Mark A. Carter

STUCK in a Time Warp

World famous Canadian Science Fiction writer Mark A. Carter rants about binge watching, Big Brother, brain washing, the cancer cull, and being stuck in a time warp.

At the outset of 2016, I would like to say something positive, something life affirming and utterly inspirational but I am reminded of the turn of the millennium and shudder.

My wife and I were so full of enthusiasm, as the year 2000 rang in and we watched the fireworks being broadcast on network television from celebrations around the globe. It was a magical night. Like something out of the 1967 musical Hair, with "The Age of Aquarius" by James Rado and Gerome Ragni playing in the background of our thoughts, we were under the delusion that the change of the millennia would illicit some magical change throughout the world and Peace on Earth and good will toward men might prevail. Our delusion was so manifest that we actually forgot about the doomsday clock and Y2K. We banged our pans at midnight to ward away the evil spirits and shouted Happy New Year. But shortly after, the continuing flap in the Middle East was once again in the news, as were the mundane and perpetual litany of accidents, natural disasters, and murders at the local, national, and international level. And I became angry at life and disillusioned once again. My wife attempted to pull me from my funk. But ironically, on the very morning that she told me to be positive about life and get back to my writing, I turned on the television and every station was carrying the same story. It was, of course, September 11, 2001.

Since that time, with a fire burning in my belly from 911, I have written three books. But alas, with every good thing there is bad, as life whacks you upside the head. A delayed diagnosis of diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, a staph aureus infection and a big toe amputation, squamous cell cancer on my right cheek, and its return a year later in my right parotid gland, the surgery, the radiation, a suppressed immune system, and a year of antibiotics and minor surgery to treat a seemingly perpetual ulcer on the ball of my right foot have all been a distraction and set back my writing by several years. C'est la vie.

It seems that my entire life has always been behind schedule. Like the March Hare in the 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, otherwise known as Lewis Carrol, I am always falling behind. And I often stop to ask myself why I bother to try. But of late, there seems to be an explanation and it doesn't just concern me. It influences us all. Or perhaps I have just become your average, run of the mill crazy touting yet another conspiracy theory. You decide.

I have had altogether too much time on my hands during the past year with my foot up, on doctor's orders, in an attempt to get it to heal. Right. Sure. You bet. And back for more surgery, and back, and back. Oh, come on. And the only times I have gone outside my abode have been for medical reasons. During the time in my easy chair, I read God and the Atom by Victor J. Stenger, The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, and Time Reborn by Lee Smolin. As you can tell, I'm also behind in my reading. But I have otherwise succumbed to binge-watching altogether too many series on the idiot's lantern. I have become an immense fan of Ion Television and their lineup of police dramas. In fact, I have witnessed so many doors being kicked in by the FBI special agents in Criminal Minds that I am convinced of two things: none of us is secure in our own homes, and every other person out there is a psycho killer. There used to be a joke told by Dale Woodyard in Abnormal Psychology and it goes like this: One in three people is a psycho. So, look to your left and to your right. Ask yourself whether the people next to you look crazy. And if they both appear normal, then it's you. Yikes.

So, here are three observations and an even crazier hypothesis. So many syndicated TV shows are continually being shown, ad nauseam, on television that I have developed déjà vu and perhaps a little PTSD. Everything repeats. Don't worry about missing it. It will be back. God knows, I have watched Gene Roddenberry's original Star Trek series over and over again for more than fifty years. But enough is enough. Star Trek is now dated and its simple plot lines and production values are wanting. I binged on J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon Five. I binged on Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner's Stargate SG-1 series based on the 1994 movie created by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich. TV binging is altogether addictive and that's the point ... just one more ... just one more.

In fact, when you think about it, everything repeats. History repeats itself. Fashions come back in style, as do hairdos and facial hair. I'll know my time on Earth is done when bell-bottomed jeans, long hair, sideburns, and disco returns. Please everyone, burn your copies of Saturday Night Fever now. Don't encourage a revival. How much John Revolta can the human race take? And no, that wasn't a typo.

My instinct is to turn off the TV because when I'm watching, I'm not creating. I'm not writing. But it calls to me. And sadly, when I watch, I snack. Did I mention that binge TV watching, with all of the advertisements for food, are brain washing you to eat, eat, eat and to gain weight, weight, weight, and to become sick, sick, sick. Can you say diabetes yep, ah ha? And then they hit us with ads for Cialis and for Viagra, since food, sexual craving, and the violence of the intense dramas stimulates the same area of the brain. It all makes someone else a lot of money. How do you feel about being used to make other people money? Say moo, Betsy. And I'm sure that big food, big pharma, and Big Brother couldn't be happier. We'll get to that later.


Illustration by Iris Benedikt

The Spectatorial - April 28, 2015

When 2001: A Space Odyssey came out in 1968, in the so-called real world, my friends and I imagined a future where mankind would soon expand into the solar system and then, as imagined by Isaac Asimov in his Foundation series, into the Milky Way Galaxy. We had great hopes for NASA but government run space endeavors have been a disappointment on several levels. We used to have the space shuttle. But we currently have no elegant next generation launch system. We have a ramshackle international space station, not the elegant station imagined by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke in 2001. We have no base on the moon. And we could not build a large scale spaceship like Discovery to head toward Jupiter if our lives depended on it. Moreover, NASA is going backwards not forwards. They have abandoned the concept of spaceships and have devolved to capsules, which they tout as new and advanced. Excuse me? Are we back in the nineteen sixties? I am old enough to remember Mercury and Apollo. Orion is just a bigger capsule with better computers and other electronics but a capsule it is. It isn't exactly the next big thing and will never be no matter how many times you say it.

It just seems to me that we never get ahead. We're just spinning our wheels. Our cities block out the starlight because Big Brother doesn't want us looking at the night sky. We might start to think about things; whereas, Big Brother wants us to think about what he tells us to think about. Big Brother wants to be in control. Freedom my ass ... so we binge watch.

I used to pose this question to my wife: Considering that the human population is expanding to a point where, if it was a bacterial culture in a petri dish, it would die off because it would be swimming in its own feculence, what is the G-20 doing to control the world population? What form would the great human cull take? I imagined years ago that we would nuke ourselves. And it's a very daunting and real possibility still. But it breaks too much infrastructure, irradiates the planet more than it already is after some two thousand nuke tests and nuclear power plant disasters, and would illicit a nuclear winter just when the possibility of a Northwest passage in a melting arctic seems a viable possibility. We used to fight regular wars to weed the population when enough young men reached eighteen. This population control measure killed millions in the names of freedom and patriotism. For years I thought perhaps the powers that be would unleash a pandemic developed in the USAMRIID labs. But pandemics have a way of biting you on the ass, although I have never underestimated the stupidity of military intelligence. And then, I read that fifty per cent of the population in developed countries is getting cancer. Those are the statistics. Yikes. So, to my mind, there you have it. Cancer is the cull. Heaven help us all.

I commented years ago, that the powers that be must have finally read Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell because their methodology seemed to have been taken right out of the pages of that dystopian novel, but done badly. There are cameras everywhere. Big Brother is indeed watching you. And he is also observing your e-mails, what you search for on the internet, and who you call. Moreover, he is listening for key words. The propaganda that the Americans used to accuse the Soviets of has become the standard soup de jour and comes in three flavors: natural disaster, sex, and violence. Oppression through fear in the name of terrorism prevails. And instead of simply stating when shortages of chicken, beef, and pork occur, we are instead plied with fear mongering stories of animal epidemics. Give me a break.

To reiterate, the space program is bupkis, devolving, and going nowhere. We are encouraged to binge-watch golden oldies and eat ourselves into obesity. Every second person is getting cancer. Big Brother is watching us all and monitoring our e-mails, internet usage and phone calls. We are encouraged to binge watch TV police dramas. We are mind controlled to crave pizza and Viagra. And overall, we just can't get ahead. And here is the point where I suggest my crazy explanation: we are all caught in the gravitational well of the black hole located in the center of the Milky Way galaxy. We are all stuck in a time warp, a Mobius Loop that will continue until we slide over the event horizon and disintegrate to sub-atomic particles under the extreme tidal pressures. And we cannot escape.

Some Physicists have even suggested that our reality is actually a hologram. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Modern Physics theory, string theory, M theory, and what have you sounds stranger than fiction and is, no doubt, changing our reality by existing. Yes, Virginia, that's how weird things are becoming. Can you say quantum entanglement and spooky action at a distance? Suddenly Kurt Vonnegut's Tralfamadorians in his 1969 Science Fiction novel Slaughterhouse-Five don't seem so strange anymore. So, you just might as well throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate, have another brewski, and accept your fate. Reality, as we know it, is all going to Hell in a handcart and is pulling us along with it on the tormented downhill ride into a gravity well. Hasta la vista, baby.

Happy New Year 2016, if that's really what it is.

Read: Bug-Eyed Monsters
Thought Crime

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - writer

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