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"Try the buns!"
The buns were cold.
It was a fact, and not one person tried to deny it. The buns, which had been warm before, were now at a temperature close to that of absolute zero.
“Try the buns,” Robert said. The man made an elaborate gesture toward the frosty plate on the table between them.
Leonard leaned forward. “Don’t mind if I do,” he said, and snatched one up. He didn’t realize it was cold until after his tongue was frozen and he couldn’t pull it out of his mouth. Struggling in surprise and shock, Leonard writhed in his chair and knocked over drinks and dishes. Within moments the terrible frost reached his brain, and he twitched a few last times before falling over, his body making a muffled thump on the thick shag carpet.
Robert laughed at his stupid and luckless ex-friend. He had known the buns were cold, and had wisely avoided them. However, when he slipped a delicious spoonful of buttered zucchini into his mouth, his head caught fire and then exploded from the intense heat.
The zucchini was hot.
Okay, you’re probably asking yourself, “What did I just read?”
That was the very first thing I had published, a piece of flash fiction that appeared in a literary journal called Channel X out of San Luis Obispo, California. That was back in probably 1982. Unfortunately, over the years I lost track of the acceptance letter (you’d think I would have framed it, but no) and a deep search across the entire Internet turns up nothing, like the publication never existed.
Also, this isn’t exactly how it appeared in print, either, because I also lost the original somehow and had to recreate it from memory.
It’s close, though. And it’s probably better.
Memory is a really weird thing. We tend to think that our brains are filing away facts and pictures of what actually happened to us, but often times if you revisit that memory with friends — especially over decades — everyone remembers it differently. And, I’ve found that if I go and look at an old video, it shows me that some of the things I thought I remembered clearly are totally wrong.
Another thing I had to write again from memory was my very first published novel. “Wasting Away” was my working title, and I wrote it in pencil on binder paper in a manic two-week period while I was house-sitting for my brother while he was in Europe. That was rewritten several times on a typewriter and then once more on my very first word processor.
And then I accidentally erased it.
So how did it become my very first published novel? Well, you guessed it, I rewrote the entire thing from memory, and I think it turned out much better.
It got published. So. There’s that.
By the time it was accepted by a publisher (an experimental imprint of AOL/Time Warner Books), the working title had become “Code of the Beast,” but the publishers didn’t like that name. They felt it was somewhat misleading for some reason, as in readers may expect it to be more horror instead of science fiction. We went back and forth with title ideas for weeks before finally admitting defeat — we had no better ideas — and they simply ended up calling it “Travels.”
I’m bringing this up not only because of the memory connection but because that’s my current project. Travels is hopelessly outdated, and I’m not the same author I was back then. I think I was trying too hard to be edgy, and I put some things in that story for pure shock value, which, in retrospect, I don’t feel belongs there. That’s why I’ve decided to rewrite it and update it to the point that, by the time I’m done, it’s going to be a very different book with different characters and a much more relevant study of AI, religion, and reality itself.
Yep, I’m writing another science fiction. And though it’s based on Travels, it’s not Travels.
It’s Code of the Beast.
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