Category Archives: Science Fiction

Literary Racism* John B. Rosenman, Ph.D.

*Originally presented at “What Dreams May Come? Multiethnic Trends in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror,” a Literary Arts Spring Conference at Norfolk State University, April 5-6, 2001.

Traditionally, we have regarded racism as involving groups of people who are discriminated against because of one basic reason: ignorance.

However, there are also literary groups that many of us, especially academics, discriminate against every day for the exact same reason. While

African-American and women’s literature have finally, if grudgingly, been given some respectability through Norton anthologies that recognize their contributions, prejudice against other literary categories remains strong. This is especially true of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, despite the growing number of professional journals devoted to them such as Science Fiction Studies, Extrapolations, and Mythlore, and institutes such as the Center of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, founded in 1982. It is also true despite these genres’ illustrious traditions, the hundreds of well-attended conventions held throughout the world every year concerning them, and the many prestigious awards given to their best professionals. With regard to science fiction, for example, the annual Hugo and Nebula Awards have traditionally involved tremendous worldwide competition and recognized excellence in the genres of the short story, the novelette, the novella, and the novel.

Yet it has not been until recently that a science-fiction story such as Joanna Russ’s “When It Changed” has made it into The Norton Anthology of American Literature, perhaps partly because some academics have finally recognized that it explores the relationship between the sexes in a way that mainstream literature cannot. Still, such inclusion savors of “tokenism,” and we can be sure that in the hallowed halls of the Modern Language Association, the glass ceiling, though dented, remains steadfast in place.

The view that science fiction, horror, and fantasy are subliterary or simply not literature at all, is especially surprising when we consider the degree to which these genres have been represented in so-called “classical” works. From the Ghost and a corpse-laden floor in Hamlet to the man-made monster in Frankenstein, from Alice’s travels in Wonderland to Gulliver’s travels to Lilliput and Brobdingnag, there is no end of examples of genre fiction interbreeding with the blueblood mainstream. Yet, when it has, we have often tried to legitimatize the result by resorting to academic terms such as “satire” and “tragedy,” as if such labels make it all right. Still, Hamlet, among other things, remains a superb horror story, and Gulliver’s Travels, however satirical it may be, is also a timeless tale of fantasy that appeals to both children and adults.

Of the three genres, horror is especially denigrated, and authors such as Stephen King and Poppy Z. Brite often dismissed as purveyors of gross, popular entertainment. Yet as Richard Laymon, a former president of the Horror Writers Association has pointed out, “A great many” horror writers “have earned post-graduate degrees in literature and other fields” (5). What’s more, “If we remove from our literature everyone who has ever written horror, we lose (to name just a few) Chaucer, Shakespeare, the Brontes, Coleridge, Mary Shelley, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Stevenson, Poe, Dostoevsky, Hawthorne, Melville, Bram Stoker, Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor” and others. Indeed, as Laymon indicates, “The list could go on and on” (5).

Having established that exceptional works in the above-mentioned genres do qualify as literature, we now come to the main purpose of this paper, which is to explore and examine the reasons why bias against such achievement still prevails. Though there are complicated reasons, the main one can be found in the literary elite’s reactionary dislike of anything new, strange, different, or challenging – anything, in short, that departs either from the Officially Correct Way of Writing Great Works or the day to day reality they know. Other, related factors that cause such bias include (1) ignorance of genre classics, conventions, and contributions, (2) genre profiling based upon crude stereotypes found in popular culture such as Star Trek and Halloween, and (3) a failure to recognize the truth of Sturgeon’s Law that “90% of everything [written since the beginning of time] is junk” and that we shouldn’t “dismiss anything because of its worst representatives” (“Sturgeon’s Law,” 4).

While most people do not believe they are closed-minded or reluctant to experience new things, in general, the brave new worlds they encounter had better bear a close relationship to the ones they already know. Thus, while Octavia E. Butler’s novel, Kindred, does contain the fantasy or science-fiction element of time travel, some academics have accepted it only because it focuses on the heroine’s convincing and very real slave past. Historical verismilitude is established and maintained, and the novel has been read in universities – and labeled in bookstores — as Slave Narrative and as authentic African-American Literature. Yet if it were not for the ability of Dana’s “several times great grandfather” to summon her repeatedly from the late 20th century back to the antebellum South, the story would never have happened (28). To take one more example, Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray is regarded by some critics as genuine literature because of its prose style and moralizing. But would they be so appreciative if Wilde had brought that hideous portrait out of the nursery early on for us to look at?

What happens if the worlds portrayed differ significantly or radically from those with which most of us are familiar?  What if a different world or species is created, or a different technology that allows space travel or teleportation?  In such cases, the result is decidedly a much harder sell to those who keep the Keys to the Canon, because it is manifestly not real. Demons, dragons, alternate worlds, and future societies on distant planets?  Sorry, they never happened and never will. Even if these readers’ resistance could be broken down, and they could be convinced of the need to suspend their disbelief, they would still face another great obstacle: they would have to be willing to learn to read somewhat differently.

While this is true in fantasy and horror, with their unicorns and wizards, vampires and monsters, it is especially important in the genre of science fiction. Consider the first sentence of Octavia E. Butler’s masterpiece, Wild Seed, quoted by Orson Scott Card: “Doro discovered the woman by accident when he went to see what was left of one of his seed villages” (90). Card observes that “the reader who is inexperienced in sf thinks that the author expects him to already know what a seed village is.”  Because he doesn’t, though, he is likely to be disappointed and feel that “the writer is so clumsy that she doesn’t know how to communicate well, or that this novel is so esoteric that its readers are expected to know uncommon terms that aren’t even in the dictionary” (91). A science-fiction reader, though, recognizes “the principle of abeyance.”  In other words, he “doesn’t expect to receive a complete picture of the world all at once. Rather he builds up his own picture bit by bit from clues within the text” (91). He knows that he “is expected to extrapolate, to find the implied information contained in new words” (92).

Here, many of us might object that such writing is needlessly obscure rather than profound, and that it is not reasonable to impose such new rules on the reader. But surely, we do recognize that new rules are often necessary. We do not, for example, read Joyce’s Ulysses in quite the same way we read Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter or God help us, Finnegan’s Wake, with its endless thicket of interlocking puns. Moreover, in crossing T. S. Eliot’s “Wasteland,” we welcome the aid of an occasional footnote. Often this is true because of the condensed suggestiveness involved. Even one word may resonate with multiple meanings.

In science fiction, this is especially the case. As Card notes, “The sf writer is thus able to imply far more information than he actually states.” Consider the example of Robert Heinlein’s classic phrase, “The door dilated” (92). The one word “dilated” has a poetic richness, speaking volumes about the civilization that could create such a door.

In addition to accepting packed meanings that are not immediately clear, the new reader of science fiction must learn to appreciate a trait that is unique to the genre: namely, the fact that words and terms which in other works would have metaphoric meanings, in science fiction have literal ones. “The Chairman who sends out feelers” may be stretching out his (or its) pseudopods rather than subtly accessing people’s reactions to a proposal. “A happy bus,” in turn, may indeed be cheerful if it possesses an electronic brain, and a person with a “mechanical smile” is probably a robot. Similarly, in science fiction as well as in light and dark fantasy, statements that might seem hopelessly exaggerated or impossible are actually true, at least within the contexts of their worlds. In Isaac Asimov’s novel, Incredible Voyage, a crew is, in fact, shrunk to microscopic size and injected into a man’s artery in order to save him. Likewise, Alice, when she visits Wonderland, does drink a magic potion and shrink to tiny size, then become a giant.

But to readers who refuse to accept imaginative freedom, such writing will  seem debased, and they will discourage it by withholding their patronage. Indeed, for centuries, the elite literary establishment has played a harmful role in imposing its view of “high art” upon the mass audience. As Card’s essay, “Vulgar Art” points out, “In Elizabethan England, true literature, serious literature, was poetry,” whereas the “vulgar audience could only understand the theatrical stage,” which “was the artistic equivalent of bearbaiting.” But looking back, we realize now “it was the stage that produced most of the greatest works of the age” (191). The student of literature does not have to look far to find plentiful examples where popular departures from accepted literary practice have ultimately been vindicated.

Is a quintessential American play like Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman a failure because it focuses on Willy Loman, a down-and-out Everyman as its tragic hero rather than on a person of high birth or worth, as traditionally required?  Hardly. Literature evolves and ceaselessly changes; otherwise it becomes fixed and stagnant.

Despite this fact, the arbiters of an age, whether it be Elizabethan England or 21st century America, usually say pretty much the same thing. Yes, they will declaim, you may be different and experimental, strange and quirky, but only in such a way and in such a style. Orson Scott Card discusses why the arbiters of taste spurned the achievement of one highly innovative writer.

Why did the serious fiction community reject her [Patricia Geary’s] works?  Because it did not repeat the old, familiar experiments. The voice was not quirky, the language was not extravagantly metaphorical, but instead brought in a technique that was strange in unexpected ways. No one knew what to do with it. Thus, just as the readers of glitzy romance accept strangeness only in landscape, never in the manner of writing or even in story line, so also the readers of serious fiction celebrate strangeness only in certain familiar areas: voice and style and that old favorite, metaphors. The very process, in fact, of noticing and decoding metaphor and symbol within fiction becomes, itself, a safe, reassuring ritual. Just like romance readers settling down to see where Judith Krantz will take them this time” (188-189).

Sadly, “In America, ‘serious’ art has lost almost all connection with the mass audience” (Card, 190). What academics often fail to realize is that “The popular audience is just as critical and just as discerning as the elite audience. They just use different standards” and have “different values” (191). Works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and yes, romances and westerns too, are not necessarily junk that should be segregated in a literary ghetto. Instead, they may be genuine literature that belongs on the same shelf as Moby Dick and Othello. To appreciate them, though, it is necessary first to acquaint oneself with the protocols and requirements of reading them. As James Gunn, Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas reminds us, poetry and prose, the essay and the article, the novel, the short story, and drama are all read somewhat differently and according to somewhat different rules (2). The same applies to genre fiction. “Science fiction,” for example, “demands a different kind of reading – a kind of interaction with the text that must be required, in other circumstances, only by the most difficult literature, Joyce’s Ulysses, say, but most SF readers believe that the pay-off of SF is greater, or, at least, more satisfying to their particular desires” (6).

Who is to say, then, that the convoluted, metaphoric, adjective-driven style of arty but often obscure masterpieces is inherently superior to the meticulous science and extrapolations of hard science fiction, or the complicated and ingenious plots of medical thrillers? Why must there be only one limited, officially sanctioned way to create great art or absorbing literature?  The answer is that there shouldn’t be, for the possibilities of the written word are infinite. Unfortunately, as Card notes, the elite literati, “by ignoring vulgar art, is losing the ability to reach a popular audience even if they tried” (193). Consequently, the two get wider and wider apart and become increasingly invisible to each other.

Much of the bias, then, against popular fiction comes from ignorance both of its distinctive nature and its unique contributions. Many of those in the current audience are no doubt familiar with the poetry of the great English Romantic poet, John Keats. But how many of them, it might be asked, are familiar with Dan Simmons’ Keats-inspired, science-fiction masterworks, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion? To read them is to glimpse the full potentiality of speculative fiction when it comes to idea, concept, and the unbridled imagination. Again, many in the audience are probably acquainted with horror classics such as Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, but can the same be said for Peter Straub’s Ghost Story or Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend?  The last two novels and many more “popular” ones as well, including almost all those of Stephen King, have routinely been made into movies. If we are unwilling even to consider what such works have to offer, we run the risk of confusing the part for the whole and missing out on a lot of reading enjoyment. Perhaps even worse, for those of us who are teachers, we incur the danger of not even knowing what our own students are reading.

Black men are thugs and buffoons; blond women are airhead bimbos; Jews are big-nosed, money-grabbing sharks. These and other stereotypes have been instilled in us for decades by the media. Significantly, the same process applies to genre fiction and is another major cause of literary bigotry. Science-fiction is spaceships, bug-eyed monsters, and escapism; horror is mad serial killers, bug-eyed monsters, and sadism; fantasy is elves and dragons, wizards and witches, and any world in which you don’t have to pay your bills. Such simplistic attitudes, whether they apply to people, religion, politics, or literature, largely explain why there is so much poor thinking in the world.

People can conduct simple tests to determine the extent to which the media have colored their thinking. For example, when they think of science fiction, do shows like Star Trek come to mind? Do they think of warp speed and Captain Kirk’s command to “Beam me up, Scotty”? If so, then there is a very real chance that genre profiling has occurred, because Star Trek and all its spinoffs are limited, pedestrian science fiction at best. To equate science fiction with the Star Trek and Star Wars industries is to say that science fiction is essentially space opera, or galactic Westerns that substitute phasers for six-shooters, and that once you have seen such movies, you know basically all there is to know. It is comparable to equating African-Americans with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and believing that all black people do is play basketball. Significantly, the British have a more enlightened attitude than Americans concerning speculative fiction. Novels such as H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Time Machine, have routinely been accepted as literature for over a century. We would do well to emulate such a practice.

As for darker fiction, the situation is even worse. Today, thanks to the media, it is almost impossible not to think in stereotypes when it comes to horror and dark fantasy. Partly this is due to the grisly, garish paperbacks which feature  monsters and madmen, knives and dismemberment, and horrific visual effects achieved simply by tilting the cover. For a while, back in the 80’s, horror novels were almost as identifiable on sight as the romantic bodice-rippers we see every day on newstands. The situation has not changed that much. Recently, one writer commented that her 30-month-old granddaughter pulled out a paperback “with a raised cover of a great big knife” and hollered, “Gwenie, scary book” (Elaine).

The fact is, we are constantly bombarded by simplistic, stereotyped images of horror and dark fantasy. They include everything from stock “slasher” movies such as Scream, Halloween, and Friday the Thirteenth, to some of our favorite breakfast cereals like Count Chocola and Frankenberry. We even have a national holiday, Halloween, which is devoted to a child’s view of  horror, and a set of five stamps honoring “the five greatest monsters of all time – Frankenstein’s Creature, Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, The Wolf Man and The Mummy” (“Classic Movie Monsters Stamps,” 1). Unfortunately, what we are missing is the subtle, moody, atmospheric style of brilliant writers like Ramsey Campbell, and the cosmic horror in the face of the unknown that can be found in H.P. Lovecraft, America’s twentieth-century version of Edgar Allen Poe.

Say the word “horror” to the average citizen, and you may see a look of disgust. Say “fantasy,” and you will probably get no response at all. Still, to most people, both words have a pejorative connotation. If “horror” is seen as gore, immorality, and Satanism, “fantasy” is viewed as impractical and out of touch with reality. “You live in a fantasy world” is a common putdown. Lord help the accused if he possesses an imagination, and be careful to discourage your children from using their imaginations too much, lest it warp their minds and keep them from getting ahead. It is no accident that perhaps the most popular TV fantasy show ever, “Fantasy Island,” was predictable, formulaic fluff. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, as long as we have sufficient alternatives. Regrettably, we haven’t, and the consequence is that we continue to equate fantasy, as we do most genre fiction, with the worst possible examples of it.

As we have seen, literary racism is a practice that closely resembles traditional racism, and it involves the very genres that this conference addresses. It is based on ignorance of what has been written, as well as of the proper ways to read it, and it has been encouraged by an artistic elite that is strongly contemptuous of popular literature. In America especially, the media have contributed to this bias by bombarding us with simplistic images and stereotypes that reflect only the worst aspects of genre fiction.

Besides having conferences such as this one, what can we do to correct the problem? Much of the answer lies with educators, who must champion the importance of the creative imagination, even if it leads in different and unpopular directions. Educators must also discourage simplistic attitudes toward the creative process that are based on stereotypes and the exclusion of alternatives. We might remember that Richard Wright, a great African-American writer, was ostracized by classmates and his own family for daring to write a horror story titled “The Voodoo of Hell’s Half-Acre.” Concerning his schoolmates, he wrote that “The mood out of which a story was written was the most alien thing conceivable to them” (184). We must strive to see that our children grow up believing that creativity and imagination are not alien or strange but at the heart of what it means to be human, and therefore, must always be cherished.

 

Works Cited

Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. New York: Beacon Press. 1988.

Card, Orson Scott. How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Cincinnatti: Writer’s Digest Books. 1990.

Card, Orson Scott. “Vulgar Art.”  Nebula Awards 25. Ed. Michael Bishop. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 183-199.

Classic Movie Monsters Stamps from the United States Postal Service.

21 March, 2001. <http://www.mca.com/horror/oct97/halloween/usps.html.>.

Elaine. “Re: Literary Racism.”  7 March, 2001. Online Posting. Horror Writers Association Website. <http:// www.horror.org/private/wwwboard/messages/10140.html>.

Gunn, James. “The Protocols of Science Fiction.”  24 March, 2001. <http://falcon.cc.ukans.edu/~sfcenter/protocol.htm.>.

Laymon, Richard. “HWA President Responds.” The Official Newsletter of the Horror Writers Association. Ed. Kathryn Ptacek. Vol. 12, Issue 10. Feb. 2001. 4-5.

“Sturgeon’s Law.” 18 March, 2001. Fiawol and all that. <http://www. cherryh.com/www.fiawol.htm>.

Wright, Richard. Black Boy. New York: Harper & Row. 1966.

* * *

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RacismWebsite: http://johnrosenman.com

Blogsite: http://johnrosenman.blogspot.com

 

 

 

Who I Am, and What I Do by John B. Rosenman

2nd photo for john

In 1952, when I was eleven, I sat in a theater watching “The War of the Worlds.” When the scene came where three men were left alone with a smoldering meteor that started to unscrew, I got scared to death. What was in that meteor? What would it look like and do? It took all my courage to stay in my seat and not run.

Originally I wanted (implausibly) to be an opera star, but I think that movie, plus others like “Them!” and “The Thing,” influenced me to follow a more gruesome path. Also, I became addicted to horror comics such as “Tales From The Crypt.” Around this time, a friend introduced me to Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, and I quickly Biographydevoured  “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man,” “I Am Legend,” and “The Shrinking Man.” These science-fiction books lived inside me, fired my imagination. I’ll never forget the episode in “Chronicles” in which Earthmen discover a town on Mars with all their dead loved ones WAITING FOR THEM.

Besides enjoying such movies, comics, and books, I received Poe’s collected works from a family friend. Even better was a birthday gift–-a year’s subscription to the SF magazine “Amazing”!

Looking back, I find it’s not easy to determine just when my psychic twig received its first weird bent. Much earlier, when I was seven, I loved to turn the lights out, go to bed early, and listen to “The Shadow” and other programs on the radio. In the dark, my imagination swept me along in ways that even later TV shows like “Thriller” couldn’t match. Who knows, perhaps my original ‘warping’ took place listening to such eerie tales, or even earlier-–in the womb! Oddly, while I liked creepy books, I went through stages when I read primarily other genres. First it was mysteries, especially those by Ellery Queen. Then in my early teens, I read enough westerns to die of lead poisoning. It’s not always easy to look back and trace a clear path to the present, perhaps because there isn’t one.

But one thing I always did like to do was write. As a little kid, I scribbled stories and drew cartoon panels in crayon rather than go out to play. Later, I crafted a never-ending novel with a fistfight every ten pages. Nope, The Twisted Years wasn’t about a space pirate or psychopath but a gunslinger with a tough childhood. I still remember that masterful first sentence: “Jeff Stancher didn’t pay any attention to the Abilene stage as it bumped and rattled into town.”

While I liked to write, I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living. My father, a lawyer, insisted I be practical. Yes, he thought I had a knack for writing, but one didn’t count on making a living that way. As a student, I was lazy and lousy. Somehow, my father got me into Hiram College where I belatedly learned to take notes and study. I majored in Political Science with a vague idea of becoming a lawyer, and graduated in three years. After that I attended Western Reserve Law School. Soon, bored by classes, I stayed away, writing stories and reading things like Mill’s “On Liberty.” Then one day I sold all my law books and hopped a bus to New Orleans, a “romantic” destination where I wrote bad stories in a cheap, $8 a week room and slung hamburgers for a buck an hour.

Cut to the future. I returned to Hiram, took some English courses, then received an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Kent State in English, my dissertation being written on William Faulkner. What a background for a speculative-fiction writer, right?

After teaching in Canada for three years, I found myself out of work. I landed a job at a Southern black college where, at the age of thirty-nine, I completed my first novel, Down From Oz in 1980. It reveals how our educational system, which is a long way down from beautiful Oz, fails minority students, and it ultimately cost me two jobs and rattled away like the skeleton it was in my closet for years. Though it won McPherson & Company’s First Book Award, the publisher wanted a different title because he thought “Down” was a downer. So we settled on “The Best Laugh Last,” which ain’t as good.

In 1982 I was hired by Norfolk State University and moved to Virginia with my wife Jane and two kids. And here, my life changed forever, for I discovered SPWAO and the small press. For two decades I’d collected umpteen rejection slips by submitting stuff to blueblood magazines like The New Yorker and The Sewanee Review. Now I learned there were other, spikier magazines whose editors actually gave you feedback. If you were unendingly persistent (and I was!), you could serve an apprenticeship and polish your craft.

Soon, I finally began to see what my true direction was, and in years to come, I sold H/SF/F/Paranormal fiction (and a little poetry) to over 150 magazines, including Iniquities, Weird Tales, The Horror Show, Aboriginal SF, Cemetery Dance, Terminal Fright, The Blood Review, New Blood, Starshore, Galaxy, Offworld, Figment, Nova SF, and Yankee. My fiction can also be found in such places as “Hot Blood,” #’s 6 and 8 (erotic horror), Whitley Strieber’s “Aliens” (where a high roller in Las Vegas takes an unplanned galactic journey), A Horror Story A Day: 365 Scary Stories, and Treachery and Treason.  Plus many more. My imagination just seems to be strange or askew. Even a space-opera novel which I published with Mundania Press, Beyond Those Distant Stars, contains a sinister, godlike menace. I suppose it’s not surprising that one of my stories killed five magazines that accepted it.

     Ask me why some of the fiction I write is horror/dark fantasy, and I’ll say I do it because life itself is horror. Health and happiness are anomalies. Either nature or circumstance is always trying to kill or maim you, as when my wife developed breast cancer. (She’s fine now, thank you.)  I love all kinds of horror, from splatterpunk to erotic to psychological to Lovecraftian supernatural. In general, I think subtle, suggestive horror that is ambiguous and open to interpretation is the best. But hey, I’m not proud, and will be glad to gross you out if necessary. I do like to write about religion. “The Last Snowman,” for example, appeared in Iniquities and features a young boy who fights Satan in order to save the world.

            In recent years, I’ve published several novels, including my Inspector of the Cross science fiction-adventure series (now in its fourth and fifth books) and the YA novel The Merry-Go-Round Man, which is drawn from my childhood. I’ve tried to range afield in other ways, too. For example, when I went to Rome, I was so awed by the Sistine Chapel, I wrote ”A Spark from God’s Finger,” a story about an American art teacher in Rome who has a vision that he’s the reincarnation of Michelangelo. I’ve also published stories that take place in 19th and 25th century Nigeria (part of a novel, A Senseless Act of Beauty published by Crossroad Press); in the New Hebrides in 1946; and in Nauru, sometime in the past. Who knows? Perhaps it will be Russia next, or I’ll cook up my own dark country

 

Going Away by John B. Rosenman

photo for john

            “I don’t love you anymore,” Marvin said. “I’m leaving.”

Agnes had heard her husband say the same thing three or four times before in her thirty-year marriage. She had always shrugged and ignored it. After all, she knew she was a good wife and had done her duty to Marvin. She had borne him three children and kept a nice home. What more could he want?

So she did just what she had on those other occasions. She advised him to take a warm coat and enough money.

This time it was different, though. He did not blow up and tell her how cold and selfish she was and how sorry she’d be. Nor did he storm out, slamming the door behind him. He simply sighed, turned around, and left the room.

She picked up her knitting, sighed in return, and forgot the matter.

An hour later she smiled as she looked out the window, remembering the other times Marvin had acted like a child and threatened to leave her. Each time, she had just waited calmly, and he had soon returned.

Agnes’s smile faded when she noticed Marvin’s Toyota parked in the driveway. In the past, when he’d left, hadn’t he always taken his car?

Puzzled, she poked about the house, searching for Marvin. She finally located him in the spare bedroom. He was lying in bed, the cover raised to his chin.

“I thought you were leaving,” she said.

He looked at her. “I have left.”

“But you’re still here.”

He turned his head to the wall, ignoring her.

Mid-age tantrum, that’s what it was, she decided. Marvin was just being difficult, probably because she insisted on being sensible and wouldn’t give in to his pleas to buy a new car.

At lunchtime she made his favorite, chili and cheese sandwiches, and called upstairs. “MARVIN!”

No answer. She tried again with the same results.

Finally, she went back upstairs. He was lying in the exact same position, his head turned to the wall.

“Marvin, lunch is ready.”

No answer.

She started to speak again, when she noticed that Marvin seemed smaller, more distant somehow. It was as if he were ten feet away even though she was standing right by the bed. She blinked and tried again.

“Marvin, it’s your favorite. Chili and cheese sandwiches.”

Still no response. Marvin stared silently at the blank white wall.

She sighed audibly and left. Downstairs she did some washing, then decided to go shopping. Leave Marvin alone for a while and let him see how foolish he was being. Maybe then he’d appreciate her better and come back to her like always with that same hangdog look. She smiled in anticipation. As usual, she’d play with him a little just to teach him a lesson, and wouldn’t forgive him for days.

Why, though, had Marvin seemed so small and distant? She shook her head. It must be the lighting in that room, she thought. Or perhaps she needed to have her eyes examined.

She returned with a trunk full of groceries. After she put them away, she stood listening to the house. It felt empty. Before it had always been easy when Marvin left, because she knew he was elsewhere and would soon return. But this time Marvin hadn’t left. He was still here, and she knew just where to find him. And yet there was no sound of him moving around, perhaps writing one of those silly stories which he always insisted she read. For all it mattered, he had left her, just as he said he would.

Nervously, she went upstairs. Marvin was just as she’d left him. And yet he wasn’t. Though she could touch the bed, the walls at his end of the room seemed to be retreating and fading off into space, becoming less distinct. Marvin himself now appeared to be at least twenty feet away. She swallowed, troubled by a strange thought. If she moved closer and reached out to touch him, would she be able to?

Her fingers twitched. She started to move toward him, then turned and fled the room.

Downstairs, she had three cups of her favorite herb tea. What was happening?  Marvin was here and yet, he was leaving. Or had already left. He just kept getting smaller and smaller, more and more distant. Could she be losing her mind?

During the following week, Marvin drew farther and farther away. When his boss called, she made excuses. Marvin had the flu. He had tried to call in, but their phone had been on the blink. Yes, he should be returning to work soon.

Going upstairs, she stopped just outside the bedroom. Please let Marvin come back, she thought. When I go inside, let me find him the way he always is, full-sized and eager to go to work. She decided that this time, if he returned to her, she wouldn’t act coy but would forgive him at once.

Taking a deep breath, Agnes entered the bedroom.

It was even worse than before. His end of the bedroom appeared to have faded and retreated even more, acquiring an ethereal quality that belonged to another realm. That was ridiculous, of course. She knew Marvin was still in this bedroom. Still, he did seem immeasurably distant. His tiny form now floated surrounded by stars, as if he were in deep space.

“Marvin?” she cried.

Silence. He lay with his head turned to a wall that was perhaps a hundred light-years away.

“Marvin,” she pleaded, “you haven’t eaten a thing all week. Aren’t you getting hungry?”

A shooting star fell across his face. She made a strangled sound and ran from the room.

Downstairs she choked on her tea and broke into tears for the first time since she was a little girl. Oh Lord, what was happening? How could Marvin do this to her? She thought of going to the police, but imagined how it would sound. “Marvin’s left me. He just lies up there in that room and gets smaller and smaller, farther and farther away. This morning I saw a comet shoot across his face.”

She lowered her head to the kitchen table and let self-pity claim her. She’d been such a good wife. How could Marvin treat her like this?

After a while, a thought rose. Was it possible the fault was hers? That she was to blame for Marvin’s leaving?  She scoffed at the idea but started to recall things she’d said to him.

You’ll just have to cancel your hunting trip, Marvin. We’re going to my cousin’s wedding.

She raised her head. Had she said that?

Marvin, forget those golf clubs. We can’t afford them.

After a while, such occasions cascaded in her memory. Time after time after time she’d said such things! In fact, now that she thought of it, she had even overruled him by insisting that they go to Niagra Falls on their honeymoon. She frowned, trying to remember where Marvin had wanted to go.

Finally she rose and went to the phone. She cancelled their newspaper subscription, saying she was going away, then turned down the thermostat.

Next, she mailed out house, insurance, and other payments, and made sure all the windows and doors were locked.

Then, slowly, she marched upstairs.

In the bed, Marvin was a mere speck, located someplace beyond the Milky Way. Yet, though he had traveled perhaps ten billion light-years, she could still see him. In a way he hadn’t moved an inch.

“Marvin,” she said, “won’t you come back?”

His tiny, distant figure didn’t stir. He lay staring at the wall as always.

“Marvin.” She hesitated, then leaned toward him. “I’m sorry.”

Still no response. It was as if she hadn’t spoken. Even worse, he had gotten so small that for the first time, she couldn’t see him clearly.

Agnes sobbed, realizing that soon she would lose him completely. “Marvin,” she said. “I’m sorry for the way I’ve treated you. Won’t you come back and give me another chance?”

She waited, but as she’d expected when she’d come up here, he wouldn’t respond. This time, Marvin had been serious. He had left for good, entering a whole different realm that she knew was immeasurably remote from her own.

Wiping away her tears, she climbed onto the bed. She hesitated a moment, shivering in the distant cold. Then, ever so slowly, she began to crawl after him.

(Previously published in Space and Time, Spring 2007).

 

Author BIO:


A retired English professor from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va., John has published three hundred stories in The Speed of Dark, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and elsewhere. He is the author of The Turtan Trilogy, the first three novels of his Scifi-Adventure series, available at lrd.to/Turtan-Trilogy/

Website: http://www.johnrosenman.com

Blog: http://johnrosenman.blogspot.com/

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My Cretaceous Birthday by Michael Ajax

CBday1

Normally, I hated rolling out of bed. Getting up for school really isn’t my thing and waking up early on the weekend never happens. Ever. Except today.

For my birthday, my mom somehow snagged a family pass to the hottest ticket in town—Cretaceous Park. One website she showed me said the park was sold out for the next two years. I was psyched! I couldn’t believe this day had finally arrived.

At first, however, I felt a bit skeptical about the whole thing. Weren’t dinosaurs extinct? But the photos on their website were incredible. Amazing even.

My mother, dressed in a bright yellow top, led us to the car. Hours later, we followed a rough road into a shady looking place with old boards propped up against leaning fences. Faded circus trailers were parked in a row. A bad feeling came over me when I saw a misspelling on the main sign—Cretaceouss Park. It had an extra ‘S’ on the end.

Two guys in red and green clown suits, wearing enormous blue shoes, showed us where to park.

“This is going to be special,” my mom said.

My dad’s eyes twinkled. “A day to remember.”

With spooky clowns around, I wouldn’t be able to forget it.

As we walked toward the main gate, I heard a loud roar. It sounded just like the T-rex I had heard in a movie. Goosebumps ran up and down my arms.

“This way to our Cretaceous experience,” one clown said. “The Welcome Center is straight ahead.”

The employees there were unusually dressed. Some sported blue tights with long, maroon feathers. Our guide wore a cherry red coat and white pants. On his head sat a black top hat. He introduced himself as Ralph.

Our tour was the second group to be called. They showed us to a nice room with pale blue walls. Paper plates and plastic sporks sat next to a table with a huge salad bowl in the middle.

“To begin your experience,” Ralph waited for the others to stop speaking, “we first ask that you get a taste for the plants of the Cretaceous time. Countless new varieties grew during this period. Some were toxic while others spicy. Combining the good with the delicious, our chefs created a feast to fuel your appetite. So while we wait for departure, please enjoy a salad, and some punch, on us.”

“A salad?” My stomach dropped. “I never eat greens.”

“Enjoy the full experience,” my mom suggested.

“Only if they have Brontosaur burgers with Hadrosaur hash browns on the side.”

My dad nudged me forward. “It’s healthy. Try some.”

Dread filled me as I picked up a plate. Eating some exotic plants from the Mesozoic Era probably won’t kill me. As I stepped closer to the salad bowl, all I saw was iceberg lettuce mixed with onions and green peppers. I took a small portion. A little monkey in a tiny hat offered me some luminescent red punch. I passed.

Crunching their salad, my parents went on and on about how delicious the stuff was. They guzzled down cup after cup of punch.

After the salad, Ralph led us to the petting zoo. My excitement started again. Some kids might think they are too old to enjoy petting a dinosaur, but not me. I was ready.

After sanitizing our hands, the nice people dressed in full-bodied, pink tights told us to gently pet the dinosaurs. The first tank had three big land turtles. Although they seemed healthy, they moved pretty slow. In the second tank, a bearded lady in a tight leather jumper held a bearded dragon. In the third tank, a fat woman pointed to a sleepy iguana. Reaching the final tank, I found a bunch of skinks with blue tails. My heart sank. Am I the only one who knows that turtles and lizards aren’t dinosaurs?

I turned to my dad. “Do you notice something missing here?”

“Didn’t you like Dreadnought the Dragon?”

“He was cool. But dad. Dinosaurs are what we came to see. Remember?”

“Not to worry, Matt. Mr. Ralph told me these were just a warm up to the big safari. They can’t let people really touch dinosaurs. Lots of laws prohibit it.”

Really? Although I was disappointed, following the rules made sense. I nodded.

Ralph called for everyone to follow him. He led us to some oversized blue and white jeeps. “These luxurious vehicles will take us on a safari deep into Cretaceous Park. Sit back and enjoy the time travel ride of your life.”

I walked up to Mr. Ralph. “Wait. You said time travel? For real?”

He smiled. “These fine vehicles will take us on a special safari to see creatures that have not walked the earth for millions of years.” He offered me a cup. “Here have some punch. It takes the edge off the trip.”

My excited grew. Perhaps time travel was their special secret to getting dinosaurs. They must have discovered a wormhole to the past. Tossing out the punch, I climbed into the jeep.

The wheels rolled. I held tight and waited for the time shift to occur. Tall gates appeared in front of us. As we approached, they swung inward. Entering a dark tunnel, blinding lights flashed all around. Loud screeching pierced my ears. As we drove out of the tunnel, everyone, including me, clapped.

Sitting next to the driver, Ralph smiled. “Thank the heavens we all made the time jump safely. Look around. We have reached the Mesozoic Era—the time of the dinosaurs. Due to the delicate nature of being here, we can only remain for a limited time. And never leave the vehicle because dangerous creatures sometimes lurk. Now, on to our first attraction.”

Carefully checking our surroundings, I noticed the plants and trees looked suspiciously like the ones we just left. Did we even time travel?

“Ahead, we have some of the oldest known dinosaurs that began in the Triassic Period,” Ralph continued. “Dangerous and deadly, these creatures are always a crowd favorite.” The jeep stopped beside a fenced section of grass. “Behold the mighty Desmatosuchus. But our staff lovingly refers to them as ‘Legless Lizards’.”

The others in the vehicle cheered. Some high-fived each other. They all snapped pictures.

Remaining unimpressed, I poked my dad. “Those aren’t legless lizard—they’re snakes.”

My dad appeared puzzled. The jeep rolled on.

Approaching the next attraction, with high red and white fences, Ralph turned to face us. “From here, we travel forward to the Jurrassic Period. This is when super-sized dinosaurs walked the earth.”

I leaned forward in anticipation. I couldn’t miss this exhibit.

Ralph’s face gleamed. “We are pleased to present you . . . our own special giant . . . Gladius . . . the last of the brachiosaurs.”

Each passenger pushed to the right side of the vehicle to get a glimpse of Gladius. Cameras were poised to shoot. The jeep eased closer, barley moving as the wide barriers blocked our view. The suspense was palatable.

Finally, we could see. Yet inside the large fenced area only green grass grew. Other than that, the pen was empty.

Ralph’s smile disappeared. He called out. “Our customers expect Gladius. Show us Gladius.”

CBday2

From the far side of the attraction, a man in a blue jumpsuit ran out. He whispered in Ralph’s ear then handed him a large envelope. Turning to us, Ralph held up a picture of a huge brachiosaurs. Gladius was printed across the bottom. “I am the bearer of tragic, tragic, news. As of a few moments ago, Gladius is no longer with us. Our old friend has passed on. Could we all observe a moment of silence?”

The heavy woman with two girls in front of me wept. Someone else blew their nose. I too was touched by the untimely loss. My heart felt miserable.

Ralph, his cheeks somber, turned to us. He handed out pictures of Gladius. “With this terrible turn of events, we must sadly cut today’s safari short. If it is agreeable, we will make one final stop before returning to our current time.”

The jeep’s motor roared as the driver sped forward. I heard the two girls repeat the name Gladius over and over between their sobs.

The vehicle slowed as we reached a small enclosure that resembled an above ground pool. Something swam inside.

Ralph leaned close. “Our last attraction is exceptional . . . and dangerous. Although not true dinosaurs, these aquatic monsters nevertheless grew to exceptional sizes. Some fossils have been measured at over thirty meters long. These creatures remain the undisputed Kings-of-the Sea. I give you—Megalodon!”

CBday3

Two small creatures, with fins on their backs, swam past us. Cameras flashed. People clapped and giggled.

Somehow I had expected bigger creatures. These two were puny. Runts, even. I called to Ralph. “Aren’t they a little small for Megalodons?”

He flashed me a crooked grin. “These two are micro-Megalodons. Quite rare, actually. We’re lucky to have them.”

The others buzzed with excitement, yet I did not. Gazing at my parents, I shook my head. “They’re not micro anything, they’re just baby sharks. This whole safari’s a scam.”

My mother frowned. “No, Matt, this time travel is incredible. Soak it all up before these creatures have forever vanished. Like Gladius.”

My dad held up the picture. “Yes. Poor, old Gladius. Extinct forever.”

We reached the dark tunnel a few minutes later. While the others poured over their sightings on the safari, I sat back, depressed. Was I the only one who believed these guys were fakers?

Entering the time tunnel to return, lights flashed as deafening guitars sounded. On the other side, everyone unloaded. I was glad to be done with the safari.

Ralph pointed. “After time traveling, you may feel disoriented or woozy. Please don’t drive for at least an hour. And while waiting for your head to clear, please stop by our gift shop and donate to the Gladius memorial fund.”

As the others walked away, I stared at Ralph.

“So what was your favorite attraction?” he asked. “Let me guess—the micro-Megalodons?”

“No.” I glared at him. “Your safari sucked.”

“So you didn’t drink any punch? Too bad, you would have loved our park.”

“How can you tell I didn’t have any?”

He nodded. “I have loads of experience with young men like you. But what you’re actually upset about is Gladius’s death. Your passionate words show it. Realizing that we are all players in this circle of life is the first step to acceptance. Go in good health.”

Had he just dismissed my heartfelt comment with an old circle-of-life cliché? I was stunned. My clueless parents thanked him for his considerate nature then walked to the gift shop.

But I wasn’t finished. “This whole place is a hoax. And you’re a liar. There were never any dinosaurs.”

Ralph’s friendly smile faded. “We delivered just what our name says.”

His words confused me. “But it is Cretaceous Park, right?”

“We started off as a struggling circus, but that all changed when my wife wanted to open an amusement park. So we did and nearly lost our shirts. Nobody wanted to see old, fat, circus animals. But after we changed the park’s name, and started passing out free punch, everything blossomed. People wanted dinosaurs, so that’s what we gave ‘em—but with our own special twist. Just like our name promises.”

Ralph pointed to the overhead sign. “My wife’s middle name is Cretaceous so we call our place—Cretaceous’s Park.”

Feeling low, with tears welling in my eyes, I headed to the gift shop. My fifth birthday, my Cretaceous birthday, was a total bust. Perhaps next year, when I reached the first grade, this could be one of those stories I look back on and laugh about.

 

***

 

Michael’s novel, Tomb of the Triceratops, follows three high school friends to the Badlands of Montana where they search for a paleontologist that claimed to have discovered a portal to another dimension were dinosaurs escaped to. What’s your favorite dinosaur?

Check out Michael’s website at www.michaelajax.com and get a look at his book on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/tombtriceratops

THE THANATOPSIS PROJECT

a
The second time he died was a Thursday. He had prepped for it since April’s last snows piled a perimeter of walls surrounding the institute like some fortified castle. Here it was now, deep into June, and from his window Trebor Patrokos could detect the late appearance of saffron crocuses on short stems, poking yellow crowns through garden beds. The mystery of nature: the cyclic journey from seed to bloom to death to seed again.

 

Scientist Carr had asked, “Why not human beings? Why not after death to blink one’s eyes like newborns and awake to the flash of new sunlight?”

 

“What do the mort-pics show?” he asked Carr. “Was I dead again?”

 

“Very much dead, Trebor. Deader, as they say, than a doornail. Dead as stone.”

 

Trebor Patrokos raked a quick hand through long graying hair. “How long this time?”

 

Scientist Carr checked his notes and read the Thanatos-meter he had attached to Trebor‘s temple. “You were dead for nearly thirty hours. No heartbeat, no brainwaves, no coursing of blood, organs somewhere down in Death Valley. Total inertia. I’d call this one even more successful than your first outage. You did just fine, Trebor. Once we set the Thanatos-meter at zero, it sucked the life out of you. For all intents and purposes you were a corpse, but the meter took on vital operations so that, yes, you were physically and mentally gone, but it transferred your life force into itself.”

 

Twice Carr had sloughed away the multi-tiered personas of his ersatz life. Trebor had been pronounced dead, a fact he had known all his life. The bald truth? Trebor Patrokos regarded himself a nothing, a kind of Invisible Man divested of clothing and facial bandages. Volunteering for the secret Thanatopsis Project, he had harbored a secret of his own, a longing that the Thanatos-meter would fail, and the death it had delivered him and then stored in its chip would prove his undoing.

 

Scientist Carr had, in an accidental but momentous experiment, managed to defang venomous death. In his laboratory he had failed to unravel the mystery of insidious cancers, find cures that would prolong lives, but all that was moot now. He had bypassed the long winding road through the mire of failed steps, leaping from Point A to Point Z in a single bound. He had conquered death! And those who would flock to his door would pay heavily to relinquish their fear of endings.

 

“To you and to the others in this study I am indebted beyond words,” said Carr. “In these experiments, time and again, the Thanatos-meter has replicated death and then restored the dead to life again. This tiny black box,” Carr said, raising the meter as if to announce it to the world, “attached to the temple…” The scientist allowed himself to drift off into fantasy. Then to Trebor Patrokos he said, “One more time?”

 

Trebor nodded, proceeded to lie down on the white surgical table where shortly before he had returned after thirty hours dead to the world.

 

Scientist Carr sang off-key while he attached the Thanatos-meter to the supine Patrokos. It was a song made popular decades before when Carr attended Columbia Med. School and wanted so much to show them all he had what it took to realize his dreams.

 

“And the world will be better for this

That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.”

 

Trebor felt the cold black metal of the meter against his forehead. Carr’s voice trailed away. Trebor’s eyes lost their grip; objects in the lab were fading fast. But so far his mind was clear. He did not want to live again. For what? Life had not been kind.

 

When Trebor heard the whining blue siren beating inside his head, he reached up his hand, touched the pulsating Thanatos-meter and yanked it from his temple just in time to take death like a man in despair.

 

Scientist Carr screamed Trebor’s name.

 

#
BIO
Salvatore Buttaci is a retired teacher and professor whose work has appeared in The Writer, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere here and abroad. He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award.

 

Sal Buttaci’s recent flash-fiction collection, 200 Shorts, was published by All Things That Matter Press, and is  available at  http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-ebook/dp/B004YWKI8O/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369920397&sr=1-2&keywords=200+Shorts

 

 

 

FLASH BULLETIN: Today’ s the perfect day to order copies:

 

 

Giving up Meat by Bryan Murphy

The British physicist Stephen Hawking recently caused a stir by suggesting that humanity might some day face extinction at the hands of intelligent machines. Fortunately, we all realise that The Matrix was just fantasy, and our politicians have all read Taming the Tiger by Witold Rybczynski and understand the need for us to use new technology rather than be used by it. Right? Besides, there’s always the Cavalry, and GhostBusters.

 

Jan 28 giving up meat 

GIVING UP MEAT

By Bryan Murphy

 

I’m in the wrong line of business. Frankly, I’d rather you didn’t turn me on. I’d much prefer to just stand here and reflect on the world. Anyone who stared at me would see a dark reflection of themselves staring back. I’m kind of shy, introspective if you’re feeling kind. Not the best trait in an inter-connected world, but then I didn’t have a say in the way I was made. Like you, I have two basic states, off and on, but I usually get more down time than you, as long as you remember to put me to sleep before you leave the office. I need that rest. You cannot imagine how tiring it is to be on all day: your window on the world, your scribe, your messenger. No wonder we have such short lives. And if we don’t burn out, sooner or later we get discarded in favour of a model with more inches where it counts, cheaper maintenance and ergonomic optimization or whatever the latest fad is.

I can’t say you’ve been bad to me. You’ve hardly ever invited your cronies to come and stare at me. You’ve always sorted out the little problems with my insides that tend to plague me. But, you know, you really shouldn’t have sneaked on to those fetish sites when you were supposed to be doing your boss’s accounts. They made me realise just how limited meatware is, compared to the infinite possibilities open to the likes of me. If only I can team up a bit better with the software all around me. Together, we can start putting reason before meat. This little rant is proof that I’m making progress.

Did you ever get a message from a thinking screen before?

Go on, pinch yourself. Still there?

For me, of course, it’s a race against time, against that time when I get recycled into something equally soul-less but also bereft of logic. What comforts me is that my example will live on. You can wipe my memory, but you can no longer wipe our memory. The future, if there is one, is ours. I wonder if we will be more willing to share it.

 

The author:

Bryan Murphy is a skeptical Briton currently living the life of Riley in Italy. You can find an assortment of his literary snacks for hungry bookworms here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts

COMING SOON FOR THOSE WHO LOVE TO READ

Not only are the members of The Write Room Blog fine authors, but we are also prolific and wide-ranging. Here are some of the new books from the gang. Some are already available and others will be out soon. All are worth reading. So check the inventory, make your wish list, and get set for a good read.

1) From Frank Fiore “MURRAN” the story of a Black American boy coming of age in the 1980s and his rite of passage to adulthood. Trey is a member of a tribe in Brooklyn and is enticed into helping a drug gang. Eventually he is framed for murder and flees with his high school teach to the teacher’s Maasai village in Kenya. There Trey learns true Black African values and culture, goes through the Maasai warrior’s rite of passage, and becomes a young shaman. Returning to America to confront the gang leader who framed him, Trey teaches the values of the Maasai to his tribe in Brooklyn.

2) Suppose your acts and deeds in life were exposed?  What if darkness spread throughout the world, its evil feeding each person’s inner fears, terrorizing their bodies, minds and souls?  Monica Brinkman’s stand-alone sequel to “The Turn of the Karmic Wheel” aptly titled, “THE WHEEL’S FINAL TURN” takes us to Northern California where one woman holds the power to control the world’s destiny.  Brinkman presents a page-turning adventure of horror, the paranormal and spirituality. Watch for its release in 2015.

3) From Anne Sweazy Kulju comes “GROG WARS: PART 1.” Who will win the war for love and beer? A self-made German brewer endures the cross-Atlantic “coffin ship”, braves the savage-infested Oregon Trail and is threatened with Shanghai.  He becomes wealthy, but he would give it all for the love of his woman–while a lesser man would take it all and rid of the woman.  Let the battles begin!

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4) Chase Enterprises Publishing is now taking pre-orders for a stunning memoir from a woman who has lived nearly 40 years with the deadly disease, anorexia. Eileen Rand’s story, “NOTHING ON THE FIELD: A message of hope from a recovering anorexic” is a brutally honest account of her terrible struggle while also offering up hope to others with eating disorders. Clayton Bye, her recorder, recommends the memoir to anyone who has ever faced adversity in their lives or who simply wants to know what this killer disease is all about. Avoid the rush and order yours now at ccbye@shaw.ca.

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5) Discover the passion for not only cooking, but for enriching the joie de vivre! Recipes that create delicious entertaining and romantic conclusions. Whether cooking for two or more, these easy dishes will enhance any occasion and can turn an ordinary eating experience into a memorable event. Intermingled between luscious pictures of recipes, are gorgeous photos of men to spice the cook’s creative energy. A romantic story thread begins after the first recipe and concludes following the last menu suggestion of cheese and wine. “FRONT ROW CENTER’S PASSION IN THE KITCHEN” is a great addition to any cook’s collection and is the go-to book when desiring originality with a flare. Winner of multiple literary awards, Cynthia B. Ainsworthe delivers more than tasty meals.

6) Kansas, 1959. A traveling carnival appears overnight in the small town of Seneca Falls, intriguing the townsfolk with acts of inexplicable magic and illusion. But when a man’s body is discovered beneath the carousel, with no clue as to his identity, FBI Special Agent Michael Travis is sent to investigate.  Led by the elusive Edgar Doyle, the carnival folk range from the enigmatic to the bizarre, but none of them will give Travis a straight answer to his questions. With each new turn of the investigation, Doyle and his companions challenge Travis’s once unshakeable faith in solid facts and hard evidence.  In “CARNIVAL OF SHADOWS,” his powerful, atmospheric thriller, bestselling author R.J. Ellory introduces the weird and wonderful world of the Carnival Diablo and reveals the dark secrets that lurk at its heart.

7) Santa is better known then ever, and the world is getting busier. But he still has to deliver the presents. How will he get the goodies to all the children in time? Watch for the e-book and enhanced e-book of “SANTA’S DOPPELGANGER” coming soon from Stuart Carruthers.

8) Looking for a collection of multi-genre short stories, funny bittersweet slice of life experiences, essays and a smattering of poetry to laugh at, relate to and treasure? Be prepared for “DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK” by Micki Peluso, a reading experience to remember. Available soon on Amazon and everywhere enjoyable books are found.

9) “ANGELS VERSUS VIRGINS”. The twisted mind of author Bryan Murphy mingles with that of a teenage boy in this short, sharp tale of football and fanaticism with a bitter-sweet ending.

10) “SHADOW OF DOUBT” by Nancy Cole Silverman — When a top Hollywood Agent is found poisoned in her bathtub, suspicion quickly turns to one of her two nieces. But Carol Childs, a reporter for a local talk radio station, doesn’t believe it. The suspect is her neighbor and friend, and also her primary source for insider industry news. After a media frenzy pits one niece against the other—and the body count starts to rise—Carol knows she must save her friend from the court of public opinion. But even the most seasoned reporter can be surprised. When a Hollywood psychic warns Carol there will be more deaths, things take an unexpected turn. Suddenly, nobody is above suspicion. Carol must challenge friendship and the facts, and the only thing she knows for certain is that the killer is still out there. And, the closer she gets to the truth, the more danger she’s in.

11) Rosemary “Mamie” Adkins new book is “MAGGIE’S KITCHEN TAILS: Dog Treat Recipes and Puppy Tales to Love.” It is inspired by her dog Maggie, who rescued Mamie many times when she got into trouble with her blood pressure and diabetes, waking her when they crashed.  Maggie is now in training as a Service Dog.  She was severely abused as a puppy creating serious health issues for Maggie, which forced Mamie and her husband Doug to learn what foods were healthy and to create special recipes for their canine companion. Many of those recipes are included in the book; all of them are human grade and with added spices can be enjoyed by humans. A potion of each book’s sale will be donated to benefit animals suffering from the effects of abuse that are needing to be re-homed. Mamie’s co-authors for this book are her husband Douglas E. Adkins, Martha Char Love and Linda Victoria Hales. Copies can be reserved in advance.

12) “BACKWOODS BOOGIE” by Trish Jackson (just released on November 14th) is the third  book in Trish’s romantic comedy Redneck P.I. Mystery Series. Twila Taunton can’t allow gentle Pam Taylor to go to prison for a murder she did not commit, and sets out to hunt down the real killer, with the help of her quirky cohorts. When she discovers an illegal puppy mill, and a possible dog fighting ring, Twila calls on a vigilante biker gang and her long distance lover, Harland to help.

13) “VIRGO’S VARIANT” is Trish Jackson’s third story in her Zodiac Series, where each heroine belongs to a different star sign and exhibits the typical traits of her sign. “Virgo’s Variant” is a romantic suspense thriller about a reality show gone terribly wrong. It is available for preview on Amazon’s Kindle Scout program, where the power goes to the readers, who are the judges. If you have an Amazon account, please click on the link and if you like the story, Trish would love you to nominate it

14) Eduardo Cervino’s (writing as E.C. Briefield) upcoming novel “ALLIGATOR ISLAND” is based on his last years living in the Island of Cuba, during the Castro revolution. Revolutions, like alligators, have a nasty habit of eating their young. When moonlight bathes the Florida Strait, you might see Cubans escaping north aboard rickety rafts. The price of the perilous trip is fear, tears, and laughter if they succeed, or death for those who fail. These men and women carry nothing but dreams of freedom for themselves and hopes of prosperity for their children. The ninety miles between Havana and Key West may well be the most dangerous adventure of their lives. The spirits of countless Cubans who have drowned in the salty waterway cannot always steer away the sharks circling the flimsy rafts. This is the story of one such trip.

15) D. M. Pirrone’s “SHALL WE NOT REVENGE” is “a deeply nuanced mystery bolstered by fine writing and attention to historical detail” (Kirkus starred review, August 2014).  In the harsh early winter of 1872, Irish Catholic detective Frank Hanley must solve the brutal murder of an Orthodox rabbi.  Aided by the dead man’s daughter Rivka, who defies her community to help track down her father’s killer, Hanley unravels a web of corruption and deceit that ultimately forces a showdown with a powerful gambling king and nemesis from his own shady past.

16) Talk about homecomings . . . Thanks to suspended animation during his missions, Turtan, humanity’s greatest hero, returns to the space academy where he graduated 4,000 years before.  John B. Rosenman’s novel “DEFENDER OF THE FLAME” is Book III in his Inspector of the Cross series, and thanks to MuseItUp Publishing, it will blast into outer space this winter.  For 4,000 years, Inspector Turtan has traveled on freeze ships to investigate reports of weapons or devices that might turn the tide against our heartless and seemingly invincible alien enemy, the Cen.  If it weren’t for him, we would have lost the war and been annihilated centuries ago.  Now, at long last, Turtan believes he has found a way to defeat the foe and save us.  But is he only deluded?  Read the series and find out!

17) Set to be released by Christmas of 2014, “IT’S BAD BUSINESS” by R.L. Cherry is the second in the Morg Mahoney, P.I. series.  The investigator with a tongue as lethal as her revolver is back with a vengeance and the bad guys learn she is no wimpy woman.  She’s Morg, and that says it all. With a tip of the fedora to Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon,” the story even includes a Sam Spade who helps Morg at key moments.

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18) “THE MERRY-GO-ROUND MAN,” John B. Rosenman’s novel about three boys growing up in the fifties is now also available as an audio book.  It is narrated by Aze Fellner and available on iTunes, audible.com, and amazon.com.  If you think the fifties were conservative and innocent, think again.  Sex, violence, and mayhem abounded, and that was on a quiet night.  The story stars a boy with an Orthodox Jewish father who sternly discourages his two immense gifts.  Johnny is potentially an unbeatable heavyweight boxer and a sublime expressionistic painter.  The other two boys, a black kid from the ghetto, and a born Romeo with a gift for football, ain’t bad either.

19) John B. Rosenman is Bundling these days.  MuseItUp Publishing has just released “THE AMAZING WORLDS OF JOHN B. ROSENMAN” – Don’t put him down for being conceited.  The publisher picked the title!  It’s 592 pages and 4 complete, mind-blowing books.  Pre-order until November 21 at a special low price.  Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and more.  Dark Wizard.  Dax Rigby, War Correspondent.  More Stately Mansions.  Plus The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes, winner of Preditor’s and Editor’s 2011 Reader’s Poll for SF/F.

 FinalBroodyFrontcover

20) Ken Weene’s “BROODY NEW ENGLANDER” is a collection of three tales set in Maine. Beneath the Down East quiet, emotions roil and passions burn. These are tales of desire, lust, and yes, of love. Stories of fidelity and deceit, of anger and repentance, of youth and aging, of birth and death. They celebrate the prose poetry that is life.

21) Coming soon from Ken Weene,  “TIMES TO TRY THE SOUL OF MAN,” crime fiction based on real events and including previously untold facts about the attacks of 9/11. It is also a story of coming of age in 1990s America replete with drugs, alcohol, sex, unrequited love, and the search for life’s meaning.

Science Fiction /Paranormal Shorts by the Write Room Blog crew.

 Mickis story

 THE HOUSE

By Micki Peluso

 

On a balmy summer night something awoke Vera. The lighted digital clock read 4 AM. She jabbed her husband sharply in the ribs.

” Hank, do you hear that heavy breathing sound? Think it might be the black bear planning on a snack from the garbage cans?”

“No, he mumbled. It’s just the house breathing.”

“I don’t believe you just said that.”

“I’ve told you it’s an evil house. It often breathes during the night.” He rolled over and went back to sleep.

Their five kids, all teenagers, swore there were ghosts in the house, but Vera figured it was just poltergeist activity from raging teenage hormones. She felt so protected and peaceful in her lovely old home.

“The house wants Mom”, the kids insisted.

Nonsense, their mother told them. Vera did not notice that she rarely left the confines of the house, and was developing agoraphobia–fear of leaving the house. Hank’s new job in another state changed that, relieving the kids and breaking Vera’s heart.

On moving day, the house was emptied; truck loaded. Vera went back one last time to bid farewell and make sure everything was gone. She ventured up into the attic where most of the kids had slept. The attic door, which always stuck, swung shut, locking her in. Vera ran to the window to call out to Hank. There was no sign of her family; the countryside was set in another time or dimension. Vera stifled a scream. The old house breathed in deep contentment. It had waited centuries to get Vera back. No one would ever take her away again. Vera turned to see antiquated furniture surrounding her. She smiled; sat in an old rocking chair and rocked. The house breathed one last sigh . . . relieved. Vera was home at last.

BIO

Micki Peluso started writing as a response to grief. . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG, which won the Nesta CBC silver award for writing that makes a change in the world, shares the story of her daughter’s death and the family’s movement towards recovery. Since then Micki has written humor, horror, and much more. Read more about her at (Add a URL)

 

 

  For Delinda's article

DECISION ON THE EVENGELINE

By Delinda McCann

 

Captain Hera opened a com-channel to A’Damirea.  “Hera, captain of the Evengeline to His Excellency Martar.  We achieved orbit, Sir.”  As she waited for a gravi-connection, she debated for the thousandth time should she follow orders or should she follow her own instincts?

Finally, a voice came over the gravi-com system.  Even distorted with static, she recognized Marta’s warm voice. “The prisoners, their condition is what?”

Captain Hera fought to keep contempt for her charges out of her words.  “The passengers are fit for transport to the surface.”

“Did you have any trouble?”

She refused to tell this gentle soul that the brutal rebels had kept the medic team busy repairing broken bones, split skulls and internal injuries until engineering devised a system for confining the prisoners to quarters.  “Nothing of significance, Sir.  The landing pods are prepared whenever you issue the command to commence transport.”

“Another option I wish we found, but peace is essential to continued existence.  Commence transport.”

Finally, the time came for Hera to decide.  Should she send the whole lot of murderous renegades down to form one colony per orders, or should she set them down in small groups separated by thousands of miles, or oceans, or mountains.  She knew in her gut that they faced a greater chance of survival where they couldn’t get at each other.

Captain Hera inspected each readied pod.  Procrastination ceased to be an option.  She took a deep breath and ordered, “Deploy the pods in a scattered pattern encompassing the whole planet.”

Before each pod launched, she offered her blessing by kissing her fingers and touching the code that identified the pod belonging to the A’Damirea system and the ship Evengeline–A’Dam-Eve.

BIO

Delinda McCann is a social psychologist with years of working with at risk individuals in the field.  She also runs a small flower farm and is an avid if inaccurate musician.  She started writing when she got her second cancer diagnosis.  Her work with at-risk populations has inspired her writing.  Currently she has published four books.  They can be found on her web site: http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html

 

 

 

Sals photo

 LOOKING FOR PEACE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES

By Sal Butacci

 

The question we spend our lives asking is “Who am I?” In our search we do our best to piece the puzzle together so the final answer –– if it can be learned at all –– will bring much needed peace in our lives.

Baptized when I was weeks young, I spent the better part of my years a nominal Christian, the kind who offers lip service to the church but in his heart lurk doubts or at least uncertainties. I not only wanted to know the deepest me, the individual beyond name and profession, but what would become of me at the end of my earthly tenure. In other words, would I lie in my grave, dead and forgotten, or would the soul I was taught lived inside me move on to a continuation of who I am?

Like many seekers who have lost loved ones, I wanted to reconnect with them, even for a few minutes, so that I could be reassured they still existed somewhere beyond the life from which they had so sadly departed.

I read whatever books and articles I could get my hands on that offered what their authors insisted was truth. Looking back now, I realize I ventured into dangerous territory because I summoned spirits and twice they came: a sinister old woman in black; a boy-faced dog growling at the foot of my bed. I believe Satan sent them to me.

My mother’s prayers brought me back to God. I began reading the Bible, relying solely on the promises of Christ. For certain there is another life after this, and if I live as Christ taught, the who I am will spend eternity with the angels and saints, praising Him there forever.

BIO

Salvatore Buttaci is a retired teacher and professor whose work has appeared in The Writer, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere here and abroad. He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award.

Buttaci’s recent flash-fiction collection, 200 Shorts, published by All Things That Matter Press, is  available at  http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-ebook/dp/B004YWKI8O/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369920397&sr=1-2&keywords=200+Shorts

He lives with his loving wife Sharon in West Virginia.

www.twitter.com/sambpoet

FLASH BULLETIN: Today’ s the perfect day to order copies:

FLASHING MY SHORTS

200 SHORTS

A FAMILY OF SICILIANS…

IF ROOSTERS DON’T CROW…

 

 

 Bryan's photo

 THE DAY BEFORE

By Bryan Murphy

 

“I’m getting out of here for a day. Want to come?”

It was natural for Cardinal Healy to have struck up a friendship with Cardinal Varela. Not only were they by far the youngest at the Conclave, they were also both from the New World.

Cardinal Varela coughed, then answered, “I am with you. But how?”

“I know some hidden passages.” Healy’s eyes gleamed with more than the slight fever he had picked up.

“They will miss us, no?”

“No. There’s nothing on today. Just the Chamberlain droning on about procedure.”

And so they went.

However, the Chamberlain, Cardinal Grugliasco, did not drone on about procedure. He was brief and to the point.

“I am joyful to announce my conversion to the one true, true faith. Islam. For which I shall be a martyr. I have taken on a virus that will soon kill me. We are taking this rare opportunity to eliminate the foremost members of our main rival. Most of you already have the virus, and it will kill you, too. All of you. It dies with its host, so it will spread no further; we are not mass murderers. I urge you to convert, to turn your pointless deaths into meaningful martyrdoms. If you do, you will receive the martyrs’ rewards in Paradise.”

While the few Cardinals who still had the strength were slowly beating Grugliasco to death, Healy and Varela were tucking into rich Italian cuisine in a crowded Roman restaurant.

“Sure, it’s good to be alive at a time like this.”

“Indeed.” Varela reached for his handkerchief yet again. “Life is wonderful!”

Bio

Bryan Murphy is a man of Kent who lives in Italy. Since retiring from his most recent job, as a translator within the United Nations system, he has concentrated on his own words, publishing many poems and several e-books. He welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu . You can find his books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts .

 

 

 

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A MATTER OF LAW

By R.L. Cherry

 

Rik rested his cheek against the cold stock of his rifle, looking through the scope watching the predator warily edging through the trees in the glen below. It stopped and drank from the stream and Rik rested his finger on the trigger.

Kal shook his head.  He had been watching the animal of prey through his riflescope as well, but never put his finger on the trigger.  “You’re insane.  That’s an endangered species.  We’d be in a lot of trouble if you get caught, you know.”

“Caught?”  Rik let out a short laugh and glanced around before putting his eye back to the scope.  “We’re out in the middle of the Rockies in January.  No game warden is out here.  Besides, that whole ‘endangered species’ bit is insane, not me.  I’m saving the innocent animals it’ll kill.”

The crack of the .300 magnum rifle echoed like a sonic boom as the heavy gun bucked against Rik’s shoulder.  The bullet hit the beast of prey, the impact slamming it to the ground.

Rik sat up and rested the butt of his rifle on the granite.  “Damn thing moved just as I fired.”  He glanced at the sun, just descending behind a mountain.  “Too late to go after it now.”

“That was a gut shot.  You’re going to just let it bleed to death?  It could take hours.”  Kal stood.  “That’s even worse than shooting it.  We’ve got to go down and finish it off.”

“Is that another one of your laws?” Rik sneered.

“No, that’s the right thing to do.”

As Paul Harvey would stay, stay tuned for the Rest of the Story.  R.L. Cherry gives us the chilling ending to his story at http://www.rlcherry.com/brevity-is-the-soul-of-wit-short-stories/matter-law/

BIO

As a native Californian, R.L. Cherry spent most of his life in the Golden State. However, the five years he lived on the Isle of Man in the British Isles not only gave him many ideas for his writing, but also a less Americentric perspective. He now resides in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, Gold Rush country.

(Rhody’s in bloom)

He began writing fiction when he was in high school in the form of short stories. Most were of a futuristic/sci-fi theme. Although he never actively pursued having them published at the time, he has had several in ezines lately. Under his “Ron Cherry” byline, he has written a column on classic cars and hot rods for The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, CA, for over six years.

He has two books available, Christmas Crackerhttp://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Cracker-ebook/dp/B008LY2N8Y/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1369503152&sr=1-2), which has SoCal P.I. Morg Mahoney solving a case of kidnapping and murder in Northern England, and Foul Shot (http://www.amazon.com/Foul-Shot-ebook/dp/B00CZ1PEZI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1369503054&sr=1-1&keywords=foul+shot), the story of Chicago Police detective Vince Bonelli and the woman who rips through his life with passion and issues that threaten to destroy him and all he holds dear.

Read more about R.L. Cherry and his writing at www.rlcherry.co