Friday, May 24, 2024

Guest Blog- On the Threshold by M. Laszlo #SciFi #HistoricalFiction #MagicalRealism

On the Threshold follows from an idea book written while working on an M.F.A degree in poetry at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York; c. 1990.

At the time, there were two kinds of poetry students at Sarah Lawrence. The first type wrote in an obscurantist, free-association style. The second type preferred confessional poetry. Alas, neither style of writing really applied to my interests. The thing that did it for me was the philosophical poem—the type of poem that the other students tended to regard as “boring.” No matter what the others thought, though, nothing could shake my faith. What could be more fascinating than a poem that seeks to explain the riddle of the universe?

            Looking back on that era, the thought occurs that this was about the time that my preferences changed from poetry to prose. That would explain why it became necessary to translate all those philosophical poems into one long novelistic work that could bring everything together. Oddly, it was not visionary, metaphysical fiction that sold me on prose. At the time, believe it or not, no kind of prose writing fascinated me quite as much as film theory—particularly phenomenological film theory.

            In the early nineties, my sister attended NYU film school—and she would often tell me about cutting-edge writing that followed from the theories of Walter Benjamin and Carl Jung. Much of these theories show up in On the Threshold—especially the notion that when we watch a movie, only the conscious mind follows the plot. The unconscious mind reacts to the symbols and archetypes and interprets the movie as a reiteration of some primal association of ideas—as if the unconscious mind really does contain within it inborn knowledge, just as Plato had always believed.

            As peculiar as all this might sound, the idea of phenomenological theory soon had me obsessing about The Mary Tyler Moore Show. To make a long story short, in one quirky prose poem after the next, I would meditate on the notion that The Mary Tyler Moore Show contains within it the phenomenology and archetypes that L. Frank Baum put into The Wizard of Oz:

Mary driving to the big city = Dorothy on her way to Emerald City.

Mary fighting over the apartment with Rhoda = Dorothy’s house landing on the Wicked Witch.

Mary’s getting caught between two adversaries, Phyllis Lindstrom and Rhoda, = Dorothy’s getting caught between Glinda and the Wicked Witch.


The Cowardly Lion = Lou Grant and his fear of women in the workplace.

The brainless Scarecrow = the brainless Ted Baxter.

The heartless Tin Man = the insolent Murray Slaughter.

And finally:

Dorothy’s clicking her heels and saying “There’s no place like home” = the final episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the one in which everyone gets fired and promptly sings a song of homecoming: “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.”

Perhaps it is no mystery why On the Threshold had to contain a strong, intellectual woman character—and perhaps it is no surprise why that character would be so helpful in bringing about the resolution. All the source material for the book comes from a time when the author just happened to be studying with loads of women at Sarah Lawrence. Moreover, how to deny my sister’s influence? The funny thing, though, is that many a feminist reader might oppose the work on the grounds that the women characters are not independent enough nor do they speak to one another enough with regard to women’s history and women’s issues. Whatever the case may be, the point of my work is not to offend. The point is to resolve the riddle of the universe, and it is my firm conviction that my characters do just that—and they do it for everyone, irrespective of either race or creed or gender.


On the Threshold
M. Laszlo

Genre: SciFi, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Publisher: Awesome Independent Authors Publishing
Date of Publication: February 2024
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1922329584
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1922329585
Number of pages: 342
Word Count: Approximately 90,000 words
Cover Artist: Rose Newland

Tagline: Obsessed with solving the riddle of the universe,  Scotsman Fingal T. Smyth conducts an occult-science experiment during which he unleashes a projection of his innate knowledge. 

Book Description: 

Obsessed with solving the riddle of the universe, a Scotsman named Fingal T. Smyth conducts an occult-science experiment during which he unleashes a projection of his innate knowledge. 

Fingal aimed to interrogate this avatar to learn what it knows, but unfortunately, he forgot how violent the animal impulses that reside in the deepest recesses of the unconscious mind can be. The avatar appears as a burning man who seeks to manipulate innocent and unsuspecting people into immolating themselves. 

With little hope of returning the fiery figure into his being, Fingal must capture his nemesis before it destroys the world.

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Autumn, 1907: late one morning, some kind of torrid, invisible beast seemed to wrap itself all around Fingal T. Smyth’s body. Each one of his toes twitching fiercely, he exited the castle and scanned the distant, Scottish Highlands. Go back where you came from. As the entity wrapped itself tighter all about his person, Fingal blinked back his tears. I’m melting, I am. Aye, it’s the heat of fusion.

Gradually, the beast’s heartbeat became audible—each pulsation. At the same time, too, the illusory heat of transformation emitted an odor as of oven-roasted peppercorns dissolving in a cup of burnt coffee.

Over by the gatehouse, Fräulein Wunderwaffe appeared—the little German girl wearing a plain-sewn robe and square-crown bowler. In that moment, she no longer seemed to be a sickly child of seven years: her inscrutable expression resembled that of a wise, indifferent cat.
Perhaps even some kind of lioness. Fingal cringed, and he recalled a fragment of conversation from three weeks earlier.

“She suffers from a most unnatural pathology, an anguished, maniacal obsession with cats,”

Doktor Hubertus Pflug had explained. “Ever since the poor girl was a baby, she has always regarded it her fate to one day metamorphose into a glorious panther, for she believes herself to be ein Gestaltwandler. Do you know this word? It means shapeshifter and refers to someone who possesses the power to take the form of anything in nature.”

The heat radiated up and down Fingal’s spine now, and his thoughts turned back to the present. Aye, it’s a change of phase. I’m melting into a chemical compound. Despite all, he greeted the girl and willed himself to flash a grin.

Fräulein Wunderwaffe did not return the smile. Hand on heart, the little girl drew a bit closer.

Then, as the hot, animalistic presence undulated all across Fingal’s body, the little girl’s eyes grew wide. Until the little girl’s expression turned to that of a vacant stare.

A moment later, her feet pointed inwards, she removed her hat and undid her long, flaxen hair.

Again, he cringed. “If you’ve noticed something, ignore all. This hasn’t got anything to do with you.” A third time, he cringed.

A most ethereal, lyrical, incomprehensible hiss commenced then: from the other end of the winding, decorative-brick driveway, each clay block shining the color of blue Welsh stone, a sleek Siamese cat with a coat of chocolate-spotted ivory had just appeared. And now the creature raced toward his shadow.

As he looked into the animal’s big, searching, blue eyes, the chocolate Siamese studied the off-center tip of his nose. Then the animal turned away, as if to compare the peculiarity with that of some disembodied visage hovering in the distance.

Out upon the loch, meanwhile, a miraculous rogue wave suddenly arose—and now the swell crashed against the pebbly strand.

Not a moment later, a cool flame crawled across Fingal’s throat. The strange fire rattled, too—not unlike the sound of fallen juniper leaves caught up in the current and dancing against the surface of a stone walkway.

Crivens. By now, the alien, pulsating presence held him so tight that he could barely breathe.

Before long, he fell to the earth, and as the dreamlike flame continued to move across his throat, he rolled all about—until the illusory sensation of cool warmth wriggled and twisted and dropped into his neck dimple.

He crawled over to the little girl and grabbed her ankle. “Get on up to your physician’s room, eh?

Please. Go on and wake Doktor Pflug and tell him what’s happened.”

About the Author:

M. Laszlo is the pseudonym of an extreme recluse who lives in Bath, Ohio. Rumor holds that he derived his pen name from the character of Victor Laszlo in the classic film Casablanca. 

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