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

The Madness, It’s Rising!

Wanna read a science fiction novel about a girl whose life is being ruined by a monster she hates and the people she loves?

Exclusively for Kindle, MADNESS RISING, is a Young Adult/New Adult Science Fiction tale that’s been described as part-Lovecraft, part-Firefly.
Buy it now, keep it forever!

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MADNESS RISING

 

<– Click there.

Thanks oh so much!

Keith

CTTO

KateThis week, The Parker Institute for Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) has asked our Chief Time Travel Officer (CTTO) to look back at his favorite science fiction shows over the years, to include more than just Doctor Who. He was given the choice of time travel devices for this effort, including a TARDIS, a Delorean, a stopwatch, and a hot tub.  Being a button-down preppie type, Parker asked for a BMZ Z4, as we expected. He was dismayed that we had not tailored the Z4 with a flux capacitor, and the weather hasn’t been stormy anyway, so he chose the stopwatch, thinking it looked good with his summer wool trousers (it doesn’t). So, without further ado, our CTTO’s list:

The Twilight Zone:

My favorite episodes are two of the show’s creepiest, “The Hitchhiker” and “Long Distance Call.” I don’t know why I keep one foot in the horror camp, considering how horrible it is there, but since it’s in my tagline (“science fiction, fantasy, horror, history, mystery, whiskey”) I figure I best get with the program, as it were.

Star Trek: The Original Series

This one’s easy. There are three episodes I could watch anytime, anywhere. The original pilot (“The Cage”) with its mysterious cast that wasn’t; Harlan Ellison’s incomparable “City on the Edge of Forever”, which is one of the best romances ever put on the broadcast TV; and the truly testosterone-driven guy episode (“The Doomsday Machine”). “They say there’s no devil, Jim …”

The Outer Limits

“Demon with a Glass Hand” because anything written by Harlan Ellison is superb, and “It Came Out of the Woodwork” because of that one foot in the horror camp thingie (yep, I said thingie … comfortable in my own skin).

Space: 1999

Keeping with the foot-in-horror one more time, this absurdly stupid TV series produced one of the scariest hours of programming ever with “Dragon’s Domain.” It’s the kind of thing that’d keep me up at night if it weren’t for the whole whiskey thing (see tagline, above).  Tentacles. Lots of slimy tentacles.

The X-Files

Gotta go with “Paper Clip” here for its incredible kitchen-sink mix of conspiracies and contemporary mythologies. I need to visit the grassy knoll one day.

The NEW Battlestar Galactica

Did you notice I said new? I’m referring, of course, to the re-imagined series that began in 2003, and not the commode-ringed insult to our intelligence and eyes that came out in the late 70s. Anyway, fave episode? The one titled “33”, hands-down. The whole concept could be made into a novel (note to self).  An attack coming every 33 minutes?  No time to sleep.  No way to even think.  Oh, hell, yes.  Great show!  The original Battlestar Galaxative?  Makes me wanna pour bleach in my eyes.

LOST

There are almost too many to list here, considering it’s one of my favorite shows EVER, but I think I’ll give the nod to “The Constant” when Desmond is jumping back-and-forth between his Army service and modern day, including finding Penny. Another gem is “Through the Looking Glass,” and it’s damn hard to discount the Pilot. There’s something about pilots (which means Jules Winfield and I are on the same page).  There’s a picture of Kate in her underwear above; the purpose of that is eye candy (#shameless #lech).

Firefly

All. Of. Them.  Every damn episode.  “Well, my time of not taking you seriously is coming to a middle.”

Classic Doctor Who

I haven’t seen as many as I’d like, but for now “City of Death”, penned by the best science fiction humorist ever, Douglas Adams, is never going to be far from the top in my book. Have I ever mentioned just how CUTE Romana is? Oh, yeah, I did. But it’s worth repeating. Also, since she’s not so terribly much older than I perhaps my crush on her is a good bit more acceptable than a crush might be on, say, Jenna-Louise Coleman, who’s probably young enough to be my daughter. I really need to look into using time travel to age backwards.

New Doctor Who

“The Name of the Doctor”.  Despite my sister-in-law’s (sister’s-in-law?) insistence that there’s only one Doctor (David Tennant) the seventh series finale of Doctor Who is a masterpiece of humor, horror, sentimentality, action, adventure and mystery. If the series had never hit a homerun before (it had) they certainly did with this.

And so, back to you …

The PITTS would like to tolerate thank Parker for his insight. His essay has been logged and filed in its proper location: the circular cabinet.

Peace.

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.

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.

Discovery

20130728-181202.jpgI just got back from the beach, where I listened to the audio version of Stephen King’s The Shining. And while I was listening I realized that I had never seen Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of King’s classic horror novel, at least not from start to finish. The movie is rather embedded in our collective conscious, and many of its scenes (“Here’s Johnny!”) are so ubiquitous as to be fodder for satire. But the movie was new to me so I downloaded it from iTunes and watched it over a two-day period last week. The movie immediately struck me as quintessential Kubrick and a very thought-provoking horror movie.

During my self-imposed intermission I decided to look it up to see if it was considered as complex as it seemed. I was awed by the extensive analysis that’s been done over the years.

So, what does this have to do with Doctor Who? Well, when I asked my friend Jennifer Garlen about it, she gave me some great insight. Jennifer is a subject matter expert on classic movies and has a phenomenal blog at Virtual Virago. During our exchange of Facebook messages about the The Shining she mentioned she loved Doctor Who‘s allusion to the film. And at first I couldn’t think of which episode she was referring to. I finally had to ask my son — who has every episode of New Who memorized — to realize that the episode was “The God Complex.” I’m sure you’ve seen it if you’re a DW fan. But this set my mind off on a tangent. What exactly am I doing, writing about Doctor Who? I don’t review episodes. I don’t pan the show. I haven’t built a wiki or deconstructed “The Name of the Doctor” (yet). But what I have done is use DW as a basis for self-discovery. While there are as many ways to do this as there are people on planet Earth, this approach seems to work for me.

Like the psychological horror of Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick, the intellectual fantasy and science fiction of DW allow me to become introspective, learning a little bit about myself as I watch. And I think this is good for us. In “The God Complex” characters are subjected to hotel rooms that reveal your deepest fear. Could you handle that? Could you handle a room full of spiders, snakes, clowns or dentists? I’m not sure I could, but we all have an amazing ability to face our fears when we need to.

For a family-oriented program Doctor Who has an amazing capacity to scare the living hell out of us (“Are you my mummy?”). And I think this is a component of the show’s strength; but there’s more to it. Doctor Who is spectacularly good at optimistic endings, and this makes the frights bearable, knowing that everything will be okay. This is why I love genre and classic fiction. Too often these days we’re saddled with pseudo-intellectual stories that are ambiguous or inconclusive. If I wanted that I’d simply sit back and watch real life unfold. But for entertainment give me SFFH any day of the week!

After all, any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental. :)

Until next time,
Years truly,
Keith

Copyright (c) 2013 Keith Parker

Wholistic

doctor_roseThere are three things I love about Doctor Who: The characters, the one-liners, and the cultural phenomenon it’s created.  As I’ve mentioned I’m a new Whovian, a guy who’s kept a foot in the science fiction arena (but not Fredric Brown’s arena) while otherwise living a clean life …

I first noticed that Doctor Who had gotten into our consciousness back in 2008 when I saw an endcap at Barnes & Noble chock full of Whovian goodies: a David Tennant doll, a couple of novel tie-ins, two stuffed TARDIS’s (TARDII?), and a sonic screwdriver (not, unfortunately, the cocktail).  After watching a re-run of the new series’ first episode (“Rose”, 2005) I was not impressed, unfortunately.  It had a campiness I’d come to associate with Lost in Space or, God help us all, the original Battlestar Galaxative.  I thought Eccleston’s performance was wooden, found the episode plastic (pun intended), and winced at the tiresome earth-is-in-jeapordy-again theme.  However, something stuck with me.  And it wasn’t a character, a one-liner, or even a cultural reference per se.  What struck me was that vat of bubbling Nestene consciousness.  There was something so Lovecraftian about it that the image remained fixed in my mind even though I decided the show wasn’t for me.  That would, of course, change, and change rapidly, as would my opinion of Eccleston’s role as the ninth Doctor.

Still curious, though, I talked to friends and came to realize Doctor Who is greater than the sum of its parts.  It is interconnected entertainment. It is holistic.  It creeped into our cultural consciousness by tapping into our collective subconscious, some how, some way, mixing science fiction, fantasy, and horror in ways that the experts say never work, and yet the show does work.  Why?  Why Who?

That sent me off onto another one of my infamous tangents of over-thinking: Are all major cultural phenomena rooted in fantasy?

Think about the blockbusters over the years: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stephen King’s novels, etc.  They’re all speculative.  Hell, even The Da Vinci Code, with its cardboard characters, possesses an element of the supernatural.  Are there other cultural phenomena that are not “fantastic”?  Sure.  Angst among politicos, American football, and the wave of pasta cravings in the 1980s come to mind.  But more often than not, cultural phenomena tap into that side of us that yearns for escape, safe adventure, and wish fulfillment.  Maybe the vagaries of real life are too real.

This is just my opinion, but I do think there is something to this hypothesis.  After all, my sister-in-law, who does not care for science fiction or horror, has started to watch Doctor Who.  Her opinion is like so many others’: The show is bad, except when it’s good; it’s dumb, except when it’s smart; it’s ridiculous, except when it’s sublime.  Luckily, we see many examples of the good, the smart, and the sublime.   More than we should, but there they are.  Doctor Who, the character and the show, is emergent.

Years truly.

Keith

Copyright (c) 2013, Fish and #TARDIS Sauce, a wholly owned publication of the The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS)