The Sage Chronicles

Join Karima’s protagonist, enigmatic author Halycon Sage, as we explore these novels from the Post-Modernist Minimalist Neo-Symbolist Pseudo-Realist School of Literature where up is down, down is sideways and time flows in multiple directions!

The Way Beyond cover
The Book of Squidly Light cover
Sage's Multiverse Mini-Series cover
“Wildly Imaginative! Buckle up for a laugh out loud romp through a multi-dimensional universe full of unforgettable characters that will change the way you see the world.”

— Jeneane Harter

HALYCON SAGE, escaping into the western desert to flee The Mail Pile and possibly save the
world, has no idea what he’s getting into. You’d think founding the whole Post-Modernist
Minimalist Neo-Symbolist Pseudo-Realist school of literature would be enough, but at this point it’s almost a side-gig.

HALYCON SAGE, whose whereabouts, identity, and origins are all mysterious and who might
be a Native American male, is meeting some odd characters: a brilliant but confused scientist,
a petulant and entitled columnist, a laser-focused beauty, an Iraqi family down on their luck, a
Roma traveler, assorted thinkers, outlaws, critics, spies, and a shadowy figure of evil.

Garek Bushnell’s admirable narration combines with visuals from Aziza Kay Grace and Karima
and music from the talented tech geeks at Lulu Press to immerse you in Halycon Sage’s world
for an enjoyable 74 seconds. Jim and David Prues at Cincinnati’s Ambient Studios put the whole thing together.

From the Sage and Squid Editorial Board, a Public Service Message: This video contains some really odd anomalies!

        • How old are these people? Sure, Preisczech is a young genius, but he’s not that young!
        • Is the girl with the dandelion Ruby? There’s certainly a resemblance, but . . . [Two humans, a horse, a cat, and some Squidren all shake their heads, creating quite a wind]
        • Oh yeah, and how did a post-modern biker bar become a saloon from the Old West?
          What the heck?

To repeat: Time anomalies! The culprits are probably some of the time travelers, alien squid, and so on from The Book of Squidly Light (new edition coming soon). Or maybe it’s just the Nanobots.

Read an excerpt...
Halycon Sage did not want to write Boo Radley Goes Hawaiian. After his initial enthusiasm, the idea bored him. And he realized that, given the complexity of the material, it would have to be about five times as long as anything he had previously written. This thought plunged him into an agony of writer’s block.

He did not want to go into town either, after writing the detestable book, to find an internet café, check his emails and send in his draft. Kathryn, his editor, would be hopping up and down, scolding him electronically for his lack of diligence and demanding to know his whereabouts. Though generally a reasonable person, she became unreasonable on the subject of deadlines.

Halycon Sage, sitting beside a shining stream, shaded by purple mountains and warmed by a perfect milk-pour of yellow sun, picked up his pen and wrote:

“Boo Radley sat…”

“Boo Radley stood…”

“Boo Radley waited…”

Breathing in sagebrush, eucalyptus and the special smell of wet willow trees along the water, the special, beloved smell of the West, he wrote:

“Nobody had expected Boo Radley to…” and

“‘Hawaii!’ thought Boo Radley.”

It was no good. He hated the thing. He wanted to get back to his real work, the novel that was currently struggling to be born out of his sensitive artist’s unconscious: The Land Before Time Forgot Itself.

Read what professional reviewers have to say...
(The first book of The Sage Chronicles, The Way Beyond, was originally titled The Life and Times of Halycon Sage (now the subtitle), and is referred to by that name in the reviews below.)

kirkus reviews logoBushnell introduces one of the world’s most enigmatic writers in this metafictional debut novel. Halycon Sage is a man of mystery, to the world and to himself. Halycon Sage is a pen name he pronounces “HAL-i-con,” which leads to plenty of confusion. The writer’s true identity is a source of continual speculation, much of which is spurred by misdirection placed in the media by his own editor. Another source of controversy: whether or not Sage is truly the Great American Novelist, especially considering his novels are generally no longer than a short paragraph and should not be considered novels at all. Contradictions surround Sage like the tumbleweeds of his youth: he is simultaneously famous, influential, anonymous, and poor.

To get back to his roots, he embarks on a journey into the heart of America, riding atop his motel-sleeping, TV-watching horse, named No-Name Stupid. Attempting to find himself at the intersection of religion, ethnicity, and art, Sage encounters a menagerie of critics, thinkers, outlaws, and spies, all while hammering out his own oeuvre of iconoclastic minimalism. Is it genius? Is it nonsense? Sage may be the last person to know. Bushnell shares her hero’s compulsive brevity: the book is only 140 pages, though nearly every one of them is involved in the metafictional project of this “found” manuscript. It’s a madcap novel, leaping and lurching with a frenetic energy reminiscent of mid-1960s postmodernism.

The satire is broad—a famous reviewer decides whether or not he likes new writers by using a dartboard—yet charming; the silliness is infectious, and Bushnell never pauses in any one place long enough for boredom to set in. Bushnell is an undeniable writer, with a talent for sentences and scenarios. “His urbanity was all surface,” she says of a critic who has just been discovered in the back of a limo and is now shrieking for oysters, “a thin, thin earth’s-crust over the red-hot lava of his petulance.” The mystery of Sage’s true identity is perhaps not as compelling as the story wishes it to be; in the end, though, it might not matter.

Intriguing, if imperfect, comic novel.


“This is a deliciously funny and witty satire of the literary world.”

Karima Vargas Bushnell satirizes the literary world and many other targets in her deliciously funny fiction The Life and Times of Halycon Sage or The Last Book Ever Published.

Halycon Sage (pronounced “HAL-i-con”, not “Hal-sea-on”) is a writer who has made an unlikely success of himself by writing very, very short novels. As he embarks on a journey of soul searching (with the concurrent goal of saving the world), his story becomes intertwined with many other equally eccentric and entertaining characters. Among them, there’s an Iraqi immigrant who, unfortunately, harbors a love for aviation and gardening (including the use of fertilizer), which makes him a prime target of federal authorities; an Eastern European named Alexander Preisczech, who is baffled by the way supermarkets seem to call his last name over the loudspeaker; and No-Name Stupid, Halycon Sage’s horse, who has a mind of his own, and uses it quite effectively.

This book is more about the journey than the destination. The tale is a clever, wild mixture of lowbrow and pop-cultural humor. But there’s also a spiritual element woven throughout the story that, even with the humor, comes through as sincere. Every character is on a quest for fulfillment of one kind or another, and it’s easy to root for them on their journeys. There are some nice “extras” in the book as well, from informational and amusing footnotes, to an appendix that includes a fake high-school term paper analyzing Halycon Sage’s novel One Hundred and One Cows—complete with the teacher’s comments written in.

The prose is clean and, more importantly, delivers the jokes with a droll sensibility, as when Preisczech, futilely searching for Halycon Sage, wakes suddenly:

“Halycon Sage, where are you?” he cried from the depths of his soul.
“Shaddap, ya moron,” came the response from down the hall. It was true, what his parents had told him. To every question, there was always an answer.

Bushnell herself boasts a variety of experiences, serving as director of the Light Upon Light Sufi Center in Minneapolis, and having worked as a college professor, refugee/immigrant job counselor, and more. In The Life and Times of Halycon Sage, she’s successfully channeled those experiences, weaving a variety of outlandish personalities and points of view into an entertaining, fast-moving novel that is nearly guaranteed to provoke laughter.


The Life and Times of Halycon Sage has the stirring immediacy of a guitar riff.

Karima Vargas Bushnell’s title character . . . is an interview-averse writer cloaked in mystery. The public wonders if he’s Native-American. He’s consumed by his aversions to machinery, consumer goods and bureaucracy, but devoted to his horse, No-Name Stupid . . . Bushnell playfully makes him out to be a genius who dispenses his vast philosophical knowledge and desire to save the world in famous minimalist “novels” that run only a few words or paragraphs. Sample title: “Boo Radley Goes Hawaiian.”

Bushnell’s own prose is witty and lively. At the funeral of an Indian, Sage observes: “The ‘prepared’ dead people he’d come across before looked like slightly decadent wax dolls getting ready for a hot date, but this body was like a charged battery, conveying not only peace, but energy.”

Bushnell sends Halycon Sage alone into the Nevada desert, away from junk mail, TV and greed, but not far from a benign biker gang, or from those who would unravel his myth: a pompous literary critic named Basel Vasselschnauzer, the batty Eastern European inventor Alex Preisczech and a villain, Niemand Kompt. Sage’s quest? “To use insight, and the magic of words, to get (people) to stop killing each other and abusing the animals and destroying the earth.”

Bushnell clogs the book’s flow a bit with superfluous minor characters such as an al-Qaeda fighter and a Mossad agent, but her vision remains pure. The director of a Sufi center in Minneapolis and sustainable living advocate, she and Halycon Sage both imagine a harmonious post-industrial utopia. It’s a beautiful idea, lovingly expressed.

Read what fans have to say...
(The first book of The Sage Chronicles, The Way Beyond, was originally titled The Life and Times of Halycon Sage (now the subtitle), and is referred to by that name in the reviews below.)

 

“Different and Refreshing. This is a book different from your usual read, and one that has hidden depths. “

— Ayesha

 

Playful, smart, curiosity-inducing… unexpected page-turner

I didn’t expect this book to be a “page-turner,” but it actually was. I REALLY wanted to know who Halycon Sage was, and how or why he/she came to be writing “minimalist” style. The other characters in the book are just as interesting and intriguing. I kept asking myself what is the deeper meaning, or IS there any such thing? It was satisfying to wonder at it all, to laugh at the story, the characters (some with pretty silly names) and more importantly, laugh at myself reading it without wanting to put it down; I read it in one sitting. There was just something about it, and I’ll probably read it a few times the way you watch a movie you love and get something new the more times you watch it.

It’s charming, and may even be described as one friend put it “stealth spirituality,” though that would be totally up to each reader. It stands on its own as a playful, smart, & curiosity-inducing romp that pulls you in. Love it.

— Kay

 

RX for Societal Angst and Spiritual Hunger

In THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HALYCON SAGE Karima Vargas Bushnell addresses serious societal challenges in a rollicklng way! If American politics are weighing you down, reading this book will lighten your load. It’s a fun read illustrating some spiritual principles.

— Carol McCormick

 

This little book is one of the FUNNIEST I have read in years. If you are a struggling writer, earnest teacher, new immigrant or wandering Sufi minstrel this book is for you–it will have you howling with laughter. If you are just weighed down by our 21st century American existence it is for you. While totally modern, there is a classical, enduring and endearing quality to the antics of Halycon and this swirling cast of characters. Best read in one sitting.

— Sabura Harriet Crofts

 

LOVED, LOVED, LOVED HAL-ih-kon SAGE. It’s so tightly wrapped and profoundly structured that I’m sure I missed at least 14 significant clues as to the REAL meaning of the narrative! I think it must have taken genuine guts, courage, fortitude, devotion and even more than all that combined for you to stick with your inspiration all the way through to its sweet-bitter-sweet triumphant end. You Rock!

— Lennie Major

 

The Duke meets cranky old man. This book has everything! In some sections though, that is not really a good thing. Overall an ok read.

— Michelle Carrell

 

Too much fun! Absolutely hilarious! Reminiscent of Jasper Fforde’s “Thursday Next” series in a way. Loved, loved loved this book. Metafiction, perhaps? A book about books. Perfect bibliophile book.

— Mommy2828

 

Amazing storytelling! This book was much different than I expected and though at times I did feel there needed to be a bit more action and dialogue, it still held my attention. I have often thought about what it would be like to leave everything behind and take off with a good horse, and never look back.

This book shows you the imaginative and hilarious world of Halycon Sage quite well. The people met along his travels are interesting and strange, keeping the reader engaged to the end!

— Kitty Honeycutt

 

Theatre of the absurd returns. Hilarious with a serious undertow. Takes quirky and absurd to a ridiculous place with implicit social commentary.

— Annex

Are an Iraqi-American preschooler and a Cat-Attorney really necessary to save the earth? What about the Apocalypse Zombie and the sparkly blue telepathic Squids from outer space? Who is Jenny, anyway? What’s going on here? And most important of all, can possibly-not-so-imaginary author Halycon Sage and his multicultural friends triumph in a suddenly fluctuating multiverse? So many questions. The Book of Squidly Light.

Book of Squidly Light selected for the American Library Association’s Booklist Magazine

“Booklist Magazine is the premier review source used by librarians to purchase titles for their collections. The magazine is used by tens of thousands of librarians across the country.

In an effort to help librarians purchase independently published titles for their collections, Booklist Magazine has partnered with BlueInk Review to offer a monthly list of notable independent books. We were pleased to include your book review in our monthly list.”

Yours sincerely,
Patricia Moosbrugger
Managing Partner, BlueInk Review

Read an excerpt...

“I’m John Kennedy,” said the Squid, stepping forward. Well, slithering. A few others had arrived quietly behind him.

Halycon Sage stood silent. Though he didn’t know exactly when or how, he had absorbed extensive training in good manners as seen in the Indian way. If you did not understand something, you kept silent. You waited for the meaning to appear, for comprehension to dawn. It was also respectful to leave pauses after someone spoke. It was wrong to leap in immediately, showing yourself to be a fool: brash, rude, and thoughtless.

The silence grew.

A minute-and-a-half can seem like forever at the first meeting of alien races. The Squid stood frozen, as in a game of statues. Jenny and Preisczech, a little back from the group, watched with interest, his arm around her shoulders.

Finally, the tension became unbearable. Something had to be done, and Sage made the decision to meet like with like.

He stepped forward. “I’m Pope Francis.”

John Kennedy was certainly an odd name for a Squid from beyond the galaxy, but the Squidren had been so intent on their own peculiar form of linguistics that their practical research had been, perhaps, inadequate.

Seeing that a successful two-sentence exchange had at last been achieved, the rest of the Squidren stepped forward and introduced themselves in like manner.

“I’m John Chang.”

“I’m Mohammad Schmidt.”

“I’m Muhammad Wang Smith.”

“I’m Obiwan Mohammed.”

At that moment, when it seemed that nothing weirder could happen, Preisczech stepped forward. He was full of joy. He remembered his long, agonizing experience in picking out a name that would help him blend into an unfamiliar land, earning him respect and credibility. He remembered his many missteps and rejections, and the humiliating laughter. Maybe his long, painful search for a name was not without meaning, not the absurd caprice of a cruel, uncaring universe without any organizing moral principle. He could guide these strangers, spare them the pain he had gone through, welcome them graciously when they had come so far. He could be a bridge, a mentor, an example is this matter of names.

Preisczech held out his hand and clasped a faintly pulsing tentacle. “I’m Alexander Flintstone Lazlo Buddy Macadamian Preisczech,” he said, with the deep assurance of one who knows his way.

Read what professional reviewers have to say...
The Book of Squidly Light is a spirited and philosophical science fiction novel whose humor abounds.

Halycon Sage, a famous writer of very short books, meets aliens, enemies, and fights to stave off nuclear annihilation in Karima Vargas Bushnell’s wacky science fiction romp The Book of Squidly Light.

Halycon, whose mind shifts “between worlds and dimensions, reality and fantasy, tragedy and laughter,” survived the apocalyptic incident known as The Event. He lives with other survivors in a small town, where he encounters cephalopod-like aliens called Squidren. Interspecies social interactions, romance, nanobots, time travel, an alternate universe, and a cat who’s also an attorney factor in thereafter, blurring reality and fiction: the text even involves an “imaginary author,” Karima Vargas Bushnell.

The large cast includes a clear-thinking “Apocalypse Zombie” whose physical discorporation is explained by  [SPOILER REMOVED HERE] and Tarzun, who looks and acts like the Edgar Rice Burroughs character. Ranging references, both common and esoteric, are made and numbered; they are explained in the book’s endnotes.

Free-wheeling and unpredictable, the story proves to be dynamic. It employs a colorful, casual, almost conspiratorial tone, sometimes addressing the audience in a direct way: “We will draw an editorial veil over the meeting of Ruby and Halycon Sage after so long apart. Suffice it to say, they were very glad to see each other.” Humor abounds, incorporated with varying degrees of subtlety. An earnest alien poet inquires “Who built this city on rock ‘n’roll?” and writes, “Optometrist, eye thyself. Aye, thyself. I, thyself.”

Satirical turns tackle subjects including religion and politics, with veiled criticisms of the current US president involved, as well as an alien parallel to issues surrounding nontraditional gender roles. Beyond its social criticisms, it suggests singular perspectives regarding people’s commonalities and differences. A character suggests a straightforward division among beings: one group for people who want to save the Earth, distribute resources fairly, and not hurt people they haven’t met; and another group whose ethics are more questionable, putting their own interests above all others.

The book is punctuated by drawings and photographs, while its various fonts set “quoted” works apart from fictional sources and narrators. The novelty of its style becomes more self-indulgent as the book progresses, though, and the plot degenerates. Final scenes seem more like a required wrap-up than a grand conclusion.

Delivering random but inspired humor and social insights, The Book of Squidly Light is a spirited and philosophical science fiction work.


Karima Vargas Bushnell’s The Book of Squidly Light is an eclectic, genre-bending novel exploring spiritual messages with tongue-in-cheek comedy. The first book, The Life and Times of Halycon Sage, introduced the eponymous Sage, [SPOILER REMOVED] celebrated author.

Here, we find him just where he left off: dwelling in a world recently purged of modern technology and escaping into his writing, unaware of how his words impact a fluctuating multiverse. In a metafictional conceit worthy of a Charlie Kaufman film, it turns out that while Bushnell is the creator of Sage, Sage is the author of Bushnell and the reality—our reality—where she exists. In Sage’s world, he’s joined by a multicultural cast as they navigate the sudden discovery of a squid-like race of intelligent extraterrestrials. Meanwhile, in his fictional creation (our world), a mad dictator has come into power, threatening everything that really matters.

Setting things right will bring both worlds together in a collision that extends consciousness to inanimate machines, exposes politically motivated time-travel conspiracies, and harnesses the spiritual power of the written word. The Book of Squidly Light is ambitious but never too serious. Bushnell namechecks authors like Vonnegut and Heinlen—clues to the project she has in mind: a social novel drawing from sci-fi tropes to offer wry introspection about current affairs. Frequently funny in the vein of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams (although not every joke lands), the novel eschews the darkness of dystopia and finds hope in the shadows of apocalypse. It may well try to include too much (romance, literary criticism, spirituality, and political discourse—not to mention aliens, nanobots, and time travel), and often the details can be sketchy or plot points can appear almost deus ex machina when needed.

But readers shouldn’t sweat the details—the author certainly doesn’t. Instead, she’s having too much fun and betting that those seeking escape, however seemingly absurd, from the oppression of the current world, might just have fun, too. Also available as an ebook.


kirkus reviews logoThe adventures of a mysterious writer continue in a post-apocalyptic world.

Bushnell’s latest adventure starring Halycon Sage opens with the enigmatic wise man and a ragtag group of miscellaneous characters teaming up to make the best of things in a crisis. Not only has all higher technology stopped working, but also some tenets of basic physics appear to have been canceled; even oil and gasoline no longer combust.

The small cast of survivors includes former gangster Ratbone; scientist Preisczech and his culinary-expert wife, Jenny; former pilot Muhammad Abdurraheem Hussein; erstwhile book reviewer Sophie McGregor; and, of course, Sage himself, a Native American writer who’d been “mistakenly raised as an East Coast intellectual,” and his girlfriend, Ruby. They’re all doing what they can to survive; Sage has become his town’s unofficial hunter-gatherer, for instance, and he’s out on the chaparral when a mysterious wagon shows up, driven by the Apocalypse Zombie, a dark figure who, readers
are told, knew of Sage’s works before the “Event” that shut down the world.

There’s also an alternate reality populated by extraterrestrials called Squidren who venerate The Book of Lighted Squid (which features gnomic passages and nonsense verse such as “Cuttlefish, cuddle fish / Snuggly buggly cuddle fish / Shall you eat it in a dish? / Don’t you touch my cuttlefish!”). Bushnell’s narrative tone is carefree throughout, as in passages such as “Given the post-apocalyptic nature of the situation, it was quite surprising how many people were actually having fun.”

As the novel goes on, the plot pinballs among its various subjects with a manic intensity and a surplus of quips and absurdist jokes. This gonzo style is undeniably entertaining on a page-by-page level (“it’s something called badinage,” one alien tells another. “It’s supposed to be funny”). However, some readers may find it a bit too random to be fully satisfying. A reliably jokey but unevenly executed weird-fantasy novel.

 

Read what fans have to say...
Wildly Imaginative! Buckle up for a laugh out loud romp through a multi-dimensional universe full of unforgettable characters that will change the way you see the world.

— Jeneane Harter

 

This book is dynamic, intelligent, sensitive and poignant, containing both sunshine and rain. For this reader, it is a delightful apocalypse. It has a dizzying menagerie of chararacters dealing with time travel, alien encounters, and parallel universes all couched in the author’s core values of love, hope, courage and acceptance, combined with her inherent sense of whimsy and authenticity. The story is a beautiful tapestry of today’s headlines including a crazy dictator directing the theatre of the absurd. It reads like science fiction, but fells like REAL.

— Brad Gustafson

 

Witty and random. Unlike anything I have ever read.

I read. A lot.

I have never read anything quite like this.

I read the first book (The Life and Times of Halycon Sage) and was happy to see there was a second installment. As soon as it was available, I bought the kindle version and read the entire book in one sitting. The story is so strange and delightful and complicated. It pokes fun at human frailty and how strange things must look to someone from another world (culture, background, country). The Zikr is my favorite chapter. I won’t tell you what happens, but the cat, and the squid’s reaction to the cat, is incredible.

What a great social commentary for those willing to search.

I think this is one of those books that will change with every successive read-through. This two-book series is now part of my read-once-a-year list. I can’t wait to see what I discover next time.

— Handy Dandy Chandi

 

Invites to a certain happiness. Unexpected. I rooted for the characters. A long way from current headlines. No dread involved. Absolutely stuffed with good will and oddball characters who bounce off of each other. I became fond of F. Atty. Lumpkin, the cat/attorney and the Apocalypse Zombie. Lots of style references to books and movies. It was fun to go, “Oh! I know where that’s from!”

— Sufi Guitar

 

The welcome return of the character Halycon Sage who frankly this time may be in real trouble. Is the book silly? Not if you have an ear for social satire, covert spirituality and love of the absurd. Trying to figure out how to cast it as a blockbuster.

— Annex

Within these pages you will find—or perhaps create by the simple act of reading—a collection of glimpses into the world of Halycon Sage.

If this is your first encounter with the enigmatic author, you will discover small details about him and those in his orbit that may throw light upon your own existence.

If this is not your first encounter but a further step into the labyrinth, the interdimensional puzzle pieces you find may be even more significant.

Either way we’re glad you’re here.

Read an excerpt...

Five Tips for Intergalactic Diplomacy

            It was tough enough understanding each other when conversations were limited to Earth-based cultures: religions, genders, colors, political tribes, all that stuff. How about now when all these crazy space aliens are here? (No offense meant.)

            But seriously, when a simple handshake is not only complicated by, “Business style or fingers-up?”, “Maybe you should pranam instead,” or “High five, low five, dap, or fist bump?,” but by, “What should I do with this tentacle?” and “Is touching the carapace required or insulting?”

Handy Dandy Guide to Partying Down With the Galaxies and Making Friends Everywhere!

  1. Dealing with the Snrrr: Don’t even try it!Twice voted Most Annoying Aliens in the Galaxy, this species will despise you if you can’t pronounce their name right, which nobody can do but the Snrrr themselves.
  2. Don’t do stupid stuff when dealing with the Squidren.We are a charming and reasonable group of beings, but please don’t share poetry that doesn’t scan, make disparaging remarks about Our Brothers the Shrimp, or use a paper towel without apologizing and thanking it. Simple courtesy.
  3. You will probably not encounter the Childans, but if you do, don’t waste your time!While quite peaceful, they are unmitigated cynics who zip around space or hang out in their precious Lava Cone making fun of anyone who tries to do anything constructive for the Multiverse.
  4. Don’t assume the apparently dominant species on any planet is actually dominant.Earth is a great example of this as we discovered when both cats and horses (one of each at least), turned out to be smarter and more cooperative than humans – and we’ve barely brushed the surface of the Ocean Dwellers!
  5. Always bring a towel.Hitchhiker’s Guide was right about this: it’s an all-purpose carry-bag, blanket, sarong, mainsail or weapon – or use it to dry off your wet little tootsies.