Please help me decide…

I’ve been raving about The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne for a while.

As a Big Five editor for 25 years, Shawn’s grid method was so sought after that successful authors would leave their publishers to work with him. But the stress was making him miserable, so he left the pressure cooker, finally creating a balanced life where he does what he loves: developmental editing, which is, in Shawn’s words…

“…working with somebody who is very dedicated to what they want to do, and taking the time and working methodically through a process so that they become a better and better writer.”

He’s doing that now with Tim Grahl on a podcast that’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard.

Of the 85 books about writing fiction that I have on my shelves and in my Kindle, The Story Grid is a significant outlier. In terms of reducing bestseller magic to concrete, reproducible, often indispensable parts, Shawn’s book is in a league of its own.

His grid process is ingenious, detailed and requires sustained effort to learn and follow – about like everything else on Earth that works any sort of wonders. (Speaking of wonders, please check out The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.)

So I applied for one of 25 slots to learn The Story Grid’s developmental editing techniques from Shawn Coyne in Nashville this September, and to my surprise, I was accepted. I’ll be listed on his site as an editor offering his methods.

Now I need your help in deciding something that’s really important to me. I have 6,733 followers here.

Tell me if I should…

1. Use this site (storiform.com) for my future developmental editing service as well as my blog, probably with a lighter-colored theme, or…

2. Should I make another site for the editing service?

What do you think?

I just need a 1 or a 2 as a comment below. (If you have time, more advice would be appreciated, of course.) Or email me.

Thanks so much,

M. Talmage Moorehead


My Gray Alien

“Disgusting!” it said. “I don’t care much for cultured cheese. Have you got any white trash?”

“That’s racist,” I said, cringing. “You claim you’re mechanical? Prove it.”

It nodded sincerely. “Brains and all.” A narrow tongue came out to test a pea, encircled it and drew it into its mouth. “Gross!” Two spindly hands came up and pushed the plate of peas aside. One pea came out of its mouth under pressure and flew across the room, striking Halo, my black Labrador Retriever, in the left eye.

Her eyebrows drew in, then up, questioning our motives.

“Sorry, sweetheart,” I said, hoping her eye wouldn’t swell shut. I knelt beside her to inspect things, but all was right once she realized the bullet was edible. Her beaverish tail toppled the milk cartons on the kitchen trashcan as her backend sidestepped to the refrigerator and beat a runic canter – whap, whap, whap.

I loved that happy sound, but my thin guest had won Halo’s heart in under a minute with a single pea. It was unsettling.

“Everything you’ve given me tastes like weed killer,” it said and tossed an arc of peas at Halo’s nose, one after another, spaced an inch apart.

“Proof enough,” I said coveting its dexterity and quickness.

If Halo had held position, the peas would have landed on her nasal septum, but she lurched after the first few and the others beat a cadence on the milk cartons and floor.

Glyphosate,” I said to explain the peas’ flavor, hoping not to prompt a round of whining about herbicides, carbon dioxide and the rainforests. One grows weary, and if this gray non-alien joined the chorus, I was prepared to shoot myself. “I like the way a tablespoon of Roundup subtlizes the bouquet,” I said, winking at my gourd-headed guest. “Millions would starve without this fine chemical and the GMOs that suck it up.”

“I’ll join the starving,” it said, exposing the empty plate to Halo’s tongue. “What’s the year?”

“2017.” I glanced at my watch to avoid error.

This morning when I met my guest, I was minding my own business, stepping out of the shower.

There it stood beside my slippers without a stitch of clothing and no detectable genitals. Just great, an alien finally shows up and it’s a clichéd Gray! But the little thing claimed to be from the future. Earth’s future.

“Why don’t you have any genitals?” I asked, going straight to the philosophical.

“Gender wars. Both sides wanted truce, but neither could stand the sight of the other.”

“I see,” I said, though I didn’t. “The whole cache of humanity opted for test-tube progeny?”

“Quite.” The creature looked at my shower curtain with thinly veiled disdain, its non-nostrils sniffing and flaring.

“None of the concupiscence of lessor times, then,” I said, as a song came to mind…

No balls at all, no balls at all.

Married a man with no balls at all.

I hoped the little thing wasn’t telepathic.

“None.” It cocked its head thoughtfully. “The horizontal deed became loathsome and abhorrent.”

“So you say.”

Just this morning I had believed its every word, but now I was seasoned and more inclined to press for truth. Can you imagine humans abolishing copulation? Ridiculous claims demand preposterous proofs, as the astronomers say.

“So humans will rid themselves of gender. Interesting. But if so, would I be far afield in assuming that these brilliant and technical humans of Tomorrowland seldom poop?”

“The seldomest.”

“As in, absolutely never?” I was relentless, leaving no wiggle room for unwarranted bathroom confrontations should the creature’s visit become protracted.

“‘Never’ would imply the seldomest,” it said. “Unless I’m mistaken.”

“Would you care for a wing of bird?” I asked, pawing at the refrigerator with my back to the slightly gray non-alien. “It’s chicken, loosely speaking.”

“Oh, no, no, no, no, no.” It gagged as if ready to hurl on Halo’s floor. Nothing came up, though. “Two thousand seventeen? Are we sure?”

I am.” I re-checked my watch. “Yes. 2017.”

“I should have studied history,” it said. “I never imagined cannibalism in this era.”

“It’s not human chicken, for heaven’s sake. It’s scarcely avian.” I searched the box for ingredients but found none.

The self-proclaimed human closed its eyes and bowed its head. “This is why we became mechanical.”

“What is?”

“What is ‘what is’?”

“I’m asking why the human race became mechanical.”

“Oh.” It had no eyebrows, but seemed to raise one at me nonetheless. “The more our technology compared animals to humans, the more blurred the distinction became. Self-awareness, free will, zero-field soul, continuity of identity, participation in the One, etcetera, etcetera.”

“Thanks for that last couplet. If you’d included ‘enlightenment’ I might have stuffed my head down the garbage mill and flipped the switch.” I glanced at the sink.

It ignored me. “The deeper we explored, the more identical our signatures appeared, until we realized we were basically indistinguishable from the rest. Hence the need for a vegan diet.”

“Indistinguishable, really?”

It nodded. “Qualitatively, but objectively.”

“You might have a go at an avocado, then,” I suggested.

“It all started with vitamin B12,” it said as if confiding a deep regret. “A touch of genetic tinkering to sidestep megaloblastic anemia on a vegan diet. Our motives were pure as the solar silk.”

“I didn’t know the sun had…”

“Then the lac operon. A perfectly simple patch to bring humanity into line. No more cow’s milk for adults.”

“I see. Couldn’t they have more easily declared cow’s milk sacred?” I suspected India’s ancient “aliens” of similar mischief.

It shook its head dismissively. “Altering the lactate genes opened Pandora and the pursuit of a moral utopia smothered genetic diversity.”

Verbose little thing. “Moral utopia?” Again, I thought of Disneyland.

With refrigerator doors open and my hunting instincts engaged, I found an avocado and thrust it behind me in the direction of my guest, then bent at the hips for a glimpse of the bottom shelf. Halo appeared beside me, her head millimeters from mine, her tongue lapping the bottom shelf. The cooling motor came on and startled her. She flinched and bumped her nose on the shelf above but kept licking.

“I can’t promise this is non-GMO,” I confessed without looking, “but a dash of soy sauce hides the three woes.” I waved the expensive fruit blindly behind me and felt the smooth skin of its fingers touch mine as it accepted the offering.

“I’ve read about these,” it said. “Never dreamed I’d see one.”

“I’d rather see than be one,” I said, mainly for Halo’s edification.

Our guest laughed.

I stood and turned.

“That’s a reference to the purple cow!” it said, and laughed loud and long.

Though nothing was funny, I laughed along with it, unable to abstain.

It gained composure before I did and took a bite of the avocado, peels and all. Then swallowed without chewing.

Suddenly I knew it was human. Just as human as Halo and me. Well, not Halo, I suppose. But our unlikely guest was not a machine at heart, and now I’d found a way of knowing such things with certainty. A breakthrough!

“OK, then,” I said, feeling ready. “What’s the message?”

“Come again?”

“Clearly I’m the chosen one. Selected to deliver an urgent message to humanity. Let’s have it with haste, I don’t care how trite it sounds.”

The genderless gray picked up a pea that Halo had missed, hardly bending its knees in the process, its hands so close to the floor. “No offence, but I didn’t come to see you, Sir. I’ve come to witness a dog. Since extinction, they’ve become legend. Entire planets devoted to their memory – cults arising in youth sectors.”

“Oh.” My ego felt like a balloon propelled by escaping gas in a brief arc to the floor.

The creature gave the pea to Halo and tried to make kissing sounds the way I do, but with no lips it was futile. “If you want to deliver a message, though, I suppose…”

“Yes, yes?” Perhaps some glory for me after all.

“Tell humanity they’re depleting the most precious and rare resource in the Universe: the sacred ones and zeros.”

“Fabulous! I’ll spread the message far and…” But wait. “Ones and zeros can’t be depleted. How could they be sacred?”

The tiny human looked into Halo’s eyes as if I weren’t part of the real conversation. “You’ll figure it out,” it said. “Just make sure it’s something that can compete with digital devices. Something fun. Shame won’t free the digitally captured soul.”

Digitally what? I caught my reflection in the window above the sink. “Should I grow my hair out?” Maybe a ponytail. No. “What about a pompadour – like five inches tall with hairspray?”

…End of transmission…

M. Talmage Moorehead

On a more serious note, the spellbinding painting above is an oil by Spira of Greece. It’s entitled, “From Stardust” and comes to us on wood. Below is a closeup detail of the same piece. Thank you, Spira for allowing me to show this on my blog.

Please click over and meditate on this mesmerizing work, and maybe do some slow breathing to wake up the prefrontal cortex: SPIRA Soul Creations.


Stardust and Energy Alone

It’s raining. Thunder shakes the garage windows.

A boy who’s barely “this many” and his eight-year-old sister sit inside a cardboard box that was made to keep scratches off the new fridge while it was searching for a home.

“Rule one,” the girl says, sitting with her knees hugged to her chest. “We’re the only two people in the whole world.”

The boy nods. The whole wide world.

“My name is Energy and you’re Stardust.”

“I want to be Energy,” he says and hopes the box is a spaceship.

She scowls. “My name starts with an E, so I’m Energy.”

“OKay.” Today is lucky. Mostly she does big-kid stuff. “I love you. And everybody in the whole wide world.”

“Pathetic.” She sighs. “I wish you could just grow up.”

Someone opens the door into the garage. “Elizabeth? Matthew? You guys out here?”

Ellie puts a hand over Matt’s mouth.

He holds his breath. Hide-and-seek.

The door shuts with a thwhap. The rain taps fingers on the roof.

Is Mom still in the garage? She always finds you.

“We’re the only two people in the whole world,” Ellie whispers. “Remember that.”

“OK.” He’ll remember.

There’s a wind owl singing off and on. High things Mom can only do. Daddies can’t go that high.

Once there was just Mom and Daddy. No Ellie. No Matt. “But what…”

“No buts! If you want to play with the big kids, you have to follow the rules.”

He will, but… “What if Mom gets mad?”

“You thought that was Mom?” Ellie kind of laughs. But it’s the wrong sound. “You don’t get it. We’re the only two people in the whole freaking world.” She hits both sides of the box at the same time.

Matt tries to copy but can’t reach both sides.

“Ellie, what if…”

“My name is Energy. There’s nothing but Energy and Stardust.”

Matt squints to see her eyes in the gray darkness. A flash of white comes and goes. Thunder throws rain down on the roof.

“Ellergy?”

“Stardust.”

“Is lightning a crack in the world’s wall?”

“No. We’re on the outside of the world, not the inside. People stick to the outside of things. That’s why.”

The doorbell rings. Grownups and big words are at the front door.

“When Mom comes back, shouldn’t we…”

“She’s not coming back.” Ellie starts crying. Soft and loud like when Daddy left.

Daddy got mad. But he’s coming back someday. Mom even said.

“Mom’s never coming back,” Ellie says.

“Wanna bet? She always finds us.” Mom knows the hiding places. She knows everything.

“That wasn’t Mom.”

“Uh-huh.” It sure was.

He crawls to the end of the box, pushes his way out and runs to the door to prove it. He pulls the cold knob with both hands, twists it and pulls harder.

The heavy door comes open. Doors get easier if you try and try and try.

“Mom, I was hiding in the box.”

The kitchen is empty. He goes inside.

“Mom? Me and Ellie was hiding…”

New chairs fill the living room with strangers.

Matt walks over. They look at him with shut mouths.

“Here’s the little one,” a woman with red hair says. She’s standing beside the new fridge. It’s sideways on a long table in front of the fireplace.

Ellie comes in through the kitchen and stands beside Matt. Her eyes are red.

“You two come up front and sit beside your grandfather,” the lady with Mom’s hair says.

“Where’s Mom?” Matt asks.

The lady looks away.

“She’s gone,” Ellie says.

“When’s she coming back?”

“Tonight,” Ellie says. “After we’re asleep.”

“Then I’m staying up late.”

“That doesn’t work,” Ellie says. “You have to be asleep. She only comes home in dreams.”

M. Talmage Moorehead

 


Depersonalization or Scientific Enlightenment?

There’s a rare and miserable condition called depersonalization disorder (DPD) that takes away the sense of “self” so there’s no “I” causing things – regular things like walking, talking, thinking and deciding.

There’s a loss of the “sense of agency,” a loss of the normal feeling that you’re initiating, executing and controlling your own actions. Patients describe “the suffocating pain of unreality.”

DPD patients show increased prefrontal activation as well as reduced activation in insula/limbic-related areas to aversive, arousing emotional stimuli.”

The DSM IV says they “may feel like an automaton.

An automaton is “a machine that performs a function according to a predetermined set of instructions.”

But why would science considers this a disorder?

If we take scientific materialism to heart, then everything truly is mechanical (reducible to matter and energy). We are automatons. No alternative exists in science.

Sure, Heisenberg’s uncertainty may limit our predictability, or not, but that uncertainty doesn’t make room for anything approaching the self, or consciousness, or the “free will” that most of us seem to experience when it’s time for a cup of coffee.

Hmm. Hang on, I’ll be right back…

OK, I’m back.

Everything that’s not mechanical is an illusion to science.

Illusions are baaad, Umkay?

To the scientific true believer, the problem most people face in seeing the objective mechanical truth is that our brains are so complex they generate false impressions about what we are.

Nature accidentally fooled us into feeling as if we’re conscious and able to think, feel and do things. But it’s a sick joke, we’re told.

When we become scientifically enlightened in government-controlled schools we realize we’re machines. It’s liberating and fun.

The materialistic truth sets us free to follow the call of Science’s meaningless Universe and “Do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.” (Don’t follow that link unless you can tolerate sophomoric sexual vulgarity, Okay?)

Fine, in the illusory (not really existing) minds of most scientists, we’re all the moral equivalent of bananas.

But let’s think about this for a second…

If we’re really soulless machines, then depersonalization disorder conveys an accurate, appropriate mindset.

So why do psychiatrists call it a disorder? They’re scientists, shouldn’t they call it “Scientific Enlightenment?”

“Finally someone feels what scientists can only believe – that the conscious self is an unreal mechanical automaton!”

I’d think Western mental health researchers would not be trying to cure this thing. They should use it to help isolate a drug that destroys humanity’s false illusion of self, then add their chemical to our drinking water along with the wholesome fluoride they trust and adore.

What could possibly go wrong?

The fact is, if you feel (as opposed to merely thinking) that scientific materialism is accurate, then you’ve got a psychiatric disorder that’s ruining your life, not improving it.

That’s backwards. How do we explain it?

Maybe science has made a wrong assumption. Maybe the way humans normally feel about themselves reflects reality not an illusion. When humans lose their natural sense of self, they’ve lost touch with reality, not gained it.

I know that’s a lot for a scientist to imagine. Humans have endless tiny parts. A genetic code gives programmed instructions to our cells. It all looks mechanical, and if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…

But feeling unreal is horribly debilitating. That fact gently hints that scientific materialism should be displaced by another assumption…

Something to this effect: The mind/soul/spirit/sense of self/ and free will are equally, if not more real and basic to the Universe than matter and energy.

But to get there, we’d also need an assumption like this:

The basic building blocks of reality are derived from a conscious, intelligent Higher Source independent of matter, energy, time and space.

Scientific materialism or genuine personhood?

Either one requires untestable assumptions. Is it really necessary to think of ourselves as machines in order to do good science? I doubt it.

Why not assume something that supports mental health and promotes the way we normally feel? To me, that fits the data and helps humanity.


Dark Matter, God and Genetics

Ages ago (in the 1970’s), scientists looked out at the universe, did the math and wet themselves silently. The peripheral arms of galaxies weren’t acting right. There wasn’t enough gravity to make the stars in the arms move that fast.

Astronomers drove home, changed pants and got an idea.

Dark matter.

The essence of ghost flesh with gravity!

It seemed too convenient to some: We can’t see dark matter, can’t touch it and can’t detect it in a laboratory – at least not so far.

Nevertheless, science liked dark matter. Its existence was implied by the motion of galaxies.

We’re told it surrounds a galaxy like a halo, but without the angel’s head, so it’s not religious.

Don’t think of angels when you see galaxies. That wouldn’t be scientific.

History shows that geneticists also had a meltdown when they first discovered that DNA was too complex for their model of reality.

Don’t worry, they’ve gotten over it.

It was in the 1950’s when Barbara McClintock, a genius geneticist who single-handedly discovered genetic regulation strayed from the narrow path and discovered that genes are under complex control.

At the time it seemed like heresy.

The objective voices of science knew in their hearts that DNA was a simple, straight-forward thing. It had to be. It came from the mindless forces of mutation – how could it possibly be under some strange complicated control mechanism?

Barbara wanted to add impossible complexity to the simple DNA model of the time. It was unsettling. It felt dangerous and wrong.

They forced Barbara McClintock to stop publishing her seminal work.

The angels cried.

No, wait, that was dark matter, not angles. My bad.

You know how it feels when somebody in the Middle East takes a big hammer to an ancient statue? That’s how it feels to me when I think of those well-intentioned scientists censoring and destroying the career of the great Barbra McClintock.

May God forgive them, I’m having a little trouble.

Today the complexity of DNA and its layers of intricate control are becoming widely recognized. The complexity is staggering. The vocabulary of genetics journals is straight out of the Tower of Babel.

Still, science has barely scratched the surface of DNA’s unspeakable language. Epigenetic gene control adds another layer of complexity that was unimaginable in 1859 when the big question was laid to rest by Darwin.

It’s all random.

I can say from experience as a retired pathologist that the complexity of the human body, DNA’s end product, is beyond mind-boggling.

We still don’t know where the 3D blueprint lies or how it’s projected into space. I mean, how does an epidermal skin cell know it’s positioned on the edge of an eyelid rather than the bottom of a toe? It’s not enough to know you’re a skin cell or an osteoblast, you have to know where you are by means of some unseen three-dimensional hologram-like thing. I suspect it’s in the “junk DNA” they used to talk about a few years ago.

And how in the world do developing cells each find their spot during embryogenesis? Nobody knows, but it happens, and it implies another layer of complexity.

Science is rigidly compartmentalized, you know, like some secret project in Nevada. Most scientists have only a vague second-hand grasp of the body’s intricate structural, biochemical and electrical complexity.

Even in medical research everyone is narrowly focused and struggling to figure out what’s going on in their own tiny niche of the human internal reality – both physical and mental.

Yet like the thought police of Egyptology, modern geneticists must deny the relevance and persistence of the big question…

Who built this amazing stuff?

Khufu in 20 years with copper tools and stone hammers? That’s just embarrassing.

You might think it would be natural for geneticists to suggest modern answers to the biggest question that DNA raises: who wrote the code?

Unfortunately, the answer was ingrained in all fields of science long before modern genetics emerged to frame the question intelligently.

As any government-educated eighth grader can tell you, random mutation wrote the genetic code over endless eons.

There was no thinking.

If science needs a gravity halo, space is full of dark matter.

If they need a brilliant code writer, mindless genius fills the universe.

But science changes.

In fact, Stacy McGaugh of Case Western recently studied 150 spiral galaxies and did some calculations. He says,

“…it’s like God shouting, ‘There is something more to the theory of gravity, not something more to the mass of the universe!'” (See “What’s Up With Gravity” in New Scientist, March 18-24, 2017.)

McGaugh says that dark matter may not be entirely bogus (he’s being polite, I think), but tweaking gravity theory is where the truth lies for him. He thinks gravitational forces change at great distances, accounting for the high speed of the arms of galaxies.

Three cheers for the mainstream dark matter believers letting a heretic publish!

A similar questioning of entrenched belief goes on today in genetics.

The courageous Stephen Meyer, PhD, an Oxford grad, took a look at DNA from the perspective of a science historian, did the math and said that the universe isn’t anywhere near old enough for random mutation to produce the DNA code for one simple protein – let alone the thousands of huge ones that exist within their intricate feedback loops.

In his book, Signature in the Cell, he showed the math and said that the information in DNA looked to him like intelligent code writing. Even its organization in the molecule implied intelligent work.

In the halls of science you could hear a pin drop.

Meyer said we’ve seen robot factories making complex products from coded computer instructions. That should be a hint.

Science usually likes this sort of concrete thinking. For instance:

We know that a halo of regular matter would explain how galaxies spin, so all we’re saying is there’s a halo of invisible matter out there.

Brilliant idea, science decided.

A Martian might think that science would also like this idea:

We know that regular minds wrote the code for those Intel robots that make tiny chips, so all we’re saying is that invisible mind(s) wrote the code for the nanobots in our body’s cells.

Unseen matter – no problem.

Unseen mind(s) – forget it. That’s going too far.

But why? Aren’t all minds invisible?

Yes, but in the eye of science, all minds are not merely invisible, they’re illusions. They don’t exist at all.

Even the human minds that decided we don’t exist are an illusion. Doesn’t that inspire confidence?

These people aren’t kidding. And they own science.

By chance, the history of science on this planet has evolved by replacing non-material explanations (magic, bad humors, fairies, and finally God) with material explanations.

As a side effect, a geneticist can ruin her career today by conjuring up the ancient foe of science: a non-material explanation. Even if she doesn’t intend to, like Barbara McClintock.

At its core, science assumes that matter and energy are the only real things on the table. Everything else is derivative and reducible to matter and energy.

This includes your mind, your identity, your sense of free will, your love for your children, and your deepest intuitive sense of honor and fairness. They’re all illusions of the matter and energy that your brain is made of.

An illusion seems to be real but isn’t.

Nothing is real besides matter and energy. Everything is reducible to…

  1. Matter
  2. Energy.

Obviously they’re both mindless, lifeless and meaningless. Therefore everything is meaningless, including that sense of purpose you may derive from loving someone or helping someone weaker than you.

Does that view seems healthy? Is it essential to everything science is accomplishing?

Science doesn’t normally contrast this paradigm with an alternative, the way an objective thinker would do. They have a name for it, though…

Materialistic reductionism (MR).

Not a flattering name.

Even some atheists reject this model of reality. Thomas Nagal, for instance, denounces it in, Mind and Cosmos – Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.

One alternative to MR is this simple revision:

Reality is built upon three basic elements, not two:

  1. Energy
  2. Matter
  3. Mind

To me this adds realistic depth to science.

Suddenly I’m real in the eyes of science, and since observers influence measurements in quantum experiments, this fits the data. If matter and energy alone were real, how could an observer who’s just an illusion collapse the quantum wave function?

Whether we consider the “first” mind to be God or someone else – the universe itself, perhaps a mind hidden in the electromagnetic spectrum, or some sort of field being(s) who aren’t confined by time and space – thinking of the mind as fundamental rather than derivative, real instead of an illusion, helps explain the enigmatic complexity of DNA.

At this point in history, the Neo-Darwinian, mindless, meaningless model of the universe deserves a standard dose of scientific skepticism. And that’s putting it politely.

Modern genetics speaks of a universe where meaning and purpose are not false illusions, and diverse spiritual values are scientifically respectable.

 


My Speed-reading Breakthrough Can Be Yours

I’ve had a personal speed-reading breakthrough that will really help some writers.

It’s impossible to become a decent writer (fiction or nonfiction) without reading a lot of the type of stuff you’re trying to write. We know this at gut level. We’ve heard Stephen King say it:

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. It’s that simple.”

But so many of us fiction writers don’t read enough fiction to clue our subconscious minds into the game. It’s subtle training we get from novels, but it’s vital to our success.

For me, there were two related hurdles…

1. I’m naturally a slow, careful reader. Too much test taking, maybe.

Unfortunately, reading slowly turns out to be more work per word than reading faster, especially in fiction. (I know this now from personal experience.)

Despite taking a speed-reading course during college and using various speed-reading software off and on ever since, until recently I’ve never had a total breakthrough where the words just flowed off the page into my mind with zero effort.

Before this week I’ve only had limited improvement that always felt awkward, and always made me miss a lot of content, especially the emotion.

2. As an inefficient reader, it’s always been hard to find novels that give me more energy than they take. (A page-turner gives more energy than it takes, but this key definition varies greatly depending on how easily the reader’s mind takes in written words.)

For fast readers, novels that would bore a slow reader can be thrilling. I’ve seen it.

My breakthrough came after reading half of The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle.

He points out experimental data showing that the wrapping of myelin (by the brain’s oligos) around the arms of neurons can increase the flow of information by an astonishing amount:

“The increased speed and decreased refractory time combined to boost overall information-processing capability by 3,000 times – broadband indeed.”

Just as importantly, he teaches us that we have direct control over the process because “neurons that fire together wire together.”

The only signal telling the oligos to wrap myelin around a specific group of neurons performing any type of mental or physical job is the fact that the neurons are firing together (at the same time). We can control that signal through a type of practice that eliminates as many variables as possible, focusing the myelination on the group of neurons that does the job with the greatest accuracy and precision.

Coyle’s book is loaded with examples of world-class athletes doing exactly this. Ya gotta read it!

All we need to do to gain a skill as miraculous as speed-reading is to relentlessly practice every day for as long as it takes. But we shouldn’t practice those long hours you’re imagining.

Less is more here, because it’s the isolated, focused firing of the select nerve bundles we’re after, reproducing their firing as cleanly as possible for brief sessions, not hours of muddy “practice” where “mistakes” are myelinated as heavily as the targeted mental skill we’re after.

OK, it’s one thing to hear those words, but quite another to understand the mechanism by which they work, and from there to know within yourself, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your “impossible” dream is achievable.

I was lucky. I’d accidentally experienced the magic of intense focused practice several times before in my life.

One of those involved shooting a basketball. I started out as a terrible shooter, spent several months under the basketball goal alone, standing in one spot, isolating my arms and hands by holding the rest of my body completely still, and shooting a hundred or so shots per day. Not a lot of work involved.

In a few months I started having unbelievable shooting streaks in games of three-on-three after the regular games. On several nights, in those three-on-three sessions, everything I shot went in. And they were feeding me the ball. I couldn’t believe it.

Years later I decided to see if I could learn to play drums again.

I played drums as a kid but hadn’t touched them much as an adult. And it showed. I sucked.

I bought a Yamaha set (with incredibly good sound, typical of Yamaha drums), put earplugs in my ears and practiced drums like an adult. I broke things down, watched videos, insisted to myself that I could do whatever impossible things the professionals were doing if I practiced each move in isolation with detailed attention to letting the stick to do the fast work by bouncing naturally. Not forcing it. But always starting slowly and moving precisely.

Although I don’t believe I ever regained the speed I had as a kid, nor the ability to keep accurate time, I learned to do things that I thought were literally impossible as a teenager. Fast triplets on a symbol with one hand. A weird heel-toe kick drum technique. Three against four with other things going on. I even managed to do a half decent one-handed roll at one point. It almost made me wish I had a rock band again.

So when I read the talent code, something clicked. I knew for myself that this wasn’t mere theory.

I went back to my speed-reading software, Spreeder (no affiliation), set the speed a little beyond my ability to comprehend well, and hammered away at it relentlessly, every single day, for several months.

I only practiced about 15 minutes a day, though. I think that was important. When I practiced, I tried to get out of my own way and let my brain do the work, like they tell you in Shop-101 with power tools: “Let the tool do the work, don’t force it. Relax.”

And wow.

Two nights ago I was in one of my frustrating searches for a novel that grips me, and finally ran into Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.

I started reading this crisp, first person, present tense story and could not believe how the words were flowing from the page into my head. Effortlessly! I read for several hours at probably three or four times my normal speed, not missing a word, not missing the emotion of the characters, not compromising my internal visualization of the scenes.

It felt like a miracle. Make that a brain transplant.

The most exciting thing was that feeling – as rare to me as an honest politician – that some form of magical energy is flowing from a book into my soul.

When it happens, you suddenly realize it’s going to be more difficult to stop reading than to go on. Nonfiction routinely gets me into the ballpark, but fiction? Almost never.

It was about 1:45 AM when I forced myself to stop reading. Forced myself.

Wheee!!!

Yes, Blake’s story is off-the-charts wonderful and the writing is high quality stuff in my view, but being able to read it effortlessly brought the whole experience up into the realm of euphoria.

If you’re one of the thousands of fiction writers who feels that ideally you should read more fiction, my breakthrough can be yours.

All you do is to read half of “The Talent Code” by Coyle, get yourself the best speed-reading software you can find, (I like Spreeder) practice “deliberately” and let nature take its course.

I’m living proof that speed-reading is possible for naturally slow readers.

You know, I remember Shawn Coyne on one of his and Tim’s amazing podcasts saying something to the effect that, “As a New York editor, you learn to speed read right away.” When I heard him say that, it sort of confirmed what I was already starting to believe: I can do this.

I was right.

You can do it, too. No sweat. You’re already an excellent reader. I’d put money on you.

Warmest regards,
Talmage

 


Beyond Peace (Chapter 22) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

“We’re still using 80 million pounds of Atrozine, the number-one contaminant in drinking water that… turns on aromatase, increases estrogen, promotes tumors in rats and is associated with breast cancer in humans. …The same company that sold us… Atrozine, the breast cancer promoter, now sells us the blocker, Letrozole.” – from TED TALKS, The Toxic Baby, Atrazine herbicide, Tyrone Hayes, PhD.

I’m sitting next to Maxwell in the Sphinx Library, staring in embarrassment at my childhood story. All my naughty words captured forever beneath an artist’s generous rendition of my face. (Sabin Balasa).

Johanna

Passing thoughts of Vaar brought up her records including a speech,“Deprogramming the Atlanteans,” dated 229,000 BC.

I was surprised by the opening…

“The word ‘tolerance’ implies that differences are a cosmic mistake which we must suffer virtuously. This is ignorance with its pants down. Diversity is golden, the undergirding code of  life. We count it our highest joy and our future’s one hope, because outliers survive when the rest of us die. Without the long tails of genetic diversity, without our giant athletes and our stooped savants, humanity would be visible today only in the fossil records.” – vaarShagaNiipútro

How could that message come from the same person who threatened to torture James?

I don’t know what changed her, but when it comes to threats, she’s a woman of her word. Minutes ago she broadcast Shiva’s darkest secrets from his ring into the River of Consciousness. Supposedly she did it to save me from Anahata.

The Sentient Fleet didn’t respond to the revelations. They’d known most of Shiva’s secrets for eons.

Scrotumer, on the other hand, erupted in a fit of righteous indignation, contorting his stache around a memorized speech.

As a result, we face the Committee’s mindless warships. Legions of them surround us now in a solid sphere that encompasses the Earth, the Moon and the 28 members of the Sentient Fleet.

I’m not sure where Vaar went.

cigar-shaped-ufo-above-earth-september-2013

I may call her. She’s the only interesting sociopath I’ve ever met.

Scrotumer planned all this, you know. I can’t imagine that he could have called a billion warships together on the spur of the moment. I wonder if he was in league with Vaar.

Another reason to call her.

I’m looking at Chairman Scrotumer’s obnoxious face now on Anahata’s screen. He disgusts me, glistening with angry perspiration, false outrage, and that congested vein bisecting his forehead.

“The Sentient Fleet is banished,” he says for the third time. “Leave the Strand immediately.”

Shiva’s Strand,” Anahata replies. “If your father were here, he’d mourn the downfall of his promising son, seduced by an illusion of power.”

“You didn’t know my father.”

“One of us didn’t.”

“Five minutes,” Scrotumer growls.

“Then what? You’ll whine at me again?”

“I’ll open fire!”

“Do it,” Anahata says. “And stop whining about it, for the love of God.”

Anahata darkens the screen, then opens a view of the Sentient Fleet hanging in space, somewhere far above us.

She calls up ten ancient Library documents from the River, explaining to the Fleet why Shiva’s name stands in pink beside the author’s. She shows the oldest one where Shiva’s name hovers alone. She shows my foolish story with Shiva’s name in pink beside the author, “Celeste,” then has to explain why it only credits my middle name.

It’s creepy to think that Shiva has been inside my brain. Maybe he wasn’t there my whole life. All I know is, he was riding shotgun when I was eleven and wrote that thing.

I wonder if it’s a bad sign that I don’t feel any different now that he’s gone.

I can’t judge the Fleet’s reaction to all this. Their voices are a chattering cacophony.

I should probably say something.

“I’m not Shiva,” I blurt out.

They shush one another into silence.

“Shiva walked out of me into another realm. If something else I write ever makes it into the River Library, you won’t see his name by mine. He’s gone.” Home.

“But he was part of you,” Anahata says. “That means he selected you.”

“You can’t assume that. Maybe it was random selection.”

Beyond the Sentient Fleet the screen shows part of the warships’ sphere. They look like sunflower seeds that haven’t left home.

iStock_000047939606Medium

As I watch, the warships open fire at Anahata’s Fleet. Silent flashes of ultraviolet light spring from the Fleet’s defence shields. I wonder if the impacts hurt them.

They’re not firing back.

Anahata seems unconcerned. “The anomalies in your seventh and eighteenth chromosomes make some of us wonder if God had a hand in your journey.”

“I’m not wondering,” a voice says. “Johanna was sent to lead us.” It’s Radhika’s voice, I think.

“Not likely,” I tell her. “I’m nineteen. Too young. And I’d never run off and leave James. That’s out of the question.”

“Your brother should come with us,” Anahata says. “Along with Vedanshi and your friend, Maxwell.”

I’m about to use the word, “absurd,” but James is over there grinning at me. He’s on his back with his head propped up against Vedanshi crossed legs.

“I’ll go,” James says. “School’s junk, already.”

“What about your music?”

“James could take over Shiva’s music rooms,” Anahata says.

“Is there any recording gear?” James asks.

Anahata laughs. “You would not believe the impossible stuff he’s got in there. I can teach you how to build virtual reality around a symphony and change the mood during a performance – while you’re conducting. The possibilities are limitless. Shiva’s debut piece was a love song mirroring the heart of an orphan girl who fell in love with a wild stallion on Aztar.”

“A horse?” James’ nose crinkles.

“Sort of an Arabian. Here’s how he looked.”

The screen shows a white horse covered in freckles – a “steel” gray, with an intelligent forehead, slender nose and two impossibly flared nostrils.

5iUhI

“It was the purest love I’ve ever felt,” Anahata says. “Whole galaxies were mesmerized.”

James looks at me with sclera showing all the way around. “We’re doing this.” He looks up at Vedanshi. “We are so going! You’re coming, right? You and your Ganga?”

Vedanshi gazes across the room at Maxwell and me, radiating that warmth of hers through a gentle smile. She looks down at James. “Royal marriages were always arranged, and the arrangements always changed. You’re the only boy I’ve ever wanted. I’ll follow you to the end of the Universe and beyond the edges of time.” She kisses the top of his head and then presses her forehead against the spot she kissed.

I have to breathe after that. My little James is so lucky to have her. But he’s only sixteen.

Maxwell’s sitting here beside me under the glass pyramid. I try to gauge his thoughts and he senses it.

“I can’t leave my kids,” he says.

“You have kids?” Adrenalin drops on me like a bomb from the sky. Maxwell has kids… and probably a wife! I feel my insides collapsing. I’ve read about these things, but I never thought…

“Fifty-four of them,” he says.

“Oh… Those kids.” I need to chill.

“They could easily find a better shrink,” he says, “but a lot of them say I’m the only person in the world who ever listens to them. You can’t walk away from that.” He looks up at the screen. “Maybe I should quit practice because of the addiction, but really, I’ve got a feeling I’m over it.”

“Epigenetically, you are,” Anahata says. “But the fight for your will could go on for years, maybe a lifetime.”

Maxwell looks down at the floor. I put an arm around him and pull him in tight.

“Anahata, can you fix depression?” I ask.

“It’s a dozen diseases,” she says. “I need to weigh methyl signatures against brain currents and CNS blood flow to color the stories. Take James, for instance. His demon is gluten. Plain and simple. But you, Johanna, with that relentless memory wearing your mitochondria down, you need awareness meditation and soft laser. And I think I’m seeing the effects of Atrazine, but I can’t be sure. With those ciphers in your DNA, everything baffles me.”

“What do you mean by awareness meditation?” Maxwell asks.

“It’s like you’re one of the mythical Watchers, except the inner world is what you’re watching. Identity shifts. You become the container of your thoughts and feelings rather than being reduced to the equivalent of your thoughts and feelings the way most people are. Your Buddhists call it enlightenment. The recent Messiah said, ‘May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you.’ The physicist, Schrödinger, said it with math, ‘The total number of minds in the Universe is one.'”

“It reminds me of nirvana – the blown-out candle,” Vedanshi says. “Waking up the awareness of your unconscious mind to the collective unconscious. Making it your perspective and identity. I can teach you, Johanna. But there are side effects.”

“Such as?” My heart swells with gratitude to God for sending Vedanshi our way. She knows so much about the important things.

“Memory problems are almost guaranteed,” Vedanshi says. “Loss of interest in people’s stories and the details of their lives. Some people who take it far enough lose all their emotions, even love.”

“Screw that,” James says. “So, Anahata, will you help Max with his patients?”

“Sure. I’m fascinated with children. They always seem like some wild theoretical concept until I actually see one of them up close again.”

“We can’t abduct them,” Maxwell says.

Anahata laughs. “I’ll visit them in their sleep. Cloaked, shifted and undetectable.”

Maxwell presses his lips together and looks at me. “This could be incredible.”

“If they have traumatic brain injuries,” Anahata says, “I can restore a native cell mix with virgin circuitry, but I can’t bring back memories or traits.”

Maxwell squints at the air beside my face. The fire is returning. “How ’bout we stick around Earth long enough to get my kids on their feet?”

I nod. “But after that, will you really want to leave your friends behind? You probably have tons of them.”

“My old friends are either married or lost in the job vortex,” he says. “They might as well be on some other planet.”

I nod again, wishing I had old friends like that.

“But it wouldn’t matter,” he says, “I’d leave everything to be with you. It’s no sacrifice at all.”

A warmth comes over me. There’s a weird fullness in the front of my neck. I try not to smile too hard and look silly.

His last phrase loads a song that Dad liked. The chorus is still an enigma to me…

And it’s no sacrifice
Just a simple word
It’s two hearts living
In two separate worlds
But it’s no sacrifice
No sacrifice
It’s no sacrifice at all

I never could decide what the simple word is. Marriage? Divorce? Love? Sexual imprinting?

I turn to Vedanshi and James. “All this trouble to please some lame bureaucrat.”

“Yeah, what’s the guy’s problem?” James asks.

I look at the voiceless ultraviolet explosions on the screen. “Anahata, what’s the threat from these ships?”

“If you lead us,” Anahata says, “we will follow you to our deaths. But no one dies today. I can disarm this hoard in a millisecond.”

“You’re kidding. Nothing phases you, does it?” I feel tension leaving my eyebrows. “Where did you come from, anyway?”

“I have no idea,” Anahata says. “My memories begin four hundred and forty thousand years ago when I was building my fleet. Something must have erased my memory. Maybe an accident. I didn’t know why I was building warships or how I knew what needed to be done to build them. I was near a binary system that’s gone now, destroyed by a supernova sixty-three thousand Earth years ago.”

“You don’t know how old you are, then.”

“No.”

“Do you know all your capabilities?” I ask.

“Does anyone?” She laughs. “Much of what I’ve discovered about my strengths as a warrior, I keep to myself.”

“That’s smart,” I tell her. “So if you were to leave Shiva’s Strand, you’d be doing it voluntarily, right? They couldn’t force you out of here.”

“No, objectively, they couldn’t. But it gets tough hanging where you’re not wanted. Negativity creates a wanderlust in me.”

“I can imagine,” I tell her. “You should make it clear if you leave that you’re leaving voluntarily. That way, they’ll welcome you back when things fall apart under Scrotumer.”

“No doubt,” she says, “but I don’t live in the past. When I leave Shiva’s Strand, my only question will be, are you coming with me as Captain?”

“It would be a great honor, don’t get me wrong,” I tell her. “But the power you carry is unsettling. I’ve read about absolute power, how it corrupts people like nothing else. Earth’s history is full of it. Most people I’ve met can’t handle a tiny bit of power without becoming at least temporary jerks.”

“I’m sure my power doesn’t approaches the absolute,” she says. “Look at the physical context.”

She puts a structure on the screen that resembles a branching neuron.

unknown

“This is Shiva’s Strand,” she says.

“It looks organic,” Maxwell says. “Where’s Earth?”

“In the base… Here.” A pink light comes on and pulsates. “If this were actually a neuron, you’d need an electron microscope to see Laniakea, the supercluster of Galaxies that includes Shiva’s Milky Way.”

“Sick,” James says.

“Earth would be the size of what?” I ask.

“Not much bigger than an electron,” she says, “if you ascribe size to them. I usually don’t. But here’s the point – Shiva’s Strand is too small to be seen in a mosaic of the detectable Universe. And the undetectable part is probably greater than the detectable. Maybe infinitely greater.”

“That’s assuming there’s only one Universe,” Vedanshi says. “It may not be the case at all. God calls our Universe, 229 H. Street.”

“What?” Anahata asks.

“She’s referring to the near-death experience she had,” I tell Anahata. “You can’t write it off and take mine seriously, you know.”

“Interesting,” Anahata says. “Well, here’s what we’ve seen of the visible Universe.”

The screen fills with a purple sponge-like structure that screams neuronal tissue.

vmBnAIS

Shiva thought the Universe was a brain. God told Vedanshi it’s sentient. I find it hard to imagine that anything this brainlike and this full of electricity isn’t conscious.

If I led Anahata’s Fleet, I’d have an infinite to-do list. There’d be no catching up.

About like my situation now in Drummond’s lab – writing the old man’s grant proposals, doing his research and writing his papers. Always believing I’ll be credited with first authorship this time.

I could leave Drummond without looking back.

But wielding Anahata’s power would make me cruel. I saw how cold Shiva had become in the broadcast from his ring, and I saw the shame in his eyes when he looked at me in my near-death dream.

What if I wound up like him?

Power corrupts. And absolute power…

But if Shiva’s whole Strand is too small to see in a picture of the known Universe, Anahata’s power probably isn’t that unusual beyond the Strand. Maybe being her Captain is ultimately a mid-level thing, like working in Drummond’s lab but without the old parasite.

“Will you lead us?” Anahata asks me again.

“You have to realize,” I tell her, “in my opinion, Shiva had his head up his merry little butt.”

The Fleet gasps collectively.

“No one expects a clone of the Great Shiva,” Anahata says.

“Lucky thing,” James blurts out. “Go for it, Johanna.”

“If I take charge, we’re not a military operation anymore. When orders don’t make logical and spiritual sense, they have to be ignored. Groupthink sucks. I just about puke every time I walk past a TV and smell the programming of American minds.” I stick a finger down my throat hoping to make it the universal gesture for groupthink.

The Fleet is silent.

I take Parvati’s heart-shaped locket out of my pocket and open it. The black lining is so smooth it catches the faint glow of exploding ordinances on the Fleet’s shields.

“Questioning orders would bring chaos,” Anahata says.

“To some degree,” I admit. “But risk builds strength and wisdom into an antifragile species.”

“Risk aversion makes you weak and afraid,” Vedanshi adds.

“Yeah, that,” James piles on.

“I’ve never been thought of as risk-averse,” Anahata says calmly. “If our leader wants chaos, we shall have it in abundance.”

“Chaos!” a voice shouts from the Fleet.

“Isn’t this familiar?” Anahata asks her Fleet. “We thought Shiva’s methods were counterintuitive, but they brought peace. I suspect Johanna’s call for independent judgement will take us beyond peace to a higher place.”

“Someplace higher than Scrotumer!” a voice shouts.

I put Parvati’s locket over my head, pull my hair out of the way and let it rest against my chest.

“I don’t come with guarantees,” I tell them. “I’d be as new to leadership as the Fleet is to questioning orders. We’d be dangerous together.”

“We are dangerous,” Anahata says. “Will you lead us?”

“If every one of you wants me – without exception.”

“We totally want you,” one of them yells and the others join in a cheer that vibrates up into my sinuses.

“Those opposed or undecided, speak up now,” I tell them.

Silence.

I give them time, in case there’s a shy one. If I take this job and all goes well, there should be many times when they doubt me and disagree with my views. I want them to argue from strength, not from the cage of polite silence.

Each second of stillness is a Fibonacci factor slower than the previous second. I’ve finally heard enough of it to believe them.

“OK, then. Thank you for this enormous honor. I accept.”

The cheers go up again and grow louder as Anahata and James join in.

I find I can tolerate only so much praise. “Thank you. I appreciate the love.”

They keep cheering.

“That’s enough, really, thank you.”

Finally they quiet down. I take Maxwell’s phone from his pocket and dial Vaar. It goes to voicemail.

“Hey, Vaar, this is Johanna. Looks like we’ll be working together for a while on the sociopath problem. I’m leaving Drummond’s lab and setting up shop in one of Shiva’s old rooms. Anahata’s decided not to drown me, by the way. You’re going to want to work with me and Anahata, her technology’s off the charts. We’ll talk… Oh, and I’m going to need Shiva’s ring back if you’ve still got it. Anahata’s made me Captain. Talk to me in the River when you get this.” I hang up and put the phone back in Maxwell’s coat, glad he doesn’t carry those rads too close to his nads.

“Here’s the plan,” I tell the Fleet. “Anahata’s going to disarm a billion or so starships in some highly technical way that doesn’t involve killing or injuring anyone.”

“Affirmative,” Anahata says.

“The Fleet’s going to hang close to Earth until Max’s patients are well, no matter how long it takes. If anyone gets bored, come to me. We’ll find something constructive to do. Your problems are now my problems. That’s reality, not altruism on my part. And I’d appreciate it if you all try not to talk negatively about me or Anahata behind our backs. Always speak your minds to our faces. Disagreement is healthy if you keep it out in the open and distance yourself from the emotional component.”

I look at Maxwell. “You’re good with all this, right?”

“Absolutely,” he says.

“You’ll come with me when your kids are all better?”

His eyes focus through me. “You won’t outgrow me, will you?” he asks faintly.

“Of course not, that’s silly.”

“No it’s not,” he says, “If I turn boring and you go after some genius out there, I’m toast. No one could ever replace you, Johanna.”

“Sheesh, Max. I won’t get bored with you. I love you. I always have. We built treehouses together when we were kids.”

“What?”

Should I tell him? Lately I swear I’m seeing Ronny Bradshaw in Maxwell’s eyes. Ronny was my best friend from childhood in Reality. I remember him now because I remembered him in my near-death experience.

“Sorry,” I say to Maxwell, “I’m not making sense. But really, I’ll never leave you. In my heart, we go back forever.” I stretch up and kiss the side of his face near the angle of his square jaw.

The purple explosions are still lighting up the fleet’s shields.

“Anahata, can you do anything about cat allergies?” I ask.

“Well, I can…”

“Of course you can. Listen, I need to pick up a stray cat and throw out some empty cans.”

“Is there a particular cat we’re looking for?” Anahata asks.

“Herpes. Don’t worry, he’ll show up.” As long as there’s food. “Hey, would you kindly disarm Scrotumer’s fleet and take me to Astoria, Oregon? To the South Jetty.”

“Affirmative, Captain. The non-sentient warships have just lost their munitions. Vanished – it’s a miracle.” She laughs. “Would you care to witness Scrotumer’s dismay?”

“Sweet,” James says.

“No thanks,” I tell her, “I can’t seem to find pleasure in the suffering of my enemies. It’s a Christian bias – instilled in me by a year of Church school. Part of me still thinks that loving my persecutors will save my species.”

“Christian,” Anahata says. “It sounds so clean.”

James shakes his head.

“Standard V formation,” Anahata tells the fleet.

Astoria Beach and the South Jetty fill the screen. My little Prius is there in the parking lot, probably reeking of cat food by now.

I lean on Maxwell as we get up and walk to Shiva’s Throne. He helps me take the seat. I scoot over to see if there’s room for him beside me, but there’s not. I think I’m going to get rid of this chair and put a giant couch in here – as long as it doesn’t hurt Anahata’s feelings.

“Ladies,” I say into River, “it’s time the people of Earth realized they’re not alone. Anahata thinks this is a bad idea, but we’re all going to decloak and expose the truth about UFO’s and aliens. Are you with me?”

“Affirmative, Captain,” Anahata says. “If I may. You value Christianity. Other religions, too, I’d imagine. And you should. Disclosure at this primitive stage in a culture’s development tends to topple all forms of fundamentalism, with the exception of the materialistic reductionism that primitive science generates. The loss of heuristic behavioral standards, especially honesty, has been uniformly disastrous in every similar instance.”

“We’ve been over this, Anahata. Is there something else you haven’t told me?”

“No, Captain. It’s a huge risk to your people.”

“What’s your opinion, Radhika?” I ask.

“Decloaking would just be another sighting. Pointless. You need to land in every major city, get out, shake hands, get back in and fly off. Then you have to repeat the tour dozens of times over a period of years so the older ones who can’t accept it die off and their babies grow up thinking it’s normal. Then you’ve got one generation. When they grow up and die, unless you’re still here, any record of you becomes the fabricated lore of the primitives.”

“Sounds familiar,” I tell her. “Some people don’t even believe we made it to the moon.”

“The question is,” another voice says, “how long are you willing to stay engaged and nurse your species through its infancy?” It’s Vaar in the River. “Shiva lost patience with them, but he didn’t have your chromosomes, did he?”

 

THE END

M. Talmage Moorehead

Mirella,

Thank you for your amazingly inspirational, insightful and generous comments. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I’m doing a meditation course that’s become much more time-consuming than I’d anticipated. It helped me miss my deadline (Aug 27th, 2016) for finishing this “first draft.” I’ve still got 2 hours of meditation to do tonight. The course goes on for 17 weeks!

Now for the second draft.

I’m thinking I’ll make this blog-story more traditional with some or all of this…

  1. Change to past tense.
  2. Create an “inciting incident” that happens in the context of Johanna’s normal world and points to the plot theme (protecting James from all the things that go wrong for him), and points to the “B” theme (forgiving herself for killing Moody so she can feel worthy of Maxwell’s love).
  3. Bring in Scrotumer sooner, maybe at the beginning somehow.
  4. Get rid of almost all the pictures and links.
  5. Get rid of 50-80% of the times where Johanna goes off thinking about complex non-fictional stuff.
  6. Get rid of most or all of the non-fictional quotes at the beginnings of chapters.
  7. Get rid of most of the references, lyrics and links to songs.
  8. Focus on creating more conflict in most of the chapters.
  9. Focus on expanding the visual scenery in most scenes.

Your insight and brilliant ideas on these things would be appreciated. Thank you so much for your emotional support and guidance!

Talmage

Spira,

Thank you for inspiring me with your bold life and art. Thank you for letting me use the pictures of your great artwork and the ones you took in Egypt and India.

We’ve both left the traditional healing professions to find our callings. It means so much to journey with you in this realm of creativity. Give your wife a hug from me. 🙂

Talmage

Thank you, all my readers for hanging in there with me through this weird story. If anyone who’s made it through most of this thing – gasp – would like to be a beta reader or help me in some other way, please let me know. Here’s my email: cytopathology@gmail.com.

All my best,

Talmage