It's been this way all of my life. Like when I was in high school, and we'd be reading our homework assignments out loud, and some kid would stand up right before me and read pretty much what I had written. Not that he'd cheated or anything. I never showed my work to anyone. And yet he'd written my ideas, even using my words. I had a hard time proving that I wasn't the cheat. "Great minds think alike," the more enlightened among my teachers would say. But that was too pat. I knew something else was going on - I just didn't know what.
It happened on the radio, too. I'd be singing a song, driving somewhere, and I turn on the radio and that very same song was playing. Yeah, I know that they played the Beatles a lot back then - still do on the oldies stations I listen to - but I mean, the Beatles have a pretty big catalog. What was the likelihood that "Dr. Robert" was on the radio right after I'd been singing it?
When I got to college and grad school, I began to search for similar patterns in history. There were plenty. Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray invented the telephone, independently, at the same time. Pretty much the same for motion pictures - invented independently by Edison in the U.S., Friese-Greene in England, and the Lumiere Bros in Paris. And of course Wallace came up with a theory of natural selection all on his own, at the same time as Darwin.
I was starting to put together a dissertation proposal on this very topic, when I came across an article published in an obscure journal - "On the Ubiquity of Independent, Simultaneous Invention." I was crushed, but not really surprised. I left the doctoral program and took a job in my uncle's shoe store - I was in de feet, ha ha.
It was not that bad, though. I had no talent for shoe sales, so I wasn't vulnerable to the trauma of someone else coming up with my ideas. No danger of someone stealing my notion of a better display case, because I wouldn't have had that dumb idea in the first place. That was a relief. I went along like that for a good few years.
But the job also gave me lots of time to think and look around the Internet on my iPhone when there were no customers in the store. I began looking into quantum mechanics. Some scientists thought that just thinking about subatomic things was enough to affect them, and our mentalities might actually be in touch in some way with the past and the future, through some kind of time-unified quantum mechanical field. Maybe I and all the people who seemed to co-opt my ideas were connected to some future Omega point, the Platonic source of all ideas!
And sure enough, a few hours after I came up with that hypothesis, I found a book on Amazon on the exact same topic by some physicist I'd never heard of.
No problem. I should have known. Better to sell shoes. Yes, ma'am, we do have that style, and right in your size.
But the urge to break out of this is still strong, and I recently came up with another plan. Science fiction. Maybe if I presented what I know about this synchronicity not in a science book, but in a little science fiction story published somewhere online, it would slip under the radar. If it was not known in the future, maybe the quantum mechanical effect would keep it unknown to anyone but me until after it was published now, in the present. Lots of big ideas began with science fiction - Asimov and his robots, Verne and his submarines and rockets to the moon, right?
But I would have to be careful. Better not to think about this story too much, lest it make the synchronic leap. Better just write it and send it out.
(Sigh) And I just read what you are reading. The very same story. My story. Hopeless case....
Synchronicity was first published in BuzzyMag, 25 April 2014, and is one of many stories Paul Levinson has had published. Paul is Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University in NYC. His science fiction novels include The Silk Code (winner of Locus Award for Best First Science Fiction Novel of 1999, author's cut ebook 2012), Borrowed Tides (2001), The Consciousness Plague (2002, 2013), The Pixel Eye (2003), The Plot To Save Socrates (2006, 2012), Unburning Alexandria (2013), and Chronica (2014) - the last three of which are historical as well as science fiction, and are known as the Sierra Waters trilogy. You can find more of his work on his profile @PaulLev.
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