Schism by Brett Dent
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When I was a kid, I used to watch the Sonny Fox show, Wonderama, regularly on channel nine in New York. New York was the TV media hub of the world back then. In additional to channel nine, we also had two, four, five, seven, eleven, thirteen (CPB crap) and even a couple of grainy, unwatchable UHF channels. No idea what they were. The Soviet Movie Channel maybe?
One of Sonny's regular guests was The Amazing Randi. Randi was famous for following in the steps of Houdini by performing Amazing Escapes in all sorts of death defying situations (wriggling free of a straightjacket while suspended upside down over Niagara Falls, for instance.) As he grew older, Randi, as did Houdini, became a debunker of psychic charlatans. He drove fraudster Uri Geller out of the U.S. market by successfully reproducing every trick Geller performed in public and explaining how he did it.
In 1982 I read a book by Randi that has a profound impact on my thinking about ESP. Up till then, I as well as most people, thought there some scientific basis for a belief in extra sensory perception. After all, the brain generates an electric field and electrical fields can be generated and transmitted. Prestigious universities had conducted studies that seemed to confirm the existence of ESP. More movies than I can remember featured scenes of people using Zener cards surrounded by lab workers in white coats pursing their lips and making meaningful marks on clipboards while "espers" successfully "remote viewed." Sci-Fi, horror films, writers, manga all feed their readers regular diets of ESP.
Randi's book was called Flim Flam and it he made a claim that he has regularly backed up over the decades. Randy stated that when a double blind test for ESP is performed from which all possibilities of cheating are removed, no one has ever provided a valid (in other words, not a brief sequence of lucky guesses but a series of predictions that cannot statistically be ascribed to chance) demonstration of ESP.
Randi put his money where his mouth was. Back then, I think he offered a $25K reward to anyone who could demonstrate ESP. He's tested dowsers, remote viewers, seers, predicters, etc. None has collected the reward, which is now up to $1M. "Professional" espers stay well away from Randi and the money.
Schism by author Brett Dent takes ESP and puts it on a firmer scientific footing. The novel takes place in Hillview Institute, an out of the way institution in the hills of Virginia. Hillview's latest "visitor" is Adam Hutchinson, who has murdered his grandmother during what appears to be a psychotic attack. But instead of being tucked away in an asylum for the criminally insane, Adam finds himself in the company of a group of remote viewers, psychics who can observe actions and at a distance and in at least one case, destroy minds. Why are they here and what is the goal of the research taking place at the Insititute?
A safe bet is nefarious and dark deeds are underway. There are evil doctors, corrupt corporate interests, and nefarious military plots. And a group of increasingly powerful psychics growing more and more unhappy with their manipulation and confinement.
One of the interesting elements of Schism is Brett's successful effort to give ESP research a more scientific and visceral feel. This, coupled with the oppressive, Gothic atmosphere of the tale, makes for a story that keeps you interested. The characters are also engaging, most particularly the powerful but doomed Kevin. I found a few of Brett's sentences a bit gnarly, but plot and pacing keep Schism on track and compelling.
I think the Amazing Randi would like this book.
You (Don't) Suck: My Review of Suction Cup Dreams: An Octopus Anthology by David Joseph Clarke (Editor)
Suction Cup Dreams: An Octopus Anthology, David Joseph Clarke (Editor)
Paperback: 168 pages
Publisher: obsolescent.info (November 5, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
The octopus is probably the strangest form of intelligent life on this planet. An octopus is an invertebrate (no backbone) and belongs to the phylum Mollusca (oysters, slugs). When you see a picture of an octopus jetting and slithering its way across the seabed, you're watching a clam with eight legs and an attitude. Octopuses climbed out of their shells millions of years ago and joined cephalopods, other members of the club being Squids, Cuttlefish and the Chambered Nautilus, which is as beautiful as its name suggests.
Octopuses (yes, I know, there are long standing arguments on how you pluralize the noun. This is my choice and I'm sticking with it) are carnivores and cannibals. The anatomy of an octopus is as strange as their appearance. To devour their prey, they possess a beak that looks almost exactly like a parrot's. They have eight arms, one of which is dedicated to sex (I'm going to skip describing how this works) that also function as part of their brain. They also taste with these arms. When extra speed is needed to escape attack, they can deploy a built in jet-ski.
Octopuses can squirt clouds of ink when assaulted and some species can shed an arm when necessary, which crawls away and (hopefully) deflects further attack.. They have three hearts (Dr. Who only has two) which pump copper-based blood. They have incredible camouflage capabilities, but paradoxically, many species are believed to be color blind. All octopuses are venomous, and never eat a Blue Octopus, as it's loaded with the same poison as the Puffer Fish. Their life span is short and mating is ultimately deadly to males and females. The Giant Octopus can grow to over 30 feet and weigh over 600 pounds. This animal has been implicated in dozens of fictitious assaults on hearty male divers and bikini-clad maidens in many Sci-Fi/horror movies.
Humans have long suspected octopuses have smarts, and you see this reflected in such Sci-Fi movies as the 1953 War of the Worlds film, where the Martian invaders, though never clearly seen, are definitely octopidian when glimpsed (and dig those suckers in the movie's penultimate scene). Recent research has confirmed they are indeed very smart. Octopuses can solve mazes and become faster and better at the activity as they practice. They are expert at opening jars, particularly if there's a tasty treat inside. In captivity, an octopus will remember you, makes direct eye contact, and will squirt you with their jet-ski if they take a dislike to you. If you're to their fancy, they will wrap themselves around you and cuddle. They're also escape artists and not afraid of exploring on land or in nearby tanks, where if they come across a fellow octopus the resultant confrontation may be unfortunate for at least one of the parties.
Suction Cup Dreams: An Octopus Anthology, edited by David Joseph Clarke is a compilation of fascinating stories about these strange, smart, alien creatures. The stories are in the main haunting and memorable. The ones that most struck me were:
Venus of the Waves by Karen Munro. A wife watches while her husband, whose brain has been transplanted out of his dying body and into an octopus, is slowly overwhelmed by the new thoughts and environment in which he now exists.
Three-Hearted by Elizabeth Twist. Told from the POV of the octopus. "Bold" undergoes strange alterations at the hands of "the seven-armed glass and metal Gods."
A Stranger Returns from an Unexpected Trip to the South China Sea by by Henry W. Urich. James Dougherty was murdered and his body disposed of at sea, but with a little help from his friends, he's back.
A Late Season Snow by T.E. Grau. A murdered woman undergoes a rich and strange transformation.
I can ensure you of one thing. Once you've read this book, you are going to rethink the morality of eating octopus.
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