Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reviews 19 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg - The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka

Reviews 19
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka

The Flicker Men is a novel set at the intersection of math, physics, and The Soul.  It's about the nature of reality and where humans fit into reality.  

On this blog, we focus on Science Fiction Romance and Paranormal Romance, involving ourselves with the issue of Soul Mates and the Happily Ever After ending.  

The Flicker Men is about all of our topics, without being a Romance.  If you're writing science fiction romance, you need to read this novel.  Here's why. 

On the September 15, 2015 post, we focused on our surrounding "real" world and how readers who live in it are looking for the best romance books that fiction publishers are producing.


Readers who seek "escape" are looking to writers to lift them up out of the daily tizzy, to live in another world for a while and let their nerves settle down.  From that far vantage point, they can view their problems in a whole new light.

After a book vacation, a reader can return to the real world and make better decisions, execute better actions.  

Why do we seek escape reading?  Can we achieve escape from daily life by reading realistic fiction books?

We all live in different "realities" -- our subjective reality and some people believe there exists an objective reality.  Some people believe there is no objective reality, just shifting subjective landscapes.  We create our own lives as a bubble of illusion around us.  

Frankly, I lean more toward the idea that there is an objective reality, and it is a human's business to strive to define it, explore it, know it, master living in objective reality.  

But I also factor in the plasticity of human consciousness.  The things that really matter to us, as living creatures, matter because they are subjectively real.  The important part of reality is that which we perceive.  

There is one subject that brings the objective shape of Reality together with the individualistic, idiosyncratic, personalized subjective reality of each of us.

That subject is popularly known as the Art of Tarot, and it overlaps and interpenetrates the science of Astrology.

That is astrology as a science, an organized body of empirical observations, not astronomy which is also an organized body of empirical observations.  

Astrology is coincidences recorded, and maps out the ups and downs of our subjective reality where it interfaces with external events.  Tarot maps out the ups and downs of our subjective reality pretty as it responds to external Events.

Does that sound familiar to writers of romance books?  Your novel, or the stories you write, need a structure.  

Astrology can suggest plots, the sequence of life events that seem part of objective reality, outside the self, way out of a Character's control.  Tarot can suggest how a Character reacts to those Events consistent with character traits familiar to the reader.

For example, my first award winning novel, Unto Zeor, Forever, depicts the main character's Saturn Return as he walks through the Tarot lessons of the High Priestess and the Empress.

Science Fiction has been defined as the story of how discoveries in science impact single human beings, or civilization as a whole, or both. 

Who would you be if you lived in a galactic civilization with lots of aliens?  Or during Earth's first exploration of the stars, seeking First Contact?  

Reading a good book of that type can qualify as "escape."  But even better, it can qualify as another perspective on your life, your identity, and the possibilities for solving your current real-world problems to get on to the next phase of your existence.

For decades, the best astronomers accepted the mathematical analysis that said the existence of other planets, never mind planets enough like Earth to harbor life as we know it, was so improbable as to be impossible.

So Alternate Universes and Fantasy Genre became a very popular form of fiction.

Now Hubble and other imaging sources have provided proof that there are other planets, some of them within the "life as we know it" zone.  "Life" is still a big maybe, but traces and hints are turning up indicating there are DNA chains and complex chemicals "out there."  

So science fiction is coming  back into fashion with interplanetary and galactic stories such as we looked at last week with Jean Johnson's "Theirs Not To Reason Why" series.

She used an entirely plausible depiction of TIME as the basis for taking the reader into a new perspective.  Her main character, Ia, is a precognitive who can scan the life events of individuals and their descendents for a thousand years.

After the TV Series Numb3rs (available on Amazon Instant Video) popularized the practical applications of some very esoteric mathematics, we have seen more popular science articles explaining how astrophysicists are applying mathematics to unravel the fabric of space-time, defining and re-defining what a "particle" is/might be and what waves have to do with that.

Einstein's Relativity is holding up well, but there are applications where it does not seem adequate.

The part of the theory that pertains to The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka is neatly summarized here:

Here is a classic graphic showing the Earth's gravity well.  Note how as you get closer to Earth, the shape of the boxes changes, so it takes different amounts of "Time" to traverse a box depending on where you are.

Space and Time are not separate.  OK, some recent work is showing Einstein's model fraying at the edges.  It may not be the whole story, but it's very dependably real where it does apply.

Einstein didn't have any satellites to experiment with.  He came up with this idea via mathematics and physics.  It was a totally useless fantasy for his world.  It is the basis of our current space program explorations.  And it is the basis of discoveries being made in particle physics.

To understand the infinitely large, one must have a solid understanding of the infinitely "small."

"Large" and "Small" are concepts that can not be defined without using "space" (the 3 physical dimensions, Height, Width, Depth).

If a thing doesn't have "size" how can it "be?"

Well, how big is your Soul?  How much does it weigh?

We can measure the "brain" but have not yet "located" (in space) the Soul.  Therefore, people who study this kind of thing have a hard time including "Soul" in their model of Reality.

Thus reading Romance Novels is "escape" for them because the best romance novels are about Soul Mates.  Free Romance Novels are flying off Amazon's virtual shelves very likely because  spending time in a universe where Souls are real is just the escape that is sought by Romance Reader.

The most profound thing I've ever learned about Souls came via a course on Kabbalah, where I learned the soul enters the material world through the dimension of Time.  Not SPACE -- but TIME.  The Soul exists through TIME -- but not SPACE.  The brain exists through SPACE and TIME.

Another thing I learned from Kabbalah while writing the 5 books on Tarot
is that the Soul descends into the body in stages, starting at conception and proceeding (I think by quantum leaps) to the threshold of sexual maturity at about 13.  This theory produces a unique paradigm for child-rearing, setting expectations expanding as the Soul gains a better grip on the animal body.  Given knowledge of what will be expected of him/her at given birthdays, and training to rise to that new level, maturity unfolds in a more steady way.

A fictional character given the advantage of such an upbringing, such an understanding of Body and Soul and their Relationship is better able to cope with the challenges of meeting a Soul Mate.

Working on the current exalted level, cutting edge mathematicians are now inventing the mathematics being used to describe and hunt for particles such as the Higgs Boson and Dark Matter and mini black holes.

Armed with great new mathematical tools, particle physicists have revved up the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2015 to run  to see what happens at the smallest level.

Scientists will be watching for the existence of mini black-holes when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator becomes fully operational this spring, because the detection of those black holes could change what we know about how gravity works, according to a new physics paper.

The existence of the mini black holes would lend support to string theory, which posits that different dimensions could exist and parallel universes are possible, according to a paper by physicists Mir Faizal, Mohammed M. Khalil and Ahmed Farag Ali, published in the current issue of the journal Physics Letters B.
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So the long standing science fiction premise of "alternate universes" --

Here is Jack of Eagles by James Blish (who wrote SPOCK MUST DIE many years later).  This cover

Jack of Eagles by James Blish

is from the 1982 Avon Edition, but it was probably first published in 1952, possibly based on a 1941 concept.

Here is a story description from Google:
Danny Caiden is on the run - from the FBI, the SEC, the Justice Department and the Mob. Only recently, Danny was an average New York copywriter, until he suddenly found he had ESP...
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The kind of ESP Danny Caiden developed had to do with "hearing" telepathic voices and leakages across universes, across Time. Other than that hypothesis, the book was pretty standard, built on what might, today, be called a book writing template.

So speculation such as Jean Johnson used in her Theirs Not To Reason Why series has been around since the 1930's, but though there has been a lot of work done in the field of Einstein's Relativity, it's only recently that hard-science experiments and long-range-observations from orbit have inched us closer to understanding Space-Time and the whole Wave/Particle thing.

Ted Kosmatka has picked up the thread started by James Blish -- even if Kosmatka had never heard of Jack of Eagles -- and breathed Soul into the speculations of mathematicians and particle physicists.

What if there are other "dimensions" -- whole universes adjacent to ours?  What if the "fabric" of space-time was thinned at some point and penetrated?  What would we learn?  What would we risk?  What has that to do with Space, Time, and Soul?

The TV Series Warehouse 13 explored this to some extent, as did The TV Series Sliders, but even more to the point, the TV Series Fringe gave us more possibilities.  These shows popularized the basic idea, as did Star Trek (the famous ST:ToS episode Mirror Mirror, and also did Time Travel).  Quantum Leap took us back in time, and focused on "repairing" or fixing things that went "wrong."  But Quantum Leap didn't dwell on the mathematics of Space and Time.

If you travel in "Time" -- you will likely land in empty space because the Earth MOVED as did the Sun.  So if you travel back in Time, you must also move through space to where the Earth was "then."  So Sliders seems to me more plausible than Quantum Leap.  But Quantum Leap dealt with the concept of Soul in a quantized universe.

All these popular TV Series have given the general public a notion about alternate realities formerly familiar only to science fiction readers, but that notion is, "It's a nice story, but I know the difference between fiction and reality."

Any scientist working on the cutting edge of these astrophysics and particle physics investigations knows the difference between objective reality and subjective fiction.  Most of these people live in objective reality, using imagination to push at the edges of human knowledge.

Most of these people are very certain the Soul does not "exist" because it has never been "found."

If the Soul has no spacial dimensions, then it will never be "found," unless we learn something about "time" that we don't know now.

So currently, scientists working at the edge of this "alternate universe" discovery are very certain about a few things they do know and they tend to be dedicated to objective reality.

One distinctive hallmark of good science fiction is that the plot turns on a discovery.  When that discovery confounds the scientist and derails the very sanity of the discoverer, you get the very best science fiction.

That is the issue that Ted Kosmatka deals with in The Flicker Men.

Kosmatka starts with a man, Eric Argus, a theoretical mathematical physicist who is renowned in his field for papers published.  Nobody knows why Argus quit, walked away, disappeared.  We meet him when he's just barely recovering from bouts of drunken stupor.  A friend gives him a job in a think tank, -- no assignment, just do some new original research, we won't tell you what to do.

He languishes around the place, meeting people seemingly at random, knowing he's on probation and has to write up something to present to the board -- but has no ideas.

He refuses to touch the work he was doing just before he walked off into a drunken haze.

Then "out of the blue" he discovers a bit of antique equipment in storage, unpacks it and replicates the classic double-slit experiment that demonstrates the wave/particle properties of a photon.  He also rigs up the detector that illustrates that an observer changes the photon being observed.

But his time-wasting doodling around with an unproductive experiment produces an odd discovery.  If it is an animal that observes, the change in the observed particle does not happen.

So he tests other scientists, and they all produce change when they observe.  He tests all kinds of animals at the zoo, and none produce change.

An anti-abortion group gets wind of the experiment, decides the difference in results of observation changing reality and decides the agent of change upon observation is the Soul.  They want to prove that fetuses have Souls in the womb and therefore must not be aborted.

Their experiment on the unborn produces mixed results.  Some fetuses produce the change, and some do not.  The results are the same regardless of developmental stage - some do, some don't.

The question then is do all adults have enough Soul to create change when observing?

So one of his colleagues takes off to test a lot of people to see if their observations change "objective reality."

The answer he finds is that no, not every adult human can observe and produce change in the observed.

This is confounding beyond belief.

The social fabric is stressed.  People try to kill him, destroy the place he works.

Against his will, Argus is driven to pick up the threads of the work he had dropped -- and we discover what scared him to the depths of his soul, left him deranged, depressed, and unable to think about the subject.

He has created a window into an alternate universe.

Things get even stranger from there.

You have to read the book to discover what Eric Argus does about all this, and what effect his actions have on his objective and subjective realities.

Is "The Soul" real?  Does it matter?  Can science detect Soul?

This is not a Romance Novel.  Eric Argus barely interacts with anyone.  He has known and related to people previously, but does not connect with them now.  He meets a lot of people now, but does not deeply connect with them though he obviously is capable of caring about others.

The story is about Eric Argus making his personal peace with the concept that The Soul is real.

The plot is about the scientific community and the general public coming to grips with the concept that The Soul is real.

The ending is about the question, "Does humanity really need to know that The Soul is real?"  That question is complicated by discoveries about how alternate universes are generated.

There's some cutting edge speculative mathematics woven into Kosmatka's ending involved in seeing our world as a hologram.  That's a subject hitting the popular press now.

Our Universe May Be a Giant Hologram
Physicist Brian Greene explains how properties at the black hole’s surface—its event horizon—suggest the unsettling theory that our world is a mere representation of another universe, a shadow of the realm where real events take place.

When we learn to model our universe as a complete hologram, we generate another Universe in the chain which causes destruction of prior universes.  Those living in prior universes naturally want to stop us from modeling the universe as a hologram, thus destroying them.  Can the Soul fix that problem just by observing?

How would you feel if you had no Soul, but others did?

There is a lot more to be written on this topic, especially in the Romance genre.

While the Large Hadron Collider is in hot pursuit of Dark Matter, is NASA in hot pursuit of The Soul?

If there is no such thing as a Soul, then there can be no such thing as a Soul Mate, and thus the Romance Genre can only write about sex, not happiness.

Do you want to escape to a world where Souls are real?  What if you had a Soul, but others don't?  What if the reason so many people don't believe the Happily Ever After ending can be objective reality is that you can't have it without a Soul?

Maybe everyone has a Soul, but not every child is raised under conditions that allow the soul to descend and possess the body?

Maybe that non-possessed-by-Soul condition is the source of all the spooky stories about Possession by demons or whatever?

If you want to write your romance novel, you should read The Flicker Men and James Blish's Jack of Eagles.

Neither has any Romance in it, but they describe a world that would be confounded by scientific evidence, undeniable proof, of the existence and function of Soul.

Think about how climate science has become "settled science" - that denying what we know presently is tantamount to being without a Soul.  Suppose the general public accepted scientific proof of the Soul with just as much fervor as we now accept man-made climate change?

What sort of an objective reality would that be?  What sort of fiction would be created to escape that reality?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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