Each week, she publishes a picture.  You are to use the photo as a prompt, and write a complete story about it, in only 100 words.  Below is my first attempt.

PENSIVE

miriam-reubenShe paused to reminisce.  She wrote to her mother regularly, but so many things had happened.

Those years ago, as a newlywed, leaving the safety of New York for the wilds of the Oklahoma Territory with an ambitious husband, had seemed both a wild risk, and a marvelous adventure.

His tenacity, intelligence and canny business sense had combined to make him the proprietor of the greatest and finest Dry Goods Emporium in the Territory.

Being his family had made her and their beloved children both safe, and well taken care of.  Civilization continued to sprout around them.  Mother would be pleased.