Dreams and the Self

Well, that’s a pretentious title for a blog entry that will come nowhere near living up to it, but it encompasses the two sub-subjects I felt like scribbling about.

I’ve had essentially two professional lives, both lasting a couple of decades more or less. The first was as a bookseller, the second as a computer programmer, but when I dream I am almost always a bookseller. Although it’s been more than twenty years since I stood behind a cash register, yet there I am, night after night, as a stream of customers approach and ask me the usual bookstore questions – where is this, what is that, what do I want, who am I and who the hell do you think you are?

Why am I always a clerk and never an engineer in my dreams? Does it really have any significance? Does it tell me who I truly am, who the hell I think I am, or are my dreams merely stuck at a certain age, in a certain locale, like a prisoner in time held captive by some mysterious bond of dark energy or matter?

Then, my fiction writing career has also been in two parts – the first in my twenties and the second in my fifties, spanned between by a long bout of debilitating illness which prevented me from doing any such thing. In the first “bout” of writing, I was mainly concerned with a hyper-realism of poverty and depression, displaying itself in such novels and stories as Cashier World and Phantom of the Mall (* both titles since completely rewritten and re-purposed). The second bout has been considerable more light-hearted, since having been through a sort of hell of both body and mind I’ve had no desire to look back or go anywhere near that kind of pit again.

In my twenties I wrote maybe 30 novels of varying lengths, and in my fifties another 40 or so (mostly shorter ones), and yet, in my dreams, as far as I remember, until last night, I was never a writer.

In last night’s dream I was writing (and re-writing) a story about two immigrants. They were not immigrants to a particular country, or from a particular country, but just from Country A into Country B. They were (in the final revision, if not originally) a brother and a sister. The sister had immigrated successfully. It had not been easy, but she had documentation, she had legal status. She was okay. The brother, though, had no paperwork and was detained, held in captivity by the government and intended for deportation. But where to? Since he had no documentation, the government did not know where to send him to. The sister knew where he was from, but she was unable to prove who he was, or even that he was her brother, that they were family. What proof could there be, outside of some sort of genetic testing which, in the dream, did not exist.

I have been taking the year off from writing, since my last book was so satisfying to me that I felt I could never write something that good again. I recently realized that quality has never been the point. It matters, sure, in some respects, if the thing is good or not, but what has always mattered more is just the act of writing, the fun of it, the process, the giving it a go.

I don’t know if I will write this one, the one I dreamed about, or some variation of it. Aspects do intrigue me. Dreams and the Self. How do you prove who you are. How do you prove your family. How do you resolve an essential unsolvable situation.

The problem for the sister is – maybe she could go back to Country A and find the documentation to prove her brother is who they say he is, but should she risk it? It was not easy getting into Country B in the first place – there was no end of bureaucracy and corruption and danger – so might she not end up in exactly the same situation as her brother, or worse? And what if she cannot get her hands on such papers? What is she willing to risk? What is he willing to let her?

My heart would not let her try, but it would also ache for her not trying. I would need some other angle in order to go through with it. Is there anyone else? Is there any other way? I don’t know. In the dream, there was not, and it left me right at that point.

Probably the dream is only telling me that soon it will be time to start writing again, that the only way to resolve such a roadblock is to start somewhere and then keep going, which is the only way I know how to write.

 

Today’s Reality is Tomorrow’s Fiction

Science fiction has it backwards, and always has. It’s never been a forward-thinking genre despite it’s reputations and aspirations. It has merely extrapolated from the known, and just like the saying – wherever you go, there you are – so too technology and innovation always end up implementing new ways to do the same old things. Whatever can be said will be used against someone in a court of law somewhere, some time. Whatever information can be collected, will come in handy to those in power. Social media is basically breadcrumbs leading the authorities to your doorstep – ask any one who showed up at to an Arab Spring gathering in Tahrir Square, or in Turkey just this morning. Wouldn’t it be nice if people changed, but they don’t much, do they? How are we enjoying the latest recurrence of race-baiting fascism coming about just as the ‘greatest generation’ that won that last great European war are dying off?

How long do you think it’s going to take for some variation of Pokemon Go to find its way into the hands of “thought police” who will be able to “augment reality” by adding yellow stars on phone screens to AI-identified members of any designated subgroup, or before vigilantes can go around easily identifying registered sex offenders (for one example) because that data is collected and the problem with data is who has access to it. On the one hand you might think positive thoughts like ‘hey someday “they” will be able to identify and interpret the cluster-fuck of signs and signals surrounding some pigheaded moron who is about to go on a murderous rampage’, but when that day comes “they” will certainly find a way to use the algorithm to instead frame whomever the fuck they want to.

So if you want to write some science fiction, just take some new technological fad and add it to the wretched disgrace of recent human history and your job is pretty much all done.

The writer’s fortune

The Rivendale Review

man writing - gustave caillebot - 1885So, you’ve written a story. It might be a short story or a long story, or even a very long novel length story, and you’re thinking it’s the best of you, that others have only to read it in order to see the world differently, to be transformed, dazzled, blown away by this original idea, by this new talent, the talent that you are. It will be the vindication of everything you’ve ever worked for, it will be a poke in the eye for those who told you you were wasting your time, that you would never be published. But you’re also thinking it’s unfortunate, that after sending it out to magazine editors , agents, and publishers for years and years and years, it looks like the naysayers were right: you can’t get your story published anywhere.

Still on the upside, no one’s actually said you can’t write, that you…

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Recommended: More Wattpad Goodness

I’ve nearly completed half of my pledge to take a year off from writing fiction, and it’s helped that I’ve been swamped at work, putting in around 60 hours a week at the old open-floor-plan-paradise-prison that passes for the norm in Silicon Valley these days. With a partial clearing in the release schedule, though, I’ve found a bit of time to catch up and hunker down with some of my favorite writers on Wattpad.

@DawnAdrie – Rules of Escape – is a journey into the linked minds of otherwise institutionalized autistic young people. This story is quite original and succeeds very well in shifting perspective among several characters, some of whom are inside, and some of whom are outside the telepathic circle . There are abundant twists and turns and I’m genuinely excited every time a new chapter pops up in my mobile notifications because I never have any idea whose turn it’s going to be or how it’s going to advance the story.

@ShalonSims – The Dreaming: Dark Star Book Five – the next in an exciting and ambitious tale of a world where totalitarian rulers harness the power of dream walkers in a battle of unlikely factions, featuring the old and the young, the innocent and the suspect, the foolish and the wise, the human and the alien. There’s a lot to unpack in this and its related series, all well worth looking in to.

@LaraBlunte – Blame the Devil – she’s at it again. Yet another irresistible page-turner from the unstoppable @LaraBlunte, a writer of such talent and mystique that she even has me reading romance fiction, almost against my will, and enjoying it immensely, because of her great style and perspective. I always say that my favorite feature of reading is how it lets you remotely occupy the mind of another person. It’s always a treat visiting this one.

@MichaelGraeme – The Sea View Cafe – and speaking of treats, Michael is rolling out another instantly hypnotic story of individuals pulled along by their own incomprehensible inner forces. In other words, literature. Michael’s writing always reminds me of the classics, writers like Conrad and James, Thackery and Eliot. He’s a masterful stylist and quietly burrows you deep inside his characters’ souls. His The Price of Being with Sunita is still resonating, months after I finished reading it.

Highly recommended, all.

In a general note, I’ve enjoyed that past few weeks of having my last story, ‘How my Brained Ended up Inside this Box’, featured on Wattpad. It was even on the top row of the app for a few days there and got a bunch of ‘eyes’ looking at it (also thanks to the beautiful new cover someone made for me (I won’t mention their name here so they don’t get besieged with requests!). Another friend recently made some new covers for some of my other stories – what a great treat. I’m so grateful. But what I started out to say was that you have to enjoy these moments as they happen and not try to hang on to them forever. As a bookseller for many years I became accustomed to the rhythms of the business, and the cycles of sales enjoyed by books as they came and went throughout the years. You’d come across gems and want everyone to read them but their time is always limited. Whenever I think of ‘success’ in fiction I think of The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake, an excellent writer who had several stories featured famously and one book which had its shining moment in the sun. His own moment, his life, was sadly far too short, ending in suicide. I believe we ought to love our time as best we can, and let the things we do, the things we create, have their own time, detach them from our selves, and let them go. They are not us. We have our own stories to live.

Everything is Scammable, in its own way

Reading about the poor souls whose self-published online novels have been stolen and plagiarized by unscrupulous ghouls, I was reminded of the nefarious hacks who’ve attempted to profit on my own non-existent fame and notoriety by publishing fake versions of fake books using my real and profitless name. I pity the fools. But everything is scammable in this world and probably the next one as well. Witness the clownish attempt to get people to click on phishing links when they search for How My Brain Ended Up Inside This Box – a masterpiece of meaningless drivel in and of itself:

backed

the real truth is, here is a real link to a free version of the book thus described.

Featured on Wattpad: How My Brain Ended Up Inside This Box

featured_on_wattpad

I’m happy to see that my most recent sci-fi story, “How My Brain Ended Up Inside This Box”, is now a “featured” selection on Wattpad. It’s a bit of what I like to call “magical futurism”, featuring a black-market “artificially intelligent person” (or A.I.P., or “ape” in the colloquial sense, as in ‘the planet of the’), an organic being, farm-raised on genetically engineered smoothies and destined for auction to the highest bidding criminal enterprise. Gifted with the ability to communicate with foul-mouthed seagulls and ill-tempered felines, the gender-less, age-less, race-less creature has to find its way to escape from the clutches of its mother and other assorted enemies, in this fairly exciting and ultimately utterly unexpected novel.

As with all my books, this one is free on Smashwords and Feedbooks as well.