Friday, August 4, 2017

August Amazon Giveaway # 2 -- SF Short Story "The Day the Dolphins Vanished" Plus Free Extended Preview

To enter my August Amazon Giveaway #2 for a chance to win a copy of the complete short story for your Kindle, please click on this link: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/42723820b538c915. [Ends August 20]


You can sample a preview of the story below before entering the giveaway.


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The Day the Dolphins Vanished - SF Short Story Preview


THE DAY THE DOLPHINS VANISHED

(C) 2010, 2017 Victor D. López

The following story excerpt is from my short story collection   Mindscapes: Ten Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Short Stories

Beatrice Benson, BB to her colleagues and friends, would be at home in any exclusive beach resort anywhere in the world tanning her perfect body while her long, lustrous light-brown hair absorbed and weaved the sun’s rays into auburn and blonde highlights as legions of men tripped over one another for the chance to fetch her a cold drink, a towel, sun block or anything else her heart desired in hopes of gaining the simple reward of the flash of her brilliant smile. If she were not preoccupied by more important things, BB would have been amused by these attentions of which she was largely unaware, in part because she was not the type to frequent beachside resorts or spend much time lounging on beach chairs, and in part because her preternatural beauty and credentials—Ph.Ds. in marine biology, electrical engineering and linguistics all earned by her 30th birthday—quickly burned off the wings of desire of mere mortal men who were attracted to her like insignificant moths hovering about the seemingly friendly blue flame of a Bunsen burner, leaving them in a similar position in trying to hold a conversation with her as the average chimpanzee trying to grasp the finer points of the Allegory of the Cave from Plato’s Republic.

Fortunately for both moths and men, not too many moths fly about the average lab, and not too many men hang around the out of the way craggy beaches and immense stretches of ocean that BB made her home while working largely on solitary projects, conducting research, writing papers, and otherwise contributing to the advancement of her fields with an I.Q. that Einstein would have envied and a work ethic that would have made John Calvin proud. Her current project had taken her to Florida’s Gulf Coast, near Navarre Beach in Santa Rosa County, but far from the crowded condo-dotted beachfront. A generous grant from the National Science Foundation allowed her to take her floating laboratory, a modest converted cabin cruiser, wherever she went, carrying its precious cargo of high-end computer and electronics equipment with which she hoped to bridge the communications gap between dolphins and humans.
Her study of the available data had long before led her to the conclusion that dolphins have a highly evolved language. Computer analysis of sounds emitted in the audible spectrum alone showed repetitions that closely mirrored speech patterns that span across all human languages. Lesser intelligent mammals emit sounds that convey meaning to their own species, but these are typically limited to communicating very basic information essential to the survival of their species, such as calls warning about danger, or the availability of food, or simply warnings for others to keep away. Even insects evidence the ability to communicate that kind of information to their own kind. But Dolphins and most whales are in a different category altogether, possessing brains that are larger than the great apes, including Homo sapiens, and evidencing the ability for complex communication.

It is one thing to recognize the fact that speech is taking place, but quite another to be able to decipher that speech, let alone translate it in a meaningful way so that it can be understood in its proper context across species. Even when dealing with human speech, it can be quite challenging to interpret from one language for another, even for native speakers of the languages being interpreted. But our shared humanity allows us to at least understand certain emotions, such as anger, fear, pain, sadness and love without the need for a universal translator. Drop a human being with money in her pocket anywhere on the planet and she will have little trouble finding food to purchase, the shelter of a hotel room, and an endless number of consumer goods that she can easily purchase at the local market. Moreover, she needs no language at all to determine the intentions of people with whom she interacts as there are an endless number of non-verbal clues that all of us emit that can allow others to, for the most part, accurately gauge our intentions and label us as either as probable friends or foes. The best machine translation available today still yields results that can range from comical to tragic depending on their context and use. Anyone who has ever tried to decipher instructions accompanying low-cost, assemble-it-yourself furniture or other similar consumer goods imported from non English-speaking countries outside of the U.S. can attest to that fact. Even when dealing with a common language, the very real possibility for misunderstanding exists due to the regional usage, slang and pronunciation variances from in different regions of the same country, and especially when dealing from a common language adapted by countries for their own use. An American from Mississippi and an Englishman from Liverpool both speak English, but will likely have some difficulty understanding one another, especially if they possess only a rudimentary education. The same is true for a Haitian and a Parisian, a Puerto Rican and a Spaniard (or, for that matter, a Spaniard from Galicia and one from Seville, Valencia, Madrid, or Barcelona, even if they are all speaking Spanish rather than their local regional languages). Indeed, the simple verb “coger” in Spanish which means—and has always meant—”to get, or to grab” to a Spaniard, means “to copulate” to an Argentine. Thus, “coge las llaves” (take the keys) means f__k the keys in the vernacular in Buenos Aires, and “cógeme de la mano” (take my hand) means something equally obscene.

Fortunately, when it comes to human languages, we have native speakers, interpreters, dictionaries and, when all else fails, comedians and diplomats, to help bridge the potholes along the road of cross-cultural communication. No such tools are available for inter-species communications, making the process of communication infinitely harder for both species, even when our closest genetic relatives, chimpanzees, or other only slightly more distant, intelligent cousins, such as gorillas, are involved.

But what may seem like insurmountable challenges for the rest of us are only interesting, irresistible puzzles for the likes of BB who was uniquely qualified to tackle the problem because of her complementary competencies and inexhaustible patience. Using the resources of her university as a Professor of Marine Biology and her NSF grant, she had spent a one-year sabbatical working with a half dozen dolphins in an attempt to develop a dolphin/human speech interface. Aside from the dedicated software she had developed to achieve a real-time translation program, her equipment was relatively simple: a supercomputer, an all-weather outdoor, portable large-screen projection system and an extensive array of ultrasensitive microphones and speakers capable of recording and reproducing sound well below and above the normal range of frequencies audible to the human ear. With the equipment in place, the experiment methodology was simplicity itself: images—both still and video—were flashed on the screen with microphones above and below water recording the dolphin chatter while the English word or phrase accompanying the visual material broadcast in above and below water speakers. The overarching concept that BB banked on was that dolphins would be intelligent enough to make the connection of the attempt to communicate and be able to learn at least some rudimentary verbal concepts with the assistance of the usual reinforcements—treats, physical contact, and genuine care and attention being paid by a patient trainer. It was her hope that by recording and cataloguing the dolphin sounds that accompanied the flashing pictures her computer software would be able to distinguish the dolphin equivalents for at least some of these visual representations over time.

Her methods were simple, and they worked. . . .

***** END OF PREVIEW ****

NOTE: The short story collection is available on paperback, audiobook and eBook versions from Amazon, Audible and most book sellers. The short story is also available in various eBook versions, including a Kindle version from Amazon and other book sellers as well. Both are also available to libraries at very low cost. If you like the preview and think you and others may enjoy reading the whole story or short story collection, won't you consider recommending them to your local library? All are available for library purchase, including through OverDrive for libraries that use the popular Live-brary platform.  Thank you!






Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"Earth Mother" SF Short Story Amazon Giveaway Plus Extended Free Preview (August Giveaway #1) Ends August 16


Please click on the following link for a chance to win a copy of the short story "Earth Mother" from my Mindscapes short story collection for your Kindle: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/d9c8268fbb5e35ae.


Win or lose, you can read a preview of the short story below. Good luck!

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SF Short Story Preview: "Earth Mother" (C) 2011, 2014 Victor D. Lopez




A mysterious visitor from another world wakes a young, ambitious woman in the middle of the night to deliver an intriguing offer after nearly frightening her to death. He explains that his race is dying as women in his distant world are no longer able to carry embryos of their species to term. If she is willing to serve as a surrogate mother for an embryo for an accelerated gestation period of a few weeks, he promises to return to take away the child and to bestow upon her the gift of telepathy for the remainder of her life in exchange for her service. As an added bonus, the embryo will provide a boost to her immune system that will make her virtually impervious to all disease for the rest of her life. If she accepts, will her dreams finally be realized, or will she live to regret her choice?

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Earth Mother

(C) 2011, 2014 Victor D. Lopez

She awoke in the throes of a mind numbing panic.  Her eardrums sympathetically vibrated with the subliminal hum of an unseen, unheard yet very palpable force just below the threshold of audible frequencies.  Her heartbeat sloshed in her ears as though she were under water, desperately trying to escape a powerful predator. 
The adrenaline in her veins and the irrational fear that paralyzed her made every joint in her body ache and yielded spasmodic pains as though her muscles were tightly coiling around themselves. Her mouth dry and vocal cords frozen from fear, Lisa lacked the power to give voice to a scream that was born, grew and died in her throat without expression.  Unable to move and still unaware of the cause of her discomfort, Lisa could detect a barely perceptible blue-green aura through the partially closed Venetian blinds and drawn drapes in her bedroom.  The air was charged;  she could sense it though the prickly itch of her hair standing on end. It smelled like a summer thunderstorm had just passed though, despite a cloudless sky. 
After long, silent moments of languishing transfixed in irrational terror, satin sheets clinging coldly to her naked body as she lay in a  perspiration-soaked bed, a painful flash of white light inundated her bedroom, leaving Lisa temporarily blind, with multiple circular black afterimages receding slowly through her repetitive blinking, eventually fading to gray and melding into a humanoid form standing some six feet from the foot of her bed. The form, a hairless, androgynous ashen skinned humanoid with large, seal-like black eyes, button nosed, with thin, small lips,  approximately five feet tall and weighing perhaps ninety-five pounds, finally spoke to her.  More accurately, it transmitted words and fragmentary, vivid images into her mind accompanied by a soft, musical sound that might be speech and was as beautiful as it was unintelligible. 
“Please, please don’t hurt me,” she thought, still unable to utter a sound.
“No need to fear; we will not do you harm. Be calm,” the creature replied in visual words and images that were fragmented but quite clear.
“Please go away.  Oh. God, help me, please.”  Lisa would have cried and screamed and run had she the power to do any of those things.  Since she did not, she lay still, mentally pleading with the seemingly innocuous creature whose presence, despite its attempts at reassurance, had done little to ameliorate her dread.
“Do not fear.  We bring you a gift with which to bargain for your help.”  The creature’s facial expression and body language did not change, but the visual messages it transmitted clearly tried to show its good will. Warmth, happiness, contentment emanated from the creature as does the sweet scent of a flower carried by a slight summer’s breeze.
“You won’t hurt me?” Lisa half asked, half pleaded, somewhat reassured by the creature’s communication, yet certainly not yet disposed to accept its alleged good will at face value.
“We come only to offer a gift, in exchange for your assistance.”
“What kind of gift?  And what type of help do you want?” Lisa’s fear seemed to dissolve rather quickly with each reference by the creature to a gift.
“We offer a great gift, the ability to communicate without words as we now do, in exchange for your service” The creature retorted, seemingly encouraged into more negotiation by Lisa’s growing receptiveness.
“Are you offering me the gift of telepathy?”  Lisa’s heart, no longer beating fast in response to fear, was beginning to speed up in response to a new growing emotion.”
“You may call it that, yes.”
“What do you want in exchange?” Lisa asked, furrowing her brow slightly, and beginning to ask herself what in her power she would not be willing to do for that ability.
“You must incubate one of us and nurture it until it is strong enough to part from you.”
“I don’t understand. Do you want me to care for you or one of your kind? To be a baby sitter?”
“Much more,” the creature replied, sending Lisa a clear image of a human body, her body, in the last stages of pregnancy.
“No!” replied Lisa, as she tried instinctively to close her legs and gather her sheets about her, aware for the first time with revulsion of her nakedness and vulnerable position. She also remembered the unpleasant reports of alien encounters with horrific medical exams and intrusive probes wielded by intergalactic perverts apparently intent on molesting humans for their own gratification. But her body would not obey her commands; whether she was paralyzed by some sort of stasis field of by the creature’s mental powers, she did not know. 
“It is not copulation we seek,” the creature immediately offered, seemingly amused and sending a clear visual image of its honorable intentions.  “Our anatomy is unlike yours and would not permit it, but your womb is compatible for our purposes.  We would plant an embryo in your uterus that would grow, protected and nourished through your normal biological means” With this, the creature sent an image of a sesame seed-sized embryo being implanted into a human host, and later emerging in the usual means less than a fifth the size of a human baby.
“No pain?” Lisa asked, relived but cautious.
“Both the implantation and the subsequent birth are completely free of discomfort.”
“How long for the procedure and how long is the period of gestation?”
“Two of your minutes for the implantation and six of your weeks for the gestation to be completed.”
“A two minute implant and painless delivery six weeks later buys me the gift of telepathy, huh.  Is that your deal?”
“Yes.”
“Wait a minute.  My mother raised no fools.  How long does my telepathy last?”
“Throughout the entire period of your life.”
“Not bad.  A lifetime of telepathy for six weeks of work.” Lisa replied, more to herself than to the creature, who perhaps sensing that fact made no reply.
Then, her brow furrowing again, she continued, “If this is such an easy deal, why do you need me?  Why can’t your own kind do so themselves.”
“All of those capable of breeding on our world are dead.” The creature’s thoughts and mental images conveyed great sadness. “We will cease to exist as a species unless we have outworlders such as yourself help us.”
“Sorry to hear that.“  She thought back at the creature, which again made no reply.  “Is there any risk to me from the pregnancy or birth? Will you return for the birth?  And how long need I care for the thing afterwards?”
“There is no risk to you during gestation.  We will give you medications to strengthen your immune system and eradicate any illness you may currently have. The medication will also prevent your antibodies from attacking the embryo.  We can guarantee your health and vitality for the rest of your natural life as a byproduct of the procedure.  As to our return, it is unnecessary.  Our infants are self-sufficient and require only the most basic type of sustenance for a period that never exceeds two of your weeks after their birth. The infant would then move on without need of any additional assistance from you.”
        “Sounds like a deal to me.  The little bugger will pop out like a slice of toast when its time comes, care for itself immediately, leaving me with telepathy and good health for life, and I don’t even have to undergo morning sickness or stretch marks.  What more could a girl want?” She smiled, thinking about the possibilities that telepathy would provide for her.  To know what others thought, and to be able to plant messages in their minds.  The possibilities were intoxicatingly endless.


[ **** END OF PREVIEW **** ]

For additional information about most of my published books, you can visit my author pages at AmazonSmashwords and iBooks and most other book retailers. You can also recommend my books for purchase by your local library if you use Livebrary and Overdrive. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Visit My Facebook Author's Page for sample chapters of my Current Texbooks, Poetry & Fiction Collections

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorVictorDLopez/app/191387770912394/

Of Pain and Ecstasy: Collected Poems (samples of free verse and blank verse)

Central Park


Flowers bloom next to rusting Pepsi cans,
Watered by the spit of cocaine dealers,
And the semen and vaginal fluid,
Of hot lovers groping under blankets,
Under stars dimly blinking through thick smog.

Nightly haven for muggers, rapists, fiends,  
Whose every breath profanes the species they,  
So poorly represent, turning Plato’s,  
Featherless bipeds, to dead plucked chickens,  
Soul-less, pointless wastes of protoplasm.  

Abomination-- not in itself but,  
For the use it’s put to: a bone for dogs,  
Who’ve never tasted steak, and are gleeful,  
To feast upon the scraps of fetid meat,  
Clinging to well-gnawed bones that they are fed.  

Central Park, the bone we are to chew while,  
Smiling complacently at skyscrapers,  
Daily rising where wild flowers might have grown,  
Our humanity proportionally,  
Shrinking inversely to their daily rise.  

If I seem narrow minded and unkind,
Or blind to the beauty of Central Park,
It is because I’ve stood on virgin ground,
In summer, fall, winter and early spring,
And cannot bring myself to love a whore.


The Subway


I stand alone in the dark Fulton Street subway station,  
Breathing in the urine-scented air,  
Breathing out clouds of steam,  
A subway train rushes along,  
Not stopping,  
Biting at my eardrums,  
With the painful percussion,  
Of thousands of people,  
Silently screaming,  

I don’t want to see,
     I don’t want to see,
          I don’t want to see,

The air fanned by each subway car,  
Rushes against me,  
Pushes the ozone and the smell of burnt brake linings,  
Into my nostrils,  
Along with the air,  
Sucked through the iron gratings,  
Along miles of Brooklyn sidewalks,  
Carrying the odor of a prostitute’s festering sores,  
And the cries of a hungry, fatherless child in dirty diapers,  
And the hoarse moaning of a city councilman mentoring a young intern,  
And the cheap perfume of a fourteen year-old runaway,  
Turning $20 tricks in an alley,  
Smelling of stale Chinese food and wet dogs,  
And . . .  

I don’t want to see,
     I don’t want to see,
           I don’t want to see,

. . . the smell of spoiled cabbage soup,  
And the rancid remains of a hotdog buried in sourkraut,  
And putrid lilies lying in a gutter,  
All assaulting me, forcing me backwards,  
Until my back presses against,  
The grimy once-white tiles,  
That coldly burn their graffiti on my spine:  

God is dead,
Bake a kike,
Whitey sucks,
Kill the niggers,

I don’t want to see,  
     I don’t want to see,
           I don’t want to see,

The train finally passes,  
Its lights receding into the dank,  
Dark tunnel beyond the platform,  
The screeches and screams slowly die out,  
Their echoes sucking behind them,  
The smell,  
Of my,  
Warm  
Vomit.  


The Gospel (Revisited)


god is dead  
he died of a bad review in The New York Times  
that accused him of being
a fascist  
and a prude  

he is being replaced by a new  
non-sectarian trinity  
of  
Me Myself and I
all of whom are  
free  
to kill god  
and say  
god is dead  
god dead is  
dead is god  
is god dead  

I think I have heard somebody suggest  
(and therefore I have)  
that the Department of Health is soon to issue  
new and improved  
antiexistentialistdespairpills  
free of charge    
to every adult 
man and woman  
sitting in front  
of his/her  
TV/Smart Phone/Computer  
waiting for  
godot  


On My Poetry


I am a child playing with finger-paints,  
plopping blobs of multi-colored paint,  
which runs and clumps onto the canvas,  
making my attempts,  
to depict what I see and feel,  
into murky shadows of a world too crudely rendered.  

Incomprehensible swirls,  
of my chubby little hands,  
struggling,  
with mindless tenacity,  
to paint,  
blurry, evanescent, unrecognizable details,  
as senseless as the death throes,  
of a writhing salamander,  
half drowned in a paint can by a sadistic child,  
and thrown onto a canvas,  
to create art,  
through the stains of its death throes,  

A child,  
trapped,  
in a middle-aged body,  
staining with artless hands,  
unrecognizable forms,  
in a pointless effort,  
to render,  
some meaning,  
on the canvas,  
of his life.  


On Pointless Introspection


I am an ostrich, hiding deep within myself,  
My head submerged in murky moods,  
Screaming in a vacuum.  

No, not a vacuum, but a sound-proof room,  
With walls of ten-foot stone,  
A fortress,  
Clammy, cold and, dimly lit,  
That admits no sound,  
But the monotonous percussion,  
Of a heart that knows the one eternal truth:

We are born dying,  
And every breath that we take,  
Every beat of our heart,  
Brings us one step closer,  
To the grave.  

It is easy to forget a world exists outside,  
My diminutive cell when my teeth chatter,  
Not from the absence of warmth,  
But from the absence of meaning.  

Perspective, perspective, perspective,  
Echoes through my fruitless cell.  

I am a foolish,  
Ugly bird,  
Cowardly bird,  
But needlessly.  

I heard a song today, a soothing melody,  
Sung by an angel dressed in woman's clothes;  
Oh, sing again, dear love, I had  
Almost forgotten your sweet voice!  



Alice


In troubled times I've called your name,  
My love, and clung to it as does a child,  
To the belief in Santa,  
Or the sightless, to the hope of light;  

It is for me,  
The visionary dream,  
That drives perseverance, 
And decries despair;  

It is the hope of wretched souls,  
In purgatory awaiting,  
The seemingly forgotten promise,  
Of their eventual release.  

When my stale words confuse, confine,  
Confound my mind, and images converge  
Into the swirling blur of madness,  
I call your name.  

Then hopelessness recedes,  
As does an incorporeal nightmare,  
Slowly fading, leaving behind only sweat-soaked sheets,  
Yielding to the purifying rays of the dawn’s rising sun.  

A simple word, your name, but to me, a powerful amulet,  
Which pierces the darkness and melts away,  
The deformed forms that haunt and taunt my darkest days,  
And fills them with all on earth that heals and renews.  

A simple word which simply is my all, a synonym for sincere,  
Unpretentious love that seldom asks yet freely gives,  
That does not question, but simply knows,  
That does not quickly burn, but always, and forever, warms.