Archive for the ‘The Big Aha’ Category


On the Road, Satori, and The Big Aha

I feel like I’m the only person I know who saw the movie version of Kerouac’s On the Road recently. I liked it a lot, I saw it twice—the first time on it’s release date, which was also my 67th birthday.


[Photo I took on one of our own Wild West road trips, first posted 2010.]

The movie didn’t get much publicity, and it wasn’t in the theaters very long. Hard as it is for this old geezer to believe, most people in the younger movie-going generation haven’t even heard of On the Road, and they have only a hazy notion, if any notion at all, of who Jack Kerouac was. Father Time plows us under.

The movie includes a lovely 1949 Hudson car that Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Luanne Henderson and Ed Dunkel drive from NYC to Algiers, Louisiana to visit William Burroughs, and then on to San Francisco.

As it happens, this very car, the one used in the film, is on display in the Beat Museum in San Francisco, just across Columbus Ave from City Lights Books. You can see the car for free, and if you pay a couple of bucks you can go in and see such Shroud-of-Turin level relics as Jack’s plaid coat.

Thinking about On the Road, I happened to recall a great passage in Chapter 11 where Jack describes him and Neal spending a night sleeping in an all-night movie theater in Detroit. I found the book online as one giant webpage, and searched that to find the key word “osmotic.”

For thirty-five cents each we went into the beat-up old movie and sat down in the balcony till morning, when we were shooed downstairs. The people who were in that all-night movie were the end. Beat Negroes who’d come up from Alabama to work in car factories on a rumor; old white bums; young longhaired hipsters who’d reached the end of the road and were drinking wine; whores, ordinary couples, and housewives with nothing to do, nowhere to go, nobody to believe in. If you sifted all Detroit in a wire basket the beater solid core of dregs couldn’t be better gathered. The picture was Singing Cowboy Eddie Dean and his gallant white horse Bloop, that was number one; number two double-feature film was George Raft, Sidney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre in a picture about Istanbul. We saw both of these things six times each during the night. We saw them waking, we heard them sleeping, we sensed them dreaming, we were permeated completely with the strange Gray Myth of the West and the weird dark Myth of the East when morning came. All my actions since then have been dictated automatically to my subconscious by this horrible osmotic experience.

Love that last sentence.

Onward. These days, as I’ve been mentioning, I’m working on a novel called The Big Aha, and I’m nearing the end. And I want to come up with an explanation of what I mean by the psychic state that I call “the Big Aha.”

What I term the “cosmic mode” in the novel is an intuitive, immediate knowledge of the world — what we might call a mystical grasping of the world in its unity. A characteristic feature of cosmic-mode knowledge is that it avoids distinguishing between the knower and the known, the subject and object. You see the world as One.

In what I call the ”robotic mode”, we have a discursive, analytical knowledge of the world — rational thought. In the robotic mode you stand apart from the thing known. You see the world as Many.

The point is not that mystical, all-is-One, cosmic-mode knowledge is preferable. Both the cosmic and robotic modes of knowledge are real, and both are important. But it is very hard — perhaps impossible — for us to see the world in both ways at once. At any instant we see the world either as One or as Many.

Moving from Many to One tends to be a gradual process, the result of some kind of deliberate calming of the mind. But the passage from One to Many is usually sudden. At a given instant you may be sunk into a complete unity with the world. And then an instant later you are talking about your experience, standing outside yourself, making distinctions. The difficult thing is to catch the instant when you are still between One and Many. I sometimes think of this instant as the slash mark in the One/Many problem, that is the problem of how the world can be both One and Many at once.


[World seen through my legs while doing yoga.]

In his essay, “The Meaning of Satori,” which appears in his book The Field of Zen, the author D. T. Suzuki says this instant is the fleeting enlightenment that Zen calls satori. “The oneness dividing itself into subject/object and yet retaining its oneness at the very moment that there is the awakening of a consciousness — this is satori.”

This sort of satori is fleeting, but not rare. One could almost say that the natural rhythm of thought is an oscillation between One and Many. As you look around the room there are constant microlapses of attention. You reach out and merge with the world, then draw back and analyze. At one instant there is only is-ness, at the next there is a person cataloging his perceptions. One-Many-One-Many … at a rate of, say, three cycles per second.

Here’s a picture of this taken from my nonfiction book Infinity and the Mind, my bestselling book ever. It represents the mind of indicating a person who repeatedly sinks down into blissful union with the One, only, each time, to snap back to ordinary rational consciousness. The points labeled “S” might be the satori points.

There is a sense in which waking up each morning is a satori. On a good day (no alarms, no clock to punch) you float up from sleep into an idle state of is-ness, not even thinking who or where you are. But this is too good to last . . . whisk clickety-click, and you’re planning your day Is it possible to notice the moment of switch-over?

When I was doing my research for book Infinity and the Mind, I came across a guy called Benjamin Paul Blood who was, one might say, one of the first-ever drug-mystic’s in the United States. He would equip himself with a handkerchief soaked in ether, hold it to his face, sink into unconsciousness, and then, as his nerveless hand fell away, he would wake back up. The experience of moving abruptly from artificial trance to normal awareness struck him as central, and he wrote something very interesting about it in an 1874 pamphlet, The Anaesthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy. In the long quote below, I added three little clause numbers to make it easier to follow what he’s saying:

I think most persons who shall have tested it will accept this as the central point of the illumination: [i] that sanity is not the basic quality of intelligence, but is a mere condition which is variable, and like the humming of a wheel, goes up or down the musical gamut according to a physical activity; [ii] and that only in sanity is formal or contrasting thought, while the naked life is realized only outside of sanity altogether; [iii] and it is the instant contrast of this tasteless water of souls with formal thought as we “come to” that leaves in the patient an astonishment that the awful mystery of Life is at last but a homely and a common thing, and that aside from mere formality the majestic and the absurd are of equal dignity.

Satori, man.

Up until now I have been describing the interface between One and Many as something that one moves back and forth through in time. This is a bit misleading. In Suzuki’s words, “Satori is no particular experience like other experiences of our daily life. Particular experiences are experiences of particular events while the satori experience is the one that runs through all experiences.”

In other words, the One and the Many run about together in and out of every word ever uttered. The world is One and the world is Many. The One/Many split is the heartbeat of the universe, the charged tension that makes things happen.

What happens in my novel The Big Aha is that my characters find a way to “jam open” the switch between the cosmic and the robotic mode, and they stay in cosmic mode for long periods of time, being One with reality, but without losing their ability to function.

And that’s the Big Aha experience that my book’s title is referring to. The Big Aha is that you can remain in cosmic mode and not be flipping out about it.

In writing my novel, I’d had some faint hope of finding a “higher” Big Aha in an alternate world that my characters visit. But I ended up with more of a D. T. Suzuki or Benjamin Paul Blood routine. Although your knowledge of the Big Aha may be sparked by some a unique and a trippy White Light experience, it ends up being being a part of daily life. You recognize the fact that you’re in the cosmic “All is One” mode a lot of the time.

This is all there is. What was I so excited about? What else did I expect?

Coming at this form of the Big Aha from another angle, think of what the great science writer Martin Gardner calls the “superultimate why question” in his essay, “Science and the Unknowable.” You start with, “Why does anything exist?” And, given any answer to that, you can say, “But where did that come from?” So you might as well short-circuit the process. There is no explanation beyond what we’re experiencing here and now.

So….the Big Aha is? Be here now. Mindful. In the now moment.

You figure out the secret of life—fine. But you still have to go ahead and lead the whole rest of your life. Living in the Big Aha.

Leviathan Eats Us Via 4D Einstein-Rosen Bridges!

I had a big SF revelation this week, a breakthrough for my story. Today’s post will include some illustratiave drawings, also some semi-relevant or irrelevant (but nice-looking) photos.

I’m still working on my novel, The Big Aha. I’m about 75% done. Ever since the early chapters, I’ve had these two mysterious glass balls hanging around: the oddball and the dollshead. I wasn’t quite sure what they were going to do for me, but I had a sense that thought ought to be Einstein-Rosen (or “ER”) bridges to a parallel world that I call Fairyland. See my recent post “Four-Dimesional Portals to Other Worlds” for the story on ER bridges.

In the morning I wrote a scene at the start of where something like an elephant is pulled into the dollshead and it disappears. The mental image made me laugh: the fat elephant with trunk outstretched, thick legs star-fished out, thin tail trailing. Passing into and through the little Xmas-tree ball. While the elephant is going through, the ball swells up like a wobbly giant soap bubble, then shrinks back.

Then I went for a lovely and revivifying hike up over St. Joseph’s Hill above our house, the meadows green, the trees bosky, the sky adrift with plump sharp clouds. Lying there, fully at ease, I was wondering how some creature could contain an ER bridge and yet be an animal or monster with a body and a skin and so on. How would that work? I mean, an ER bridge is a wormhole connecting two spaces. How do you wrap a body around that?

I’ve been coughing for six weeks, and I’ve been thinking I might have pneumonia. I took a little nap on some soft long green grass and when I awoke, I felt like I was finally well. And, as an additional gift, I now had an aha moment. I had a vision of a largish creature, maybe as big as a whale, or maybe even bigger. Call him a leviathan. He lives in the parallel world. And the creature has a number of ER bridges within his body. They’re like vacuoles in the body of a paramecium.

I scrawled the two preliminary images below on a manuscript page I’d brought along on my outing. And the next day I drew something more elaborate. I’ll show those later in this post, but first here’s the crude ones.

In order to discuss the situation further, I’ll use special names for two worlds. I’ve been calling them the Universe and Fairyland, but now I’d like to employ a more neutral usage that I coined in Postsingular and Hylozoic: Lobrane and Hibrane. We live in Lobrane, and Hibrane is the parallel world.

The two ends of an ER bridge between two 3D branes or worlds will appear to us like spheres. So, as I’m saying, the Hibrane ends of a group of ER bridges could very well be spherical vacuoles within the leviathan’s body, and these vacuoles connect to oddball-like spheres down here in our Lobrane.

I arrived at this image by thinking of a Flatland model. In the Flatland version we have the two planes with one or more ER wormhole throats connecting them. We draw a big dark glob on the upper plane. The leviathan. And the ER throats are within his body. And—crucial point—his dark flesh extends about 30% or even 90% of the way down each of the throats, holding those throats bulged out. But the flesh doesn’t go all the way down as the leviathan wants to be living primarily in the upper plane.

What happens if a Lobrane person sails in through one of the ER mouths? The leviathan is flexible, possibly even jellyfish-like, so the mouth can freely enlarge. Even an elephant can fit through. Fine. But what happens when you encounter the dark flesh of the leviathan drooping down from the Hibrane?

The traditional panic-mongering SF option is that the leviathan dissolves and absorbs you on contact, subsuming you as food. Or he somehow chews you up and swallows you. And this may sometimes happen. Certainly I’d like to see one of my viallains meet his end this way. Possibly the kindly elephant Darby gets eaten in this fashion as well. Maybe a few of Darby’s bones slide back out or are spit out. Grisly effect in the barn there. Maybe just one big, dramatic bone. The ER sphere burps, and out comes a bloody tibia, three feet long and a foot across.

But we’ll suppose that when my hero and heroine go into one of the leviathan’s ER maws, the creature doesn’t invoke its digestive processes. Perhaps our hero and heroine wallow through the jellied leviathan flesh and emerge from its skin in the Hibrane.

The next day I was thinking about the leviathan as soon as I woke up in the morning, and I thought about it all day, off and on, although in the meantime I had to prepare all my tax papers and bring them to the accountant, also go to the dentist. It was good to have the geometry and topology of the leviathan to think about while I was getting my teeth cleaned. It was as if, for once, I wasn’t really there. Dear Mamma Mathematica!

Anyway, the concept I slowly arrived at is that the leviathan flesh that protrudes down into the ER tunnel can have a mouth in it. On the one hand, the mouth can either lead to a toothed-vagina style channel in which you’re ground up, and then moved by peristalsis into one of the leviathan’s stomachs. On the other hand, the mouth may lead through a channel out to the leviathan’s surface, delivering you via a kind of birth canal into the Hibrane world.

I decided that the likeable oddball should be an ER bridge of the “good” latter kind, a channel to the higher world. And the dollhead ER bridge will be a “bad” one, a route to being devoured.

So below I’ve drawn, on the left, the Flatland images of the two ER balls, and on the right the diagrams of the two kinds of ER bridges involved. The tiny lazy-eight infinity signs inside the two images on the left indicate that really that central region contains the whole endless world of the Hibrane. The images on the left are oddly warped perspective images, but they indicate how a Lobraner would actually see the ER bridges.

Now for more details. When my hero and heroine were handling the oddball in their apartment it didn’t feel like it had a mouth or an opening. It felt like a smooth glassy ball—and I’ve draw it that way in the figure above. We can think of the oddball or dollhead as wearing a rind. A clear outer surface over the actual leviathan flesh. Like a cornea. And when they want to get down to business, they split the cornea, and it drops off like a husk. Or with might better think of the transparent cover of the ball as like a nictitating membrane on the eye of a bird or a reptile. When it retracts, it’s covering, say, only the “back” half of the ball.

Alternately the cover gets soft and you can push through it.

The glassy oddball (with shiny rind still intact) will have a golden brownish sphere in the center, with shiny skin. And in this sphere there’s a puckered slit. After the oddball sheds or opens its rind, the mouth is uncovered. It opens up. Looking inside you’re seeing up along a tube that goes through an ER bridge. The tube may open up into Fairland, in which case you’ll “read” that as seeing a lot of tiny objects inside the mouth.

Fabulous! Eureka! Aha!

I’d been waiting for this series of insights and I wasn’t sure they were going to come, but now the Muse has favored me. Thanks in part to logic and math and weeks of butting my head against the wall and, ultimately, taking a nap on a grassy hillock one California spring day.

Okay, now to watch some Futurama on Netflix. 46 episodes done, and nearly as many to go.

“The Two Gods,” 4D, Networked Matter

I’ve been writing a lot lately, working on my novel The Big Aha, and on a short story called “Apricot Lane.” I also gave a guest lecture at UC Berkeley and participated in a workshop at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto. In today’s post, I’ll catch up on some of this.

In The Big Aha I have these two mysterious spheres kicking around, about the size of softballs. They’re called the oddball and the dollshead, although their actual names might be Alef and Zeee.

They’re otherworldly beings of some kind, and in the books’ final chapters they’ll transfer one or two of my characters to a higher world for some extra adventures. This is a standard move from the Monomyth or Hero’s Journey pattern, which was famously described in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces. (Note that, with a few tweaks, you can get a variation on the pattern that works for a Heroine’s Journey as well.)

As I sometimes do when I’m stalled or unsure in a novel, I did a painting of these two beings, and I call it The Two Gods.


“The Two Gods,” oil on canvas, March, 2013, 24” x 324”. Click for a larger version of the image.

They’re like lizards, a little bit, with long tails going off into the beyond. I posted a little about my plans for the oddball before on February 5, 2013, in “The Bogosity Generator Tool in Science Fiction,” and when I wrote that post I was thinking about trying to basing my painting “The Two Gods,” on the start sequence seen in Warner Brothers cartoons of the Merrie Melodies or Loony Toons ilk.

On the art front, my show is still hanging at Borderlands Café on Valencia Street in San Francisco. It’ll be up until March 27, 2013, and I have a video of the show below. I marked the prices of my paintings way down for the show, and I’ve sold four in the last month. More info on my Paintings Page.

Rolling back to earlier this month, as I mentioned, I gave a talk on the fourth dimension at Alan Weinstein’s math class at UC Berkeley. The class is using my very first book as their text, Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension (Dover Publications, 1977). Incredibly this little book is in its seventeenth printing, with over a hundred thousand copies sold.

Above is a scan of one of my older copies. For the class I got into some illos from my novel on the fourth dimension, that is, Spaceland, which was inspired by Edwin Abbott’s 1884 novel Flatland .

Flatland describes higher dimensions in terms of a two dimensional square being, A Square, shown above in my painting of the square and his wife, who is a line segment. In the novel Flatland, A Square is lifted into the third dimension, and gets a view of our world as seen from a higher dimension. There’s a few issues that come up here. If you tug A Square up into 3D space, do his innards spill out? And how can his flat eye with its 1D retina see much of anything in 3D?

I got into these issues in my novel Spaceland. My solution was that, before a 4D being tugs my hero Joe Cube up into 4D space, Joe is “augmented,” that is, he’s given a bit of a 4D hyperthickness, his upper “side” is sealed off with new skin, and he grows himself a hyperdimensional extra eye that projects out into hyperspace from the center of his brain.

The rather complex image shown above depicts these moves in terms of A Square, up in the higher (3D) space looking down at his father, who is a triangle. If the Square tries to use his normal eye, he only sees a 1D cross section of his father. He needs that higher-D eye to get full 2D images on his retina so he can form mental images of 3D objects.

In the same sense, if you try and use your normal eye to see in 4D space, you’ll only see 2D cross sections of things. And what you want is to have a 4D eye with a 3D retina, so you can look at, like a person, and see all of their inner organs at once. Like the way you see your house in your mind, with every closet and drawer open to your inspection.

A little more fun with the higher-dimensional eye. Suppose that the Flatland creatures aren’t simple squares, but are more like organisms with bones and a stomach. Suppose that “Dad” here has been augmented with some thickness and with a higher dimensional eye. So he can see that flat “Mom” is hiding a knife behind her back.

Mom makes her move, but Dad bulges his belly out into a higher dimension!

I always go check out Telegraph Avenue when I’m in Berzerkistan. Been doing that for forty years. These days the Ave is at a bit of a low ebb. The epic Cody’s bookstore is gone, indeed all four corners of that block are deserted, and, at least on the day I visited, the street denizens seemed to have arranged a pair of trucks so as wall off access to People’s Park. Note the edited street sign.

At least Rasputin’s and Amoeba record stores are still there, not that they’re very flush. All kinds of media stores are fading away…books, CDs, DVDs…all dissolved in the digital torrent.

I’m a bit of a connoisseur of images of the Pig Chef—that traitorous being who delights in slaughtering, cooking and devouring his peers—and I saw this well-executed Pig Chef on a truck by People’s Park. If you’ve never read it, do check out my Pig Chef story, “The Men in the Back Room at the Country Club” in my online Complete Stories. Not to give too much away, in my tale, the Pig Chef is a Sta-Hi-type character who ends up BBQ-ing people and feeding them to alien preying mantises…

Another thing I did recently was to attend Institute For The Future workshop on the theme of objects joining the internet. See the IFTF post on “The Coming Age of Networked Matter.” My host was David Pescovitz, who also does some work at IFTF.

IFTF has commissioned me to write a short SF story on networked matter, the story to appear for free on Boing Boing and in other spots—it’ll be Creative Commons licensed. Madeline Ashby, Cory Doctorow, Warren Ellis will be writing stories as well. For now I’m calling my story “Apricot Lane,” and that’s what I’m working on right now.

I wrote about a rather enjoyable world with tagged and even “living” objects in my novels Postsingular and its sequel Hylozoic. And note that a free CC version of Postsingular exists.

But this time around, for the purposes of “Apricot Lane,” I’m thinking that it wouldn’t necessarily be pleasant if the objects around you could talk to you or exchange information with you.

Thinking along these lines, I remembered the “dogsh*t day” scene in Phil Dick’s novel A Scanner Darkly. Bob Arctor’s car has malfunctioned. He’s pulled over at the side of a freeway with his freaky and possibly evil friend Barris. He’s hallucinating that his engine block is smeared with dog crap, and Barris somehow knows this and is teasing Arctor, smiling at him from behind his mirrorshades. And then Arctor starts to hear the parts of the engine talking to him and he throws up.

He felt, in his head, loud voices singing: terrible, as if the reality around him had gone sour. … The smell of Barris still smiling overpowered Bob Arctor, and he heaved onto the dashboard of his own car. A thousand little voices tinkled up at him, shining at him, and the smell receded finally. A thousand little voices crying out their strangeness; he did not understand them, but at least he could see, and the smell was going away.

Good old Phil.

The “Bogosity Generator” Tool In Science Fiction

As most of you probably know, filmmakers use the term “MacGuffin” to stand for some object that various characters in the tale are competing for. A secret paper, a formula, a stunning gem, a statue of a Maltese falcon…

In Fantasy and SF novels we have a slightly different convention—a special device or procedure or organism with special powers that affect the flow of the story. The writer very often works backwards, that is, they get some visually or conceptually interesting thing happening in their story, and only then posits a gimmick that will make the effects possible.

There must be some standard generic name for these gimmicks, and if so, I’ve probably heard it, but for whatever reason, I can’t think of a completely apt and standard phrase today. Deus ex machina isn’t quite right, as that’s more specifically a miraculous something that saves your characters. Pixie dust is fairly accurate, but it doesn’t have the technological feel that I’d like. I’ve seen handwavium too, and that’s not bad, but I guess I’d like a new phrase for this.

Let’s call what I’m talking about a bogosity generator. Kind of like a tank of helium, useful for inflating your pretty balloon animals so they can bobble across the ceiling. Or, more obviously, like an electrical generator that sets the great streams of sparks to arcing across your mad-scientist lab.

The rules are that fantasy authors aren’t expected to justify or to explain their bogosity generators, but an SF writer is expected to cobble together some kind of semi-plausible, paralogical, science-like explanation—that’s considered part of the fun of SF. The styles of these hand-waving explanations change with the intellectual fashions of the times. Over the years, preferred bogosity-generator-justifiers have included radio waves, radioactivity, the subdimensions, relativity, psi powers, black holes, quantum mechanics, parallel worlds, nanotechnology, chaos theory, superintelligent AI, an escalating technological singularity, bioengineering, and our dear friend the Higgs particle.

One point that’s worth making over and over is that an SF writer’s explanations for his or her bogosity generators serve a creative purpose. The theory behind your bogosity generator is not idle bullsh*t. Why? Because in the process of making up the explanation, you get ideas for new things to do with the bogosity generator.

When you’re thinking about the explanation, it’s like you’re reading an instruction manual for some cool new device. Admittedly, you yourself are writing the instruction manual at the same time that you’re reading it, but the manual is not a complete fabrication—it’s constrained by having to be logical, concise, intellectually appealing, internally consistent and, to a certain degree, externally consistent with some cherry-picked facts of science.

When you get a really fine explanation for your bogosity generator, it’s no longer the case that your story tells a lie . If the explanation is really cooking, the lie tells your story. Yeah, baby. That’s where you want to be. It’s a variation on a carnie grifter saying: “Don’t run the con. Let the con run you.”

It sometimes happens that an author invents the bogosity generator before deciding what it’s supposed to do. You might dream one up early in a novel simply because you know you’ll be needing some explanatory device sooner or later, even if you haven’t quite yet decided what kind of weirdness you’ll be needing to explain. Or you’ll have a nice mental image for a funky bogosity generator, and you go ahead and describe it without even knowing what it does or how it “works.”

This is the situation that I’m in with my novel-in-progress The Big Aha . About a quarter of the way into the novel, I introduced a bogosity generator called an oddball. It has some of the qualities of a MacGuffin, in that some of characters immediately set to work stealing the oddball from each other like the spies vying for that Maltese falcon. But it’s also meant to be a bogosity generator. I’m expecting great things from my oddball. Only I still have to figure out what those things will be—and what’s the “explanation” for the oddball. And I’m glad I still have to figure these things out, as I need material for the second half of the novel!

Here’s some text from the draft scene, where the oddball is introduced. I might mention that by a “nurb,” I mean a biotweaked plant or animal. In the future era where The Big Aha is set, somewhere near the end of the 21st century, tailored organisms have almost entirely replaced machines. “Teep” is telepathy. “Qwet” means “quantum wetware,” which is a bogosity generator of its own, it provides people with teep and with an ability to get their heads into a high “cosmic” state.

A scratched, glassy object sat upon a carved wooden shelf. It was a sphere the size of a robin’s egg, transparent on the outside, with an opaque core. This central core was dark purple. I’d often studied the object, trying to decipher its origins and its purpose, wondering over the sparks of reflected light that danced within. The deeply maroon central core was a spiky compound assemblage, a stilled explosion that resembled a sea urchin.

The really odd thing about this particular curio was that its appearance continually changed. The calligraphic scratches on its surface tended to wriggle and drift; the central core wobbled and varied in size. Once in a great while, if I’d fiddled with the curio enough, I’d see a stumpy cylinder grow out of the central core and out through the curio’s transparent side. This cylinder was like a smooth, leathery tube, but its outer end gave the appearance of having been roughly severed.

My wife Jane called this little sphere her amazing oddball. She’d picked it up in Manhattan, on the East Village beach that bordered the now-submerged Alphabet City district. Jane liked to claim that the oddball had called her by whispering her name. We’d never quite decided what it actually was. At first we’d taken it for a plastic amulet with an embedded holographic display—but then we’d decided it was biological, probably a nurb. Not that it resembled any nurb that had ever gone into production. Nor did it have any obvious commercial purpose. An abandoned experiment? A wild nurb that had emerged on its own?

I centered myself and took the oddball in my hand. It nestled against my palm, and I seemed to feel a faint glow of teep from it. Not something I’d ever noticed before. Was the curio somehow synching with my qwet mind?

Two months ago, I formed the desperate plan of having my oddball be someone’s severed third eye, to be used in concert with hopping from our world up to a parallel world called fairyland. I described this far-fetched idea in my December 10, 2012 blog post, “Cosmic Fairyland 2: Third Eye”.

That was a useful idea in that it helped me to continue writing. But the whole fairyland and third eye thing is too baroque to maintain. It introduced too many extra story elements into my novel. So I’m downgrading the oddball’s abilities. My character Loulou didn’t actually use the oddball to travel through another dimension to a parallel world and then hurl small green pigs, known as “gubs,” into our world for the other characters to see. (Gubs are described in my post of November, 30, 2012, “Gubs and Raths”.)

Instead, I’m now only requiring that the oddball has the effect of allowing Loulou to (a) make herself invisible without in fact leaving our world, (b) to project images and seemingly solid objects into reality, somewhat in the style of what spiritualists call a “physical medium.”

Fairyland was only Loulou’s hallucination, but the oddball allowed Loulou to become invisible, those around her thought she might be off in fairyland, and her ability to reify her imagined gubs made it seem like she might be off in fairyland tossing gubs into our world.

So now I’m trying to get more specific about what the oddball does, and how it works. I’m thinking I’ll say that contact with the oddball allows telepaths to begin converting normal matter into something I call wacky matter. Of course, wacky matter is merely a subsidiary bogosity generator. But it’s getting closer to something useable. I was already thinking about wacky matter a year ago, see my Jan 16, 2012, blog post, “Future Ads. Fun with Wacky Matter.”

So, repeating what I just said, I’ll assume that people who have access to the oddball can turn objects into wacky matter that they control. And later on, people who merely have an understanding of the powers involved in the oddball can create and control wacky matter too.

Let’s back up and describe wacky matter again. Wacky matter is like psychic Silly Putty. It takes on shapes and patterns to match any outré mind state. Peoples’ houses might change into big shoes or have rooms with ceilings one inch tall, or maybe look like Dogpatch scenes from Al Capp’s Li’l Abner. You might dose your surroundings to make them more vibrant, more cartoony, more congenial. Instead of you getting high, your house gets high! Don’t run your con, let your con run you.

Why do I want wacky matter? The Big Aha is about a future psychedelic revolution that arrives in scientific form. It will be kind of perfect if my qwet, qrude, loofy characters can taint the physical world with wacky matter—thanks to their quantum wetware and their oddball energy. Did Kesey and Leary change the world around them? For awhile. And then the world pushed back. We got hit with Charlie Manson and with disco. Wacky matter became a destructive and repressive force.

Over the past year, I’d forgotten all about wacky matter. But recently I stumbled across the contemporary real-tech notion of “metamaterials”—which reminded me of my fictional concept. Metamaterials are engineered to contain regular lattices of atoms that subject light rays and other electromagnetic fields to transformation optics—a bit like a lens does. Supposedly a metamaterial can become invisible via a so-called electromagnetic cloak or “metamaterial cloaking.” As the Wikipedia article puts it, “The guiding vision for the metamaterial cloak is a device that directs the flow of light smoothly around an object, like water flowing past a rock in a stream, without reflection, rendering the object invisible.”

I don’t want to use the word “metamaterials” more than once in The Big Aha, and then simply as a background justification for wacky matter. The thing is, I can barely understand the Wikipedia explanations of metamaterials, and the factuality of the concept limits me, and I don’t want to be playing catch-up-ball. Better to take a little inspiration from the science, but then be working with a completely bogus concept that I’ve invented, and which will obligingly have any properties that I require. Writing my own instruction book for my bogosity generator. Wacky matter, not metamaterials.

I can straight-up use the metamaterial cloaking routine for oddball/wacky-matter invisibility. And projecting images and objects into wacky matter can be explained with a rap about atoms being quantum computers, and the telepaths’ quantum wetware minds getting entangled with the “minds” of the atoms. You can make insubstantial illusions simply by selectively tweaking the refractive index of the air. And for objects, you go ahead and do a transmutation of matter routine.

But I still need to involve the oddball. How is it letting people make wacky matter? Maybe the oddball is helping with the entanglement part.

And, the payoff part, what can the oddball and the wacky matter do? What’s in the back pages of the instruction manual?

I imagine exploding an object into atoms, but have the atoms remember where they came from so you can play the explosion backwards. Like the atoms were connected to their original locations by rubber-band spacetime threads.

I want my qwet-heads to reach the Big Aha, which might be the light visible between our thoughts, the white light of the Void.

Naturally the oddball and wacky matter will pose a threat to the continued existence of the world. The world is a consensus illusion, and the oddball might nudge everyone/everything out of this illusion. We might lose our balance like a tightrope-walker looking down past the rope to the yawning chasm below.

The oddball will want to reproduce. In its initial state, it was blocked from so doing. Unwittingly my artist character Zad helps it begin to spread. He incorporates the oddball into one of his new sculptural artworks, hoping to enhance his work for a big come-back show at the Idi Did gallery. But then the work eats the gallery—and most of downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

Also I need to limn the origin of the oddball. Possibly a wetware hacker made the oddball, partly by accident. Perhaps it evolved—but could the evolution have been directed by…the Big Aha?


[A visit from the Golden Age computer theorist, Ted Nelson.]

One scene I want to do, it’s the ultimate “spaced friend” scene. My character Junko appears one morning and, thanks to the oddball and wacky matter, she’s altered the dimension signature of the spacetime in her body. Her body has, like, two-dimensional time and two-dimensional space. She slides into the commune’s morning breakfast room, sliding across the floor.

“Rough night, Junko?”

Don’t write the bogosity generator, let the bogosity generator write you.


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