Bobbing Around

Archived at http://mudsmith.net/bobr/bobbing/
Number Three, Part 2.
Back to Part 1

PART 1:
*Moora Moora Short Story contest
*Responses to 'September 11th: WHY?'
* More on Terrorism
From the Biopolitics International Organisation
* Announcements
(News my friends and I want to spread around.)
PART 2:
*A special offer for subscribers only.
*About Bobbing Around
subscribe/unsubscribe
guidelines for contributions
* Technology
A Seedling, Bursting from the Ground
*The Craft of Writing
Will Your Writing Be Remembered?
*Counselling
Helping Survivors in the Wake of Disaster
Agoraphobia
Response from Beth Anderson
*Poetry
A wonderful little poem from Tamara McCurdy
* Humour
The Lost Viagra Pill by Darrell Bain
*Internet resources
Melbourne Writers' Network
*Conservation
From Tom Paine: Free Trade Area of the Americas

For Subscribers Only

   My second short story collection, Through Other Eyes, is one of three finalists in the 'Anthologies' category of the Dream Realm Awards, which is being judged as I write. It is now for sale from Bobswriting.com for $US5.

   As a subscriber to Bobbing Around, you can buy it for $2.50 by clicking on the 'PayPal' button below. If you are a PayPal member, just leave me a message to let me know what the payment is for.

   If you are not a PayPal member, you will need to register first, and this will take a little time until they confirm your credit card details. For your convenience, here is a link to enable you to register with them.
 

 


From Tom Paine

http://www.TomPaine.com

FREE TRADE EXPRESS

The 'Fast-Track' Assault on Democracy

   Imagine: Americans paying multinational corporations NOT to pollute our air... paying them NOT to poison our water... paying them NOT to mistreat workers.

   Sound crazy? It is. But it's already law in the United States, Mexico and Canada under NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

   Multinational corporations can sue U.S. taxpayers under NAFTA if they believe public regulation has damaged their profits - and they are. These claims will not be heard in open court, but before secretive tribunals, no citizens allowed.

   Now the same provision could spread throughout the Western Hemisphere if the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) treaty is adopted. It's based on the theory of "regulatory takings" - a radical concept developed by anti-government ideologue Richard Epstein.

   When citizens act through government to protect the public interest, Epstein's theory goes, they should pay businesses for limiting or "taking" future profits.

   Americans might like to debate whether our sovereign right to protect the common good - clean air and water, public health and safety - should be traded away.

   But "free trade" advocates in Congress, portraying FTAA as apple pie sprinkled with stars and stripes, want to limit debate by giving the White House "fast track" authority to negotiate the treaty.

   General Electric, Ford, General Motors, International Paper, Motorola, Dow, DuPont, Chevron, Proctor & Gamble and 3M - these and other companies endorse the "takings" provision in FTAA, saying in a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative that it provides "protection from regulations that diminish the value of investors' assets."

   "Jesus, they can't mean that," a retired USTR staffer said when reviewing the letter. "If they do that, they're going to put Middle America on the barricades alongside the environmentalists."
 

This op ad is adapted from an article in THE NATION by William Greider. Read it at www.TheNation.com.

Visit TomPaine.com to read more about FTAA, "free trade" and "takings."

 


Untitled

   Tamara McCurdy is an email friend of mine. She sent me this poem, but told me she has a dislike of giving things titles, and she'd rather not say anything about herself.

 


The Lost Viagra Pill

Darrell Bain

   I’ve been hearing so much about Viagra that while I was seeing my doctor for a checkup I asked him if I could have a sample.

   “Sure,” he said, “but I can only give you one pill. Everyone wants them. And be careful, it’s the hundred milligram dosage.”

   “I’ll take care,” I assured the doc.

   On the way home I decided that rather than tell my wife Betty I had a Viagra pill I would just take it and surprise her with the effects I have heard so much about, then tell her where my renewed vigor came from afterwards. I figured by that time she wouldn’t mind my little deception.

   Now any of you who have been married for a while know that you really don’t have to say anything when you’re thinking about hanky panky at bedtime; the signals are just there and your spouse can read them as easily as she can tell when you‘re claiming to be watching a ball game but you‘re really eyeing the cheerleaders.

   Betty finished up in the bathroom first and then it was my turn. I set the Viagra pill down on the counter, intending to take it in a moment, just as soon as I got a glass of water. There was no glass in the bathroom. I went to get one. When I got back, I momentarily forgot what I had gone to get the glass for (you older folks can sympathize here). I thought maybe I had forgotten to brush my teeth so I got out the toothbrush and toothpaste from behind the Listerine bottle but as I was doing that I noticed that I had forgotten to shave. I put down the toothbrush to plug in the razor and along about then remembered the Viagra pill.

   I had better take that pill now, I thought, before I forget it again. I thought I remembered leaving it on the counter. I looked. No pill. I moved the Listerine bottle and the tube of toothpaste, thinking maybe it was behind one of them. I didn’t find the pill but I did manage to turn over the glass of water I had never drank.

   About this time Betty called out, “What are you doing in there, Sweetie?”

   “Nothing!” I called back.

   “Nothing doesn’t make that much noise,” Betty said. “Did you turn over your water glass again?”

   “No. I mean yes, but I’ll fill it up again.”

   “I don’t care whether it’s full or not, just come to bed.” Betty was beginning to sound a little impatient.

   “In just a moment, hon,” I assured her. Where the hell is that pill?

   My search for the missing Viagra became more and more frantic. I couldn’t find the damn thing anywhere. Finally I decided I must have inadvertantly raked it off onto the floor while fumbling with my toothbrush or shaver. I got down on my hands and knees and began feeling around for it. Viagra pills are blue. Our carpet is blue. Need I say more? I had no success at all. Of course I couldn’t be sure the pill was actually on the carpet because I hadn’t seen it fall but I knew for certain it wasn’t on the cabinet any more.

   You may now ask why I was feeling for it instead of looking for it, even with blue on blue. I was feeling for it because my bifocals were on the bedside table and I didn’t want to go get them because I wanted to take the Viagra first without Betty knowing about it. I began opening and closing bottom drawers and cabinets, thinking maybe I had put the pill up for safe keeping and forgotten where I put it.

   “What in God’s name are you doing in there?” Betty called. Maybe I was making a little too much noise, but I was desperate to find that damned pill. It was the only one I had, after all.

   “I’m looking for my glasses.” I said without thinking.

   Betty opened the bathroom door with my glasses in her hand. She stared at me down there on all fours as if I were a Martian suddenly let loose in the house.

   “What on earth are you doing down on your hands and knees? You know you don‘t keep your glasses on the floor!” Betty asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

   “Uh, I thought I felt a quarter under my bare toe.”

   “I’m worth more than a quarter,” Betty said. I could tell she was becoming exasperated. “Come to bed.”

   “Just a moment, Sweetie. I have to go to the bathroom first,” I told her.

   At that moment Biscuit, our dachshund doggie ran into the bathroom. Betty closed the door on both of us. I searched some more but still couldn’t find that stupid pill. After a while I gave up and flushed a couple of times and ran some water as if I had really been doing something other than looking for a blue pill on a blue carpet or a forgotten pill in a cabinet or drawer.

   Finally I gave up. I opened the door and went back into the bedroom, followed by my faithful doggie. Betty was turned on her side with the covers pulled up to her neck. Remember what I said about signals? Boy, was I getting a signal. Not only was I not going to get to test the effects of Viagra but I wasn’t going to get anything else, either.

   I climbed into bed, thinking maybe if I gave it a while the atmosphere might change from cool to at least semi-warm.

   The atmosphere did change. A little while later Betty yelped from the dark, “Biscuit, what are you doing? Stop that!”

   In the dim light I could see Biscuit ensconced upon Betty’s lower leg, making some unfamiliar motions, at least unfamiliar to him and to us since there isn‘t another doggie living within five miles, especially any lady doggies. Normally he just cuddles up beside one or the other of us and goes to sleep. Betty flung him off her leg.

   Biscuit crawled up onto my leg and began moving--and now I began to suspect where that Viagra had gone. It had indeed fallen onto the floor and Biscuit had long ago let it be known that anything unfamiliar on the carpet or floor belonged to him. He had eaten it and was now feeling the effects.

   Now how was I going to get out of this one? I shoved Biscuit away. He came right back, almost frantic now. I shoved him away again. He went over to Betty. She sat bolt upright in the bed. “Biscuit! Stop that. Stop it I say!”

   “Maybe I better put him outside,” I said.

   “Maybe you better. I’ve never seen him act like this. I thought it was female dogs that went into heat, not male ones.”

   “I guess he is confused,” I said, the best answer I could come up with at the moment.

   “Maybe he’s sick,” Betty said.

   “Uh, no, I don’t think so.”

   “Then why is he acting like this? Biscuit, stop it, you idiot dog!!” By this time Betty had turned the light on. That didn’t bother Biscuit a bit. With single-minded determination he continued on with what he had decided was urgent business. As soon as Betty shoved him away, he came right back to me.

   “Maybe we better put him outside,” I suggested.

   “Go ahead, see if it will calm him down,” Betty agreed.

   I carried Biscuit out to our big porch where the cats live and where coons and possums come up at night to finish off whatever food Biscuit and his cats have left over (Biscuit thinks the cats belong to him). I turned the porch light on and set him down. Immediately he jumped up onto the swing where our old neutered female cat, Cutie Pie lives. He got quickly to work. Cutie Pie’s eyes popped open. She let out a squall and tried to get loose. Biscuit held on for a moment while the swing swung, Cutie Pie meowed and the two Tom Cats, Black Spot and Black Dot looked on with amused tolerance.

   Their amusement lasted only until Cutie Pie wiggled loose and climbed a support post out of Biscuit’s reach. Biscuit yelped and grabbed the nearest Tom, Black Spot, with his stubby little forepaws and panted happily, tongue lolling and little haunches moving to beat the band.

   Black Spot yowled and reached back and slapped Biscuit’s nose. He minded not a bit and just kept on. Black Dot saw what was happening and ran for cover. Black Spot managed to get loose and climbed up on the roof. Biscuit woofed in frustration and headed for the chicken yard before he remembered that we didn’t have chickens any more. It didn’t matter. A wayward possum got in his path and had to take a turn.

   Betty was watching all of this in open-mouthed astonishment. “What on earth is wrong with our dog?” She asked for the dozenth time.

   “I guess he must have a little sexual tension built up,” I said.

   “Tension, my hind foot. He’s acting like a doggie sex maniac.”

   “Like Father, like son,” I said proudly.

   “He’s not your son, you idiot. We’re taking him to the vet tomorrow.”

   In the meantime Biscuit was circling the house, looking for some more close companionship. He found an old tire, a stray cat who wandered up at the wrong time, thinking we were putting out food, then spotted the old boar coon who was accustomed to eating on the porch at night. Biscuit didn’t bother the coon a bit. He came on up on the porch and put his nose down into a food bowl, as usual. Like a shot, Biscuit was on him. Boy, I have never seen such a surprised coon in my whole life.

   And that about ended it except that Betty really did think something was wrong with Biscuit and took him back inside the house where he kept us awake the rest of the night attempting to do what came naturally so suddenly.

   After an almost completely sleepless night, Biscuit finally settled down and I talked Betty out of taking him to the vet. “It was just a momentary phase,” I told her.

   “Well, I hope it never happens to him again,” Betty said. “It’s like he ate some Viagra or something.”

   I didn’t say anything but I began wondering, boy, if a Viagra pill did that to a dog, what it would do for me? Of course I had to figure that the pill was meant for a 160 pound man and Biscuit only weighs 15 pounds but nevertheless...

   I still haven’t gone and gotten another pill, but in the meantime one of the cats has fallen in love with Biscuit but the other two won’t go near him, and I haven’t seen a coon or possum on the porch or in the yard ever since. It could have been worse, though. Suppose Biscuit had run across a skunk while he was chasing around the yard looking for a sexual companion?

 

   Darrell is the author of more than a dozen books and many short stories. His works range from humor to mystery, science fiction, adventure, non-fiction, childrens and horror. He is presently doing mostly humor. He and his wife Betty own a Christmas tree farm in East Texas and that is the backdrop for many of his humorous books and stories. For more information, visit Darrell’s web site at http://www.santa-claus-lane.com/index.html and at www.thesexgates.com or e-mail him at dbain@lcc.net Darrell also publishes a funny newsletter you may see and subscribe to at http://www.authorsden.com/darrellbain.

 


Counselling

Helping Survivors in the Wake of Disaster
Agoraphobia
Response from Beth Anderson

Helping Survivors in the Wake of Disaster

   The following is reproduced with permission from the National Center for PTSD http://www.ncptsd.org

What are Normal Stress Reactions in the Wake of Disaster?

   Most child and adult disaster survivors, as well as most disaster rescue or relief workers, experience normal stress reactions for several days or even a few weeks, which may include:

What are More Severe Symptoms In Response to Disasters?

   Studies show that as many as one in three disaster survivors have severe stress symptoms that put them at risk for lasting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as:

What Aspects of Disaster are Especially Traumatizing?

   Certain aspects of disaster are especially likely to be traumatic -- to put survivors at risk for severe stress symptoms and lasting PTSD -- either if directly experienced or witnessed by the survivor:

Which Individuals are at Risk for Severe Stress Responses?

   Studies also show that some individuals have a higher than typical risk for severe stress symptoms and lasting PTSD, including those with a history of:

   Disaster stress may revive memories of prior trauma, as well as possibly intensifying pre-existing social, economic, spiritual, psychological, or medical problems.

What are the Priorities for Helping Disaster Survivors?

   Helping disaster survivors, family members, and emergency rescue or disaster relief personnel requires preparation, sensitivity, assertiveness, flexibility, and common sense:

   First priority is being a team player, by respecting and working within the site chain of command, as well as pitching in to provide basic care and comfort to survivors and workers.

   A close second priority is to make personal contact on a down-to-earth basis with survivors and rescue workers -- listen, don't give advice; ask how they (or their children) are doing and what you can do to help; make them comfortable with food, beverages, practical supplies (e.g., clothes, blankets, sunscreen, magazines, writing implements, telephone), and a comfortable place to sit.

   A third priority is helping them to "defuse" by spontaneously "telling their story" -- ask "Have you ever been through anything like this before?" "How's it going getting a place to stay and the assistance you need?" "Is there anyone I can help you get in touch with?" "What do you find yourself remembering most since this all happened?" "Where were you when this started?" "What are your top three immediate priorities, for the next few hours or days?"

   A fourth priority is a careful assessment of the risk factors and symptomatic problems, to identify and set up referrals for the persons or families most likely to be in need of further care.

What are the Goals of Mental-Health Providers in the Wake of a Disaster?

   The goals of on-site mental health care in the wake of disaster are:

What are the Recommended Interventions in the Wake of a Disaster?

   People have their own pace of processing trauma. It is important to convey to them that they should listen to and honor their own inner pace.

   People should be encouraged to use natural supports and to talk with those they are comfortable with - friends, family, co-workers - at their own pace. They should follow their natural inclination with regard to how much and to whom they talk.

   If someone wants to speak with a professional in this immediate aftermath period, a helpful response will be to:

   Outcome studies of Psychological Debriefing (PD) are mixed. Overall, they do not support the efficacy of a one-session intervention shortly after the trauma in decreasing psychological disturbances after a trauma beyond natural recovery. Some studies found that in the long run, a single-session of psychological debriefing may hinder natural recovery

   Accordingly, we do not recommend intervention in this initial aftermath period. If people do present to clinics or counselors requesting help, single-session contact should be avoided. In these instances people should be scheduled for 2-3 more visits over 2-6 weeks time.

   For those who have previously experienced traumatic events, current traumatic experiences may stir up memories and/or exacerbate symptoms related to previous traumatic events. Thus some people will feel like this is "opening old wounds". These symptoms should also be normalized and are likely to abate with time. It may be helpful to ask people what strategies they have successfully used in the past to deal with this, and to encourage them to continue to use them.

   Individuals who continue to experience severe distress that interferes with functioning after three months are at higher risk for continued problems. These individuals should be referred for appropriate treatment.

 

Agoraphobia

   Some people are imprisoned by fear. 'Agoraphobia' means 'fear of the market place', but this is actually misleading. The fear may be associated with various objects or events. It may be accompanied by 'panic attacks'. The true defining characteristic is a great reluctance in leaving a 'safe place' like home. Some agoraphobics are able to travel between home and work, and feel safe in both places, but react with extreme fear to being almost anywhere else.

   Agoraphobia is perhaps more crippling than any other emotional problem. It tends to be very resistant to treatment. Many sufferers become addicted to prescription or illegal drugs in attempts to use medication to fight the restraints of agoraphobia.

   Shame is often a secondary complication, particularly for men who are expected by society's norms to be 'tough'.

What causes agoraphobia?

   Agoraphobia is a continuum rather than a discrete state of being. In early stages, the sufferer will avoid certain situations, but is able to enter them when necessary. Gradually, this becomes more and more difficult, and also the number of feared situations grows until, in an extreme case, the person is completely housebound.

   In many cases, agoraphobia is a development of having suffered a series of panic attacks. In other cases, it is the natural extension of one or more specific phobias.

   The best way to understand agoraphobia is to regard it as a habit of emotion. For whatever reason, a person experiences intense fear. This feels so terrible that it induces avoidance behaviours. The well-understood psychological principle of stimulus generalisation applies, and situations, activities and even thoughts associated with the fear become fear-producing themselves. Once the habit of withdrawal from the feared situation becomes established, it takes over.

How to conquer agoraphobia

   Before a cure can be attempted, it is necessary to deal with secondary issues: alcohol, drug or medication abuse, feelings of shame and guilt, relationship issues caused by the stress an agoraphobic's problem places on relatives and friends. In many cases, the person will have been on prescribed sedatives or tranquillisers for years, and a medically supervised regime of detoxification may be necessary. There is little hope of defeating agoraphobia while the sufferer is chemically dependent, because treatment pivots on learning how to face fear rather than to run away from it (physically, or by taking a pill).

   In my opinion, chemical control of fear is contraindicated in the case of agoraphobia.

   As with all other anxiety disorders, the key to a cure is exposure. Other anxiety disorders respond well to exposure in imagination [see Bobbing Around number 1]. This is not the case for agoraphobia.

   A cure requires training in the acquisition of courage: courage to enter currently terrifying situations. This is least difficult to achieve if the sufferer has a close friend or relative who can be trained to become a 'co-therapist'. The general technique is systematic desensitisation. The sufferer is taught a set of skills for turning off the sympathetic nervous system. S/he devises a ladder of fearful situations, from least threatening to the most threatening s/he wishes to be able to face. The first step may be no more than standing at the front door, looking out at the street. The last step may be to sit at the table of a busy outdoor café, alone but surrounded by strangers, and stay there for half an hour.

   At first, both the therapist and 'co-therapist' accompany the sufferer on journeys into fear. Eventually, the person is to go solo.

   Cognitive therapy needs to accompany the behavioural treatment: an examination of the thought patterns associated with the fear. The therapist helps the sufferer to probe for negative self-beliefs, which are then cast in testable form. The sufferer then performs imaginal or real-life experiments to test these beliefs. This has an extremely powerful effect in improving feelings of self-worth, and to equip the person with the courage to face fear.

Prognosis

   Assuming that the complications of agoraphobia have been dealt with, a thirty-year history of intense anxiety can be conquered in as few as ten sessions, although 'relapses' can be expected during times of stress. Other sufferers may need weekly sessions over three or four months.

   The main facilitator of a swift recovery is the presence in the family of a caring, intelligent person who can continue to act as co-therapist long after treatment has been terminated. This can be spouse, parent or even child of the sufferer, or a close friend who lives within easy walking distance. In a number of cases, a co-therapist was effective though only available over the telephone.

   Relapse prevention needs to be built into therapy: a set of activities to be used when (not if) the fear returns.

   A person who suffered agoraphobia over an extended period will probably never be entirely free of occasional bouts of anxiety. However, his/her life can be released from its prison, and can return to be, and stay, well within normal limits.

A few references

Barlow, D. H. & Waddell, M. T. (1985) Agoraphobia. Ch 1 in Barlow, D. H. (Ed) Clinical handbook of psychological disorders: A step-by-step treatment manual New York: Guilford.

Rosenthal, T. L. & Rosenthal, R. H. (1985) Clinical stress management. Ch 3 in Barlow, D. H. (Ed) Clinical handbook of psychological disorders: A step-by-step treatment manual New York: Guilford.

Rich, R. (1999) Anger and Anxiety: Be in charge of your emotions and control phobias. Anina's Book Company, available at http://anxietyanddepression-help.com/

Wilson, G. T. (1995) Behavior therapy. Ch 7 in Corsini, R. J. & Wedding, D. (Eds) Current psychotherapies. 5th ed. Ithaca, Ill.: Peacock.

 

A Response from Beth Anderson

   Beth figured prominently in Bobbing Around number 2, with an extract from her book Second Generation. Here is what she wrote about my newsletter:

   Just got to read it this morning. Thank you for the plug, and it was nice of you to use the chap excerpt; I hope it helps a lot of people. I was also very interested in your Zoloft article, and the panic one, because I have a daughter, my oldest, who has suffered with panic attacks for years, maybe forever. I'm sending it on to her to read, anyhow, hoping it will help her. As for Zoloft, one of my daughters, the youngest, takes it--I just found out about that recently. She seems to do very well with it, but mainly what Zoloft does, I think, is it allows you to close your mind to what's really bothering you and go on like nothing's bothering you. Another author friend of mine too Zoloft and wound up committing suicide. So it's definitely not all it's cracked up to be. In Dianne's case (the suicide) she had massive emotional problems she really needed expert help with, and while she was getting expert help she improved, but then somebody steered her to a pill-pusher, and she was off and running with Zoloft. In a matter of months, she was dead. So...you're so right about that.

Love, Beth http://www.bethanderson-hotclue.com

 


Internet Resources

Melbourne Writers' Network

   MWN is a free online community for creative writers in Melbourne and Victoria (Australia). Our focus is on the local writing scene but we welcome all authors, poets, screenwriters, journalists and other writers to join and contribute to our messageboards at: http://pub75.ezboard.com/bmelbournewritersnetwork

   Members can ask questions, post thoughts, reply to queries and promote their writing in our discussion threads. Please read our FAQ at the site for more information.


A Seedling, Bursting from the Ground

   The publishing industry is a mighty tree. Its roots sink deep, all the way back to Gutenberg. They delve into every crevice of our lives, sucking nourishment from all human experience.

   The shady branches spread wide. Everything in the world, and everything imaginable that isn't, comes under its umbrella.

   Unfortunately, this tree has become aged and sick. It has cavernous hollows and rotten parts, and much of it has been devoured by parasites. It is no longer about books, but about money, and paradoxically, it is this preoccupation with profit that is killing it, and will remove profit from the grasp of the parasites.

   This tree has cast seeds, many of which have become even more vigorous. We must count film and television as the children of the book.

   Now there is another new growth. It is still a baby, and tiny, and relatively powerless -- but don't all infants start that way? For years now, there has been a bevy of small but professional publishing houses that specialize in electronic books. They vary in every conceivable dimension, but the successful ones are highly competent and ethical. Their stables of authors include many who are also successful in the paper publishing world.

   The big conventional publishers haven't adapted to the web for the same reason that led to the rise of America over the European powers: Britain and the other European countries suffered from inertia due to infrastructure. They had become locked into a certain way of doing things, and were unable to cope with change. It would have cost too much. New, economically powerless America had no choice but to adapt and continually go with the new. We all know what the outcome was.

   The publishing industry is locked into a mind-set, an organizational structure and an infrastructure that is based on a certain model of reality. With the advent of the internet, that model has become false. The stage needs new players -- and they are here. I predict that in thirty years, paper books will be the same kinds of curiosities as vinyl records are in the world of the CD. The paper publishing companies will have gone the way of the dinosaurs, unless they manage to mutate. And can they, given all that inertia?
 

   What are some of the advantages of e-books?

   People will tell you that they don't like to read books on computers. These are invariably adults, grown up in a computer-less world. The next generation won't have this bias. Current e-book readers are expensive, small and awkward, and currently there is a cut-throat war in which each is trying to establish a monopoly. Again the lessons of history suggest that in time, we will have cheap, universally usable devices. They are on the way. Think of portable timepieces which are now trivial in cost, radios, mobile phones. For example, Xerox is developing something they call 'electronic paper'; Philips is working on a similar device called 'electronic ink'. Within a few years, we will have hand-held readers of better resolution than print, costing about $30 (in current values), that will be the reading platform for books, magazines, newspapers, telephone books, street directories, maps... they will be as common as wrist watches.

   I can hardly wait.


Will Your Writing Be Remembered?

   Sometimes you read a book, story or newspaper article that stays with you. You want to keep it and read it again, and each time you do so you find something new in it.

   People have told me that my novel Sleeper, Awake is like that, and I have had similar responses to some of my short stories, notably Cruelty and Compassion, one of the tales in Striking Back From Down Under.

   What distinguishes a memorable story from a forgettable one?

   I think it has to do with philosophy.
 

   Everything has a message. Everything we do, say -- and therefore write -- is based on our underlying system of beliefs. Sometimes the message is up front, as in a sermon, political propaganda or a sales presentation. But even the tritest pulp fiction, even the simplest children's story, even the most banal announcement in the local paper has a message. It may go unrecognised by both author and reader, and yet it has its effects.

   For example an advertisement for a travel agent, an adventure story set in an exotic location and an article about stress at work may all share the underlying belief that the way to make life bearable is to leave it behind from time to time, to go on a holiday.

   When this possibly hidden message is trite, stereotypical, a repeat of what we have encountered many a time, you have a forgettable story. The writing may be divine, you may enjoy it while you read, but it will soon get lost in the crowd of your memory.

   Far worse is when the philosophy underlying the story violates your personal code. As an editor I need to keep a professional distance, and edit without judging the author's system of beliefs. I managed it for a book of erotica that disgusted me (OK, OK, I'm a prude), but failed with two books. In both, the author gave her hero a personality I found abhorrent. In one case, he was a violent, arrogant, aggressive drug and alcohol abuser, and yet the hidden message of the book was that he was a great guy.
 

   All right, what about the memorable story?

   Have you read the great fantasy series by David Eddings? It consists of two lots of five books. The first five form The Belgariad, the second The Malloreon, but the ten books are a connected whole.

   I find the first five books to be a joy to be repeated every few years. The last time I re-read Pawn of Prophecy, the first volume, I found 'seeds' that came to life in the fifth, and I had never noticed these before. And yet, The Malloreon does not hold the same fascination for me.

   The reason is that the hidden message of The Belgariad is, in part, that an apparently ordinary person can become a superhero, and by identifying with Garion, I become more powerful, a stronger and better person. However, the second series lacks this message. Garion has become Belgarion, the Godslayer, and also, in order to keep up interest, the author has to skate closer and closer to the unbelievable.

   This is why, to me, The Belgariad and the wonderful books of Dick Francis have something in common. They share a hidden message, one that inspires me.
 

   So, I think a story you find memorable is one that resonates with your own belief system, and yet extends and challenges it. Naturally, this means that you can't inspire everyone. People's reactions to stories vary so much because our unspoken value systems vary so much.

   You need to write for yourself, true. But also, you need to write for an audience: people whose philosophy is sufficiently like yours that they accept your message, but sufficiently different that your work will force them to think, to react, to be inspired to make changes.

   When you achieve this, you have a memorable story.

 


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