When Milo Met Talie

Hello, friends!

Back in April, when I was participating in the A to Z Challenge, I wanted to do something extra special for the letter M.  That was the post about Milo Marrero, the protagonist of my new book, The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella.  I wanted to draw a specific scene—a specific moment—from that book.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to finish my drawing, and I had to settle for a quick little portrait of Milo instead.  Ever since then, though, I kept thinking Milo deserved better.  Well, my friends, I’m now able to show you the drawing that was originally intended to go with that post.  I finally finished it!

For those of you who’ve read The Medusa Effect, I’m sure you know what this scene is and why it’s important.  For the rest of you, you can click here to see the original A to Z post about Milo Marrero.  Or if you’re curious about that blonde lady or her cyborg cameraman, you can click here or here respectively.

Or you can click here to go buy the book on Amazon, or you can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.  I would really appreciate it if you did!

P.S.: I have more Tomorrow News Network illustrations in progress, so stayed tuned!

A Special Message from the Coronavirus

And now for a special message from the coronavirus…

Sciency Words: Tulpamancy

Hello, friends!  Welcome to Sciency Words, a special series here on Planet Pailly where we take a closer look at the definitions and etymologies of science or science-related terms.  Today on Sciency Words, we’re talking about:

TULPAMANCY

Do you have an imaginary friend?  A “real” imaginary friend whom you can talk to and who can talk back to you in return?  Does your imaginary friend often say things you weren’t expecting him/her/them to say?  If so, you may have been practicing tulpamancy.  You’re a tulpamancer, and your imaginary friend is a tulpa.

When I first heard about tulpamancy, I thought it sounded awesome.  But tulpamancy comes with a lot of talk about mental energies and thought-form meditation and psycho-spiritual awakenings.  It didn’t sound very sciency, but I decided to ask my muse what she thought.

My muse and I have been working together for quite a few years now.  When it comes to what does or does not belong in my writing—and that includes what does or does not belong in a Sciency Words post—I trust my muse’s judgment.  She’s usually right.  Usually.  But after doing more research on tulpamancy, I think this may be a rare instance where my muse is wrong.

The word tulpa comes from Tibetan… sort of.  In 1929, Belgian-French adventurer and spiritualist Alexandra David-Néel published a book called Magic and Mystery in Tibet.  In that book, David-Néel claims that by following certain rights and rituals of Tibetan Buddhism, she was able to conjure a “tulpa” out of the realm of human imagination and into the world of physical reality.

David-Néel’s tulpa took on the form of a jolly monk, a Friar Tuck-like character.  Other people could (allegedly) see and interact with this jolly monk.  Unfortunately, the monk grew “too willful,” according to this article from Nova Religio, and David-Néel was forced to destroy him.

The word tulpa is phonetically similar to a real word used by Tibetan Buddhists.  Beyond that, however, Alexandra David-Néel’s account of creating and destroying her tulpa has little to do with actual Tibetan Buddhism.  This seems to be a case of Western occultism/paranormalism with a bit of “orientalist window dressing,” as that same article from Nova Religio puts it.

Okay, yeah, this still doesn’t sound like a sciency thing, does it?  But in recent years, the practice of creating and communicating with imaginary friends has become the subject of serious psychological research.  The first scientific account of tulpas and tulpamancy appears to be this 2016 paper by Samuel Veissière.  As Veissière describes it, tulpamancy is a little like multiple personality disorder, except it’s non-harmful and non-pathological.  In fact, tulpamancy may even help reverse the symptoms of certain mental illnesses.

To quote this paper from Research in Psychology and Behavioral Science:

In cases of disorders that involve delusion and misperception, the tulpa often becomes the voice of reason during bouts of irrationality.  One respondent diagnosed with Schizophrenia writes how his tulpa can not only identify between hallucinations and actuality, but that they developed a technique that allows the delusions to be “zapped” away.  There are reports of tulpas alleviating the desire to perform irrational routines in individuals diagnosed with OCD, and others claim that their tulpas innovated workarounds for their dyslexia.

Think of it this way: much like your real friends, your imaginary friends are there for you when you need them.  And since tulpas essentially live inside your brain, they understand better than anyone else what’s really going on in there.  And if they see that something’s not right inside your head, they want to help, as any good friend would.

Now I’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness, but speaking from personal experience, I can say this: my muse really has served as the voice of reason from time to time in my life.  When I’m feeling lazy and unmotivated, she tells me to go write.  She also reminds me to take breaks from writing, eat healthy meals, and get plenty of sleep at night, because: “A healthy writer is a productive writer!”

As I said, I’ve learned to trust my muse.  She’s usually right.  Usually.  But she still insists that tulpamancy shouldn’t count as a Sciency Word.

So dear reader, what do you think?  Do you agree with me that tulpamancy has become a scientific term, thanks to recent psychological research, or do you agree with my muse that this is a bunch of New Agey pseudoscientific nonsense?  Let us (and I do mean us) know in the comments!

P.S.: For anyone who may be curious, my muse made her first appearance on this blog in this 2015 post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

#IWSG: Apology to a Muse

Hello, friends!  Welcome to July’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  If you’re a writer and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing, then click here to learn more about this amazingly supportive group!

Dear Muse,

I’m sorry.  These last few weeks, I haven’t been doing much writing.  I haven’t been doing much drawing either.  I’ve fallen behind schedule on so many of the creative projects you wanted me to work on, and for that I owe you an apology.

Some big changes are happening in my life right now.  Good changes.  The biggest and most obvious change is, of course, that my first book is out.  I’m a published author now, and I’ve had my first taste of that sweet, sweet writing income!

But any kind of change, even the good kind of change, can be confusing and disruptive, at least at first.  I’m saying this not as an excuse but as an explanation.  I neglected my work.  I skipped drawing sessions and writing sessions.  You kept trying to give me ideas, and I kept finding other things to do instead of writing or drawing. There’s no excuse for that.

I understand if you’re mad.  I understand if you don’t want to talk to me right now since, from your perspective, it seems like I’ve stopped listening to you.  But I promise I am listening.  Things are starting to settle down in my life again.  In some ways, things will be better than they ever were before… for both of us!

So dear muse, I’m eager to get back to writing, and I’m eager to get back to drawing.  And if your you’re willing to forgive me, I would really appreciate your help.

Sincerely yours,
Your Writer.

Sciency Words: Fruit

Hello, friends, and welcome to Sciency Words, a special series here on Planet Pailly where we take a closer look at those weird and confusing words scientists use.  You know, words like:

FRUIT

In 1893, the Supreme Court of the United States was asked to decide whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable.  Under tariff laws that existed at the time, imported fruits and vegetables were taxed at different rates; therefore, the Court’s decision would have a major impact on tomato prices in the U.S.

The scientific definition of fruit is pretty clear.  Fruits are the ripened seed-bearing ovaries of plants.  Tomatoes are, in fact, the ripened seed-bearing ovaries of tomato plants; ergo, tomatoes are fruits.  Case closed, right?

Pictured above: a tomato, a cucumber, a bell pepper, and an egg plant—four different kinds of fruit, according to science.

Except, of course, lots of words in the English language have multiple definitions.  We’ve seen this before here on Sciency Words with words like volatile, metal, and planet.  As part of that 1893 tomato lawsuit, the Supreme Court also heard testimony about egg plants, cucumbers, squash, and peppers—all fruits, according to the scientific definition of fruit, but not according to the culinary definition.

For culinary purposes, a fruit must have either a sweet or tart flavor (in addition to that whole seed-bearing ovary thing).  This issue of flavor is really important to grocers and chefs, even if it’s not important to botanical scientists.  Thus, the word fruit has multiple definitions.  So is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?  Depends on who you ask.

And if you were to ask the 1893 United States Supreme Court, they’d tell you tomatoes are vegetables, at least for the purposes of U.S. tariff law.

P.S.: And apparently carrots, sweet potatoes, and rhubarb stalks can be classified as fruits according to a 2001 European Union law regarding jellies, jams, and marmalades.

Sciency Words: The Chronological Protection Conjecture

Hello, friends!  Welcome to Sciency Words, a special series here on Planet Pailly where we talk about all that weird terminology scientists like to use.  Today on Sciency Words, we’re talking about:

THE CHRONOLOGICAL PROTECTION CONJECTURE

English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking had a lot to say about time travel.  There are plenty of Hawking quotes out there that seem to suggest that time travel is possible, or at least that it’s not totally impossible.  This seems odd to me, because when you read Hawking’s actual research, he is about as anti-time travel as a physicist can get.

As we discussed in last week’s episode of Sciency Words, Einstein’s theory of general relativity would apparently allow time travel to occur.  Relativity permits space-time to twist around itself into something called a “closed timelike curve.”  Hawking could not allow that to stand, and in 1991 he published this paper introducing something he named the “chronological protection conjecture.”

Hawking summarized his conjecture as follows: “The laws of physics do not allow the appearance of closed timelike curves.”  If a closed timelike curve ever did start to form, Hawking goes on to explain, then some other physical law—vacuum polarization, repulsive gravity, quantum effects—would get in the way, causing the closed timelike curve to die before it was ever truly born.

Based on my read of Hawking’s paper, it sounds like a closed timelike curve might (might!) still be possible inside a black hole.  But if you’re a time traveler trapped inside a black hole, you can’t do much to interfere with the course of history, can you?  Thus, regardless of what may or may not be happening inside black holes, the rest of the universe is still safe from time travel paradoxes.

So if Hawking’s physics is so adamantly against closed timelike curves, why did Hawking make so many public statements teasing us with the possibility of time travel?  Well, Hawking was a big fan of science fiction, and he seems to have loved many of the usual Sci-Fi tropes, including time travel.  The laws of physics may not allow for time travel, according to Hawking, but stories about time travel are still fun.  Maybe Hawking didn’t want to take that fun away from us.

Speaking of time travel, are you a fan of time travel adventure stories?  The kinds of stories you might see on Doctor Who or The Twilight Zone?  Then please check out my new book, The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella, featuring time traveling news reporter Talie Tappler and her cyborg cameraman, Mr. Cognis.

Sciency Words: Closed Timelike Curves

Hello, friends!  Welcome to Sciency Words, a special series here on Planet Pailly where we talk about those weird words scientists like to use.  Today on Sciency Words, we’re talking about:

CLOSED TIMELIKE CURVES

Austrian-born logician and mathematician Kurt Gödel was one of Albert Einstein’s closest friends.  At Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, the two were known to take long walks together, discussing all sorts of strange and wonderful things, no doubt.

As science historian James Gleick tells the story in his book Time Travel: A History, Gödel presented Einstein with a very special gift for Einstein’s 70th birthday.  It was the kind of gift only a person like Einstein would appreciate: a series of mathematical calculations.  Specifically, these were calculations based on Einstein’s own theory of general relativity which showed that yes, time travel is possible.

Gödel’s calculations were officially published in this 1949 paper.  Now I won’t try to explain Gödel’s math because a) I don’t really understand it and b) it’s not really important for the purposes of a Sciency Words post.  What is important for our purposes is that Gödel’s 1949 paper introduced a new concept called “closed timelike curves.”

Well, technically speaking, Gödel used the term “closed time-like lines,” not “closed timelike curves.”  But as Google ngrams shows us, the hyphen quickly dropped out of “time-like,” and by the 1990’s, “curves” beat out “lines.”  So today, closed timelike curves is the most broadly accepted way to say what Gödel was trying to say.  The term is also commonly abbreviated at C.T.C.

In short, a closed timelike curve is a path through space and time that circles back to its own beginning.  As I understand it, it would take a stupendous amount of force to twist space-time around itself in this way.  You’d need the extreme gravitational force of a black hole—or perhaps something even more extreme than that—in order to make a closed timelike curve happen.

But it could happen.  As Gödel demonstrated in 1949, general relativity would allow a closed timelike curve to exist, or at least relativity does not forbid such things from existing.

So time travel is possible.  It may not be anywhere near practical, but it is at least possible.

Speaking of time travel, are you a fan of time travel adventure stories?  The kinds of stories you might see on Doctor Who or The Twilight Zone?  Then please check out my new book, The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella, featuring time traveling news reporter Talie Tappler and her cyborg cameraman, Mr. Cognis.

Available Now: The Medusa Effect

Hello, friends!

Today is the day.  The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella is available now.  Click here to buy, or you can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Litho is a peaceful, isolated colony world on the frontier of space.  Nothing bad ever happens there.  So when a reporter from the Tomorrow News Network shows up, nobody takes much notice.  Nobody except a young colonist named Milo.

Milo is a bit of a news junkie.  He knows all about the Tomorrow News Network, a news organization run by time travelers, and he knows all about Talie Tappler, the reporter they’ve sent to Litho.  Talie has a reputation for covering war, chaos, and galactic devastation.

So why has Talie come to Litho Colony?  What big, breaking news event has attracted her attention?  Milo doesn’t know, but he’s determined to find out, because whatever Talie Tappler’s big story is, it cannot be good news.

In yesterday’s posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I admitted to feeling a bit of anxiety over this whole “published author” thing.  I’m dealing with a touch of imposter syndrome.  However, when I think about the larger universe of Tomorrow News Network and all the stories yet to be told, my anxiety fades, and my eagerness to keep writing takes control.

So dear reader, there are a few things I’d like you to know about the Tomorrow News Network series going forward:

  • First off, you won’t have to read the stories in any particular order.  This is a series about time travel.  Be a time traveler.  Feel free to dip in and out of the timeline whenever and wherever you please.
  • As the series progresses, you may notice minor (or not so minor) inconsistencies in the story universe.  Pay attention to these inconsistencies.  They are not mistakes.
  • Don’t skip the bonus story at the end of The Medusa Effect.  That little bonus story will give you a clue about where the universe of Tomorrow News Network is heading.

Earlier this week, I had a phone conversation with my primary editor.  She told me I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.  The book is done.  It’s finished!  I told her no.  I appreciate the sentiment, but no.  The universe of Tomorrow News Network is huge and weird and complicated. I’m not finished. I’m just beginning.

† Well, I’m not perfect.  Some mistakes may be actual mistakes, but the most obvious inconsistencies—was Earth destroyed or not?—those are deliberate.

#IWSG: I Wish I Were a Cyborg

Hello, friends, and welcome to another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  Do you feel insecure about your writing?  Are you looking for support?  Then this might be the right group for you!  Click here to learn more!

Each month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers an optional question, something to help get these I.W.S.G. posts started.  This month’s question has to do with secrets.  What secrets do we writers have that our readers would never know based on our work?

At the moment, my biggest secret is that I’m suffering from a bad case of imposter syndrome.  My first book is coming out pretty soon.  In fact, it comes out tomorrow.  I worked really hard on it, and… well, I just hope people like it.

But what if they don’t!?!  Oh no!  People will think I’m a hack writer, a fraud, or something equally reprehensible!!!

A lot of my friends, both online and in real life, have been congratulating me and telling me how excited I must feel.  And yes, I do feel excited.  But I’m feeling other emotions as well.  There’s a cyborg character in my book who can select which emotions he wants to experience and which emotions he does not.  He can turn his emotions on and off with the flick of a switch.

I wish I could do that.  I’d leave my excitement running and switch everything else off.  But I’m no cyborg.  I’m only human, and being human is not so easy.  The best I can do is set those other emotions aside with the promise that I will deal with them later.  In the meantime, I need to keep blogging.  I need to keep marketing my work.  And above all else, I need to keep writing, because this book that comes out tomorrow—that book is just the beginning.

P.S.: For those of you who may be interested, my book is a novella-length Sci-Fi adventure story entitled The Medusa Effect.  It’s the first in a series of novella-length Sci-Fi stories about a journalist who travels through time, covering the galaxy’s biggest news stories before they happen.  Click here to buy the book on Amazon, or you can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Unplanned Mental Health Break

Hello, friends!

Last week, I ended up needing a bit of a mental health break.  I stopped writing and drawing.  I stopped blogging, and I basically unplugged from the Internet for a few days.  Some stuff was happening in my personal life.  I won’t go into any details.  I’ll just say that my stress level got way too high for a while there.

But things are more or less settled now, and I’m back to my regular writing and blogging schedule this week.  So I’ll see you at Wednesday’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  Then on Thursday, The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella comes out (click here to preorder!).  And on Friday, of course, I’ll have a Sciency Words post for you.  So stay tuned, my friends!