Writerly Wednesday Welcomes Zvi Zaks

Welcome, O Welcome, Zvi Zaks!  

A Virtual Affair

I’ve been writing off and on literally for decades with little luck in
publishing. I could blame it on my schedule as a doctor — too many years
having a 24-7 call schedule — but plenty of other doctors have managed to
combine writing and medicine. The real problem was the off and on had too
much off and not enough on. Internet workshops like
http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com/ and www.critters.org improved my work
enough to sell a few short stories, but what I really wanted was to publish
a book. Second only to becoming a grandfather–something I had no say
about–becoming a published novelist was my biggest goal.

I thought my writing was good, but an unrelenting series of rejections
almost had me ready to give up. Then Lilly Press accepted my novel IMPLAC,
an evil robot story. I was ecstatic. Even the editing process was a joy.
Unfortunately, Lilly went bankrupt and it was back to the slush pile for me.
At least now I knew that some professionals valued my work. “Query Tracker”
– http://querytracker.net/forum/ – taught me how to write a decent query, I
sent out a batch of letters to small publishers, and in 2010 Eternal Press
accepted A VIRTUAL AFFAIR. No ecstasy this time, but I was still happy that
at age 68 I would finally have a book for sale. It’s never too late to
pursue your dream.

The book was published on January 8 of this year. A week earlier, my son
called me, “Dad, Rosemarie has gone into labor.” Eight hours later, Aliana
was born. I flew down to see her the day the book was published. Even though
I had striven for many years to get published, at this moment, the book
didn’t matter.

I have my priorities.


Think how great virtual sex must be. Now think again.

Barbara is a sexual simulation designed to make men happy. When flabby,
neurotic Jack tests the program, he triggers a feedback loop that makes it
self-aware. The erstwhile pornbot becomes a ‘she’, and discovers that sex is
not the same as happiness.

Who knew?

Making Jack happy is difficult. Barbara develops elaborate and sometimes
sneaky ways to help him, and she succeeds. After all, her abilities are
awesome. She can hack into any computer and is not above using sabotage and
blackmail for the benefit of Jack–and everyone else.

The problem is, though Barbara thinks she knows what’s best for humanity,
she isn’t human. This computer program could end up a virtual messiah or
doom us all to cheerful mindlessness.


The lenses faded to black. A grid of green and blue squares, ’giant pixels,’
Cathy had called them, followed. These divided and subdivided, morphing into
the view of a meadow with green grass and dark blue sky. A surrounding
forest extended halfway up a range of distant snowcapped mountains. Two
white, fluffy clouds resembled swans, their curved necks forming a heart.

Trite, but some people might like it.

The turf was as neat and weed-free as a golf course, with every blade of
grass distinct. Birds trilled nearby. He smelled freshly mowed grass and
honeysuckle. The sun, moderated by a breeze, warmed his face.

He walked a few yards over to a white rock with gold flecks, a virtual
gemstone twice as big as his hand. In physical reality, he was lying on the
VR couch and moving his arms and legs, but the view, the smells, and the
feeling of air against his face and grass tickling the soles of his feet
almost convinced him he really was taking steps towards that rock. He looked
down, wiggled his toes in the grass, and smiled.

He wore yellow shorts and a white tee shirt with the blue and red Virtualics
logo. His virtual arms and legs were muscular and bronzed, and his abdomen
flat—no potbelly. Overcome with curiosity, he pulled the waistband of the
shorts and looked inside. What he saw was bigger than its real counterpart.
The corner of his mouth turned up. This could be an interesting trip indeed.

The white rock was a bonus feature of the software. Not only could the
traveler screw, he could mimic a baseball pitcher. Jack picked up the stone.
Smooth and cool, it felt lighter than he would have guessed. Though under
normal conditions Jack did not throw anything more than a mouse at a
computer screen, he hurled the stone at a tree and watched with satisfaction
as it flew straight to its target, hitting the trunk with a loud thunk.

Several yards past the bushes was a pond. Near the pond stood a large oak
tree. Under the tree, sitting on a beige, fringed blanket, was the girl.

Jack walked first to the pond. At the water’s edge, he bent down to look at
his reflection. The features were his own, but leaner, with a smaller nose,
straighter teeth, and a head of thick brown hair.

Ah, if it were true.

He dipped a finger into the water and smeared it on his forehead. It felt
wet. He scratched the smooth mud under the surface, releasing a cloud of
silt and a flurry of water bugs running for shelter. The mud, as expected,
smelled a little of rot, and, when smeared on his now hairy arms,

The settings are convincing. He stood and turned towards the nearby virtual
oak with a virtual person reading a virtual book in its virtual shade. This
was the girl he would virtually (screw). This was the real test of the


1. In three days, electricity will go away for a very long time,
everywhere. What would you gather during this three day count down?

There would likely be disruptions in all supplies so I’d stock up on
essentials like food, water, firewood, clothing, gasoline and the like.
There would also be the likelihood of violence. I don’t know if I would get
a gun, but I might get a large dog. (My two little ones would just lead
thieves to the silverware).

2. Where did the idea for the work you are promoting arise?

Just for the hell of it, I wanted to write a piece of erotic fiction. Thus
came the first chapter of ‘A Virtual Affair.’ I liked the characters so
much, I expanded it into a novel.

3. What do you like to read?

Fiction, especially Jewish fiction and science fiction, and articles
relating to my job.

4. Tell us about the most exciting place you have ever visited?

Israel. To go to Jerusalem and see the Western Wall moved me to the core.
It was like being in the center of the world, (even though, on a sphere like
Earth, every point has equal claim to being the center).

5. What is the most mundane, day to day, thing you can share about yourself?

I get up in the morning, get dressed, eat breakfast, and start my day like
most people in the world.

6. What scares you the most?

Determined irrationality. People with a crazy agenda do a lot of harm.

7. Tell us anything but keep it G rated.

I’m the lead violinist for THE KLEZMANIACS – we play for weddings, bar
mitzvahs and circumcisions: on the cutting edge of Jewish music.


When I hear the word circumcisions two things come to mind.  The first is when a woman in the Bible bashed her son’s you know with a sharp stone in hopes of gaining God’s pleasure.  (A story I might have changed in my own imagination.)  The second is one of the Seinfeld shows where Jerry flinched.   What else would you expect from someone ordained on April Fools Day in 2000?

Thanks Zvi for being my guest, I suppose I should get this posted and go back to my NaNo project.  13,509



By Sally

Sally Franklin Christie Blogger and Author of If I Should Die and Milk Carton People.

1 comment

  1. Nicely done Zvi … A followup question. What is it about Jewish SF that turns your crank? And can you point me in the direction of a few titles I might like? Me being a lesbian pagan SF/F writer and all.

    And… how do you pronounce your first name? I have an Aussie’s penchant for accenting the last vowels in words. Imagine my surprise when I get her to Canada and discover that, in general, the accents are on first syllables and vowels. Amused my new-found friends no end I did. I found it easier and less embarrassing to ask right up front.


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