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Dale Cozort

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The Past Is a Foreign Country – Part 3

“Your Simon and I aren’t identical twins,” I point out. “If I set this up, how would I know she would think I was him?”

“How do you know you aren’t identical twins?” Mosley asks. “You look a lot alike to me.”

I explain about thousands of sperm going after the same egg and how unlikely it is that the same one would fertilize it, given all the difference between what dad and mom went through on real Earth versus US-53. They don’t buy it. Genetics is an eyes-glaze-over subject.

I try again. “We’re probably half-identical twins. Same egg. Different sperm from the same father. That makes us closer than normal brothers, but not identical. She should have seen the differences, felt the differences, smelled the differences. The odds of her not noticing some difference are astronomical.

No sale on that. I shift ground. “Even if we looked and smelled and felt the same, how could I know if your Simon had a scar or tattoo she would notice right away? The chance of me fooling her into having sex is so low I would have been a moron to try it.”

“And yet it worked,” Mosley says.

“Not for me. I’m sitting in a police interrogation room looking at a public relations nightmare.”

The interrogation drags on, with me refusing to answer their questions. They keep hammering away, ingratiating, kindly, ‘let’s straighten this out so we can all go home’ alternating with accusations.

I’m hungry, thirsty, tired, hot and having a catastrophically bad day. The lemur sausage Ella snuck into my breakfast still sits in my stomach, waiting for its revenge. I have visions of projectile barfing, hopefully knocking Mosley’s glasses out of his hands, sending them crashing to the floor and ‘accidentally’ stomping them so he can’t take them off and put them back on yet again. Continue reading “The Past Is a Foreign Country – Part 3”

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The Past Is A Foreign Country-Part 2

Officer Linde pushes a scrap of paper in a plastic evidence bag across to me. “Someone sent our Simon Royale on a wild goose chase while you pretended to be him. If you sent this note or got somebody to do it, it’s clear cut rape by deception, a little unusual, but the District Attorney will enjoy taking you down. He gets tired of domestic violence and drunken driving.”

I stare at the note, trying to make sense of it. “I never told Madison Royale I was her husband,” I say. “I never deliberately said or did anything that would make her think I was her husband. I didn’t even know your Simon had a wife, much less that she was in Mad-24. And that’s all I’m going to say without a lawyer.”

It’s more than I should say, but the Babble Zone still makes it hard to stop talking. “Is Madison pressing charges?” I ask.

They glance at each other but don’t respond. Score. She probably hasn’t brought charges. If she hasn’t, that makes this situation even more puzzling. The note suggests a set-up, with her involved. If she hasn’t filed charges, why not?

“We’re trying to verify that,” Linde says. He twirls his glasses by the earpiece and I barely resist telling him to put them on or put them away.

Why would they need to verify that she’s filing charges? Either she is or she isn’t. I find myself hoping that she’s not part of a set-up, partly because if she is, I fell into Simon the Lesser’s trap like an idiot.

Beyond that, I like her. The hotel room wasn’t just good sex, it was an instant connection I hadn’t felt in a long time, if ever. How could Simon the Lesser know she would have that effect on me? Would he whore out the mother of his child to gain an advantage in a lawsuit? Would Madison go along with him if he asked her to? She doesn’t seem like the type who would. Then again, we didn’t do much talking during our time together.

“If I’m a suspect in a crime, aren’t you supposed to read me my rights?” I ask.

“What rights would those be?” Linde asks, putting his glasses back on and staring at me over them.

“The right to an attorney. The warning that anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law.” I should be able to quote the Miranda warning by heart, but my mind is fuzzy and can’t pull it up. When did the courts start making police give Miranda warnings? From the way these guys react, it must have happened after 1953 on Dirtball Earth and not at all here. Continue reading “The Past Is A Foreign Country-Part 2”

The Past Is a Foreign Country

This is an excerpt from my novel Necklace of Time. My protagonist, Simon Royale, a well-known writer is in an alternate reality that in many ways is like a fun house mirror version of the 1960s, thought the chronological time is 2015. There is a bit of a twist to the background: existence of the alternate reality is public knowledge. Southwest Airlines flies there out of Sacramento. Simon recently had sex with a woman who turned out to be the wife of the alternate reality’s Simon Royale. She claims she thought she was with her husband. There are repercussions. 

Rape by deception. It’s a thing over here. Apparently enough pervs try to sneak into wives’ beds while hubby is working the night shift that they passed a law against it. Come to think of it, we probably have laws like that back in the civilized world. I’ll have to check. I could use a law like that in a novel if we have them back home. Never let a personal catastrophe go to waste.

Eastport police officers Linde and Mosley are polite in a hulking, menacing way. They’re both a couple inches taller than my six feet one, probably in their late thirties, very white. Poster boys for a fifties Officer Friendly campaign if you don’t look at their eyes too closely. They’re wearing gray blazers two sizes too small in the shoulders.

They have a ‘Why yes, we would love to use our nightsticks’ look to their faces, so I go along without asserting my constitutional rights. Actually, I’m not sure what constitutional rights, if any, I have over here. I’m a citizen, but not of their US.

I figure I’ll sort that out where there are witnesses to any nightstick usage. They don’t cuff me, so at least I don’t add a perp walk to this already catastrophic day. I don’t see anyone I know on the way to the station, another small blessing. Continue reading “The Past Is a Foreign Country”

New Novel, SF Workshop and New Cars

I went to Lawrence Kansas for a two-week science fiction novel writing workshop this summer, followed by a two-week writing retreat. The workshop started June 9th and the retreat continued into early July. Financially this was a stretch, but my job gives me summers off and with my daughter back home I didn’t feel too bad about leaving my wife home alone all that time. They are good friends now that my daughter is an adult.

In any case, four weeks of concentrated writing time was great. I put the finishing touches on my alternate history novel Finding Yourself (now renamed The Necklace of Time and available on Amazon, which is cool—novel number 7 out the door for me). I also worked on

I drove to Kansas and back using a rental car, a Ford mild-hybrid, which mainly means that it is able to store and use energy that would otherwise be wasted in braking. It consistently claimed to have recaptured over ninety percent of the braking energy and sometimes all of it..

It’s a much more modern car than the beater I normally drive, with a very nice built-in GPS system, on a well-thought-out display that makes driving in unknown territory much simpler than a cell phone or a stand-alone GPS.

The more modern aspect bit me at first, though. I almost didn’t get started. I brought the car home the night before the trip and apparently left some power-draining accessory on. When I came out to start the trip, the battery was dead. In an older car, that wouldn’t be too much of a problem. Just pop the hood and connect a charger. With this car there was no apparent way to get into the car with the battery dead and no way to get the hood up to recharge the battery without getting into the car.

After a lot of experimenting, I discovered that there was a key hidden in the fob, but where was the keyhole? After a lot of looking around the doors, I tried a Google search, which told me that there was a keyhole hidden near the driver’s side front door handle. Hidden is the operative word. I had to pry off a piece of rubber molding with a screwdriver to get at it. All of this just to get into the car, after which I had to figure out how to charge the battery—not necessarily that easy when you’re talking a hybrid.

I think I’ll stick to my 19-year-old Buick a while longer—as in until it drops dead. Cars without visible keyholes scare me.

I listened to books on Audible most of the seven-hour trip to Lawrence and back, a Chris Nuttal space opera on the way there and a Louis Lamour western on the way back. Mindless entertainment in the case of the western, but it did pass the time. I used an iPad and a Bluetooth external speaker to play the books. The iPad internal speaker isn’t quite strong enough to overcome the road noise, but the external speaker worked well. If I had dinked around a bit, I suspect that I could have synced the iPad with the car’s speakers, but I was okay with the external speaker.

The Warlord of the Jungle

I’m writing a series of deliberately retro science fiction novellas that hopefully emulate the pulps in the non-stop action department, but with more modern science and a more modern outlook on the world. This is a brief excerpt from the rough draft of the second of those novellas, a hopefully more modern look at the old-fashion Jungle Adventure story.  The full rough draft is around 25,000 words long–maybe eighty to eighty-five pages.  I hope to get this out in e-book form later this summer.


 

1949, on the bank of an alternate Congo river in a very strange alternate Africa

Jace Lee had never seen guns before except in books. He recognized them, though. He even knew to call these guns ‘muskets’, as opposed to rifles. He knew what gunshots sounded like, from hearing gunfire in the distance when Lucas Weaver, the Warlord of the Congo, went hunting or sent his men searching for Jace and his only human friend, Janet Steele. Ordinarily, strange men carrying muskets and wearing white robes that covered most of their bodies would have riveted his attention, but not this morning. Ten-year-old Jace was in terrible trouble, the kind of trouble that could leave him alone in the jungle within hours, if not crippled or dead. He dipped his canteen in the river, watching the strange men beech their canoes upstream and congregate on the river bank.

These were real men like the ones in the books, not like The People, the apelike men he had grown up with, and had long considered his people, despite the many differences between him and them, the ape-men that had been his friends for years but had now rejected him. Janet called the People man apes or ape men, or sometime just monkeys. She often said they were animals, a little smarter than lions or leopards, but still animals. She insisted that Jace wasn’t one of them, that he was an American.

“They’re still my people.” Jace’s whispered words were fierce, but he said them in English, not the limited language of the People. English. That made a mockery of his claim. With two exceptions, none of the ape-men could speak more than a word or two of English and they had to work hard to get out even those few alien sounds.

Despite his words, Jace knew he wasn’t a part of the People now, at least not the same way he had been when he played among the two and three-year-old man-apes, running and wrestling and climbing with them as equals. Now, with one or two exceptions, the People had rejected him. His former playmates were almost grown now, towering over him and displaying the powerful chest and shoulder muscles that made grown ape-men very nearly the equal of lion in single combat and made a group of them capable of chasing away even a pride of lions.

At ten years old, Jace was still a child. He was tough, wise and powerful beyond anything that a child could be if he had grown up among his own kind, but still far weaker than his former companions and not interested in ape-women when they came into their time, a lack of interest that drew derision and then physical beatings from his former companions. Worse, a few of them had taken to hunting him like a beast to be killed and eaten.

Jace finished filling the canteen, studying the men along the riverbank. Among the white-robed men were other real men, these men stripped to loin clothes that showed olive skin. They carried heavy loads while the white-robes yelled at them in a language Jace didn’t understand. He wanted to see more, but he couldn’t wait, couldn’t stay. Janet, one of only two friends he had left in the world, was back in the cabin they shared. She was safe from the man-apes there, inside a circle she called the zone of fear that allowed only Jace and her to approach the cabin. However, she was also pregnant, in labor and probably dying in childbirth. He knew of only one thing he could do to help her and that was to get the water back to quench her thirst and to cool her body, now over twelve hours into labor.

She can’t die! Jace closed his eyes for a second and prayed to the gray-eyed man. Janet would have told have told him that he was being foolish. “The gray-eyed man isn’t real.” She told him that many times, but Jace had seen him, always in the distance, able to fade away like the morning fog, leaving no trail. “If the gray-eyed man isn’t real, where did the soccer ball and the books and the canteen and my knife come from?” he had asked the last time the subject came up. “Who built the cabin and made us safe in it?”

Janet didn’t have an answer for that, so now Jace prayed that the gray-eyed man would come and take the baby out of Janet before it killed her. “She says that it’s from an ape-man and it’s wrong that it be in her,” He whispered. “She says that it shouldn’t be growing inside her and it will probably kill her.”

A sound made him open his eyes and turn abruptly from the robed men. He reached for a wooden club he had close at hand, but relaxed a little when he recognized the ape-woman swinging through the trees toward him. Eve was a year younger than Jace, but at nine she was almost fully grown, six inches taller than him and at least forty pounds heavier. She, at least, was still a friend. At least she had been so far, though Jace had seen enough friends and playmates turn into enemies that he didn’t count on her. She jumped down from a tree and landed beside him, nearly noiseless in her passage through the jungle and to the ground.

Eve, almost alone among the man-apes, could speak many English words. Jace wasn’t sure how many, maybe a hundred or more, though she struggled to make the sounds and Janet claimed that Eve’s sounds resembled English only in Jace’s imagination. Eve struggled even more today, with her excitement making the mix of English and whispered ape-man words more difficult to understand than normal. Finally, Jace figured out what she was trying to tell him and the news was disastrous. A band of newly adult ape-men, his former playmates, were actively hunting him. Not only that, but they were being uncharacteristically systematic about it. Eve told him that the ape-men had spread out, covering the approaches to the cabin that Jace and Janet shared. Worse, they had broken branches he normally used as a forest highway to the cabin, forcing him to approach on the ground.

Jace moved back into the forest and moved easily through it, with Eve gliding along beside him. When he was younger, he had been the awkward one in the trees, slower and less capable than his young ape-man playmates. Now, he was by far their superior because the males were too bulky to move at any speed much above the ground. Eve could still almost keep up with him in the trees, despite her greater weight. Jace wasn’t moving at top speed, trying to figure out a way back to the cabin. While he had far more stamina on the ground than his enemies among the ape-men, they could move faster than him for short distances. And if I get to the zone of fear, they can’t follow me.

The zone of fear surrounded the cabin, extending out nearly a hundred yards in every direction. Neither Jace nor Janet could feel the fear that the zone inflicted on the ape-men, on lions, leopards and every other being that had tried to approach the cabin. The cabin meant safety, but he had to get to it. He worked his way through the forest until he got close to the zone of fear. He heard Janet screaming in the cabin, not the normal cries of a woman in labor, but the weak, exhausted, desperate cries of a woman near death.

Memories: The Marching Band Refused to Yield

Last night I was listening to the song American Pie.  The song brought back memories of an incident I had almost forgotten: NIU’s  “Marching Band Refused to Yield” incident.

Probably at least a decade ago, NIU made national news when one of the NIU football coaches got into a dispute with a visiting marching band and sent his players doing wind sprints through the band.

Band geek versus college football player. It didn’t end well for either side. A couple of band guys ended up with broken bones, but it was all captured on video, which meant that the football players’ bit of ‘fun’ was on record as assault, with zero chance of a successful defense.

The university immediately fired the coach and suspended or cut the players who tried to hit band members (quite a few of the players, to their credit, avoided the band members).  The university then went to the families of the band members, hat in hand saying “please let us pay your medical bills. (and don’t sue us)”

Because of the American Pie connection, the story went viral–at least as viral as a story could back then, making the national news.

This was an early indicator of the way cheap video cameras everywhere changed the (pun intended) playing field. If the incident hadn’t been caught on video, the whole thing would have probably been a murky mess, with conflicting stories over what happened. As a coach and a few players found out, the cameras changed everything.

New Snapshot Novel

This blog has been moribund lately, partly because I’ve been busy writing a new Snapshot novel. The novel is now published and hopefully blogging here will become much more regular.

Snapshot42-Stalingrad Run is the beginning of a new trilogy in the Snapshot universe. Before I get into the specifics, here’s a brief review of what the Snapshot universe is all about. Basically, ETs with godlike powers but no apparent interest in souls or being worshipped have been making backup copies of Earth continents for tens of millions of years, going back at least to dinosaur times. Those backup copies are exact replicas of the geography and life of the continent involved as of a moment in time. However, life in the Snapshots goes on, quickly diverging from the original.

Stalingrad Run is set mostly in a Snapshot of Europe taken on November 6, 1942, two days before the western Allies invaded French North Africa and a little less than two weeks before the Soviet counter-offensive that historically trapped the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad. From the point of view of the people inside the Snapshot, there is now an invisible wall around Europe (and parts of North Africa, the Middle East and the North Atlantic).

There is portal (Vent in Snapshot parlance) near Iceland that leads to a North American Snapshot taken in 1780–during the American Revolution. That Snapshot has been isolated from the rest of the world since 1780 and is still using early 1800s technology.

Bottom line: Without the rest of the world to draw on, the World War II allies are going to be hard-pressed to keep the Germans from overrunning Europe and then turning their sights on an infant America.

Panzers against flintlock muskets? Not a fight anyone in the west wants to see happen.  Stalingrad Run follows the adventures of a couple Americans trapped in the Europe-42 Snapshot as they try to escape Nazi (and Soviet) machinations and keep the Nazis at bay. It’s a lot more straight-forward thriller than most of the stuff I write, which may or may not be a good thing. We’ll see how people react to it.

Mini-Review & Mini-Rant

I recently read a revival of Jerry Pournelle’s 1980s series There Will Be War from a small and rather controversial publisher. It’s an anthology and not bad, with the exception of one weak story toward the end.

As to the controversy: If you’ve heard of the Mad and Sad Puppies and the recent Hugo issues you can probably figure out why the publisher is controversial. My take on the controversy: I read interesting and well-written stuff and don’t want to know the author’s position on the Republican vs Democrat stupidity or the culture wars. I read fiction partly to get away from that crap. There aren’t too many places to get away from those wars anymore and what’s left seems to be under siege. Continue reading “Mini-Review & Mini-Rant”

The Eyes Rule

Our economy runs on eyeballs, which is another way of says that it runs on public attention.EyesImage Every company in the world is trying to cut through the clutter competing for the public’s attention and get their product noticed. That’s what makes a product succeed or fail. Continue reading “The Eyes Rule”

Mini-Reviews: Books & TV

Reading: I’ve been experimenting with audio books lately. I listened to the audio book of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Excellent stuff. A toddler escapes a killer and is adopted by ghosts in a graveyard. I wish I could make characters that draw readers in as much as the ones in this book do. I’m currently listening to The Chase, by Clive Cussler. It’s not bad so far. A detective agency is trying to track down a clever and ruthless bank robber who roams the west in 1906, killing all potential witnesses. The chase feeds into the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Not bad so far, though I noticed a few places where I wanted to get out my editing pen. Continue reading “Mini-Reviews: Books & TV”

Understanding World War II-Japan and Synthetic Rubber

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they won a tactical victory, but at the cost of starting JapanFlagImagea war with a country with enormously more resources at almost every level–more people, more industry, more access to raw materials. The US had enough ships in the pipeline that whatever happened at Pearl Harbor or at Midway or at Guadalcanal the Japanese would simply be buried in the mass of US men and material by sometime in 1944. Why did the Japanese do it? Why did they attack? Continue reading “Understanding World War II-Japan and Synthetic Rubber”

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