On the plurality of worldviews…

The presentation of a heptad of must-see sights in all the world is at least 2,500 years old. Only a few of the actual lists survive; some are known only by reference made in other works. There is generally agreement on six of the seven wonders. The Colossus of Rhodes could not have included by Herodotus. The supposedly harbour-spanning statue was not built until 150 years after his death.

All of the sets of Seven Wonders of the World do agree on one other thing. Each suggested stop for itineraries was offered with the pragmatism of actually paying a visit. Islands in the sky (Aeolia) and divine palaces (Mt. Olympus) never made the cut.

If allowing for the inclusion of imaginary places, no one’s list can be expected to match another. My birthday was this week so I’m treating myself to my choice of the seven. Your results may vary.

Dream

  • The Dreaming

Starting in January of 1989 author Neil Gaiman, and a pageant of talented artists beginning with Sam Kieth, gave us a continuing (re)introduction to the realm of Morpheus. The Dreaming contains everything dreamt or that might be. One location within that is of particular note is Lucien’s Library. Like the features of the domain surrounding it, the books shelved here do not exist in the real world. They are yet to be written (presumably including my own works-in-progress); once completed they vanish from the Dreaming.

The original comic series ran for 75 issues. Roughly a year later, Derek Pearcy adapted the French game Magna Veritas. Steve Jackson Games published it under the name In Nomine. One supplement for this game offered dreamlands as the province of the Archangel Blandine.

  • Arda, The Realm, etc.

Even before the film adaptations of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by Peter Jackson, artists were inspired to explore the legendarium of Middle-earth. The resulting work is just as inspiring, particularly when the subject is any place called home by the Elves. More than just an extended stay – living in Lothlórien or Imladris (better known as Rivendell) would be ideal.

  • The Wizarding World

If Hogwarts existed in reality, I doubt I’d enroll. (I’m probably more of a mutant than a mage.) However, I would certainly appreciate a tour the campus. Moving stairwells. Animated oil paintings. Interactive ghosts. The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a fascinating place. If venturing into the wider, though hidden, world of J. K. Rowling it would be fun to window shop Diagon Alley and maybe meet a dragon.

  • The Discworld

Landfall would not be necessary for the most stunning vista here. A few orbits and scads of photos would suffice. Terry Pratchett stated that the inspiration of Great A’Tuin was a summary of a myth he read at about the age of nine. The description of a flat land on the backs of elephants, themselves on the back of a giant turtle, he claimed was part of a book on astronomy.

The turtle in question is doubtless Akūpāra, the Unbounded, from Hindu literature. Similar beliefs appear in the lore of Native American nations, such as the Iroquois and Lenape.

  • The Etherium

When I was asked for a review of Treasure Planet (2002), I said it was the Disney film for which I’d waited my whole life. The novel on which it is based was, of course, an assignment but I enjoyed reading it. Tall ships and astronomy are mostly unrelated, life-long fascinations. How could a combination be bad?

This very concept was explored in Swords of the Swashbucklers (Marvel Comics, Oct. 1984; Epic Comics, Mar. 1985-Mar. 1987) and the Spelljammer campaign setting for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (TSR, Nov. 1989-Aug. 1993). There is also a scene in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), in which some of the characters escape from captivity by climbing the crescent moon. All the while, constellations swim like living creatures in the background.

Which brings us to Montressor Spaceport in the Etherium (i.e., outer space). Watching a crescent moon turn from this…

The Moon

to the view below was one of the most exciting elements of the film for me.

Montressor

  • The United Federation of Planets

Within the territory patrolled by Starfleet, one might wish to vacation on the so-called “Shore Leave planet” or on the “pleasure planet” of Risa. It would be interesting to witness two stars merging into one (as in “Ship in a Bottle”) or an actual Dyson sphere (“Relics”).

Alternatively, this could be where I’d snark about J. J. Abrams as a custodian of the Star Trek universe and the destruction of Spock’s homeworld but I’ll simply gesture in that direction – going straight on to planetfall.

t'khasi

Vulcan is a place about which I’ve some strong opinions. If fact-finding could happen on a fictional planet, this would be a dream come true.

Tardis

  • The TARDIS

The Doctor’s description of where the TARDIS can go is a perfect summary.

All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was. Where do you want to start?

Where?

A tour of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World ending with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon gift shop.


Separated at birth…

Questions raised by science fiction – good or bad – include “Where do we come from?” and “Where might we be going?” Sci-fi may also ask for a definition of humanity, particularly when at its best. And much of the genre is a depiction of the Cosmos, its possible meaning, and our role within it – if any.

When ΨΦ (psi phi) interprets humanity as a specific code of behavior or paints the Cosmos as demanding such adherence, all of this together begins to resemble religion. I have been developing a science fiction story that treats on some of this territory. During this musing I find myself wondering why science fiction usually tends to wheel away from religion.

There are exceptions, of course. For most of the ‘90’s both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 dealt with religious beliefs while telling sci-fi stories. In the following decade-plus, the reimagined Battlestar Galactica did so also. But that’s not quite the point aimed at here.

A religious story set within a sci-fi universe or a sci-fi plot with the trappings of belief goes only half way. I’m newly fascinated by the concept of a novel that is truly about both – or at least sparks a debate about which kind of tale it may be.

All We Now Hold True” is the working title for my offering to Star Trek readers – both old and new. In addition to an attempt to build the bridge alluded to above I seek to build a bridge between original and relaunch.

The Vulcan Language Dictionary (VLD) lists nearly a dozen deities from the pre-Surak period. In pre-Reform Ancient Vulcan a pantheistic society is shown in several existing novels. The planet giving rise to that culture is generally painted as a global desert. Measured by their gods, the Vulcans are obsessed with the dichotomies of war and peace and of fertility and death.

The presumptive answers they might give to the foregoing questions are: “We come from conflict. We may never truly escape it. At our best, we can survive as long as possible. What else can be done?”

In short, an environment of severity will raise severe people.

But what if that’s all not the whole truth? Some personal experience denies this being a reality. My premise and hope within fiction says otherwise, too.

kau

Please Note: This entry is a day late in terms of my normal posting schedule. I’ve spent most of the day easing the transition of the pet cat I’ve had since 1999. The premise of this entry was planned before I knew today would be Lily‘s final day with me. I find it strangely fitting that her passing raises a few questions related to those I’ve mentioned here. But the corollary of this post’s title is an intentional reference to how much I’ll miss her.

The Fault — Is Not in Our Stars…

A component of being a purist may be thinking that the science in science fiction should be reasonably valid and the result of some research. If so, then I am at least partially a purist. If a starship can go anywhere in the galaxy in a few seconds, the accomplishment of space travel becomes quite meaningless. How do we preserve a sense of awe? How can new science fiction inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers?

In a less lofty capacity, if a writer won’t do a bit of research to make the science feel correct is it fair to assume they might stint on other details? Yes, it’s true that the emotions and growth of the characters is the vital core of fiction. How the main character feels may be the best way to capture a reader’s desire to identify with her or him. Comparing that character at the start of the tale and its conclusion provides the essential meaning of the journey.

We’re hard on our potential fictional heroes for a reason. They are more than reflections of our selves. They can – and when done best, should – mirror who we hope to be. The worlds in which they live illustrate where we hope to live. In rare cases, sci fi heroes can help us get there.

Science fiction can serve to criticize the aspects of our society that warrant correction. When the emphasis is on good science, the genre includes a different rationale than some others: that the meaning of our journeys can be understood. There are truly cosmic answers that can be had.

If the rocketship can reach the Moon in less than ten seconds, the landing pad can be green cheese. In “All We Now Hold True” it matters How Far and How Fast. Part of the story is a race against time.

rom-halan-draftDescriptions in prose and by equation need not be in conflict. It has recently been pointed out to me that some of my explanations of formulæ can wax poetic. Balance is part of my preferred aesthetic, whether in composition or equation. Science and math – like hue and light – underlie representations of beauty.

sic itur ad astrathus one goes to the stars

Into the Blue Again…

all we now hold trueThe phrase “there is nothing new under the sun” has always bothered me. Until beginning this post, I did not know it was Biblical. It reads in full: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.”

It always seemed so discouraging. While I was a teenager, it almost offended me.

Similarly, when I was growing up, I had a profound dislike for some of the lyrics of All you need is Love.

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done…”

I cannot say when I learned the value of inverse statements. Second guessing Ecclesiastes is not the aim here but the Beatles may have been making the point that if one person can do something – even if that person is the only one capable of the task – it is not impossible.

Given a choice between the two, why wouldn’t we choose the more bolstering message? There’s too much in the zeitgeist that suggests there are no solutions so any effort is without efficacy. Lethargy’s a Hell of a way to live; acedia was once included among the Deadly Sins.

Last week’s post was part tribute to the memory of Leonard Nimoy and part notice of encouragement to try something about which I’ve been musing for perhaps my entire life. (I cannot be sure. I don’t remember the very early parts.)

All We Now Hold True is meant to shine the light of Vulcan through a new prism – at a new angle – and get different colors and perspective. Perhaps I’m missing the point of the verse but my work is new under the sun because only I can do it. I am new under the sun – due to inspiration and in hope of returning the favor.

It’s easy.”
John Lennon

ek ik pakashogau etek u’yeht’es…

There is nothing new or shocking (to those who know me at all if not well) that I have been a Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember. And while I will not claim to have been to Hell and back, it is probably fair to say that I experienced some trauma during my “formative years”.

I delayed my initial post regarding Leonard Nimoy’s passing by a few days, partly out of respect and partly because I needed time to process. I am still processing. It was his portrayal of Mr. Spock that ironically provided a much younger me with a sense of emotional stability.

The Vulcan way is part of a body of fiction, of course; I do not embrace it as a way of life. It merely informs some of my “navigation”. In all honesty, though I have a lasting affection for Star Trek, it never presented any alien species as a whole and complete culture.

Klingons, it could be argued, are more richly detailed than any others but a ritual-of-the-week and appropriation of Shakespeare makes them just the boldest cypher of the lot. Vulcans run a close second oddly enough. All of the alien cultures started as metaphor and have become stereotypes in their own right.

Within the past few days my ‘processing’ has led to adjusting the schedule of my novels-in-progress. For a very long time I have wanted and needed to write for Vulcans as more than computers on legs from a volcanic desert world.

My very good friend, Leanna Renee Hieber hurried to tell me of Mr. Nimoy’s passing while already rushing between her programming commitments during AnachroCon. She knew what it would mean and took special care to break the news in a kind and gentle way – rather than it coming by way of a stranger’s shouted announcement amid convention chaos. As she made her way to the next panel, I drew a portrait of the actor who played one of my heroes:

image

His final words/Tweet compel: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”

Spock’s people are known for their respect for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (k’lalatar prkori k’lalatar prnak’lirli) and the IDIC symbol. Gene Roddenberry stated the symbol “has great meaning to all Vulcans”. He indicated that it was somewhat comparable to a religious symbol. Outside of fiction, the symbol itself is 47 years old.

image

Comprehension and embrace of diversity still eludes us. Some efforts at celebration of diversity can cost us opportunities for unity. We still need the IDIC.

If nearly every Vulcan we have ever seen is just like Spock why would they venerate diversity? How could it mean so much to them if they were not natively host to quite a range?

All this to say: a novel concerning Vulcan memory, truth, and culture has moved to top priority – at the urging of Ms. Hieber, who will be coauthor of the work. The working title is “All We Now Hold True“. (In the Vulcan language, that is the title of this blog post. Thanks to Britton Watkins for the translation.)

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Zup-tor vu akarshif

Five years ago, the sudden realization struck me that I did not have Leonard Nimoy’s autograph. Given what his work meant to me, this seemed to be a particularly glaring omission from my collection of meaningful mementos. I became obsessed for the next few hours and first looked up how old he’d become. While wishing that he would be free from the eventual constraints of a mortal life – I soon knew that I did not have much time to have a particular book Mr. Nimoy had authored autographed.

Ascertaining if, how, where, when and in what conditions he might be in range of my attendance became an obsession. In the end I did, in fact, get my copy of “I am Spock” signed by one of my heroes – quite probably my first hero – and was able to thank him for his work. He did tell me, “You’re welcome.”

Now he has passed and I am deeply apologetic if this posting is how anyone learns of the news. It was, of course, chiefly Spock that made his career meaningful to me. I was still of single-digit age when I realized something about life – or at least living one – did not make logical sense. I could not define the problem nor solve it. Fictional Spock was not able to explain the situation to Young Me but he did become a role model in how I might handle emotions (my own and those of others) along with handling the irrationalities of this planet’s carbon unit infestation.

I don’t mean to suggest that I adopted Vulcan ways as my own. But I do have what I consider to be a rather unique perspective on what “being a Vulcan” would mean were they not a fictional race. I have long suspected other fans of things-Vulcan might consider my views heretical. Nonetheless, it was an incredibly ironic day when I learned Mr. Nimoy was no longer with us. I still don’t know how to process it entirely nor am I sure how long that may take. I found it helpful to find a quote from the end of The Wrath of Khan. Kirk’s son tells his father, “You knew enough to tell Saavik that how we face death is at least as important as how we face life.”

Dr. McCoy, later in the same film, says, “He’s not really dead. As long as we remember him.”

As I more fully invest myself in the writing career I have long-dreamt of, I do hope to have the opportunity to write at least one novel concerning Vulcans. The story does treat on the above mentioned “heresy” – and then I guess I’ll see how other fans may react.

Vaksurik rom-halan, Spock. Vaksurik rom-halan, Mr. Nimoy. I’wak mesukh-yut t’on.

The above – in Vulcan, of course – could be transliterated as, “I wish you a beautiful farewell, Captain Spock. I wish you the same, Leonard Nimoy. Time is not a single straight road.” The present is the crossroads of past and future.