David Stevens

Archive for June, 2019|Monthly archive page

Where I shall be on Saturday

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2019 at 12:17 pm

I’ll be the one by himself not talking to anyone, with his nose in a book. How unusual.

Speculative Fiction Festival 2019

Saturday 29 June, 10am-6pm

Writing NSW, Callan Park

Speculative fiction is the stuff of dreams and nightmares, encompassing science fiction, fantasy and horror in all its guises: near-future dystopia, far-flung space exploration and alien encounters, tales of magic and wizardry, bone-chilling urban horror and the madness of the surreal.

The Speculative Fiction Festival 2019 will be held on 29 June this year, and will be packed with insightful explorations. You’ll learn practical advice on writing, marketing and publishing, and hear inspirational discussions of radical concepts that will fuel your imagination.

The Festival will showcase some of Australia’s leading speculative fiction writers who are known for their curiosity, innovation and imagination. Our program includes award-winning authors such as James Bradley, Mitchell Hogan, Catherine McKinnon, Margaret Morgan and Kaaron Warren.

Festival director Keith Stevenson is well-versed in all things spec fic due to a career spanning decades as an author, editor, publisher, reviewer and podcaster.

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Moon folk

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2019 at 6:47 am

The 50th anniversary of Apollo landing on the moon approaches, which is a great and wonderful thing, because it means a plethora of all things Luna, and hopefully there will be some gold among the dross.

Coincidentally, I have just finished the final draft of my third story about the Apollo mission, and launched it on a Saturn V out into the universe, hoping it will find a home.

The first, “This Neil Armstrong is not dead”, appeared in Cafe Irreal, an appropriate home for it. It posited a sort of Armstrong in the multiverse, including a floating Neil Armstrong on an EVA in my bedroom. His wife remains silent throughout, though there is a scene where he samples the dust of her, and seals it away for analysis on Apollo’s return to Earth. Of her silence, Armstrong thinks it “was for the best, he could not understand a word she said. The divergence was too great. He was amazed that she persisted in her existence, so many worlds away”.

The second, “Avoiding Gagarin”, appears in Aurealis magazine. This story writing thing is easy, thinks I, Aurealis accepts the first ever story I submit to it. Yeah well, they haven’t accepted anything since, so I’ve come down a peg or two. Each of the Apollo astronauts had a speaking role in this one, with a perhaps unrecognisable Buzz “the Boss” Aldrin having the biggest part. Michael Collins has a suitably humble walk on – actually, walk about – role. This story is part of shared world with two of my other stories, “The Big Reveal” and “Store in a dark place”. I have notes for others which I may get back to some day, but at the moment I am more interested in exploring some other worlds.

The third story attempts to make up for Mrs Armstrong’s silence in the first, with her having the main role. Its weird, it bears no relationship to any possible reality, and it is full of the 60s, with brief appearances from many famous folk, moon and otherwise, and many liberties taken with time and space. (There is even an uncredited cameo appearance from Sergeant Burns, my one-armed policeman of “The Penultimate Report of Sergeant Burns”, and who has appearance in KAIJU!, which appears on 1 July in Fleas on the Dog magazine.) I don’t know if anyone will buy it, but I sure had a lot of fun writing it.

See: Published stories

Lyme Disease in Australia – living the li(f)e

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2019 at 1:28 am

This blog is meant to be about writing and fun things, not medical issues. However, maybe someone else going through this shit will see it and realise that they are not crazy, so I thought I would repost this.

Most people in Australia are used to a world where you go to a doctor and they are interested in what is going on with you. Australia is a First World nation that invests a lot of public money in health.  Even if the first doctor is not very good, you can go to another doctor down the street. If things are a bit nasty, there is generally a specialist to go to. And if things are really bad, there is still a scheme to deal with it, horrible though everything is. It may not be a surprise to you that cancer is awful. You confront your own mortality. It is painful. There are great indignities with the treatment. There are many terrifying steps along the way. But there are industrial level schemes in place, a plan with every step staffed by expert doctors or nurses or other professionals, who all know exactly what to do, what comes next, and what the ultimate goal is. There is always someone you can talk to. (1) And if there is nothing they can do, someone will say it. They won’t tell you that you are imagining your illness just because they cannot treat it.

With Lyme, there might be say, twenty doctors in Australia who have any idea. One or two may be an infectious disease specialist – I’m serious. So you take your child from GP to GP, who refer them to specialists. Lyme is a multi organ, multi systemic disease, it will attack everything, but not necessarily in a predictable way. Specialists generally know only about their own organ or system. In Australia, they do not know to look for Lyme. So they end up saying: I can’t help you, there is nothing wrong in the area I work in. You’ll need to find someone else.  Sorry, not my job to suggest someone.  You end up where you started. Your child is getting sicker, but you’ve run out of doctors, AND THERE IS NOWHERE ELSE TO GO. There is nobody to turn to. Hospitals tell you not to come back. (A paediatrician shrugs and asks your child, “have you ever thought of killing yourself? I would, going through that sort of pain. Have you tried Berocca? (2)” You leave his surgery asking yourself, did that just happen? Did he say those words? Umm, yes. He did. And we had trusted this guy with all of our babies.)

You end up, after many years, at a particular clinic, in a particular children’s hospital. They deal only in symptoms, not causes, or so they say. You and your child need to live a normal life, they say. So Dad, you have to be the bastard in the family. You have to force your child to go to school, whether they like it or not (3). You have to show Tough Love. You have to keep pushing them, encouraging them, making them stretch themselves. They have to get on with life, despite their symptoms. Meanwhile, we’ll give the child a psychologist to help them deal with the symptoms. But that’s just what they tell you. What is really going on is that they cannot find a physical cause, so there must be a mental cause. Eventually, they say terrible, terrible things to you.  You challenge them on their deception, and they unashamedly admit it.  And you are angry, but you think, can they be right? Have we missed something all these years?  You doubt yourself completely.

Then one day, by the grace of God and His tool, the internet, you find a doctor who knows about this disease, and you do tests – pathology tests both in Australia and Germany;   tests of reactions to treatment; and clinical presentation, and you find that your child has all of these bugs in their body. Call it what you want (4). But in that mix there is borellia and babesia, bartonella, and a bunch of opportunistic parasites attacking a weakened immune system.

No amount of Tough Love was ever going to kill those bugs. The child could not force themselves to school because the bugs made them very weak and sick. All of the things you have been doing have been the opposite of what you should have been doing. You being the bastard, was simply being a bastard. It did not help one little bit.  Your child has Lyme Disease which was untreated for many years.  They also have a bunch of typical co-infections.

You find that many people in Europe and the US have had similar presentations and symptoms.  (Later you find that many other people in Australia have as well.  You are not nuts.  There are many other families out there going through the exact same thing. They start to connect with each other.)  Their illness was caused by the same bugs.  A doctor with familiarity with that could have started treatment earlier.

Then you find that the tests that helped you are not recognised in Australia (5). And you find that if you go to hospital and seek treatment in an emergency, the moment you mention Lyme, weird things happen. These things have really happened to us:

  •  attending doctors actually stand up and leave the room (I am surprised they did not cover their ears and chant “lalalalalalalalala-can’t-hear-you-lalalalalala” as they left.) Really and truly.
  • attending doctor telephones a specialist. The specialist does not leave his chair. He does not see your child. He gives a telephone “un-diagnosis”. The attending doctor tells you “We don’t accept the diagnosis you have”. He’s spent a total of say 15 minutes over a period of four hours with us. The specialist has never seen us.  The other doctors have spent many, many hours with us. We have attended specialists in Germany and the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. We have spoken to specialists in the US by skype. They were all wrong. Everyone was wrong. But the man at the end of the telephone, he is right.
  • We are about to obtain a surgery we need in Australia. The emergency doctor, trained overseas, recognises the symptoms, agrees with the proposed treatment. A senior doctor arrives. Like us, he is a person of a faith. We see his tzitzit hanging from beneath his shirt.  We think he is here to help. He tells us that “Lyme is a bit controversial,” so we should really go to another hospital for treatment. And we should keep seeing our GP who knows about it. But we should leave this hospital. She is not about to die, so she can go home now.
  • Doctors tell us we are wrong, there is no such disease here. (They ignore the contrary evidence. They also ignore that we have travelled to Europe and South East Asia.)
  • A doctor took us into a private room where no one could hear her, to tell us she believes us because she has Lyme Disease too, but she can’t say anything to her colleagues as she wants to continue to practice. She whispers, and writes a name of a helpful doctor in my notebook, before she sneaks out.
  • when we raised issues about strange rashes and blotches, a doctor said, “Parents are always imagining rashes that aren’t there, they probably didn’t occur”.  So I pulled out my laptop loaded with photographs of the rashes.  He was silent, then said, “So Dad likes gadgets, does he?”

As a sane person who has never believed in conspiracies, you find there actually is one. You find that there is politics beyond imagining behind all of this.

You wonder how you can explain all of this to people without sounding like a nut, because it is beyond their experience, they all know that doctors help people, there would be no reason for a doctor not to. (They do not have the experience of doctors denying symptoms that don’t fit facts.)  And when some people say, “What, they’re still not better?” and they look at you, you feel challenged. Am I mad? Have I done enough for my children? Have I been an effective advocate for them? Is there more I could be doing? Is there another doctor I could have found?  Because when all of the authority figures are lining up and telling you that you are wrong, and when what you go through goes against the experience of everyone you know, you doubt yourself. You doubt yourself all the time.

Then you think there is a breakthrough.  The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer takes an interest in Lyme-like diseases in Australia.  He sets up a consultative committee.  They authorise a scoping study.

The scoping study raises concerns.  There are real issues with it.  There are problems.  You feel that you cannot begin to articulate what they are.  It is the shared nightmare again.  How can you explain it to these people?  How can you find the words to get it across?  How can you begin to say to the scientists and medical professionals, you have it wrong – you have missed the point – of more relevance is this – why are you saying those things?

And then two very sick people produce a document like this, to challenge the consensus and status quo. Despite their illness, they pick the brains of a community of desperately ill people, and they devote hundreds of hours to research and writing. Then they collapse. Then they get up again and keep going. And they collapse again.  But they persist.

The document shreds the medical consensus in Australia. It shows how the clinicians are wrong, and how they have ignored the best evidence here. They articulate the nightmare world of Lyme in Australia, and even though in our house we live it every day, I shake my head and say, how can this possibly be happening? But it is, and it is probably happening to tens of thousands of people. The science clearly demonstrates the medical establishment in Australia is wrong. Studies have proven the existence of the disease in Australia

But, nothing changes. There is no plan in place for Lyme treatment, unlike the systems in place for many other serious illnesses. Denial continues.  The pathologists continue to run the show. They continue to say that a positive result MUST be a false result. The infectious disease specialists say we are all idiots. We can only hope for change, and continue to work towards it.

Politicians become interested. There is a House of Representatives inquiry. There is a Senate Inquiry. Reports come out, supporting patients. But nothing is done. The Health Minister (later sacked/resigned in a scandal) does nothing.

The system is not responding. The medical establishment rouses itself for a moment, simply to go on the attack.

We carry on.

……….

(1) we have all been there – we all have someone in our lives who has gone through this. It is scary and godawful.

(2) I guess he thought the problem was with the B – B – Bounce.

(3) That doctor seems so reasonable to your face. Then when you are not there, your child recounts how they collapsed at school, and how Dad had to come and collect them. The doctor interrupts and says, “And didn’t it feel great when Dad got you, when you left school”. Your child answers, “I was still screaming, but it was on the floor at home, not the floor at school”. The doctor dismisses them with a wave and a sneer. Apparently it was his job to be the bastard at hospital.

(4) There is war in the patient community in Australia about what to call it. It drives me insane. Apparently, if we hit on just the right name, then the doctors will have to admit, oh that, yes, we can see that you might have that. Oh, now we can treat it.

(5) The tests are carried out by internationally accredited laboratories. They have accreditation recognised by the Australian government and have gone through a more rigorous process of accreditation than some local bodies. Australia has accepted the international standard. Yet many pathologists here feel free to ignore that, and to somehow claim that because these are foreign labs, that charge people for their services, they are somehow inferior and making money from misery. I’m sorry, I have not noticed that pathology in Australia is free. And as well-intentioned as it may be, as much of a service to humanity as it may be, does not THE ENTIRE MEDICAL PROFESSION MAKE ITS MONEY FROM HUMAN MISERY?

Coming sOOn …

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2019 at 5:32 am

My story KAIJU! will be appearing in Fleas on the Dog, on July 1 2019.

Three guesses what its about.

WRONG! WRONG! Maybe …

It is all YOUR fault

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2019 at 4:03 am

‘As a recent essay in Scientific

American scoffs:

Recycling plastic is to saving the Earth what hammering a nail is to halting a falling skyscraper.” Yet the neoliberal doctrine of individual responsibility has performed its sleight-of-hand, distracting us from the real culprit. This is far from new. In the 1950s, the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign urged individuals to pick up their trash. The project was bankrolled by corporations such as Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch and Phillip Morris, in partnership with the public service announcement Ad Council, which coined the term “litterbug” to shame miscreants. Two decades later, a famous TV ad featured a Native American man weeping at the sight of a motorist dumping garbage. “People Start Pollution. People Can Stop It,” was the slogan. The essay in Scientific American, by Matt Wilkins, sees through such charades.’

Pollution doesn’t pollute; people pollute.
Guns don’t kill people; bullets kill people.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jun/14/the-mindfulness-conspiracy-capitalist-spirituality

The final hypotheses of Professor G

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2019 at 10:12 pm

The final hypotheses of Professor G is available for your free reading … pleasure? … at Silver Blade. Just click on the link.

Unhappy in his retirement, Professor G turns his analytical gaze upon the world immediately about him, and discovers more than he would like.

Due to international clamour, constant requests on social media, and pressure each time I emerge from the house from the gathered horde, the story features world famous and universally acclaimed characters from beloved classics and kiddies’ favourites such as The Boulevardier, My life as a lizard, and Mr Cranky.

For English teachers planning to add the story to their syllabus, themes include: mortality; retirement; rats; naps; neighbours named Brian; and Things From Outside.

Coming soon

In Uncategorized on June 2, 2019 at 12:55 am

Coming soon, The final hypotheses of Professor G. [UPDATE: available now, click on the link.)

Professor G has had walk on roles in some of my previous stories: My Life as a Lizard, The Boulevardier, and Mr Cranky. He discovers that even in the tiny universe of his own story, he is not the most important person. Worse, there may be others off-stage, impatient for him to depart.

More details soon.