Monday, September 17, 2018

New Dark SciFi Audiobook - In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear

Now that reviews are beginning to come in on my new audiobook, "In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear"  I thought I should do a blog on it. Below we will take a rambling journey through the the history of this story as well as a bit about my own past. Buckle up buttercup, here we go.

As for what it is about, you can read the write up on Audible if you like.

Okay fine, here is all it says there:

"Are we in a world that is reminiscent of a Philip K. Dick novel since the 2016 US Presidential election? This is a story where a world famous surgeon helps his missing son's best friend, only to find that his actions lead to monumental changes in the United States as well around the world and all in ways he could never have foreseen and might regret for the rest of his life. If only he could."

Actually I agree with the comment below related to Harlan Ellison. Harlan, Phil Dick, either way, I'm good with those references.

To start off with, here are some of the reviews on "In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear" as they now are on the Audible site for this story:
Karen said: Very enjoyable!
"This is such an enjoyable book! Such detail and very descriptive. It’s as if I was watching it unfold in my mind. Could be a prediction of our future lol. Can’t wait to enjoy more of Murdock’s work"

David said: Strange story.
"I received this audio book for free in exchange for my honest review. The only thing I have to say about this one is that I sincerely hope it doesn't foretell the future."

Norman said: Intriguing.
"This hour long science fiction story presents a well thought out and intriguing future. I don’t think the narrator’s bland performance did justice to the author’s words and ideas."

On that last comment, I asked Norman what he thought was bland about the narration, but he has yet to get back to me on this. I hope he didn't think I was being snarky as I really wanted to understand his thoughts on this. Was it my voice actor, Tom Remick, or my direction?

OR it occured to me, it may simply have been the character in the story. A character who, in my direction to Tom during the recording stage, is sometimes exhausted either physically or emotionally, or is simply under great stress and fundamentally disturbed in a situation where he feels there is little he can do. Other than something massive. Which he does fight through to consider. All while he tries to stay on top of something that would be far beyond anyone, and perhaps, even change one in ways previously unforeseen throughout one's life.

Another review is from C.M. Ellett who said in part:

"...It was reminiscent of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, in a presentation of a strange future ruled by an omnipotent AI-like being."

Harlan Ellison has been one of my writing heroes since childhood. Along side Asimov and other obvious authors like Bradbury, Tolkien, Poe, Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard. Harlan's story that she referenced was first published in IF: Worlds of Science Fiction, in 1967 and was a Hugo Award winner for that short story, I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream.

I really couldn't be in better company as I see it. Harlan hated being called a science fiction writer and much more appreciated the term, speculative fiction writer. Which was where I got using that term from for some of my own writing efforts. The difference of course between protagonist Ted in Harlan's story and my protagonist is clear.

While Ted sees the situation with crystal clarity, in my story that clarity must indirectly find its purchase on reality as its corrective reaction is potentially left to the listener (or the reader) in order to realize what must inevitably come next.

Finally and perhaps my favorite review so far is this one just now in from Jo B:

"Fascinating and creepy I found this book to be intriguing and unsettling all at the same time. The story was very original, the writing was solid, and the narrator was spot on. I would recommend it if you like dark, futuristic type short stories. I was given this book free at my request and have voluntarily left this review."

What I can say? Maybe just... listen for yourself. Why? Continue reading below and perhaps you'll find a good reason to find out....

Now on Amazon, Audible and iTunes:

Original cover artwork by Marvin Hayes
The title, In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear is an homage to science fiction writer Isaac Asimov through his first autobiography in 1979, In Memory Yet Green, which I found so affective when I had read it, orienting in me an even greater desire to write.

My tale is a story of how our American society breaks down into dystopian degrees. How it comes to this through the efforts of a single man. One who takes over much of America's thinking through his managing of our daily feed of information. In some ways, not unlike something happening today in America. Only on a much more massive scale.

Sound a bit too familiar? A bit too real? Too much like our world today? Well, it is. But this is a reality we can easily escape in listening or reading the story, once it is over. But it is also a story I wrote back in the 1980s and first saw publication in 1990!

From the Amazon description:

A short story about a world reminiscent of a Philip K.Dick story since the 2016 US Presidential election, or this story here where a world famous surgeon helps his missing son's best friend. Only to find that his actions lead to monumental changes in the United States and as well around the world. All in ways he would never have foreseen.

I wrote this story I believe, about 1980. I was sitting around with a few of my friends, getting high smoking some cannabis to be completely honest. Nothing as powerful as what we sell legally in legal cannabis states today, but good for back then. Of course, it wasn't exactly legal in Washington state back then, but no one really seemed to care much about its use. I'd seen police turn their backs if they saw something that seemed harmless as let's face it. For all these decades, police have had much more important and relevant things to do that worry about someone smoking a joint.

And it is legal today now here. Of course the statute of limitations is long passed since 1980. Back then in Washington its use was a Class C felony as it else now elsewhere, though frequently it goes reasonably unenforced:

The statute of limitations for a Class C Felony is 5 years. That mean that the crime shall not be prosecuted more than five years after its commission.

About that. I used to say from what I was seeing back in the 1970s that cannabis would be legal within the next ten years. The first recreational cannabis stores in Washington opened to the public on July 8, 2014. So I was off by just over thirty-five years due to the efforts of many ignorant efforts while even an organization of police chiefs was against its illegality.

Which is sad, to say the least for such a destructive series of laws and prosecutions nationwide for far too many decades and a vast waste of money and destruction of lives, families and communities. Not unlike that of alcohol prohibition laws. When then morphed into anti cannabis laws that turned into ethnic abuses beyond our imagination. Why bring this up here? Because other than it being reality, it is part of this story, and part of our national orientation and planned government destruction of citizens. But that's another story.

That night so many years ago my friends and I were passing around a bong, talking about sci fi and writing and jokingly, I said I could write literally anything. I said I could take any concept and make a viable story out of it. Of course they laughed, teasing me saying they didn't believe it. But they dug in a bit too much.

So I challenged them, trying to put down their incredulity. I said something like, "Okay, I'll tell you what. You guys come up with a concept that cannot be written and... I'll write that story. You can decide if I made it work." They laughed. But then they got more serious and started talking about it.

Eventually they came up with the concept. Remember now, this was 1980. The beginning of the home PC revolution. None of them had a PC. Myself, I had just sold my first one, a "Trash 80", Radio Shack \ Tandy TRS-80 16k of RAM personal home PC. A personal computer I had purchased in 1979 before I got out of the military.

I had sold all my guns before I separated from service, and got out of the USAF as I was feeling very pacifist at the time. You see, after years of supporting a squadron whose primary job as a nuclear weapons system base (B-52 bombers), where these pilots and planes in times of nuclear war were tasked to leave their families, fly across the world and melt entire cities, men, women, elderly and children, animals and vegetation indiscriminately.

Some pilots talked to during my service, in the down time when I was actually in the cockpit of BUFFs (Big Ugly Fat F*ckiers, as we referred to B-52s) had said they would drop all their bombs as ordered, most likely on the Soviet Union at that time (and considering we were stationed at Fairchild AFB outside of Spokane, WA, and then the crew would most likely vote to fly the jet into the ground as they all knew we all knew, there would be no family back home by that time, no America as we knew her, left by that point.

The weight that held on all of us in that job was visceral. But... that's perhaps too heavy for now and a story for another time. On the other hand, it does lead directly into the intensity of this science fiction story at hand. But is it really science fiction at this point? Considering America's and the world's current reality?

That last year in the service, I had sold my personal weapons and converted that all into a personal computer. The summer I got out of the service in 1979 I had used my PC, having previously taught myself programming in Tandy Basic, to write myself a dual program. I was flummoxed how, for my physics\chemistry class, to teach myself the entire periodic table that we had been tasked to learn by the end of the school quarter.

So one night, my military service over, my marriage over, so I was living alone with my dog Ciri, a half St. Bernard, half Labrador, having a beer and playing on my Trash80. I was lonely, unsure how to memorize the entire big chart I had purchased that was on the wall above my PC desk.

How to learn all that? And I started to get an idea. Interesting to me because it was still some years before I would received my BA in Psychology from Western Washington University. I really had no desire to get a degree. I had just gone to summer school that year to get out of the Air Force several months early on an educational "early out" I had heard about, applied for, and was give.

I got the idea to write a program to task my mind. One version would access recognition skills which I was very good at, and one program would task my retrieval skills, which I wasn't so good at. Example. I could see someone's face from the past and recognize them, but I couldn't as easily recall them just from their name. I programmed the computer so it would show me something to recognize and I could practice recall, finish all the elements that way, then use the other module of the program to try retrieve memories of the table.

Once I wrote that program, I would then sit at the desk every night that quarter, probably have a few beers, and run through the program. At first it was difficult, but then it got easier. In the end, I was the only one in the class that quarter at Tacoma Community College, to get 100% on our final on the entire periodic table. On the other half of that test about chemical reactions and such things outside the periodic table, I think I got a B. So I got a few wrong on that part.

Anyway, back to my friends' concept for me was to write a story.

They came up with an idea, and they laughed as they told me, about "a guy who turns himself into a computer chip!" They were so proud, so pleased with themselves. It was annoying.

It took me aback for a few moments. Until finally I said, "Okay, fine!" and accepted the challenge. Eventually they left that night and I started working it out. The next time they came over, I passed out the story to them. They read it eager to see how I had failed. But once they had finished, they all looked at me stunned and a bit annoyed. But in the end they grudgingly agreed... I had done it.

Over that decade I sent that and other stories of mine out to magazines, occasionally reworking them until finally one day, it sold to an east coast horror quarterly magazine, making it my first professionally sold and published short sci fi fiction in 1990. It's funny though. A famous author once said on TV to new writers to collect rejection slips and get used to rejections. Because you'll get a lot of them. So put them on your wall to see them. Fill up a wall with them. Then another wall. Then your home office or writing area. Then other rooms until finally, you WILL sell a story.

When I sold this first fiction story, I opened the letting and found I was, disappointed in not having received a rejection slip. They came by snail mail back then, in the post. I still have many rejection slips today. Some from famous magazines, Omni, Alfred Hitchcock, Twilight Zone, Playboy, and so on.

I liked to call In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear, a story of social horror. As it, after all, horrified me socially. I still have the letters from the publisher about this progress of this story being published. He turned down a couple of stories I had sent him, but kept say to send him another. Finally, he liked this one. But he said if I were to first cut 1500 words from it to fit the space he had available in the magazine, he'd buy it.

I wondered, how. What part? How do you do that to a well crafted story? My wife at the time suggested that I search for a passage of 1500 words and maybe he was testing me, seeing if I was competent enough to find a passage he didn't want to point to directly. But had found was unnecessary. Or he just needed it cut as he had said, to fit it into the next issue. Not unlike people who buy art to hang in their house because the colors match the decorating scheme. Well, I'll never know for sure, but I believe, it was the former and not the latter, more philistine consideration.

I searched the story and actually did find a passage, an almost exactly 1500 word long passage that really wasn't all that necessary to the story. So...I cut it, painfully. "Killing one's children" as writers call that. I sent it back and...he bought it!

I received his acceptance letter and a check for... $28! Not much, even to me at that time of little money and $28 being back then not what it is worth today. But it was officially my first professional sale of a fiction story! Finally, I had done it! To be sure, I had previously published non-fiction articles in various computer magazines locally and around the country by then, but my desire was to publish fiction!

Years later, in 2012 I updated it. By then things in technology had changed. And so it became the first and opening story in my first collection of my first short stories, the book Anthology of Evil (to which I'm currently shopping to publishers its sequel, Anthology of Evil II).

That first book of mine is a collection of my original older short sci fi and horror, including its ending novella Andrew. A story that evolved through one other short-short story, Perception, into my second and rather epic book, DEATH OF HEAVEN.

Then in 2013 I produced and narrated three audiobooks on my own. The Conqueror Worm (the first and a standalone short horror story which opens my DEATH OF HEAVEN book), The Mea Culpa Document of London (also in Anthology of Evil), and Expedition of the Arcturus (the title being an homage to the 1920 book, Voyage to Arcturus, by Scottish author David Lindsay). That last story was first published in the hard sci fi free online magazine (thanks there to publisher Sam Bellotto).

But now, I am putting out new audiobooks with friend  and professional voice actor Tom Remick in a collaboration we are both finding rewarding and really... just fun to do. Here is a short video intro to Tom working.

My equipment, computer, software and recording setup have all changed since 2013. And as I've just moved, our recording set up will be changing again for the better since producing this current audiobook, In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear. We seem to be getting better (thankfully) as we go along.

I also updated the story yet again since 2013, to reflect ever newer changes in technology and culture since my first update to the original 1990 publication. This story seems to  have staying power. This latest update required changes and additions for such things as cell phones and tablets, and the types of high end computer hardware we just didn't have in 1980, 1990 or even as recent as 2013.

And that, the story behind "In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear."

Next up? First, I have narrated my most popular non-fiction piece, a science fact article I've renamed, On Psychology. It details the history of psychology, proposes new research on synesthesia and schizophrenia and offers some perspective on today\s related political environment. I proposed this concept back in 1983 or 84. It is still relevant today.

We have now laid down audio tracks for our latest story, Mr. Pakool's Spice, a short story about a single father trying to get his two young kids to safety through the back winter woods of Oregon during a zombie apocalypse. With no food, barely surviving, and with of all people an international terrorist hot on their tail. It's a well drawn and heart wrenching tale. It is also one I'm trying to go with non-exclusive rights for Audible so I can release it elsewhere around the market to see how that works out.

Included with that story in the ebook and now the audiobook is the short-short story, The Regent's Daughter, a medieval tale which won Best Tension, in a short-short story competition among a group of writers.

After that we will be recording the engrossing and tense sci fi horror story, EarVu about a new, fascinating (and not thoroughly unreasonable) and frightening technology. It seems like a fun technology... at first. Then, for the several scientists who developed it, start to find strange and disturbing things happening around their top secret lab.

Tom and I are having a great time doing this work. Producing audiobooks is not easy and takes a lot of work and time. Which we hope genre fans and others will appreciate. It's especially rewarding for me as some of these stories I wrote a very long ago. My older ones even going back to my university days in the early 1980s. Seeing new life breathed into them is both fascinating and greatly rewarding.

Having read and re read them so many times during the crafting process, then over the years and now to hear a talented voice actor read them, to bring the alive in new ways, brings another level entirely to these stories. Some of which I have now updated to be more relevant to today's sensibilities making some, like In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear, even more disturbing. In some cases as with this current audiobook, our present national political reality has merely enhanced the intensity of the story bringing more dark considerations and more gravity to the situation.

So many authors have said their stories are in a way, like children to them.

This experience has been like having my stories go from high school to college and now, who knows. Perhaps one day they will achieve professional status to become produced on film. Part of the reason I retired in 2016, in buying film production equipment and in restarting up my old LGN Productions (AKA Last good Nerve Productions, I had started in 1993).

A company initially for a documentary on the 25th anniversary of the old 60s TV show, Lost in Space. Now revitalized to produce my fiction (and non-fiction) writings in ever new formats. But until that happens these stories are available as print, ebook and now audiobooks as we produce more and more of my stories.

So please take a look, and a listen. I think you'll be very pleased with the result we have culled out of them in literally breathing new life into them as audiobooks. If you do like what you hear or read in my stories, please do share with friends and feel free to post your reviews. I look forward to seeing what you think! So far the reviews are good!

I moved into my new house here the end of July 2018, this past summer. I'm now in a new house with a basement where I can and plan to build a sound studio in. It is our hope that our audio productions will continue to be even better. My last house had us in my home office, actually the dining room, with all its sounds and nuances that caused us from time to time to have to pause and wait for the garbage trucks to drive on, or for the sounds of birds, or children or people walking down the street or, whathaveyou.

Now, I have a basement with concrete walls with dirt on the other side of them to block sounds. I'm also on a dead end street, with a pleasant view of the local waters. What that means is less clean up in post production audio engineering. Less work in post, cleaner sound, faster productions. Better products as we move on and more quickly once we build the new studio.

I look forward to getting the remodeling done and back up to speed for my creative endeavors. I'm also now judging films in a local film festival which has been interesting. Always stretching out to learn more, to enhance what meager understanding I have of the world around me and increase whatever skills I have.

So, that's about it. Please do consider giving In Memory, Yet Crystal Clear a listen (or a read).

All the best to you for now and... keep reading and listening!

From the ever magical Pacific Northwest here in beautiful Washington state in the albeit of late, the rather confused country of America....

JZ Murdock

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