Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ROGUE GENES

In 2010, Pinyon-Publishing released Adoption, an intriguing novel by Dr. Victoria Sullivan that appealed to many fans of science fiction. Those fans have been asking for a sequel to this work of speculative science, and this week, Border Press announced the publication of Rogue Genes, the awaited sequel.

Adoption explored the idea of a superhuman race resulting from an in vitro fertilization at a clinic in Louisiana and featured six-year old Mary, a giant adopted by Val, a professor of biology who becomes a detective and protector of the brilliant and beautiful child. Val's research on plant genetics provides insights into the super race that is soon shunned by the government and a public that wants to destroy the very different "species" of humans.

In Rogue Genes, Sullivan continues the story of the superhumans, known as polyploids, who have been banished to Polysomia, a village in southwest Louisiana. Middle-East terrorists who want to use the boys as warriors in their country have captured six five-year old polyploid boys. At five, the boys resemble conventional humans, known as diploids, but they will soon become nine-foot giants. Because of an influenza infection of their diploid parents, the boys carry genes for healing wounds and regenerating limbs, and for synthesizing Vitamin C to keep them healthy.

Serious questions arise. How did kidnappers enter the village of Polysomia the night of the kidnapping? Will government agencies help to find the boys? And who killed a diploid girl and buried her along with a large sum of money in the woods near the Polysomia guardhouse? Was the killer a polyploid and the money a pay-off from the kidnappers? How does a full grown polyploid named Simon, who has violent tendencies, figure in the conflict?

Rogue Genes is a vivid page-turner that continues the exciting action of superhumans who are maligned by the world into which they are born, posing ideas about prejudice, scientific inquiry, and the appropriate treatment of people who cause citizens to become uncomfortable with human differences ... citizens who wish to eliminate creatures who don't fit into physical and social pigeonholes. Sullivan achieves an action-paced work of speculative fiction and presents underlying spiritual questions about man's inhumanity toward differing fellow humans.

Sullivan is an author and botanist. She studied biology at the University of Miami and has a Ph.D. in biology from Florida State University. She has published poetry, flash fiction, numerous botanical papers, and non-fiction articles. She held a faculty position in the Department of Biology, University of Louisiana at Lafayette for 20 years. She is a resident of Sewanee, Tennessee and winters in New Iberia, Louisiana.

Candace Birch, aka "Quala," rendered the beautiful painting entitled "DNA" on the cover of Rogue Genes.


Rogue Genes is now available on Kindle and will be available in print soon from Amazon.com.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

QUESTIONS ABOUT LUCID DREAMING

This morning when I got out of bed, I walked out on the front porch and squinted at the heavens to see if I could glimpse the blood moon that was forecast to appear. I had been reading about the eclipse for several days and anticipated that I could glimpse it if I searched the heavens long enough. Outdoors, all I saw was the effects of a blustery storm that had passed through Sewanee last night—limbs down, heaps of wet leaves, and more of the crop of large green acorns shaken from the white oaks surrounding our cottage.

At the breakfast table, the topic of conversation moved quickly from "no blood moon" to lucid dreaming, a subject about which I know very little. However, a blurb on the Internet intrigued me because the lucid dream trainer talked about keeping a dream journal, a practice I once tried. I confess that I failed miserably in my attempt to enhance creativity and poetry writing through the process of recording dreams.

The basic premise of lucid dream training is that the dreamer can gain some control over certain actions in a dream or can manipulate the experience within a dream to assure him that the dream isn't real. Better still, nightmare sufferers can benefit from learning techniques for controlling dreams to develop an awareness of how to dispel the boogabears that plague them. Sometimes lucid dreams occur naturally when a dreamer experiences a strange happening, and when she stops to determine if the dream is real, she realizes she's in a dream. I guess you could call this a "reality check." Readers will be surprised to read about the number of trainings in lucid dreaming that appear on the internet and about the number of advocates of the lucid dreaming practice.

After I read several Internet entries, I pondered Wittgenstein's famous saying, "We are asleep. Our life is a dream. But we wake up sometimes, just enough to know we are dreaming." Was Wittgenstein a lucid dreamer?

Last month, I published Night Offices, a book of poetry about insomniacs who "recite the night offices," and this morning as I re-read it, I wondered if the inspiration for writing poetry occurs naturally within a lucid dream state and is responsible for the awake "aha" moment of creative expression that follows the nighttime dream. Many famous musicians conceived nocturnes and symphonies during night hours, and sleep experts often advise us to "sleep on it" when we have a particular problem that we can't solve during the daytime. Are we in a natural-occurring lucid dream state at that time?

The subject fascinates me because I'm not only an insomniac, I'm a victim of nightmares, and I'd like to lay to rest the phantoms of the night that often assail me.

Here's an example of a poem in Night Offices that may or may not have been born in a lucid dream:

"THE SOUND OF AN INSOMNIAC'S INK

If I were to arise
and go into my study,
watch shadows flicker on the walls
rather than entangle myself
in the warm sheets of insomnia
that Benjamin Franklin
would have left to cool awhile
while he battled his sleeplessness,

I would open the blind
to the sight of stars scattering
in the inky sky,
their silver points piercing
my Unconscious, bringing up
words to a blue screen
winking on a fresh page,

and I would ponder
how I miss, at night,
(and during daylight hours)
typewriter keys clacking
in a disharmony of sound,
executing words with loud taps,
making sure the darkness knew

I had not written my last stanza,
a sound signaling
that someone out there
would soon be turning pages
in a quiet room,
and the poems,
by their noise alone,
would know they had a right to live."


Note: This poem may have been more of a lament for an old-fashioned typewriter than an ode born in a state of lucid dreaming!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

THE TRANSIT OF VENUS

Mooney's Market and Emporium located on Hwy. 41A between Sewanee and Monteagle, Tennessee is a small store that stocks an intriguing line of goods from natural and organic foods and garden plants to antiques and art. The shop, with a happy-faced moon on its sign, also has a yarn and spinning room and a greenhouse in the backyard. In 2012, I wrote a blog about Joan Thomas, its owner, just as she launched the addition of a travel trailer restaurant called "The Crescent Cafe," which is now in operation. Joan is also one of the few booksellers in the area and often promotes local writers and artists on The Mountain who have limited markets for their work in this area.

We shop at Mooney's at least once a week, and last week one of Joan's employees, Candace Birch, autographed for me a copy of a book entitled The Transit of Venus that was displayed on the check-out counter. Birch illustrated the beautiful, soft-cover book to accompany Lynn Cimino-Hurt's poetry, and both women have showcased their work at the Iona Sanctuary of Art here at Sewanee. The mystical title of this book is explained in a note about Venus passing between the sun and the earth in 2012 when it became especially visible against the sun as it set on June 5. Artist and poet wrote that this is a rare event occurring in pairs, eight years apart, once a century, and that this was the last Transit of Venus in the 21st century. Inspired by "the felicity of this phenomenon" during the year following this event, the pair created thirteen paired pieces of poem and painting... beautiful galactic pieces in a book that will fascinate those who see it displayed at Mooney's.

 "Missing Pluto," "Thoughts on Eternity, Part One," "Between Pulses," "Eden," and other ethereal titles transport readers into spiritual realms with a kaleidoscope of images and color in illustrations and poetry. I was especially intrigued by "Eden" featuring a quotation from Mary Oliver: "...to be wild and perfect for a moment..." Poet Lynn Cimino-Hurt's beginning lines in this poem tell us that "Before words, perfection dwells ubiquitous/as spores on the wind, rolling over/and into each molecule and moment./This little planet has emerged out of miracles five billion years./Chaos hones its lineage of mud and sun..." Birch's accompanying image is rendered in brilliant red and yellow bursts from a whorl capped by a dome of white that extends its tendrils into the whorl, and is a breathtaking piece.

The painting accompanying the poem "Thoughts on Eternity," a vivid red, yellow, green, and purple swirl of DNA, made a deep impression on my friend, Victoria Sullivan, and she bought the use of a scanned copy of the painting to create the cover of her forthcoming sequel to Adoption, a speculative fiction book entitled Rogue Genes.

According to Birch, both artist and poet of The Transit of Venus have non de plumes that are their spiritual names: Lynn Cimino-Hurt is "RM Mist" and Candace Birch is "Quala," names befitting a book that is decidedly other-worldly in lyrics and visuals.


If you live anywhere in the area, this book is worth a trip to Mooney's, and you'll enjoy meeting "Quala" as well. Also, pumpkins that Joan transported from the Great Pumpkin Patch at Gruetli-laager, Tennessee are now on sale!