Communion Of Dreams

Share it.

The folks at This I Believe have now put up the audio of me reading my essay “The Power to Forget“, as part of having it included in their weekly featured essay podcast, as I mentioned previously was in the works.

And I’d like to ask a favor: if you know of someone who might benefit from this essay, please share it with them.

No, not for any benefit to me. I’m not above self-promotion, but that isn’t why I ask for your help in this case. A decade ago when I wrote that essay, I had hoped that it might help others navigate through their own anger and loss. I thought that it had just disappeared into the foam of internet verbiage, until the people at This I Believe contacted me the beginning of this year. And now it feels somewhat like it has a second chance to do some good.

I don’t expect it to work miracles. Each of us who has suffered a loss — whether of a loved one, or our health, or our dreams, or an opportunity — have to deal with that loss in our own way. But it’s sometimes good to know what path others have taken, what worked for them.  So maybe my essay will help someone.



Jim Downey


The power to forget.
January 9, 2015, 2:54 pm
Filed under: Feedback, Podcast, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: , , , ,

I mentioned the other day that I would be sharing some interesting news. Well, here goes …

On Monday, I got a rather unexpected email. From the folks at This I Believe. It seems that an essay I sent them nine years ago was now one of the most widely read items of the 150,000 they have on their site. And it was one of the few in the top 100 which hadn’t yet been recorded. They asked me if I would be willing to record it for them, so that they could include it in their regular featured essays and podcast at some point.

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I said yes, but that I would need some time to “wrap my head around that – it’s such emotional material for me that I’ll need to work up to it.”

Emotional material? Yeah. See for yourself: The Power to Forget

They were very understanding on this point. That gave me the breathing space to come to terms with the whole mix of emotions I felt — satisfaction that my words seemed to resonate for others, memories of deep parental love, an aching sense of loss which still remains, worry that I was somehow exploiting that loss, other emotions I couldn’t quite characterize — and over the next couple of days I spent a lot of time, processing it all.

Now after some back and forth to sort out the logistics, we’ve scheduled for me to record the essay next Thursday. How long it will take before it will be available for listening on the This I Believe website, I have no idea. But I will be sure to post a note here when it is.

Wish me luck.


Jim Downey

Music of the spheres, music to my ears.

Overnight, this blog hit 100,000 visits. Rah. Go, me.


* * *

Remember the old notion of the ‘music of the spheres‘? It wasn’t really about actual music you could hear, but more a philosophical/mathematical concept about the relationships within different aspects of reality. I make some oblique references to it in Communion of Dreams, and it’s a safe bet that you’ll see some similar references in St. Cybi’s Well.

Anyway, here’s something kinda-sorta tangentially related, insofar as it is a musical interpretation of traveling through our solar system, using data collected from the two Voyager spacecraft:

The sound of space: Voyager provides music from solar system and beyond

It’s a surprisingly nice little duet.


* * *

Persistence, I realized, was not the end goal. It was the actual game.

I had all the chances in the world to quit this game. Any rational person probably would have. Poverty, unemployment, crazy relationships, chronic illness, an imploding publisher… I could have quit. I could have said, “Fuck this noise.”

But after raging around on the internet or drinking a bottle of wine or taking a long bike ride, I came back to the keyboard. Always. I always came back.

Most people don’t.

I don’t blame them.

An excerpt from a really excellent, really honest assessment of what it means to be a fiction writer in this day and age. The author, Kameron Hurley, also participates in a discussion of the essay/topic on MetaFilter.

She’s had more success than I have, but my own experiences and conclusions are not that different.


* * *

A friend of mine who does a couple of podcasts had some fun recording an ad for Communion of Dreams. You can download/listen to the MP3 of it here. And if you’re into firearms at all, you should check out his podcasts.


* * *

Overnight, this blog hit 100,000 visits. Rah. Go, me.

That sounds a little more cynical, a little more bitter than I mean it to. Though I have certainly gone through both cynicism and bitterness many times, and expect that I will again.

But not now. Now, I’m … weary. For a variety of very human reasons. Reasons we all share, now and again.

But in spite of the weariness, I push on. As I mentioned in a comment the other day, writing/promotion these days is more akin to guerrilla warfare than anything.

And speaking of which, remember: tomorrow through Sunday is my two-year anniversary promotion. The Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams will be free to download for all three days. Spread the word — be part of my little guerrilla force.



Jim Downey

I know what this sounds like . . .
November 12, 2009, 11:26 am
Filed under: Art, Ballistics, Guns, Humor, Marketing, Podcast, Promotion, RKBA, SCA

Had an interview last night, about the Ballistics By The Inch project, with the fellow who does the “Gun Nation” podcasts that are quite popular. Sent this humorous bit to a friend about it last night after it was over:

Funny bit to share from the interview this evening…

So, it was for a podcast this guy does about gun stuff. It’s a good podcast. The guy is a bit of a nerd, materials science researcher involved in working on the next generation of ballistic cloth (Kevlar, et cetera), but he does his show for a general audience. Anyway, he *loves* our project, and has been a bit nuts about wanting to do an interview for about six months, but one thing and another always kept getting in the way. But it finally worked out that we both had the free time to do it, at the same time.

We get to do the interview, about 45 minutes by phone (Skype, actually), of which he’ll probably use 20-30 minutes for his show. Goes well. Get done, and we’re just chatting a bit about the whole project, et cetera. He asks whether we’ve gotten information about it up on Wikipedia yet, and I say that I hadn’t gotten around to it. He misunderstands, thinks I don’t really appreciate Wikipedia’s power to help spread the word. I say, “well, I do – a couple of years ago someone put up a Wiki entry on me because of something else I did – I just need to update it, and get other links on there about the BBTI project.”

“Oh, what other thing?”

“Well, about 8 years ago I did this odd conceptual art project, called Paint the Moon.”


Paint the Moon??”

It was my turn to misunderstand. But I’m used to having to explain about that project, so I start. “Um, yeah, see . . .”

“That was YOU????”

“Well, yeah.”

“Oh my God, I’m in the presence of greatness.

No kidding, that’s what he actually said. Evidently made the guy’s night to find out that his favorite geeky gun science project also involved the nut behind his favorite crazy artistic project…

Nerds. Go figure. 😉

* * * * * * *

My friend was amused, sent me an email about it this morning. In responding, I said this:

My wife and I both thought it pretty funny. I need to decide whether I can write it up for the blog without sounding like a self-aggrandizing ass. Though it’s not like worrying about that has stopped me in the past . . .

And I’ve been thinking about that for the last couple of hours.

Now, one of the things about blogging, and in using this blog like I do, it that it is for promotion. So there’s a certain amount of self-aggrandizement that goes with the territory.

But the truth of the matter is that for the most part, I find myself bewildered by attention. Yeah, sure, I long ago learned (in the SCA, as a matter of fact) how to cultivate a ‘public persona’ which I could use in that regard – a simulacrum, as it were, who could do the public speaking, the interviews, that sort of thing. It gives me the psychological distance necessary to handle the attention, deflect it without letting it crawl inside my head.

And that’s mostly what you see when I post stuff like this to the blog (or elsewhere). Because while I understand the need for people to have heroes, or leaders, or favorite artists/authors, et cetera, I always find myself completely bewildered to be in such a role. From my perspective, I’m just doing stuff anyone could do, and am only very lucky to have it noticed.

And now *that* sounds like another bit of self-aggrandizement.

Jeez – there’s no winning. Ah, well.

Jim Downey

Once you finish listening . . .
July 9, 2008, 7:42 am
Filed under: Marketing, Podcast, Promotion, Science Fiction

. . . to Communion of Dreams, you might hop on over to SFFaudio and check out some of the many other resources and reviews that they have. From their site:

We think audio is the best medium for Science Fiction literature and drama. We’re not against the dead tree, cathode ray, and celluloid versions, we just know them to be the inferior medium for transmission of story, mood, and ideas.

Before the creation of printed books, stories were told by the Greek aoidos, the Celtic bards and other poets of the human voice. After the printing press allowed for greater numbers of “novels” to be written, the families and friends in all the households that could afford to buy them would gather together and spend their evenings reading books aloud to each other. In the late 1970s the audio cassette allowed for the creation of a new industry, a new medium, the audiobook. Over the last three decades new technologies, CDs, MP3-CDs, and especially the portable MP3 player have made the audiobook even more popular.

Audio drama, too, is our passion. It goes by many names: audio theatre, audio cinema, and of course “radio drama” – the name of the place where it got started. We love this stuff. And if you’re reading this, we bet you do too.


Hat tip to Scot of OwnMade AudioBooks (who did the unabridged production of Communion available on my site) for the heads up!!

UPDATE: The folks at SFFaudio have added Communion of Dreams to their list of goodies. You can find the entry here.

Jim Downey

On this day . . .
April 1, 2008, 6:29 am
Filed under: Ballistics, Guns, Humor, NPR, Podcast, RKBA, Science Fiction, Society, Titan, Writing stuff

. . . in 2052 Darnell Sidwell finds the alien artifact on Titan.

Yup, the clues in the text are clear – the artifact is first discovered on April Fools Day, though that is never explicitly stated.

Why did I do this? For my own amusement, mostly. I appreciate a good April Fools joke – one that plays on someone’s expectations and gullibility, one like you’ll frequently catch on NPR that just might be possible. Given the way the discovery plays out in the story, I thought it a good place to start.


Couple of brief notes: downloads of the text of Communion of Dreams are now over 8,300, and almost 100 people have downloaded the first chapter of the mp3 files (with all the different sections of chapters in those files, and no comprehensive download file to track easily, I’m mostly going to keep tally on the first chapter for simplicity.)

We’ll be starting the next round of ballistics testing tomorrow, so my posting schedule might be kind of erratic through the weekend.

Watch out for April Fools!

Jim Downey

Crossing over.

[This post contains mild spoilers about Communion of Dreams, particularly chapter 5.]

As I’ve been doing some conservation work this morning, I’ve been listening again to the audio version of Communion, done by Scot Wilcox of OwnMade AudioBooks, and discussed previously. I just enjoy hearing his interpretation.

Anyway, at the end of chapter five, as the first team of researchers is about halfway to Titan to investigate the alien artifact which has been discovered there, the protagonist has an odd dream which is described in some detail. In the dream Jon (the protagonist) crosses a bridge, and there’s lots of symbolism which is important for how the rest of the book unfolds. For this reason, I worked fairly hard to get the description just right. Scot’s reading of the passage is great, and really brought that scene to life for me.

Which is fairly easy, because it is based on a real scene – a real bridge: this bridge on the campus of the University of Iowa, which I crossed often while in graduate school at the Iowa Center for the Book. And the fun thing about that bridge – which I used for my own purposes in the description in the novel – is that because of the way it is built, it has a kind of spring to it as you walk across.

I enjoy knowing from whence artists and authors draw their inspiration and imagery, and thought I would share this on the off chance that someone else might be curious . (If anyone has better images of the bridge, feel free to post them/a link in comments – those were the best I could find with a quick search, but they are very dated.)

Jim Downey

All done.
March 25, 2008, 11:53 am
Filed under: Feedback, Harry Potter, Jim Dale, Podcast, Science Fiction, Writing stuff

Well, late yesterday afternoon I finished listening to the audio production of Communion of Dreams. Wow. As I told Scot at OwnMade AudioBooks:

Finished the last disc this evening, before dinner. Was a little disappointed – you need to have a closing spiel like Jim Dale has for the HP books. Seriously. It will add a nice “professional touch”. If you want to tag something onto the end of the last MP3, we can swap it out on the website (about 30 people had downloaded the audio version as of last night – not bad for the first weekend!).

Anyway, you may remember that I worked in radio for a few years before going to grad school. So I had been giving some consideration to doing an audio version myself. I’m really glad I didn’t – you make it sound easy. And I know better.

Your production values are really good – only once in a while would I catch a little ‘canned’ quality, likely from getting a little off from the mic’s sweet spot. A better studio might help here, or better equipment, but it will be marginal. The different voices were pretty identifiable – and only now and again did some of the characterizations seem a little overdone.

In all honesty, for the most part I didn’t notice your reading – it was simply an audio interpretation of the book, and you got me engaged in the story. That’s about the best tribute I can offer.

I know that they’re big files – total of about 1.2 gigabytes. But seriously, download them and give ’em a try. Feel free to burn them to CDs to take on a long car trip or something. As I have mentioned, I find the interpretation that he brings to the work to be a really good additional layer of understanding. And besides, they’re free. If you were to download a comparable amount of music from I-Tunes, it’s cost hundreds of dollars. Such a bargain!

Jim Downey

Coming soon to an audio player near you!
March 21, 2008, 9:18 am
Filed under: Art, Podcast, Promotion, Science Fiction

OK, I’m a little less than halfway through the audio files that I’ve written about recently. Listening to the production is really compelling for me, perhaps moreso than it will be for most people, meaning that I get little else done when the thing is on.

Any good artist brings their own interpretation and understanding to their material, whether it is visual, performance, or written. That’s what Scot Wilcox has done with Communion of Dreams. His performance of the text adds something, even for me – and I have been listening to those voices in my head for well-on a decade now. I think that you will also find that it brings another layer to the book, and I would like to encourage all those who have already read the book to download the audio files (they should be available on my site later today). Naturally enough, there will be plenty of people who are introduced to Communion of Dreams by the audio book first, and I think that’s great – feel free to burn copies of the discs to share (it takes 12 CDs). Or if you want to pass along the MP3 files, that’s fine too (just be warned that the files are very large – it took us overnight to upload them to my host.) Scot has explicitly given me permission to share the performance freely.

So, check the site, tell your friends.

Jim Downey


I have been *really* enjoying the audio version of Communion of Dreams, which I discussed in my last post. And I think you will too, once we work out some additional logistical things on the hosting end (the files are very large, relative to the .pdf files of the text, and necessitate increasing my bandwidth allotment significantly.) With a little luck, we should have that ready to go by this weekend. My friend’s interpretation of the characters is quite interesting – some of them have caught me a bit by surprise, though I cannot object in the slightest to his artistic decisions. And he is very good, really getting into the pacing and mood of the story the further he goes.

In fact, listening to the book, and the need to catch up on book conservation work from the long break last week through this weekend, is responsible for my not posting anything yesterday. And that’s OK, since I would have been tempted to do what just about every other SF blogger on the planet seems to have done: write a tribute to Arthur C. Clarke.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Beyond being one of the best Science Fiction writers of the 20th century, Sir Arthur had an impact on the larger society, changing not only how we see space, but how we actually use it. It is completely understandable that everyone wants to write about him, and how his writing changed their lives (and writing). I did so in some discussion forums. And I have written about him here, and noted on my CoD site just what his influence has been on me as a writer.

But after I heard of his death all I really wanted to do was sit back and enjoy his vast vision. Tuesday night I popped open a beer, popped 2001 into the DVD player, and paid homage to the narrator of Tales from the White Hart.

Then yesterday, as I worked in my bindery, listening to my own story of humanity’s first encounter with an alien artifact, I thought about Clarke. A lot. And in thinking of him, and all that he accomplished, there was a danger, a tendency: to despair, to feel unworthy, to judge my own writing by his measure. Because I fall short, no matter how you look at it.

But that’s not what it’s all about. We all fall short of the best, at least in some areas. That does not negate the good work we do. Even Arthur C. Clarke had his failings. That does not change the fact that the world now is a poorer place for his absence.

Farewell, my old friend and mentor, though we never met.

Jim Downey