Confessions

Red TARDISAs a redheaded, red-bearded man in Huntsville I’d be remiss if I didn’t post my own confessions list so Shea Allen doesn’t feel lonely in her pursuit of freedom of expression.

Now, you might rightly ask yourself what any of this has to do with Doctor Who.  And if you were to ask this question you’d be in fine company, because I seem to asking myself the same thing.  But, sometimes stories just write themselves, with a little help from my brain and fingers.

So, without further ado, here are the Top 10 things I have never told any of you before, except, of course, for that crazy guy who stands under the Parkway Bridge screaming, “The end is nigh!  The end is nigh!”

  1. I have gone braless and no one was ever the wiser because, well, I’m a guy …
  2. My best sources are Netflix streaming and Netflix DVDs.  I once spoke to one of their customer-service representatives; I do not know whether she has a crush on me.
  3. I am at my best when collecting a paycheck.
  4. I’ve mastered the ability to sit in a recliner.
  5. I hate the right side of the BBCAmerica/Doctor-Who website. The margin is too narrow.
  6. I hope to be old one day.
  7. Sad, grating, thunderstorm stories about bad things make me depressed.
  8. I have taken naps in my recliner (see # 4).
  9. If you ramble and I deem you unnecessary to furthering my writing career I will seriously question my personal value system, and even if the feeling were genuine I’d never admit it because sometimes honesty is  a thinly-veiled disguise for cruelty and arrogant self-indulgence.
  10. I have never stood under a Parkway Bridge screaming, “The end is nigh!  The end is nigh!”, but if Shea Allen gets rich I may start.

Until next time, keep confessing, keep time-traveling, and don’t panic.  42.

Years truly,

Keith

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker

Lust

Clara_imageI’ve noticed I frequently post a picture of Doctor Who’s companions on my blog. Lest you think I’m a total lech, the main reason for doing this is to draw attention to my blog. After all, photos of Romana, Rose, Clara (pictured), or Susan have a lot more sex appeal than tintypes of septic tanks. That’s just good ol’ common sense. But there’s something deeper

something Freudian

about my consistent choice of hot babes pretty women to punctuate my web logging these days. And that “something” has to do with romance. In New Who — as well as many classic Who episodes with Tom Baker — there is a romantic tension that exists between the Doctor and his Companions. And the Doctor is usually unaware of it. And while he does show considerable affection for his mates on ye olde TARDIS the Doctor doesn’t seem to take a hint very well. You could justify this because he’s not human, or because the stakes are so high that he doesn’t have time for love, or because he’s immortal and will outlive whoever he does fall for. But really, the dude is just clueless. Women notice him, but he doesn’t reciprocate. And this characteristic, rather than being rude or chauvinistic, adds to his charm … or so it would seem.

(I will add parenthetically, which is why this paragraph is in parentheses, that the Doctor does notice his Companions from time-to-time. Clearly he is in deep anguish about Rose. And on a lighter note he chews his wrist off at the sight of Clara’s tight skirt. But these are exceptions, not the rule.)

So why am I so curious? I think it’s because at heart I’m a romantic. I’ve probably always known this, but I really had to admit it after a college friend reviewed my novel (here) and told me that my “adventure” was actually a “romance.” She was right. It turns out — through no fault of my own — that I am fascinated by the intercourse interplay between guys and girls. And Doctor Who (the man) is in many ways my own opposite. The beautiful girl is right under his nose and he completely misses her flirting, suggestiveness, or explicit passes.

How am I the opposite? Well, I was the one who noticed the girls back in the day. Another obsession we writers share is people watching. If I were attracted to a girl, no detail was too small to notice: her clothes, her eyeglasses, her legs, her jokes, her snorts, or that (unbelievably) cute way she’d have of tucking her hair under a baseball cap with the pony tail sticking out. And yet, ironically, romance was often elusive as hell.

“It’s not that you’re unattractive, Keith. I just don’t want a relationship right now,” she’d said, right before she started dating the other guy (we’ll call him David).

But this has a happy ending. After crossing that Rubicon from my teens to my twenties, I met the girl of my dreams; I even married her. But I spent many years wanting to be that Doctor Who archetype, that absent-minded, bumbling, good-looking free spirit. Maybe I am some of these things, some of the time. But I am not all of these things all of the time. He is not I, and vice versa in reverse. And we have to live with truths. So, whether you’re a plumber, artist, attorney, Time Lord, burglar, or engineer, it’s important to remember what that succinct bastard William Shakespeare said: “To thine own self be true.” You actually have no choice, no matter how many time machines you have.

Years truly,
Keith
(Bane of David)

Text copyright © 2013 by Keith Parker

The photo and Doctor Who are copyright © 2013 by the BBC

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.

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

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

The Foundation of Being Dumb

“Violence,” came the retort, “is the last refuge of the incompetent.” ~ FOUNDATION, The Encyclopedists, by Isaac Asimov, 1951

“To thine own self be true.” ~ Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3, by William Shakespeare, c 1623

Look, it’s pretty obvious I was a dipshit for about 20 years. Why in the name of God would I try to write something I wouldn’t even want to read?  If you stay up 12 hours every night reading thrillers, then you need to be writing thrillers.  If you’re mesmerized by Joyce Carol Oates’ sublime prose, then you need to be writing about the jagged edges of love.  If you’re reading Playboy for the articles, then you’re lying.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been mesmerized by the science fiction and fantasy section of bookstores.   I’d wander in, mouth agape, eyes agog, images of spaceships and ray guns whirling around me.

I remember one store vividly –Adan’s Bookland, if I remember correctly – located at a mall here in Huntsville.  As a comedian once mocked, this mall was called “The Mall,” and was located on a parkway called “The Parkway,” which is not too far from a mountain called “The Mountain.”  Alas, my hometown is not renowned for its creativity.  If you went into the bookstore from its sidewalk entrance, the science fiction (or SF) section was immediately to your right.  My older brother, a brilliant hippie and headstrong physicist (or do I have that backwards) had turned me on to Star Trek and The Twilight Zone years before.  He’d drive me to The Mall, then ditch me while he and his high school buddies looked for the latest LPs by Badfinger and Led Zeppelin at Hornbuckle’s Records.  On one specific day – an icy-blue November Saturday – I’d just finished the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, devouring the copies of those three books that my brother had given me.  I wasn’t quite sure I understood the story, and I was as enthralled with the cover art as I was with the mysterious story itself.  The first book of the trilogy looked like this photo on the left.

Foundation Book 1

To my surprise that morning, I spotted another book right away that looked like it was part of the same series.  Its title was 50 Short Science Fiction Tales and it had Asimov’s name in bold font across the front – along with Geoff Conklin, whoever he was!  At the time – I was only nine – I didn’t know publishers commissioned the artists to do covers for different novels.  All I knew was the enigmatic cover art, so very similar to Foundation, was sitting there in front of me.  It looked like this photo on the right.

Fifty Short SF TalesSo, it was perfectly natural for a fourth-grader to conclude he’d soon be reading even more about futuristic heroes like Hari Seldon, Hober Mallow, Salvor Hardin, and, of course, The Mule.

What was it about that art?  Was it the eerie green glow?  The spaceship-and-sun logo?  The creepy man with the Roman nose and slanted eyes, the one who looked … Asian?  On the way home I asked my brother about this.  After all, every other SF book cover showcased men as white as Florida sand and shackled women as bikini-clad as Florida women.  My brother didn’t need to mull over my question.  He just flipped his hand flippantly (as it were) and said Asimov’s fiction took place 50-to-100 thousand years from now.  By that time humans would’ve evolved (he said) toward an Asian countenance because of that culture’s science, technology and logic.

I cocked my head, confused.  The entire population of Asia was composed of scientists and engineers who kicked their emotions to the curb like Mr. Spock?  Everybody?  There wasn’t a single pissed-off garbage man on the entire damn continent?

I encountered a lot of that type of weird stereotyping growing up, a half-insulting, half-complimenting broad-brushing of people who were “not like us,” whatever the hell that means.  If you grew up in the ruins of the old Confederacy, as I did, you know what I’m talking about.  You’ve learned to juggle these conflicting thoughts and feelings, contradictory morals and ethics.  It goes with the territory, as it were.

But I digress.  When I was nine if you’d asked me what I wanted to write when I grew up, I would’ve said science fiction without hesitation.  Hell, if you’d asked me when I was 18 I would’ve said science fiction, until a strange series of events in the fall of 1982.  I had started school at a small, liberal arts college with a tremendous academic reputation.  Like most guys my age, my studies took a backseat to the twitchy, inexplicable and completely normal crush I’d developed on a cute blonde I met that first week.  Things didn’t quite work out between her and me, mostly due to my awkward bungling of the whole affair.  But the subsequent letdown affected me for a long time to come.

That probably translates to about one week in the taffy-time of your teen years.

Her rejection sent me scrambling back to the sanctuary of SF.  I remember driving my old Plymouth to Brookwood Mall seeking solace.  I went straight to section containing Asimov’s books.   His literature was my comfort food, my meat and potatoes.

And what did I find that day?  I found something that rattled me as hard as the rejection from the girl on campus: The cover art of the entire Foundation series had been changed.  It had been updated.

It had been ruined.

Feeling lower than a man who’s just accidently shot his own dog, I dragged my sorry ass back to campus, realizing everything had changed, including me.

And that’s when I really became a dumbass, hiding behind a veil of dry humor, thinking I knew that SF was only for nerds.  Now don’t get me wrong … I had fun.  Or should I say, F-U-N!  College was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  I met my wife and made friends so dear they’re like family to this day.  But I also gave up a piece of myself.  I ditched SF, and for that, I made Keith Parker a synonym for dipshit.  And I kept it that way until tragedy struck almost 20 years and two children later.

In February 2003 my brother – the one who’d given me the Foundation novels – dropped dead of a heart attack in his own kitchen.  Under the crushing stress of grief, my mother’s subsequent strokes and Alzheimer’s dementia, the loss of a job, the death of my father-in-law, and countless other freaky setbacks, I found myself gravitating back that charming realm of SF, seeking the asylum I lost that autumn day in ’82.

Thankfully, I’ve rediscovered my roots.  I know within a moral certainty that my writing has to be speculative fiction.  There’s no other way for me to be me without it.

So no matter what your passion is

and you know what it is

do not ignore it.  You’ll never write a successful novel, screenplay, short story, poem, haiku, or recipe without having the full weight of love behind it.

Oh, one last thing:  Those copies of Foundation that my brother gave me?  The ones with the “evolved” humans?  Those novels are gone forever.  Locked away.  Buried.  And I mean that literally.  Without anyone looking, I put those copies into the memory box of my brother’s casket.  I said goodbye.  Sometimes you have to say goodbye in order to say hello again.

Thanks for reading.

Peace, from Keith

.

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Copyright © 2012, Alan Keith Parker, All Rights Reserved.  Images displayed under fair use laws.

Depression and Fire

Depression burns.  Have you ever looked at somebody was who was zoning out?  Seen a friend or relative completely out of touch?  Been around someone who just wasn’t quite “there,” quite “with it,” or quite lucid?  Ever feel like you’re dealing with somebody in the twilight of his day, and you’ve seen this for a week, maybe two, maybe longer?

Maybe that someone has been you.  Have you sat alone in a darkened room, your face all angles and facets, rigid lines replacing the dimples where your smile should go?

Image

Depression stuns.  It burns.  It rattles the mind.  It takes the very thing that makes you you and turns it into a feral swamp.  Depression makes you empty, dry, fatigued, angry, and nervous.  Your thoughts are scattered around your brain like seeds on rocky earth.  You have no focus, no energy, and no reliable or rational thoughts.  Strangely enough, you’re probably not sad.  But you do hurt.

It hurts bad, doesn’t it?

Depression and its in-bred cousin, anxiety, take their toll on you physically, causing joint pain, muscle aches, frightening chest tightness, dull headaches, throbbing behind the eyes, sleep loss, and makes your ears feel like they’re stopped up.

The author William Styron said depression was the worst possible name for this disorder.  Paraphrasing him, “You’re not depressed, you’re mad.”

Depression is a madness

The novel I wrote back in 1999 addresses these issues through the protagonist, Dylan Delaney, and his would-be lover, Zelda Wilcox. I drew upon personal experience to help flesh out Dylan’s character so my readers might gain greater insight into the day-to-day agony of this disease.  While the novel is no longer available in print, I have published it for the Kindle.  And it is available here –> Fire Always Burns Uphill <– for only 99 cents.

If you’re curious about the plot, it’s an adventure and a love story

with sex

and quite a bit of humor, set against the backdrop of a mountain canyon.  I’ve also had curious reactions to the two main characters; men seem to prefer Zelda, while women seem to hate her.  I’d be curious to hear your reaction.

But more importantly, the novel is my attempt to socialize the anguish of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and panic attacks.  If I’m able to convince just one person that these illnesses are not character flaws, then the novel has been a success.  Millions of people suffer; none of them is not worthless, lazy, cowardly, faithless, or weird.

The stigma of mental illness haunts all of us, and the results can tear family and friends apart.  A word of advice before I let you go today:

  • First, if you know someone suffering, get medical attention.
  • Second, do not ever tell him or her to “snap out of it” or “chill out.”  Doing so is the moral equivalent of offering a diabetic a milkshake.

Thanks for listening.  Back to science fiction, fantasy and humor next time, I promise.

Until then, peace be with you.

Keith

Rose: She Smells Sweeter

[Ed: I apologize for the initial post’s typographical errors. I’m sure that’s never happened in a blog before.]

I just re-watched the pilot for the 2005 version the BBC’s Doctor Who, and I’m a lot more impressed the second time (as it were) around. The complaints I had after watching initially were centered around the department store dummies that came to life, and that was just a little too campy for a show this recent. And I’m a little surprised by the pilot’s success going up against character-driven masterpieces like the new Battlestar Galactica and the incomparable LOST.

Image

But this episode, simply titled “Rose,” does have its moments, especially as Billie Piper’s character comes to realize her quasi-love-at-first-sight tickle. And I applaud her prodding The Doctor and the Internet conspiracy theorist about the life, the universe, and, well, everything.

The show takes some nice swipes at British culture (the eyesore of London, the VW beetle parked on the curb) and uses some subtle satire here and there that might be lost, especially on American audiences, when they see it the first time.

The downside of the episode is that Rose’s boyfriend — after getting eaten by a trash can — comes back as a man made of consciousness-infused plastic, tears up a restaurant, and proceeds to get melted inside the TARDIS. I dunno what’s wrong with me, but I had trouble suspending disbelief in that part of the show. I don’t know whether it was Rose’s “culture shock” to the TARDIS itself, or simply bad acting/directing, but her emotional reaction to the death of her boyfriend was a tad underwhelming.

However, the encounter with the consciousness being itself was much more subtly creative than I first gave it credit for. Watching in a dimly lit room, I realized this was an homage to The Outer Limits. The gooey monster in the pit had every characteristic, sans black-and-white film, of monsters that creeped me out as a kid.

I have to admit I’m quite jealous of Doctor Who now that I’ve gotten into it. It has the traits that I’ve always wanted to put into a series of stories or novels: contemporary settings, time travel, interesting characters, real human drama, and an immortal. Of course there’s no reason why I can’t create this all on my own. I think we science fiction and fantasy writers are a little too self-conscious about “stealing” ideas, when, in actuality, ideas cannot be copyrighted or stolen. If I were to concoct my own story arc about an immortal time traveller and his sexy companion the result would be so different from Doctor Who that it’d only be recognized by its genre.

So keep that in mind as you work on your own writing. Everything is derivative, even Homer (the Greek, not the Simpson).

Until next time,

Peace from Keith

Copyright © 2012 Alan Keith Parker

Dear Oprah, Dear Squash, Please Make Me Rich

Dear Oprah,

I’m writing you today so you can make me rich.

By endorsing my novel, Fire Always Burns Uphill, you will change my life, my dog’s life, my kids’ lives, and you’ll ease my wife’s growing trepidation over that pesky “for better or for worse” clause in our wedding vows.

You see, Oprah, I’d make a very, very good rich person.  I’d pay off the mortgages of family, friends, and random people I meet in the produce section of grocery stores.  I’d give money to the homeless, take care of baby seals, and plug the ozone hole.  And while it’s true that I’d continue to dazzle Twitter and Facebook with my wicked humor and word salads about science fiction, I’d never forget where I came from (fifth floor, Huntsville Hospital).

All it takes is a few short words from you – on your show – on national TV.  That’ll turn my novel (a romantic adventure with some great sex) from the literary equivalent of baloney-on-white into a smoked haddock entree with a Caposaldo Merlot Moscato.  Now, you may not give a hoot about me, gourmet recipes I plucked off the Internet, or my musings about Doctor Who and Star Trek, but think about it: What if you were the person trying to find some tender yellow squash?  What if I picked you as the person whose house I’d pay off?  Wouldn’t that be the bee’s knees?

You see, I’d never flaunt my wealth.  Hell, I wouldn’t even move, although I would get that broken eye on the stove fixed.  All I’d do is pay off the house, sock away enough for the kids to go to college, and offer up spare cash to the hungry, needy, and produce-challenged.

Sure, I’d still blog about what a bad show Space: 1999 was, or what a good show Firefly is.  And, yeah, I’d occasionally get all misty-eyed about Dungeons & Dragons, but those are incidentals.  You see, I’m an INFP stuck in a career crawling with ENTJs.  Do you know what INFPs do for a living?  They become cloistered monks or nineteenth century poets.  Do you know what happens to INFPs who shun their true nature and go into aerospace engineering like I did?  They come home with black eyes and “kick me” signs taped to their back (well, not really, but it feels like it).

So, Oprah, I urge you: Endorse my book, make me rich.  Let me have the free time to buy summer squash (see picture above) and have you over for some good ol’ ’Southern vittles.  Help me avoid the cyber-wedgies I get every day from working with people who’d rather upgrade their Windows software than have a conversation with me.  Oprah, I’m beggin’ ya.

Peace and hair grease,

Keith

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Copyright © 2012 Alan Keith Parker, All Rights Reserved.  Inspired by a blogging prompt from the WordPress.com’s @Freshly_Pressed Twitter feed.