John C. Wright's Journal » John C. Wright's Journal http://www.scifiwright.com Fancies, Drollery and Fiction from honorary Houyhnhnm and antic Science Fiction Writer John C. Wright Tue, 03 Mar 2015 15:44:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 The Archbishop and the Morlocks http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/03/the-archbishop-and-the-morlocks/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/03/the-archbishop-and-the-morlocks/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 00:48:50 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13558 A Catholic Archbishop named Cordelione asks Catholic schools to uphold Catholic teaching, by asking the schools to insert a morality clause in their contracts with teachers, so that those who openly violate Catholic teaching on morals, particularly sexual morals, cannot be placed in a position of authority over impressionable youngsters.

But sexual immorality somehow became a constitutional right while no one was looking, and so the the Morlocks, the same degenerate cannibal troglodytes who ruined comic books, are ruining science fiction, and trying (unsuccessfully) to ruin gaming, are also trying to ruin the Catholic Church, and are trying to gin up their tried and true zombie army of brainless shriekmonsters to harass, threaten, accuse, sue, vex and slander Emmanuel Goldstein.

Your enemies are my enemies, friends:

http://www.catholicvote.org/sanfrancisco

Here is the opening of the letter. Please click through the link and read the whole thing, and sign it:

Your Excellency,

We’ve been monitoring the recent controversy surrounding your decision to insert morality clauses into teacher contracts in schools in your Archdiocese.

Given the hostility to the teachings of the Church and growing attempts to coerce our institutions, your decision is perfectly reasonable. As you know, such clauses are nothing new and represent a commitment to fulfill a basic promise to those families who entrust their children to the care of the Church.

We want you to know that we are praying for you and support you 100%.

As the Archbishop of San Francisco, you are responsible for insuring that all schools including the children in their care are taught the faith. To avoid any confusion, it’s indeed crucial that all those involved in the care of these children act in harmony with the teachings of the Church.

Our country’s tradition of religious liberty has enabled generations of Americans to benefit from the rich tradition of Catholic education. Catholics are rightly proud of the academic, spiritual, and moral education offered in our schools. This is why so many parents sacrifice to send their children to Catholic schools.

Parents entrust their children to Catholic schools for a reason. Pope Francis recently said: “We need to provide an education which teaches crit­ical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.”

Mature moral values are, of course, thoughtcrime. Big Whiner, the sister of Big Brother, is well on her way to wiping them out entirely.

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Podcast Catholic and Enjoying It! http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/03/podcast-catholic-and-enjoying-it/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/03/podcast-catholic-and-enjoying-it/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 20:14:41 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13556 In which I tell my conversion story, and also urge Mark Shea to finish writing his novel.

http://radiomaria.us/february-18-2015-john-c-wright/

 

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Brainstorming and Blogbegging http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/03/brainstorming-and-blogbegging/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/03/brainstorming-and-blogbegging/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 15:21:38 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13554 I’ve taken on the task of doing a series of columns for EveryJoe called ‘Help for the Historically Impaired’.

The conceit of the column is that every new idea is a bad idea in a new coat of paint, and that those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it. I plan to start each column with some popular bad idea of the present day, to point to the misunderstanding of history on which the bad idea is based, and give the true account to set things in their proper light.

An example might be to point out that Truman’s decision to drop the atom bomb on Japan was not based on racism, as is commonly asserted by the ignorant, but was a decision made in the light of the ferocity and dishonorable barbarism of the Japanese resistance on Okinawa.

Other examples: The Church’s opposition to abortion or human experimentation is not based on her enmity to science, and the examples so often bruited about, as Galileo, Hypatia, or Bruno, are not examples of Christian hatred of science, but examples of jealousy among scientists, of the tumultuous nature of politics in Alexandria, of the Church’s hatred of witchcraft and heresy. (This kind of column has already been done, and done better, by Mike Flynn, but since he is a friend of mine, I hope to steal all his ideas and examples.)

Of the Middle Ages in general and the Crusades in particular, the popular errors are so rife that such columns practically write themselves. The idea that the founding fathers of the United States, or, indeed, any other them aside from Thomas Paine, were Deists or Pagans is another popular error begging for refutation.

If any of my dear readers would like to volunteers an idea or an example, it would help me flesh out my list.

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Live Long and Prosper http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/live-long-and-prosper/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/live-long-and-prosper/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 21:11:11 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13551 Leonard Nimoy has passed away. By portraying Mr Spock on Star Trek with such even tempered humor, so convincingly, he had an effect on me greater than any other imaginary character has had. He was the model I followed and still do, the example of how a rational man should act.

We have now seen other actors and actresses play Vulcans, a race that represents the paragons of logic, and Leonard Nimoy was the sole actor who carried it off convincingly and delightfully.

color_nimoy_headshot

Contemplate for a moment how much acting craft it takes to portray a cold, reserved, remote and dignified person, not even a human, while wearing make-up that gives one an appearance either elfish or diabolical, and make the character one of the best beloved in the television.

Because I loved Spock. The concept of a man utterly devoted to reason, to truth, to matters of the intellect, battling forever his human side that tempted him into emotion, passion, confusion became the core concept of my childhood, and, I say without a blush, of my life.

A philosopher is nothing more or less than a Vulcan, that is, a man who puts human emotion aside to cleave to divine reason as if to a cold but beloved bride, forsaking all others. He lives by the icy light shed by his intellect alone, where all things are seen clearly and in proper proportion. A philosopher is someone who uses reason to ponder the nature of duty versus self indulgence, or of virtue versus vice, and, rejecting the false allure of vice, cleaves to virtue.

Every soldier and every saint has a bit of philosopher in him, because he also must put aside cowardice and doubt. The soldier puts aside the cowardice his discipline tells him is irrational and deadly, even as the saint puts aside the doubts his discipleship tells him is irrational and damnable. Both of them, in part, in this little way, are Vulcans.

Consider the shape of the world when Star Trek came on the scene. Self discipline was for squares. Philosophy was word games and rubbish. Logic was a swear word, because gushy and infantile emotions were the order of the day, and arms were for hugging and all you need is love (usually with a tilted heart for the letter o).

Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock was the only portrayal in popular media of what a man of virtue, a man of logic, a man of reason, was supposed to be. And, unlike some robot, his was portrayed as a constant struggle.

Now, the cold and utterly heartless scientific genius was a stock character ever since the days when Jules Verne penned Robur the Conqueror, or E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith introduced Blackie DuQuesne to the universe, but such dispassionate logicians were always a stock villain character, a bad guy. To make a cardboard blackhat into a living and three-dimensional hero takes not only good writing, but great acting, even genius.

The show intended Spock to be the foil and counterpart to Dr. McCoy, who was meant to represent the conscience and passion of the human race, all the parts that Mr Spock lacked. Be that as it may, I mean no disrespect to DeForest Kelley, but he had the easier task of it as an actor, because his role was to portray a doctor with compassion. That is a side of life most of us understand, and we have seen in many other shows and tales, science fictional and otherwise.

But Nimoy’s genius was to put across the human warmth, the loyalty to ship and friends, and especially to his commanding officer, James T Kirk, and make this alien monstrosity of logic humorous and human and lovable.

Spock was the only figure representing logic in a world filled with illogic, and the difficulty of the portrayal, and the brilliance of the success, cannot be explained only admired.

When we see a light too bright to see, we call it blinding, and there little else aside from that word we can use to depict it.

Likewise, when we see an actor take what could and should have been a trite and cardboard concept for an alien character, and turn him into a beloved icon and exemplar which will live in the hearts of fans and admirers for generations, that we can call genius, and there is little else to say beyond that: the light is too bright, and a tear must be in the eye of anyone who sees how dark this world is, now that that light is gone from us.

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In which I Speak Circumspectly to a Bellipotent Porcine (Geek Gab, Ep. 15) http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/in-which-i-speak-circumspectly-to-a-bellipotent-porcine-geek-gab-ep-15/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/in-which-i-speak-circumspectly-to-a-bellipotent-porcine-geek-gab-ep-15/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 07:18:30 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13546 If you were curious about my voice, or what my basement looks like, or why my video account uses a pokemon icon, all these mysteries can be deepened by listening to this podcast by Geek Gab, where I talk over people, refuse to answer questions, and make many remarks so odd that a team of psychologists are discussing the matter now, as well as a team of psychohistorians, irked that this one podcast may disrupt the Seldon Plan.

 

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The Vacant Forever Village http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/the-vacant-forever-village/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/the-vacant-forever-village/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 22:40:15 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13544 I offer this as a vignette for my readers. It is a scene that was removed from VINDICATION OF MAN for reasons of space. Whether any fan of the work will find anything to entertain him, I do not know; which is, of course, a second and stronger reason why it was removed. I proffer it as a curio only:

The Vacant Forever Village

1.       He Laughs

AD 68010

And, as suddenly as that, he knew what nagging fear and hidden error had been bedeviling him.

He laughed at himself and laughed for joy, and the noise was so like the braying of a donkey that Trey danced back in a swirl of blue-gray films, startled, and the eyes on the hat of Mickey grew wide in shock, but, off to one side of the field, Blackie del Azarchel scowled and rose up and threw his uneaten half bag of popcorn to the grass.

That made Montrose laugh all the more.

He resolved not to break off any more subsections of himself to watch himself sleep or keep wary eyes Del Azarchel on. What could the man do, now? It was so close to the happy ending that would crown the epic of lonely longsuffering waiting with love and victory. What could he do?

Just as suddenly, Montrose felt sober, and even slightly sick.

Mickey, seeing the look of nausea in his face, asked him what was wrong.

2.       Aboard the Soaring Azurine Revenant

 

Montrose would not answer the question until an hour or so later, when he and Trey were aboard her airship, and the blue waters of the Northern seas were flowing rapidly and silently beneath the transparent hull, and the ship’s serpentine sang soft songs to Trey, and praised the coming weddings. And the girl swayed and twirled and danced, as unselfconscious as a child.

The airship speed faster than the speed of sound toward the Forever Village, and the surface equipment controlling orbital radio lasers. It seemed the Guild of Spacefarers was no longer in business, but another group, called the Loyal and Self-Correctional Order of Prognostic Actuarial Cliometric Stability had taken its duties. Montrose figured that with medical advances giving some people ten thousand year lifespans, and others immortality, everyone had the time to say longer mouthfuls of names for things.

The Stabiles had the orbital equipment needed to communicate with Neptune, with whom, over the scattered eons, Montrose had developed an acquaintance. Oddly, but not inexplicably, Montrose had been the only emissary both sides trusted when Neptune was negotiating with Twelve and Splendor how to fit the leftover remnants of dwarf-planet surface-dwelling human biological-life into the overall scheme of planned future giant-planet core-dwelling human mechanical-life evolution. But his relation with Nepturne was nothing that could be called a friendship.

One could not make friends with a ball of logic diamond thirty thousand miles in diameter.

But one could ask what the fate of man would be once Rania’s ship landed? It was so simple, and large, and obvious a thing, he had missed. For all his augmented levels of thought, he had forgotten.

Montrose sat in the transparent nosecone on one of the spidery, semi-insubstantial deckchairs the supersonic airship could extrude upon command from the deck, and spoke softly to Mickey.

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with me, since you asked. Rania gave me a prayer she wants all the world to say for her. I ain’t once got on my knees to pray for her return. Not once in sixty-six thousand years.”

Mickey said jovially, “Not to worry! My people back in the day performed many rituals to placate the Swan Princess, who stole the divine fire from heaven and hid it in a diamond for the sake of Man, the Lady of Hope. Two turtledoves is the proper sacrifice for the poor, and a white ewe without blemish for those any goddess of bounty has blessed. So our devotion makes up for your lack! Were there any Witches aboard her ship?”

Mickey had evidently forgotten how long ago she had launched, or perhaps he had never been able to grasp the true magnitude of eons involved. The Hermetic dated from before the Ecpyrosis, the destruction of the world by fire, therefore to Mickey her ship was no more real than the ship of Noah from before the Deluge, the destruction of the world by flood.

Montrose said, “Damn! I need a priest. I reckon I should do some confessing.”

“Eh? And all this time I had you pegged as a confirmed skeptic, Menelaus Montrose.”

“Well, my religion was more like, shut up and shoot straight, but I am beginning to think that is theologically insufficient for my spiritual needs. All these damned years; one drop at a time, time enough to fill a ocean, are weighing on me, piled on like I was at the bottom of a sea trench; all this hostile void and vacuum and emptiness and death outside the few little bright blue planets men live on; all these vast thinking machines, big as gas giants, and bigger. They are Inhuman. Like things out of nightmare of John on Patmos. Facing this, a man needs something more than a bottle of hooch to put the spirit in him. Besides, Rania believes it. She’s smarter than me.”

“No longer,” said Mickey. “You have extensions into the Potentate range. She simply cannot have that amount of mass aboard her ship, even assuming she ever suffered apotheosis into machine-life as you did.”

“One more thing to fess up to the parson, I guess. Hey! You walked and sailed around this current world. Do they still have priests, these days? Oh, they must. Otherwise, Trey would not want you baptized and married in a church wedding all proper like a Christian gent, right? Unless she’s just crazy, or expects to wake the preachers from a tomb.”

“There is a group that calls itself the Sacerdotal Order, which is under the protection of the Fifth Humans. They say they are the heirs of the Old, Strong religion, and the successors to Saint Peter, but their doctrines have grown confused and corrupt with time. They say Peter holds the Keys to Heaven and Hell. My people taught that Peter lives with the souls of dead children called the Lost Boys, and he never grows old and never completed the journey to the after life, but dwells in the great star Canopus, the second brightest star to the right of Sirius, the Dog-Star. The tiny and bright spirit who dwells with him shines her light and rings her bell, and calls the lost and wandering ghosts to her. She died, sacrificing her life saving Peter, but is resurrected when the innocent clap their hands, for their faith brings the dead to life again. You can see from where these Sacerdotes derive their ideas and myths: all is but a hold-over from the pagan roots of yore.”

“Hm. Could be a different Peter. In any case, I feel pretty bad that I let a doubt about her come to trouble me, and let it grow stronger as she got closer.”

“What doubt? Did you think her love would fail? That? Is that has been disturbing your slumber these last few millennia?”

Montrose was too ashamed to answer, but Mickey saw in his face that it was so.

When Montrose did finally speak, it was in a whisper, and his eyes were focused on the high blue skies beyond the clear glass hull, or perhaps on the unseen infinity beyond that blue. , “I quietly resolved in that hour to defy the inevitable.”

Mickey leaned toward him. “What was that?”

Montrose drew himself up, and his eyes took on a steel glint. “Mickey, from now on just remind me. No matter what anyone says, no matter what I see, not even if Jesus Christ wearing a hat of thorns rides down from a damned thundercloud on a white mare and slaps me over the head with a two edged sword He spits out of his holy grinning mouth and says she don’t —remind me never to believe her love give up, give over, fail or fall short.”

“Montrose, my friend, she will never foreswear you.”

“Even if she did, I would not believe her. We was married in a Church, dammit, all regular and nice, lawful and correct! Married by the Pope himself!”

Mickey smiled, his white teeth like flame in his round black visage. “Ah! I thought the Pope was a legend, like the Salem witch-burners, used to frighten unruly children! If so potent a warlock as the Roman devil-man witnessed and blessed your vows, then all the divine beasts, and gods both large and small, and the constellations themselves must rear up their starry heads to aid your cause!”

3.       A Lord of the Stability

 

It was dusk. The airship hung in above the crags and peaks near the Forever Village, a black shape against high clouds red and dazzling in the light of a sun not seen. The great space mirror in the West had not yet risen, but had painted the far peaks cerise and rose.

Montrose walked in his long legs and Mickey waddled on his short ones through one empty street and deserted square, past open doors and empty windows. To walk this village was as if to walk backward in time, with each generation of houses nearer the base of the tower older than the next. The tower itself was a vertical darkness that seemed always ready to topple down upon anyone unwary enough to look up, and optical illusions of perspective and atmosphere made the unseen crown seem to bend toward the vanishing point of the zenith. The upper miles were bright with red light from the sunset, and, farther still, the naked light of the sun in a vacuum smote the sword-bright sides of the tower, making a pale line, the hue of the moon seen by day, in the deep blue of the coming night.

They were met by a manlike shape who was twice their height. A mantle covered him from shoulder boards to boots, and from his stance, it was clear he had not two legs, but four, two major and two minor. The minor legs were perhaps grown from his flesh, perhaps symbiotic, perhaps prosthetic. He leaned upon a tall wand of indigo hue made of translucent glass.

His helmet crown was a broad wheel like a coolie hat or the canopy of a parasol. His faceplate was oversized (its chin reached to below his collarbone) and was so besieged with figures of blue stars and gold comets, chrysanthemums of carnelian and centipedes of topaz that nothing but a dazzling tangle could be seen.

The cheek-plates held two supporters, a swan-maiden with a lamp facing a fishtailed vampiress. Two decorative ropes of coiling fern and chimes from his ear cups reached past his shoulders, swaying through complex knots.

The eyes of the sculpted insects and the centers of the sculpted flowers on the mask were lenses. Each pair of lenses peering from the temple and brow, chin and cheek decorations flickered and focused in turn as the faceless giant inspected them, creating an impression of furious mental activity.

His fingers and arms, what could be seen emerging from an arm slit in the mantle, seemed normal enough, but wooden and glass fibers were woven through the sleeve, apparently a prosthetic. The man’s ancestors had been adapted to some lighter world than earth, but which one, Montrose had no almanac ready in his mindspace to tell him.

“Howdy,” said Menelaus.

His voice issued not from the mask, but from his wand. “Greetings, Judge of Ages. I am Lord High Lighthousekeeper Lesovik Svjatogor, of the Krakonos Municipal Greenhouse, Saint Kristoff Parish, planet Gargoyle of Omicron Eridani.”

A thin beam of light issued from the wand and touched the giant figure on the chest, crept up, and placed a twinkling spot on the mask surface.

“No disrespect is meant, nor do I hide, but I may not remove my faceplate, since the custom of my people is only to unmask and inhale our unclean air to die, and your pure airs of the Eden World, the Mother of Man, would intoxicate me with your high oxygen content, and set me to capering, which would shame my fathers. However, a tradition equally strong holds that any man of land or languid nicor of swamp or sea who takes this mask by fair means or foul must carry out all duties and pay all debts recorded into the mask-circuits, so whomever you see with my faceplate in times to come is I.”

Montrose wondered if it were not that people were long lived these days, or just long winded. But he saw the giant drawing breath, and so he waited to hear what came next.

Now the figure spoke in his own voice, a deep rumble. “Honored One, the Loyal and Self-Correctional Order of Prognostic Actuarial Cliometric Stability recognizes the debt and duty owed you, as sons owe fathers, for had you not founded the Spacefarer’s Guild, we would have had no legacy to inherit from them. Our facilities are yours to use as you will, regardless of resources spent, albeit I cannot now offer servants or attendants to wait on you, save only myself.

“Do not wonder that the houses and halls are deserted, and the tower is dark. All spacers, both fit and unfit, have taken to the skies.

“In many vessels great and small they will starfare in the train of the great ship Argosy from here to Iota Draconis, one hundred lightyears hence, the star the Swans call Eldsich, where the antiquarian world called Torment broods, farthest of all inhabited earths, is ruled by Hierophants and Wraiths, Cats and Chimerae, Foxes and Rosicrucians and other races long extinct on older worlds.

“From there yet onward to Cor Caroli ten more lightyears, they will starfare, which men call Alpha Canum Venaticorum (which Swans in sorrowing song defiantly yet call by the forbidden and ancient name The Heart of Charles the Martyred King). The fleets and flotillas of all forms and races shall greet the Vindicatrix of Mankind, and escort her strange ship across the final light-century, the one hundred lightyear radius of the Empyrean of Man.

“I alone remained behind, to ask your forgiveness that we did not tarry to take you, to meet your bride at Cor Caroli.”

Montrose felt his heartbeat in his face, because he was flushed with anger. “What the plaguey hell? There was a plan to go greet her?” Montrose drew a breath and gritted his teeth. “But wait. The difference in velocity…”

“We cannot match velocity. We cannot dock, but the flotilla of all human ships aloft will wait patiently as the century crawls by until she comes. Vessels posted to each side of the deceleration beam will discharge festive energies on many bands as she speeds past.”

The mechanics of the rendezvous with Tellus and Rania’s ship meant Menelaus would not have seen her any sooner had he gone to meet her. In all the millennia, the simple physics of that had not changed. Earth was still the one spot requiring the least of the astronomical change in momentum needed to bridge to her frame of reference.

Montrose grunted, “No harm done. So I guess it is okay you did not ask me.”

The man made a delicate motion with his elephantine fingers. “Honored One, it was with greatest surprise and disbelief that we Lords of Stability waited, and you did not present yourself.” A note of wry melancholy entered the voice. “We did not, of course, have permission to enter your neural cloud to intrude thoughts directly into your mind. A messenger of the Order of Heralds named Mlentengamunye threw letters weighted by gold coins into the black, deep lake our paleohistorians said you slumbered beneath.” Some of the semiprecious stones adorning the mask changed hue, but what expression this was meant to signify, if any, Montrose could not deduce. The voice rumbled plaintively, “From time to time, one wonders if the decision of Tellus to forbid electronic communication by voice phone or televection was as wise as first it might seem.”

Montrose frowned at Mickey. The rotund Warlock raised his hands in protest. “I had never heard of this while I walked the earth! There was no rumor of it. I did not see any shrines or sacrifices to the Swan Princess. How was I to know any celebration was planned?”

The giant said, “The event of her coming is the date to which all the calendars for all recorded time has pointed. The indenture that we owe the Hyades, half a million years of servitude, is expunged.”

“Not all calendars,” said Mickey pedantically.

The giant closed his fist and raised and lowered it, in the ancient spaceman’s gesture showing consent. “Only the Sacerdotal calendar points backward, to some date in the past, but recent scholarship shows this was done in jealousy, since the advent of the heavenly messenger they imagine, to cure our debts to dwellers in heaven, is clearly an imitation of Rania’s mission.”

Mickey muttered to Montrose, “He sounds like me. Did I used to talk nonsense that way?”

“You still do,” said Montrose muttered back. “Sounds like, despite all the time that goes by, mankind is still madmankind. I would not have launched with the escort fleet, but it would have been nice to have been asked. But no one could reach me because someone decided to outlaw phones?” He snorted. “Hellfire! And I thought the world was crazy poxed up back when I was young. What the crazy look like might change as ages pass, but the crazy stays the same.”

The ears of the giant must have been sharp. The mask lenses rotated in their sockets, and focused at Montrose. Several of the nose, cheek and brow gems turned green. “For our failure to find you, and other reasons that put us in your debt, Svjatogor is your servant. Ask what you will.”

Mickey nudge Montrose. “Ask him for his mask. It must have powerful voodoo in it.”

Montrose said, “Do you have facilities to send a message to Neptune? I want to talk to him. I want to find out what the cliometry says for the future evolution of man, now that Hyades will no longer be performing any more sweeps of our populations, and we are not obligated to serve them.”

Svjatogor said, “You may send, but there will be no response.”

Montrose said, “Why?”

“Walk with me into the chresmographion, and I show you.”

4.       The Beast

 

They walked, not into the vast and topless tower stretching infinitely above them, but into a large rectilinear building of severe and recent construction, less than one thousand years old. There was a portico of pillars leading through a vestibule to an inner chamber. Between the vestibule and the inner chamber was a structure like an indoor fane, consisting of a dark blue dome upheld by a circle of slender columns. The inner surface of the dome was an armillary hemisphere, like a planetarium, set with ornamental bosses and jeweled lanthorns.

As they stepped to the center of the fane, the ivory floor underfoot turned transparent, revealing a hemisphere like a wide cup, a mate to the dome overhead, showing the southern constellations. Silently the slender pillars retracted, so that the dome above came to rest on the floor, catching them in the middle of a sphere of dark ivory. Their feet were on the plane of the ecliptic. The only light came from the jewels and lamps representing stars and worlds, each one beneath a heraldic shield. Since the floor was perfectly transparent and clear, the illusion of being in a small bejeweled universe was complete.

Svjatogor shined lights from his wand upward. He must have had additional lenses in the crown of his wide-brimmed headgear, because he did not crane back his head. “These arcs represent the orbits of the Great Ships, and the schedule, across the centuries, given to our keeping. Those lines indicated the known positions of radiolaser paths between Principalities and Powers. One by one they have gone dark. The Silence fell in 66366 AD, as the Sacerdotes reckon time, or Vindication Minus 1634 by our calendar. You will receive no answer, Honored, because the Principalities and Powers are dark. Some heresiarchs and xypo-theologians aver that they are dead, albeit what word from the Authority of Canes Venatici could be so grim that civilization-wide suicide was the reply, none can speculate.”

Montrose was feeling impatient, but the sight, as he looked up, made his chest swell with pride. “Only the superhuman brains are quiet, not the common people? Heh. At first blush seems to me that ain’t no bad thing. But look! You got more planets since I slept! Man is spread too far to be wiped out, with roots too deep on too many poxed worlds, right? We’ve won. Hell, I’ve won.”

The giant Svjatogor said, “Strange. The lore of Gargoyle says that this was the victory conditions envisioned of old by our Founder, the Nobilissimus Ximen del Azarchel. By interstellar radio, he wrote our Great Charter and the Proverbial Analects, as well as established the Ecclesiastic Order of my world. He is said to be stirring in the Earth, in the Mother of Worlds. Now that his dreams are accomplished, what does he next dream to do?”

Montrose shrugged. “Some damned mischief. How many worlds all told we got?”

Svjatogor sent darting lights out from his wand to point at stars on the dome. “By the reckoning of the Stability, there are eighty one earths of seventy suns. The worlds which have been stirred to selfawarness, the Potentates, number twenty four and are marked with a sard; the seven Powers with an amethyst; the four Principalities with a crystal of blue adamantine.”

“I feel like a boy again. I used to dream of flying to the stars. I have done it once or twice now, but it ain’t out of my blood.”

There was true warmth in the deep, slow voice, “We share one heart! Well do I know the urge to see strange suns under alien skies and smell the wind and see the faces of men of other worlds. I have starfared: with those who are content to live and die within a footstep of their communal crèche, I have no communion. I am of a restless spirit; I hunger for wonders!”

“Man after my own heart! Maybe the missus and me can visit some of these places as a honeymoon, eh? Tell me about them,” said Montrose.

“Behold the newer earths where men of varied races and shape prosper! That one is Here Be Monsters of Regulus; and that is Svartalfheim whose pitch-black atmosphere is warmed by the rays of Zeta Laporis; there is Mystery of the Second Creation orbiting Hamal; that is Qailertetang, and is the most ambitious terraforming work ever yet attempted, for the cruel cabal of weather-control officers called the Winter Queens here turned a plutonian world into one of subarctic tundra and snowforest by igniting its dead core to molten life, and coating its lower elevations in an hydrosphere of heat-trapping greenhouse fluids; Mountain of the Lovely Peach Trees is an idyllic world where war and murder were utterly unknown, but whose children are addicted at birth to pacifying electronic implants, brain-songs, and shared phantasms and figments; Onwardness of Pi Mensae, a world where human emotion is outlawed and excised save on Sabbath days; Aaru of Zubenelgenubi, the ghost-ruled world, earthquake-tortured, whose wide and single river runs in a vast and perfect spiral from a northern polar ice cap to an southern hemisphere of swamp and bog and mire and shallow sea — and whether this was the result of a freakish terraforming accident, or a mad inspiration, no offworlder knows; next is the aptly named Bloody Water Poisoned Air circling Xi Scorpius, whose terraforming, if anything, was less complete; the unforgiving world called Penance in the constellation Cygnus; and the forgiving world called Land of the Young. Nowhere in these worlds is there liberty for men.”

Montrose gazed at the expressionless mask. “You did not just stay around to apologize for sending off the escort without me. You want me to help you. Why me? All these machines are so much smarter than me, it ain’t funny. I am going to settle down with my wife, finish my honeymoon, and father a heaping squall of brats. The end. Happily ever after.”

Mickey said quietly to Montrose, “The stars and winds and the rushing waters of the river speak to me in my narcotic dreams, and whisper you remain the fulcrum of events.”

Montrose uttered a lengthy but colorful expression concerning various disorders and diseases that can be detected in fecal matter. The decorated mask showed no expression, of course. Finally, Montrose said, “Tell me what is going on. Go fast.”

“How can I in one breath sum the bitter centuries of misery you missed, O Judge of Ages? The Fourth Sweep which peopled these colonies occurred in the Fifty-Third Millennium of the Julian Calendar, and removed worldwide populations from the First and Second Sweep stars, flinging them to dim and remote worlds to die in countless numbers. Civilization did not entirely collapse, despite this great wound, because the Powers and Principalities, for centuries prior, had ruthlessly bred and prepared the living peoples for their coming generations of tortures and trials, and established psychologies and communities designed to rebound from the shock of decimation. But interstellar trade halted, and interstellar radio communication was lost, and some worlds tried to forget that once we fared the stars. A long twilight began.”

Again, lights from the wand glinted on precious stone set into the images of stars and constellations. “Then, in the Sixty-First Millennium, the twilight of man became midnight. Out from star men spoke of as Epsilon Tauri, the Swans in their songs of malediction named Ain, the Myrmidons numbered as HIP 20889, and the Foxes in their riddles recall as Oculus Borealis, and Patricians called Coronis, from this star came the virtue known as Achaiah, later named the Beast.

“The dark and unseen mass took up position not at Sol but at Tau Ceti, which smiling Foxes inexplicably call Tertia Struthionum; but which the Swans in ditties of derision name Durrementhor. There the Beast established the first interstellar entrepot and trade depot between Man and Hyades.

“The Beast neither received nor issued any communication to mortal beings nor to angels, archangels nor principalities. They were beneath notice. Only to the logic diamond brains occupying the great volumes of the giant planets did it speak. What it said was unknown, but all human destiny was blasted and changed as if with a black wind.

“After heeding the voice of the Beast, vectors were introduced into the tumult of history by the Powers. These vectors were ones preferring the predictability of stagnation to liberty and life. The immortal machine life in great jovian worlds grew greater while biological life on patches of the surfaces of little terrestrial worlds diminished.

“Principalities were created by Powers and Potentates, and mankind was reduced to less than chattel. A system known as the Absolute Rule was imposed on all life below the Potentate threshold: archangels occupying planetoids volumes, asteroids and mountains, angels in ships and cities, and men in houses, strongholds, or bodies grew corrupt, servile, and somnolent.

“Every being is born, medically altered, coerced, conditioned, habituated or mind-raped into conformity to his pre-established and stereotyped role in history. Ecologies on many worlds now are simplified and stark, and all fish spawn at their given hour, the rain and snow as regular as clockwork, and the songbirds all sing on time and in tune.”

5.       The Principalities

 

The giant Svjatogor told them of the four great Principalities.

In the Sixty-Fifth Millennium, planet Twelve of Tau Ceti dismantled the gas giants of the Cetacean outer system to complete a ringworld of sophont matter called Catallactic, whose intelligence was in the one billion range.

Neptune was suppressed, as was any hope for human liberty.

In less than a thousand years, the Covenanter civilization, directed by their featureless and icy gas giant, Immaculate, starlifted from mighty Altair more than an average solar systems’ mass of material, filtered and cooled and transmogrified it, and from those orbiting rivers of precipitate gas, created the Principality called Consecrate.

Rosycross, although no more than a earth-sized Potentate, embarked on an ambitious project to create a Principality without a Power to act as architect or intermediary, or midwife. As millennia passed, Rosycross, aided by his surface and orbital civilizations, foxes and nonorthagonals, ghosts and archangels, erected vast array composed of billion-square-mile films of light-absorbing cognitive sailcloth in orbit about the large main star of his quadruple-star system. Cloud upon cloud of the sailcloth orbited equidistant from Alpha Centuari, collecting the heavy particles of the unstable red star, and growing in computation depth year by year. The sail cloth woke and grew and combined, slowly forming a patchy Dyson hemisphere. At some point, the billionfold threshold of intelligence was passed, and Toliman — so it was christened by poets and dervishes and visionaries — evolved himself into becoming the third Principality of the commonwealth of Man.

The Power christened Vonrothbarth of 61 Cygni was a hyperjovian and a fire giant, a Brown Dwarf who failed to ignite, swinging rapidly in a submercurial orbit around his primary. Over millennia, he had extended the topless towers of exotic-particle material upward and outward from his fiery globe, a trailing braided tail, threads of material two hundred twenty million miles long, held aloft from the star by 61 Cygni’s immense solar wind pressure. The twin telluric worlds of the system were unable to comprehend Vonrothbarth’s arts, or analyze the building material, dubbed orichalchum. The material was the alloy of artificial elements not found on any periodic table, isotopes possible only through engineering on the subatomic scale. Odile looked on with awe and Odette with dread, and each sought to ship her surface populations elsewhere, before the distant age arrived when project was triumphant.

The orichalchum megascale structure housed both inhabited and uninhabited continents. These continents coated the inner surface of hollow cylinders indefinite in length, absorbing and digesting particles from the sun, and ever growing. The flexible cylinders rotated at various rates to imitate gravity. The array was as if composed of countless beanstalks set end to end, or, like a loosely woven arc of odd, superplanetary noodles.

As ages passed, the threads expanded ever farther along the orbit of Vonrothbarth as he circled the star, eventually forming a work encircling the solar equator. And still, as centuries passed into millennia, it grew ever onward. When it reach three full circuits of the 61 Cyngi, a three-banded strandworld, it awoke, and shrieked, and named itself Zauberring.

Rumors filtered down to the posthumans that Cold Potentates had overheard the radio messages, spanning the years and lightyears between the Powers and their new and incomprehensible masters, these Principalities. Cool and remorseless Catallactic of Tau Ceti, serene and detached Consecrate of Altair, patient and sly Toliman of Alpha Centauri, and young Zauberring of 61 Cygni, whose zeals and ideals were based on mathematical models no Power and no Potentate could comprehend.

It seemed these four did not agree on how the destiny of man should unfold.

Duels now erupted between these immense entities which even the wisest and oldest of Powers housed in giant worlds could not comprehend, raids and murders conducted through the pressures of thought and logic, in the strange topological spaces of predictive history.

There was war in heaven.

Rania grew ever closer. One day, radio silence fell throughout the hundred lightyear volume of the Empyrean Polity of Man.

6.       Silence in Heaven

 

Montrose and Mickey were both silent for a moment, their brains dazed by the magnitudes the works described, the strangeness of another pantheon of supreme and artificial beings, the size of living solar system.

Eventually Montrose shook his head and said, “So that is the reason I will get no reply to my messages to Neptune? All these godlike brains are at war?”

“We cannot say for sure,” Svjatogor of Gargoyle admitted. “What does war look like on such a scale? Perhaps it is more like a trial, an ordeal, or a game of suicidal roulette. We detect no energies, no discharges, no motions of material objects. But there is much we cannot detect, from neutrinos to dark flows to gravitational lasers, to purely mental or psychological weapons written in logic codes. We cannot explain the silence.”

Mickey, staring at the many-rayed gem representing Arcturus, the kneecap of the constellation Boötes the Ploughman, now spoke up, “It is the songbirds singing on time that creeps me out. But I saw nothing like that here on Earth?”

The giant said, “The memory of the three nightmarish millennia of the White Earth, the Red Earth and then the Blue Earth prevents Tellus, mad or not, from permitting the return of the philosophy of ecological simplification: and benevolent Neptune, the only Power that cared for man, protected the mother world as best he could.”

Montrose listened with growing dismay. “I am a fool. A world of slaves and serfs and clockwork fish and bird is just what Blackie has wanted all along. I was thinking only of reaching the day when Rania arrives and sets all men free! He has his eyes on unfreeing everything one hour later. Pestiferous damification! Some of those gas giants follow his footsteps. Hell, some may be him, for all I know. Hyades is tossed aside, and Blackie will step into the empty throne.”

A dot of light issued from the wand, and touched the constellation of cancer. “Hyades will no longer be our master,” intoned the giant. “But what is freedom? This is Praesepe, called the Beehive Cluster. Here is the seat of the Domination who rules the Dominion Hyades and seven other Dominions. These Dominions, each as vast in extent and intellect as Hyades, or vaster, are seated in the Pleiades; at 12 Comae in the Coma Berenices Star Cluster; in Ptolemy’s Cluster; at M34 in Perseus; at Xi Persei in the California Nebula; in the great Orion Nebula centered at Trapezium Cluster, where they are making new stars; and at the distant Cone Nebula, two thousand seven hundred lightyears hence. The Domination of Praesepe rules them all, and will rule us as we take our place as coequal subjects. The Domination of Praesepe will expect the Empyrean of Man to continue the project of Sophotransmogrification, of turning all inert matter into cognitive matter, whether we are indentured or free.”

Mickey said, “Free men are paid a wage.”

The giant said, “Precisely so. Why else are the Powers of Man were so eager to build Principalities? The expense was beyond calculation, the timespan beyond any human patience save for that of the Judge of Ages himself. The Powers wish to show that the mankind can contribute to the project of Sophotransmogrification. The lure of whatever deep secrets of nature and sciences the aliens command, mysteries seen only speculations and cravings, make the Principalities and Powers as eager to engage in trade with Hyades as the Indians of Manhattan had been to sell their worthless island in return for duffel cloth, kettles and axe-heads of iron, implements like hoes and awls impossible for the Neolithic natives to make, novelties like Jews’ harps and looking glasses, trifles as fantastic to them as threading the moon on a necklace would have seemed. So to us are the few and quotidian wonders the Hyades may barter.”

Montrose was staring now at the dome overhead, now at the hemisphere underfoot. “There were only four sweeps predicted in the Monument message. Unless I ain’t reading your map aright, these stars are farther off a piece. And you mentioned a hundred lightyears. The Fourth Sweep was only supposed to reach to ninety-four. What gives?”

“These are worlds of men, new worlds! The names of the farthest earths are poetry to me, fitting shrines of the triumph of the human spirit! Perioecium is a world of war, for their dayside and nightside populations cannot coexist, and the terminator of their lands and seas migrates inexorably by fifteen degrees of longitude each thirty earthyears as one slow hour of their lingering day passes, over seven hundred twenty earthyears. Their living garments are their armor, for they are hybrids, a symbiosis of Myrmidon material to specially adapted skin cells. Feast of Stephen is a world of peace, and their only currency is concern for the poor. St. Agnes and St. Wenceslaus are her two vast moons, motionless in the sky, are remnants of the same shattered gas giant which formed Feast of Stephen. All three dance in a Klemperer rosette, forming an equilateral triangle about their common barycenter, with three small moons so nicely and evenly spaced between them, as to confirm some ancient nonhuman race of planetary engineers created the symmetry, but for what end, none know. Terra Pericolosa with its castles in the air and cities beneath the sea is peaceful as well, but only because the world itself is malign and fights the terraforming, and makes the land too dangerous for the batwinged fish-tailed men of that world. World of Willows and Flowers is a garden world of immortals, but plagued by anthropophagic blossoms, deadly ferns and lianas, poisonous willows, and malignant pines. Aerecura is a world tinged with copper. The pantropy here is unique, with larval humans living in mines as apprentices, who undergo metamorphosis to nocturnal quadrupeds as journeyman, and, if masterhood is earned, may transform to upright creatures able to live in daylight. Torment is notorious for the odd experiments played on the world-mind as she grew at the core. She defies the Patricians, and keeps many things alive dead on their home worlds, or long age ago. This is the farthest star of man, one hundred lightyears hence, and possesses the most powerful lighthouse in the Empyrean, and sends her star’s beam farther across the void than any other, a river of light bearing ships across the sea of darkness.”

Montrose raise an eyebrow. “None of these seem to have all your birds singing at the same time, or whatever that was.”

“When the Beast departed in the Sixty-Sixth Millennium, divisions and emissaries emitted by Achaiah starfared to several colonies and compelled deracination ships toward Vindemiatrix and the other outward stars, HR 6 in Phoenix, Gliese 1137 in Antlia, HIP 10301 in Eridanus; and then, a century later, Achaiah himself abducted continents and world-ships of helpless peoples from Arcturus and 44 Boötis to hurl them to exile at Kappa Coronae Borealis and Iota Draconis. Three of the earths of these six stars have reached Potentate level with inexplicable rapidity, and being so highly elevated and so far from the center of the Empyrean, even the Principalities have difficulty arranging their fates. In any case, the damage done by the Petty Sweep was less, but the pain was more, for being unexpected.”

Montrose said blankly, aghast, “Unexpected! And everything Rania and I have done since the beginning, all our work, was based on the hope that the aliens were controlled by the Monument notation. If they can deviate from it, we got no reason to believe Rania’s return will actually free us.”

“It is not the only unexpected event. Between the Sixty-Second and Sixty-Ninth Millennia, the Powers placed certain of the Cold Potentates, self-aware worlds of dark ice far from any sun, falling through the interstellar abyss at various points, were able to intercept and overhear the radio messages of the Principalities. This is how we know there was debate between the Principalities, a disagreement over the fate of the Empyrean once man was vindicated and accepted by the remote and alien stars as a full starfaring civilization.

“However, two of them, Lethe and Styx, fell into senility, and Cocytus bent the Principality communication beam and rode it to starfare slowly but steadily toward Luyten 726-8 in Cetus. He will arrive later this century. Cliometry utterly failed to predict these events. Radio traffic between the Powers and Principalities reached an unparalleled maximum when the cold potentates went mad and died, and, at peak, consumed fully one sixth the total energy output of the Empyrean. We assume discussing these or related matters.”

Montrose said, “Debating what?”

The giant said, “The Hyades know the procedure of manumission, even though humans do not, for their records reach back to the Cenomanian Age of the Cretaceous. The Swan Princess will carry with her the cliometric notation needed to adhere voluntarily to the architecture of destiny established for this arm of the galaxy, which is within the preview of the Authority at M3. Or so the echoes of re-echoed rumor, from Principality to Power to Potentate from whom our ship-angels of the Stability heard it. But Rania will and must also have the right and permission to alter the planned destiny according to local conditions and judgment; either she, or whatever epitome of mankind the alien recognize as speaking for us.”

“What do you want me to do?” Montrose said.

“Prevail upon her, your wife, your beloved, whose love for you, as yours for her, is legendary, and forms the spine of human evolution, the leitmotif of all mega-scale history!”

“Fine,” growled Montrose, impatiently. “So what do you want her to do?”

The giant spread both arms and gestured with his glowing wand, so that scores of little lights danced overhead and underfoot, throughout all the sphere of heaven, touching the stars and worlds of man.

“Free us.”

“Eh?”

“Or do you not care what eventuates in the tales told of our lives, once your life’s tale has your happy ending for yourself?”

 

 

 

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The Needs of Drama and the Needs of Culture http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/the-needs-of-drama-and-the-needs-of-culture/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/the-needs-of-drama-and-the-needs-of-culture/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:20:10 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13541 The eternal war between Vesta and the Muses:

http://www.ljagilamplighter.com/2015/02/25/superversive-blog-the-needs-of-drama-vs-the-needs-of-culture/

My beautiful and talented wife pens a column which identifies a clear and simple idea absolutely crucial to be understood before any discussion of the merit of a work begin:

It takes a superb writer to make the process of painting a landscape interesting to an outsider. It only takes a writer of ordinary skill to bring excitement to a chase scene with a thief and the Company assassin on ski mobiles in the midst of the Winter Olympics.

… We would like to teach our children to be peaceful and chaste, but violence and sex sell. They draw readers. But this does not keep those who would be the guardians of culture for criticizing our entertainment for the places where it falls short of the demands of culture.

So What Are These Needs of Culture?

What are the values those favoring improving the culture wish to put across? Currently, they fall into two categories: traditional cultural values and modern cultural values.

Traditional culture covers the kind of thing listed in the Ten Commandments or the Boy Scout’s Law. It wants people to be honest, upright, brave, clean, etc. The needs of traditional culture require that good guys be upright, bad guys always get their comeuppance, and that the line between the two remain crisply defined.

Modern culture, too, has needs, things it wants drama to portray as good and to encourage in its audience. This desire is so prevalent in our society that it has its own name: Political Correctness. Races must get along. All people, regardless of rank or birth, must be treated as equals. The old taboos are to be laid to rest, no one needs them any more. Nobility and grandeur are to be sneered at, and women must be the equal of men—or better.

What About The Needs of Drama?

The needs of drama are quite different from those of culture. They are ruled by the desire to entertain. Whatever enthralls the audience most, that is what drama requires.

Unfortunately for those who would use stories to teach cultural mores, what makes a story entertaining is often directly at odds with what is good or virtuous or politically correct.

Drama is about conflict. It is about breaking taboos, the more shocking the better! Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, alcoholics, adulterers – all the things that traditional culture does not wish to glamorize make for entrancing drama. But it is not just traditional culture that get trampled. Bigots, class struggles, and inequality among the sexes also makes for excellent storytelling!

Are the people who fear the effect of drama on society starting at shadows?

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Reviewer Praise for FEASTS AND SEASONS http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/reviewer-praise-for-feasts-and-seasons/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/reviewer-praise-for-feasts-and-seasons/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 21:20:39 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13527 Yard Sale of the Mind has a fulsome and flattering review of BOOK OF FEASTS AND SEASONS. I had the odd sensation of wanting to read the stories thus described, they sounded so fascinating.

The reviewer makes the unintentionally funny comment that I might mislike being compared to one of the most famous writers of the century, Flannery O’Conner. I also might mislike being told I am as handsome as Adonis, strong as Sampson, and as logical as Spock, but then again perhaps I might not.

https://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/book-review-the-book-of-feasts-and-seasons/

Full disclosure: I know this reviewer. Not only have we been bosom friends for years, and not only do I owe him my life, if not my immortal soul, but the reason why he has adopted the eccentric habit of never appearing in public, indeed, never leaving his dark and windowless room in the Smithsonian, communicating to the outside world only by telephone, eating only sushi and never touching food that has ever touched fire, and walking with his face and hands entirely swathed in bandages, actually is my fault.

Let me explain briefly.

His name is Josiah Moore, and he was born in Cornwall. He and I were together on October 31st in 1952, if I recall correctly, in a small and ruined Churchyard in southeast Europe.

The sanctuary had been burnt by the Communists, and there was no priest present to restore the ancient wards. With pickaxe and shovel, Moore and I hurried to dig up the remnants of a horrifying medieval tyrant whose ferocity in opposing the Turk was, all too often, turned against his own people, and whose name — I dare not write it, even here — is a byword for frightening the children of the parish. On a scrap of paper I had the words indited by Elphais Levi, and Moore was carrying the pyx containing the essential salts.

The moon was soon to rise, and it would be full that night, and, worse, partially occluded by the earth, giving it an unchancy reddish hue the superstitious called a ‘Blood Moon.’ Despite the crucifix given me by the MI-5 black-belt Archibishop out of Canterbury’s ‘Unusual Circumstances’ division known only as Father Z, and the foul concoction given my by the mad Latvian physician named Bogg, I was beginning to feel the circumstances of the change happening to me.

Meanwhile, on the ruined spire, outlined by the erubescent light, a slender and pale but beautiful figure dressed in white cerements was visible. I was sure it was Lenore! But from the figure now were uplifted wings of membrane, and she swooped toward us. Madness seized me!

Shame now clots my throat to speak more of that dread night, but I was overcome with the sickness of my own unnamable transformation, and the pressure of time. Mere minutes were left before the red light of the full moon was to flood the scene — and in the east, in the spot where the moon so soon to appear, I saw the dim and diamond-bright glitter of the strange saucer-shaped craft, nothing of this earth, which the communist government so desperately was trying to hide, and who messages by Gridley wave started this whole labyrinth of horror and deception.

And the silent disk was coming closer!

With my teeth, now elongated to unearthly shape, I tore the crucifix from me, thinking only that I must embrace Lenore once more, and that I dare not  burn her.

Forgive me, I was out of my mind!

Moore, as the last descendant of the famous pirate-turned-parson Christopher Syn,was, of course, dressed like a scarecrow, in order that the hoodoo shadows brought back by Captain Clegg from the so called Fountain of Youth — in truth a well of death! — would serve him, deceived by the scent of his blood into thinking him his own forefather. With their help, Moore had recovered from the clutches of the Si Fan one of the few remaining fragments of the Wold Newton meteor stone. Yes, this was the selfsame stone his martyred ancestor Thomas Moore had recovered from the traveler Raphael Hythloday the island of Utopia — a place that, (heaven save us!) is not a mere literary fiction. This shard of black stone Moore wore on the thong around his neck, his armor against all things from the nocturnal world. Seeing me in my madness and rage, he removed the protective amulet from his own neck and tossed the loop over my head as neatly as a cowboy roping a wild steer.

Immediately the flood of sanity and sense was restored to my fevered brain, and I called upon the mental disciplines taught to me by Ying-Ko of Chinatown, which he had learned in Tibet, and raised my Tommy gun toward the pale lamia stepping softly across the gravestones toward me, smiling with luxurious red lips, her eyes filled with love.

A graveyard is normally sacred ground, and creatures of her species, or, I should say, her order of being, cannot enter. But thanks to the gangersterism of the materialistic Communists, that bulwark was broken!

Her order was something that impersonate human life just as a fiddler crab might impersonate a whelk, by entering its empty shell, and, as such, cannot be slain by mortal weapons. I had been assured by the Vatican armorer that the special blessed bullets of silver mingled with iron from the missing fourth nail of Christ would harm the apparition, but then she whispered the name of our pet puppy, Puddles, that we had bought together in a shop in New England in the fall, when the leaves were as golden as her hair! I curse my weakness, but I could not pull the trigger! The memory of Puddles was too dear to me!

But the ground was heaving and buckling, and a voice spoke, echoing like the strings of a bass viol, from the disk over head, a starvoyaging vessel from darkest Carcosa in the Hyades, uttering the words of judgment on the whole human race, when I saw Moore, now unwarded, now unprotected – saw him for the last time in his fully human and properly three-dimensional form — saw him grabbed about the ankle by a thin and marmoreal hand emerging from the disturbed grave soil!

And, dear heavens! When I tell you of the signet on the ring that glittered there! Yes, the same signet I last saw that dreadful midnight in 1912 in Egypt raised in triumph above the buried and primordial treasure city of Pithom! IT WAS NONE OTHER THAN THE SELF SAME SCARAB RING WHICH ARDETH BEY EMPLOYED TO SUMMON THE TRANSFINITE CHAOS! …. I knew then who had shattered the foundations of Atlantis, and why, and what the haunting hints of famed balloonist William Waterman Sherman as to the fate of Krakatoa implied!

I called out to my doomed friend, Josiah! Josiah! … and then I saw a horror so remarkable, so unearthly, that even to hint at the …!

Wait a moment. That review was written by Joseph Moore, not Josiah Moore.

Oh.

No, I do not know know the fellow. I know someone else of a similar name. Never mind.

 

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A Fan Manifesto http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/a-fan-manifesto/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/a-fan-manifesto/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 20:23:53 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13490 Challenge accepted, Mr. Torgersen!

Background: More than rabbit-souled one self-declared foe of the Sad Puppies slate of Hugo candidates has urged their fellow lapines to shun us and bite us with their wee square rodential teeth to drive us trembling into exile, away from the fuzzy and comfortable warren of right-thinking, that is to say, left-leaning, that is to say, non-thinking conformists.

Their claim of right and clamor of noise was that we were all disqualified from being heard, on the grounds that we are not ‘real’ science fiction fans.

Nothing wrong with fans holding forth their opinions, far from it: Science fiction is blessed to have such an active and enthusiastic fanbase. Nothing wrong with fans telling pros how to conduct their business, far from it. You fans are the employers. The customer is always right.

But their is something wrong with one fan wagging the insufferable finger of correctness at other fans, and telling them they are not members of the one, big happy family, because then you are frelling with my customers, you loon, and mucking with my paycheck. So shut your fat and drooling trap, friend.

My normal Vulcan equanimity is perturbed, causing me to raise one supercilious eyebrow an alarming inch and a quarter up my otherwise unwrinkled forehead by anyone who claims that I and mine are not ‘real’ fans because our participation in fandom is somehow insufficient or politically incorrect.

One Rob at CDN (https://anthrobob.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/so-im-not-cool-enough-to-be-a-fan/) takes exception to the restrictive definition; and was joined in his umbrage by Brad R Torgersen (https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/my-fanifesto/) and Paterick Richardson (https://otherwheregazette.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/not-a-real-fan/) and Kerry English (http://karyenglish.com/2015/02/on-discovering-sff-and-becoming-a-fan/) and an anonymous passer-by on the internet, who, because he happens at the moment to agree with me on this one issue, I trust as I trust the Oracle at Delphi and the Sibyl at Cumae, combined! (https://westfargomusings.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/a-fan-in-my-own-way/)

So, in that spirit, let me say that, while you were still in kneepants, I was a fan. I embarked on my life of crime for the sake of fandom.

My life as a criminal began in the Fifth Grade. During lunch period and recess, because I preferred to read rather than play on the playground, and because my book and my MUNSTERS lunchbox were too big for my small hands to carry both, it was my habit, just before the bell rang, to walk over and unlatch one window the merest crack. Then, while other children were getting healthy exercise, I would sneak back to the classroom building, open the window deftly, and slither inside, retrieve my book, close the window, and depart my the front door, locking it behind me. I would have gotten away with it, too, if Mr Geisel, my teacher, had not collared me during one break-in. My career as a first-story man, or boy, seemed cut short. But when he realized I was trespassing in order to get a book, to read it, something no other child seemed wont to do, I was not sent to Alcatraz, nor to the Principal’s office.

I agree that, compared to the career of Adam North, the Napoleon of Crime, or Professor Moriarty, that Irish mastermind, or of Blackie DuQuesne, that superscientist of villainy, my crime wave was short lived. But I got away clean as a whistle, which is more than two of the three of them can can say.

Whether that book was THE GAMMAGE CUP by Carol Kendall, or TIME CAT by Lloyd Alexander, or DANNY DUNN AND THE SMALLIFYING MACHINE by an author whose name I forget, or THE MARVELOUS INVENTIONS OF ALVIN FERNALD by Clifford B Hicks, or THE MAD SCIENTISTS CLUB by Bertrand R. Brinley, or WONDERFUL VOYAGE TO THE MUSHROOM PLANET by Eleanor Cameron, or A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle, or ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS by Sylvia Engdahl, or THE MAGIC BED KNOB by Mary Norton, or THE DARK IS RISING by Susan Cooper, or TUNNEL THROUGH TIME by Lester Del Rey is something I do not now recall, but I do recall those to be among the books I read at that age, probably all in one week. I read quickly and omnivorously and gluttonously.

I remember the green cover of the Carol Kendall book, and the dark silhouettes of Minnipins flourishing their war swords at the ghastly Mushroom creatures; I recall the dizzying circles radiating from the eye of the startled face on the cover of the Lester Del Rey book, and the silhouette of the time traveler falling into the Triassic, in part because it reminded me of the TIME TUNNEL television show, which I was watching, not in reruns, at about that same time.

I remember arguing with my teacher over the meaning of ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS by Sylvia Engdahl. She said the machine-using invaders who were occupying the medieval planet were supposed to represent us, the Earthmen; whereas I said the psychic and self-sacrificing Illuminati attempting in secret to protect the medievals were the Earthmen.

And I recall the plot, the characters, and themes of all these books and their fellows, because they live in me, and shaped the contours of my imagination, forever.  Even to say their names is to be like Helen of Troy whispering the names of her one hundred suitors, if only she had given her heart wholly to them one and all.

I remember seeing STAR TREK, also not in reruns. My earliest recollection was the episode where the Enterprise is thrown back into the past, and saves a fighter pilot from destruction by beaming him aboard.

The moment when I saw the image of the great ship from the far future in silhouette, laboring to gain altitude in the atmosphere — which, even at that age, I knew was dangerous for space vessels to go — of a year in the their far past, our present — which I knew was the wrong place for future people to be — while the brass trumpets of Alexander Courage blared an eerie and ominous cord still lives in my heart, and still trembles with an echo of that old, old thrill of wonder and strangeness.

(As a child, I thought it was hilarious the the current-day earth-pilot did not know where to stand to be teleported, as Mr Spock had to reach out his hand to urge the man to step on the glowing circle before Scotty could beam him down. It never occurred to my boyish brain that the current-day earth-pilot had not seen the STAR TREK show as I had, nor that it would have been a quaint paradox if he had.)

This was what I was reading before I became a science fiction fan, but the books all contained some element of the fantastical and adventurous. All were fun and all expended the imagination.

A modern or postmodern mind will notice something odd about that list — namely, that it is mostly lady authors. But this was in the late 60s and early 70s, and the postmodern narrative now (uproariously) claims women were excluded from publisher’s offices and bookstores back in the day, and there were no women authors, especially no lady science fiction authors. This indeed would be news to Mary Shelley, who invented the genre.

The postmodern narrative is a fiction just as much as any tale about a voyage to the invisible second moon of earth inhabited by mushroom people and saved by a chicken, or a yarn about an evil planet ruled by an bodiless brain where all the children bounce balls at play time in perfect unison — except that the postmodern narrative neither entertains, enlightens, nor expands ones imagination, but indeed does the direct opposite.

The first book I ever bought in a bookstore (or, rather, my parents bought it for me) was THE DREAM QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH by HP Lovecraft, which was because I was lured by the cover: a zebra stands to one side of a tree at whose roots is a human skull: up the tree a staircase runs, and graceful cats sit near. To the other side of the tree shines a golden oriental city seen in the distance.

The words within fulfilled and more every promise of that magical, alluring cover. I keep all my paperbacks in pristine shape. Without mar or crack or wrinkle that book, yellow now with age as am I, still sits in a place of honor on my bookshelf. That book, to me, contains all the dreams of my childhood crystallized by the gentle and inexorable polish of nostalgia, so that to reread it is to be Randolph Carter in truth, if his beloved boyhood memories of Boston in the twilight were held in his hand.

The second book I bought was THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S Beagle, and great is my envy for anyone who has not yet encountered this gem. I bought it for the utterly frivolous reason that the cover looked somewhat like the cover of DREAM QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH. Never before has an idle purchase been more richly rewarded.

But these were not my introduction to the world of science fiction! That, like all true blessings, was a gift.

My father was in the Navy, and servicemen, in those days, took care to take crates of paperbacks with them on cruise, for the rare and stolen minute after mess, or when the smoking lamp was lit, or just before lights-out when one could loaf in the rack and read. A friend of my Dad had such a crate he wanted to give away, and he knew me to be a bookish little munchkin, so a vast wealth of printed matter became mine. That cardboard crate sat in the corner of my bedroom for nigh unto ten years, as I read and reread every book in it.

Ah, but that first evening, burning with impatience, when I took home that plunder, greater far than the hoard Beowulf won from the Dragon, greater than what Aladdin saw in the Cave of Wonders! Up to my room I hauled it, tipsy and overburdened by the weight, slammed to the floorboards, and ripped open the cover.

I remember. The book on the top was black and starry, with an image of the earth hued in gold, and in a half circle above the earth were faces, presumably of the characters: a large eyed creature like a lemur, obviously the good alien, a fellow with a strange haircut I later discovered was a Roman, a caveman, a thin and sneering fellow, obviously a criminal, a fat man with the eyes of a killer, obviously a thug. But also others a fanged insectoid horror with huge and staring eyes of inhuman malice, obviously the bad alien.

I opened the cover and turned past the boring stuff, copyright notices and title pages my children brain could not understand why the put in books, and opened the first page:

You see, I had this space suit.

How it happened was this way: “Dad,” I said, “I want to go to the Moon.”

I was hooked.

I was infatuated.

I was in.

I have been a fan of speculative fiction, of wonder, of science, of all the adventure of the future from that day to this, as well as being a disciple, a devotee, and an adoring follower, and now, with my recent books receiving lauds and plaudits, a leader in the field.

You say I am not a fan? Go wash your mouth out with soap.

 

 

 

 

 

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Help Cure Puppy Related Sadness in Short Stories http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/help-cure-puppy-related-sadness-in-short-stories/ http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/02/help-cure-puppy-related-sadness-in-short-stories/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 20:35:39 +0000 http://www.scifiwright.com/?p=13517 The follow announcement is from my publisher. The words below are his:

Sad Puppies Short Fiction Bomb

The Mountain That Writes turns around and comes back for a second pass:

This Book Bomb is a little different. Because the ones I’m doing right now are to get more people exposed to the works we nominated for the infamous Sad Puppies slate, we’re bombing a bunch of works at the same time. I don’t like putting this many links, but time is of the essence, and next week I’ll post about the Campbell nominees and Best Related Works.

We did three novellas last week and it was a huge success. They’re still selling well a week later. Overall we sold a couple thousands novellas, which in novellas is freaking huge.

But shorter fiction is tough, because it isn’t always available for sale by itself, but is usually bundled as part of an anthology, or in a magazine which often isn’t available on Amazon.

As you can see from the list below, luckily many of these are available on Amazon, and some are available for FREE:

BEST SHORT STORY

Both Rabid Puppies recommendations in the Short Story category can be read for free at the following links. I can attest that Sci Phi Journal #2 is quite good and I think the Big Book of Monsters looks particularly interesting.

I’ve also got a short story you can read which is not part of either slate, but I promised to make it available for free reading, so here it is:

BEST NOVELETTE

“The Journeyman: In the Stone House”by Michael F. Flynn, Analog, June 2014
“Championship B’tok” by Edward M. Lerner, Analog, Sept 2014
“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium” by Gray Rinehart, Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show

And the Rabid Puppies recommendation in the Novelette category:

“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” by John C. Wright, The Book of Feasts & Seasons

The Book of Feasts & Seasons is presently ranked #54,462 on Amazon and has a 4.9 rating on 16 reviews. It’s genuinely that good, so I’d highly recommend reading it if you haven’t yet, and posting a review if you have.

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