Friday Fictioneers – the world in a grain of sand

remains-of-ted-strutz
PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

They probably think I’m a bit strange. But then they probably see only a messy picnic blanket here. That would explain why they’re trying to pull me away. If the picnic’s over, it’s time to go. But I wasn’t here to eat the chicken drumsticks and the potato salad. This mess is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.

The geometry of crumbs on the checkerboard pattern describes one particular folding of space-time. Perhaps today, this will be the universe that contains you, and I can dive in and find you again.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

135. Farnham Flash Fiction Competition 2020

Farnham_Flash_2020Like many other events this year, the Farnham Flash Fiction Competition is going online. The awards ceremony will take place on Zoom on 23 July with a panel of local authors:

Melanie Whipman

Andy Robb

Neil MacDonald

Joanna Barnard

Helen Matthews

Sally Ann Melia

You still have 10 days to get your entry in.

Entry details: http://www.farnhamfringefestival.org/farnham_flash.html

134. Threading the Needle—my journey to publication 2: Which cover?

Here are six cover concepts for my novel, The Tears of Boabdil, published this September. Can you help me choose which concept to go with? The execution is far from perfect (I’m a writer, not a graphic designer), so please comment on the concept. A real designer will execute it.

Tears cover 1 and 2

Tears cover 3 and 4

Tears cover 5 and 6

The cover needs to be arresting and to signal:

  • Deception
  • Muslim
  • Police

Which version should I use?

 

 

Friday Fictioneers – Airiness

from-david-stewart
PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

The dirt track became a cobbled street, twisting between high buildings that leant together, nodding their heads and clicking their tongues at us.

Marta began to tire, feet dragging and hand pulling in mine. “Let’s go home,” she said. “I don’t like it here.”

The street opened on an avenue, straight as marching soldiers.

At the end—a great plaza. Waters danced in fountains, and flocks of starlings hid the distant palace behind a curtain of coruscating wings.

Marta turned and turned. “Daddy, I didn’t know there was so much space in the whole world.”

I determined things must be different.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Overlords

band
PHOTO PROMPT © CEAyr

[In homage to Stephen Spielberg and Arkady & Boris Strugatsky]

They came in great flying ships that blotted out the sky. Like inverted pyramids with radio masts. The ships I mean, not the Overlords. We knew them as Overlords, because it was so written on the sides of the vessels.

With lutes and bagpipes we met them, hoping music might communicate. And they spared us.

But they erected a scaffold on the summer meadow, and we were afraid. They capered there with stringed devices that blasted sound.

The next day, they were gone. The meadow is covered in strange litter. Perhaps some of it has power.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Jesus wen cry

hats
PHOTO PROMPT © Jan Wayne Fields

I look out to sea. Gentle waves stay all the way out to an empty horizon. No cruise boats.

Nobody come.

For the fourth time, I rearrange the wire bush of tourist hats, bobbing in the breeze like shrunken heads. Gaudy shirts billow and cowrie shell necklaces clack.

My feet do an anxious little dance. Maybe I’ll go tend my taro patch instead.

Jesus wen cry.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – I had an idea

restaurant
PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

It was a grand idea. One that would tie all the threads together and lead to an unexpected place. I thought, “I must remember this solution when I wake.”

In the morning, it had scuttled away into the wainscoting, and all I was left was a sense of the colour red and a cross-hatched pattern.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

133. What does “follow the science” mean?

 

LeonardoWe’re told these days by our leaders that they’re “following the science” in their handling of the coronavirus pandemic. And, of course, we know what they mean. In an age where it became fashionable not to listen to the experts, they’ve never needed experts more. Briefings abound with flattenings of curves and keeping the R value below 1.

But, if I’m uncharitable enough to unpack the catchphrase, an oddity leaps out.

Politicians and scientists have a different understanding of truth. Politicians want clear answers—should we do this, yes or no? Invoking science should be the gold standard of clarity.

Scientists, on the other hand, deal in uncertainties. Hypotheses are contingent on testing, interpretations are contested, epoch-making claims turn out to be mere statistical blips as more data emerges.

There is so little data as yet on this new virus that “the science” is less a provider of clear yeses and nos than it is a habit of thought.  That habit of thought is the opposite of what the politicians mean—it is a cultivated scepticism, an openness of mind, a willingness to change your mind when the evidence changes.

In the future we’ll know a lot about this virus. But now we don’t know whether people who have recovered generate immunity or whether they can catch it again. We know that it appears to differentially affect men, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, but we don’t know why some young patients with no known health conditions have a severe response. We think of it is a respiratory illness, but it doesn’t always respond to ventilation in severe cases and it appears to cause kidney problems in some patients. Other patients seem to be overwhelmed by their own immune responses, a so-called cytokine storm. It may not really be a respiratory condition at all.

We don’t think the virus is mutating in the way the influenza does, but we’re not sure. We don’t even know for sure yet what the death rate is.

Not being sure is “following the science”, but this doesn’t cohere well with policy-making. And we want simple clear answers. This is understandable in a population where scientific literacy is low. We’re only just getting used to weather forecasts that give us probabilities of rainfall rather than simple yes-no predictions. But, perhaps we’ll use this crisis to become more comfortable with uncertainty and more conscious of which things we can be certain about.

Angela Merkel, in a broadcast to the German nation, gave a detailed epidemiological explanation of what different values of R meant for the health system. Covid 19 is thought to have an R of between 2 and 3. This means, without intervention, every infected person goes on to infect between two and three others. If measures like social distancing keep R below 1, the chain of transmission starts to be broken. Merkel explained what a small increase in R meant: if it goes up to 1.1, the German health system would be overrun by October; at 1.2, the crisis would come in July, and at 1.3, by June.

Even where there is a certainty within a discipline, building a response to the pandemic involves different disciplines with different answers. An obvious example is the answer to the question “how long does the lockdown need to last for?” Epidemiology says the best answer is as long as there are high levels of the virus circulating in the population. But behavioural science tells us that people will only tolerate being cooped up for so long before they begin to go walk-about. There were already some signs in the fifth week of the British lockdown that this was starting to happen.

So, from an epidemiological point of view, the lockdown on 23 March came late. But from a behavioural viewpoint, this may have been the optimal time. And, of course, other factors have to be considered too, most particularly the effect on the economy, on people’s livelihoods and consequently on their mental and physical health, covid 19 notwithstanding. We won’t know until the official papers are released, but there are speculations that there was a policy debate in the UK in March as to whether to bear down on the spread of the virus or, alternatively, whether to let infections rip hoping for a quick peak and the creation of “herd immunity”. The world has never encountered anything like this, not even in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19, because there was no lockdown then. On the contrary, the First World War ground on towards its grisly conclusion despite the virus.

So there really is no simple “science” that can be followed. It’s all a matter of balancing some things that are known and guessing at some things that are not yet known. The decisions are ultimately political, not scientific. The “following the science” mantra may simply serve to shift blame onto the scientists if things go wrong.

Friday Fictioneers – Through a zinc sheet darkly

after
PHOTO PROMPT © C.E. Ayr

When we plugged the dilithium crystals into the manifold, it happened. The dustbin began to shake and, on the old zinc sheet, a ghostly image formed.

“What is that?” Tony asked, cutting to the heart of the matter.

“Damned if I know,” Truth is important to me.

But Peg was our visionary. “It’s another world,” she said. “We’re seeing into a parallel universe. Look, there’s a building and a tree.”

It looked suspiciously like a baked reflection of our building and a telegraph pole connected by a manifold.

“Not as good as television,” Tony decided and went home.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here