It is almost impossible to accurately draw from the future. One of the tests of good science fiction is how much of it finds its way into reality over time.
Computers and communicators and scanners and material printers are doing things daily now that were predicted as fantastical possibilities in the Star Trek episodes of the 1960’s.
Jules Verne’s novels predicted men walking on the moon and the existence of nuclear submarines patrolling the depths of the sea.
George Orwell predicted even worse things when it comes to government electronic surveillance and governmental control of everything they can take control of.
But it has never really been the future that my writing, as a fantasist/surrealist, has been about.
All of my writing is set either before the year 2000, or 3000 years in the future in the 51st Century and beyond. And all of the science fiction involved is really more about the past than it is even about the present. These drawings of the Civil War bugle boy and the Shakespearian portrait of Prospero, Ferdinand, and Miranda, were all drawn from either photos or paintings or woodcut prints from the distant past.
In my writing I don’t try to predict the future. I write about people who are basically the same now as they were in the 16th Century. In truth, only the costumes, props, and stage technology change over time. The actors in the great performance always play the same basic characters.
I have always had an inquiring mind. That is a curse instead of a plus if your main goal in life is to be happy and unbothered by anything. But it has proved to be of benefit to me as I have become an old coot who actually cares about what is true. Yes, I am willing to personally suffer to bring to light that which is actually true and that which must be disbelieved before it truly hurts us.
Don’t judge me yet based on this next question;
“Did you know that the Democratic party is funded by billionaires who want to use the “Deep State” to promote their Satanic rituals involving the murder and cannibalistic consumption of human children?”
I hope you know that I would never promote such a thing as being true. I am even careful of posting this pernicious lie in a question rather than a statement, because that’s one of the tactics the malign promoters of this religious belief use, not actually stating something that will be contradicted immediately, but taken merely as something to be considered and discussed simply because it is offered in question form.
So, how do you tackle such dangerous nonsense?
I prefer the scientific method which provides the structure for your thinking that will keep you on the most likely paths that lead you to what is true and what is not.
Facts should be confirmed by multiple verifiable sources.
We don’t talk much about cold fusion nowadays because when it was discovered in 1989 by a pair of electrochemists whose single experiment produced more heat than what should result from the energy put into the tabletop experiment. But, as is required by the entire scientific community, it couldn’t be reproduced in more repeats of the experiment than those that turned out negative. So, even though Pons and Fleischman did an experiment that answered the dreams of science-fiction nerds like me, they are mostly ignored by now. Cold fusion? Only one flawed source, studied in 1989 and proved still basically untrue in 2004 by a multitude of scientists who wanted it to be true.
Consider the source for Q-Anon conspiracies. One (or possibly more) anonymous government whistle-blowers whose credentials have never been presented or identities revealed, and mind-blowing statements appearing on places like 4-Chan, 8-Chan, and Parlor to be picked up and amplified on such reliable sources of scientifically proven knowledge as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Q-Anon is not the only conspiracy religion out there. My friend Giorgi above has a more benign, but no less ridiculous religion that chooses to replace God Jehovah, Zeus, Odin, Buddha, and other religious figures and deities with Ancient Aliens.
Here’s a second and third test offered by Carl Sagan to use against their ideas;
2. Encourage debate from knowledgeable people from all identifiable perspectives.
3. Do not accept arguments only from positions of authority.
Q-Anon arguments only have the authority of repetition because social media endlessly asks the same “questions” over and over. There is no debate from any recognizable “authority,” just a plethora of unsubstantiated statements and commandments.
In a way, the Ancient-Aliens crowd is guilty of the same thing. They never have skeptics and debunkers on their History-Channel show. You never see Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society, offering his opinions of their conclusions on that show. Neither do they allow Christian theologians or Buddhist scholars to offer their take on what probably really happened. They do employ physicists, engineers, and historians on their show, but never the ones that don’t agree with their radical theories and conclusions. Since there is no real debate on that show and no identifiable peer review, that show does not qualify as History, let alone Science.
4. Don’t get overly attached to your own ideas.
If you are going to investigate any conspiracy that holds thrall a number of “true believers,” approach everything with a truly open mind. I actually believe alien beings from “out there” have visited Earth. That is based on things, science, and testimony I haven’t even begun to go into here. But I reserve my right to be skeptical about everything, especially my own prejudices, theories, and beliefs. Otherwise I could too easily get trapped into believing in the truth of something that I otherwise would recognize as false. This is the factor that has pulled so many of my otherwise sensible Republican friends onto the flypaper of spurious Q-Anon claims.
5. Use numbers wherever possible. Math is quantifiable information that can “prove” the facts better than most ideas expressed in mere language. It is more precise, and reveals truth in verifiable ways that no poet ever could.
I am known to some in my family (here you could read wife and sisters) as the family conspiracy nut and generally crazy old coot.
But I am not so crazy that I don’t recognize the dangers inherent in some the ideas I am talking about here. As an English teacher I have learned some effective thinking skills that protect me and mine. I can honestly tell you that these thinking skills explained here will help you too. I learned them from a friend who pointed me to Carl Sagan as the source of these thinking skills.
And to any of my friends who might read this post and be offended, I apologize. But you were wrong about Pizzagate, and you are on the wrong side of this too. Aliens probably did NOT build the pyramids.
Truthfully… for a fiction writer, a humorist, a former school teacher of junior-high-aged kids, telling the truth is hard. But in this post I intend to try it, and I will see if I can stand the castor-oil flavor of it on my tongue.
The simple truth is, I rarely tell the unvarnished truth. And I firmly believe I am not alone in this.
Yesterday I battled pirates. (While this is not literally true, it is metaphorically true.) They were the scurvy scum o’ the Bank-o’-Merricka Pirates who are suing me for over ten thousand dollars despite my efforts of the last two years to settle 40 thousand dollars worth of credit card debt.
I hired a lawyer, but in spite of what he told me, I expect to lose the lawsuit and be wiped out financially. I also believe Donald Trump will win as President.
I am a pessimist. And it helps me through life. I am always prepared for the worst, and I can only be surprised by happy and pleasant surprises.
My son in the Marines has developed an interest in survivalist gear and chaos-contingency plans. We are now apparently preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse.
I like to draw nudes. I have drawn them from real-life models who were paid for their participation. But no bad things happened. It was all done with professional integrity even though I am an amateur artist. Chaperones were a part of every session.
In high school I identified as a Republican like my father. In college I became a Democrat (Thanks, Richard Nixon) and voted for Jimmy Carter. I argued with my father for eight years of Ronald Reagan and four years of George H.W. Bush.
My father has now voted for Barack Obama twice and will vote for Hillary this fall if he is still able. We spent most of our conversations this summer exchanging “Can you believe its?” about Donald Trump.
I have been collecting pictures of sunrises for three years now. I stole the idea from my childhood friend who now lives in Florida and takes beautiful ocean sunrise pictures over the Atlantic. But I do it because I know I don’t have many more sunrises to go. I have six incurable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and COPD. I could go “BOOM! …dead” at any given moment. I believe in savoring it while I have it.
I was sexually assaulted when I was ten years old. I can only tell you this particular truth because the man who assaulted me and inflicted physical and emotional pain on me is now dead. It is liberating to be able to say that. But I regret forty years’ worth of treating it is a terrible secret that I could never tell anyone.
Telling that last truth made me cry. Now you know why telling the truth is not easy.
I really do love and admire all things having to do with Disney. And when I was young, I really did want to find a picture of Annette naked. There was no internet back then. That quest helped me learn to draw the human form. I know how bad that sounds… but, hey, I was a normal boy in many ways. And I don’t draw her naked any more.
Finally, I have to say… in all honesty… I don’t know for sure that everything I have told you today is absolutely true. Truth is a perception, even an opinion. And I may be wrong about the facts as I know them. The human mind works in mysterious ways. I sometimes think I may simply be bedbug crazy.
(P.S.) Bedbugs are insects with very limited intelligence. They cannot, in fact, be crazy or insane. Their little brains are not complicated enough for that. But it is a metaphor, and metaphors can be more truthful than literal statements.
I gave you a list of places where my ideas for fiction come from, and in the end, I failed to explain the thing about the bottle imp. Yes, I do get ideas from the bottle imp. He’s an angry blue boggart with limited spell powers. But he’s also more than 700 years old and has only been trapped in the bottle since 1805. So, he has about 500 years of magical life experience to draw from and answer my idea questions. Admittedly it would be more helpful if he were a smarter imp. His name is Bruce, and his IQ in human terms would only be about 75. But, then, I don’t have to worry about misfired magic. If I asked him to, “Make me a hamburger,” he wouldn’t immediately change me into a fried, ground-beef patty because he is not smart enough to do that high of a level of magic spell.
But he is just barely intelligent enough to tell me a truthful answer if I asked him a question like, “What would happen if I put an alligator’s egg in a robin’s nest as a joke, and the robin family decided it was their own weird-looking egg and then tried to hatch it?” The answer would be truthful according to his vast knowledge of swamp pranks. And it would also be funny because he’s too dumb to know better. In fact, he told me about a mother robin who worked so diligently at hatching an alligator egg that a baby alligator was hatched. She convinced it that it was actually a bird. And when it came time for the baby birds to learn to fly, the baby alligator couldn’t do it… until she talked it into flapping madly with all four legs. Then, a mother’s love and faith in her child got an alligator airborne.
Yeah, that hasn’t proved to be a very useful story idea. I put it into a story I was writing during my seven years in high school, and then lost the manuscript. (I was a teacher, not a hard-to-graduate student.) But it was proof that you can get your writing ideas from a bottle imp.
So, if you decide to use bottle imps as an idea source for fiction, the next step is to find and acquire the right sort of bottle imp. I got mine from Smellbone, the rat-faced necromancer. I bought it for an American quarter and three Canadian loonies more than a dozen years ago. I found it at his Arcana and Horse-Radish Burger Emporium in Montreal. But I am not sure how that information helps you. Smellbone died in a firey magical-transformation accident involving an angry Wall-Street financier and a dill pickle. The whole Emporium went to cinders in an hour.
If you are going to try to capture the bottle imp yourself, which I strongly do not recommend, you are going to need a magical spell-resistant butterfly net, a solid glass jar, bottle, or brass urn. A garlic-soaked cork to fit the bottle. A spell scroll ready to cast containing at least one fairy-shrink spell. And an extremely limited amount of time to actually think about what you are doing.
Now I have told you how I get writing ideas from a bottle imp. Aren’t you glad I did not include this idea in the post about where ideas come from? After all, I am a fiction writer. I get my jollies from telling lies in story form. And bottle imps, especially angry blue bottle imps named Bruce, or Charlie, or Bill, are more trouble than they are worth. They can curse you with magical spells of infinite silliness and undercut your serious nature for a lifetime.
If you are on a writer’s journey like I am, you have my sympathy. I am not saying it is not worth it. But if it is going painlessly easy for you, you are not doing it right.
If you are doing it right, you are dredging your soul deeply with a huge jagged-edged bucket to find those small gemstones of truth and life and meaning, and then trying to arrange it all into patterns and genres and stories that are artful enough not to just look like a pile of random rocks. If you do it for a lifetime, you may be lucky enough to create a masterpiece or two, a finely-crafted jeweled creation that dazzles the eye and captures the heart of the reader.
I have always been cursed with high intelligence and a vividly over-active imagination. So, in some sense, I was always destined to be some kind of a fantasy writer with dragons, unicorns, wizards, and such crap dancing in my head, and polluting it by farting rainbows too often. Fiction-writing, by its very nature has to tell a lot of lies to get to the truth. It also has to be, in large parts, autobiographical in nature to be any good. You have to write about what you actually know. Because making stuff up without real-world references will only produce crap that you yourself (meaning you, the writer-you) can only see as mud-brown dhrek.
Therefore, my stories have to be the thing that I label as Surrealism. Many experts would call it that too. It is expressed in highly metaphorical imagery, as in a boy moving in with his father and step-family at a nudist park where everybody is naked most of the time, and the boy sees practically everyone as a faun from Greek myths. (A Field Guide to Fauns) ‘Where a boy loses his whole family in a car accident in France and must rebuild himself in the US with family he has never even met before and he does it by putting on clown paint and singing sad songs, and visiting a dream world inhabited by clowns who might actually be angels. (Sing Sad Songs) Or a girl recovering from the grief of her father’s suicide during a once-in-a-lifetime blizzard where she is saved from snow-ghosts by a magical hobo and runaway orphans from a stranded Trailways bus. (Snow Babies) The reality of these stories depends on a willing suspension of disbelief challenged by a myriad of disparate things thrown together into a kaleidoscope narrative.
I have been thinking deeply about the nature of my own writing experience as I spent most of a year working to promote my books through an online author-review exchange called Pubby during a pandemic unlike anything seen in a century.
The author-review exchange thing has been a very mixed blessing. More than half of the reviews I have gotten on my work are done by authors seeking to earn points for their own books to be reviewed by cheating. They don’t actually try to read the books. Instead, they look at other existing reviews and try to cobble together some lies that don’t show any original thinking and merely parrot what other reviewers have said.
And while some reviews come from reviewers like me who work hard at reading and understanding the book and giving honest reactions that delight me by pointing out the things they actually connected with and understood in my books, other reviewers react with unexplained horror at something they found offensive to their own world view in my books, painting them in harsh terms, in one case even calling the book child-pornography and ridiculing the authors of the good reviews as someone who didn’t understand what they were reading.
But even the bad reviews are a blessing, in that they prove that someone has actually read my books. I cannot explain why that is so important, but it is.
So, hopefully you see now why I am talking about fairy tales. A writer’s journey is hard. It burns your very soul. And you are not very likely to see any rewards but the intangible ones. If you are a fellow writer on your own writer’s journey, well, I sympathize. And I can only wish you well.
If there is a Church of Sacred Landscapes then Bob Ross is its Jesus Christ. That is not a sacrilegious statement of bizarre cult-mindedness. Painting is a religion that has its tenets. And Bob Ross explained to us the will of God on his painting show on PBS. All the illustrations used in this post come from the Facebook page Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. All the wisdom comes from things the Master said on the show.
Bob Ross was the prophet of the paintbrush. He would present us with a lightly prepared canvas at the beginning of the show and then proceed on camera to take his brush and palette knife, and all his paints, and create a piece of the world before our very eyes. And he was not Picasso or Van Gogh or even Norman Rockwell. He was not a talented artist, but rather a very practiced one who knew all the tricks and shortcuts to sofa painting, the art of knocking out scene after scene after scene. He could make his little piece of the world in only half an hour, and he made it obvious how we could do the same. His work was not gallery quality… but his teachings were Jesus-worthy.
His work was natural, flowing, and realistic in the random complexity it presented. He took standard paintbrush strokes and pallet knife tricks and made them dance across the canvas to make happy little trees.
His painting methods presented us with a philosophy of life and a method of dealing with whatever mistakes we might make.
And of course, any good religion must take into account the existence of evil.
Bob Ross tells us that evil is necessary as a contrast to what is good and what is true. We need the dark. But we don’t have to embrace it. Bob’s paintings were never about the dark bits. He always gravitated towards the light.
Of course, sometimes you have to beat back the darkness. A good artist takes care of his tools.
Bob Ross admonishes us to look and to learn and love what we see. The man radiated a calm, gentle nature that makes him a natural leader. His simple, countrified wisdom resonates because we need calm and pastoral peace in our lives. It is one of the main reasons mankind needs religion.
So I definitely think we ought to consider building a Bob-Rossian Church of the Sacred Landscapes. We have our prophet. The man has passed away, yet he is risen to paint again endlessly on YouTube.
And if you are willing to try… Bob Ross will smile upon you.
Yes, I admit it. I am a goofy old coot and an embarrassment to my children.
That’s my role in life now. Eye rolls abound when I am around.
There are several reasons why, which I intend to list here in detail in order to embarrass my children further. But it basically boils down to the fact that I am a writer, and though I write mostly fiction, another way of saying I lie a lot, a real writer tends to reveal more of the naked truth about himself than a child can stand.
Who wants to see their father naked? Especially when he is old… wrinkled, spotty, and mostly fish-belly white.
Speaking of nakedness, one of the things that my children are most embarrassed about is the fact that I know a lot about nudists and naturists, in fact, I know many real nudists, and I have been nude in at least one social situation with other naked nudists. And, even worse, I admit it in writing where my children and their friends can see it. Of course, none of them read this blog anymore for that reason.
I have written novels where there are nudist characters based on some of the real nudists I have known. The novels with nudist characters in them so far are, Recipes for Gingerbread Children, The Baby Werewolf, Superchicken, The Boy… Forever, and A Field Guide to Fauns. And these novels might not embarrass them so much if they read them to discover that the novels have something to say that really isn’t about their father being a crazy naked coot. But they won’t read them because I am embarrassing to them.
And there is the verified fact that I am something of a conspiracy theorist. I firmly believe that the actor/theater owner William Shakespeare only offered his name to the real writer of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry, the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward DeVere. There is actual evidence that is so, though it was a secret that DeVere took to his pauper’s grave after spending away his entire family estates and fortune. A pauper’s grave that no interested scholar can find the location of to this very day, although maybe he’s buried in the same place of honor as the actor/theater owner, as there are cryptic clues to that as well.
I also believe that Dwight Eisenhower met with alien civilizations in the 1950s and the Roswell Incident was a real crash of more than one spacecraft from other star systems. There exist real deathbed confessions that confirm those details, and the government has been covering up the facts for decades.
The conspiracy-theory skills I have as a crazy, embarrassing coot have resulted in books like Catch a Falling Star, Stardusters and Space Lizards, and the Bicycle-Wheel Genius.
And lastly, I was a school teacher in middle schools and high schools for thirty-one years, which means I can create kid-characters in fiction that are very realistic and have a good-but-comic qualities that make readers generally like my stories.
So, my children are probably right to be seriously embarrassed by my very existence. Of course, I, like all old coots registered with the Crazy, Embarrassing Coots of America, the CECA, am totally immune to being embarrassed by the embarrassment of my children.
The homeless man wandered onto center stage just as the spotlight went on. He shaded his old eyes against the brightness and looked outward into the dark theater. It was probably some kind of mistake.
“Oh, so now it’s my turn to talk, eh?”
There was no response.
“Well, if you’re expecting something funny to come out of my mouth, good luck with that. More than half of what I say that makes people laugh is the result of depression, ill health, and just plain ignorant stupidity. And the other half of it is not meant to be funny, but is because I don’t always understand what I am saying.”
There was an embarrassed chuckle somewhere in the darkness.
“I mean, you can’t expect too much from me. I’m a bum. I have no money. I have no job. Not having any work to be bothered with is kinda good. But the other thing kinda sucks.
And all the great comedians that used to stand on this stage and try to save the world through humor are dead now. It’s true. Robin Williams died recently. George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, and Bill Cosby are all long gone.”
There was some nervous laughter in the theater.
“Oh, I know, Cosby only thinks he’s dead. But he kinda killed the character delivering the wisdom in the form of observational comedy, didn’t he.”
“But most of them old boys tried to come up here and tell you the truth. And the truth was so absolutely unexpectedly wacky and way out of bounds that you just had to laugh. And the more wicked the humor, the more you just laughed. You didn’t do anything about the problems they talked about. But you sure did laugh.”
“It seems like the more they told you the truth and the more you just laughed about it, the more old and bitter they got. Sardonic? You know that word? Not sardines, fools, but sardonic. Bitterly humorous and sadly funny. Seems like a lot of them old boys got more and more bitter, more and more depressed up to the end. More and more sardonic.”
“I mean, Carlin was calling you stupid right to your face at the end. And you just laughed it off.”
The theater had grown eerily silent.
“But it ain’t all bad, is it? I mean, at least you all can still laugh. Only smart people get the jokes. The ones Carlin moaned about were laughing because everybody else was laughing. Those weren’t the ones we were talking to. There’s still life out there somewhere. Maybe intelligent life. Maybe aliens ain’t located any intelligent life on Earth yet, but they’re still trying, ain’t they?”
“You shoulda listened more carefully to what they were saying. Life and love and laughter were bound up in their words.”
“So I guess what I’m really saying is… just because I happened to get a rare chance to say it to you all… learn to listen better. The voices are quiet now. But the words are still there. And laughing at them is still a good thing. But remember, you need to hear them too.”
The theater suddenly filled with the roar of a standing ovation. The old man bowed. And this was ironic because… the theater had always been empty. No one at all was there now.
Truthfully, when I look back at the string of posts in the picket fence of this daily blog, I fail to see the overall map of it in any semblance of pattern or order. Honestly, I did not set out to be purposefully wacky.
I did, however, set out to be purposefully surreal. I mean it, I consciously put bizarrely dissimilar things together in an attempt to find parallels and connections in unlike things because, not only is it funny and surprising, but is a comic act that serves to keep the mind nimble and never numb. I do think quite a lot. And I try to see connections between things where others wouldn’t. For instance, the Coppertone girl with her bare butt and Bullwinkle with his unicycle are both being threatened in a way that is both comic, and taking advantage of their inherent image of innocence. Neither will lose anything by it. The girl stands to brown her pale white behind in the sun, while Bullwinkle will probably land on his head and it will make a decent cushion to preserve him because of it’s empty and rubbery qualities.
I must also admit to a bit of the old telling of stretchers, the misrepresentation of the truth, the loquacious layer-onner of lies. Not Trumpian lies that land on you like elephants dropped like bombs out of B-52’s. Instead, fictions that entertain and elucidate. It is the most likely reason I keep saying connecting words and phrases like “truthfully” and “honestly” and “I mean it”. Those are words that liars love.
Yes fiction writers like me tell little white lies.
I have now published my novel Recipes for Gingerbread Children. It is a novel based on real people I have known and loved and listened to. It is about an old German woman, a survivor of WWII concentration camps, who loves to tell stories to children and bake gingerbread cookies, especially gingerbread men. It features a pair of teenage nudist girls who believe in going completely naked whenever you are indoors, even if you are in someone else’s house. It features Nazis, both in flashback and ghostly forms. It also features fairies from the Hidden Kingdom of Tellosia, a fairy kingdom filled with little three-inch tall magical people living under our very noses. And it has a werewolf in it, though admittedly a very young one. It is a comedy with its requisite sad parts, and it is definitely an example of surrealism. It is also full of lies… err, I mean fiction.
But the real purpose of this supposedly be-bop brain fart in blog-post form is not so much to explain my blog (because how do you explain a blog that goes from Flashbacks and Foobah to telling about Madman Trump to Another novel part… #37 to Centaurs to a book and movie review, to this eccentric and eclectic thing, which probably exists more to make alliteration jokes than anything else in the most musical beat I can bang out?) but to prove that I do often think about thinking and how things fit together and what it all means… and how to write a run-on sentence that adds to the effect rather than simply annoys. And, yeah, I’m doing that. And it feels like a good thing to do.
A new day dawns. It leaves me wondering. Who am I today? Who will I be tomorrow?
The opportunity to have any sort of control over who and what I am is coming to a close. I don’t really know how much longer I have before pain and illness dissolve me into nothingness. But death is not the end of existence. I may be forgotten totally by the day after next Thursday, but my existence will still have become a permanent fact. Yes, I am one of those dopey-derfy-think-too-much types known as an existentialist.
I am feeling ill again. Any time that happens may be the last time. But that doesn’t worry me.
The important thing is that the dance continues. It doesn’t matter who the dancers are, or who supplies the music.
We can be clowns if we choose to be.
We can safely be fools if we really can’t help it.
An awful lot of awful things go into who and what we are. Those things make us full of awe. They make us awesome. Aw, shucks. What an awful thing to say.
But what is all this stuff and nonsense really about today?
It’s just Mickey being Mickey… Mickey for another day.
It’s not really poetry. It certainly isn’t wisdom. It’s a little bit funny, and only mildly depressing… for a change.
It’s just Mickey being Mickey. And a partially Paffooney gallery.