Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sample reading from Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems

This is a sample reading of an excerpt from my longest poem, “Unsung Heroes” as well as several sonnets from Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sonnets: "Familiar Pain"

Familiar Pain

If I continue on my present course,
I cannot help but come to lose my mind,
The strongest feeling left me is remorse,
And solitude the answer that I find.

I ask so little, yet it seems too much:
To share complete, unfettered, selfless love,
To feel the titillation of a touch,
Which does not fade and we can't rise above.

I know that what I search for is not real,
Yet I can't still the yearning in my heart,
Reason decries the tenderness I feel,
Still, I trudge onward playing out my part.

I struggle daily to gain self control,
Conscious that I am heading for a fall.

From Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems (C) 2011 Victor D. López

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sonnets: "The Pages of My Life"

The Pages of My Life

I read the pages of my life so clear,
Its images dismissed as pains of youth,
And yet, though far, I see them all so near,
Relive the fear, hope, warmth‑‑glimmers of truth.

Vague shadows visit me and leave behind,
Uneasy feelings draped in tenderness,
I see too well, yet wish that I were blind,
And fear above all else my truthfulness.

If only I believed that I could find,  
One path in life to follow faithfully;
How sad that knowledge can be so unkind,
And pain the wages of our honesty.

I’d gladly give my life for peace of mind,
Yet know in life it is not mine to find. 

From Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems (C) 2011 Victor D. López

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Heart’s Betrayal

I hear her voice and cannot help but smile,
I hold her eyes and do not need to speak,
I hear her laughter and life seems worthwhile,
I think of her and am bereft of sleep.

When she is near my thoughts are but a blur,
I feel contentment  and great tenderness,
When she leaves, even briefly, I endure,
An irrational growing emptiness.

I do not wish to love her, yet I do,
And recognize the pain that it will cause,
To one who loves me deeply, long and true,
And does not know of her potential loss.

Reason decries the growing love I feel,
Yet it is there, most powerful and real.

From Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems (C) 2011 Victor D. López

Sonnets: Ode to Innocence

                Ode to Innocence

Oh half-remembered, fleeting happy time,
When nothing mattered more than love and play,
Imagination was then in its prime,
And life began anew with every day.

A flower was then a joy, a mystery,
And not a petal, root and simple stem,
And life was full of wondrous fantasy,
Untainted by the intellect of man.

That time is gone now, It cannot return,
The fruit's been swallowed, its slow poison kills,
And yet my fallen heart will always yearn,
For that ephemeral time of unknown skills.

Oh false god, knowledge, daily you destroy,
All that was holy in me as a boy!

From Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems (C) 2011 Victor D. López

Friday, October 25, 2013

Short Story Preview, "End of Days" from Book of Dreams 2e.

This is the newest short story from my Book of Dreams 2nd Edition: Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Short Stories collection. It is also available as a stand-alone Kindle short story here. The description from the short story  from appears below:

This short story poses a novel theory as to the role of black holes in both the creation and destruction of an endless number of universes that coexist in an incomprehensibly complex multiverse. It is a cautionary tale about the arrogance of scientists who are the cosmic equivalent of amoebas attempting to discern the secrets of the universe by thoroughly examining within the limits of their perception the drop of pond scum they inhabit. It is also a cautionary tale about the ability of determined, creative terrorists to begin the process that will lead to the destruction of our corner of the multiverse by the creative use of materials at their disposal. 

The end is very, very near and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

I hope you enjoy the following preview. 


End of Days

God spoke to me last night. No, I am not schizophrenic or a Jesus freak. Nor am I a conspiracy theorist (well, except for JFK’s assassination, of course--unless the principles of quantum mechanics somehow apply to bullets fired from book depositories with inhuman rapidity to perform a dance macabre through the bodies of governors before striking their intended target), but I know precisely the series of events that will result in the end of the world and will eventually give birth to a new universe. It came to me in a dream. No, really, it did.

It all started pretty much like a bad Hollywood disaster flick (sorry, I know that’s redundant) with well funded mad scientists doing what comes natural in fiction as well as in fact. “Build us a big Hadron Supercollider, and we’ll find the elusive Higgs boson God particle. Maybe we’ll even come up with a unified theory that incorporates the pesky behavior of subatomic particles and allows us to demystify quantum mechanics once and for all.” It turns out, not surprising to anyone, other than scientists of course, that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and that allowing children to play unsupervised in a chemistry lab or with a super-duper, neat-o particle accelerator is not such a good thing after all. Who’d have thunk it?

The first hint that something was just a bit off-kilter came in the form of assurances by project scientists delivered with the smug expressions and thinly veiled contempt with which they usually approach any communication with the unwashed masses, that yes, miniature black holes could probably be created by subatomic particles accelerated at nearly light speed through a 17-mile circular particle accelerator and forced to collide in a massive release of energy, but such black holes would quickly dissipate. “No,” they smiled complacently, “there is absolutely no danger in these experiments.”

The second hint of a problem (and by hint I mean claxons going off, red lights flashing, and Robby the Robot’s accordion arms waving wildly while proclaiming “danger, Will Robinson!”) came when the Hadron Supercollider suffered some unspecified problems that caused it to be shut down for months on end after its first full-scale test. When the 17-mile supercollider was once again brought back on line, headlines proclaimed the countdown would begin again for the end of the world. Smile, snicker, hah-hah. What was not reported was the actual reason for the shutdown, since no one, including the geniuses running the experiments, knew the real cause: a miniature black hole that did not quickly dissipate in the lab as expected and caused a nearly catastrophic shutdown as it drilled an invisible hole a few molecules wide, eagerly sucking up anything that crossed its tiny event horizon, as it accelerated slowly but inexorably downward, worming its way through the containment chamber, rapidly vacuuming vital bits of the temperamental equipment on its way to the center of the earth.

Not to worry, though, it is still relatively small despite its voracious, unquenchable appetite, though it is exponentially increasing its mass as it swings like a pendulum through the earth’s core and beyond it in decreasing arcs that will eventually settle it at the earth’s core. It will be many months and perhaps years before we begin to feel the cataclysmic seismic effects of its inexorable violation of the earth’s core, and longer still before the entire planet and every living thing in it is sucked into its vortex, followed thereafter by the moon, and then the outer planets as the growing black hole continues its feeding frenzy, eventually consuming the entire solar system and Sol itself.

But that would be many years, perhaps millennia, in the future given the diminutive size of the black hole at present. And scientists still believe that the equipment failure was unrelated to its actual cause since the unreported black hole the initial full-scale test produced dissipated soon after its formation according to their classified reports. Therefore, the supercollider was repaired, and billions or Euros later, the scientists have their plaything once more and science is free to continue its happy march towards oblivion. If it ended here, we’d have little to worry about in the short term, other than perhaps ever-increasing seismic activity. Even the hungriest little black hole needs a great deal of time to ingest a planet from the inside out, and if later laboratory-created black holes don’t ingest other vital pieces of sensitive equipment on their way to joining their older brother down the rabbit hole in their inexorable journey to swallow our blue planet, we’d probably kill off our species through war, pestilence, famine or other forms of humanity’s endless capacity for galloping stupidity long before daddy’s and mommy’s little darlings consumed the world.

If my prescient dream had ended there, I’d shake it off with a smile and go about my day without another thought, compartmentalizing the certain knowledge of future doom in the nether regions of my mind, right next to the knowledge of the unsustainability of our ballooning federal and state deficits and the possibility of an asteroid hit that would once again eradicate most plant and animal life on this planet.

Unfortunately, scientists are not the only ones who like to play God. They are just more tragic and contemptible in their efforts at doing so because they should know better. They are like amoebas attempting to extrapolate the secrets of the universe by examining in minutest detail the drop of fetid swamp water atop a floating leaf that they inhabit. In a very real sense, scientists are among the smartest amoebas, all hail their boundless wisdom! But others like to play in the hedonistic God sandbox, too. And here is where my prescient dream grows infinitely darker.

It so happens that terrorists pay attention to science. Science, after all, brought us TNT, the A-bomb, the H-bomb, weaponized anthrax and lots of other cool goodies that are wonderful additions to the terrorists' toolkits. As it happens, one particularly well funded, well connected group in the Middle East thinks it a grand idea to blow Israel off the face of the earth before that even better funded, and better connected state has the chance to do the same to them or to their proxy states. They have acquired a gaggle of disaffected, under-employed Russian physicists and funded them generously to come up with “outside-the-box” ideas for a doomsday device on the cheap. They did not have 17-mile supercolliders to play with, and Jihadist physicists are a rare breed. But not to worry, they had something better: money, lots of it, and the ability to entice scientists who view themselves above pedantic, bourgeois notions of ethics and for whom science is the only religion.

Undaunted by any notions of right and wrong and guided by the simple principle that “if it can be done, it must be done,” these brilliant men and women soon developed a working experiment that presented an elegant solution that their benefactors immediately approved.

[***** END OF PREVIEW *****]

Book of Dreams 2e is available both in paperback and Kindle editions. Seven of the eight short stories in the collection are also available as stand-alone short stories for the Kindle. You can get additional information about each of these by clicking on their respective covers below. 

I hope you enjoyed the preview and am very grateful for your interest.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Free sample short, "Justice", from Book of Dreams 2e (text and audio file)

Audio file – Short Story, Justice, from Book of Dreams 2e.

This is my reading of the shortest short story, Justice, from my Book of Dreams 2nd Edition: Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Short Stories. It is the only piece of “flash fiction” in the collection of eight short stories. Although I’ve lectured for a quarter century, it is interesting how difficult it can be to read one’s own work out loud. It is a cold reading due to time constraints, and is recorded with an inexpensive microphone, but I hope it can provide at least an awkward semblance of the “sound” of the story in my mind’s ear as I wrote it. You may access the reading, formatted as a YouTube video, by clicking here.

The complete text of the short story, which is the shortest story in the collection and the only one not available as a separate Kindle stand-alone short story, appears below.


Time: The all too near future
Place: A courtroom
Setting: Final sentencing of a prisoner convicted of the last remaining capital offense on the books of a kinder, gentler, fairer world in which equality is no longer a mere aspiration.

The prisoner stared impassively into the camera. The bright lights causing beads of sweat to form above his eyes and forcing him to squint, his perspiration-soaked thinning hair flattened unflatteringly against his forehead. No sound could be heard other than the faint hum of the air conditioning whose airflow was directed from the high ceiling above the high seats of the three judge panel, towards the three judged, keeping their immediate area comfortably cool. The camera trained on them remained a respectful distance away, and no harsh lights illuminated their somber countenances.
All three judges stared at the camera showing no emotion, their hands folded in front of them on the surface of their capacious bench on top of three equal, neat stacks of paper piled before each judge. Everywhere on earth citizens watched the unfolding drama over the neural net that provided a fully immersive experience indistinguishable from reality, effectively placing every citizen of earth in the courtroom as the Chief Judge began to speak in a deep, resonant, clear voice.
“The evidence against you has been examined. This tribunal finds you guilty of the charges against you by a unanimous vote. Have you anything you would like to add before we pass sentence?”
The camera changed back to the prisoner. The lights brighten around him and the heat rises perceptibly, adding fresh fuel to the trickle of sweat flowing down his flushed face, causing a bead of sweat to form at the end of his nose that he cannot swat away because his wrists are restrained by metal bands at the armrests of his chair, outside the viewing range of the camera which has a tight zoom on his face. “I am guilty of no crime,” the prisoner spoke in a low voice full of palpable weariness and resignation.
“You are guilty of the most heinous of crimes,” the Chief Judge contradicted. That is not open to debate. This is your final chance to make what amends you may to those whom you have harmed through your selfish, deviant act. It will have no effect on the sentencing by this Court.”
“But I have done nothing wrong,” the man emphatically repeated, the perspiration rolling down his neck deepening the growing ring of sweat absorbed by his bright orange jumper, staining a dark collar of moisture around his neck.
“Silence!” the Chief Judge hissed. “The record will show that the prisoner is unrepentant. This Court finds that the prisoner willfully, maliciously and without justification removed his neural connector with the purpose and effect of disconnecting himself from the Net. We further find that the motivating factor for this egregious, willful and repugnant crime was the attempt to abandon the Common Consciousness and establish his individuality separate and apart from the Communal Mind. We further find that the subject is in full possession of his legal faculties and capable of understanding the criminal nature of his acts, and, perhaps most tragically, that he fails to see the enormity of his crime.” The Chief Justice faltered slightly, delivering the final words of the Courts sentence with a slight tremor in his voice. After stopping a moment to compose himself as his learned colleagues looked on impassively, he continued. “It is, therefore, the judgment of this Court that you will forever remain disconnected from the nets from this day forward.”
Upon hearing the Judge’s words the prisoner’s eyes opened wider, attempting to digest their import. Could it be? Could he finally be allowed the freedom to regain his humanity? The unalienable right to be an individual for the first time in his life? The opportunity to live in a world in which he could have original thoughts, genuine emotions, and the opportunity to be different from everyone else? The joy in these words nearly made him faint with relief and unbridled joy, allowing him for the first time in his life the possibility of hope as tears welled in his eyes. He found he could not speak, could not express even the simple words “thank you” to the Court. It was as though he were emerging from a life-long nightmare, as if . . .
“The prisoner’s IP address, 999.999.999.999, shall be erased from the Nets,” the Judge continued as the prisoner’s tears flowed freely. His existence shall be forever stricken from the Collective Consciousness lest it germinate there and once again grow sedition in our midst.” The prisoner wept openly now while smiling broadly. “The death sentence for this most heinous of crimes is hereby commuted so that the prisoner may be allowed the individuality he craved for the rest of his natural life, devoid of the comfort of humanity or the distracting influences of life.”
The Chief Judge then paused and took a deep breath. “It is further ordered by this Court that the prisoner shall have his eyes, eardrums, tongue and olfactory organs surgically removed that he may not see, hear, taste, or speak with any other human being for the rest of his natural life. thereafter, he is to be remanded to a hospital where he shall be restrained to a bed and tended to by robotic life support aids. The sentence of this Court shall be carried out immediately and shall be witnessed by all Citizens of Earth as partial reparation for this most heinous of crimes against humanity.”
The prisoner’s screams lasted only a few moments as an anesthetic was administered and the cameras were re-arranged in preparation for justice to be carried out.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book of Dreams 2nd Edition: Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Short Stories (Preview #6)


The Day the Dolphins Vanished (Preview)

Beatrice Benson, BB to her colleagues and friends, would be at home in any exclusive beach resort anywhere in the world tanning her perfect body while her long, lustrous light-brown hair absorbed and weaved the sun’s rays into auburn and blonde highlights as legions of men tripped over one another for the chance to fetch her a cold drink, a towel, sun block or anything else her heart desired in hopes of gaining the simple reward of the flash of her brilliant smile. If she were not preoccupied by more important things, BB would have been amused by these attentions of which she was largely unaware, in part because she was not the type to frequent beachside resorts or spend much time lounging on beach chairs, and in part because her preternatural beauty and credentials—Ph.Ds. in marine biology, electrical engineering and linguistics all earned by her 30th birthday—quickly burned off the wings of desire of mere mortal men who were attracted to her like insignificant moths hovering about the seemingly friendly blue flame of a Bunsen burner, leaving them in a similar position in trying to hold a conversation with her as the average chimpanzee trying to grasp the finer points of the Allegory of the Cave from Plato’s Republic.
Fortunately for both moths and men, not too many moths fly about the average lab, and not too many men hang around the out of the way craggy beaches and immense stretches of ocean that BB made her home while working largely on solitary projects, conducting research, writing papers, and otherwise contributing to the advancement of her fields with an I.Q. that Einstein would have envied and a work ethic that would have made John Calvin proud. Her current project had taken her to Florida’s Gulf Coast, near Navarre Beach in Santa Rosa County, but far from the crowded condo-dotted beachfront. A generous grant from the National Science Foundation allowed her to take her floating laboratory, a modest converted cabin cruiser, wherever she went, carrying its precious cargo of high-end computer and electronics equipment with which she hoped to bridge the communications gap between dolphins and humans.
Her study of the available data had long before led her to the conclusion that dolphins have a highly evolved language. Computer analysis of sounds emitted in the audible spectrum alone showed repetitions that closely mirrored speech patterns that span across all human languages. Lesser intelligent mammals emit sounds that convey meaning to their own species, but these are typically limited to communicating very basic information essential to the survival of their species, such as calls warning about danger, or the availability of food, or simply warnings for others to keep away. Even insects evidence the ability to communicate that kind of information to their own kind. But Dolphins and most whales are in a different category altogether, possessing brains that are larger than the great apes, including Homo sapiens, and evidencing the ability for complex communication.
It is one thing to recognize the fact that speech is taking place, but quite another to be able to decipher that speech, let alone translate it in a meaningful way so that it can be understood in its proper context across species. Even when dealing with human speech, it can be quite challenging to interpret from one language for another, even for native speakers of the languages being interpreted. But our shared humanity allows us to at least understand certain emotions, such as anger, fear, pain, sadness and love without the need for a universal translator. Drop a human being with money in her pocket anywhere on the planet and she will have little trouble finding food to purchase, the shelter of a hotel room, and an endless number of consumer goods that she can easily purchase at the local market. Moreover, she needs no language at all to determine the intentions of people with whom she interacts as there are an endless number of non-verbal clues that all of us emit that can allow others to, for the most part, accurately gauge our intentions and label us as either as probable friends or foes.
 The best machine translation available today still yields results that can range from comical to tragic depending on their context and use. Anyone who has ever tried to decipher instructions accompanying low-cost, assemble-it-yourself furniture or other similar consumer goods imported from non English-speaking countries outside of the U.S. can attest to that fact.
Even when dealing with a common language, the very real possibility for misunderstanding exists due to the regional usage, slang and pronunciation variances from in different regions of the same country, and especially when dealing from a common language adapted by countries for their own use. An American from Mississippi and an Englishman from Liverpool both speak English, but will likely have some difficulty understanding one another, especially if they possess only a rudimentary education. The same is true for a Haitian and a Parisian, a Puerto Rican and a Spaniard (or, for that matter, a Spaniard from Galicia and one from Seville, Valencia, Madrid, or Barcelona, even if they are all speaking Spanish rather than their local regional languages).
Indeed, the simple verb “coger” in Spanish which means—and has always meant—“to get, or to grab” to a Spaniard, means “to copulate” to an Argentine. Thus, “coge las llaves” (take the keys) means f__k the keys in the vernacular in Buenos Aires, and “cógeme de la mano” (take my hand) means something equally obscene. 

[ **** End of Preview **** ]

This excerpt is one of eight short stories in Book of Dreams 2nd Edition and is also reprinted as a stand-alone short story for the Kindle Reader (click on above cover for more information).