by Patricia J. Anderson
Date of Publication: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Common Deer Press
Cover Artist: Carl Weins
Tagline: Fantastic Mr. Fox meets The Tao of Physics
The population of Ooolandia (a world much like our own but with an extra "O") is hypnotized by the culture of MORE. Citizens of all kinds and colors go about their lives unaware that hidden in the fog of everydayness a great calamity is approaching.
Banshooo, an amazingly mindful monkey, works for the Ooolandian Department of Nature with his colleague a mathlete mouse. Together they have amassed data proving, beyond any doubt, that the natural world is losing the stability necessary to sustain life. Unfortunately, their warnings are ignored by the authorities who are planning to phase out nature altogether.
Freaky winds, icy earthquakes, and mutant anemones plague the landscape. After a wildly devastating storm, Banshooo has a vision revealing the connection between Ooolandia and the Unseen World -- a connection that lies deep within and far beyond all that is seen. This connection is vital to Ooolandia's survival, and it is fraying. He realizes he must take radical action. Along with his quirky sidekick (a one-off of unique appearance whose primary interest is snacking), he sets out on a journey beyond the surface of the Seen to bring back proof of the true nature of nature.
“Oh you know, same ol’, same ol’, still working on that whole transmutation thing. Can’t quite get it down. Can’t quite get it … still trying … still might … still …” His voice trails off as he furrows his brow, apparently lost in the intricacies of some possibility known only to him.
Ambrose tries again. “Morie, I’d like you to meet Banshooo. He has an interesting story to tell.”
The alchemist comes back to the moment, squinting anew at Banshooo. “Ah yes, yes, very nice. Very nice.” He removes a pile of books from a thread-bare couch, looking about near-sightedly. “I think maybe I’ve got some sherry around here someplace.”
“That’s not necessary, really.” Ambrose smiles, eyeing a shelf of cob-webby wine glasses sitting next to a bottle marked sulfuric acid. “We just want to talk.”
“Talk? With me? How nice. Yes, very nice, very nice.”
Ambrose nudges Banshooo. “Go ahead. Morienus knows about these things.”
Banshooo looks at this old man whose long white beard appears to have been used for a napkin. He knows alchemy was once a respected field of study but not anymore, something to do with a failure to turn things into gold. This wrinkled dusty old guy appears to be the last of his kind.
Banshooo hesitates but Ambrose nods encouragingly. “Go on, talk to him.” And so the monkey tells the alchemist about the sound that washed over him in the meadow. Morie listens intently, his palms together, his fingers against his chin. Now he nods, thoughtfully, then says,
“Ah yes. That could be. A sound wave is a physical force. Vibratory resonance can open up a state of awareness beyond the usual everyday state.”
Banshooo nods. “Yes, that’s what happened. After the sound came, I was able to see something else, something I couldn’t see just walking around normally.”
“And what was that?”
“Well, the first time I saw … dying. So much dying.” He lowers his head. “Extinction everywhere.”
“And the second time?”
“The second time I saw …” He pauses.
The alchemist raises his bushy eyebrows. “You saw what?”
Banshooo looks at Ambrose who nods reassuringly. He continues. “I remembered what happened when my mother died.”
“Hmmm.” Morie speaks slowly, almost to himself. “This could be a case of resonance, of limbic resonance activating a matched filter.”
Banshooo frowns. “What does that mean?”
Morie leans back. “Experience creates a vibration that stays within you. That vibration is a kind of tone, reverberating to certain pitches, certain events and beings. It acts almost like an antenna, picking up one kind of transmission but deaf to others. In effect, everyone is an antenna, vibrating with their own individual experiences.” He puts his gnarled, veined hands on the arms of the chair and lifts himself up, walking slowly around the room.
“At the same time, sound waves are constantly moving through space, looking for something that will receive them. When they find a match,” he stops and brings his hands together, “we resonate.” He gives a little half-smile. “In effect, beings are like old-fashioned radio receivers, calibrated to pick up one signal and filter out the others, looking for the frequency that will resonate, that will match.” He looks at Banshooo. “A sound can remind you of something you know, even if you don’t know you know it, enlivening something hidden within you, for good or for ill.”
Banshooo’s eyes are wide. “It felt like that, like something reverberating in me. Like something alive.”
“So what happened in this re-“ he pauses, “membering?”
Banshooo looks up at Morie, ready to tell this old man what he saw.
“My mother was dead. She was cold. I was cold too. Really cold. Then a shadow came, a shadow shaped like her. And it touched her. Then it touched me. And I wasn’t cold anymore. I was all right.”
The alchemist is squinting at Banshooo, his expression no longer one of patient instructor. “Are you making this up? That wouldn’t be nice you know, to fool with me.”
“No. No. I’m not making anything up.” He looks at Ambrose who speaks firmly.
“He’s not, Morie, I saw it too. A shadow bent down and touched them both. It was like the deep heart of … something. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
Morienus sits back down in his chair with a stunned expression on his face. After several silent moments he speaks quietly. “You saw a parayama, the highest essence of a species. The one who comes for the dead.” His eyes narrow. “You’re not supposed to see that unless ….”
“Unless you’re dead”
“He’s not dead,” Ambrose says.
“I noticed that. It’s very puzzling.” The alchemist continues. “The essence of the species appears only to that being who has died. You can’t see the parayama that comes for another, you can only see the parayama that comes for you.”
“But I did. I saw it. I was alone and it protected me. And then there was a soft kind of purring that turned into the most incredible music I’ve ever heard. No. Not music, almost music, like music, but different … it was like they were showing me things, unseen things. And I was safe. I was secure and safe.”
Ambrose and Morienus look at each other. The owl makes a little shrugging motion, “You’ve got to admit, it’s a miracle he survived. Once his mother died, he might as well have had a sign pointed at his head saying ‘Free Lunch.’”
Morie nods. “Yes, that’s true. That’s very true.”
Ambrose speaks slowly as he considers this improbable possibility. “It must have been your mother’s parayama. And it stayed to care for you. That’s a very rare experience, Banshooo. That doesn’t usually happen.”
“Never, actually.” Morie is staring at Banshooo. “It never happens.” He shakes his head slowly and says it again. “Never.”
There is a long pause as the ramifications of this statement float through the dingy laboratory.
Patricia J Anderson’s essays and short stories have appeared in numerous periodicals including The Sun, Tricycle, Chronogram, Ars Medica, Glamour Magazine and Rewire Me.com. Her books include All of Us, a critically acclaimed investigation of cultural attitudes and beliefs, and Affairs In Order, named best reference book of the year by Library Journal. She is the recipient of The Communicator Award for online excellence and has produced exhibition, kiosk and website copy for such institutions as the American Museum of Natural History and the Capital Museum. She is the editor of Craig Barber’s Vietnam journal, Ghosts in the Landscape. She lives with her family in New York’s Hudson Valley.
The Book Junkie Reads . . . Interview with Patricia J. Anderson
How would you describe your style of writing to someone that has never read your work?
Style is such a fascinating subject. I’ve done a lot of different kinds of writing and if you’re working on, say, commercial ad copy, the style and approach is going to be very different from a novel, which is different yet again from nonfiction prose. In the case of Threshold, it’s a fable, and I wanted it to be an easy read so the style is upbeat, brisk, and takes you through the action of the story. It’s quirky too. When I started the book, I knew it demanded a story-telling kind of writing but this became one of those situations in which the characters had a lot to say about the style. Sometimes that happens, the characters take over and that really happened with Threshold. The “feel”, the mode of the writing took shape from the characters, their voices shaped the style. It was fun actually, listening to them and recording their story.
What are some of your writing/publishing goals for this year?
My goal for this year is the same as always. To communicate, and you can’t communicate without being published. I write to communicate ideas and I think books are one of the most extraordinary means of communication known to human kind. Stephen King called writing a kind of telepathy and I believe it.
The writer describes a room, there’s someone sitting on a couch, he looks worried, he checks his phone, he frowns and bites his lip. Suddenly he gets up and throws the phone against the wall.
The reader “sees” this in his or her mind’s eye. We have communicated something, telepathically. That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think?
Do you feel that writing is an ingrained process or just something that flows naturally for you?
I’ve always been a writer but I didn’t always want to admit it. It’s not the best career move in the world. I’ve had to work a lot of different jobs to pay the rent. Then, one day, I looked back and noticed that every single job I’d had involved writing so I finally had to face facts. It’s what I am. It flows naturally for me.
Do you have a character that you have been working on for a long time that still isn't quite ready, but fills you with excitement to work on the story?
What an interesting question and yes, I do have such a situation sitting on the shelf at the moment. It’s a realistic novel, (not a fable or a fantasy) about a contemporary photographer who finds letters from a woman living in France in the mid-1800s. The letters reveal that this woman studied with Julia Margaret Cameron, (who was a kind of 19th century Annie Leibowitz,) a pioneer in the early days of photography. The protagonist becomes obsessed with finding out who this woman was and how she was able to follow her passion in a time when women were discouraged from acting autonomously.
My problem is finding a way to write with a 19th century mind-set. France was in the middle of tremendous social and political upheaval. Communications at that time were essentially word of mouth so often citizens who lived in the country didn’t know what was happening in the capital for weeks or even longer. This at a time when revolutions and counter-revolutions were replacing entire governments. It was so incredibly different from our lives today. I don’t want to write a story where a key character somehow magically acts as s/he would if s/he lived now. It’s a big challenge to present a past era, and someone living in it, on its own terms. I haven’t quite found a way to do that yet but I’m working on it.
Where would you spend one full year, if you could go ANYWhere? What would you do with this time?
Did you ever see the Mike Newell film, “Enchanted April”? The setting is a villa in Portofino, Italy. I would like to go to that very spot and hang out there for a while and see what ideas and revelations presented themselves. Or maybe just sleep late and eat a lot. I’ve never been to Italy but everyone I know who goes comes back raving about the food and carrying a few extra pounds.