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Monday, July 18, 2016

Modern Era Fortune Tellers

Today is a revisit to a post from May 9th, 2013.

When growing up I lost myself in the great works of the Science Fiction masters. Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clark and H.G. Wells were some of my favorites. I would thrust the limits of alertness of my ravenous adolescent mind into the wee hours of every summer morning devouring the futuristic imagery these masters painted upon the canvas of my imagination.

I remember how excited I became when I read in Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, “And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind.” As the words played across the page before my weary and blurry eyes my brain pictured a Walkman, the same make and model of the one that lay beside me, as I read by dim night table lamplight. My tired brain did not make the connection until much later that this man had predicted the invention of my little hand held radio in 1953 over a quarter of a century before the first model was ever assembled. Within the same work Bradbury envisioned the death of newspapers and the ubiquitous presence of television screens everywhere, all of which is taking place in our modern day society.

That was the night my twelve year old mind formed the epiphany; Science Fiction writers are the fortune tellers of our age. I read Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon the summer after and I was captivated at the precise predictions he made about the first Apollo Moon Mission over a century before the first rocket launched from Cape Canaveral. This Science Fiction prophet predicted the United States would launch a ship made of mostly aluminum from the Florida Peninsula carrying three spacemen into orbit. This book was published in 1865. He correctly envisioned the feeling of weightlessness these men would feel after escaping our planets gravity. He then went on to predict their capsule splashed down into the Pacific Ocean where it was recovered by a U.S. Navy vessel. Kinda eerie is it not?

In 1914 H.G. Well's  book Set the World on Fire accurately prophesized nuclear weapons. The author knew a little about radioactive decay but had no idea man would figure out how to blow it all up at once. In this novel he actually coined the term "atomic bomb" decades before the first uranium bomb was tested. He also imagined the aftermath of a detonation in this following passage: "In the map of nearly every country of the world three or four or more red circles, a score of miles in diameter, mark the position of the dying atomic bombs and the death areas that men have been forced to abandon around them. Within these areas perished museums, cathedrals, palaces, libraries, galleries of masterpieces and a vast accumulation of human achievement, whose charred remains lie buried, a legacy of curious material that only future generations may hope to examine."

We all know the modern notion of Star Trek predicting the cellular phone. Pretty impressive yes, but, did you know that Mark Twain predicted the internet in 1898? His Adventures of Huck Fin and Tom Sawyer over-shadowed his dabbling in Science Fiction, but, in a short story titled From the London Times of 1904 Twain wrote about a device he called a Telelectrosope, “…the daily doings of the globe made visible to everybody, and audibly discussable too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues." Another passage within the same short story read, “Day by day, and night by night, he called up one corner of the globe after another, and looked upon its life, and studied its strange sights, and spoke with its people…” Sounds a lot like social networking to this modern day ear.

In my own Science Fiction Trilogy (got my own plug in), The Morian Trilogy, I predict in 300 years in the future that human beings will have an INPUT (Individual Personal Uplink Terminal) implanted behind their left eye. It is "tuned in" to their brain wave frequency and gives them access to a Planetary Database called Mother Earth. The device projects an image screen before his or hers eyes only visible to the user. In this future world we use this interface for everything; watching movies, calling a friend, checking the news.

What do y’all think? These are just a few examples from my childhood reading and my own writings. I would love to hear of any predictions you folks have encountered over the years of reading Science Fiction.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

In the Genes

Todays blog post is a departure from my normal threads as I ask you folks to humor me (and beg forgiveness) as I don the disguise as an autobiographer.

On this medium I usually stick to the subject of my writing and the gendre(s) surrounding it, but I also have a career as a singer in a local variety band. I come about it honestly as my father, the late (and great) Merlin Jones was a life-long entertainer and popular singer here in the Midlands of South Carolina. He got his start with Dickie Holler and the Holidays in the early 1960's in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

My father was the drummer and back up singer in the trio. Dick Holler and Merlin Jones would later be inducted into the Louisiana Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.  From August, 1962 until May 1965 Dick Holler and the Holidays based and performed in and around Columbia, South Carolina. Their 1964 third single release, "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)", later become a hit in 1966 by "The Swingin' Medallions". The band settled in the Midlands of the state because a single written by my father titled "Mooda Grooba" had become wildly popular in South and North Carolina.

After the band split, my dad decided to stay in Columbia and began playing in local night spots including The Odyssey, The Army/Navy Club and King of the Road. Later he would go into business with his own places The Thunder Bird Lounge, Merlin's Nightclub and Checkers of West Columbia . He continued entertaining as the drummer/lead singer in the house bands of each club. My dad was followed and adored by many in the Columbia area earning him honors as Entertainer of the Year throughout the 90's. So popular was my dad that every year there are still "Merlin's Nightclub Reunions" held in his honor.

Sadly my father passed away after battling cancer in November of 2014. In January of 2015 there was a memorial jam held for Merlin at The Hanger in West Columbia, SC. Attending and participating in the event were several local area musicians and Dick Holler himself. He and my father remained friends even after the split of the Holidays.

This is where I come in...

During the memorial I performed several songs throughout the night. I'd started my singing hobby years previous when working as a bartender at Merlin's Nightclub. During the busiest time of the
evening my dad would call me up and I would perform I four or five songs. I was immediately hooked by the limelight as I did my best to emulate my fathers knack for entertaining.

After the January Memorial for dad concluded one of the keyboardists who had participated approach me. Darryl Hill mentioned he was in a band called Wide Open and he would like me to come check them out at a bar in Lexington, SC the following week. I agreed since the place was only a 5 minute drive from my home and me and my girlfriends regular hangout.

That following Friday night my we shot pool at JT'S On the Pond enjoying  Wide Open as they played Classic Rock, Country and Beach. Darryl Hill and guitarist Wayne Hopkins had started the group some ten years previous and between these two musicians they had a vast knowledge of music. Add an extraordinary rhythm battery of Chris Miano on the drums and Paul Russo on bass guitar and it was one of the best bands I've heard in my thirty years of being in the business.

As the night wore on I had to leave for I had to wake early for work the following morning. While paying my tab Darryl summoned me over. Surprised, I made my way to the stage as he introduced me as a "Special Guest Singer". I was overjoyed as I belted out "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" by the Georgia Satellites. As I prompted the crowd thrusting the mic outward I heard everyone in the room respond. My passion for entertaining was re-ignited and the lime light entangled me once again.

Later that week I was overjoyed to receive a phone call from Darryl inquiring whether I would like to be the new "front man" for Wide Open. Discussing it with my girlfriend Robin she gave me her blessing.

I've since been experiencing the time of my life living out my mid-life crisis as the singer in a Rock n Roll band. With my addition to the group the repertoire of music has increased as my style has blended with the existing song list. We play Rock, Classic Rock, Beach, R&B, Country and much more. Wide Open Band now boasts playing the widest variety of music in town performing everything from Al Green to ZZ-Top. Check out our homepage and find us on Facebook, Twitter and [sample song]

I hope my father is proud as I do my best to honor him by emulating his spirit on stage.


Friday, July 1, 2016

An Icy Touch From the Past

One of my favorite steps in story development is research. Setting a story in a real time and place gives the work a dimension of convincibility. And I believe it adds a level of "fun" for the reader. When reading Anne Rice's works I always enjoy and admire her ability to transport me to other places during different times. One can tell she puts great effort in her research. Making an effort to add as much factual material and anchoring a fictional story to a physical place gives it credence making it more believable.

Seven years ago, when living with my brother Steve, I spent several nights researching for a story titled "Toothie." This novelette is probably one of the scariest stories I have ever concocted (making it the most "fun" story for me to write). I will not relay the subject here (check out Darkside of the Planet) but what is important to this post is the setting.

Toothie explores my adaptation of the Jack the Ripper phenomenon with a huge twist (again, check out Darkside of the Planet). To make my story more "plausible" I spent more than a week doing research of the Whitechapel area of London, England in the 1880's. I poured over old police reports, maps, eyewitness accounts and pictures of each crime scene of every murder. By the time I penned the first word of my tale I had the odd feeling I'd actually walked the streets of an industrial age London.

With notes in hand I launched into relaying my story. The hours of research gave my writing an unexpected flavor as I began to toil away tapping out the yarn upon my keyboard. As I added existing theories into the fabric of my own work it produced a new degree of pleasure to the act of storytelling. I was in the zone and on a roll as my fingers flew across the buttons. I was having a blast writing this story. 

Three nights and a few thousand words into the novelette something odd happened bringing me to the subject of my post. I've written some potent and horrifying stories, most of which exist in the before mentioned "Darkside of the Planet". 

I've also received feedback from readers that I have absolutely frightened (a fact that I am exceedingly proud of). But, I can truly admit, this is the one and only time that I've ever been scared out of my wits by one of my own stories.

As the hour grew late and I tapped out the story on my computer I got this odd sensation I was no longer alone in the room. All of us have a limited sense of "radar" like a bat using sound to navigate flying through night air. The echoing of my keystrokes off the walls and hardwood floors suddenly seemed to be bouncing off a physical presence somewhere behind me.

I knew my brother had left town and wouldn't be home for a couple of days, but my rational mind hypothesized he'd snuck into room in an attempt to frighten me. It was the only plausible explanation for no one else possessed a key to gain entry to the house.

Swiveling around in my chair I expected to see my sibling ready to pounce, but, no one there. I wrote it off to overactive imagination and resumed my work. Again, the odd sensation of eyes on me persisted as the dampened echoes returned to my ears. This time I sensed whoever it was in closer proximity. My mind desperately grasped at the rational expectation of a hovering sibling once again.

Upon turning and finding nobody, I truly began to feel the touch of fear niggling at my stomach. Collecting myself for a few moments I took a deep breath and swiveled back to my keyboard mustering the constitution to continue.

Again the nagging sensation filled my soul that some entity occupied the office behind me. I began constantly monitoring the emptiness over my shoulder. Still the feeling would not leave me. When I suddenly felt an icy touch upon my shoulder adrenaline shot shards down the veins of my arm and momentarily arrested the beating of my heart. I jumped from my chair and immediately vacated the room.

Closing the door tightly behind me I desperately sought out distraction for the rest of the evening, making every effort to avoid the office area of the house. I couldn't return to writing and I didn't find sleep that night. Instead my mind contemplated the origin of my spectral visitor.

"Was it just an overacted imagination?" my brain questioned, "or, when revisiting the Whitechapel streets of historic London, did something follow me back through the ethereal portal of time?"

A Science Fiction writer tends to lean rational. But, more importantly, a Horror writer desires to believe the Supernatural.