Todays Spotlight is on Russell Proctor who was born in Queensland, Australia.
He has been everything from a lawyer to a professional actor and teacher. He is currently tutoring part-time and working the rest of the time as a writer. His interests include astronomy, cats and bushwalking.
He has successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and walked the Kokoda Track in his extensive travels around the world. Proctor is a committed skeptic and futurist, and his life-long interest in science and the nature of human thought has inspired him to satirize the quest for our understanding of existence in his novel Plato’s Cave.
Just past actuality and third universe on the left…
Emily Branwell wakes up one morning with a hangover and finds her horoscope is astoundingly accurate, sausages keep appearing out of nowhere all around her, and she can walk through walls. That is confusing enough, but when a huge, threatening shadow appears in the sky, Emily must solve the riddle of her rapidly disintegrating world before reality itself collapses.
In her quest for answers, Emily seeks the help of both psychics and scientists, but finds that ultimately the truth lies far beyond the world anyone knows.
Maybe next time she’ll count her drinks.
Plato’s Cave takes a humorous look at humanity’s search for truth and the meaning of existence through the eyes of someone who wishes the universe would just stop bothering her.
Excerpt from ‘Plato’s Cave’:
© 2012 Russell Proctor
The police sergeant came barrelling through into the kitchen. He wasn’t happy.
“What are you doing with that?” he asked, pointing a rude official finger at the plant Heather held. “That’s a piece of evidence in a police investigation. Put it down, girlie.”
That was his big mistake. If there is anything Heather will not be called, it’s girlie. The fire ignited in her eyes. Deep inside her terrific frame something began to build, something akin to the Big Bang – or to an even Bigger Bang. The spark began very far within her pink-clad exterior, spread like a fire to every fibre and muscle, before finally exploding with irresistible force. I had seen nothing like it since I had accidentally scratched her favourite CD a year ago. I had managed to escape with my life on that occasion. However, I feared greatly for the sergeant.
It all happened too quickly for me to intervene. There was just time for the words “Oh, shit,” to run through my mind before she struck: a right uppercut that connected beautifully, dislodging the sergeant’s cap which flew off and hit the wall. He fell stiff as a board, straight back, landing between the table and the refrigerator. The rest of us stood there, almost as stunned as he was.
Heather shook her hand. “Ow,” she said.
Joanna was the first to recover, perhaps because it was her house and she was worried about further damage.
“I think it’s time to go,” she said.
The plan for getting to my house was simple. If it worked, we would be away and free. If not, all of us would probably be spending the night in jail. Which, as Heather pointed out, might actually be the safest place around at the moment.
I suddenly realised they were now supporting me. Once they had stated their opposition to my intention of re-entering the circle, they were on my side. Of course, they weren’t the ones who would be going in, and maybe they just felt that if I vanished like the pizza man, they would be rid of me once and for all. They could go down to the coffee shop and chuckle about how they put one over poor old Emily.
Once it takes root, paranoia is a hardy plant indeed.
The policeman in the yard was arguing with the Maestro, who was trying to open the door of David’s car. Of course, the sergeant had given orders that none of us were to leave, but that was a minor problem as far as the Maestro was concerned. “You had better help the çavuş,” he called, and pointed towards the house where the unconscious sergeant lay.
The policeman turned away from the Maestro long enough for him to slam the car door and start up. The rest of us piled in there with him, David patting his pockets and wondering how the Maestro had acquired his car keys. But he realised it was no time to argue the issue. He climbed in the back with Heather and Joanna; I sat next to the Maestro. We locked the doors hastily.
Fraser had one of those pesky gun-shaped objects hanging off his belt which make things so awkward when you’re trying to sneak away quietly from something illegal. He paused for a moment, then placed his hand on the butt, but didn’t draw it. Perhaps he wasn’t sure of his authority in detaining us. We hadn’t threatened him in any way.
He hammered on the door of the car, calling for us to open up.
“Let’s go!” I shouted at the Maestro.
“They have blocked off the driveway,” said the Maestro, revving the engine. “I am sorry,
Joanna’cığım,” he muttered under his breath as he floored the accelerator and we took off forwards, straight towards the back fence.
“No!’ screamed Joanna, but it was too late as we skirted the Poinciana tree and hit the back fence at about thirty kilometres an hour. It was constructed of wooden posts and folded very nicely under the impact of the bull-bar mounted on the front of the car. We drove into the neighbour’s property, turning left just before the swimming pool, and headed down their driveway. The gate had been left open, and there were no cars in the way. The Maestro drove out into the street, turned right, and accelerated.
Joanna was scowling behind me. I was expecting another withering blast of Turkish to be flung in the Maestro’s direction, but she was menacingly quiet. Too quiet. Scary stuff quiet. I flinched at the thought of what was to come when there was time to complain, and took the opportunity to put my head out of the window and glance up at the Gap.
Things weren’t too good up there, either. It had changed, just as Max had warned.
The straight edges weren’t straight anymore. Thin streaks had emerged from the main mass of blackness and were spiralling away, obscuring more sky. I didn’t like the look of it at all. The streaks looked almost purposeful, like the Gap knew what we were doing and wanted to stop us. Some of the streaks looked like they were reaching down towards us. I was reminded of the ruler in the circle, as if there were more than three visible dimensions to the thing.
I pulled my head back into the car. Everywhere I looked, the view was disturbing. Even here.
The Maestro was driving too fast for safety, and slamming through the gears in a way that wasn’t at all good for them. Or for us, perhaps.
It was only a matter of time before the police tracked us down. None of us had any desire to be in a car chase, as they almost always ended badly for the people in front. I’d watched those reality shows on TV, the ones where they show you the results of police pursuits: “World’s Most Pathetic Morons Behind a Wheel”. That sort of thing. Final shots lingering over a pile of twisted metal and shattered glass, with occupants bisecting power poles.
I wondered what the Turkish was for “For God’s sake slow down!” then decided it sounded urgent enough in English.
“For God’s…” I began, until a particularly violent swerve, by means of which the Maestro managed to avoid an aforesaid power pole, made me change the ending. “…sake, look where you’re going!”
David was being thrown around in the back seat. “Do you actually have a licence?” he asked breathlessly. But the Maestro was concentrating too hard.
Then the car chase started, just as we crossed the bridge over Breakfast Creek. I heard the siren behind us. This time I didn’t look around. There was no need to confirm what my ears told me, and Heather was giving a running commentary anyway. My eyes stayed glued to the road, since the Maestro seemed to feel that was a fairly low priority when driving, and one of us should be doing it. He was staring hard into the rear-view mirror most of the time.
“They’re about two hundred metres behind us,” said Heather. “One car. Lights and everything.”
“Left!” I called out to the Maestro and he swung the wheel just in time. The tyres on the right side of the car left the asphalt momentarily, then came back down with a bounce as we entered the new street, heading for the apartment blocks in Teneriffe. This was turning into an action movie, and I was on the wrong side of the screen.
“They made the turn, too,” said Heather. “They’re gaining on us.”
The ongoing commentary from the back seat was not comforting. If I shut my eyes really, really tight, and took three deep breaths, maybe everything would just go away.
I tried it.
No good. Reality stubbornly continued to exist. It had a nasty habit of doing that.
“Let’s take the Captain Cook Bridge,” I said. “It’s the easiest.”
The Maestro actually looked at me as he veered across the centre white line and asked, “Who is this Captain Cook?”
I grabbed the wheel and moved us into legality again. “We drive on the left in this country!” I shouted into his face. He took my panic well, far better than I had, actually, and even seemed pleased to know a new road rule. He kept on the left while the rest of us argued the way.
“But that means going through the city,” said Heather. “Head for the Story Bridge.”
“The city will make it harder for them to chase us,” David said.
“And there are more things to crash into,” persisted Heather.
We had veered through a few more corners, managing to find our way back in vaguely the right direction. Around us, the inner suburbs were still happening. The Gap hung over everything, and the crowds and alarm that it caused was about to save us from further pursuit, at least for the moment. As we entered Fortitude Valley a gang of about six young men were looting a shop. They had driven a car into the front window and were climbing over the hood to snatch what they could. Electrical goods it looked like. In any event, the police car stopped and we didn’t, heading further in. I glanced behind but all I could see were the heads of David, Joanna and Heather as they, too, peered out the back window.
“Maybe they weren’t after us at all,” said Heather.
Who cared? Crime had apparently reaped dividends, even if it wasn’t for the people actually committing it. We were alone.
Contact: Russell Proctor
P.O. Box 78, Hamilton Central Queensland Australia 4007
Brisbane novelist Russell Proctor doesn’t mind poking a bit of good-natured fun at pseudo-science, nor does he shy away from highlighting the problems science has with finding meaning in the world. In his latest novel, this committed skeptic and futurist puts his lifelong interest in science and astronomy to work to gently satirize humanity’s enduring efforts to explain the nature of reality and the meaning of existence.
The humorous and philosophical Plato’s Cave begins with Emily Branwell, an otherwise normal university student, who awakens one morning to find that her horoscope is shockingly accurate, that sausages keep appearing out of thin air all around her, that she can walk through walls, and that with the exception of a very peculiar plant named Mike, the interior of her house has vanished.
A bit flummoxed by these random and rather inconvenient incidents, Emily decides to get some help, but neither Joanna Clifford, the psychic who wrote the horoscope, nor Turhan Birgili, a Turkish wizard, have any idea what’s going on. When an ominous black shadow appears in the sky, Emily consults astronomer Max Fisher and physicist David Nabarlambarl. They too come up empty-handed, and it becomes clear that these crazy occurrences might just be beyond anyone’s understanding.
When the shadow appears in the sky for a third time, widespread panic ensues. In a world that is rapidly disintegrating before her, Emily must not only make sense of what’s happening to herself but also to the universe. However, what she discovers might very well mean that everyone has been looking for answers in the wrong places. Or, as Emily herself puts it, “Reality is just the beginning.”
Proctor comments, “I was first introduced to Plato’s allegory of the cave in his book Republic at university and found the image, and its revelations, haunting.” He adds, “My novel is a sort of cross between science fiction and philosophy in that it engages both genres in examining our quest for the meaning of existence. It does this in a light-hearted way that should appeal to most people. At the same time, it is also a cosmic mystery that invites readers to work out what is happening to the main character.”
“[Plato’s Cave is] a very well-researched and hilarious cosmic whodunit…By the time I was halfway through, I was literally reading this on the bus, walking down the street, every break at work! It’s brilliant and I could see a television version being a cult classic. If you have a teenager who thinks science is dull, buy them this book. It’s a really clever combination of science, new-age belief, humor, and knowledge. I admire a writer who can combine all that into an easy, enjoyable read!” – Review by SundayGirl, 5 out of 5 stars