Tentacle

A few weeks ago many of us fell in love as the story broke of a free-spirited little New Zealand octopus named Inky, who made his way out his aquarium, ambled across the floor of the research lab, and snaked into a small drain pipe that led to his ancestral home in the Pacific Ocean. Many of us, smitten by a cephalopod of such serious purpose, wonder about his whereabouts, his healthcare, his forwarding address.

Less than a week ago I was talking to an overbearing acquaintance about my latest novel, and mentioned that the book’s primary antagonist is a savage nightmare with tentacles like those of octopi. The acquaintance, concerned by my lack of fundamental biology and spelling, jabbed a finger in midair.

“You couldn’t be more wrong,” he said. “An octopus has arms, not tentacles. And the plural of octopus is octopuses, not octopi.”

He huffed, stomping off.

I puckered my lips, pondered this. Since he was probably correct, I decided that, like a good protagonist, I had to take action. Since Jack Parker and I are the gods of our mythical world of Newtonia, I have decided to create octopi in its oceans. And you know what our octopi possess? Tentacles.

That’s the beauty of being a guy who tells lies for entertainment: I can do whatever the hell I want. Just like Inky.

Peace,

Keith

Wanna read more about Newtonia? Read MADNESS RISING, available for Kindle.

Copyright (c) 2016 Keith Parker

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Antagonist

Doctor_Who_The_Name_of_The_Doctor“Welcome to the final resting place of the cruel tyrant.”

As we usher out Matt Smith and usher in Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor, it’s useful to reflect on just why “The Name of the Doctor” is such a brilliant piece of television science fiction.  In that finale Dr. Simeon makes the assertion (see quote above) about the Doctor’s “reputation.”   The Doctor, in all his incarnations, is the “slaughterer of the ten billion,” the one who wiped out (or will wipe out) the Sycorax, Soloman the Trader, the Cybermen, and the Daleks.

The reason I’m boring you with all this is simple: Most fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror aspire to be creative writers, whether short stories, novels, screenplays, or creative nonfiction.  And it’s worth offering a bit of writing advice to those who do.  Any story has to have an protagonist and an antagonist, or, as they say in Engligh, a hero and villain :)

If the antagonist is a “real person”, i.e., not a sharknado or disco music, then you need to make sure that you understand your villain.  He may be a son-of-a-bitch to everyone else, but to himself he’s God’s gift to mankind.  When we watch Doctor Who, we know the Cybermen and Daleks are evil, but to Dr. Simeon they’re victims.  It’s crucial for us writers to realize that from the point of view of the villain, the villain is the hero and the hero is the villain, or vice versa in reverse.

One exercise that I like to practice when writing a story is to write an outline from the villain’s perspective.  It gives me a sense of what he wants, how he views life.  This, I think, is crucial to three-dimensional characters and good, solid story, and the reason “The Name of the Doctor” is such a good episode.

That’s all for today.  I had a tooth extracted this week and I feel like warm-over dogshit.

So, until next time,

Peace,

Keith

Copyright (c) 2013 Keith Parker. All Rights Reserved. All trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners and are used for entertainment purposes only and as provided for by the “Fair Use” copyright clause.

Cyborg

Cyborg.  Ha!  Gotta have a huge shout-out to my man, “MirkinFirkin”, and his hilarious blog, www.JustJiggleTheHandle.com. If you’re a fan of the satirical newspaper, The Onion, you will love his satire. He is a riot. The shout-out is specifically related to his mention of the Cybermen from Doctor Who. Until yesterday I honestly did not know the difference between a robot and a cyborg.  How weird is that?  I’ve read/watched SFFH my whole freakin’ life … didn’t have a clue.  I’d better learn really freakin’ fast, though, because we got us a new novel in the works; it’s set on an alien planet where robots with human brains (i.e., cyborgs) are preparing the way for human colonization when they discover (wait for it!) an ancient evil. Did you expect anything less from a Lovecraft fan?

More on the novel in coming months, but for now I will say that the “robots” do not look anything like Doctor Who‘s Cybermen. Why? Because I think the Cybermen look like shit. Seriously. I hate them. They remind me of something I’d see in a bad episode of Lost in Space (but that’s redundant, isn’t it?). In fact, I’d rather kick back and watch reruns of the original Battlestar Galaxative rather assault my eyes with that garbage.

But, enough whining. People whine too much these days. Doctor Who is fun. That’s what TV is for.

Before I close, though, another shout-out is in order to my friend and fellow Birmingham-Southern physicist, James Archer (who is not a cyborg) for reminding me that everything in the universe has a starting point and an ending point.  Everything that can exist does exist, at least according to prevailing theories (theories in the sciences are the same as facts for you and me).  Now all I have to do to comfort myself (perhaps a nice glass of whiskey) is find a theory for emergent consciousness.  That should be simple like radar, as The Stooges once said.

  • A man walks into a bar and asks, “Where’s the Doctor?”
  • The bartender replies, “Doctor Who?”

Peace, from

Keith

Copyright (c) 2013, Keith Parker

Grave

Grave“The fate of all is always dust.”

~ So say The Whispermen when The Doctor encounters them on Trenzalore, the place of his death, the place he is buried.

In the seventh season finale, which may be the best Doctor Who episode I’ve ever seen, The Doctor faces his own mortality.   With a grave (as it were) face, The Doctor steps out of his time machine and sets foot upon the planet that serves as his own cemetery, and is able to look upon his own tomb.

Clara Oswald says, “Anybody’d be scared, looking at their own grave.”

This is the slimy, oozy underbelly of time travel, isn’t it?  The one with the bugs and wiggly worms.  If we had the ability to hop around time, we’d eventually — through accident or purpose — find out the time, place, and manner of our own demise.

What happens to us when we die?  I don’t mean that in religious terms, per se.  I mean it experientially.  When we die —  assuming we have some knowledge of it (i.e., not getting blindsided by oncoming Mack truck hauling a load of gravel to build a new overpass on the Parkway) — what goes through our mind?  One instant you have a thought, the next instant you do not have a thought.  Or, so it would seem.

In February 2003 my brother died of a heart attack.  I wasn’t there when it happened, but he apparently died instantly.  He was in his kitchen.  He fell to the floor.  Dead.  What was his last thought?  What was he talking about when it happened?  Or was he talking?  I have heard he was in a really good mood, and I certainly hope that that was the case, but honestly, I stay up at night and wonder: What did he think right before he passed out.  Maybe he knew pain.  Maybe he was scared out of his mind.  I certainly hope not.  I’d like to think he thought nothing.  Or, best case, he was  bewildered and confused.

But then what happened?  Did he have a near-death experience?  Did he slowly rise above his body and watch as his wife tried to administer CPR while she waited on the paramedics?  Did he see and hear all of this?  If so, how?  How did he see and hear without eyes and ears?  Or, was there simply nothing?  Was there just blackness?

As you might imagine, being the only survivor of my immediate family, I often wonder about fatality.  But I don’t have answers.  Some people do.  Some are convinced, through devout faith, and know with 100% certainty that there is an afterlife, with proof rooted in scripture.  Likewise, secular humanists know with 100% certainty that there is nothing beyond the wall of death.  And so those of us in the middle say that they can’t both be right.

Or can they?

I have a degree in physics.  And I attended one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country.  One of the things they taught me in my physics classes, and one of the things my alma mater emphasized, was the importance of coming to grips with cognitive dissonance, the ability (need) to hold onto two conflicting notions.  Like the famous wave/particle duality of light and matter, maybe our quest for an afterlife has two correct but different solutions.  And maybe Doctor Who answers the question as well as any: That the dimension of time itself is wibbly, wobbly, and that — like a greased pig — when we think we have it in our grasp it slithers away again.

You can’t believe in A and B they tell me.  And I ask myself, why not?

Until next time, don’t think about matters grave.  Let me take that burden from you.

Peace,

Keith

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker

The image posted in this blog is the property of the BBC, and is their sole property.  It is used here under this author’s understanding of the fair use laws.

Yabe

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 7.40.13 PMWelcome to Yabe Auctions!

Ending times are nonnegotiable; condition assumes caveat emptor; quantity to be verified by purchaser, also caveat emptor; Just Buy The Damn Thing prices listed when available.  Current bid is given by the Yabe Auction username.

The following items, culled by the noisome scholars at The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS), and submitted for distribution through the publishing arm known as Fish and #TARDIS Sauce, have been made available through Yabe Auctions, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Corporation of Redundancy Corporation.

Did we mention caveat emptor?

PSYCHIC PAPER

  • Ending: Anytime you want it to.
  • Condition: Vintage, as used by Second Doctor
  • Quantity: 15 in stock
  • Just Buy the Damn Thing: £ 42
  • Current Bid: Don’t you already know?

TRIBBLE

  • Ending: Aboard Klingon warship
  • Condition: Trilling
  • Quantity: Geometrically increasing
  • Just Buy the Damn Thing: For a Drink
  • Current Bid: <SOLD: Cyrano Jones>

STRANGE WINE

  • Ending: Auction is over
  • Condition: In the sewers
  • Quantity: Overstocked
  • Just Buy the Damn Thing: You already did
  • Current Bid: <SOLD: Hitler, Selling Roses>

1961 FERRARI 250 GT CALIFORNIA

  • Condition: Wiped with diaper
  • Ending: Never
  • Buy It Now: N/A
  • Quantity: <100
  • Current Bid: <Mr. Fry>

K-9, Mark II

  • Condition: Robotic
  • Ending: In e-space
  • Just Buy the Damn Thing: N/A
  • Quantity: One
  • Current Bid: <Romana>

CUSTARD

  • Condition: Spoiled
  • Ending: In the ER
  • Just Buy the Damn Thing: Payment due when services rendered.
  • Quantity: Too much of a good thing.
  • Current Bid: <No bidders>

ISHER WEAPON

  • Condition: A Fine Weapon
  • Ending: When you think you are free
  • Just Buy the Damn Thing: Negotiable, auction only
  • Quantity: Based on market forces, of course
  • Current Bid: <Robert Hedrock, but he has plenty of time to wait>

All sales final

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker

Christmas

globeI love the Doctor Who Christmas specials.  In fact, those episodes tipped the scales when I was deciding whether to invest my time in a program that’s about to be 50-years-old.  But there was simply no way I could shun a program that devotes an hour every December at Christmastime.  I don’t review Doctor Who episodes on my blog; there are plenty of other resources for that on the Internet.  But, for whatever it is worth, my favorite Christmas Special is “The Next Doctor”, which aired in December 2008.  It’s not the most popular of the specials, but it resonates with me.  My favorite Doctor Who episodes are the ones where The Doctor and his Companion stay right here on little ol’ Earth, traveling back to some romantic era of our own past.  And while I’ve never been a fan of the Cybermen, the character of Miss Mercy Hartigan has to be one of the best villains the show has come up with.  She is such a … femme fatale.  You can’t help but to love her and hate her.

Ah, Christmas.  The snow, the icicles, the reindeer.  The gifts!

The Christmas holiday creates its own form of time travel for me.  It takes me back to my childhood days on “The Mountain” here in Huntsville.  If you’ve been there you know what I mean.  We lived in a Federal-style, red-brick house with huge, multi-paned picture windows adorning the front.  Mom and Dad and my brother would get a real tree with real sap, decorate it right after Thanksgiving with colored lights (I prefer white lights now, but I was only a preschooler then), and position it so the folks at the Methodist Church at the end of the block could enjoy it.  And enjoy it they did.  We’d have people dropping by at all hours, wrapped in coats and scarves, bringing us finger foods, homemade breads and (no kidding) fruit cakes.

And while this was during the turbulent late 60s there was an Eisenhower-esque 1950s’ feel to our culture up there then.  I know we were sheltered and naÏve, but isn’t that what home is for?  Life is a complex and painful dance set to music that is often off-key.  Sometimes your feet ache simply from dancing too much.  I look back on those days in wonder: Is there anything wrong with having a comfort zone?  I don’t think there is.

Did the child that I was then — sitting under the tree, chin propped on his hands, eyes bright and glistening from the glow of the Christmas globe hanging from the lowest branch of that stately pine — know there was a TV program in the UK about a time-traveling lunatic who’d still be entertaining us half-a-century later?  Of course not.  That little boy didn’t think he’d even make it till Christmas Eve without bursting.  It was perfect.  It was ideal.  But did it last?  Actually, it did.  Christmastime at the Parkers’ was idyllic, restful and fun, just as a holiday should be.  Christmas has never lost an ounce of its charm, even now, as my beard goes a little gray and I look at life through a jaded prism, because the light through that prism, no matter how attenuated, still glows red and green.  At least it does for me.

Until next time,

Peace, from Keith

Copyright © 2013, Keith Parker