A Time Travel Tale in Which I Attempt to Write a Poem in the Style of Robert Burns

Hot buttered banjo strings, Batman, it’s almost 2016! The year has whizzed by so fast, I think I have whiplash.

So that I can begin 2016 with a clean slate and a productive feeling, I’m spending the month of December in a mad dash to catch up on all of 2015’s projects in advance of the New Year. One of those projects is the Totally Fabricated Bios I owe to several contributors to my March IndieGoGo campaign, which was successfully funded, allowing me the opportunity to spend six weeks in New Hampshire for the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

So get comfortable and prepare yourself for a tale of complete and fantastic invention about my friend, Robert Lindsay Nathan, his time machine, and his exploits in history. Lovers of the poetry of Robert Burns will particularly enjoy this Totally Fabricated Bio.

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Robert Lindsay Nathan, Intrepid Time Traveler

Robert Lindsay Nathan and Time Travel in the Historical Record

Robert Lindsay Nathan is primarily known for his 1999 discovery of the principles of time travel, and his subsequent invention of the time machine in 2012. He was born September 24, 1952 in Sheffield Alabama, and soon grew to be a prolific collector of science fiction magazines. Thus it was that, inspired by the pulp stories of the day, young Robert began experimenting with the bending of the space-time continuum at the tender age of 7. Though he was not immediately successful, he never abandoned his dream of traveling through time, and when he achieved his invention, he wasted no time in setting off to explore history. Unfortunately, little else is known about Mr. Nathan, apart from the small hints and clues left to us in the historical record.

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It appears Nathan left Robert Burns with at least one memento from the future.

But some of these hints and clues are tantalizing, indeed. For instance, take this poem, written by the great Scottish poet Robert Burns, who received a visit from Mr. Nathan circa 1780 in his Dumfries home. The poem not only mentions Mr. Nathan by name, but also comments upon the appearance and function of Nathan’s time machine, to which Burns refers as “time’s auld horse cart”.

To a Man from Aft Me End

Wi’ gears aglow an’ wheels rotatin
Time’s auld horse cart stands awaitin
Sae stately grand an’ yet sae patient!
To tak thee in its draft
Dear Robert Lindsay Nathan
An’ return thee aft!

Wi’ nae horse, but needs na hae ane
Thy cart down paths of time be trav’lin!
Thou clamb wi’in its steely cabin
An’ in a hasty glimmer
Lang aft I lay auld, cauld an’ graven
Thou’s in the future, hae’n dinner!

But I thank ye for callin me friend
An’ shewin me a’ that lies round the bend
An’ for singin a sang of things unken’d
Forward tho’ I canna see
Now I’ve met a man from aft me end
And thou’rt curs’d, compar’d wi’ me!

Dozens of other bits of evidence of Nathan’s time travel lie strewn across the historical record, from a Paleolithic cave painting in Lascaux that clearly depicts Nathan standing next to his time machine; to a brief but perplexing Biblical reference in which he is accused of absconding the Battle of Jericho with the Ark of the Covenant; to an ancient Chinese text that lists him as trusted adviser to Zhu Yuanzhuang, first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. There are entire schools of historic research devoted to finding Robert Lindsay Nathan’s path through the timeline.

But, while new branches of history may have opened up due to Nathan’s discovery, the same can sadly not be said for science. Because Nathan left no notes, diagrams or plans behind when he ventured into the past, our modern scientists and inventors have no way of learning from his designs. Furthermore, he has not been seen or heard from since his disappearance in 2012, apart from the historical clues. And, if he has made it to the future, modernity has yet to learn of it.

An Excerpt from “The Life and Times of Nathan T. Freeman, Master Defiantist”

Below you will find the second installment of my “Totally Fabricated Bios”. These were perks on my IndieGoGo campaign (successfully funded, btw!!) wherein I promised to write a short biographical piece on the contributor, with no guarantees as to its accuracy. This one is for a new friend, but one who I think will stick around in the friends column for quite a long while. His name is Nathan T. Freeman, and I met him and his lovely family in Acapulco, Mexico at a conference for contrarian geekatrons. 

Nathan requested that I write his bio in the style of the recently late Terry Pratchett (rest his soul). This, needless to say, was quite a challenge. For one thing, Pratchett is a Writing Legend. He was a master of both fantasy and parody and was one of the most prolific writers SF-F ever saw. His Discworld series alone is comprised of so many books that the scholars have lost count. And all of them are exquisite.  I was only being asked to write around 500 words, but to be honest, I had my doubts that I could pull it off.

In the end, I think I did ok. Before beginning, I immersed myself in Pratchett for several days, both reading his books I had on hand in my spare time and listening to a newly purchased audiobook while driving, eating and sleeping. I still didn’t feel ready. So, naturally, I procrastinated. A few days later, an idea hit me and I knew it was time to put the ass in the chair and pound keys. The following is the result. It is short and sweet, and I think it does emulate Pratchett’s voice, at least a little. There are two or three sentences that are decidedly un-Pratchettarian, but all in all I think it’s a good effort. Plus, I invented a pretty brilliant system of magic for this bio, called “Defiantics”, which I think I may have to recycle for novelry purposes. Enjoy!

An Excerpt from “The Life and Times of Nathan T. Freeman, Master Defiantist”

Defiantics, defiantist, nathan t. freemanThere are many names that the “T” In “Nathan T. Freeman” could stand for. A good, upstanding name like Terry would ring nicely. Thomas or Timothy would raise no eyebrows. However, Nathan T. Freeman is cursed with a perpetual shortage of fucks to give for the relative positions of people’s eyebrows. For a man like this, a more… unconventional middle name is required. If you wanted to go for something more unique, Tarachand or Tarlo would suit. But even such exotic names as these lack a certain contumaciousness. The man behind the name, you see, is a Master Defiantist. He is, in fact, the world’s foremost authority on anti-authoritarian magic. Therefore, it is only right that the “T” in question should stand for “The”. And so it does.

Nathan The Freeman began his illustrious career in the mystical arts of anti-authoritarianism early in life when, at the appointed hour, he obstinately refused to exit his mother’s womb. Labor had begun in earnest and all of the required paperwork had already been signed and notarized, and still, Nathan neglected to emerge. Days passed, along with a law or two regarding the need for a firm governmental response to the rising problem of prenatal dissidence. Nathan completely disregarded the mandates and continued to cling to the uterine walls in a contemptible display of disobedience. The delivery nurses threatened to strike and several powerful men in Washington were quite displeased. Finally, after he’d achieved notoriety as a dangerous anarchist-type and the president had declared him an Enemy of the State, Nathan leisurely made his way down the birth canal and, demonstrating incredible small-motor control for a newborn infant, proceeded to flip off everyone in the delivery room. Except for his mother, for whom he naturally felt a loving fondness.

From his origin story one can see clearly that Nathan was destined for greatness, though perhaps not the sort of greatness that gets people put in history books, and certainly not the sort that rulers hand out medals for. No, the greatness of Nathan The Freeman skipped the socially acceptable path of development entirely, forging its own course, thumbing its nose at the opinions of anyone who was not Nathan The Freeman. When, at the age of ten, he showed a promising capacity for magic, society urged him to try his hand at the art of soothsaying. After all, the priests and presidents of the world badly needed talented young diviners to assist them in their quests for domination, and the pay was quite lucrative indeed. Or, failing that, society suggested, he might look into bureaumancy. The job security couldn’t be beat. Society had rather a long list of ideas for how Nathan’s magical gifts ought to be applied. There was conjury and alchemics, bewitchery and curatives. But Nathan had no interest in any of these areas of expertise, and so he just made up his own. Thus he became the founder and first practitioner of defiantics.

Defiantics is an art in which the goal is to get the object of the magical experiment to behave as it wishes, rather than as society, physics or the defiantist wish it to behave. It is therefore a rather imprecise magic, and there is no way of predicting the results of a defiantist enchantment. While an ordinary magician might command an apple to change into a tortoise, the defiantist simply asks the apple what it wants to be. More often than not, the apple remains an apple, though it may be seen to expel a worm or to change its skin from red to green. But every once in awhile, the apple completely and unapologetically throws off the yoke of oppression and decides instead to be an intergalactic spaceship. This has caused some problems, as intergalactic spaceships are not supposed to exist, as such.

The prevailing opinion among experts is that defiantics is a useless and dangerous magic, and that such unruliness should not be tolerated in the magical arts. The academicians have succeeded in wiping the method out of the textbooks and barring entry for would-be defiantists to the most prestigious institutions of magical instruction. However, a few vocal iconoclasts claim that defiantics is far superior to the conventional schools. These rogue professors have been accused by the establishment of being themselves victims of defiantist spells and charms, to which the rogues have responded that even if it were so, it would only serve to prove their point.

Nathan himself remains silent on the controversy, saying that he is too busy being a badass to pay much attention to establishmentarian quibbles.

IndieGoGo Update and a Totally Fabricated Bio

So remember that IndieGoGo campaign I blogged about earlier this month? The one where I was raising money to go to Odyssey Writing Workshop this summer? Yeah? Well, the campaign is almost, ALMOST at its end, and it’s been pretty darn successful thus far, thanks to a bunch of amazing, possibly geekier than average people out there in cyberspace who believe in me and my fiction.

As of this moment, there are four days left in the campaign and $2606 has been raised of the $3500 goal. It is officially ON. I am definitely, with all certitude and nary a doubt, making my way to Odyssey this summer. Can I just say how fluttery this makes me? Really, super, fluttery. Like a whipped concoction of eyelashes and heart murmurs and butterfly wings.

So… I am now in Perk Fulfillment Mode. That means that all those retro sci fi posters are fixing to ship out, the ebooks are about to be formatted, and the lucky recipients of character naming rights have been contacted for names. And today I have been working on the Totally Fabricated Bios. This is a perk where, for $100, I write the claimant a 500 word biographical sketch made entirely of bologna and smoke. The owner of the new bio can use it however he or she sees fit- like for social media profiles, resumes, etc. And I admit I’ve been cheating a little. These bios are so much fun that I can’t limit them to just 500 words. I wrapped this one up today, and it topped out at 860 even after revisions. With the subject’s permission, I am posting this first Totally Fabricated Bio on the blog to give you all a taste of what’s to come. If you’re interested, there are still 4 of these babies left on the campaign. So, without further ado, I give you…

This is Venus EnVie. She's my cousin, and she's a total badass.

This is Venus EnVie. She’s my cousin, and she’s a total badass.

The Implausible Adventures of Venus EnVie

Venus EnVie was born at dusk in the back of a wood paneled station wagon on the side of a dusty road in Oklahoma. She crawled at 2 months, took her first step at 6 months, could roller-skate like nobody’s business at 2 years, and taught herself to drive the station wagon at 7. From that point on, there was no stopping her. Maybe it was her fateful birth, or the gypsy blood in her veins. She had to keep moving.

On her tenth birthday, the station wagon broke down on the side of Rt. 66, forty miles outside of Flagstaff. She abandoned it, continuing her journey on skates, and became the first non-adult in the USA to roller skate cross-country. It was a strangely satisfying life- sleeping in old barns and abandoned warehouses, relying on the kindness of rollerskating enthusiasts for her meals, racing souped up Fords and Chevys for pocket money. Times oscillated from flush to rough and back again, but Venus persevered. Thrived. Flourished.

But after so many years out there on the road with only loneliness for company, Venus knew she needed a change, and it became her mission to find a likely traveling companion.

One cheerless Arkansas night, when the moon hung bright and close to the earth, Venus heard a sound that was full of longing and portent. It was something between a warble and a closed-mouth throat roar, and she knew she must investigate. Following the noise to its source, she found herself nose to chest feathers with the meanest, orneriest ostrich east of Texas: a 14 ft tall beast of a bird named Bernie. This was the one. A traveling companion of the highest quality. An alliance must be made. Bernie was not taken with her supplications at first, but after 7 hours of back and forth negotiations, Venus finally impressed him with her rollerskating prowess and he conceded to join her in her travels.

And so the two set out on their adventures. Years passed. Their friendship blossomed and the miles flew by in a cloud of downy feathers. By age 19, Venus had crisscrossed the North American continent on Bernie’s back.

But somewhere in the wilds of Alaska, the pair met their match in the form of a fierce and hungry polar bear who had wandered too far from his northerly home. Venus almost didn’t make it out alive, and Bernie fully didn’t. The bear wrangled the stately bird by his long, graceful neck and crunched. Venus, who sat straddled atop Bernie’s back at the time, managed to get two hands in the polar bear’s mouth and pried his jaws apart, slashing her arms to the shoulder in the process. But it was too late for poor Bernie. Needless to say, the polar bear was mad as spitfire about Venus’s meddling around in his mouth, and attempted to pursue her. He overcame her at the precipice of a deep, icy gorge, but in one swift (some might say godly) motion, Venus extracted the sharpest tooth in his mouth and stabbed him in the jugular with it. During the scuffle, her rollerskates tumbled down into the gorge and could not be recovered.

Venus cleaned her wounds with her own copious tears and bound them in moss and lichen. Then she walked, making her slow, plodding way through Canada and down into Montana, stopping only to eat scraps of the bear meat she’d salvaged from the battle. She mourned for forty days and nights over the loss of her best friend, and then she wondered if perhaps the Gods of the Road were telling her something. Was it time to settle down? She had a little money from performing feats of strength and courage at urban intersections with her trusty ostrich. Maybe it was time to put that to good use.

She wandered into a Greyhound station in Belgrade, Montana one morning along about 4:00 and bought a ticket on the next bus leaving.

About four days later, she found herself in the moist and flamboyant city of New Orleans. She walked along the muggy sidewalk, bitter and exhausted, until she spied a sign that said “ROLLER DEATH MATCH”, and inquired within. Five minutes later, she had a new pair of rollerskates. And a job.

The roller gladiators of New Orleans, Louisiana may have been accomplished warriors, but none of them had ever fought a polar bear with their bare hands and lived to tell the tale. With the fearsome bear’s tooth as her only weapon, Venus made quick work of them. The Roller Death Match eventually had to shut down due to an unexpected lack of contestants.

It was alright, though. She may have been the wildest, fiercest gypsy-blooded vagabond-warrior in Louisiana, but in her heart, Venus longed for peace and the feel of asphalt beneath her wheels. When the Roller Death Match closed its doors, Venus took one last look upon the city of New Orleans and skated off into the sunset. She still coasts up and down the dusty back roads of North America to this day, in no hurry at all.