Saturday, January 7, 2017
THE MAN WHO
AMONG THE STARS
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Launch Party to be held on Saturday,
January 14, 2017, on Facebook
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You'll love this book
if you like biography and you like space heroes who have flaws, and
if you're interested in my version of the future history of Earth.
Amazon (US) (note pbk and Kindle haven't been linked yet)
Like all my other books, I began this one years ago; I found older versions of the MS that were created in 2005, and I continued writing no matter how long it became. After I began to self-publish my books, this one remained on the back burner because its length had gotten out of hand and it still wasn't finished. I put up some samples on this blog and one person who read them was ecstatic about the piece. I proceeded to send him the MS and he read the whole darn thing and urged me to publish it. So -- I'm making a beginning on that, even though the entire opus still isn't finished.
A lot of you have been reading lines from Part One on the Twitter hashtag author games lately, and others have seen excerpts on certain Facebook events like Tidbit Tuesday. I hope this has whetted your desire to read the entire book.
Also, some of you have read an extract from a later part of Man Who Found Birds, which I published as Fathers and Demons. The current offering gives you the earliest history of the Captain who appears in that book.
Here is the description that you'll find on Amazon and Smashwords (an expansion of the blurb on the back cover above):
Robbin Haysus Nikalishin was born on 31 October of the year 2729 and ultimately became the first starship Captain to make contact with extraterrestrials. This fictionalized biography, composed 50 years after Nikalishin’s death, recounts the first 31 years of the life of a man who is hailed as one of Earth’s greatest heroes. During this portion of his life he enjoyed many triumphs, joys, and loves, but he was not immune to failure and tragedy. In 2761 a major space disaster completely changes the course of his life. Whether it will be for better or worse is left for the reader to decide.
All heroes are human beings and all human beings are flawed, and the man the Earth came to know as “Capt. Robbie” was a very human man.
Monday, January 2, 2017
So how did I come up with these Precepts? I’m really not quite sure. I only know that somewhere back when I was composing The Termite Queen, or maybe even earlier (when I was writing “Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder”), I started writing them down. It’s almost like they just emerged from the void. I knew I was creating a humanistic civilization and I felt guidelines were needed. The only revision I’ve done recently involves the final four or five, which I reordered and renumbered. This has caused some of the numbering to be off in my previously published books, I’m afraid, and if I ever update those books, I’ll fix that, but I figure nobody will pay much attention, since the whole list of Precepts doesn’t appear in those publications. Everything should be correct in The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.
The list begins by dealing with religions and gradually progresses to what it means to be human. Most of the ethical material is in the middle along with the nature and value of science and art. The order is pretty arbitrary, however.All I'm doing in this post is presenting the list so you can get acquainted with the Precepts. Remember, they are not meant to be laws or rigid rules – they are meant to be guidelines, capable of interpretation. They are intended to make you think. In subsequent posts, I intend to discuss the individual precepts, some in groups and some as stand-alones. In the meantime, I welcome any comments or questions.
The Mythmaker Precepts
Precept No. 1: No one can know deity; neither can it be proven that it does not exist.
Precept No. 2: Humans have within themselves the ability to see beyond themselves and hence to act rightly without supernatural stimulus.
Precept No. 3: Since the purpose of deity for humans, or even whether it had a purpose for humans, is unknowable, it is incumbent upon humans to look within themselves and find the way to right action.
Precept No. 4: Humans must take responsibility for their own behavior, not seeking to put blame on imposed rules (of deity or human) or on fate, chance, or the intervention or willfulness of deity.
Precept No. 5: Humans will never succeed absolutely in achieving these goals; nevertheless striving for right action is its own purpose.
Precept No. 6: The closest humans can attain to deity is the symbolism of myth and art.
Precept No. 7: If a human have nothing else, it has its own soul, which must remain inviolate.
Precept No. 8: Science has a soul; technology is soulless.
Precept No. 9: Conduct your wars with words, not weapons.
Precept No. 10: The Right Way is universal; the Truth is parochial and divisive.
Precept No. 11: Institutions that grip souls merely for the purpose of gripping souls will always become destructive.
Precept No. 12: To achieve understanding of the unlike is a divine goal.
Precept No. 13: Love is as unknowable as deity, but every soul attests that it exists.
Precept No. 14: Let men and women make the vows of love in the music of the bedchamber, not with empty words.
Precept No. 15: Evolution has failed to structure the human organism for moderation; nevertheless the ability to recognize and strive for this virtue distinguishes human beings from other animals. [Corollary: The human organism is not innately a peaceful animal, but its ability to recognize and strive for peace sets it apart from other animals.] [Corollary: Moderation promotes peace.]
Precept No. 16: Animals neither punish, seek revenge, forgive, nor blaspheme, nor recognize a need for any of these things.
Precept No. 17: Study history and learn from it, but look to the future and do not let yourself be trapped by nostalgia or revenge.
Precept No. 18: There are creatures on this planet [amended later to in the universe] who speak, form symbols, and share emotions; these may be called human.
Precept No. 19: The humans of our planet are all the same species; therefore they should care for one another and avoid the destruction of their own kind.
Precept No. 20: Since humans share their genetic heritage with all the bio-organisms of this planet [and of the universe – amendment added later], they should always seek to preserve life.
Previous posts in this series:
Saturday, December 10, 2016
|Starving Polar Bear |
Kerstin Langenberger Photography
The best introduction to this universally acclaimed Mythmaker drama is contained in the following extract from The Termite Queen, v.1. Griffen Gwidian is an entomologist and chief of the expedition to the termite planet; Kaitrin Oliva is the linguistic anthropologist charged with learning how to communicate with the termite extraterrestrials. The two of them are falling in love, and during this time they attend several stage productions, including one of The White Bear.
The Valley of the White Bear was an intense allegorical fantasy of the responsibilities that human beings bear toward one another and toward the world that gives them life. It was the most beloved of all the literature in the Mythmaker canon, and the most widely studied. The present rendition was a holotheater production; the settings and fantastic characters were holoimages while the human parts were performed by live actors.
Kaitrin and Gwidian emerged from the performance discussing the technical merits of the show, including the effectiveness of the hologram of the god/goddess Hasta. Gwidian found it to be static and lacking in warmth, while Kaitrin felt that the size and austerity ensured the correct overpowering effect.
“I’m never comfortable when gods intrude into Mythmaker lit,” Gwidian said. “The agenda of those writers was to persuade humanity to take ethical responsibility for its own actions rather than to blame its transgressions on infractions of arbitrary rules laid down by some religious or political entity. A principle of behavior that our kind tended to ignore in ages past, to Earth’s detriment.”
“I don’t know that one ought to apply the word ‘agenda’ to the Mythmakers,” said Kaitrin. “There were so many of them, living over such a long period in so many different parts of the Earth, that it’s doubtful many of them even knew of the others’ existence, let alone exchanged ideas. They didn’t compose the Precepts, after all – those were a later formulation extracted from a study of the whole Mythmaker canon by a bunch of social philosophers. The writers with the loftiest imaginations, like No. 96, produced works that stand beautifully on their own without a lot of sententious reinterpretation. And the god-figures are all symbolic. As I recall, when Hasta first appears, the stage directions say only something like ‘Ingreaf sees on the top of the mountain a shape with a light in it, which speaks to him.’ That’s why so many different interpretations of it are possible – why producing it on the stage never gets old. But basically it embodies the overarching Principle of Life.
“And then the White Bear itself is the form the soul of nature takes so that human beings can interact with it. It’s generally acknowledged that The White Bear was the foundation for Precept No. 20 – Everything in the universe shares in the principle of life, hence we have a moral obligation not to destroy life in our infinitesimal portion of the universe. I’ve always found the end of the play to be so moving – that juxtaposition of destruction and regeneration!”
“You explicate the play very well! But if it’s all symbolic, why call Hasta something as concrete as god/goddess?”
“Well, isn’t the Principle of Life sort of what a deity is supposed to be? Something larger than ourselves – larger and more powerful than anything we can know even with the most advanced science. The Mythmakers weren’t hidebound atheists, you know. None of them ever rejected deity categorically; they simply averred that neither its existence nor its non-existence can be proved. That’s why this trend toward deifying the Mythmakers seems misguided to me. I’m quite sure they didn’t see themselves as beings whose existence could be neither proved nor disproved! Although they did succeed spectacularly well in remaining anonymous!”
There is more to this extract, but I’ll save it for a later post. As an aside, let me just quote the following from MWFB:
Robbin Nikalishin’s Professor of moral philosophy Alise Doone (whose hobby is acting) says in MWFB, Part One: “I’ve done the voice of Hasta in The White Bear three times for the Consortium. Apparently our director prefers to interpret the esteemed god/goddess as a sexless hag with a quirky Scotts burr, although once I played it as a moon figure with a quirky Scotts burr.”
It’s my plan to actually write The White Bear someday, although I’m not sure I’m up to writing something that’s considered equivalent to Shakespeare! But I also intend to write the story of the author of The White Bear, which will be my only dystopian tale. I’m not sure I’ll ever get that written either, but I’m still not going to tell you anything about that sad story because I don’t want to spoil it in case I do write it. I’ll only say that The White Bear’s author became fascinated by the story of how Earth’s polar bear was destroyed when climate change eliminated its habitat and he turns this into a whole set of symbolic circumstances.
The play exists in only two slightly variant manuscripts, discovered within five years of each other in Archivists’ caches. The first was found in what is called in the 21st century New Mexico, and the other came to light much further south in Mexico. Given that the setting is the far northern reaches of the North American continent, it’s assumed that the author lived somewhere in the middle of that continent and that Archivists carried his/her works south during a migration.
While I won't tell you any more about the author, I am going to summarize the plot of the drama itself. I have quite a few notes on that subject.
This plot line came to me on 11/24/04, with some additions at 2/7/06.
Ingreaf (the names of the characters all have symbolic significance) is a technical scientist working in the domain of the Great Northern Techno-Warlord; his name is Stranja (pronounced “strange-uh” because his kind should be considered alien to the Earth) and he rules all of Noonavik and parts of Midammerik. He holds a competition to develop an invincible robotic warrior, so Ingreaf concocts a mechanical bear that he covers with fake white fur because he has always been fascinated with the tales of a time before the Sun-Scorch when magnificent white bears roamed the now-vanished ice sheets of the North. He names it Luco, from the ancient root meaning “light,” a name people ridicule – a robotic warrior should be dark and menacing.
He doesn’t give this robot the power of speech (note Precept No. 18, specifying what it means to be human: Humans speak, form symbols, share emotions), but he does give it the power to understand and obey voice commands. But as he lives with this monstrosity, he begins to get fascinated with it and it begins to become more human to him. They form a sort of reluctant bond. Ingreaf is a lonely man and he keeps Luco in his bedroom and talks to it, coming to wonder why it doesn’t respond.
Finally the day comes for the robotic-warrior competition, where the Warlord requires that the robots kill a man. Luco does this so easily that it wins the competition, but as Ingreaf watches, he realizes he’s made a terrible mistake – he should never have created a killer.
He takes Luco and flees into the wilderness, ending up in a valley at the foot of a peak called Hasta’s Mountain, named for a mythical god/goddess. (Hasta in Spanish means “until,” emphasizing the fact that Life is a process, not a static given.) The valley is inhabited by the ghost of a real extinct white bear, a cadaverous apparition which obviously met its death by starvation.
As Ingreaf and Luco wander, they keep catching glimpses of something in the forest, haunting them, shadowing them. They catch glimpses of something glimmering pale among the trees, and they hear noises, growls, whimpers. One night it’s particularly bad and there is a scrambling in the bushes and Luco runs off in protective mode and leaves his master alone. At that point, Luco is representing the survival instinct, the desire of Life to survive at whatever cost. While he’s gone, Ingreaf sits by their fire terrified, and then there is this long silence (Ingreaf may speak part of his on-going soliloquy at that point). When Luco returns, he no longer has just red lights for eyes, he has acquired actual bear eyes.
This is the beginning of the metamorphosis – the merging of humanity with the natural. And it’s after this that they first hear Hasta speaking to them. Gradually Luco acquires more and more characteristics of the ghost as the metamorphosis continues. And then finally Ingreaf develops to where he can actually see the Bear – the emaciated, dying bear as it was before it became only a spirit. Luco has merged with the actual Bear, staring at its Creator and pleading for understanding. Finally, Luco attacks Ingreaf, who by now had come to accept his role as sacrificial victim. He saves the humanity of the world by allowing Luco as White Bear (nature incarnate) to eat him and become strong again, affirming the renewal process of nature.
When Ingreaf decides to save the Bear by feeding him with his own body, he stretches out his hand and cuts the wrist with his knife and the Luco/Bear laps the blood, then approaches and seizes the hand in his mouth. The stage goes black, except for a glow where Hasta lives, and there is absolutely silence. Finally the lights are gradually brought up again and the Bear stands there triumphantly at full living strength on its hind legs while a naked, emaciated, and semi-transparent Ingreaf sits on a rock, a ghost himself now. Between them is a collection of bones and bits of clothing. They stare at each other and then the White Bear swells larger and vanishes into the forest, symbolizing the impossibility of destruction of the natural. Ingreaf cries out, “Luco, come back to me! I have given you my all – will you abandon me?” But a compassionate Hasta says, Ingreaf, come to the top of the mountain and let the Bear pass on its way. The cock is about to crow. The sound of a crowing cock is heard, symbolizing a return to reality, and Ingreaf rises slowly and commences to trudge up toward the light. Final curtain.
Another parenthetical note to close: I use the crowing cock symbolism in MWFB, in a later section that isn’t even remotely ready to be published.
In the next post, I'll present the Precepts and begin an analysis.
In the next post, I'll present the Precepts and begin an analysis.
Previous posts in this series:
Monday, December 5, 2016
|Suitable Illustration for Las Almas qui bailaron|
by Pete Linforth on Pixabay
In an earlier post I mentioned that during the Second Dark Age (mostly in the 25th and 26th centuries), a group of writers and artists (later called the Mythmakers) arose out of the preservers of culture who were known as the Underground Archivists. Fantasy was their genre of choice –for what is fantasy but myth and myth but fantasy? – and the writers remained totally anonymous even into the 30th century. As their works came to light, they were studied by the scholars of the day and became the basis for the humanist ethic of the 27th century and beyond.
I thought it would be enlightening to put a little flesh on these unknown artists before we go on to discuss their philosophy. They were given numbers according to when they were discovered, not by when they wrote. About 100 individuals are known. The breakdown of the Mythmaker Canon is as follows:
197 pieces of literature (dramas, novels and shorter narratives, narrative poems)
681 lyric poems, 97 with musical settings
213 pieces of graphic art
89 major musical compositions
Some of them have been cited in my published and unpublished books. Here is a sampling with some examples from my fiction.
Mythmaker 27: Kaitrin refers to him/her in The Termite Queen, v.1, ch. 21, as “one of the gentle ones who wrote for children.” In a later part of The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars (hereafter referred to as MWFB), I spoke of the Mythmaker clown Tiffis, a character in a children’s play by Mythmaker 27 called “Conjunctions: Ifs, Ands, and Buts.” A popular children’s ditty called “The If Song” comes from this, Unfortunately, I’m cutting out the character who referred to this song in MWFB because of length considerations. That character was expendable.
Mythmaker 46 composed a triad of beautiful love poems that have been frequently set to music.
Mythmaker 50 was a musical composer who wrote the oratorio entitled Temporal Resurrection. It will be mentioned in Part Two of MWFB at an honors ceremony:
“The Protocol Chief said, ‘Gentlemen and ladies, as a conclusion to our ceremony today, the Senior Choir of Karlinius University will sing the fugal chant from the oratorio Temporal Resurrection, by Mythmaker 50.’
“As the sweeping lines and staccato accents of that magnificent composition filled the silent Hall, Robbie sat with his head bowed.”
Parenthetically, when Robbin is planning his wedding in a later part of MWFB, here is some advice he receives on what music or readings would be appropriate:
“Mythmaker 50 wrote some beautiful nuptial songs called ‘The Epithalamia’ that can be sung to a big orchestra or electronic background or just a little guitar accompaniment. And Mythmaker 46 composed a triad of beautiful love poems that have been set lots of ways, but they can just be recited, too.”
Furthermore in MWFB a Mythmaker opera is mentioned called Las Almas que bailaron (the souls who danced, or dancing souls -- see picture at top of this post), and it includes a wedding tune called the “Laughing March.” No Mythmaker number is mentioned, however, although if I keep this part of the story, I might add it.
Mythmaker 85: He is believed to be a Jew, and he was one of the later ones to be discovered. Here is a passage from Fathers and Demons (extract from a later part of MWFB) where Mythmaker 85 is discussed:
It was Chaim who returned to the topic that Lazy had introduced. “Are either of you gentlemen familiar with the work of the Mythmaker designated No. 85?”
Robbie and Yow looked at each other. “I can’t say I am right off,” said Lazy. [...]
“The Mythmakers were numbered in the order in which they were discovered, so obviously No. 85 came to light late, but it is thought the author lived at a much earlier time and was perhaps even the very first one of them to write. Those scholars you mentioned have identified him as a Jue by his style and by various references, and it’s believed he may have written in the second half of the 24th century, shortly after the founding of New Verser. He wrote only one known work – an Inge fantasy called The Book of New Consecration.”
“Blasphemy, Chaim!” said Ben-Ari in obvious distress. “There can be no new Torah!”
“May HaShem forbid I would equate it with Torah, Natan! But I insist you allow me to say my piece, because the work has much merit! Now I’m going to say the Inge form of the Name and you and Ely can stop your ears if it bothers you. The narrator who speaks this tale is Jehovah – there! – that is, God himself – and the gist of it is that the whole of Earth is consecrated land and humanity doesn’t need to look back in nostalgia and vengeance, trying to find the entire meaning of life in what occurred in one small place and time.”
“You know, I have heard of that one,” said Dr. Yow, “although I’ve never read it. That was the work that spurred the composition of the 17th Precept.” [Study history and learn from it, but look to the future and do not let yourself be trapped by nostalgia or revenge.]
“Exactly! Mythmaker No. 85 actually speaks of Jerusalem and the Holy Land of Tzion, and what he says is, we make our own Temples and our own Jerusalems wherever we may go. By that author’s lights, this piece of Earth on which we are sitting at this very moment is the Land of Tzion and the Temple in its center is Jerusalem, even as we named it. Who knows? Perhaps that writer was aware of what we had done here in Istria and took his inspiration from it.
“So when we say, ‘Have you been to Jerusalem this Shabbat?’ it has validity beyond simply a name, because it implies that wherever we go, we stand on consecrated ground. We know that at least for centuries to come, nobody will set foot in the original Jerusalem, and maybe that will never happen. If someone could walk there, they would find nothing, anyway – not one tree or rose bush or living thing – not one stone standing on another, or even any stone that has not been superheated and fused into glass. Human cultures have to adapt or be extinguished. We can love and keep and honor the old ways, but we must look to honor and preserve life above all else.”
Mythmaker 89 wrote operas and oratorios in Inge in the early 26th century; he wrote the oratorio call Striving that was first performed at the celebrations surrounding the ratification of the Unification Charter in 2690. The “Planetary Anthem,” Earth’s official song, was adapted from that work. Here it is referred to in Part One of MWFB, in the scene where the Starchasers are welcomed home after their first triumphant flight beyond the solar system:
“The avenues of New Washinten were dense with enthusiastic spectators who had come from all over the world to welcome home their heroes. The people cheered and waved banners and tossed confetti and flowers as bands along the route played enthusiastic renditions of the Planetary Anthem. The line Look back for warning, look ahead for wonder had never seemed more appropriate.”
It is referred to in other places as well.
It is referred to in other places as well.
Arguably the most important of the lot, this writer composed the drama The Valley of the White Bear, considered the greatest piece of writing in the Canon. I’ve decided to put my discussion of this piece in the next post, because if I include it here, the post will be too long.
Links to other posts in this series:
Links to other posts in this series:
Saturday, November 26, 2016
|DNA: Humans are all the same species!|
I had decided to review some of my notes on who the Mythmakers were before I wrote about the Precepts, but this distressing upsurge of racism and bigotry during the campaign and after the Presidential election made it seem imperative to touch on that subject first. Suddenly we’ve once again received a license to hate the unlike, a really ominous phenomenon. Who would have thought the progress made during the last half-century was so fragile?
I’ve touched on this subject before in one of my earlier posts (You Say Alien and I Say Extraterrestrial) and I’m going to begin by quoting from that piece:
“‘Alien’ carries a lot of unfavorable connotations. If you look it up in Dictionary.com, it means a person who has been estranged or excluded; and as an adjective, it can mean "unlike one's own, strange" and also "adverse, hostile, opposed." Of course, it also means an extraterrestrial. What gets me is that we have so many aliens living among us right now -- all those human beings who moved without permission from one geographical unit of the Earth to another. How can a member of our own species be an alien? Why should being from inside another nationalistic boundary make such a person "estranged, excluded, strange, adverse, hostile, opposed, unlike one's own"? Why should stepping across an imaginary line alienate a person from his or her fellow human beings?
“On my future Earth there are no nationalistic boundaries. Earth is united and while administrative regions exist, freedom of movement is universal. No passports, no visas. One currency. If you come from Scandinave and you want to work in Ostrailia, all you have to do is buy a ticket on a flyer, disembark, find a place to live, and go to work. People may be encouraged to move to certain parts of the planet in order to equalize the distribution of the population, but nobody is forced to do that.”
Now I’m going to present the last three Mythmaker Precepts (nos. 18, 19, and 20):
No. 18: There are creatures on this planet who speak, form symbols, and share emotions; these may be called human.
No. 19: The humans of our planet are all the same species; therefore they should care for one another and avoid the destruction of their own kind.
No. 20: Since humans share their genetic heritage with all the bio-organisms of this planet, they should always seek to preserve life.
And then I’m going to quote from Part One of The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars. In this scene fifteen-year-old Robbin Nikalishin has made an unfortunate mistake and is being counseled by Prf. Alise Doone, the head of the Humanities Dept. at Epping Science Academy and his moral philosophy teacher.
“The final three Precepts deal with the basic evolutionary nature of the human being. Which do you think epitomizes what the Mythmakers were trying to say?”
Robbie took a deep breath, desperately dredging his brain. “The last one, I suppose. About how humans should always try to preserve life because they share their genetics with all creatures.”
“Well, that awareness is central to the survival of our planet, of course. But it’s Number 19 that takes precedence – The humans of our planet are all the same species; therefore they should care for one another and avoid the destruction of their own kind. Until Earthers accorded this reality an emotional acceptance, they were doomed to oppose each other along racial and ethnic lines.
“And you should also keep Number 18 in your mind: There are creatures on this planet who speak, form symbols, and share emotions; these may be called human. The entire thrust of the Mythmaker philosophy is about what it means to be human. Keep that in your mind, Robbie. It may not mean so much to you right now, but possibly it may at some later point of your life.”
This passage encapsulates what I’m trying to say here. I put the salient points in bold face and I’ll stress this one again:
THE HUMANS OF OUR PLANET ARE ALL THE SAME SPECIES!
Anybody who has been acquainted with me for a while has seen that statement pop up on a FaceBook post or elsewhere. Here’s the definition of a species from Wikipedia : “A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which two individuals are capable of reproducing fertile offspring, typically using sexual reproduction.” There are various ambiguities related to this definition, which are discussed in the Wikipedia article, but for our present purposes, let’s accept this definition given above.
HUMANS ALL SHARE THE SAME DNA. Any human can breed with any other human.
It doesn’t make sense for groups within the same species to try to destroy each other. While animals of the same species do kill each other at times, their basic motivation is to ensure the survival of their species. Therefore, they kill to gain mating rights, to protect territory, and to ensure food resources. Some primates do mount internecine group attacks, but again it’s to protect territory. Humans, however, practice mass killings of their own kind all the time and the motivation can be for territory or food resources (hardly ever to acquire mating rights, at least in our modern times; courtship is more an individual matter in our species), but the most common motivations are to acquire power, to gain revenge, and (most unfortunate of all) to forcibly spread their religious beliefs. Animals never kill for revenge, they don’t give a fig about gods, and they don’t organize wars (except for some insect species, certain ants, for example).
Humans evolved to be different from other animals. Supposedly we acquired a mind capable of reasoning out our difficulties and resolving them through language and empathy (Precept No. 18). The minute differences in DNA that exist among the various races and ethnic groups of humans are inconsequential; WE’RE ALL THE SAME SPECIES. I have predicated the Mythmaker ethic on an innate ability of the human consciousness to recognize and act upon the fact that peace and cooperation are better than conflict and destruction at structuring a world where our species can ensure its survival and even thrive.
But first we have to get past the outer shell of our fellow humans. Dogs and cats differ widely in appearance, but they all recognize each other as a fellow dog or fellow cat instinctively, regardless of color or hair length or size. For some reason human beings have a hard time getting past the outer shell and appreciating what’s on the inside. Skin color, eye or nose shape, hair texture – these characteristics are of no value in determining a person’s worth. Yet the fear of the unlike – fear of the alien – seems to be part of humanity’s genetic makeup. I suppose this also had something to do with survival when we were evolving, but it’s essential for present-day humanity to rise above this misperception and learn how to subdue this instinct.
Lately, I’m not so sure whether I was right about the fundamental ability of humanity to discern what the Mythmakers called the Right Path. We have made progress at eliminating discrimination based on race and ethnicity, but too much of that has been just lip service and political correctness. What we must do now is achieve that emotional acceptance of the fact that among humans there are no aliens!
WE ARE ALL ONE SPECIES
That is my mantra, and I will keep repeating it as long as I can utter words.
Links to other posts in this series:
Saturday, November 19, 2016
I don’t want to waste effort reviewing all the things that went wrong on Earth during the 21st through the 24th centuries, since you can read about that in the above summation of My Future History. I will only say that the effect of “radiant” bombing and also of an uncontrollable new weapon invented by the Techno-Warlords – a pseudo-organism called a self-replicating nanobot – put the finishing touches to the destruction in the period called the Apocalyptical (last half of the 24th century). At that point much of Earth became uninhabitable, leaving only a gaggle of disconnected entities, with some areas remaining less damaged than other (the British Isles, Australia, Japan, portions of North America and other continents). These areas existed in isolation, without the ability to trade or even communicate with other parts of the world, and they were ruled mostly by tyrants who jealously guarded whatever remnants of technology they could glean. There was no longer an internet and most libraries and seats of learning had been destroyed.
So how could any vestige of civilization and knowledge be kept alive? Here the easiest thing to do is to quote from My Future History:
“Throughout the Second Dark Age there endured a minority of people who valued reason, compassion, freedom, and order and who never entirely lost their faith in human nature. Overwhelmed by the misery of the time, these people had to go underground, communicating by a primitive shortwave radio relay network in places where parts for the equipment could be fabricated or scavenged. These people had acquired a name: the Underground Archivists, composed of teachers, writers, librarians, scientists, and information technicians. ... The Archivists took inspiration from works of 20th century Fantasists like Fahrenheit 451 and The Mote in God’s Eye and began to collect and secrete any knowledge of the past that seemed to them useful for the future. They would hide books or any format of compressed electronic information that they could acquire; they would even scrounge pencil stubs and stray scraps of paper from old middens and copy out by hand material they thought worth preserving. They placed their hoards in any container that they thought might protect them – oil drums, shell casings, coffins, the husks of now-useless refrigerators and electronic devices – and hid them in old bunkers, caves, bank vaults, abandoned subway and utility tunnels. Then they died, leaving their caches behind for subsequent generations to rediscover.”
This is why you’ll find passages in The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars like this one (from the incomplete second part):
“Robbie sprawled on the couch and started scrambling idly through the links. For a while he listened to GovNews’s daily review of the contents of the most recently discovered Underground Archivist caches; the wide-ranging nature of what those remarkable people had thought worthy of preservation never ceased to fascinate him. This time there were 22nd century maps of a Devastation Zone city called Atlanta, along with the blueprints of some of the commercial buildings built in that era. There were photocopies of a dozen 20th century publications called “comic books” (although the commentator noted that the name was mystifying, since the content of these works of graphic fiction appeared to consist almost entirely of depictions of horror and violent crime, with very little humor). In Nipon a collection of vids had come to light illustrating an incredibly grotesque sport called sumo, accompanied by a book detailing its history and rules. And there was a unique vid that had bioscientists quite excited; it showed the extinct three-toed sloth moving through a sector of the Amazen rainforest that was now a dry wasteland …
“And, unearthed in an archaeological excavation that was ongoing in the Safrisco salt marshes of the West Ammeriken Coast, an especially significant historical find – original records from the late 23rd century detailing the last days of an institution called University of California. The cache included a five-year diary written by the last Chancellor of the University. The journal ended abruptly at 22 March 2290, the day when the series of earthquakes had commenced that brought an end to civilization on the Ammeriken Pacifik Coast. The Old Ammeriken States had been facing continental civil war at that time and no resources were available to rebuild anything destroyed by natural calamities. It was all prime stuff.”
But there was more to the salvation of civilization than simply the preservation of data and artifacts. Among the ranks of the Archivists were some inspired, genuinely creative individuals who chose to produce a new canon of literature and other art forms that could form the basis of a new. humanist ethic. Not a single one of these creators ever signed any of their works so they remain eternally anonymous. Their works were preserved by the Archivists in the same way that more prosaic knowledge was preserved – in those secret caches.
The writers of these works came to be known as the Mythmakers.
I have a lot of information on the Mythmakers in the documents where I preserve notes for my writing. What they wrote was mostly fantasy fiction or variations on fantastic themes, but they also composed poetry, dramas, and music, and produced graphic art. On Facebook I recently viewed Ursula K. LeGuin’s acceptance speech when she was awarded the National Book Foundation’s medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In it she “explained how authors, especially fantasy writers, have a special opportunity to stand up to the corporate system because they can portray a world very different from the one we currently live in.” I think the same is true in a broader sense – that fantasy writers have a special opportunity and even obligation to influence the way we think about the fundamentals of our lives. They can become the Mythmakers of our future.
The 26th century, when civilization was coming back to life, was a time of vigorous philosophical ferment. By the 27th century, the Mythmaker’s humanistic philosophy had taken root, and a set of 20 Precepts had been formulated, not as prescriptive laws or commandments but as a rational guide to right behavior. People accepted this new way of thinking and this enabled the unification of Earth, which had proved impossible in earlier times, and hence qualified Earthers to attempt to fly to the stars and take their place in the greater Galaxy. So perhaps the Second Dark Age will be worth all the losses.
So what are the Mythmaker Precepts all about? Next time, we’ll begin an analysis.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
The current stressful political climate in the United States has stimulated me to make a new attempt to expound on my concept of future history and how the Mythmaker philosophy fits into it. The best (and most painless) way to learn about my thinking is to read my books, particularly The Termite Queen, v. 1 and 2, and Fathers and Demons. The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars still hasn’t been published, but it will contain the best exposition yet of my vision of the future. Even my termite series The Labors of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head contains passages that reflect my thinking.
The Termite Queen contains a somewhat lengthy section that encapsulates the future history of Earth. I’ve excerpted that in a separate page of this blog. Find it on the Pages cross-column above.
Lately I’ve seen three foreshadowings of elements that I predicted in my future history. The first is obvious – the prevalence of religious fanaticism leading to vicious wars. To quote my own writing in The Termite Queen: “The militant religionist movement that began early in the 21st century resulted in a succession of conflicts known as the Zealot Wars.” I’ll address that problem in later posts.
The second element is what I called the Fractures, and the third is the rise of the TWLs (the Techno-Warlords). To quote again: “In the 22nd century the period known as the Fractures began, when time-hallowed nation-states – the ironically named ‘Great Powers’ – of Earth began to break apart and make war with each other and within themselves. It was the time of the Techno-Warlords – the TWLs – dictators who sought to seize for themselves the remnants of the petroleum reserves and who lived by advancing technology exclusively for the purpose of producing an increasingly horrific war machine.”
So are the Fractures already beginning? The European Union is in trouble, and lately there has been secessionist talk in California, which is certainly big enough to be a country to itself. Texas has always wanted to be its own country. French-speaking Canada might like to go it alone if it were encouraged.
And then comes Donald Trump, who wants to wall off the United States and ban immigration as much as possible (or at least so he says – no telling what he will really do). At a time when we should be encouraging globalization and a unified Earth, he and a lot of people whose livelihoods are threatened want to retreat from it. We need to become expansive and inclusive – to learn to work together, not bicker with each other and fight and kill our own kind.
Fractures encourage the rise of the TWL. In my conceptualization, Hitler is considered the first Techno-Warlord because he was the first to use rockets as weapons. There is a passage on this in Fathers and Demons (laid in the 28th century), where Chaim Oman is recounting the history of the Jewish people post-20th century:
Everybody stirred a little, because the atrocities of the 20th century were tenaciously included in the history curriculum. Linna said, “That marks the onset of humanity’s descent into the Second Dark Age. It’s not only because the first radiant bombs were exploded then. It’s also because of that Uropian dictator – I don’t recall his name right off – who set out to cleanse the human species of elements he judged inferior. I think he murdered around ten million people.”
Dr. Yow added contemplatively, “His name was Hitler. He used the primitive technology of the time for his racial purification and he was the first tyrant to use rockets as weapons. For those reasons he’s known as the PTWL – the Proto-Techno-Warlord. He wasn’t the one who exploded the first radiant weapons, though. That honor goes to the government of the Old Ammeriken States.”
That’s why anybody with a sense of history is afraid of Donald Trump, because he has seemed to encourage his followers to commit violent acts and to hate those who are unlike, and because he exhibits demagogic tendencies, to want to be able to dictate rather than cooperate and legislate (his overweening battle cry “I alone can fix it.”) Again, I’m not really sure whether he is serious in these statements or whether he is a clever actor, playing the “sucker born every minute” card, and playing it very well. After all, Mr. Bloomberg didn’t call Trump a conman for nothing.
Basic to my future history is the depletion of the Earth’s oil reserves. When I first wrote my future history (around 2002), I checked on the amount of oil that was left and it was about 50 years worth. I was appalled. Do you know how short a time 50 years is? It passes in an eye-blink! I’m 76 and it seems like just the other day that I was 26.
So just now I checked the figure again to see if it had changed. See this post from BP where it is stated “In June, BP provided an intriguing update to its global oil reserves estimates in the company's yearly review of energy statistics. It raised its reserve estimate by 1.1% to 1,687.9 billion barrels – just enough oil to last the world 53.3 years at the current production rates.”
So I figured that unless the Earth gets its act together, we’d better find other means of producing the power that our ultra-high technology consumes, or we’ll be in real trouble. My view is pessimistic. We’re going to use up all the oil and have nothing ready to replace it by the beginning of the 22nd century. At that point the electrical grid collapses, communication and transportation break down, and we head for a return to the Stone Age, or very near.
Of course, run-away climate change plays its part, too, with coastal cities disappearing under the sea, along with drought and water-famines and the rise of mutated disease organisms ... However, I’m not getting into all that here. Let me just say that all that will feed into the Fractures and the rise of the TWLs.
So, yes, I’m a pessimist about the future of Earth – in the short run. But I have not been pessimistic about the nature of humanity (although I’ve been having my doubts lately). There will be people who keep the best aspects of humanity alive throughout the coming Second Dark Age. And that will be the subject of later posts.