Archive for February, 2010

Small Success For Oom

February 26, 2010

Oom made it to the second round of ABNA – the “Amazon Breakthorugh Novel Awards”. What does that mean? Well, from 5000 entries to the YA section, Oom has made it into the top 1000 (not exactly a shortlist). However, the first round was only judged on the “pitch”, which went something like this:

Set in the dry Australian grasslands, “Oom” uses an original take on the boy-meets-alien storyline to provide an intriguing look at humanity from the outside.

When Oom, an alien exiled from his home planet, appears to Joe, the ten year old son of an Australian farmer, everything changes. Joe’s family face the prospect of having to sell their drought crippled farm to their arrogant and self-righteous neighbours. Oom knows the farmland intimately by another name, “Ascension”, and tells Joe of a secret that could save the farm.

But Oom is not visiting Earth to make contact with humans. His higher purpose is to seek the wisdom of, and be judged by, another species entirely. These telepathic creatures have been intricately connected with Oom’s people for millennia, remotely acting as their supreme leaders.

Through their philosophical discussions, Joe and Oom become close friends. Later, Joe accompanies Oom for two important meetings. Firstly, Oom indulges humanity’s curiosity and agrees to meet with the US president. The second meeting is infinitely more profound and changes Oom’s life forever.

Unfortunately, the next round of judging will be based on the strength of the opening three chapters, and I know from the feedback I’ve had that these are the worst in the book. But at least this is validation that Oom is a good book concept.


100 Interesting Things: #4 Dreams

February 21, 2010

Dreams are another of the great unknowns. Sometimes ones own dream can be the most exciting and interesting thing, although can bore the pants off the person you tell it to. I might do that to you in a minute when I describe one of my recurring dreams.

I am going to skip the research and the encyclopaedic regurgitation of facts, which you can read here. I’ll go straight to my own musings, which is what self indulgent blogging is all about.

Have you ever “woken up”, so that you are left in a conscious, though a definitely not normal state, where, when you close your eyes, you see patterns that you are not consciously controlling? Patterns which, could have been generated by a computer (like the Mac OS screen saver Electric Sheep) and change and evolve constantly. Shapes swiftly morph into other shapes, in full colour on a black background. This is a strange state to be in because you can literally just lie there and enjoy the show that your brain, and not you, is controlling.

One important property of this introverted light show is that the shapes are most definitely fractals, and as the observer you have the power (or the illusion of it) to zoom in and out of the patterns. The definition of the “image” is enormous, we’re talking HD TV x 100. There is no blurring. The image is perfect.

I have had this experience enough times to know that it was not a dream itself. I have pinched myself and am sure it was a “real” experience. My theory is that, when we sleep, our brains are creating fractal images all the time in our “mind’s eye”, or the screen on which, while awake, the real world is projected from our eye-balls. I don’t know why the brain does this, but it must do it because I’ve seen it. The interesting thing is that I think the patterns, generated by one part of the brain, cause the dreams in another part. The unconscious dreaming brain is forced to look at the screen, as it is always forced to look at the screen, day and night. The screen is the source of input to the part of the brain that thinks while we’re awake and dreams while we’re asleep. This part of the brain cannot help but “look” at the screen and have it search for and manipulate mental symbols (we know the manipulation of our own mental symbols as “experience”), and thus, dreams are created and pushed hither and thither by the randomness of the patterns on the “screen”.

That’s it really, except that I was wondering if anyone out there can tell me why I have the following recurring dream: I am back at school studying for my A-levels (I am now 33 years old BTW) and time is running out. The exam is imminent but I have not been to a single Maths class, and I know that there is no way on Earth I can pass it. The dream seems to go on for ages and is quite unpleasant. Why do we so often dream about the past? Or is it just me?

100 Interesting Things: #3 Death

February 13, 2010

There are almost 7 billion people in the world and in 100 years 99.9% of them will be dead. That’s the great thing about death, for the time being at least, it happens to everyone. However, no-one has a clue what happens afterwards. Of course, for the dead, there is no “afterwards”. The brain, which ticks like a clock during life, stops ticking at the moment of death, stopping time for the brain’s owner.

All religious beliefs assume the continuity of the soul through time. Christians believe the soul goes on to heaven or hell. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, and I think they assume that the new animal will live on earth after the old animal in terms of Earth time.

Nietzsche wrote about the concept of Eternal Return whereby every “soul” on Earth is doomed to live their lives over and over again. We’re not talking about Groundhog Day here, where you get endless chances to make things better. We’re talking the same identical life recurring infinitely. I’m not sure if Nietzsche intended it, but this concept highlights the absurdity of “soul”: because there is exactly zero difference between living the same life infinite times, and living it once. Just like “Howard the Duck” on DVD , it doesn’t matter how many times it’s watched, it’s still a shit movie.

We have to get used to the idea that there is no soul, and there is nothing for us to experience after death, but at the same time, it’s ok. Our lives are self-contained atomic units, like a painting or a movie. When we think about lives like JFK, Marilyn Monroe, or Michael Jackson we kind of accept this, but it is true for all of us, as well as the pet dogs we owned as children. Look up JFK on Wikipedia and you’ll see something like:

John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often 
referred to by his initials JFK was the 35th  President of the...

The entity JFK starts in 1917 and ends in 1963. There is no JFK outside those limits… He’s dead.