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Spotlight – The Children of Darkness

It’s finally here! Children of Darkness – Book One in The Seekers Series is available NOW. Check it out on Amazon.com. FREE for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. GET YOUR COPY

“A must-read page turner.” Kirkus Review

About the Book:

The Children of Darkness - CoverThe Children of Darkness

The Children of Darkness is about a society devoid of technology, the result of an overreaction to a distant past where progress had overtaken humanity and led to social collapse. The solution—an enforced return to a simpler time. But Children is also a coming of age story, a tale of three friends and their loyalty to each other as they struggle to confront a world gone awry. Each searches for the courage to fight the limits imposed by their leaders, along the way discovering their unique talents and purpose in life.

“If the whole world falls into a Dark Age, which it could plausibly do, who could bring us out of it? According to David Litwack in The Children of Darkness, the only answer is us, now, somehow reaching into the future.” – Kaben Nanlohy for On Starships And Dragonwings

Publication Date: June 22, 2015 from Evolved Publishing
Purchase Link: http://smarturl.it/Seekers1
FREE WITH KINDLE UNLIMITED
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23485495-the-children-of-darkness

Book Description

The Children of Darkness, book one of the dystopian trilogy, The Seekers

“But what are we without dreams?”

A thousand years ago the Darkness came–a time of violence and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they have kept the madness at bay with “temple magic,” eliminating forever the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything.

Childhood friends, Orah and Nathaniel, have always lived in the tiny village of Little Pond, longing for more from life but unwilling to challenge the rigid status quo. When their friend Thomas returns from the Temple after his “teaching”—the secret coming-of-age ritual that binds the young to the Light—they barely recognize the broken and brooding man the boy has become. Then when Orah is summoned as well, Nathaniel follows in a foolhardy attempt to save her.

In the prisons of Temple City, they discover a terrible secret that launches the three on a journey to find the forbidden keep, placing their lives in jeopardy. For hidden in the keep awaits a truth from the past that threatens the foundation of the Temple. If they reveal that truth, they might release the long-suppressed potential of their people, but they would also incur the Temple’s wrath as it is written:

“If there comes among you a dreamer of dreams saying ‘Let us return to the darkness,’ you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light.”

“A fresh perspective on our own society…[an] enjoyable read that will make you wonder just how society will judge us in the future.” Lexie

2Get Your Copy Now!

About the Author:

David Front PageThe urge to write first struck when working on a newsletter at a youth encampment in the woods of northern Maine. It may have been the night when lightning flashed at sunset followed by northern lights rippling after dark. Or maybe it was the newsletter’s editor, a girl with eyes the color of the ocean. But he was inspired to write about the blurry line between reality and the fantastic.

Using two fingers and lots of white-out, he religiously typed five pages a day throughout college and well into his twenties. Then life intervened. He paused to raise two sons and pursue a career, in the process becoming a well-known entrepreneur in the software industry, founding several successful companies. When he found time again to daydream, the urge to write returned.

After publishing two award winning novels, Along the Watchtower and The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky, he’s hard at work on the dystopian trilogy, The Seekers.

David and his wife split their time between Cape Cod, Florida and anywhere else that catches their fancy. He no longer limits himself to five pages a day and is thankful every keystroke for the invention of the word processor.

Website: www.davidlitwack.com
Facebook: David Litwack – Author
Twitter: @DavidLitwack

Giveaway

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More Reviews!

“Litwack’s storytelling painted a world of both light and darkness–and the truth that would mix the two.” Fiction Fervor

The Children of Darkness is a dystopian novel that will stay with you long after you finish reading it.” C.P. Bialois

“This is a satisfying exploration of three teens’ journey into the unknown, and the struggles faced by all who seek true emancipation – both for themselves, and for the people they love.” Suzy Wilson

“Litwack’s writing is fresh, and Nathaniel, Orah and Thomas come to life in your imagination as you frantically flip (or click) the pages of this book.” Anna Tan

“…many profound themes, lovely characterizations and relationships” R. Campbell

“I was enthralled and intrigued by the authors creation of this society… David Litwack has an enjoyable and captivating writing style.” Jill Marie

“…a perfect story for young adult readers, but its underlying theme and character development will keep any adult engaged.” Kathleen Sullivan

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7 genre-busting ‪novels in a limited edition box-set

Today’s featured guests, seven prominent indie writers, are here to discuss what ought to change in mainstream publishing. Their limited edition box set—Outside the Box: Women Writing Women—will be available in e-book format beginning February 20 for just 90 days. The set may be pre-ordered now.

The project is the brainchild of Jessica Bell, an Australian writer living in Athens, Greece. A literary author and the Founder/Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves literary journal, Jessica wanted to showcase the most exciting fiction being released by authors who are in full charge of their own creative decisions. “I couldn’t imagine collaborating with a finer group of writers,” Jessica said. “The authors in this box set are at the very top of their game.”

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The compilation of novels introduces a diverse cast of characters: A woman accused of killing her tyrannical father who is determined to reveal the truth. A bookish and freshly orphaned young woman seeks to escape the shadow of her infamous mother—a radical lesbian poet—by fleeing her hometown. A bereaved biographer who travels to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist. A gifted musician who is forced by injury to stop playing the piano and fears her life may be over. An undercover journalist after a by-line, not a boyfriend, who unexpectedly has to choose between her comfortable life and a bumpy road that could lead to happiness. A former ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter, and the wife of a drug lord who attempts to relinquish her lust for sharp objects and blood to raise a respectable son.

Jane Davis said, “This set of thought-provoking novels showcases genre-busting fiction across the full spectrum from light (although never frothy) to darker, more haunting reads that delve into deeper psychological territory.”

But regardless of setting, regardless of whether the women are mothers, daughters, friends or lovers, the themes are universal: euthanasia, prostitution, gender anomalies, regression therapy, obesity, drug abuse, revenge, betrayal, sex, lust, suicide and murder. Their authors have not shied away from the big issues. Some have asked big questions.

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Orna Ross (founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors, named by The Bookseller as one of the 100 most influential people in publishing) selected Blue Mercy, a complex tale of betrayal, revenge, suspense, murder mystery – and surprise.

Joni Rodgers (NYT bestselling author) returned to her debut Crazy for Trying, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a Discover Award finalist.

Roz Morris (ghost writer and teacher of creative writing master classes for the Guardian newspaper in London) presented My Memories of a Future Life, the haunting story of how one lost soul searches for where she now belongs.

Kathleen Jones, best-selling award winning author, Royal Literary Fund Fellow, whose work has been broadcast by the BBC, contributed The Centauress, a compelling tale of family conflict over a disputed inheritance.

Jane Davis (a British writer whose debut won the Daily Mail First Novel Award) nominated An Unchoreographed Life, an unflinching and painfully honest portrayal of flawed humanity.

Carol Cooper (author, doctor, British journalist and president of the Guild of Health Writers) provided One Night at the Jacaranda, a gripping story about a group of people searching for love, sex and everything in between.

For Jessica Bell (Australian novelist, singer/songwriter, Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and whose award-winning poetry has been broadcast on ABC National Radio), her latest novel White Lady was the obvious choice, an intense, suspenseful ride rife with mystery.

Each of the authors addresses this question:

If you were Queen of Publishing for a day, what’s one thing you’d change about the industry as a whole?

Orna: The reason I love self-publishing so much is that it’s democratising and it encourages diversity. Readers and writers together are now creating new genres and books that London and Manhattan would never have published. If I were Queen of Publishing for a day, I’d make it much more diverse. I’d love to see a greater variety of voices at every level of the industry.

Jessica: That’s a tough one. Can it stop being such a popularity contest and get back to its roots? Focus on the writing, not how many followers the author has on Twitter? In an ideal world…

Roz: I would ask for more literary awards to open up to new writers. Not just to indies, but to all the new talent that comes along. Too many literary awards are given on the basis of pre-existing fame. If those authors genuinely wrote the best book of the year, then they deserve the prize, but otherwise we should give awards to the genuinely surprising, interesting and wonderful – not the usual suspects. Sometimes the best book has been written by Hilary Mantel, Julian Barnes or Neil Gaiman – but sometimes it’s been written by someone relatively unknown. And those are the books that awards should be finding for us.

Carol: Although it should be obvious that there’s more than one way to publish quality books, some people in both camps sadly take up entrenched positions. Those in traditional publishing especially tend to snipe at the other side, and the antagonism does nobody any favours. We shouldn’t be at war, because in the end it’s all about the reader. I’d like to bring in a lot more enlightenment and a bit more peace, but I may need more than a day to achieve it.

Kathleen: I’d ban accountants from the commissioning meeting! Books should be accepted on literary value alone; it’s the only way to get a quality product. Readers quickly tire of being sold ‘the next best thing’. They want variety, good stories, original, surprising prose – they deserve the best, not some publicist’s idea of what they can be conned into thinking is the best. Not only that, but many of the books they buy purporting to be written by celebrities are in fact written by someone else – usually a professional writer whose own work has been rejected but who needs the money. To pass off a book in that way is fraudulent – at best a con trick. We need to take the fake out of the fiction industry and writers need to be free to write the books they want to write and readers want to read.

Jane: The options for those wishing to publish are now wider than ever before, so I don’t think it’s the publishing industry I would change. It is the perception of publishing and the value that we place on books and art that I’d like to target. This year, I’ve been out speaking to librarians and booksellers trying to encourage them to stock – and read – more indie titles. If Andrew Lownie’s prediction is right, over 75% of books will be self-published by the year 2020. Any outlet that refuses to stock indie titles will be doing readers an enormous disservice by restricting choice. The other thing I’d like to be able to do is to get out there and sell my books for the listed price. I hear parents talk about spending £120 on trainers for their children – something that will be outgrown in 6 months. People will fork out over £50 to see a band play, they’ll happily pay £2.45 for a coffee or £3.60 for a pint of beer, and yet they throw up their hands in horror at the idea of paying £8.99 for a paperback. Is the real issue that readers’ needs are not being catered for? £8.99 may seem a lot of money for something you don’t enjoy. I found the results that Kobo have collated about books readers give up on half way through very telling, with The Goldfinch and Twelve Years a Slave topping the list (the books readers were told they should be reading), whilst the book they were most likely to finish? Casey Kelleher’s self-published thriller Rotten to the Core.

Joni: Oh, Lord, I’d tell everyone to take the day off and read a book. That’s the single most important thing writers can do—for ourselves and for the book culture at large—but we leave ourselves so little time for it.

Becoming a writer

When I was four, my family lived in Soldier Summit, Utah, a forlorn place high in the Wasatch Mountains. Population two or three dozen people, tops. Our house was heated with a coal stove. It had running water but no indoor toilet. My father had been working as a dispatcher at the railroad station there, but now he’d gone into business in Heber, a small town by most standards but a metropolis compared to Soldier Summit. Heber had an actual grade school where I would begin kindergarten that summer.

In the spring, shortly before we moved, I went outside to play after a rain. Like many storms in the mountains, it came up suddenly, exploded in a downpour, and then dissolved into blue sky. The world looked clean and new. The sage brush on the slope above our house lost its dustiness. Dandelions the size of silver dollars grew in our muddy yard, the fiercest yellow I’d ever seen. Even today I have trouble thinking of dandelions as weeds. They’re cousins to the fabulous blossoms that surrounded me that day.

Rivulets flowed in the rutted path downhill, so full of sunshine it hurt my eyes. But I looked anyway. I couldn’t stop looking. A feeling welled inside me — deeper than happiness, sharper than excitement. The sunshine was inside me, flowing through me like the bright water, and I was larger than my body. I grew as large as the sky. I thought, I am — something beyond naming that flew away like a bird as I reached for it.

Though I could hardly read yet, I think the writer in me was born then. I’m still reaching with word after word for things unnamed.

 

 

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An unforgettable story

Snjezana Marinkovic’s powerful memoir Born in Sarajevo tells two stories: (1) how the beautiful and venerable European city is destroyed by war and ethnic cleansing and (2) how the author loses her home, sees her friends killed or lost to her, and has her family torn apart in the conflict. Integrating the two narratives is a difficult obstacle, one the author hasn’t completely overcome.

Her personal story is compelling and heartbreaking. As a person of mixed heritage, she doesn’t belong with any of the warring groups. She lacks a secure place even within her family since her mother abandoned her and father remarried, and neither he nor her stepmother seems to care about her. Only her paternal grandmother, who raised her, gives her real love. The bond of affection between them is, for me, the soul of the story. It explains how the author survives so much cruelty and destruction without losing her compassion and hope.

Marinkovic is a passionate poet. Her poems, written while she was just a teenager, express her loneliness, anguish, and yearning for home. While a refugee in Czechoslovakia she writes:

I will draw a world without hunger,

without wars,

without anything that I can’t call by the name of love

I will draw the world for you, world for me

world with peace for everyone

The larger story, the tragedy of Bosnia, never quite comes into focus. It’s hard to blame the author since the history of the Bosnian war is complicated and largely unknown to most Americans. She gives a very brief explanation at the beginning, but it isn’t enough to orient readers. During her personal story – the body of the book – she relates horrific events. Often, though, I don’t have a clear picture of what’s happening in the larger context of the war. Granted, it’s difficult to move back and forth between her subjective experience and an objective account of the siege of Sarajevo and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

In the concluding chapter, the author finally provides some history and analysis along with a plea for peace and understanding between all peoples. Though frequently moving, the chapter meanders from topic to topic and dissipates some of the energy created by her personal narrative.

But in the end, the strengths far outweigh the shortcomings of this memoir. Those of us who live in peace forget how fragile our world is, how suddenly it could be destroyed, and how human nature looks for someone to blame. And punish. Nine-eleven gave Americans a taste of this truth. Born in Sarajevo serves readers a bitter dish sweetened by Marinovik’s enduring belief in the goodness of people.

 

 

 

 

Wired

This summer I was looking around for something to watch after finishing season one of The Killing and found the HBO crime drama The Wire. I generally buy TV shows either on DVD or as a video download. I could save a lot of money by watching them when they aired, but I can’t take the commercials anymore. I just can’t. They wreck havoc with my attention span and sanity. HBO has no commercials, of course, and as a subscriber I could have seen The Wire while it was showing, but despite its popularity and critical acclaim I managed to ignore it.

After a couple of episodes I was engrossed. The Wire follows the lives of a few dozen characters in contemporary Baltimore. At the center of the action is a special investigations unit that gathers evidence through surveillance and wiretaps, and the plot unfolds in ways that are unexpected yet seem fated. Take, for example, the disastrous careers of D’Angelo Barksdale (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) and Ziggy Sobotka (James Ransone), both hardly out of their teens and, for very different reasons, not cut out for a life of crime.

The wrong kind of smart

D'Angelo Barksdale

D’Angelo Barksdale, known as Dee, is introduced in the very first episode. The nephew of Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris), a drug lord and major character, Dee seems as though he’ll be part of the story for a long time. He does some bad things like selling dope and gunning people down. He gives a chilling account of how he shot one of Avon’s girlfriends who threatened to go to the police. Yet I can’t help liking him anyway. He has an open, intelligent face. He wonders about his place in the world and comes to understand that human beings are trapped by their history and circumstances.

At the end of season one, facing a long prison term, Dee is ready to inform on his uncle. Then his mother, Avon’s sister (Michael Hyatt), pays him a visit in jail and lectures him about family loyalty. Everything they have, she reminds him, they owe to Avon. There she sits – manicured, coifed, expensively dressed – telling her son to do twenty years in prison so she can continue to live in luxury. I loathe her. And sympathize with her more than I want to admit.

Brianna Barksdale

Mom

Season two begins with Dee in prison and increasingly alienated from his uncle, who is serving a much shorter sentence at the same facility. A series of incidents stoke his anger and disgust at Avon’s disregard for other people’s lives. This culminates in their passing each other in a hallway. Dee says nothing, but he gives his uncle an angry, defiant look. Stay the fuck away, it says. I’m done with you. Avon’s Machiavellian second in command, Stringer Bell (Idris Elba), hasn’t forgotten that the police almost turned Dee and is disquieted by his growing alienation. He’s also doing Dee’s girlfriend. So he goes behind Avon’s back and orders Dee killed. The death is staged to look like suicide, and nobody bothers to investigate.

Uncle Avon

Shortly before he’s strangled, D’Angelo takes part in a prison literature course and makes an astute comment on The Great Gatsby: “You can say you somebody else. You can give yourself a whole new story, but what came first is who you really are. What happened first is what really happened.” He understands that he’s a prisoner of the past, but he tries to break out anyway.

 

 

Smarter than his pet duck, barely

Ziggy

Ziggy Sobotka is the son of a dock worker in season two. In a milieu where men are valued for their physical strength, Ziggy is short and skinny, a little stick cartoon of a guy. Maybe if he had brains, he could have found some kind of place in his world, but he’s hopelessly stupid. The hulking fellows in Teamsterland hold him in utter contempt and delight in playing nasty jokes on him. Maybe with thoughtful parenting Ziggy could have learned to live with his limitations. But his mom, who’s never seen and mentioned only once or twice, is a downer freak who has chosen to sleep through her life. His dad, Frank Sobotka (Chris Bauer), the local union president, is obsessed with getting a canal dredged to bring ships back to Baltimore and employment to the dock workers.

To get the canal dredged, Frank needs money – lots of money – to bribe politicians. Since the dues from the dwindling union membership aren’t enough, he has an arrangement with a gangster called The Greek to facilitate the smuggling of various products (electronics, drugs, prostitutes, etc.). This operation makes him the target of the special investigations unit and eventually leads to his downfall. But Ziggy goes down first.

Dad

Ziggy has one friend and protector, his cousin Nick (Pablo Schreiber). When Ziggy starts dealing drugs and of course screws up, Nick comes to the rescue and as a result becomes involved in the drug trade himself. He also does some jobs for The Greek. He shares the profits from these endeavours with his hapless cousin and tries to keep him out of it. To no avail. Ziggy wants to be a player. He makes a deal with one of The Greek’s minions – a deal on the side involving only him and the minion – to deliver some stolen luxury cars from the docks in return for twenty percent of their value.

At this point I expect Ziggy to get busted. But he manages to heist the cars despite his best efforts to botch the job. Driving a car from the yard, he cranks the radio full blast. Honestly, it’s like he desperately needs attention from anyone, even police. Amazingly, he brings the job off and delivers the cars. When he goes to collect his cut, the minion pays him ten percent and tells him to fuck off. Ziggy complains, gets slapped around (something that happens to him depressingly often), and thrown out of the building. For Ziggy it’s the last straw.

Of course he has a gun. A handgun is de rigeur for wannabe gangsters and dealers, like fishnet stockings and four-inch heels on hookers. I shouldn’t be surprised or appalled when Ziggy pulls the weapon, marches inside, and kills the man who dissed him. But I am. “Don’t do it!” I want to yell. “You’re not smart enough or strong enough to survive this.” He shoots another guy too, but cannot bring himself to deliver a coup de grace. He staggers from the building, gun in hand, and promptly surrenders to the police.

Ziggy Confesses

The detective (one of the series regulars) brings him the confession to sign. Crushed by guilt, Ziggy wants to change the wording from “He said, ‘Don’t shoot,'” to “He begged, ‘Don’t shoot.'” Poor Ziggy, he’s hopeless. Fated to spend the rest of his life in prison, constantly beaten and raped, until his existence become one endless, agonized scream.

D”Angelo and Ziggy are relatively minor characters in The Wire, but they have the kind of complexity usually found in novels. So do dozens of other characters in the series, which could be why the story has me hooked and why HBO will suck yet more money out of me. Because, Joe adds sardonically, I was too clueless to watch it while it was on TV.

 

 

 

 

I’m in Business!

Back in May, I filled out a form and mailed it along with a check to the Illinois Secretary of State. A few weeks later I received a form letter announcing that I now officially own a corporation, Cantraip Press, Ltd, and wishing me success in my new venture. August has come, and I still can hardly believe it. I never, ever imagined myself going into business, yet here I am.

I conceived of Cantraip Press when I decided to publish my novel Talion myself and couldn’t see why its ISBN should belong to anyone but me. I enjoyed the process so much that I began to think about publishing books by other writers – not right away but sometime in the future, probably after I retired. But then an exciting project came my way. The Past/Forward memoir group of Charleston, Illinois, was putting together an anthology of their work.

Past/Forward began in 2007 when Daiva Markelis, a professor at Eastern Illinois University whose memoir White Field, Black Sheep: A Lithuanian-American Life has garnered critical acclaim, taught a memoir writing class for adults. The course drew older writers, most hoping to record their experiences and family histories for their children and grandchildren.

One of them was Janet Messenger, at that time president of the Coles County Arts Council. “The class was great,” she says. “Members of the class became friends and enjoyed sharing pieces they had written. When it ended, each of us was bound and determined to go home and start writing until we had compiled our family histories. However, without deadlines or a specific date to get things written we soon found out we didn’t write much at all.”

The group realized they needed one another’s help and encouragement to keep writing. So Janet went to the CCAC and convinced them to sponsor the group. They found meeting space in the Charleston Carnegie Public Library and met for the first time in April 2008. They have been meeting regularly ever since.

Open to anyone with a love for writing, the group grew. Members were serious about learning their craft. They gave and received constructive criticism, brought in guest speakers, and participated in focused workshops with Daiva. As their skill and confidence grew, their ambitions broadened. In addition to writing for their families and one another, they wanted to share their work with the community.

To have a public presence they needed a name, so they held a contest and invited submissions. Bill Heyduck came up with the name they chose: Past/Forward.

The group has now given several public readings and has found an appreciative audience for their work. And it’s no wonder. They have fascinating stories to tell. As Daiva says, “Though most are over fifty, there’s nothing stuffy or ‘senior’ about their prose. They write about growing up in small-town America, about love and disappointment, about blackberry picking and baseball and being fat. They write about a father who worked for the FBI and a mother who was an expert Greek cook. They write about having cancer. They write about taking chances.”

"They gathered here to cook, bake, and share their feelings . . . with a strong cup of coffee and a little prayer."

Ladies of the Danville Greek Orthodox church, whose bake sales raised thousands of dollars for their church

The writers of Past/Forward have also collected many wonderful photographs from years past. This photo illustrates Phyllis Bartges Bayles’ remembrance of the ladies of the Danville Greek Orthodox church, including the author’s mother. Their bake sales have been a tradition in Danville, Illinois for many years. As a sweet bonus, the author will share her mother’s recipe for baklava.

I’m proud and excited to bring the work of Past/Forward to the wider audience it deserves. Their anthology, Occasional Writers, will be out this October.

 

 

Have You Hugged Your Driller Today?

Have Your Hugged Your Driller Today?

My Brother's Trunk

A friend who is an accomplished memoir writer suggested I write about my parents, whose complicated, ambivalent, and sometimes violent relationship went on for decades after they divorced. One might see my brother and me as victims of their parenting. They often became too tied up in their conflict to notice what it was doing to us.

I filed away my friend’s suggestion, telling myself that memoir is unnecessarily constraining. Unlike the fiction writer, the memoirist has to tell the truth – whatever that is. (Some people seem to know. I wish I did.) Instead I would write a novel based on my childhood. That way I could take what I wanted and leave the rest.

Dad

My Father Near the End of his Life

A few days ago I stumbled upon a truer reason for not penning a childhood memoir. Remembering parts of the past scares the shit out of me. I was in the garage looking for photos of my brother to send to his son. These were packed away with dozens of letters that our family wrote to one another over the years. Holding those bundles of musty envelopes, I was seized by intense anxiety, as if they contained letters from an IRS auditor, and quickly stuffed them back in the mouse-proof storage container.

Then I came to my brother’s trunk. He used it to carry his belongings when he worked in oil exploration in the 1970s. After his death in 1987 my mother kept it, and after her death in 2003 it came to me. The trunk is covered with stickers he collected during his travels. The largest of these, adorning the front, asks Have You Hugged Your Driller Today? Among the contents of Steve’s trunk I found long underwear for protection against the mountain cold, photos of his children, copies of tax returns for 1982, a dogeared paperback of Carlos Castaneda’s Tales of Power, a tube of lip balm, a book of matches, and more letters, including this one from our father.

Note the part about Dad being unable to help Steve because of his dire financial situation and his hope things will improve in a couple of years once I graduate from college. At that time I was attending an expensive private liberal arts college. Though my tuition and much of my board were covered by a scholarship, Dad had to shell out a fair amount of money. He paid my bill at the college bookstore, and sometimes I added to his burden by charging extra cartons of cigarettes and selling them to friends at a discount so I would have money to buy drugs.

Maybe I should have left the letter and read Tales of Power instead.

 

 

A Clone in the World

Novel by Kazuo IshiguroThis week I decided to fill in one of the millions of gaps in my education by reading a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. I couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for Remains of the Day, the one about the butler, but Never Let Me Go is about clones. Surely, I thought, a novel about clones had to be a little exciting.

The thing is, Never Let Me Go is about people who happen to be clones. The narrator, Kathy, tells the story of growing up at a special school with others of her kind. The children vaguely understand they’re destined to be donors, but they don’t comprehend what it means.  The plot centers on the complex relationship between Kathy and her two best friends, Ruth and Tommy.  There is a love triangle, jealousy, and betrayal as well as loyalty and affection. In the usual course of things, the conflict might have resolved as the characters became adults and went their separate ways, but since these three share the same destiny, they remain entangled to the end.

As science fiction, Never Let Me Go is pretty much a bust. In its world, cloning was developed just after World War II, so the story unfolds in the later Twentieth Century. To be convincing, this sort of alternate history needs details and explanations that the author seems to have no interest in providing. Readers learn only what Kathy learns about the process of cloning and organ harvesting, which is next to nothing. Near the end of the novel, Kathy and Tommy visit one of their former teachers and find out a bit about the politics of this world, but it’s nothing the reader hasn’t already inferred. The novel’s world is subjective. It rings true because Kathy’s voice and sensibility ring true.

At times it irked me that she and the others accept their fates so passively. But they’re playing the only role they know. No other possibilities have been shown to them. Their dreams never extend beyond a “deferral,” a few years of grace before their bodies are taken apart. When I discussed the novel with Joe, he pointed out that even sheep struggle as they’re led to slaughter. But sheep can’t be taught and conditioned the way people can. Most of us want to believe in free will, but society makes its demands and exacts its price.

Many years ago, sitting in jail on a drug charge, I had an epiphany. Society sets boundaries. The people who ignore them are eventually relegated to prisons and mental hospitals. You might flout the boundaries and elude punishment, but you better not forget they’re there. If this great discovery seems a bit simpleminded, keep in mind that I was twenty – just a few years younger than Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy when their lives end.

Imagine always being imprisoned. Imagine believing those boundaries to be the end of the world with nothing beyond them. That’s the reality of Kathy and her friends.

The larger boundary, one that imprisons us all, is certainy of death. The clones are killed because their body parts are needed to keep the “normals” alive awhile longer. Yet mortality is absolute. The normals will eventually die too. They justify the killing by believing clones have no souls, but maybe they’re taking their own souls too much for granted.

Never Let Me Go wasn’t a thrill ride, but it was a compelling and haunting story. It enthralled me as much as any suspense novel. And I cried at the end.

Ancient Children Reloaded

Photo by Joe Heumann

If you’ve been here before, you probably notice that the site looks different. I’ve moved from Quick BlogCast to my hosting domain and rebuilt Ancient Children using WordPress. In many ways Quick Blogcast is easier to use, but it allows fewer design options than WordPress, and I’ve received a few complaints that the site wouldn’t display properly on some Internet browsers.  I hope the change will resolve that issue.

All previous posts are here. The construction is still in progress, but I hope you like what I’ve done so far.

Welcome

This is the journal of my creative life. Much of it centers on my fiction, but my views of literature and the world will inevitably come into view.

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