Carlton Herzog, an ON TIME Author Interview

bannerJoin us as we peek behind the scenes of our upcoming anthology, ON TIME. Learn more about Carlton Herzog in his featured interview.

ABOUT THE STORY

What inspired your story?

I am fascinated by time.  Like consciousness itself, you can’t see it, smell it, touch it, taste it, or hear it. Yet, time is all around us, the medium through which we move.

I have written four time stories this year: My Timeshare Nightmare (Horrified Press forthcoming); Al Gore Has Left the Building (Schlock Magazine); Beside the Dying Fire (Schlock Magazine); For Want of a Nail (currently homeless).

The word “time” is the most frequently used word in our language.  But what is it?

The analogy to consciousness, which is the result of bioelectrical activity in that globe of meat between our ears, seems appropriate.  I suspect time is an effect produced by space itself. Theories of quantum gravity hold that space is not empty but granular.  That’s consistent with Einstein’s view of gravity as a warping of the fabric of space.

So, time may be an effect of matter interacting with space. In other words, time is the friction or drag that causes things to lose energy (age, decay) and momentum, the way a headwind slows down a plane in flight. In other words, entropy, which is the tendency of things to move from a state of order to disorder.

I got the idea of a roving amorphous extinction event from such works as M.P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud (1901), Fred Hoyle’s The Black Cloud (1957), and Stephen King’s The Mist (1980), as well as my own readings in astrophysical phenomena, such as black holes, galactic cannibalism, and rogue planets.

In my story, the harm comes from an enormous cloud of dust surrounding a very large debris field. The dust blots out the sun and plunges the earth into perpetual winter.

he time shifts arise from the universe starting to spin counterclockwise.  Whether the universe spins one way or the other is an open question. The answer depends on which scientist you ask and which data points you use.

Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist? 

Tough question, since the story is more of a thought piece than a straight up short story.

The protagonist is Janus-faced. He’s a CERN engineer who claims to have received a visitor from the future warning of an impending catastrophe. The story implies that the time traveler is either a future, alternate, or interdimensional version of him. After the scientist goes public, he is given a psychiatric evaluation.  To assess the validity of his patient’s claim, the psychiatrist begins corresponding with other scientists versed in time travel theory. A debate ensues on the patient’s credibility even as more time juxtapositions are reported around the world.

The story is a retelling of the Indian fable The Blind Men and the Elephant. In that story, six blind men encounter different parts of an elephant. In turn each man creates his own version of reality from that encounter. In my story, time itself is the elephant and the blind men are the scientists trying to understand its nature.

I consider myself one of those blind men.

What is the most interesting thing about the world you’ve created?

The title—And Yet It Moves—is a translation of a quote attributed to Galileo after he had recanted the Copernican view that the earth revolves around the sun.  Like Galileo, some of the scientists in my story challenge established theory; in this case, the idea that the laws of physics are immutable. Each in their own way points out that our knowledge of those laws is based on a statistically insignificant sample size.  Specifically, the known universe is fourteen billion years old, whereas our imperfect and evolving scientific understanding of that universe has existed for all of 140 years. That suggests there are severe limitations to our learning from observations or experience and the fragility of our knowledge. So, what we know would fill a thimble; what we don’t, an ocean.

What genre or mix of genres does your story fit into?

It’s Fictional Non-Fiction. FNF is idea, not character driven.  A good example of an FNF story is my current piece in the SCI-PHI Journal (Belgium) (Stairway to Heaven), where the Vatican addresses the issue of extraterrestrial life in the context of church doctrine. Another can be found in Schlock Webzine (U.K), where my story Texas v. Dracula the Supreme Court examines the legality of exterminating vampires without due process.

How have your personal experiences influenced this story?

Funny story in retrospect. Not so funny when it happened. I was almost run over by a stolen car.

A car whipped around a corner, bounced off the car across the street from mine, and came right at me. I jumped out of the way. It seemed like time slowed down as the car came toward me. I later learned from a David Eagleman lecture that in moments of crisis the mind, particularly the amygdala, lays down more detail so that one’s memories make it appear time is moving slower.

As for the car, it was stolen. It hit my truck and drove it into a telephone pole, which then fell into a house. The transformer on the pole shorted and set the house on fire.

It gets better.  The driver leaped out the car and ran. Meanwhile, his car continued to drive into mine wheels spinning and smoking.

As the driver runs away, another car whips around the corner, stops and four guys get out. They chase down the car thief and proceeded to pummel him. I, the idiot Good Samaritan, asked them why they were beating the guy up. It turned the car had been stolen from their grandmother.

I said, “He’s all yours” and walked away.

What would you like readers to take away from your story?

First, since so many scientific theories from bygone days have turned out to be wrong, it’s fair to assume today’s theories will be proved incorrect as well.  Pessimistic Meta-Induction.

Second, what you don’t know is far more relevant than what you do know.  The impact of highly improbable events can be exacerbated by their being unexpected.  For example, our predictions of how bad climate change will be do not factor in any unforeseen cosmic intervention.  Asteroid, comet, coronal mass ejection, increased solar flares, supernovae. That’s huge when you consider that the dinosaurs were already on their way out from all the volcanic activity in India’s Deccan Traps.  The Chixlubulux Asteroid was just the cherry on the extinction sundae.

What was your favorite part of the story to write and why?  

I enjoyed writing the time traveler’s narrative. I got to deliver the apocalyptic horrific lugubrious soliloquy.  Chilling in some places, poignant in others.

I also enjoyed writing the spirited debate among the various scientists. It had an old timey feel like the letter debates of yesteryear among the greats, such as Einstein, Bohr, Dirac, Pauli.  I write horror, but I do love my physics.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

HERZOG

When did you write your first story, how old were you, and what was it about?

I was ten. I wrote a story called The Day the Neighbors Fought. It was based on an altercation I witnessed.  Four families arguing, yelling and otherwise going berserk over whose kid did what to whom.  My teacher gave me an A+ for my keen observation of the human condition.  She thought I had a bright future in primatology.  Human want a bananna?

What is your writing survival checklist?

Basic ideas come to me when I’m not looking for them. I could be in the gym, just waking up, or working.  When that happens, I scribble it all down on some paper. When I get a chance, I expand on the idea. And then rewrite it five billion times.

What has influenced you most as a writer?

A peculiar genetic predisposition that gave me a passion for the written word.  After I was discharged from the Air Force, I majored in English at Rutgers. That exposed me to  some the world’s greatest writers.  Sadly, H.P. Lovecraft was omitted from the curriculum.

As a law student, I built on that experience. As a newbie on Law Review, I along with others, had to spade the accepted pieces for the editors. That entailed reading them back and forth to one another, as well verifying the legitimacy of the citations. Later, I became Articles Editor of the Law Review and, coincidentally, published two scholarly pieces of my own (see Google Scholar).

What font do you prefer to write in?

I like to be naked in deference to my arboreal ancestors.  Something about the wind whistling through my body hair moves me deeply. If I absolutely must write in something, then my go to is Times Roman.

Do you have any writing blogs/vlogs/podcasts, etc. that you would recommend?

I am a carnivorous intellectual (fancy phraseology for egghead). So, I like media with plenty of meat (nerd bait). I listen to science podcasts—Astro McGill, Museum of Natural History, Startalk, Astro-Cast and the like—and any other podcasts addressing real world issues.   That engagement with reality comes out in my writing.  I write fantasy, horror, science fiction and even thrillers, but one way or the other climate change, factory farming, authoritarianism, and religious fanaticism get worked into the story.

The horrors that already exist in the real world put anything I can concoct from my own imagination to shame.

What is your favorite and least favorite word, and why?

Favorite: curiosity—can’t learn anything without it.

Least favorite: hate—can’t learn anything with it.

Are you in it for the money?

In this greedy, self-obsessed post-literate visual age, the idea that someone would do something just for the love of it appears out of place. Nevertheless, if money were the goal, then I wouldn’t be writing. I would just work more overtime.  I consider those cave painters from Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams to be my distant brothers. It’s fair to say those unsung troglodytes painted animals not because they would get a bigger slice of the bison pie, or a mate with better teeth and less hair on her back.  They did it because evolution didn’t give them a choice.

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Flight Dispatcher, USAF; B.A. Rutgers, magna cum laude; J.D Rutgers Law School; Articles Editor, Rutgers Law Review. Currently with USAF. Self-taught artist, Carlton Herzog is a writer of fantasy, horror, non-fiction, science fiction, and thrillers.

Self-proclaimed misanthrope: when told by an invading alien army that it intended to exterminate  all human life, his response was “How can I help?”

ON TIME is coming in Summer 2020. Be sure to follow us on Amazon.

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