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Posts Tagged ‘Science Fiction’

At first, they called it a novel coronavirus, but it mutated into a real-time dystopian novel.

At the turn of the year, Covid lurked in the sidelines, waiting to take center stage. Initially only a vague specter, it materialized from the shadows to become a source of ghoulish entertainment, dominating the airwaves. Can this be a replay of 1918? Surely not in this age of medical miracles! But the pundits could not hide their dread. Their knitted brows were enough to freeze my spine. Older ladies of my acquaintance, thinking they were prime victims, quarantined themselves. It was rumored this would become everyone’s fate, but surely that couldn’t happen, could it?

1918 Flu Epidemic

On Friday the 13th, the world changed. Schools closed. People stopped going to work. Panicked hordes stripped grocery shelves clean. Of toilet paper, no less. Meetings, travel plans, even weddings and funerals were cancelled. Life, once plotted out in calendar entries, became a fogged-up windshield in a vehicle out of control, hurtling at unknown speed to a nebulous future. That’s when I realized I was living inside a dystopian novel.

Stories and movies came to mind, of catastrophic events that spelled the end of the world: wars, alien invasions, plagues decimating the world’s population. In some stories, heroes emerged to save remnants of mankind, while in others the heroes were lucky to save themselves. Dystopian stories are great entertainment, but they’re no fun for their besieged characters. And now I was a character in one!

As a writer, it’s not such a bad place to be as long as my retirement checks keep coming, the electric grid holds up, and I can get groceries every week or so. If the electricity fails and I can’t get to the store, I’d still survive, as long as my cache of last year’s hurricane supplies held out. But, darn, I’d have to write on paper instead of my computer if the power went off.

Then I found out how much I depend on technology. One day, my phone stopped working. Good, no spam calls for a few days until a technician can fix it. I still had internet. A week later, the internet went out! I nearly panicked. I was a character in a movie, surrounded by unknown perils, cut off from the outside world. How could I survive without email, Google, and Wikipedia? Fortunately, the phone company had it fixed within hours.

The first week of quarantine was unsettling. The second, I settled into the unreality of it and watched the movie play out around me. But the surreal turned bizarre when the world began to morph into my dystopian novel.

My yet-to-be-published dystopian novel takes place in the future when solar power has replaced fossil fuels, but it didn’t happen soon enough. South Florida has gone the way of Atlantis and autocrats build houses that can withstand Category 7 hurricanes. Books aren’t banned, but they’re obsolete. My heroine collects books on history and studies them to uncover lost truths. When information is stored digitally, it’s easy to rewrite history.

The federal government is weak and ineffectual and the US has been partitioned into autonomous regions, each with its own set of laws. When a killer hurricane strikes, Georgia closes its border to keep Florida refugees out. Hospitals are out of supplies and the sick and injured crowd the hallways and cover the floors. The poor are hit hardest and rich see opportunities to enrich themselves. Until the pitchforks come out…

 

My novel is a fantasy, a series of events that (I sincerely hope) won’t come true. Or will they?

Coastal communities are already dealing with sea level rise. Hurricanes are becoming more powerful. (My fellow Floridians really dread the advent of this year’s hurricane season.)

As Covid went viral in New York and New Jersey, and hordes of Yankees headed south to escape, there were rumors that Florida was setting up roadblocks to keep them, and their contagion, out. Hospitals are over capacity and undersupplied. An economic bailout has the rich corporations making out like bandits while the rest of us are being thrown crumbs.

I wrote my book long before all this became reality, and I never expected to see it happen. Each development has made me pause and reflect. Just coincidence. I’m certainly no prophet.

Then a government official gave out erroneous information and the website he alluded to was later altered to agree with what he said! Rewriting history is not a new idea. Remember 1984?

Now several states, frustrated by the failed leadership of the federal government, are forming regional coalitions to make pacts on how to keep their citizens safe while restoring normalcy.

But not all is gloom and doom. In my book, the heroes encounter good people, many of them have-nots, who share what little they can. Even some of the well-to-do show their charitable sides.

In the current pandemic, people are stepping up to contribute what they can to those in need. Mom and Pop restaurants are feeding the hungry. Ladies with sewing machines are stitching up face masks. It’s refreshing to see that compassion and service survive in in our present dystopia, as well as the fictional ones.

I’ll tell you, though, if any more elements of my book come to pass, (if the pitchforks come out!) I may just have to rewrite it. Maybe as a cozy romance? What could be the harm in that?

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You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a while. It’s not that I’ve been idle. This year I’ve done a lot of traveling, besides to Djibouti in January. During the summer, I traveled as far as upstate New York for a family reunion and spent time with my children and grandchildren in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. Then in October, I realized one of my life-long dreams and went to Greece—Athens, the Parthenon, and beautiful islands in the Aegean Sea.

As if that wasn’t enough, in November I joined my sister Sue in Connecticut for a genealogy expedition. This was the first time since childhood that I ventured to a northern clime during winter. I survived. When my granddaughter was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains in December, I braved snow and ice for this happy occasion.

So I have many adventures to write about, including the rest of my journey to Djibouti. I promise to deliver.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing, because I have. I’m polishing a novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo a few years ago, while another simmers on the back burner. One of my short stories was published in Bacopa Literary Review this fall. But what I’m excited about today is the novel I just released, Trials by Fire, which is the first volume of a trilogy, The Long Road to Namai.

This story has been down a long road itself. When I was a kid, my sisters and brothers and I would camp out in the backyard on summer nights and tell ghost stories. This was science fiction, not a ghost story, and it was so long ago I don’t remember much about the original version. During college, I developed the story a little more. Through the intervening years, I wrote at least one short story which bears little resemblance to the present incarnation. None of these previous efforts bore fruit.

Then I retired and spent a month writing the first novel length version. I went so far as to self-publish it, but gave away more copies than I sold. A few years later I reread the book and thought, “What a great story, but what lousy writing!” I took it off the market and totally recrafted the whole thing. The story was still good and the writing much better, but it was too long and I couldn’t get the word count down without sacrificing important elements.

I decided to follow the suggestions of friends to divide the story into at least two parts and market it to Young Adult readers. I won’t bore you with all the details involved in getting a book market-ready, but as one person warned me, it takes longer than you think. Finally, here it is.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy this novel even if you’re not into science fiction. It’s also a human interest story and unlike anything else you’ve read. During the coming year, I will finish parts two and three and release them for your reading pleasure. Stay tuned.

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            You know those plastic tubs margarine and cottage cheese come in? They make handy storage containers for leftovers. As good caretakers of the Earth, we don’t throw them in the garbage. We wash them and store them in the cupboards until they are needed. After holiday dinners, the excess from the feast can go home with guests and no one needs to worry about returning bowls. But if virtue is its own reward, that’s about as far as it goes. How many times have you fished one of these tubs out of the cabinet only to be unable to locate its lid? Conversely, how often have you found a lid that fits no container?

            When my children lived at home, I always had someone to blame. I would accuse them of throwing out a bowl or a cover, but not both, instead of washing them. Or they would carry off one part or the other for some unknown reason and never return it. I would be left with useless, mis-matched dishes. One of the joys of parenthood is having someone else to blame.

            After the last of my offspring moved out for the last time, and I had the house to myself, I set about righting wrongs, bringing order out of chaos. I went through my cupboards and paired every storage container with its lid. The lids with no mates, I discarded. The bowls with no covers were sent to the garden shed. They make handy flower pots and saucers. Order had been restored to my kitchen.

            Or so I thought. As the only cook and consumer, I had total control over what was in my cabinets, right? Wrong. The sad day came when the lid for just the right size tub for a certain volume of leftovers was nowhere to be found. Again, I went through the cupboards making matches. I was astounded by the number of pieces that had lost their mates. Unless my kids came in when I was asleep and purposely removed them, they could not be blamed. How, then, could I account for this enigma?

            One day, I was in my church’s kitchen putting away leftovers after a dinner. In the cabinet labeled “storage containers” I found a neat stack of Cool Whip and hummus tubs. Next to it was a basket full of lids. Not one matched! I was not the only victim of this mysterious occurrence.

            Finally, I have figured it out. You have heard about wormholes in space? You see them all the time in science fiction movies, and serious scientists believe they actually exist. They have no proof, but they have theories. Wormholes would be shortcuts in space-time that would allow travel from one part of the universe to another, or from one universe to another. These theories aren’t even new. Almost 100 years ago, a mathematician named Hermann Weyl had such an idea.

            The reason the scientists have as yet no proof of wormholes’ existence is that they are looking in the wrong place. I have no better theory about my disappearing containers and lids than the existence of a wormhole somewhere in my cupboards. It’s a small wormhole, too small for a space ship. Other kitchens have them as well, including the one at my church. Maybe you have one, too. From time to time a bowl or its cover will slip through the wormhole and end up in some other kitchen. Since I have found unfamiliar containers and lids in mine, I know it works both ways. Maybe this is where the idea of flying saucers came from.

            If only we could figure out which kitchens are connected to which others by these wormholes, we might be able to retrieve our prodigal dishes. A thorough study of this phenomenon could result in a major breakthrough in physics. It might even win a Nobel Prize. I invite any serious scientist to come explore my cupboards.

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