I’m going to be part of an author panel on torture at Balticon, on Sunday  May 29th at 10 a.m. But it’s a different sort of torture, the kind that authors make their characters suffer. The question to be addressed is whether authors get attached to playing God with their characters, and sometimes literally put them through hell.

In four of my five novels, my protagonists agonize over the spiritual nature of their existence. They truly feel tortured by the way the universe toys with them, and struggle to determine whether they are victims of divine intervention or serendipitous random events in an uncaring universe. The torture comes about in trying determine how to tell the difference.

Their quandary is, of course, my own. A life-long internal attempt to comprehend questions that are fundamentally incomprehensible, emanating from an entrenched refusal to believe that the forces that shape our life are anything but indifferent. Yet, I confess, I must be in denial, because in some form or other my characters continually obsess over that very issue. Is the universe, in fact, driven by nothing more than entropy or are our fates pre-ordained?

Remeber the old commercial slogan: “Is it Live or is it Memorex”? I never could tell.

(Alan Zemdell)