The Shadow of the Great Nebula of Orion by Boris Glikman

Orion NebulaOne day, the nebula in the constellation of Orion, already the brightest nebula in the night sky, started to shine even more intensely, emitting a piercing blue-green light. Its luminosity was now so brilliant that it cast shadows during the daylight hours too, something that had always been the sole prerogative of the Sun.

This caused great excitement, for never before had such a bright celestial body been observed in the day sky. Everybody rushed outside to see this new heavenly wonder and to gawk at their double shadows, the old familiar one and the new one created by the Orion nebula.

It was then that the world was hit by a very unpleasant surprise, for there was something quite peculiar about the shadows cast by the nebula. Instead of being mute, inert outlines of a person’s physical form, they revealed the shadow of a person’s character. Everyone’s inner anxieties, delusions and insecurities were now exposed for all to see.

No one could be found who did not possess a nebula shadow. Even newborns had a shadow accompanying them, thus, coincidentally, vindicating some psychological theories and theological dogmas, while demolishing others.

Naturally, the consequences of this new phenomenon were immense in their scope. Many lives were wrecked, relationships destroyed and careers ruined, as a person’s innermost complexes were revealed to their spouses, family, friends, work colleagues and complete strangers. The very structure of society was threatened, for its smooth running depended so much upon one’s true feelings and nature being suppressed and hidden, even from oneself.

The world was in a dilemma on how to cope with this situation. It certainly couldn’t dim or extinguish the nebula’s brightness. It could try to adapt to a nocturnal existence, when the shadows would be less distinct, but surely that was too radical a solution. Yet who could risk the shame and the burden of walking around with all their flaws showing?

Inevitably, cults arose that chose to embrace this new state of affairs. For them the Orion nebula was The Bearer of Truth, The Great Enlightener of Mankind. Just as the Sun brought outer illumination, so the Orion nebula was deemed to bring inner illumination to the world. The adherents of these sects took pride in letting others see their most intimate neuroses, and experienced catharsis in coming face to face with their fears and insecurities for the very first time. Having accepted their shadows, they felt more fulfilled and whole than they ever did before.

And then, just as suddenly as it flared up, the Orion nebula dimmed to its usual luminosity. It didn’t take long for people to re-adjust to having only one shadow again. Relationships and careers wrecked by the Orion nebula were quickly rebuilt and almost everyone resumed living their old lives, maintaining total silence about that awkward period when their failings were exposed, the way a faux pas is ignored in polite company.

The Pen of Plenty (or A Portrait of an Artist as the Entire Universe) by Boris Glikman


The Pen of PlentyPart I

“Take this Boris, may it serve you well!”, a booming voice commanded, as a hand, holding a shining writing implement, extended towards me.

I was all of thirteen years old when the Hand from Above bestowed the Pen of Plenty upon me.

” You shall be my voice! I shall speak through you with this pen. You shall be a conduit to that Other Reality, the one inhabited by Eternal Truths, Infinite Beauty and Ineffable Questions. From this pen will spring forth an inexhaustible flow of Magic, you will not be able to help begetting works of perfection, each one more perfect than the one before it.

There is a price to pay. You will not be able to feel, smile, laugh, love, pursue ordinary human activities. You will only be able to write, writing alone shall be your existence.

You shall move solely in the Infinite, Eternal, Universal sphere. You will capture and portray through your writings every permutation, manifestation and aspect of life, yet you shall remain cut off from mankind.

This pen shall be the bathyscaphe with which you will descend to the lowest abysses, and it shall be the alpenstock with which you will ascend to the highest heights not yet scaled by mankind. The world will ostracize, scorn, misunderstand, persecute, laugh at you and it will cherish, adore, worship, celebrate you. But you will stay numb, unmoved by both love and loathing.

You will not know how to be young, yet you will not grow old and will stay a man-child, for, by not partaking in the outer world, you shall be free of its deleterious effects.

You will give life to an infinity of uniquely bizarre, wondrous realities, yet you yourself will be a mere metaphor, an empty shell of a shadow, never being able to feel real, concrete. The worlds you engender will be suffused with sensation and meaning, while your own outer reality will be bare, senseless and pedestrian by comparison.

This pen shall be the flame that will illuminate truths as yet invisible, you will help others find their identity, will bring clarity and enlightenment to humanity, will reveal the underlying, inner structure of existence, yet you will be forever lost, confused, at odds with yourself and the world, drifting aimlessly through existence, a jellyfish in the ocean of life.

This pen shall speak with a thousand voices, educing hysterical laughter, uncontrollable tears, twisting minds into Moebius strips, creating transcendental beauty that will stop others dead in their tracks, dumbfounded with awe, even if they have had just a fleeting contact with it, but you will be blind and deaf to its powers and will stay frozen inside. You will feel no pride or pleasure in your creations, for you will know that you are merely a conduit.

But even though this is a Pen of Creative Cornucopia, one day it shall run out and will write no more. Consequently, writing will be the hardest and most terrifying task of your existence, for you will be forever insecure, not knowing when you no longer will be able to create any more. Yet, before that time comes, you shall be flooded with a ceaseless deluge that will demand every instant of your life and your very sanity.

Once you take this pen, it can never be un-taken, you can never disown it or rid yourself of it.”

The voice stopped. I waited a while for it to resume, but it remained silent. Then, with childish, reckless eagerness, I extended my hand upwards, to meet the hand reaching down from above, caring not at all about the consequences.

                                                     Part II

The Writer sits in his room, writing at his desk. He has access to the deepest secrets and mysteries of the Universe, but the question that the whole world, from the tiniest and simplest organism upwards, seems to know the answer to, he can not solve: ” Why live?”

The Writer is torn apart by two contradictory thoughts that occupy his mind simultaneously and seem equally valid. He is certain that he is blind to a fundamental truth that the rest of the world is in possession of, for how else can one explain the whole world choosing life over death and existing with a purpose, something that he is not capable of. Yet he also knows that he is in possession of a fundamental truth that the rest of the world is blind to, for if it was privy to this truth, it would not be able to live in certainty.

The Writer is triply trapped by his room, his mind and his pen. Occasionally, overcome by curiosity and longing, he steals a brief, wistful glimpse, through the window, of the world outside that is teeming and pulsating with life in all of its infinite variations, life that he can never be a part of and whose simple pleasures he could never enjoy or grasp the meaning of. Other times he catches sight of a sliver of the sky that is visible to him from his sitting position. But he immediately feels guilty for neglecting his sacred task and hurriedly resumes scribbling, letter after letter, word after word, sentence after sentence, in his notebooks of madness.

Life passes him by, and then death passes him by too. He has no time for life and he has no time for death either. Neither life nor death can arouse his interest or get their hands on him, and just as he has forgotten all about time, so time has forgotten all about him. In any case, the Writer can not die, for the pen is still working and so he must keep on writing, for his commitment to his pen is greater than his commitment to life and death.

Years, centuries, millennia, billions of years elapse. The Sun expands into a red giant and then collapses into a white dwarf. The stars are torn apart by the forces of the Universe’s expansion, and the protons themselves rot into pieces. Cosmos begins to wind down, all of its energy having dissipated and turned into useless forms. Then the fabric of space-time dissolves.

Still, the Writer remains writing at his desk, which is now floating in vacuum, separate from time and space. Now and then he sneaks looks at the outside world, even though nothing remains there but pure nothingness.

And then, for the very first time, something leads the Writer to take a close look at the pen he was gifted with. He examines it carefully and notices the faded blue letters forming the words MADE IN CHINA etched on its side. Distant memories come flooding back to him, memories of his mother buying pens at the local supermarket, for the start of the new school year; memories of the bare walls of the bathroom that distorted the acoustics, and how he liked to speak to himself there and listen to his boy voice transforming into the stentorian voice of a man. He remembers standing in the bathroom and hearing a million voices calling out his name, then turning around and seeing all of humanity in the mirror looking back at him, as his left hand passed the pen to his right hand.

The Writer now realises that he is the Creator. Having had encompassed the Universe with his mind, the Writer expands to encompass the Universe with his body, so that the Universe and the Writer become one and the same, identical entities, coinciding precisely with one another.

With quiet satisfaction the Writer slowly puts the pen down and that is how the Universe

( and this story) ends, not with a bang or a whimper, but with a .

Note

 1) In Australian English, “.” is known as “full stop” rather than as “period”. 

 

The Caterpilion by Boris Glikman

The CaterpilionThere once was a Caterpillar who was thoroughly sick of always being stuck near the bottom of the food chain. All the other animals –  birds, moles, lizards, frogs and spiders – would hunger for his soft, succulent sausage-like body, licking their lips avidly in anticipation of a delicious meal. Even the tiny ants posed a mortal danger to his life.

The only option open to the Caterpillar was to mimic some inedible object like, for example, a bird dropping, but that would be such an ignominious existence. Not only would he have to remain motionless all day long, but, most humiliating of all, he would be forced to alter his appearance to resemble a piece of dung. Surely, that was a price too high to pay for staying alive, for nothing could be lower than looking exactly like the end product of the digestive process.

One day, full of anxiety and fear as usual, lest he be seen and eaten, the Caterpillar was furtively drinking from a puddle on the forest floor. In the reflection cast by the clear and still water, he noticed, for the first time, that his head was covered by a thick mane of yellow hair. It was then that the Caterpillar was struck by the happiest, most brilliant insight of his life – he realised that, given his looks, he could impersonate a lion! The advantages of such a mimicry would be numerous: amongst other things, not only would he be on the very top of the food chain, afraid of no other animal, but, even more importantly, he would be simply gorgeous.

All the insects scoffed at the Caterpillar, saying how ridiculous his plan was, but the Caterpillar just ignored them and, enclosing himself in a cocoon, proceeded confidently with the metamorphosis.

A certain time had passed and the silly Caterpillar with his crazy dream was almost forgotten about, until early one morning, there was a terrific thunderclap of noise that reverberated right across the woods. The cocoon that held the Caterpillar burst open and out of it emerged a perfect specimen of a flawlessly proportioned, at-the-top-of-his-strength, full-sized lion.

The insects were petrified as to what the Caterpillar-Lion might do to them in revenge for their previous jeers, but he haughtily disregarded them, for, after all, he now was the king of the jungle that wouldn’t even deign to notice such measly bugs.

Proudly, the Caterpilion descended from the tree and began to stride majestically, as befitting his new station in life, roaring at the top of his lungs and showing off his muscular, lithe torso and luxuriant mane.

No other animal dared approach him, of course, and the Caterpilion was very pleased with himself, feeling the kind of deep, pure contentment that only those who had tasted the very dregs of life and found a way to clamber out of the abyss could ever feel. Ahead, a whole new existence shimmered in all of its glory and the Caterpilion was eager to find other lions with which he would live out the rest of his days in joy, happiness and freedom.

And so, when he saw a pride resting lazily in the midday sun, he rushed blithely towards it, eager to make friends with those he now saw as his compatriots, being completely unaware that lions are territorial animals who are viciously protective of their domain. The incensed pride could not believe that a mature lion would be so recklessly stupid as to completely ignore the markings that they assiduously used to bound their dominion, and enter carefree into their land. They promptly tore him into little pieces and that was the end of the Caterpilion and his happy, new life.

Boris Glikman is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia.

He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also catch a glimpse of this universe.”

Boris welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at bozlich@yahoo.com.au

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bozlich/
Twitter: @bozlich
Previously published at http://omtimes.com/2013/07/the-caterpilion/

The Curious Story of Frank and His Friend Mr. Stims, The Hydrophobe by Boris Glikman

Earth without oceans…so anyway, like I was saying, I was sitting comfortably in this nice chair when Mr. Stims told me what he wanted to do with his invention. But please don’t interrupt me again, because I am going to forget what I was saying and won’t be able to tell you the whole story of what happened that day.

Let me begin again from the start, as I can’t remember now what I have already told you. My name is Frank. I finished school two years ago. I stay at home most of the time and watch TV. I live with my mum. I like her a lot. She is very smart and knows about everything. So I don’t see what’s wrong with saying, “That’s what my mum told me”, but the other kids used to laugh when I said that and called me a retard, which made me angry. Now I can’t hang out with them any more; my mum tells me I have a bad temper and could hurt them.

My only friend is my next door neighbour, Mr. Stims. I enjoy being with him. I love the brain games that he is so good at inventing. The game I particularly like is the one in which he asks me to guess what he is thinking of at that very moment. It is not an easy game to play at all.

Usually I spend time in his living room, where we drink tea, eat some biscuits and discuss interesting topics. But that day, Mr. Stims invited me into his study and asked me to sit in a comfortable chair beside his desk. He himself sat behind the desk, on which lay writing pads and folders, all neatly organised.

After staring at me in silence with an odd look in his eyes for about a minute, Mr. Stims started talking: “For the past five years, I have been engrossed in a fiendishly difficult task, as you probably have noticed Frank. I no longer need to be secretive about what I do, but I did want to apologise for being evasive and unpredictable in the past.”

He was right. He never told me what he did for a living, but it seemed to me that he was spending much of his time working on some scientific problem. All of his rooms were cluttered with books, whose titles I didn’t understand, and papers that were covered with calculations and formulas in his scribbly handwriting. And his strange ways did confuse me sometimes. I remember once asking him how he would like to be remembered, and it produced an odd reaction from him. He turned first red, then white and only replied that he had great hopes for the future. Another time I told him that even though we don’t live far from the ocean, we don’t know much about it, and that there could be big sea monsters and other curious fishes living in its depths. For some reason, he got all agitated and started going on about the chemical properties of water. Then, suddenly, he stopped mid-sentence and started talking about something completely different. But I still find him a fascinating person to be with. He knows so many things and can always answer my questions.

Mr. Stims continued: “You might remember from your school days, my friend, what a polar molecule is. Well, water just happens to be comprised of polar molecules. This fact is the linchpin of my work.”

I did not actually remember anything about those molecules. To tell the truth, I really do not recall much from my school days. I was always surrounded by people brighter than me, which made me afraid to speak up and say what I thought, in case I might say something stupid.  That is why I like Mr. Stims so much. He has never treated me as a fool and is always happy to listen and explain things to me.

“The fact that it is a polar molecule, does that suggest anything to you, Frank?” he asked. Not waiting for my reply, as he usually does, he continued: “I will get straight to the point. For your benefit, I will state it in simplified terms. The water molecule is a charged particle. Charged particles respond to magnetic fields. By creating a magnetic force of appropriate strength and by aligning it in the right direction, we can separate the water molecule into its constituent parts! We can turn liquid water into the gases of hydrogen and oxygen. The theory behind it is of course much more complicated than that, but what I have just stated is my work in a nutshell.”

He stopped talking for a short while, to give me time to understand what he had just said. But to be honest with you, I did not really see the point of it all. I thought it would be much better if you could go the other way and make water out of the invisible gases, so that people everywhere would have enough to drink, especially people who live in the hot deserts.

He went on to say, “The idea sounds simple enough. Let me tell you, putting it into practice was another kettle of fish; the years I have spent trying to create a functional apparatus, attempting to discover the right alignment. Failure followed failure. Many a time I was tempted to throw it all up in the air and just walk away. Only one hope kept me going. I cannot say it was a well-defined sensation, but it was something like…well, that by achieving my goal, all my past deeds would gain the meaning they were lacking.”

I looked closely at Mr. Stims’ face. Sweat had gathered on his forehead and there was a distant look in his eyes, but it quickly disappeared.

He then said, “Let me tell you a little of my past, as it will explain to some degree the present. I was a brilliant university student, majoring in chemistry. I was heading straight for a conventional academic career. But my personality did not sit well with the scholastic surroundings. The claustrophobic atmosphere and the daily routine were stifling my natural creativity; the imperiousness of the professors, the ceaseless competitiveness prevalent amongst the students. Once I left the university, there was no way back. To this day I remain an outsider to the scientific community. You, Frank, are the first person in the world to hear of my achievement.”

Although I was flattered, I still thought it would be better if water was made out of the invisible gases, so that people everywhere would have enough to drink, especially people who live in the hot deserts.

“But what are we waiting for!” he exclaimed. “Actions speak louder than words. Just one minute and I will show you how it works.”

While he was gone, I stretched my legs; they had almost gone to sleep. I also had an itch on my back where a mosquito bit me and I gave it a good scratch. I could not do that while Mr. Stims was in the room. When I am with him, I try to behave properly so he will respect me. I remembered dinnertime was coming soon and wondered what my mum had cooked for me. I hoped it would be fish fingers with mashed potatoes. That’s my most favourite meal in the whole world.

My friend wasn’t gone for long. When he came back, he was carrying a small, shiny box and a full glass of water. I thought it was really thoughtful of him to bring me water, because I was really thirsty. I was about to reach out my hand and say, “Thank you Mr. Stims, it’s really thoughtful of you,” when he put that shiny box over the top of the glass. There was a hissing sound and the water disappeared before my eyes. Well, it didn’t actually disappear straight away. For a second, it looked like the water was cut in half, like a fresh bread roll with a sharp knife, and then both halves vanished. I was a bit miffed, as I really did want to drink that water, but still the sight was so amazing I could not help crying out, “WOW!”

The room filled up with a funny smell, like a cross between rotten eggs and fresh pineapple. Mr. Stims must have noticed me sniffing for he said, “That’s nitrous oxide or laughing gas, as it’s commonly known. The oxygen released by the process has combined with the nitrogen in the air. You have to be very careful with nitrous oxide. It messes with your mind.”

I knew he expected me to say how impressed I was and I did say so. He didn’t reply for a while and then he started a long speech. I can only remember bits of it:

“I have great plans, great plans,” Mr. Stims said. “Imagine magnifying the strength of this machine a hundredfold, a thousandfold, a millionfold! Look at the map of the world, Frank! Look at how much space is taken up by the oceans. Two thirds of our planet is water. Two thirds! How much land is wasted because of it! So many regions are overpopulated. This leads to stress, stress leads to crime. And on top of that, the world population is growing at a faster and faster rate. What use is ocean water? We certainly cannot drink it. And in any case, many regions that are now ocean used to be land once. We need to reclaim that land. And we need not stop there. The time has come for the oceans to go! We will make them disappear, just like the water in this glass. Certainly, this might cause some climate changes, but they will be easily fixed. And just imagine…land, land, land everywhere! One great continuous continent! No barriers between countries! The whole world finally united as one, living in peace! Room to plant crops, room for cattle to roam! Spaciousness that, at present, mankind doesn’t even dare to dream of! Whole continents underneath the oceans are just waiting for us to populate them! The potentialities are breathtaking in their scope! Yes, there will be a price to pay. That price will be paid by the ocean inhabitants – but we need not concern ourselves with that. Intelligence arose on land and it is the land dwellers that will rule this planet. And I will go down in history as the man who made it all possible – the new saviour of humanity!”

Mr. Stims was getting very excited. Whenever he gets excited, he walks from one end of the room to the other and waves his arms around. Well, he was certainly doing that; his arms swung like the blades of a windmill and he shouted out, “Liberation from the tyranny of water! The time has come! The possibilities are endless!”

It was all very interesting, but I was getting rather hungry and kept thinking more about the fish fingers with the mashed potatoes. It was then that a terrifying thought startled me so much that I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I realised that without oceans there would be no more fish, and without fish there would be no more fish fingers for me to eat. Fish fingers really are my most favourite food in the whole world.

I said, “Hey, wait a minute Mr. Stims. I really like fish fingers. You can’t kill all the fish. Give me that shiny thing! I don’t want you to destroy the oceans.”

“Fish, shmish,’’ he replied. “Who needs them? They don’t sing, you can’t pat them and they smell terrible.”

He refused to give me the box. A scuffle broke out between us, because I was getting a bit angry about not being able to eat fish fingers any more, all because of his stupid invention. I reached for the gadget and tried to take it away from him; it was then that I accidentally pressed the round red button on its top. What happened next was the strangest thing of all. You know when you blow up a balloon, and then let it go without tying it up and it flies all around the room, letting out air? Well, something similar happened to Mr. Stims. All this vapour started coming out of his eyes, nostrils and mouth and he was getting thinner and thinner and changing in shape before my very eyes. Then he just fell to the floor, or what was left of him, for by now he looked like a gigantic squashed raisin.

“I am very sorry about this, Mr. Stims,” I said to him, “but I really do like fish fingers. They are my most favourite food in the whole world.”

I then took the box that was lying on the floor and broke it into small pieces. You both know what happened after that.

The two detectives exchanged glances and one of them said, “Looks like it’s going to be a long night for all of us, Frank.”

The (Virtually) Real Life by Boris Glikman

The (Virtually) Real Life by Boris GlikmanI recall that day well. My friends and I were checking out an abandoned, run-down mansion on the outskirts of town and that’s when we noticed that strange, inexplicable things were beginning to happen… 

Every time we open a door to some room to take another look at it, the room and the things in it have changed and look completely different. The more adventurous amongst us explore the building more thoroughly, only to discover that it has an impossibly paradoxical structure. One girl gets spooked out and, in her hurry to get out of the house, jumps through the ground floor window. A moment later we hear a shriek of horror and bewilderment coming from the top floor – her senses refuse to accept that she ended up there and not on the overgrown lawn in the front yard.

Then someone screams out, “Don’t you see what is happening! None of this is real! This is all Virtual Reality! Someone is running this game and we are its involuntary, unwitting participants. So we can do anything; break all of society’s taboos, take any risks, shoot one another, because it is all a counterfeit, simulated world.”

At once I devise a way of putting this remarkable claim to the test. I speed off in my car and start driving along train tracks that ascend to a great height before ending abruptly in mid-air. My car goes for a graceful flight through the sky, spinning and turning, soaring up on the warm air currents, then gradually descending, rising again higher and higher, then stopping and hovering in mid-air.

Finally, I get tired of flying and crash-land on top of a high-rise building. ‘I wonder if I have sustained any injuries,’ I think to myself. ‘If this really is a virtual world, then I should be just fine!’

It occurs to me that if in fact my life has been virtual reality all along, then that would certainly explain a lot of things. I always thought this world and my life in it never made any sense – things were just too absurd and incoherent. Horrible, unthinkably terrifying events like massacres, famine, persecutions, injustices which would never happen in the real world kept occurring, time after time after time.

Now I could see why certain things kept getting lost and disappearing in my life, why my life never worked out right, why something always got in its way and ruined its forward progress. Now I could comprehend why I could never fit in anywhere and always felt at odds with the whole world, for this wasn’t an authentic environment, but rather an artifice of someone else’s mind; a degenerate, corrupt copy of the real reality.

No, this wasn’t the universe that the Absolute Being had created, according to His flawlessly sublime and ideal specifications, but rather a miscreation of some devious, impious, immoral human being. And so it contained within its make-up all the faults, deficiencies and imperfections that every human construction possesses, as well as being coloured by the particularly nasty character of the cad running this simulation.

It was also obvious that this contemptible creature held, for some reason or another, an intensely bitter grudge against me in particular. He obviously meted out the worst of his cruel tricks on me, judging by how my life has been just one senseless absurdity after another.

‘What kind of a person am I, really, outside of this sham construction? What is my life actually like in the real world? Who is the wise guy that created this diabolical game? What’s he got against me? Wait till I find my way out of this virtual world and get my hands on him! I’ll make him pay for all he has done to my life!’

And just then, an even more devastating thought strikes me: ‘What if I am the evil genius who created and is operating this game? What if it is I who has inflicted all of this misery, pain, suffering onto myself and the whole world? But why would I do that? Why would I torment myself so?’

The Day The Internet Died by Boris Glikman

Andy 7

Image by Andy Paciorek

It was widely known that Internet had been ailing for some time. Its poor health had made it rather slipshod in the execution of its duties. Some people had to endure days of frustration until an online connection was established, while for others the connection kept going on and off every second, like a flickering light globe.

For a while Internet hovered in a half-dead condition, with one foot in the grave, and mankind held its breath, fearing Internet would continue to deteriorate and then give up the ghost altogether.

And then the day came when Internet breathed its last and nobody could believe their ill fortune. It was hard to grasp that Internet no longer dwelled in the world, and that the burden of living would never again be lightened with the ever-present alternative of escaping into an online existence. No one would be privileged any more with the luxury of having two worlds to live in.

The most eminent computer technicians of the land were assigned the task of performing the autopsy. Their unanimous conclusion was that the Internet died of virtual causes. What nobody had suspected was that the Internet possessed a finite life span. Everyone had always assumed it would be around forever, yet it too carried within itself the lethal seeds of eternal offline-ness.

The next most pressing issue was the burial. Issues never considered before needed to be addressed urgently, for the sight of lifeless Internet lying prostrate on the ground was too heartbreaking for the world to take. Where should the funeral ceremony be held? In which language or computer code should the memorial service be conducted? Who should give the eulogy? Where to entomb it?

The matter of whom to invite to the service proved to be the most intractable issue of all. A certain number of tickets were reserved for those most deeply affected by Internet’s death – online pornography addicts, social misfits, ingrained introverts, Twitter-obsessed celebrities, Nigerian scammers and long-term residents in Second Life’s virtual world. Otherwise, it was nearly impossible to determine who was genuinely grief-stricken and who only wanted to attend the ceremony so as to be a part of this historic occasion.

Eventually, all of these matters were resolved, although not to everyone’s satisfaction, and the world gave Internet the sending off it deserved. Straight after the funeral, the world went into a shutdown, mourning Internet’s passing and remembering wistfully how it could answer any question; satisfy all emotional, mental and bodily needs; thrill the mind and the senses; provide instantaneous information, entertainment, relaxation and titillation; and even cure loneliness. Tragically, given the magnitude and depth of the loss, some could not bear to continue living in a world without Internet and logged out permanently from this world.

Once the unbridled, hysterical wave of grief finally subsided, people sobered up and gradually realised how the Internet had debased and disfigured their lives.

They recalled with horror and consternation the way Internet enabled people to dawdle their lives away in the endless morass of net world, leaving vital tasks undone and crucial issues unresolved; how googling had supplanted the wisdom that comes with age, experience, learning and, with instantaneous information always at one’s fingertips, the value of knowledge was lost; the way online reality became the only world and real reality was jilted and forgotten, just like the plain sister of a gorgeous girl; how Internet robbed life of its multifarious richness and beauty and reduced the world to a small, rectangular screen; the way online reality became a prison in which humanity willingly immured itself and then threw away the key.

Mankind recognised how fundamentally Internet had altered the nature of social relations and the nature of one’s relationship with oneself. Invented to facilitate communication and for bringing the world together, the Internet instead became the perfect tool for dissimulation, distorting the truth and separating oneself from the world, thus allowing people to not only misrepresent their true thoughts and feelings, but to falsify their entire lives and the very essence of their being, to themselves as well as to others.

People discovered that fingers were not just for typing and shifting mouses but had other uses too; that out of their torsos extended a pair of lower limbs which could be used for perambulating across the spatial dimension; that Evolution had equipped their bodies with tools perfect for conveying thoughts and feelings; that their faces possessed well-developed muscles which could be employed to signal emotions such as (amongst many others) surprise, annoyance, happiness, and frustration. Consequently, successful communication could be achieved without intermediary electronic devices. Most startling of all was the revelation that other people were not identical to their icons – flat and forever stuck in the same pose with the same smile on their faces – rather they were three dimensional beings, moving about and changing their facial expressions.

Having friends and partners in the physical world meant that you were free from the precariousness, uncertainty and unreliability of online friendships and relationships, and no longer subject to the capricious actions and decisions of your web pals, to whom, after all, you were just an ethereal, abstract entity that could easily be deleted permanently from their life with just a click of a mouse. Consequently, the constant threat of online friends and lovers inexplicably ceasing all contact and disappearing forever was gone for good.

“Back to Reality” tutorials proved to be very popular and helpful, covering such topics as  “Learning How to Single-Task”; “Becoming Acquainted with the Sun and the Sky”, and “How to Survive in a World that Cannot be Photoshopped”.

Life slowly regained its meaning as mankind clambered, one small step at a time, out of the online abyss it had dug for itself. Without the Internet, no one had to grapple any more with the problem of how to balance one’s life between the two worlds. Time started to flow more slowly; instant gratification was no longer craved; contemplation and patience revealed their true worth. It was now clearly seen that online reality provided only fleeting pseudo-meaning; that emotions felt in the web world were only ephemeral ersatz feelings; and that real self-esteem came not from social media popularity, but from within.

Each human being now experienced life directly, rather than through the distorting, diminishing and vicarious lens of a computer screen; facing the good and not so-good things in their lives without escaping into the net world and evading the reality of their existence; and being true to their inner selves, instead of hiding behind their icons and online identities. Only then was it realised how inextricably Internet had woven its fateful thread into every aspect of man’s existence and how much had been gained the day Internet died.

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March

Finding Colin Firth by Mia MarchBook Review
Title: Finding Colin Firth
Author:  Mia March
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: July 9, 2013
Pages: 336
ISBN-10: 1476710201
ISBN-13: 978-1476710204
Stars:  4.0

Okay, I admit it. I’m not original. I’m like over a million other women who think that Colin Firth is absolutely talented, dreamy, amazing and someone to gush about. When I stumbled onto a copy of Mia March’s Finding Colin Firth in Chapters recently, I couldn’t help but buy it. The title captivated me instantly. I’d heard about Mia March through Jane Porter’s blog and knew that her debut novel was called The Meryl Streep Movie Club and being a huge movie fan, I’d thought that I’d love to read that as well. I just happened to find Finding Colin Firth first. I trust Jane Porter’s taste in women’s fiction implicitly as she has yet to steer me wrong.

Finding Colin Firth is not only a story that has some of the main characters literally searching for Colin Firth when it’s rumoured that he’s going to be shooting scenes for a new movie in the small coastal town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, but it’s also a deeply moving account of three women’s issues of identity and their sense of belonging that stresses the importance of female relationships.

We first meet 22-year-old Bea Crane, a cook at Boston’s Crazy Burger who longs to become a teacher, on the day that she discovers from the deathbed letter of her mother that she was adopted. This shocking news turns Bea’s world upside down and after her bitchy boss complains about her work ethic one time too many when she’s just heard this life-changing news, she decides to quit Crazy Burger. She then travels to Maine to meet her birth mother who left her contact information with the local adoption agency.

Veronica Russo is a beautiful, single, 38-year-old waitress who works at the Best Little Diner in Boothbay. She has a small business on the side making the best pies in the area as well as teaching classes on pie making. Her “elixir” pies are particularly special because of the love, care and thought she instills in the making of every one. March’s delectable pie descriptions had me salivating, and I loved how she created special names for Veronica’s different kinds of pie: Amore Pie (chocolate caramel cream), Spirit Pie (shoofly), Feel Better Pie (blueberry), Confidence Pie (key lime) and Hope Pie (salted caramel cheesecake) to name a few.  Veronica loves Colin Firth and decides that she’s going to apply to be an extra in the movie that’s being filmed in Boothbay Harbor with the hope that she’ll get to see him in person.  We also discover that 22 years ago Veronica gave birth to a baby girl who she got to hold for all of two minutes before she was taken away from her as she’d decided to put her up for adoption. Her parents and high school boyfriend had both disowned her and she was sent to Hope Home for unwed mothers to live until she had her baby, after which she left Maine for Florida and didn’t come back for many years.

Gemma Hendricks is a 29-year-old, newly unemployed reporter from New York City who’s just discovered she’s pregnant but who is terrified that she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body and that she’ll have to give up her career to become a stay-at-home mother in the suburbs, which is exactly what her lawyer husband Alexander wants her to do. She decides to take a vacation alone and go back to Boothbay Harbor where she spent her summers as a young girl, to reunite with some close girlfriends who co-own a little inn called Three Captains (who just happen to be running a Colin Firth movie month) and to try to figure out how she’s going to compromise with Alexander to find a happy medium for both of them. While in Boothbay Harbor, Gemma is given an opportunity to write a feature article about Hope Home’s 50th anniversary for the local Gazette which leads to her meeting both Bea and Veronica before they’ve even met each other. We come to care about each one of them in the meantime through discovering their histories and because they’re sweet, likeable women. I particularly enjoyed Veronica and looked forward to her appearances in the novel most of all.

This is a delightful, easy read that although predictable in its outcome, still held joy for this reader. Reading it is equivalent to watching a romantic comedy starring Colin Firth (think Bridget Jones’s Diary or Love Actually) while enjoying a bowl of popcorn with your girlfriends, which is something that the women in Finding Colin Firth, actually do. However, the issues of adoption, parenthood and what makes a good parent; reputation and judgment and how one can hurt the other; and finding a way to allow your heart to open after it’s been seriously damaged are not fluffy in any way. There are also interesting love interests for Bea and Veronica with several sub-plots to add depth to their characters and just the right amount of tension and conflict. There were, perhaps, too many questions raised by the main characters in the literal sense, as there were times when March listed the questions running through their minds about their individual predicaments, and that made me roll my eyes because they were quite simplified in my mind, but other than that, I loved the journey of watching these women not only find each other but also themselves, not to mention discovering whether they would actually find Colin Firth. You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out.  Go ahead, it’s worth it!

Writer Advice’s 2nd Scintillating Starts Contest

Writer Advice Wants You!Writers advice from The Elements of Style

Entice us. Submit the opening (up to 1500 words) of your book (any genre) to Writer Advice’s 2nd Scintillating Starts Contest. I’ll respond like an agent/editor. You get perspective.

DEADLINE: October 18, 2013. 

JUDGES: Writer and editor B. Lynn Goodwin will judge and may consult with other writers as part of the process. All finalists are winners (small cash award) & can say that to prospective publishers.

PRIZES: Small cash award split evenly among all winners.

ENTRY FEE: $20. FOR BEST RESULTS:

1. Include your name, contact information, and title in the cover letter, but only include your title in the submission so it remains anonymous.

2.   Tell us if the submission is fiction or memoir in the cover letter.

3.   Since we judge these anonymously, please don’t tell us your background or where you’ve been published. If you are a finalist, we’ll ask for a bio.

4.   Please double-space your submission.

SUBMISSIONS: All entries should be submitted through Submittable. Submit to Writer Advice. You may enter UP TO THREE stories, but each is a separate submission with a separate fee of $20.

Winning pieces will be posted in the fall issue of Writer Advice. E-mail questions, but not submissions to editor B. Lynn Goodwin at Lgood67334@comcast.net

Lost Luggage by Jordi Punti

Lost Luggage by Jordi PuntiBook Review
Title: Lost Luggage
Author:  Jordi Punti
Publisher: Short Books Ltd.
Released: October 15, 2013
Pages: 480
ISBN-10: 1780720440
ISBN-13: 978-1780720449
Stars:  3.5

Lost Luggage by Spanish author Jordi Punti is the remarkable story of four half-brothers who have only known that each other existed for a year.  The curious thing about them is that they are each named Christopher in various languages. There’s the oldest, Christof, an actor/ventriloquist whose mother Sigrun is German; Christophe, a lecturer in quantum physics at the University of Paris whose mother Mireille is French; Christopher, who buys & sells second-hand records in Camden Town (London) whose mother Sarah is English; and Cristòfal, the youngest, a translator of novels who lives in Barcelona and whose mother Rita is Spanish.  When the Christophers’ mothers find out about each other 30 years after they last saw the father of their sons, they have no desire to meet, and so we don’t hear from them.

These are the sons of the missing Gabriel Delacruz Expósito, an enigmatic man with not one, but four secret lives, who drove a truck for a Barcelona based company called La Iberica that moved furniture all over Europe.  Somehow, the charming Gabriel was able to form brief relationships with four different women, all of whom were content with the brevity of his appearances in their lives.

The Christophers each received letters, photos and postcards from their father over the years and even shared the same memory of him when he’d leave early in the morning in his lorry after an all too brief visit.  They use these mementos to try to piece together a portrait of Gabriel’s life because Gabriel has disappeared more than a year ago and even though his sons haven’t seen him in more than 30 years, they embark on a journey to find him.  Barcelona police contact Cristòfal after finding his name on a piece of paper on Gabriel’s bedside table in his abandoned flat, as his landlord and bill collectors want to be paid and that’s how the Christophers end up coming together.

Gabriel grew up in The House of Charity, an orphanage in Barcelona, with his best friend Bundó and they lived together as roommates in a boarding house for years after they left the orphanage at the age of 17.  They befriended Petroli, who was 20 years older, through their work with the moving company and soon the three of them were helping themselves to one box that mysteriously disappeared, in every move they made and divided up the contents among them.

The four Christophers track down Petroli and his partner Angeles in Northern Germany where Petroli, who is now 80, has retired. They glean as much information about their father’s life from him as they can.  Because of their transient life on the road, Gabriel, Bundó & Petroli often stayed in brothels and motels.  Gabriel’s lifestyle offered two choices for past times between jobs: sex or playing cards.  Petroli liked to frequent emigrants’ centres during their down time on the road, which is where he met Angeles and where Gabriel met Sigrun in a Rüsselsheim social club.

Christophe meets with Bundó’s former lover, ex-prostitute Carolina (also known as Muriel), who never allowed herself to accept his proposal to move in with him in Barcelona and years later moved to Paris and said yes to someone else.  By finding all the hidden pieces to the puzzle that was their father’s unconventional life, the four half-brothers discover themselves.

Punti’s lush, descriptive prose takes us on a front seat ride through the lives of his characters.  Beginning with Chapter 8, he allows each of the Christophers to share their life story, and Christof takes the lead. He works part time as a ventriloquist and insists that his dummy Cristoffini be declared The Fifth Brother.  The way Punti incorporates Cristoffini into Christof’s storytelling, where he becomes the incarnation of Christof’s conscience, is nothing short of brilliant.

If there’s one thing we’ve confirmed since we began following the trail left by our father, it’s that our lives (everybody’s lives) are capriciously entwined and knotted together, sometimes playfully and, more often than not, in an impossible twist.  Try to follow a strand from the end, undo all the knots to observe each thread separately and you’ll soon find out that it’s totally useless.  At the moment of birth we’re already tangled like wool.  In the end, the paradox is that a life as solitary as Gabriel’s could have been braided with so many different people.

In Chapter 9, Christopher takes his turn at narrating the story of his mother Sarah’s life. She was a nurse who was working on a ferry that crossed from Calais to Dover. During a move to Great Britain, Gabriel, when he wasn’t cheating at a card game with Bundó, a Frenchman and his groomsmen (they were transporting a racehorse on the ferry), he found time to have a sexual rendezvous with Sarah in the infirmary.  In the meantime Punti tells a fantastical tale of three teenagers on an LSD trip on the ferry who decide to free the horse from its box.  The result is quite a trip!

By the time it’s Cristòfal’s turn to tell his story in Part 2 of the book, I found myself beginning to lose patience with Punti’s wordiness.  In particular, Cristòfal’s chapter At The Airport is tedious and the story of his grandfather’s wig business goes on longer than necessary.  In fact, Cristòfal’s story goes on and on for chapters, for more than half of Part 2 of the book and this is when I started to get bored and just wanted Punti to wrap it up already.  The book, although wonderfully written, could have easily been 150 pages shorter without losing the significance of events in the story.

Lost Luggage is not only one of the literal themes in this book, but also a metaphor for the lost, incomplete souls of its main characters.  There is a pervading atmosphere of sadness and loneliness that permeates its pages and leaves you feeling melancholy so I can’t say that I’d ever want to read it again.  However, I will say that Punti pulls off a conjuring trick with the ending which is perfect!  But you’ll have to read it yourself to find out how it all turns out.

An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans, Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens

An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans, Book 1)  by Natalie G. OwensBOOK PREVIEW

An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans, Book 1)

Two lovers separated by an evil curse.
A desperate quest through time.
A love that wants to beat all odds.
And all the while, deadly danger brews around a two-thousand-year-old secret society and the enemy that lives to decimate it.

“…’Til the end of my life, I shall belong to you as your husband.”

That was the promise Adrian made to Emmaline. And then, he was gone forever…It is 1807. Adrian Segrave, Viscount Bournemouthe, and Lady Emmaline Deramore are about to wed and British Society teems with excitement at this imminent love match. But Madeleine de Brandeville, a mysterious Frenchwoman, has her lustful and ambitious sights on the groom. When she sets her cruel plan in motion, she leaves devastation in her path.

Heartbroken, Emmaline embarks on an adventure she’d never imagined having. As the world changes and chaos brews, her fate becomes linked with the Valthreans, a group of immortals who must learn to face a deadly enemy that threatens their place in the human world. But all the while, there is one thing she wants more than any other–to get back her man.

When she finally finds her prize and the intense blue flame of desire burns once more, her worst nightmares are far from over and the toughest battle is yet to begin. Will love win the war in the end?

Disclaimer: Do not read this novel if you dislike drop dead sexy heroes, strong heroines, intriguing immortals, magic, spells, mystery, amazing adventures, exotic settings, secret cults, and sensual love scenes.

Author Bio:

Natalie G. Owens got her first taste of serious writing by penning award-Author Natalie G. Owenswinning poetry, short stories, and articles for college and local publications. She sold her first book to a small publisher in 2007 and is currently indie published. Her favorite stories to write are romances with a dark edge featuring brooding heroes, strong heroines, and a good dash of fantasy.

Social Media links:

Website: www.nataliegowens.com
Facebook profile page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=563297082
Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Natalie-G-Owens-Author/24911987111
Twitter: https://twitter.com/natalie_g_owens
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4527498-natalie-g-owens

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115212743960662992349/posts

A Word from the Author:

I happen to be a big fan of the Highlander series since it first came out. I simply loved Adrian Paul in his role of tortured hero fighting for justice and survival. Who can resist a character like that? 🙂

So one day, I started thinking that there are some amazing series out there in the paranormal/fantasy romance genre, but I couldn’t think of a specific one featuring immortals that live under a legal and political system they formed over time. Immortals with their own style of government and their own code of ethics. Basically, a secret society of these special individuals that aims at furthering the interests of its people and the humans they live with. Of course, as with each government, there is opposition—some justified, and some not so much.

Another thought I had was: what if Man had someone—or something—powerful and magical to come to the rescue at certain crucial points in history? Some things could have happened differently—or turned out much worse. And what if Man’s fate and future is determined by warring factions of these immortal beings? The germ of this idea started in my mind, and together with my interest in myth and adventure, the Valthreans were born.

The story and practices of the Valthreans constitute the backdrop of each book in the series, the glue that holds them together. Some pretty amazing characters make up the higher ranks of this unusual organization—sexy heroes and kickass, determined heroines—and my goal is to tell you their stories and happy endings :).

***

Praise for AN ETERNITY OF ROSES:

“A fast-paced, loving, lovable romp through time and character and romance … with characters who are so fully fleshed that I felt they were standing beside me.”

“WOW! Talk about everlasting love!”

“Wahoo! Yummy and seductive read.”

“Refreshingly different.”

“More than just your everyday romance!”

“The story is tautly engrossing, the plot beautifully constructed, and the characters humanly complex. This paranormal romance is a must read!”

“I truly fell in love with An Eternity of Roses.”

“This story is definitely going into my “To be Read Again” pile.”

Download from:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/13cT8Qy

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/TFFH8E

Amazon (print): http://amzn.to/11hmLma

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/146WxmN

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Kobo: http://bit.ly/TVLOEY

iTunes: http://bit.ly/SYUSMv

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