We know magic is real. We have next to complete proof it is not; but still, on some basic level we know it to be real. This knowledge is so fundamental to us that no amount of disproof can dislodge it. People always have, and always will, believe in magic and it's ability to shape our lives.
We know that we are not alone. Since earliest times almost every society has stories of people from a world beyond ours. These stories merely disagree on the nature of these persons and the nature of where they come from. Right now we primarily look to the stars for our neighbors, and perhaps we will find them there some day. That is not where I would look though.
Magic is real, and we are not alone. Magic can not be found by a journey of feet however, it must be found where it lives. Magical forces, and those who wield them, live in the first place we should look for them; Dream.
Our universe is a bubble of stability in the roiling chaos of dream. Outside of our safe predictable world is where magic dwells. There are some other pockets of stability, places that are stable and safe enough to support societies, but they are rarely as stable as ours. These bubbles of stability are where elves, dvergar, goblins, wizards, unicorns, and dragons live. Most are tiny pockets, drifting from place to place through dreams and nightmares. Others are larger; towns, valleys, cities, or even mountain ranges that are stable enough to hold together.
One of the brightest jewels of these bubbles is more of a strewn web called Imsalan. It is named for the massive pyramid city at it's center, but it spreads much farther afield than could ever be seen from the city gates. Long ago a great empress had the vision to try catching the small pockets drifting through dream and build a vast network of roads connecting them; thus building a world stable enough to live in, but bordered on all sides and intertwined with Dream.
Imsalan has many peoples, but most are divided into four groups. The elves and other fey are the people of fire, the goblinoids are the people of water, the giants and dvergar are the people of stone, and the humans are the people of air.
People can pass from Imsalan to our world, and they bring with them a spark of the magic from their world. People can pass from our world to Imsalan, but that requires passing physically into Dream.
Come with me.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Sunday, May 6, 2012
In the news, in the break-room, wherever adults gather to trade information; sooner or later the subject of the young ones coming into adulthood will come up. It will come up, and it is the end of the world as we know it. They have no respect, they don't know how good they have it, they don't understand what they are doing, and they are destroying their lives before they've even begun.
In cafeterias, coffee shops, fast food places, and wherever else the young have claimed as theirs for the moment to sit and discuss the world; sooner or later the subject of what a sorry state it is in will come up. The need for change of how the world is run will be discussed; the end of the world as we know it so that a new world can be born.
In some symbolic traditions Death has a very interesting meaning. That symbolic meaning is change that requires one thing to end for another to begin. In these symbolic systems, Death is one of the few symbols that can always be seen as positive. In these symbolic systems, this type of change is also the one that is met with the most fear and anxiety.
In the Bible, there is one book that is hardest to interpret, fascinating for many, but most frightening in it's imagery to most. This is the book of Revelation. It is filled with destruction, death, and change. It also has the triumphant return of Christ in all of his glory and the promised Kingdom of God on earth.
Every generation looks at the way that the next generation is changing everything they have built and can see the world as they know it ending. Every generation looks at a world they are born into, and envisions a new world they can build. Every generation sees the symbols of Revelation and interprets them in their times to see that the world is ending. Maybe one generation some day, the youth will truly end the world for good. Maybe some day the symbols of Revelation will play out for the final time and there will be no further improvement for the next generation.
For now, every generation tears down some of what has been built before and builds up something new. We work to tear out the darkness in the world and build the City of God on earth. Sometimes we come closer than others. Every generation has change though, every generation tries with greater or lesser success to learn from those before them, every generation has taxes, and every generation dies. Every generation has their Revelation, and for them the world ends as they know it so that they may enter the Kingdom of God.
I grew up in rural Kansas. I didn’t just grow up in a small town, I grew up nine miles from the nearest small town. While we didn’t do much “real” farming, I did grow up surrounded by animals. There were dogs, cats, chickens, cows, the occasional bull, deer, coyotes, a peacock and a peahen for a while, rats, field mice, catfish, perch, snakes, lizards, all manner of birds, and a plethora of bugs. I do agree that most animals are not really capable of what I would call evil. After growing up with up to a hundred chickens at a time under my sister’s and my care, I do have to say that chickens are one of the best contenders to being an exception. Chickens are mean, brutal, sadistic creatures. They will attack one another; not only for food, territory, and breeding rights, but just because they can. Put enough chickens together with unlimited food and water and you will still find dead birds every morning from them pecking one another to death. They don’t just attack each other either, they will attack anything they think they can get away with. With roosters, this can include their caretakers. The term “pecking order” comes from what passes for chicken social structure. They have a line from strongest to weakest that is reinforced by the stronger birds pecking the weaker birds. The weakest are then pecked by every chicken above them until they die from the hundreds of little wounds. Chickens who are handled caringly and lovingly enough by humans can be taught to leave these patterns, and they are capable of caring for their young to a degree, but in a natural state chickens seem to wish to destroy anything that is not themselves or their progeny. There are people who are like chickens; people who hate others purely for not being themselves. They run around looking for anyone they can peck at just for the sake of pecking. They might fight to the death to protect their own children, but could care less about the man starving down the street as long as it doesn’t bring down their property values. Some places become human chicken coops, with people like this milling around teaching the ones around them to fear everything and thus hate everything. Enough people seeing the world through a chicken’s eyes creates a hell on earth wherever they gather. It is said that one man asked as he was dying if he could see hell before going to heaven. In hell he saw a great feast that no one could eat because they had huge spoons tied to their arms so they couldn’t feed themselves. In heaven he saw the same scene, but they were feeding one another. Chicken minded people are what can make a heaven into a hell. No one wants to live in a hellish environment, but there are few who are willing to do what it takes to bring change in the other direction. These people are heros. They spread hope and love in the face of fear and hate. They teach people that their environment can become better, and they don’t need to just hurt everyone they can before anyone has the opportunity to hurt them. Heros can turn a hell on earth into a paradise. Many of the greatest heroes of legend don’t just turn their own environment into a paradise, after they fix their own land they descend into another hell to protect those there. Those are the greatest heroes.
Darkness is not evil. Darkness is only what we cannot see. Some of what is in darkness is just there. Some of those who dwell in darkness are there because they do not wish to be seen. There can be many reasons to want to hide. Some of those who dwell in darkness are there because they cannot leave. Others stay because they will not leave those who cannot leave at the mercy of those who hunt in the dark.
It is dangerous in the dark. Even when there is nothing that wishes you harm, you may not see dangers to avoid them, or those who are dangerous may not see you to avoid you. Many predators can see well or otherwise find their way in the dark. They might take easy prey.
It is easy in the darkness to decide you must be either predator or prey. Even in the dark though, there is good and evil in all of us. The prey may grow powerful and become predators. Power does not make one a predator though. The greatest power is needed to protect. Keen sight is needed to see through the darkness. Fortitude is needed to bear the injuries meant for the weak. Greater strength is needed to restrain than to attack, because there is good in all, even the predators. Patience and will are needed to protect without oppressing.
Light is not good. Light just means something is illuminated to be seen. Just because it walks in the light does not mean it is not evil or dangerous, it just means it is either better at hiding its unsavoryness, or powerful enough not to need to hide. Light can lead to complacency, and too much light can blind. Evil and dangerous things can want the security of seeing around themselves just as much as the good and the weak.
It is dangerous in the light. It is easy to believe what you cannot see cannot be there. It is easy to lose fear and respect for the monsters when you see them in the light. Just because you see something does not make it not dangerous. Just because you see much does not mean you see all. Also, it is easy to forget that no matter how well lit it is where you stand, darkness is never far away.
I just noticed I haven't posted anything new here in three months now. That is completely not cool, but a bunch of chaos has been going on in my life. One of the most guilty perpetrators in the crime of stifling my writing however has been the MMORPG Star Wars the Old Republic being released. This game has kind of swallowed up tracts of my life. It's just gulping them down like a nine year old gulps down gummy worms. Instead of tooth decay and early diabetes though, it has instead brought my writing to a dead halt.
I've still been working on ideas, jotting down tidbits, and editing larger works I had been working on. I haven't really made any substantial progress on either of the books I'm working on, nor have I finished a single short story or even a poem since that game came out. It really is too good of a game. I'm going to have to watch myself to make sure I keep turning words out instead of just basking in the creations of others.
I love Star Wars. I've loved it as long as I can remember. It has such beautiful imagery, symbolism, and themes. The worlds and characters almost reach out of the screen with the movies and out of the pages with the books. Yes, there are some places in the franchise that just make me want to take George Lucas and shake him, but the creation as a whole is astounding. One of my favorite aspects of Star Wars is that it isn't really sci-fi, it's fantasy in space. It has many sci-fi elements, but at it's heart it belongs more next to Tolkien than next to Asimov on the shelf. Star Wars doesn't reach out into the "what if?" and see where it goes. Instead it tells stories that are patchworks of ancient elemental tales; and builds a mythology to contain them out of space ships, lasers, and new age mysticism.
One of the best traits of Star Wars though, is it's ability to grow and self sustain. If George Lucas died tomorrow, Star Wars would continue. That I believe is a difficult trait to imbue a creation of any type with. That is where it becomes alive. It has enough power and potential that it can surpass the vision of it's author. It has the potential to keep growing. It can go beyond a single vision, and integrate the influence of all mankind.
I do believe it is premature to say Star Wars is a mythology of the modern age. Myth is a creation not of one man, or even a small group. Myth is where a story is taken and changed by the imagination of a whole society, and through that gains life of it's own. Star Wars can not be that, yet. I do believe it could become true myth eventually though. Having even the potential for that makes something great.
I can only dream that someday my mind could help shape the seed of a story that could stand the test needed for it to live on beyond me; not just being retold, but growing.
Several years ago, I filled a gap in my life. First, I need to confess something. I never saw X-files when it was on the air. It was a shame that haunted me for a long time, but eventually a close friend had an intervention for me, and over a couple of months I watched the first few seasons.
While watching these I was inspired to 'research' UFO and alien lore. I already was rather well studied on quite a few other mythological systems, but this one does have quite a few unique traits. As I studied these supposed machinations and elaborate cover ups, definite patterns began to emerge.
I read these theories of technologically advanced, super intelligent, incomprehensible visitors from beyond the stars. Then I had a revelation. If these stories were true, if what I was watching and reading had happened as portrayed, then it fit a pattern I knew well perfectly. This was the pattern of behavior of highly intelligent beings with access to technology. However; it is the behavior of such beings when they are either very very drunk or high.
I was in a nerd fraternity. I have seen the actions of drunken geniuses. Given access to the right technology they would do such things in a heartbeat.
"Hey, see that guy on a tractor down there? Let's beam him up and mess with him."
"Oh man, I wonder what happens if we put the probe there?"
"Know what? Let's pick that other guy up, take him away for five years, and bring him back just two days from now!"
"Cows would totally look awesome inside out."
"Pancakes are amazing! I know, we should go land next to that house and give that guy a plate of pancakes."
"Oh man, that desert I just crashed into just popped out of nowhere!"
It actually makes sense if you think about it. The hyper intelligent tend to have psych issues quite intensely. Medication can help, but self medication tends to be much more 'entertaining' for most. If you had an entire species of super-intelligent, ultra-depressed people who had reached a pinnacle of civilization eons ago; it would only make sense that most of them would eventually fall into chemical dependent decadence.
There would be a few who stayed sober enough often enough to keep their technology driven society running, but being the one sober guy at the party gets old eventually. Being one of the few sober ones in an entire civilization would be hard. Over time, fewer and fewer would volunteer for the positions.
If there were quite a few other intelligent species in the universe, it would make some degree of sense that the most intelligent and powerful species would watch and keep track of them. They would at least watch to identify potential threats or species who might be particularly useful.
Now, what if this advanced species were to decide they could no longer fulfill their role as 'Big Brother' to the universe? If they barely had enough sober members to watch over their own population of drunkards and druggies, they might look for another species to pass the torch to.
Many species would be considered. They wouldn't want the smartest, they themselves were examples of how that wasn't necessarily sustainable. They wouldn't want the most pacifistic, the new species would have to keep the peace. They wouldn't want the most violent, they couldn't hand the universe over to someone who would just destroy it. They couldn't just leave it alone either, who knows what would happen then?
Now, consider if they found out some of the rowdy members of their species had discovered an interesting species. The new species had been in one state of war or another since the beginning of their recorded history, but in the last century had developed a technology for war that could have wiped out their entire planet. Then the shocking information would come that instead of destroying themselves they had changed their methods of war to make the new weapons unused. This would be intriguing.
Now; imagine if random drunken experiments found that the new species (let's call them humans) was genetically compatible with the old species (let's call them the dananites). In fact, further demented experiments could find that the humans had a rather broad range of interstellar species they could produce viable offspring with. A species capable of taking on traits of so many others would be a strong candidate for a successor, especially since the dananites could possibly integrate themselves into the society.
Really, not much of a deal would have to be made to transfer responsibility. The dananites could offer the humans access to their technology and vast knowledge. The dananites could then make some of their population reproductively available to some humans. Some of the humans would agree. The humans would have the option to go out and take control of the stars, and while some might not be so inclined, others would jump at the chance.
Different human societies would form in different areas, and they would most likely fight occasionally, but space is big. It would not be common to run out of room. Other species could cause problems, but many would be integrated into the mass of humanity.
Humankind would grow strong and flourish, but not without hiccoughs.
This is the thought process behind the concept of the greater universe within which my book I'm tentatively calling Age of Aphrodite is written. The ideas will evolve further, but I believe the setting can hold much.
Right now I am working on two novels. I'm not the fastest writer, so it is taking some time. You would think it would be faster for me to focus on just one, but whichever one I focus on makes that book feel like work, which makes the other feel fun. Thus, I end up working on the one that is the side project. Soon I make the side project the main project, which then makes the one that was just demoted seem more fun, so I work more on it. This leads to much flipping back and forth, but I'm actually making progress on the whole this way.
The novel I'm going to be writing about today is my Sci-fi novel with the working title Age of Aphrodite. It's set in the Interstellar Union: a far future space-faring society that has the notable cultural feature that they have decided women are far superior to men. Males have a legal status somewhere between children and slaves. They have to have a woman of age as a legal guardian or they are considered wards of the state. Men are appraised and sold at auction to the highest bidder or given as gifts.
Although the technology exists throughout most of human civilization, in this society the procedures to allow a woman to sire a child with another are truly embraced. There are still many women who enjoy the romantic company of men; but Plato's idea that true love can only exist between two equals (and that persons of different gender can 'obviously' not be equals) is prevalent among the societies conservatives. Thus, the idea of women being able to marry men, or even reproduce with them are under attack.
The one universal right men have in this society is to fight in the arena. Men are seen as inherently and irrevocably violent. It is seen as imperative that men be trained to control and contain their violent tendencies, but it is seen as unbelievably cruel to stop men from having an outlet for their violent tendencies. Any man who wishes may fight in the arena if he wishes, despite whatever his Lady might think. However, despite a few laws against other acts seen as unbelievably cruel, men have no other rights. They can not own property. All men must be implanted with a lashchip, that when they hear certain trigger words punishes them with pain; varying anywhere from an unpleasant tingle to knocking them unconscious depending on the word used.
One major idea I am playing with is the question of what gender traits are actually inborn, and which ones come from our roles in society. If men were seen as the lesser gender who were legally and economically dependent on women, how many traits defined as feminine in our society would they pick up? If a man's worth was determined by his appearance to women, how much time would he spend primping in front of a mirror?
Another important theme to this is the idea that the men in this society are part of this society too. While he may not agree with the most extreme man haters in his society, the average male will see his lot in life as right and just. He may fear having a Lady as his guardian who will mistreat him, but he will believe that it is right that she have the power to do so. Far too many stories assume that no matter how different a society may be from ours, somehow the protagonist automatically views his world from our societies perspective. A man from this society faced with someone trying to 'free' all the men would fight to stop them. He believes as strongly as the women of his society that, even if there are some men who could be trusted to manage themselves, men as a whole are violent stupid creatures who must be contained for their own good.
Someone fighting to stop the extermination of men would be seen as good. Fighting to protect them from abuses would be seen as good. Fighting legislation protecting a woman's right to marry a man if she wishes would be seen as noble by some. Fighting to change the social order however, would be seen by those in this society as insane.
This society is not the only one in this setting, humanity will have spread far throughout the stars. There will be other societies outside of this one who will have developed in different ways, but they will be far away. Anyways, that is a look into one of my projects.