Tag: fiction

Quote of the Day: Truth and Fiction


“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” — Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar, Mark Twain

Ain’t it the truth. All you have to do is look at the news today. If in 1960 someone had written a science fiction novel about the 2020s with even half the things that are going on today his editors would have laughed at the draft when they encountered it on the slush pile. The world would lock down for a respiratory virus with a 1% fatality rate? Get outta here!  That will never happen. The FBI would be colluding with a major political party and the New York Times to subvert justice? That’s wacko conspiracy theory territory. Big Brother would not come from the government but rather from public sector technology companies? That idea’s kinda out there, isn’t it?

Simulation, Revelation


The surest way to appreciate a work is to try to recreate it.

Toddlers help us to appreciate the difficulty of drawing or painting by their laughable scribbling. One might first pity the child’s lack of eye-hand coordination, lack of patience, or lack of barest attention to detail (“Is it an airplane? Oh, a cat! Of course, it is. It looks great!”). But few adults can sketch anything worthy of pride either. The more we advance in skill, the more we recognize the full challenge. 

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I wasn’t looking for a NASA researcher, I was looking for goat cheese. I must have seemed perplexed as I surveyed the half-dozen or so options in the display case. My mission was to find a goat cheese to substitute for ricotta, which my daughter has problems digesting. Enter the cheese stocker guy. You know, […]

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When Silicon Valley Values Meet West Texas


Texas ranching has been under economic siege almost since it began. It has always offered an opportunity to make a small fortune, nowadays by starting with a large one. Yet for all its flaws, ranching is addictive. So is abandoning ranching.

“The Big Empty,” a novel by Loren Steffy, steals one of the classic tropes of Texas letters: modern technology displacing ranching. The oil industry is the traditional disrupter. Set at the dawn of the 21st century, Steffy makes high tech, computers, and the internet ranching’s competitor. He adds a spin. The ranchers are rooting for high tech to win.

Conquistador is a dying West Texas cattle town. While not at the end of the world, on the flat West Texas plains it might as well be. Ranching is fading as a business. Conquistador’s residents are desperately seeking new industry to draw jobs there. They even tried getting the state to build a prison, just for the jobs, only to be turned down. Conquistador is too remote even for prisons.

A British Police Procedural Updated to the Present


The British police procedural is one of the most popular forms of detective fiction. The twentieth century brought Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse and P. D. James’s Adam Dagliesh. There are many others, including some set in the nineteenth century.

“Queen of Swords,” by Robert Mills, brings the genre into the twenty-first century.

Senior nurse Jenny Butcher is found strangled in her London flat. Detective Inspector Sanjay Patel, a British-born Indian is the case’s first investigator. He is assigned as deputy to Chief Inspector Tracy Taylor, and an important part of the investigation.

Holy Thou Art


What does it mean for something to be holy? I think it means that a thing or person directs us to God or expresses His presence. Holiness is connected with pious awe. 

What artistic works seem holy to you? Which are the most peculiarly holy — holy in some unusual and perhaps less obvious sense? Is there some work of sculpture or architecture, painting or music, oration or literature that draws you closer to God in a way your associates don’t fully share? 

For Want of Wild Beasts: Meet Me at the Corner of Auburn and Prescott


“Botany is 98% burnouts and potheads.”

The registrar, a kindly, aging woman with a sharp Boston accent, had said that to him on the first day of orientation, handing over his class schedule. Strictly speaking, a medical doctor shouldn’t have been teaching botany at all, but there had been a blank space in his teaching schedule, and the matter of various athletes and sons (and daughters) of privilege who needed science credits. Mix in a few naive humanities majors, frightened of the harder sciences and without any older friends to warn them against it, and that about made up one of his classes. If nothing else, it made his litany of pre-med modules more bearable. 

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There is not a clear line between them.  Novels are often considered more intellectually challenging than movies. But many readers prefer what I call “junk fiction” which, though respectable, offers thrills and little else. It’s mind candy to be enjoyed and quickly forgotten. Films can similarly offer shallow but pleasing content, of course.  Preview Open

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The Great Books: Modern P.I. Series


These are the series I will reread time and again, the ones that suck me back in and have held up over time. By “modern” I mean 1960s on, and include both licensed P.I.s and sole investigators. I’ll occasionally go back to some individual classics by Hammett, Chandler, Christie, and Ellery Queen (especially the trilogy of Queen failures at the center of which is Ten Days Wonder, a masterpiece.) But these twelve are the ones I will reread in their entirety.

JOHN D. MACDONALD, Travis McGee (21 books)
A hardcore beach bum burnout who lives on a houseboat in Florida, Travis is a prototype for many to come, including Jack Reacher. The Kindle versions are high-priced, but individual ones pop up occasionally for $1.99.

Overthinking It


Scene, on a hill in a field we see a car. A GUY and a GIRL laying on the hood, stargazing. After a moment passes, the GUY’S INNER MONOLOGUE steps out from behind the car, paces a bit, rolling his shoulder.

GUY’S INNER MONOLOGUE: “Man oh man, if she keeps lying there like that my shoulder is going to fall asleep. I should say something. There’s no way I’m going to say something; if I do she might move. If you lose circulation doesn’t the limb die eventually? If I don’t move I’m probably going to get shoulder gangrene or something. I can leave it a little longer though. Probably.

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Heat! Heat in stifling blanket layers. Heat that enveloped all of California from the arid Mexican border in the south to majestic Klamath Forest, elbowing northward into Oregon. Heat, oppressive and enervating…Throughout cities and suburbs, in factories, offices, stores and homes, six million electric air-conditioners hummed.  On thousands of farms in the fertile Central Valley–the […]

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A Novel About the Author of ‘The Prince’


Niccolò Machiavelli is best known for his work “The Prince,” written in 1513. Today he is associated with political deceit and deviousness. To be Machiavellian is to behave unscrupulously. The actual man was quite different than his modern reputation. He was a staunch believer in republican government, and was viewed as an honest diplomatic broker.

“The Diplomat of Florence: A Novel of Machiavelli and the Borgias,” by Anthony Robert Wildman is a fictional biography of Machiavelli’s life. It covers the period from the 1498 end of the Medici rule in Florence until its restoration fifteen years later. This was the era of the Florentine Republic, Savonarola, and the Italian Renaissance.

The novel shows Machiavelli’s development from a minor bureaucrat in home-town Florence’s diplomatic establishment to one of the Republic of Florence’s most senior and respected diplomats. You watch his battles with his bureaucratic rivals, his progression to the head of his household, and his marriage.

The Religious War to Come


Jamie stood outside the door of the conference room. He knew the group had already been waiting 15 minutes for him, but they were accustomed to his tardiness. The time had arrived to make the big announcement and he was fully prepared. Whether they were ready or not, they’d have to step up.

He opened the door and walked in. The conference room was modest in size, and the table where all six board members sat was full. Everyone was there. He smiled inwardly as he quickly reviewed their roles. They thought they were there to represent gay, lesbian, black, Hispanic, feminist and trans communities; the only reason they were actually there was because they were rich. He cleared his throat and stood at his end of the table.

A Sense of Wonder


Whether you are Christian or not, Christmas is a good time for renewal of innocence and wonder. The common sights of people excitedly opening gifts, decorating homes and public streets in lights, retelling stories of miracles and merriment — such experiences can rekindle in us a joyful pursuit of the good and the beautiful.