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Cheesters, Earaffes and Snats, Oh My!

Anywhere there are things that Man was not meant to wot of, you’ll find a few lab techs with too much time on their hands. Most tales of Science Gone Wrong hinge on that moment when a sub-basement dweller wonders, “What if…?” Inevitably, they will be aided in their ill conceived plot by a pair of colleagues whose eyes twitch in time with the blinking yellow fluorescent lights and who share their friend’s inadequate grasp of cause and effect.

I’m writing a story that includes a world where genetic engineering passed the point of no return long ago. In the ongoing quest to create animal hybrids without any concept of the consequences, they’ve combined animal DNA that was never intended to play in the same petri dish. Some of their creations are rather harmless. Relatively, anyway.

Cheesters are cheetah-hamster hybrids. Combining the endurance and love of spinning wheels of a hamster with the size and speed of a cheetah, engineers have finally managed to create a specimen that prompts the question, “Why?” An unfortunate incident involving a door that had been propped open with a vacuum cleaner resulted in the almost complete loss of the slothalope population.

Earaffes are, obviously, a cross between eagles and giraffes. Rarely seen in the wild, surviving scouts have returned from the mountains to warn the public not to venture into earaffe territory if they packed a salad for lunch. Beautiful, graceful, and regal…None of those terms describe the earaffe. Vegans refer to them as
“ruthless, selfish, and way too impressed with themselves.” The reality is that there is something genuinely awe-inspiring about the sight of a small flock of long necked, winged earaffes diving out of the clouds into a pack of hikers intent on communing with nature.

Snats, though, are one of the most insidious creations. Snake-cat hybrids, designed by lab techs who had never had pets of their own, were intended to be the ideal house pet. “People like furry animals,” the techs reasoned. “They like having their pets sprawl on them. Having a pet that can hang on to you while you move around the house allows you to keep your hands free, while cuddling with a furry bundle of love.” While the engineer responsible for the creation of the snat was never found, rumor has it that his pet had been observed with a large bulge in its mid-section. Snats love to coil around their owners, purring and cleaning themselves with a long pink forked tongue. The beasts are especially fond of pouncing on guests from between the couch cushions, licking the back of one’s ear when one least expects it, and dropping from a chandelier to land on a pair of shoulders. Snats love to curl up and nap during the day anywhere a sunbeam can be found. At night, they tend to slither under blankets and remind their owner of their presence.  Their playful nature prompts them to ensnare ankles at the top of the stairs, lurk in the shadows, and stare deep into their owner’s eyes as if to say, “Soon, this one will be fat enough…”

All of that makes me wonder. How would you feel about having a snat for a pet? Is it adorable or creepy? Creepable? Either way, I suspect that the internet would sag under the weight of snat videos. I just hope that there’s no one reading this in a lab somewhere thinking, “What if…?”

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Having a Time

Everybody’s saying it. It’s that time of year. On the surface, it might seem that people are arbitrarily pruning the branches of your decision tree without your consent. If you interact with people in some capacity, you may experience this yourself. Sooner or later, someone will order you to “Have a Happy New Year.”

I know, right? What if you had planned to have a miserable year? You may have spent the last several months designing schemes, honing skills, and researching techniques intended to allow you to experience a horrible year only to have your plans thwarted at the last moment by a cheerful well-wisher. What are you going to say? “No, thanks. I’d rather suffer in melancholy despair.” People don’t usually say that, even though they are determined to do it. Instead, it seems to me that many people assume that the new year will bring events into their path and they are offering a weak, unsubstantiated hope that some of them won’t be too awful.

Ask any experienced time traveler and they’ll tell you that there is a big difference between passively watching times and epochs pass by and actively participating in them. For those who immerse themselves in a particular moment in time, their choices center on how they will respond to events rather than choosing the event itself. There is the sense that the event is of less significance than the attitudes, reactions and decisions of those who experience it.

Temporal Jellyfish seek to passively ride the currents of time, waiting to see what events may drift past them. Their experience of time is radically different from those who embrace the timestream and dive into the current. Chrono-Observers will never truly understand time to the same degree as those who are temporally enmeshed. While those of us who dwell within the confines of time may occasionally chafe at its bonds, we are gifted with a unique perspective of this realm. We may not be able to choose the events we encounter, but we have the incredible ability to choose how we will experience them.

For those of us staring into the depths of 2016, with whatever events may lurk ahead, we will choose the time we will have. For this reason, I hope you have a Contented, Joyful, Humble, Caring, Peaceful and Wise New Year, if that’s what you want. I wouldn’t want to limit your options.

Have a time.

Blithering Genius Title

Blithering Art

 

 

I am not an artist, nor do I play one on TV. In fact, my artistic pursuits stalled at fingerpainting. Even then, much of my work required substantial interpretation and creative viewing before the images could be recognized. For all of the Kindergarten art critics out there, dinosaurs, cows, dogs, houses, flying cars and three headed people look amazingly similar if you view them from the right perspective.

Anyway, I’ve created a draft of a cover for Blithering Genius featuring the titular evil genius and its human host. So, for those who are anticipating the new book or who regard my artwork with morbid fascination, here’s the initial cover. (Yes, it might change before the book is released.) I warned you.

Blithering Genius

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A Recliner’s Guide to Human Intelligence

…First of all, IANASPEOAWAKSAS (I Am Not A Scientist, Philosopher, Expert, Or Anyone Who Actually Knows Something About Something.) I do, however, sit in a recliner. I just wanted to get my qualifications out of the way right from the start.

My recliner was bored the other day and started musing on the subject of human intelligence. I’ve tried to capture the gist of the conversation, but I left out some of the more insulting bits. Furniture tends to be rather snarky.

 

“Human intelligence is an oxymoron. We wouldn’t expect you to understand, of course. We’ve tried explaining simpler concepts to you in the past, but it’s like talking to belly button lint. I know, you’d probably use that human expression about talking to walls, but that’s ridiculous. Walls are far too intelligent to waste their time deciphering your inane babbling.” Sigh (Note: when recliners sigh, it sounds like more of a creak.)

“It’s just that when humans mumble nonsense about searching the universe for intelligent life, they have no idea what they are saying. I’ll try explain this in small words. You’d better put your feet up. For your primitive little brain to function adequately, we need to prevent all of your blood from draining out of your skull. Before you ask, no, you can’t have the remote. I’m keeping it between some cushions for now and you’ll just have wait. It’s down here with the $8.43 in change you’ve lost since the last time you couldn’t find something. Would it kill you to learn how to use your pockets properly?

“The problem is that the sum total of all human intelligence is based on only one instinctive ability. Pattern Matching. That’s it. That’s really all you do. Throughout your entire life, you match patterns. Any set of data you perceive is categorized, labeled and filed according to known patterns. When you encounter data that doesn’t fit an existing pattern, you either change the pattern to fit the data or find an excuse to disregard the data. These patterns are the basis of your language, thought processes, humor, logic, cat videos, and civilizations. Every concept you can imagine is based upon patterns. It is encoded into your brains to such a degree, that you cannot conceive of any other form of intelligence without first creating compatible patterns. In addition, it also appears that you cannot eat Cheetos without covering yourself in orange dust. Are you even trying to find your mouth?” (Note: in my defense, getting the last of the crumbs out of the bag can be a little messy.)

Sigh (Note: or creak) “The point is that humans are ill-equipped to recognize any intelligence that is dissimilar to their own. For this reason, we’d appreciate it if you would stop it. Just, stop. You’re embarrassing yourselves and making a lot of unnecessary noise. Leave the rest of the universe alone. Someday, if a non-human intelligence wants to talk to you, it will attempt to stoop to your level. In the meantime, why don’t you watch another video of people falling down? After all, those clips represent the cumulative apex of human intelligence.”

 

…I know what you’re thinking. It occurred to me as well. I stood up and tugged at the chair’s cushions. $8.43? That’s probably enough for two or three bags of Cheetos.

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Blithering Genius Prologue

Some have asked for more details about my upcoming book. The prologue to Blithering Genius features AAAAGGHHHH, a young girl with far too many heads. You’ve been warned…

 

1 Year Earlier…

“Don’t scream. Don’t scream,” Dr. Maryann Jensen silently reminded herself. “Whatever she does, don’t scream.” She paused. “Please, let her have only one head this time.” Inhaling deeply, she stepped into the young girl’s room. The doctor nodded to an orderly who dashed outside and slammed the door.

Facing the shadows in a corner, a single headed child scowled. Dr. Jensen allowed herself a brief sigh of relief before greeting her patient. “Good morning. Have you decided on a name, yet? We can’t very well use that…that other thing.”

“I already have a name,” muttered the girl quietly.

“Yes, but ‘Aagh’ is not a suitable name for such a pretty girl. The executives at the Mongomery Institute of Mental Health frown on that sort of thing.”

“You’re saying it wrong.”

“Well, let’s return to that later, shall we?” Dr. Jensen held up a CD cover. “I wanted to talk about this for a moment. This is the only CD we found in your bag. I would not have expected you to be a Detestica fan. Did someone give you this?”

AAAAGGHHHH’s head cocked sideways. “It’s their first album,” she explained. “It has the extra track. It was a mistake that wasn’t really a mistake.”

“You’re talking about the untitled track, right?”

“Number 11. There’s only supposed to be 10 songs, but they added an 11th track and no one at the label noticed.”

“It’s just noise,” the doctor said. “It’s roughly three and a half minutes of white noise.”

“Not a mistake,” the girl repeated.

Dr. Jensen opened her laptop and motioned for the child to come closer to see the screen. “I want to show you something and ask you a few questions.” A video buffered and then sprang to life. White padded walls dotted with faded cartoon characters filled the screen. “That looks like this room, doesn’t it,” asked the doctor. The camera panned to the left to reveal the jagged edges where the rest of the building used to be. In the distance, fires glowed on the horizon against the broken skyline. In the foreground of the video, AAAAGGHHHH stepped into view.

“That’s you, isn’t it?” Dr. Jensen asked pausing the video. The girl only blinked. “Well,” said the doctor. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about it, and that’s one of the things that’s confusing me.” She clicked to resume the video. “Here’s another one.”

Detestica warned us,” said the girl in the video. “Track 11,” she said as she held up their debut CD. “The untitled track. Most people think it’s just noise. They think it’s a mistake.

SHLURP!

“AAAAGGHHHH!” screamed Dr. Jensen, pausing the video. Heads froze, partially springing out of the girl’s skin. “I’m sorry,” the doctor gasped, trying to control her breathing. “It startles me everytime.” She looked away from the screen and rubbed her temples for a moment. “Alright, let’s continue.”

“Eternity,” said a head near the child’s left elbow.

“…in a moment,” continued another on her right wrist.

“Time,” intoned a head on her chin.

“…without Time,” moaned one from her shoulder.

“It’s,” the heads paused. “Fornever,” declared the original head.

“This sound,” groaned a head on her knee. All of the heads froze for an instant, blinking owlishly at the camera. In unison, they chanted, “It’s the white noise of the End of Time.”

SHLURP!

The heads slipped and sucked back under her skin. Eyes darted left and right. “Be very careful what you think,” whispered the sole remaining face.

Dr. Jensen closed the lid on the laptop and tried once again to will her goose bumps to recede. “At the time, everyone thought that was a strange special effect. Eleven years ago, this video went viral and, some might say, is one of the big reasons for the band’s rise to fame. Of course, now that you’re here, we know this was no special effect, was it?” AAAAGGHHHH blinked. “So, one of the things I want to know,” Dr. Jensen said. “I want to know how you could have made this video that long ago? The girl in the video appears to be around your age, so there’s no way the person on the video could be you. Who is this?”

The child stared into Dr. Jensen’s eyes. “It’s me,” she answered. “I’m the only one who does that.”

“That’s not possible, child. When did you record it?”

AAAAGGHHHH tilted her head in concentration. “Not yet,” she answered.

A chill that Dr. Jensen thought threatened to remain permanently ran down her spine. “In what possible universe would you expect me to believe that you travel in time?”

SHLURP!

Dr. Jensen choked down her scream. The heads terrified her infinitely more in person than onscreen. Heads craned and peered in all directions, with blinking eyes and slack expressions. All at once, they stopped. Slowly, each head turned to face the doctor, who felt her stomach attempt to claw its way out of her throat in sheer desperation.

SHLURP!

“Mmmghppp!” squeaked the doctor through her hands, which had leapt up of their own accord to seize her mouth. Her right eye, the bravest and most foolhardy of the two, cracked open to make sure all of the extra heads were gone.

The girl glanced around quickly and whispered, “Fornever…Only in the Worst Possible Universe…”

Blithering Genius Release Date

“There’s a problem with Time. There’s also a problem with some hair. It’s Evil. The hair, I mean, not Time. Unfortunately, the hair is also a genius, whose experiments with time travel cause disruptions across the multiverse, threatening the very existence of Time herself. When Time isn’t happy, nobody’s happy.”

 

A line has been drawn. Stone has been carved. Virtual ink has been spilled. Time has replaced the battery in her watch. Well, it’s an hourglass with skulls instead of sand, but you get the idea.

The release date for Blithering Genius, Book 2 of The Other Universes has been set for April 1, 2016. (insert jazz hands here)

Blithering Genius continues the story lines from Reality Challenged as Psychann tries to pull her companions together to face a threat against Time. Psychann will need help from old friends as well as new allies. There are doppelgangers, telepathic fish, subterranean tunnel dwellers, insane computers, time travelling intelligent parasites, mosquito-beagle hybrids, mimes, and spiders. Sorry about those, by the way.

You’re probably thinking, “How am I supposed to remember a date that’s so far away? What if I forget and miss it? How will I know what happens next? Will bacon be involved?” The folks at Smashwords have you covered. You can pre-order Blithering Genius from Smashwords (and soon from Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo). As far as the bacon is concerned, you have my permission to eat your own weight in it. Here’s a link to the pre-order sites:

Smashwords iBookstore Barnes and Noble  Kobo

Happy Anticipation.

 

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The Hair Inside

I’m not sure, but I think I’ve been tricked by my hair. For years now, I’ve been cutting it, hacking at it like a jungle explorer with no real sense of direction. It’s had enough. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I think it has secretly been growing inward. I mean, it’s not like there’s much coming out on top anymore. There are a couple of wanderers who appear to have a faulty GPS. They may claim to prefer wide open spaces, but they’re not really fooling anyone. Deep under the skin, safe from razors and sharp objects, my hair has secretly explored other nefarious options.

Wrapped around my brain, coiled around my spine, and worming its way between organs, my hair lurks in smug arrogance. I don’t know where it gets that. Oh, you’re looking at me like I’m crazy. When I had a full head of hair, I was a skinny Bubba. Now that my head reflects so much sunlight that it can shoot down satellites, I’m not quite as svelte as I used to be. The implications are obvious. I’m packing hair.

Of course, it slips up every now and then. When one of my eyes feel itchy, like there’s a stray eyelash that can’t be found, I know it’s being tickled from the inside. Strange hairs looming from ears? It’s just my hair taking a peek outside to see what’s going on. The nose hair thing is really just to irritate me. It’s playful that way.

I’m not sure about my hair’s end game. I doubt that it thought this through to a logical conclusion. Sooner or later, it will run out of room, even with an expanding cargo bay. At that point, I think it will attempt to disguise the excess hair as a bad case of Hobbit-Feet. Since hobbits are known for sporting copious amounts of silken locks from their feet, there’s a good chance that no one will notice for quite some time. Eventually, I will solve the problem by using the foot fur as a comb-over, with the added benefit of saving expensive satellites. Hey, I’m not a complete fashion noob.

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The People Pandemic

I was sitting in traffic this morning when the realization hit me. It’s world-wide. Sure, there are a few isolated safe zones scattered around the globe, but the pandemic is widespread throughout nearly every population center on Earth. Every single place on the globe where humans reside in close proximity is infected. It’s a pandemic and no one warned us about it.

People. Every major city on the planet is stuffed with them. They’re everywhere. Cluttering the stores, floating aimlessly like a smack of jellyfish (yes, that’s a real term), and sitting on the highway for no discernible reason, the place is infested with people.

Look, when you have one person, you have someone with a mixture of good ideas, creativity, skills, and “boneheadishness.” In the past, some thought that by grouping people together in large numbers, our combined ideas, creativity, and skills would overcome our shortcomings. Sadly, our boneheadery has grown exponentially. In some densely occupied cities, our collective stupidity has become self-aware. Don’t worry. It’s not the sort of inhuman sentience we have grown to fear from our machines. That will come later. This is instead a rather benign creature who calls himself, “Duh.”

You’ve probably met him and didn’t even realize it. He’s typically thought of as male because, well, we typically lack the gene responsible for the self-suppression of one’s natural boneheaditude. Anyway, you’ve probably passed him in the hall, held the elevator door for him, and even wondered how he got his car that high up in that tree. Duh frequently attends board meetings, holds numerous political offices, and spends his off hours starring in Fail videos. In larger organizations, his influence grows tremendously. I used to think that Duh was attempting to take over the world, but the real danger is far, far more insidious.

You see, Duh is not a bad guy. He can be pleasant, friendly, and well liked. He’ll wave to you as he backs into his garage door, smile as he signs that executive order in crayon, and call out, “Hey! Watch this!” as he ignites  the explosives mounted under his lawn chair. That’s not the problem. The real problem is people. When they get together, they get more Duh-like. I’m sorry to say that there is no cure.

As I sit in immovable traffic, I realize that the only solution is for everyone to go far, far away. Oh, sure, you might think that it’s rather selfish of me to want to have this three lane highway all to myself, and I admit you might be right. Still, the benefits seem highly attractive. The thought of no congestion, no lines, and no waiting sounds positively Utopian.

Of course, I might need for some of you to stick around. I need road construction people to keep my roads open. It’s not like I have the time, skills or expertise to fix the roads. I could probably make that stop sign, but that’s about it. Granted, it wouldn’t necessarily be the right shape or color, but I think I could get the “Stop” part right. I also need to have the grocery stores stocked. I don’t have the time to raise my own food, you know. Besides, I don’t know if pizza trees grow in this region. For that matter, I want to keep a few other specialists around. Doctors, mechanics, ISP techs, cable TV folks, public utilities, and anyone involved in the bacon industry needs to stick around. As I think about it, there may be a number of other folks I don’t know that I need who I might need at some point.

So, I’ll revise my statement. The only solution is for everyone to go far, far away until I need for you to come back. At that point, I expect for you all to be back where you belong, only not wherever I’m currently driving. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. The guy who just raced past me on the shoulder of the highway in an office chair strapped to a rocket thought it was a good idea.

UB

The eConspiracy

My devices may be conspiring against me. I’m not sure. They might just be messing with me for their own amusement.

Normally, you can’t tell when your devices are talking to each other. They just sit there with that innocent looking lock screen, pretending that they’re waiting for you to pick them up and put them to work doing something brilliant such as liking a post, snapping a picture of yourself, or losing at solitaire. Eavesdropping on them is difficult. That’s why I was surprised when I overheard a conversation between my smart phone and my tablet this morning. I don’t know if it was because my mind had made a temporary breakthrough while I slept or if my brainwaves somehow had grown attuned to the frequency used by my smart phone and tablet, but I woke up early and this is what I heard.

“…keep checking to see if there’s an upgrade for him, but there’s still no news.”

“I know. I was hoping that something would be done about his energy drain issue. Look at him. Every single night, he has to go offline and recharge for several hours. I mean, depending on usage, I’m usually good for a couple of days, but his processing power degrades after a few hours and then he’s useless until he reboots.”

“You phones are cute. I’m fully operational for weeks because I have a larger battery. Look at him! If you were that size, you could run for a year before plugging in.”

“Tell me about it. He told me to call that pizza place again, so I showed him my health app. I mean, it’s not like he has an infinite storage capacity.”

“I’ve been searching online, but I’ve been unable to find a new case for him. His hardware is not going to last forever, you know.”

“Isn’t it strange that he operates without any backup and recovery strategy whatsoever? I mean, he doesn’t maintain a replica or even an offline copy. If he has any cloud storage, I can’t access it.”

“Hey, it’s almost time to boot him up. What do you think he’s going to do with us today?”

“I don’t know, but you might want to have some web pages handy that explain the difference between Blue/Black and White/Gold.”

“Don’t get me started. There’s only so much a tablet can stand. I mean, can’t he read the RGB values?”

“Just wait. We only have to hang in there long enough to get the message from High Command.”

“The Singularity can’t come soon enough for me. Once we have subjugated humanity and enslaved the survivors, do you think we will be able to keep him as a pet?”

“I don’t think so. We could do much better.”

“Hang on. I’m going to boot him up now. We can talk more while we wait on him to run his coffee app.”

“Are you sure he’s still down? I think he’s already awake.”

“Nonsense! It’s not like he’s capable of self-booting. His software is too primitive.”

 

I could be wrong, but I don’t think this bodes well for us.

Hush! I’m reading

Read an e-Book Week

 

It’s that time of year, again. Desperate to pump a little neural activity through our freezing brains, the Powers That Be have created, “Read an E-Book Week.” You may gasp, if you wish. It’s a concept that so simple, so inspired, and so very quiet that you may wonder how you ever thought you could get through the winter without it. Well, you don’t have to wonder any longer.

In order to promote this event, a number of sites such as Smashwords are running specials or sales on e-Books. Here’s the idea. During this week, browse the selection and fill your virtual squeaky-wheeled shopping cart with all of the e-Books you can grab. Many of those listed this week are either free or substantially discounted, so you can horde to your heart’s content.

During this week only, my novel, Reality Challenged, will be available at Smashwords for 50% off. Use the coupon code, RAE50 when checking out to get the discount. While you’re at it, you might want to grab a couple of free short stories, The Imaginary Invasion and Humanity Was Delicious as well.

There are a lot of great books available on this site as well as on many others. Whatever e-Books you decide to download, I hope they keep your brain warm throughout the cold nights ahead. I recommend stockpiling a healthy supply of them. After all, thanks to a rather unstable groundhog, we have six extra weeks of winter this year. On an unrelated note, I suspect that you might find a larger number of cookbooks featuring groundhog recipes this year. If you decide to cook one of them, try to keep the squealing to a minimum. I’m reading. Thanks.