If It Weren’t

IF IT WEREN’T for our own belief in the reality of the physical world and all things physical, what else might make a difference to us? If we were spirits, the kind of beings that some say we are after our lives as mortals are finished, what would we care about?

A short list of What They Care About, for spirits:

Bodies? No

Money? No

Intimacy? Yes

Family? Yes

Air? No

Water? No

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Want some help?

EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, and only sometimes, maybe we can use a little bit of help.

Perhaps we’ve lost a job that we really liked, perhaps we’re in the midst of a divorce, or perhaps the dog that we were hoping might live forever, maybe she’s just died. Those are difficult times.

In the midst of such times, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were one person in all the world, someone we loved and who knew just how to help us at that moment?  One who had the perfect ideas and exactly the equipment we needed to put us back on our wheels again?

Here’s an example. Let’s say that all these bad things have happened to us and suddenly we’ve driven over the edge a life-crater, and the only thing we could think to do then is to sit on the bumper of our car (which fell to the bottom of the crater, on its side, in the mud) and cry.

We’re in the crater, crying, and about then do we hear this faint little sound, from a long way away (chug-chug-chug…). If only we could have called somebody, but when we tried to do that, our phone died, too.

(chug-chug-chug… louder now.)

With any luck, we were thinking, we could have brought a gun with us and ended our Continue reading

Temporary Ending of the Film called _Illusions_


I’ve just now finished my education in the class called Films Today.

I began studying years ago, and now at last I’ve graduated. Why, you may ask, did it take me four decades to finish the course? I hate to say this, but the reason is: I’m slow.  Year after year, I thought a story that so many book-readers enjoyed could be a good motion picture (of course once it had a fine screenwriter, an excellent director and a cast who loves the action).

My instructors kept reminding me, “Money! Don’t forget, it takes money to make a movie!”   I thought, of course it takes a little money to help it to happen, but when it came to a test for me to understand this, I failed.   So many books I’ve written, I thought, so many of them would make terrific movies!

A couple times there was the money, but as you know, that doesn’t guarantee a good film. The source of the trouble, was me. I chose a wrong person to direct the film, or I didn’t recognize or object when scenes were included instead of being cut.

So I kept on coming to class for the pleasure of the subject, yet I kept on failing every test. Now I’ve learned that failing, is graduating.

It used to be that there could have been a wonderful film of Illusions. Just a few million dollars, some biplanes, some fields for them to fly into, a few actors and a script, then just thirty thousand feet of film or so, and it would be finished!

Not now.  For the last half-year, I’ve talked with screenwriters, directors, producers, studios and independents, foreign movie studios, actors — and nothing has happened. I’ve been told that the film industry is not anywhere it used to be — the old film industry, they told me, is gone.

Nowadays, motion picture projects need huge amounts of money, in the first place, and in the second, the source of the money needs to be certain that the film will be successful. The best way to do that, it seems, would be to film a sequel of a picture that was a success in the first place.

Deciding not to shoot a sequel, to make an original film even after a successful book, is to make a gamble with one’s money.  To make an original film that is not intended to appeal to teenage viewers today is a Big Gamble.  To make an original film that is not intended to appeal to teenagers and computer graphics now is a Very Big Gamble.  To make an original film that is not intended for teenagers, does not use computer graphics and doesn’t smash things into little pieces along the way, is a Major Very Very Big Gamble.

If you’re an invester in motion pictures today, then, would you choose to put your money into a sequel, or into a MVVBG?  Once in a while your bet will pay off after a long time (The Princess Bride).  Usually, though, the money will rise to vanish above the cooking of its own production.

So in the last half-year I had all these people, even apparently a couple of major stars (though they never spoke a word to me) mildly interested in the film of Illusions.  Nothing happened.  Then by itself, I realized my story would never be made until the film industry changed the way it makes and distributes motion pictures.  That means, to the best of my knowledge, that the book Illusions will never be a film.

Now I’m content.  The book continues to do well, finding readers all around the world. Only a few of our major novels have whispered their stories as well or better than this little book has done it.

So here’s an announcement: The film of Illusions (shy of some miracle) will never happen in our lifetimes.  I might be born, say fifty years from now, as president of a major film studio, and make the gamble then.  Illusions could be a huge success (or go bankrupt) by my bet on the edge of a spinning dime… (Oh.  In fifty years, there won’t be dimes.) …on the edge of a spinning thousand-credit coin.  No miracles required.  Just a few people who know it could be fun, and their money, waiting on the table.




An Ending

THANK YOU ALL, for talking with me these days when ideas have become strings of letters between our computers.

I don’t leave today because of difficult times for me, just that we have proven that there are others so much like us, all through our world.  I hope I’ll be writing more books, and that we can find each other and touch again on those pages.  Lacking the pages, though, I’ll remember that there’s a trace of us in everyone we have met, in everyone we shall meet in the belief of time, and in the lands far beyond that belief.

With you always,


At Last! The New Book (for Other People)



TODAY IS THE PUB DATE for Part-Time Angels. As of a few minutes ago you can find it with photos in color as an Kindle e-book at Amazon.com,


and as a black-and-white trade paperback at:


These links worked for me, though they are not supposed to be ready till a few days from now.

The subtitle says that there are 75 other stories in the book, but in fact there may be more. After all that writing, I didn’t feel like counting that high. It has 426 pages, which is a lot of pages, for me.

Most of the stories came from this website, so you’ll probably decline to get this book. But I thought other readers might like it. Some of the stories, after months of reading over and over for typographical errors, can still make me smile.

All the work of the art and design and the technical problems for making them into a book was done by my friend Anne Louque, who did Curious Lives and Illusions II.

Thank you, dear Anne!


Bid Time Return

IS OUR LITTLE FAMILY, is our meeting here, is it ever a remarkable experience? Is it warmer and closer than most Facebook families or Twitter’s? Some say it’s just the same, others will feel there’s something about this place that touches us, in a way we can’t quite define.

Last night I took some time off and watched a favorite film. Have you seen Somewhere in Time?  It’s a 1980 love story about a journey across time, with Chris Reeve and Jane Seymour.

There’s such a lovely feeling about that film, it’s close to me, just as in this website. There’s a site for those who love it: SomeWhereInTime.tv. Often the creators of the film talk about the strange and beautiful feeling they had, playing Richard Matheson’s screenplay of his book Bid Time Return. (They changed the title, since it sounded like “Bedtime Return,” the title for a sexy B story.)

Somewhere in Time was filmed at Mackinac Island, and at the grand old hotel there. No cars on the island, just horses and carriages, and the people there became bit-players, wearing their 1912 clothing, remembering what the hotel was like in those times. They said that it was magical, shooting that film, and I heard that word for the time, over and over.

I had just a brush with the film industry, and I hadn’t heard that word from anyone there. Magical. And sure enough, I said the word again, having seen the film for maybe the fourth time last night.

I met Chris Reeve in the early ’90s, when he and Ned Beatty flew up to Oregon In Chris’s Beech Bonanza, and we talked about a film of Illusions. Both them had this same lovely sense. We sat under a tree on the lawn one summer day, and talked about how to make the film happen. Chris had some quality, he could make anything happen, and by the time they flew away, I was sure the film would be made.

Not long after that, he had some difficulty with a horse. We still talked about the project, and he said. “My problem is not that people think I can’t do things; it’s that people think I can do anything!”

He wrote a screenplay about a man who was paralyzed, but every night, in dreams, he was perfect…which one was real? I know what happened to Chris, of course, he’s become his own character, real and perfect once again.

There are little flashes of magic that remind me of Chris in this site, when someone mentions a word about the spirit of love that connects us together. It’s reflected in people, in films, in stories and music. Can you recall other times when they touched the same magic, in films and events that sparkled their light upon us?

I’m probably not alone. I’d be grateful to see that enchantment in stories we never knew existed.


One Message, and One Reply

Dear Richard,

I have never e-mailed an author, so forgive me for my brief note. I enjoyed your work, The Reluctant Messiah.

At first, I questioned why someone had slid this under my door as I worked in the Child Protection Field, I never knew who had provided me this gift. I should say it sat unopened on my desk for months before I chose to open it. The questions it posed were wonderful. I am not a religious person and to be honest I believe only in a something greater than me, but not sure what or who that may be.

This book hit home with me as it reminded me of my childhood and the people that saved me. I was disappointed when as quickly as it had been given to me it was taken away. I am not sure who took it, but glad it was mine briefly. I have obtained another copy and I recently gave it to a young man in a mental health facility that stated stress had made him snap. I laughed as I explained the stress of being chosen to be a messiah.

Thank You.


Hi (unnamed reader),

Such a strange life this little book is leading!  I’ve heard from readers who were given Illusions as a gift on a yacht anchored off Monaco, and from a man who found it when he was homeless and drunk, sleeping on a sidewalk in Manhattan.

I may not know the person who slipped the book under your door, but I know her motive: she thought an idea or two, if you read the story, might bring you a moment of happiness.  Was that your motive, too, when you gave it to the young man?

Like so many others, readers or not, you are a part-time angel, lifting lives just a little bit.  You have no idea what will happen to your gift, or how it will affect people you’ll never know.  It isn’t God that touches our lives, and yours, it is love.


Is the Handbook a Divine Document?

Steve Stocker sent this comment to us:

I remember you saying in an interview once (and I think Shimoda said the same) that you could use almost anything in the same way; an old newspaper or whatever. Maybe so, but I’ve never mastered it. With the Messiah’s Handbook, it works beautifully for me. As usual, my biggest problems are forgetting that and “arguing for my limitations”. And I just realized that I love the humor mixed in with profundity! So many things lack that playfulness; for me it’s a necessity. :)


I had to reply.

Hi Steve,
Thank you for seeing that a little humor works well.  Yet it’s important for me to _believe_ that the Handbook is just part of a story, that there’s no chance that some divine intelligence was using me to write what it wanted to say.  So when I found your comment, I was frightened.  What if the Handbook turned out to be inspired text, after all?
I picked up the first thing I could see, a telephone bill, concerned still about what I thought you said.  My finger came down on the following sentence, and the words “…you’ll never have to worry…”.
So, thank the Maker, I’m not worried.  But why does the Maker use so many more words than I do when I write?  I guess she does that so that I can pay my phone bill.

Remembering the Messiah’s Handbook


THE LAST TIME I SAW the Messiah’s Handbook was when I threw it away.I had been using it as I was taught in Illusions: hold question in mind, close eyes, open handbook at random, pick left page or right. Eyes open, read answer.Always before it worked: fear dissolved in a smile, doubt lifted by sudden understanding. Always had I been charmed and entertained by what these pages had to tell me.

So that dark day I opened the book, trusting. “Why did my friend Donald Shimoda, who had so much to teach that we so needed to learn, why did he have to die such a senseless death?”

Eyes open, listen to the answer:

                             Everything in this book may be wrong.

A burst of night and rage, I remember, instant fury. I turn to it for help and this is my answer? I threw the book as hard and as far from me as I could, pages fluttering above that nameless Iowa hayfield, the thing tumbling in slow motion, shuddering forever down toward the weeds. I didn’t watch to see where it fell.

I flew from that field and never flew back. The handbook, that senseless hurtful agony-page, was gone.

Twenty years later came a package to a writer in care of the publisher. In the package a note:

Dear Richard Bach, I found this when I was plowing my dad’s soybean field. The field’s a quarter-section used to be in hay and he told me you landed there once with the guy they killed they said was magic. So this has been plowed under I guess for a long time else it’s been disked and harrowed every year and nobody’s seen it till now. For all that, it’s not much hurt and I figured it’s your property and if you’re still alive you ought to have it.

No return address. On the pages, my own fingerprints in engine oil from an old Fleet biplane, a sifting of coarse dusts, a stem or two of grass falling out when I fanned it open.

Rage gone, I held the book a long time, remembering.

Everything in this book may be wrong. Sure enough. But everything may be right, as well. Right and wrong’s not up to a book. I’m the only one to say what’s true for me. I’m responsible.

I leafed through the pages, wondering. Is the book returned to me the same one I threw away, so long ago? Had it been resting quietly underground or had it been changing to become what some future reader needed to remember?

At last, eyes closed, I held the handbook once more and asked.

Dear strange mystical volume, why did you come back?
    Riffled the pages for a moment, opened my eyes and saw.

    Every person,

                           all the events of your life,

                   are there because you have drawn them there.

      What you choose to do with them

                                                    is up to you.

I smiled, reading that. And I chose, this time, instead of throwing it away, to keep the Messiah’s Handbook.

And I choose now, instead of wrapping it in silence, to let you unwrap the whole of it and listen to its whisper for yourself, whenever you wish.

Some of the ideas I’ve found in this book I’ve said in others: There are words here from Illusions and One and Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Out of My Mind and The Ferret Chronicles. A writer’s life, like a reader’s, is fiction and fact; it’s almost-happened and half-remembered and once-dreamed. The smallest part of our being is history that somebody else can verify.

Yet fiction and truth are friends; the only way to tell some truths is in the language of stories.

Donald Shimoda, for instance, my reluctant Messiah, is a real person, though as far as I know he’s never had a mortal body or a voice that anyone else could hear. So is Stormy Ferret real, flying her miniature transport through a terrible storm because she believes in her mission; so is Harley Ferret throwing himself into a midnight sea to save his friend; so are all these characters real who have brought me to life.

Enough explaining. Before you may take a handbook home, however, test this copy, be sure it works.

Hold a question in mind, please. Now close your eyes, open the handbook at random and pick left page or right,

— Richard Bach


Life In The Afterworld, and Maybe Here, Too, Someday

WE CAN LEARN A LOT about the world that follows after we’re done living in this one. Just reading, and we’ll know. And talking with others and then putting things together, one after another.

There used to be a problem for me with heaven. They said that animals come to visit us there, or maybe they just live in quiet places where the frogs and raccoons live, where there are little rivers and quiet ponds where they can relax after a difficult lifetime on earth.

But deers and antelopes, I thought, they’re tired of being dinners after a while, for the lions and tigers and hyenas. And of course for being targets the humans around here, that enjoy shooting animals for sport. Once you’ve lived with the animals in a forest, you get to know them. Day after day. They’ll sleep in the meadow, once they know you’re not out of shoot them, and when your dog learns to be friends and play with them.

Live a life here, be a kind human to the deer (and antelopes, in other places), and you realize they have a right to live here, too, just like us. It goes on through the seasons, in the winters when we can put little things for them to snack on.

Begin a life with them like this, and all of a sudden you can be distressed by some guy you’ve never seen before, walking on your land, and the deers land, in a camoflage suit and a rifle. He intends to kill a deer!


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