Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Out of Time" on Amazon!

My debut novel, "Out of Time", is now up on for preorder!  More news to follow once it hits the shelves, including a Launch Party in Thunder Bay. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 7, 2013

How to Write a Novel - Part 2

So previously I said, "How do you write a novel? That's easy--put a bunch of words onto paper, so they form a complete story that other people will want to invest their time and energy in reading." Okay, that was easy to say, but way, way harder to do.

"Out of Time" started out about fifteen years ago as a short story about a young, teenaged boy who was forced to spend a summer in a remote, almost ghost-town on Lake Superior. His mother had just lost her husband to an accident, so she decided to return to the town where she'd grown up and where her parents--our young protagonist's grandparents--still lived. The boy (then named Jamey) was pretty miserable about the whole experience; after all, he's fourteen, it's summer holidays but, instead of hanging with his friends back in the city he's stuck in this tiny, mostly derelict community in the middle of nowhere. This leads to inevitable conflict with his mother, heightened by the fact they've both lost someone they love; she just wants to rest and heal, while he wants to immerse himself in the life of a young teenager to try and escape his pain.

Okay, good set-up. Immediate conflict, interesting setting, not too many characters to service. As it stands, though, it's missing something--a plot, something to drive the action forward. Without that, it risks becoming a slice-of-life piece, and there's way too many of those masquerading as stories already. Well, I write fantasy, so after some thought I decided to introduce a fantastic element to push things along. After some false starts, I finally hit on the idea of drawing on the setting itself. Lake Superior has a long history involving Aboriginal people, explorers, voyageurs and the fur trade, the railroad that linked Canada into a nation, mining, lumber, trapping, fishing.... What if, I reasoned, Jamey could see ghosts? What if he could meet some ghosts from the region's past? I made a list. An Aboriginal person from pre-European times. An early explorer, opening up the country. A voyageur. Someone who'd worked on building the Canadian Pacific Railroad through the rugged Shield country of the area. Maybe a miner or a trapper. And, drawing on a more recent aspect of the area's history, how about a German POW from World War Two, since there were, indeed, several POW camps that operated in the region in the 1940s. This seemed like a good line-up of interesting characters, all linked by the fact they'd died close to where Jamey was stuck spending his summer. Now I had a fantasy plot to use to drive things on. Jamey would meet these people, interact with them, learn things from them, grow as a character. Some of those interactions might be dangerous, creating more conflict. Perfect!

Trouble was, this was no longer a short story. This was going to be much longer, probably a novel. I can write a novel, I thought. So I started that process, putting a bunch of words on paper, trying to write a story people wanted to invest time and energy in reading.

I sputtered along, off and on, for about three years. I put a lot of words on paper. Trouble was, even I was finding it all that interesting. Something wasn't working, wasn't right. I plugged away at it for another year or so, then gave up and moved onto other things. Obviously, I just didn't have a story here, just a much bigger "slice of life" than I'd thought I had.

Fast forward to 2009. I'd just finished the first draft of a different novel (one I'm still shopping around) and I needed a new project. Looking back through my notes, I rediscovered Jamey and his summer meeting ghosts around Lake Superior. Thanks to about nine years of distance, I was able to look at it and immediately see what the problem was. The piece had no real focus. There were too many characters. I was trying to do too many things. I'd lost sight of the fact that my original, gut reaction--there were just a couple of characters, Jamey and his mother--was a good one. I'd let the story become too diffuse. Okay, easy enough...tighten the focus back on Jamey and...his mother?

Okay, but I write fantasy and wanted a fantasy element. How about a focus on Jamey and a different character? I had many to choose from, but the one that intrigued me was the pre-European Aboriginal person. And that immediately tweaked a memory about something I'd read in a great book, "Ojibway Heritage" by renowned Aboriginal scholar and writer Basil Johnston. He describe the "vision quest", a sacred undertaking of Ojibway males when they're boys, usually twelve to fourteen or so years old. They would go to a place considered close to the spirit world and hold a four day vigil, seeking to receive the vision that would guide them through the rest of their lives. This was perfect! Jamey could meet a boy his age, who had died while on his vision quest. Now I have a much tighter, more focused story. Again, I start putting words on paper....

And things begin to flow. As they do, things also begin to change. Jamey becomes Riley (the reason I name him Riley becomes evident in the book, and I don't want to give it away). The Ojibway boy, Peetwonikwot (Ojibway for "Gathering Cloud"; he ends up being called just Cloud in the story), starts out as a ghost in Riley's time, but soon comes back to life in his own time. Riley now meets up with Cloud across time (again, I won't say the book!) And Riley's mother disappears from the story, replaced by his father; both boys have somewhat difficult relationships with their fathers, which I wanted to build into the story of each and of both of them together.

By late 2010, I end up with a first draft, just under 100,000 words, of a story then-titled just "Riley". A bunch of words--a whole bunch of words--on paper. Awesome.

Trouble is, it's basically crap. No one's going to want to read this. And that leads to my next great revelation about writing a novel, which I'll cover next time.

A Shout Out To....

...Joe Mahoney, for an awesome post on his blog about "Out of Time"--before it's even been released, yet! Thanks, Joe, for your kind words.

My New Book Cover!

My debut novel, a young adult fantasy entitled "Out of Time", finally has its cover!

This is a very cool piece done by artist Jeff Minkevics, who has done several other covers for books from Five Rivers Publishing. "Out of Time" releases on November 1, 2013 from Five Rivers.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Guest Appearances

So, following When Words Collide in Calgary back in August, 2013, I was asked to put in some guest appearances on a couple of other writers' blogs:

  • Secondly, Michell Plested, author of "Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero", another Five Rivers Publishing Book, recorded a panel at WWC in which both of us participated. You can listen to the podcast of the panel, entitled "Seeing through the Eyes of a Child" and which was a lot of fun, here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review - The Tattooed Witch by Susan MacGregor

The Tattooed WitchThe Tattooed Witch by Susan MacGregor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up the Tattooed Witch because it's a product of my own publisher, Five Rivers Press, and I wanted to give a read over one of my fellow writer's works. Honestly, going into this book, I was a little wary; it came across as a "woman's book" and, well, I'm a guy. Two or three pages in, I realized I was wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong. This is a fantastic book for anyone to read (okay, perhaps not for some younger readers, as in some places, the book--if not actually explicit--is pretty clearly treading into mature places involving violence and/or sex). The author has drawn some extremely compelling characters, and placed them in a well-constructed, consistent and richly-textured world that resembles our own Medieval Spain). Miriam, the main character, is both strong and vulnerable; she is far more than the dreary old female tropes that plague most speculative fiction i.e. "the guy with boobs" or "the shrinking flower/damsel in distress". If I have any criticism, it's that the villain, the Grand Inquisitor, is a little on the moustache-twirling side and could a redeeming feature or two...but that's pretty minor in the overall scheme of things in the book, and he IS pretty detestable, making him a guy we love to hate.

I have no hesitation recommending this book, and can't wait for the sequels/next books in the series!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How To Write a Novel - Part 1

How do you write a novel? That's easy--put a bunch of words onto paper.

Okay, not so easy. Those words all have to offer a coherent and interesting story, be arranged in grammatically correct ways and be spelled properly. But that's not going to happen until the words are on paper (or, more likely, a computer screen), and that's really the first hurdle. Since I've got immersed in this writing stuff, I've talked to a lot of writers, a few of whom are superstars and some of whom are quite successful, but most of whom are like me--struggling and starting out. Except, let me correct that--they're like me, struggling and starting out, but unlike me, they haven't actually, well, written a novel. Lots of them are working on novels, and some of those will actually produce one. Most, however, simply WANT to write a novel, or are planning on it, meaning to do it, intending to do it...they've written a synopsis or an outline, they've done plotting, they've drafted up characters...heck, they can tell you their protagonist has blue eyes, grew up in a three bedroom bungalow and prefers chicken soup over cream of tomato. What they can't do, though, is let you read about these characters in their unfolding plot, because they haven't actually started writing an novel, or they have, but it's not finished--and probably never will be. Harsh? Maybe. Sadly, though, it's likely also to be true. The number of people who want or intend or plan to write a novel is probably almost equal to the number of people who read novels. The worst part of that is that there's also probably some very talented writers and some excellent stories that are never going to come before us to read. So, to go back where we started--how do you write a novel? That's easy--put a bunch of words onto paper.

So I've written a novel and that makes me special, right? Well, to a point, yeah; I guess I'm one of very few people in the world that's actually assembled 60000+ words into something resembling a coherent story. However, (warning...shameless plug ahead) "Out of Time", my debut novel coming from Five Rivers Publishing in November of this year, isn't actually my first novel. It's my fourth. Of the previous three, one is a serious contender for publication and is out being shopped around to agents and publishers now, while the other two are never going to see the light of day. Why? Well, because they're basically crap. They are both enthusiastic, but otherwise pretty dreadful piles of words that represent early efforts of mine to write long fiction when I really didn't know what I was doing. One of them isn't finished, and probably never will be (putting me firmly in that "coulda-shoulda-woulda" category of writers I mentioned above, at least when it comes to this particular work). That said, I don't regret the effort I put into either of them, because they were valuable learning experiences and, more importantly, valuable exercises in discipline. They taught me to apply the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair and write, putting a total of about 180,000 words onto virtual paper. Along the way, they also taught me a lot about how to (and how NOT to) do characterization and plotting, how to break a story apart into component scenes, then reassemble those scenes back into something that flows from the beginning, through the middle and to the end, and generally how to engage in the craft of writing. These particular works--let's call them novels 1 and 2--didn't end up being something I'd like to try getting published, but they were still worth the effort that went into them. And, sure, there may be elements of them that I can scavenge down the road. So, with this in mind, let's revise that opening statement a bit:

How do you write a novel? That's easy--put a bunch of words onto paper, so they form a complete story.

One last thing, though. You can write all the novels you want according to the above, but if they're not stuff other people want to read, then you're not going to find anyone who wants to publish them (or, if you self-publish them--an ever-more popular choice in this era of digital distribution via the Internet--you're not going to find many, or maybe even any, readers for them). Now, if you aren't really interested in getting published, or you're writing just for your friends or yourself, this isn't necessarily a problem. Writing for yourself, your family and your friends is great--nothing wrong with it at all! But if you're looking to get published/widely read, then you need to write something that's going to appeal to potential readers. That doesn't mean a Harry Potter/Hunger Games/Twilight degree of appeal (though that would be nice), but there has to be enough appeal to get your stuff in front of a decent number of eyes. What a "decent number" is, exactly, is going to vary with the particular publisher, genre, etc. but we're probably, as a rough guide, looking for numbers in the thousands. If you don't think you're writing to that large an audience, then you're probably back to writing stuff for yourself, family and friends, maybe your local writing group, maybe a small local or regional audience or a community, virtual or otherwise, that shares a particular interest (and again, there's nothing wrong with that). Even having said that, though, what you ultimately have to do is "burn through" the many, many things demanding peoples' attention, so whether trying for a best-seller or just shooting for a small target audience, your novel needs to be compelling enough to grab and hold your readers' attention. So, one more revision:

How do you write a novel? That's easy--put a bunch of words onto paper, so they form a complete story that other people will want to invest their time and energy in reading.

Simple, huh? 

Next up, the first draft, and how that went for "Out of Time".

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Geoguessr - Guess Where I Am!

I recently discovered the site Geoguessr (thanks to the webcomic XKCD) and have developed a minor addiction to it. Geoguessr is a website, rather than an app, which plunks you down in the middle of somewhere in Google's "street view", then challenges you to figure out where you are. I tend to roam around looking for road signs, street signs, commercial advertising, etc. and zero myself in that way. I'm sure there are other approaches, though. Once you think you've got your location nailed down, you mark it on a little inset map, click "Guess" and you'll see, and be scored, on how close you ended up. I've managed as little as 2 metres, but a few kilometres is more common. It's a lot of fun, quite challenging and a great way to waste some time. Check it out!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Upcoming Novel

Yup, this coming November (or so), my first novel is being published by Five Rivers Publishing. Entitled "Out of Time", it's a Young Adult Fantasy, the story of two boys--Riley, who lives in present day Canada on the shore of Lake Superior, and Peetwonikwot or "Gathering Cloud", an Aboriginal boy from the same region but hundreds of years earlier, in pre-European contact times. These two meet across the gulf of time separating them and, together, confront a powerful evil that threatens both their worlds. I don't want to give much more away, but I do plan on sharing the experience of getting a novel published, so more to follow on this!

Boing-Boing is Good

If you're not familiar with Boing Boing, then a) you should be. There is no b), c), etc. Just a). Boing Boing is a site full of important stuff. I have no regrets about putting a virtual foot into Boing Boing...and by no regrets, I mean I really have a torrid, pay-by-the-hour-seedy-hotel-room thing going on with it, so there.


Why "Any Other Goat"? Good question.

I may answer it someday.

Fiction - To Have and To Hold

A second piece of fiction. This one was published in a small press Canadian speculative fiction magazine called "Northern Fusion". Like "Small Miracles", it's one of my short pieces that I rather like; it "clicked" in a way that a lot of stuff I wrote back then really didn't (I'm not saying my other stuff was bad, it just wasn't great. It was okay. But you need to write the simply okay stuff--and even some of the kinda bad stuff--in order to GET to the good pieces).

To Have And To Hold


David Laderoute

Jane gasped and blinked, disoriented at the sudden transition from the warm quiet of the living room. Her new surroundings were sunny, but whipped by a cold wind acrid with the tang of salt.
"Hiya, kid!"

She glanced around. Alex sat on a rough, stone shelf, one of a series that descended like crude steps into crashing surf. His beard glistened with beads of with water, and his hair, rendered a darker-than-usual shade of red, flew in wild curls. Jane opened her mouth to ask where they were, but a wave boomed against the rocks, raising a fine spray over them both.

She waited until it subsided, then shouted, "Hi, yourself!" She gestured around. "Nice place. Where is it?"

"Ireland. The northern part." Alex patted the rock beside him. "This is the Giant's Causeway, in County Antrim." He brushed dripping hair out of his eyes and smiled wickedly. "I told you I'd pick something a little different this time."

"It's different all right." Another wave crashed, drenching them with mist. "But cold!" She wiped water from her eyes. "Sorry, but you know Vancouver, even in the winter. I'm not used to it!"

Alex stood, laughing. "I know! I've always wanted to go to Ireland, but it's not exactly the tropics, is it?" He pointed behind her, to a stone cottage perched on the shore. "An added touch. I've got a fire going inside." He took her hand and led her away from the sea.

It was warm inside the cottage, although dim and smoky. Jane frowned and stepped towards the smoldering fire.

"I think it's going out--" she began, then stopped as Alex grabbed her shoulders from behind and gently turned her around.

"I know a better way to get warm," he said, unbuttoning her damp flannel shirt. "It starts with getting out of these wet clothes...."

Afterwards, Jane watched as Alex padded over to the hearth and stirred the embers. Every movement, perfect. Every detail. Even down to that little mole on his--

"So how's everyone doing? How's your mother?" Alex asked, without turning.

"Hmm? Oh, fine. In fact, she's coming for dinner tonight."

"Wouldn't come with you for a visit, huh? Not even for her favorite son-in-law?"

"You mean her only son-in-law," Jane said, completing the familiar little joke. "No, she wouldn't."

"Well, I guess she's still not comfortable with this whole imaging thing. I guess she doesn't trust artificial intelligence--especially when you're making love to it."

Jane smiled, but it was half-hearted thing. It was so easy to forget that none of this was real--that this was all just a computer-generated fantasy world, and that this Alex was just an artificially intelligent computer construct, an avatar. Certainly, it was all based on the real Alex's communications from the Interlink ship, now just past the orbit of Mars. But those messages took nearly twenty minutes just to reach Earth. So the computer filled in the details at this end, fleshing out his character and giving context to his responses, based on what it had learned about him. This virtual Alex was much better than any of the non-interactive alternatives. The illusion could even be nearly perfect, until something like this poked a hole through it and exposed the dreary reality outside.

"Hey, you going to sleep on me?"

Jane started. Alex laughed and crawled back under the blankets. He was so warm, so....

So here.

She sighed. Well, since the subject had come up....

"How's the flight going?" she asked.

He shrugged. "Not bad. I think we worked out the programming bug we had in the propulsion monitor. And that faulty attitude thruster got fixed on an EVA. So, hopefully, the Ceres colony will have its cargo in time for New Year's." He laid an arm across her stomach. "Now, tell me about your day."

In answer, Jane reached down, grabbed his hand, and cupped it over her breast.

"Boring. Heard enough?" She squeezed his fingers under hers.

Alex laughed, exactly the way she knew he would.

A chime sounded while Jane was setting the table.

"Damn it!"

She glanced out the window, expecting her mother's flyer and ready to curse parents who refused to understand that 'not late' didn't mean 'early' . But it wasn't her mother. The flyer touching down bore the corporate logo of Interlink.

A small, hard knot formed in her stomach.

Jane watched as a figure exited and walked up towards the house. She knew the walk long before she could see the face. It was Gordon Chin, Interlink's flight manager.

The knot in her stomach grew.

"Hello, Gordon," she said when he was inside. "You've come a long way just to say hello."

He unzipped his jacket, but said nothing.

"But that's not why you're here, is it?"

He shook his head. "There's been an accident, Jane. A bad one."

"An accident," she repeated, and the knot burst, enveloping her in muzzy softness, like cotton-wool.

Gordon nodded. "About a week ago, we lost the telemetry from Alex's ship. That happens sometimes, usually because of problems with antenna alignment. But the crew usually fixes it pretty quickly."

She stared at him. "A week ago...?"

"We didn't tell you," he went on, "because...well, we didn't want to worry you unnecessarily." He shrugged--an apology, she supposed. "Anyway, they were supposed to start their first braking burn for the Ceres rendezvous three days ago. But they never did."

Jane turned and looked out the window. "What--" she began, and then her voice failed.

She heard Gordon shift behind her, a profoundly uncomfortable sound. "Yesterday, our engineers used some technical wizardry to finally get back communications with the ship. It was only partial telemetry, but we did get some readings from the on-board instrumentation." He paused, and she could feel Gordon gather himself. "There's no atmosphere on board, Jane. And radiation levels are...well, way too high. We think there was an explosion, probably in the drive."

She felt him step closer. "I'm so sorry, Jane. If there's anything I can do...."

She shook her head.

Long after the beacon on Gordon's flyer had disappeared, Jane remained by the window, staring at the sky.

It was easier that way. The sky made no demands of her. It asked no questions, required no decisions. It was just a featureless gray nothing, without depth or substance.

Not unlike how her life had suddenly become.

She was waiting, of course, for the tears, the grief, the flood of emotion that would drive her to the floor. She could feel it, looming over her like an avalanche, poised to fall.

It was inevitable.

So what was it waiting for?

But she already knew the answer to that.

She turned towards the imager.

This was inevitable as well....


She turned toward the voice, and found herself looking out over a panoramic sweep of mountains. Snow-clad and overprinted with the blue haze of distance, they swept off in all directions to the horizon. Alex stood framed against them, leaning carelessly against the railing that ringed their windswept perch. Beyond, there was nothing, just empty space--how far down, she could neither see nor guess.

"I didn't expect you back so soon," he said, smiling. "But here we are." He gestured behind him.

"The Alps--the Swiss ones, that is." He stomped his foot against the rock. "This one's Pilatus. I spent some time here a few years before we met, and thought...."

Then his voice died away into the wind, and the smile faded.

She stepped forward, oblivious to the cold, until she stood in front of him.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

He shrugged. "All I knew was that the transmissions had stopped. Since I know Alex well enough to carry on without him, I suppose...well, I just didn't want to worry you."

"You didn't want...," she began, then shook her head. He...this machine...had the same concern for her that Gordon had.

"He's dead, you know," she said.

He nodded. "I'm so sorry, Jane. Really." And that was all, for a while, except for the wind.

Then the Alex-avatar said, "I understand, of course, that you won't becoming here anymore--"

"Don't," she said, wrapping her arms around him and laying her head on his shoulder. "I don't want to think about it right now."

A pause. Then he hugged her back.

Feeling his warmth, she decided that those waiting emotions could just keep waiting. Right now, she just wanted someone to hold her.

Her husband would do.

Fiction - Small Miracles

This story won me second place in an international contest in 1999, entitled "The Next Fifty Years of Computing". This was an event sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery, which includes the likes of Microsoft, Intel and HP.


David Laderoute

Douglas Moore crossed his arms and tried to focus on Doctor Mashood's assessment of the dying woman. It wasn't easy. Part of it was the incongruous way the doctor's sing-song, subcontinent lilt read out the dreary list of trauma and injury. But more of it was Sandra Wilson herself. Moore knew she was Chinese by descent, although you could no longer tell by looking and her name gave no hint of it. He only knew her lineage because he'd seen her graduation picture from the Shanghai Fusion Institute. She'd been very beautiful, before the accident. If he tried, he could see it still, in spite of the scar tissue congealed over the burns...could see the young woman that had smiled her charm and intelligence from the proud grad photo.

"...finally," Mashood was saying, "opportunistic infections--very antibiotic-resistant ones, I might add--forced us to amputate her left leg and arm." The physician paused, then closed his mouth and turned to Moore. "And that is all."

"Um...." Moore blinked and tried to concentrate on the sterile white hospital smell instead of the faint but keen tang of scabrous tissue. "I'm sorry. It's just that I don't see much of...." He swallowed. "Well, of this sort of thing, in my field."

"Of course not. When computers fail, it is a very clean thing."

Moore automatically read hostility into Mashood's words and glanced at the doctor, ready to defend himself. But the brown eyes seemed free of recrimination. Moore finally shrugged and looked back at what remained of this woman named Wilson. "So how long do you think she'll survive?"

Mashood folded his arms. "Based on where she was found, she should be dead now. Brief as it was, she still received approximately one thousand rem of highly penetrating neutron emission. We're all surprised she didn't suffer immediate CNS failure."


"Central nervous system. Such intense radiation exposure will literally...." Mashood's hands fluttered as he sought an analogy. "...fry the brain." He shrugged again. "Perhaps the neutron burst wasn't uniform, and she was caught in a...dead zone, yes?"

Moore remembered the images fed back from the CNN newsbots that had entered the spectacularly failed Indonesian fusion plant...what, a month ago, now? Most of the place was simply gone, puffed into vapor when the containment field failure--the accident that was never supposed to have been possible--occurred. Those protected from the direct flash of stellar heat, by walls or machinery, were generally twisted into all sorts of jagged death-contortions. He remembered the flat voice-over speculating about electromagnetic pulse, and how it might instantly scramble the neural activity of the human, electro-colloidal brain...and another hired expert disagreeing, stating that sufficiently high neutron flux could do the same thing. At the time, it had seemed so...well, moot. Academics arguing over esoteric causes of death, while carbonized bodies smoldered on the thinscreen in Moore's office....

And he'd made, "Gee, that's a shame," noises and flicked the feed over to the ‘Wall Street Journal’, to start tracking the effect on stocks tied to the fusion industry.

But someone had contacted someone else, who knew Moore and his company's work. The Indonesian government, backed by the burgeoning global fusion industry, was looking for ways to undo some of the vast public relations damage from the accident. A miraculous recovery for at least some of the survivors would do quite nicely.

And now, Moore was here--his financing assured, his hitherto fledgling bio-nanotechnology company suddenly poised to gobble up precious market share...hell, maybe even to take over a whole damned market niche.

"Can we see any of the other survivors?" Moore asked.

"There are no other survivors, Doctor Moore. She is the last."

Moore recalled that her husband, a Canadian engineer named Alan, had worked in the plant with Sandra. He puffed out a breath.

"Well, it looks like she's the one, then."

Mashood shifted uncomfortably. "Doctor Moore, please...I have to restate my objection. She should not be removed from our life support systems. I know that you have governmental approval and all required legal waivers, but--”

"Doctor, believe me, I understand your concern." Briefly, Moore tried to mentally re-contour the ruined face. "But can you really do anything more for her?"

Mashood sighed. "No."

"Well, maybe I can."

They left Sandra Wilson and retreated to Mashood’s impeccably tidy office. Moore knew that, outside, a monsoon busily drenched Jakarta. But Mashood had programmed his window-wall to show friendlier climes--today, a sunny desert-scape dotted with a riot of flowering cacti. As they entered, a jazzy trumpet piece started from hidden speakers.

"'Blues', by Miles Davis," Mashood said. "Do you like jazz, Doctor Moore?"

"I can take it or leave it. And, me Douglas."

“Yes, thank you. I am Hamid.” Mashood smiled, then, to the air said, "Music off, please." He turned back to Moore in the sudden silence and gestured him to a chair. "So...Douglas. Tell me more about what you believe you can do.”

In answer, Moore extracted a golfball-sized, gray sphere from his pocket. He blew on it, and it immediately began to change, morphing first into a mirror-faced cube, then a ball of pinkish fluff, like cotton candy, then a gleaming brass bullet. The changes continued, about once very five seconds, as Mashood watched.

“So,” the physician said, “this is your fog.”

"In the flesh."

"Actually, I've seen it before, on a three-V program. One of your engineers was holding a...handful, if that's the right word. It kept changing, just like this. One moment it would be a beautiful, blue crystal, then it would become red, and then it would become--"

"--a flower. I know. That engineer was me."

"Ah. I'm sorry. I didn’t recognize you."

Moore grinned. "It's surprising how much hair you can lose in two years, isn't it? Anyway, the fog was the real star of that show. This is its descendant.”

"How is this different?"

"Physically, it isn't. The basic design of each component foglet is essentially the same--a spherical hull, containing a one-hundred million MIPS rod-logic computer and a power source, and twelve arms ending in data exchangers, mechanical grippers or chemical-specific discriminators. There are also features that allow each foglet to change its characteristics as an antenna in the visible-light spectrum...that's how they can change color."

"So the difference, then, is in how these ones are programmed...?"

"That, and in the on-board computers themselves. The part you didn't see on three-V was my fog-flower suddenly crumbling to dust. The computers produced a lot more waste heat than we’d hoped. Since then, we've tweaked the rod-logic elements into a more efficient format."

Mashood pursed his lips thoughtfully. “I’ve read a tiny bit of your field’s literature. I don’t pretend to understand much of it, however, this heat issue seems to be a serious problem. I recall one of your colleagues...or competitors, yes? A Doctor Rosen? She seems to be very wary of it.”

“Bah. Doreen Rosen thinks she's still at MIT and not out in the real world. She wants to do away with the rod-logic format altogether and use a buckled-logic format instead.”

Moore hadn't bothered keeping disdain out of his voice, prompting Mashood to smile. "Competitor was the correct word, I see."

"Not for long. If she doesn't stop her navel-gazing and get on with things, employee will be the correct word."

“Still...her approach is better?”

Moore shrugged. “Both are what we call reversible computational systems, because there’s no fundamental need to dissipate heat during the course of a computation. You can actually reverse most of your calculations, without erasing data. In an irreversible system, you create heat every time you map two logical states onto a single output state, because then you do erase a bit of information.”

“I’m sorry...what is the difference, then, between the two types?”

“In rod-logic systems, you have a three-D matrix of tiny rods being pushed and pulled by input signals and timed by clocking signals. The pattern of rods blocking and unblocking one another defines the computation. Most of the contact between the rods is just pressure. But we haven’t quite managed to engineer all of the sliding motion out of the system, so there is a small amount of friction, which means a small amount of excess heat.”

“Which adds up, I would think, given the sheer number of computations in such a small volume.”

Moore shrugged again. “It can. But we’ve reduced the problem by more than an order of magnitude.”

“And in...what was it, buckled logic...?”

“Yes. In that type of system, the state of the computation is stored in the elastic deformations of a solid component. These deformations are like...say, a thin sheet of plastic held edge-ways, between your thumb and forefinger. If you squeeze it, it will buckle either one way, or the other. That’s the basic logic element.”

“Ah. So there is no friction, and no heat.”

“ But it’s a much more complicated engineering problem than the rod-logic format, which is...well, just a more mature technology.” He could have added, more mature, thanks mainly to me. But he didn’t. Instead, he shrugged and tried to sound magnanimous. “Doreen’s made progress. But we've got the competitive edge.”

“Is that why you are here, then?” Mashood asked softly. "To solidify your 'competitive edge'?"

Moore frowned, taken aback. “No...of course not. This is...well, about giving someone back their life.”

Mashood didn’t answer immediately, leaving an uncomfortable silence hanging. Moore finally opened his mouth to speak, but Mashood sighed and shrugged dismissively.

“I’m sorry, Douglas. It just seems so...experimental.”

“It is. But I really believe we can program the fog to take over from most of whatever biological processes have failed in Sandra Wilson’s body. We know it works with lab animals. All that’s left is human trials...and that’s just been awaiting a suitable subject. Sandra is that subject.”

He leaned into Mashood’s lingering uncertainty.

“This could completely revolutionize the way we treat all kinds of disabilities. You’re a doctor. You should be eager to see this work.”

“I am,” Mashood said, sighing again. “I’m just not so eager to see it fail. Because, if it does, it will harm much more than your ‘competitive edge’, yes?”

Moore ran a hand through his hair, frowning slightly at the expanse of scalp that always seemed to be just that much bigger. He remembered--suddenly, and rather inanely--the recent spate of commercials about hair-factories. The prosthetic follicle had finally 'come of age', as one ad put it; real hair, woven out of the body's own proteins and programmed into whatever style and colors you wanted. He kept meaning to download some of the literature, and try to cut through the hype--

Then his eyes fell on Sandra Wilson's scalp, scoured bare by radiation sickness. Or, not quite bare; a few strands of black hair were just visible through the crystalline curve of the tank--

A discrete cough cut through the soft, rhythmic hiss of the ventilator that did Sandra's breathing for her. Moore found Mashood standing beside him. From the physician's manner, Moore could feel his discomfort. This was his ICU, yet it wasn't--not with his patient enclosed in a cylindrical, plastic tank, surrounded by drooping skeins of optical fiber, a portable MRI and an array of lasers splashed with optical-hazard warnings.

"I'm sorry, Hamid," Moore said. "I'm just checking the seals on the tank before we go any further."

Mashood’s dark eyes settled on Sandra Wilson, lying sealed inside the oversized plastic coffin.

“Is this tank really necessary?”

Moore shrugged. “It helps keep things contained, at least until the fog’s programming kicks in., not really. We’re using it mainly because your legal department insisted on it.”

“Ah,” Mashood said, then turned and tapped the door. It opened, admitting a pair of nurses wheeling a crash-cart heaped with resuscitation equipment. He spoke with them for a moment in fluent Jakarta Malay, then produced a thinscreen from his lab-coat pocket, unfolded it and dialed in Sandra’s patient code. "Well, whenever you are ready, am I."

Moore nodded. "Okay. Let's do what we came to do.”

He touched a thin-screen he’d taped to the side of the tank. A series of floating icons appeared. In sequence, he touched one, then another, then several more. The computer coordinating things, an old-but-adequate organo-optical databrick, responded-- flashing through a final series of diagnostics, then, with an unceremonious click, opening a valve on an innocuous, chrome-bright cylinder connected to the tank. A diffuse mist immediately began floating around Sandra Wilson.

Mashood leaned forward and peered through the plastic. Sandra Wilson was quickly shrouded by a tenuous vapor. After a moment, Moore said, "I think we've reached full diffusion in there. Time for the next step.”

Moore chased more icons across the thinscreen. A chime sounded as the laser interface poised over the tank activated, firing a barrage of pulses, coded by frequency and duration. The fog absorbed the laser-data, digested it, and responded.

Moore took a deep breath. "Here we go.”

The fog began to coalesce, condensing into an increasingly thick cloud around Sandra's head and face. Moore could imagine the minuscule rod-logic computers humming in their molecular way, controlling the myriad tiny arms and causing them to lock, to transfer ripples of information, to grip and twist and pull. An infinitely intricate, but incredibly precise game of leap-frog began, the foglets' collective behavior changing as quickly and smoothly as that of a maneuvering school of fish. In the macroscopic world, the fog pooled into an increasingly thick cloud around Sandra's nose and mouth, then dwindled in volume, until it was finally gone.

"So," Mashood breathed, "now it's inside her."

"Now it's inside her," Moore acknowledged, staring at the split MRI image he called onto the thinscreen. “It's moving into its programmed configuration." He nodded approvingly. "In fact, it's improving on my original programming, just the way it’s supposed to. Look here...this agglomeration of foglets is adapting to that occlusion of the bronchia we talked about." He glanced at Mashood. "I deliberately didn't tell the fog about this growth in her left lung, to see how it would respond."

Mashood nodded tightly. “You must be gratified that your experiments are working out so well.” Moore glanced sharply at him, but the physician just looked back at his own thinscreen. “I am surprised there’s so little response from the patient to all this," he said. "Just a slight increase in breathing labor, that’s all.”

“In spite of how it looks,” Moore said, “it’s really not much different than inhaling a lung-full of mist--” He stopped as a new series of icons flashed onto the thinscreen.

"What is that?" Mashood asked.

"That's the fog telling us it's in position,” Moore responded. "It left a relay chain of foglets up to her mouth...those are reflecting the laser light in a characteristic way. That means it's time to turn off your ventilator."

Mashood pressed his lips into a thin line, then tapped a code into his thin-screen.

He paused.

Moore opened his mouth, ready to be persuasive...but Mashood sighed softly and touched one, last icon. The thin-screen chimed in shrill alarm, and a repeater buzzed from the wall over the tank.

Mashood cut off the alarms. The steady, rhythmic background hiss of the ventilator had stopped, as had the movement of Sandra’s chest.


Both Moore’s and Mashood’s attention flicked rapidly between Sandra and their respective thinscreens.

“Her blood oxygen is decreasing,” Mashood finally said.

Moore breathed a silent plea towards Sandra.

“Still decreasing.” Mashood tapped the thin-screen, reactivating an icon. “In another twenty seconds, I’m going to restart the ventilator.” Moore felt the nurses tense beside their crash-cart.

Moore placed a hand on the tank. “Come on, Sandra,” he said, which was stupid, because she really had nothing to do with it, it was the fog--

Sandra’s chest heaved.

And again.

“Yes!” Moore whispered, looking at the data. The fog had finally activated. Each of the myriad foglets was now part of a cooperative network, acting to expand and contract Sandra’s chest--pumping oxygen through the radiation-ravaged cells of her lungs, into her bloodstream, and stripping carbon dioxide out.

“Her blood oxygen is leveling off,” Mashood said, raising his eyebrows in wonder. “And now I’m recording an increase in oxygen content. Can you verify this, Doug?”

Moore nodded. “I certainly am.”

Days of watching and waiting lay ahead. But, for now, Moore couldn’t stop grinning a triumphant grin.

Only a week after being weaned from the ventilator, Sandra was also free of the respiratory booster, cardiac stabilizer and dialysis filters. Moore’s fog had taken over from each, until only basic feeding and care systems remained.

Soon after that, Sandra Wilson woke up.

Moore made the trip to the hospital in the wee hours, right after Mashood called. He arrived rumpled, the same clothes on that he’d taken off before bed, to find Sandra lying calmly--a relief, since he’d always been concerned about her panicking, should she awaken. Still, her dark eyes shone with restrained fear; Moore glanced at Mashood in the subdued light, wondering what the physician (looking decidedly unrumpled, despite the hour) had already told her.

Mashood smiled. “Doctor Douglas Moore, I’d like to introduce Sandra Wilson.”

Moore fumbled for a moment, then finally said, “Hi.”

It sounded vastly insipid, but Sandra nodded, once.

“We've been talking about what has happened, and where she is. Sandra, do you remember the accident itself?"

She shook her head.

"I'm not surprised." Mashood turned to Moore. "I have told her about what you’ve done, but only in very general terms.”

Her remaining hand floated towards her chest.

“Breathing....” she whispered.

Moore nodded. “Yes. We’re helping you breathe with some advanced nanotechnology...a three-D matrix of micron-scale robots, controlled by molecular mechanical computers. You were...sorry, are an engineer, so I assume you understand what that means?”

She nodded.

“We’ve programmed them to respond appropriately to the natural muscular action of your own breathing,” he continued, “so the whole network of robots is working with you, not against you. They’re helping with a number of your body’s other functions, as well. It’s...well, unconventional, but we believe it will offer you a better chance of recovery than the conventional methods."

She nodded again.

“Well,” Moore went on, “we’re hoping that we can offer you a freer, more comfortable recovery. If you have any questions....”

Her hand tapped her chest again, and her mouth worked.

Moore frowned. “I’m sorry....”

Mashood leaned forward, listening, then looked at Moore.

“The robots. She wants you to tell her more.”

Moore smiled. “Sure. Anything you want to know.”

Mashood left them that way...and found them still that way, Moore talking and Sandra listening intently, while dawn broke over Jakarta.

The next day, Moore returned to the lab he'd set up in space provided by the Indonesian fusion secretariat. He had a full day planned--finishing off a press release, getting caught up on a progress report for the shareholders, checking on how the next software upgrade for the fog was progressing, and paying a virtual visit to his bio-interface subcontractor in San Francisco. He particularly looked forward to the last. The folks there worked hard at integrating human physiology even more directly into the digital universe than it already was. But most of their applications, to date, had been in the burgeoning VR-entertainment field. He had a completely new challenge to offer them, and expected them to eagerly snap it up. First, though, the markets. He wanted to see how far up his company's shares were today, especially on the all-important Hong Kong exchange--

As soon as he entered his makeshift office, his pocket thinscreen chimed the first bar of Beethoven's Fifth--an irritating default he'd never got around to changing. Somebody had sent him a v-mail, which should have been forwarded to him automatically. He cursed the gremlins of telecommunications and unfolded his thinscreen, hoping that, whatever it was, it hadn’t been urgent.

Doreen Rosen’s face appeared on the device, backed by a shelf lined with books and a restlessly shifting three-D abstract that could only be fog.

“Hello, Douglas,” she said. “I cancelled the auto-forward on this, because I didn’t want to interrupt you at a busy time.” A pause. “From what I've heard, it seems you’ve had lots of those, lately. I just wanted to offer my congratulations...I’ve heard what you’ve achieved with that poor woman in the hospital. You know my feelings about rod-logic, of course...but I can only wish we could have moved as quickly as you did. We're finally at the bench-production stage, but....” She shrugged. “That’s science, isn’t it? To the victor go the spoils, and all that.” Another pause. “Anyway, I hope everything works out...for her and you. Give me a call sometime.”

Moore smiled wryly as the image flicked back to a default he did like, a blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds.

“Well, thank you, Doreen,” he said to the sky-scape. “That was big of you.”

Which should have been the end of it, but wasn't. All through the rest of that day, and often thereafter, he wondered if he would have been as generous in defeat.

Of course he would...wouldn't he?

“You’re looking good this morning,” Moore said, putting down the case he’d been carrying and touching the smartglass window in Sandra’s hospital room. He said, “Light,” and the window obliged, changing from smoke-Grey to a shade short of clear. The recent monsoon gloom had given way to blue skies, and now sailboats and hovercraft poked out of the shelter of the Jaya Ancol marina, on their way across the bay to the haze-shrouded islands of Pulau Seribu. Sandra groaned, blinking at the sudden flood of sunlight.

“And suppose I wanted to keep sleeping?” she asked, working herself higher up the pillows with her remaining hand. She was looking better--much better than either Moore or Mashood would have thought possible only two weeks previously, when she’d first awakened. Her voice had improved, too--software updates to the fog in her lungs and trachea had made it more responsive to the movements of her throat and mouth. She still whispered, but it was a strong whisper.

“Why in the world would you want to sleep on such a beautiful day?” Moore laughed, and sat down beside the bed.

Sandra grinned--another improvement, since fog had also been programmed to replace her missing teeth. It further spurred Moore’s growing sense that he could, indeed, accomplish nearly anything with the fog. And that reminded him of why he’d come here today.

“Well, it’s not like I’m going to get to enjoy it,” she said, her smile fading.

Moore touched her hand. “Maybe not.” He glanced at the bedclothes, falling off of her thighs and down to perfect flatness where her legs...weren’t. “But maybe we can change that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we’ve used the fog to supplement, and even take over some of your body’s key functions. And it’s working...well, frankly, beyond our best hopes. I imagined all sorts of ongoing interaction and monitoring being necessary. But the fog has proved us wrong. Its programming is adaptable, so it’s learning to accommodate your physiology in all kinds of ways. It’s taking care of itself, really.” He took a breath. “So, why not use it to give you back your legs, and your arm?”

She stared. “Is that possible?”

In answer, he opened the case he’d brought. It contained a half-metre long plastic tube with an elastic cuff and a valve connector, a metal cylinder of pre-programmed fog, and a hand-held version of the laser interface.

“Why don’t I show you?” Moore said.

Sandra watched as he slipped elastic cuff of the tube over the stump of her arm, attached the cylinder to the valve, and released the fog. When it had filled the cylinder, he pointed the interface at it and triggered the flood of laser-data. The fog booted, then condensed, in seconds, into a generalized forearm and hand that enclosed Sandra’s stump.

Moore slipped off the tube. Sandra hesitated, then slowly rotated her shoulder. The arm lifted off the bed and hung, extended, in front of her.

“Douglas, it’s... remarkable.”

He shrugged. “Unfortunately, it’s just a basic prosthetic...and not a very good one, at that. The latest electromechanical ones are vastly superior. In fact, this one currently has no movement, no’s basically just a statue of an arm, stuck onto your body. It doesn’t even match your skin-tone. But that can all change.”


“I’m convinced that we can program the fog to respond to your movements, the same way it's working with your diaphragm to allow you to breath. In fact,” he added, unable to keep the excitement out of his voice, “I think we can even manage some degree of direct interface with your nervous system. Your nerve impulses would become input signals. Then we’d have the best prosthetic going, instead of...well, the worst.”

Sandra stared at the arm. “You mean I would get my arm back? And my legs?”

“That’s the idea.”

“That would” She broke off, blinking through sudden tears.

Moore shifted awkwardly. “There are still some problems to work out--”

“That doesn't matter," Sandra said, wiping her eyes. “It doesn’t even matter if it ever works. It’s just so nice to be able hope.” She sniffed, then coughed--a tight, hitching thing, thanks to a minuscule lag in the fog’s response to the convulsions of her chest. When it stopped, she shrugged. “And if it does work, I know exactly what I’m going to do.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m going to dance.”

Moore smiled. “I’d love to see you dance.”

She smiled back, but it immediately faded. "I've never danced alone before. Only with Alan...."

Moore shifted uncomfortably. This was the first time she'd mentioned her husband.

"I'm sorry for your loss," he finally said.

"I think you would have liked him." She nodded into his eyes. "I know he would have liked you."

Moore smiled in awkward gratitude.

Their talk drifted on to other things. At some point, Moore’s hand found hers...her real one. He was still holding it when she fell asleep.

Mashood’s frantic v-mail was waiting for Moore when he stepped out of the shower in his hotel room. All the physician said was, “Sandra is me!” and then clicked off.

Moore felt gut-punched. He threw on whatever clothes were handiest and flung himself out the door. He’d thought, once, about applying to Jakarta's municipal traffic control for an emergency routing pass for his rental car. But everything had gone so smoothly that the whole concept of an 'emergency' had slipped quietly into oblivion. Stuck, now, in the standard traffic pattern, he’d only made it half-way to the hospital when Mashood finally answered his call.

“What the hell’s happening?” he snapped at the thinscreen, then cursed as the car, obeying some distant computer, fell dutifully in behind a lumbering cargo flat.

“Sandra’s body temperature started to rise, and she went into respiratory distress.”

Moore swallowed ice. “Is she alright?”

“No. But she’s stable.”

“So what happened?”

“I was hoping you could tell me. All I know is the fog in her lungs seems to have failed. Some was expelled on its own...the rest we purged. She’s back on a respirator now.”

“Damn it.”


Moore glanced out the window; he was just edging past the restored sprawl of Old Batavia. “I’ll be soon as I can.”

Through the remainder of the trip...all the way up to Sandra’s room on the ICU floor...the hard truth buzzed around Moore like an angry insect. But he managed to hold it bay until he faced the output from the databrick, which had been monitoring the fog and had activated the crisis management function that had probably saved Sandra’s life.

All his confident work had only delayed--not prevented--the fog’s thermal collapse.

He looked at Sandra, jerking slightly as the ventilator worked to puff life into her. The dark eyes--which had only just started to shine, again--were closed.

“I’m sorry, Sandra,” he whispered, taking her hand. But it was the wrong one, stiff and unyielding...the one warmed only by the waste heat of countless computations.

Moore tapped the thinscreen in a desultory way, chasing ideas across its smoothness, then flicking them off into digital limbo. The rest of his team had long since gone home; he worked alone, insulated from the night by the conditioned air and white background noise of the lab.

Two days, since the fog had so miserably let, had let Sandra down. As a guard against further traumatic failures, the fog supporting her cardiac and other functions had also been deactivated, reduced again to so much mist and purged from her body. Even the faux-arm had been removed, leaving Sandra right back where she’d started, before Douglas Moore had entered her life with promises he couldn’t keep.

He rubbed eyes gritty from fatigue and blinked at the thinscreen. Data hovered on its surface, molecular statistics and other sterile facts surrounding a three-D schematic of a foglet-hull.

What had happened seemed clear enough--a fundamental structural failure had cascaded through the fog in her lungs, faster than the network could cope with it. Within a few minutes, virtually all of the foglets had broken down. The exact nature of the failure might still be uncertain, but Moore could reason out the gist of it all too easily. His upgraded rod-logic computers were better than their predecessors. They did produce far less heat. But a fatal flaw still lurked in the fog’s fundamental structure. A particular molecule was a fraction too big or too small, a certain chemical bond was slightly weaker than they’d calculated--something. But heat was the trigger; the cooler computers just meant whatever it was took longer to manifest.

Which meant Moore had taken the wrong path. Fiddling with the computers hadn’t been the answer; digging into the fundamental stuff of the fog was. Of course, now that he knew in what direction the problem lay, Moore likewise knew that he and his people could eventually solve it. And there was still the data they collected, and the fertile ground of further research, refinement, technical papers....

But that wouldn’t help Sandra. Even with the most heroic measures in place, Mashood gave her only a few more weeks to live...a few months, at most.

I’m going to dance.

Moore leaned back and stared at the thinscreen without seeing it. He sat that way for a long time.

Would I be as generous in defeat?

There was only one way to find out, of course.

Moore leaned forward and touched the voice-input icon on the thinscreen.

"I want to place a call...."

Moore smiled tiredly when Sandra's eyes finally opened. Gone was the triumphant thrill he'd felt the last time this had happened; in its place was just simple relief and warm satisfaction.

"What's happening?" she whispered.

"There was a problem with the fog," Mashood said from the other side of the bed. "I'm sure Douglas can explain what it was, and how it was corrected, much better than I can."

She blinked and looked down the length of the bed--at her chest, rising and falling on its her arms....

At her legs.


"Try moving them," Moore said.

Experimentally, she flexed her fingers, bent her knees and elbows, wiggled her toes. The movements were stiff...jerky, even, bordering on spasmodic...but they were movements.

Her movements.

She looked from Mashood to Moore, and back. " You said it didn't work...."

"It didn't," Moore said, shrugging. "At least, mine didn't. There's a defect somewhere in it...some kind of molecular flaw. Our rod-logic computers still put out enough heat that it eventually triggers the defect, and the fog breaks down. I think we can eventually engineer around it, but, until then...." He shrugged.

With Mashood's help, Sandra slowly levered herself to a sitting position. She touched her face, smooth and unblemished...ran her hands through a spill of hair, lush and black.

"The best part," Moore said, "is that you never need to comb it." He shrugged again. "I hope it's the right length and color. We used the best photos we could find."

"It looks so...real," Sandra breathed.

"There's still lots of room for improvement," Moore said. "It would be nice to get that direct neural input going, for one--"

"Douglas, what I told you before hasn't changed. Hope is enough." She nodded. "Thank you."

Moore smiled ruefully. "Well, the person you really want to thank is Doreen Rosen. It's her fog we're uses a different type of computer, so the breakdown problem...well, isn't. You'll meet her soon. I think you'll like her."

"I'm so sorry your fog didn't work," Sandra said. "I know you had such high hopes for it."

"No, I'm the one who's sorry. I’m just glad Doreen was able to step into the breach.”

Mashood smiled his understanding. “And now she has the ‘competitive edge’...yes?”

“That she does,” Moore agreed, then looked back at Sandra. “So, when you talk to her, make sure you put in a good word for me, okay?”

Sandra smiled, and suddenly became the beautiful young woman in the grad photo. Moore smiled back.

"I think you really should rest, now, Sandra," Mashood said.

"I couldn't rest...not now. Douglas, could you help me stand up?"

Moore glanced at Mashood, who just gave a resigned shrug. Slowly, he helped Sandra swing her new legs over the edge of the bed, and her feet to the floor. With her arms around him, she shifted her weight, and Doreen Rosen's buckled-logic computers responded by bending, then straightening her faux-legs, taking up her weight and lifting her until she stood erect, still embraced by Moore. She shifted fractionally in his grip, as the fog network strove to make minute, balancing corrections.

"It's too bad," she whispered, "that there's no music."

Moore smiled...then shared a wide-eyed look with Sandra, as a tune he recognized as one of Mashood's old jazz pieces filled the air.

Mashood put his thinscreen down on the beside table. "Wynton Marsalis," he said. "Not really appropriate for dancing, but it's all I've got loaded, I'm afraid."

Moore grinned his thanks at Mashood, then looked at Sandra. "May I?"

In answer, Sandra clutched Moore more tightly and began to sway with the music. Soon, she was shuffling her fog-feet in tiny, hesitant steps.

Mashood watched for a moment, then quietly slipped out of the room, leaving them alone to dance.

Changes - 1

So, some content now.

Well, this seems like a good place to start. Back in the late 1980's, my wife and I happened to stumble across a series called "The Day the Universe Changed", by British science historial James Burke. Being a scientific sort myself (I was actually finishing up my Master of Science thesis at the time--subject was geology), I was kinda-sorta hooked. The series consists of ten episodes, each revolving around a general subject area in which scientific thought evolved at some point. For example, Episode #3 deals with the way scientific thought about things like architecture, maps and portrayals of 3-D space, and naval navigation changed through the Reniassance. All in all, interesting stuff...if you're interested in scientific history, that is.

And that's good, as far as it goes. But the real "oomph" of this series stems from the fact that this ISN'T just as far as it goes. What the series is really about is how the way we look at the way we look at the world around us--the "universe"--changes. Burke makes the argument that, at any given point in history, we've understood the universe, because we've had a particular way of looking at it that worked for us. So, the Sun, and everything else, revolves around the Earth. The sky is a concentric series of crystal spheres. Lightning and thunder arise from the wrath of the gods. And that adequately explains...well, everything.

But then along comes something new. Someone manages to prove that, no, the Earth actually revolves around the Sun. The sky is the rest of everything, and all those stars are suns unto themselves. Lightning is an electro-static discharge and thunder the thermal displacement of air. The way we look our own view of the universe has changed that view, and now everything is different.

Heavy stuff, eh?

But Burke goes a little further. He suggests that not only has the way we see the universe changed, the universe itself has changed because of it. Truth is only what we can see. If what we see changes, that truth changes. We are more right than those who believed the Earth was the centre of creation, but someone will come along and be more right than us. And suddenly, the universe is DIFFERENT.

Okay, now THAT'S heavy stuff.

The last line in the series is what really did for me. Burke says this:

"If the universe is just what you say it is...then say!"

You know, that line STILL gives me shivers. It was a moment that actually changed the universe for ME. And it still resonates because we all struggle with what is true, whether it's that the universe ignited from a singular point at the instant of the Big Bang and everything, including time and space itself, started then and there...or that torture really is an effective way of obtaining information that could save lives and prevent untold suffering.

If the universe is just what you say it is...then say.


"The Day the Universe Changed" has just been released on DVD, which you can obtain from Amazon (and probably other sources, if you want to Google them). A good overview of the series, including an episode summary, is available here.


A blog. Huh.

This is an interesting time in the "life" of a blog, I think. The very first post, on a blog being written by someone not particularly famous. What it means is that I am writing this to...nobody. Or to myself. Or maybe just to my computer, and all the other technology downstream from computer that leads to the final product that you see on your screen.

Note that I'm assuming there's a "you", and that you're reading this.

But I guess you have to do that because, otherwise, there's not really much point, now is there? I need to assume--believe--that I can write things that are worth other people's valuable time to read. I'm doing that with my fiction (hey...there's some content right there), so I might as well do it here, too, no?

Okay, that's enough of the introspective, existential bloggery. On with the show, I guess!

(Postscript - if I DO someday end up being famous, will this post be the "here's where it all started" or have people saying "I knew him when he wrote...." Seeing as the moment I press "Publish Post", this gets frozen in time, it might be fun to come back and think about that....)

(Postscript 2 - I picked on "Alpha" as the title for this post, because it's the first one (duh). That implies my last post will be called "Omega". Makes me wonder if there will be a last post. Are blogs ever "finished"?)