When the gods shoot blanks: Auspicious omens sometimes aren’t

The universe is full to bursting with new science fiction. How does any of it win recognition?

Last Thursday morning, in Bangkok’s Suan Rhotfai, next to Chatujak Park, we were treated to the best display of flowering trees ever — varieties of pink and purple cherry and plum blossoms, gorgeous golden showers like vivid yellow weeping willows, only better.

What, beyond the standard onset of the hot season, might have inspired this spectacle? It occurred to me this was launch day for MOM, the first in my Magic Circles series of futuristic novels. Could all this be in honor of MOM‘s advent? Were the gods smiling just for me?

Yeah, well. Sara liked that theory. But I was reminded of another occasion.


I was nine weeks out of Israel aboard a derelict yacht, only two days from Phuket, and I’d just brought a novel to its conclusion in draft. At the outset, the notion I’d manage this feat before getting back to Thailand seemed ludicrous. But here it was. Two days ahead of schedule, even. A immense sense of uplift threatened to float me away.

The Andaman Sea was like glass in 360 degrees to the horizon, nary a hint of land or another vessel in sight. I looked around, thinking I deserved some sign, maybe a whale sighting, to acknowledge my incredible triumph.

Right on cue, just ten meters off the starboard bow, a great fish rose from the water till I could see its tail. The marlin thrashed back and forth, great billed head wagging as though to throw a hook, before crashing back into the sea. It jumped again, and again. Three times it performed its aerial display. I walked back toward the stern watching the swirls where the monster swam in tight circles alongside, obscure exept for where its pectoral fin sliced the surface.

I found Cookie, Cookie’s Helper, Sparks and Deckie on the aft deck.

“Frigging huge,” Sparks said.

“That fin!” said Deckie. “It must’ve been a monster. Fifteen feet long.”

“No,” Cookie responded. “No, that big it wasn’t. I don’t want anything that big in the sea. Not with us. Oh, no. It wasn’t any more than six feet long. Six feet I can live with.”

Sparks asked me for a cigarette. “Did you see it, Mr. Writer Man?”

“See it? I saw it jump right out of the water. You’ve got to hear what happened …”

“Got a light as well, mate?”

I held a match for him and I said, “The sea was empty in 360 degrees all around.”

“You should’ve been back here,” Cookie’s Helper told me. “We saw this huge shark!”

Ancient Mariner had been in the chartroom the whole time, and Skipper was taking a nap. Later, as I related my tale, Skipper asked, “How do you know it was a marlin? Maybe it was a sailfish. What color was it?”

At dinner that night they all talked about the shark. I said I never saw a shark jump that way.

Ancient Mariner reckoned it was a mako.

“I think you’re right,” I said.

Cookie looked at me and said, “You weren’t even there.”

Sparks stopped pushing a schnitzel around his plate to say, “He’s a writer, isn’t he. No need to be there.”


I’d finished my novel in draft, but it needed much more work before it was ready for publication.

And given the hugely auspicious emergence of that marlin, an eruption of cosmic enthusiasm, that novel should have been all over the international bestseller lists while Hollywood producers queued up to bang on my door. That’s the way it should’ve gone. Yet Yawn: A Thriller is out of print. (For sample chapters, click on the cover.)  

Now MOM’s been heralded by a massive eruption of flowering trees.

“So I guess it’s time to make a down payment on our villa in Tuscany,” Sara says.