On a tangent, I had this great idea to write a YA dystopian novella around reproduction and a future where successfully reproducing is rare, so women's choice to reproduce is removed...then I downloaded The Handmaiden's Tale. :(
Great book, though. Shame Margaret beat you to it.
You coul still probably re-spin it Larana. If there is one thing that is prevalent in YA fiction these days, it's the same ideas being reiterated. At least a re-working of the Handmaiden's Tale would hopefully actually make teens think--which is more than can be said for a lot of the Twilight themed stuff that was popular for awhile there.
But anyway, originality: non-existent. Do what you want. :D
I have started a blog. I figure more writing practice makes perfection. It is a cognitive psych/ stats inspired examination of topical issues. Similar themes to my novel actually.
Sounds interesting, Larana. Are you willing to PM a link?
Thanks, Larana. It should be a really entertaining read :).
Just looked over all ur writing, i love it all, but especially your smaller things, the not novel stuff, lol. some of it feels less formal, more emotion, and i connect better to that stuff. Hope you turn your writing skills to stuff like that, soon. :)
The blog looks really cool! Interesting idea too!
I love your blog, Larana! It's so....intellectual. It makes my blog look like it was written by a five year old! haha I'm going to follow you on Blogger :)
I have another piece. I have written rather a lot of it, but I will post it in easily digestible chunks.
People often say they wish they could turn back the clock and make different choices. They regret lives unlived and they think they would be happier if they could choose again. But they are wrong. When the clock turns back, the real misery begins.
I still don’t know how it happened to me. I am not even sure it matters. Nobody so far has believed me, although I think Lexi is starting to. Every time she opens one of her special notes she gets a little more convinced. At least I think she does. Either that or she thinks I have gained psychic powers, but lost my mind as a result. I hadn’t intended on telling anyone at first, but it just got so lonely. I missed the Lexi I had left behind. I suppose I thought by telling her I could accelerate her in that direction. It was undoubtedly a selfish thing to do and it went against my principle of conservation, but since I couldn’t get him back for years, I needed her. I needed my best friend. And so I came up with an ingenious way of proving my fairly unbelievable story.
Lexi was so angry at me the first time she opened one of my notes. She couldn’t doubt that I had written it long before Ziggy had cheated on her. She could see the date on the front in her own handwriting. In fact, at this stage I had written so few of these notes that she remembered signing each one.
“How did you know about this?” she demanded angrily. She always got angry when she wanted to cry.
“You know. I’ve told you.”
“You think I am going to believe that [censored]?”
“Well how else do you explain it?” I asked calmly. I could see that my pacifying tone only rankled her more.
“You must have known about Ziggy and Naomi. You knew and you didn’t tell me.”
“I did tell you. I wrote that note.” I could see her going to open her mouth and said, “But I think you are missing the more important point here. I wrote that note three months ago. You weren’t even going out with Ziggy then. You were chasing that Dan guy from Chisolm Collge.”
She narrowed her eyes at this. Presumably she took umbrage at my use of “chasing”. I just shrugged my shoulders and let her think about it.
“Well then you guessed. It is pretty likely that a guy would cheat of me at some point.”
I half smiled at her. “But Ziggy in particular, and with Naomi? That’s a hell of a guess. And if it was only a guess then you can’t be mad at me for not doing anything. You weren’t dating him when I made the guess”
I could see her quick mind zipping around for some other reason to be angry at me, but it didn’t bother me. She needed someone to be angry at, and I was right there. Later we would be burning Ziggy’s pictures and hurling clothes that Lexi had borrowed from Naomi out of Lexi’s second story window. That is, if I hadn’t so badly altered everything that it didn’t happen. But it seemed like my note hadn’t really had any effect on events. Ziggy has still cheated and Naomi had still betrayed Lexi. That friendship would end, just like it had the first time.
As I said before, I hadn’t meant to tell anyone the truth. I was so worried about getting back to him and doing everything the way I had done last time, that for months I tried to just live in my old life. But people started noticing my strange behaviour. The first time around my life had fit, but the second time it was distinctly uncomfortable. I was starting to unravel and I was worried that I was damaging continuity more by trying to keep my secret from everyone.
I had woken up in a dark, damp smelling room. It certainly was not my bedroom. More importantly, I didn’t remember going to bed. At first my thoughts flew to the worst case scenario. Or at least, the worst case scenario I could then imagine. But I hadn’t been out drinking or partying; the last thing I remember was walking my dog. Besides, I had a growing sense of unease, a nauseating sense of déjà vu that was making itself more and more distinct. I recognised this room. The dark brown brick and the heavy curtains, the cheap metal bed frame and the dark wooden wardrobe, these were all familiar to me. So too the sense of being cramped in a room whose walls stood barely 5 and a half feet apart. This was my college room. The problem was I wasn’t in college. And this building had been demolished three years ago.
My breath started to come in shallow, erratic burst and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. My mouth went dry and my stomach started to churn. Prickles of sweat broke out across my head and down my arms. There was no way I could be in this room. Strangely, that thought calmed me a little. I could not be here, so chances were that I wasn’t. I could be dreaming, be in a coma or having a psychotic episode, but I couldn’t be here. I sat down on my bed, which felt disturbingly real. I was beginning to think a coma was the most likely explanation. This was like no dream I had ever experienced.
I gazed around my room. I hadn’t remembered all the crap I had stuck up on my walls in college. The obligatory Escher was on the wall as well as a phrenology skull. I was like a walking stereotype. How embarrassing. That thought caught me. Clearly 18 year old me hadn’t thought that, she had stuck this stuff on her walls. So clearly despite being in my college bedroom, I wasn’t 18 year old Lara. I jumped up and flung my cupboard door open. The reflection looking back at me from the mirror was not the one I was used to. Younger, with fuller cheeks, more freckles and slightly thinner. Alright. My body was 18 year old Lara, but my consciousness certainly wasn’t. Which was either impossible or solved the mind-body problem pretty definitively. I started to giggle hysterically. I may have solved one of the world’s biggest philosophical mysteries and nobody would ever believe me.
Okay. Deep breath. What else could it be? Dissociative fugue? A pretty rare psychiatric disorder, and usually you took on a different personality; you didn’t embellish your own ten years into the future. Besides, where did that knowledge come from? I didn’t do my Masters until I was 28. 18 year old Lara hadn’t even done Intro to Abnormal Psych. Besides, I had all kinds of knowledge floating around in my brain that I know I didn’t have when I was 18. I remembered my PhD thesis. Unless it was all a really complicated delusion.
My head started to spin. Was there a way to check my knowledge? I scanned my room. I know I didn’t have a laptop in 2003, but I did have textbooks. Ripping my introductory psych textbook from the shelf, I flipped to the psychopathology chapter. Psychotic disorders, dissociative fugue; “sudden, unexpected travel away from home or one's customary place of work, with inability to recall one's past, confusion about personal identity, or the assumption of a new identity, or significant distress or impairment”.
Letting the book slide out of my hands, I ran over to my desk phone. I didn’t remember Lexi’s extension, but there was a telephone list pinned to my desk. I dialled it and when she picked up I blurted out “have we learned about dissociative fugue yet?”
“Um Lana, what the hell?” she said sounding totally confused.
“Please, just answer me”
“I don’t even know what that is”
I hung up the phone.
I think that I am 28. I have knowledge that I definitely didn’t have when I was 18. And it seems to be correct. So if I am in a fugue state, this identity has somehow acquired knowledge that the 18 year old me doesn’t, or didn’t, have. The problem is there is no way of knowing for sure. It could all be part of an elaborate psychotic break. Like Descartes’ demon, all of this could be my brain misfiring dramatically. I don’t cover the mind-body problem until next semester. At least I should get a good grade.
After my initial shock, I tried to just wait it out. If it was a psychotic break, it couldn't last forever. Until then the only thing to do was to go around acting like the person everyone thought I was. That was a lot harder than I thought it would be.
I missed him so much and I couldn't talk about it to anyone. I missed lots of people. I wouldn't meet two of my best friends until three years later. My beloved puppy wouldn't be born for almost 9 years. And I wouldn't meet Joe for another 5. And that was if it all happened again. In the end I realised I couldn't do it on my own. I was paralysed with fear that the slightest action on my behalf would lead to a totally different future.
Wow, Larana! What a horrible situation to be in! You've written this really well - I'd love to see the other bits you've done.
Ooh that is a neat concept there, Larana. Certainly a horrible situation, but at the same time . . . well, I'd know I'd try and take advantage of it.
The next installment. This has grabbed me in a way that my previous work never did. Everytime I have a spare moment I start thinking about this...
One of the first things I did was go and see someone in the physics department. It was about four weeks into my “fugue state”, which I was fairly certain was anything but. My life was progressing pretty much exactly as it had the first time round. It was like a play, but I was the only one who knew they were an actor.
I had convinced an Associate Professor in the department that I had a philosophy assignment concerning the nature of time and I wanted to have a discussion about the physics of time.
We met for coffee outside the angular looking physics building in the nearby coffee shop. The architect had evidently decided that since the building was next to the physics building, it had better be futuristic, with soaring glass panels and angular orange wings. After engaging in some initial chitchat about my fictional assignment, I launched in.
“When someone time travels back into their own past, how could they ensure that they wouldn’t alter the future?”
He smiled at me. “According to chaos theory, they couldn’t. The mere presence of time travellers in the past would have unpredictable effects on things at a quantum level. This might affect the weather, which in turn affect larger scale events. And this would create a paradox, because the future from which those people travelled would cease to exist, and they would never have travelled.”
I bit my lip. “What if the people were already in the past? And they sort of, replaced themselves?”
“Even then, if they did anything at all different, even breathed different, it would have the same effect.”
I must have looked concerned because he went on to say, “Of course there is always the Novikov self-consistency principle.”
I leaned forward.
“Basically the self-consistency principle proposed that there are closed timelike curves or CTCs. Events on CTCs are guaranteed to be self-consistent, they ensure the future occurs as it should by influencing each other around a closed curve in a self-adjusting manner. I guess it would be like a sort of universal biofeedback system.”
“So how would you know which events were on CTCs and which weren’t?” I asked.
“I suppose you wouldn’t until you tried to change something. The principle of self-consistency allows for a time traveller to affect past events in a way that produces no inconsistencies. You might for example be able to save a particular person from 9/11 but only if they never appeared in recorded history again. I guess you could take them back to you with the future, as long as the outcome was the same.”
“So whatever someone did would have to have no impact, because it already hasn’t had an impact?” I asked trying to think it through.
“It isn’t quite as tautological as that. You are a psychology major right? “
He continued, “I would think about more like this. When you are stressed, your body uses a complicated set of interactions between the brain and your organs to regulate this response. Your hypothalamus causes the release of hormones that trigger cortisol release from your adrenal gland. These help you escape from danger. But the release of cortisol will inhibit the production of the hormones in the hypothalamus that caused the reaction in the first place. So you are in one state, something happens in the middle, but at the end you are in the same state.”
I shake my head worried, “but the HPA axis can become dysregulated if you are chronically stressed.”
He smiled, “the metaphor isn’t perfect I grant you…” he broke off. “Aren’t you in first year?”
Belatedly I realised I had spouted out something I had learned in third year physiology and tried to backtrack. “Yeah, I did neurophysiology in high school.”
He didn’t look convinced and we finished our coffee shortly afterwards. But the conversation, rationally or irrationally, furnished me with a tool for approaching my situation. I became convinced that the universe was self-consistent, or would use a cosmological feedback system to ensure homeostasis, as long as it wasn’t chronically stretched. So I could get back to Joe, as I used my history affecting interventions sparingly.
As soon as I got back from my coffee I holed up in my room and started plotting out all the events I could remember between 2003 and 2013; personal events, world events, weather patterns, financial patterns, sport and politics. I needed to be able to gauge whether what should be happening was happening. Over the course of several weeks I stayed up till the small hours of the morning scraping my brain for every last event of significance. Of course my recollection was imperfect and heavily skewed towards what had caught my attention at the time. For that reason, the continuity of personal events was a lot easier to assess than more important global events. Even for own life though, I was hard pressed to remember every event that had taken place a decade ago. So I just picked events that I considered critical, because they had affected others in some important way. For me, it was less important. I would be where I needed to be to get back to Joe. Little blips here and there didn’t really matter as long as I ended up meeting Joe at the same time.
I worked backwards from the meeting.
Destination: Joe and I play soccer on the same team. He accidentally bumps in to me and knocks me over.
Immediate precursor: I play soccer because one of my friends from the psych lab wanted to play and needed more teammates.
Cause: I was doing my PhD at a specific university, in a specific area, within a specific psych lab at met Kitty.
Precursor: I got grades high enough to enter the PhD program
Since I had already learned all of the content of my course once, I figured it should be easy to get the same kind of grades. I just had to ensure I met the key milestones. As far as I was concerned, anything prior to that was probably more flexible. As long as in three and half years’ time I had a first class honours in my Psychology degree and applied for the PhD, the rest of my life should follow on.
The problem with my plan was that it meant that I had three and a half years to wait out before I made any real progress towards my goal. Nothing I did here really mattered, and there was probably a good chance that I would be stuck doing basically the same things I had already done. It was fun the first time around, but being a 28 year old mind floating along in an 18 year olds body is not really very exciting. I didn’t have much in common with the people who were my friends at the time. Even the ones who were still my friends weren’t the same people I knew anymore.
They were like shadows to me, cast by the light of some distant star that had burned out years ago. The light was still coming, but soon it would stop and they would be gone. They didn’t exist and they didn’t even know it. My few attempts to engage with them normally had been painful in the extreme.
One afternoon Lexi, Amanda, Naomi, Steph and I had gotten together to have coffee. This was about three weeks before the infamous Naomi-Ziggy affair was revealed to the world, so Naomi was still in our good graces. Interestingly, it was at the very same coffee shop I had gone to meet my physics professor, and in all honesty I would have rather met up with him again. They had been chattering away, Amanda and Steph telling us about a how they had to intubate each other this morning.
“I nearly vomited when Steph intubated me,” Amanda said making a gagging face.
“It wasn’t as bad as the physiology class we had the other day, the smell of the formaldehyde was so strong I nearly threw up, especially after the night we had,” was Steph’s rejoinder.
Lexi had been nodding along and laughing when she fixed her eyes on me and said, “What on earth is wrong with you Lara? It’s like you’re in a walking coma or something.”
She hadn’t been terribly convinced by some earlier attempt I had made to avoid the coffee date and I knew she was disposed to think I was being a bad friend, not just to her, but to all our friends.
I made a trifling excuse about not sleeping well and was immediately sorry as sympathy poured in from Steph, Naomi and Amanda. I was immune to feeling guilty about lying to Naomi, but lying to the other two, and particularly Amanda gave me a pang. We would stay friends for years after college and she deserved better from me than I was giving her. Lexi just shook her head and rolled her eyes at me.
Coffee didn’t last long after that, as if my despondence had somehow infected the rest of the group, and we walked back to Bartley Hall.
I got progressively more and more depressed and lonely. I hadn’t thought it was possible to withdraw anymore, but over the next few weeks I become a complete recluse. I stopped even pretending to live my life and resigned myself to being a ghost for the next three years. I was some kind of temporal echo, not a person. I settled into a passive kind of depressed acceptance.
I was violently snapped out of my complacency in May.
Can anyone tell me if they like Lexi? I want her to be likeable.
Sorry, too early for me to say either way yet. It takes me a long time to warm up to characters when the prose is first person narrative. I'm not a huge fan of first person, personally, so there have been very few first person protagonists that I have actually liked. The OberChrons are legitimately the only first person books I will really reread.
She's not automatically unlikeable though, I can say that much.
I don't have an issue with first person, but I agree with Shonk - at the moment, all we've had is an explanation of the phenomenon and an assertion that her priority is to find the love of her life again. Nothing wrong with that--we need this information, and it's interesting and well-presented, but until we start seeing how she reacts in a more immediate way, we don't get a sense of her as a person. So for example, you tell us that she is depressed and lonely and pushing her friends away, which cues to me in to the fact that she is a sensitive person... but it's just you telling me. Presumably soon you're going to show her in actual situations where her confusion and sadness will have a chance to manifest, and it's as we ride along in her head in those moments that we'll start developing our sympathy for her.
I'm waffling. I should shut up! Anyway, again agreeing with Shonk, definitely she has the potential to be likeable, and this is a great story, so keep being inspired, keep sharing, and let us grow to love her the way you, presumably, do.
On a side note, are you happy keeping this story out in the public domain? If there's a chance you might publish, perhaps it would be better to pop it into Prodders like you did with your other story?