Wanted: Monster

monster 2The Parker Institute for Time Travel Studies (The PITTS), renowned throughout time and space as the penultimate college dedicated to finding those who are not lost or even confused or misplaced, is seeking a monster for an upcoming experiment in a basement laboratory.  The ideal candidate will be required to participate in a variety of scientific investigations including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Mind Transfer
  • Transmogrification into a Rat, Sewer
  • Transmogrification into a Bat, Vampire
  • Mopping Floors
  • Time Travel to 17th Century Transylvania
  • Getting Coffee for Mad Scientists
  • ESP
  • ESPN (for score reports, football season only)
  • Temporary Duty (TDY) to the Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico, 1947
  • Crop Circle Creation
  • TDY to certain regions between Bermuda and Florida

Experience in medicine is a plus, especially familiarity with snake oil, leeches, eyes of newt, garlic, crucifixes, ice baths, opium, extortium, and powdered unicorn horns.

The term monster used in this advertisement may apply to any horrific carnivorous being, including extraterrestrials, mythological creatures, dinosaurs, giant insects, vermin, lycanthropes, golems, oozes, dire wolves, cockroaches and other aberrations of nature.

Salary remitted in stock options.

The PITTS is an equal opportunity employer.

Copyright © 2013

What’s in the Trash Can? (A Short Story)

trash canA voice said, “What is in the trash?”

I overheard this question as I rounded the corner at the office, on my way to get my morning coffee.  You know it’s bad when people don’t use contractions.

“You smell that?”

Ewww.”

“What is it?”

“Oh, God.”

Luckily the halls in the building are infinitely long, so whatever was antagonizing my coworkers was out near the vanishing point.  I was far enough away to ignore them safely; I’m a very prudent person, after all.  But they stood near the side door and the water fountain, and that gave me pause.  Was there a plumbing problem?  If so, then that would affect the quality — not to mention sanitary condition — of my morning java.  So instead of turning into the break room I approached my circle of coworkers.  Four of them, gawking and muttering, were standing over a waste basket sitting in the middle of the hallway.  Three more people stood back away from it, like folks at a car wreck.  One woman had a hand at her throat.  One man was chewing on his knuckle.  The chatter continued.

“What is that smell, anyway?”

“Sulfer?”

“I think it’s rotten egg.”

“That is sulfer!”

“It’s bad fish.”

“It’s bad seafood, not fish.  God!” (Are human resources departments required to hire one know-it-all smartass?)

“Is it dead?”

“Better question: Is it alive?”

A woman stuck her palm out, in a stop gesture.  She scampered away, headed toward the restroom.

More remarks followed, and a second circle formed where I stood, making us all a human Stonehenge.  That’s fitting in a way: Many employees had rock-like personalities.  I looked to my left and right.  The questions were now decaying into an argument, not just about what the smell was, or who was more accurate about its revolting odor, but who was responsible for it, and who was going to do something about it.  One boss snapped at another boss.  One old guy started telling a story about what he’d seen in a war.  One young woman started asking if she could go home.

I snorted.

Slamming my coffee mug down on the water fountain, I pushed myself through the throng, and grabbed the trash can on a quick trot.  I was halfway out the sidedoor before people started talking again.

“Who was that?” the young woman said.

“I think it was Eric.”

“Eric?  It was Eric.” The young woman’s voice had a hint of revelation to it, as if she’d just discovered the true identity of the masked man.

Was I wearing a cape?  Nope.  I’m just a guy, named Eric, who’d rather do something than stand around talking about it.

I heaved the entire waste basket — not just its contents — into the parking-lot dumpster and walked around to the main entrance brushing off my hands.  I didn’t talk to any of my coworkers that day, content to spend my time scrolling through hundreds of emails.  Before I left, though, I picked up the phone, put it back, then picked it up again and called the young woman’s extension.  I was a bit nervous, but finally managed to ask if she wanted to go get a cocktail.

It turns out there was nothing for me to be nervous about.

The End

Copyright © 2013 Alan Keith Parker.  This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual persons, settings or circumstances is purely coincidental.

Doctor Who What When?

“Question is: What do you make of me?” ~ The Doctor

20130116-171135.jpg

I love Christmas Eve, so when the DVD of the BBC’s Doctor Who Christmas Special “The Next Doctor” (s04e14) arrived in the mail I was eager to dive right in. I was not disappointed. Since there are scads of reviews of Doctor Who episodes all over the Internet, what I wanted to do instead was give you an impression of one small slice of this episode.

After our Doctor (David Tennant) arrives via TARDIS on Christmas Eve, 1851, the history geek in me was thoroughly content to sit back and enjoy.

As Act One unfolds we’re given one of those treats time travel fiction does so well: Evoking that sense of wonder that much of science fiction has lost since those heady days of Astounding and Amazing Stories. In the opening scenes of “The Next Doctor” our Doctor meets a future incarnation of himself, a version of himself suffering from amnesia.

And that notion is one of the most compelling aspects of time travel: Meeting a past or future version of yourself (without the amnesia part; that’d sorta suck). In that first act, “Amnesia Doctor” is investigating the house where the character Jackson Lake was murdered by the show’s infamous villains and “Amnesia Doctor” gets into a rather lengthy conversation about the crime with our Doctor. After revealing more about the situation than he probably should, “Amnesia Doctor” pauses with confusion, and then says he trusts our Doctor completely and implicitly, telling him things he wouldn’t tell any ordinary stranger.

I actually paused the DVD at this point, finding that whole concept fascinating. I began to wonder whether I would trust myself with vital, personal secrets. If I went back in time — to 1983 or 1993 or 2003 — could I trust the man I was then with the knowledge that I have now? Or if I were to travel into the future with the help of an old English police box could I face my older, wiser self and explain why I’m doing “this” but not “that,” why I bought instead of saved, why I chose “Thing 1” over “Thing 2”?

This is what makes science fiction and fantasy — those twins of speculation separated at birth — such a compelling genre of literature. Allegories abound, sometimes banal, sometimes sublime, but always thought-provoking.

And we need to think and reflect and ponder and wonder, or at least I do. Time can be a merciless monster as well as a beneficent angel. But my genre — when it’s at its best — focuses on the latter. It chooses optimism over bitterness, hope instead of despair, and a reminder that tomorrow can be a better day if we’ll just make the choice to let it.

So, in conclusion, I’ll offer another brief quote from the show, and then go off searching for my own time machine. Where is the damn thing? I swear that beast has legs.

Jackson Lake — “That offer of Christmas dinner is no longer a request. It’s a demand.”
The Doctor — “In honor if those we’ve lost.”

As always,
Peace, from Keith

Commentary copyright (c) 2013, Alan Keith Parker. Quotes and images are copyright (c) 2012, BBC, and used here under fair use laws.

Don’t Be a Dumpster Fire

ImageYou don’t write to get rich.  You write because writing is a fundamental part of who you are.  Your odds of becoming Stephen King or Sue Grafton are longer than your odds of winning a multi-state lottery.

The basic idea behind any form of art is to express emotions.  You’ll notice I write a lot about time travel, science fiction, horror, and love.  I write about love and romance because I have a sentimental streak.  I write about horror because of panic attacks, and people are drawn to things that scare them (counterintuitive, but true).  I write about science fiction because I grew up watching the original Star Trek, and it’s like comfort food for me.  And I love time travel for some reason I can’t really explain.  Maybe I have a lot of regrets and want to right some wrongs.  Who the hell knows?  Or maybe I’d just like swap one-liners with Groucho Marx.  “After two days in the hospital I took a turn for the nurse.”

I also dish out writing advice.  You know where I get that wisdom?  Failure … sometimes epic.  Or, as we say on Twitter, #dumpsterfire fiction.  If you try to imitate bestsellers, your novel is going to be a disaster, a dumpster fire in kids’ lingo today.  And you’ll feel like one, too, after spending all that time and effort to produce something no one wants to read.  Believe me, I’ve been there.

Caveat: This does not mean you set your sights low.  No.  Aim to be the very best writer you can  be.  Every sentence you write should be exactly what you want to read.  Anything less and you’re being dishonest.

But if you’re trying to become Dan Brown or Suzanne Collins, forget it.  We already have a Brown and a Collins and a King and a Grafton.  Mimicking them is not going make you rich and famous.

If you want to get rich you need to be flipping houses and bootlegging whiskey.

Writers are artists, and we get paid the same.  Would you like fries with that?

Peace, from Keith

Copyright © 2013

Rocky Edge (A Short Story)

rockYou are standing at the edge of a cliff and looking out at the gray, churning water 30 feet below as waves crash over jagged rocks.  You back away, half-dizzy, stomach pumping with vertigo.  Behind you to your right is an outcropping of grim boulders, weathered from wind, flattened by time.  You thrust your hands into the pockets of your Levi’s and wince as your dry knuckles scrape against the hemline of the blue jeans’ stitching.

You shuffle and slide across black soggy leaves over to the boulder that grows out of the ancient Alabama mountainside.  Your hiking boots give you footing, but you still feel uneven, with pressure in your ears.

You turn and sit on a tongue of rock that forms a chair unusually well-suited for your thin frame, one of those natural seats that doesn’t seem real somehow, but that you know has been there since prehistoric times, before anything that we know as intelligent walked or slithered on earth.  And for some reason you remember a children’s bible illustration where Jesus, sitting on a similar rock, gestured His eight beatitudes to a throng.  You  can’t remember the commandments, but you know you are not among the blessed.

But thinking of childhood Sunday school does make you think of the word love, and you know you didn’t love Allisa, and you know that you never really loved her, that you were merely

horny

obsessed by her.  And it was not even by her looks per se.  While not ugly, she would never pass Madison Avenue’s tests for looks.  Her crystal blues under those thinning black bangs turned you on.  But did they work on others?  Her Cuban accent and cravings for Thai food, her encyclopedic knowledge of architecture multiplied your

lust

romantic longings, which she did not reciprocate.  Not until that final night.  Not until her passion boiled over and set you on fire.  Her friendship had been platonic and yet, and yet … there was always the “ooh ah” factor in your favor.

Allisa had giggled at the first sight of computer eye candy.  When was that?  1990? ’91?  You’d shown her the shiny new Windows 3 splash screen as it zoomed across your monitor.  Techie stuff won her heart as often as roses.  She broke out in a huge grin when you told her you were going to email something to yourself.   That was her first Internet epiphany, circa 1994.  Years later, last week to be exact, she texted a picture of herself to you.  In the photo she stood beside a mural at the art museum — a mural of a twisty mountain road — hand on her hip, a smile in her eyes, one black pump up in the air.

The fundraiser at the museum had gone well into the night.  You waited up for her.  She’d texted around 11:00 or so, admitting she’d had three glasses — and counting — of Merlot, admitting her date was a creep, admitting she really wished you were there.

Drunk yourself from a twelve pack of beer and no food, you called her cell an hour later.  She’d answered on the first ring with a sweet, “Hell-lloo.”

“I only have sex with good-looking guys,” she’d told you. “That son of a –.  It’s always like that, isn’t it?  They’re always like that.  Sex.  Drugs.  Rock-and-roll.  All of them.”

You didn’t follow her train of thought, muddied by wine, or yours, sullied by beer.  But your eyes had lit up.  Your face had brightened.

Unlike now.

Now your face sags, hangdog eyes.  You feel scaly, eyes bulging like a fish’s.  What was it the nerd said in the office last week?  The guy with the letters MISKA-some-shit-or-other on his sweatshirt that casual Friday?

“You’ve got that Innsmouth look going, buddy.”

You had no idea what that had meant.  You didn’t care.  You didn’t care then, and you don’t care now.  Your mouth is hanging open, though, so you can take in big gulps of air.  Mouth-breather.  You roll your

bulging

eyes.  Well, you are from Alabama.  That’s what people expect to see.  Mouth-breathers.

You sigh.  Your thoughts are gloomy, pre-winter clouds, roiling like a too-hot November day that presages tornado outbreaks.

You snap out of your daydream when you realize your hands are tingling.  They’re still in the pockets of your jeans. You’d sat down with them like that.  Now you wiggle them out, and the dry skin on your hands finally cracks, and two of your knuckles bleed.  You grip one hand with the other, worried you’ll get blood all over your North Face jacket and people will stare at you later.  Either that, or the coroner will ponder your bloody hands after they fish your body from the waters below.

There isn’t much you can do, is there?  Your mind is numbed by data entry and bad nutrition and subtle musings about madness.

“Do you want to come over?” you had said to Allisa Fuentes that night.

And Allisa Fuentes, from Santiago de Cuba, where communist revolution had been born, had giggled like a conservative white American schoolgirl of the 1950s.

“Sure!  I’m turning around now, and we can –.”

The phone had gone dead in your hand.  You gawked at it, a stupid grin on your face.  You tried her number again.  You tried it over and over, assuming she just hit a dead spot in coverage.  No signal.

“I’m turning around now, and we can –,” had been Allisa’s last words when, distracted, she lost control of the car, and plunged 1000 feet into the roaring mountain river below.

She was still holding the phone when they found her.  It was her right hand.  You’re looking at your own right hand now.  It’s still bleeding.  And scaly.   It’s the color of a fish.

You stand, roll your head, and shuffle away from the rocky edge of the cliff, wondering if the words “Innsmouth look” have any real meaning.  Maybe they do, but weird crap like that doesn’t matter.  You walk back and get in your car, a high-tech SUV that’d been idling, waiting for you, and when its display lights up, telling you your own cell phone has been detected by its Bluetooth rigging, you grind your teeth, take the phone and sling it as far as you can out the car window, over the bluff.   As you put the car into drive you think you hear the goddamn thing die on the rocks below.  You hope so.  You’re going to pretend you do, anyway.

The End

Copyright © 2013 Alan Keith Parker.  This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Anger Leads to The Doctor?

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.” ~ Yoda

Yoda_SWSBWhat’s a picture of Yoda doing here?  I’m talking about Doctor Who.

Last night I was watching the two-part finale from the 2006 season of the BBC’s reimagined Doctor Who.  In this episode we once again see the characters faced with the end of the world, a top-secret organization, Cybermen and Daleks run amok, and enough pithy humor to keep even the most jaded of us laughing.  But that isn’t what made me focus on these two episodes.  Instead. I began to wonder about something a Facebook friend said about the show in general.  Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor, appealed to her because he’s funny; all the other Doctors, she allowed, take themselves too seriously.

Well, being the writer that I am (and I am a writer, which is why you’re reading this instead of doing something worthwhile) I started looking for signs of David Tennant’s character taking himself too seriously.  I had not thought of this before.  Does he?  Maybe he does.  And did Christopher Eccleston make his Doctor egotistical as well?  I think there’s some truth to that.  Does it detract from the quality of the show?  Well, that’s for each viewer to decide.

But as the two-parter unfolded I began to wonder whether the egotism is deliberate.  After all, The Doctor is the last remaining “creature” from a war that consumed and destroyed his entire race.  I’m a newcomer to the show, so I cannot say this with certainty, but I think the Doctor’s “being full of himself” is a result of anger.

According to Star Wars, anger is a baaaaad apple.

Does anger also lead to arrogance?  In the gospel according to Yoda it leads to hate.  As a writer, the progression of emotions fascinates me.  And even if you’re not a writer — and God help you if you are — you’ll notice the best entertainment gives you complex characters, a good story, an attempt by the main character to resolve the crisis, and a steady drumbeat of emotional change.  And when it works best it really is like music; there is a rhythm to the way emotions change.  Anger can indeed lead to hate, but it doesn’t have to.  Perhaps in the case of The Doctor it leads to a certain smugness, but his heart … (yes, I know he has two) … but his heart is still in the right place.  And that’s what we want most out of the characters we love: heart.

Until next time,

Peace, from Keith

Text copyright © 2013 Alan Keith Parker

She’s Just So Darn Cute

Inspector Duggan: What’s Scarlioni’s angle?

The Doctor: Scarlioni’s angle? I’ve never heard –.  [To Romana] Have you ever heard of Scarlioni’s angle?

Romana: No, I was never any good at geometry.

The Doctor: [to Duggan] Who’s Scarlinoi?

RomanaShe’s just so darned cute.  Lalla Ward is an English actress, writer and artist who played the Companion Romana [sic] in a classic series of Doctor Who episodes with Tom Baker.  And she has got to be one of the primary reasons the episode “City of Death” has rocketed to the all-time best list of a show that’s been on the air since 1963.  I fell in love with the episode when I first saw that hat pinned to her blond hair.  I’m a guy; it happens.

But I have to say, I’m really glad I started watching the 2005 reboot of Doctor Who before I saw this classic.   If I’d started with “City of Death” (its 1979 airdate tells you a lot), the teaser would’ve had me saying, “Ewwww” – and not in a good way.   The show starts with an alien who looks like a bowl of split-pea soup garnished with a dollop of eyeball.  The alien is sitting inside a spaceship that’s about to explode.  That’d have been enough right there to send me groping for a football game.  The scene is so damn cheesy the writers of Lost in Space would’ve been embarrassed.  Well, maybe that’s going a little far for a group of people who invented Carrot People, but you get my drift.

But after the title sequence we shift gears to Paris, where the Doctor and Romana (who’s just so darn cute … have I mentioned that?) are sitting around discussing what they’re going to do on their vacation in the city of lights.  And their one-liners are classic.  The one above, including the Investigator Duggan, is a good example.  Here’s another:

Romana: Where’re we going?

The Doctor: Are you talking philosophically or geographically?

Romana: Philosophically.

The Doctor: Then we’re going to lunch. I know a little place that does wonderful bouillabaisse.

 Romana: Mmm, bouillabaisse.

Priceless.

In fact, I could devote an entire blog to the dialog alone, in large part because it was co-written by the famous Douglas Adams.  As usual, Adams’ humor crackles, and it reminded me – as strange as it may sound – of the classic American comedy His Girl Friday, with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.  Grant and RussellLike the movie, this episode resonates with the audience because of its nonstop one-liners and because of the sizzling chemistry between two charismatic actors.

Mona_LisaBeing Doctor Who, of course, means time travel, and there’s plenty of that to move the plot along.  The alien – the one who looks like split-pea soup – has been “broken apart” due to an accident.  He’s been scattered through time … a little bit of him here, a little bit there.  That alone is crazy enough to keep me interested.  But in order to “reunite himself” he has to use 20th century time travel technology, which inconveniently hasn’t been invented yet.  So, he’s funding a mad scientist using cash made from sales on the antiquities black market.  Specifically, he’s selling several original versions of the Mona Lisa that the 16th-Century version of himself got Leonardo to paint.  With cash in hand – or claw – he’s bankrolling a time travel gizmo that’ll propel him back to a point before the accident occurred.  This, by the way, will have a side effect of wiping out humanity; so it goes.  The whole concept is preposterous and hilarious.  It kept me watching.

And it’s that outrageousness – coupled with “believable” plot points – that makes Doctor Who gripping.  Well, that and really cute companions like Romana.

The Doctor: Are you suggesting those men were in my employ?

Inspector Duggan: Yes.

The Doctor: I don’t know if you noticed but he was pointing a gun at me. Anyone in my employ who behaved like that, I’d sack him on the spot.

As you look at science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery and romance, keep an eye open for this kind of chemistry among characters.  You’ll see it in the best novels, film and TV.  The plot is going to evolve out of characters’ drama and actions.  Sure, the fingerprints of Douglas Adams’ humor are all over this script, much like the fingerprints of Cary Grant are all over Rosiland Russell, but Adams had to have characters to write dialog for.  That makes all the difference.

In closing here’s one last exchange between the Doctor and Romana, the kind of woman you really want to hold hands and run through Paris with.

Romana: That bouquet.

The Doctor: What Paris has, it has an ethos. A life.  It has –.

Romana: A bouquet?

The Doctor: A spirit all its own. Like a wine, it has –.

Romana: A bouquet.

The Doctor: It has a bouquet. Like a good wine, you have to choose one of the vintage years, of course.

 Romana: What year’s this?

The Doctor: Ah, well… well, it’s 1979, actually. More of a table wine, shall we say?

Until next time,

Peace, from Keith

The commentary of this blog post are Copyright © 2013 Alan Keith Parker.  Quotes from Dcotor Who are Copyright © 1979 British Broadcasting Corporation.  Embedded pictures of the Mona Lisa, His Girl Friday, and Lalla Ward, were taken from Wikipedia.org.  If the latter violate any copyrights I will remove the images.

Do Writers Need a Blog?

The Christmas holidays gave me some time to reflect on writing and the flu, which are an oddly similar afflictions.  One of thing that I kept circling back to was this question: Do we writers need to have blogs?

Nessie

I started this blog back in 2011 to give out free writing advice, for what it’s worth.  I then rebooted it last year to focus on writing science fiction or — as I call it at cocktail parties — sex scenes.

But seriously, even under the huge umbrella of science fiction, fantasy and horror, I don’t really have a focus.  Just think about all the things I’m interested in:

  • Science fiction
  • College football
  • Fantasy
  • Television
  • Home improvement projects (I even do windows)
  • Time travel
  • The Civil War
  • Creative writing
  • Computer modeling
  • Graphics
  • JFK
  • Encyclopedias
  • Maps
  • Atlases
  • Classic rock
  • Cuba
  • Gnosticism
  • Humor
  • Horror
  • World War II
  • Beer
  • Collecting books
  • The Cold War
  • Old school D&D
  • Pencil-sketching
  • Restaurants

This is pretty typical of writers, being interested in lot of stuff.  We’re sponges.  We’d probably make good Jeapordy contestants.

My dilemma is that I have the attention span of a puppy running through a pet store.  If I start writing a time travel story today, by Friday I’ll shelve it and start working on a nonfiction piece about beer.  I’ve written three novels, hundreds of short stories, and enough blog entries for a decent book.

Sure, I’ve been pimping my one published novel and my thin collection of published shorts (not boxers), but my writing has not exactly zoomed into the stratosphere.  And I’ve been doing this for 20 years.

So, why continue with this blog?  This isn’t a pity-party.  I’m not slumped-shouldered (except when grave-robbing).  I’m asking a real question: Do writers need a blog?  I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

Until next time,

Peace, from Keith

Copyright © 2013 Alan Keith Parker

My Grand Gaffe

Yesterday, in the delirium of flu-induced fever, I made a mistake in a wireless transmittal. My Grand Gaffe, as it shall now be known, began with idle speculation about a growing fascination with the clockwork world we once knew and loved, with its airship lighthouses, telephonic fog, time levers, Maison tournante aérienne, and steam-powered bidets.

In the midst of my vaporous fugue-state, I said that Mary Russell lived in my revered 19th century. As Master Wells has informed me, a not-yet-famous American canine would have said to this, “Ruh roh!”

There you have it: The first mistake ever made in the aether known as The Twitter.

Mary Russell herself called me out on it, very politely I might add, in order to set the record straight: she was born in 1900 and first met Mister Sherlock Holmes in 1915, well after the Victorian era had concluded.

I then tried again, to no avail, to entice readers the world over to speculate whether we are pining for the clockwork engines of that bygone age.

20121228-165300.jpg

But my wireless dispatches, sent far and wide, from the Arctic chill of the Romanov Winter Palace, to the sultry climate of distant Siam, have gone but unanswered.

So then, all that this gentleman and scholar can do is simply wait … wait as apologies cover our shrinking globe, and wonder, not for the first time, whether a safari to distant Venus aboard Mister Verne’s projectile (via an space gun, of course) should be in order.

Should my apologies to the astute theologian (and deadly knife-thrower) fall on deaf ears I fear I shall have to take solace on one of these other worlds of our solar system; if not the aforementioned Venus, then perhaps I may find work along the canals of Mars, trading in those hideous eggs, or secluding myself in obtuse Innsmouth on our own globe, a place where no man knows his fate.

Please, Mary Russell, if you see this, forgive my arrogance in the aether.

I am, sincerely, your faithful servant.

Mister K. Parker

Copyright 2012 © Alan Keith Parker.  All Rights Reserved.

Is Time a Goldfish?

The way we think about time travel really depends on the way we think about time.  Right?  And in order to move in the dimension that H.G. Wells called duration we have to be able to have a concept of what time is, don’t we?  And how the heck do we do this?

Tavern ClockSome of the greatest thinkers of all time, as it were, have given this considerable thought, put their finger to their lips, tilted their heads, and finally said, “I dunno.”

A mind no less impressive than Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, put it like this: “What, then, is time? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not.”

BLANK STARE … thanks, dude.  That really clears it up.

Once upon a time (pun intended), I asked a good friend of mine what he thought time was.  My friend, Tim, is a practical man.  He said he always thought of time like this: He’d see himself sitting on a rock while a river of time flowed around him. Fair enough.  I asked him if he ever fell in.  He said only when he was out drinking with me.  Again, fair enough.

Does that mean time is a river?  Perhaps, although it makes me wonder why we decided to use a circle to measure time, like the tavern clock in the photograph above.

A river, though, is the most common notion.  But then, are we all sitting on rocks watching the river go by?  Or are we humans the ones who move?  What if the river is still and we’re fish swimming through it, trout on their way to their place of birth?

Most of these ideas stem out of the original idea that time is a dimension.  A kitchen table has length, width, and height.  And if you draw it you draw it using lines.  The same follows for time.  IMG_3159

In Back to the Future, Part II, Doc Brown draws time as a line on an old chalk board.  In his diagram, Marty’s plight is a series of branches with more than one version of 1985.  There are a couple of incidents in 1985 I wish I had a choice about.

But why all this thought about a line?  Does time have to be imagined like this?  Sometime in the early 1970s I saw my first digital clock.  It looked a bit like the one on the right, like you’ll see on microwave ovens and coffeemakers everywhere.  If we changed the way we display time (as a circle), then does that mean we can change the way we perceive time?

And that leads me to my next question.  Why does time have to look like something we draw on a sheet of paper?

What if time is a giant snowstorm, and time travel the melting water during the Spring thaw?

Snow

But maybe these are not good comparisons, either.  What if time is actually a lamp, a globe, the distributor cap of a 1957 Chevy, a matryoshka doll, or the fine pen used by a Japanese calligraphy artist?  What if time were simply an oven mitt, a way to keep us from getting burned by the casserole dish of the universe?  If you wanted to write a story or come up with a movie script to rival Back to the Future, how could you use one of these ideas of time?

And then, of course, is my personal favorite: The eponymous goldfish.  This is what time is inside my mind.  Time is a goldfish.  It is a pleasant thing, all shiny, with wavy fins protruding from its scales, that gives a sense of peace and tranquility if you’ll let it.  But if you try to swallow it, like those damn fool frat boys did in the 50s, it’s going to give you heartburn!

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So what is your opinion?  Before you write about time travel, you might want to solidify your own idea of what time itself is. It’s certainly something to chew on.  Just make sure you’re not chewing on my fish.

Until next time …

Peace, from Keith

Text and photographs are Copyright © 2012, Alan Keith Parker.  All Rights Reserved.  If you steal my stuff my fanged goldfish will get medieval on you!