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Posts Tagged ‘imaginative fiction’

If you have medical questions don’t get second-hand information…from a ghost.  –  Dr. Jen Guntner

Yes, I’m actually subjecting you to an old episode of Family Feud, not only because it has the cast of the old Batman TV show on it, but because one of them is Vincent Price (who honestly doesn’t have a big enough part to make me happy).  If this annoys you, blame Franklin Harris.  And you can blame the links above it on Jesse Walker (“Dracula”), Eddie J Cunningham (“never”), Scott Greenfield (“state”),  Korhomme (“ghost”), and Clarissa (“safe”).

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You must be a lost angel
Dressed in your silk lace
Born somewhere between heaven
And hell, I don’t know what place.
  –  Don Felder, “All of You”

“So, how close are you to the end?”  Abe was so startled he almost fell out of his chair; he had been so intent on his work he hadn’t heard Doris come in.  “Oh, shit, Abe, I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean to scare you!”

“It’s all right,” he lied, badly.  “Close to the end of what?”

“It was meant to be a joke; you’ve been staring at that computer screen for so long, I was implying you must be binge-watching a show or playing a video game.  Sorry about that.”  Doris now regretted the inappropriate attempt at levity; Dr. Steiner was a hell of an astronomer and had the most amazing visual memory she’d ever encountered, but he wasn’t much of a “people person” and had very little ability to hide his emotions.  And that included his intense annoyance right now, and something else she couldn’t quite identify. hubble-deep-sky-image

“Since when are you in charge of monitoring productivity?”

“Hey, calm down Abe, I really was just joking.  It hardly matters what you do while that deep-sky program is running; Dr. Wilbur usually just sleeps.”

“Sorry,” he said sharply, then more gently: “I am, honestly.  I’m just trying to solve a problem and I don’t really like what I’m finding.”

“Would another pair of eyes help?”

Steiner looked up at the PhD student; since she arrived at the Urania Project six months ago, she had proven herself both friendly and trustworthy.  And maybe a fresh perspective could make sense out of what he’d discovered; his own conjectures occupied the zone between “disturbing” and “impossible”.  He decided to risk it.  “Can I trust your discretion?”

Doris suppressed the urge to answer with a joke.  “Of course.”

“You have to promise not to tell anyone.”

“You have my word.”

He turned the monitor slightly so she could see it dead-on; it contained a badly-composed picture of this room with Dr. Wilbur and a woman she didn’t recognize.  No, wait…”Isn’t that the representative from the Foundation who was here last week?”

“Yes.”

“Why is this picture so crooked?”

“Because I didn’t want her to see me taking it, so I had to hide the phone and limit myself to a few shots.  This was the best one.”

Doris thought it prudent to let the Director explain things at his own pace; it was clear this picture was somehow very upsetting to him.  So she just remained quiet while he fiddled with the keyboard and mouse, bringing up another image which looked like the same scene from a different angle.  “Do you see what I did here?”

“It looks like you ran it through our image rotation software.”

“Right.  Then I cropped it down and sent it to a friend of mine who works with reconstructing faces from skulls, and he sent me back this.”  The next image was the same woman, but full-face; it was clearly a constructed image rather than a purely photographic one, but a very good one.  “Does that fit your memory of what she looked like?”

Abe didn’t need to ask that; he could sketch objects from memory after seeing them once.  But he clearly wanted her reassurance, so: “Yes.”

A few more clicks, and he removed her glasses, changed the image to black and white and then moved it to the left side of the screen, bringing up another photo on the right; it was an antique photo of a woman dressed in the fashion of over a century ago, and had clearly been run through a program to clean it up and artificially sharpen the resolution.  The two women were both stunningly beautiful and looked virtually identical.  “Well?” he asked, impatiently.

“The resemblance is certainly striking, but both of these images have been considerably enhanced.  We can’t be sure the original subjects bore more than a passing resemblance to one another.”

“Absolutely true.  But I can tell you that this one” – he pointed to the modern woman on the left – “is an exact resemblance of Gabrielle Ealing, whom I spent considerable time with on her visit here last week.  I never forget a face, especially one like hers.  And every biometric measurement I can apply to the older photo matches up with Ealing’s.”

“Who is the woman in the other photo?”

“Don’t you recognize her?”

“I’m afraid not.”

He looked irritated for a second, then softened.  “I forget others don’t have my memory.  Wait here for a minute.”  After he left the room, Doris continued to stare at the two images; they certainly looked a lot alike.  Allowing for the differences in grooming, they even appeared to be about the same age.  A few minutes later Abe returned with a large framed photo which Doris recognized as one of those hanging in the lobby; it had been taken at the dedication of the original observatory out in New Mexico, in 1910.  Abe tapped on one of the figures in the image:  “There.”

It was clearly the photo from which the image on the right had been scanned.  “Who is she?”

“Angela Ealing, wife of Charles Ealing, who made an obscene fortune in mining and banking and was apparently uninterested in women until he met her sometime after he turned 50.  She was the one who convinced him to establish the Foundation, and after he died in 1919 she ran it until her own death in 1980.”

Doris squinted at the picture.  “She looks young enough to be his granddaughter.”

Abe chuckled.  “Now, now, my dear, that was considered far more acceptable in those days.  According to her official biography, she was born in 1888, which makes her 22 in that photo.  He was about 60 then.”

“Still young enough to father heirs, apparently.”

“One, a posthumous son named Michael, a hellion who lived just long enough to beget a son of his own before getting himself killed in some foolishness on V-J Day.  The mother was apparently uninterested in that role, so the boy was raised by Angela.  Gabrielle is supposed to be his granddaughter, thus Angela’s great-great-granddaughter.”

“That’s quite a resemblance for sharing only one-sixteenth of a genome.”

“Indeed.”

“So what, exactly, are you suggesting?”

He sighed deeply.  “I’m a scientist, not a science-fiction writer.”

“Abe, this is just silly.  You’re an extremely rational man; surely you don’t think a remarkable resemblance is anything like evidence that Angela Ealing is still spry, hot as hell and supervising her foundation at the age of 134?”

“Have you ever read the mission statement of the Ealing Foundation?”

“Well, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but no.”

“Its official purpose is to prepare the most comprehensive map and catalog of the universe possible; to that end it has funded telescopes in every part of the electromagnetic spectrum, given scholarships to promising astrophysics students like you, provided grants to develop better imaging software, and awarded prizes to scientists who think up new ways to observe, as the statement puts it, ‘the full extent of Creation, both visible and hidden‘.  For the past 20 years its’ been heavily investing in dark matter research.”deep-sky-dark-matter

“Well, yeah, I knew all that.”

“But do you know who wrote that policy?”

“Angela?”

“Yep.  At the ripe old age of 19.”

“But…she died 42 years ago.”

“As a recluse.  This is the only existing photo of her.  Would you like to see photos of Gabrielle’s mother, who incidentally was an Ealing too?  She was a single mother and supposedly moved to Sydney four years ago.”

“Do I really need to?”

Abe answered with a few mouse clicks, bringing up another enhanced image of what at first glance was exactly the same woman.  “She didn’t like pictures, but this was manipulated from a shot taken at a reception in 1999, the year Gabrielle was supposed to have been born.”

“OK, just for the sake of argument, let’s say I buy all this.  If it’s true, what’s she after?”

Abe pondered for a few minutes, trying to find the right way to express his idea.  “Imagine you’re a traveler; not an explorer or a scientist, just an ordinary tourist.  And let’s say some kind of accident happens, and your pilot or guide or whatever is killed, stranding you in some strange place far from home.  What do you do?”

“Well, obviously try to get home in any way I can.”

“And what if you don’t really know where home is, and neither does anyone in the country where you find yourself?”

Doris looked at the three images on the screen and felt the gooseflesh rise on her arms.  “I’d try to collect as many maps as I could until I saw something I recognized.”

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When I say by any means necessary that would be up to those in charge.  –  James Tomes

It recently came to my attention that Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been uploading full episodes onto YouTube, so to call attention to that I’m going to feature their treatment of Prince of Space, one of my favorite so-bad-it’s-good movies (though it pales in comparison to the Starman movies).  The links above it are from Radley Balko (“necessary”), Mike Siegel (“sirree”), Jesse Walker  (“gaslight”), and Mark Bennett (“smug”).

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Says he’s got a thing about burnin’ witches
Ooh, some of these were mighty fine bitches.
– Carl Douglas

Some of you may remember the catchy 1974 hit “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas, who was apparently a movie fan because he also wrote & recorded “Witchfinder General”, inspired by the Vincent Price film about Matthew Hopkins.  The video was called to my attention by Jesse Walker, who also provided “cities”; the other links above the video are from Scott GreenfieldTim Cushing (x2),  ClarissaSkye, and Dave Krueger, in that order.

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He should have been surrounded by family at old age, not surrounded by bullets.  –  Roy Serna

Since there seems to be a dearth of holiday videos nowadays, I decided to share this classic from 1939 with you.  It’s an antiwar cartoon from MGM, and though most of the screen time features cute anthropomorphic animals it also features something not found in most mainstream animated films, then or now:  death.  As in actual death, not turning into a cartoon angel and floating up to a cloud.  And on a massive scale, too; if you’ve never seen it, take a few minutes to do so now.  The links above it were provided by Mike Siegel (“Dalek”), Mark Draughn (“protect”),  Franklin Harris (“headline”), Popehat (“Florida” and “night”), Tushy Galore  (“amateurs”), and Elizabeth N. Brown (“denied”).

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For a while I was getting nervous that I wouldn’t be able to come up with a good story for the opening position in The Forms of Things Unknown.  But as so often happens, when my Muse was ready she demanded my attention immediately, and within three days “Trust Exercise” was done.  Yes, I said three days; it’s a good bit longer than the short-short stories I typically write, weighing in at about 4000 words.  I think you’ll like it, and it will appear exclusively in the new book (which looks like it will come out on schedule in January).  But because I’m such an awful tease, I can’t resist giving you this sneak peak at what’s in the box; this is from about a third of the way into the story:shadow-woman

“So who is Zoe?”

“Why, I’m surprised at you, Doctor Lang; she’s my imaginary friend.  You know that.”

“That would’ve barely been an acceptable answer when you were ten, much less fourteen.”

“OK, then, let’s call her my spirit guide.  Is that a more palatable response?”

“I’m not your enemy, Dani.  I’m trying to help you.”

“Oh, please.  You’re trying to earn a living, same as everybody else.  You wouldn’t give a damn about me if my dad’s insurance weren’t reimbursing you.”

“It’s true that helping professionals need to earn a living just like everyone else, but that doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely care.  You might think of my income as a subsidy which allows me to do the work I find rewarding, which is helping young people with their difficulties.”

Dani rolled her darkly-lined eyes and sighed theatrically.  “And you’ll still kick me out at the 50-minute mark.”

“Good job trying to make this about me.  Look, I understand why you’re upset; your mom had no right to read your diary, and if I were in your place I’d be angry too.  She didn’t tell me she was going to do it, and I would’ve discouraged her from doing it if she had.  And I really am on your side, so if you’d rather not talk about Zoe we don’t have to.”

“I’d rather not.  Let’s just call her my Jungian shadow and leave it at that, OK?”

“Fair enough.  Do you want to talk about how your mother’s violating your privacy made you feel instead?”

And so they did, and many other topics over the next couple of years.  But Zoe never came up again, because Danielle had learned it was absolutely never a good idea to mention anything about her to anyone else, no matter what their age and relationship to her.  As she had aged the visits had become less frequent but longer, and more likely to occur when she was alone; she was also much better able to answer her shadowy visitor’s questions, and she began to understand that the reason for her confusion in the past was that Zoe and the others had never adapted their questioning to a child’s intellectual level, almost as though they hadn’t understood that she was a child.  But as that aspect of their interaction grew steadily less frustrating, another grew steadily more so:  Zoe absolutely refused to discuss anything about herself and the others, or to answer any of Dani’s questions.  All she ever said in reply was, “I’m afraid you’ll just have to trust me.”

And you, dear reader, will have to trust me that the rest won’t disappoint you.  You only have about a month to wait!

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rock make all grak friend jealous best rock in village. rock work for hitting things.  –  Grak

Surprised to see this on a Friday?  Take a look at the calendar; because of the way the holidays fall this year, it was really the best choice until January.  Anyway, as I told you a few weeks ago, I’ve been binge-watching Doctor Who with Lorelei Rivers, who as it turns out is as big a nerd as I am (and if the idea of sharing an evening with two hot, nerdy, librarian whores sounds good to you, do let me know).  Anyhow, a few weeks ago she showed me this very funny parody starring Rowan Atkinson, and I just noticed it was on YouTube so enjoy.  The links above it were provided by Wendy Lyon (“Sweden”), Jesse Walker (“kink” and “feathers”),  Nun Ya (“West”), Walter Olson (“ahnt”), Tim Cushing (“whatsoever”), Popehat  (“bottled”), and Mistress Matisse (“Louisiana”).

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