Communion Of Dreams

“Without gratuitous sex or violence”

One of the more enjoyable aspects of having Communion of Dreams out there is the consistently positive response it is generating. Reading reviews, seeing what others post about it in comments & blog posts, getting messages – all of these help affirm that the work which went into writing the book was worthwhile.

This morning I opened my CoD inbox to find a very nice message from someone who had just read the book. After favorably commenting on my book, and then relating some other books by VERY big-name authors he had read recently, he said this:

The [other author’s] novel mentioned was, I think, his best to date, and while it ended beautifully, there was a darkness behind it that left a tragic feeling when I was done. The other two are very, very grim indeed. I mention all of these because in the absence of the awe and sense of newness of the pioneers of science fiction, most authors take the route of being deliberately cynical–often bolster their flagging motivation with plenty of sex.

I am greatly impressed that you have created a suspenseful novel without gratuitous sex or violence, and paint a hopeful human picture in what could easily have been the run-of-the-mill depressing post-apocalyptic world.

I have to chuckle – it seems almost like a back-handed compliment, though I know it wasn’t intended that way. And in truth, he’s quite right. In fact, this is what I said in regards to that in my return note:

Thanks – both the core story and the decision to leave out the gratuitous sex & violence was very deliberate (as you know) because I wanted the book to be akin to the SF I enjoyed in my own youth. I wanted not just my contemporaries to enjoy the book, but for it to be enjoyable by their kids and grandkids. I agree that it is impossible at this point to recapture the innocent optimism of Clarke and others, but there’s nothing wrong with trying to again find optimism in understanding the limitations of the world – I think we’ve lost that in the last couple of decades.

Anyway – yeah, I’m guilty of being a cynical old bastard. But my book isn’t.

And on that note, a reminder that today is a promotional day: you can get the Kindle edition for free, all day. Help me get the word out, if you would be so kind.


Jim Downey

Sunday, foolish Sunday.

As noted, Sunday is the actual 40th ‘pre-anniversary’ of the discovery of the artifact on Titan. And as noted in that blog post, I had intended on having a free Kindle edition promotion all day to celebrate that, but had also decided to add in tomorrow just in case someone thought that the Sunday listing might be some kind of April Fool’s prank.

Well, it looks like the joke is on me. Or I’m the Fool. Take your pick.

See, because of some glitches in the Amazon scheduling system back on March 4 when last I did a promotion, Amazon decided to give me an additional promotion day (you get 5 such days during each quarter you’re signed up with KDP Select). That’s cool – so I intended to use it this weekend.

Except I screwed up and didn’t note that said additional promotion day needed to go through Amazon’s bureaucracy, rather than just being scheduled directly by yours truly. Oops.

So I have contacted said bureaucracy, and submitted said request. But whether they’ll get it in place by Sunday is an open question.

So let’s just assume that tomorrow may be the only day this weekend for you to get your free copy of the book, and plan accordingly. Should Amazon get the extra day in place, I’ll let people know. But for now, help to share news of Communion of Dreams being *FREE* all day tomorrow! And remember, you don’t even need to own a Kindle to get your copy: there is a Kindle emulator available for just about any computer/tablet/mobile device – ALSO for FREE!

This was my screw-up. And I’ll make it up with another free weekend sometime in the next quarter. But for now, spread the word that Communion of Dreams is going to be free all day tomorrow (and maybe Sunday!) We had over 5,000 downloads last time – and I keep hearing that people really love the book – so let’s make the world a little better for others who would enjoy it!


Jim Downey

Fear is the mind-killer.*

It’s time to wake up.

Bruce Schneier and Kip Hawley had a good debate recently in the pages of the Economist over the proposition: “This house believes that changes made to airport security since 9/11 have done more harm than good.”

Both of the primaries in the debate make their points about as solidly as they can be made, in my opinion, and the ensuing back & forth and discussion with other participants was . . . vigorous.

I wasn’t surprised at the result, though the moderator seems to have been. Here’s an excerpt from his final statement:

I thought Kip Hawley would have the tougher role as the opposer, but I have still been surprised at the vehemence and quantity of the views expressed in favour. The debate was American in emphasis, and the tetchiness of the relationship between many Americans and the TSA is perhaps something this Briton hadn’t fully appreciated. In Britain, where airports employ their own security, we lack the monolithic body on which to focus anger about liquids in hand luggage, shoe-removal and the like.

Voters have roundly declared that the frustrations, the delays, the loss of liberty and the increase in fear that characterise their interactions with airport-security procedures vastly outweigh the good these procedures achieve. For some, indeed, the benefits are essentially non-existent: any sensible terrorist can find a work-around or choose a different point of attack, as Bruce Schneier explains. And so the widely expressed hope is that changes made to security in the (near) future will make the whole regime less reactive, more rational, more flexible and more intelligence-driven. The results of this debate suggest that these changes should be made with some urgency: passengers are angry.

As I said, no surprise to me. That’s because the actual problem isn’t with security, it is with liberty. I think that this has been the main problem all along – the governmental response to the 9/11 attacks were understandable, predictable, and almost completely misguided. From Schneier’s closing statement:

The current TSA measures create an even greater harm: loss of liberty. Airports are effectively rights-free zones. Security officers have enormous power over you as a passenger. You have limited rights to refuse a search. Your possessions can be confiscated. You cannot make jokes, or wear clothing, that airport security does not approve of. You cannot travel anonymously. (Remember when we would mock Soviet-style “show me your papers” societies? That we’ve become inured to the very practice is a harm.) And if you’re on a certain secret list, you cannot fly, and you enter a Kafkaesque world where you cannot face your accuser, protest your innocence, clear your name, or even get confirmation from the government that someone, somewhere, has judged you guilty. These police powers would be illegal anywhere but in an airport, and we are all harmed—individually and collectively—by their existence.

And this is *exactly* what was desired by Osama bin Laden all along: to prompt us to react in fear, to incur huge expenses in trying to make ourselves ‘safe’, and to stress the very foundations of our society. Again, from Schneier:

Increased fear is the final harm, and its effects are both emotional and physical. By sowing mistrust, by stripping us of our privacy—and in many cases our dignity—by taking away our rights, by subjecting us to arbitrary and irrational rules, and by constantly reminding us that this is the only thing between us and death by the hands of terrorists, the TSA and its ilk are sowing fear. And by doing so, they are playing directly into the terrorists’ hands.

The goal of terrorism is not to crash planes, or even to kill people; the goal of terrorism is to cause terror. Liquid bombs, PETN, planes as missiles: these are all tactics designed to cause terror by killing innocents. But terrorists can only do so much. They cannot take away our freedoms. They cannot reduce our liberties. They cannot, by themselves, cause that much terror. It’s our reaction to terrorism that determines whether or not their actions are ultimately successful. That we allow governments to do these things to us—to effectively do the terrorists’ job for them—is the greatest harm of all.

Complete safety is an illusion. A fantasy. I know most people don’t want to actually think about that, but the truth is that living is a terminal disease and there’s more than a fair chance you will suffer your share of accidents along the way. Accept that, and you can go through your life trying to minimize those while maximizing your happiness. But if you are obsessed with never being at risk – if you let fear control you – then you will be controlled by others.

I’ve written a lot about terrorism (64 tags), and violence (82), and civil rights (102) over the years, going on and on about how our privacy and even our dignity have been eroded by unthinking fear. I guess I have long since passed the point of being a crank about this in general and the TSA in particular.

But this is important. Essential, I would say, for the life of our Republic. We’ve stumbled. Just as we have stumbled before in the face of a shocking attack. We’ve stumbled in blind panic. We’ve all been through a kind of societal Posttraumatic stress disorder. And the time has come to shake off the fear response, to once again engage the thinking parts of our brains. Only then can we hope to recover not just life, but also liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Jim Downey

*Of course: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear… And when it is gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear is gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Perhaps this time.

For whatever reason, recently I’ve had an interest in pickled eggs.

* * * * * * *

Bits & pieces:

“It is late, and things are not getting better.”

“A gun don’t make you bulletproof.”

“Tribal groups who all have their chieftains.”

* * * * * * *

I’ve had false starts, and false hope, before. In some ways, “false hope” is something of a summary of my life.

Anyway, I’ve been doing a *lot* of thinking about the prequel to Communion of Dreams, titled St. Cybi’s Well. I think this is the fourth of fifth time that I’ve started writing it. Before I’ve gotten as far as a chapter or two, outlines for more of the book. Or sometimes just making notes.

This time? We’ll see. At least some people are asking about it after reading Communion. That helps.

* * * * * * *

Yeah, bits & pieces. But none of those . . . fragments . . . necessarily means what it might seem. As I work through a story, I get these summations, these insights into something a character might think or do. I’ve been thinking a lot about Darnell Sidwell, who is the main character of St. Cybi’s Well. That much I’ve known all along.

And thinking about Darnell is risky. Why? Because he and I are tied together in some ways. Well, more than just occupying too much space in my head, I mean. He’s not an alter-ego of mine or anything, but we are close enough in age and cultural experience that I can’t help but compare myself to him at times. And the comparisons don’t always make me particularly happy.

* * * * * * *

For whatever reason, recently I’ve had an interest in pickled eggs.

Not sure why. I don’t remember eating them as a kid or anything. Frankly, I don’t remember ever having eaten one, though I’m sure I must have.

Eggs. Vinegar. Sugar, salt, spices. I like the way the kitchen smells now.

Sometimes you have to experiment.

Jim Downey

No joking.
March 28, 2012, 1:01 pm
Filed under: Amazon, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing

It is not stated explicitly, but a close reading of Communion of Dreams will confirm that Darnell Sidwell discovered the ‘artifact’ 40 years from this Sunday.

Yeah, on April Fool’s Day.

That was just a little ‘Easter egg’ I put in the text, for the amusement of anyone who might catch it (there are a number of such things in the text). It becomes clear early enough in the book that it could make someone go “wait a minute . . . is all of this just a hoax?”

Anyway, in observation of the future anniversary of this event, I thought that I’d have another “free Kindle edition” promotion on Sunday.

But then I got to worrying that people might think it was all just an April Fool’s Day prank.

Damn. Hoist by my own little fart.

The only solution is to add in Saturday as well, to make it clear that the book really is free.

So, if you have yet to download Communion of Dreams for reading on your Kindle, computer, tablet or other device, this is your chance.

And if you have already read the book, this is your opportunity to tell your friends that they can get it free! Think how much they will love you for this, showering you with praise and respect for sharing such a wonderful, incredible, life-changing story with them! Your popularity will soar, your teeth will be whiter, your bank balance will swell, and that cute guy or gal will start to return your smiles. Even the president may call you for advice. No, seriously – it could happen!

Or, you know, not. But hey, it’s worth a chance, right?

So, this Saturday and Sunday, the Kindle Edition of Communion of Dreams, currently ranked an amazing #54,632 Paid in the Kindle Store! Which isn’t bad, considering how many books are out there. Really.

Jim downey

Countdown to the future.

Via my Her Final Year co-author, this fairly light but interesting look at the current tech which is very much the precursors of what I envision in Communion of Dreams:

5 Exciting Innovations That Will Change Computing in 2012

Technical innovations are incoming in the next year or so that promise to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds like never before, whether that’s controlling your computer with gestures, opening programs with your eyes or extending the menu options for touchscreens with wearable devices.

There are a number of things they feature in the slideshow which gave me a chuckle, they’re so clearly direct ancestors of what is in Communion. Such as the Keyglove:

The Keyglove is a wearable, wireless, open source input device that boasts unprecedented flexibility and convenience for all kinds of computer applications.

With exciting potential for gaming, design, art, music, device control and even data entry, the glove-based system’s multi-sensor combinations mean it could be programmed to offer one-handed operation of many systems and software.

But this had me laughing right out loud, from the last of the five entries:

We predict that the press-a-button-and-speak method will become outdated as smart virtual assistants — which offer an AI-powered, conversational style solution — emerge.

Gee . . . a smart virtual assistant. Now, *there’s* an idea I never considered for the future. Well, maybe this passage from page 6 does sort of hint at that:

“Hi Seth.” Jon just talked to the not-quite thin air next to him. It was common enough to see people walking through the halls, or sitting at their desks, chatting with someone invisible. He could have Seth give him the feed for the images of the other experts, and see their ghostly manifestations, if he wanted.

His expert was one of best, one of only a few hundred based on the new semifluid CPU technology that surpassed the best thin-film computers made by the Israelis. But it was a quirky technology, just a few years old, subject to problems that conventional computers didn’t have, and still not entirely understood. Even less settled was whether the experts based on this technology could finally be considered to be true AI. The superconducting gel that was the basis of the semifluid CPU was more alive than not, and the computer was largely self-determining once the projected energy matrix surrounding the gel was initiated by another computer. Building on the initial subsistence program, the computer would learn how to refine and control the matrix to improve its own ‘thinking’. The thin-film computers had long since passed the Turing test, and these semifluid systems seemed to be almost human. But did that constitute sentience? Jon considered it to be a moot point, of interest only to philosophers and ethicists.

Heh. You know, reading that again, I’m pleased with just how much of the entire story of the book is foreshadowed in those couple of paragraphs. It’s almost like I planned it or something.

Anyway, another countdown of a sort: this coming Saturday and Sunday, all day both days, the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams will be available for free to any and all who want to read it. And in preparation for that, I would ask that anyone who has had a chance to read the book to please go post a review on Amazon, or at least give the book a “Like” there. Building that sort of recommendation base will really help – thank you very much!

Jim Downey

“And there will be joy.”*
March 25, 2012, 8:49 am
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Depression, Health, Hospice, Kindle, Marketing, movies, Promotion, Publishing, Society

So, we’re doing another free promotion day for the Kindle edition of Her Final Year.

One thing I realized some time back was that many people just don’t want to think about care-giving. That’s understandable, because there’s a *lot* about care-giving which is stressful, unpleasant, depressing.

But that isn’t all there is. I have said to others that this experience of being a care-provider was the hardest thing I have ever done, but that it also made me a much better person. Why? Well, because of moments like this, from the ‘November: Endgame’ chapter of the book, originally written in November 2007:

After a particularly rough patch of it yesterday morning, I was helping her [Martha Sr] from the toilet to her usual seat in the front room, where she likes to sit and look at magazines. As we transitioned from the wheelchair to her comfy chair, and I got her settled safely there, she looked up at me, her frail thin arms still around my neck, her light brown eyes clear for a moment, and said “thank you, son.”

In the more than twenty years I’ve known her, in the twenty years I have been married to her daughter, she has never once before called me “son.” In fact, since my own parents died almost 40 years ago, no one has called me that. It was a strange word to hear directed my way. And it touched me like no other thanks she has ever offered.

So, don’t be afraid. If you haven’t read the book, go download a copy for free now. And tell your friends and family members about it. This is something which may not be useful right now, but the chances are that it will be relevant at some point in your life. And knowing that you can face that with a measure of joy can make all the difference.

Jim Downey

*Yes, from this.

Drip, drip, drip.

That’s the sound of your privacy melting:

U.S. To Keep Data On Americans With No Terror Ties

The U.S. intelligence community will now be able to store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism for up to five years under new Obama administration guidelines.

Until now, the National Counterterrorism Center had to immediately destroy information about Americans that was already stored in other government databases when there were no clear ties to terrorism.

Giving the NCTC expanded record-retention authority had been called for by members of Congress who said the intelligence community did not connect strands of intelligence held by multiple agencies leading up to the failed bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009.

Remember, it’s all about data mining. And the government is getting ready to mine *all* your data. Regardless of whether or not you have any ties to terrorism. And that new 5-year limit? I’m sure even that modest limitation will just melt away.

Jim Downey

Let’s do it again!

Cross posted from the Her Final Year blog. For those who are new to my blog, much of the material in the memoir was stuff I wrote here, first, as we were going through the experience of being care-providers for my Mother-in-law. It is *intensely* honest and personal, but that gives it power – showing others what it is like to be a care-giver through the good times and the bad. Many people have found it to be very helpful.



Well, last Sunday’s free Kindle edition promotion was very successful – we had over 400 downloads, from the US, the UK, and even Italy! If you were one of the people who downloaded the book, we hope you are finding it useful in understanding how we went through the arc of being care providers.

The response was so good that we’re going to do it again this coming Sunday. Yup, anyone will be able to download the Kindle edition of Her Final Year for free. You don’t need a special code. You don’t need to enter any kind of drawing. You don’t even need a Kindle – there is a free Kindle emulator/app for almost all computers/tablets/mobile devices. Just go to the Kindle page for the book, and “buy” it for $0.00.

Please help spread the word – tell friends and family members. Post the info to your Twitter or Facebook accounts. Share it with forums for care-givers. We want to get this book widely disseminated so that it can do more good.

Thank you – it has been very rewarding to hear back from those who have found the book valuable either as care-providers or for understanding what care-providers they know are going through.

Jim Downey

Reflect on this.
March 21, 2012, 8:21 am
Filed under: Predictions, Science, Science Fiction, tech, YouTube

Some pretty remarkable technology:

Because of the ability to slice time fine enough, and the ability to send an accurate enough laser pulse, this demonstrates how it is possible to see the reflected image of something hidden behind a wall.

It’s still fairly crude, but is incredibly impressive. It feels somewhat like what early photography or radio was like: the slightest taste of what is to come.

Something to . . . reflect on.

Jim Downey