Darrell Bain's Monthly Blog - November 2010
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Bainstorming: Darrell's Bain's Monthly Blog.
Responses to subjects brought up by this blog are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.
Subjects this month: Best seller at Amazon, Poor Tonto, A Rare Pair, Quotes, Book Reviews, Comic Strips, Progress report, Exercise, Married couples & Quantum entanglement, Literary blindness, Excerpt from Altered Humans.
Best seller at Amazon
My latest book, Alien Enigma, written with Tony Teora, appeared on the Amazon science fiction best seller list a week after its publication as an ebook and even before the print version became available (which should be this month or early next month). As I write this, a couple of before the first of the month, Alien Enigma is still there among the top 100 best sellers in science fiction and fantasy, right along with the latest novels by such notable authors as David Weber and S.M. Stirling which are available in both print and ebook versions. I was very pleased to see this (and I have to admit, somewhat excited). Alien Enigma could be considered military science fiction but it has more to offer than simply a lot of fighting. The Enigma part of the title comes from the fact that very expensive spaceships are vanishing when they attempt to penetrate a certain star cluster. The navy’s latest and most powerful ship, the U.S.S.N. Doc Travis is called on to solve the mystery.
Little idiot but lovable Tonto has back problems again, more severe this time. Betty and I are up all hours of the day and night with him, giving him meds and cleaning him (he’s incontinent right now) and trying to comfort him. Poor little fellow, he just doesn’t understand what’s happened to his back end where he can’t stand or walk. He does have about 10 or 15% of normal sensation which makes us hopeful he may recover. He came back from the last episode almost 100% but this looks to be a worst case than the previous one. We hope you all who have read about him will send some kind thoughts to the little fellow, along with the hope that he will walk again. I will update this next month.
A Rare Pair
Betty and I must have been destined to be together, even though half our lives were over before we met. One of the first things we did after our first date was give a book to the other. I think it was actually after we were married that we discovered a trait in both of us that’s found in very few people. We re-read books. By that I don’t mean we’ll pick up a book we haven’t read in 20 years and read it again. No, we re-read books numerous times. In some cases we re-read our favorite books dozens of times. How many people do you know who do that? I don’t know anyone who will read a book over and over like I do except Betty. And that’s why I say we’re a rare pair and belong together. There are other reasons, of course, but they’re common reasons like loving each other, not arguing, respecting each other’s quirks, being polite, sharing duties, and so forth. Many couples who stay together have those traits. But re-reading books so many times—ah, that’s something that only she and I understand! And appreciate! We each have a core of about 500 books that we read and re-read. About every two or three years when our book shelves begin overflowing we go through them and generally discard books that haven’t been re-read in the last 10 years or so, but that hardly ever includes our favorite core books. Sometimes we talk about what will happen to our favorite books after we’re gone and wonder whether anyone else will appreciate them as much as we do. Our conclusion is that no one else will understand why we kept them so long. Ah well, I’m just glad we met when we were both single again, me from divorce and Betty as a widow. I think it must have been fate, but we’ll take it and be eternally glad our paths crossed when they did!
Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes fame, says that he won’t eat any cereal that doesn’t turn the milk purple. Now that’s a fine criteria for an obnoxious little six year old’s cereal.
From the comic strip Family Circus comes another quote by the little girl. When Mommy reads us a grown up book we have to make our own pictures. Now that quote sums up what reading fiction is all about. We form mental images as we read. It is an interactive process, unlike movies or stage or any other kind of media. We aren’t passive drones while we’re reading; we involve ourselves in the characters and story and form all kinds of images as we do. I won’t say that reading will never be displaced but it has stood the test of time so far. As for me, I seldom watch television or a movie. I much prefer a good book!
It should be against the law for anyone to run for office who hasn’t worked at a real job for at least a year. Who said that? Me.
Out of the Dark is David Weber’s newest. The novel involves an invasion of earth by one species of a Galactic Hegemony. Theoretically, with the alien’s advanced technology it should have been a laydown. But the Aliens had the misfortune to run across the meanest, most cantankerous species ever discovered. The humans of earth don’t take kindly to invasions. Weber does his usual magnificent job of writing, but I was a bit disappointed in the ending. However, the rest of the book is so good the ending is forgivable.
The Prince Roger four book series by David Weber and John Ringo is great science fiction adventure. I just read it again and I’ve recommended the four series before. Now I’m doing it again. Both authors are real professionals and great story tellers.
Warp Speed and The Quantum Connection by Travis S. Taylor were his first two single author books. They are well worth reading. I’ve read the duo four times so far.
Calvin & Hobbes was one of the finest comic strips ever. We own the three book complete collection. Betty just re-read all three. I just re-read the first one again. Hilarious. Betty and I both griped when he quit the strip after ten years but we now agree he did the right thing. He took it as far as he could without going into lots of repeating situations in different guises. An artist with real integrity. A very private man, too, by all accounts. I often wonder what he’s doing now and whether he’ll ever do comics again.
I just re-read 1632 by Eric Flint and will probably read part of the series again since a new one is coming out, 1636. I also just got a new 1635 by Flint and it was another good book in the series. It did leave some loose ends which I’m sure will be picked up in 1636. This is a magnificent alternate history series.
Newspapers continue to downsize and cut costs in order to stay in business. One of their methods of reducing expenses is not to carry so many comic strips. Hell, that’s the best part of the newspaper most days! The Houston Chronicle used to have four full pages but now it’s down to two and a fraction. Comic strips are sometimes funny but I like them most for the ones that do social and political satire and humor. Sure, you can get the comics on line but its not the same as reading them in the newspaper. And for some reason all the ebook readers that also allow you to download newspapers don’t have the comics in them! I have no idea why but I’d be inclined to subscribe to a newspaper download if they’d include the comics. Otherwise, no!
Alien Enigma is my latest novel, written with Tony Terora. It is off to a very good start in all the ebook markets and we hope to see the same when it arrives in print, probably toward the end of October or first of November. It is in all the ebook stores now and is a best seller in all of them. Tony and I are tentatively planning another collaboration, a brand new book.
I am coming right along with my latest SF/Suspense/thriller novel, Apertures. In fact, I like the way it’s turning out so well that I may decide to make it into a series, something I don’t often do. This time I’m pretty sure I will, though. More news on this book as it develops.
My other new book, The Disappearance Enigma, written with Mary Ann Steele is just out. It should show up in the ebook stores during November and shortly afterward in print.
The older a person gets, the more they need to exercise and the less inclination there is to do it. I really have to force myself to exercise rather than doing what I really would rather be doing: reading or writing, my two favorite forms of entertainment. Well, there’s one other but this is a family Blog. Anyway, I have a two mile circuit with lots of ups and downs laid out that’s fine for walking during the summer but I’m one of those persons who detests cold weather. So for winter exercise I have a Gazelle. Not a warm blooded four footed one but a Gazelle exercise machine. My doctor recommended it to me because of my serious back problems. It is a non-impact type machine. Most people who exercise on the Gazelle simply stride back and forth as if they’re walking straight-legged. That’s not only boring but doesn’t do much for you except as a cardiac exercise and even then once you become accustomed to the machine it can take quite a while to get you to breathing hard and raising your pulse rate. I devised a number of variants for the Gazelle so that I can get just about a full body workout on the machine. And to keep it from becoming boring, I do my exercises to music, using Pandora radio where I set it to mix and match my favorite artists and songs. I never know what tune will come up next so that usually keeps it interesting. The Gazelle is a good machine (if you use it like I do) and relatively inexpensive.
Married Couples and quantum entanglement
All of us have heard, read or seen the phenomena of long-married couples who seem able to almost read each other’s minds. Betty and I are like that. We often think of the same thing simultaneously and start doing something the other is thinking of doing or come out with the same expression at the same time. The longer you’re married, the more frequently the phenomena occurs. Why? I don’t think it is a simple case of just knowing the other person well. I suspect it is a reflection of the aspect of quantum mechanics called entanglement. There’s a lot of research going on involving the brain and part of the research is finding that there may be lots of quantum processes going on in our brains and those may very well be the basis of couples being so much in tune with each other over time. Quantum mechanics is so counter-intuitive that even Einstein had trouble believing in it. It works, though. The very computer you’re reading this on couldn’t be built without knowledge of quantum mechanics. I personally think all the tales of telepathy, dreams coming true, knowing what happened miles away before being told and so on are a result of quantum mechanics, action at a distance and thought becoming reality. I’ve had one psychic experience like that, a dream coming true. Weird stuff, that’s for sure.
I get really irritated sometimes when prizes, reviews in literary magazines and awards are announced for fiction. The people involved in this appear to me to be blind to the merits of some genre fiction. I’ll give you two examples here.
The first is David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. I can’t recall ever reading books which delve so deeply into some of the most notable aspects of society, namely the military, politics, interpersonal relationships and economics our peculiar species indulges in. Weber explores all these in the guise of science fiction, going into intimate detail as he does. Not only that, he creates beguiling, memorable characters and stories that are absolutely mesmerizing. Still, he is never even mentioned as a contender for “literary” awards even though he is incontestably, in my opinion, eminently eligible for any of them, including the Pulitzer prize for fiction. Just because he sets his stories in a future universe is no cause to exclude his writing.
Another author who gets no mention as a literary author is Stephen King. His book, It, is pure horror but I’ve never seen its equal in exploring the minds of kids. When he is at the top of his form, as he was with this book, he depicts our peculiar species, both adults and children, in a down to earth mode that no one but Mark Twain manages to come close to. Yet his writing is disparaged as mere pulp more often than not. (Some of it probably is, but a lot of it explores human nature better than many of the prize-winners I’ve read, or in some cases been unable to read bexause it was so uninteresting).
I can’t recall how many times I’ve read Weber’s Honor Harrington series or Stephen King’s It. That’s how good these two authors are.
One of the days I’d love to see just one of the literary critics announce that they can do better, but don’t hold your breath.
As usual, I’ve included an excerpt from one of my books that is in print. This month it is Altered Humans. Part of it was written very early in my career but I still think it’s a pretty interesting story of the days after genetic alteration of our pets and other animals became common and how the practice changed our society drastically.
Excerpt Altered Humans
Altered Humans is the first book of the Pet Plague Trilogy, in print now only as the three book trilogy. The other two books are The Pet Plague and Space Pets.
"Don't you remember? We're going to Dad and Mom's for dinner tonight. And don't have another drink. You know how they feel about alcohol."
"I had forgotten," Gary admitted. In truth he had wanted to forget. A gathering at Deacon Pilkington's place wasn't his idea of a fun evening. Amelia had fostered the commitment on him in the after throes of sex a couple of weeks ago and he had conveniently put it out of his mind since then. He remembered now though, and knew that he and Amelia would be expected. Gary figured he had as many faults as the next man but breaking social engagements on short notice wasn't one of them. He would rather have broken a promise to his cat.
"I'll get dressed," he said resignedly. "Have you fed Booger Bear?"
"I'm not going near that blasphemous animal again! You should get rid of it. The neighbors are beginning to complain."
Gary doubted that. Few of them even knew he owned an enhanced cat, but he didn't want to argue. He never did. His usual inclination was to listen politely, then go on doing whatever he thought was right. "Never mind," he said. "I'll do it."
Booger Bear the cat was coal black and fluffy haired, with only a stub of a tail. He was short and stout, and the lack of a tail made him look remarkably like a small bear cub except for the large, high-domed forehead, essential in order to have room in his skull for enhanced intelligence and speech facility. Gary had bonded with him soon after birth, feeding him himself, and carrying him around in a detachable padded pocket that fit all of his jean jackets. He was well over a year old now and just learning to talk. Gary loved the little critter, and until his recent marriage to Amelia the fat, bouncy cat had been one of the focal points of his life.
The back room where Booger Bear lived was empty. Looking around, Gary saw that Amelia had been telling the truth about not going near the cat. The room was cluttered, unlike the rest of the house that she kept meticulously in order. The bed covers were rumpled and little pyramids of fabric stuck up in patterns where his claws had caught on it. Several objects that rightfully belonged on shelves were scattered on the floor.
Gary picked up a little figurine of a black wolf and another of a black ferret, two of the species he had worked on for his doctorate. He measured the distance from the floor to the shelf where the figurines belonged with his eyes and whistled softly. It would have been a good leap for a full grown cat, verifying the enhanced muscles in his genome. He replaced the objects then opened the back door and looked out.
A high fence enclosed the spacious yard. It contained low ornamental bushes and a fine carpet of no-grow grass. It also sported a small wading pond in the center, now given over to decorative fish.
Gary laughed out loud. Booger Bear heard the laugh and came bounding up to him. He rubbed against Gary's legs and began purring with a deep rumbling noise that sounded too loud for his size.
Gary reached down and rubbed his hand along the cat's back. "Booger, if you're going to take up fishing, you're going to have to learn some physics first. Refraction, you know. The fish aren't where you think they are."
"The light bends when it enters the water, like this." Gary demonstrated with an angled wrist.
"Why?" Booger asked, for all the world like a three year old child.
"It's a natural law, Booger," Gary said.
That seemed to satisfy the cat though he really didn't understand the explanation. He meowed and rolled onto his back, asking for a belly rub. Gary stroked the soft furry pelt covering his belly and tickled him on the insides of his hind legs. Booger Bear's purrs increased in volume to a deep throaty roar.
"We're going out for a while. Do you want to eat?"
"Dream on, young man. I can't afford liver for you every day. How about some nice, fish flavored protein?"
"Sorry. It's fish or nothing."
"Okay," Booger Bear agreed reluctantly. "Ride?"
"Sure." Gary stood up, bringing the cat with him. He draped Booger Bear over his shoulder in the cat's favorite position. Booger Bear thought it was great fun to ride there, looking back over his human's shoulder.
Gary took Booger Bear back to his room and fed him, then hurried to shower and change. He dressed in his usual fashion, jeans and jean jacket, casual shirt and soft leather boots. The boots were an anachronism since the introduction of thermometric footwear but he liked them. He tucked his little lasergun into a side pocket, ran a brush over his short brown hair and considered himself ready.
Amelia came into the bedroom just as he was finishing. She looked over his tall, lean figure critically while Gary waited. He knew that women found him attractive, with his high cheekbones and dark coloring reflecting an Amerindian ancestry, but what he didn't know was that his honest sincerity put many of them off. In troubled times woman look toward strong, aggressive men, not the quiet intellectuals.
"Are you going like that?" She finally said.
Gary looked down at himself then back up at Amelia. "What's wrong with the way I look? I always dress like this."
"Nothing, if you were going on a scavenger hunt. I suppose you're carrying your gun, too?"
"You know I always do," Gary said. This was another point of contention between them. Most governments had long since given up trying to enforce any kind of gun laws, although many of them were still on the books. Gary always carried his little lasergun, rightly having little faith in police protection. The Houston Police Department had deteriorated to such a sad state that a call for help was likely to be heeded only when their own turf was threatened.
"Yes, I know," Amelia answered. "And you never use it. Not that you should. Violence never solves anything."
"It's usually not necessary to pull a weapon so long as the other fellow knows you have one. If I had my way, I'd issue one to every responsible citizen in the city."
"I'm sure you would. Shall we go?"
Gary shrugged. "Let's do it. I'm hungry."
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