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Archive for January, 2019

Anne Rice/Great Horror Writer

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

 October 4 is the birthday of American horror novelist Anne Rice , born in New Orleans (1941), and best known for creating the novel Interview with the Vampire(1976), in which a young man interviews a 200-year-old vampire named Louis about his life. The book introduces the character of Lestat the Vampire, and was later made into a film. There are 14 books in the Vampire Chronicles saga, most of which have been international best-sellers.

Rice was inspired to write Interview with the Vampire after the death of her six-year old daughter from leukemia. She said: “I was a sad, broken atheist. I pitched myself into writing and made up a story about vampires. I didn’t know it at the time but it was all about my daughter, the loss of her and the need to go on living when faith is shattered. But the lights do come back on, no matter how dark it seems, and I’m sensitive now, more than ever, to the beauty of the world — and more resigned to living with cosmic uncertainty.” Rice based the character of the girl vampire, Claudia, on her daughter.

It took Rice five weeks to write 358 pages about the relationship between two vampires for Interview with a Vampire. She researched vampires during the day and wrote at night, once even attending a concert by the heavy metal band Iron Maiden for inspiration.

When asked why she chose to write about vampires, Rice answered: “Vampires are the best metaphor for the human condition. Here you have a monster with a soul that’s immortal, yet in a biological body. It’s a metaphor for us, as it’s very difficult to realize that we are going to die, and day to day we have to think and move as though we are immortal. A vampire like Lestat in Interview … is perfect for that because he transcends time — yet he can be destroyed, go mad and suffer; it’s intensely about the human dilemma.”

Rice grew up in New Orleans, whose lush history she’s used as a setting for many of her novels. Her early life was hard, with alcoholic parents, and she lived in the rented home of her maternal grandmother. At 12 years old, Rice was confirmed in the Catholic Church and took the full name of Howard Allen Frances Alphonsus Liguori O’Brien, adding the names of a saint and of an aunt, who was a nun. “I was honored to have my aunt’s name, but it was my burden and joy as a child to have strange names.” Later, a nun called her “Anne,” and that’s the name she used for the rest of her life.

Rice’s readings and public events have become popular spectacles. When she moved back to New Orleans as an adult, she owned a coffin in which she was carried to her book signings. She’d pop out of it when she got to the reading venue. Once, she even arrived at a book signing in a glass hearse, attended by several French Quarter musicians.

When asked who makes a better literary subject, vampires or zombies, Rice answered: “The vampire is an articulate character in our literature. In the last 30 years or so, the vampire has been an articulate, charming, beguiling complex person so he’s miles away from a zombie. The vampire is the poet and the writer of the monster world. The zombies are the exact opposite. They’re not sexy, they don’t listen to good music and they don’t wear good clothes.”

On writing, Anne Rice once said: “There are no rules. It’s amazing how willing people are to tell you that you aren’t a real writer unless you conform to their clichés and their rules. My advice? Reject rules and critics out of hand. Define yourself. Do it your way. Make yourself the writer of your dreams.”

Anne Rice’s books include The Vampire Lestat (1985), The Wolves of Midwinter (2013), and Prince Lestat (2014).

 

 

 

 

Writers Almanac

 

 

 

 

 

H.G.Wells/ Great Sci-fi Writer

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

 September 21,1866 was the birthdate of H.G. Wells , born Herbert George in London . He is the sci-fi writer most known for The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and War of the Worlds. Wells wasn’t the first to write about time travel or alien invasions, but his brand of sci-fi was uniquely realistic. He wanted to make the made-up science as believable as possible. Wells called this his “system of ideas” — today we would call it suspension of disbelief. Wells said: “As soon as the magic trick has been done the whole business of the fantasy writer is to keep everything else human and real. Touches of prosaic detail are imperative and a rigorous adherence to the hypothesis. Any extra fantasy outside the cardinal assumption immediately gives a touch of irresponsible silliness to the invention”. H.G. Wells died in 1946.

 

Writers Almanac

van Leeuwenhoek

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

In September 17, 1683, Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek wrote a seminal letter to the Royal Society, sharing his discovery of “animalcules,” or what we know as bacteria. He was untrained in science, and had had no higher education at all, but he was acutely curious about the world around him. Starting in about 1668, he had been experimenting with lens grinding and making his own simple microscopes. He hired an artist to draw the things he saw through his lens, and he started writing informal letters to the Royal Society in 1673, describing things he’d discovered. Ten years later, on this date, he wrote a letter describing his study of the plaque found between his teeth, and the teeth of other subjects. “I … saw, with great wonder, that in the said matter there were many very little living animalcules, very prettily a-moving. The biggest sort … had a very strong and swift motion, and shot through the water (or spittle) like a pike does through the water. The second sort … oft-times spun round like a top … and … were far more in number.” Leeuwenhoek was one of the first to observe animalcules. The Royal Society was skeptical of his discovery at first, and there was much discussion about his mental status, but today he is considered “the Father of Microbiology.”

Leeuwenhoek never wrote any books, but he wrote letters to the Royal Society for more than 50 years. During that time, he shared his discoveries: blood cells, sperm cells, nematodes, muscle fibers, and algae. He wrote his letters in Dutch, which was the only language he knew, and his letters were translated into English and Latin before publication. He wrote right up until his death at age 90, and his last letters were detailed observations of his own final illness.

 

The Writers Almanac

The New, New Anti Semitism

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

The following is this disturbing  report of widespread antisemitism in the left wing, progressive movement in America. I was alerted to it by my dear friend & colleague, Stephen Dubel.

NATIONAL REVIEW

The New, New Anti-Semitism

By Victor Davis Hanson

January 15,2019

 

The old anti-Semitism was mostly, but not exclusively, a tribal prejudice expressed in America up until the mid 20th century most intensely on the right. It manifested itself from the silk-stocking country club and corporation (“gentlemen’s agreement”) to the rawer regions of the Ku Klux Klan’s lunatic fringe.

While liberals from Joe Kennedy to Gore Vidal were often openly anti-Semitic, the core of traditional anti-Semitism, as William F. Buckley once worried, was more rightist. And such fumes still arise among the alt-right extremists.

Yet soon a new anti-Semitism became more insidious, given that it was a leftist phenomenon among those quick to cite oppression and discrimination elsewhere. Who then could police the bigotry of the self-described anti-bigotry police?

The new form of the old bias grew most rapidly on the 1960s campus and was fueled by a number of leftist catalysts. The novel romance of the Palestinians and corresponding demonization of Israel, especially after the 1967 Six-Day War, gradually allowed former Jew-hatred to be cloaked by new rabid and often unhinged opposition to Israel. In particular, these anti-Semites fixated on Israel’s misdemeanors and exaggerated them while excusing and downplaying the felonies of abhorrent and rogue nations.

Indeed, evidence of the new anti-Semitism was that the Left was neutral, and even favorable, to racist, authoritarian, deadly regimes of the then Third World while singling out democratic Israel for supposed humanitarian crimes. By the late 1970s, Israelis and often by extension Jews in general were demagogued by the Left as Western white oppressors. Israel’s supposed victims were romanticized abroad as exploited Middle Easterners. And by extension, Jews were similarly exploiting minorities at home.

Then arose a relatively new mainstream version of Holocaust denial that deprived Jews of any special claim to historic victim status. And it was a creed common among World War II revisionists and some American minorities who were resentful that the often more successful Jews might have experienced singularly unimaginable horror in the past. The new anti-Semitism that grew up in the 1960s was certainly in part legitimized by the rise of overt African-American bigotry against Jews (and coupled by a romantic affinity for Islam). It was further nursed on old stereotypes of cold and callous Jewish ghetto storeowners (e.g., “The Pawnbroker” character), and expressed boldly in the assumption that black Americans were exempt from charges of bias and hatred.

Anti-Semitic blacks assumed that they could not be credibly charged with bigotry and were therefore free to say what they pleased about Jews. Indeed, by the 1970s and 1980s, anti-Semitism had become the mother’s milk of a prominent post–Martin Luther King Jr. black-activist leadership, well beyond Malcolm X and the Black Panthers — even though Jews had been on the forefront of the civil-rights movements and had been recognized as such by an earlier generation of liberal black leaders.

Soon it became common for self-described black leaders to explain, to amplify, to contextualize, or to be unapologetic about their anti-Semitism, in both highbrow and lowbrow modes: James Baldwin (“Negroes are anti-Semitic because they’re anti-white”), Louis Farrakhan (“When they talk about Farrakhan, call me a hater, you know what they do, call me an anti-Semite. Stop it. I am anti-termite. The Jews don’t like Farrakhan, so they call me Hitler. Well, that’s a great name. Hitler was a very great man”), Jesse Jackson (“Hymietown”), Al Sharpton (“If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house”), and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright (“The Jews ain’t gonna let him [Obama] talk to me”).

Note that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton both ran as Democratic candidates for president. Sharpton officially visited the Obama White House more than 100 times, and Wright was the Obamas’ longtime personal pastor who officiated at the couple’s wedding and the baptism of their daughters and inspired the title of Obama’s second book.

In the past ten years, however, we have seen an emerging new, new anti-Semitism. It is likely to become far more pernicious than both the old-right and new-left versions, because it is not just an insidiously progressive phenomenon. It has also become deeply embedded in popular culture and is now rebranded with acceptable cool among America’s historically ignorant youth. In particular, the new, new bigotry is “intersectional.” It serves as a unifying progressive bond among “marginalized” groups such as young Middle Easterners, Muslims, feminists, blacks, woke celebrities and entertainers, socialists, the “undocumented,” and student activists. Abroad, the new, new bigotry is fueled by British Labourites and anti-Israel EU grandees.

Of course, the new, new anti-Semitism’s overt messages derive from both the old and the new. There is the same conspiratorial idea that the Jews covertly and underhandedly exert inordinate control over Americans (perhaps now as grasping sports-franchise owners or greedy hip-hop record executives). But the new, new anti-Semitism has added a number of subtler twists, namely that Jews are part of the old guard whose anachronistic standards of privilege block the emerging new constituency of woke Muslims, blacks, Latinos, and feminists.

Within the Democratic party, such animus is manifested by young woke politicians facing an old white hierarchy. Progressive activist Linda Sarsour oddly singled out for censure Senate majority leader Charles Schumer, saying, “I’m talking to Chuck Schumer. I’m tired of white men negotiating on the backs of people of color and communities like ours.”

In attacking Schumer, ostensibly a fellow progressive, Sarsour is claiming an intersectional bond forged in mutual victimization by whites — and thus older liberal Jews apparently either cannot conceive of such victimization or in fact are party to it. With a brief tweet, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez dismissed former Democratic senator Joe Lieberman’s worry over the current leftward drift of the new Democratic party. “New party, who dis?” she mocked, apparently suggesting that the 76-year-old former Democratic vice-presidential candidate was irrelevant to the point of nonexistence for the new progressive generation.

Likewise, the generic invective against Trump — perhaps the most pro-Israel and pro-Jewish president of the modern era — as an anti-Semite and racist provides additional cover. Hating the supposedly Jew-hating Trump implies that you are not a Jew-hater yourself.

Rap and hip-hop music now routinely incorporate anti-Semitic lyrics and themes of Jews as oppressors — note the lyrics of rappers such as Malice, Pusha T, The Clipse, Ghostface Killah, Gunplay, Ice Cube, Jay-Z, Mos Def, and Scarface. More recently, LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers basketball legend, tweeted out the anti-Semitic lyrics of rapper 21 Savage: “We been getting that Jewish money, everything is Kosher.” LeBron was puzzled about why anyone would take offense, much less question him, a deified figure. He has a point, given that singling out Jews as money-grubbers, cheats, and conspirators has become a sort of rap brand, integral to the notion of the rapper as Everyman’s pushback against the universal oppressor. The music executive and franchise owner is the new Pawnbroker, and his demonization is often cast as no big deal at best and at worst as a sort of legitimate cry of the heart from the oppressed.

Note that marquee black leaders — from Keith Ellison to Barack Obama to the grandees of the Congressional Black Caucus — have all had smiling photo-ops with the anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, a contemporary black version of Richard Spencer or the 1980s David Duke. Appearing with Farrakhan, however, never became toxic, even after he once publicly warned Jews, “And don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!”

Temple professor, former CNN analyst, and self-described path-breaking intellectual Marc Lamont Hill recently parroted the Hamas slogan of “a free Palestine from the river to the sea” — boilerplate generally taken to mean that the goal is the destruction of the current nation of Israel. And here, too, it’s understandable that Hill was shocked at the ensuing outrage — talk of eliminating Israel is hardly controversial in hip left-wing culture.

The Democratic party’s fresh crop of representatives likewise reflects the new, new and mainlined biases, camouflaged in virulent anti-Israeli sentiment. Or, as Princeton scholar Robert George recently put it:

The Left calls the tune, and just as the Left settled in on abortion in the early 1970s and marriage redefinition in the ’90s, it has now settled in on opposition to Israel – not merely the policies of its government, but its very existence as a Jewish state and homeland of the Jewish people.

In that vein, Michigan’s new congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib, assumed she’d face little pushback from her party when she tweeted out the old slur that Jewish supporters of Israel have dual loyalties: Opponents of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement, which targets Israel, “forgot what country they represent,” she said. Ironically, Tlaib is not shy about her own spirited support of the Palestinians: She earlier had won some attention for an eliminationist map in her office that had the label “Palestine” pasted onto the Middle East, with an arrow pointing to Israel.

Similarly, Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) — like Tlaib, a new female Muslim representative in the House — used to be candid in her views of Israel as an “apartheid regime”: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” On matters of apartheid, one wonders whether Omar would prefer to be an Arab citizen inside “evil” Israel or an Israeli currently living in Saudi Arabia or Egypt.

Sarsour defended Omar with the usual anti-Israel talking points, in her now obsessive fashion. Predictably, her targets were old-style Jewish Democrats.  This criticism of Omar, Sarsour said, “is not only coming from the right-wing but [from] some folks who masquerade as progressives but always choose their allegiance to Israel over their commitment to democracy and free speech.” Again, note the anti-Semitic idea that support for the only functioning democracy in the Middle East is proof of lackluster support for democracy and free speech.

The unhinged Hank Johnson (D., Ga.) has derided Trump as a Hitler-like character, and Trump supporters as a doomed cadre of sick losers. He had once wondered whether too many U.S. Marines stationed on the shores of Guam might tip over the island and capsize it, so it was not too surprising when he also voiced the Farrakhan insect theme, this time in connection with apparently insidious Jewish destroyers of the West Bank: “There has been a steady [stream], almost like termites can get into a residence and eat before you know that you’ve been eaten up and you fall in on yourself.”

Out on the barricades, some Democrats, feminists, and Muslim activists, such as the co-founders of the “Women’s March,” Tamika Mallory and the now familiar Sarsour, have been staunch supporters of Louis Farrakhan (Mallory, for example, called him “the greatest of all time”). The New York Times recently ran a story of rivalries within the Women’s March, reporting that Mallory and Carmen Perez, a Latina activist, lectured another would-be co-leader, Vanessa Wruble, about her Jewish burdens. Wruble later noted: “What I remember — and what I was taken aback by — was the idea that Jews were specifically involved, and predominantly involved, in the slave trade, and that Jews make a lot of money off of black and brown bodies.”

Progressive icon Alice Walker was recently asked by the New York Times to cite her favorite bedtime reading. She enjoyed And the Truth Will Set You Free, by anti-Semite crackpot David Icke, she said, because the book was “brave enough to ask the questions others fear to ask” and was “a curious person’s dream come true.” One wonders which “questions” needed asking, and what exactly was Walker’s “dream” that had come “true.” When called out on Walker’s preference for Icke (who in the past has relied on the 19th-century Russian forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, in part to construct an unhinged conspiracy about ruling “lizard people”), the Times demurred, with a shrug: It did not censor its respondents’ comments, it said, or editorialize about them.

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These examples from contemporary popular culture, sports, politics, music, and progressive activism could be easily multiplied. The new, new anti-Semites do not see themselves as giving new life to an ancient pathological hatred; they’re only voicing claims of the victims themselves against their supposed oppressors. The new, new anti-Semites’ venom is contextualized as an “intersectional” defense from the hip, the young, and the woke against a Jewish component of privileged white establishmentarians — which explains why the bigoted are so surprised that anyone would be offended by their slurs.

In our illiterate and historically ignorant era, the new, new hip anti-Semitism becomes a more challenging menace than that posed by prior buffoons in bedsheets or the clownish demagogues of the 1980s such as the once-rotund Al Sharpton in sweatpants. And how weird that a growing trademark of the new path-breaking identity politics is the old stereotypical dislike of Jews and hatred of Israel.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won. @vdhanson

 

 

Is the Fermi Paradox Really Absolutely Terrifying?

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

You will be more frightened than by any previous sci-fi or horror story you might have read if you believe that the following is at all possible :

What about the Fermi Paradox is absolutely terrifying?

Shayne O’Neill

Updated Fri · Upvoted by Aritra Bal, Integrated MSc Physics, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (2022) and Nikolas Scholz, M.S. Physics & Computational Science and Scientific Computing, Goethe University Frankfurt (2017)

 

I’m going to ruin your day.

What scares me is the proposal made in The Killing Star novel (And in a slightly different way the Dark Forest novel). Basically it goes like this;-

Let’s say there are 2 or 3 civilizations around our local area in the galaxy. We don’t know anything about them, except they exist. What could we infer?

Let’s make a first assumption;- Above all else they want to survive. Nothing would be more catastrophic to them than to have their home planet destroyed or their species wiped out.

Let’s make a second assumption;- Any species that can travel at relativistic speeds, say 50% of the speed of light, already has the means to destroy your planet. All they have to do is get some heavy objects and accelerate them at a relativistic speed, and the kinetic forces generated by those speeds means that anvil you’re dropping on their head is now a planet killer. And worst of all, at a decent fraction of c, by the time you see that anvil coming at you , and notice its so insanely blue shifted that its clearly coming at a relativistic speed, its too late, its already upon you. You’re a dead species.

And lets make a third assumption. Everyone else, has made these assumptions too. Because they are logical. We know they want to survive, and they know we want to survive.

What we DONT know is how aggressive they are. And they don’t know how aggressive we are (Well unless they’ve seen our television we’ve been stupidly beaming out and pegged us as the psychotic primates we are)

And we also know that at those distances a diplomatic dialogue is almost impossible.

So what do we do? Do we risk them being aggressive and leave them in peace, or do we assume they are dangerous, and attack. Because if they are dangerous and we don’t attack. They might attack us. And in fact even if the probability of that is only 10%, do we REALLY feel safe rolling the dice knowing one side of that dice is extinction for us.

But we DO have some indications coming from logic. See they are ALSO evaluating us and wonder if we’re safe to leave alone, or should they take the safe precaution , and utterly anihilate us with some relativistic kill vehicles. Drop an anvil on our head.

And so we both know we are both asking the same questions. Its simple game theory. You SHOULD attack them the VERY MOMENT you detect them, because as soon as they work out you are there, they’ll attack you. Because if you genuinely wish to survive this, knowing that diplomacy is impossible you need to kill them first.

Of course, there’s a much safer method to be sure: Be very very very quiet. Stop transmitting RF frequencies. Don’t go doing anything crazy like launching antimatter rockets with all sorts of telltail radiological signs. Just hide, and be very quiet.

And that, boys and girls is a very possible reason why the universe is quiet. Because it is suicide not to, unless you are a very talented murderer.

And that scares the heebie jeebies out of me.

footnote: Above, I’ve mashed some of the rhetoric from Charles R. Pellegrinos’ novel The Killing star, and Liu Cixin’s novel The Dark Forest.

If you want to really scare the pants off yourself read this;-
Its an excerpt from the novel Killing Star;-

The great silence (i.e. absence of SETI signals from alien civilizations) is perhaps the strongest indicator of all that high relativistic velocities are attainable and that everybody out there knows it.

The sobering truth is that relativistic civilizations are a potential nightmare to anyone living within range of them. The problem is that objects traveling at an appreciable fraction of light speed are never where you see them when you see them (i.e., light-speed lag). Relativistic rockets, if their owners turn out to be less than benevolent, are both totally unstoppable and totally destructive. A starship weighing in at 1,500 tons (approximately the weight of a fully fueled space shuttle sitting on the launchpad) impacting an earthlike planet at “only” 30 percent of lightspeed will release 1.5 million megatons of energy — an explosive force equivalent to 150 times today’s global nuclear arsenal…

The game plan is, in its simplest terms, the relativistic inverse to the golden rule: “Do unto the other fellow as he would do unto you and do it first.”

Presumably there is some sort of inhibition against killing another member of our own species, because we have to work to overcome it.

But the rules do not apply to other species. Both humans and wolves lack inhibitions against killing chickens.

It’s an entirely new situation, emerging from the physical possibilities that will face any species that can overcome the natural interstellar quarantine of its solar system. The choices seem unforgiving, and the mind struggles to imagine circumstances under which an interstellar species might make contact without triggering the realization that it can’t afford to be proven wrong in its fears.

They won’t come to get our resources or our knowledge or our women or even because they’re just mean and want power over us. They’ll come to destroy us to insure their survival, even if we’re no apparent threat, because species death is just too much to risk, however remote the risk…

The most humbling feature of the relativistic bomb is that even if you happen to see it coming, its exact motion and position can never be determined; and given a technology even a hundred orders of magnitude above our own, you cannot hope to intercept one of these weapons. It often happens, in these discussions, that an expression from the old west arises: “God made some men bigger and stronger than others, but Mr. Colt made all men equal.” Variations on Mr. Colt’s weapon are still popular today, even in a society that possesses hydrogen bombs. Similarly, no matter how advanced civilizations grow, the relativistic bomb is not likely to go away…

We ask that you try just one more thought experiment. Imagine yourself taking a stroll through Manhattan, somewhere north of 68th street, deep inside Central Park, late at night. It would be nice to meet someone friendly, but you know that the park is dangerous at night. That’s when the monsters come out. There’s always a strong undercurrent of drug dealings, muggings, and occasional homicides.

It is not easy to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. They dress alike, and the weapons are concealed. The only difference is intent, and you can’t read minds.

Stay in the dark long enough and you may hear an occasional distance shriek or blunder across a body.

How do you survive the night? The last thing you want to do is shout, “I’m here!” The next to last thing you want to do is reply to someone who shouts, “I’m a friend!”

What you would like to do is find a policeman, or get out of the park. But you don’t want to make noise or move towards a light where you might be spotted, and it is difficult to find either a policeman or your way out without making yourself known. Your safest option is to hunker down and wait for daylight, then safely walk out.

There are, of course, a few obvious differences between Central Park and the universe.

There is no policeman.

There is no way out.

And the night never ends.

 


William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved