A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, October 23, 2014

In Psearch of Psyche: Day of the Triffids!

Chapter One: A Sensational Show

Psyche, in psearch of you
Is TOF's Faithful Reader ready? Yes, that's right. It's the next inpstallment of that pscintillating pseries, In Psearch of Psyche!  For those coming late to the party, the previous chapters were:
  1. "To Deepen into Art..."
  2. In Psearch of Psyche: Some Groundwork 
  3. In Psearch of Psyche: Man the Vegetable
For those disinclined to wade once more through those swamps, some key points are these:
  • Psyche, or soul, is the substantial form of a living body, no more mysterious in its way than the sphere that somehow informs a basketball.
  • There's more to it than that, of course: the form is "in motion" and not simply shape and arrangement. That's what makes the Argument from Motion (q.v.) so interesting.
  • Soul is whatever a living body possesses that a dead body does not. It cannot be the matter of the body itself, since materialistically-speaking, the corpse consists of all the same matter as the organism that immediately preceded it. And in fact, your matter is continually changing at the atomic level. You are not today the stuff you were ten years ago. Since you are in fact the same person, you cannot be only your stuff.¹
  • Inanimate forms possess (generically) four powers: gravity, electromagnetism, strong (nuclear), and weak (radiative). Without these powers, atoms would have no substantial form: The negative charges of the electrons would cause them to plummet into the positively charged nucleus. The positive charges of the protons would cause them to fly apart from one another, rather than huddle together in a nucleus.
  • Living things are those whose actions are immanent: that is, their acts originate within the thing itself and are done for the sake of the thing. A basketball does not bounce for its own sake; but a petunia blooms for its.² 
  • The simplest of living things are the vegetative things, which include plants, fungi, and the like. (This is psyche-ology, so we won't worry overmuch about distinctions of bodily classifications made by creative taxonomists.
  • The vegetative psyche, a/k/a the reproductive soul, possesses (generically) four powers in addition to the powers of the inanimate form: nutrition/metabolism, development/growth, and reproduction, plus homeostasis to maintain these in balance.
  • A plant does not have two souls. Its inanimate powers are recruited into the service of the organism, so that (e.g.) the chemical processes of electromagnetism provide for the digestion and incorporation of food into the stuff of the organism.
  • Man³ likewise incorporates both the powers of his inanimate stuff and his vegetative powers, which is why the Late Modern obsession with eating and reproductive acts reduces Man to little more than a vegetative state.
1. not your stuff. This so upsets the Usual Suspects that they deny the minor premise. You are not the same person you were ten years ago. You only think you are. How "you" can think without being "you" is carefully ducked.
2. Note to the excessively literal-minded:
This does not imply conscious intention.
3. Man.
Do we really need to reiterate that this is the base meaning of "man" as "a rational animal," the same root as "men-tal"? When we mean Man, the Male, we'll say so. Males, alas, lack an exclusive word for themselves as rational beings, to which lack their wives will nod wisely in agreement. The original word for males in Anglo-Saxon was weremann (in contrast to wifmann), abbreviated wera ond wifa as it reads in Beowulf.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Throop's Revenge

A satire from long ago has gone up over on the story preview page.

Kelvin Throop was a character that showed up in a variety of shorts, written by several different authors over the years. Throop was a malicious creature who deliberately answered all of his inbox with pure honesty. Some of the episodes were "The Blue-Pencil Throop," "Kelvin Throop Rudes Again," "The Quality Throop," etc.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Flynncestry: The Good Old Days of Murder and Mayhem!


Once upon a time, there was a tribe of Gaels descended from CONN THE HUNDRED-FIGHTER and so known as the Connachta.  The Connachta grew fruitful and multiplied and divided into the Ui Briuin, Ui Fiachrach, and other tribes; and the Ui Briuin subsequently split into the Ui Briuin Ai on the plain of Mag nAi, the Ui Briuin Breifne (O Rourke, O Reilly, etc.) and the Ui Briuin Seola (O Flaherty, etc.).  The Ui Briuin Ai, in turn, diversified into the Sil Maelruain (O Flynn, etc.), the Sil Muiredaigh (McGeraghty, O Connor, etc.) and the Sil Cathail (O Flannigan, etc.)

AD 554. CURNAN, the son of Aedh Abraidh, 8th Christian king of Connacht, went to St. Columcille for protection from the High King, Dermot son of Cearbhail; but Dermot's soldiers ignored the guarantee of sanctuary and forcibly took Curnan from Columcille and killed him, "which was the cause of the Battle of Cul-Dreimhne."  Columcille went to his relatives, the O Neill of the North, who allied with the king of Connaught to defeat the High King.    It is from Curnan that the O'Flynns trace their descent. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Beyond the Bounds

"The love of Theory is the root of all evils." -- Wm. M. Briggs, Statistician to the Stars

A recent issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction announced itself as devoted entirely to “stories that deal with touchy themes or go beyond the bounds of Political Correctness.”

Now, while PC generally entrains touchiness, the converse is not true. Not all touchy subjects are politically incorrect. Indeed, to treat traditional values in a dismissive way is in many ways the hallmark of political correctness. This is because political correctness has little to do with adherence to the orthodoxy of any particular political creed. Rather, it is the bizarre notion that something must be correct because it is politically orthodox. It surfaced among Marxist "political officers" in the grand old days of the Soviet Union, and was most egregiously instanced in Lysenkoism. It is to be contrasted with the opposite process, by which something becomes orthodox because it is correct.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When the inmost sea of all the earth was shaken with his ships

TOF has been reminded that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, forty-two years after the First Siege of Vienna. In recent years, this has been re-imagined by the bien pensants as a minor border skirmish, barely noticed by the mighty muslim world, although much puffed about by the puny West. That in itself, beside being an instance of what W.S. Gilbert noted as "the idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone/Every century but this and every country but his own", it is even if true an indicator of what a significant victory it was: The very fact that an existential threat to the West was just a ho-hum to Islam tells us what a David-Goliath thingie it was. It would not be until 1683, a century after Lepanto, when the Jihad finally faltered and broke at the Second Siege of Vienna.

Celebrated in verse:

Battle of the Books

The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (or GLVWG, pron. "glivwig") proposes to put on a Battle of the Books, for which we will practice this coming Thursday. In this battle, three contestant authors will read portions of a book of their own exemplifying elements of the writerly art; to wit:

  1. First Impressions: The book’s cover, with title and blurb, are the author’s first chance to make a good impression. Each author will be given a chance to read the blurb and show the cover (if available) before reading the opening page of his or her book.  
  2. Enter the Hero: There is a place in every book where we meet the protagonist (another first impression), and each author will read the paragraph in which the hero is revealed to the reader.
  3. Meet the Bad Guy: Ditto for the antagonist. 
  4. Look Who’s Talking: Dialogue is perhaps the most enjoyable part of reading as the characters interact and move the story forward. The authors will read a short exchange of dialogue without explanation.  
  5. Let’s Go Places: Every scene has to take place somewhere. Each author will read a paragraph that sets a scene for a chapter or segment. 
  6. Random Read: The authors will be required to read from a random page and paragraph selected by the audience.  
  7. Closing Lines: Every book has a conclusion, and each author will share the closing line of his or her book to conclude the program.

TOF will be one of the three contestants vying for the coveted jelly beans to be awarded by the audience.

He appeals here to his Faithful Reader: Which of the TOFian novels shall bear pride of place in this noble contest? Nominations are hereby solicited. Where possible, indicate where in the book you think any of the above categories would be suitable.  Vote early and often.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Timothy Leary, Batu Khan, and the Palimpsest of Universal Reality

Because this story was a longer one, it has been put on the story preview page in two parts. Originally, the two parts were published in a single issue of F&SF.

More than one person has noted the change in tone from Part I to Part II. This was a deliberate choice, and some may find it neither to their taste nor their liking. There is a certain amount of degradation involved. It is also a bit subversive.

Part II is now available