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The Monster

SWOSex War One – my dystopian Sci-fi novel – is available for purchase in all eBooks & iBooks stores & devices. “Fast-moving plot and skillful characterization,” said the Science Fiction Studies journal. “This book unifies within it the principles of major Science-Fiction literature,” said This World. Kindle Edition & Smashwords Edition (for iTunes, Kobo, B&N & more.) For further details please check my books page.

To give you a taste of the book, I’ve been posting segments of my award-winning short story, “The Monster,” which serves also as the basis for the book. Here then is the sixteenth segment:

It had been almost a whole colony-year, four hundred and fifty colony-days, since a special expedition of colony-citizens had taken the last trip outside. D.L. was very much aware of this fact. The rare trips outside into the world above, with its open air and space, ordered randomly by the Mother-Colony, were usually a cause for much commotion and celebration in the underground colony. It was the only way, in fact, to stir any excitement, along with certain worries, into the lives of the colony-citizens.
The level and density of the nuclear radiation in the air outside was fluctuating, shifting constantly with the winds and clouds. It was still dangerous enough to justify the infrequency and rarity of the trips outside. There was also not much out in the wind-swept plains and valleys: everything had been extinct on the earth above for many years. Radiation clouds ruled the land. No living creatures existed, and no growing flora; nothing of nature’s past domination was there to see and smell. Only a scorched, barren ground.
D.L. checked the level of radiation outside, as well as the weather. It was summer up above, so it seemed; the long nuclear winter was finally over, evaporating and passing through. The wind strength was moderate, and the level of radiation was very low, almost undetected by the sophisticated, scientific computer in charge of keeping records of the radiation level outside. He looked at the various screens, transmitting the views captured by the outside cameras, and processing their data. It was night, but, taking a closer look, D.L. could see some signs of light here and there, penetrating through the darkness. That was enough for him; he left the Control-Room in a hurry.

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Sex War One

SWOSex War One – my dystopian Sci-fi novel – is available for purchase in all eBooks & iBooks stores & devices. “Fast-moving plot and skillful characterization,” said the Science Fiction Studies journal. “This book unifies within it the principles of major Science-Fiction literature,” said This World. Kindle Edition & Smashwords Edition (for iTunes, Kobo, B&N & more.) For further details please check my books page.

To give you a taste of the book, I’ve been posting segments of my award-winning short story, “The Monster,” which serves also as the basis for the book. Here then is the fifteenth segment:

He again traveled on the constantly moving tracks, before taking the elevator down to the backyard level. Once there, he quickly entered Z.Z.’s shack. She was deep asleep, so peaceful and secure, the way she had slept when she was a child, before she was attacked and abused by the other kids. Only the innocents can sleep like that, the thought flashed in his head. He stood still by her side for a while, just looking at her, before touching her lightly with his hand. She woke up immediately and looked at him confused, as if unsure who he was. Then she got up, already alert, and approached him with the intention of hugging him.
It was an impulsive, natural act for her. She wasn’t used to his coming to visit her at such a strange time, dressed so unusually with this heavy-looking suit. It was as if he had come straight out of the dream from which she had awoken. No wonder she temporarily forgot what he had taught her about stretching her hand at him first. He stopped her approach, holding on to her shoulders with both hands. He held her like that, some distance away from him, looking at her intently for a moment before signaling her to sit down. She understood him and followed his order. She was frightened and hurt.
It occurred to him that maybe he should take pity on her. It was a “historic” word, pity, a word they had studied at school but no longer used. It represented a feeling, such as love and hate, which belonged to a different age: the Family Age. He thought about it only briefly, before quickly deciding to reverse course again.
He set his helmet down on the floor, signaled her to stay put, and hurried out of her shack. He went back to the yard and tunnels, and from there up to the main Control-Room. B.F. allowed him in without any questions, as if he were waiting for him. It took D.L. a moment to get used to the bright lights in the large room, a room full to capacity with computers and screens of all kinds, robots of all shapes and sizes, many cameras and a single colony-citizen, responsible for the smooth execution of all the colony’s operations.
D.L. asked B.F. to order the robot in charge of the Weapons-Cell to open it for him. Only one particular robot was authorized to open that cell, where a few radiation-guns and some more elaborate radiation-machine-guns were kept locked. Other than in that cell, there were no weapons in the colony. The colony-citizens had no use for weapons: they were kept there only for an emergency use, such as an attack from a different colony, from an alien planet, or for use in other such unexpected events. Even then, if possible, and time permitted, they were to be used only by direct orders from the Mother-Colony.
Not this time, though. D.L. explained to B.F. that he needed the gun for the purpose of exterminating the Monster. He needed no further explanations: B.F. supported N.R.’s position on the matter and was glad to see D.L. obeying the General-Assembly’s decision. He ordered Robot W.1, in plainspoken language, to open the Weapons-Cell and hand D.L. a radiation-gun. The robot insisted, speaking in kind, on receiving the correct code for such an unusual request. B.F., though agitated with the robot, consulted with a nearby computer screen and provided the code: a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Robot W.1, satisfied with the given code, proceeded mechanically and efficiently, using not only its arms but also electronic beam signals coming from its head, to execute the order.
D.L. checked the load level of radiation in the gun, as he had been trained to do in his youth, and found it to be satisfactory. He thanked Robot W.1 verbally, and also tapped on its head twice fondly, eliciting sounds and lights of joy from the robot. He then inserted the gun into a special, big pocket in his trip-suit.

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Sex War One

SWOSex War One – my dystopian Sci-fi novel – is available for purchase in all eBooks & iBooks stores & devices. “Fast-moving plot and skillful characterization,” said the Science Fiction Studies journal. “This book unifies within it the principles of major Science-Fiction literature,” said This World. Kindle Edition & Smashwords Edition (for iTunes, Kobo, B&N & more.) For further details please check my books page.

To give you a taste of the book, I’ve been posting segments of my award-winning short story, “The Monster,” which serves also as the basis for the book. Here then is the Fourteenth segment:

He entered his room without a clear answer to that question. He lay on his bed without turning the lights on and reflected on the events of this most unusual, disturbing colony-day. He surveyed the small dots of lights in his room, in various colors, representing different functions and tasks: The Common-Connecting camera light, the Door-Controlling light, his Private-Screen light, the Music light, the Food light, and so on. Upon his wish and command they could all be activated, using the electronic distance-device, which was resting in a plastic holster by the side of his bed.
D.L. soon realized he wouldn’t be able to sleep, even if he put his mind strongly to it. His thoughts were wandering elsewhere, trying to figure out what had happened to him lately, how, and why he was such a changed man so unexpectedly. Maybe N.R. was right after all; maybe it was the right decision to get rid of the Monster. Kill this disease before it had a chance to spread. He should go back to the safe, firm rationalization box of his previous self. He should flee, and flee fast, from the warm, soft bosom of that emotional world Z.Z. had engulfed him in. She represented a world full of worries and apprehensions. Maybe it was better for him to go back to the realm where the cold, clinical thinking he had possessed not so long ago still ruled, a realm that had no room for uncontrolled, weak emotions such as the ones swirling inside him now.
He was a superior creature, was he not? He was a product, first and foremost, of an advanced race. He was computerized and supervised, programmed and controlled. He was the scientific result of many experiments and countless labored years; years of wars and death they were, years of epidemics and illnesses. He was the son of a ruling class, a class that governed only itself. There was no other class, or other race in existence anymore. The life he was supposed to lead was a straight, predetermined life: without changes, without detours, without sickness of any kind.
He decided then and there to change his plan and get rid of Z.Z. ‘Yes,’ he reaffirmed that decision to himself: he would kill the dark, threatening Monster. And he would do so soon.
Feeling confident again and therefore invigorated, he got up and turned on the lights with the help of the distance-device. There was nothing to hide any longer. He touched the device again and his closet rolled out of the wall. He took out his special outside trip-suit, resistant to nuclear radiation. Before putting it on, he entered his small bathroom, peed and washed his hands and face. Back in the room, he put the trip-suit on and took his helmet from the closet. He touched the symbol of the Common-Connecting camera on his small device, and soon his private oval screen came to life. He searched among the different camera views and saw that B.F. was on duty in the central Control-Room. For a quick moment they eyed each other squarely. D.L. was surprised to see him there; it was not his duty shift, he knew that. B.F. smiled, as if reading D.L.’s mind. D.L. didn’t return the smile, but turned off his private viewing screen and exited his room.

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Sex War One

SWOSex War One – my dystopian Sci-fi novel – is available for purchase in all eBooks & iBooks stores & devices. “Fast-moving plot and skillful characterization,” said the Science Fiction Studies journal. “This book unifies within it the principles of major Science-Fiction literature,” said This World. Kindle Edition & Smashwords Edition (for iTunes, Kobo, B&N & more.) For further details please check my books page.

To give you a taste of the book, I’ve been posting segments of my award-winning short story, “The Monster,” which serves also as the basis for the book. Here then is the thirteenth segment:

On that particular colony day, however, something unusual had happened, something so altogether new and alarming that it was difficult to define. It was something N.R. had brought to the forefront at the General-Assembly meeting, all because of Z.Z. He had to admit that this new development, which threatened the normal way of life in the colony, was to a large extent his own fault, and – to a lesser extent – the fault of the Birth-Machine. Perhaps it was in the nature of things that something like this would happen once in a while. Perhaps nature still played a role even here, in this advanced, unnatural underground colony.
D.L. was so preoccupied with his thoughts that he had paid no attention to S.O. when she nonchalantly got undressed. She was lying naked on her bed now, playing with the color-combination fixture that allowed her to control the colors and brightness of the room lights according to her wish and mood. Both she and D.L. were suffused now with a new, rotating array of bright colors. Gone were the plain colors. He could hardly remember how and when she had got undressed, but whatever he had felt existed earlier between them had evaporated now, along with the old colors. Contrary to his conscious wishes, apathy toward her was overcoming him. Or maybe it was simply apprehension. He was baffled, as it had never happened to him before.
She gazed at him, as if through fog, inviting him to join her. Her body was shining, as were the colors reflected from the plastic walls. Her white nakedness, so beautiful and perfect to the eye, could not at that moment – for some obscure reason – stimulate D.L.’s imagination or his libido. Her wish and desire to sexually interact with him registered, yet failed to inspire or invigorate him, and the quality of the moments before she undressed disappeared.
He felt obligated to her, though, and therefore undressed and lay down naked beside her. She changed the music then, and what pleasantness had been around and within him, now vanished. The new tunes sounded harsh and devoid of any meaning. Maybe it was due to the last Assembly-Hall meeting, so vivid in his mind, and the imminent separation from Z.Z. He was absorbed and worried, which S.O. sensed. She was not accustomed to it, yet she got closer to him, her naked, slick body clinging to his, and tried to stimulate him, even trying a couple of the special instruments attached to her bed, designed for self-pleasure. But nothing helped – he remained dormant. Even her long, lotion-smoothed fingers, and her wet, willing lips, were useless. She finally gave up and turned her back to him.
He got up and put on his clothes. He felt guilty and sorry: for her and for himself. How unusual it was for him to feel that way, he reflected as he moved to the door. He stopped there, thinking that he ought to turn back and apologize. He wanted to tell her that it had never happened to him before, this inability to have an erection for sexing, that it was all because of the assembly meeting, because of N.R., and of course, because of Z.Z.
But there was no use in doing so. S.O. was clearly upset with him; her thin, naked back was directed at him so coldly. Soon, he speculated, after he was no longer here and out of her mind and thoughts, she would turn around and busy herself with the self-stimulating instruments, would gratify herself sexually without him. He was a non-existent entity for her by now, he realized.
He saw no other option but to walk out of the room, hoping she wouldn’t become his enemy as well. S.O. had tried to help him, after all, in the Assembly-Hall meeting and later on, when they had talked in the corridor. It was inconceivable to him that she had done so only to have some pleasure with him. She could have gotten that from him, or from any other member of the colony, whenever she desired. There were no rules or limitations about partners for pleasure and sexing, only encouragement to do so more often. She wanted to help him forget his earlier troubles, but he was incapable of doing so and had failed her miserably. It was possible, too, that she didn’t care much about his failure. Maybe it was all just in his head. He was so worried, even scared, showing all these strange signs suddenly. What was the matter with him?

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Sex War One

SWOSex War One – my dystopian Sci-fi novel – is available for purchase in all eBooks & iBooks stores & devices. “Fast-moving plot and skillful characterization,” said the Science Fiction Studies journal. “This book unifies within it the principles of major Science-Fiction literature,” said This World.
Kindle Edition: amazon.com/dp/B00OI8HGVQ Smashwords Edition: smashwords.com/books/view/484747 (for iTunes, Kobo, B&N & more.) For further details please check my books page.

To give you a taste of the book, I’ve been posting segments of my award-winning short story, “The Monster,” which serves also as the basis for the book. Here then is the eleventh segment:

He placed his hand on her head and combed her sleek dark hair gently with his fingers. She took his other hand and kissed it. After that she closed her eyes and went back to sleep, undisturbed. Her lips were soft and warm – he still felt their pleasant touch – while the lips of the colony’s women were almost always hard and cold.
He sat by her side in the darkness of the shack, smoothing her hair gently. Here was the reason for all his troubles: this peacefully sleeping creature, yet he felt no resentment toward her. It was not her fault. At the same time, the vague plan that had hatched in the recesses of his mind in the Assembly-Hall during the general meeting now moved to the forefront and became clear. It had been born at the moment he realized that, for the first time in his life, he was going to surrender and not fight N.R. anymore. He knew what he had to do. Reassured, he got up and left Z.Z.’s shack. He went out into the large yard and, his steps full of confidence again, disappeared into the narrow underground tunnel.

Everything was ready. S.O. relaxed, lying comfortably in her deep sofa. She felt a pleasant, fatigue-like sensation spreading throughout her body, and knew that it was just a preliminary step: a more invigorating sensation would follow soon. Her room was ready: the bed was arranged and the lights were fixed. S.O. was clean and refreshed after a long shower. She was thinking, first, about the Z.Z. She didn’t find much interest in her, but on the other hand didn’t see any real damage, or danger, in her existence within the colony’s walls. What disturbed her most was the way N.R. chose to act against D.L. There was something unusual, not yet defined, that had happened to N.R. and to those who followed her. It intuitively pushed S.O. to reject them and their initiative.
She was waiting anxiously for D.L. to enter her room. She remembered sexing with him before; the same way she sexed with other men, and women, in the colony: without any emotional connection. It was simply a physical action and interaction: they never slept with each other in the colony; they always slept alone. In D.L. though, she had found something else as of late. Maybe it was his interest in Z.Z. that had caused him to be different. It was possible, S.O. speculated, that had families were still in existence these days, and had colony-citizens were again allowed to get married and bring children to this world together – the way it had used to be back then, in ancient times, before the Great-Nuclear-War, before the eternal peace – it was possible, very much so, that she would have chosen D.L. to be her partner and husband.

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Sex War One

Sex War One – my dystopian Sci-fi novel – is available for purchase in all eBooks & iBooks stores & devices. “Fast-moving plot and skillful characterization,” said Science Fiction Studies journal. “This book unifies within it the principles of major Science-Fiction literature,” said This World. Kindle Edition: amazon.com/dp/B00OI8HGVQ Smashwords Edition: smashwords.com/books/view/484747 (for iTunes, Kobo, B&N & more.) For further details please check my Books page.

To give you a taste of the book, I’ve been posting segments of my award-winning short story, “The Monster,” which serves also as the basis for the book. Here then is the ninth segment:

His natural instinct, and scientific curiosity, had overcome all other notions and calculations at the time, and he had decided to let this unique embryo stay in the petri dish, and then in the test tube, to see whether it would develop properly and be capable of sustaining life. Surprisingly, it did quite well. Not only that: it matured earlier and needed only ten colony-months, not the regular twelve, before it was ready to be taken out of the Birth-Machine’s incubation tank and breathe on its own.

At the time, it had not caused strong objections from the other laboratory workers and scientists, and not even from the colony-citizens at large, when D.L. had decided to let the unusual newborn live. Some citizens had voiced the opinion that it was forbidden, and in violation of certain, obscure colony-rules. D.L., however, had taken full responsibility for his actions and had explained it as a scientific experiment with potential benefits for all the colony-citizens and for the advancement of their race, a superior race that needed, on a regular and regulated basis, only ten newly born babies per period: five of each sex. The rest, those not progressing exceedingly well, or not maturing fast or strongly enough, were eliminated while still in the test tubes, and sometimes even later in their early embryonic development stages.

D.L. assigned her the identification name of Z.Z., because no female colony-citizen was ever before assigned that combination of letters. After a while, other laboratory workers nicknamed her the “Monster.” In their view – maybe because of the strange, dark color of her hair and skin – she was ugly and repulsive, and therefore reminiscent of ancient creatures they had never seen, had only learned about from old digital books, films and videos. She was so different from the other, golden-white children. Mainly though, as was discovered soon after, it was her behavior and functionality that were much flawed. She couldn’t catch up to the developmental speed, and learning skills of the other children in her tier and fell far behind.

One colony-day D.L. had found her injured and dripping blood. It was a rare occurrence in the colony, unheard of until then, as a matter of fact. He soon learned that the other children, her age and older, had beaten her up and excluded her from their company. And worse still: it was done with the full knowledge and approval of the citizens in charge of the children’s activities and education. From that time onward, Z.Z. never spoke again. She was, as far as the colony and its inhabitants were concerned, mute and dumb.

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Sex War One

Sex War One – my dystopian Sci-fi novel – is available for purchase in all eBooks & iBooks stores & devices. “Fast-moving plot and skillful characterization,” said Science Fiction Studies journal. “This book unifies within it the principles of major Science-Fiction literature,” said This World.

Kindle Edition: amazon.com/dp/B00OI8HGVQ Smashwords Edition: smashwords.com/books/view/484747 (for iTunes, B&N, Sony & more.) Further details: HillelBridge.com/books

To give you a taste of the book, I’ve been posting segments of my award-winning short story, “The Monster,” which serves also as the basis for the book. Here then is the eighth segment:

The elevator descended soundlessly. While its lone passenger was D.L., a few pairs of eyes were keeping him company. They were following his journey, he was sure of that, watching him on their private screens. Those inquiring eyes were quick, in this new reality, to investigate and scrutinize all his moves, turns and whereabouts. He could have easily switched the elevator camera off, but it was against the rules; it was forbidden to hide anything in the colony, as everything was required to be disclosed for all eyes to see and all ears to hear.
The elevator came to a stop deep in the backyard level. There were no sun nor open skies to see in this backyard, no vegetative growth of any kind, and no member of the animal kingdom – once the ruling class of the land above, as D.L. knew from his studies, and thereafter co-existing with man for awhile – was prowling around. But it was possible to stroll freely some distance in an open, un-walled space. It was possible, also, to jump into the small swimming pool and swim in its tepid waters, filled with a pink, disinfecting solution. And it was possible to play, as the children sometimes did (though not too often), in the nearby playground.
D.L. halted in the far corner of the yard, in front of a transparent plastic fence. Inside he saw the small, lone shack he had designed and built. He entered the secret combination on the electronic panel by the fence’s gate, known only to him, and it slid open for him. He stepped inside and was just about to turn the light on when he thought the better of it. She was asleep, he realized. And in any case, the light would work against him now. The darkness, he hoped, would work for him.
He sat down on the small but sturdy toy-box he had built for her. She was sleeping peacefully, his Z.Z., lying on the air mattress by the toy-box. She was wearing her thick, crude one-piece nylon dress, the one she almost never took off, other than on those rare occasions when she went to the swimming pool – under D.L.’s supervision only, and when the other colony kids were not around – to wash her body. Her breathing was quiet and rhythmic. Her black hair was spread like a fan around her head, as if meant to protect her from bad dreams.
He watched her quietly and remembered. He remembered how the Birth-Machine had spewed her out into the test tubes, together with the other embryos that had been ordered that year. He remembered how the unusual embryonic-compound had caught the attention of the lab inspectors, causing them to call on him. He remembered how he had inspected it further, and – in his position then as Head-Laboratory-Scientist – had reached the conclusion that an unwanted, usually rejected female egg had come somehow to an undetected, undesired union with a male sperm cell. For some strange, unexplained reason, the Birth-Machine’s computer had failed to recognize the deformity of this union, and therefore had not rejected it, and had gone through with the usual, preliminary steps of matching and preserving. Such cases were very common – the majority, in fact – a long time before D.L. had been born, before the dominant humankind, the superior colony-citizen of the present time, had been created, formulated, and fully realized.

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An Unexpected Treasure

G.G. as Anna Karenina

Watching the latest version of Anna Karenina on the big screen lately took me back to – of all places – the kibbutz where I was born. How could it be, you may ask. Well, here’s how: At the end of summer a couple of years ago, while a last heat wave was sweeping the Sacramento Valley, my yearlong love affair with Anna Karenina had come to a sudden end as well. I had spent almost a year huddled with her on my lap, and when she jumped down to her tragic end, she had left me behind sad and lonely, yet so much richer and complete. I knew her ending from the beginning, of course, but I had no way of knowing that my journey with her would lead me back to my birthplace, a kibbutz in northern Israel, and to the discovery of a completely unexpected treasure.

It took a while, though, because that’s how I love to read: slow and easy. And because I could never understand why book-reviewers, especially here in America, always gave the biggest compliment to a new novel by saying it was a real “page-turner.” Not my cup of tea. With that in mind, I grabbed a copy of a newly translated edition of Leo Tolstoy’s novel from my bookshelf, determined to finally give the eight-hundred-plus-page classic its due. I hesitated to take this plunge, among other reasons, because I’m a Dostoyevsky fanatic. It was his novels, with their gripping plots and possessed characters, that had accompanied and guided me when I left my kibbutz and moved to the city of Tel Aviv. I tried Tolstoy once or twice, but it never affected me the same way.

But with Anna Karenina so many years later, slow reading became the name of the game. I would read just a few pages sometimes, but most often a chapter or two. On occasions, I would go back to a previous scene and reread it, just as I did with the one where Anna is being torn apart from her beloved son, knowing very well that she would never see him again; the horrible shadow of her tragic end hovering above her, waiting patiently to carry her to her last station.

And talking about last stations, halfway through the book I took a break from reading one rainy Sunday and went to see the movie by that same name: The Last Station, about Tolstoy and his wife Sophia in their later years. I was struck by Sophia’s words when, on a most beautiful horse-drawn carriage ride, she tells Tolstoy’s young secretary that the most ardent followers of her husband don’t understand his writing: “He writes about love and family, not about the Russian People and their social and political system.”

Humbly, I beg to differ. And by doing so, I return also to the hidden treasure I alluded to at the beginning. Sophia was only partly right: the horses in front of her were, indeed, Anna and her lover Count Vronsky. But the carriage she was riding in was carrying the story of her husband and herself, Levin and Kitty, and by and large the more important story: that of the Russian people. Kostya Levin (Leo Tolstoy himself, no doubt) was writing about changing the Russian class system, the injustice treatment of the peasants, his agricultural experiments, and last but not least, his wish to give all his wealth and land away to a working-class commune.

How amazing it was for me to discover the origin of the place where I was born and grew up in, hidden in the pages of Anna Karenina. It was Tolstoy then, who had first put the foundation to the idea that years later would create the Israeli kibbutz. That small place, which the scent of the sweet peas blooming in my balcony at spring reminded me of so much, was founded as a commune of people working the land—poets, writers and musicians among them; great dreamers all of them—where there wasn’t even money to be found as I was growing up.

Looking back, it was a place only a Russian Novel can accurately depict. And so I praise slow reading, it enables one to discover certain truths; a fit no page-turner, no Kindle device would ever be able to accomplish. It is entirely possible that because of my slow reading, because I read carefully and didn’t rush to reach the end, that I was able to discover this great secret: It was not Karl Marx, not Lenin or Trotsky who gave birth to the paradise that was the place of my childhood and youth. It was Tolstoy.

* Appeared first on The Times of Israel

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