Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Valley of the White Bear: No. 5 in my New Series of Mythmaker Posts

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.

Previous posts in this series:

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Mythmaker Canon: No. 4 in my New Series of Mythmaker Posts

Suitable Illustration for Las Almas qui bailaron
(Dancing Souls) 
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
8 operas

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.

Mythmaker 96:
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:

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Humans Are All the Same Species! No. 3 in my New Series of Mythmaker Posts

DNA: Humans are all the same species!
From Pixabay

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, 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:


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!


 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

How Will Humanity Lift Itself Out of the 2nd Dark Age? No. 2 in my New Series of Mythmaker Posts

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.

Link to earlier post in this series:

Sunday, November 13, 2016

What Can We Expect from the Future? My New Series of Mythmaker Posts

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 DemonsThe 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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Review of an Unusual, Even Unique Book: Hyperlink from Hell

Buy at Amazon!

Hyperlink from Hell; a Couch Potato's Guide to the Afterlife
by Lindy Moone

I discovered that Lindy Moone was in the process of reading my Ki'shto'ba series, so I investigated what she had written and discovered this remarkable book.  Ir isn't formulaic -- it marches to its own drummer -- and that's what I like. I'm planning to read it a second time because the plot is not all that coherent, as I note below.  However, I've been in touch with the author and she is planning a sequel (maybe two books) in which she promises to make everything much clearer!
Here is my review:

A bored god plays games with those who created him

Hyperlink from Hell is a difficult book.  On a superficial level, it’s a bawdy, raucously funny, offbeat fantasy, but it’s a lot more than that.  The beginning grabbed me because the author is such a skillful writer, establishing the situation, setting, and characters with smooth realism.  Then with the onset of Jimmie Canning’s book-within-a-book, I was plunged into the kind of story I don’t usually read – overloaded with sex, nudity, and bathroom humor.  However, I just kept plowing through and that element tapered off as the story continued and expanded into speculative fiction, including an investigation of the afterlife and the nature of god.  It’s saturated with puns (and I happen to love puns), and it’s also loaded with references to popular TV and movie entertainment from the past thirty or forty years.  I never watched a lot of those shows, so I’m sure I missed some zingers, but I got enough of them to appreciate the effect.

When I finished the book, I reread the beginning and the concluding sections and I have to say, while some of my questions were answered, I felt just like Dr. Stapledon – I still didn’t fully understand what really happened.  It’s a book that should be read at least twice because the plot is not the most coherent or self-explanatory.  There are two sets of the same characters, who exist in alternate realities, and the relationship among these two sets can get really confusing.
Three of the characters die early on and the quirkiest of gods, who loves pop culture and game shows as much as Jimmie does, steps in to play games with his creations’ afterlife, testing and teaching them in a sort of mad, mad, mad, mad reality show purgatory.  It includes shapeshifting (flying monkeys, to say nothing of walking pineapples), a stinky but lovable invisible dog, Frankenstein’s monster, giant T. Rexes, vampires ... the list goes on and on.  God appears first as the Wizard of Oz – the Man behind the Curtain – but he also takes the form of the Cheshire Cat, the snake in the Garden of Eden, a tiny devil wielding a pickle fork ... and finally as the Master of Ceremonies in the ultimate game show, which soon morphs into a major battle between good and evil (complete with weapons provided by a purple case reminiscent of the walking box in some of Terry Pratchett’s books.)
But a pivotal element is when god discusses who he really is, and this calls for a quotation:

“Check out those books of yours, again.  All of them.  My favorite line is ‘Man created God in his own image.’ ... I think I was willed into existence.”
“Who could do such a thing?  How?  Why?”
“YOU PEOPLE, WHO ELSE? How, I can’t say.  I’m sure you had your reasons – lots of reasons – but when it all comes down to it, you just want someone to blame and a Twinkie.  I’m sick to death of you, but I’m stuck.”

So this cynical, bored god plays with those who created him in order to alleviate his boredom, but this doesn’t negate the processes of good and evil.  “Thou shalt not kill” still applies and so do the Seven “Dudleys,” the Seven Deadly Sins.  And the wonder of it is, the antihero Jimmie grows as a character, until by the end he becomes a real hero, defeating evil with a visual pun in a delightful plot twist.  Jimmie also refuses to kill and has learned how to forgive and how to care about his fellow human beings.  A hero also has to give up something in order to do the right thing (part of my own definition of the hero) and that surely happens in Jimmie’s case.  All of this comes out of his own mental processes, which aligns this book with humanism – that your ability to be good comes out of yourself and not from an external command from a god who may not even have an independent existence.

I could write a lot more about this book, but I’ll just end by again praising the author’s writing skills, which are capable of keeping the reader mesmerized even when the plot is at its most confusing.  I should also say that the ebook is carefully formatted, with no aberrations to distract the attention and no typos that I caught.  That’s yet another plus.  The only reasons I’m giving it four instead of five stars are the excessive use of bawdy humor and the confusing elements of the plot.

And at least at the moment, the book is only 99 cents.  You’ll get a lot of pleasure and an intellectual workout for this 99 cents, and I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy right now.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Bright, Shiny New Review of Children of the Music!

Thanks to Christopher Graham (The Story Reading Ape) I have my first review (5 star) of Children of the Music!  Read the review below. (And go to the Map page in the list of Pages above and print or download any of the material, which appears only in the paperback edition.)

Having read all this author's previous books, I found this realistic fantasy story (a departure from her highly enjoyable science fiction series about Intelligent Termites), to be every bit as compelling and engrossing.
As with her previous stories, the author's worldbuilding skills made it easy for me to get immersed and alongside the characters in no time, even through the 300 year span covered in the book.
An insight into what can (and often does) happen when two differing peoples meet.
In this case, they have physical, belief and mindset differences.
Injustice is rife.
Fear is mutual.

Back cover, with map for Part Two

Buy at
Amazon (all countries)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

I Missed a 5-Star Review of The Termite Queen, v.2!

Buy at Amazon
     Well, a revelation! I discovered that I just sold a copy of "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" on, so I thought, maybe I ought to check out the Canadian site for new reviews. And what I discovered was a wonderful 5-star review of v.2 of The Termite Queen that I didn't know existed! It's by Tim Myles, the entomologist whose writings taught me most of what I know about termites. He lives in Canada, but his review of v.1 is on the American site, and I never checked the Canadian! Can you believe it's been there since July of 2012?  I must go through every Amazon website and check things out!  

     I honestly think Tim Myles understood this book better than anyone else who has read it.  I particularly appreciated his remark: "A story that brainy girls may especially enjoy" because I've always thought the novel should appeal to women, but very few women have read it.  I also love the fact that he found it to be a page-turner. Some people have found it long and tedious. And it's refreshing to at last find someone intrigued by the troubled mind of Griffen Gwidian.

Here is the review: 

A tragic love story set a 1000 years in the future

The Termite Queen is a novel unlike any other. Bio-science fiction at its best! A story that brainy girls may especially enjoy. It involves a tragic romance set 1,000 years in the future between a young female associate professor linguist and a senior expedition leader, who is a xeno-entomologist, one who studies alien insects. Aboard the outbound flight our love struck couple tie the knot amid a ship of mixed alien commarades. Having reached the target planet, a new intelligent life form, analogous to earth's termites, is discovered and its language is cracked by the brilliant young linguist. We are talking social science and biology here, a refreshing switch from physics and technology-based scifi. We are taken into the social world of strange creatures and embroiled in their political intrigues. But on the brink of the homeward departure the nefarious plotting of the alien termites brings tragedy to the love struck couple. Dark questions are raised about consciousness and morality. Even more disturbing questions have been raised about our protagonist entomologist. Every psychological thread is following in detective fashion to reconstruct the troubled mind of a lost lover. Mind blowing and heart wrenching. A gripping and thought provoking story that will keep you rapidly flipping the pages to the end.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Children of the Music - Published!


Here are the buy links:
Paperback on Amazon (US) (they haven't linked them yet)

     I'm optimistic about the appeal of this book because I think it's the most accessible tale I've written so far.  Some of my books are a bit specialized and -- let's face it -- a bit difficult.  You should have a strong interest in languages and communication to really appreciate The Termite Queen, and you have to have the tenacity to plow through to the end of v.2 to get the most out of it.  Not everybody has done that and so they have missed out on a lot.  The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head series is best read after finishing The Termite Queen, but those who have read the whole thing love it! "Monster Is in the Eye of the Beholder" is a shocker; lots of people think it's excellent (see the reviews on Amazon), but it turns off some people, and it's entirely different from my other books, which are much tamer.  Fathers and Demons is a piece of weighty speculative fiction containing a long discursion into the Jewish religion as well as an absorbing psychological study of a troubled Rabbi and a disturbed spacefarer.

     So what makes Children of the Music different?  The length is moderate (Smashwords lists it at 122,000 words, but some of that is Character Tables and an Afternote by the author (me!)  It's laid in a world of medieval cultural level, and the genre can only be called fantasy, although magic is restricted to prophetic utterances and the strange effect the Golden-Eyed Siritoch have on the Epanishai, the invaders of their land.  Back in the 1970s when I wrote this book, I called the genre the "realistic treatment of an imaginary world," which is what I considered LotR to be.  I had no knowledge of the term "constructed world" at that time; today I would probably say "realistic treatment of a conworld."  
     Realistic treatment means that the characters are recognizably real -- you can relate to them as human beings no matter whether they are good guys or villains, Siritoch or Epanishai.  The characters are admirable but also flawed.  And there is a lot of irony -- both people honor the God of Life but in such radically different ways that, as I say on the back cover, "When two such peoples are driven together, which one has the most to lose?"

     But there is another reason you should enjoy this book: Its tone is lyrical -- smooth, poetic, flowing ...   You should simply begin reading and let the sound of the words and the movement of circumstances flow through your consciousness and captivate you.  It affected me that way when I first read it after hardly thinking about it for 30 years (the odd thing is, I barely remember writing this book -- spooky!)  And the characters evoke so much empathy -- my favorites are (in Part One) Himrith the Headman's wife,  the pivotal characters of Leys and his great-grandson Nebet, and of course Daborno, the Chieftain of the invaders. In Part Two, you have to love Ondrach the shepherd who rebels against the circumstances of Siritoch existence; his wife Lisarith, who grows in stature as the book progresses; Saremna the willful child of the Epanishai; Cumiso the Chieftain of Galana; his brother Sembal ... 

     I'm going to end this with an extract to illustrate what I meant about the lyrical flow of the text.   I hope you enjoy this sample and choose to immerse yourselves in the entire book.

From Chapter 15 (The Makers of Music) Ondrach and his family have gone to the village of Preymis to earn some money entertaining the Mayor and his cohorts on his wedding anniversary:

But then there came a lull, while the laughter died back, the guests wiped eyes streaming with merriment, the horns were drained and refilled.  In the midst of the relative quiet, Doranath struck his harp, and the tone was altered – as gay as a moment before – as quick and teasing – but different: sunlight on dew-silvered spider-silk – hummingbird flight – a whisper of dawn-wind among harebells.  Real silence drew down upon the hall as the Siritoch began to play Siritoch music. 
At first it was only the harps, but soon pipe and flute joined in, and the lute, and the tinkling finger bells.  And then the tone changed again – sunlit gaiety darkened into mystery as Doranath and Farnol began to sing. 
The words were ancient, older than Siritoch memories, coming from the clouds that were whirling up the years – from the Clouded Time that was past yet ever drawing perilously nearer.  The Siritoch were forgetting their tongue.  They often spoke Epanishai even among themselves.  When they did not, they spoke a dialect in which the concrete realities were their own but the movements and relationships were borrowed from a less patient race.  The cherry tree might be “thirnam,” but the word that made it bloom had passed away. 
The songs, passed from parent to child at the crib, kept the ancient tongue pure, but even these held only traditional meaning.  No Siritoch could have translated phrase by phrase from the song into Epanishai, or even into the dialect.  This song was the river; another was the stars.  The words and the melody were fused; they meant themselves, no more and no less: they were the Music. 
And the Epanishai felt this, but they did not understand.  In fear they called the Siritoch witch-people and their music incantations.  At the same time they treasured the spell.  They felt in it the dark groping of the roots of their own dawn-tree and the lifting of its branches toward the sun, and they yearned to be swept toward a depth of joy, endurance, and serenity that most of them could never plumb. 
So Doranath and Farnol sang words whose lost meanings were perfectly understood, while the Epanishai stood silent, their drinking horns forgotten in their hands, stirred by the glimpse of trembling stars, the dark waters of the luminous sea, the soaring of the eagle around dread, forbidden crags.  And when the song passed into silence, they could not quite remember what they had felt, but they wiped tears from their eyes. 
The youngest adults of the troupe had donned dancing cloaks and the Epanishai pressed back to give them room.  There was a pause.  The youth and the girl stood facing each other, an arm’s length of emptiness separating their extended hands.  Then the music commenced – flute and lute and the wordless descant of a woman’s voice, and the throbbing of a tabor to mark the rhythm. 
In a moment boy and girl began to move – circling slowly, always facing, never touching – swaying to and fro, bending and stretching – two willow wands caught in the winds of the music.  The movement grew swifter, the tempo more demanding.  The eyes of the dancers bound them together, their glances never parting even when their bodies turned.  Still those bodies within the floating cloaks did not meet, and the watchers began to desire their contact – to wait with breathless pain to see arms and torsos entwine as intensely as the eye beams. 
But some in the crowd gazed more at the minstrels than at the dancers – at the solemn little boy who beat the low-toned drum – at the woman whose fingers moved over the twelve-stringed lute as tenderly as if it were her child – at the man whose fluting brooded, one with the woman’s chanting, like the shadow of an oak tree on a starlit night.  The woman’s eyes were the color of swirling gray river mist touched by the sun; the man’s were moss green and leaf color, the forest floor dappled with sunlight.  The watchers did not look long into those eyes, which like the pulsing of the instruments spoke of things more ancient, more golden, and more living than the Epanishai could bear to contemplate. 
The tempo had grown – not frantic, such a word might never conjure up the mood – but stretched to a tension that could only break.  And then it did break – the boy and girl had come together, she bent backward in his arms while he bowed above her body.  For a moment all was suspended.  The Music was silent.  If the dancers should never move, the world would hang timeless for eternity.  
But the dancers did move, springing apart and darting from the hall through yielding revelers.  And the Epanishai sighed, vaguely disappointed, half relieved.  What they had experienced was too strong for them.  They were glad to be done with it – they wanted it again – it made them angry to be at once so shaken and so unsatisfied. 
And so someone called for Epanishai songs – ”Enough of this dirge-playing!” – and someone called for a dance tune – “To stamp the foot to! That’s the way to hoof it!” – and soon the rousing rhythms had cast out the stars and sealed up the depths of the ocean and bound the eagle’s wings.  The Epanishai danced – reels and jigs and circles that drove faster and faster until one nearly fell dead from laughter and breathlessness. 
The ale flowed and the mead was brought out.  The crowd grew unruly and inattentive; they could hardly hear the music and made little attempt to keep its rhythm.  Some, drunken, called the Siritoch “pasty-face” and “wool-sucker” and more obscene epithets, while others, scarcely more sober, tried to repress them.  “You want a curse on you? You want a two-headed calf like last year?”  “You want to see your daughter violated?”  “Faugh, those tales are rot!  These lily-loined runts haven’t the stomach to bed a stout Epanishai woman!”
“It’s time to take the money,” said Horbet quietly, “and leave before our welcome goes before us.” 

I could quote a whole array of passages to illustrate 
why I think you'll relish this book, but I have to stop. 
 Please do pick up a copy!
 Ebooks are only $2.99!  
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There will be prizes of free books!