Archive for the ‘Alternate Reality’ Category

Driving the Geek Bus   Leave a comment

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Scenes from this year’s New York ComicCon, October 2016, at the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC

With all this talk of division these days, it’s important to consider what unites us. Brings us together. Makes us feel like we belong to something bigger. Accepts us for what we are, or who we might like to become. You know, all that feel good stuff.

That world not only exists, it’s growing stronger by leaps and bounds. I ought to know. I’m part of it.

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That world, my friends, is the world of geeks. These people unabashedly embrace who they are and not only that, want you to join them in their quest to conquer evil wherever it lurks. To triumph in the face of disaster. Build worlds and foster development within them. Laugh in the face of adversity, while secretly plotting to overcome the dark forces, regardless of risk, expense, resources, plausibility, practicality…never mind the rogues or plot twists that stand in the way.  Who cares what you look like or where you come from? Of course, that depends on what part of the universe one hails from, but no one will truly hold it against you.


It’s no wonder sci-fi and the geeks that create it/live it/love it is growing more popular with each breathing minute. It’s the ultimate unifier. Who cares if you’re 6 or 92? Bald or pencil-necked? CEO or clerk? Azerbaijani or Upper Volta (actually, that’d be pretty cool). It’s all about the costume, the twist, the particular world inhabited outside of the damned mainstream, the brutal reality we’re all forced to live in.  Geeks regularly meet up on the sci-fi bus and drive it out of ridiculousness and into the beyond.

It takes a lot of guts to put on a costume and convince the world you’re a superhero or fictional character of unknown origin. But once these cosplay characters meet up, man, it’s golden. We all get along, just fine, thanks, and sure, there’s jealousy and maybe a bit of resentment that your competition snagged an actual James T. Kirk standard-issue uniform from the November 8, 1968 Season 3 Star Trek, Episode 8:  For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky. That only means at some point you’re going to have to dig a little deeper in your pocket and eBay yourself one.

Couples meet up because they engage in cosplay. I work with a guy whose alter ego is Superman and his girlfriend is Supergirl. Perfect pairing, if you ask me.

Most of all, science fiction shows us what’s possible, to anyone. In its best form, it reaches beyond the limits of the people we are and directs to to consider the impossible.

Maybe it is time for the geeks to drive the bus. After all, we’re out to conquer evil, wherever it lurks. Come with?

Local Authors, Local Lore   Leave a comment

Linda Z BookLinda Z StonesLinda Z UFO

It’s easy to get caught up in your own thing: doing research, checking facts and seeing how it all fits into your work. But with some writers, it’s obvious that the richness of their plot comes from local history that surrounds them.

I live in New York’s Hudson Valley, an area steeped in gorgeous landscapes, lush vineyards, tasty apples, dairy farms, trout fishing, skiing on mountains friendly to learner, and more. Lots of celebrities move here. David Bowie, for example, loved his peaceful spot on the map.

But the underside of all this natural beauty is, if you believe in such things, is haunted with mystery. We’ve got our share of ghosts, UFOs and ancient sites settled by pre-Columbian people only barely studied.

Such things spark the interest of residents, naturally, but even fewer seek to scratch around and dig through forgotten fields and thick forests in search of what once was might still lurk beneath…or above.

Many local historians take inspiration from the embarrassment of riches surrounding them and investigate the truth behind the legend. They painstakingly dig into dusty files, read brittle microfilm on aging equipment, visit graveyards and historical societies, all for the sake of getting to the bottom of a story. These writers spend hours crafting the research into readable copy, submit them to the publication process, hoping you’ll pick up their books and become just as intrigued as they were.

Linda Zimmermann is one such person. A noted local historian, she’s interested in everything: history, mystery and lore. She’s investigated ghosts, UFOs, stone sites and science. She’s the author of many books, and if you see one of hers, pick it up. Linda writes with humor and insight, and before you know it, you’ll be headed down that certain road in Pine Bush, NY, looking for that certain lake where UFOs have been spotted many a time.

Another such person is a friend of mine, a teacher, local historian, journalist and all around interesting fellow: A.J. Schenkman. His personal biography is enough to fill several volumes, but he’s also one of those sorts who can’t resist researching and documenting a good story.

AJ Schenkman BookWicked Ulster

A.J.’s found all sorts of things to write about in Ulster County, NY. Leaf through these pages and you’ll find plenty of stories that’ll curl your hair. When you’re next at a cocktail party and the guests bemoan how terrible times have become, you’ll be grateful you live in the relative security of suburbia and modern times. Things in the past were pretty gruesome, as the pages of these books will attest.

Lastly, I have to give a brief shout-out to the masters of documenting the weird and strange, Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman, better known as the Weird NJ guys. There’s not a story too strange or a site too abandoned they won’t check out. Their publication, “Weird NJ” has been running for something like twenty years. They’re also in the process of documenting as many weird tales across the nation with their “Weird” series. They’ve had a show on the History Channel, too.


Perhaps the most important thing all of these writers are doing is documenting the past so it’s not forgotten, like the file cabinets from which they gather their research. If you’re thinking of writing a great novel of fiction, check these local authors out first. You’d be surprised what you’ll dig up.

Let’s Do The Time Warp…Again!   Leave a comment


Oh God, what’s it been…nearly three weeks? That’s what happens when you’re surrounded by utter turmoil. No, nothing horrible happened. Just a lot of stuff going on and on and on. Adding to that, I’ve VERY DETERMINED to finish my fifth rewrite of my book so that my agent can go out and sell it already. Yeesh! I get so caught up in trying to snip a bit here, swap out a word there, punch up this bit and calm that bit down that next thing you know, all this time has passed. The good news is that I’m getting there and hope to really end the rewrites SOON.

But in the meantime, I’ve taken a break here and there to clear my head and bleary eyes. Last Saturday night was one of those opportunities. I felt like watching a movie but as we flipped through our various overpaid channels, the only things worth watching was “Star Trek – The Search for Spock” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Okay, so we can pretty much quote all the lines in each movie. And hey, we could have downloaded something. Yeah, yeah, but that would’ve taken effort. In the end, we went with “RHPC.”

After all, it’s Science Fiction, right?

Who doesn’t have a story to tell about this film? Was it your first midnight show? Did you remember to carry all the accessories and toss/hurl/light at the right moments? Someone prompt you on the right times to say the right lines?

My first experience with this film was in some theatre in Manhattan…I have no idea which one. I’d like to say it was the Waverley, but I’m probably wrong. All I remember is my friends and I carried in a whole bunch of stuff, didn’t know what to do with it, fiddled around and wound up tossing things everywhere and squirting the water gun in the wrong direction at people who weren’t happy we did. Next time, I got it straight. Got everything cued up and made sure I was on the ball. After about the ninth or tenth time, I was a pro. And no, I didn’t go every Saturday night – just when it seemed like the right thing to do. See, you could go by yourself to one of these shows and no one’d notice or care. That’s the beauty of Manhattan – you do what you want and it’s cool, man.

I got to admit, Tim Curry looked really splendid in his getup as a Transylvanian Transvestite. The role suited him. And you know what? Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon did too. They’re all forever locked into their own time warp, playing one of their early roles over and over again, never aging, never breaking out in other roles, doomed to live in the same crazy environment until…until…it’s time to do the time warp again.

Once, I had the opportunity to see “The Rocky Horror Show,” the play upon which the film is based. My friend Carl just happened to get tickets for a midnight showing of it. See, twice a year, Broadway theaters put on performances for just their own – usually at or after midnight. Once all the theaters go dark, one stays open and puts on a performance for those who work the shows – cast, crew, house staff. Often the money raised at the door is given to a particular charity. Carl took me to one of these performances. We had fantastic seats (he knew someone, of course) and the narrator, the iconic Dick Cavett – stood about four inches away from us, reading his part. As we entered the theater, we received a bag of all the proper accessories to make the performance complete. Carl HAD NEVER SEEN THE MOVIE and so I had to go through the bag and let him in on when one uses the contents.

Oh God, what a great evening that was. I have to say it’s much better than watching the usual live performers who act out the movie in front of it…although there’s a lot to be said for them, too. As I hopped out of my cab at 3:00 am, I was awful glad I took the next day off from work (it was a Friday, anyway) and it seemed like I was in on something. A secret club, maybe.

Now, there’s a tribute to the 40th anniversary of the movie.  YouTube had this posted from NBC’s “Today Show”:

It gives you the rundown of the 40 glorious years this movie’s been on screens throughout the world.

But perhaps the most important thing from the film is this: its underlying message. It’s a good one to carry around with you, no matter where you go or what you do.

So remember:

Don’t dream it. Be it.

The Amazing Human-ish Head   Leave a comment

Here’s one of the creepiest videos I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s a work in progress by Australian artist Chris Jones.  It’s a fascinating study on how to reproduce a human without being human at all.  Visit the link to his website and you’ll be fascinated at all of the work that’s involved in creating such a realistic life form.

To me, it’s a game changer…and might even change some of those video games we all think are so real…

Sham Sci-Fi   Leave a comment

Did anyone miss me?  I’ve been busy with a few things, but not too busy to put pause to my daily activities and make fun of the worst that the SyFy network has to offer.  And yes, I know I’m not the only one here who has commented on this very subject but…

Sharknado?  Sharknado II??

Okay.  It barely qualifies as anything, and I wouldn’t dignify it placing it in the same category as science fiction.

So here’s my question:  Why?

There’s sooooo many sci-fi writers out there, dedicating their precious hours to composing what will shape up to be terrific stories with – gasp – plots! and yet somehow, these same writers struggle to see the light of an editor’s desk.  How is it, then, that some crank hack manages to pull off not once, but TWICE a crappy story?

I speak with authority.  My husband and I watched the first entry quite a while back and we would have changed the channel, but we were watching that train wreck believing it to be a parody.  Sadly, we were mistaken.  Embarrassed to admit our mistake, we pledged to mentioned this incident only between ourselves.  The next day, Sharknado was all over the media, an unlikely success.  Not in the blockbuster vein, mind you, but in the gobsmacked, godawful disbelief category.  Viewers just like us shook their heads, wondering what subliminal force soaked our brains like dry sponges and wrung them dry.

Then, our worst fears took root:  if once wasn’t bad enough, SyFy figured they’d give a horrid idea a second go.  As if New York doesn’t have enough problems, let’s add tornadic sharks to its woes.  Fear not, though, because our hero comes armed with a chainsaw once more.

Now, this entry catches the attention of The New York Times.  They’re not bragging about it, natch.  Their review is rather nasty…but fun.  Needless to say, I skipped watching it, having busied myself with real goals and ambitions for my life.

Still, I was a tad curious.

So were the good folks at the Huffington Post.  My husband Andrew thoughtfully sent me a link to Sharknado 2.  The best part?  It’s two minutes long and cuts right to the chase.

Kind of reminds me what Robert Rodrigues would do if he had two minutes to trash a trailer.  Or film.  Check it out!

I promise my next post will return to my regularly scheduled programming.

The Convenience of Alternate Reality   Leave a comment


Sleep, Salvador Dali, 1937

Just once, I’d like to experience alternate reality.  It’d be so cool.  Its applications easily transform a life of drudgery into one of utter convenience and comfort.

How?  Glad you asked.

Need a vacation?  Press capital “A” and “R” and “enter” on the keyboard.  And there you are, adrift on a tranquil otherworldly beach, fingers tracing a path in the water as you doze contentedly on a bamboo raft.  The best part is, it doesn’t cost you a cent.  Only a bit of a time share of the brain is all that’s needed for a quick and secure purchase.

But why limit yourself?  Imagine all those options now available at the tap of your fingers…

A teenaged daughter melts down in the throes of a mind-bending temper tantrum, the cause of which is as remote and unidentifiable as the chances of the United States winning the World Cup.  Tap the keys and gently glide her towards the closet et voila!  She vanishes into an alternate reality where organization, good grades and a clean bedroom floor rule the culture.

Or the unreasonable boss whose unending, bellicose rants that spew unfathomable opinions regarding what’s possible and what isn’t, and invariably differs from yours, everyone else’s and even the client:  an accidentally-on-purpose keyboard maneuver zaps the offending creature-person into a universe filled with vegetarian peace mongers whose lives are governed by reason and silent meditation.

Sending people off into ARs is terrifically, wonderfully cathartic.  If one had the will to jettison any nasty, reprehensible being into a space-time continuum that requires that person to experience/do what only the reaches of fantasy could dream up, prisons would be a thing of the past.

AR isn’t necessarily punishment for evil.  It’s also a reward for good.  The desperate street person stands in a lush, vibrant Eden after offering assistance to a stranger.  A poor young mother struggling with an empty refrigerator and bank account suddenly grapples with luxury in a 110-roomed mansion, complete with a  safe stuffed with cash hidden behind a library portrait.

One often sees ARs pop up in science fiction.  Alternative worlds, even universes exist, habituated with mirror versions of ourselves living lives alien to our own.  Trouble is, where are these places?  Presently, we can’t seem to determine how our own universe came into being, let alone figure out its size.  Where are we supposed to locate a portal to the plane of existence that remedies, curses, challenges or accentuates the very qualities humans of Earth lack or ignore?

It’s around someplace.  It has to be.  I have about 30 socks waiting to join their partners there.

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